[OPINION] Vox Populi, Vox Dei: A case for the Supreme Court’s voiding of Marcos’ candidacy that may lead to Leni Robredo’s win as president

Former Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. and Vice President Leni Robredo | Philstar.com photos

“VOX POPULI, VOX DEI.” The voice of the people is the voice of God. This is what supporters of Bongbong Marcos would argue in light of street protests, questions and challenges to Bongbong Marcos’ supposed 31.1 million votes vs VP Leni Robredo’s 14.8 million in the May 9 election, with 98.35% votes transmitted.

And now, two petitions have been elevated to the Supreme Court to disqualify the son of the dictator and have his candidacy ruled to be void from the very beginning. Both petitions were trashed by the Comelec, whose leadership is full of Duterte appointees.

The first petition was filed on May 16 by the group of former SC spokesperson Ted Te, with Fr. Christian B. Buenafe et al as petitioners vs Comelec, Ferdinand Marcos Jr.  The Senate of the Philippines, the House of Representatives as respondents, backed by human rights leaders and organizations.

The petition said: “A candidate’s putative election victory cannot subsequently cure his ineligibility. Elections are more than just a numbers game such that an election victory cannot bypass election eligibility requirements.”

The other petition was filed on May 18 by Martial Law survivors, contending the same points raised by the first petition, and as Rappler reported, they argued that second-placer Vice President Leni Robredo should be president if they win the case.

This judicial appeal is supported by former elections commissioner Luie Guia, who said in an interview with Rappler:

“My take is that if the ground for disqualification existed at the time of the filing of the COC [Certificate of Candidacy], then the COC may also be canceled or nullified, which means that the votes of disqualified candidate will likewise be declared stray, thus, the one with the highest number of vote (stray votes not counted) is to be considered elected.”

That candidate is VP Leni Robredo and not Sara Duterte, based on the 2013 decision Maquiling vs Comelec where the Supreme Court said 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,” said the 2013 decision, as reported by Rappler.

Marcos loyalists contend that the “people” have spoken, and that these protests and challenges to Marcos’ “victory” is in violation of the Constitution and the very essence of democracy.

I respectfully disagree. The voice of the people as expressed through their votes in the election is anchored on the premise that they cast their sacred votes based on the factual information and disclosures presented to them.

If there were deliberate misrepresentations or concealment of any material information about the candidate running from office, then the candidacy has been anchored on lies and deception. These would also include false information peddled through troll farms, fake news, videos, “influencers”, memes, etc. to boost Marcos’ popularity and to destroy his political opponent Leni Robredo. These lies and deception could have swayed voters’ decision in favor of Marcos.

This case against Marcos’ “win’ is highlighted by questions on the integrity of the electoral process, with the alleged vote buying, “hakot”, and computer programming “hocus pocus”, allegedly in connivance with Comelec, local government units and other election machineries to make Marcos win.

The votes garnered through lies, misrepresentation, deception, and allegedly, cheating, therefore, may be deemed invalid as they do not truly represent the will of the people.

The group of Ted Te’s petition stated as reported by Philippine Star:

“The petitioners ask the SC to annul 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.”

The second petition filed by Martial Law survivors also presented the essence arguments of the first petition, but highlighted a new perspective. 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.”

VOX POPULI, VOX DEI. The voice of the people is the voice of God. And it can only be so if it reflects what is true and what is just. This is the fight we all should be fighting for, regardless of our political color.

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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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