THE COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS law department has pledged stricter enforcement of campaign finance laws in the coming 2013 midterm elections even as Comelec officials decried the lack of resources and manpower in the poll body.
Comelec law department head Atty. Esmeralda Amora-Ladra said her department is severely underpowered, with only 15 fulltime lawyers. The law department is responsible for acting on three major poll-related issues, mainly monitoring candidates and their campaigns, receiving and evaluating poll campaign reports, and investigating and prosecuting any offenders.
Still, Amora-Ladra said the Comelec is finding ways to enforce election laws. Earlier, she said the Comelec had signed a memorandum of agreement with the late Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo that prevents elected local officials from assuming their post until they are able to present a certificate from the Commission on Elections that they have already submitted their statement of electoral contributions and expenses (SECE) as required by law.
Amora-Ladra said the Comelec had listed a significant number of poll candidates in the previous elections who had failed to submit their SECEs. The law requires that even losing poll candidates have to submit their SECEs, or face perpetual disqualification. Unfortunately, many losing candidates ignore this rule, even though they still plan to run in future elections.
For example, in the 2007 midterm elections, Amora-Ladra listed down the number of losing candidates who failed to file their statement of contributions and expenditures:
No SECEs in 2007 Midterm Elections
- 11 senatorial candidates
- 92 political parties
- 91 congressional candidates
No SECEs in 2010 Presidential elections
- 1 presidential candidate
- 1 vice presidential candidate
- 15 senatorial candidates
- 50 partylist candidates
- 110 parties
- 90 congressional candidates
Amora-Ladra said the Comelec is now strictly enforcing the two strike rule where candidates who failed to file their SECEs in two election exercises will be charged by the Comelec. These violators, if found guilty, may be perpetually disqualified from public office.