Cebu News

Submission doesn’t mean full compliance: Comelec Manila evaluates SOCEs

Michael H. Braga - The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines - The central office of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) has the final say on whether a submitted Statement of Contributions and Expenditures (SOCE) is correct or not.

This was the statement of provincial election officer Ferdinand Gujilde yesterday after Comelec ordered 422 elected officials, including 11 councilors from Cebu, to vacate their positions for failing to submit their SOCEs.

He said that being able to submit a Statement of Contributions and Expenditures (SOCE) to the Commission on Elections (Comelec) does not mean that a candidate has already complied with the requirement.

Gujilde explained that aside from meeting the deadline set by the Comelec, the filing of SOCEs should also conform with the prescribed form otherwise the submission will not be considered a fulfillment of the requirement.

He added that local Comelec officials only have ministerial duties to receive the SOCEs and other annexes, and it is up to the central office to check the submitted materials and then come up with findings.

“Sa level sa atong election officers diri sa Cebu, para nila ensakto na pero pag-abot sa Manila duna pa sila’y laing nakita…That’s why we have to submit it to Manila so we can counter check,” he said.

The election officer added that a “discrepancy” in opinion might have been the possible root of the problem on SOCEs.

“Naa tay guidelines nga gisunod but the interpretation of the guidelines could be different,” he said.

Gujilde confirmed that the councilors who are included in the list of those who must vacate their posts for failing to comply with the SOCE requirement have filed the document and obtained Certificates of Compliance from the field offices.

He, however, reiterated what Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. said that the documents may have been filed but did not conform with the prescribed form.

“Duna lang siguroy discrepancy of opinion kay judgment call man na ang pag-determine nimo whether or not it conforms to the written formalities,” he said, adding that the Comelec central office has become stringent in enforcing reportorial requirements.

Danao City election officer Ian Marigomen also said that the certificate of compliance issued by the field office pertains solely on the finding that the required annexes have been submitted.

The actual review of the said annexes and documents, he said, is already the task of the Campaign Finance Unit.

Seven councilors from Danao City, including Provincial Board ex-officio member Carmen Durano-Meca, are included in the list of those who failed to submit their SOCEs.

Marigomen said he will send a letter of inquiry to Chairman Christian Lim of the Campaign and Finance Steering Committee. He added that his letter would, at the same time, confirm that the Danao City officials included in the list have already submitted their documents.

He said his inquiry would determine “to what extent the term ‘did not submit’ really pertains, is it the simple act of filing or it is because the submitted docu did not conform to the requirement set by the steering committee.”

Gujilde advised those officials included in the list to already inquire why they were included in the list.

“Karon pa lang, mangutana na sila unsa ilang kuwang. So, sa mga naay kuwang, moagi diri sa local offices so we can transmit or endorse them to Comelec Manila,” he added.

Aside from Meca, the Danao City councilors who reportedly failed to submit their SOCEs are Jed Almendras, John Cane, Cynthia Duterte, Jove Enriquez, Celso Meca and Jojo Roble.

In Mandaue City, councilors Editha Cabahug and Tony Dabon are also included in the list.

Meanwhile, Cebu provincial election supervisor Atty. Lionel Marco Castillano clarified that the officials who were ordered by the Comelec to vacate their posts were not removed from office but were just asked to comply with the requirements.

“Wala ni sila gitangtang, they are only asked to temporarily vacate,” he said.

Castillano said that records at the Comelec offices in the cities of Danao and Mandaue showed that the concerned officials have submitted their SOCE.

“Something went wrong along the way, wala ba kaha na nadawat,” Castillano said.

He said the affected officials can file a motion for reconsideration on the order.

He stressed that the Comelec is only requesting the Department of the Interior and Local Government, who has jurisdiction over the elected officials, to implement the order.

The Comelec is strictly implementing the law since 2010 when it signed a memorandum of agreement with the DILG that no winning candidates for local positions shall be allowed to assume office unless and until they have secured a certificate of compliance from election officers that they have complied with the requirements.

According to the law, all winning and losing candidates must submit their SOCEs within 30 days after the elections. — with Gregg M. Rubio/QSB (FREEMAN)

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