Comelec rules petitions ‘lack merit’
The Commission on Elections First Division has dismissed the consolidated disqualification cases filed against presidential candidate former Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. for lack of merit, Comelec spokesman James Jimenez said Thursday.
“The consolidated petitions of Ilagan v. Marcos Jr., Akbayan v. Marcos Jr., and Mangelen v. Marcos Jr. have been dismissed for lack of merit, by the Comelec’s First Division,” Jimenez said in a tweet Thursday.
“A penalty that would deprive a citizen of his political right to be voted for in an election should be clearly, unequivocally, and expressly stated in the decision,” read the ruling.
The First Division said Marcos could still run for the country’s top post as the petitions against him did not fall under the following: declared by authorities as insane or incompetent; sentenced by final judgment for subversion, insurrection, rebellion or for any offense for which he has been sentenced to a penalty of more than 18 months; or sentenced by final judgment for a crime involving moral turpitude. The petitioners, which include Martial law survivors Bonifacio Ilagan and Abubakar Mangelen as well as Akbayan party-list, have vowed to appeal before the Comelec en banc and even all the way to the Supreme Court.
The First Division is composed of Commissioners Aimee Ferolino, the ponente in the petitions, and Commissioner Marlon Casquejo.
The third member of the panel was Commissioner Rowena Guanzon, also the then presiding commissioner but who retired on February 2 but earlier leaked her dissenting opinion to the media shortly before her retirement.
In a statement, Akbayan said the Comelec’s decision was a “major setback” in the country’s electoral democracy.
It added it would appeal to the Comelec en banc “and pursue this case to the very end,” saying the fight was not yet over.
Marcos’ spokesman Vic Rodriguez welcomed the decision.
“We again commend the honorable members of the Comelec’s 1st Division for upholding the law by dismissing cases that we have long described as nuisance petitions. The petitioners in this case, Ilagan, Akbayan, Etta Rosales and Mangelen, were found guilty of lying and of deliberately misleading the Comelec by intentionally quoting the wrong provisions of the law and squeezed them into their faulty narratives,” he said in a separate statement.
“While we call on this seemingly misguided segment of our society to stop spreading lies against presidential candidate Bongbong Marcos, we nonetheless extend our hands of unity and continue with our call for them and every Filipino to join us in shaping a better and united future for our people,” Rodriguez added.
Guanzon earlier claimed a senator she did not identify was influencing Ferolino to delay the release of the resolution so that her vote would not be counted, an accusation Ferolino denied.
According to Jimenez, the division junked the consolidated petitions.
“Contrary to petitioners’ assertion, the penalty of perpetual disqualification by reason of failure to file income tax returns was not provided for under the original 1977 NIRC (National Internal Revenue Code),” read the 41-page ruling penned by Ferolino.
“To be clear, the penalty of perpetual disqualification came into force only upon the effectivity of PD (Presidential Decree) 1994 on 01 January 1986,” it added.
According to the petitioners, Marcos should not be allowed to run for president because of his conviction for violating the Internal Revenue Code, which carried a penalty of perpetual disqualification from holding any public office.
They noted that in 1995, a Quezon City court convicted Marcos for not filing his income tax returns from 1982 to 1984 when he was a local government official in his province of Ilocos Norte.
The conviction was upheld by the Court of Appeals but removed the jail sentence.
The Comelec ruling said the penalty could not be made to apply to respondent’s tax violations, which were committed before the effectivity of the said law, in accordance with the constitutional prohibition against ex-post facto laws.
Under the 1987 Constitution, an ex post facto law is defined as one which makes an action done before the passing of the law and which was innocent when done, criminal, and punishes such action; or. which aggravates a crime or makes it greater than it was when committed.
“The petitioners said that despite its omission from the trial court and Court of Appeals decisions, the penalty of perpetual disqualification was ‘deemed written therein’,” the ruling said. “The contention lacks merit.”
“A penalty that would deprive a citizen of his political right to be voted for in an election should be clearly, unequivocally, and expressly stated in the decision,” it added.
The First Division said Marcos could still run for the country’s top post as the petitions against him did not fall under the following: declared by authorities as insane or incompetent; sentenced by final judgment for subversion, insurrection, rebellion or for any offense for which he has been sentenced to a penalty of more than 18 months; or sentenced by final judgment for a crime involving moral turpitude.