Comelec unit says no to LP's SOCE plea

Pia Gutierrez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 15 2016 09:50 PM | Updated as of Jun 16 2016 03:25 AM

MANILA - The Campaign Finance Office (CFO) of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) has recommended the denial of the Liberal Party's (LP) request to extend the deadline for the submission of its Statement of Contributions and Expenditures (SOCE).

The LP and its standard-bearer, Mar Roxas, were among those who failed to file before the deadline on June 8.

Other national political parties which failed to submit their SOCE were Aksyon Demokratiko and Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino.

The LP was only able to submit its SOCE on Tuesday, or 6 days after the deadline.

READ: LP spent P241-M in May polls 

In a memorandum sent to the Comelec en banc on Wednesday, CFO commissioner-in-charge Christian Robert Lim said granting LP's request for a 14-day extension would be unfair to other national political parties and candidates who were able to submit their SOCE on time and in compliance with the supposed "stringent" new rules.

Lim even cited defeated presidential candidate Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago who was able to file her SOCE despite being on medical leave and confined in Makati Medical Center days before the deadline.

"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," he said.

He pointed out that the 30-day period from election day is "a hard deadline" set by law in Section 14 of Republic Act No. 7166.

He added that the commitment to file SOCE within 30 days after the election is also stated in the certificate of candidacy (COC) form of all candidates.

The Comelec en banc will take the recommendation of the CFO into consideration in their deliberation scheduled Thursday afternoon.

UNA OPPOSES EXTENSION

The United Nationalist Alliance (UNA), meanwhile, has expressed its objection to the extension of the deadline.

In a letter, UNA Secretary General JV Bautista asked the poll body to deny the request of the LP, saying the LP and Roxas must be sanctioned for their failure to account for their contributions and expenditures in the May polls.

"Roxas and the Liberal Party should not be given any special treatment. Having voluntarily participated in the May 2016 elections, they are expected to strictly comply with the pertinent laws, rules and regulations and deadlines that are implemented and imposed by the Honorable Commission," the letter read.

Senator Grace Poe's lawyer and now Senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr.'s legal counsel Atty. George Garcia, likewise, said that the poll body should be strict with the implementation of the deadline.

"Para sa akin bakit yung iba nag-comply? Bakit sila hindi nakapag-file on time. Napaka-unfair din yun, nagsunog din kami ng kilay para matapos on time. Sana mapanindigan din ng Comelec na kapag may period, it is a mandatory period, and no extensions will be allowed," Garcia said.

However, the lawyer said that not allowing LP candidates to sit in office because of the party's failure to submit their SOCE would be too harsh.

"Napaka-unfair naman kung parusahan mo yung kandidato sa kasalanan ng partido. Siguro doon, pwedeng maging lenient ng konti ang Komisyon," Garcia said.

He added that he believes the SOCE requirement would only be applicable to local government units, and not to national positions.

The Comelec has an existing Memorandum of Agreement with the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) which ensures that only winning bets who have filed their SOCE will be able to assume office.

"Dun sa national, very clear ang Constitution. Once na na-proclaim ka at nag-take ka ng oath, then you have to immediately assume office by noon of June 30," Garcia explained.