MANILA – Another case seeking to revoke the candidacy of presidential aspirant Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. has been junked by the Commission on Elections (Comelec).
This, as the poll body's Second Division has unanimously denied the petition filed by Fr. Christian Buenafe, among others, to cancel the certificate of candidacy (COC) of Marcos for lack of merit.
"Wherefore, premises considered, the instant Petition is hereby denied for lack of merit," said a part of the 32-page ruling penned by Presiding Commissioner Socorro Inting promulgated on Monday.
The decision said Marcos did not mislead and deceive the public when he claimed in his COC that he is eligible to run for public office and that he has not been found liable for an offense that merits perpetual disqualification.
"It is clear therefore that when the Respondent replied 'No' to the question in Item No. 22 of his COC, he did so without any intention to mislead, misinform, or hide a fact, which would otherwise render him ineligible. When Respondent answered 'No' to the question in Item No. 22, it was precisely because he had no basis at all to answer in the affirmative. To the best of Respondent's knowledge, what with decades of public service tucked under his belt, be honestly thought or believed that he has never been disqualified from holding public office," the poll body said.
"Similarly, when the Respondent signed and subscribed to his COC, which contains the declaration in Item No. 11 that he is eligible for President, he again did so without any intention to mislead, misinform, or hide a fact, which would otherwise render him ineligible. As previously discussed, there is nothing in the CA Decision dated 31 October 1997 that would have categorically apprised herein Respondent that he is suffering from any ineligibility," it added.
The petitioners asked to cancel the COC of Marcos in November last year, claiming that he committed false material representation when he stated in his COC that he is eligible to run for President despite his earlier conviction for not filing income tax returns from 1982 to 1985.
As for petitioners' argument on the tax evasion cases of Marcos as being a crime involving moral turpitude, the poll body cited an earlier decision of the Supreme Court categorically stating that failure to file an income tax return is not a crime involving moral turpitude.
"Hence, Petitioners contention that Respondent has been convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude is completely false. Therefore, when Respondent declared under oath that he is eligible for the position of President, he was telling the truth," it added.
On the other hand, lawyer Theodore Te, legal counsel of the petitioners said they will appeal the decision before the Comelec en banc.
"Petitioners disagree with the Comelec in its ruling, among others, that the material representations made were not false and will seek reconsideration of the Resolution with the Commission en banc within the five-day period provided under the Comelec Rules," he said in a statement.
Meanwhile, lawyer Vic Rodriguez, Marcos' chief of staff, said they welcome the poll body's decision.
“We thank the Commission on Elections for upholding the law and the right of every bona fide candidate like Bongbong Marcos to run for public office free from any form of harassment and discrimination. After granting the petitioners’ right to have their day in court where their case was fully heard and ventilated, the Comelec has unanimously spoken -- the petition to cancel the certificate of candidacy of Bongbong Marcos was denied,” he said in a statement.
Rodriguez also said they are extending their "hand of unity even to the fiercest of the adversary" and urged them to help ensure a clean, fair and credible elections.
Malacañang, meanwhile, said it respects the Comelec’s decision.
“Comelec is an independent constitutional body. We respect the independence of the Comelec,” acting presidential spokesperson Karlo Nograles said in a press statement.
The other members of the Second Division are Commissioners Antonio Kho and Rey Bulay.
Earlier, the petition filed by Danilo Lihaylihay to declare the former senator as a nuisance candidate was also denied.
There are still five petitions against Marcos which are pending before the poll body. (with reports from Azer Parrocha/PNA)