The sheer number of cases against presidential candidate Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and several other bets is placing next year’s elections at risk.

So said Commission on Elections (Comelec) chief Rowena Guanzon, who said last week that cases against Marcos Jr. and other candidates had led to petitions to stop the printing of ballots for the May 2022 polls.

The other bets whom the poll body declared as nuisance candidates were mostly seeking election as party-list representatives for the lower house of Congress.

Guanzon sought to rebuke all the petitioners who would stop the printing of ballots as these would contain the names of those who may already be disqualified. Various petitioners said the ballots should only contain the names of valid candidates, be they individuals or party-list bets.

According to the Comelec chief, “Those who filed cases to stop Comelec from printing ballot numbers of party lists, I hope you realize what you have done.” She, however, declined to identify the groups which would delay the polls.

“If ballots are not printed by January, the May elections is at risk,” she said.

The printing of ballots is scheduled to commence on January 12, next year. If for any reason the printing is delayed, a domino effect takes place with the end result being the failure to proceed with the elections.

Aside from the petitions to block certain party list groups from inclusion in the ballot, it is Marcos Jr. who faces a number of disqualification or cancellation of Certificate of Candidacy (COC) cases, reaching eight at one point. Of those, two have already been dismissed by the Comelec as baseless and without merit.

The petitions to disqualify Marcos Jr. has been raffled off to the two divisions of the Comelec, and both are expected to begin hearings on the remaining cases either this week or next week.

The principal case against the son and namesake of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos is his failure to declare and pay his income taxes during the four years he was governor of Ilocos Norte in the early 90s.

While his lawyer said all his tax liabilities have been settled including penalties, he remains “perpetually disqualified” from running for public office, according to a lawyer with the convenor of 1Sambayan.

Citing the Omnibus Election Code, lawyer Howie Calleja said Marcos Jr. had defied the country’s tax code for which he had been tried and convicted.

As a convicted felon, Marcos Jr. is thus perpetually barred from holding public office.

The Marcos camp showed a certification from the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) showing the presidential bet had paid his overdue taxes.

Calleja, however, said that Marcos Jr. failed to prove that he had also paid the penalties due for late payment. The penalties should have been paid to the Regional Tax Court and not the BIR, he said.

The six remaining petitions are a mix of a call to disqualify Marcos Jr. or cancellation of his COC.

The Comelec had earlier stated that in the event that Marcos Jr. is disqualified and his name is still in the ballots, any votes cast for him would be considered null and void.

The Comelec ignored calls to move the May elections to a later date, either due to the pandemic or to possible delays in the printing of ballots as election days are set in stone. The 1987 Constitution sets the dates of all national and local elections and it would take a law to reset any date.

There have been proposals in both houses of Congress to do away with party-list representation as there have been numerous cases of party-list representatives not truly representing the marginalized groups they were intended to represent. Most elected party-list representatives have been found to belong to rich and well-entrenched political clans.