By John Victor D. Ordoñez
A PARTY-LIST group on Monday asked the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to fast-track its decision on a lawsuit that seeks to disqualify the son and namesake of the late dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos from the presidential race this year.
“We see no reason for the Comelec to further delay the resolution of this case, especially that the membership of its en banc is now complete,” the Akbayan Party-list group said in a letter.
“Any further delay is already a gross disservice to the voting public and our electoral system and favors Marcos, Jr.’s grand fakery,” it added, referring to former Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos, Jr.
The Comelec full court has yet to decide on several cases seeking to disqualify Mr. Marcos from the presidential election.
Akbayan, one of the plaintiffs, earlier asked the election body to disqualify the former lawmaker after a trial court convicted him of tax evasion in the 1990s. The case is on appeal with the Comelec full court.
The group’s petition was one of three consolidated lawsuits junked by the Comelec First Division, as it ruled that Mr. Marcos’s failure to file his tax returns in the 1980s did not involve wicked, deviant behavior.
The Second Division rejected a similar petition in January, which ruled that Mr. Marcos did not mislead the public when he said in his certificate of candidacy that he was eligible to run for president. The case is also on appeal with the en banc.
Martial law victims earlier asked Comelec to also resolve a similar lawsuit, noting that delaying the case could lead to complications, especially with the May 9 elections nearing.
The election body has reorganized its divisions after President Rodrigo R. Duterte appointed new members.
Newly appointed Comelec Chairman Saidamen B. Pangarungan last week said the en banc would fast-track the resolution of the lawsuits.
Akbayan also cited the Bureau of Internal Revenue’s confirmation that the Marcos family has yet to pay billions of pesos of estate and income taxes as an “urgent and compelling” reason to disqualify Mr. Marcos.
“The Comelec has no other recourse but to disqualify Bongbong Marcos,” the group wrote. “Its decision will go a long way in ensuring that the public not only chooses wisely, but that does so based on the rule of law and the integrity of our electoral democracy.”
Meanwhile, political analysts said Comelec should wrap up its investigation of a data breach involving Smartmatic SGO Group, the software contractor for this year’s automated elections, no later than April to preserve the integrity of the elections.
Last week, Senator “Imee” R. Marcos said Smartmatic data had been breached, which she said could compromise this year’s elections.
Some losing candidates might use this “ammunition” to claim fraud, said Hansley A. Juliano, a former political science professor studying at Nagoya University’s Graduate School of International Development in Japan.
“It would be best if Comelec and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) are wrapped up within the month or no later than April because we’re truly expecting the May 9 results to be hotly contested,” he said in a Facebook Messenger chat.
“It’s going to be rough for whoever wins — regardless if they win by a comfortable margin — since it will always cast a shadow throughout their tenure,” he added.
The Manila Bulletin in January reported on the hacking, which led to the investigation. Sensitive voter information might have been compromised after a group hacked the servers of Comelec, downloading more than 60 gigabytes of data, it said.
Comelec spokesman James B. Jimenez earlier said the Comelec system had not been hacked.
Ms. Marcos noted that despite the denial of the hacking, the media was right. It was reported that a Smartmatic employee had taken his laptop out, allowing a certain group to copy data. A hacking syndicate might have been involved, she added.
“This issue, if not resolved by the commission as early as possible, will have severe repercussions on people’s trust and confidence in Comelec,” Marlon M. Villarin, a political science professor from the University of Santo Tomas, said in a Viber message.
Election Commissioner George M. Garcia earlier said Comelec would wait for the NBI to send a full report to the agency.
Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III said that the Senate would collaborate with election and technical experts to investigate the security breaches.
“Considering that the campaign is already very bitterly contested, I don’t expect at least the Top 3 frontrunners to take that lying down come May 2022,” Mr. Juliano said.