Convicted but running? Group blasts 'double standard' in Bongbong presidential run

Benise Balaoing, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 03 2021 12:26 PM | Updated as of Nov 04 2021 03:40 PM

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MANILA (2nd UPDATE) — Allowing Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. to run for president next year even after he was convicted of tax evasion shows the country’s "double standards", a group opposing his bid said Wednesday.

“The issue here is about a high crime. It’s about open wounds ‘no, which have never healed because every government that we have had has looked the other way when it comes to the Marcos family,” KAPATID spokesperson Fides Lim said in an ANC interview. 

“So the issue here ‘no, what kind of people are we? That we forget our past, instead of going after the true felons, the true criminals, and they are not the political prisoners, which are why this issue is very important to us.”

KAPATID--a support group for families and friends of political prisoners in the Philippines—is one of the groups that questioned Marcos Jr.'s eligibility to run for the country's top job before the Commission on Elections (Comelec) Tuesday, citing his conviction of tax evasion. 

Marcos Jr. was convicted of tax evasion in 1995 for failure to file mandatory income tax returns from 1982 to 1985. The Court of Appeals reduced his penalty to a mere fine in 1997.

His conviction became final in 2001, when he withdrew his appeal to the Supreme Court. 

Under section 252 of the 1977 National Internal Revenue Code (old Tax Code), if the offender who committed a crime is a public officer, he/she shall be “perpetually disqualified from holding any public office,” from voting or from participating in any elections. 

At the time Marcos Jr.'s conviction became final, he was governor of Ilocos Norte, a post he held from June 1998 to June 2007.

He was later elected as Senator, and then ran for Vice President but lost in 2016.

Lim’s husband, Vic Ladlad, was a victim of human rights abuses when martial law was imposed by Marcos' father.

“It is people, it is the family, particularly of the Marcoses, represented now by Bongbong who has violated, willfully, deliberately, every standard and every law,” Lim said.

“And when he swore, he took an oath, he filed that certificate of candidacy, that he had never been convicted by final judgment when [it] turns out, he already knew, from 1995, 1997 which was upheld by the Court of Appeals, from the decision of the Regional Trial court to the Court of Appeals, he was already convicted by final judgment.”

“What we have in essence is the practice of selective justice. It’s the practice of double standard, why the son of a late president, his namesake, is being allowed to run although he has been convicted of violating laws, particularly the National Internal Revenue Code,” Lim said.

“Why do we have this kind of system which allows selective justice, the implementation of double standard? That you have a family, they are actually a social cancer, they [are] an open, festering wound which refuses to heal because the government repeatedly has not faced up to make them liable, responsible for their crimes.”

“And this same family, him, Bongbong Marcos, has never asked for forgiveness,” she added.

Lim said they filed the case because the stakes are high for the country in the 2022 elections.

“For one thing, the issue at stake is very high. We are facing an election crisis actually with the very narrow limited field of deserving candidates and we feel that the most undeserving in particular is Bongbong Marcos,” she said.

Ellecer “Budit” Carlos of the Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates said the petition they filed before Comelec is important because the Marcos era economic policies set back the country’s development.

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“Hindi pa nagsasauli nung kanilang ninakaw na yaman ang mga Marcoses. Wala pang apology doon sa ginawa nilang massive human rights violations at damage to our economy, at siyempre paglubog sa atin ng mabigat na utang,” he said.

“Yung debt crisis natin ay dahil dito mga Marcoses, kaya mahalaga na hadlangan ang kanilang pagbabalik sa kapangyarihan,” he added.

Marcos camp responds

Marcos Jr.’s spokesperson, Atty, Vic Rodriguez, said they will respond to the “predictable nuisance petition” filed before the Comelec once they get its official copy.

“Until then, we will refrain from commenting on their propaganda. Our camp does not engage in gutter politics. Our campaign is about nation building,” he said in a statement.

Marcos Jr.’s fellow presidential aspirant Sen. Panfilo Lacson, meanwhile, has also spoken up on the petition.

“Noong mabasa ko ito tungkol doon, ang unang tanong na pumasok sa isip ko, may final conviction ba ito?” he said in a radio interview. 

He declined to comment further, reiterating his and his running-mate Senator Vicente “Tito” Sotto III’s position not to comment on issues involving their competitors in the race.

“Sa kampanyang ito, hindi na namin pakikialaman ang aming katunggali. Ang iaalay na lang namin, ang sarili namin, ano iyong aming magagawa, ano ang mga plano namin, ano ang mga kongkretong plano at ito’y ilalahad namin sa mga fora,” Lacson said.

Sen. Ronald "Bato" dela Rosa, meanwhile, said opposing groups can show their dislike of Marcos through means other than a petition.

"Sana hindi siya ma-deprive kasi sayang naman iyong tiyansa niya. Iyong mga supporters niya, umaasa ang supporters niya sa kaniyang pagtakbo," Dela Rosa said.

(I hope he is not deprived of the chance. His supporters are banking on him.) 

"Sana doon na lang nila ipakita sa balota ang iyong disagreement or dislike sa kanya. Kung anong gusto ninyo gawin, doon sa balota para lalabas ang totoong mandate ng taumbayan,” he added.

(You can show your disagreement with or dislike of him in the ballot. Whatever your position is, show it in the ballot so that the true mandate of the people will be known.)

“Ang sasabihin nila, ‘Ikaw, nanalo ka dahil na-disqualify si Sen. Bongbong Marcos’, parang winner ka by default. Without a good fight, nanalo ka. Hindi maganda iyon. So pagbigyan sana."

