2022 Philippine Elections

‘Pending incidents’ slow down resolution of anti-Marcos case in Comelec

Dwight de Leon
(1st UPDATE) Petitioners question the Comelec's 'indefinite deferral' of the submission of memoranda by both camps originally scheduled on November 29, and say the poll body is going against the timetable it set in its own notice and summons

“As if on pause” was how the spokesman of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) described the status of a civic leaders’ case against the 2022 presidential bid of Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., due to motions for intervention that have yet to be resolved by the poll body.

On Friday, November 26, the Comelec held a preliminary conference in the Buenafe et al vs Marcos petition, a standard procedure in poll body cases.

The meeting, however, did not result in the Comelec issuing a three-day deadline for both parties to submit their memoranda, which are necessary documents so that the case will be deemed for resolution by the Comelec’s 2nd Division.

“Parang naka-pause tayo ngayon. Hinihintay muna nating ma-resolve iyong pending incidents, and then magre-require tayo ng submission of memoranda,” Comelec spokesman James Jimenez told reporters in a press briefing the same day.

(It’s as if we are on pause. We are waiting for the pending incidents to be resolved, and then we will require both parties to submit their memoranda.)

“This is in contrast to what we expected in the beginning, where we told you that after the preliminary conference, they would be given three days to submit their memoranda,” he added.

There are at least two motions for intervention in the Buenafe petition, Jimenez said, although he was unable to provide more details about the second one. Publicly, media has reported on the Bautista et al vs Marcos, a motion for intervention filed by petitioners represented by lawyer Howard Calleja on November 8.

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Those behind the Buenafe petition, however, expressed alarm over the Comelec’s “indefinite deferral” of the submission of memoranda by both camps, saying the poll body went against its own notice and summons.

“The Comelec division clerk, citing ‘pending incidents,’ deferred the submission of memorandum unilaterally, i.e. without any motion from the parties and despite vehement objections by the petitioners,” the petitioners’ counsel said in a statement Friday night.

What else happened during the preliminary conference?

During Friday’s meeting, both parties were given the chance to formulate issues based on their appreciation of the case.

Jimenez said both camps also had the opportunity to enter amendments into the petition, as well as make stipulations, in which each side can ask the other camp to make admissions “so that it wouldn’t be necessary to prove it or to argue anymore.”

No amendments or stipulations were made by either camp, Jimenez reported.

The Buenafe petition – one which asks the poll body to cancel Marcos’ certificate of candidacy – argues that he committed material misrepresentation in his candidacy papers when he claimed he was eligible to run for office despite his 1997 conviction for failure to file income tax returns (ITRs) from 1982 to 1984.

Task Force Detainees co-chair Fr. Christian Buenafe and his co-petitioners said Marcos’ failure to submit those documents is a crime of moral turpitude, which is punishable with disqualification from holding public office according to the law.

Despite the apparent setback in the timetable of the Buenafe petition, Jimenez said the poll body is still not ruling out the possibility that the legal challenge against Marcos’ Malacañang run will be resolved before the mid-December target to release the official list of candidates.

“It’s still possible, we cannot foreclose that possibility,” Jimenez added.

Marcos, for his part, has downplayed the petitions against his 2022 presidential bid as nuisance and mere propaganda. – Rappler.com

Dwight de Leon

Dwight de Leon is a multimedia reporter who covers local government units and the Commission on Elections for Rappler.