MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews / 29 June) – I had slammed the Liberal Party, the party of outgoing President Benigno S. Aquino III, for failing to submit its Statements of Contributions and Expenditures (Soce) on time. Other individuals made the same criticism either because they dislike its standard bearer Mar Roxas or they find it reprehensible that those who thrive on the “Daang Matuwid” slogan should violate its own political mantra.
On hindsight, I should have done the same thing to other parties that missed the deadline. And yes, defeated vice presidential candidate Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. should also have pointed this out, not just single out the LP, the party of his rival, incoming Vice President Leni Robredo.
To recall, Robredo submitted her Soce on time, but the LP did not. Their detractors cited this omission as a ground for disqualifying Robredo. Whoever thought of such inanity must be living in another planet.
For while it is settled that the LP and Roxas violated Section 14 of Republic Act 7166 (the law on synchronized national and local elections and electoral reforms) a closer reading of this provision tells us that it could not be a ground for disqualification to assume office if such violation has been committed for the first time.
Section 14 of RA 7166 states: “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.
“The same prohibition shall apply if the political party which nominated the winning candidate fails to file the statement required herein within the period prescribed by this Act.”
The law only mentions “disqualification” for the “second or subsequent offenses under this section”. Here it’s necessary to understand the significance of the word “until” to mean that the offense – provided it is the first of its kind – is cured once the Soce is filed.
Say what you will for or against the Commission on Elections majority for granting the request of the LP and Roxas to extend the deadline for the filing of Soce to June 30. As for me, I’m convinced they did the right thing regardless of whether or not their decision was laced with the venom of partisanship.
But why single out LP and Robredo? The Comelec itself revealed that other winning candidates and parties had failed to submit their own Soces on time. On this account, such decision benefited not only the LP and its members who won but failed to comply with the deadline.
Maybe the Comelec did the wrong thing in extending the deadline from a technical point of view. That’s debatable. Maybe it did the right thing. That, too, is debatable. Yet a larger question stares us in the face: Must we let technicality prevail over the mandate of the winning candidates?
(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. H. Marcos C. Mordeno can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)