66 of 400 elected execs heed Comelec order
MANILA, Philippines—The Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Wednesday said that 66 of the more than 400 elected officials earlier ordered to vacate their posts for failing to submit valid reports on their campaign spending have already complied with the order or corrected their faulty filings.
Among those who complied with the poll body’s order to submit valid statements of contributions and expenditures (Soce) were 12 House representatives: Muntinlupa Rep. Rodolfo Biazon; Manila (3rd District) Rep. Naida Angping; Manila (4th District) Rep. Trisha Bonoan-David; Ilocos Sur (1st District) Rep. Ronald Singson; San Jose del Monte City Rep. Arthur Robes; Batangas (1st District) Rep. Eileen Ermita-Buhain; Batangas (3rd District) Rep. Nelson Collantes; Batangas (4th District) Rep. Dong Mendoza; Antipolo (2nd District) Rep. Romeo Acop; Quezon (1st District) Rep. Wilfrido Mark Enverga; North Cotabato (2nd District) Rep. Nancy Catamco; and Lanao del Sur (2nd District) Rep. Pangalian Balindong.
Ilocos Sur Gov. Ryan Luis Singson and Pangasinan Gov. Amado Espino Jr. have also filed the correct Soces, as did one vice governor, three provincial board members, one city mayor, three city vice mayors, eight city councilors, four municipal mayors, five municipal vice mayors and 27 municipal councilors.
Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes has insisted that only after filing a valid Soce can these elected officials be entitled to assume their posts.
“Only after that will they be considered compliant with the requirements of the law. That would entitle them now to reassume office,” Brillantes said.
Commissioner Christian Robert Lim, the head of the campaign finance unit of the Comelec, has already written to the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) and House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. and given them the names of the officials who have already complied and submitted the correct Soces.
Last week, the poll body ordered more than 400 legislative and local officials, including former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, to vacate their posts for failing to file or complete their Soces—they either failed to file a Soce, did not personally sign the submitted Soces or did not use the correct forms.
The Comelec clarified that the poll body’s order to the officials concerned to vacate their offices was not the same as a cancellation of their proclamation as winning candidates.
Comelec spokesman James Jimenez explained that the Comelec was simply invoking the memorandum of agreement (MOA) it had signed with the DILG under the late Secretary Jesse Robredo in 2012.
The MOA states that before local officials can assume their posts, they must present to the DILG a certification from the Comelec that they had complied with all obligations under Republic Act No. 7166, or An Act Providing for Synchronized National and Local Elections and for Electoral Reforms.
Meanwhile, election lawyer Romulo Macalintal on Wednesday said the Comelec should recall its directive ordering the more than 400 elected officials to vacate their seats for failure to submit their Soce because another resolution it issued said penalties to be imposed on these officials do not constitute an administrative fine and do not make the candidate liable for violating the Synchronized National and Local Elections law.
There is no reason or basis to cite RA 7166 as the ground to order these elective officials to vacate their posts, Macalintal said in a statement.
“In other words, there is no more violation of the Soce rules under Section 14 of RA 7166 which could be the basis to remove or order an elected official to vacate his post,” he said.—With reports from Christine Avendaño