Business Mirror : Comelec throws out bid to cancel BBM’s COC

17 January 2022

By SAMUEL P. MEDENILLA | Business Mirror

DECLARING there was no material misrepresentation by presidential aspirant Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos Jr. when he filed his certificate of candidacy for the May polls, the Comelec’s Second Division dismissed on Monday another case seeking to take him out from the race.

On Monday, Comelec Second Division denied through a unanimous decision the petition filed by Christian B. Buenafe’s group against Marcos for “lack of merit,” when it failed to prove the former lawmaker committed “material misrepresentation” in his Certificate of Candidacy (COC).

Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez said the decision was penned by the Division’s presiding Commissioner Socorro B. Inting and was signed by Comelec commissioners Antonio T. Kho, Jr. and Rey E. Bulay.

This was the second case against Marcos which was dismissed by Comelec, after the case filed by Danilo Lihaylihay to have the former senator declared as a nuisance candidate.

Relaxed compliance

In its 32-paged resolution, the Comelec Second Division noted it could have immediately dismissed the petition outright since it cited grounds for disqualifying a candidate, when it sought to deny due course to or cancel the COC of Marcos—a violation of its rules.

The petition claimed that Marcos committed moral turpitude, and being sanctioned with imprisonment for more than 18 months are grounds for disqualification.

However, the Division decided to “relax compliance with its technical rules” and still moved to discuss the merits of the Buenafe case due to public interest in the case.

It maintained Marcos did not make a false claim in his COC, when he ticked the “No” box in the COC portion asking if he had been convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude.

The Division said the Court of Appeals (CA), which meted out Marcos with the conviction of violating the National Internal Revenue Code (NIRC) from 1982 to 1985, did not directly state Marcos will also face perpetual disqualification from running in public office in its decision.

“There is nothing in the CA Decision dated 31 October 1997 that would have categorically apprised herein Respondent that he is suffering from any ineligibility,” the Division said.

“Comelec does not have the jurisdiction to correct, amend, or even review the decisions of the Court of Appeals,” it added.

‘Not written in the law’

In a separate statement, Vic Rodriguez, Marcos’s chief of staff and spokesman, said they welcomed the decision of the Comelec Second Division to allow the former lawmaker to run in the 2022 polls.

“The petitioners’ mere creativity for writing and wanting what is not written in the law as basis to cancel the certificate of candidacy of Presidential Aspirant Bongbong Marcos is way too frivolous and unmeritorious to override the basic precepts of the Constitution,” Rodriguez said.

He said they hope the decision will give Marcos the chance “to run for public office free from any form of harassment and discrimination.”

Marcos’s lawyers argued that the Court of Appeals 1997 amended decision “did not categorically hold that respondent is convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude nor did it positively pronounce that respondent is meted with the penalty of imprisonment of more than 18 months.”

“After according the petitioners’ right to have their day in court where their case was fully heard and ventilated, the Comelec has unanimously spoken—the petition to cancel the certificate of candidacy of Bongbong Marcos was denied,” Rodriguez said in a statement.

Separate opinion

The Comelec also noted that the Presidential Decree 1994, which was cited by the petitioners since it added the penalty of perpetual disqualification for government officials who violated the NIRC, only took effect on January 1, 1986.

“The accessory penalty of perpetual disqualification cannot be made to apply to the taxable years of 1982-1984,” the Division said.

It did point out that the tax violation of Marcos for the taxable year of 1985 may be covered by PD 1994, but it stressed that by that point Marcos was no longer a public official, when his family fled the country in February 1986 after the EDSA Revolution.

In a 7-page separate opinion, Kho said he “cannot agree” with that part of the decision, stating that merely fleeing the country does not immediately disqualify Marcos from holding public office.

He noted that the taxable income of Marcos in 1985 was earned while he was working in the government.

“To allow public office to escape the penalty of perpetual disqualification to hold public office for his failure to file his income tax returns by the simple expedient that he is no longer a public officer at that time of the filing of the said returns is contrary to law and frustrates the intention of dispensing justice by penalizing erring public officials for violation of the tax code,” Kho said.

Moral turpitude

Nevertheless, Kho ultimately voted in favor of Marcos since the petitioners failed to prove the former lawmaker was convicted of an offense which has a penalty of perpetual disqualification from holding public office.

In its decision, the Comelec Second Division said that the petitioners “are obviously clutching at straws,” when they raised the issue of moral turpitude as a ground for disqualifying Marcos.

It cited the Supreme Court ruling on the government case against Ferdinand Marcos II and Imelda R. Marcos, which categorically declared that “failure to file an income tax return is not a crime involving moral turpitude.”

“Considering the foregoing disquisitions, it now becomes manifest that Respondent’s material representation—that he is eligible for the position of President and that he has not been meted the penalty of perpetual disqualification from public office—are actually not false,” the Division said.

Appeal

Theodore O. Te, the legal counsel of the petitioners, said they disagreed with the ruling of the Comelec Second Division and they filed an appeal before the Comelec en banc.

He declined to further discuss the grounds of their Motion for Reconsideration, which they will submit to the Comelec en banc before the end of the prescribed five-day filing period.

“Additional updates will be provided once the same is filed,” Te said in a statement.

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