Philippines: Petitioners Threaten to Take Marcos Electoral Case to Supreme Court

Camille Elemia
2022.02.11
Manila
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Philippines: Petitioners Threaten to Take Marcos Electoral Case to Supreme Court Human rights activists take part in a protest calling for presidential candidate Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to be disqualified because of a past tax-evasion conviction, outside the Commission on Elections building in Manila, Feb. 1, 2022.
[Jason Gutierrez/BenarNews]

Human rights activists seeking to disqualify Ferdinand Marcos Jr. from the Philippine presidential race threatened Friday to take their case to the Supreme Court, after the elections commission threw out three disqualification petitions against the late dictator’s son and namesake.

On Thursday, the first division of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) rejected the consolidated petitions that sought to have the presidential candidate disqualified from the May 9 election over his 1995 conviction for failing to file income-tax returns.

The Campaign Against the Return of Marcoses and Martial Law (CARMMA), one of the petitioners, is set to file an appeal before the Comelec. The political group said that if it failed to get a favorable ruling from the poll body, it would seek redress from the country’s highest court.

“If they [Comelec] would like to retain the ruling, which they have the right to do, my only request is that they decide it as fast as they can so that we can bring the matter to SC [Supreme Court],” CARMMA lawyer Howard Calleja told reporters on Friday.

“We hope the [Supreme Court] will finally put this disqualification case to a close in giving proper, valid, and right decision on the matter,” he said.

The group comprises human rights advocates and victims of Marcos Jr.’s father, the late President Ferdinand E. Marcos, whose brutal, two-decade regime ended in a “people power” revolt in 1986.

The petitions against the son, known widely in the Philippines as “Bongbong,” stemmed from his past conviction for a tax violation. In 1995, he was found guilty of four counts of tax evasion. The verdict was upheld two years later.

Another political group Akbayan, also a petitioner, vowed to fight it out until the end.

“This is merely a bend in the road, not the end of it. This is just the beginning of our struggle to protect our electoral democracy from fraud and impunity,” Akbayan said in a statement on Thursday.

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Supporters of presidential candidate Ferdinand Marcos Jr. cheer him during the official kick-off of his campaign at a sports arena in Santa Maria, Philippines, Feb. 8, 2022. [Jojo Riñoza/BenarNews]

Time, however, is running out for the petitioners, because less than 90 days are left before Election Day.

The campaigning season for the general election officially began on Tuesday.

There were at least six cases filed seeking to prevent the candidacy of Marcos Jr. at Comelec, with one more pending disqualification case in front of the commission’s second division. Additionally, two other cases, which were earlier dismissed, are on appeal.

In its ruling on Thursday, the first division of Comelec said that “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.”

In a press briefing on Friday, Comelec spokesman James Jimenez defended the first division’s ruling, saying that parts of the verdict were taken “out of context.”

“So, it is wrong to say that the Comelec is saying that failure to file an income tax return has no offense because the Comelec said there is,” Jimenez argued.

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Ferdinand Marcos Jr. gestures during his proclamation rally for the May presidential election at a sports stadium in Santa Maria, near Manila, Feb. 8, 2022. [Jojo Riñoza/BenarNews]

Marcos Jr., a member of one of Asia’s most powerful political dynasties, is vying to replace Rodrigo Duterte, whose six-year term ends in 2022. Marcos has picked as his vice-presidential candidate Sara Duterte-Carpio, Duterte’s daughter.

Recent pre-election surveys showed Marcos Jr. as the frontrunner, with at least 50 percent of respondents saying they would vote for him.

Trailing him was outgoing Vice President Leni Robredo, who won against Marcos Jr. in a highly contested race in 2016.

The latter filed an electoral protest, which dragged on for five years. Last February, the Supreme Court ended the saga after ruling that there was no basis to claims of electoral fraud.

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