Commentary PHL Vote 2022

Disunity in Marcos Jr.’s party calls into question his leadership competence

With six petitions filed with the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to thwart his presidential bid in 2022, former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. has yet to speak up and clear his name of the allegations against him. He has been leaving the talking to his spokesperson and his adoptive political party, the Partido Federal ng Pilipinas (PFP).

The sixth petition, filed on Thursday by a group claiming to be the real officers of PFP, questions the certificate of nomination and acceptance (CONA) issued to Marcos Jr., saying it is “unauthorized, unilateral and illegal” because he does not belong to the group.

Abubakar Mangelen, a commissioner at the National Commission for Muslim Filipinos, is seeking the disqualification of Marcos Jr. on the basis of his CONA, which he described as “unauthorized, defective, invalid and void.”

The filing of the petition reveals disunity in the party now chaired by Marcos Jr. Mangelen claims to be the duly elected chairman of the PFP. But according to retired police general Thompson Lantion, secretary general of PFP, Mangelen was unseated as chairman during the party’s convention last Sept. 18, when the party endorsed Marcos Jr. as its presidential candidate.

Lantion dismissed the petition as a mere “publicity stunt of a disgraced former member,” Mangelen.

Mangelen was not an ordinary member of PFP. He was its chairman until Marcos Jr. was given the position on a silver platter on Oct. 5, the day before the former senator filed his certificate of candidacy for president.

PFP claims a membership of 1.5 million. Its founder, former agrarian reform secretary John Castriciones, jumped ship to Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban), another fractious party, last October to run for senator in 2022.

If Marcos Jr. wins the 2022 election and this is how they will run the country, then we are in big trouble. Keeping silent on allegations, which includes a conviction for tax evasion over his failure to file his income tax returns (ITRs) from 1982 to 1985 when he was vice governor and then governor of Ilocos Norte, and taking over a position undemocratically left vacant, are certainly not among the good qualities of a responsible leader.

Marcos Jr. has been hounded by accusations involving issues of trust, honesty, integrity and credibility, which are crucial in good governance.

He said he is running on a platform of consolidation and unity. While he has been able to consolidate the parties of former presidents Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and Joseph Estrada, former senators Juan Ponce Enrile and the late Miriam Defensor Santiago, the Mangelen petition in the Comelec poses the first challenge to him of uniting the factions in his own adoptive party.

How can he unite a country that is heavily divided by politics if he will just dismiss serious allegations leveled against him as part of the efforts to block his presidential bid? How can he provide credible leadership of a nation when his own little known young party could easily unseat its chairman and he conveniently takes over to push his candidacy?

Regarding his deficiency taxes and penalties from the non-filing of his ITRs from 1982 to 1985, Marcos Jr. could easily prove his critics wrong and put the issue to rest by presenting an official receipt and certification of payment to the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR). But he has chosen to keep quiet.

The Quezon City Regional Trial Court, which convicted him on the case, issued a certification last Friday that “there is no record on file of [the] compliance of payment or satisfaction” of the 1997 ruling of the Court of Appeals (CA), upholding the trial court verdict of guilty beyond reasonable doubt for violation of the Internal Revenue Code.

The 24-year-old tax case was the basis cited by some groups that have petitioned the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to cancel Marcos Jr.’s certificate of candidacy for president in next year’s elections.

The CA ordered Marcos Jr. in 1997 to pay his deficiency taxes to the BIR and imposed on him a fine of P36,000 plus surcharges as penalty.

Last weekend, a photocopy of a Land Bank receipt in the name of “Marcos Jr. Ferdinand” and dated Dec. 27, 2001 was circulating on social media and private chat groups. It was accompanied by a letter to the BIR dated Jan. 4, 2001, indicating that Marcos Jr. paid P67,137. 27, representing his “complete and full satisfaction” of his tax liabilities… pursuant to the Oct. 31, 1997 decision of the CA.

Some netizens noted the date of the letter, an erasure in the date on the receipt, as well as the indication in the receipt that the “nature of collection” was for “lease rental.”

If the receipt is genuine, Marcos Jr. should seize the opportunity to prove his detractors wrong and put the issue to rest. It will be a slap in the face of those who assert that he has not paid his tax deficiencies.

But if he has not paid, former Supreme Court associate justice Antonio Carpio said that means Marcos Jr. “has not served his sentence… which means that his disqualification continues, because the disqualification is removed only after five years from service of sentence.”

The views in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of VERA Files.

This column also appeared in The Manila Times.