Comelec

Guanzon votes to disqualify Marcos Jr., says ponente ‘incommunicado’

Paterno R. Esmaquel II
Guanzon votes to disqualify Marcos Jr., says ponente ‘incommunicado’

POLL EXEC. Commission on Elections Commissioner Rowena Guanzon.

Angie de Silva/Rappler

Comelec Commissioner Rowena Guanzon tells Rappler that when a politician learned she voted to disqualify Ferdinand Marcos Jr., 'they influenced the commissioner ponente to delay her resolution'

MANILA, Philippines – Outgoing Commission on Elections (Comelec) Commissioner Rowena Guanzon disclosed on Thursday, January 27, that she voted to disqualify presidential bet Ferdinand Marcos Jr. over “moral turpitude” for failing to pay income taxes in the 1980s.

In a rare move, Guanzon publicized her vote even before the Comelec 1st Division released its ruling on the high-profile Marcos case. Insisting she is not to blame for the delay in the ruling’s release, the commissioner said the ponente or writer of the ruling is now “incommunicado.”

Rappler learned that the ponente is Commissioner Aimee Ferolino, former election supervisor of Davao del Norte. Ferolino, whom President Rodrigo Duterte named commissioner in November 2020, is a Comelec veteran who rose from the ranks and has been with the poll body for almost 30 years. 

The 1st Division is composed of three members – Ferolino, Guanzon, and Marlon Casquejo, former election officer of Davao City’s 1st District, who was nominated by Duterte in June 2018. This Comelec body is handling three cases against Marcos, while the 2nd Division on January 17 already dismissed one petition against him.

Guanzon, the lone Aquino appointee in the poll body, said she voted to disqualify Marcos because he committed a crime of moral turpitude, and the former senator acted “as if he is exempted” from the law.

“Even an ordinary Filipino knows that when you don’t pay your tax, that’s bad. He did not pay his taxes four times. And when he was convicted, he did not even pay the fine,” Guanzon told Rappler on Thursday afternoon.

“That’s really moral turpitude,” she said. “That’s a ground for disqualification under Section 12 of the Omnibus Election Code.”

‘Incommunicado na siya’

If Guanzon’s timeline were to be followed, the ruling was supposed to be out on January 17. It was delayed, however, after the ponente’s lawyers contracted COVID-19.

Now, Guanzon said Ferolino has not been responding to text messages from her or Casquejo, prompting her to ask outgoing Comelec Chair Sheriff Abas to call Ferolino instead. “Incommunicado na siya eh. Hindi siya sumasagot sa mga text (She is incommunicado. She has not been answering text messages),” Guanzon said. “We have exerted all efforts already.”

“I’m already retiring as presiding commissioner. They should give me the courtesy of finishing my term with zero backlog. I have zero backlog, except for this case. Give me a commissioner who had zero backlog before he or she retired?” Guanzon said in a mix of English and Filipino.

The commissioner later added in a message to Rappler, “When they found out my vote was DQ (to disqualify), they influenced the commissioner ponente to delay her resolution.”

When asked who made this move, Guanzon replied, “A politician.”

Sought for reaction about Guanzon’s statements, Ferolino told Rappler: “I do not want to violate the sub judice rule. I want to maintain my dignified silence.”

Ferolino’s office refused to either confirm or deny that she is the ponente.

‘Bahala sila sa buhay nila’

In her interview with Rappler, Guanzon also denied she is biased against Marcos, stressing that her decision “is based on law and evidence.”

Guanzon added she is even friends with Imee Marcos, sister of Marcos Jr., who was her classmate in law school. The commissioner said it was even she who proclaimed Imee as winner in the 2019 senatorial race.

“Hindi ko siya classmate lang, she was my seatmate in two subjects,” Guanzon said. “Biro mo ‘yon, idi-DQ ko ang kapatid ng seatmate ko? Hindi ba ‘yan mabigat sa akin?” (She wasn’t just my classmate, she was my seatmate in two subjects. Imagine, I will disqualify the brother of my seatmate? Isn’t that hard for me?) 

It remains to be seen, however, if Guanzon’s vote would be part of the 1st Division ruling. She is retiring on Wednesday, February 2.

Rappler sought clarification from Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez, but he has yet to reply as of posting time.

If Ferolino chooses to release the ruling beyond February 2, the day of Guanzon’s retirement, Guanzon said her conscience is clear.

“Bahala sila sa buhay nila,” Guanzon said. “Ang naghuhusga sa akin ay ang madlang Pilipino.” (Let them be. The ones judging me are the Filipino people.) – with reports from Dwight de Leon/Rappler.com

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email pat.esmaquel@rappler.com