The Manila Times : Case vs BBM will collapse – law dean

8 November 2021

By Bernadette E. Tamayo | The Manila Times

THE dean of law at the University of Santo Tomas (UST) believes the attempt to disqualify former senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. from running in the 2022 presidential elections will "fail" for lack of merit.

A group of political detainees, human rights and medical organizations petitioned the Commission on Elections (Comelec) on November 2 to cancel Marcos' certificate of candidacy (CoC).

The petitioners claimed that Marcos, the Partido Federal ng Pilipinas standard bearer, cannot run for any public office after the Quezon City Regional Trial Court convicted him in a 1995 tax evasion case.

But as far as Nilo Divina, UST law dean, is concerned, the petition "is bound to collapse once evaluated by the Comelec."

Divina said in a statement on Sunday the petition "appears to be defective in form and offers insufficient legal basis to obtain its desired judgment."

He noted that instead of presenting factual statements and legal basis to support its claim of Marcos' ineligibility to run for the presidency, "the narratives of the 57-page petition lay down invectives in almost all pages against the family of respondent Marcos."

"It's ad hominem, or an attack against the character of the respondent, that may weaken the petitioners' position. It is the law, always, that matters," Divina said. "It is the intent that invokes the law that often justifies or bungles it. But at the end of the day, the law remains the law."

The Marcos camp said Divina "was the second legal luminary from illustrious law universities who expressed opinions against a petition which sought to cancel or deny Marcos' CoC because he failed to file his income tax returns (ITRs)."

On Friday, Ateneo University law professor and former Justice secretary Alberto Agra said the petition has no basis and is unlikely to move forward.

Agra said it is clear in the Omnibus Election Code that Marcos was qualified to run for the presidency because there are no shortcomings in his CoC submission.

"Ang nakalagay sa batas ay kailangan sentenced, may (What the law states is that there must be a) final judgment of imprisonment," he said.

Marcos was not sentenced to imprisonment and was only penalized with a fine, Agra said.

Agra said he is neither Marcos' lawyer nor supporter, but based on his analysis of the petition, it appeared that the case is not tax evasion, but simply a failure to file his ITR.

Under the law, to cancel the CoC of any candidate, he or she must be found guilty and punished with more than 18 months of imprisonment or be convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude.

One can be convicted of moral turpitude if immorality or the intention to cheat has been proven, he said.

"Ang tanong ngayon ay 'yun bang hindi pag-file ng income tax return, 'yun ba ay crime involving moral turpitude? Siyempre hindi (The question now is, does the failure to file income tax return involve moral turpitude? Of course not)," Agra said.

Marcos has said he was not afraid of the disqualification case, believing it was just a form of political harassment.