PHILSTAR

AN ELECTION commissioner on Monday released her separate opinion where she voted to disqualify the son and namesake of the late dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos from the presidential race this year, days after alleging that a politician was trying to meddle in the lawsuit.

In a 24-page opinion, election commissioner Ma. Rowena Amelia V. Guanzon said Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos, Jr.’s conviction by a trial court for tax evasion in the 1990s disqualified him from seeking public office.

“After an assiduous analysis of the arguments of the parties and the evidence on record, I find that the respondent’s repeated and persistent non-filing of income tax returns in 1982, 1983, 1984 and 1985, which resulted in his conviction, constitutes an offense involving moral turpitude,” she said.

“In a very real sense, the respondent’s failure to file his tax returns, which in turn led to the belated discovery of deficiency taxes, had a deleterious effect on public interest,” she added.

Ms. Guanzon, who is retiring on Feb. 3 last week dropped a bombshell and revealed her vote to disqualify Mr. Marcos pending the release of the main decision by the election body’s First Division.

Ms. Guanzon’s vote hangs in the balance pending the release of the ruling that will be written by Commissioner Aimee Ferolino.

Ms. Guanzon has accused her fellow commissioner of delaying the decision so her unfavorable vote would not be counted. She said division members had agreed to rule on the lawsuit by Jan. 17.

Ms. Ferolino has cited case volume for the delay.

The Comelec Second Division on Jan. 17 rejected a similar lawsuit seeking to bar the presidential run of Mr. Marcos, who is leading several opinion polls. The case is on appeal before the Comelec en banc.

In her opinion, Ms. Guanzon said the facts surrounding Mr. Marcos’s tax evasion “are markedly telling of the character or nature of the acts or omissions committed by the respondent.”

She added that by failing to submit his annual income tax returns for four straight occasions, the former senator showed a deliberate intent to violate the law.

Mr. Marcos did not submit certified receipts that showed he had paid for the tax deficiencies as ordered the Court of Appeals (CA), the commissioner said, citing the preliminary conference on Jan. 7.

Civic groups earlier asked the election body to disqualify the former senator, saying he was unfit to run for public office after he was convicted of tax evasion.

“The separate opinion would be on the record but as far but as far as disposing of the case, we wait for the main decision written by the assigned writer,” Comelec spokesman James B. Jimenez told reporters in a video streamed live on the ABS CBN News Channel.

“My duty is to protect the people from disqualified people,” Ms. Guanzon said in a separate video streamed live on her Facebook page on Monday.

Political analysts have said Comelec should investigate allegations of interference at the agency to keep its independence and avoid public distrust.

The integrity of the presidential elections this year are at stake, said Maria Ela L. Atienza, a political science professor from the University of the Philippines.

Partido Federal ng Pilipinas, Mr. Marcos’s political party, on Friday asked Comelec to probe Ms. Guanzon for divulging her unfavorable vote in his disqualification case.

She should be disbarred and forfeit her retirement benefits and lifetime pension for destroying the reputation of the institution with the leak of her unpromulgated dissenting opinion, party lawyer George Briones said in a statement.

“The Marcos camp appears to be trying to affect public perception because they labeled Guanzon’s decision as ‘dissenting opinion’ when there is officially no majority decision yet,” Ms. Atienza said. “Or it appears that they are confident that their client will get a favorable verdict.”

The Bagong Alyansang Makabayan last week expressed alarm over Ms. Guanzon’s revelation and urged the Comelec to investigate it.

“Who is this politician trying to influence the Comelec?” the group said in a statement. “Shouldn’t there be an investigation by the en banc and shouldn’t this politician be cited in contempt?” — John Victor D. Ordoñez