PALACIO del Gobernador, where the Comelec holds office — PATRICK ROQUE

DELAYS in lawsuits seeking to disqualify the son and namesake of the late dictator’s son Ferdinand E. Marcos from the presidential race could add to public distrust of the country’s election body, according to its former chief.

“They should know that when they drag their feet on an urgent issue like this, they lose credibility,” former Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Christian S. Monsod told the ABS-CBN News Channel on Wednesday.

Last week, a group of martial law victims led by Mr. Monsod asked Comelec to resolve a pending case seeking to bar former Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos, Jr. from the presidential race after he was convicted for tax evasion in the 1990s.

They said delaying the case could lead to complications, especially with the May 9 elections approaching.

The plaintiffs also cited a Comelec order issued on Feb. 23, which says that it must resolve pending cases within 45 days after a commissioner retires.

“We are worried that the people will still be anxious to find out what exactly is the situation of candidate Bongbong Marcos, and the Supreme Court may not have time because of the delay,” Mr. Monsod said.

Election Commissioner Socorro B. Inting earlier said all cases would be resolved before May 9.

“The statement of the Comelec was that they will make the decision before elections,” Mr. Monsod said. “That is terrible for them to take that long to make a decision on an urgent case involving the qualifications of a candidate.”

The Comelec Second Division dismissed a similar lawsuit in January, as it ruled 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 on appeal with the Comelec en banc.

The First Division last month rejected three consolidated lawsuits seeking to disqualify Mr. Marcos from running for president this year, saying his failure to file tax returns in the 1980s did not involve wicked, deviant behavior. The case is also on appeal with the Comelec en banc.

Mr. Monsod said people should give newly appointed commissioners a chance. “It’s too early to judge them. I believe that the Comelec bureaucracy will deliver fair and credible elections.”

Meanwhile newly appointed Comelec Chairman Saidamen B. Pangarungan on Wednesday vowed to be a “defender of democracy.”

“The sanctity of the vote shall be our guiding principle and I am confident my fellow commissioners will work with me in elevating the level of integrity of this commission,” he said at a welcome ceremony streamed live on Facebook.

Also on Wednesday, Senator Imee R. Marcos cited “major electoral security threats” that surfaced during a Senate hearing, “which magnified fears cheating would take place in the May elections.”

“Government agencies involved in the coming elections diverged from or could no longer implement electoral security checks that had been agreed on,” the senator, who presided over the hearing, said in a statement.

Marcos Jr.’s sister said Comelec had prohibited political party representatives, nongovernmental groups and the public from monitoring the configuration of SD cards at the technical hub in Santa Rosa, Laguna.

“The Comelec has already configured all the SD cards for Mindanao to Region 4, in total absence of witnesses,” she said. Only the SD cards for three regions remained to be processed.

“We all know that SD cards have been the rabbit pulled out of the cheating hat in past elections,” she added.

She also cited the same lack of transparency at the National Printing Office, which printed 66% of the ballots for the May elections without being monitored. “All this in deep, dark secrecy? There’s a law being violated here,” she said.  John Victor D. Ordoñez and Alyssa Nicole O. Tan

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