Comelec wants ex-Sen. Osmeña 'perpetually disqualified' over campaign expenses

Christian V. Esguerra, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 29 2018 05:10 PM

Former senator Sergio Osmena III files his certificate of candidacy for the 2019 senatorial elections. The poll body's campaign finance office is seeking his 'perpetual disqualification' over alleged undeclared campaign expenses. Jonathan Cellona, ASB-CBN News/File

MANILA - The Commission on Elections is seeking to “perpetually disqualify” former Sen. Sergio Osmeña III from any government post for allegedly twice failing to meet the country’s strict requirement to declare campaign expenses.

The commission’s campaign finance office sought the "severest" penalty for Osmeña in a move that could jeopardize his candidacy for senator next year. A copy of the complaint was obtained by ABS-CBN News.

But Osmeña, 74, said he was "not worried," noting he was allowed to file late in 2010 but not in 2016.

"I’m aware of that so I’ll bring it up to the Comelec proper," he told ABS-CBN News on Friday. "Late filing should not be subject to disqualification. It is non-filing."

Osmeña filed his certificate of candidacy as an independent last Oct. 17, seeking to rebound from his surprise loss in the 2016 senatorial election.

A petition by the campaign finance office said Osmeña failed to file his statement of contributions and expenditures (SOCE) following his successful Senate run in 2010.

Portions of the Comelec petition against former senator Sergio Osmena III.obtained by ABS-CBN News

Portions of the Comelec petition against former senator Sergio Osmena III.obtained by ABS-CBN News

Portions of the Comelec petition against former senator Sergio Osmena III.obtained by ABS-CBN News

Portions of the Comelec petition against former senator Sergio Osmena III.obtained by ABS-CBN News

Portions of the Comelec petition against former senator Sergio Osmena III.obtained by ABS-CBN News

'MOCKERY'

Osmeña again did not submit the expense report within the required 30-day period, following his failed re-election bid in 2016, the complaint said.

"It clearly demonstrates respondent’s little regard of our election laws and to such extent, he is making a mockery of our election process," according to the petition signed by lawyer Efraim Bag-id, the acting campaign finance director.

The petition called for the maximum administrative fine of P60,000 on top of disqualifying the former legislator "perpetually from holding public office, whether in an elective or in appointive capacity."

"It bears emphasizing that respondent’s wanton disregard of our election laws merits the utmost and the severest imposition of administrative penalty under the law," it said.

The law on synchronized national and local elections requires candidates to file their "full, true and itemized statement of all contributions and expenditures" within 30 days from the election.

Osmeña said the law should be amended because it is “so stupid,” citing situations where winning candidates could not assume their elective posts all because they had not met this requirement.

'NONSENSE'

"That law is kalokohan (nonsense)," said Osmeña, who admitted paying an administrative fine for failing to file his expense report on time in 2010.

But the Comelec petition said this first offense "did not deter him from committing the same infraction when he ran for the same elective position in the 2016 elections," the petition said.

Based on the law, the Comelec can fine a candidate from P2,000 to P60,000 for a second or subsequent offense.

"In addition, the offender shall be subject to perpetual disqualification to hold public office," according to the synchronized election law.

Osmeña acknowledged there was no provision for late filing under the law but insisted the Comelec had been allowing it in certain cases.

"It’s arbitrary because they allowed the Liberal Party to file in 2016," he said. "If they allow me to file now, I’ll file."