Court of Appeals and Supreme Court betrayed public trust in Marcos Jr. tax ruling
Practically all lawyers, law professors, and students agree that it was wrong for the Court of Appeals (CA) — after deciding to affirm the conviction of Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. by the Regional Trial Court in the tax evasion cases under the National Internal Revenue Code of 1977 — to delete the prison terms altogether and retain only the piddling fines imposed therein.
The facts were undisputed. Presidential Decree No. 1158 (the National Internal Revenue Code of 1977) explicitly provided for BOTH imprisonment and fine as the mandatory penalty for violation of any of its provisions. No discretion is allowed the court to impose only one or the other. The CA justices were not ignorant of that law—for reasons known only to them, they simply ignored the law. It has given fillip to the argument that Marcos Jr.’s “conviction” was not that big a deal to serve as basis for the cancellation of his certificate of candidacy for the highest office of the land.
To paraphrase Marcos Jr.’s lawyer Estelito Mendoza: “What is clear and certainly beyond dispute is that the CA decision (has not found BBM … to have committed) a crime involving moral turpitude … and no such inference can be made from (that) decision.” This is said to be self-evident from the very fact that the CA had totally junked the imprisonment meted out by the trial court.
When Marcos Jr. himself elevated that case to the Supreme Court (SC) in 1997, the matter was laid open for cursory examination and evaluation. If the Court had only done that minimum degree of due diligence, it could have easily seen from the very bare allegations contained in the appeal how the CA had gone rogue in its disposition of that case.
Despite Marcos Jr.’s withdrawal of that appeal in 2001 (presumably for fear that he might get into more trouble), the high court could have held the CA justices concerned to account for their temerity in making a mockery of the law. Mendoza would surely have shied away from relying on that unlawful aspect of the decision to boost his client’s defense. Now, it has become his wrecking ball to demolish the case against Marcos Jr.
While the SC may have been barred by that withdrawal (not to mention, “double jeopardy”) from doing anything about the CA’s scandalous decision, it cannot wash its hands of that mess. Nothing stood in the way of citing the CA justices concerned to show cause why no disciplinary action should be taken against them for that injudicious adventurism. In failing to do so, the high court itself betrayed the trust the public reposed in the judicial system, which is supposed to uphold the rule of law without fear or favor.
If any credence is to be given the recent poll surveys among potential voters, the son who idolized his father—the corrupt dictator the Filipino people kicked out of the country in 1986, along with his whole family, but bestowed by the high court in 2016 the “honor of a hero’s burial” (!)—is about to ascend to the same throne by “popular demand.” Thanks to the CA and the SC for contributing a lot to this abomination.
ROMANO M. MONTENEGRO
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.