Comelec tells Roxas: MOA with Robredo is binding

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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

BAFFLED over the action taken by Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas II, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Tuesday said the memorandum of agreement (MOA) it signed with the late Secretary Jesse Robredo regarding the failure of elected officials to file valid Statement of Contributions and Expenditures (Soces) remains to be in effect.

In an interview, Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez said the commission believes that it has enough legal grounds to order elected officials to temporary vacate their posts until they have complied with the required Soces under their memorandum of agreement.

"As far as we are concerned, the Comelec-DILG MOA stands. The MOA was not with Secretary Robredo, it was with the DILG (Department of Interior and Local Government)," Jimenez told reporters.

Back in March 2012, the Comelec and the DILG signed the MOA, which prohibits local officials to occupy the posts they won in May 2013 until valid Soces have been filed.

Roxas succeeded Robredo at the DILG helm after the latter died in a plane crash off Masbate in August 2012.

Jimenez issued the statement after Roxas sought the legal opinion of Justice Secretary Leila de Lima over the Comelec's order for 402 local government officials to vacate their posts.

Subsequently, de Lima questioned the Comelec's order for elected officials, who failed to submit valid Soces, to temporarily their posts and that proper legal proceedings, such as quo warranto cases, must be filed first.

A quo warranto case will determine if an elected official should occupy an office.

This can be filed before the Comelec, for city and provincial officials; House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET) for congressmen; Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET) for senators; and with the trial courts for municipal officials.

De Lima, a noted election lawyer, said the Comelec has no power to order the officials to vacate their posts if they lost a quo warranto case.

Jimenez said that instead of prolonging the dispute over the matter, it would be better if local officials led by the DILG to just follow the Comelec orders.

The official said they should just follow the actions of House Speaker Sonny Belmonte for the 20 lawmakers to immediately correct their Soces.

"It is a very simple thing to comply with and we recommend that all the local government and members of the House, who were cited, to just go ahead and file their rectifications and corrections so that it will be over and done with immediately," said Jimenez.

To date, 13 of the 20 congressmen have already fixed their Soces while the number of local officials is not yet available as of posting time, according to the official.

Last week, the Comelec had ordered 422 officials elected in the May 2013 polls to temporarily leave their posts over their supposed failure to file valid Soces, with some not personally signing it while others not using the prescribed form.

Among the known officials ordered to leave their posts are former president and now Pampanga Representative Gloria Arroyo; Muntinlupa Representative Rodolfo Biazon; Ilocos Sur Representative Ronald Singson, as well as Ilocos Sur Governor Ryan Luis Singson; Pangasinan Governor Amado Espino Jr.; Laguna Governor Emilio Ramon Ejercito; and Batangas Governor Vilma Santos-Recto.

Once the elected officials have corrected or filed valid Soces, the Comelec said they can immediately return to their posts.

Section 14 of RA 7166 provides that “no person elected to any public office shall enter upon the duties of his office until he has filed the statement of contributions and expenditures required." (HDT/ Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)

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