Who will serve a COMELEC entirely named Duterte?

“They must have the strength of character to adhere to their mandates.”

The First Division of the Electoral Commission (COMELEC) released its decision on February 10 dismissing the three consolidated disqualification cases against Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. by a vote of 2-0. The vote of former commissioner and division president Rowena Guanzon, who retired Feb. 2, was ruled out.

Guanzon, before retiring, went public with his vote on the case, which favors disqualifying the dictator’s son from running for president in the May 2022 national elections. Guanzon’s separate opinion was also submitted earlier. early as she accused the ponencia, commissioner Aimee Ferolino, of intentionally delaying the release of the decision until she, Guanzon, had retired. So, instead of the 2-1 vote, the decision became a unanimous 2-0.

For Guanzon, Marcos Jr. clearly committed a crime involving moral turpitude when he failed to file his income tax returns (ITRs) for the years 1982 to 1985 (four years) while he was the serving vice-governor. of Ilocos Norte. He was found guilty and sentenced by the regional court of first instance for not filing his RTI. This sentence was upheld by the Court of Appeal (CA), although the CA removed the prison sentence, as decided by the RTC. However, the Ferolino-drafted decision said “failure to file tax returns is not inherently wrong in the absence of a law punishing it.”

According to the decision, the penalty of perpetual disqualification was not provided for by the original National Revenue Code (NIRC) of 1977 and this penalty did not come into effect until January 1, 1986 when the Presidential Executive Order of 1994 came into effect. .

This is quite interesting because the Quezon City RTC Branch 105 decision in 1995 and the CA verdict in 1997 convicted Marcos, Jr. of the crime of not filing his ITR for four years. If there was no crime, why was Marcos convicted by both courts? As a non-lawyer, I would like to ask the following question: does the decision of the first chamber of COMELEC have the effect of annulling the decisions of two tribunals? Does the COMELEC decision imply that the RTC and the CA were wrong about the Marcos tax evasion cases?

There are other matters pending before the polling body regarding Marcos’ candidacy. One is an appeal to the bench of the request for cancellation of his candidacy certificate (COC), and another case of disqualification, whose lawyer is the former president of COMELEC Christian Monsod. So it’s not over yet. Consolidated petitions decided by the First Division may also be appealed to the en banc.

Thus, COMELEC still has to deal with this dossier.

Talks are well underway on a scenario where these cases against Marcos will drag on for a while, that they could be decided after the election.

People say that if the tandem of Marcos, Jr. and Sara Duterte wins, the former could be disqualified. At that time, the rule of succession will come into effect and another Duterte could become the next president. Is this scenario too strange?

Well, the reality is that the May elections will be in the hands of COMELEC, whose officials are ALL appointed by Duterte. Guanzon, former President Sheriff Abas and former Commissioner Antonio Kho all retired on February 2. COMELEC is supposed to be composed of six commissioners and a president. However, since Duterte has not (yet) named a new president, Comm. Socorro B. Inting, being the most senior commissioner, became the acting president.

Unless Duterte makes new appointments, only three commissioners will remain – Marlon Helmetjo of Davao, Aimee Ferolino who worked as an election supervisor in Davao del Norte and former Manila City Chief Prosecutor Rey Bulay who is from San Beda and said to be a fraternity brother of Duterte.

Pending new appointments, instead of seven, there are only four COMELEC officials who will make up the bench in which could decide the remaining cases against Marcos, Jr. These four officials will also oversee the very crucial elections. of May. Of course, the structures and systems of the electorate are in place across the country. However, in the event of major issues, only four members of the Commission, instead of seven, will decide matters that will affect the lives of more than 100 million Filipinos. And even if Duterte fills vacancies at COMELEC, ALL officials will be his appointees.

Who will serve a COMELEC entirely appointed by Duterte? This is a valid question especially since the value of “utang na loob” is quite strong in Filipino culture. Will an appointee go against the perceived interests of their appointing power when those interests violate the law or result in injustice? Let’s hope that ALL elected politicians will have the strength of character to adhere to their mandates.

This should be of interest to all political camps. For now, there are no concerted moves by the various groups to ensure that the will of the people will prevail. Specifically, Vice President Leni Robredo being the main opposition, and her camp should prepare to ensure that the elections are clean and fair.

We want people to choose wisely. And we want those choices to be respected.

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