A PARTY-LIST group on Monday asked the Supreme Court to nullify the Commission on Elections resolution extending the deadline for candidates and political parties to submit their statements of contributions and expenditures for the May 9 polls.
In a petition, lawyer Manuelito Luna, nominee for the 1-Abilidad party-list and retired soldier Justino Padiernos of the People’s Freedom Party also asked the court to issue a status quo ante order that would retain the deadline on June 8, saying the Comelec “gravely abused its discretion” when it moved the deadline to June 30 to accommodate losing presidential candidate Manuel Roxas and his Liberal Party.
“There is no substantive justification for the Commission to disregard the ‘final and executory’ deadline prescribed by Section 14 of Republic Act 7166 …” the petitioners argued.
They said that as an administrative agency, the Comelec is mandated to strictly enforce the provisions of Republic Act 7166 or the Synchronized National and Local Elections and for Electoral Reforms.
The law states that candidates and their political parties must submit their respective SOCEs within 30 days of the election.
The petitioners said extending the 30-day deadline was tantamount to amending the law, which is within the jurisdiction of Congress.
Luna and Padiernos said as taxpayers, they have legal standing to question the Comelec’s decision.
“As civic-minded citizens and taxpayers, petitioners have a personal stake in the resolution of the controversy, and are necessarily injured or threatened to suffer injury when an agency of government honors the law in its violation than in its obedience, as in this case,” petitioners said.
Last week, the Comelec en banc, voting 4-3, set aside the recommendation of its Campaign Finance Office to deny the request of the LP for an extension of the deadline.
The four commissioners who voted for the extension said they gave weight to the practical implications of an adverse ruling.
Comelec spokesman James Jimenez said besides Vice President Maria Leonor G. Robredo, five senators, 115 congressmen and 40 governors would be unable to take office because their parties had failed to submit their SOCE on time.
“The effect would have been huge. Many would not be able to sit in office and the voters’ process would have been defeated over their failure to file,” he said.
Those who voted for extension were Commissioners Arthur D. Lim, Al Parreño, Sheriff M. Abas and Rowena V. Guanzon.
Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista, Commissioner Christian Robert S. Lim, head of the Comelec-CFO, Commissioner Luie Tito F. Guia voted against the extension.
Bautista voted not to extend the deadline, but accept the SOCE subject to a fine.
In its request to extend the filing of SOCE, the LP through lawyer Maria Bernadette Sardillo, cited as reasons “the confusion brought by the stringent new requirements for its submission as stated in the Omnibus Rules on Campaign Finance or Comelec Resolution No. 9991’’ and that more than a thousand documents would have to be attached to the SOCE filing for the LP and its presidential candidate.
Lim on Monday submitted his irrevocable resignation as chief of the Comelec’s Campaign Finance Office, saying that the en banc decision was illegal.
“It appears that there are no more rules now so what will I do?” Lim said, when asked why he resigned as CFO chief.
“My views now are inconsistent with the views of the en banc so why should I continue to head the CFO?” he added
Lim, in his memo, recommended to the en banc to reject the request filed by the Liberal Party and Roxas for a 14-day extension.
But the Comelec en banc set aside the CFO recommendation and instead extended the deadline for filing of SOCEs from June 8 to June 30.
“Extending is illegal because the law provides that it should be within 30 days. If you go beyond 30 days, that’s tantamount to an amendment of the law,” Lim said.
He also noted that the previous instances of extension, such as in 2013, were also illegal, but none questioned it.
Bautista said he would ask Lim to reconsider his decision, noting the importance of his role in leveling the playing field during elections.