MANILA (UPDATE)—Presidential candidate and former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr. scores anew in his legal battles before the Commission on Elections (Comelec), as the poll body’s Former First Division junks three consolidated disqualification cases against his presidential bid.
In a 41-page ruling, promulgated on Feb. 10, and penned by Commissioner Aimee Ferolino, the Comelec dismissed the petitions separately filed by Bonifacio Ilagan, et al.; Akbayan Citizens’ Party, et al.; and Abubakar Mangelen, former chairman of Marcos’ party, Partido Federal ng Pilipinas, for “lack of merit.”
The petitions are anchored on Marcos’ conviction for non-filing of income tax returns (ITRs) for taxable years 1982 up to 1985.
NOT PERPETUALLY DISQUALIFIED
The resolution maintained, nowhere in the Quezon City trial court and subsequent Court of Appeals (CA) ruling does it state that Marcos was meted the perpetual disqualification penalty.
“[A] proper dispositive portion should include the penalty imposed,” the ruling stated.
The resolution cited an SC jurisprudence which states, “[i]n a criminal case, the disposition should include a finding of innocence or guilt, the specific crime committed, the penalty imposed, the participation of the accused, the modifying circumstances, if any, and the civil liability and costs.”
The ruling further pointed out the accessory penalty for public offenders of perpetual disqualification from holding public office and voting was not provided for under the original 1977 National Internal Revenue Code (NIRC).
“To be clear, the penalty of perpetual disqualification came into force only upon the effectivity of PD No. 1994 on 01 January 1986. Thus, the penalty cannot be made to apply to [Marcos’] tax violation, which were committed before the effectivity of the said law, in accord with the constitutional provision against ex post facto laws.”
And while the penalty may rise as far as the 1985 case is concerned since filing of tax returns fell on March 15, 1986, the resolution reiterated this was not part of both the RTC and CA decisions.
“It bears stressing that [Marcos] was only meted with the penalty of a fine for his failure to file his income tax returns,” the resolution stated, as it explained this did not put him under the purview of the Omnibus Election Code (OEC).
IMPRISONMENT AND MORAL TURPITUDE
Petitioners insisted Marcos had been sentenced by final judgment to serve imprisonment of 18 months for a crime involving moral turpitude.
When the CA acquitted Marcos from non-payment of income taxes (1982-1985) and removed the penalty of imprisonment, Akbayan, et al. insisted this penalty was “not removed.”
“It baffles us why the petitioners concluded that the CA did not delete the penalty of three years imprisonment when it was clearly absent in the decision,” the resolution pointed out.
Ilagan, et al., meantime, argued the CA decision “is null and void” when it removed the penalty of imprisonment.
To this, the resolution stated, Ilagan, et al. “came up with their own findings” and “took it upon themselves to declare the CA decision void” while they “obviously [are] not the proper authority vested with jurisdiction to review decisions of the [CA].”
In thumbing down the moral turpitude ground, the ruling explained failure to file ITRs is “not inherently immoral.”
It further stated there was no fraud involved in Marcos’ failure to file tax returns.
The resolution cited a high court ruling where failure to file tax returns was classified “as a separate situation from a false and fraudulent return.”
“[N]ot once did the [SC] categorically rule that failure to file income tax is a crime involving moral turpitude.”
The duty to withhold Marcos’ taxes, meantime, fell on government, as provided under Section 94 of the NIRC, the resolution said.
“Further, to prove the absence of any ill-intention and bad faith on his part,” [Marcos] submitted a Bureau of Internal Revenue certification and an official receipt from the Landbank, showing his compliance with the CA decision directing him to pay deficiency income taxes amounting to a little over P67,000, including fines and surcharges.
The resolution also maintained, in a case before the SC involving Marcos and his mother, former First Lady Imelda Marcos, the high court ruled, “failure to file an income tax return is not a crime involving moral turpitude.”
In said case, the SC junked government’s assertion Marcos should be disqualified as executor of former Pres. Ferdinand Marcos’ will due to his conviction for non-filing of ITRs.
ELIGIBILITY TO BE ELECTED PRESIDENT
The resolution opined Marcos is qualified to be “elected president” of the republic.
“[T]he deprivation of one’s right to be voted for any election should not be exercised whimsically and capriciously, lest we will be preventing qualified candidates from pursuing a position in public office,” it read.
The ruling further said, “As the institution vested with the constitutional duty to ‘enforce and administer all laws’ relating to the conduct of elections, including the disqualification of candidates running for public office, the [Comelec] must see to it that its judgment is free from bias and partiality.”
Ferolino earlier accused recently retired First Division Presiding Commissioner Rowena Guanzon of trying to influence the outcome of the consolidated cases, by supposedly trying to sway her in the direction of Guanzon’s position favoring Marcos’ disqualification.
This, after Guanzon publicly accused Ferolino of intentionally “delaying” the release of her draft resolution to “defeat” her (Guanzon’s) “vote.”
Guanzon made public her “vote” and “separate opinion” ahead of the release of the draft ruling, in violation of the commission’s internal rules.
Guanzon’s “vote” was not counted. A Comelec division only votes on a case after the circulation of the draft, and subsequent deliberations.
The Former First Division was constituted “to ensure the orderly, speedy and judicious disposition” of cases,” as the commission en banc decided to allow its commissioners to constitute themselves in their previous divisions prior to the reshuffle brought about by the retirement of Guanzon, and Chairman Sheriff Abas and Commissioner Marlon Casquejo.
Under the rules, the most senior commissioner - in this case, Commissioner Socorro Inting - sits as First Division presiding commissioner; while Commissioner Casquejo is moved as Second Division presiding commissioner.
Petitioners in the Marcos disqualification cases have 5 days within which to file a motion for reconsideration.
Comelec, Commission on Elections, Bongbong Marcos, Aimee Ferolino, Halalan 2022, 2022 elections