DQ petitions vs Bongbong Marcos: Casting cloud of doubt
MANILA, Philippines––With five disqualification cases hovering over his presidential ambition, Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.’s bid is being considered by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) as the most legally challenged in Philippine election history.
The son of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, who ruled the country for more than 20 years, filed his certificate of candidacy (COC) for president last Oct. 6. Less than a month later, individuals and groups who suffered under the late dictator’s rule filed petitions to try to nip Marcos Jr.’s bid in the bud.
Since Nov. 2, five petitions had been filed seeking to stop Marcos Jr. from bringing the Marcos name back to the seat of power. Three of the petitions asked the Comelec to cancel his COC, one wanted him declared as a nuisance candidate and another one wanted him to be disqualified.
One petition filed on Nov. 2 claiming Marcos Jr lied in his COC when he said he has never been found liable for any offense which carries the accessory penalty of perpetual disqualification from office would be heard by the Comelec second division starting on Friday (Nov. 26).
That petition said Marcos Jr. deliberately lied when he checked the box in his COC that says he has no record of criminal conviction. Petitioners dug up a Quezon City court record showing he was convicted of two criminal cases—failing to pay his taxes and failing to file his tax returns. A Court of Appeals ruling removed the first conviction but retained the second.
The process, however, is just the dawn of a lengthy legal process. Election law Prof. Alberto Agra told INQUIRER.net that, in most instances, such a case similar to Marcos Jr.’s is heard by a division of the Comelec, the Comelec en banc and then the Supreme Court en banc.
Agra saw this process unfolding:
- Comelec division starts hearing the disqualification petitions
- A resolution is promulgated by the Comelec division
- The Comelec division receives motions for reconsideration if it decides either way
- The Comelec en banc resolves the motion for reconsideration and promulgates a resolution
- A petition for certiorari and petition for TRO is filed at the Supreme Court by either camp
- The SC en banc resolves the petition and promulgates a resolution
- A motion for reconsideration is filed by either camp
- The SC en banc resolves the motion for reconsideration and decides the case with finality
In the last 15 years, this was the way the Comelec and the SC resolved cases filed against the presidential bids of the late Fernando Poe Jr., former President Joseph Estrada and Sen. Grace Poe in 2004, 2010 and 2016.
Lengthy legal fight
INQUIRER.net took a close look at the SC decisions which contained details of the cases––their origin and how they were resolved. Poe Jr.’s took two months, Estrada’s took nine months while Poe’s took six months.
Looking back, here’s how the cases were decided with finality:
- Sen. Grace Poe
Oct. 15, 2015: Poe, who had 20,337,327 votes in 2013, filed a COC for president in the 2016 elections. The following day, a petition to cancel Poe’s COC was filed by Estrella Elamparo, saying that Poe committed material misrepresentation.
Elamparo said Poe committed material misrepresentation when she stated that she was a natural-born Filipino citizen and a resident of the Philippines for at least 10 years. This was raffled to the Comelec’s second division.
Dec. 1, 2015: The Comelec second division, in its resolution, said Poe’s COC contained material representation which was “false”. A motion for reconsideration was filed by Poe.
Dec. 11, 2015: Resolving the petitions filed by Francisco Tatad, Antonio Contreras, and Amado Valdez, the Comelec first division said Poe committed material misrepresentation, saying that she was not a natural-born Filipino citizen and that she failed to complete the 10-year residency requirement. Poe filed a motion for reconsideration.
Dec. 23, 2015: The Comelec en banc denied Poe’s motion for reconsideration in relation to the resolutions made by the first and second divisions which said that she committed material misrepresentation.
Dec. 28, 2015: Poe filed a petition for certiorari at the Supreme Court and asked for the issuance of TROs to stop the Comelec from cancelling her COC for president. The TROs were later issued by the SC.
Jan. 12, 2016: The SC consolidated the two cases that were decided by the two Comelec divisions.
March 8, 2016: In a 9-6 vote, the SC granted Poe’s petitions, saying that she was a natural-born Filipino citizen and a resident for 10 years and 11 months. The SC en banc also said the Comelec committed grave abuse of discretion. Motions for reconsideration were filed.
April 9, 2016: The SC en banc “denied with finality” all the motions for reconsideration that were filed against the SC decision dated March 8, 2016 which reversed the decisions promulgated by the Comelec.
- Fernando Poe Jr.
Dec. 31, 2003: Poe Jr. filed a COC to run for president in the 2004 elections.
Jan. 9, 2004: Victorino Fornier initiated a petition which asked the Comelec to disqualify Poe Jr. and cancel his COC, saying that Poe Jr. committed material misrepresentation by claiming that he was a natural-born Filipino citizen.
Jan. 23, 2004: The Comelec dismissed the petition for lack of merit. A motion for reconsideration was filed by Fornier. This was denied by the Comelec en banc in a resolution dated Feb. 6, 2004.
