December 2, 2022

The Commission on Elections dismissed the petition of Martial Law victims seeking to cancel the certificate of candidacy of Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. We attempt to digest and explain in simplest terms the 32-page decision.
The petitioners say Marcos Jr. made a misrepresentation when he declared under oath that he has never been found liable for any offense as he ticked the “no” box on his COC. He is ineligible or disqualified from holding any public office and to vote and participate in any election because he was convicted for failure to file his income tax return (ITR) for four years, which carries the penalty of perpetual disqualification.
Marcos Jr. said the 1977 National Internal Revenue Code did not impose perpetual disqualification as a penalty as this was only part of Presidential Decree 1994, which took effect on Jan. 1, 1986. The mandatory filing of ITRs for 1982 to 1984 already passed before PD 1994 took effect and there is no retroactive effect of penal laws. For 1985, the mandatory filing fell on March 18, 1986, but Marcos Jr. was then no longer a public officer.
The Comelec junked the petition, saying “While the representations made in item 11 and box 22 of the COC are material, they were not false, thus no ground to cancel COC on the ground of material misrepresentation.”
The Comelec Second Division “cannot agree with petitioners’ theory that BBM’s convictions for failure to file ITRs for taxable years 1982 to 1984 render him perpetually disqualified for the simple reason that to do so would violate the Constitutional proscription against ex post facto laws.
The Court of Appeals was correct in not imposing on the penalty of perpetual disqualification. There was no error in judgment as the CA was in accord with the law in force at the time of commission of violations.”
“Since he was not meted the accessory penalty of perpetual disqualification, it cannot be rightfully said that he committed a false misrepresentation when he said ‘no’ to the questions in item 22 of his COC.
In like manner, when he said in item 11 that he is eligible for the office for which he seeks to be elected to, he was essentially speaking the truth. He did so “without any intention to mislead, misinform, or hide a fact which would otherwise render him ineligible,” since the CA “did not categorically convict him of a crime involving moral turpitude nor did it positively pronounce that he was sentenced to imprisonment of more than 18 months to disqualify him under the Omnibus Election Law.”
Likewise, there was no declaration by the CA ruling that he is perpetually disqualified from holding public office. The Second Division also said petitioners were “obviously clutching at straws” as the Supreme Court already declared that the failure to file ITRs is not a crime involving moral turpitude.
The Comelec took to task petitioners for “deliberately citing an inapplicable provision of law in order to mislead the Commission, which by the way subjects their lawyer to disciplinary action. For taxable years 1982 to 1984, the applicable law states that failure to file is punishable by a fine of not more than P2,000 or imprisonment of not more than six months or both.
For 1985, the applicable law also punishes the same offense with fine or imprisonment or both. Petitioners cited a different section of the NIRC that supposedly mandates the imposition of fine and imprisonment. They cited a certain provision denominated as Sec. 254 of the 1977 NIRC.
The provision punishes those who failed to file an ITR with a fine of not less than P10,000 plus imprisonment. A reading of Sec. 254 shows that it refers to rentals and royalties and mineral lands under lease,” They made it appear that Sec. 254 says imprisonment is a mandatory punishment, which is a deliberate intent to deceive or mislead the Commission.” (Huli sina Atty. Te and Justice Carpio).
The penalty of imposing both fine and imprisonment only became mandatory on Dec. 11, 1998 following the enactment of Republic Act 8424. It was a case of shameless law mangling said the tribune.
Marcos Jr. has survived the lone petition to cancel his COC although he faces at least three more disqualification suits, based on the same grounds of tax conviction. What would be the ruling in the other cases? Your guess is as good as mine.