THE resignation by Elections Commissioner Christian Robert Lim as head of the Commission on Elections Campaign Finance Office speaks volumes about the divisions within the poll body over its 4-3 decision to extend the deadline for candidates to file their statements of contributions and expenditures.
Lim, who was in the minority, had voted to reject the extension sought by the erstwhile ruling Liberal Party and others who failed to meet the original June 8 deadline. He and two others—including Chairman Andres Bautista—were outvoted in a move widely seen as an accommodation to the LP, which has had a six-year record of implementing the law only when it suits its purposes.
The reasons for Lim’s opposition to the extension were clear and well argued.
“The policy shift is not acceptable,” Lim said. “To grant the request for extension would not only be unfair to other candidates and parties who complied within the prescribed period but also would be a reversal of the Commission’s own resolution on the matter.
Republic Act 7166, he added, very clearly states the following:
“Every candidate and treasurer of the political party shall, within thirty (30) days after the day of the election, file in duplicate with the offices of the Commission the full, true and itemized statement of all contributions and expenditures in connection with the election.
“No person elected to any public offices shall enter upon the duties of his office until he has filed the statement of contributions and expenditures herein required.
“The same prohibition shall apply if the political party which nominated the winning candidate fails to file the statement required herein within the period prescribed by this act.”
Moreover, the Comelec itself had earlier warned all candidates and parties that the June 8 deadline was “final and non-extendible.”
Tellingly, the LP’s Manuel Roxas II was the only presidential candidate who failed to file his SOCE on time; the LP itself was similarly delinquent.
This failure means nothing to Roxas, who lost the election, but would have meant that the party’s winning vice presidential candidate, Leni Robredo, would be unable to take office because of her party’s failure to submit its SOCE by the June 8 deadline.
All that, however, is now moot, since four of the seven commissioners—Commissioners Rowena Guanzon, Arthur Lim, Al Pareño and Sheriff Abas—voted to grant the LP an extension up to June 30 to comply with the law.
The accommodation will affect not only the aftermath of this year’s electoral exercise, but the conduct of future elections as well, since candidates and political parties may take this decision as a sign that they, too, can disregard the law with no dire consequences.
This disregard for the law was perhaps epitomized by Roxas himself, who failed to file his SOCE, citing “voluminous number of receipts that have to be scanned and attached to the document.”
Shortly after asking for an extension, the erstwhile candidate could have buckled down to make sure his paperwork—already late—was submitted with no further delay. Instead, he embarked on a nationwide tour to thank those who helped him during the campaign, and documented his stops with a GoPro camera on Facebook and Twitter.
If only Roxas and his LP cronies took their SOCE obligations half as seriously.