Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos, Jr. — PHILIPPINE STAR/ KRIZ JOHN ROSALES

LAWSUITS seeking to void presumptive Philippine President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr.’s landslide win could lead to a constitutional crisis, a senator warned, as the Supreme Court on Thursday ordered the son and namesake of the late dictator to comment on the suits. 

“If that happens, we will be courting a constitutional crisis from the fact that Congress can no longer meet after June 3,” Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III in a Viber group message. “Who will then conduct the canvass as mandated by the [Constitution]?” 

The High Court ordered Mr. Marcos, the Commission on Elections, Senate and House of Representatives to comment on the lawsuit seeking to stop the vote count for president within 15 days. 

They must comment on the petition and prayer for a restraining order “considering the allegations contained, the issues raised and the arguments adduced in the petition,” according to a copy of the court order sent to reporters. 

A group of taxpayers on May 16 asked the high tribunal to stop the count and void Mr. Marcos’ candidacy since he is allegedly unfit to become president after he was convicted of tax evasion in the 1990s. 

The plaintiffs seek to overturn a Commission on Elections (Comelec) ruling allowing Mr. Marcos, better known as “Bongbong,” to run for president on May 9, accusing him of lying about his qualifications. They also cited his conviction by a trial court for tax evasion in the 1990s. 

They said the election body had gravely abused its authority by failing to disqualify Mr. Marcos despite his conviction. 

They also argued that Comelec should have barred his candidacy because criminals are perpetually disqualified from running for public office. 

“The Comelec is under a legal duty to cancel the certificate of candidacy of anyone suffering from the accessory penalty of perpetual special disqualification to run for public office by virtue of a final judgment of conviction,” they said. 

“For all intents and purposes but more relevantly in relation to the cancellation of Marcos Jr.’s certificate of candidacy for president, [he] is a convicted criminal,” they added. 

Martial Law victims of Mr. Marcos’s father, the late dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos, filed a similar lawsuit on Wednesday. 

A potential court injunction could mean the country won’t have a president or vice-president by June 30, as mandated by the 1987 Constitution, Mr. Sotto said. “What do they propose? A holdover? Tell me if that is not a crisis.” 

Opposition Senator Franklin M. Drilon said the lawsuits were unlikely to prosper. 

“The Supreme Court cannot restrain or stop Congress, acting as the National Board of Canvassers, from performing its constitutional duty of canvassing the votes for president and vice-president of the republic and proclaiming the winner,” he said in a Viber group message. 

Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel “Migz” F. Zubiri, who is said to be running for Senate president, said Congress is constitutionally bound to canvass the election results. 

“Nothing prevents us from performing this duty to ensure the peaceful transfer of power,” he told reporters in a separate Viber message. “That is our democracy and that is our sworn duty to the Filipino people.” 

He said lawmakers need only days to count the votes for president and vice-president complete this task and we commit that before June 30, we shall have our new president and vice president,” he added. “The ones elected by the sovereign will of thirty-one million Filipino people.” 

Mr. Marcos in a three-page manifestation told the high court stopping the canvassing would be illegal. 

He said the Constitution mandates Congress to count the votes within 30 days after election day. The law also says the president and vice-president must start their terms on June 30. 

“All the above provisions, in language and intent, are mandatory and the Supreme Court is without jurisdiction to prevent their implementation,” he told the tribunal through lawyer Estelito P. Mendoza. 

Both houses of Congress are set to count the votes for president and vice-president on May 23, but unofficial tallies showed Mr. Marcos, more popularly known as Bongbong, headed for a landslide win. 

Mr. Marcos is set to clinch a remarkable comeback for his family, which is still facing court cases involving ill-gotten wealth and unpaid taxes. 

He will be the first candidate to win a majority in a Philippine presidential election in recent history. 

Mr. Marcos fled into exile in Hawaii with his family during a February 1986 “people power” street uprising that ended his father’s autocratic 20-year rule. He has served as a congressman and senator since his return to the Philippines in 1991. 

The Senate and House of Representatives will convene in a joint session next week to canvass the votes for the 2022 presidential and vice-presidential elections. They seek to proclaim the country’s two top leaders by May 28. 

Marcos spokesman Victor D. Rodriguez has said his detractors should stop pushing their “agenda of animosity.” “Allow us to be more productive and learn to respect the will of the Filipino people.” — Alyssa Nicole O. Tan and John Victor D. Ordoñez