By Jomar Canlas | The Manila Times
THE Commission on Elections (Comelec) sitting en banc is unlikely to reverse the rulings of its two divisions on cases filed against presidential candidate Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr., a highly reliable source told The Manila Times.
The Comelec's Second Division has dismissed the petition to cancel Marcos' certificate of candidacy (CoC) and the First Division the petition to disqualify him on tax return charges.
Commissioners Socorro Inting and Reynaldo Bulay have junked the petition to void Marcos' candidacy, while Commissioners Marlon Casquejo and Aimee Ferolino dismissed the disqualification case.
The Comelec en banc is made up of the chairman and six commissioners. The chances are very slim that Inting, Casquejo, Ferolino and Bulay would reverse their ruling in favor of Marcos, unless new evidence is presented, the source said.
It is rare in the Comelec for a division decision to be reversed en banc, the source said.
There are three vacancies in the commission following the retirement of Chairman Sheriff Abbas and Commissioners Rowena Guanzon and Antonio Kho Jr.
Any new appointments will be ad interim because the Congress, which confirms appointments in agencies like the Comelec, is adjourning on February 4.
The Commission on Appointments is made up mainly of senators and congressmen.
The Times learned from another source that among the people being considered to fill the vacancies in the Comelec are retired Court of Appeals justices Romeo Barza, Danton Bueser and Francisco Acosta.
Another set of names includes former Justice secretary Vitaliano Aguirre, former Supreme Court Second Division clerk of Court Maria Lourdes Perfecto, former Comelec executive director Jose Tolentino and Presidential Adviser on Overseas Filipino Workers Concerns Abdulla Mama-o.
In its ruling, the Comelec Second Division argued that Marcos can run for president since he did not commit any misrepresentation in the filing of his CoC.
The Court of Appeals decision dated Oct. 21, 1997 "did not categorically hold that [Marcos] is convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude nor did it positively pronounce that [he is] meted the penalty of imprisonment of more than 18 months. There is likewise no definitive declaration by the said decision that herein respondent is perpetually disqualified from holding public office," the division noted.
It added that failure to file income tax returns is not tax evasion.
The Comelec stated that the appellate court found that Marcos, "being an elected public official for taxable years concerned, was already subjected to the withholding tax system, hence, his tax liabilities were already paid as they were withheld by the government."
The division added that it becomes "ironic when we realize the thought that herein petitioners accused respondent of misrepresentations while they themselves are guilty of supposed misrepresentations in this very same proceeding."
The First Division said that "to erase doubts as to whether the failure to file tax returns is a crime involving moral turpitude," it cited the pronouncement of the Supreme Court in the case against Ferdinand R. Marcos II and Imelda R. Marcos "wherein the high tribunal categorically ruled that a failure to file a tax return is not a crime involving moral turpitude."