424 didn’t file, filed bad election expense reports

Comelec: 20 solons, 4 governors,
26 mayors must vacate positions

AT LEAST 20 congressmen, four governors, and 26 mayors elected in May 2013 should promptly vacate their office for failure to submit reports on their donors and expenditures within deadline and according to the prescribed forms, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) en banc ruled this week.

In all, Comelec said 424 newly elected legislative and local officials — including 169 from the Liberal Party led by President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III and 44 from the National Unity Party (NUP) that is allied with the LP — should stay out of office until after they have submitted the appropriate Statement of Election Contributions and Expenditures (SOCE).

In separate letters sent Wednesday, December 11, 2013, Comelec Commissioner Christian Robert S. Lim requested House Speaker Feliciano ‘Sonny’ R. Belmonte Jr. and Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel ‘Mar’ A. Roxas II to order the 20 representatives and 404 local officials to vacate their respective posts until they have fully complied with the law on filing of SOCEs.

Lim, chairperson of the Comelec Campaign Finance Unit (CFU) Ad Hoc Steering Committee, also furnished Belmonte and Roxas separate lists of the 424 officials under their administrative supervision and the CFU’s findings on the deficiencies in their SOCE submissions.

Thus far, the CFU has only reviewed the SOCEs form-wise and has yet to assess the veracity of information enrolled in the SOCEs.

Aside from the 169 LP winning candidates and 44 NUP winning candidates with SOCE deficiencies, there are also 39 candidates from the Nacionalista Party (NP), 33 independent candidates, 31 from the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC), 29 from the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) led by Vice President Jejomar ‘Jojo’ C. Binay, and 17 from the Lakas-CMD party in the Comelec list of 424 officials that must vacate their posts.

Of the 424, a third or 155 did not file SOCEs at all, while 269 others submitted deficient SOCEs, prompting the Comelec CFU to declare these as “not filed” at all.

Of the 155 who did not file SOCEs, four are congressmen who are the President’s allies: Manila Rep. Trisha Bonoan-David, Bulacan Rep. Ma. Victoria Sy-Alvarado, Camarines Sur Rep. Sal Fortuno, and Lanao del Sur Rep. Pangalian Balindong.

Bonoan-David and Sy-Alvardo are NUP members, while Fortuno and Balindong are LP members.

Meanwhile, the four governors who must vacate their offices because of SOCE deficiency findings by Comelec are Ilocos Sur Gov. Ryan Luis Singson, Pangasinan Gov. Amado Espino Jr., Laguna Gov. Emilio Ramon ‘ER’ Ejercito, and Batangas Gov. Rosa Vilma Santos-Recto.

Espino of NPC did not submit a SOCE; Singson of NP and Santos-Recto of LP did so, but not according to the prescribed form. Ejercito submitted only three of the 10 annexes that compose the SOCE.

On September 26, 2013, Comelec’s First Division had also ruled to disqualify Ejercito for breaching the lawful spending limits that candidates for local positions may incur.

The rest of the 269 candidates who filed deficient SOCEs failed to either personally sign their SOCE or use the prescribed forms, in violation of the provisions of Comelec Resolution No. 9476 or the campaign-finance rules issued on June 22, 2012.

Former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo of Lakas and former senator Rodolfo Biazon of the Liberal Party are among the 104 candidates who did not personally sign their SOCEs. Both Macapagal-Arroyo and Biazon are now members of the Lower House, the former representing Pampanga and the latter, Muntinlupa.

Republic Act No. 7166 or the Synchronized Elections Law requires all candidates and the political party that in the elections to file with Comelec full, true, and itemized SOCEs within 30 days after election day. The law also states that winning candidates will not be allowed to assume office until they have submitted their SOCEs.

A Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) that Comelec signed with the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) on March 14, 2012 requires winning local candidates to furnish DILG with a certification from Comelec that they have duly submitted their SOCE. Without the certification, they are not supposed to be allowed to take their oath of office.

Comelec Chairman Sixto S. Brillantes Jr., Commissioner Lim, and the late Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo, signed the MOA.

The five-page MOA states that “before administering an oath of office to any winning candidate or allowing a winning candidate assumption into office, the DILG or any of its attached agencies shall require him or her to present a Certification from the COMELEC that he or she have satisfactorily complied with his or her obligation under Section 14 of Republic Act No. 7166 by filing his or her Statement of Contributions and Expenditures with the COMELEC. Absent this Certification, the winning candidate cannot enter into the execution of his or her office pursuant to Paragraph 2 of the same provision of law.”

According to a Comelec CFU lawyer, some winning candidates had actually requested a certification from Comelec field offices, but the CFU is not aware if DILG has enforced the MOA and refused the assumption of a winning candidate without the certification.

PCIJ Table 1. SOCE deficiencies

By position, the Comelec CFU said the following officials also either did not file SOCEs or filed deficient SOCEs:

  • 278 municipal councilors;
  • 48 city councilors;
  • 35 vice mayors;
  • 26 mayors;
  • 20 representatives;
  • 11 provincial board members;
  • 4 governors;
  • 1 assemblyman; and
  • 1 vice governor.

By region, the Comelec CFU said CALABARZON (Region IV-A) had the biggest number of officials with SOCE deficiencies, followed by the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), and Eastern Visayas (Region VIII).

PCIJ Table 2. Winning Candidates with SOCE deficiencies

By political party, 335 or 79 percent of the 424 candidates with deficient SOCEs ran and won under the banner of national political parties, namely LP, NUP, NP, NPC, UNA, Lakas/Lakas-CMD, and the Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino of ousted president and now Manila Mayor Joseph E. Estrada.

The Kilusang Bagong Lipunan (KBL) and the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) each has only one winning candidate with deficient SOCEs, while the Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino (LDP). 2.

PCIJ Table 3. Party Affiliation of Winning Candidates who did not file or have deficient SOCEs

These errant candidates are still being encouraged to submit their SOCEs, even belatedly, says the Comelec CFU lawyer. If they will still not comply, Comelec shall review their submission history and recommend the applicable penalty.

Candidates who have failed to file SOCEs for two elections may face a stiffer penalty, however. Under Comelec rules, a case for their perpetual disqualification from running in any elective post may be submitted against these candidates. — PCIJ, December 2013