Manila: The Philippine Commission on Elections (Comelec) has denied on Monday (January 17, 2022) a petition seeking to cancel former Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.’s certificate of candidacy (COC) for president, thus clearing the way for him to run for president in the upcoming May 2022 elections.
The reason: Marcos Jr’ conviction in 1995 for tax evasion — over his failure to file his income tax returns for three years from 1982, 1983, and 1984 — does not constitute a “crime of moral turpitude”, according to the Commission.
The petition claimed that Marcos is not eligible to run for any public office following the initial tax evasion conviction by a lower court in 1995, which was later upheld the Court of Appeals in 1997, though it removed the seven-year imprisonment penalty.
The argument based on this fact, however, was thrown out by the Comelec’s Second Division on the ground of “non-retroactivity” of National Internal Revenue Code (NIRC) of 1994.
'1994 Revenue Code not retroactive'
“The Second Division ruled that the National Internal Revenue Code (NIRC) of 1994 did not apply to the case — because that would have resulted in a retroactive application since an NIRC of 1994 took effect only in 1986, whereas the cases involved in this case, were ’82, ’83, and ’84,” Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez told Philippine media on Monday.
The petition was filed by anti-Marcos regime activists led by Task Force Detainees chair Fr. Christian Buenafe. On Monday, Jimenez said the Second Division dismissed the petition for lack of merit.
Marcos Jr, also known as Bong Bong or BBM, is a former Senator running for president of the Philippines in the 2022 national elections despite.
He is leading early poll surveys and is running on a ticket with President Rodrigo Duterte’s daughter, Sara Duterte, who seeks to become vice president.
In their petition, Buenafe et. al. cited the previous tax conviction in claiming Marcos “falsified” his COC, thus making him ineligible to be a candidate for president of the Philippines in the May 9, 2022 national elections.
Jimenez said that the division noted that failure to file an income tax return is not a crime involving moral turpitude.
“So for this reason, when respondent Marcos Jr. checked the item on the COC saying that he has no disqualifications, it was not a misrepresentation,” Jimenez added, citing the Comelec division’s ruling.
Atty. Theodore Te, counsel for petitioners, said the petitioners will seek reconsideration of the decision.
Cases against Marcos filed on behalf of the victims piled up at the Commission on Elections, with the seventh, and most recent, filed in late November.
The petitions ask the body to either cancel Marcos’ certificate of candidacy or to disqualify him due to a criminal conviction over his failure to file income tax returns decades ago.
The petitions vary in legal tactics, but they have one common goal: to prevent the younger Marcos from seeking the presidency.
Thousands were killed, tortured or disappeared during the elder Marcos’ rule in the 1980s while his family amassed a personal fortune in the billions of dollars.
In 1995, a US jury in Hawaii ruled in favour of human rights victims and deemed Marcos responsible for human rights violations in the Philippines.
In November, the dean of the University of Santo Tomas law school said the first petition against Marcos "is bound to collapse once evaluated by the Comelec."
"It's ad hominem, or an attack against the character of the respondent, that may weaken the petitioners' position. It is the law, always, that matters," said the dean, lawyer Nilo Divina.
Marcos is leading in the early presidential survey at 53%, according to the most recent poll, while opposition Vice President Leni Robredo is the distant second at 20%. Marcos lost to Robredo in the vice presidential race in 2016.
Earlier, retired Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio outlined why Marcos should be disqualified in a series of columns published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
The disqualification cases stem from a 1995 conviction of Marcos over his failure to pay income taxes from 1982-84, when he served as vice governor and later governor of the province of of Ilocos Norte, the family’s bailiwick.
Marcos appealed the conviction, and the Court of Appeals upheld the lower court’s decision — but removed the seven-year imprisonment penalty in 1997.
The conviction became final when he withdrew his appeal from the Supreme Court in 2001.