Feisty Commissioner Rowena Guanzon retired on Feb. 2 after serving in the Commission on Elections (Comelec) for seven years.

Dilly-dallying Commissioner Aimee Ferolino was not expected to release her “ponencia” on the disqualification petitions against Ferdinand Marcos Jr. before Guanzon retired.

If she did, she would have given in to the pressures of the more senior commissioner. It would never happen.

The delays in the decision raised more questions and created uncertainty. While the petitions are pending, Marcos will be allowed to campaign for president in the May 2022 elections.

One question arises: How soon can the Comelec’s first division promulgate its decision on the consolidated disqualification petitions against Marcos?

Of course, the division will wait for a third member before it can make a decision. Who will be the third member? Will another commissioner from the second division slide to the first division or will it wait for President Rodrigo Duterte to appoint a new commissioner?

Three Comelec members, including its chairman, will retire in February. Can the president fill up all three vacant positions before the elections?

In case the president replaces three retiring Comelec officials, can they participate in any deliberation on issues brought to the poll body even if they are not confirmed by the Commission on Appointments?

Congress is now in recess and will resume session after the elections. How would all three appointees get confirmed before the elections?

Assuming all new Comelec appointees are allowed to carry out their functions without the confirmation of Congress, it will take some time for the first division to make a decision on the cases because the third member will likely ask for 10 days to study the petitions.

The 10-day rule is not written in stone. Most cases are resolved past the 10-day deadline. Commissioner Ferolino has taken more than 10 days to issue her ponencia after the records were submitted on Jan. 14. In short, there were already delays even if she denies them.

Most election lawyers believed the decision on the petitions could be released by the end of February, going up to the Comelec en banc for final decision.

Under its own rules, the Comelec has 15 days to resolve all cases before the May 9 balloting. It is uncertain if the Marcos cases in both the first and second divisions will drag on until the middle of April.

The credibility of the election commission as an institution and its members will be put into serious doubt if the cases get delayed until April.

Guanzon has insinuated that some “political forces” have been trying to interfere in the process by delaying the first division’s decision on the disqualification cases.

Because Guanzon left the Comelec on Feb. 2, her vote on the Marcos cases would no longer be counted based on a 2001 Supreme Court ruling.

She said the “political forces” were trying to ensure a clean sweep, a 3-0 vote dismissing the petitions, to allow the only son and namesake of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos to run for president in the May 2022 elections.

The petitioners can motion for a reconsideration and elevate the petitions to the Comelec en banc, meaning it will be decided by the seven-member poll body.

Regardless of the Comelec decision, the cases will be elevated to the Supreme Court so the high tribunal can decide once and for all if Marcos is allowed to seek public office even after he was convicted for non-filing of his income tax returns from 1982 to 1985.

How fast can the Supreme Court resolve the case? Can the court make a decision before the election on May 9 or before a winner in the election is proclaimed by Congress?

Considering that Marcos is way ahead of his rivals in opinion polls, he may well be the next president. His running mate, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, may well be elected vice president because of her high voter preference in the surveys.

But an adverse decision by the Supreme Court could throw a monkey wrench into a Marcos election victory. If he wins the balloting but is disqualified by the Supreme Court before he is proclaimed by Congress, the winning vice president will sit as president. In this case, there’s a good chance Sara will become president.

Can the court make an adverse decision against Marcos? It has previously ruled against the Marcos family and totally ignored the uproar against an unpopular decision.

There are speculations the supporters of Marcos will rise up if he is disqualified by the Comelec or by the Supreme Court, fueling unrest seen in 2001 during the “EDSA 3” mayhem.

But worse things had happened due to unpopular court decisions. A faction of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) ran amok during the Arroyo administration after the Supreme Court junked the ancestral domain deal in 2008. It led to bloody and violent conflicts in the Maguindanao and Lanao provinces.

If the court decides to disqualify Marcos before May 9, he can be replaced by another Marcos — his sister Senator Imee, his wife, or any of his sons.

But Sara cannot replace him and will stay as a candidate for vice president.

If the court decision comes after Marcos is proclaimed president, it may rule the petition as moot because the people have spoken through the ballot.

President Duterte still plays a very important role. He has full control of both the election commission and the high court, filling all vacant positions with his appointees.

Delaying the Comelec decision and allowing the court to decide on the fate of Marcos favored Duterte and could actually help him make his daughter the next president.

Some people in the president’s political circles claimed this is actually Duterte’s game plan to hold on to power after June 2022.

He did not endorse any presidential candidate because he was unsure they could protect him when he’s out of power. He only trusts his own daughter to protect him from lawsuits, including from the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity because of the thousands killed in his centerpiece program, the war on drugs.

Duterte is a brilliant politician. He did this in 2016, coming from behind to win the election. He can still steal the elections, installing his daughter through a complicated process and continue to hold on to power.