Moral turpitude damages the nation

AT GROUND LEVEL - Satur C. Ocampo - The Philippine Star

Urged to act fast on the petition to cancel the certificate of candidacy for president of Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the Comelec, through its spokesperson, has indicated it would be able to resolve the issue by late December. That is, if the process – which usually takes six weeks – was followed strictly.

Essentially the petition cites these two legal provisions that it says render the late dictator’s son ineligible to run for president:

• Section 12 of the Omnibus Election Code (OEC), which disqualifies any candidate who has been convicted by final judgment of “any offense for which he has been sentenced to a penalty of more than eighteen [18] months or for a crime involving moral turpitude;” and

• Section 253(c) of the National Internal Revenue Code (Tax Code), which provides that “any public officer” who is convicted of any crime penalized by the Tax Code is “perpetually disqualified from holding public office, to vote and to participate in any election.”

The petition points out that Marcos Jr. was convicted by the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 105 on July 27, 1995 for failure to file income tax return and pay income taxes from 1982 to 1985, and the Court of Appeals affirmed the conviction on Oct. 31, 1997. Yet, it notes, he falsely claims in his certificate of candidacy that he’s eligible to run for president whereas “he is plainly a convicted criminal.”

Pending the Comelec’s action on the petition, the respondent or his lawyer(s) haven’t made a formal response. Marcos Jr. and his spokesperson, however, have tried to belittle the petition.

It’s crucial that a decision be made before the elections on May 9, 2022, a former Comelec commissioner emphasized, “so that the voters would know the status of the candidate.” Also, one of the six human rights organization-petitioners, Kapatid (Families and Friends of Political Prisoners), pressed the Comelec to “act now.” Its spokesperson, Fides Lim, voiced out what they aim to achieve, thus:

“This election is indeed about the future of the Filipino people – that does not include Bongbong Marcos and the Marcos family and their enablers who stole our future during martial law and are back at it again.”

The other petitioners are: Task Force Detainees of the Philippines, Medical Action Group, Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates, Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearance and Balay Rehabilitation Inc.

Meantime, the disqualification petition quickly garnered support from various organizations involved in the progressive open mass movement, including human rights defenders, led by the advocacy-alliance Karapatan, and the recently revitalized Campaign Against the Return of the Marcoses and Martial Law (CARMMA), whose convenors are mostly martial law survivors (disclosure: I am one of the new convenors).

Noting the candidate’s false representation in his certificate of candidacy, CARMMA said he is “nothing more than a nuisance to the Filipino people, and his bid for the presidency is a mockery of our democratic and electoral processes.” The organization enjoined “all democratic forces and freedom-loving Filipinos to resist the restoration of the Marcoses and their brand of tyrannical rule.”

Moreover, the petition has been boosted by the legal insights and citations of additional Supreme Court rulings by retired SC Senior Associate Justice Antonio T. Carpio.

Writing for the third time on the issue in his weekly column in the Inquirer on Nov. 4, the jurist cited the two legal provisions quoted above and stated: “Either one of these two grounds is sufficient to disqualify Marcos Jr.”

That’s a definitive advance from what he wrote on Oct. 28, wherein he said that “Marcos Jr. cannot now be disqualified on the ground that he was sentenced to imprisonment for more than 18 months because there is no such sentence by the Court of Appeals.”

However, he added, a case can be made that the “repeated failure to file income tax returns from 1982 to 1985 amounts to moral turpitude.”

In sum, “moral turpitude” is defined in Black’s Law Dictionary, which the Supreme Court has consistently adopted, as “conduct contrary to justice, honesty or good morals.”

(In his earlier column on Sept. 30, Carpio wrote about the “tax debt of the Marcos estate,” which he computed to have aggregated over the years to P203.819 billion.)

In his Thursday piece, Carpio wrote that when the QC court, in 1995, convicted Marcos Jr. and imposed a fine and imprisonment of three years for each of two counts, the dictator’s son appealed to the Court of Appeals. The higher court affirmed the conviction but modified the penalty to only a fine. The conviction became final in 2001.

Carpio posited the legal principles that a person cannot be punished for an act that wasn’t penalized when the act is committed, or be subjected to penalty that was not imposed when the act was committed. “The defense of Marcos Jr. will rely mainly on these legal principles,” he surmised. He went on to show it wouldn’t work. Why?

On the first principle, Carpio said the act for which Marcos Jr. was convicted in 1995 “has been made a crime since 1939 under the Tax Code.”

Ironical is the fact that Marcos Sr. was responsible for both “introducing” the disqualification provision in Section 12 of the Omnibus Election Code through Batas Pambansa Blg. 881 on Dec. 3, 1985 and “incorporating” the same disqualification in Section 253(c) of the National Internal Revenue Code, through Presidential Decree No.1994, which took effect on Jan. 1, 1986.

Both disqualifications, Carpio concluded, “thus applied to Marcos Jr., when he failed to file his income tax return and pay the tax thereon, on April 15, 1986 for the taxable year 1985.” Touche!

“History has shown that our presidents who lied, stole or killed – those afflicted with moral turpitude – have inflicted irreparable damage on our nation,” said the veteran jurist. A rallying cry indeed.

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