Daily Tribune : ‘Shameless’ law mangling

19 January 2022

By Michelle R. Guillang and Gab Humilde Villegas | Daily Tribune

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has assailed the “misrepresentations” made by a group led by former Supreme Court (SC) spokesperson Theodore Te in seeking the cancellation of the Certificate of Candidacy (CoC) for president of former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. in this year’s elections.

In its 32-page decision promulgated on Monday, 17 January, the Comelec Second Division said it could have chosen to dismiss summarily the petition to cancel Marcos’ CoC as the petitioners committed the elementary mistake of invoking grounds that should properly belong to a petition for disqualification.

Just the same, the Comelec said it looked past that grievous error committed by the petitioners as it “relaxed compliance with the technical rules of procedures” so it may “proceed to discuss the merits if only to fully and finally settle the matter in this case because of its paramount importance.”

Whether on technicality or on merits, the Comelec decision penned by Presiding Commissioner Socorro B. Inting was categorical in dismissing the petition while enumerating the petitioners’ blatant attempts to mislead the poll body.

The Comelec said Te’s group relied on misrepresentations of facts and the wrong quotations of certain provisions of the law to paint Marcos black.

“[The] petitioners shamelessly cited a certain provision denominated as Section 254 of the 1977 NIRC (National Internal Revenue Code), the Comelec said in its decision.

Rentals, lease

According to the Comelec, Te’s group tried to peddle the lie that the alleged provision punishes those who failed to file an income tax return (ITR) with a fine of not less than P10,000 plus imprisonment.

“However, a careful reading of the actual Section 254 of the 1977 NIRC shows that it refers to rentals and royalties and mineral lands under lease,” the Comelec pointed out.

The poll body emphasized that the misrepresentation made by the petitioners on Section 254 of the NIRC made it appear that imprisonment is a mandatory punishment.

“[It] reeks of (a) deliberate intent to deceive or mislead the Commission,” said the Comelec in its ruling.

Comelec Commissioners Antonio Kho Jr. and Rey Bulay lamented that the group represented by Te was obviously “clutching at straws” in desperately trying to convince the poll body to cancel the CoC of Marcos.

Not a few lawyers interviewed by Daily Tribune said Marcos should exercise his option to get back at the petitioners since the Comelec itself found the petitioners to have been untruthful.

But in an exclusive interview in Gising Na!Daily Tribune’s digital morning show, Marcos lawyer and spokesperson Vic Rodriguez said Marcos, a runaway leader in presidential surveys, would rather take the moral high ground.

“It is not by choice that he took that route,” Rodriguez said of Marcos in a mix of English and the vernacular. “That’s the personality of Bongbong. He’s really kind and full of humility. He is not easily dragged into fights.”

“To him, even if you malign me, I won’t correct you because nothing will change; I cannot change your mindset. The moment you turn your back on me, you’ll still malign me. I will just do what I have to do and I will just not mind you,” Rodriguez said.

Accusers, accused

Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte is running for vice president in tandem with Marcos.

“It somehow becomes ironic when we realize the thought that herein petitioners accuse respondent Marcos of misrepresentation while they themselves are guilty of supposed misrepresentations in this very same proceeding,” the decision further read.

Likewise, the Comelec Second Division said the material representations made by Marcos in his CoC were “not false,” contrary to the petition filed by the group.

“Respondent (Marcos) cannot be said to have deliberately attempted to mislead, misinform or hide a fact which would otherwise render him ineligible,” the ruling read.

It stressed that the Court of Appeals (CA) ruling being cited by the petitioners contained “no definite declaration” of any ruling or disqualification pertaining to Marcos.

The petitions against that Marcos had been anchored on his alleged failure to file his ITR from 1982 to 1984 as affirmed by the CA, a mere deficiency that Marcos’ camp explained arose from the local government of Ilocos Norte doing the filing of withheld taxes for its officials and employees, including then-Governor Marcos.

Campaign mode

Marcos’ camp said it is already looking forward the official campaign period three weeks from now, following legal victories that dispatched three petitions against him.

Rodriguez said they are eyeing to resume the 100-percent operation of their headquarters in Mandaluyong.

“A win is a win. We enjoyed this legal victory but only for one minute. After that, we forgot it and returned to work,” Rodriguez said.

“We have remained and will continue to remain positively confident or confidently positive with our legal arguments that we presented before the Comelec,” he added.

In what may impact the remaining petitions against Marcos, the Comelec Second Division ruled that the CA decision on the Marcos case does not involve a “crime of moral turpitude.”

Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez explained that the poll body ruled that perpetual disqualification from holding public office as an accessory penalty to a conviction “cannot be assumed” and must be explicitly stated in the CA decision.

Meanwhile, the Comelec said that Marcos’ name will be listed on the official 2022 election ballot as a presidential candidate despite the pendency of the four other petitions to cancel his CoC or to disqualify him.

Jimenez on Tuesday disclosed that Marcos is one of the 10 aspirants included in the final list of presidential candidates for the 9 May 2022 elections.

In the event of an unfavorable decision against Marcos, Jimenez said he may be substituted either by his wife, lawyer Liza Araneta-Marcos, or his sister, Senator Imee Marcos.

A substitute for Marcos does not need to be a relative, but “just anybody with the same surname,” Jimenez said.

“You cannot recall 65 million ballots simply to remove the name of one candidate. The name of the candidate has to stay. That’s the danger there. If a candidate is disqualified but still gets votes, it becomes necessary for them to have a substitute,” Jimenez pointed out.

“Now, what happens if there is no substitute? Let’s say the person was running as an independent, then gets disqualified, of course, there will be no substitution there. What happens to the votes garnered by their name? Those become stray votes,” he explained.

While these votes will be counted “for the record,” they will not form part of the official tally, he noted.