'More heads to roll on poll expenses'

by Sheila Crisostomo, The Philippine Star

Posted at Dec 15 2013 12:06 PM | Updated as of Dec 15 2013 08:06 PM

MANILA - More heads will roll among the winners in the May 13 elections who failed to comply with the law on campaign expenditures, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) said.

Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. said they are still auditing the Statements of Contributions and Expenditures (SOCEs) filed by all elected officials and warned more winners could be cited if the audit reveals they had overspent during the elections.

Brillantes on Thursday ordered 422 elected officials to vacate their posts for their failure to meet the SOCE requirements.

“That was only the first stage,” Brillantes said. “What we determined there was who did not file their SOCE on time and who filed inappropriate SOCE,” he added.

Brillantes said they have not determined who among the winning candidates have been truthful in declaring their campaign contributions and expenditures.

The 422 elected officials were ordered to vacate their posts for violating Republic Act 7166 or the Synchronized Election Law of 1991.

Brillantes said the poll winners cannot be considered to have validly assumed office unless they have properly filed their SOCEs.

He said the law was clear but lamented it was not implemented in previous elections.

Under the law, “every candidate and treasurer of the political party shall, within 30 days after the day of 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.”

This means the SOCE should have been filed by June 30. The Comelec also required that the documents be filed in prescribed forms with receipts attached and signed personally by the winning candidates.

Section 111 of the Omnibus Election Code also stated that “no person elected to any public office shall enter upon the duties of his office until he has filed the statement of contributions and expenditures herein required.”

The same law slaps a jail term of one to six years and disqualification to hold public office and removal of the right to vote on any person found guilty of an election offense.

Republic Act 7166, on the other hand, which was enacted six years after the implementation of the election code, provided specific penalties against those who failed to submit SOCE.

The newer law requires every candidate and treasurer of the political party to file in duplicate a full, true and itemized SOCE within 30 days after the day of the election. Failure to do so is punishable with a fine ranging from P1,000 to P3,000.

Subsequent violations of the provision on SOCE are punishable with fines ranging from P2,000 to P60,000 and perpetual disqualification from public office. There was no jail term mentioned in the newer law.

On Friday, Brillantes said failure to file SOCE should be slapped with imprisonment to force all candidates to comply with the law.

Brillantes lamented that candidates did not seem to take seriously the requirement to file the SOCE.

Malacañang said it would leave it up to Congress to decide on the Comelec’s proposal to impose stiffer sanctions against candidates who failed to file SOCEs. – With Alexis Romero