A technical coup d’état

By Perry Diaz 

Leni-Robredo-and-Bongbong-MarcosJust as Rep. Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo was enjoying her razor-thin victory over Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. in the vice presidential race, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) is under pressure from some quarters to disqualify Leni from taking over the vice presidency because her party — the Liberal Party — failed to submit its Statements of Contributions and Expenditures (SOCE) on time. Huh?

What is SOCE all about that non-compliance could stop Leni from taking the office she had won? But wait a minute! We’re not talking about Leni alone. It would also disqualify seven senators, scores of congressmen, and thousands of local officials who ran under the Liberal party (LP) banner!

It did not then come as a surprise when the Comelec met en banc and voted by a slim 4-3 majority to approve the plea of the LP and its standard-bear Mar Roxas to extend the deadline for the submission of the SOCE to June 30. The Comelec spokesman James Jimenez said that the official explanation was not to defeat the “will of the people” in the May 9 elections. He further explained that Comelec did not bend the rules for the LP because it would also benefit other parties – Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino and Aksyon Demokratiko — who missed the filing deadline. He added: “The problem (in not extending the deadline) is it will essentially defeat the voice of the voters who voted for certain candidates but will not be allowed to assume office simply because they have no SOCEs. That is what we want to avoid.”

On the day following the Comelec ruling, Commissioner Christian Robert Lim – who was concurrently the head of Comelec’s Campaign Finance Office (CFO) — announced his resignation from the Commission. The CFO is the office in charge of receiving and evaluating the SOCEs of all the candidates. He said that the policy shift was not acceptable, insisting that the 30-day period is a “hard deadline” set by law under Section 14 of Republic Act No. 7166. He added, “To grant the request for extension would not only be unfair to other candidates and parties who complied within the prescribed period but also would be a reversal of the Commission’s own resolution on the matter.”

What the law says

SOCEWell, let’s take a look what Lim was talking about. Section 14 of Republic Act 7166 state: “Statement of Contributions and Expenditures; Effect of Failure to File Statement. – Every candidate and treasurer of the political party shall, within thirty (30) days after the day of the election, file in duplicate with the offices of the Commission the full, true and itemized statement of all contributions and expenditures in connection with the election.

“No person elected to any public offices shall enter upon the duties of his office until he has filed the statement of contributions and expenditures herein required.

“The same prohibition shall apply if the political party which nominated the winning candidate fails to file the statement required herein within the period prescribed by this Act.

“Except candidates for elective barangay office, failure to file the statements or reports in connection with electoral contributions and expenditures are required herein shall constitute an administrative offense for which the offenders shall be liable to pay an administrative fine ranging from One thousand pesos (P1,000.00) to Thirty thousand pesos (P30,000.00), in the discretion of the Commission.

“The fine shall be paid within thirty (30) days from receipt of notice of such failure; otherwise, it shall be enforceable by a writ of execution issued by the Commission against the properties of the offender.

“It shall be the duty of every city or municipal election registrar to advise in writing, by personal delivery or registered mail, within five (5) days from the date of election all candidates residing in his jurisdiction to comply with their obligation to file their statements of contributions and expenditures.

“For the commission of a second or subsequent offense under this section, the administrative fine shall be from Two thousand pesos (P2,000.00) to Sixty thousand pesos (P60,000.00), in the discretion of the Commission. In addition, the offender shall be subject to perpetual disqualification to hold public office.”

Administrative offense vs. disqualification

Perpetually-DisqualifiedWhat is interesting to note is that there are conflicting provisions in Section 14. It states that failure to file the SOCE “shall constitute an administrative offense for which the offenders shall be liable to pay an administrative fine ranging from One thousand pesos (P1,000.00) to Thirty thousand pesos (P30,000.00), in the discretion of the Commission.” If the offender fails to pay the fine within 30 days, the Comelec would issue a “writ of execution” against the offender’s properties.

There is no mention of “disqualification” except in the event that the offender committed a second or subsequent offense; the administrative fine shall be increased from P2,000 to P60,000, in the discretion of the Comelec. However, it states that the offender shall be subject to “perpetual disqualification” to hold public office.

But what might have intrigued – or confused — some people is the provision that states: “No person elected to any public offices shall enter upon the duties of his office until he has filed the statement of contributions and expenditures herein required.” And this begs the question: What if the offender files his or her SOCE before he or she is sworn into office (president and vice-president are sworn in on June 30 following the elections)? Is it sufficed to say that if the offender submits his or her SOCE before June 30 and pays the “administrative fine,” he or she can then take the oath of office?

Surmise it is to say, since vice president-elect Leni Robredo had submitted her SOCE on time and the LP had finally submitted its SOCE subject to administrative fine for late filing, there is no reason why Leni should be disqualified – and stopped — from taking her oath as Vice President on June 30.

If the Comelec had not allowed Leni Robredo and the other Liberal Party winning candidates from being sworn into office on June 30, the mass disqualification would be tantamount to a technical coup d’état. Is that the will of Filipino people?


5 Responses. Have your say.

  1. perry says:

    Bongbong Marcos is really a chip of the old block. He has to “win” either by hook or by crook. Comelec should not allow this to happen. No matter how thin a margin Leni won the election, still majority rules and the voice of the people has to be respected.

    Armando Aspiras
    (Sent by email)

  2. arthur alvendia says:

    First the administration deludes itself that “daang matuwid” has reduced corruption, despite the brazen fact that the President’s own team have failed miserably to perform on their duties on the heels of corrupt private deals. Now you call a clear violation of law of the law — technical coup detat. And then you label an opposition party’s bid to enforce the law thru the Supreme Court -“a hook or by crook” effort. All because it favors your candidate. This is not just a violation of law and one’s own policy, its clear mental dishonest. If our people, our leaders, our opinion makers can not Face Reality, how will this nation ever build the institutions of freedom, truth, justice and Morality. Whom do these institutions serve?
    Arthur Alvendia

  3. jose balmadrid says:

    The voice of the people is not the voice of God. That is blasphemy, but the will of the people is the law. Bobong Marcos and his minions should understand that. This is unlike previous elections where several, maybe a hundred election computer technicians stage a walk out even under a dictatorship to voice and uphold their freedom to do what is right and oppose what is wrong. Make no mistake. History can readily repeat itself.
    The Pilipinos are more strong now and the international community knows and supports that. President Duterte who appear like a Bobong Marcos loyalist should respect the will of the people including a good number of those who voted for him and Robredo but not for Bobong Marcos. Robredo should be given an important position in the government. IT IS THE PEOPLES’ WILL. Robredo will render a good meaningful service to the people with or without being given a cabinet post. Drug war inspired by President Duterte’s incoming take over is impressive, but despite all the numbers of those captured or killed innocently or culpable, how come not a single big time drug lord is captured. There are rumors they are being killed to silence them from exposing their kingpins. who is protecting the real Macoy (not Marcos, of course.

  4. Narciso Fontecha says:

    Failure to file the SOCE is an administrative offense punishable by a fine of up to P30,000. By paying the fine, through actual payment or by a writ of execution, I think the offense is cured and the elected candidate should be allowed to assume the office.

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