Presidential candidate Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. (File photo)

MANILA – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) First Division has dismissed the remaining disqualification case filed by group Pudno nga Ilokano against presidential candidate Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. for lack of merit.

The 29-page decision by the Division composed of Presiding Commissioner Socorro Inting and members, Commissioners Aimee Ferolino and Aimee Torrefranca-Neri, has cleared the presidential frontrunner of all cases at its level.

“Wherefore, premises considered, the instant Petition is hereby denied for lack of merit,” the decision read.

The First Division found no moral turpitude in the case, as argued by petitioners based on Marcos’ tax evasion convictions.

“Nonetheless, we find it more prudent to make our own assessment to remove all doubts and finally resolve the controversy. An assiduous study of the records and relevant jurisprudence yields to a conclusion that there is no moral turpitude in this case,” the ruling said.

“If failure to file income tax return is considered alone, it would appear that it is not inherently wrong. This is supported by the fact that the filing of income tax return is only an obligation created by law and the omission to do so is only considered as wrong because the law penalized it,” it added.

The case stemmed on the conviction of Marcos for failure to file his income tax returns (ITRs) from 1982 to 1985.

The other petitions to declare Marcos as nuisance, to cancel certificate of candidacy and to disqualify three consolidated cases had been dismissed but petitioners filed motion for reconsiderations that are now pending before the Comelec en banc.

‘Time to work for clean, honest elections’

Marcos’ camp said it is now time to work for clean and honest elections as it welcomed the dismissal of the disqualification case against the former senator.

"The Commission on Elections has affirmed and settled the last petition for disqualification: Presidential frontrunner Bongbong Marcos possesses all the qualifications needed to aspire for, campaign and serve as president of the Republic of the Philippines," lawyer Vic Rodriguez, Marcos’ spokesperson, said in a statement.

Rodriguez said elections should be settled through the ballots, and not through the "abuse" of judicial processes like the filing of "nuisance petitions" for disqualification.

"It is now time for every peace-loving Filipino to work for a clean, honest, credible and fair elections, and allow the people to speak, their voices heard and votes genuinely counted," he said.

Marcos himself also welcomed the decision, saying "it's a good development and we're happy that it happened before the upcoming elections."

He is currently in Occidental Mindoro for his campaign sortie.

The petition of Pudno, which is represented by former Comelec Commissioner Christian Monsod, was filed on Dec. 7, 2021.

Since the start of the campaign, Marcos and his running mate Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte have consistently topped all the major pre-election surveys. (PNA)