The head of the Commission on Elections’ (Comelec) campaign finance office (CFO) is resigning from his post.
“I will tender on Monday,” CFO head Commissioner Christian Robert Lim said in a text message when sought to confirm talk that he had quit his post.
“’Di acceptable ang policy shift (The policy shift was not acceptable),” Lim added but did not elaborate.
But Lim’s decision came a day after the commission en banc decided to grant the request of Liberal Party (LP) and its standard bearer, Mar Roxas, to extend the deadline for the submission of statement of contributions and expenditures (SOCE) for the May 2016 polls.
The commission en banc on Thursday voted 4-3 in favor of extending the deadline to submit SOCEs until June 30, disregarding Lim’s recommendation and vote to deny the LP and Roxas’ request.
Prior to last Thursday’s special en banc meeting, other poll officials refused to comment on the LP and Roxas’ request, saying the matter should be addressed to Lim, being the CFO head.
Lim was not present during the last three en banc meetings, including last Thursday. But on Wednesday, he recommended though a memorandum to reject LP and Roxas’ request.
“…the undersigned, in his capacity as commissioner-in-charge of the Campaign Finance Office, respectfully votes to deny the request of the Liberal Party and its presidential candidate Manuel Roxas II, as communicated by Atty. Sardillo,” the document said.
Acording to Lim, Republic Act 7166 clearly states that submission of SOCE should be made within 30 days after the elections. He said extension to the deadline means that Comelec should amend the law.
“To grant the request for extension would not only be unfair to other candidates and parties who complied within the prescribed period but also would be a reversal of the Commission’s own resolution on the matter,” he added.
Lim stressed that the 30-day period from election day is “a hard deadline” set by law in Section 14 of Republic Act No. 7166.
He also said it is stated in the Omnibus Rules on Campaign Finance that the June 8 deadline is “final and non-extendible.”
“The ‘final and non-extendible’ nature of the 08 June 2016 deadline has been emphasized in the second paragraph of Section 2, Rule 10 of the Omnibus Rules on Campaign Finance,” Lim said.
He also noted that all presidential and vice presidential candidates, with the exception of Roxas, were able to file their SOCEs on time “regardless” of the voluminous nature of the report.
“It is worthy to note that even presidential candidate, Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago, was able to comply with the submission of her SOCE through her representative on June 8 despite being on medical leave and her confinement in the Intensive Care Unit of the Makati Medical Center a few days before the deadline,” said Lim.
Apart from Lim, Comelec Chair Andres Bautista and Commissioner Luie Guia also voted against the extension.
Bautista voted against the extension but he would allow late filing with the imposition of the necessary fines and penalties.
The commissioners who voted in favor of the extension of SOCE filing are Rowena Guanzon, Albert Lim, Al Parreño, and Sheriff Abas.
LP and Roxas earlier asked for a 14-day extension to file their SOCE after they failed to meet the June 8 deadline set by the Comelec. LP finally filed its SOCE on June 14. The documents did not include Roxas’ SOCE.
Bautista said the poll body is ready to defend before the high court its ruling to extend the filing of expenditures report beyond the June 8 deadline.
In a television interview, Bautista acknowledged there may be parties “that would like to question our decision with the Supreme Court,” saying that doing so “is their prerogative.”
“We will present our position in that regard,” he said. “You know, we’re used to court cases and we’re used to defending our decisions before the court. We see no problem in that. This is a very good point of law that should be discussed. We welcome the challenge.”
Guanzon took to Twitter on Friday to explain her side, saying the law “does not prohibit” the move.
“Comelec can relax its rules; respect the will of the people; absurd consequences if strictly applied,” she tweeted.
“The people voted for them; respect the will of the people. That is the primordial principle of elections,” she added.
In a press briefing Thursday, Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez said majority of the commissioners cited the “absurdity” of the consequence if the period to file the SOCE is not extended.
“The four voted for the extension citing the absurdity of the results if it is not extended, and that the law never intended for the results to be absurd. You have to understand that it is quite a huge effect if this deadline is retained,” said the poll official.
“The problem (in not extending the deadline) is it will essentially defeat the voice of the voters who voted for certain candidates but will not be allowed to assume office simply because they have no SOCEs. That is what we want to avoid,” Jimenez added.
Republic Act 7166 and Section 5 of Comelec Resolution 9991 state that winning candidates elected to any public office nominated by parties shall not enter upon the duties of their office until the party has filed its own SOCE.
“The extension will have a huge effect. The extension will benefit everyone. Not just one party in particular. The extension will be available to everyone,” he added, stressing that the en banc decision is backed by laws and precedent./rga
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