By Concept News Central | Daily Tribune
Last week, retired Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio wrote in another newspaper that there may be a chance of disqualifying ex-Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. (BBM) from running for president in the 2022 elections.
Carpio said BBM may be disqualified because the latter was convicted in 1995 of tax evasion, a crime possibly involving moral turpitude, and under the Omnibus Election Code (Election Code) and the National Internal Revenue Code (Tax Code), BBM’s conviction disqualifies him from pursuing his candidacy. However, Carpio tacitly acknowledged that the case against BBM is weak.
That weakness notwithstanding, radical elements took their cue from Carpio and filed a disqualification case against BBM before the Commission on Elections.
Carpio later reiterated his views, apparently to create propaganda mileage for the disqualification case.
According to Carpio, BBM was charged in court in 1992 for his failure to file his income tax returns when he was Governor of Ilocos Norte from 1982 to 1985. In 1995, the Regional Trial Court ruled against BBM and imposed on him a fine and imprisonment. On appeal, the Court of Appeals modified the ruling and imposed on BBM a fine, without imprisonment. The decision of the appellate court became final and executory in 2001.
Carpio says Section 12 of the Election Code disqualifies any candidate who has been convicted by final judgment of “any offense for which he has been sentenced to a penalty of more than 18 months for a crime involving moral turpitude.”
He also says Section 253(c) of the Tax Code states that any public officer who is convicted of any crime penalized by the Tax Code is “perpetually disqualified from holding any public office, to vote and to participate in any election.”
Carpio, however, sweepingly assumes that BBM was convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude. That is not so. There is no law or decision of the Supreme Court which categorically declares that the failure to file an income tax return is a crime involving moral turpitude.
Surprisingly, Carpio cited a related decision of the Supreme Court where it was mentioned that BBM’s failure to file his income tax returns does not constitute moral turpitude. Carpio, however, belittled that part of the decision, calling it obiter dicta or an irrelevant statement made in a judicial pronouncement.
Section 12 of the Election Code is inapplicable to BBM because it contemplates a penalty of imprisonment for more than 18 months. The final ruling of the Court of Appeals against BBM does not impose any imprisonment.
In addition, Section 12 of the Election Code took effect in December 1985, while Section 253(c) of the Tax Code was in force starting January 1986. Under the Constitution and existing laws, the penal provisions of the Election Code and the Tax Code cannot be given retroactive effect to the years 1982 to 1985, when BBM allegedly failed to file his income tax returns.
Tax evasion is the deliberate refusal to pay taxes lawfully due. When BBM was governor, the tax due on his income was automatically withheld by the government from his take-home pay. Thus, there is no tax evasion to speak of. In fact, there is no damage to the state because the taxes due it were paid.
Thus, the only fault that may be attributed to BBM is his alleged failure to file his income tax returns for the years 1982 to 1985. Is there moral turpitude in that? No.
Moral turpitude suggests a lack of the basic sense of right and wrong that prevents a person from doing what is wrong. The Supreme Court itself acknowledges that the existence of moral turpitude depends on the circumstances surrounding a case.
Since there is no damage to the state (or to anybody for that matter) attributable to BBM’s alleged failure to file his income tax returns, it is unfounded to impute moral turpitude to him.
Undoubtedly, the disqualification case against BBM is baseless.