Comelec reso requiring submissions that law doesn’t prescribe
AFTER a grueling and exhausting campaign, winners and losers, and their political parties, if any, now have to brace themselves, mentally and physically, for the required submission to the Commission on Elections of a detailed statement of their contributions and expenditures (Soce) in connection with the 2016 elections.
If they are not computer literate, they have to engage the services of one who has knowledge in information technology because under Comelec Resolution No. 9991, dated Oct. 2, 2015, which was issued to apply to the May 9, 2016 elections, all Soces “must be machine readable with all entries therein encoded and all forms shall be in Excel, Word or PDF files (and that) handwritten submission shall no longer be allowed.”
This means that the electronic copies of the prescribed forms for 2016 Soces are now available online at the Comelec website. Gone are the days of handwritten Soces without the supporting official documents or receipts evidencing the candidates’ expenses and showing the names of donors and the amount of their respective contributions.
Under the same resolution, all candidates and political parties are now required to submit electronic copies of all documents, official receipts and even unpaid accounts, together with copies of advertising contracts both in hard and soft or electronic copies.
But while soft or electronic copies of the documents are to be submitted, the question now is why should the Comelec still require the submission of two sets of “hard copies” of all such documents. With almost 54,000 candidates and several hundreds of political parties and party-list groups participating in the 2016 elections, I wonder where the Comelec would store all the millions of these voluminous hard copies. Also, does Comelec have the time to review each and every Soce and all the huge files of official receipts, contracts and other submitted papers?
Perhaps it would be wise to ask what is the authority of the Comelec in prescribing such apparently complicated and burdensome submissions when all that is required by law is that the Soce be “in duplicate containing full, true and itemized statement of all contributions and expenditures in connection with the election.” (Republic Act No. 7166, Section 14). The law does not even require a candidate or political party to submit “unpaid contributions,” but the same is required by the Comelec resolution.
While the Comelec has the power to promulgate rules to implement the law, the rules must comply with the provisions of the law it is implementing. For sure, Comelec cannot prescribe what the law doesn’t.
—ROMULO B. MACALINTAL, election lawyer, Las Piñas City
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