VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Marcos camp distorts Comelec spox’s statement on ‘disqualification’ petition

The camp of presidential aspirant Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. made it appear that James Jimenez, spokesperson of the Commission on Elections (Comelec), said the petition to cancel the candidacy of the former senator on Nov. 2 has "no clear basis."

This is false and misleading. While Jimenez indeed uttered the phrase “no clear basis” in an interview, it was not in reference to the cancellation case.

STATEMENT

On the morning of Nov. 3, VERA Files received a press release emailed from the camp of Marcos Jr. titled “Comelec spox says ’no clear case’ for disqualification bid against Bongbong." The nine-paragraph press release began with:

“Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez on Wednesday said the disqualification case filed against Presidential aspirant Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr. has no clear basis.”

Source: Office of Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., COMELEC SPOX SAYS ‘NO CLEAR CASE’ FOR DISQUALIFICATION BID AGAINST BONGBONG, Nov. 3, 2021

It further said:

“Jimenez noted that in order to be disqualified, a candidate must have been convicted of a crime constituting ‘moral turpitude,’ or an offense with at least an 18-month jail term.

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

“‘He doesn’t meet this criteria. Right now there is no clear case for disqualification,’ Jimenez said in an interview with the media.

“Several groups and personalities with known ties to the Liberal Party (LP) on Tuesday submitted a petition with the poll body seeking to cancel or deny the Certificate of Candidacy (COC) of the former senator over supposed ‘false material representation’ stemming from a 1995 tax case.”

The press release is not on Marcos Jr.’s official website, but VERA Files got its copy from the same email address used by his media officers.

FACT

The press release twisted the statement of Jimenez from an interview that occurred on the morning of Nov. 2 — not Nov. 3 as claimed — hours before the petition to cancel or deny Marcos Jr.’s COC was filed, and which referred to another issue.

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The statement in the media release was lifted from a comment of Jimenez that was used in a Nov. 2 video report of One News PH. (See VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Comelec spox’s remark on ‘no clear case’ vs Bongbong Marcos NEEDS CONTEXT)

The next day, Jimenez posted in the Comelec reporters’ Viber group at 11:06 a.m. that the press release from the Marcos camp was “misleading” and that his statement was “not intended in any way as a comment on the current petition recently filed.” He clarified:

“The quote was referring to why Senator Marcos hadn’t yet been disqualified despite the fact of his conviction. The original quote should have been taken in the context of the fact that the Senator ran for VP (vice president) iIn 2016.”

Based on the transcript of the interview — conducted by News5/TV5 reporter Jen Calimon-Tan and which she shared in the Comelec reporters’ Viber group — Jimenez was, indeed, not commenting on a specific disqualification case:

“Calimon Tan: [A]bout BBM (Bongbong Marcos), sir, pwede ba s[i]yang ma-disqualify dahil sa (can he be disqualified due to his) conviction n[i]ya before on tax case?

‪Jimenez: “[U]nder the law, a conviction has to be for a crime committed under moral turpitude or for an offen[s]e and a sentence is a penalty of at least 18 months, it doesn’t meet this criteria so right now in order for him to be disqualified, as [retired Supreme Court associate] justice [Antonio] [C]arpio opined in his article, there has to be a finding that the crime for which he was convicted involves moral turpitude, right now it does not, because the Supreme Court said that it does not, so right now there is no clear case for disqualification[.]”

Source: Comelec reporters’ Viber group, Statement on the Marcos press release, Nov. 3, 2021 (11:21 a.m.)

Calimon-Tan told VERA Files Fact Check that the interview took place around 10 a.m. on Nov. 2. The petition to cancel Marcos Jr.'s COC was filed around six hours later, at 4:40 p.m. that same day, by a group of civic leaders led by priest Christian Buenafe of Task Force Detainees and Fides Lim of Kapatid.

In a Nov. 3 interview on the noontime news program of One News PH, Jimenez reiterated that his comment, as quoted by the Marcos camp, was made “before” the petition was filed against the presidential aspirant. The spokesperson added:

“[D]efinitely po ‘yung sinabi ko na ‘yun hindi dapat ikonsidera na komento doon sa finile na kaso pagkatapos kong sabihin ‘yun. (Definitely, my statement shouldn’t be considered as a comment on the case that was filed after I said that.)”

Petitioners cited as a ground for the cancellation of Marcos Jr.’s COC the alleged “false material representation” over his failure to disclose his conviction in 1995 due to non-payment of income tax from 1982 to 1985. (See Final decision to bar Bongbong Marcos in 2022 nat’l elections due to tax evasion is on SC – Carpio)

In a Nov. 4 television interview, Jimenez said Comelec, through either of its two divisions, is expected to resolve the petition by late December. If Comelec rules in favor of the petitioners, Marcos may appeal the decision in the Supreme Court, which will then have the final say on whether he could run as president or not.

Carpio, in an interview on One News PH’s The Chiefs on Oct. 29, said should such a decision come out after the elections, then the votes for Marcos Jr. “will be considered stray votes, void … as if hindi siya tumakbo (he didn’t run).”


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Sources

Office of Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., COMELEC SPOX SAYS ‘NO CLEAR CASE’ FOR DISQUALIFICATION BID AGAINST BONGBONG, Nov. 3, 2021

Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. official website, Press releases, Accessed Nov. 3, 2021

One News PH, Carpio files disqualification case vs. Marcos, Jr., Nov. 2, 2021

Comelec Viber group, Accessed Nov. 3, 2021

Personal communication with News5/TV5 reporter Jen Calimon-Tan, One News PH, About Us, Accessed Nov. 3, 2021

Kapatid, (names of petitioners), Nov. 3, 2021

Kapatid, (Copy of the petition), Nov. 3, 2021

Philippine News Agency, Photo of Comelec Spokesperson James Jimenez and Comelec Information and Education Department Director III Frances Arabe 76.jpg, May 13, 2019

CNN Philippines, Atty. Vic Rodriguez & Comelec spox James Jimenez | The Source, Nov. 4, 2021


(Guided by the code of principles of the International Fact-Checking Network at Poynter, VERA Files tracks the false claims, flip-flops, misleading statements of public officials and figures, and debunks them with factual evidence. Find out more about this initiative and our methodology.)

FOR FURTHER READING

VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Carpio did NOT file disqualification petition vs. Marcos Jr.

Contrary to a report by One News, a television news channel under cable provider Cignal TV, retired…

VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Comelec spox’s remark on ‘no clear case’ vs Bongbong Marcos NEEDS CONTEXT

Jimenez made the statement hours before a group of civil society actors filed the petition.

VERA FILES FACT SHEET: Understanding the petitions against candidates in the 2022 polls

The official campaign period has not started, but presidential aspirant Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos…

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