The Statement of Election Contribution and Expenditure, otherwise known as SOCE, refers to the complete set of report every candidate or party is required to file within 30 days after the election day to the Commission on Elections (COMELEC).
The purpose of this report is to have full disclosure on how much the candidate or party spent during the campaign and how much contribution was received, if there is any. It is mandatory for them to file this report regardless of whether the candidate lost or incurred no expenditure nor received contribution. Even those who withdrew candidacy are likewise required to submit the said report, unless withdrawal happened before the start of the campaign period. In the latter case, the withdrawn candidate is no longer required to submit his report because, for all intents and purposes, he is not considered as candidate anymore (take note: in this case the candidate withdrew his candidacy PRIOR to the start of the campaign period. A person is considered only a candidate if he has not withdrawn his candidacy at the start of the campaign period).
On 15 December 2015, the Commission issued Resolution 9991 wherein some rules pertaining to SOCE were amended. As a matter of fact, even the acronym “SOCE” was replaced by “SCE”.
Effect of Non-filing of SOCE
- Administrative Fine. The Commission imposes fine to candidates and parties who failed to file SOCE within the 30 day period. Filing beyond the required period shall not be considered and the SOCE shall be treated as not filed. The amount of fine varies depending on the position sought for by the candidate.
- Perpetual Disqualification. In case the candidate failed to submit his SOCE for two or more election periods, a petition for perpetual disqualification may be filed against him. Unfortunately, this shall include those whose SOCEs are considered as not filed.
In 2015, the Campaign Finance Office (CFO) released the list of candidates who are subject to Perpetual Disqualification. The connotation of the public is that once your name appeared in the list, then you are already considered as disqualified perpetually and cannot participate in the 2016 National and Local Elections anymore. This resulted in the massive black propaganda of the rival parties not to vote candidates whose name appeared in the list for being “disqualified”. This, ladies and gentlemen, is completely wrong. Due process shall still be observed; not to mention that the respondent is entitled to appeal the ruling of the En Banc to the higher tribunal in case the decision is not favorable to him.
Again, the list released by CFO merely serves as a report providing for the names of candidates who did not file SOCE for 2 or more times based on available records. If the candidate opts to question his inclusion in the list, he may submit sufficient proof that he indeed filed his SOCE on a particular election year. If his evidence is satisfactory then CFO may submit a recommendation to the En Banc to have his name delisted.
MOA With DILG. If the candidate won yet failed to submit his SOCE, he shall not enter upon his duties in the office in which he was elected until he has filed his SOCE. This holds true not only because of the existing memorandum of agreement between the Commission and the DILG but also because Section 14 of Republic Act No. 7166 provides so. As a matter of fact, the same law also provides for the same prohibition in case the political party which nominated the winning candidate fails to file the statement within the required 30 day period.
But really, why is it important for candidates and parties to file SOCE?
Section 26 of Article II of the 1987 Philippine Constitution provides that the State must guarantee equal access to opportunities to public service. This means, public service shall be made available to both the poor and the rich. In order to safeguard this mandate expenditure limit must be set to both candidates and parties so that the “can’t-afford” can catch up with the expenditures of his rival who otherwise belongs to the “can-afford” group.
As a matter of fact, Section 2 of Article IX-C of the Constitution likewise provides that election spending must be kept at minimum.
The table below shows how much each can spend during the campaign.
Candidates with political parties/support from political parties
|Political parties/ Party-list organizations||Php5.00*|
*for every voter currently registered in the constituency where he filed his certificate of candidacy
How do we compute the expenditure limit?
Here is an example: Juan dela Cruz is running as municipal mayor under UNA Party for the municipality of Talisay. Talisay has 10,000 registered number of voters.
As you can see, Juan dela Cruz belongs to a political party which in this example is United Nationalist Alliance or UNA. As such, he is entitled to spend Php3.00 per registered voter in the municipality in which he is seeking public position. Here is how you compute his expenditure limit:
10,000 (registered voter)
X 3 (spending limit per voter)
Php30,000.00 (maximum expenditure)
Unrealistic, don’t you agree?
But it is only through a law that we can amend the spending limit and not by a mere COMELEC Resolution. Now that is the job of Congress. So stop blaming the Commission for setting unrealistic spending limit since the latter has no power to amend the law in the first place.
In the absence of a new law amending the spending limit of candidates and parties, they have no choice but to stick to what was provided by RA 7166.
So what happens if the candidate or party exceeds the expenditure limit?
In case the candidate or party exceeded the limit provided by law, an election offense for Overspending shall be filed against them. This is a criminal offense with a penalty of imprisonment of not less than 1 year but not more than 6 years and shall not be subject to probation. Further, the guilty party shall be sentenced to suffer disqualification to hold public office and deprivation of the right of suffrage.
If the one responsible is a political party, its president or head, officials, and employees performing duties connected with the offense committed, shall be liable either as principals, accomplices, or accessories (Secs. 263 and 264 of the Omnibus Election Code).
In sum, candidates and parties must not take for granted the preparation of their respective reports because there are serious consequences if they fail to do so. As a matter of fact, even if they submit their report in time but failed to disclose pertinent information, the same will be treated as not filed since the law requires that sufficient information be provided.
The innovation brought by the 2016 format of SOCE/SCE is too technical. Drastic changes from the usual submission were introduced in a limited time such as filing the report in both hard and electronic/soft copies. Also, Resolution 9991 requires file naming of documents which if read by a layman would definitely have a hard time picturing how conversion is made. I fear for far-flung areas where computer and internet connections remain a misnomer. What the Commission should do for the time being is to apply liberality in appreciating how the report was prepared and submitted.
Since we are considering also ordinary candidates participating in the elections, the preparation and filing should both be simplified yet adaptable to the modern needs.
Those in the know understand the complicity and delicateness of the preparation of the report. However, since we are introducing something new in a not-so-prepared environment, substantial compliance should be considered for the meantime while the general public is still being educated about the importance of filing the report on contribution and expenditure.
photo credit: cliparwolf.com; livemint.com