THE Supreme Court (SC) denied with finality Tuesday a petition filed by a group of lawyers and magistrates seeking the disqualification of former President Joseph Estrada from joining the May polls.

Court spokesman Jose Midas Marquez said the ruling affirming its December 8, 2009 was reached following the SC’s en banc session.

Click here for stories and updates on the Sinulog 2010 Festival.

“The petition is denied with finality, there being no substantive argument raised in the motion for reconsideration of petitioners,” Marquez said.

The Vanguards of the Philippine Constitution Inc. (VPCI), represented by its president lawyer Eligio Mallari, filed the petition asking the SC to order that Estrada’s certificate of candidacy filed at the Commission on Elections (Comelec) on November 30, 2009 be immediately expunged from the records, so that his name may not be printed in the list of candidates for President.

Petitioners said Estrada, being a former president, is prohibited under the 1987 Constitution from seeking reelection.

Vanguard noted that under Section 4, Article VII of the Constitution, the prohibition for any person who had been elected President of the Philippines to seek reelection is clear and without exceptions.

“Thus, it does not matter whether the one seeking for a reelection is the immediate outgoing elected President or an elected President who had served as such by virtue of previous elections. This provision admits no other qualification,” he said.

The petition argued that even if Estrada had not been convicted and subsequently been pardoned by President Arroyo, he is still disqualified to run for re-election.

Petitioners further said that the pardon, although it had restored his civil and political rights, would entitle him to exercise his political rights, such as the right to vote, but not to be voted upon by virtue of his self-imposed condition under the same pardon.

The group was referring to the “whereas” clauses in Estrada’s pardon, which stated that he “has publicly committed to no longer seek any elective position or office.”

In junking the petition, the high court said the issues raised by Vanguards are premature, considering that it should have first been lodged at the Comelec, which has expertise and should have first jurisdiction to hear cases involving disqualification of candidates.

Estrada, elected President after the 1998 presidential polls, was ousted after only two years in office and the impeachment proceedings against him. The SC had considered him as having resigned from his post that enabled then Vice President Arroyo to take over as President.

He was likewise charged and convicted of plunder by the Sandiganbayan and was imposed the penalty of reclusion perpetua or life sentence.

On October 25, 2007, Estrada was granted conditional pardon by Arroyo, but on November 30, filed his COC, despite the constitutional prohibition for him to run for the same post as well as his commitment in the pardon granted to him.

Estrada has filed his candidacy to run for the top post in the 2010 polls in his bid to continue his presidency, which has been cut short following the mounting calls for his resignation during the Edsa 2 People Power revolution. (JCV/Sunnex)