By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – For those who fought the Marcos dictatorship, the decision of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) First Division allowing Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to run for the presidency has “trampled on the truth, the facts and justice.”
The Comelec First Division voted 2-0 to dismiss the consolidated disqualification Marcos Jr. allegedly for lack of merit. The announcement was made on the night of Feb. 10.
In an online press conference, Feb. 11, petitioner Bonifacio Ilagan said the decision has only strengthened their doubts on the integrity of the process especially with the revelation of retired Commissioner Rowena Guanzon that someone is trying to influence the decision on the said petition.
“We are petitioning against a candidate who is running as president. How can he be a worthy leader of this country if he cannot comply with the filing of income tax (returns)?” Bonifacio said.
Campaign against Marcos and Martial Law (CARMMA) said that by allowing Marcos Jr. to run as president in the upcoming elections, “Commissioners [Aimee] Ferolino and [Marlon] Casquejo have sided with the brazen lies and crimes of the Marcoses.”
Early this month, Guanzon made public her vote for the disqualification of the son of the dictator, citing moral turpitude of Marcos Jr. for refusal to pay taxes.
Guanzon called on Commissioner Aimee Ferolino, the ponente in the petitions, and Commissioner Marlon Casquejo, a member of the First Division “to stand on the right side of history and decide for truth, justice, and integrity — and no more delays.” Guanzon retired on Feb. 2, rendering her vote invalid.
Martial law survivors asserted that Marcos Jr. is perpetually disqualified to run for national office because the latter was found guilty for violating the tax code.
According to the decision, “the failure to file tax returns is not inherently wrong in the absence of a law punishing it.”
In reaction, Guanzon said in a Facebook post, “If there is no law punishing non-filing of the ITR [income tax return], how was the RTC (Regional Trial Court) able to convict Marcos Jr. for non-filing of the ITR? How was the Court of Appeals able to affirm the RTC conviction? To make matters more confusing, Ferolino in the same breath stated that the ‘omission became punishable only through the enactment of the Tax Code?’”
Guanzon said this contradicts Ferolino’s statement that there is no law punishing non-filing of the ITR. She this is “precisely the law which punished the non-filing of ITR, the law which served as the basis of the RTC and the CA for convicting Marcos Jr.”
She also said that Ferolino “chose to turn a blind eye to the circumstances surrounding Marcos Jr.’s offense.”
CARMMA said they “take exception to the First Division’s ruling that Marcos Jr.’s sentence to pay fines does not fall under the instances for disqualification, and that his failure to file tax returns is not inherently wrong in the absence of a law punishing it.”
“First, not only did Marcos Jr. consistently fail to file his income tax returns in 1982, 1983, 1984, and 1984 as vice government and eventually governor of Ilocos Norte: his own camp admitted during the preliminary conference that he did not pay before court the fines which were imposed upon him when he was found guilty of failure to file his income tax returns,” the group said.
They added that “anyone with a working logic would clearly see that this is inherently wrong. As former Commissioner Guazon states in her separate opinion, ‘such omission however has happened four times, and for four consecutive years’ that they ‘reveal a deliberate intent to violate the law, a conscious design to evade a positive duty, and a wanton disregard of a legal and social duty.’”
The group such intent undeniably demonstrated a crime involving moral turpitude, and therefore Marcos Jr. should be disqualified.
All remedies will be exhausted
Lawyer Howard Calleja, the petitioners’ counsel, said they will continue to exhaust all legal remedies possible before they go to the Supreme Court.
“At this point we will continue to exhaust all legal remedies available to bring out the truth, to attain justice and to bring the issues to the proper legal conclusion it deserves,” Calleja said, adding that they will file a motion for reconsideration next week.
Calleja also that it is not true that the laws they cited in their petition are not applicable.
“To be clear, we have no mistakes (in the petition). This is saddening because they may have a different interpretation of the law. But to say that we are wrong and we are not telling the truth is plain lies,” he said.
What is more saddening, he said is that for the Comelec to say that there is no applicable law that punishes the failure to file income tax returns.
“It is up for us to discern and understand the decision. But as lawyers, it is unacceptable. But then we will respect their decision, although we are going to exhaust all legal remedies possible,” he said.
According to the decision, the petitioners cited provisions of law that were not yet applicable in the case at bar.
“We can only assume that petitioners deliberately cited an inapplicable provision of law to mislead and confuse this commission,” the decision read.
CARMMA lambasted Marcos Jr.’s ‘empty call for unity.’ “Those who espouse ‘unity’ and do not acknowledge accountability for their high crimes against the people are the real nuisance and swindlers in this country. Unity without justice is just impunity. Genuine love for country means rejecting dictator wannabes and defending our rights and freedoms,” the group said.