SC justices voted 13-0 to junk disqualification, cancellation of COC petitions vs Marcos
MANILA (3rd UPDATE) — The Supreme Court cleared legal obstacles to Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr’s assumption to the presidency by junking petitions challenging his candidacy on Tuesday, two days before he takes his oath as the country's 17th leader.
By a vote of 13-0 with two justices taking no part, the SC said it dismissed the cancellation of certificate of candidacy and disqualification cases filed by civic leaders and martial law survivors against Marcos.
"The court held that in the exercise of its power to decide the present controversy led them to no other conclusion but that respondent Marcos Jr. is qualified to run for and be elected to public office," the SC Public Information Office said in a statement.
"Likewise, his COC, being valid and in accord with the pertinent law, was rightfully upheld by the (Commission on Elections)," it added.
The SC PIO has yet to release a copy of the decision, but said it will upload it to the SC website once it gets an official copy from the Office of the Clerk of Court En Banc.
But two sources told ABS-CBN News the dismissal was based “on the merits” with all the issues resolved and not simply on the basis of mootness.
Mootness is a procedural ground for dismissing a petition because legal actions can no longer be brought or continued as it has been resolved. For instance, Marcos has been proclaimed president-elect by the National Board of Canvassers.
In its statement, the SC PIO said that aside from dismissing the disqualification and COC cancellation petitions, the court also affirmed relevant resolutions of the Commission on Elections.
A source said the SC “sustained and expounded Comelec rulings” such as the one saying that non-filing of income tax returns does not amount to moral turpitude.
A 1997 Court of Appeals ruling affirmed Marcos’ conviction for non-filing of income tax returns from 1982 until 1985.
Civic leaders led by Fr. Christian Buenafe and represented by former SC spokesperson Theodore Te sought to cancel Marcos’ COC due to material misrepresentation when he supposedly claimed, under oath, that he was eligible to run for the presidency despite having been convicted of tax violations, which, they argued, disqualified him from running.
Another group of Martial Law survivors, the Campaign Against the Return of the Marcoses and Martial Law (CARMMA) represented by lawyer Howard Calleja, wanted the high court to declare Marcos disqualified because of his repeated failure to file income tax returns from 1982 to 1985 amounted to moral turpitude.
They claimed the National Internal Revenue Code imposes the penalty of perpetual disqualification on a government official found guilty of violating the Tax Code.
They also argued the CA ruling, which modified the regional trial court’s conviction of Marcos for non-filing of tax return, should not have removed the jail term which was beyond 18 months, another ground for disqualification.
Marcos said the failure to file an income tax return is not a crime involving moral turpitude and the NIRC rule imposing perpetual disqualification on government officials found guilty of violating the Tax Code did not apply to him as it came into effect only in 1986, after the supposed violations.
The incoming president also argued there was nothing in the 1997 CA ruling which imposed a jail term.
He added he could not have misrepresented something legal experts are still debating on.
Both petitions, earlier rejected by the Comelec, wanted the SC to declare as president outgoing Vice President Leni Robredo, having supposedly obtained the highest “valid” votes during the elections.
Behind him, Robredo obtained some 15 million votes.
Opposing both petitions, Marcos said the voice of the 31 million Filipino voters who supported him should be respected.
Marcos is the first president to obtain more than 50 percent of the votes cast in recent history.
Marcos told reporters he was elated on the development of his disqualification cases.
“At least it clears all the questions on my qualifications to run as president. We knew it was coming. We didn’t know it would come now,” said Marcos in an ambush interview.
Marcos' political party, the Partido Federal ng Pilipinas, said the SC decision "vindicates" their position regarding his candidacy.
But for the Assistant House Minority Leader and ACT Teachers party-list Rep. France Castro, the ruling did not surprise them "considering that Chief Justice Alexander Gesmundo himself agreed to administer the oath of office for (Marcos') inauguration."
"We just hope that the Supreme Court would uphold its independence and initiative especially on the issues and cases involving human rights, welfare of consumers and our country's sovereignty," she said.
Atty. Burt Estrada, national president of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, told ABS-CBN's TeleRadyo that the losing parties may file a motion for reconsideration if they think they have new arguments that the SC have yet to appreciate.
"If it will just be a mere rehash or the same arguments lang yung ipe-present nila, malamang hindi pa rin mare-reconsider yung desisyon. So, they have to be able to argue, present new arguments, based dun sa desisyon na nilabas ng Supreme Court. If they see that there are also some portions of the decision that they feel is not a correct interpretation of the law, then ayun po ang i-a-argue nila," Estrada said.
(If it will just be a mere rehash or only the same arguments will be presented, most likely the decision will not be reconsidered. So, they have to be able to argue, present new arguments, based on the decision of the Supreme Court. If they see that there are also some portions of the decision that they feel is not a correct interoperation of the law, then they should argue that.)
Justice Rodil Zalameda is the member-in-charge of the Marcos cases at the SC.
Justice Antonio Kho inhibited because he participated in resolving the petitions when these were still at the Comelec. The magistrate is a former poll body commissioner.
Justice Henri Jean Paul Inting also took no part because his sister, Comelec Commissioner Socorro Inting, was involved in resolving the same petitions at the commission.
- with report from Annie Perez