By William Depasupil | The Manila Times
THE Commission on Elections (Comelec) resolution dismissing the three consolidated disqualification cases against presidential candidate Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. (BBM) was basically an execution of the ruling of the Court of Appeals (CA), an election lawyer said.
Lawyer Manuelito Luna issued the statement over the weekend amid a barrage of criticism against the decision written by Comelec Commissioner Aimee Ferrolino junking the case against Marcos for lack of merit.
He explained that there has been some misunderstanding and the utter mischaracterization of the tax cases against Marcos.
Luna said the non-filing of income tax return (ITR) is an administrative lapse and not a case of tax evasion.
"Decisions of lower courts are not final and executory when appealed to a higher tribunal. What becomes controlling and final and executory are the resolutions of higher courts. Since the Court of Appeals did not pronounce that BBM was perpetually disqualified from holding public office and merely ordered him to pay fines, Comelec cannot undo same," he pointed out, adding that the CA decision has long become final and executory.
"To crucify Comelec now for something which was not its doing, is the real injustice," Luna further said.
He said that the concept of morality and what moral turpitude really is under our laws are largely unsettled due to their controversial nature but definitely, the non-filing of an ITR is not as worse as the filing of a fraudulent return, which constitutes tax evasion.
"Given these situations, can we say that the trier of facts has erred in its application of the laws? Definitely not. Since there is a Lacuna in the laws as to which is and which is not moral turpitude. The long standing doctrine that doubts shall be resolved in favor of the accused (notwithstanding the fact that disqualification cases are not criminal proceedings) may find application. Can the respondent be faulted?" he added.
The losing parties are expected to file their motions for reconsideration before the Comelec en banc, and may eventually reach the Supreme Court.
In defending the Comelec position, spokesman James Jimenez also pointed out that "failure to file ITR itself is not necessarily tax evasion," saying that "they are two different offenses punishable under the law." The petitioners in the consolidated case said that Marcos is not qualified to run anymore for public office following his conviction for his failure to file an income tax return from 1982 to 1985 while serving as governor of Ilocos Norte.
They pointed out that Marcos' conviction by final judgment perpetually disqualified him from seeking public office. The lower court, in July 1995, sentenced Marcos to nine years imprisonment and a fine of P72,000.
Marcos appealed his case before the CA. The appellate court upheld his conviction but removed the penalty of imprisonment and instead ordered him to pay the fine and the deficiency income taxes plus interest.
Dismissed by the First Division were the Ilagan et al. vs Marcos (filed by Martial Law survivors), the Akbayan et al. vs Marcos (filed by party-list group Akbayan and other civic leaders) and the Mangelen vs Marcos (filed by a faction of Partido Federal ng Pilipinas).
Earlier, the Comelec Second Division also dismissed the cases filed by Danilo Lihaylihay as well as Tiburcio Marcos.
On appeal is the case filed by Fr. Christian Buenafe.
The Salandana case is pending before the Second Division.