Ferdinand Marcos’ PD 1158 to blame for his son’s disqualification fix
If the late President Ferdinand Marcos was grooming Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr. (BBM) to carry the torch for the family in due time after he was gone, it appears he unwittingly set up the petard by which his son would get hoist when that time came.
The elder Marcos probably never imagined that Presidential Decree No. 1158, which he promulgated in 1977 pursuant to his martial law powers, would come around decades later to bite his own son in the butt.
Now running for president, Marcos Jr. is facing disqualification from seeking any public office under that decree, which codified all tax laws dating back in 1939 into one compendium known as the National Internal Revenue Code of 1977. His father’s PD 1158 gave more teeth to the provisions on the nonfiling of tax returns and nonpayment of taxes by imposing, in addition to the penalties already carried therein, “dismissal” from public service and “perpetual disqualification” from holding any public office, and from “voting and participating in any election” for “violation of any provision of this Code” (Sec. 252-c).
Marcos Jr. was convicted with finality only of the crime of nonpayment of taxes for 1982 up to 1985. That would have been the simplest basis to have him disqualified from gunning for the presidency. There is no denying that fact. There was no need to shoehorn peripheral matters into the process. “Moral turpitude” is nowhere mentioned as an essential ingredient of the offense to warrant “dismissal” or “perpetual disqualification” from public office under PD 1158. Being a malum prohibitum, that law punishes mere nonpayment of taxes. On the other hand, the Omnibus Election Code speaks of disqualifying a candidate who has been found guilty of any other crime “involving moral turpitude” (e.g., murder, rape). In other words, it is just another ground, if applicable, apart from and independent of the offenses penalized under the Tax Code of 1977.
Conflating the most viable ground for disqualification with all kinds of inconsequential charges and thus expanding the scope of the litigation can serve only to obfuscate the issue and prolong the debate. Hence, we are now being treated to the endless back-and-forth as to whether Marcos Jr. was convicted of any crime involving “moral turpitude.” That question should no longer be part of the conversation.
The Commission on Elections (Comelec) may not even be up to the tedious task of winnowing the chaff from the grain, with its already hectic schedule in preparation for next year’s elections, barely six months away. The simplification of the issue would have given Marcos Jr.’s powerhouse lawyers no plausible reason to seek an extension to study and respond to a no-brainer petition — much less any leeway for the Comelec to grant the same. By bending over backward and breaking its own rule explicitly prohibiting such extension, the Comelec may have needlessly stoked suspicion that it is playing footsie with, if not already in the tank for, a favored wannabe.
STEPHEN L. MONSANTO
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