Comelec junks most appeals against presumptive president Marcos Jr.

Dwight de Leon

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Comelec junks most appeals against presumptive president Marcos Jr.

The Commission on Election led by Chairman Saidamen Pangarungan update members of the media during a noontime press briefing at the PICC on May 9, 2022. Angie de Silva/Rappler

(2nd UPDATE) The Comelec en banc's decision does not come as a surprise, but the timing of the release means the poll body failed to deliver on its promise to resolve the high-profile case before elections
Comelec junks most appeals against presumptive president Marcos Jr.

MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) affirmed its dismissal of two sets of cases – or a total four appeals – seeking to bar late dictator’s son Ferdinand Marcos Jr. from the 2022 presidential race due to his tax conviction in the 1990s.

The rulings were released on Tuesday, May 10, a day after the elections, when the partial, unofficial tally showed that the former senator is poised to win the presidency.

The poll body’s decision did not come as a shock, as five of the seven-member Comelec en banc already previously voted in favor of the former senator in at least one of the four anti-Marcos petitions already junked at the division level.

The petitioners can still make one last Hail Mary before the Supreme Court, which will rule on the matter with finality.

No reversal of previous rulings

In a vote of 6-0-1, the Comelec en banc unanimously voted to uphold the poll body’s earlier rulings.

The junked petitions are the following:

  • Buenafe et al vs Marcos (petition to cancel certificate of candidacy) – junked by the Second Division
  • Ilagan et al vs Marcos, Akbayan et al vs Marcos, Mangelen vs Marcos (consolidated disqualification petition) – junked by the First Division

Most of the petitions centered their arguments on the consequences of Marcos Jr.’s tax conviction in the 1990s, after he repeatedly failed to file his income tax returns when he was vice governor and governor of Ilocos Norte in the 1980s.

Petitioners had insisted that Marcos Jr. was guilty of moral turpitude, and that he had been convicted of a crime that carries with it a jail sentence of over 18 months. Those are grounds for disqualification under the election code.

But in its dismissal orders, the Comelec en banc said it found “no cogent reason to disturb the findings of the commission.”

“A careful review of the motions for reconsideration reveals that they failed to raise new matters that would warrant the reversal of the assailed resolution,” one of the resolutions read.

Voting to affirm the dismissal of the two cases were Chairman Saidamen Pangarungan and commissioners Socorro Inting, Marlon Casquejo, Aimee Ferolino, Rey Bulay, and Aimee Neri. These were the first anti-Marcos cases that Pangarungan was able to cast his vote.

Commissioner George Garcia, who lawyered for Marcos Jr. before he entered the commission, inhibited himself from the case.

Inting and Bulay did not inhibit themselves from the en banc review of the Buenafe case despite petitioners’ calls to do so due to alleged bias. 

Two cases remain on the Comelec’s desk, namely:

  • Lihaylihay vs Marcos (petition to declare nuisance) – junked by the Second Division, subject of en banc review
  • Salandanan et al vs Marcos (disqualification petition) – junked by the First Division, subject of en banc review
Comelec junks most appeals against presumptive president Marcos Jr.

The Marcos Jr. camp welcomed the Comelec’s decision.

“We have always believed that the poll body will stay true to its mandate to deliver a fair, honest and credible elections, including the dismissal of unmeritorious and politically-motivated petitions such as these. The unanimous en canc decision has proven, once and for all, that no amount of undue political pressure can weaken the resolve of the honorable Commission to be on the side of truth and justice,” said Marcos spokesman Vic Rodriguez.

What happens next?

With the Comelec’s release of the en banc rulings a day after the elections, the poll body under the leadership of Pangarungan failed to deliver on its promise to fast-track the resolution of the disqualification saga before the end of April, or before the elections.

The Comelec cleared its desks of anti-Marcos cases at snail’s pace, especially in comparison to the 2016 elections, when the Comelec disqualified then-survey front runner Senator Grace Poe from the presidential race in December 2015, or five months before the May vote. Poe had run to the High Court, which reversed the poll body’s ruling in March 2016.

The unresolved status of the disqualification drama – which will be in the hands of the Supreme Court once appeals there are filed – raises the specter of complicated scenario post-elections.

If Marcos Jr. officially wins the presidency but is disqualified by the Supreme Court once he assumes the position, the likely scenario is that the person who wins the vice presidency will succeed him, according to the Comelec, and existing jurisprudence. –

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Dwight de Leon

Dwight de Leon is a multimedia reporter who covers President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the Malacañang, and the Commission on Elections for Rappler.