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Belmonte: Comelec request for 20 solons to vacate seats is ‘OA’

House Speaker Sonny Belmonte Jr.  on Thursday said that the Comission on Elections (Comelec) was "over-acting" when it ordered some 400 elected officials, including 20 congressmen, to vacate their posts for not filing their Statements of Election Contributions and Expenditures (SOCEs).

"Well, I think the Comelec is over-acting, I've checked it and all complaints were merely on technicalities,” Belmonte told reporters in a press conference.

Four governors and 26 mayors elected in May 2013 are also affected by the Comelec en banc ruling.

But Belmonte said the Comelec may have their files wrong as the affected members have told him that they filed their SOCEs.

Included in the list of solons who allegedly did not file correct SOCEs are former President and Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Muntinlupa City Rep. Rodolfo Biazon.
Other solons on the list are:
San Jose Del Monte City Rep. Arthur Robes;
Batangas (3rd District) Rep. Nelson Collantes;
Antipolo City (2nd District) Rep. Romeo Acop;
Camarines Sur (5th District) Rep. Sal Fortuno;
North Cotabato (2nd District) Rep. Nancy Catamco; and
Lanao del Sur (2nd District) Rep. Pangalian Balindong.
Also ordered to vacate their House seats are:
Manila (3rd District) Rep. Naida Angping;
Manila (4th District) Rep. Trisha Bonoan-David;
Ilocos Sur (1stDistrict) Rep. Ronald Singson;
Bataan (2nd District) Rep. Tet Garcia;
Bulacan (1st District) Rep. Ma. Victoria Sy-Alvarado;
Batangas (1st District) Rep. Eileen Ermita-Buhain;
Batangas (4th District) Rep. Dong Mendoza;
Quezon (1stDistrict) Rep. Wilfrido Mark Enverga;
Rizal (1st District) Rep. Joel Roy Duavit;
Albay (2nd District) Rep. Al Francis Bichara;
Misamis Occidental (2nd District) Henry Oaminal; and
Sultan Kudarat (2nd District) Rep. Arnulfo Go.

Wrong forms, no signatures

Of the 20 congressmen being asked to vacate office, "only three were reported to not have filed appropriate Statement of Election Contributions and Expenditures (SOCE)," Belmonte said. Meanwhile the rest either did not sign the forms personally or used a wrong form, said the Speaker.

Belmonte identified Rep. Sal Fortuno and Rep. Trisha Bonoan-David as among the three who have yet to file their SOCEs.

The Speaker also said that he will not evict the House members indicated by Comelec, but that he will give them until Monday to put their affairs in order.

“By Monday, for instance, when we have a session, I'm 100 percent sure na by that time, all 20 of them have fully complied with it because if they don't comply by that time, papakita ko sa kanila ang lugar nila. Pero [until Monday] is a reasonable time to comply,” he said.

The Speaker also said he believes the word of his fellow congressmen that they have filed their SOCEs, noting that the Comelec may have an issue with their books.

"If their [solons] claims are true, that means to say that we have a problem in the record-keeping of Comelec," he said.

Campaign spending

Meanwhile, in the same press conference, Belmonte also revealed that he will support any measure that seeks to increase the limit on campaign expenses of candidates.

“I think one of the laws that we ought to be passing here is an updating of that law. The limits are so ridiculous that it's very hard to believe that that is all people are spending,” Belmonte said.

“Maybe we can increase the limits on spending to be more realistic. I remember masyadong mababa because they were set so many years ago,” he added.

Currently, Republic Act 7166, otherwise known as the Synchronized National and Local Elections and for Electoral Reforms Act, only allows presidential and vice presidential candidates to spend P10 per voter, while other candidates with political parties may spend P5 per voter. An independent candidate can only spend P3 per voter. — BM, GMA News