The Commission on Elections (Comelec) First Division voted 2-0 to dismiss the consolidated disqualification cases against presidential candidate Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. for lack of merit.
“The consolidated petitions of Ilagan v. Marcos Jr., Akbayan v. Marcos Jr., and Mangelen v. Marcos Jr. have been dismissed for lack of merit, by the Comelec’s First Division,” Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez announced in a tweet on Thursday.
Commissioner Aimee Ferolino, the ponente in the petitions, and Commissioner Marlon Casquejo are members of the Comelec’s First Division. A third commissioner, Rowena Guanzon, retired last February 3 but publicly declared that her position was to disqualify Marcos.
“Contrary to Petitioners’ assertion, the penalty of perpetual disqualification by reason of failure to file income tax returns was not provided for under the original 1977 NIRC (National Internal Revenue Code). Both Petitioners Ilagan et al. and Akbayan et al. cited Section 252 of the 1977 NIRC, which upon Our verification, is a provision pertaining to the “‘Falsification, or counterfeiting, restoration, or alteration of documentary stamps; possession or use of false, counterfeit, restored, or altered stamps,” the 45-page resolution read.
It added: “However, a further review of the 1977 NIRC would belie Petitioner’s claim; while there was indeed a provision on perpetual disqualification, the same is applicable only on unlawful possession or removal of articles subject to specific tax without payment of tax. To be clear, the penalty of perpetual disqualification came into force only upon the effectivity of P.D. No. 1994 on 01 January 1986. Thus, the penalty cannot be made to apply to Respondent’s tax violations, which were committed before the effectivity of the said law, in accord with the constitutional prohibition against ex post facto laws.”
As for the penalty of imprisonment of more than 18 months and the conviction of a crime involving moral turpitude, the Division also ruled in favor of the respondent.
“Whether or not a crime involves moral turpitude is ultimately a question of fact and frequently depends on all the circumstances surrounding the violation of the statute. After carefully examining each argument of the parties and the circumstances surrounding Respondent’s failure to file income tax, We find to rule in Respondent’s favor. To determine if a crime involves moral turpitude, the Supreme Court has consistently ruled that it must be approached on a case-to-case basis,” it added.
The First Division said the failure to file tax returns is not inherently wrong “in the absence of a law punishing it.”
The Comelec division said Marcos was only meted with the penalty of a fine for his failure to file his income tax returns.
It also recognized that the resolution of the case is “of paramount importance,” considering the proximity of the May 9 national and local elections.