By Eden Eve Lacea

PHOTO: Journal News

Three disqualification cases filed against presidential candidate and dictator's son Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. have been junked by the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) First Division due to 'lack of merit'.

After three petitions were filed by Ilagan et. al (SPA 21-194), Akbayan et. al (SPA 21-232), and Mangelen (SPA 21-233) regarding Marcos Jr.'s tax evasion issues in the 1990's, First Division Commissioners Aimee Ferolino and Marlon Casquejo gave a unanimous vote of 2-0 in favor to dismiss the disqualification cases.

Several individuals as well as petitioners expressed their dismay on the outcome, including Rowena Guanzon, Atty. Ted Te, and members of the Akbayan Partylist.

Akbayan Partylist nominee and petitioner Perci Cendaña released an official statement regarding the ruling, stating that the decision of the Comelec is a 'major setback for the country's electoral democracy' and  'a missed opportunity to defend the truth and protect the public.'

"The decision of the Comelec's First Division allowing Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. to run in the May polls, despite his perpetual disqualification from public office, 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," Cendaña posted on the Akbayan Partylist Facebook page.

"Yet, the outcome doesn't dishearten us. This 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. We will appeal to the Comelec en banc and pursue this case to the very end. Hindi pa tapos ang laban! Hindi natin hahayaan makapanloko muli ang scammer. Hindi natin papayagan ang pambubudol ni Marcos Jr.," he added.

Furthermore, fellow Akbayan petitioner Etta Rosales shared her dissatisfaction, calling out Comelec's failure in recognizing the opinion of former commissioner Rowena "Bing" Guanzon.

"This is outrageous! Our petition was tight and in accordance with the law. They did not even recognize the separate opinion of Bing Guanzon. This is a matter of accountability to the people by complying with their own laws. Obviously they do not know how to follow laws. Shame on them," the petitioner said on GMA News Online.

In line with Etta's statement, the now retired Rowena Guanzon, who exited her position as Comelec Commissioner last February 2, also stated her dismay on the junked DQ cases.

"BBM was CONVICTED in the RTC and Court of Appeals for not filing his ITR for 4 yrs. There is no law punishing non filing of ITR? Why was BBM convicted then? Ang bright bright nyo naman," former commissioner Guanzon expressed in a tweet.

Supreme Court ex-Spokesman and Attorney Theodore "Ted" Te expressed his disbelief as well, condemning the First Division ruling.

"So Comelec says there's no need to file ITRs anymore because there's no law punishing non-filing? I'm sure they meant that as a general statement for everyone and not just for "you know who" because they're not, you know, biased," said the ex-spokesman. 

Despite the disapproval of the aforementioned individuals, the side of presidential aspirant Bongbong Marcos released a statement, commending the Comelec First Division members for their unanimous decision and donning the DQ petitioners as 'liars'.

"We again commend the honorable members of the Comelec’s 1st Division for upholding the law by dismissing cases that we have long described as nuisance petitions. The Petitioners in this case, Ilagan, Akbayan, Etta Rosales and Mangelen, were found guilty of lying and of deliberately misleading the Comelec by intentionally quoting the wrong provisions of the law and squeezed them into their faulty naratives," the BBM camp stated.

"We nonetheless extend our hands of unity and continue with our call for them and every Filipino to join us in shaping  a better and united future for our people. Tama na ang away, tama na ang bangayan, sama-sama natin harapin ang bukas na may taglay na pag-asa at pagkakaisa," they added.

Currently, Marcos Jr. is facing one more disqualification case on the Comelec Second Division petitioned by Martial Law victims and represented by former Comelec Chairman Christian Monsod.

Edited by Quian Vencel Galut