LOCAL candidates should be honest in declaring their campaign expenses or face perjury charges, the Cagayan de Oro City’s Commission on Elections (Comelec) warned.
Lawyer Palmer Palamine, city election officer, said it would take time for his office to detect any fraud but the Comelec will eventually find it based on the contracts the local candidates signed with various radio stations and local television networks.
“After election, mag-submit man sila sa ilang statement of contributions and expenditures (SOCE) sa Comelec and if ever naa silay wala gi-report unya na-dungog namo nga nitingog siya ana nga radio stations, then they could be charged of perjury especially that SOCE is under oath,” Palamine told Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro.
The Comelec, he added, can still monitor the airtime of the local candidates because they will be sending notices to all radio and television stations in order to see the records and contracts signed by the candidates.
Palamine clarified that the poll body will be able to do it with the help of the National Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) and the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV).
Before the audit, he said, the first task of the citizens’ arm is to monitor whether winning and losing candidates have filed their campaign expense report.
Winning candidates cannot assume their posts unless they submit their campaign expense reports, Palamine added.
“The Comelec is strictly implementing its rules and policies, that’s why we have warned our candidates to also observe the rules,” Palamine said.
Section 14 of the Republic Act 7166 (an Act providing for synchronized national and local elections and for electoral reforms) states that every candidate and treasurer of the political party shall, within 30 days after the election day, file in duplicate with the offices of the Comelec the full, true and itemized statement of all contributions and expenditures in connection with the election.
It added that “no person elected to any public offices shall enter upon the duties of his office until he has filed the statement of contributions and expenditures herein required.”
City Councilor Ramon Tabor, for his part, assured that he will strictly follow and observe the Comelec memorandum particularly on the allocated airtime both in radio and television stations.
In fact, Tabor already sought clarification to the Comelec with regard to the airtime given for the local candidate.
“Nakita nako nga seryoso karon ang Comelec sa pagpatuman sa ilang guidelines so who are we nga dili pud motuman, and I also observe that even national candidates seryoso usab sa nisunod niini,” he told Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro in earlier interview.
Cagayan de Oro Representative Rufus B. Rodriguez (2nd district) said he did not sign any contract yet with any local radio and television stations for his political advertisement pending the Supreme Court’s decision of his complaint filed along with the petitions of national television networks and radio stations including private complainants on the airtime imposed by the Comelec.
Rodriguez does not favor the limited airtime allotted to the candidates because it does not only deprive the rights of the candidates to inform the voters of their platforms but it also deprive the rights of the people to know and to be informed who and what kind of candidates they are going to choose.
But re-electionist Senator Francis Escudero urged the Comelec to strictly enforce its rule on campaign ad airtime and should pay particular attention to online advertising because the medium remains a “gray area” of campaign advertising regulations.
The senator said the rule will only work if the Comelec ensures that it is enforced strictly, equally, consistently, and without favor.
“Leveling the playing field means no one gets undue advantage over the others just because he or she has more money to spend for advertising,” Escudero said in a press statement.