MARTIAL law victims have asked the Commission on Elections (Comelec) en banc to reverse a division ruling that allowed the son and namesake of the late dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos to run for president this year.
In separate motions, Akbayan Citizens’ Action Party and the Campaign Against the Return of the Marcoses and Martial Law said former Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos, Jr.’s conviction for tax evasion in the 1990s disqualified him from running for public office.
“The respondent’s failure to file his income tax returns was not out of sheer ignorance or innocent neglect,” Akbayan said in a 16-page motion. It added that the crimes involved “moral turpitude.”
The First Division last week junked three consolidated lawsuits seeking to disqualify Mr. Marcos from the presidential race, as it ruled that his failure to file his tax returns in the 1980s did not involve wicked, deviant behavior.
Comelec has six members and one chairman. Its two divisions have three members each. Decisions issued by the two divisions are eventually appealed to the seven-member en banc. The election body only has four members now after its chairman and two members retired this month.
Akbayan said the First Division ruling is void because only two commissioners signed it — Aimee P. Ferolino and Marlon S. Casquejo.
The vote of former First Division Presiding Commissioner Maria Rowena V. Guanzon, who had voted to disqualify Mr. Marcos, was not counted because the ruling came out after she retired.
She earlier accused Ms. Ferolino of delaying the case, alleging that a senator from Davao was trying to meddle in the case.
“Since there were only two commissioners in the so-called First Division, there clearly was no validly constituted division of the Comelec to begin with,” Akbayan said.
Meanwhile, the Campaign Against the Return of the Marcoses said the former lawmaker had belatedly filed his evidence in the disqualification case. The formal offer of evidence was filed on Jan. 13, four days after the deadline, it said.
It also said Mr. Marcos’s repeated failure to file his tax returns when he was vice-governor of Ilocos Norte from 1981 to 1983 and governor from 1983 to 1986 is a crime involving moral turpitude, contrary to the Comelec division’s ruling.
“Four consecutive years cannot be regarded as a simple omission,” they said. “It shows an utter disregard of the laws which as chief executive of the province of Ilocos Norte, respondent convicted candidate Marcos, Jr. took an oath to uphold.”
In a separate statement, Akbayan nominee Raymond S. Naguit also asked Ms. Ferolino to inhibit herself from the case, citing bias. “Let us not add to the existing doubt and dwindling trust of our citizens in the election process,” he said in Filipino.
Ms. Guanzon released a separate opinion on Jan. 31. in which she voted to disqualify Mr. Marcos, whom she called an ex-convict. She said his repeated failure to file his tax returns showed a deliberate intent to violate the law.
Political analysts at the weekend said Comelec risks losing its credibility after the delayed ruling that favored Mr. Marcos.
The ruling does not improve people’s confidence about the election body’s independence, Maria Ela L. Atienza, a political science professor from the University of the Philippines, said at the weekend.
Comelec should ensure it can settle internal issues, work swiftly, diligently and fairly because the campaign period is in full swing and elections are approaching, she added.
Marcos lawyer and spokesman Victor D. Rodriguez last week called the lawsuits a nuisance.
Meanwhile, boxing champion and Senator Emmanuel “Manny” D. Pacquiao challenged his fellow presidential candidates to public face-to-face debates.
In a statement, the lawmaker said rivals who refuse to participate in debates to avoid public scrutiny are incompetent and are trying to hide something.
“I’m challenging my fellow presidential candidates: Let us have a face-to-face debate,” he said in Filipino, adding that these would show “who is really honest and who is pretending.”
“You cannot promise to unite the nation if you cannot even have the guts to face your foes like a man,” he added, alluding to Mr. Marcos who has declined invitations to at least three major presidential debates and interviews this month.
He declined an invitation from GMA Network, Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas and CNN Philippines, citing bias and scheduling conflicts. His running mate Davao City Mayor and presidential daughter Sara Duterte-Carpio will also skip the CNN debate.
“When such people avoid face-to-face debates, the people should know that they should not be trusted,” Mr. Pacquiao said. “That’s no different from thieves who don’t want to take a polygraph test but totally deny the crime they committed.”
He urged Comelec and the National Movement for Free Elections to organize these debates.
The Comelec plans to hold presidential debates for the May elections in different venues across the country’s three main island groups.
The debates will be face-to-face but with a limited audience. These will be streamed live on the election body’s Facebook page. — John Victor D. Ordoñez, Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza and Alyssa Nicole O. Tan