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Daily Tribune : Lawyers in Bongbong DQ case may be disbarred

News & Interviews
12 November 2021

By Concept News Central | Daily Tribune

Since the Code of Ethics governing the legal profession prohibits lawyers from making impertinent accusations and from using foul language and insulting statements in their pleadings, BBM should also file a disbarment case against the lawyers who signed the petition.

Everybody must be aware of the disqualification case against presidential candidate Bongbong Marcos (BBM). The case, now pending in the Commission on Elections, was filed by anti-Marcos, anti-administration elements. They want BBM disqualified from running for president.

The disqualification petition sweepingly assumes that BBM is disqualified because BBM was allegedly convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude and supposedly sentenced to at least 18 months imprisonment. It cites certain provisions of the Omnibus Election Code and the National Internal Revenue Code.

BBM was charged in court in 1992 for alleged failure to file income tax returns as 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 decision of the trial court and imposed a fine of P32,000 on BBM, without imprisonment. The decision of the appellate court became final and executory in 2001.

The Court of Appeals ruled that BBM is not guilty of tax evasion, and that BBM’s only fault is his failure to file his income tax returns. There is a big difference between tax evasion and failure to file income tax returns.

In a commentary published in this newspaper last week, it was pointed out that the disqualification case is baseless. There is nothing in the judgment of the Court of Appeals imposing any imprisonment on BBM. Further, there is no law or judicial precedent which declares the failure to file income tax returns a crime involving moral turpitude.

Moreover, the provisions of law cited in the petition took effect long after BBM was charged in court in 1992. Under the Constitution, those laws cannot be given retroactive effect against BBM.

Lawyer Howard Calleja, a convenor of the inconsequential anti-government coalition 1Sambayan, is openly supporting the disqualification case against BBM.

Calleja claims that the decision of the Court of Appeals smacks of abuse of authority which makes the decision void or unlawful from the start. He said he will be joining the disqualification case.

Asked about his partisan connection with 1Sambayan which supports the presidential bid of Vice President Leni Robredo, one of BBM’s rivals, Calleja gave the lame excuse that he was merely approached by anti-BBM groups in his personal capacity.

Calleja should go back to law school.

The decision of the Court of Appeals cannot be voided anymore, because the period within which to seek its annulment has lapsed decades ago. Besides, only the State, represented by the Solicitor General, can ask for an annulment of a court decision that favors the accused in any criminal case. Interlopers and publicity seekers like Calleja do not have any legal personality to seek an annulment of the decision of the Court of Appeals in the BBM case.

BBM should file a disbarment case against Calleja for gross ignorance of the law.

At any rate, the only issue in the disqualification petition is whether or not BBM should be disqualified from running for president by reason of the decision of the Court of Appeals in the tax case. There is no other issue.

The petition, however, contains repeated attacks against BBM’s father, the late President Ferdinand Marcos, and statements declaring BBM guilty of crimes allegedly committed by the late president, simply because BBM is the late president’s son. Those remarks are impertinent to the solitary issue in the disqualification case.

Obviously, the objective of the petition is not to disqualify BBM, but to unfairly tarnish his image to the voters.

Even the language used in the petition is vile and discourteous.

Since the Code of Ethics governing the legal profession prohibits lawyers from making impertinent accusations and from using foul language and insulting statements in their pleadings, BBM should also file a disbarment case against the lawyers who signed the petition.

That move should discourage troublemakers from abusing the justice system.