THE Commission on Elections (Comelec) is not inclined to conduct a motu proprio investigation into reports that President Duterte received illegal campaign contributions based on the Statement of Contributions and Expenditures (Soce) submitted to the poll body.
Comelec Chairman Andres D. Bautista said the poll body cannot just evaluate the Soce of Duterte or any other candidate without any complaint or else it will be accused of being partial toward specific candidates or political parties.
“It would be tricky if the Comelec is the one who will actually assess the Soce of a particular candidate. We may be accused of being partial. The Comelec has to maintain impartiality,” Bautista said.
He pointed out that the Comelec cannot evaluate each and every Soce submitted to them, since there are 44,871 candidates that ran in the May 2016 polls.
Under the law, each candidate and political party shall file in duplicate with the Comelec the full, true and itemized Soce in connection with the election.
Bautista, however, noted that he is not discounting the possibility of scrutinizing a candidate’s Soce but only in cases where there are blatant violations.
“We are not saying we won’t. What we are saying is that, for those that are blatant cases, we have the power to do it. But we are very careful in using it,” Bautista explained.
The Comelec’s Omnibus Rules on Campaign Finance provides that the poll body’s Campaign Finance Office is mandated to audit all Soces; determine compliance by the candidates, parties, contributors and election contractors; and initiate cases for violations of rules on Election Contributions and Expenditures, among others.
Bautista said the poll body would welcome any case that may be filed by concerned parties regarding supposed violations of a specific candidate or party.
“We will act once there is a complaint filed to us, like, for example, the one from the report of the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ). If there is a legitimate complaint, we are duty bound to look into it,” Bautista said.
He said the Comelec is even prepared to make available all Soces of candidates to anyone interested to get copies, including posting them in their web site.
Bautista’s made the statement in reaction to the PCIJ report claiming that the P375-million campaign fund raised by Duterte camp came mainly from big businessmen.
Among the million-peso donors of Duterte are companies that do business with the government or engage in utilities, mining and the exploitation of natural resources, which are considered as prohibited contributions.
Such violation carries a penalty of one- to six-year imprisonment, removal of right of suffrage and become disqualified to hold public office; as well as be disqualified from holding the office, wherein he has been elected.