LESS than two weeks before the deadline, only half of the total number of candidates for the 2023 Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections (BSKE) in Central Visayas have submitted their Statements of Contributions and Expenditures (Soce), according to an official from the Commission on Elections (Comelec) 7.
The deadline for Soce filing is on Nov. 29, 2023, a day before newly-elected BSKE officials assume office at noon on Nov. 30. The Soce is a prerequisite for winning candidates to assume office after the elections, along with taking an oath of office and receiving a certificate of proclamation.
Lionel Marco Castillano, Comelec 7 director, however, could not provide the exact number of submitted Soce. SunStar Cebu earlier reported that more than 102,000 candidates participated in the 2023 BSKE in the region.
Castillano, in an interview on Thursday, Nov. 16, said the slow filing among candidates could be because many of them are first-time political candidates who are unfamiliar with the Soce filing process.
He then assured candidates who have difficulty filing Soce that they can seek assistance at Comelec offices.
In Cebu alone, 2,650 candidates competed for barangay captain, 22,013 for barangay council seats, 2,657 for SK chairman, and 16,454 for SK council seats.
Overall, there are 48,048 winning candidates in Central Visayas, with 19,232 from Cebu (including 1,280 in Cebu City, 432 in Mandaue City, and 480 in Lapu-Lapu City).
Castillano said most filed Soce are from the candidates who won the elections.
In a separate interview, Comelec Cebu Provincial spokesperson and Carcar City head Omar Sharif Mamalinta said 40 percent or 303 of its 753 candidates had filed their Soce as of Nov. 16. The majority of those who filed were elected.
Mandaue City also experienced a low turnout in Soce filing, with only 4.75 percent (95 out of 2,000 BSKE candidates) submitting their Soce.
According to lawyer Anna Fleur Gujilde, election officer head of Comelec Mandaue, the low figure may be attributed to the fact that many barangay candidates have day jobs, and SK candidates have classes.
Gujilde said they implemented a schedule for barangays to submit their Soce to prevent overcrowding in their office.
Gujilde could not confirm yet if most winning candidates in the city have already submitted their Soce.
However, she said no BSKE candidates in Mandaue have exceeded the mandated maximum spending limit of P5 per registered voter based on their submitted documents.
The Comelec said candidates who fail to file the required statements or reports regarding electoral contributions and expenditures would face penalties. They may be banned from holding public positions.
Castillano emphasized that even those who have withdrawn from the election must submit their Soce.
Section 14 of Republic Act (RA) 7166, or the Synchronized National and Local Elections and Electoral Reforms Act, mandates that candidates and political party treasurers submit a comprehensive, accurate, and detailed report of all campaign contributions and expenses within 30 days after the election day.
RA 7166 also states that failure to comply shall constitute an administrative offense, for which the offenders shall be liable to pay an administrative fine ranging from P1,000 to P30,000 at the discretion of the election body for the first offense. An administrative fine of P2,000 to P60,000, as well as the offender’s perpetual disqualification from holding public office, would be the penalty for the second offense.
Candidates overspending during the campaign period are subject to imprisonment of one to six years, disqualification from holding public office, and removal of their right to vote under the Omnibus Election Code.