Comelec wants return of jail term for failure to file Soces

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Friday, December 13, 2013

UNSATISFIED with its order for elected officials to vacate their posts, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) is now looking for the return of jail terms for those who will fail to correctly file their Statement of Contributions and Expenditures (Soces).

In a phone interview, Comelec Chairperson Sixto Brillantes challenged lawmakers to make failure of filing Soces grounds to file election offense cases.

“My proposal is for Congress to bring back the election offense as penalty for non-filing of Soces so that we can jail those that are not filing Soces. In turn, all will follow our directives,” said Brillantes.

“The problem is that many (officials) relaxed in meeting our requirements on Soce since it was decriminalized by Congress. Why don’t they try to bring it back as an election offense so that they will be scared since we can imprison them. As of now, we can’t do that,” he also said.

Under the Omnibus Elections Code, failure to file Soces is tantamount to an election offense, which carries a penalty of one to six years imprisonment, removal of right to vote, and disqualification from holding public office aside from being unable to assume their won posts.

The said provision was repealed by Republic Act 7166, which provides that failure to file Soce can result only to unable to assume their positions, administrative fines ranging from P1,000 to P30,000, and perpetual disqualification to hold public office.

On Thursday, the Comelec ordered 422 elected officials, including 20 congressmen, over their failure to file valid Soces as some were not personally signed by candidates or did not use the prescribed form, while others did not file any Soce at all.

The poll body had similarly asked House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte and Department of Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas to implement the said order.

Affected official, according to the Comelec, shall be unable to assume their posts until have successfully complied with the Soce requirements and have paid the fines.

Brillantes said he believes that the lawmakers opted to “decriminalize” failure to file Soces in a bid to save themselves from possible imprisonment.

“Maybe they want to excuse themselves from facing jail terms,” said Brillantes.

Meanwhile, one of the 20 solons whom Comelec wanted to vacate their posts, 4th district of Manila representative Tricia Bonoan issued a statement saying that her office has filed her Soce on June 7, 2013.

The statement said, "We were among the first to submit and comply with the mandate of the law."

It was back in 1991 when Congress had passed RA 7166, which is the Synchronization of the National and Local Elections. (HDT/Sunnex)

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