[OPINION] Election not yet over: Fight to declare Bongbong Marcos’ candidacy void from the beginning now elevated to the Supreme Court

Photo from Rappler

THE May 9, 2022 Philippine election isn’t over. The son of the dictator who wants to be president — allegedly using lies, deceit, troll farms, disinformation, hakot, vote buying, and cheating on election returns — cannot be coronated just yet, despite his supposed 31.1 million votes versus VP Leni Robredo’s supposed 14.8 million

The four disqualification cases against him may have been trashed by the Commission on Elections (Comelec), comprising of Duterte appointees. But the story does not end there. The fight is now elevated to the Supreme Court (SC) by two groups of petitioners.

A group of martial law survivors would not allow the family of their abusers to win just like that without exhausting all means to prove that Ferdinand Marcos Jr. is NOT qualified to be accorded all the power and public trust that goes with the Office of the President. They contend that the president should be Vice President Leni Robredo.

“Considering that the votes cast in favor of a disqualified candidate are invalid, the winner therefore, is the candidate who received the greatest number of valid votes,” stated the 50-page petition filed by victims of torture like Bonifacio Ilagan and Saturnino Ocampo on May 18, Wednesday, Rappler reported. They were represented by Atty. Howard Calleja.

And so, no matter how much the Presumptive Vice President Sara Duterte, daughter of outgoing President Rodrigo Duterte, wants to be proclaimed two weeks ahead, in violation of the Constitutional provision that the newly elected President and Vice President should be proclaimed at high noon of June 30, she would not be the 17th President of the Philippines. The petition stated that it would have to be VP Leni Robredo.

This move aligns with the intention of the group of former Supreme Court spokesperson Ted Te, backed by other human rights lawyers, when they elevated their petition to cancel Marcos’ certificate of candidacy (COC) to the SC on Monday, May 16.

The Rappler report explained the difference between the petitions. “Canceling a COC and disqualification are different processes – the main difference is that the former voids the entire candidacy while a disqualified candidate can be substituted. But that is, if the case was resolved prior to the elections.”

What was stated in Ted Te’s group’s 70-page petition to the High Court? As the Philippine Star reported:

“The petitioners ask the SC to annual and set aside the May 10 Resolution of the Comelec en Banc that junked their appeal to cancel Marcos’ COC, and the Jan. 17, 2022 resolution of the Second Division that dismissed their plea.”

“This Petition prays for the invalidation and reversal of the Questioned Comelec Resolutions for having been rendered in grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction,” the report stated, quoting their Petition for Certiorari.

“Respondent Comelec, by refusing to Cancel or Deny Due Course the [COC] of respondent Marcos, Jr. despite his having deliberately made false material representations on two material items, acted with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction,” they added.

Like other legal challenges filed against Marcos’ candidacy, the Buenafe petition is also anchored on the presumptive president-elect’s conviction for non-failure of Income Tax Return for four years.

For their case, the petitioners accused Marcos of “misrepresentations pertaining to his eligibility due to his prior convictions under the 1977 [National Internal Revenue Code.”

But the petitioners also brought to SC the Marcoses’ family estate tax liability, estimated to have reached P203 billion due to surcharges and interest, as testament to Marcos Jr.’s “propensity to flour Philippine laws.” They noted that there is no showing that the Marcos heirs paid the tax due, and their team has also evaded questions by the media on the issue.”

Duterte supporters argue that the “line of succession” should be followed, contending that Sara Duterte should then be president if Marcos is disqualified. As Rappler explained, this argument would cite the 2010 case Panlaqui vs. Velasco, the Supreme Court declared as mayor the elected vice mayor, after the candidate who won in the mayoralty race was disqualified.

However, this new petition now elevated to the SC presents a more recent case to prove that Leni, and not Sara, should be president. The basis of the petition is the 2013 Supreme Court decision on the Maquiling vs. Comelec case, where the highest court ruled that the disqualification of the candidate reaches back to the filing of the certificate of candidacy” and that the disqualified candidate is “declared to be not a candidate at all.”

