June 17, 2024

Attempting to disqualify a candidate, especially those leading the race has always been a routine in Philippine politics. Déjà vu, been there, done that, already saw it coming, lived through that situation.
Here comes now Bongbong Marcos, who faces the danger of being booted out from the presidential derby.
Former Supreme Court spokesman Theodore Te, who worked with former SC Justice Antonio Carpio, 1Sambayan Coalition chair and a known Leni die-hard, has filed in behalf of a civil liberty group the disqualification case. It is anchored on a prior conviction of tax evasion by the courts, enough for the Commission and Elections and SC to disqualify him.
Bongbong was found guilty on July 27, 1995 on four charges of violating Section 45 of the 1977 National Internal Revenue Code for failing to file income tax returns from 1982 to 1985.
The Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 105 had sentenced him to three years in prison with a fine of P30,000.
Section 12 of the Omnibus Election Code states that anyone who “has been sentenced by final judgment” for any offense with a penalty of more than 18 months “or for a crime involving moral turpitude, shall be disqualified to be a candidate and to hold any office.”
On Oct. 30, 1997, Bongbong appealed the RTC decision to the Court of Appeals, which later ruled that he was “guilty beyond reasonable doubt” for violation of Section 45. The CA acquitted him on four other charges under Section 50 for non-payment of deficiency taxes.
He was also ordered to “pay the BIR the deficiency income taxes due with interest at the legal rate until fully paid.”
The CA removed the penalty imprisonment, although some say the penalty is a mandatory requirement of the Tax Code providing both a fine and imprisonment. No appeal on that aspect, however, was made by the government prosecutors.
Marcos appealed to the SC but withdrew it. Lawyers’ judgment call or ploy probably. The SC might revise the CA and reimpose imprisonment. In August of 2009, the SC in People vs. Ferdinand Marcos and Imelda Marcos with GR No. 130371 and 130855 said “more importantly, even assuming arguendo that his conviction is later on affirmed, the same is still insufficient to disqualify him as the failure to file an income tax return is not a crime involving moral turpitude.”
In Villaber v. Commission on Elections (420 Phil. 930, 2001), the SC held: “As to the meaning of ‘moral turpitude,’ we have consistently adopted the definition in Black’s Law Dictionary as ‘an act of baseness, vileness, or depravity in the private duties which a man owes his fellow men, or to society in general, contrary to the accepted and customary rule of right and duty between man and woman, or conduct contrary to justice, honesty, modesty, or good morals.’”
In Re: Vinzon, the term moral turpitude is considered as encompassing “everything which is done contrary to justice, honesty, or good morals.” SC clarified in Dela Torre vs. Commission on Elections that “not every criminal act involves moral turpitude,” and that “as to what crime involves moral turpitude is for the Supreme Court to determine” (Id. at 937).
Marcos cannot now be disqualified on the ground that he was sentenced to imprisonment for more than 18 months because there was none imposed by the CA and clearly not a crime involving moral turpitude.
What is left to determine is whether his case is a crime involving moral turpitude, which is the other basis for the disqualification.
To my mind, a separate criminal information must be filed and Marcos was convicted because the crime cannot just be appended to the tax case which would violate his right to equal protection and due process.
There is no crime of moral turpitude in the Penal Code or a set statutory definition under any other criminal law. Nullum crimen noe poena sine lege – no crime if no law punishing it.
It is almost always an intent crime, but do not include offenses that happen because of a mistake, accident, or bad judgment call.
The good thing about the petition is that it came far too early to cause even decided voters to withdraw support because even if he wins, he cannot take his seat anyway.
Enough time for SC to clear the issue or for President Rody Duterte to exercise is plenary pardon power, which is his absolute and uncontrolled discretion.