BAGUIO CITY -- Fifty-five elected barangay officials in this city cannot assume office yet, as the Commission on Election (Comelec) still has to decide on the matter after the officials had failed to file their Statements of Contributions and Expenses (SOCE) as the law requires.
In an interview with Philippine News Agency (PNA) on Thursday, lawyer Julius Torres, Comelec Cordillera Regional Director, said Republic Act 7166 or “an act providing for a synchronized national and local elections” is clear that elected candidates in the national and local levels who fail to comply with the submission of the SOCE are not allowed to assume their positions.
He pointed out, however, it is now on the part of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) to decide whether or not to allow them to assume office or let another person qualified under the rules to take their post in an acting capacity, or just penalize them with fines.
A case in point was the oath-taking of the kagawad, who got the highest number of votes, as acting chairman of Barangay Ferdinand, in lieu of the winning barangay captain who had failed to submit his SOCE.
Last June 30, Baguio Mayor Mauricio Domogan wrote affected barangays, advising them that elected barangay officials who had failed to comply with the provision on the filing of a SOCE cannot assume their posts and receive honoraria, pending the decision of the Comelec en banc.
Domogan earlier administered the oath of Abdulcader Gunting, the first kagawad of Barangay Ferdinand as acting barangay captain, as elected barangay captain Emmanuel Cabe was not allowed to assume his position for not filing his SOCE.
It was learned that the mayor administered the oath of Gunting to allow the barangay to continue its affairs.
Comelec-Baguio reported there are 55 winning candidates in the last polls, who had failed to submit their SOCE within 30 days after the election, which is prescribed by law. One won as barangay captain, 11 as kagawads, three as Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) or youth council chairmen, and 40 as SK kagawads.
There were 458 candidates in the last barangay and SK polls. Out of the number, there were 344 candidates for barangay officials and 114 SK for positions.
Among those who failed to file their SOCE, aside from Cabe, were barangay kagawads Felix Bentayen of Barangay Balsigan, Jaime Rillorta of Cabinet Hill, Joelito Boter of Kayang Hilltop, Benjie Pinlac of AZKCO, Crisanto Perez of Lucnab, Marlon Padullon of Manuel Roxas, Rogelio Bayuga of Pacdal, Remedios Cabe of Ferdinand, Almoite Alfredo of Ferdinand, Basilia Nebrija of San Luis, and Julio Pangat-at of San Vicente.
The three SK chairmen are from Barangays Slaughter Compound, Lower Lourdes, and Pinsao Proper.
On Wednesday, lawyer Paul John Martin, Comelec Baguio election officer, told the PNA that the Comelec’s Campaign Finance Office handles the cases of the candidates, who had failed to submit their SOCE in the past elections and the most recent polls.
The names of the barangay officials were transmitted by the Comelec to the City Interior and Local Government Office for implementation, he said.
However, City Interior and Local Government (CILG) officer Evelyn Trinidad said it is all up to the Comelec, as the case is within its jurisdiction.
She said the CILG would only base its action on the decision and order of the Comelec en banc, which has yet to issue its verdict.
In the case of Barangay Ferdinand, Trinidad said it was the mayor’s discretion to prevent the disruption of local transactions due to the absence of a barangay captain.
Domogan has cited a Comelec resolution, which provides that "persons elected to any office shall not enter upon the duties of their office until they have filed their SOCE with the relevant schedules and supporting documents, in accordance with the formal requirements set by the rules". (PNA)