By Beting Laygo Dolor, Contributing Editor
Presidential candidate Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos Jr. won the first of three disqualification and/or cancellation of certificate of candidacy (COC) cases filed against him before the Commission on Elections (Comelec) on January 17, with the decision on the other two case deferred to a later date due to staffers at the poll body testing positive for COVID-19.
The Comelec’s second division voted in favor of Marcos Jr. after the case filed by Roman Catholic priest Fr. Christian Buenafe for tax evasion was dismissed for lack of merit.
However, there are still two cases pending before the first division and the second division which were not settled despite the poll body earlier giving a self-imposed deadline to settle them by the start of the week.
In fact, what the second division junked was a petition to cancel Marcos Jr.’s COC, not to disqualify him as is widely believed. But whether by disqualification or cancellation of COC, his presidential campaign would have come to a dead stop had Marcos Jr. lost.
The rejected petition is appealable to the Comelec en banc, followed by the Supreme Court if the former agrees with the decision.
The cancellation of Marcos Jr.’s COC was filed by various civic leaders led by former SC spokesman Theodor Te.
After Monday’s decision, Marcos Jr. still has to face two hurdles. Disqualification cases in each of the two divisions remain unsettled. With the second division, a petition to disqualify was filed by former Comelec Commissioner Christian Monsod, while before the first division the petitioners were led by the Akbayan party-list group.
Of the first hurdle cleared by his client, spokesman Vic Rodriguez said in a statement to media: “The petitioners’ mere creativity for writing and wanting what is not written in the law as basis to cancel the COC of presidential aspirant Bongbong Marcos is way too frivolous and unmeritorious to override the basic precepts of the Constitution.”
Before the ruling takes effect, however, the Comelec still has to act on the petition for reconsideration filed by Te, after which the poll body meeting en banc will render the final decision.
Comelec spokesman James Jimenez said if the division rulings have not been finalized when the ballots are printed later this month, Marcos Jr.’s name will stay in the ballot.
If, however, the candidate is blocked from running, any vote cast in his favor will be considered astray.
If Marcos Jr. were to lose any of the cases with finality, individuals with the same surname can take his place. In such an event, either his sister Sen. Imee Marcos or his wife Lisa Araneta Marcos can take his place.
Jimenez said any substitution “can be made up to mid-day, election day.”
Meanwhile, it is not clear how long the delay will be before decisions are released on the two other cases.
According to Comelec Director Elaiza Sabile David, several staff members of one of the commissioners handling the Marcos case had tested positive for COVID-19.
Because of this, the draft of the decision had not yet been prepared, she told local media.
David added that more than one lawyer in the office of Commissioner Rowena Guanzon had also fallen ill, resulting in a delay in the promulgation of the decision.
The poll body is prioritizing the health of its officials over the release of the decisions, she said.
Commissioner Guanzon, however, clarified that the poll body officers who had tested positive for COVID-19 were not commissioners.
The rumor is “not true,” she said but admitted that one of the commissioners had gone into isolation due to close contact with a COVID-positive staff.