IF RULES on campaign finance will be followed, only five winning senatorial candidates will be allowed to assume office on June 30, 2013. That is until the rest of the candidates and their nominating parties submit a complete Statement of Election Contributions and Expenditures (SOCE) by June 29, 2013.
As of June 25, seven winning candidates for senator had actually “fully complied” with the SOCE requirements: Alan Peter S. Cayetano, Francis Joseph ‘Chiz’ G. Escudero, Mary Grace Poe-Llamanzares, Cynthia A. Villar, Paolo Benigno ‘Bam’ A. Aquino IV, Gregorio ‘Gringo’ B. Honasan II, and Loren Regina ‘Loren’ B. Legarda.
The Campaign Finance Unit (CFU) of the Commission on Elections (Comelec), however, recommends that Aquino and Legarda not be allowed to assume office until their respective nominating parties, the Liberal Party (LP) and the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC), submit supporting information and documents.
It was only on Thursday, June 27, that the opposition United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) led by Vice President Jejomar Binay finally submitted receipts and other documents to correct its SOCE deficiencies.
Republic Act No. 7166 (Synchronized Elections Law) requires every candidate and political party to submit a “full, true and itemized” SOCE within 30 days after Election Day. Failure to do so prohibits a winning candidate from entering office until he/she has filed such statement.
The legal prohibition from assuming office also applies to a winning candidate if the political party that nominated him/her fails to file its SOCE.
The Comelec Law Department and CFU will issue a Certificate of Compliance to candidates, parties, and party-list groups that submitted “complete and compliant campaign finance disclosure reports and statements.” This certificate is required before a candidate is allowed to take oath of office.
Incomplete = Not filed
Candidates and parties were required to submit the SOCE until June 13, 2013. Comelec, however, gave candidates and parties a grace period lasting until June 29 to fully comply with SOCE requirements. The grace period was given to encourage candidates and parties to file and complete their submissions. But a running fine of P1,000 per day was to be applied for those found in non-compliance.
An incomplete SOCE, or one that does not contain all the required information and attachments, or does not conform to the prescribed form, is considered as “not filed” and “shall subject the candidates or party treasurers to the penalties prescribed by law.”
Failure to file the SOCE or submit a complete SOCE by June 29 will thus be considered an “administrative offense” for which offenders shall be liable to pay an administrative fine ranging from P1,000 to P30,000 at the discretion of the Commission.
If a candidate fails to file his/her SOCE for a second time, the administrative fine shall range from P2,000 to P60,000 at Comelec’s discretion. In addition, the offender shall be subject to perpetual disqualification to hold office.
On June 18, the Comelec CFU submitted a memorandum to the Commission En Banc that detailed deficiencies it found in the SOCEs that had been filed by then.
The memorandum included recommendations on what should be done next, such as imposition of fines and issuance and non-issuance of the Certificate of Compliance.
In addition, the memo recommended that all preliminary submissions made by candidates and parties that were incomplete, not supported by receipts or invoices, or not using the prescribed forms be deemed as “not filed” and be subjected to a late fine of P1,000 per day (not to exceed June 29, 2013) until they had corrected the deficiency in their submissions.
The Comelec En Banc approved this memorandum on June 20. Five days later, or on June 25, the Comelec CFU submitted a report saying that five winning candidates, 10 non-winning candidates, and at least six political parties that nominated senatorial candidates had yet to fully comply with disclosure requirements or had not yet submitted the SOCE.
LP, NPC: No receipts
According to the CFU report, the Liberal Party of President Benigno S. Aquino III had yet to provide details such as the OR (Official Receipt) number and date when the contribution was received. The party had also yet to submit copies of the receipts issued to its contributors and an itemized Schedule of Expenditures.
Meanwhile, NPC also needed to submit a copy of the receipts issued to its contributors.
Aside from the five main documents that compose the SOCE (the one-page Statement of Election Contributions and Expenditures [Annex F of Resolution No. 9476], Schedule of Contributions Received [Annex G], Schedule of Expenditures [Annex H], Summary Report of Expenditures [Annex H-1], and Schedule of Unpaid Obligations [Annex I]), certified true copies of official receipts, invoices, and other similar documents must also be submitted.
These requirements are explained in detail in Comelec Resolution No. 9476, which was released more than a year ago.
Queried on the importance of filing a complete and on-time SOCE, Comelec Commissioner Christian Robert S. Lim said that running for public office is a question of accountability. “The bottom line is when you assume your position, that’s basically how people will look at the decisions you’ll make while you’re in public office,” he noted. “They will look at this person (and ask), ‘Who’s pulling his strings, if there’s somebody pulling his strings?’”
“For senatorial candidates, you aspire to be lawmakers, but if your own laws you can’t even follow so what does that speak of you ’di ba ?’ Lim said. “Parang ganun lang ka-simple (It’s that simple).”
