Two more parties are seeking to disqualify former senator Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. from seeking the presidency next year, one of which represents victims of the candidate’s father’s martial law regime.
At a news conference on November 5, lawyer Howard Calleja said he will be assisting petitioners Carol Araullo and Rommel Bautista in filing a petition before the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to block the candidacy of Marcos Jr.
Their petition will be filed early this week, according to Calleja. They thus join previous petitioners former Supreme Court spokesman Ted Te; Fr. Christian Buenafe, co-chairman of Task Force Detainees of the Philippines; Josephine Lascano of Balay Rehabilitation Center; Fides Lim of political prisoners’ group Kapatid; Maria Edeliza Hernandez of the Medical Action Group; Celia Lagman Sevilla of the Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearance; and Roland Vibal of the Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates.
Calleja said they could take one of two possible steps: either to file a petition to disqualify Marcos Jr. or file a motion to intervene in the petition to cancel the Certificate of Candidacy of the son and namesake of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
When asked why they are intervening only now when Marcos Jr. had previously been allowed to run for senator (where he won) and then vice-president (where he lost), Calleja said the previous candidacies for national position “doesn’t validate that he can run now.”
Like many others, Calleja said he was unaware that Marcos Jr. had been charged and convicted of tax evasion before.
There is one big difference between cancelling Marcos Jr.’s COC compared to disqualifying him outright.
If his COC is cancelled, no one can be named to take his place but if Marcos Jr. is disqualified, substitution is possible.
The former step is unlikely as the deadline for cancelling COCs lapsed on November 2. The petition to disqualify, however, is seen as the easier step as there are many grounds for the action, and the deadline is any day before the proclamation.
Another petitioner, Izah Katrina Reyes, said a petition to disqualify can be filed now since “there is no need to wait for a final list of candidates.”
Vic Rodriguez, lawyer for Marcos Jr. said his client was not concerned by the legal moves being taken to disqualify him, dismissing them as “gutter politics by yellow wannabe political assassins.”
“We will file our answer and in the answer, all our legal arguments will be there,” said Rodriguez.
Rodriguez did not answer to media inquiries on whether Marcos Jr. had paid the fines related to the four counts of tax evasion resulting in his client’s conviction.
The original petition to cancel Marcos Jr.’s COC was based on the grounds of disqualification, that the son of the late President Marcos, was deemed ineligible to run for public office after his conviction for failing to file income tax returns in 1997 became final in 2001.
In filing his COC, Marcos Jr. stated that he was eligible to run, which the petitioners said was a misrepresentation.
Under the Omnibus Election Code, a person is disqualified “if he or she has been sentenced to a penalty of more than 18 months or for a crime involving moral turpitude.”
As pointed out by retired SC associate justice Antonio Carpio, the Court of Appeals had erred when it failed to impose the mandatory penalty of imprisonment for Marcos Jr.’s failure to file tax returns from 1982 to 1985.
The CA merely imposed a penalty of PHP36,000 (about US$700), thereby removing the disqualification grounds of being sentenced to more than 18 months imprisonment.
However, the crime involving moral turpitude remained present, according to Carpio.
Calleja said the CA’s ruling excluding a mandatory prison term for Marcos Jr. did not fall under the principle of immutability of judgment as said judgment was null and void from the beginning.
Whatever the Comelec decides, the losing party is expected to elevate the matter to the SC, which is the final arbiter on the disqualification or cancellation of Marcos Jr.’s COC.