Party-list non-filers

MAJORITY OF the party-list groups that vied for seats in Congress in the May 2010 elections have since dutifully filed their sworn Statements of Election Contributions and Expenditures (SECEs) with the Commission on Elections (Comelec).

This includes all of the 43 organizations that now have nominees sitting in the House of Representatives.

Of the 169 or so party-list groups allowed to participate in the electoral contest, however, at least 26 (or about 15 percent) remain without SECEs filed with Comelec, even though they are subject to the same electoral laws as the ‘mainstream’ political parties.

Unfortunately, Comelec may have a hard time meting out penalties on these errant groups, based on PCIJ’s attempts to track them down. For one, of the 26 party-list organizations that didn’t file SECEs, PCIJ was able to send letters of clarification to only six because whatever contact information they had on record apparently was no longer applicable.

For another, of the six that PCIJ was able to contact successfully, only three so far have replied.

Hassan U. Dalimbang, founding chairman and first nominee of the Filipino Muslim Organization (Fil-Mus), readily admitted to PCIJ that he had not submitted a SECE “(in spite) of the fact that I had known very well the Rules and Regulations governing electoral contributions and expenditures in connection with the May 10, 2010 elections.”

In his letter to the Center, Dalimbang said he had not filed the papers as required by law because he had lost in the elections anyway and his “mind was sidetracked” by his involvement with issues concerning overseas Filipino workers or OFWs, which he considered more “pressing” and needing of his “immediate attention.” But he also said that his non-compliance was because the “receipts of all expenditures…were inadvertently lost during the campaign and election periods.”

Dante Francis M. Ang II, first nominee of Ahon Pinoy (which aims to protect the rights and welfare of OFWs), for his part said that were it not for PCIJ’s letter, the group “would not have known” that it had not filed its SECE.

“All the while,” wrote Ang in a letter dated May 27, 2011, “we assumed that our finance manager had taken care of the reportorial requirements.” He then said Ahon Pinoy would “submit a belated report to the Comelec as soon as (the group has) gathered all relevant documents.”

The Koalisyon ng Katutubong Samahan ng Pilipinas (KASAPI), which represents indigenous peoples, meanwhile said that it had submitted by courier its SECE to Comelec on Aug. 25, 2010. In a written reply to PCIJ’s queries, KASAPI administrative officer Jhon Jeff Tolentino said that this was after the group had received notice from Comelec asking it to submit its SECE.

KASAPI’s Jun. 7, 2011 letter to PCIJ came with a copy of its SECE, along with tracking information provided by the courier company. The tracking information showed that the parcel was received by a certain Trifona Root at Comelec.

When PCIJ last looked at Comelec’s files last April, though, it failed to find any copy of KASAPI’s SECE. Then again, this is the same government body that up until recently had conflicting lists of accredited party-list organizations, leading to confusion over which should be included in its roster of SECE non-filers.

In fact, Comelec had as much as 187 party-list groups on the official ballot. But when PCIJ tried checking on the supposed 36 non-filers based on a list drawn up by the Comelec’s Law Department, it found that a number of these had already been disqualified by the Commission way before the elections.

Among these groups was the United Filipino Seafarers (UFS), which had its registration as a sectoral party dismissed on Dec. 11, 2009. Its motion for reconsideration was denied by Comelec on Feb. 2, 2010. It was thus a perceivably irate Nelson Ramirez – president of UFS – who wrote to PCIJ last May that its being on the Comelec SECE non-filer list was “ridiculous.”

The Comelec Law Department has since cleaned up its SECE non-filer list. Whether it can get non-compliant party-list organizations to clean up their acts is another matter. – With research by Jessa Mae Jarilla, PCIJ, Julys 2011