By Artemio V. Panganiban | Inquirer.net
Stripped of legalese, the main issues to oust Bongbong (BB) Marcos from the presidential race are: Did BB commit false material representations in his certificate of candidacy (COC) and did his conviction by the Court of Appeals (CA) involve moral turpitude?
“YES,” THE PETITION ASSERTED, because, as reported last Sunday in my column which should be read together with this piece, (1) BB falsely represented in his COC that he was “eligible” to be president, and (2) he falsely denied that he had been “found liable for any offense, which carries the accessory penalty of perpetual disqualification to hold public office.” Also, (3) the CA convicted him of a crime involving moral turpitude.
“NO,” THE ANSWER COUNTERED, because, per my last column also, (1) the “Petition is bereft of any specific allegation of a false material representation,” (2) BB is qualified to be president, and (3) the CA did not convict him of a crime involving moral turpitude.
To strengthen the Answer submitted by Estelito P. Mendoza, the Federal Party filed an “Answer-in-Intervention (AI)” alleging that BB “has paid (the) fine and deficiency income taxes meted upon him in the (CA) Decision of 31 October 1997.” In this piece, I will assume the AI had been admitted by the Comelec (despite the heavy objections of the petitioners).
NOW, MY HUMBLE OPINION. Under Section 74 of the Omnibus Election Code (OEC), the COC “shall state that the person filing it… is eligible” for the office he/she seeks. And under its Section 78, a COC may be canceled “exclusively on the ground that any material representation contained therein as required under Section 74… is false.” Moreover, under its Section 12, “Any person who… has been sentenced by final judgment… for a crime involving moral turpitude, shall be disqualified to be a candidate and to hold any public office…” Also, the disqualification to be a candidate is “deemed removed … five years from his service of the sentence…”
Ty-Delgado v. HRET (Jan. 26, 2016) and similar cases have uniformly held that a candidate “barred by final judgment… from running for public office… [who] still states… in his (COC) that he is eligible to run for public office… clearly makes a false material representation…”
The respondent in Ty-Delgado was convicted of “libel, a crime involving moral turpitude… [which was] defined as everything… done contrary to justice, modesty, or good morals; an act of baseness, vileness or depravity in the private and social duties which a man owes…”
AT FIRST SIGHT, THESE LAWS AND JURISPRUDENCE seem to favor the Petition because the CA’s decision finding BB guilty of a failure to file his ITRs for 1982 to1985 indirectly prohibited him from holding any public office. But the prohibition became effective only on Jan. 1. 1986; thus, it cannot be retroactively applied to his ITRs for 1982 to 1984.
Nonetheless, the prohibition covered his ITR for 1985 which was due on April 15, 1986. Hence, the enforcement of the prohibition would mean that he made a “false material representation” in his COC as asserted by the Petition.
However, the payment of the fines — if true, timely, and adequate as alleged by the AI — may save BB because under Section 12 of the OEC, the disqualification expires five years from “his service of the sentence.” The payment of the fine is the “service of the sentence.” Therefore, he did not commit a “false material representation” in alleging in his COC that he was “eligible,” or in denying any liability for perpetual disqualification.
What remains is the Petition’s third argument that BB’s conviction involves “moral turpitude” which under Section 12 of the OEC would disqualify him from holding any public office just the same.
IN SUM, if the petitioners can show that BB’s conviction by the CA involves moral turpitude and that the five-year prescriptive period does not embrace moral turpitude, OR his alleged payment is false, inadequate, or ill-timed, his COC should be canceled; if they cannot, he should be allowed to continue his quest.
To close, I urge the Comelec Second Division to resolve this case speedily. Under the Comelec Rules, parties are merely required to file written Memoranda. Anyway, the Division’s decision can be reviewed on MR by a resolution of the Comelec en banc, which in turn could be elevated to the Supreme Court.
I wonder how President Duterte looks at this case given that, per Prof. Dante Gatmaytan of the UP College of Law, he is the only post-Edsa president who has never lost in the Court.