Philippine Activists Lodge Another Petition to Disqualify Marcos Jr. from 2022 Polls

Luis Liwanag and Jeoffrey Maitem
Manila
2021-12-02
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Philippine Activists Lodge Another Petition to Disqualify Marcos Jr. from 2022 Polls Members of Akbayan, a left-leaning political party, call for the disqualification of Ferdinand Marcos Jr. from the 2022 presidential election, during a demonstration outside the Commission on Elections in Manila, Dec. 2, 2021.
Akbayan Handout

Human rights activists on Thursday filed a fifth petition seeking to disqualify Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the early frontrunner, from next year’s Philippine presidential election.

The left-leaning party Akbayan party brought the latest complaint before election authorities against Marcos, the son and namesake of the dictator who ruled the Philippines for two decades, including 14 years of martial law, before a popular uprising chased him into exile in 1986.

Among the plaintiffs was Etta Rosales, the former head of the Commission on Human Rights, who was raped and tortured by pro-Marcos forces during martial law, which the late Philippine president declared in 1972.

“Marcos [Jr.] is perpetually barred from seeking public office as a result of a 1995 tax evasion conviction,” the applicants said in their petition lodged with the Commission on Elections (Comelec).

In 1995, a trial court found Marcos Jr. guilty of four counts of tax evasion for failing to file income tax returns from 1982 to 1985, a conviction that supposedly carried a lifetime election ban. An appeals court upheld the conviction two years later.

The plaintiffs cited a 2012 Supreme Court decision ruling that Comelec has the constitutional duty to prevent “perpetually disqualified” candidates, like Marcos Jr., from repeatedly running for public office due to his conviction.

“The Comelec will be grossly remiss in its constitutional duty to ‘enforce and administer all laws’ relating to the conduct of elections if it does not motu proprio [on one’s own initiative] bar from running for public office those suffering from perpetual special disqualification by virtue of a final judgment,” the petitioners argued.

They also said that Marcos Jr. was a willing participant in his father’s regime, during which thousands of activists were either tortured, killed or went missing.

Marcos Jr., 64, who is nicknamed “Bongbong,” is seeking the presidency with Sara Duterte-Carpio, the popular daughter of the current president, as his running mate.

He has been elected to public office before – serving as a governor, congressman, and senator. He also ran for the vice presidency in 2016, which he lost. During his past candidacies, there was no petition seeking to block his electoral runs.

LUIS_LIWANAG Press marcos-8.jpeg
Filipino activists protest at the entrance of the Libingan Ng Mga Bayani (Heroes' Cemetery) in Manila to ask the government to exhume the body of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, in this file photo taken in November 2018. [Luis Liwanag/BenarNews]

Attempt to discredit

Lawyer Victor Rodriguez, Marcos’s spokesman, dismissed the new petition as mere propaganda by groups opposed to the presidential candidate coming to power.

“We believe that all of this is part of the continued attempt to discredit presidential aspirant Bongbong Marcos by a group of people whose lives are full of negativity, whose hearts are filled with rage, and who are against a bright future for the country,” Rodriguez said in a statement.

“We respect the right of every disillusioned group to take whatever legal action they think would best serve their own agenda, as we also expect them to respect our right to be heard,” he said.

The elections commission has said it would try to soon resolve the various petitions seeking the candidate’s disqualification from the 2022 race. It is not clear whether the decision will come separately or together. The outcome of the petitions could be elevated to the Supreme Court.

Marcos Jr., who comes from one of Asia’s most infamous political dynasties, is vying to replace Rodrigo Duterte, whose single, six-year term ends in 2022 – as stipulated by the Philippine constitution. The Marcos family had partly funded his 2016 campaign.

Marcos Jr. ran as vice president then but lost to Leni Robredo, now the main opposition candidate for next year’s presidential race.

Recent opinion polls have Marcos-Duterte in the lead, with Robredo trailing behind.

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