MANILA - The Philippine Electoral Commission on Monday dropped a petition to disqualify Ferdinand Marcos Jr. from the presidential election in May, one of several efforts to keep the son of former dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos away from the ballot.
The petitioners argued that the younger Mr Marcos was not suitable to run for president because he had previously been convicted by a local court for failing to file his tax returns in the 1980s. But election officials ruled that previous convictions did not keep him forever barred from running for office.
According to various studies, Mr Marcos is leading the race despite several groups seeking to revoke his candidacy. He is campaigning with Sara Duterte, daughter of current President Rodrigo Duterte, as his de facto deputy.
Mr. Marcos, 64, popularly known as Bongbong, has previously served as governor, congressman and senator in the Philippines. In 2016, he unsuccessfully ran for vice president.
Victims who suffered under his father's brutal regime say the president's bid is intended to purge the Marcos family name after decades of violence and corruption.
The Marcos campaign called the efforts to eliminate his candidacy "easy-going" and unconstitutional.
"We thank the Electoral Commission for upholding the law and the right of any bona fide candidate, such as Bongbong Marcos, to run for public office, free from all forms of harassment and discrimination," said Vic Rodriguez, a spokesman for Mr Marcos. . .
Opponents criticized the commission's decision, but said they hoped election officials would take a stand in their favor on the second, pending petition, even though they all cite the same tax ruling.
The Marcos dictatorship ruled the Philippines with an iron fist for two decades, with the regime believed to have looted the treasury for about $ 10 billion. A popular uprising overthrew the dictator in 1986 and sent the family into exile in Hawaii, where Ferdinand E. Marcos died three years later.
The family was later allowed to return to the Philippines, where it has slowly rebuilt its political base. Imelda Marcos, the matriarch, remains a very divisive figure at 92. Imee Marcos, one of her daughters, won a Senate seat in 2019. The Marcos family helped oust Mr. Duterte's candidacy in the 2016 presidential election.
Bonifacio Ilagan, 70, who as a student activist in the 1970s was imprisoned and tortured by Marcos forces, helped write one of the petitions still pending. "An absolute disaster," he said of allowing Mr Marcos to run. Mr. Ilagan said his younger sister was also arrested by the Marcos regime and that her body remains missing to this day.
"Time has been on their side and social media has allowed them to give false stories to our constituents, the majority of whom are young and have never experienced martial law," he said.
Chester Cabalza, an analyst at the International Development and Security Cooperation in Manila, said petitioners against Mr Marcos could take their case to the Supreme Court, even though it would most likely be a waste of time.
"His immense popularity may be the reason he is a untouchable," he said.