More groups to file petitions vs Bongbong Marcos’ presidential bid

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 5) — Two more groups said they will seek to boot former Senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos, Jr. out of the 2022 presidential race.

Howard Calleja, a litigation lawyer and law professor, told reporters on Friday that he is assisting two groups in preparing either a motion to intervene to support the Nov. 2 petition to cancel Marcos' certificate of candidacy (COC) for next year's polls, or a disqualification case before the Commission on Elections next week.

One group is led by Carol Araullo, chairperson of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, to represent victims of human rights abuses during the Martial Law; and the other by Dr. Rommel Bautista on behalf of civil society and professionals.

A petition to cancel a COC and disqualification are two different remedies, Calleja explained.

He said the first is based on the claim that an aspirant made false statements in his COC, while disqualification covers individuals who have been sentenced to a penalty of more than 18 months for a crime involving moral turpitude, or those declared as insane or incompetent by authorities.

If the poll body would rule to cancel Marcos' COC, it means he was never a candidate and cannot be substituted, Calleja pointed out.

The new pleas would be based on two important grounds: First, that the son and namesake of the former dictator Ferdinand Marcos cannot run after supposedly lying in his COC, where he checked the box saying he is qualified to run for office even though he was found guilty for not filing his income tax returns (ITRs) from 1982 to 1985.

Calleja said the repeated failure to file an ITR should fall under moral turpitude – or acts that go against "justice, modesty, or good morals" – which is a ground for a candidate's disqualification, according to the Omnibus Election Code.

Second, the lawyer said Marcos can no longer run because under the National Internal Revenue Code, anyone who violates tax laws is perpetually banned from holding public office.

Marcos' spokesperson Vic Rodriguez responded, saying they are ready to battle in court. He added that the recent legal actions against Marcos did not faze the presidential aspirant or draw him away from the race.

"Withdrawal is never on the table," Rodriguez said. "BBM is running for president and the people are, the support of the people every day are becoming more pronounced and in fact, mga tao na nga ang sumasagot at nagde depensa para kay Bongbong Marcos at sila na rin ang nagsasabi na tigilan na ang pang-aapi ninyo kay Bongbong Marcos [the people themselves are responding and defending Bongbong Marcos and they themselves are telling others to stop persecuting him]."

Bautista, meanwhile, said public officials must always be held to higher standards and accountability.

"Kung ang ating mga simpleng empleyado lang sa opisina ay hinihingan natin ng NBI clearance [If we ask a simple employee to present an NBI clearance] to give us some measure of security that a person we are about to hire or considering in hiring is somebody without a criminal record, why should it not be applicable to somebody running for the highest office of the land?," Bautista said in a media briefing.

Speaking to CNN Philippines, he also emphasized that apart from plans and platforms, Filipino voters have the right to know the past of those running for public office.

"It is my understanding that somebody who aspires to be a public servant...needs to have a clean background and again through the research it appears that the presidential aspirant Mr. Marcos...seems to be not exactly very forthcoming with all the voters," Bautista said.

He added they have been receiving a lot of support from various groups that are also willing to file the same petition.

The Marcos camp earlier labeled the petition to stop his 2022 presidential bid as a mere nuisance, adding that the former senator was only convicted of the non-filing of ITRs but not for the failure to pay taxes.

READ: Marcos camp denies 'tax evader' claims, says 'yellow wannabes' using Comelec in petition 

"It is not political because it is a suit that is applicable to all citizens of the republic," Calleja argued. "His COC is void, therefore he is the nuisance candidate in this situation."

He added: "Hindi po siya ang biktima –– actually, siya po ang nambiktima sa Pilipino [He's not the victim here –– actually, he victimized Filipinos], having lied to the Filipino people."

The lawyer added that they will also include a plea to review and declare as void the decision of the Court of Appeals that removed the jail sentence meted by a Quezon City regional trial court against Marcos as part of the penalties for the non-filing of ITRs.

He expressed hope this may be tackled by the Supreme Court when the case is elevated or appealed by either party.

Calleja, also a convenor of the opposition group 1Sambayan, said he believes the groups have "a very strong case" against Marcos.

"Even if he ran before, that doesn’t, kumbaga (so to speak), validate that he can run now," he said.

"What is relevant is that Mr. Marcos has been convicted of a crime and that conviction carries with it the penalty of moral turpitude and the penalty of perpetual disqualification to hold public office," Calleja said in a separate interview.

Since the Court of Appeals ruling in 1997, Marcos managed to run as Ilocos Norte governor, congressman, senator, and vice president, where he lost to Vice President Leni Robredo in a tightly-contested race.

RELATED: Resolution on plea to void Marcos' candidacy likely out by December - Comelec