(UPDATE) Comelec's First Division on Wednesday dismissed the last disqualification case against presidential candidate Bongbong Marcos, clearing another roadblock in his bid to reclaim the presidency for his family in the May 9 elections.
The petition, filed by a group of Ilocanos called Pudno Nga Ilokano, was denied for “lack of merit,” according to the 31-page ruling by presiding Comelec Commissioner Socorro Inting, and Commissioners Aimee Ferolino and Aimee Neri.
While the petition has been dismissed in the division level, the petitioners can still appeal the decision before the Commission en banc, composed of all the poll body’s commissioners.
Previously, the two Comelec divisions also dismissed the six other petitions seeking to block Marcos’ presidential bid. Marcos currently ranks first in many pre-election surveys with just three weeks left before May 9.
According to the petitioners, Marcos should not be allowed to run for president in view of his conviction for failing to file his income tax returns from 1982 to 1985, which carried the accessory penalty of "perpetual disqualification" from public office.
The fact that Marcos repeatedly failed to file his income taxes for four consecutive years showed his "willful intent" to evade the payment of taxes, which the group said is tantamount to "moral turpitude," another basis for his disqualification.
The division, however, denied the allegation of the petitioners that Marcos’ failure to file his income tax returns carried with it moral turpitude and thus tantamount to his disqualification, citing an earlier Supreme Court ruling involving the son of the late dictator himself.
"If failure to file income tax return is considered alone, it would appear that is not inherently wrong. This is supported by the fact that the filing of income tax is only an obligation created by law and the omission to do so is only considered as wrong because the law penalizes it," the ruling read.
The petitioners were also "gravely mistaken" when they alleged that Marcos should be disqualified as he was convicted for a crime that carried a penalty of more than 18 months in prison, according to the division, adding that the laws being cited only became effective in 1992.
"Considering that this inflicts greater punishment, to give the same retroactive application, as Petitioners propose, would indubitably violate the constitutional proscription ex post fact laws," it also said.
The division also ruled that Marcos is not perpetually disqualified from holding any public office, to vote and to participate in any election as a consequence of his conviction.
It pointed out that Marcos was no longer a public officer when he failed to file his 1985 income tax return before the March 18, 1986 deadline, thus such additional penalty cannot apply to him.
"As it now stands, Respondent possesses all the qualifications and none of the disqualifications under the 1987 Constitution and relevant laws. As such, the dismissal of this Petition is in order," it added.
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