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Crucial SOCE issue now before the SC

This is one issue that will not be easy to resolve.

On June 23, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) approved a resolution extending the deadline for filing of Statements of Contributions and Expenditures (SOCE) by candidates and their parties to June 30. It did this despite the specific provision of RA 7166, “An Act Providing for Synchronized National and Local Elections and for Electoral Reforms,” that the statements must be filed within 30 days after election day.

As the election was held on May 9, 2016, the deadline was June 8 – 30 days later. “No person elected to any public office shall enter upon the duties of his office until he has filed the statement of contributions and expenditures herein required,” says Section 14 of RA 7166. “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.”

The June 8 deadline came and all the parties filed their statements on time – except one, the Liberal Party. It asked for a 14-day extension and then filed the required statement only on June 14. On June 23, the Comelec issued its resolution extending the deadline to June 30.

The Comelec resolution that favored the LP has now been challenged in the Supreme Court by the PDP-Laban of President Duterte. It said the deadline was “mandatory and non-extendible.” It asked the SC to nullify the Comelec resolution.

If the SC agrees, all the winning LP candidates will not be able to assume office – not Vice President Leni Robredo, not Senator Franklin Drilon and the other LP senatorial winners, not the many victorious LP candidates for governor and mayor all over the country. It would be a catastrophe of far-ranging proportions that would nullify the will of millions of voters.

Buf if the SC rejects the PDP-Laban petition, it would be upholding a Comelec resolution that effectively amended a law. Only Congress may enact or amend a law, the PDP-Laban petition stressed.

The Supreme Court is due to meet en banc tomorrow and may include the SOCE issue in its agenda as it is most crucial and of utmost importance to the nation. It must be decided as quickly as possible. Until the matter is settled, the entire nation will be hanging on the balance of uncertainty that could lead to unwanted repercussions.