Feb. 10, 2004: To assail the decision of the Comelec, Fornier went to SC. He asked the SC to issue a TRO that would prevent the finality of the Comelec decision. The other petitions that were consolidated with Fornier’s include those filed by Maria Tecson, Felix Desiderio Jr. and Zoilo Velez.
March 3, 2004: In an 8-5 vote, the SC en banc said the Comelec did not commit grave abuse of discretion in deciding that Poe Jr. was eligible. It said Poe Jr. was a natural-born Filipino citizen under the terms of the 1935 Constitution.
- Joseph Estrada
Nov. 30, 2009: Estrada, who was ousted from Malacañang in 2001, filed his COC for the 2010 elections to run for president again.
Dec. 4, 2004: Lawyer Evillo Pormento filed a petition at the Comelec to seek the disqualification of Estrada, saying that Estrada, who was elected to the presidency in 1998, was not eligible for reelection as the 1987 Constitution limited presidents to just one term.
Jan. 20, 2010: The Comelec second division dismissed Pormento’s petition, including the petitions filed against Estrada by Ely Pamatong and Mary Lou Estrada because of lack of merit. A motion for reconsideration was filed, however, and denied by the Comelec en banc.
May 7, 2010: Pormento, three days before the 2010 elections, filed a petition for certiorari at the SC.
Aug. 31, 2010: The SC decided that the issue became moot when Estrada lost the elections. But the high court said the petition filed by Pormento does not prevent the execution of the Comelec resolution and there was no petition for TRO filed by Estrada at the SC.
Election lawyer Emil Marañon III told INQUIRER.net that there were instances when a case is resolved immediately. However, it’s also possible that a case could take two years, said Marañon.
He said it will depend on the discretion of the Comelec division, explaining that there were cases that can be resolved in a month or two while there were cases that were still pending even one or two years after the elections.
The period it would take to settle the cases against Marcos Jr. is uncertain. But Ma. Ela Atienza, political science professor at University of the Philippines Diliman, said the coming months would be critical for the late dictator’s son.
“The cases need to be resolved soon. If not resolved immediately, it may sway the possible backing of non-solid Marcos Jr. voters,” Atienza told INQUIRER.net.
In 2015 Poe filed her COC to run for president at a time when her preference rating was highest among presidential aspirants at the time. According to results of a Social Weather Stations survey from Sept. 2 to Sept. 5, Poe had a 26 percent preference rating.
As the disqualification petitions against her were filed, she retained a 26 percent preference rate in a survey held from Dec. 12 to 14. However, another presidential aspirant, then Vice President Jejomar Binay caught up and tied with Poe.
From Feb. 5 to 7 in 2016, with disqualification cases still pending at the SC, Poe slid down to second with a 24 percent preference rating. Binay took the lead with a 29 percent rate.
In the same year, Poe took the lead again in a March 4 to 7 survey with a 27 percent preference rate. However, in a March 30 to April 12 survey, even after the SC granted her petition, Poe, with 23 percent, ranked second to then Mayor Rodrigo Duterte.
Trust in Comelec
Gerardo Eusebio, a political science professor of the De La Salle University, told INQUIRER.net that as the Comelec commissioners were all appointed by the President, Marcos Jr.’s voters may perceive a threat that the election officials would vote against Marcos Jr.
This was the reason Atienza said the cases should be resolved immediately. “At stake as well is the public trust and perception in the Comelec. It must be just,” she said.
Atienza said the Comelec should not delay its decision so that it will not be perceived as partial to a specific candidate.
Eusebio said how the Comelec acts will be closely watched by the voters, who are expected to make their choices based on several factors—if the Comelec had been fair to their candidate, candidate’s behavior, information and other nuances that could arise in the next five months.
For Atienza, while the next months will be critical for Marcos Jr., he was expected to retain the support of Marcos loyalists.
Ador Torneo, a political science professor of the De La Salle University said “hard supporters” are strongly committed to their candidates whatever happens.
“They tend to be personally and emotionally invested and are unlikely or least likely to be perturbed by hindrances like a disqualification case,” he told INQUIRER.net.
“Soft supporters are not as committed and very likely to waver and change their vote, especially in the face of issues like a disqualification case,” said Torneo. “Undecided voters are still uncommitted but are less likely to support a candidate that has a pending disqualification case,” he said.
Atienza explained that soft supporters and the undecided may be wary of these legal questions surrounding Marcos Jr’s bid to bring his family back to Malacañang. “They would prefer a candidate without questions on eligibility and do not want to waste their votes,” she said.
“They may look at other candidates as options should Marcos be deemed ineligible to run,” she said.
She said this could benefit Sen. Bong Go and those who are “not all-out opposition” like Sen. Panfilo Lacson, Sen. Manny Pacquiao, and Manila Mayor Isko Moreno since “they share some similarities regarding the preferred programs and continuity of some of the President’s policies and programs.”
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