Comelec rules

TO THE QUICK - Jerry Tundag - The Freeman

It is truly amazing how the Comelec can get away with so much stupidity. Last Thursday, the poll body voted to extend what it has always insisted was a non-extendable deadline for the filing of statements of campaign contributions and expenditures by candidates who ran in the May 9, 2016 elections. Maybe it is about time somebody told the Comelec that if it cannot enforce its own rules, better not make them at all.

According to its rules, all candidates, whether winners and losers, must file their SOCEs within a specified time. In the case of the May 9, 2016 election, the unextendable deadline was June 10. Those who cannot file face certain sanctions, ranging from fines to being barred from assuming office. It is also specified that if a candidate has filed a personal SOCE but his political party has not, the same sanctions will still apply.

Along comes the "daang matuwid" Liberal Party. While all other parties managed to file their SOCEs on time, the LP did not. Neither did its candidate for president, Mar Roxas. The failure of LP and standard-bearer Roxas to file SOCEs complicated and jeopardized the assumption into office of many winning LP candidates, most notably winning vice presidential candidate Leni Robredo.

Robredo herself filed her own SOCE. But since the LP failed as a party to file its SOCE, Robredo cannot, under Comelec rules, assume office unless the Comelec extends its unextendable rule. Faced with a leadership vacuum as a result of LP's failure to file its SOCE, the Comelec capitulated. Voting 4 to 3, the poll body extended its non-extendable SOCE deadline.

Comelec spokesman James Jimenez, trying to defend the indefensible, said the consequences of not extending the deadline were dire as many would not be able to assume office. Trying to patronize voters without appearing to, Jimenez said it would not be right and unfair if winners are unable to assume office as they have been elected by voters.

If Jimenez cannot be mentally honest, he better just stick to announcing the decision and not try to rationalize it because the more he opens his mouth, the more preposterous he sounds. Why, he even tries to explain why Comelec chairman Andres Bautista voted against granting the extension when it is clear his vote was to temper the anticipated backlash from an unpopular decision. It was so the Comelec can say, see, even the chief voted for no extension.

It would be interesting to find out how the Comelec would have ruled had the party that failed to beat its deadline would have been the party of the unpopular outgoing vice president Jejomar Binay. But Binay's party United Nationalist Alliance did what was responsibly expected of it and beat the deadline. So did all the rest of the parties. Even the party of ailing Miriam Santiago did.

Only the "daang matuwid" party LP failed, including its standard-bearer Mar Roxas. And why it failed is a surprise, considering that the Comelec rule was not made only yesterday. Everybody knew about it and everybody complied with it, except the LP. And while it is always very strict with its rules, including preposterous ones that ought to be expunged from existence, this time the poll body wilted.

In case you do not believe the Comelec has some of the most preposterous rules, here is one: According to the Comelec, if you do not have the money to mount a credible campaign, you are a nuisance candidate and must be disqualified from running. And yet, if you have the money to mount a credible campaign, the Comelec stops you from spending so much, limiting you to only two to three peanuts per voter.

Here is another preposterous rule: According to the Comelec, only marginalized sectors can run under the partylist system. And yet it has allowed sectors that are not marginalized by any stretch of the imagination. And while partylist groups are to be voted nationwide, it has also allowed the participation of clearly local groups such as that of a teachers' association based in Manila.

And still another: Candidates cannot engage in early campaigning. But as soon as they file their certificates of candidacy, everyone starts campaigning. Yet the Comelec pursues no one because, in its eyes, there is no early campaigning if the campaign period has not officially started. What Comelec is not saying is once the campaign period starts, all campaigning is within the period, so there is no longer any early campaigning to speak of. Crazy, no?


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