MANILA—Former Sen. Sergio Osmeña III on Monday asked the Commission on Elections to junk a petition seeking his “perpetual disqualification” from holding any public office for allegedly twice failing to submit his campaign expense reports.
Osmeña, 74, said the threat of disqualification was “not serious,” arguing that filing his 2010 statement of contributions and expenses (SOCE) late did not mean that he did not file at all.
“But I have to take it seriously because that’s the Comelec,” he told ABS-CBN News. “I’m just taking it as it comes but I’m sure the commissioners themselves will absolve me.”
Osmeña said the “harshest penalty” of perpetual disqualification should not be imposed on him because he was in fact allowed by the Comelec to file his SOCE beyond the 30-day period after his 2010 senatorial run.
He said he sought an extension from the Comelec in 2016 following his failed reelection bid. He said he needed to sort out documents from some “300 boxes” from 2 offices he used during the campaign.
The Philippines’ election law permanently bans a candidate from any public office should he fail to declare his campaign expenses twice.
Since he submitted his SOCE in 2010, he told the poll body that his failure to file one in 2016 could not be considered a “second or subsequent offense” leading to perpetual disqualification.
“Such penalty must only be imposed only when there is clear violation” of the synchronized elections law, he said.
“There must be a clear case of non-filing of the SOCE or failure to file SOCE despite notice, at least twice, which did not apply to the case of the respondent.”
Osmeña insisted it was not easy to submit a campaign expense report within 30 days from election.
He cited his case in 2010 when his documents were supposedly mixed up with those of then presidential candidate Benigno Aquino III. He served as Aquino’s campaign manager.
“Thirty days are not a long time to file when you have a lot of work to do,” he said.
Osmeña asked the Comelec to allow him to still file his 2016 campaign expense report, arguing that the law allowed late submissions.
“Laws governing election disputes must be liberally construed to the end that the will of the people in the choice of public officials may not be defeated by mere technical objections,” he said.