One News : Comelec Exec Defends Disqualification Case Dismissal

13 February 2022

By Robertzon Ramirez | One News

Comelec Commissioner Marlon Casquejo said their decision to dismiss the disqualification cases against presidential bet Ferdinand Marcos Jr. is based on facts and laws, as well as he evidence presented by both parties.

Commission on Elections (Comelec) Commissioner Marlon Casquejo on Saturday, Feb. 13, defended their “unpopular” decision to dismiss the consolidated disqualification cases filed against presidential candidate Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.

Casquejo said the Comelec First Division based its decision to allow Marcos to run for president in the May 9 elections on facts and laws, and the evidence presented to them by the petitioners and the camp of the former senator.

“The Commission is confronted with legal issues subject to strong public scrutiny. But no matter how unpopular our findings and appreciation of facts is, we must remain unperturbed and apply the law as it is,” Casquejo said.

“The welfare of the general public is best served when we resolve any case without fear or favor. That is the true test of integrity. We examine each case based on how they were presented, coupled with evidence, the law and jurisprudence to back up every decision,” he added.

The commissioner emphasized that they are not easily swayed as he emphasized that their duty is to uphold the Constitution “than fear of reprisal.”

Casquejo is a member of the Comelec First Division along with Commissioner Aimee Ferolino, who is the ponente or author of the consolidated disqualification cases filed against Marcos.

Both commissioners unanimously voted to deny the petitions against Marcos.

Retired commissioner Rowena Guanzon was the former presiding commissioner of the First Division. She voted for the disqualification of Marcos, but her vote did not count as the ponencia resolution of Ferolino came out over a week after Guanzon retired on Feb. 2.

In his 12-page separate opinion, Casquejo discussed point by point his basis for coming up with the decision revolving on the issues raised by the petitioners such as the “void judgment, accessory penalty need not be written in the decision and moral turpitude.”

Casquejo said the petitioners could not question the judgment of the Court of Appeals (CA) on the case against Marcos and declared it void as he emphasized that the court’s ruling, modifying the ruling of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court (RTC), “is written in clear language that casts out ambiguities.”

“In light of being repetitious, the undersigned once again stress that the Commission will not be used as instruments by any party to exercise jurisdiction to modify a decision that has long become final. At some point, issues must come to an end,” he said.

The petitioners said Marcos was convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude when he violated the National Internal Revenue Code (NIRC) of 1977 for failure to pay taxes from 1982 to 1985, which constitute a perpetual disqualification from holding public office if the offender is a government official.

Marcos was a government official during those years that he did not pay his taxes. He appealed the QC RTC ruling before the CA, which upheld the lower court’s decision, but modified the ruling by imposing a fine and deleting the penalty of imprisonment.

Casquejo stressed that not all modification or reversal in every ruling becomes void “just because one party feels aggrieved or unsatisfied. Much more can just any person disturb a final ruling that has long rested in the confines of the archives of courts.”

On issues of Marcos’ disqualification from holding public office, Casquejo said that while it is true that government officials violating the NIRC are penalized with perpetual disqualification, he stressed that the amendment introducing the penalty of perpetual disqualification took effect only in January 1986.

Casquejo added that the petitioners cannot insist on applying the amendments to Marcos “since it partakes of penal in character,” which stands that those laws shall have prospective ap-plication and not retrospective “if it will prejudice the rights of the accused.”

“We are not convinced that the amendment introduced by Section 252 (c) of the NIRC should be applied to Respondent Marcos in order to penalize him with graver penalty … that Section 252 (c) cannot be applied retroactively to Respondent Marcos for this will violate his substantial right,” Casquejo said.

“The arguments of petitioners failed to adequately establish the ground within which to declare Respondent Marcos perpetually disqualified to run for the position of President,” he add-ed.

As far as the “moral turpitude” issue is concerned, Casquejo emphasized that “there is no hard and fast rule on what constitutes moral turpitude” as he emphasized that they are guided by the limitations on how the Supreme Court (SC) defined moral turpitude.

He said he examined the facts in the consolidated disqualification cases to determine whether Marcos’ non-filing of income tax return (ITR) constituted moral turpitude or not.

“We cannot justify such omission necessarily results to injustice; this is an overkill. We cannot link such omission to contravention of morals; this is an exaggerated innuendo. We cannot resolve a crime of omission on the basis of strong public clamor insisting that the omission is inherently evil and despicable as it is,” he said.

“For this matter, non-filing of the ITR does not equate to moral turpitude. Although this kind of omission is necessarily punishable by law, this, however, will not suffice to equate to moral turpitude,” he added.

The commissioner underscored that all circumstances in the case involving Marcos’ failure to pay taxes are “not close to moral turpitude.”

Sara welcomes dismissal

Davao City Mayor and vice presidential candidate Sara Duterte-Carpio has welcomed the dismissal of the disqualification cases against her running mate Marcos.

Carpio said the dismissal of consolidated disqualification cases against Marcos by the former first division of Comelec would allow their tandem dubbed as “BBM-Sara UniTeam” to focus on their campaign.

“Of course, this is a welcome development for the UniTeam. We can see that his candidacy and our campaign for the elections will proceed,” Carpio said in an ambush interview.

The presidential daughter reiterated her stand that the disqualification cases against Marcos had no basis.

“I maintain that the disqualification cases filed against BBM have no basis at all – orchestrated by anti-Marcos forces desperate to regain control of our country, never mind if they sow divisiveness among our people, never mind if they undermine our freedom, never mind if they make a mockery of our laws,” Duterte, who is also a lawyer, argued.

She had earlier dismissed talks on possibility that she would replace Marcos if the latter gets disqualified after the elections.

“Personally, I find talks about me ‘possibly replacing’ a president Bongbong Marcos exceptionally unpleasant as, in reality, both of us are yet to win the elections. It is putting the cart be-fore the horse,” Carpio in a statement.

“I am not entertaining the thoughts of a possible replacement as I also do not look forward to a scenario of a disqualified BBM – before or after the elections,” she added.

Meanwhile, Speaker Lord Allan Velasco has thrown support for the vice presidential candidacy of Carpio.

Velasco joined Carpio in her campaign sortie in Cabanatuan City in Nueva Ecija last Friday, saying the presidential daughter will make a good vice president and likening her to the majestic Philippine Eagle that symbolizes courage and compassion.

“Mayor Inday Sara possesses a clear vision, is courageous, has integrity, honesty, humility, compassion and clear focus. There is no doubt she will be a good vice president,” stressed Velasco, a close friend and ally of Duterte.

The Marinduque representative issued the statement as his team joined the Luzon leg of Carpio’s Mahalin Natin ang Pilipinas Ride, a month-long national caravan that is taking her from Davao City to various parts of the country. – With Edu Punay