Lim also said that candidates and parties are required to submit on time to allow Comelec to assess submissions as fast as possible and also afford candidates and parties the time to rectify in case of deficiencies — such as those being found now — are identified.
For instance, the five winning candidates that the Comelec CFU said had yet to comply with the SOCE requirements as of June 25 were Juan Edgardo ‘Sonny’ M. Angara, Ma. Lourdes Nancy S. Binay, Joseph Victor ‘JV’ G. Ejercito, Aquilino Martin ‘Koko’ L. Pimentel III, and Antonio ‘Sonny’ F. Trillanes IV.
Pimentel’s SOCE was deemed as “not filed” because he had yet to submit a personally signed statement with copy of receipts issued to contributors.
Both Angara and Trillanes had yet to indicate some of their contributors’ TIN (taxpayer identification number) and submit a copy of contribution receipts. Nancy Binay and Ejercito, meantime, still needed to submit copy of receipts issued to contributors and receipts of expenses incurred.
Reached by PCIJ on June 27, Mina Pangandaman, chief of staff of exiting senator Edgardo J. Angara, said that Sonny Angara submitted a carbon copy of the receipts issued to his contributors. But she says these were not accepted by Comelec because it requires a certified photocopy of the receipts. Sonny Angara is the son of Edgardo Angara.
According to the CFU, as of June 27, it has received additional documents only from Nancy Binay, who is said to have submitted expenditure receipts.
The CFU was also informed that Ejercito sent his additional documents via registered mail.
LP to file Sunday?
No additional documents were received from Angara, Pimentel, Trillanes, LDP, LP, and NPC, said the CFU. But LP is said to have asked Comelec if it will be open on Sunday, leading some to believe it may be planning to submit more documents this weekend.
The Comelec CFU is currently completing its SOCE compliance report, which it will then submit to the offices of the Senate President, the Speaker of the House, and Secretary of the Interior and Local Government.
In news reports, Comelec Chairman Sixto S. Brillantes has said that the Commission will leave it up to the Senate President and House Speaker whether or not they will implement what the laws provide.
In the meantime, a little less than half of the 21 senatorial candidates who lost have fully complied with the SOCE requirements: Samson S. Alacantara, Edward S. Hagedorn, Ana Theresia ‘Risa’ N. Hontiveros, Ramon ‘Jun’ B. Magsaysay Jr., Ricardo ‘Dick’ L. Penson, Teodoro ‘Teddy’ A Casino, John Carlos ‘JC’ G. de los Reyes, Ma. Ana Consuelo ‘Jamby’ A.S. Madrigal, Christian M. Señeres, and Juan Miguel ‘Migz’ F. Zubiri.
The parties of Casiño (Makabayan), de los Reyes (Ang Kapatiran Party), Madrigal (LP), and Señeres (Democratic Party of the Philippines), however, have not complied with the SOCE requirements.
The SOCEs filed by Juan C. Ponce Enrile Jr., Baldomero C. Falcone, and Eduardo ‘Brother Eddie’ C. Villanueva have been deemed as “not filed” so far. Enrile did not personally sign his SOCE. Both Falcone and Villanueva, for their part, did not follow the prescribed SOCE form and did not include supporting documents.
Candidates Margarita ‘Tingting’ R. Cojuangco, Rizalito Y. David, Richard ‘Dick’ J. Gordon, Marwil N. Llasos, Ernesto M. Maceda, Ma. Milagros ‘Mitos’ H. Magsaysay, and Ramon E. Montaño also had yet to submit either contribution receipts or expense receipts or both as of June 25. But according to the CFU, as of June 27, Gordon and Mitos Magsaysay had now submitted additional documents.
The June 25 CFU report has no report on the status of compliance of candidate Greco B. Belgica.
Deficient parties, too
As of June 25, political parties Ang Kapatiran Party, Democratic Party of the Philippines, Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino (LDP, nominated Angara), and Makabayan — had yet to submit their SOCEs.
Norman Cabrera, secretary general of Ang Kapatiran, however, said that the party had already submitted its SOCE to the Comelec.
As for the LDP, Angara’s staff, Pangandaman said that it will submit the needed documents tomorrow.
Comelec will be furnishing the offices of the Senate President, the Speaker of the House, and Secretary of the Interior and Local Government a copy of the status of compliance of winning candidates.
The poll body will implement a memorandum of agreement it had signed earlier with the late Interior and Local Government Secretary Jessie Robredo, which prohibits locally elected officials from assuming office if they have not yet submitted their SOCEs.
For all these, Commissioner Lim said that he acknowledges the improved effort exerted by the candidates to comply with their duty in law to file truthful and complete election spending reports.
In 2010, he recalled, the benchmark SOCE was that of President Aquino, who submitted a thick SOCE. In 2013, Lim said, the one-page SOCE or those that do not follow the prescribed form has become the exception so far as the submission of national candidates and parties is concerned. — PCIJ, June 2013