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Daily Tribune : Bones of contention

News & Interviews
16 December 2021

By Jun Ledesma | Daily Tribune

Things get convoluted when 1Sambayan convenor Howard Calleja, acting like a one-man court superior to the Court of Appeals, declared that the decision of the CA is void ab initio.

Covid cases are now down to less than a thousand daily but as the election fever keeps heating up, we might be having more schizophrenic cases ahead of us. What do you think is the logic behind a magma of cases filed against presidential aspirant Bongbong Marcos? Reality has not sunk in yet to many fanatics that colors do not a candidate win.

Early on, some quarters were not at ease with Sen. Bong Go taking time in formally withdrawing from the presidential race. Now that he finally did, will that change the scenario? In the recent survey by Publicus, the Trust and Approval ratings of the President remain high. That one should send jitters to presidential aspirants in particular as his endorsement matters.

Will the multiplicity of complaints that had the same or similar allegations influence the Commission on Elections (Comelec)? Will claims that they were victims of martial law or of being Ilocanos add legal substance to their prayers to either cancel the Certificate of Candidacy (CoC) of BBM or disqualify him? Already the Comelec had rejected intervenors as mostly have dubious motives.

Things get convoluted when 1Sambayan convenor Howard Calleja, acting like a one-man court superior to the Court of Appeals, declared that the decision of the CA is void ab initio, has no effect, so there’s nothing to void, to begin with.

Calleja was referring to the 1997 acquittal of BBM of tax evasion, but sustained his guilt for failure to file an ITR. The CA however did not impose a prison sentence.

A prison term would have meant Bongbong’s crime partakes of moral turpitude which could have perpetually disqualified him from running in a public office, voting, and participating in any elections. The appellate court did not but just fined him instead.

Former Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban, for his part, pointed out that the CA’s decision finding BBM guilty for failing to file his ITR for 1982 to 1985 indirectly prohibited him from holding any public office. But then again that prohibition became effective only on 1 January 1986; thus, it cannot be retroactively applied to his ITR for 1982 to 1984.

Moreover, the former Chief Justice said that the prohibition covered his ITR for 1985 which was due on 15 April 1986. Hence, the enforcement of the prohibition would mean that he made a false material representation in his CoC as asserted by the Petition. This could be the bone of contention.

What I know of what transpired during the February 1986 Edsa People Power event was that America tricked the ailing Pres. Ferdinand Marcos by flying him and his family to Hawaii instead of Paoay, Ilocos Norte. It is therefore inconceivable for Bongbong to have filed his taxes for 1985 in April that year.

I sought a legal opinion from one of Davao’s legal luminaries, Atty. Ramon Edison Batacan, the Dean of the School of Law of The Rizal Memorial Colleges and Senior Professor at the Ateneo de Davao-College of Law.

He said that he is in accord with Former CJ Panganiban on some points but opines that Marcos Jr. did not commit any false material representation when he stated that he is eligible to run for public office.

Contrary to the allegation in the Petition, he is NOT disqualified from holding public office. He stressed that basically, the Decision did not expressly impose any accessory penalty on Marcos Jr.
Therefore, he could not be made to suffer perpetual disqualification from holding any public office, voting, and participating in any election under Section 252 (now 253) of the 1977 NIRC.

He points out that the Supreme Court already ruled out the existence of moral turpitude in Marcos Jr.’s alleged failure to file tax returns for 1982-1985 in Republic of the Philippines v. Marcos, G.R. 13071 and 130855 (4 August 2009).

In the same decision, the Highest Tribunal noted that the CA “acquitted respondent Ferdinand Marcos II of all the four charges for violation of Section 50 [non-payment of deficiency taxes] and sustained his conviction for all the four charges for violation of Section 45 [failure to file income tax returns]”. The Comelec, to his mind, cannot reverse the decision of the Supreme Court.

Both sides can argue whether it is fair and in accord with due process to disqualify Marcos for failing to pay taxes at the time when they were shanghaied to Hawaii. This too is another matter of contention.
In the meantime, Publicus Asia bared in an excerpt of its 6 to 10 December survey that 46.87 percent of respondents are opposed to the filing of cases against Marcos Jr. versus 25.20 percent who approve. The rest remains neutral. These sentiments are reflected in the results of the respondents’ preference for President. BBM garnered 51.9 percent against Leni’s 20.2 percent.
Davao City Mayor Inday Sara Duterte is in an insurmountable lead, grabbing 54.8 percent against the closest rival, Willie Ong with 11.2 percent. The rest of the contenders are not worth a storyline.