Comelec’s first division dismisses “for lack of merit” consolidated petitions seeking Marcos’ disqualification

Former Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., files his certificate of candidacy with the Commision on Elections on Wednesday, Oct. 6, 2021 (Screenshot of Agence France Presse video)



(Eagle News) – The first division of the Commission on Elections has “dismissed for lack of merit” the consolidated petitions against presidential aspirant Ferdinand Marcos Jr., that sought his disqualification.

In a tweet, Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez said that the Comelec’s first division junked the consolidated petitions against Marcos.

“The consolidated petitions of Ilagan v. Marcos Jr., Akbayan v. Marcos Jr., and Mangelen v. Marcos Jr. have been dismissed for lack of merit, by the COMELEC’s 1st Division,” Jimenez said in a tweet posted on his official twitter account at around 7 p.m., Thursday, February 10.

The petitions were filed by three groups – by playwright, film maker and screenwriter Bonifacio Ilagan, former Bayan Muna partylist Rep. Satur Ocampo and others; by Akbayan Citizens’ Action Party and former political prisoners; and by Abubakar Mangelen, ousted chair of the Partido Federal ng Pilipinas.

Before this, controversy on these consolidated petitions arose after former Comelec commissioner Rowena Guanzon claimed that the decision on these petitions was being delayed.

Guanzon, who before her retirement presided over the three-member First Division, has accused Commissioner Aimee Ferolino, the assigned ponente of the decision, that there was a move to exclude her vote.

Guanzon, who retired on February 2, authorized the Comelec to release a copy of her separate opinion on these petitions, that favored Marcos’ disqualification.

Ferolino, on the other hand, asked Guanson “to stop conditioning the minds of the people” on the supposed delay in deciding the petitions filed with the first division,

“As a coequal member of this Commission, I am asking you to please stop conditioning the minds of the people that there is a delay [in the resolution] because there is none,” she said in an earlier statement.

“More importantly, I am asking you to spare the Commission from all these controversies because you are destroying the credibility of the agency which you claimed to have previously served with integrity and candor,” Ferolino said.

The petitions sought to disqualify Marcos from the 2022 elections for his failure to file income tax returns (ITR) from 1982 to 1985.

-Failure to file ITR, not a crime of moral turpitude, says Comelec ruling-

According to the Comelec’s 41-page decision, this failure to file ITRs on the part of Marcos cannot be considered a crime of moral turpitude, citing an obiter dictum or remarks by the Supreme Court contained in the case of “Republic of the Philippines vs Ferdinand R. Marcos II and Imelda R. Marcos.”

“Finally, to erase doubts as to whether the failure to file tax returns is a crime involving moral turpitude, We refer to the pronouncement of the Supreme Court in the case of Republic of the Philippines vs Ferdinand R. Marcos II and Imelda R. Marcos wherein the SC categorically ruled that a failure to file a tax return is not a crime involving moral turpitude,” the Comelec’s decision penned by Commissioner Ferolino said.

“Agreeably, the Supreme Court’s discussion on moral turpitude in the aforesaid case is an obiter dictum, as it was merely an opinion upon some question of law that is not necessary for the resolution of the issues in the said case,” the decision read.

“Nevertheless, the Supreme Court has also ruled that a dictum that generally is not binding as authority or precedent withim the stare decisis rule may be followed if sufficiently persuasive. Therefore, having found the same to be true in the aforesaid case of Republic vs Marcos II and Marcos, We see no legal infirmity in adopting the said dictum in the hopes of finally putting the issue on moral turpitude to rest.”

The decision also stressed that Marcos “was only meted with the penalty of a fine for his failure to file his income tax returns.”

It said it was “clear as day” that this sentence to pay fines was not among the enumerated instances for disqualification in Section 12 of the Omnibus Election Code.

The Comelec decision also stressed how important it is for the commission to be “free from bias and partiality.” It also recognized how the resolution of this particular case was of “paramount importance” considering the upcoming 2022 National and Local Elections.

“However, the deprivation of one’s right to be voted for in any election should not be exercised whimsically and capriciously, lest We will be preventing qualified candidates from pursuing a position in public office,” it said.

-Commissioner Inting designated as Comelec acting chair-

Also on February 10, the Comelec announced the formal designation of Commissioner Socorro B. Inting as Acting Chairperson, and reorganized the membership of the two Divisions of the Commission, following the retirement of former Comelec Chair Sheriff Abas and Commissioners Guanzon and Antonio Kho Jr.

The Commission on Elections (COMELEC) office in Intramuros, Manila (Eagle News Service)

“Acting Chairperson Inting will serve in such capacity until a new Chairperson has been appointed and assumed office. Given her stellar performance in helming the Gender and Development initiatives of the Commission these past years, and in streamlining various internal processes in the resolution of cases, we in the Commission are confident of the Honorable Acting Chair’s leadership moving forward,” Spokesperson James Jimenez said.

“Acting Chairperson Inting will preside over the First Division, and Commissioner Aimee P. Ferolino will serve as member,” the Comelec said.

The Second Division will be headed by Commissioner Marlon S. Casquejo as Presiding Commissioner, with Commissioner Rey E. Bulay as member.

The Comelec said “cases respectively raffled to the former First and Second Divisions will be retained in the concerned Division in order to ensure the orderly, speedy and judicious disposition of the cases.”

“For this purpose, a Former First Division and Former Second Division are constituted as follows: Commissioner Casquejo as Presiding Commissioner, and Commissioner Ferolino as member, First Division; Acting Chairperson Inting as Presiding Commissioner, and Commissioner Bulay as member, Second Division,” it added in a statement.


(Eagle News Service)