By Claire Morales True, Managing Editor
MANILA — The Commission on Elections (Comelec) First Division has dismissed the last pending disqualification case against presidential candidate former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos for lack of merit.
The case against Marcos was filed by the group Pudno nga Ilokano represented by former Comelec Chairman Christian Monsod.
Marcos immediately lauded the decision coming before the May 9 elections, saying “it’s a good development and we’re happy that it happened before the upcoming elections.”
Marcos’ camp said it is now time to work for clean and honest elections as it welcomed the dismissal of the disqualification case against the former senator.
“The Commission on Elections has affirmed and settled the last petition for disqualification: Presidential frontrunner Bongbong Marcos possesses all the qualifications needed to aspire for, campaign and serve as president of the Republic of the Philippines,” lawyer Vic Rodriguez, Marcos’ spokesperson, said in a statement.
Rodriguez said elections should be settled through the ballots, and not through the “abuse” of judicial processes like the filing of “nuisance petitions” for disqualification.
“It is now time for every peace-loving Filipino to work for a clean, honest, credible and fair elections, and allow the people to speak, their voices heard and votes genuinely counted,” he said.
In a 29-page decision, the Division composed of Presiding Commissioner Socorro Inting and members, Commissioners Aimee Ferolino and Aimee Torrefranca-Neri, cleared the presidential frontrunner of all cases at its level.
“Wherefore, premises considered, the instant Petition is hereby denied for lack of merit,” the decision stated.
The First Division found no moral turpitude in the case, as argued by petitioners based on Marcos’ tax evasion convictions.
“Nonetheless, we find it more prudent to make our own assessment to remove all doubts and finally resolve the controversy. An assiduous study of the records and relevant jurisprudence yields to a conclusion that there is no moral turpitude in this case,” the ruling stated.
“If failure to file income tax return is considered alone, it would appear that it is not inherently wrong. This is supported by the fact that the filing of income tax return is only an obligation created by law and the omission to do so is only considered as wrong because the law penalized it,” it added.
The case stemmed on the conviction of Marcos for failure to file his income tax returns (ITRs) from 1982 to 1985.
The other petitions to declare Marcos as nuisance, to cancel certificate of candidacy and to disqualify three consolidated cases had been dismissed but petitioners filed motion for reconsiderations that are now pending before the Comelec en banc.
In Cebu City, Marcos vowed to improve internet connectivity and make data service cheaper for the Filipinos.
“Kailagan po natin na maipagpatuloy ang sinikulan ni Pangulong (Rodrigo) Duterte na ‘Build, Buld, Build’ infrastructure program. At palawakin po naitn ito, isasama natin dyan ang digital infrastructure, yun pong ating internet, para itoy bumilis, para itoy lumawak, para itoy maging mas mura (We need to pursue the Build, Buld, Build infrastructure program initiated by President (Rodrigo) Duterte. And let’s expand it, we’ll include the digital infrastructure, that is our internet, so that it can speed up, so that it can expand, so that it can be much cheaper),” Marcos said during a grand rally.
He said he will also look into the country’s high cost of electricity and pledged to find ways to make it affordable to Filipinos.
Marcos and his running mate, Davao City Mayor Sara Z. Duterte graced the jampacked festival-like unity rally at the Filinvest field of the South Road Properties in Cebu that was attended by more than a hundred thousand Cebuanos.
He thanked the people for making Cebu the hatching ground for unity that the Filipino people need to embrace and move forward amid the devastating effect of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic on the country’s economy.
“Huwag po natin kakalimutan itong araw na ito dito sa Cebu City, dito sa lalawigan ng Cebu. Huwag natin kalimutan sa araw na ito, sa gabing ito, halos tayoy sumumpa na maipagpatuloy natin ang kilusang pagkakaisa (Let us not forget this day here in Cebu City, here in the province of Cebu. Let us not forget that today, tonight, we swear that we can go further with our movement for unity),” Marcos said.
He underscored the need for Filipinos to unite in pursuing economic programs in order to recover from the pandemic that rendered many people jobless or livelihood and businesses lost to many lockdowns.
The tourism sector in Cebu, he said, should enjoy patronage among the domestic travelers.
Duterte bolstered Marcos’ pledges saying the UniTeam is pushing for three socio-economic agendas if ever they get elected in the May 9 elections.
“Una, ang pabgbalik sa trabaho ug negosyo nga nawala tungod sa pandemya (First, the restoration of jobs and businesses lost due to the pandemic),” she said as what people need now is money in their pocket and food on the table.
With the success of the government’s vaccination rollout, Duterte said there should never be lockdowns affecting jobs and businesses.
She said the UniTeam espouses quality of education for the children to ensure they get a better future.
The Davao City mayor said UniTeam will also work for peace in the community to make the people and their children safe in their homes and the workplaces against the criminals.
Meanwhile, Governor Gwen Garcia said the overwhelming turnout of supporters in the grand rally has shown that Marcos and Duterte enjoy the all-out support of the Cebuanos.
“Nagkahugpong kita. Usa ka tingog, hiniusang Sugbo, one island, one province, one cebu alang sa mosuod nga bise presidente sa Pilipinas, Mayor Inday Sara Duterte. Alang sa di na gyud kapugngan bisan unsaon Cebu has spoken so are is the rest of the country, the next president of the Philippines (We are united with one voice, united Cebu, one island, one province, one Cebu for the upcoming vice president of the Philippines, Mayor Inday Sara Duterte. Nothing can stop, no matter what, Cebu has spoken so is the rest of the country, the next president of the Philippines,” Garcia said, drawing the people to shout Marcos’ initials “BBM” several times.
She hinted that support from other places in the country will follow, saying that “the Philippines will follow the voice of Cebu”.
Apart from Garcia, Mayor Michael Rama welcomed the UniTeam candidates along with local political allies and party-list groups supporting Marcos and Duturte’s candidacy.
The 12 senatorial bets who attended the rally were former Department of Public Works and Highways Secretary Mark Villar, Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, former Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro, former Quezon City Mayor Herbert Bautista, former Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, former senator Jinggoy Estrada, lawyer Larry Gadon, actor Robin Padila, Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, Deputy House Speaker Rodante Marcoleta, and former Department of Information and Communication Technology Secretary Gregorio Honasan.