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The Campaign Finance Office (CFO) of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) has denied the request of the Liberal Party (LP) and its presidential bet Mar Roxas to extend the filing of their statement of contributions and expenditures (SOCE).

An exclusive report by GMA News’ Joseph Morong on “24 Oras” on Wednesday said Commissioner Christian Robert Lim, who heads the CFO, has recommended though a memorandum to reject LP and Roxas’ request.

“…the undersigned, in his capacity as commissioner-in-charge of the Campaign Finance Office, respectfully votes to deny the request of the Liberal Party and its presidential candidate Manuel Roxas II, as communicated by Atty. Sardillo,” the document said.

LP and Roxas had earlier asked for a 14-day extension to file their SOCE after they failed to meet the June 8 deadline set by the Comelec. They finally filed their SOCE on June 14, way past the deadline.

According to Lim, Republic Act 7166 clearly states that submission of SOCE should be made within 30 days after the elections. He said extension to the deadline means that Comelec should amend the law.

He also said it is stated in the Omnibus Rules on Campaign Finance that the June 8 deadline is “final and non-extendible.”
“The ‘final and non-extendible’ nature of the 08 June 2016 deadline has been emphasized in the second paragraph of Section 2, Rule 10 of the Omnibus Rules on Campaign Finance,” Lim said.

He added that it will not be fair to other candidates who submitted their SOCEs on time to extend the deadline for LP.

“To grant the request for extension would not only be unfair to other candidates and parties who complied within the prescribed period but also would be a reversal of the commission’s own resolution on the matter,” Lim said in the memorandum.

He also noted that even defeated presidential candidate Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago was able to file her SOCE before the deadline despite her being on medical leave.

“It is worthy to note that even presidential candidate and incumbent Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago was able to comply… despite being on medical leave and her confinement in the intensive care unit (ICU) of the Makati Medical Center a few days before the deadline,” he said in the memorandum.

Lim’s recommendation, however, is not yet final, as the seven-member Comelec en banc will vote on the recommendation on Thursday.

Republic Act 7166 states that winning candidates cannot take their posts if their party failed to file their SOCE. LP’s failure jeopardizes the position of their elected members, including Vice President-elect Leni Robredo.

United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) has written to the Comelec to reject LP’s motion to extend SOCE filing.

“Roxas and the Liberal Party should not be given any special treatment,” it said. “Roxas and the Liberal Party must be sanctioned for their deliberate failure to account for all contributions and expenses they incurred.”

And what did Liberal Party have to say about this impeding ruling?

In a phone interview with GMA News Wednesday night, LP spokesperson Barry Gutierrez said that the SOCE filing is just ministerial. He added that there was nothing in the election laws that imposes a specific deadline.

Gutierrez called the CFO’s recommendation “absurd”, pointing out that preventing Robredo from taking office is dismissing the will of the people.

He added that there is no reason that the Vice President-elect cannot take her oath since she filed her own SOCE on time.

Gutierrez said that Comelec can just impose a penalty or fine on LP.

Did Barry Gutierrez throw Comelec’s specific ruling and the enjoined law down the gutter? The ruling about it is very clear.

According to Lim, Republic Act 7166 clearly states that submission of SOCE should be made within 30 days after the elections. He said extension to the deadline means that Comelec should amend the law.

He also said it is stated in the Omnibus Rules on Campaign Finance that the June 8 deadline is “final and non-extendible.”
“The ‘final and non-extendible’ nature of the 08 June 2016 deadline has been emphasized in the second paragraph of Section 2, Rule 10 of the Omnibus Rules on Campaign Finance,” Lim said.

He added that it will not be fair to other candidates who submitted their SOCEs on time to extend the deadline for LP.

Should Comelec allow leeway for Liberal Party, it can be expected not only will they feel incoming President Duterte’s wrath, but of that of the people as well.

We can imagine Senator-elect Dick Gordon, who once feuded with Comelec over ignored security features of the PCOS machines, will also come out again guns ablazing should Comelec do another faux pas.

UNA will also become their biggest enemy and headache, to say the very least.

Will Comelec risk it all just to please the outgoing president? Because if no LP gets to sit in the government, a lot of things will go wrong for them. A lot.

Could this mean that the Nation Builder of the North will finally settle into his fated seat?

Liberal Party fans and supporters are unusually silent about this issue, choosing to assail Duterte’s preference of a separate oathtaking without Robredo instead.

Maybe Duterte knows something or is doing something already about the long-ongoing shenanigans in the Comelec.

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