Join the campaign (Learn More)

The Manila Times : The obtuseness of the Comelec and the rulings of the judiciary

News & Interviews
28 December 2021

By Yen Makabenta | The Manila Times

First word

THERE is a provision in the1987Constitution concerning the constitutional commissions that significantly qualifies the extent of the authority being to each constitutional commission (Commission on Elections, Commission on Audit and the Civil Service Commission), whose decisions can be subjected to judicial review by the Supreme Court. Article IX, Section 7 reads: "Each commission shall decide by a majority vote of all its members any case or matter brought before it within sixty days from the date of its submission for decision or resolution.

A case or matter is deemed submitted for decision or resolution upon the filing of the last pleading, brief or memorandum required by the rules of the commission itself.

Unless otherwise provided by this Constitution or by law, any decision or order or ruling by each commission may be brought to the Supreme Court on certiorari by the aggrieved party within thirty days from receipt of a copy thereof."

Comelec rulings subject to review

It follows from this that decisions governing elections cannot be solely decided by the Commission on Elections. They can be brought to the Supreme Court for review.

Decisions by the Comelec on election matters can be reviewed and overturned by the Supreme Court. Comelec can only bow to the rulings of the high court. This perspective should guide public understanding of the raging controversy over the disqualification of Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. from the May 2022 election, which is being petitioned before the Comelec by various parties.

Had Comelec possessed genuine concern for the public interest and the stability of our public life, it would have turned for guidance to the major decisions by the judiciary on the disqualification of candidates for public office, in order to resolve the disqualification petitions.

But because of an ulterior desire to stall the election campaign and obfuscate the public debate, the Comelec has deliberately avoided the guidance of existing jurisprudence on disqualification issues to resolve the petitions expeditiously.

Two major decisions

There are two major decisions by the judiciary on disqualification questions that command attention because of their relevance and timeliness in the current election cycle.

The first of these decisions is Edgar Y. Teves v. Commission on Elections and Herminio G. Teves, G.R. 180363, April 28, 2009.

Justice Consuelo J. Ynares-Santiago wrote the decision. It said:

"The issue for resolution is whether the crime of which petitioner Edgar Y. Teves was convicted in Teves v. Sandiganbayan involving moral turpitude.

The facts of the case are undisputed.

Petitioner was a candidate for the position of representative of the 3rd legislative district of Negros Oriental during the May 14, 2007 elections. On March 30, 2007, respondent Herminio G. Teves filed a petition to disqualify two petitioners on the ground that in Teves v. Sandiganbayan, he was convicted of violating Section 3(h), Republic Act (RA) 3019, or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, for possessing pecuniary or financial interest in a cockpit, which is prohibited under Section 89(2) of the Local Government Code of 1991, and was sentenced to pay a fine of P10,000. Respondent alleged that petitioner is disqualified from running for public office because he was convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude which carries the accessory penalty of perpetual disqualification from public office. The case was docketed as SPA No. 07-242 and assigned to the Comelec's First Division.

On May 11, 2007, the Comelec First Division disqualified the petitioner from running for the position of member of House of Representatives and ordered the cancellation of his certificate of candidacy.

Petitioner filed a motion for reconsideration before the Comelec en banc which was denied in its assailed Oct. 9, 2007 Resolution for being moot, thus:

It appears, however, that [petitioner] lost in the last May 14, 2007 congressional elections for the position of member of the House of Representatives of the third district of Negros Oriental thereby rendering the instant motion for reconsideration moot and academic.

The petition is impressed with merit.

The fact that petitioner lost in the congressional race in the May 14, 2007 elections did not effectively moot the issue of whether he was disqualified from running for public office on the ground that the crime he was convicted of involved moral turpitude. It is still a justiciable issue which the Comelec should have resolved instead of merely declaring that the disqualification case has become moot in view of petitioner's defeat.

