[News] Lesson from the SOCE: Submit properly, with signature affixed

 

Legal counsel Atty. Joel Montealto shows the copy of Governor Vilma Santos - Recto's submitted SOCE to the Comelec (photo by MARLON LUISTRO / TFC)

Legal counsel Atty. Joel Montealto shows the copy of Governor Vilma Santos – Recto’s submitted SOCE to the Comelec (photo by MARLON LUISTRO / TFC)

 

BATANGAS CITY–Batangas Gov. Vilma Santos-Recto had re-submitted her Statement of Election Contributions and Expenditures (SOCE), eluding what could have been a local political crisis amid her landslide victory in the local elections last May.

The lesson here, said Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chair Sixto Brillantes, is to make sure winning and losing candidates submit these SOCEs.

Assuming the candidate “submitted” the SOCE, check if the candidate herself or himself had signed the document, Brillantes added.

The Comelec, last Dec. 12, announced that four governors, 20 congresspeople (the former including Santos-Recto, and the legislators including three from Batangas) and 421 other officials should vacate their posts for failure to comply with the provision to submit the SOCE.

The submission of the SOCE is provided for by Republic Act 7166, or the Synchronized Election Law.

Though, in a radio interview in Manila, Brillantes said candidates mentioned can still submit their SOCEs and they will continue assuming their elective posts.

Recto’s lawyer Joel Montealto personally re-filed Santos-Recto’s SOCE papers at Comelec Law Department on the morning of Dec. 13. Batangueño representatives to Congress Elenita Ermita – Buhain

(first district), Nelson Collantes (third district) and Mark Llandro Mendoza (fourth district), for their part, had also submitted their SOCEs.

These re-elected legislators all have one thing in common with the popular lady governor of Batangas: Buhain, Collantes and Mendoza did not originally sign their SOCEs.

But Montealto noticed something fuzzy about this SOCE rule of Comelec. “Filing does not necessarily mean that there was a violation. We even wanted to question the legality (of the order) since Comelec Resolution 9476 states that treasurers of the political party are allowed to sign the SOCE (on behalf of the candidate).”

Republic Act 7166 states “every candidate and treasurer of the political party shall, within 30 days after the day of 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.” Administrative

fines are meted to erring candidates, depending on their elected position and the number of days that the SOCE has not been filed, explained Brillantes. The Comelec’s deadline for filing SOCE lapsed last June 30. Candidates were also required to file the said document in the Comelec’s prescribed forms with receipts attached and signed personally by the winning candidates.

What almost befell Santos-Recto and the three legislator is now a problem for some 670 barangay election candidates did not file their SOCEs after the Oct. 28 barangay election. The Batangas Comelec

said even losing candidates thought their mere setback from the election already exempts

them from filing the SOCE.

As for the case of Santos-Recto, Montealto said it was the Liberal party’s treasurer in Batangas and her former provincial tourism officer Francisco Lardizabal who signed in behalf of her. But it was

“deemed not filed” by the election body.

If the elected officials did not comply with Comelec’s ruling on the SOCE, and if there are no successors as in the case of legislators,

“So they have to check, rectify and those who did not file could still file but that would be late filing. Those who did not comply with the prescribed form, they can file a new form. Only after that will

they be considered compliant with the requirements of the law. That would entitle them to assume office,” Brillantes told the national media.

In an interview with reporters at the sidelines of the province’s multi-sectoral volcanic eruption response simulation drill in Balete town, Recto said she was shocked when she heard the news. The three-term governor said Provincial Election Supervisor Atty. Gloria Ramos-Petallo even issued a certificate of compliance on June 7 just to prove that the elected Batangas governor has complied

with the law on filing SOCEs.

Recto said even the Comelec provincial office was surprised when they heard from the news that she did not file her SOCE. Santos-Recto, however, admitted that she did not personally sign her SOCE as it has already been a common practice in the past that “an authorized representative of the political party would sign on her behalf.”

Official Comelec records said that Recto was the biggest spender in the May 2013 elections, outspending each of the 34 other provincial candidates given her P3.783 million in expenditures (all of which “came from personal funds”). Recto said she did not receive contributions from any person and the Liberal party in her re-election bid.

But on Comelec’s SOCE rule, Batangueños are divided on the issue of whether or not Recto should vacate her office. “Why would they ask her to step down? That’s wrong. They should just let her finish her term,” said truck driver Ernesto Conti of Batangas City.

“For me they should follow the process,” said pastor Apolinario Luza of Balete municipality, “because if they would just tell her to vacate then it doesn’t sound well with people. It’s all about following the right process.”

 

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About MARLON ALEXANDER S. LUISTRO