Comelec extends SOCE filing deadline

The Philippine Star

Full poll body votes 4-3 to grant LP request

MANILA, Philippines - Newly elected politicians and poll losers who failed to meet the deadline for the filing of Statements of Contributions and Expenditures (SOCE) will not have to worry about losing their new positions or face stiff sanctions – at least until the end of the month.

Voting 4-3, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) yesterday granted the request of the Liberal Party (LP) to extend the deadline for filing of SOCE from June 8 to June 30.

In a press briefing, Comelec spokesman James Jimenez said one of the aspects considered by the poll body in extending the deadline is the “absurdity of the results” of a contrary decision. 

Earlier, poll officials said administrative charges and other sanctions, including perpetual disqualification from public office, await those who failed to file their SOCEs on time.

“The law never intended for the results to be so absurd.  You have to understand it will have a big impact if the deadline is not extended,” he pointed out.

Jimenez gave assurance the extension applies to all parties and candidates who have not submitted their SOCEs to the Comelec-Campaign Finance Office.

Those who favored an extension were commissioners Arthur Lim, Al Parreño, Sheriff Abas and Rowena Guanzon, while those who dissented were chairman Andres Bautista, commissioner Luie Guia and Campaign Finance Office head commissioner Christian Robert Lim, who earlier recommended the junking of LP’s request.

Jimenez added that while Bautista voted for no extension, “he thinks that late filers should be allowed with corresponding penalties.”

The Comelec spokesman said he could not ascertain why the commission did not take Bautista’s position to just penalize late filers rather than extend the filing period.

“The Comelec had to think – how many will not be able to assume office simply because they were not able to file their SOCEs. The problem here is you will defeat essentially the voices of the voters who voted for these people. That is what we wanted to avoid,” he maintained.

According to Guanzon, 15 senatorial candidates have failed to file their SOCEs, including topnotcher Franklin Drilon, Raffy Alunan, Mark Lapid, Dante Liban, Sergio Osmeña III and Jovito Palparan. 

LP presidential bet Manuel Roxas II was also not able to submit his SOCE, as well as 40 governors and 115 congressmen. 

Guanzon said they took into consideration several issues, one of which is “how the law should be interpreted, what are the consequences of strict or liberal interpretation and what was the intent of the Comelec when it issued the resolution.”

“I think we had to weigh on the issue of consequence of a strict interpretation, what will happen to the status of all these elected officials whose parties did not file.  We’re not just talking about LP,” she added.

Aside from LP, the Partido ng Masang Pilipino and Aksyon Demokratiko and some independent candidates also did not file their SOCEs.   

Earlier yesterday, election lawyer Romulo Macalintal said Comelec should not reject LP’s late submission of SOCE, stressing late filing is allowed under the law.

Macalintal emphasized the Comelec may reject LP’s request for extension of the June 8 deadline but that it “should admit the SOCE and impose the corresponding fine as provided by law.”

He argued losing candidates may just not file their SOCEs and pay the fine, “instead of facing the risk of their SOCEs being reviewed by the Comelec.”

“There’s a difference between ‘extension’ to file SOCE and ‘late submission’ of SOCE. If there is an extension, there is no need to impose fine (on late filers) but in late submission, the candidate can file but they also have to pay the corresponding fine,” he added.

Macalintal said there is no provision in Republic Act 7166 authorizing Comelec to refuse admission of SOCE filed beyond deadline. “The Comelec cannot provide what the law does not prescribe,” he said.

Citing Section 5 of Rule 10 of Comelec Resolution No. 9991, he maintained that winning candidates are only required to secure from Comelec certificates of compliance that they filed their own SOCE. 

“These candidates are not mandated to submit similar certificates, attesting that their political parties have met the SOCE requirements. There was no mention of party SOCE to assume office,” he added.

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