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Danao officials insist they filed their SOCE

Submission alone is different from compliance, says Comelec chairman
/ 09:05 AM December 14, 2013

Two Danao City councilors who were among the over 400 elective officials asked by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to vacate their posts for failing to comply with election spending regulations yesterday insisted that they already filed their Statement of Campaign Expenditures (SOCE).

Ivy Durano-Meca, who is also an ex-officio member of the Cebu Provincial Board (PB), said she filed her SOCE with the Comelec office in Danao City immediately after she was proclaimed winner in the May elections. She said she and seven other councilors from Danao City from the Bakkud party are ready to show their compliance certificate issued by election officer Ian Marigomen.

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Councilor John Cane said he has already spoken with the Danao City election officer who said he will discuss the matter with Provincial Election Supervisor Marco Castillano.

“I think it’s just a matter of transmittal from the local office to the national,” Meca told Cebu Daily News.

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She said Comelec should have double-checked with their local field offices before making the announcement last Thursday.

“They should have consulted and coordinated with their local offices before putting up an issue of vacating our office because we’ve complied with the law,” she said.

But Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes said submission was different from compliance with requirements.

“Some of them claimed to have submitted their SOCE, but did they submit the appropriate form? If not, then it is considered not filed at all,” he said.

He also said that while the law does not say that a SOCE should be personally signed by the official, it is so stipulated in a Comelec resolution.

“That’s clearly stated in our resolution; that’s equivalent to a law because that’s in implementation of our rule, our authority,” he explained. “Our resolution has long been there and nobody was questioning that, so effectively, that has to be complied with.”

Republic Act No. 7166 or the Synchronized Elections Law requires all candidates and political parties 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.

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Stricter penalties

If the Comelec had its way, it would impose stricter penalties, including jail terms, on elected officials who fail to comply with the law requiring them to submit reports on their donors and expenditures during elections.

Comelec Chairman Brillantes, in an interview, challenged lawmakers to make the non-filing of SOCE an election offense, which is punishable with imprisonment and perpetual disqualification from public office.

“My proposal is for the Congress to bring back the criminal penalties for non-filing of SOCE so we can send violators to jail and for all elected officials to comply with the law,” Brillantes said.

“The problem is a lot of elected officials seem to have relaxed and taken the process for granted ever since the Congress decriminalized the non-filing of SOCE during the ’90s. As of now, with the present rules that we have, we can’t send them to jail,” he added.

Asked why the non-filing of SOCE was decriminalized, Brillantes said, “Malay ko sa kanila, para siguro ilusot nila yung sarili nila.”

Election Commissioner Christian Robert Lim, who chairs the campaign finance steering committee, in separate letters, asked House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte and Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas to order the officials to step down from their posts.

“The DILG is supposed to implement this. They are supposed to notify these incumbent officials who have assumed erroneously and tell them to vacate their positions in the meantime that they are complying with the requirements,” Brillantes added.

He said there will be temporary vacancies in the congressional posts while succession will apply in the executive positions.

But he clarified that the officials who did not comply with the SOCE requirements are not disqualified.

“They are considered not to have validly assumed the office,” Brillantes said, adding, “No deadline has been set for these elected officials to submit their proper SOCEs but they will have to vacate their posts until they do so.”

“We want to show that we are serious in implementing the law. We want to send the message, especially to the winning candidates: They should not forget their obligations after the elections,” Brillantes said./with an Inquirer report

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