“How can this group now rebuild its credibility?”
Last Monday, the Second Division of the Commission on Elections dismissed the petition filed by a group, led by former Supreme Court spokesperson Ted Te, seeking to cancel the certificate of candidacy of Partido Federal ng Pilipinas standard bearer, former Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr.
While I have always insisted in several discussions that the petitions against BBM would not prosper for several obvious reasons, I never imagined that the petition filed by Te, being a former SC spokesperson, would be dismissed either on the basis of stupidity or incompetence.
A lawyer of Te’s caliber surely should have not missed the constitutional provision on ex post facto law. I’m not a lawyer but I’ve learned about that in my political science class during college.
Using Presidential Decree 1994 which amended the 1977 tax code which took effect in 1986 and 1998 version of the tax code, Te’s group argued that BBM committed material misrepresentation in his CoC when he declared he was not meted a penalty of perpetual disqualification when he was convicted of “tax evasion” for his failure to file his income tax returns in 1982, 1983, 1984 and 1985.
While the 1998 version mandates a penalty of both fine and imprisonment for such offense, the 1985 amended tax code provides a choice of either fine or imprisonment.
First, assuming BBM was indeed convicted of tax evasion, the laws, as pointed out by Te’s group, would not apply to the PFP standard bearer as those laws took effect after the commission of “crime.”
The Second Division pointed out it was PD 1994 that made perpetual disqualification a penalty for tax convicts, and because it only became effective in 1986, it doesn’t cover the crimes of 1982 to 1984. As for taxable year 1985, Marcos was no longer a public officer when he was required to file his ITR in March 1986, as he and his family were forced into exile in February of that year.
In fact, it was Te’s group which committed misrepresentation when they substituted the word “or” in provision “fine or imprisonment” with the word “and,” to make it appear BBM should have been meted both penalties.
What, then, is the basis for Te’s group’s petition?
But more importantly, as pointed out by the Court of Appeals in its decision regarding the case, BBM did not commit tax evasion as taxes from his income, being a government official during the time in question, were automatically withheld. He, BBM, was found guilty of not filing his income tax returns during those periods, which the Court said, does not constitute tax evasion.
Comelec’s Second Division stated it clearly, “Failure to file an income tax return is not a crime involving moral turpitude,” basing it on an earlier Supreme Court division ruling also involving Marcos.
Further, in a separate opinion, Comelec Commissioner Antonio Kho, Jr. explained that the penalty of perpetual disqualification from public office, while contained in PD 1994, should expressly be written by the CA. And because it was not, then there’s no perpetual disqualification.
BBM’s spokesman, lawyer Vic Rodriguez hit the nail on the head when he described the petition filed by Te’s group as a manifestation of their “mere creativity for writing and wanting what is not written in the law as basis to cancel the certificate of candidacy of Presidential Aspirant Bongbong Marcos is way too frivolous and unmeritorious to override the basic precepts of the Constitution.”
Nonetheless, Rodriguez said that “after granting the petitioners’ right to have their day in court where their case was fully heard and ventilated, the Comelec has unanimously spoken — the petition to cancel the certificate of candidacy of Bongbong Marcos was denied.”
BBM avid supporter, Kilusang Bagong Lipunan senatorial bet Larry Gadon, said the Comelec decision was expected.
“I have predicted and expected the outcome of these nuisance cases which are intended to create some damage to the popularity of BBM which backfired as his ranking in all the surveys have even surged tremendously,” Gadon said in a statement distributed to the media.
And despite the May 9 polls having multiple presidential candidates, Gadon predicts “BBM will win and he will be a majority elected president.”
However, I think that would be the least of all the worries now hounding Te’s group. Their problem now, especially Te, is rebuilding their credibility. Who would be hiring him as counsel now that he’s been exposed as someone whose knowledge of the law is questionable?