On the surface, it seems a good thing that our elections commissioners are of different persuasions. This lends credibility to the collegial nature of the Comelec, a constitutional commission independent of all other branches of government.
The operative phrase, however, is “on the surface.”
More than a month after the May 9 national and local elections, the poll body faces criticism for agreeing to extend the deadline for the filing of Statements of Contributions and Expenditures from June 8 to June 30.
The extension is seen as an accommodation to the Liberal Party, which submitted its SOCE six days after the deadline, or on June 14. The LP’s presidential candidate, Manuel Roxas II, only submitted his Soce on June 22, saying he had voluminous documents that had to be attached and scanned.
According to election laws, winning candidates of parties that fail to submit the Soce will not be able to assume their posts. The LP’s Leonor Robredo has been proclaimed winner of the vice presidential race.
One of the three dissenters, Commissioner Christian Lim, slammed the en banc’s decision, saying that his colleagues had a limited view of campaign finance regulation and little regard for the consequences of the extension. Lim used to head the Campaign Finance Office that had recommended the denial of the Liberal Party’s request.
But the Comelec’s woes transcend the SOCE. Online news organization Rappler reported that the six commissioners had written Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista a letter earlier this month lamenting his failure of leadership.
Among the issues was the delay in the release of allowances of teachers who served as election inspectors even as the law required a payment within 15 days from the date of the elections. Bautista had blamed the teachers because they refused to use cash cards to receive their pay.
The commissioners also said Bautista made a statement to the media that the barangay and the Sangguniang Kabataan elections should be postponed. The chairman should have consulted them because they were supposed to speak and act as a body, the commissioners said.
The people’s faith in the electoral system is only as strong as their belief that the Comelec is a sound, stable and sensible agency capable of performing its job despite administrative imperfections and differences among its key players. The commission plays a central role in upholding democracy. Beyond parties and personalities, a far greater concern is whether the will of the people is reflected and whether elections are conducted in the manner envisioned by the law. The Comelec must get its act together.