By Cathrine Gonzales | Inquirer.net
MANILA, Philippines — The Commission on Elections’ (Comelec) First Division has dismissed the consolidated disqualification cases against presidential candidate Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. for lack of merit.
“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,” Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez said in a tweet Thursday.
The resolution covered the cases filed by martial law survivors through Bonifacio Ilagan, Akbayan party-list group, and National Commission on Muslim Filipinos Commissioner Abubakar Mangelen.
The groups sought to disqualify Marcos from the May 9 elections because of his conviction for failing to file income tax returns from 1982 to 1985, which they said perpetually disqualifies him from seeking an elective post.
However, the First Division’s resolution read that: “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).”
“To be clear, the penalty of perpetual disqualification came into force only upon the effectivity of P.D. (Presidential Decree) No. 1994 on 01 January 1986. Thus, the penalty cannot be made to apply to Respondent’s (Marcos) tax violations, which were committed before the effectivity of the said law, in accord with the constitutional prohibition against ex post facto laws,” the decision read.
The First Division likewise pointed out that failure to file tax returns was not “inherently immoral.”
“Is the failure to file tax returns inherently immoral? We submit that it is not. The failure to file tax returns is not inherently wrong in the absence of a law punishing it. The said omission became punishable only through the enactment of the Tax Code,” the resolution read.
Petitioners can appeal the decision before the Comelec en banc and all the way to the Supreme Court.
The Comelec’s First Division that decided on the consolidated cases 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 of the First Division, who earlier voted for the disqualification of Marcos due to his tax cases, but she retired on February 2 ahead of the release of the decision.
Earlier, Guanzon claimed that a senator was influencing Ferolino to delay the resolution so that her vote will not be counted. Ferolino has denied this claim, saying she was just “judiciously scrutinizing” all evidence.
Another disqualification case against Marcos, filed by the Pudno Nga Ilocano, is pending before the Comelec’s Second Division.
Two other cases were junked by the Comelec second division but have been appealed before the en banc. These are the petition filed by Danilo Lihaylihay to declare Marcos a nuisance candidate, and a petition filed by civic leaders to cancel Marcos’ certificate of candidacy.