Activist groups expressed “dismay” over the decision of the Commission on Elections to junk the petition to disqualify former senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. from the May 2022 presidential race.
“Anyone with a working logic would clearly see that this is inherently wrong,” read a statement from the group Campaign Against the Return of the Marcoses and Martial Law.
The party-list Akbayan said the decision of the poll body’s First Division “is a major setback for the country’s electoral democracy.”
“It is a missed opportunity to defend the truth and protect the public from a large-scale election swindle by a convicted tax evader,” said Perci Cendaña of Akbayan, one of the petitioners.
The College Editors’ Guild of the Philippines criticized the decision for its “promotion of injustice, impunity, and tax evasion.”
Marcos cleared this week a major obstacle in his bid to become the country’s next president when the Commission on Elections refused to disqualify him over a decades-old tax conviction.
The ruling on Thursday, February 10, came two days after candidates hit the campaign trail with polls showing Marcos, popularly known as Bongbong, headed for a landslide victory in the May 9 vote.
Opposition figures and torture victims during the Marcos regime had asked the commission to exclude Marcos, 64, from the ballot due to his 1995 conviction for failing to pay taxes and file income tax returns from 1982 to 1985.
But the three petitions “have been dismissed for lack of merit,” commission spokesman James Jimenez said in a tweet, clearing a path for Marcos to potentially succeed authoritarian firebrand Rodrigo Duterte and return the Marcos clan to the presidential palace.
The clan fled to Hawaii in 1986 after a bloodless popular revolt ended a 20-year rule marked by allegations of widespread human rights abuses and embezzlement of billions of dollars from state coffers.
The family returned to the Philippines in the 1990s and began to revive their political fortune.
Marcos narrowly lost the vice presidential contest in 2016 after winning a single six-year term in the Senate. He had earlier been elected a provincial governor and congressman.
Boosted by a massive social media campaign and a formidable alliance with first daughter and vice presidential candidate Sara Duterte, Marcos has a huge lead over his nearest rival and nemesis, Vice President Leni Robredo, in recent voter surveys.
Other contenders include Manila mayor and former actor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso and retired boxing legend Manny Pacquiao.
The Court of Appeals upheld Marcos’s conviction in 1997 but removed the jail sentence.
The battle to have Marcos Jr disqualified, however, is not over.
Petitioners can appeal the ruling to the full bench of the elections commission and the Supreme Court.
Akbayan’s Cendaña said the outcome “doesn’t dishearten us,” adding that it is “merely a bend in the road, not the end of it.”
“This is just the beginning of our struggle to protect our electoral democracy from fraud and impunity,” he said.
The group Campaign Against the Return of the Marcoses and Martial Law said it stands with its petition and “we assert that a convicted criminal should not be allowed to run for any public office.” – with a report from Agence Franc Presse
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