Comelec's Guanzon explains delays in Bongbong's disqualification cases ruling

Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 26 2022 08:26 PM

MANILA - Commission on Elections (Comelec) Commissioner Rowena Guanzon on Wednesday explained why the First Division, where she is presiding officer, has not yet released its ruling on 3 consolidated petitions challenging the presidential bid of Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr.

Guanzon earlier announced the ruling would be out not later than Jan. 17.

She explained that she was ready with her own written opinion, but the commissioner to whom the consolidated cases were raffled was “not yet ready."

Subsequently, a staff of the unnamed commissioner contracted COVID-19, though the period for quarantine has already been completed, Guanzon said.

She urged the public to give the ponente “more days” to finalize the draft ruling.

“Hindi naman lahat ng bagay mako-control ko lalo na kung hindi naman ako ang pangunahing susulat ng desisyon na ito… hindi po ako ang namimili kung sino ang susulat o ponente at hindi po na yung sinulat ng ponente ay yun na po,” she explained on Facebook, stressing that the ponencia or draft resolution of the ponente will still be voted on.

(I cannot control everything especially if I am not the primary person who will draft the decision. I am not the one who chooses the ponente.)

Guanzon also dismissed speculation she might have been bribed to delay the voting and ruling.

“Hindi naman siguro kayo maniniwala na nasuhulan ako para patagalin ko itong kasong ito," she said. 

(I do not think you would believe it if somebody says I was bribed to delay the cases.) 

"Disqualification o hindi ni Ferdinand Marcos, Jr., napakalaking bagay po ito sa amin sa komisyon, at sa akin bilang sa aking professional career na matatapos ko itong aking term sa Comelec na mahusay at maganda ang ending," she said.

(Marcos' disqualification or not, this is a huge thing for us in the commission and for my professional career now that I am about to finish my term here in Comelec well and with a good ending.)

BACKGROUND OF CASES 

ILAGAN PETITION

The Ilagan petition was filed by martial law survivors, including former Makabayan bloc lawmakers Satur Ocampo and Liza Maza. 

Petitioners argue that Marcos Jr. is “perpetually disqualified from holding any public office” on the basis of his 1995 tax case conviction by the Quezon City Regional Trial Court (RTC) for non-payment of income taxes and non-filing of income tax returns (ITRs) from 1982-1985.

He was sentenced to imprisonment and payment of fine.

On appeal, in 1997, the decision of the lower court was modified by the Court of Appeals (CA), which acquitted Marcos of non-payment of taxes even as the non-filing of ITR ruling was upheld.

The prison sentence was removed by the CA.

Regardless of the CA decision, petitioners insist Marcos Jr., by virtue of section 253(c) of the National Internal Revenue Code (NIRC), is perpetually disqualified from public office.

“Section 253(c) of the [NIRC] specifically provides that if a person convicted of a crime penalized by the NIRC is a public officer or employee, the ‘maximum penalty for the offense shall be imposed and, in addition, he shall be dismissed from the public service and perpetually disqualified from holding any public office, to vote and to participate in any election,’” the petition states.

It further points out, it will be “difficult, if not impossible” for human rights victims during martial law to claim reparations, and for government to recover “the bulk of the ill-gotten wealth plundered by the Marcoses and their cronies” if Marcos is allowed to run and if he won the presidency.

And even if Marcos was allowed to run for provincial seats, senator, and vice-president in the past, petitioners argue his conviction has not been rendered moot since perpetual disqualification is “not time-bound.”

AKBAYAN PETITION

The Akbayan petition, described by Guanzon in a Twitter post Tuesday as “better than the others,” is also anchored on Marcos’ tax case conviction.

It raises a similar argument on Marcos’ perpetual disqualification from public office, explaining that though his non-payment and non-filing of ITRs was up to 1985 only or a year before the perpetual disqualification accessory penalty took effect under PD 194, filing of ITRs and payment of taxes for 1985 was due on April 15, 1986.

PD 1994, signed into law by Marcos’ father, the late strongman Ferdinand Sr., took effect in Jan. 1986.

Petitioners insist that from Jan. 1, 1986 up to at least April 16, 1986, Marcos was “committing” the crime of non-filing of tax returns while he was the sitting Ilocos Norte governor.

Under the amended Tax Code, the perpetual disqualification penalty only applies in cases when the offender is a public official or employee.

Petitioners stress, at the time the tax conviction was made final by the Supreme Court on Aug. 31, 2001, Marcos was again incumbent Ilocos Norte governor, and again, his conviction carried with it the accessory penalty.

“To allow the Comelec to wait for a person to file a petition to cancel the certificate of candidacy of one suffering from perpetual disqualification will result in the anomaly that these cases so grotesquely exemplify,” the petition states.

The petition also asserts that Marcos was convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude since “taxes are the lifeblood of the nation.”

MANGELEN PETITION

National Commission on Muslim Filipinos Commissioner Abubakar Mangelen continues to claim that he is the duly authorized head of Partido Federal ng Pilipinas (PFP), though PFP officers insist he was ousted from the party in September.

In his petition, Mangelen questioned the issuance of Certificate Of Nomination and Acceptance (CONA) to Marcos, as he insisted “records would show [Marcos] was never an officer or member of PFP.”

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Mangelen alleges that Marcos’ CONA is “inoperative, void and non-existent.”

The petition says, the issuance of CONA did not go through the proper process, in violation of the party’s constitution and by-laws.

The petition also cites Marcos’ tax case conviction in its disqualification plea.

Aside from these three cases with the 1st Division, there are pending cases against Marcos with the 2nd Division involving a petition for cancellation of certificate of candidacy (COC) filed by civic leaders, led by Fr. Christian Buenafe, et al.; and another disqualification case, filed by Pudno nga Ilokano.

If these cases do not attain finality in time for the printing of official ballots next week, Marcos will still be included in the ballot.

Likewise, he may still be proclaimed winner, if he obtained the highest number of votes, if there is no final judgment upon completion of canvass of votes.