The Election Code does not nullify disqualification for non-election offenses | Inquirer Opinion
LETTER TO THE EDITOR

The Election Code does not nullify disqualification for non-election offenses

/ 09:26 PM December 22, 2021

In his letter to the editor (“Incontrovertible facts, and 3 laws that address Marcos Jr.’s disqualification,” 12/17/21), Stephen Monsanto cited the arguments of Marcos Jr.’s lawyers, as follows: “Marcos Jr.’s lawyers have contended that in light of the Election Code of 1985, the disqualification under the Tax Code of 1977 should be deemed repealed since the Election Code, a later law, speaks only of conviction for a ‘crime involving moral turpitude’ as ground for disqualification. Their client’s conviction was not for such a crime, they say, thus his disqualification is uncalled for.”

The Omnibus Election Code deals with election matters, like election offenses under its Article XXII and corresponding penalties under its Section 264, which include “imprisonment of not less than one year but not more than six years and shall not be subject to probation. In addition, the guilty party shall be sentenced to suffer disqualification to hold public office and deprivation of the right of suffrage.” Under Section 267, election offenses shall prescribe after five years from their commission.

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While the Election Code provides for imprisonment for election offenses, other laws also provide imprisonment for non-election crimes, such as murder, homicide, corruption under the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act (Republic Act No. 3019), and tax evasion under the Tax Code (RA 8424 as amended). Persons were imprisoned under these laws without any reference to the Election Code.

Depending on the gravity of the crimes, in addition to imprisonment, some non-election laws also provide for perpetual disqualification from public office. Examples are Section 9 of RA 3019 and Section 252 (c) of the Tax Code as amended. As in the case of imprisonment, persons convicted under these laws should be disqualified without reference to the Election Code. This would have been the case of former president Joseph Estrada had he not been pardoned by former president Gloria Arroyo.

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Some persons convicted under non-election laws do not deserve to hold public office. However, many non-election laws do not provide for disqualification from public office as punishment, merely imprisonment and monetary liabilities. Thus, the Election Code addressed this situation by providing under its Section 12 the disqualification of persons who under other laws committed crimes involving moral turpitude. This is intended to complement those laws without disqualification provision. The disqualification here is merely temporary, removable after five years if the convicted person complied with all the terms of his sentence.

As can be seen, the Election Code serves to disqualify persons convicted under other laws for non-election crimes involving moral turpitude if they are not penalized with disqualification under those other laws—and the Election Code provides for temporary disqualification of five years only. There is nothing in it that explicitly repeals or nullifies the entirely different matter of permanent disqualification provided under other laws like the cited RA 3019 and the Tax Code.

Under this situation, to say that where other laws do not disqualify those convicted for non-election crimes involving moral turpitude, the Election Code provides the needed disqualification (and it is for a temporary period of five years only); while in contrast, where other laws provide the needed perpetual disqualification for non-election crimes, the Election Code reverses or nullifies that permanent disqualification if there is no proof that the crimes involved moral turpitude—this thought is absurd.

Therefore, the crystal-clear provision on perpetual disqualification under Presidential Decree No. 1158 that amended the Tax Code in 1977 should be enforced independently of and without reference to the Election Code.

MARCELO L. TECSON, San Miguel, Bulacan

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