(UPDATE) The Commission on Elections' second division on Monday dismissed a petition seeking to block the presidential candidacy of Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr., clearing one roadblock to his candidacy for the country's highest position in May.
The division unanimously junked the petition to cancel Marcos' certificate of candidacy for president in the 2022 elections filed by representatives of political detainees, human rights and medical organizations.
The petitioners claimed that Marcos' certificate of candidacy contains "multiple false material representations" when he claimed that he was eligible to run for president despite being disqualified to do so.
They argued that Marcos was ineligible to run for any public office as a Quezon City court in 1995 found guilty of failure to file income tax returns from 1982 to 1985.
They cited that National Internal Revenue Code which provides that any person convicted of a crime penalized under the tax law will be "perpetually disqualified from holding any public office, to vote and to participate in any election."
The Comelec second division, in its 32-page decision, said the petition "merits summary dismissal" as the exclusive ground to cancel a COC is false material representation. The poll body's rules state that a petition to cancel COC invoking grounds for disqualification "shall be summarily dismissed."
It also said that while Marcos' representations in his COC are material, they are not false as the dispositive portion of the Court of Appeals decision on the tax cases did not contain a penalty of perpetual disqualification from holding public office.
The division also said that the accessory penalty of perpetual disqualification from holding public office cannot be applied to taxable years 1982 to 1984, as the presidential decree that covers it only took effect on Jan. 1, 1986. For taxable year 1985, the filing of ITR of which was on March 18, 1986, Marcos was no longer a public official.
The petitioners' claim that Marcos was convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude "is completely false," the division added, citing a Supreme Court ruling that categorically declared that "failure to file an income tax return is not a crime involving moral turpitude."
Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez earlier said the petitioners can appeal the case before the Comelec en banc, or file a petition for certiorari before the Supreme Court.
"But bottomline, whatever the decision of the division is, it would be safe to not assume that it is final," he added.
Marcos' camp welcomed the decision as it reiterated that cancelling the former senator's COC "is way too frivolous and unmeritorious to override the basic precepts of the Constitution."
Theodore Te, counsel for the petitioners, said their group disagrees with the ruling and would seek reconsideration within the five-day period under the Comelec rules.
Apart from this petition, Marcos is facing four other petitions seeking to bloc his candidacy for president in the 2022 elections.
The Comelec earlier dismissed a petition to declare Marcos as a nuisance candidate and another petition to cancel his certificate of candidacy alleging that he is only an impostor.