A candidate for an elective post who has failed twice to file his Statement of Contributions and Expenditures or SOCE within 30 days from the day of the election is perpetually disqualified to hold public office, the Supreme Court declared yesterday.
In an en banc decision penned by Justice Lucas P. Bersamin, the High Court stressed that perpetual disqualification to hold public office “is the additional penalty imposed on candidates” who repeatedly failed to file their SOCE under Section 14 of Republic Act No. 7166, the law on synchronized national and local elections.
With the ruling, the SC upheld the perpetual disqualification to hold public office imposed by the Commission on Elections on Sept. 8, 2016 against Joel T. Maturan, who failed to file his SOCE for the 2010 gubernatorial and 2013 mayoralty elections in Basilan province.
Maturan filed his Certificate of Candidacy for governor of Basilan on Oct. 16, 2015. However, Allan Patinio, a registered voter, filed a petition for Maturan’s disqualification for failure to file his SOCEs for the two preceding elections.
However, Maturan that he could not be disqualified because he had paid a fine for non-filing of SOCE for 2010, and he withdrew his candidacy for the 2013 election. Later, he claimed the penalty of perpetual disqualification is “harsh and cruel.”
After the Comelec handed down its decision perpetually disqualifying him, Maturan elevated the issue before the Supreme Court.
In ruling against Maturan, the SC dismissed his petition and ruled the Comelec did not commit grave abuse of discretion in imposing upon him the penalty.
“In imposing the penalty, the Comelec clearly acted within the bounds of its jurisdiction in view of the clear language of Section 14 of RA No. 7166,” the high court ruled.
Section 14 provides that “Every candidate and treasurer of the political party shall, within 30 days after the day of the 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”
“For the commission of a second or subsequent offense under this section, the administrative fine shall be from P2,000 to P60,000, in the discretion of the Commission. In addition, the offender shall be subject to perpetual disqualification to hold public office,” the law adds.
The SC pointed out that Congress “has deemed fit to impose the penalty of perpetual disqualification on candidates who repeatedly failed to file their SOCEs cannot be the subject of judicial inquiry.”
The tribunal said Congress “has the absolute discretion to penalize by law” with perpetual disqualification from holding public office, in addition to administrative fines, the seekers of public office who fail more than once to file their SOCEs.
“Such penalty is intended to underscore the need to file the SOCE as another means of ensuring the sanctity of the electoral process,” the court added.