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Opinion

Moral turpitude conviction disqualifies candidates  

WHAT MATTERS MOST - Atty. Josephus B. Jimenez - The Freeman

What happens if one very strong candidate for president is removed from contention by the Commission on Elections, by cancelling his certificate of candidacy? Of course, he would appeal to the Supreme Court, with the greatest lawyer of last resort, Atty. Estelito Mendoza, who wins cases not only on the merits but also by his strong influence.

But with Malacañang now attacking this candidate, how can his lawyer influence the commissioners who are all appointed by the president, except one? There’s a grave and imminent danger that one very prominent candidate for president may be disqualified. Or, to put it accurately, his certificate of candidacy may be cancelled. Under Section 12 of the Philippine Omnibus Election Code, any person "who has been sentenced by final judgment for a crime involving moral turpitude shall be disqualified to be a candidate and to hold any office xxx". When the word is "shall'', any freshman Law student would tell you that the law is mandatory. No ifs, no buts.

If this happens, it will benefit the remaining candidates, and that means VP Leni's candidacy will most probably benefit. Bong Go too. Isko, Pacman, and Ping? They are good ones whose time hasn’t yet come. Leni is silently making inroads into the strongholds of Marcos. There are mayors and governors who are set to declare for Leni after the new year celebrations. They are just putting their respective affairs in order. The split between BBM and Malacañang is the tipping point that shall spell the debacle of Marcos. In the event that Marcos loses in the Comelec and goes to the Supreme Court, all the 15 justices, except three, are appointees of President Duterte. Of course, they are all upright and will rule in accordance with law. And the law is against BBM’s position.

Congressman Edcel Lagman wrote a well-researched treatise on the topic replete with all legal precedents. And with apologies to my friend, Lagman, I am quoting most of his dissertations. I have known this honorable and brave man since he managed the Romero, Lagman, Chato, and Torres law firm with the late Negros Oriental congressman Mike Romero (another friend of mine) and former DOLE secretary Ruben Torres, a very close former colleague. In 1980, I was the HR and admin manager of Manda Elizalde Tourism Company, in partnership with the Club Med Group of France, and their law firm was our legal counsel. I know Lagman as a topnotch legal luminary and a fearless advocate for probity in public service.

Lagman is saying that conviction of a tax crime involves moral turpitude. He explains the word "turpitude" as derived from the Latin word "turpitudo" which means vile, base, and wrongful. In our Civil Code, there are many disqualifying consequences when one is convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude. Section 286 of the National Internal Revenue Code, in relation to Section 228, paragraph c mentions perpetual disqualification from holding public office as one of the accessory penalties for having been convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude. Lagman says that repeated non-filing of ITR is involving moral turpitude. I’m not a tax lawyer, and Taxation is my most hated subject. Thus, I rely on his opinion and I have no doubt in the veracity of what he wrote.

At the end of the day, what matters most is that the voters are sufficiently informed about the character and competence of all candidates. There is no intent to dishonor or malign anyone. Those who want the mandate to lead the nation should not only be competent. They should have no skeletons in their closet. If the people still choose him, then that’s the will of the citizenry. What matters most is that they don’t choose blindly. Let the truth come out, and let heaven fall if it may.

COMELEC
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