7 Baguio candidates fined by Comelec

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BAGUIO CITY – A losing mayoralty candidate, two incumbent councillors and four aspirants for councillor in the Summer Capital during the May 2013 mid-term elections were fined by the campaign and finance division of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) for their alleged late submission of the required Statement of Election Contributions and Expenses (SOCE) pursuant to existing election laws and regulations, an official of the poll body said here Monday.

Lawyer John Paul Martin, city election officer, identified the penalized candidates as lawyer Jose M. Molintas, a losing mayoralty bet of the Nationalist Peoples Coaltion – Liberal Party (NPC-LP) coalition, incumbent councillors Betty Lourdes F. Tabanda and Elaine Sembrano and city councillor aspirants lawyer Federico J. Mandapat, Jr., Perfecto Itliong, Jr., Peter Wasing and Lloyda Santaigo.

“We were able to deliver the corresponding demand letters from the Comelec’s campaign finance division to the candidates who were found to have filed incomplete SOCEs or have submitted the same late,” Martin explained.

Molintas was ordered to submit the lacing documents of his SOCE and pay the amount of P8,000 for late and incomplete filing while the two incumbent councillors and four aspirants for city council posts were ordered to pay to the poll body P6,5000 each for similar violations.

Martin pointed out under the country’s election laws, all winning and losing candidates for national and local positions are required to submit their detailed SOCEs with the Comelec within a maximum period of one month from the date of the conduct of the elections.

The Comelec official said the fined Baguio candidates were found to have submitted incomplete SOCEs considering that they were able to fill up the forms but were not able to attach the corresponding receipts required by such forms, thus, their submissions were already considered late by the poll body among others.

“They are given a maximum of ten days to comply with the order and their failure to comply with the payment of the fine and submission of lacking documents might result to the imposition of stiffer penalties against them in the future,” Martin said.

For their part, Tabanda and Sembrano agreed to pay the fine imposed on them, saying that how come they are being assessed such fine when they were able to submit the complete SOCE with attachments to the Comelec Baguio office in time for the prescribed deadline.

“Comelec will not receive our SOCEs if they are not complete. We submitted complete documents to the Baguio Comelec office but why are we being fined for late and incomplete filing of documents,” Sembrano said.

Councilor Sembrano her staff can no longer locate the pertinent attachments to her SOCE considering the japes of over one year since the May 2013 elections, thus, she will be constrained to pay the assessed fine and will try other legal remedies to show the poll body that she was able to file complete election documents during the deadline of filing such statement.

Martin said the Comelec Baguio office will be submitting a report to the campaign finance division of the poll body after the lapse of the 10-day grace period given to the concerned candidates and local officials to comply with the order to submit updated SOCEs with complete attachments.

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