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Comelec junks petition to cancel Marcos' COC

Kristine Joy Patag - Philstar.com
Comelec junks petition to cancel Marcos' COC
This photo release shows former Sen.Bongbong Marcos announcing he will run for president of the Philippines.
BBM staff / Released

MANILA, Philippines (Update 3, 12:42 p.m.) — The Commission on Elections denied the plea filed by Martial Law victims seeking to cancel presidential aspirant’s Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.’s Certificate of Candidacy.

This frees Marcos of another legal challenge filed to block his presidential bid.

In a statement, the lawyers said the Comelec’s Second Division denied their petition and they received the resolution 9:50 a.m. on Monday.

"In essence, the Comelec agreed with the petitioners that the representations made in Item 11 and Box 22 of the COC of Marcos Jr. are material but disagreed that they were false; in the process, the Second Division ruled that there was no ground to cancel Marcos Jr.’s COC on the ground of material misrepresentation," they said.

Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez confirmed in a later virtual conference that the decision has been promulgated.

The lawyers, led by Theodore Te, said they disagree with the Comelec in its ruling that “the material representations made were not false.” They said they will file an appeal before the Commission En Banc within the given five-day period.

The case may also reach up to the Supreme Court.

In a statement, Marcos spokesperson Vic Rodriguez said the petitions was "way too frivolous and unmeritorious to override the basic precepts of the Constitution." 

The Marcos campaign also thanked the Comelec "for upholding the law and the right of every bona fide candidate like Bongbong Marcos to run for public office free from any form of harassment and discriminaton."

No deliberate mispresentation

Petitioners had asserted that Marcos made a misrepresentation in his COC because he is ineligible to run since his conviction of failure to file Income Tax Returns for four years allegedly carries the penalty of perpetual disqualification from holding any public office, to vote and to participate in any election.

The petitioners pointed out that Marcos declared under oath that he has never been found liable for any offense, which carries the accessory penalty of perpetual disqualification to hold public office. This was when he ticked the NO box on the COC he filed.

In resolving the petition, the Comelec division said they cannot “agree with Petitioners’ theory that Respondent’s convictions for failure to file [ITRs] for taxable years 1982 to 1984 render him perpetually disqualified from holding any public office, to vote and to participate in any election for the simple reason that to do so would violate the Constitutional proscription against ex post facto laws.”

In their memorandum, Marcos’ lawyers said the 1977 National Internal Revenue Code did not impose “perpetual disqualification” as penalty, as this was only part of PD 1994 which took effect on Jan. 1, 1986.

Following this, the mandatory filing of Income Tax Returns for the years of 1982-1984 already lapsed before PD 1994 took effect and applying so would give the law an ex post facto effect, which is unconstitutional.

For 1985, the mandatory filing fell on March 18, 1986, but Marcos was then no longer a public officer, the Comelec said.

“The CA Decision is correct for not imposing on herein Respondent the penalty of perpetual disqualification from holding any public office, voting, participating in any election. There was no error in judgement as the CA Decision was in accord with the law in force at the time of commission of violations,” the ruling read.

“Since Respondent was not meted the accessory penalty of perpetual disqualification from public office, it cannot be rightfully said that he committed a false misrepresentation when he answered in the negative to the question in Item No. 22 of his COC. In like manner, when Respondent declared in Item No. 11 of his COC that he is eligible for the office for which he seeks to be elected to, he was essentially speaking the truth,” it added.

Following the CA decision, the Comelec said Marcos did not deliberately attempt to mislead, misinform or deceive the electorate, since the ruling “did not categorically hold that Respondent is convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude nor did it positively pronounce that Respondent is meted the penalty of imprisonment of more than 18 months.”

Likewise, there was no declaration on the CA ruling that he is perpetually disqualified from holding public office, the division pointed out.

“It is clear therefore that when Respondent replied ‘No’ to the question in Item No. 22 of his COC, he did so without any intention to mislead, misinform, or hide a fact which would otherwise render him ineligible,” it said.

The Comelec also said that petitioners were “obviously clutching at straws” as it pointed out that the Supreme Court already declared that the failure to file ITRs is not a crime involving moral turpitude.

Misleading the commission?

The poll body also said petitioners “deliberately cited an inapplicable provision of law in order to mislead the Commission.

For taxable years 1982 to 1984, the applicable law states that failure to file is punishable by a fine of not mre than P2,000 or imprisonment of not more than six months or both. For 1985, the applicable law also punishes the same offense with fine or imprisonment or both.

The Comelec said the petitioner cited a different section of the NIRC that supposedly mandates the imposition of fine and imprisonment. 

The penalty of imposing both fine and imprisonment only became mandatory on Dec. 11 1998 following the enactment of Republic Act 8424, the division also said.

Disqualification suits

This is the lone petition to cancel his COC that Marcos is facing. He is however still facing disqualification suits, citing the same tax conviction, pending before the First and Second Division of Comelec.

But Jimenez said the ruling on the petition to cancel COC has no impact with other cases against Marcos that remain pending.

“It is difficult to speculate on other cases on the basis of one decision. Let us wait for each decision to be promulgated and we will discuss them as they come out,” he added partly in Filipino.

The First Division, handling three petitions for disqualification, is said to be making an announcement on the cases on Monday.

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BONGBONG MARCOS

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