5 Pampanga officials asked to leave post

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Thursday, December 12, 2013

CITY OF SAN FERNANDO — At least five officials from Pampanga, including 2nd District Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, are among the 424 local officials asked by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to leave their post for failing to file their appropriate Statement of Contributions and Expenditures (Soce).

This developed as Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes, who went on television Thursday, said officials are prohibited from assuming their posts until they have filed the proper Soce requirements.

Among those asked to temporarily leave their posts, aside from Arroyo, are Angeles City Councilor Maricel Morales, Apalit Councilor Jed Dalusong, and Candaba councilors Goding Pelayo and Cha-cha Sombillo.

The Pampanga officials are among the four governors, one vice governor, 12 provincial board members, 20 House representatives, 26 city and municipal vice mayors, 35 city and municipal vice governors and 324 city and municipal councilors also asked by the Comelec to vacate their posts.

The Soce is a detailed listing of a candidate’s donors and expenditures in the recent elections. Candidates and their parties are directed by law to file their SOCE within 30 days after the polls.

"It (Soce) was not signed personally by them (officials) or it was not in the proper form. So effectively, this was not the proper filing," Brillantes said.

Comelec documents showed that Arroyo did not personally sign her Soce along with Dalusong, Sombillo, and Pelayo while Morales did not use the prescribed form.

Other officials asked by the Comelec to leave their posts are Muntinlupa Representative Rodolfo Biazon, Batangas Governor Vilma Santos, Pasay City Mayor Tony Calixto, and Pangasinan Governor Amado Espino.

Brillantes said the poll body's en banc this week ruled that these 424 winning candidates have either failed to submit reports on their donors and expenditures within deadline and according to the prescribed forms.
The latest report by the Comelec’s Campaign Finance Steering Committee headed by Comelec Commissioner Christian Lim stated that these officials must temporarily vacate their post until they formally settle their respective cases with the poll body.

Among those included were 169 from the ruling Liberal Party, 44 from the National Unity Party (NUP) that is allied with the administration, nine candidates from the Nacionalista Party (NP), 33 independent candidates, 31 from the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC), 29 from the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA), and 17 from the Lakas-CMD.

Brillantes disclosed that 155 did not file Soces at all, while 269 others submitted deficient Soces, triggering the steering committee to consider these as “not filed” at all.

He noted that the winning candidates have been given 30 days after the election to file their respective Soces but it seems that there are still many who did not abide with the resolution.

“We’ve been given them so much enough time. Thirty days after the elections ay napakahabang period na para asikasuhin nila ang kanilang mga Soce, pero eto magpapasko na pero wala pa rin dumarating sa amin. Magpapasko na, kung tutuusin ayaw naming gawin ‘to ngayon pero talagang we have given them so much time,” Brillantes said.

He mentioned that the Comelec has entered into an agreement with the late Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo sometime in 2012, seeking all elected government officials for 2013 midterm polls to properly file the Soce or else not permitted to assume their posts.

“We are just implementing the Memorandum of Agreement with the DILG… and pumirma sila na hindi sila papaupuin sa kanilang pwesto kapag hinde nila na-file ang kanilang Soce,” Brillantes explained.

House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte immediately called the members of the House of Representatives who were ordered to leave their posts by the Comelec to fix the matter immediately.

According to Republic Act 7166 or the Synchronized Elections Law, all candidates are required to file “full, true, and itemized Soces within 30 days after election."

The law also states that winning candidates will not be allowed to assume office until they have submitted their Soces.

“Once they have settled their issues, they can assume their posts again,” Brillantes said. (With John Carlo Cahinhinan/Virgil Lopez/Third Anne Peralta/Sunnex)

Published in the Sun.Star Pampanga newspaper on December 13, 2013.

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