By Lance Arevada

PHOTO: KJ Rosales/The Philippine Star

In a rare move, outgoing Commission on Elections (Comelec) Commissioner Rowena Guanzon has revealed that she voted to disqualify presidential bet Ferdinand Marcos Jr. in the 2022 polls, pointing out that a crime of moral turpitude was committed in the aspirant’s failure to file income tax returns (ITRs).

“Ang boto ko disqualified (DQ) talaga siya kasi convicted siya of a crime involving moral turpitude. Ang moral turpitude ho ay titignan mo base sa ebidensya, sa batas,” Guanzon revealed in an interview on CNN Philippines. 

“Tama bang gawain ito ng mabuting Pilipino, ng mabuting tao? Apat na taon siyang hindi nag-file ng income tax return, hindi siya nagbayad ng buwis —gobernador pa siya ng Ilocos Norte,” she added. 

As her retirement nears on February 2, Guanzon suddenly came forward as she suspects that the delay is now becoming “unreasonable” due to her DQ vote, with a powerful politician now interfering to influence the ponente, who is assigned to release the division’s ruling.

“This delay is already unreasonable. This has never happened before, in a disqualification case involving a presidential aspirant. The resolution is hijacked by the ponente, and she does not reply to the presiding officer,” she said.

To either disqualify or dismiss the petitions against Marcos Jr., a majority vote must be achieved among the three-member First Division. The other commissioners in the division are Commissioners Marlon Casquejo and Aimee Ferolino, who was later revealed to be the ponente of the petitions.

Guanzon bared that Ferrolino, who first agreed to release the decision on January 17, suddenly became unable to contact days ago. “Anong akala niya sa’kin dito? Tao-tao lang sa mais?” she said.

“I revealed this precisely because based on information, I have a strong feeling that the politician who was interfering here who’s trying to influence Commissioner Ferolino here,” the commissioner added.

While she did not directly reveal the name of the politician said to be interfering, Guanzon said that the personality is not a presidential aspirant as she appealed to stop interfering with the division’s decision.

“Ang appeal ko sa kanya: umatras na kayo. Huwag na kayong makialam dito. Ang presidente nga di nakikialam e, kayo pa?” she urged.

In response to Guanzon’s revelation, Commissioner Aimee Ferolino said she wanted to maintain her silence on the issue. “I do not want to violate the sub judice rule. I want to maintain my dignified silence,” she said.

The Comelec First Division, in which Guanzon is the presiding officer, was first scheduled on January 17 to release a decision on the three petitions filed against Marcos Jr. which argued for his perpetual disqualification over his conviction in the 1990s due to his failure to file his ITRs from 1982 to 1985 as Vice Governor and Governor of Ilocos Norte.

However, the ruling of the Comelec Second Division, dismissing a case that sought to cancel Marcos Jr. 's certificate of candidacy, was the only decision released on the said date. The promulgation from the First Division was said to be delayed due to COVID-19 infections among the ponente’s staff.

One of the cited grounds for disqualification, which was also Guanzon’s basis, was Section 12 of the Omnibus Election Code, stating that a candidate is disqualified to run for election if they were “sentenced to a penalty of more than eighteen months or for a crime involving moral turpitude.”