MANILA, Philippines—Just the start of a lengthy process.
This was how an election lawyer viewed the dismissal by a division of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) of a case seeking cancellation of Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s certificate of candidacy (COC) on the basis of alleged misrepresentation.
“While we can say that the Comelec second division already had a resolution, if you will look closely, the case will take a lengthy process,” said election lawyer Emil Marañon.
“This is still the start of the legal battle that he has to face. This is not yet the end,” Marañon told INQUIRER.net.
The case dismissed by the Comelec second division claimed that Marcos Jr. lied in an official document when, on his application for a COC, he ticked the box for a “no” answer to the question of whether he had been convicted of any crime that carried the accessory penalty of perpetual disqualification from public office prior to his filing of the COC.
On Monday (Jan. 17), lawyer Theodore Te, counsel of civic leaders who filed the petition to cancel Marcos Jr.’s COC in the case dismissed by the Comelec second division, said there were two important points to note in the division ruling—while it disagreed that Marcos Jr. made false representation, it recognized that the representation he made was material.
The Marcos camp celebrated the second division ruling, saying it and other petitions to cancel Marcos Jr.’s COC or disqualify him were “nuisance” and were creatively written but bereft of legal basis.
The petitions, said lawyer Vic Rodriguez, Marcos Jr.’s spokesperson, were “way too frivolous and unmeritorious to override the basic precepts of the Constitution.”
The petition to cancel Marcos Jr.’s COC had been filed by five individuals who fought the Marcos dictatorship and was just one of seven filed at the Comelec seeking to stop Marcos Jr. from running for president.
Two other petitions—one by presidential aspirant Danilo Lihaylihay citing alleged ill-gotten wealth by Marcos Jr. and another filed by presidential aspirant Tiburcio Marcos claiming Marcos Jr. was just an impersonator—had been dismissed by the Comelec second division on Dec. 18, 2021 and Jan. 4, 2022.
Still pending in the second division is the petition to bar Marcos Jr. from running for president filed by the group Pudno nga Ilokano (The Real Ilokano) on the basis of his tax conviction by a Quezon City court.
Pending in the Comelec First Division is a consolidation of petitions filed by the group Akbayan, Bonifacio Ilagan, et. al. and Abubakar Mangelen which also revolved around Marcos Jr.’s tax conviction.
Ilagan is a martial law victim while Mangelen says he’s the chair of Partido Federal ng Pilipinas (PFP), the party which issued a certificate of nomination (CONA) to Marcos Jr. as presidential candidate. Mangelen had claimed that only a faction of PFP nominated Marcos Jr.
When the Comelec second division was set to start the preliminary conference for the petition filed by Fr. Christian Buenafe, of the Task Force Detainees of the Philippines, election lawyer Alberto Agra told INQUIRER.net that it was just the dawn of a lengthy procedure that could reach the Comelec en banc and even the Supreme Court.
Te said Buenafe and other petitioners will file a motion for reconsideration at the Comelec en banc.
Marcos Jr., who lost the vice presidency in 2016, filed a COC for president on Oct. 6, 2021. However, on Nov. 6, 2021, Buenafe and activists who fought the Marcos dictatorship, filed a petition at the Comelec to stop the son of the late dictator from running for president.
The 57-page petition said Marcos Jr. made material misrepresentations when, by ticking a box in the COC application, he declared “I am eligible for the office I seek to be elected to” and, by ticking another box in the COC application, declared that he has never been convicted of any crime that carried the accessory penalty of perpetual disqualification from public office.
The Buenafe petition said the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City convicted Marcos Jr. of two criminal cases—failing to pay his taxes and failing to file his tax returns—in 1995. The Court of Appeals (CA) removed the first conviction, but retained the second.
“The mere fact that respondent Marcos Jr. was convicted of violating the National Internal Revenue Code (NIRC) perpetually disqualifies him from holding any public office, to vote, and to participate in any elections,” the Buenafe petition said.
