Comelec en banc junks last of Marcos disqualification, cancellation cases

Comelec en banc junks last of Marcos disqualification, cancellation cases
This photo release shows the multi-sectoral protest action conducted on December 2 as Akbayan filed a petition for disqualification against presidential aspirant Bongbong Marcos.
Akbayan Partylist Facebook release

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 2:42 p.m.) — With election results all but decided, the Commission on Elections en banc affirmed Tuesday the dismissal of four cases against the presidential campaign of former senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

To recall, Marcos faced three disqualification suits filed separately by Martial Law survivors led by Bonifacio Ilagan, the Akbayan Citizen's Action Party, and Abubakar Mangelen, the supposed legitimate chair of the Partido Federal ng Pilipinas, the party fielding Marcos.

He also faced one petition to cancel his certificate of candidacy filed by the group of Fr. Christian Buenafe.

In two decisions sent to the media Tuesday noon, the Comelec denied the latter for lack of merit and denied the motion for reconsideration on the assailed resolution that also denied the petition for lack of merit. 

"A careful review of the Motions for Reconsideration reveals that they failed to raise new matters that would warrant the reversal of the Assailed Resolution," the decision reads, adding that the motions "merely contain rehash of the Petitioners' assertions and arguments." 

Comelec Rules of Procedure state that a motion for reconsideration "may be filed on the grounds that the evidence is insufficient to justify the decision."

"I painstakingly scoured [their] motion for reconsideration and it does not contain any paragraph nor even just a sentence which is meant to address [the] pronouncements by the assailed resolution," Comelec commissioner Socorro Inting also wrote in a separate concurring opinion. 

The petitions hinged a QC RTC Branch 105 decision that found Marcos guilty for breaching Sections 45 and 50 of the National Internal Revenue Code. He was sentenced to a total of at least nine years of imprisonment and to pay a fine for failure to file ITRs and pay taxes for the years of 1982, 1983, 1984 and 1985.

A separate certification from the trial court said that the presidential frontrunner "has not satisfied" the judgment. 

On the claim that Marcos should be perpetually disqualified under Presidential Decree No. 1994 — which took effect January 1st on 1986 — the commission ruled that the accessory penalty cannot be applied to tax violations cannot be committed before the effectivity of the law. 

They added that Marcos has never been convicted by final judgment of a crime involving moral turpitude and sentenced to imprisonment for over three years. They pointed to Section 12 of the Omnibus Election Code which provides that a person is disqualified to run for public office if they are "sentenced to a penalty of more than eighteen months or for a crime involving moral turpitude."

On the claim that Marcos committed moral turpitude by failing to file his income tax returns as a public official, commissioners pointed to the case of Republic of the Philippines vs. Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos where the High Court ruled that failure to file tax return is not a crime involving moral turpitude. 

"[Marcos] was no longer a government official before the last day to file the 1985 tax returns [since] the government was overthrown because of the EDSA revolution [and he] was removed from the government," the decision also reads, echoing Marcos' defense. "Simply put, Marcos ceased to be a public officer when he and his family were forced to leave the country in February 1986."

In a separate concurring opinion, Comelec commissioner Marlon Casquejo agreed with the ruling but said that the Comelec "does not hold a general or comprehensive power of review over the decision of the courts" and thus cannot determine whether a judgment of a court of law on a tax-related case is void. 

"We cannot override a ruling in a tax evasion case by an appellate court; we are not even allowed to pry into why a supposed mandatory accessory penalty is written or not written into such decisions," he wrote. 

Casquejo said this aspect of the case "has not been sufficiently addressed" and "should have been given due regard so as to quell all legal enquiries that may have arisen because of it."

But he went on to claim that the declaration was "a mere theory propounded by the petitioners," adding that "any action to challenge it must be done through the correct remedy and filed before the appropriate tribunal."

Casquejo in his separate concurring opinion to the ponencia to deny the motions for reconsideration attempted to argue that Marcos was fit to run for president given the minimum set of qualifications in the 1987 Constitution: that one must be a natural-born citizen of the Philippines, a registered voter, able to read and write, at least 40 years old on election day, and a resident of the country for at least a decade before the election. 

The rulings by the Comelec First and Second Divisions were signed by Chairman Saidamen Pangarungan and concurred by Commissioners Marlon Casquejo, Inting, Aimee Ferolino, and Rey Bulay. Commissioner George Garcia voluntarily inhibited from the case as Marcos was his former client.

Marcos Jr. is in the lead for the country’s highest seat in the land, marking his family's second attempt to return to Malacañang after the ouster of the clan patriarch.

The two-decade rule of the clan patriarch was marked by outright abuse of human rights and massive plunder of state coffers. Rights group Amnesty International estimated that 70,000 people were imprisoned, 34,000 were tortured and 3,240 were killed during Martial Law.

Marcos team: Ruling proves Comelec’s resolve to side with justice

Vic Rodriguez, spokesperson of Marcos, said they are happy to receive the dismissal of four legal challenges to Marcos’ candidacy.

“We have always believed that the poll body will stay true to its mandate to deliver a fair, honest and credible elections, including the dismissal of unmeritorious and politically-motivated petitions such as these,” he said.

The Marcos campaign has always said the legal challenges to his candidacy are “gutter politics” of “Yellows.”

“The unanimous En Banc decision has proven, once and for all, that no amount of undue political pressure can weaken the resolve of the honorable Commission to be on the side of truth and justice,” Rodriguez added

The petitions challenging Marcos’ bid are expected to reach the Supreme Court. — with reports from Kristine Joy Patag and Kaycee Valmonte 

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