The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has denied for lack of merit the petition seeking to cancel former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.’s certificate of candidacy (COC) for president, saying his failure to file his income tax returns does not constitute a crime of moral turpitude.
Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez said the poll body’s second division dismissed the petition filed by Task Force Detainees chairman Fr. Christian Buenafe for lack of merit.
The 32-page ruling was signed by Presiding Commissioner Socorro Inting and concurred in by Commissioners Antonio Kho and Rey Bulay.
The petitioners had argued that the former senator cannot run for public office because he was convicted by a Quezon City court for his multiple failure to file his income tax returns from 1982 to 1985.
The Second Division ruled that the National Internal Revenue Code (NIRC) of 1994 did not apply to the case, because that would have resulted in a retroactive application since the NIRC took effect only in 1986, “whereas the cases involved in this case were in ’82, ’83, and ’84,” Jimenez said in a press briefing.
The Comelec also ruled that Marcos is eligible to run for president since he is not perpetually disqualified from seeking elective office and did not commit any misrepresentation in the filing of his COC.
“So, for this reason, when respondent Marcos Jr. checked the item on the COC saying that he has no disqualifications, it was not a misrepresentation,” Jimenez added, citing the Comelec division’s ruling.
He also said that the division noted that failure to file an income tax return is not a crime involving moral turpitude.
The Palace on Monday said it respects the Comelec decision.
“Comelec is an independent constitutional body. We respect the independence of the Comelec.,” acting presidential spokesman Karlo Nograles said.
Marcos spokesperson Vic Rodriguez said the petition was “way too frivolous and unmeritorious to override the basic precepts of the Constitution.”
The Marcos camp also thanked the Comelec “for upholding the law and the right of every bona fide candidate like Bongbong Marcos to run for public office free from any form of harassment and discrimination.”
Meanwhile, the Comelec’s First Division decision on the disqualification cases against Marcos have been delayed by COVID-19.
Comelec Director 3 Elaiza Sabile David said staff members of one of the commissioners handling the petitions against Marcos have tested positive for COVID-19.
In a Twitter post, presiding Commissioner Rowena Guanzon said one of the commissioners was in isolation due to close contact with COVID-positive staff.
Marcos is facing at least six complaints urging Comelec to bar him from running, mainly over a 1995 tax evasion conviction.
Marcos, 64, was convicted of non-payment and non-filing of tax returns from 1982 up to 1985.
The ruling of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court was affirmed, in part, by the Court of Appeals (CA) in 1997. The CA reversed Marcos’ non-payment of taxes conviction.
Vice President and presidential bet Leni Robredo shrugged off the dismissal of the case against Marcos, saying this would have no effect on the race for the presidency.
“We always say that my candidacy is not dependent or based on the actions of the other candidates,” Robredo said.
Presidential candidate Senator Panfilo Lacson said it was best to respect the Comelec ruling.
Sought to comment on the ruling, another presidential bet, Senator Manny Pacquiao, declined to comment, saying he was not a party to the case.