The first division of the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) set to rule on the disqualification cases filed against former Senator and presidential candidate Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr. any day now. It is important though to remember that this saga is not ending anytime soon.
The division’s ruling can be appealed before the COMELEC en banc, and regardless of the outcome, the case will almost definitely advance to the Supreme Court for final judgment. Nevertheless, the announcement of Commissioner Rowena Guanzon that the decision will be released on or before January 17, 2022 should be seen against the backdrop of COMELEC’s plan to begin the printing of ballots within the month.
As reported by The Filipino Scribe, Marcos is facing possible disqualification from the presidential race because a Quezon City Regional Trial Court found him guilty of non-filing of income tax returns from 1982 to 1985. This conviction was upheld by the Court of Appeals in 1997. While Marcos filed an appeal before the Supreme Court, he withdrew this in 2001 – making the CA decision final.
Petitioners against Marcos cite Section 252.c of Presidential Decree 1158 or the National Internal Revenue Code which states that a public officer or employee found guilty of violating the country’s tax laws “shall receive the maximum penalty prescribed for the offense” and that he or she “shall be dismissed from the public service and perpetually disqualified from holding any public office, to vote and to participate in any election. PD 1158 was signed by then-President Ferdinand Marcos, Sr. in 1977.
With that in mind, let us examine the four likely outcomes of the consolidated disqualification cases against Marcos – which threatens to stretch all the way until April:
1) The best case scenario is for Marcos to be allowed to run by the Supreme Court.
It is likely that his lawyer, Estelito Mendoza, will be able to find technicalities that the presidential frontrunner can use to win. After all, Mendoza, is known for winning difficult cases before the High Court with past clients including former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Senator Bong Revilla, and the late businessman Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco. And also, the SC may be hesitant to disqualify a leading presidential candidate – the way it let the late Fernando Poe Jr. and Senator Grace Poe continue with their respective candidacies during 2004 and 2016.
2) The worst case scenario is for the SC to rule that Marcos’ certificate of candidacy (COC) should be canceled.
It is worth pointing out here that the petition against Marcos as filed by lawyers led by Theodore Te technically does not seek his disqualification. Rather, it argues that Marcos’ COC should be canceled because he falsely declared under oath that he was “eligible for the office I seek to be elected to.”
This is the worst case scenario for the Marcoses because the SC ruled in Tagolino vs. House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal and Lucy Torres-Gomez that “a person whose certificate is cancelled or denied due course under Section 78 (of the Omnibus Election Code) is not treated as a candidate at all, – as if he/she never filed a CoC.” No one can substitute for Marcos – not even his sister Senator Imee Marcos.
All votes for him will be not counted even if his name is in the ballot. It is almost certain that the petitions against Marcos will not be resolved before COMELEC starts the printing of ballots. Hence, the aforementioned scenario can be very explosive.
3) He is disqualified, but then Duterte pardons him – which makes him qualified
Truth be told, Marcos’ legal woes can be settled as soon as tomorrow if only President Rodrigo Duterte issues him an absolute pardon. As explained by the Department of Justice’s Parole and Pardon Administration, an absolute pardon from the President would mean “the total extinction of the criminal
liability of the individual to whom it is granted without any condition whatsoever – resulting to the full restoration of his civil rights.” Duterte can possibly grant Marcos an absolute pardon in connection to his 1995 conviction in the event that the SC upholds a potential COMELEC ruling canceling his COC.
4) Senator Imee Marcos as a substitute presidential candidate?
As discussed above, petitioners against Marcos are seeking the cancelation of his COC – a scenario which will make his candidacy invalid from the start. Hence, it is hard to fathom a situation where Senator Imee Marcos can validly substitute for her brother. However, never say never!