SOCE issue closed, says Speaker Belmonte
MANILA, Philippines—As far as Speaker Feliciano Belmonte is concerned, the issue of some congressmen having deficiencies in their statements of contributions and expenditures (SOCEs) was a “closed book,” with many of the representatives having shown proof of their filing or correcting the defects on their SOCEs.
The Commission on Elections (Comelec) had said that 20 lawmakers did not file SOCEs or committed lapses on their documents and they had to vacate their seats.
Belmonte told reporters he wanted to move on from the issue since 15 of the lawmakers on the Comelec’s list had already met the SOCE requirements, with some paying a small fine for procedural lapses.
He said he was confident the five remaining lawmakers would soon settle their issues.
“I think it’s time to move on from there,” he said.
Belmonte said he did not have the power to order the lawmakers to step down if they did not comply with the SOCE requirements.
He said he had been advised by election lawyer Romulo Macalintal that the Comelec’s new rules on the filing of SOCEs had not been published and thus were not binding.
The Speaker said he scolded his colleagues who opted to pay the fine but they told him they just wanted to settle the matter and get it out of the way.
Some of the lawmakers on the Comelec’s list had protested the poll agency’s order for them to step down.
They said they had filed their SOCEs promptly and had complied with the law even if they had used the incorrect form and had a representative sign it.
They said the Comelec accepted the SOCEs and certified them without telling them that there were deficiencies.
The lawmakers whom the Comelec considered not to have filed their SOCEs were Batangas Representatives Eileen Buhain, Nelson Collantes and Mark Mendoza; Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo; Muntinlupa Rep. Rodolfo Biazon; Manila Representatives Trisha Bonoan-David and Zenaida Angping; Camarines Sur Rep. Salvio Fortuno; Bulacan Representatives Victoria Sy-Alvarado and Arthur Robes; Antipolo Representatives Romeo Acop and Joel Duavit; Ilocos Sur Rep. Ronald Singson; Quezon Rep. Mark Enverga; North Cotabato Rep. Nancy Catamco; Lanao del Sur Rep. Pangalian Balindong; Bataan Rep. Tet Garcia; Albay Rep. Al Francis Bichara; Misamis Occidental Rep. Henry Oaminal’ and Sultan Kudarat Rep. Arnulfo Go.