MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The outgoing head of the Campaign Finance Office (CFO) of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) said that the extension for filing campaign spending reports is illegal.
"If you look at the law, it says within 30 days. If you go beyond 30 days, then that's tantamount to an amendment of the law," said Commissioner Christian Robert Lim in a chance interview on Monday, June 20.
"For me, we are just moving towards the compliance with what the law requires," he added.
The 30-day filing period is mandated in Republic Act 7166 and reiterated in Comelec Resolution 9991.
Lim tendered his "irrevocable resignation" as head of the CFO on Monday, June 20, following the Comelec en banc's decision to extend the period for the filing of the Statement of Contributions and Expenditures (SOCE) to accommodate the Liberal Party (LP).
Lim voted against the extension to June 30, from the original "final, non-extendible" June 8 deadline. The LP missed the deadline, then filed its SOCE 6 days late. (READ: Comelec office: No to LP's late SOCE filing)
"My views are inconsistent now with the views of the en banc. So, bakit pa ako ang mag-head [ng CFO]? Kasi ngayon, parang wala nang rules eh," he said.
(So, why would I continue to head the CFO? Right now, it seems there are no rules anymore.)
"Those who voted in the majority, maybe they can head it," Lim added.
Comelec Comm. Christian Lim: My views now different with en banc. Bakit pa ako mag-head [ng CFO]? @rapplerdotcom pic.twitter.com/cCTPzQanvo — Michael Bueza (@mikebueza) June 20, 2016
Lim also found the en banc's ruling "frustrating" and "unacceptable," given his office's efforts to implement campaign finance rules in past elections.
"Even in 2013, we were still fighting for a non-extendible rule. Pumayag 'yung en banc [sa extension], kaya mayroong late penalty," he explained.
(The en banc approved an extension, that's why there was a penalty for late filing.)
"But 2013 was the experimental [phase], 2016 was the culmination. Now, we're back to zero. Parang, sayang 'yung lahat ng efforts," Lim continued.
(It's like all the efforts were wasted.)
Asked why the extension was allowed in 2013, Lim said nobody questioned it.
The CFO started as a unit in 2012 to monitor campaign contributions and spending. It became a full-fledged office 3 years later, in October 2015.
In his letter to the Comelec en banc, Lim cited the poll body's "policy shift resulting from granting the request for extension without any sanctions on the erring candidates and parties" as the reason for his "irrevocable" resignation effective Monday.
He thanked the CFO staff and Comelec field personnel "for their tremendous efforts to enforce campaign finance laws" and the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism for bringing public awareness to the issue of campaign finance.
He also thanked the candidates and parties "who have exerted their best efforts to comply with Comelec Resolution No. 9991."
"While justice remains elusive, the fight for transparency and good governance continues," Lim wrote.
Bautista to urge Lim to stay
Sought for comment, Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista said that Lim's resignation as CFO head will be discussed by the en banc on Tuesday, June 21.
But Bautista said he will try to discourage Lim from stepping down. The Comelec chief likewise voted against the SOCE filing extension, but allowed late filing with fines to be imposed.
"Ako naman ay nasasayangan dahil maganda naman ang trabaho ni Commissioner Lim sa CFO," Bautista said.
(I think it will be a loss for the Comelec because Commissioner Lim has done well at the CFO.)
Bautista also stressed the importance of implementing campaign finance rules during elections, saying that it levels the playing field for both well-funded and independent candidates. – Rappler.com
Michael Bueza is a researcher and data curator under Rappler's Research Team. He works on data about elections, governance, and the budget. He also follows the Philippine pro wrestling scene and the WWE. Michael is also part of the Laffler Talk podcast trio.