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Martial Law victims from La Union on Tuesday, December 7, filed the eighth petition against the presidential candidacy of Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr, offering a new argument about Marcos’ voter status – a disqualification ground crafted by their lawyers led by constitutional framer Christian Monsod.
This is the eighth overall petition against Marcos’ candidacy filed before the Commission on Elections (Comelec) and the fourth disqualification petition.
It has more or less the same arguments as the previous petitions, which are that Marcos’ tax conviction in the 1990s disqualify him from running for office.
This petition offered a new argument, that Marcos is not qualified as a voter, and therefore he lacks the constitutional requirement that presidents should be registered voters.
“Assuming that the provisions of the Omnibus Election Code do not apply, respondent is still disqualified to run for or to hold eny elective position, much less for the position of Philippine president, for having been actually sentenced to prision correccional and is thereby effectively deprived of his right of suffrage,” said the petition.
Monsod’s co-counsels are Ateneo Human Rights Center executive director Ray Paolo Santiago and Tristan Arnesto.
In a statement on Tuesday, Marcos’ spokesperson Vic Rodriguez said, “We urge those who are behind these pathetic stunts to please respect the Filipino people and their democratic right to decide for themselves and their collective future.”
“We also urge them not remove the right of the people to freely choose their leader and stop looking down on the intelligence of the Filipino people,” added Rodriguez.
Marcos is represented by veteran litigator Estelito Mendoza, the solicitor general during his father’s dictatorship and Mendoza got former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo acquitted of plunder, and got Juan Ponce Enrile, who has a plunder case, a bail grant.
Not a qualified voter?
Their petition frames it this way: When the Quezon City Regional Trial Court (QC RTC) convicted Marcos in 1995, its sentence of three-year imprisonment meant it was a prision correcional sentence. Prision correcional has a penalty of up to six years in prison.
Citing Article 43 of the Revised Penal Code, the petition says prision correcional has an accessory penalty “of perpetual special disqualification from the right of suffrage, if the duration of said imprisonment shall exceed 18 months.”
Section 2, Article VII of the Constitution says “no person may be elected President unless he is a natural-born citizen of the Philippines [and] a registered voter.”
“Although Respondent is a registered voter on paper, such registration is void because he is perpetually disqualified from the right of suffrage,” said the petition.
But the thing is, when the Court of Appeals (CA) modified the QC RTC ruling in 1997, it not only acquitted Marcos of tax evasion, but it removed the prison sentence for the conviction on failure to file income tax returns (ITRs). The CA only ordered Marcos to pay “deficiency income taxes” and fines amounting to P36,000 plus interest.
The petition argued that the CA made an error in not sustaining the prison sentence, citing clarity of the tax code that penalties for offenses are both fines and imprisonment.
“The erroneous deletion of the penalty of imprisonment by the CA, being a void judgment as discussed earlier, does not affect Respondent’s perpetual disqualification,” said the petition.
Rodriguez had pointed out that if the arguments deal with an alleged error of the CA, then Comelec would have no jurisdiction to review a court ruling.
Like the other petitions, this petition by the Martial Law victims from La Union argued that the tax code also has an accessory penalty of disqualification from public office on offenders.
Mendoza told the Comelec in a previously filed answer for Marcos that the poll body should take judicial notice of the fact that Marcos had been elected to various posts for the last 20 years.
The Comelec had reminded petitioners and their lawyers not to discuss pending cases with the media.
In their last update, the first group of petitioners represented by former Supreme Court spokesperson Ted Te presented a QC RTC certification that there was no record on file of Marcos complying with the order of payment over his conviction.