In a statement on Tuesday, economic think tank Action for Economic Reforms (AER) joined the call to cancel Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s Certificate of Candidacy for the 2022 presidential elections on the grounds of false material representation in violation of the Omnibus Election Code.

AER noted that Marcos Jr. violated his father’s Presidential Decree No. 1994, which states that conviction of a crime penalized under the National Internal Revenue Code “includes the accessory penalty of perpetual disqualification from holding any public office.” 

“The law is clear — Ferdinand Marcos Jr. should not be able to run for President if he has been convicted for tax evasion and misrepresented himself on his Certificate of Candidacy,” AER said. “Public office is a public trust. Marcos Jr. has proven, time and time again, that he cannot be trusted to tell the truth, much less run our country.”

The group pointed out that while even the poorest Filipinos pay taxes, Marcos Jr., whose family has amassed billions of ill-gotten wealth over the years, failed to file his income tax returns for five consecutive years.

Through the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Act of 2017 and succeeding regulations, the government has set harsher penalties and fines on those found guilty of tax evasion.

“We strongly oppose the double standard and selective application of the law. Why should a convicted tax evader be allowed to run for the highest position in the land when political prisoners with trumped-up cases die in jail?” said Fides Lim, fellow of AER and spokesperson of Kapatid – Families of Political Prisoners, one of the groups which petitioned the cancellation of Marcos Jr.’s COC last November 2.

“We no longer live under the Marcos dictatorship and despite what he thinks, Marcos Jr. is not above the law,” the group said.

“Letting Marcos Jr. get away with tax evasion would erode the credibility of the government’s tax compliance and reform program, and would signal to Filipinos that tax evasion is acceptable,” said AER, a group which has been advocating tax reforms since its founding in 1996.