Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. on Monday hurdled the second case that sought to dislodge him from the 2022 election ballot, but his fight is far from over with five disqualification cases against him still awaiting resolution.
On 17 January, the Commission on Elections’ (Comelec) Second Division junked the petition to cancel the Certificate of Candidacy (CoC) of the late dictator’s son and namesake for “lack of merit”.
A group of civic leaders led by priest Christian Buenafe and represented by former Supreme Court (SC) spokesperson Ted Te filed the junked petition.
The petitioners mainly argued that Marcos committed “false representation” when he stated in his CoC that he is eligible to run for president despite his 1997 conviction for failure to pay income tax returns (ITR) from 1982 to 1984.
This conviction by the Court of Appeals (CA), they averred, made Marcos ineligible to run for any public office as it is an accessory penalty of the tax code.
In the 32-page decision penned by Commissioner Socorro Inting, however, it was ruled that Marcos’ material representations in his CoC that were questioned by the petitioners were “not false”.
“Respondent cannot be said to have deliberately attempted to mislead, misinform, or hide a fact which would otherwise render him ineligible,” the ruling read.
The Comelec 2nd division also disagreed that Marcos was perpetually disqualified from holding public office as the CA contained “no definitive declaration” of any ruling on disqualification.
In a press briefing, Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez explained that the poll body ruled that perpetual disqualification from holding public office as an accessory penalty to a conviction “cannot be assumed” and must be explicitly stated in the court decision.
It also ruled that Marcos’ tax case conviction does not involve a “crime of moral turpitude”.
Te’s group will file a motion for reconsideration with the Commission En Banc within five days.
“Petitioners disagree and will seek reconsideration within the period provided under the Comelec Rules,” Te said in a social media post.
Meanwhile, Lawyer Vic Rodriguez — Marcos’ counsel and spokesperson — and Liloan, Cebu Mayor Christina Frasco, spokesperson of Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, welcomed the decision.
“The petitioners’ mere creativity for writing and wanting what is not written in the law as a basis to cancel the Certificate of Candidacy of Presidential Aspirant Bongbong Marcos is way too frivolous and unmeritorious to override the basic precepts of the Constitution,” Rodriguez said.
Frasco said: “We welcome the Comelec Decision to affirm the Certificate of Candidacy of Sen. Bongbong Marcos as an opportunity for the Filipino people to express their will in fair and free elections.”
Five disqualification cases, however, continue to threaten Marcos’ 2022 presidential bid.
All these petitions seek to disqualify Marcos from the 9 May elections on the grounds that he was convicted in 1995 for failure to file income tax returns and income tax from 1982 to 1985 — when he was vice governor and governor of Ilocos Norte.
The resolution of these disqualification cases was supposed to be announced on 17 January but was deferred.
Comelec Director 3 Elaiza Sabile-David explained the staff members in the office of one of the Comelec commissioners handling the cases in the First Division tested positive for Covid-19.
Malacañang, meanwhile, distanced itself from the latest decision of Comelec 2nd division.
“Comelec is an independent constitutional body. We respect the independence of the Comelec,” Cabinet Secretary and acting presidential spokesperson Karlo Nograles said.
Vice President Leni Robredo, Marcos’ biggest contender in the 2022 presidential polls, said Comelec’s decision will not affect the presidential race.
For Sen. Panfilo Lacson, another presidential aspirant, “the rule of law” prevailed in the poll body’s ruling.
“It is best that we respect the ruling. Comelec has the mandate to decide on any case that falls under its jurisdiction and the petition to disqualify ex-Sen Marcos is one such case,” he said.
Lawyer James Jimenez, the Comelec spokesperson, said they are still waiting for the decision by the 1st division. He clarified, however, that the 2nd Division’s decision will not affect the 1st Division’s verdict on the cases it is handling.
With reports from Neil Alcober and
Gab Humilde Villegas @tribunephl_ gab