By William Depasupil , Catherine S. Valente and Javier Joe Ismael | The Manila Times
THE Commission on Elections (Comelec) defended its ruling on the consolidated disqualification cases against presidential candidate Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. amid a barrage of criticism it has spawned on social media.
Comelec spokesman James Jimenez on Friday said the poll body's First Division took into consideration the Court of Appeals (CA) ruling in dismissing the petition calling to disqualify Marcos as a candidate.
"There wasn't simply anything in the CA [decision] that says na kailangan ma-disqualify, na pinapatawan ng perpetual disqualification ang kandidato (that the candidate must suffer perpetual disqualification)," Jimenez said.
"The Comelec does not have the power to modify or overturn the CA ruling," he said. "It's that simple."
The court decision also reiterated that failure to file an income tax return (ITR) is not tantamount to moral turpitude, Jimenez said.
Petitioner Bonifacio Ilagan questioned the integrity of the Comelec following the issuance of the ruling.
Jimenez said the comments from netizens that by throwing out the petition to disqualify Marcos, the Comelec condones the failure to file a tax return are out of context because the Comelec never said that failure to file a return is not punishable.
"We are not saying that failure to file ITR is OK because it's not OK," he said, pointing out that "failure to file ITR itself is not necessarily tax evasion."
"They are two different offenses punishable under the law," Jimenez stressed.
The petitioners in the consolidated case argued Marcos is barred from running for public office following his 1995 conviction by a Quezon City court for failure to file income tax return from 1982 to 1985 when he was serving as governor of Ilocos Norte.
Marcos was sentenced to nine years in prison and a fine of P72,000.
He appealed his case before the CA. The appellate court upheld the conviction but removed the penalty of imprisonment and instead ordered him to pay the fine and the deficiency income taxes plus interest.
The First Division dismissed the three consolidated disqualification cases for lack of merit.
Dismissed by the First Division were the petitions filed by martial law survivors, the party-list Akbayan and civic leaders, and a faction of Partido Federal ng Pilipinas.
Earlier, the Second Division dropped the petitions of Danilo Lihaylihay and Tiburcio Marcos. Also dismissed by the Second Division but on appeal is the petition led by Fr. Christian Buenafe.
Only one more petition is pending before the Second Division.
The three consolidated cases triggered a bitter fight between Commissioners Aimee Ferrolino, the ponente of the decision, and Rowena Guanzon, the division's presiding commissioner who has since retired.
The camp of Marcos on Friday urged petitioners in one of the junked disqualification cases to show love of country by respecting the country's judicial process and stop peddling lies.
Victor Rodriguez, the candidate's spokesman, made the statement, after the petitioners vowed to continue their fight and prepared to elevate the case to the Comelec en banc.
"I call on CARMMA and other petitioners to show love of country by respecting our judicial and quasi-judicial bodies and end peddling lies through a clear abuse of our court processes," Rodriguez said in a statement.
"It is on record and in the decision of both the 1st and 2nd Division of the Commission on Elections that petitioners Fr. Buenafe, Fides Lim, Ilagan, Akbayan, Etta Rosales et al. were the ones found lying not once, not twice but many times," he said.
Rodriguez said the Comelec "took the occasion to state that petitioners deliberately cited an inapplicable provision to mislead and confuse the First Division and reminded them to refrain from quoting wrong provisions of the law just to fit their narrative."
"On the petitioners' pestering that BBM (Marcos) is guilty of tax evasion, I am urging them to revisit the unanimous ruling of the Comelec 2nd Division where it categorically stated that Marcos, Jr. was acquitted of the non-payment of tax deficiency charges and was only meted a penalty for non-filing of his ITRs for years 1982-1985," he said.
The camp of Marcos on Friday hailed the dismissal of the disqualification cases, saying "it upheld the rule of law and respected the constitutional rights of a person."
Marcos In an earlier interview with CNN Philippines said: "While we call on this seemingly misguided segment of our society to stop spreading lies against presidential candidate Bongbong Marcos, we nonetheless extend our hands of unity and continue with our call for them and every Filipino to join us in shaping a better and united future for our people," he said.
In the same interview, Akbayan party-list nominee and petitioner Perci Cendaña said it was Marcos who lied multiple times since he was well aware of his tax conviction when he repeatedly ran for office.
"Tuwing magfa-file siya ng kanyang certificate of candidacy (CoC) at tuwing pinipirmahan niya ang provision na iyon, siya ay nagsisinungaling. Ang pagsininungaling, not once, not twice, pero marami pang beses (Everytime he would file his CoC and whenever he would sign that provision, he is lying. He lied not once, not twice, but multiple times)," Cendaña said.
Another presidential candidate, Sen. Emmanuel "Manny" Pacquiao, on Friday said the dismissal of the petitions against Marcos has no effect on his call for voters to choose the leader who will not cheat and steal and one who truly loves the people.
Pacquiao said he was not surprised with the Comelec decision.
"Ma-DQ man sya o hindi walang magbabago sa ating plano na ipaglaban ang mga mahihirap (Whether he will be disqualified or not, that will not change our plan to fight for the poor)," said Pacquiao in a statement.
Last Tuesday, Pacquiao launched his campaign in General Santos City with a platform anchored on housing, education, aid, livelihood, transportation and utilities, and health or "Health."
Pacquiao also vowed to arrest corrupt government officials, big or small.
Addressing thousands of supporters, Pacquiao reiterated that he is running for president because he is on a mission to uplift the country from the mire of poverty, corruption and hopelessness.
Speaking in Visayan, Pacquiao said his decision to seek the country's highest office was prompted by his long years of disappointment on how the country was run and managed by previous leaders.
He is also determined to prove his critics wrong when they claim he is incapable of running the country.
Pacquiao said his experience as someone who came from the depths of poverty and who has seen the face of systemic corruption when he entered public service gives him the clearest understanding on how to solve the country's woes.