Manila Bulletin : Comelec 2nd Division junks petition to cancel Marcos' COC

17 January 2022

By Dhel Nazario | Manila Bulletin

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) Second Division has denied the petition seeking the cancellation of the certificate of candidacy (COC) of presidential aspirant Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.

The 32-page decision, according to Comelec Spokesperson James Jimenez, was promulgated on Monday, Jan. 17.

On November 2, Petitioners Fr. Christian Buenafe of Task Force Detainees, Fides Lim of Kapatid, Ma Edeliza Hernandez of Medical Action Group, Celia Lagman Sevilla of Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearance, Roland Vibal of PH Alliance of Human Rights, and Josephine Lasvano of Balay Rehab Center filed a petition to cancel Marcos’ COC which according to them, contains multiple false material representations.

In a unanimous ruling, the commission said that the respondent’s material representations – that he is eligible to for the position of President and that he has not been meted the penalty of perpetual disqualification from public officer – were not false.

Jimenez said that the Comelec 2nd Division had the opportunity to discuss what the term “material representation” means and it defined the term following Supreme Court jurisprudence “as something that affects the eligibility of a candidate to run.” The division then returned to the decision of the Court of Appeals (CA) to determine whether or not a material misrepresentation was actually made.

One of the main points mentioned in the decision was that the CA decision on the failure of Marcos Jr. to file his income tax returns in 1982, 1983, 1984, and 1985 did not contain any disqualification.

The the second division also ruled that the National Internal Revenue Code (NIRC) of 1994 did not apply to the case, because it would have resulted in a retroactive application since the NIRC of 1994 took effect only in 1986.

“The accessory penalty of perpetual disqualification cannot be made to apply to the taxable years of 1982-1984. Notably, at the time of the commission of the violations for the taxable years 1982, 1983, and 1984, Respondent was a public official. During the periods required by the law to file the ITR, or on the 18th of March 1983, 1984, and 1985, however, P.D. No. 1994 was not applicable, as it only came into force on 01 January 1986. The applicable penalty at that time under section 73 of 1977 NIRC only provided for either a fine or imprisonment or both, without the accompanying accessory penalty of perpetual disqualification provided under Section 286 of P.D. No. 1994,” the decision stated.

For this reason, the commission said that when respondent Marcos Jr. checked the item on his COC saying that he had no disqualifications, it was not a misrepresentation. The division further found that there was no deliberate attempt to mislead the commission contrary to the allegations of the petitioners and noted that failure to file an income tax return is not a crime involving moral turpitude.

“Since Respondent was not meted the accessory penalty of perpetual disqualification from public office, it cannot be rightfully said that he committed a false material representation when he answered in the negative to the question posed in Item No. 22 of his COC. In like manner, when Respondent declared in Item No. 11 of his COC that the is eligible for the office for which he seeks to be elected to, he was essentially speaking the truth,” the decision read.

Comelec also said in the decision that the petition should have been summarily dismissed since Section 78 of the Omnibus Election Code states that a COC may be denied due course or cancelled when it contains a false material representation and that “there is no other possible ground.” In the case of the petitioners, the commission said that aside from alleging the existence of false material representations in the respondent’s COC, petitioners also invoked grounds for disqualification against him.

“Despite summary dismissal being warranted in the case at bar, We shall nevertheless relax compliance with the technical rules of procedure and proceed to discuss the merits if only to fully and finally settle the matter in this case because of its paramount importance,” the decision read.

Meanwhile, Theodore Te, the legal counsel of the petitioners said that the petitioners “disagree” and will seek reconsideration within the period provided under the Comelec rules.

On the other hand, Lim of Kapatid released a statement wherein he reiterated that Marcos Jr.’s COC should be canceled because he falsely declared under oath in paragraph 11 under Box 22 of his COC dated Oct. 6, 2021, that he was “eligible for the office I seek to be elected to.”

“This material representation is clearly ‘false’ because he was convicted by final judgment by both the Regional Trial Court and Court of Appeals for failure to pay and file income tax returns for the years 1982, 1983 and 1984 when he served as vice-governor and governor of Ilocos Norte,” he said.

“These court judgments make him ineligible to hold any public office, least of all the highest office of the land. We cannot have a liar, cheat and convicted tax evader making fools of us all as he claws his way to the presidency while lying through his teeth. Our lawyers led by Atty. Theodore Te are now seeking reconsideration of the resolution with the Comelec En Banc,” he added.