(People will say that a certain candidate won only because Sen. Bongbong Marcos was disqualified. That candidate became a winner by default. Without a good fight, you won. That's not nice. So, I hope he is given the chance to run.)

Dela Rosa noted, however, that the law must still prevail in cases like this.

"Let the law prevail. Kung ano nakalagay sa batas, iyon ang dapat. Mangibabaw ang batas. Sundin natin," he said.

(Whatever the law says, it should be followed.)

Dela Rosa said last month that the late President Marcos did many good things for the country, adding the Philippines was "leading by all indicators" when the dictator was ousted in 1986 despite economic data showing otherwise.

On the other hand, Partido Lakas ng Masa presidential aspirant Leody De Guzman said authorities should not let Marcos slide and run anew for public office.

“Bagama’t ang pagtalo kay BBM sa eleksyon ang tutuldok na kailanman ay ‘di makakabalik ang pamilyang Marcos sa Malacañang, hindi tama na palampasin muli ang paulit-ulit niyang panloloko sa mamamayan,” De Guzman said in series of tweets.

(Although the defeat of BBM in the election will finally seal the fate of the Marcos family for them not to return to Malacañang, it is not right to ignore his repeated deception of the people.)

“Klaro ang batas sa pagbabawal sa kanyang tumakbo sa halalan. Nasa Comelec ang pagpapasiya kung ipapatupad nila ito nang walang pagtatangi. Si Marcos ay nahatulan at naparusahan sa paglabag ng Internal Revenue Code,” he added.

(The law banning him from running in the election is clear. It is up to the Comelec to decide whether they will implement it indiscriminately. Marcos was convicted and penalized for violating the Internal Revenue Code.)

The labor leader reiterated the call to end political dynasties and change the country’s electoral system. 

“Kailangang baguhin ang sistemang elektoral. Walang puwang dapat ibigay sa mga magnanakaw at mamamatay-tao. Ipatupad rin ang Konstitusyunal na probisyon laban sa mga political dynasty. Hindi totoo ang demokrasya kung may mga angkan na may monopolyo sa kapangyarihang pampulitika.”

(The electoral system needs to change. No space should be given to thieves and murderers. Also, implement the Constitutional provision against political dynasties. Democracy is not genuine if there are clans monopolizing political power.)

Aside from citing Marcos, Jr's tax evasion conviction, the petitioners also argued that his supposed repeated failure to file his income tax returns and the failure to pay estate taxes initially amounting to P23 billion (now P203.8 billion) are crimes involving moral turpitude, supposedly rendering him ineligible to hold public office.

Moral turpitude refers to an "act of baseness, vileness, or depravity in the private duties..." and "encompasses everything which is done contrary to justice, honesty, or good morals."

Section 12 of the Omnibus Election Code considers conviction for a crime involving moral turpitude a ground for disqualifying a person from running, unless pardoned or granted amnesty.

The estate taxes were due upon the death of his father, the dictator Ferdinand Marcos, Sr., in Hawaii in 1989.

Marcos Jr. acted as both heir to the estate of Marcos Sr. and as the court-appointed administrator.

“[T]he heirs of the late corrupt dictator, President Marcos, Sr., particularly his son, respondent Marcos Jr.’s continuous and unjustified refusal to pay the massive estate taxes due on the estate of the late corrupt dictator, coupled with his previous convictions for similarly violating the 1977 NIRC, as ruled in CA-G.R. CR No. 18569, betrays his willful evasion of his duty to the society to file his tax returns, and more importantly, to pay his taxes. Clearly this repeated evasion of his positive duty to the society equates to moral turpitude,” the petitioners said.

A third ground was also raised by the petitioners against Marcos: the tax evasion conviction carried with it a mandatory penalty of more than 18 months jail time which is a ground for disqualifying him from running for any public office under the Omnibus Election Code.

The petitioners argued it was improper for the CA to impose only a fine since the old Tax Code clearly imposed both fines and jail time.

Lastly, they claimed that Marcos "falsely declared under oath that he is eligible for the office he seeks to be elected to" and that he also "falsely declared under oath" he has never been found liable for an offense with penalty of perpetual disqualification to hold public office.

The filing of a certificate of candidacy requires a person seeking to run for public office to make these declarations under oath. 

The petitioners argued these are material representations, citing the prior cases involving mayoral aspirant Dominador Jalosjos, Jr. and congressional aspirant Philip Pichay who were both disqualified due to false material representation when they claimed they were eligible despite previous convictions.

Jalosjos was convicted of robbery, while Pichay was convicted of libel.

Under section 78 of the Omnibus Election Code, a petition to deny due course to or cancel a COC may be filed on the ground of "false material representation" not later than 25 days from filing of COC and shall be decided, after notice and hearing, not later than 15 days before election.

Marcos Jr. filed his COC on Oct. 6. Although the 25th day was on Oct. 31, a Sunday, the deadline of filing of petitions and pleadings in tribunals usually falls on the next regular working day following a weekend or a holiday. Monday, All Saints' Day, was a holiday.

But the petitioners argued that even without any petitioner filing a case against Marcos Jr., the Comelec can exercise its mandate to enforce and administer all laws relating to the conduct of the elections, including the duty to cancel the COC of a disqualified person running for public office.

When he filed his COC, Marcos Jr. promised he would be a "unifying" leader to help the Philippines tackle the pandemic and economic crises.

The Marcos family has long sought to rebuild its image and has repeatedly denied allegations that it plundered state wealth while in power, estimated in 1987 at $10 billion.

— with reports from Willard Cheng, Mike Navallo and Josiah Antonio, ABS-CBN News