MANILA (UPDATE)— Malacañang said on Monday it respects the independence of the Commission on Elections (Comelec), after it threw out a petition seeking to bar former Senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. from running in this year's election.
This petition against Marcos sought to invalidate his candidacy and accused him of misrepresenting his eligibility because of a prior tax conviction.
He has emerged as a clear favorite in the presidential race based on opinion surveys, despite President Rodrigo Duterte's recent tirades against him
"COMELEC is an independent constitutional body. We respect the independence of the COMELEC," said Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles, acting spokesman for the Palace.
The poll body's Second Division "ruled that there was no grounds to cancel Marcos Jr's COC (certificate of candidacy) on the grounds of material representation," the lawyers in the petition said in a statement.
The petitioners said they will file a motion for reconsideration with Comelec with a full bench of judges. A final decision by the Comelec en banc may also be appealed before the Supreme Court.
The complaint is among several filed by groups seeking the expulsion of Marcos, a career politician who has served as congressman, senator and a provincial governor, mostly over a 1995 conviction for tax violations while in public office, which petitioners had argued meant a lifetime election ban.
Two other petitions, both seeking to disqualify Marcos, are still pending with the Comelec.
"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," Marcos's spokesman Vic Rodriguez said in a statement.
The election to choose a successor to Duterte, who is barred by the constitution from a second term, takes place on May 9. His daughter Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio is running for vice president in tandem with Marcos.
The son and namesake of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos topped a Pulse Asia survey on preferred presidential contenders in December, even after Duterte branded him as a "weak" leader.
Marcos' rival Vice President Leni Robredo said the Comelec decision does not affect her candidacy.
"Lagi naman namin sinasabi na ‘yung–‘yung laban ng aking kandidatura ay hindi naman nakadepende saka nakabase sa galaw ng ibang mga kandidato," Robredo told reporters ahead of the decision.
"Whatever the decision will be, sige lang tayo," she added.
(We always say that my candidacy does not depend and is not based on the move of other candidates. Whatever the decision will be, we'll just continue.)
Sen. Manny Pacquiao, another presidential aspirant, declined to comment on the legal effects of the Comelec decision "because I am not a party to the case."
"Let’s leave it at that. Kung ano man plano ng magkabilang panig sa kasong ito ay abangan na lang po natin," he said.
(Whatever the plan of the two sides, we will just wait.)
Presidential contender Sen. Panfilo Lacson said "it is best to respect the ruling."
"The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has the mandate to decide on any case that falls under its jurisdiction and the petition to disqualify ex-Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. is one such case," he said in a statement.
"That said, there are venues provided by our electoral system to ensure fairness for all concerned, and we should respect them as well."
— With a report from Reuters