“Being a non-candidate, the votes cast in his favor should not have been counted. This leaves [Maquiling] as the qualified candidate who obtained the highest number of votes. Therefore, the rule on succession under the Local Government Code will not apply,” Rappler reported, quoting the 2013 decision.

What if Marcos and Duterte are proclaimed prior to the Supreme Court meeting en banc on June 14? The report stated that the Supreme Court could still rule beyond proclamation.

“Even if Marcos has already sworn and assumed office, the Supreme Court would still have residual jurisdiction to rule on whether or not he committed material misrepresentation in his Certificate of Candidacy and order its cancellation, if it finds basis,” Rappler quoted election lawyer Emil Marañón, who represented VP Leni Robredo in the now junked vice presidential electoral protest filed against her by Marcos, said time is not an issue for the Supreme Court.

So what is the basis of the petition this time when Comelec ruled to the same petitioner before that there is no moral turpitude on the part of Marcos to disqualify him, despite Marcos being convicted by the Regional Trial Court for nonpayment of income tax while he was a sitting government official. He should have been sent to prison pursuant to tax laws, had it not been for the Court of Appeals changing the sentence and the ruling that he could not run for any public office?

They presented the same arguments as Ted Te’s group. However, there is an important technicality we need to understand about this when it comes to the time when the violation of the law occurred. Let me quote the report by Rappler:

“One of the new arguments of the recent petition is framing failure to file income tax returns as a continuing crime.

This is relevant because the Comelec said that the 1977 tax code, which covered Marcos’ non-filing of returns from 1982 to 1984, did not impose mandatory prison time nor automatic perpetual disqualification as penalty. Those were included in the amended tax code that became effective only in 1986.

The catch is, Marcos’ conviction also covered his tax return for 1985, which was filed only in March 1986. Which tax code applies – 1977 or the 1986 version? The petitioners said the 1986 version, trying to convince justices that Marcos was already perpetually disqualified from holding public office.

“Marcos Jr. continued to violate Sec. 45 of the 1977 [tax code]; he did not even try to belatedly file his income tax return. He just did not. Therefore, when the amendments introduced by [1986 tax code] took effect, Respondent convicted candidate Marcos Jr. remained to be committing an offense in continued violation of the law, and such continued commission of an offense thus subjected him to the additional accessory penalty of perpetual disqualification,” said the petition.

“To clarify, this is not a case of making a penal law retroactive in application. Merely applying the law in effect in 1986, for violations he was continually committing in 1986, therefore does not fall within the ambit of an ex post facto law,” the petition justified.”

Arguing against the Comelec’s decision that failing to file income tax returns is not a crime of moral turpitude, the Martial Law victims and survivors stated in their petition:

“Marcos Jr. failed to file his ITRs on four (4) consecutive years that he was Vice Governor and Governor of Ilocos Norte from 1982 to 1985. Four (4) consecutive years cannot be regarded as a simple omission. It shows an utter disregard of the laws which, as chief executive of the province of Ilocos Norte, Respondent convicted candidate Marcos Jr. took an oath to uphold.”

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The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of the Asian Journal, its management, editorial board and staff.

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Gel Santos Relos has been in news, talk, public service and educational broadcasting since 1989. She was a news anchor, TV host and radio commentator and public service host for ABS- CBN and DZMM. She is now working on her advocacies independently, serving the Filipino audience using different  media platforms. You may contact her through email at [email protected], or send her a message via Facebook at Facebook.com/Gel.Santos.Relos. Also on Twitter, Instagram: Gel Santos Relos


Gel Santos Relos

Gel Santos Relos is the anchor of TFC’s “Balitang America.” Views and opinions expressed by the author in this column are solely those of the author and not of Asian Journal and ABS-CBN-TFC. For comments, go to www.TheFil-AmPerspective.com and www.facebook.com/Gel.Santos.Relos

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