SunStar : Ex-DOJ chief: No legal ground to cancel Marcos’s COC

5 November 2021

By SunStar

FORMER Justice secretary and Ateneo Law School professor Alberto Agra argued that the petition filed to cancel the certificate of candidacy (COC) of presidential aspirant Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. has no basis and is unlikely to move forward.

Civic leaders filed before the Commission on Elections (Comelec) on November 2 the petition to cancel or deny Marcos’s COC due to “multiple false material representations” it contains.

The petitioners -- Fr. Christian Buenafe of the Task Force Detainees, Fides Lim of Kapatid, Ma Edeliza Hernandez of the Medical Action Group, Celia Lagman Sevilla of the Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearance, Roland Vibal of the Philippine Alliance of Human Rights, and Josephine Lascano of Balay Rehabilitation Center -- said Marcos is a “convicted criminal,” citing his conviction before the Quezon City Regional Trial Court in 1995 over his “multiple failures” to file his income tax returns from 1982 to 1985.

But in an interview with dzRH, Agra said it was clearly stated in the Omnibus Election Code that Marcos was qualified and had no shortcomings in his COC submission.

“Nakalagay dun sa Omnibus Election Code natin na kailangan hindi convicted. Ibang termino ang nakalagay sa batas. Ang nakalagay sa batas kailangan sentenced, may final judgment of imprisonment. Ang nangyari nung binasa ko ang kaso, wala si presidentiable BBM, hindi siya sentenced to imprisonment. Guilty siya to pay a fine,” Agra explained.

The lawyer clarified that he is not Marcos's lawyer or supporter, but based on his analysis of the case, it appears that Marcos's case is not tax evasion but simply failure to file his income tax return (ITR).

The law states that in order to cancel the COC of any candidate, he or she must be found guilty and punished with more than 18 months imprisonment and be convicted of a crime involving “moral turpitude.”

“Moral turpitude, kung medyo halang ka, bastos, immoral, talagang gusto mong mandaya o manggulang. Ang tanong ngayon yun bang hindi pag-file ng income tax return, yun ba ay crime involving moral turpitude? Syempre hindi,” Agra added.

Agra also pointed out that there is no final judgment in Marcos's case because it has not yet reached the Supreme Court.

“Guilty siya (for failure to file ITR) pero multa lang, walang imprisonment,” Agra noted, explaining that this is far from the basis for disqualifying a candidate.

He further asserted that the Supreme Court has already made a decision that also clarified the issue.

“In the same case na ponente si Justice Antonio Carpio, sinabi ng Supreme Court na ang crime involving moral turpitude kung fraudulent filing of the tax return. Hindi moral turpitude kung non-filing of the income tax return. Magiging moral turpitude ang non-filing kung may halong fraud,” Agra said.

In the case of Marcos: “Hindi siya moral turpitude kasi hindi naman napatunayan na may fraud,” he added.

Marcos's camp had earlier said that the new petition filed against them was rubbish and only part of the opponent's dirty or gutter politics.

The presidential aspirant said on November 3 that he will not “slide down” or “back out” from the 2022 presidential race. (LMY/PR)