Comelec spokesman denies siding with Marcos in lawsuit

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THE COMMISSION on Elections (Comelec) would have to rule on a complaint filed on Tuesday seeking to disqualify the son and namesake of the late dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos from the presidential race, its spokesman said.

“Now that a case has been filed, opinions no longer matter,” Comelec spokesman James B. Jimenez said in a Viber message on Wednesday.

The Comelec official earlier told One News the Supreme Court had not ruled on whether former Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos’s conviction for tax evasion in 1995 involved “moral turpitude.”

Mr. Jimenez said he made the comments before a taxpayers’ complaint was filed at the Comelec seeking to block Mr. Marcos’s presidential bid.

“That quote was not intended in any way as a comment on the current petition recently filed,” he separately told reporters in a Viber message.

Several human rights advocates on Tuesday filed the disqualification case at the Comelec, saying Mr. Marcos is ineligible to run for office after a trial court convicted him in 1995 for failing to pay income taxes. His conviction was upheld by the Court of Appeals and was never appealed before the Supreme Court, the plaintiffs said.

Among the petitioners were Fides Lim of Kapatid, Christian Buenafe of the Task Force Detainees, Ma Edeliza Hernandez of the Medical Action Group, Celia Lagman Sevilla of the Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearance, Roland Vibal of the Philippine Alliance of Human Rights and Josephine Lascano of the Balay Rehabilitation Center.

Mr. Marcos’s office issued a statement on Wednesday claiming that Mr. Jimenez had said the disqualification case “has no clear basis.”

“According to Jimenez, Bongbong does not fit the criteria, and that there is no clear basis for the disqualification case,” according to the statement.

Mr. Jimenez called the press release misleading and denied siding with the former senator.

On Tuesday, his lawyer and chief of staff Victor D. Rodriguez called the complaint a “predictable nuisance petition.” He said the lawsuit was propaganda, adding that the Marcos camp does not engage in “gutter politics.”

Mr. Marcos run for vice president in 2016 and lost the race to Maria Leonor “Leni” G. Robredo by a hair.

The taxpayers said the crime for which Mr. Marcos was convicted involved moral turpitude, which disqualifies him from running for public office under the law.

Meanwhile, civic group Kapatid urged the Comelec to act on the complaint it filed with five other human rights groups.

The election body should not wait for the end of the election period “to rid the presidential race of a convicted criminal unfit for public office,” it said in a statement.

“The issue is the dictator’s namesake declared under oath that he has never been found liable for any offense that carries the penalty of perpetual disqualification from public office although he had been convicted for repeated tax evasion,” the group said. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza