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The Manila Times : On the BBM DQ: Glad to be no lawyer

News & Interviews
14 November 2021

By Mauro Gia Samonte | The Manila Times

IF I knew law, I would be arguing Bongbong's case exactly how former senior associate justice Antonio Carpio had planned it in order to bring about Bongbong's damnation. It is a fact that the Quezon City Regional Trial Court (RTC) had convicted Bongbong of tax evasion in 1995. Tax evasion has been settled by jurisprudence as a crime involving moral turpitude. And conviction for crimes involving moral turpitude is ground for disqualification of the convict to run for public office.

The Bongbong camp has this main argument — as published in the media — that the Court of Appeals has reduced the penalty meted to Bongbong by the Quezon City RTC to just fine minus imprisonment; thereby making the tax-evasion case no longer a crime involving moral turpitude.

Without the penalty of imprisonment, the conviction meted to Bongbong by the Quezon City RTC cannot legally be grounds for his disqualification to run for public office.

But Carpio and his cohorts would not take things at that. They argue that the penalty, as penned by the QC court, is "fine and imprisonment," not "fine and/or imprisonment," so the Court of Appeals had erred in reducing the penalty to merely "fine." This could not be done, Carpio et al argue, indicating that the legal battle at the Commission on Elections (Comelec) has the potential of spilling over ultimately to the Supreme Court for final adjudication.

At this, I shudder. It was not too long ago when Bongbong lost his electoral protest against Vice President Leni Robredo in the same tribunal. How sure is he that he is not going to lose to the same adversary, in the same high court one more time?

Bongbong should realize by now the insatiable passion driving his foes who are out to frustrate at all costs his now imminent successful race to Malacañang. In the legal battle at the Comelec, it surely is advisable for him not get embroiled in legalese, which time and again has been proven to be the turf of his enemies where he cannot win. It would be foolhardy for Bongbong to venture into such turf one more time. Rather, might he not seek yet uncharted courses to argue his case?

My scant knowledge of law, for instance, would prompt me into citing the fact that aside from his bid for the presidency, Bongbong is in a frenzy right now. He has had successful political runs before that had not been encumbered by the tax-evasion conviction Carpio and company are raising only now. The conviction was already in place when Bongbong was elected governor of Ilocos Norte in 1998. Nine years later, he was elected congressman, serving from 2007 to 2010, and ultimately ran and won as senator for the term 2010 to 2016.

In brief, Bongbong ran for and won a number of elective posts in the entire time that the tax-evasion verdict was already in place, and yet such conviction was never made to get in the way of all those running and winning in elections.

Why raise that conviction now? Because it is clear from the burgeoning mass support for Bongbong, the Philippine presidency has virtually become his for the taking. And as the Yellow Cult endlessly proclaims, never again for a Marcos to the presidency.

In one report, Carpio has declared that it does not matter what time the tax-evasion issue is raised. I am glad I am no lawyer. That makes me free to offer an entirely different perspective. I see that it matters much that what had not been raised before to stop someone's election may be put to rest so as not to cause serious disruptions in various aspects of the nation's being.

Consider, for instance, what would become of the official actions made by Bongbong in those various capacities he had been elected to with that encumbrance of a tax-evasion conviction?

Were not those actions illegal from the very start?

One of the most important pieces of legislation that had come under Bongbong's official imprimatur was the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), creating the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM). Are we to declare the BBL and BARMM invalid for having been, in most part, sanctioned by a senator who was disqualified to run for a Senate seat in the first place? We may even have the Muslim separatists taking up arms again. Imagine the confusion, chaos and social upheaval that could erupt; all for wanting to undo what had been done rightly after all but for the magnificent malfeasance of Carpio and his group, whose obsession it is to keep the nation forever embroiled in trouble.

For lack of legal expertise, I turn to reading on the controversy. I came across this passage on the internet that I believe can relate to the discussion.

"A case or issue is considered moot and academic when it ceases to present a justiciable controversy because of supervening events, rendering the adjudication of the case or the resolution of the issue without any practical use or value. Courts generally decline jurisdiction over such a case or dismiss it on the ground of mootness except when, among others, the case is capable of repetition yet evades judicial review."

Another point reads, "In the legal system of the United States, a matter is moot if further legal proceedings with regard to it can have no effect, or events have placed it beyond the reach of the law. Thereby the matter has been deprived of practical significance or rendered purely academic."

The many accomplishments by Bongbong all through his years of public service can never be negated, all because applying the rule on tax evasion, in the first place he should not have been elected to the posts he had served in. But the fact is, he had been allowed to run for those posts and got elected, and nobody questioned those running and getting elected. Bongbong's accomplishments under the special circumstances they were made are as "the events that have placed the controversy beyond the reach of the law" or "the supervening events, rendering the adjudication of the case or the resolution of the issue without any practical use or value."