MANILA, Philippines – The United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) has urged the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to deny the request of the Liberal Party (LP) to extend the filing of campaign spending reports in the 2016 elections.
UNA also said that the LP and its standard-bearer Manuel "Mar" Roxas II should not be given special treatment, and should instead be sanctioned for their "deliberate failure" to file their Statement of Contributions and Expenses (SOCE) on time, or by the June 8 deadline.
In a statement on Wednesday, June 15, UNA said it has formally written a letter to the Comelec on June 13 to oppose LP’s request for a 14-day extension of the SOCE filing period.
The 5-page letter, prepared and signed by UNA Secretary General JV Bautista, was addressed to Commissioner Christian Robert Lim, head of the Comelec Campaign Finance Office (CFO).
Bautista said the Comelec’s final, non-extendible June 8 deadline was clear and well-defined, but the LP "gave flimsy excuses and still had the audacity to be exempted from the rules."
The LP, in asking for the 14-day extension, reasoned that it had a "voluminous number of receipts" to scan and attach to its SOCE "in the interest of transparency."
Comelec Resolution 9991 stated that all candidates, party lists, and political parties are required to submit their SOCEs within 30 days after election day. But unlike in past elections, the poll body ruled that submissions beyond the deadline "shall not be accepted."
Despite this, the LP submitted its SOCE on Tuesday, June 14, or 6 days late. Roxas has yet to submit his SOCE.
Sanction LP, Roxas
Bautista noted that all other presidential bets and major political parties have exerted tremendous effort and manpower to submit their SOCEs on time.
"Roxas and the Liberal Party should not be given any special treatment. Having voluntarily participated in the May 2016 elections, they are expected to strictly comply with the pertinent laws, rules and regulations and deadlines that are implemented and imposed by the Honorable Commission," Bautista wrote in his letter.
He also argued that the LP and Roxas "must be sanctioned for their deliberate failure to account for all contributions and expenses they incurred in connection with the May 2016 elections."
Comelec Resolution 9991 imposes administrative fines on those who will fail to submit their SOCEs. Repeated non-compliance can lead to perpetual disqualification of a candidate from public office.
UNA said it expects Comelec "to stand firm in its position with regard the non-extendable deadline and not accede to LP's request."
Bautista added that the poll body should not relax its rules, noting that the Supreme Court itself had decided in past cases that procedural rules "should not be belittled or dismissed."
Even if the Comelec becomes lenient, Bautista argued that Roxas and the LP "were not able to show any convincing reason for the Comelec to become tolerant in the application of its rules."
He also pointed out that granting LP's request would be "illegal and the height of injustice" for the Comelec. More importantly, he said, it will also "add fuel to the people's perception" that the poll body "is biased in favor of Roxas and the Liberal Party."
"With all due respect, the Honorable Commission should not reward those who deliberately disregard the mandatory requirements it has imposed,” Bautista said.
UNA is the political party of Vice President Jejomar Binay, who placed 4th in the 2016 presidential elections. – 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.