Commentary PHL Vote 2022

Netizens make fun of Marcos Jr.’s lame excuses for skipping Comelec hearing

The runaway winner in the surveys for preferred presidential candidates in the May elections has become the butt of jokes in the past few days because of his absence in last Friday’s preliminary conference on a disqualification case against him at the Commission on Elections (Comelec).

Hanna Barcena, a lawyer for Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., told the poll body’s first division, chaired by Commissioner Rowena Guanzon, that the ex-senator could not join the proceedings even online because, “He might cause the spread of the virus.”

The hearing was delayed by several minutes as Guanzon asked the camp of Marcos, the standard-bearer of the little-known Partido Federal ng Pilipinas, to present a medical certificate “to prove he is not well; hence, he is absent.”

During the conference, which was on livestreaming, Guanzon could not hide her frustration over Marcos Jr.’s absence. “He is sick, okay… where is his medical certificate?… Why was it hard for [former] senator Marcos to go on video? He can do that on his phone.”

Barcena replied that a physician saw Marcos Jr. the previous day and that his camp would be issuing a medical certificate within the day. At the end of the meeting, a virtual copy of a medical certificate was shown, which indicated that the presidential aspirant had a low-grade fever and sore throat.

This put some creative minds to work. One of the jokes was on Marcos Jr.’s campaign slogan. “Babangon Muli ang slogan pero hindi makabangon para mag-Zoom (The slogan is ‘Will Rise Again’ but [he] can’t get up for Zoom [meeting]).”

Others jested about a new COVID-19 variant that can be transmitted through visual tools and it’s called “Bongbongicron,” a play on Omicron, the currently dominant COVID-19 variant that has been infecting thousands of people with mild symptoms every day.

Yet another said the new variant may be termed “ZOOMicron,” to refer to Marcos Jr.’s unavailability to join the proceedings via the videoconferencing application.

Some posted captioned photos showing the late president Elpidio Quirino on one side, saying that he delivered his second State of the Nation Address from his hospital bed in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1950, and Marcos Jr. on the other, saying he cannot be on Zoom because “he might cause the spread of the virus.”

According to the medical certificate signed by his attending physician, Benedict Francis Valdecañas, Marcos Jr. was “presenting with body malaise, febrile episodes and difficulty in speaking due to a painfully congested throat” when he saw him at 10 a.m. on Thursday, Jan. 6. His temperature was at 37.8 degrees Celsius, indicating mild fever and that his throat was “hyperemic and swollen.”

His camp said the late dictator’s son was in isolation after being exposed to two persons who tested positive for COVID-19 — his chief security and his spokesperson, lawyer Vic Rodriguez.

Some netizens said Marcos Jr.’s absence showed disrespect for the Comelec, which required his presence at the proceedings. Genesis Gatdula, a clerk of the Comelec commissioner, said the summons issued on Dec. 29 required the counsel and the parties to participate in the proceedings.

The Marcos camp submitted a medical certificate only after Guanzon asked for one.

Others posted on social media that Marcos Jr.’s lawyer gave a lame excuse for his absence at an important part of the Comelec hearing on a petition to disqualify the former senator as a candidate for president in the upcoming elections.

On Sunday, some netizens shared a video streaming of Marcos Jr. being interviewed on DZME radio and he talked lengthily from 4:45 to 5:25 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 6. He didn’t seem to have a problem talking.

After a video of the interview circulated, the Marcos camp now claims that his condition started getting worse.

Rodriguez issued a statement that Marcos Jr. was told to isolate himself only on the morning of Jan. 7 when the Comelec hearing took place “because his condition worsened.”

The spokesperson said the presidential contender was already feeling unwell the day before, but opted to proceed with the scheduled interview on DZME which “exacerbated his condition.”

It may be true that Marcos Jr. wasn’t feeling well to be physically present at the Comelec, but he should have had the courtesy to give notice through his lawyer, or have a medical certificate ready. Or, as Guanzon suggested, he could have joined virtually just to have his attendance recorded and leave the speaking to his lawyers.

Guanzon now wants the camp of Marcos Jr. to submit a notarized medical certificate to justify his absence in the hearing last Friday.

“So why didn’t his lead lawyer submit a medical certificate dated Jan 6 if this is true? I will order the doctor and Atty Rodriguez to show cause or require his physician to have his medical certificate notarized,” Guanzon tweeted at 7:16 a.m. on Monday.

What’s disturbing is that Marcos Jr. and his camp are making us all look stupid to believe their excuses. He appears quite confident that he would hurdle the disqualification petitions.

Sadly, many of those who support his candidacy don’t seem to consider honesty, integrity and transparency in choosing a candidate for the country’s top post and don’t take the questions on his qualifications seriously.

I know of a 9-year-old girl who tested positive for COVID-19 but who still attended her online classes even when she was incessantly coughing and sneezing. She still wore her school uniform and put on a face mask while intently listening to her teacher and participating in all class activities.

Well, that pupil isn’t a brat and she’s not running for president.

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.