However, in the 32-page decision written by Commissioner Socorro Inting, the Comelec second division said the CA was correct in not imposing on Marcos Jr. the penalty of perpetual disqualification from public office, voting and participating in any elections.
It did not agree with Buenafe et. al. that Marcos Jr.’s convictions for failing to file tax returns for the 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.”
Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez said the Comelec second division decided that the NIRC of 1994 did not apply to the case, because that would have resulted in a retroactive application since it took effect only in 1986, whereas the years involved in the case were 1982, 1983, and 1984.
Marañon III said while the resolution was already promulgated by the Comelec second division, since the case is expected to take a lengthy process, “there’s still a question hanging as regards to whether he is eligible or not,” saying that questions would linger until the issue was resolved with finality by the Comelec en banc or even the Supreme Court.
Likewise, Jimenez said the decision on the petition to cancel Marcos Jr.’s COC left no impact on the two other pending cases against him. “It is difficult to speculate on other cases on the basis of one decision,” he said.
“Let us wait for each decision to be promulgated and we will discuss them as they come out,” said Jimenez.
Here is the status of the six other cases filed against Marcos Jr.
• Tiburcio Marcos vs Marcos Jr.
On Nov. 18, 2021, the Comelec said it was asked by presidential aspirant Tiburcio to cancel Marcos Jr.’s COC, saying the real Marcos Jr. had already died and the person who filed the COC was an alleged “impostor”.
The petition was denied by the Comelec second division on Jan. 4, 2022. Tiburcio was also declared a nuisance candidate.
• Danilo Lihaylihay vs Marcos Jr.
Asking the Comelec to declare Marcos Jr. a “nuisance,” Lihaylihay, who also filed COC for president, said Marcos Jr. made a mockery of the election process because his purpose was mainly to bring his family back to Malacañang.
The petition, which was filed on Oct. 12, 2021, was denied by the Comelec second division on Dec. 18, 2021, in a ruling that said Marcos Jr.’s candidacy did not fall under any of three “broad categories of nuisance candidates.”
• Bonifacio Ilagan et. al. vs Marcos Jr.
The first to seek Marcos Jr.’s disqualification because of misrepresentation, this petition, which was initiated by Ilagan and the conveners of the Campaign Against the Return of the Marcoses and Martial Law, was filed on Nov. 17, 2021.
The petition, which likewise cited Marcos Jr.’s tax conviction, was consolidated with the petitions filed by Akbayan et. al. and Mangelen and was raffled off to the Comelec first division.
This is still pending.
• Akbayan et. al. vs Marcos Jr.: Petition to disqualify
The petition, which was filed on Dec. 2, 2021, was initiated by the Akbayan Citizens Action Party, and other activists, including former Commission on Human Rights chairperson Loretta Rosales and Raymond Naguit.
It cited a 2012 Supreme Court decision which said that the Comelec bears the constitutional responsibility to prevent the run of candidates who are perpetually disqualified from seeking an elective post.
• Abubakar Mangelen vs Marcos Jr.: Petition to disqualify and declare Marcos Jr.’s CONA as ‘null’
The sixth petition against Marcos Jr., filed by National Commission on Muslim Filipinos Commissioner Mangelen, said Marcos Jr.’s CONA by the PFP was not valid as it was issued by a faction of PFP not authorized to issue CONA. The nomination of Marcos Jr. came as a “big shock” to party members, said Mangelen.
This was filed on Dec. 2, 2021 and is still pending.
• Pudno nga Ilokano vs Marcos Jr.
A petition to disqualify Marcos Jr., this was filed on Dec. 7, 2021 by the members of Pudno Nga Ilokano (The Real Ilokano), Ilocanos claiming that the so-called “Solid North” does not exist.
The petition, which likewise cited Marcos Jr.’s tax conviction, was raffled off to the Comelec second division.
It is still pending.