Further, there is no basis in the Comelec's findings that petitioner is eligible to run again in the 2010 elections because his disqualification shall be deemed removed after the expiration of a period of five years from service of the sentence. Assuming that the elections would be held on May 14, 2010, the records show that it was only on May 24, 2005 when petitioner paid the fine of P10,000.00 he was sentenced to pay in Teves v. Sandiganbayan. Such being the reckoning point, thus, the five-year disqualification period will end only on May 25, 2010. Therefore he would still be ineligible to run for public office during the May 14, 2010 elections.

Hence, it behooves the Court to resolve the issue of whether or not petitioner's violation of Section 3(h), RA 3019 involves moral turpitude.

The morality of gambling is not a justiciable issue. Gambling is not illegal per se. While it is generally considered inimical to the interests of the people, there is nothing in the Constitution categorically proscribing or penalizing gambling or, for that matter, even mentioning it at all. It is left to Congress to deal with the activity as it sees fit. In the exercise of its own discretion, the legislature may prohibit gambling altogether or allow it without limitation or it may prohibit some forms of gambling and allow others for whatever reasons it may consider sufficient. Thus, it has prohibited jueteng and monte but permits lotteries, cockfighting and horse-racing. In making such choices, Congress has consulted its own wisdom, which this Court has no authority to review, much less reverse. Well has it been said that courts do not sit to resolve the merits of conflicting theories. That is the prerogative of the political departments. It is settled that questions regarding the wisdom, morality, or practicability of statutes are not addressed to the judiciary but may be resolved only by the legislative and executive departments, to which the function belongs in our scheme of government.

Wherefore, the petition is granted. The assailed resolutions of the Commission on Elections dated May 11, 2007 and Oct. 9, 2007 disqualifying petitioner Edgar Y. Teves from running for the position of representative of the third district of Negros Oriental, are reversed and set aside and a new one is entered declaring that the crime committed by petitioner (violation of Section 3(h) of RA 3019) did not involve moral turpitude."

Significantly, former Supreme Court associate justice Antonio Carpio was one of the justices who concurred with the ponencia of Justice Ynares-Santiago.

Given his participation and concurrence in the decision on the Teves disqualification case, it is dishonest and deceptive of ex-justice Carpio to instigate the disqualification case against Marcos Jr. and preach moral turpitude at him.

Carpio laid out the case and arguments for the petitioners to mount and file a case and so they did.

But now that the disqualification cases will finally be heard by the elections commission, ex-justice Carpio has scampered away from the case and publicly refuses to be party to the petition for disqualification.

This evinces his lack of confidence in the case that he invented against BBM. He knows the fatuity of this caper because he helped write GR 180363. He knows how hollow is the charge of moral turpitude.

The disqualification cases against Marcos Jr. are headed for the dustbin. But the man who started it all will be free to sow more mischief.

CA ruling on tax evasion

The second court decision that merits review during the Comelec deliberations on the Marcos disqualification cases is a Court of Appeals decision on the imputation of tax evasion against Marcos Jr.

In 1997, the Court of Appeals declared that it found no proof to pin down Marcos Jr. on tax evasion charges, but cited him for failure to file income tax returns, which carries a penalty of just a fine.

The Oct. 31, 1997 ruling of the court's Special Third Division was penned by then Associate Justice Gloria Paras as the division's chairman and concurred by Associate Justices Lourdes Tayao-Jaguros, the senior member, and Oswaldo Agcaoili, the junior member.

The ruling affirms that Marcos Jr. paid income taxes from 1982 to 1986.

It was retired Supreme Court senior associate justice Carpio who claimed that Bongbong Marcos committed tax violations, which are grounds for his disqualification as a candidate.

Marcos brought the case to the appellate court, which overturned the tax evasion conviction.

The Paras ruling said the Bureau of Internal Revenue did not issue a tax assessment against Marcos before he was charged in court, denying him the right to due process.

The most annoying part of this story is that the culprit who manufactured this canard and deception freely walks among us and is not taking any responsibility for the mayhem.

One angry blogger is correct. It is time to stop addressing Carpio as "senior associate justice." He is senior to no one now.