Marcos clears major hurdle in Philippine presidency bid

Philippine presidential candidate Ferdinand Marcos Jr delivers his speech for the 2022 presidential election in Bulacan province, on Feb 8, 2022. PHOTO: REUTERS

MANILA (AFP) - The son and namesake of former dictator Ferdinand Marcos cleared a major obstacle on Thursday (Feb 10) in his bid to become the next Philippine president when the government's election body refused to disqualify him over a decades-old tax conviction.

The ruling by the Commission on Elections came two days after candidates hit the campaign trail with polls showing Mr Ferdinand Marcos Jr, popularly known as Bongbong, headed for a landslide victory in the May 9 vote.

Opposition figures and torture victims during the Marcos regime had asked the commission to exclude the younger Mr Marcos, 64, from the ballot due to his 1995 conviction for failing to pay taxes and file income tax returns from 1982 to 1985.

But the three petitions "have been dismissed for lack of merit", commission spokesman James Jimenez said in a tweet. The move clears a path for Mr Marcos Jr to potentially succeed Mr Rodrigo Duterte and return the Marcos clan to Malacanang Palace.

The clan fled to Hawaii in 1986 after a bloodless popular revolt ended a 20-year rule marked by allegations of widespread human rights abuses and embezzlement of billions of dollars from state coffers.

The family returned to the Philippines in the 1990s and began to revive their political fortune.

Mr Marcos Jr narrowly lost the vice-presidential contest in 2016 after winning a single six-year term in the Senate. He had earlier been elected a provincial governor and congressman.

Boosted by a massive social media campaign and a formidable alliance with first daughter and vice-presidential candidate Sara Duterte, Mr Marcos Jr has a huge lead over his nearest rival and nemesis, Vice-President Leni Robredo, in recent voter surveys.

Other contenders include Manila mayor and former actor Francisco "Isko Moreno" Domagoso and retired boxing legend Manny Pacquiao.

The Court of Appeals upheld Mr Marcos Jr's conviction in 1997 but removed the jail sentence.

The battle to have Mr Marcos Jr disqualified, however, is not over.

Petitioners can appeal Thursday's ruling to the full bench of the elections commission and the Supreme Court.

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