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Robredo can assume VP post despite LP’s late filing of SOCE, says lawyer

Vice President-elect Leni Robredo can assume her post despite her political party’s late filing of its expenditure report, her lead counsel said Friday.

In a statement, lawyer Romulo Macalintal said “the will of the people cannot be set aside on mere misdoing or omission of the political party, which nominated a winning candidate.”

“With or without the filing of the statement of contributions and expenditures of the Liberal Party which nominated VP-elect Leni Robredo, the latter can still assume the office of the Vice President since she had already filed her own SOCE,” Macalintal said.

The Liberal Party (LP) and its standard bearer, former Interior Secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas II, had written to the poll body asking for a 14-day extension after they failed to submit their respective SOCEs on Wednesday.

Robredo, for her part, was able to submit her SOCE, which showed that she was the top spender among the vice-presidential candidates with P418.6 million.

Macalintal, also a member of Roxas’ legal team, said the LP’s failure to meet the deadline set by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) was a simple case of late filing and should not be considered as “non-filing.”

He said the LP and Roxas might be asked to a pay a fine ranging from P1,000 to P30,000.

Further, Macalintal said that to say that Robredo cannot assume her post because of LP’s failure to file its expenses report also means that winning senatorial candidates, governors, mayors and other local elective officials nominated by LP cannot assume their respective offices despite their having filed their own individual SOCEs.

“Even if a candidate fails to file his SOCE on time, he cannot be deprived of his right to file the same at anytime because Section 14 of RA 7166 is very clear in that no elected official shall assume the office ‘until he has filed the SOCE’,” Macalintal argued.

“Clearly, the phrase, ‘until he has filed his SOCE, means that such SOCE could be filed at anytime and that would only be the time when the winning candidate could enter upon the duties of his office,” he added.

He said a Comelec resolution stating that “submission of SOCE beyond the deadline shall not be accepted” is "of doubtful legality because the Comelec cannot prescribe what the law does not provide.” 

Earlier in an interview in Leyte, Robredo said she is confident the LP will submit its expenditure report to the Comelec before the end of the month.

“Alam ko humingi iyong partido ng two weeks na extension. Ang mahalaga naman dito according to the rules na makapag-submit before June 30 kasi kung hindi siya mag-submit before June 30 talagang hindi kami makakaupo,” Robredo said.

“Pero I’m sure naman na iyong partido ay mag-susubmit before June 30,” she added.

'Far-reaching consequences'

Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez earlier said that the LP’s failure to meet the deadline could have “far-reaching consequences” on Robredo.

"Nakalagay sa batas na kapag hindi nakapag-file 'yung political party, 'yung mga candidates na 'yun hindi rin makakaupo. That's what the law says right now and it's also in the resolution. As you can imagine, that might have far-reaching consequences," Jimenez said.

However, the final decision on the matter will still be up to the Comelec en banc, Jimenez said. — RSJ, GMA News