Inquirer.net : Comelec exec justifies verdict on Marcos Jr. DQ cases: We’re not saying failure to file ITR is okay

11 February 2022

By Cathrine Gonzales | Inquirer.net

MANILA, Philippines — Commission on Elections (Comelec) spokesperson James Jimenez on Friday defended the resolution of the poll body’s First Division dismissing the disqualification cases against Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.

According to Jimenez, Comelec First Division’s decision stating that failure to file tax returns is not inherently immoral is being taken out of context. He said the Comelec was not saying that failure to file income tax returns (ITR) is not a punishable offense.

“What they’re (critics) doing is they are taking that particular line out of context. Sinabi talaga ‘yan. The decision does say that. But the decision was saying that in the context of trying to explain the difference between a crime mala in se (evil in itself) versus a mala prohibitum, (prohibited evil)  ‘di ba?” Jimenez explained in an online press briefing.

“What it says is that a crime mala in se is a crime that is by itself naturally wrong. For example, murder. You don’t need a law to tell you that murder is wrong, right? But there are some offenses that are mala prohibitum, which means they are considered wrong under the law only because a special law exists, we penalize it,” he added.

Jimenez further explained that jaywalking is not inherently wrong but becomes wrong if there is an ordinance that prohibits it.

“But if you look at what’s being said now on social media, what they are saying is because the Comelec said that eh ‘di okay lang pala huwag mag-file ng ITR (then it’s okay to not file an ITR)? Mali din ‘yon (That is wrong) because even in the decision itself, the Comelec points out that in fact a special law was passed to penalize failure to file ITR,” he said.

Jimenez was clarifying a portion of the Comelec First Division’s resolution on the disqualification cases against presidential candidate Marcos Jr. which reads that “the failure to file tax returns is not inherently wrong in the absence of a law punishing it.”

The resolution also stated that “the said omission became punishable only through the enactment of the Tax Code.”

“So it is wrong to say that the Comelec is saying na walang offense ang failure to file ITR (that failure to file ITR has no offense) because the Comelec said mayroon nga eh, mayroon nga (that there is),” Jimenez pointed out.

“But there was a point to be made about the difference between mala in se and mala prohibitum. So that’s all it was, and it’s just being taken out of context. Unfortunately again, in the atmosphere that we’re in, you do expect that some people will tend to run away with that sort of thing.”

“The Comelec does not say that failure to file an ITR is not a punishable offense. It is. The Comelec is not saying that failure to file ITR is okay because it is not,” he also said.

The Comelec spokesperson likewise emphasized that failure to file an ITR is not by itself tax evasion, noting that these are two different offenses punished differently under the law.

The Comelec First Division on Thursday promulgated its resolution dismissing three disqualification cases against Marcos due to “lack of merit.” These are cases filed by martial law survivors through Bonifacio Ilagan, Akbayan party-list group, and National Commission on Muslim Filipinos Commissioner Abubakar Mangelen.

Jimenez said that “the characterization of lack of merit basically refers to the fact that all of the allegations that supposedly pointed towards the disqualification of Ferdinand Marcos Jr. were basically dismissed.”

“The First Division reiterated that the CA (Court of Appeals) did in fact not impose a penalty of imprisonment and pointed out that the Comelec does not have authority to overturn the decision of the CA,” he explained.

“Also, the decision basically rejected or reiterated that the offense of failure to file an ITR is not currently characterized as one involving moral turpitude and therefore that could not be used as a ground to disqualify a candidate,” he added. With reports from Jericho Zafra, trainee