MANILA — The Philippines Commission on Elections on Monday threw out a petition to disqualify Ferdinand Marcos Jr. from the May presidential election, one of several efforts to keep the son of the former dictator, Ferdinand E. Marcos, off the ballot.
The petitioners claimed that the younger Mr. Marcos was not fit to run for president because he had earlier been convicted by a local court for failing to file his tax returns in the 1980s. But the election officials ruled that past convictions did not keep him perpetually barred from seeking office.
According to various surveys, Mr. Marcos is leading in the race despite several groups seeking to quash his candidacy. He is campaigning with Sara Duterte, daughter of the current president Rodrigo Duterte, as his de facto running mate.
Mr. Marcos, 64, popularly known as Bongbong, has previously been a governor, a congressman and a senator in the Philippines. In 2016, he ran unsuccessfully for vice president.
Victims who suffered under his father’s brutal regime say the presidential bid is meant to sanitize the Marcos family name after decades of violence and corruption.
The Marcos campaign called the efforts to eliminate his candidacy “frivolous” and unconstitutional.
“We thank the Commission on Elections for upholding the law and the right of every bona fide candidate, like Bongbong Marcos, to run for public office, free from any form 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 rule in their favor on the other, pending petitions, even though they all cite the same tax conviction.
The Marcos dictatorship ruled the Philippines with an iron fist for two decades, during which the regime is believed to have plundered the state treasury of about $10 billion dollars. A popular uprising toppled the dictator in 1986, sending 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 highly divisive figure at 92. Imee Marcos, one of her daughters, won a Senate seat in 2019. The Marcoses helped bankroll Mr. Duterte’s candidacy in the 2016 presidential election.
Bonifacio Ilagan, 70, who as a student activist in the 1970s was jailed and tortured by Marcos forces, helped write of one of the petitions that is still pending. “An absolute disaster,” he said of allowing Mr. Marcos to run. Mr. Ilagan said that 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 feed false narratives to our electorate, 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, though it would most likely be a waste of time.
“His immense popularity may be the reason for him being an untouchable,” he said.