Comelec urged to act fast on Marcos disqualification case
MANILA, Philippines — A former member of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Wednesday said the poll body must act swiftly on the disqualification case filed by human rights advocates against presidential aspirant and former Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.
The petition to cancel the certificate of candidacy (COC) of the son and namesake of the late dictator filed with the Comelec on Tuesday said Marcos was convicted of tax evasion 26 years ago, stripping him of his eligibility to run for any public office.
“I think the Comelec should act on it as soon as possible,” ex-Comelec Commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal told the Inquirer. “They have to resolve the issue before the elections so that the voters would know the status of the candidate.”
The petitioners alleged that Marcos made a “false material representation,” which is also a ground for disqualification of a candidate under the Omnibus Election Code, when he filed his COC fully aware that he was not eligible to run in the elections.
Afraid of his ‘numbers’
Marcos was unfazed, however, and said the move to disqualify him was “not unexpected.”
Marcos did not directly respond to a request for comment from the Inquirer but in an interview with RMN Palawan radio on Wednesday morning, he said his opponents were just afraid of his “numbers,” referring to surveys showing that he was one of the front-runners among the presidential candidates.
Various surveys say he is way ahead of his main rival, Vice President Leni Robredo, the main opposition candidate who defeated him in the vice presidential polls in 2016.
His chief of staff and spokesperson, Victor Rodriguez, dismissed the petition as mere “propaganda.”
“We shall address this predictable nuisance petition at the proper time and forum—after we receive the official copy of the same,” Rodriguez said in a statement.
“Until then, we will refrain from commenting on their propaganda. Our camp does not engage in gutter politics. Our campaign is about nation building,” he said.
Larrazabal declined to comment directly on the disqualification case against Marcos as he had not read the petition and because he was also a candidate in the 2022 national elections. He is seeking a congressional seat in Leyte province.
According to Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez, the case will be raffled to either the First or Second Division of the Comelec. Summons will be served to Marcos, who has five days to file his response to the petition.
A preconference would be called by the poll body and at the end, the parties would be given three days to submit their respective memorandums summarizing their arguments and evidence.
The matter will then be deemed submitted for resolution. Under Section 8 of the Comelec rules on procedure, the division has to resolve the case within 10 days.
Larrazabal said the disqualification case could go all the way up to the Supreme Court.
One of the petitioners, Fides Lim, chair of the group Kapatid-Families and Friends of Political Prisoners, also called on the Comelec to “act now” on their petition.
The petitioners include representatives of various human rights groups—Task Force Detainees, Medical Action Group, Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates, Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearance and Balay Rehabilitation Center Inc.
Lim assailed the description of the petition as mere propaganda as it was a reminder to the Comelec that both a Quezon City Regional Trial Court in 1995 and the Court of Appeals in 1997 found Marcos Jr. guilty of tax evasion from 1982 to 1985 when he was vice governor and later governor of Ilocos Norte province.
Lim said it was not even necessary for them to file the petition because under a 2013 Supreme Court ruling, the Comelec must enforce all laws relating to elections, including “its mandated duty to cancel the certificate of candidacy of a disqualified individual running for office based on a final conviction.”
“When did facts emanating from court decisions constitute propaganda? But that’s the problem when Marcos apologists and their enablers cannot distinguish truth from lies nor identify the real nuisance candidacy that the Comelec should have barred ages ago to save the country from their ecosystem of gutter politics,” Lim said.
Jimenez on Wednesday protested against a “misleading” press release from the Marcos camp that quoted him out of context when he said there was “no clear case for disqualification” against the ex-senator.
Jimenez said he made his comments in a television interview earlier on Tuesday, before the petition was filed later in the day, when he was asked whether Marcos could be disqualified based on his tax case conviction, as suggested by former Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio in one of his recent columns in the Inquirer.
He told One News television that the conviction has to be for a crime involving moral turpitude or for an offense in which the sentence is a penalty of at least 18 months in jail.
“It doesn’t meet this criteria. Right now, there is no clear case for disqualification,” Jimenez said.
But he pointed out on Wednesday that there was yet no petition filed when he spoke.
“The PR (press release) is misleading. The quote was referring to why Senator Marcos hadn’t yet been disqualified despite the fact of his conviction,” he told reporters.
“The original quote should have been taken in the context of the fact that the senator ran for VP (vice president) in 2016. That quote was not intended in any way as a comment on the current petition recently filed,” he added. —WITH REPORTS FROM DONA Z. PAZZIBUGAN, NESTOR CORRALES AND KRIXIA SUBINGSUBING
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