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Comelec breaks own rules

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has found itself in the midst of a controversial situation after deciding to extend the deadline for the submission of Statement of Contributions and Expenditures (SoCE) for winning and losing candidates in the May 9 elections.

For everyone’s information, Section 14 of Republic Act 7166 states that every candidate and treasurer of the political party shall submit the SoCE within 30 days after election.

Remember, the Comelec is constitutionally mandated to enforce all laws and regulations in the conduct of an election, plebiscite or referendum.

However, the Comelec en banc recently voted 4-3 and extended the filing of SoCE until June 30 in favor of the request of the Liberal Party (LP) and its standard-bearer Mar Roxas, who failed to submit the campaign expenditures before the deadline set on June 8.

Comelec officials reasoned that their decision was not to favor Roxas but all parties who failed to submit their SoCEs.

However, to a lot of people, it seemed the poll body broke its own rules in order to accommodate Roxas and his party. They want to know if this is not betrayal of public trust and a ground for impeachment under the Constitution.

Election Commissioner Christian Robert Lim, who recommended the denial of the LP request, felt disappointed and filed his irrevocable resignation as head of the poll body’s campaign finance office. He said the extension of the deadline was illegal and changing it constituted an amendment in the law by Congress.

Former Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes revealed that not even the Supreme Court could extend the deadline for filing of SoCE.

The Comelec also extended the filing of the SoCE in 2013 but imposed penalties on candidates and political parties that filed beyond the original deadline.

Bear in mind that a delay in the filing of campaign expense reports could mean more opportunities for those involved to create fabrications, and thereby end up as a form of corruption.

Allowing political parties to submit their SoCEs beyond the deadline would set a bad precedent.

More importantly, no candidate would believe anymore in the deadline the Comelec would set in future elections. He would merely ask for an extension, citing the LP request that the poll body granted in 2016 as an example.
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SHORT BURSTS. For comments or reactions, email firingline@ymail.com or tweet @Side_View. Read current and past issues of this column at http://www.tempo.com.ph/category/opinion/firing-line/ (Robert B. Roque, Jr.)