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With Due Respect

Petitioners: BBM lied, COC must be nixed

As I explained last Sunday, the Second Division of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) refused to cancel the Certificate of Candidacy (COC) of Bongbong Marcos (BBM) because the petitioners failed to show that BBM lied (or in legalese, that BBM committed “false material representations”) when (A) he stated in Item No. 11 of his pro forma COC, as follows: “I am eligible for the office I seek to be elected to,” and (B) he answered “No” to the question in Item No. 22 of his COC that reads: “Have you ever been found liable for an offense which carries with it the accessory penalty of perpetual disqualification to hold public office, which has become final and executory?”

THESE REPRESENTATIONS ARE FALSE, insist the petitioners—through their counsel Theodore O. Te—in their motion for partial reconsideration (MR).

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Regarding (A) eligibility, Te wrote that the Second Division admitted that BBM was convicted by the Court of Appeals (CA) “of a law that prescribes the penalty of perpetual disqualification to hold office… for an offender who is a public officer or employee.” But the Division wrongly “excluded BBM from the clear coverage of the law,” ruling (1) that he was not EXPRESSLY “meted” the accessory penalty and (2) that BBM was NO LONGER A PUBLIC OFFICER on March 18, 1986 when the law requiring the filing of his Income Tax Returns (ITR) for 1985 fell due because he (and his father) were exiled to Hawaii and ousted from their public offices in February 1986; and BBM, by his exile, abandoned his office as governor.

TE COUNTERED THAT (1) the CA did not need to impose expressly the penalty because “by operation of law,” it was “deemed written into the conviction,” and (2) BBM was still a public officer (governor) because under the then Provisional Constitution, “All elective and appointive officials and employees… shall continue in the office until otherwise provided by proclamation or executive order or upon the designation or appointment and qualification of their successors…” Moreover, abandonment of a public office is a crime, and according to Te, “It is exceedingly ludicrous for the Second Division to invoke the commission of a felony on behalf of the offender as a defense against a penalty prescribed by law for another crime…”

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Regarding (B) on BBM’s “No” answer, Te argued, “All (the question) seeks to elicit is whether (BBM) was convicted of a crime… penalized with perpetual disqualification.” Unquestionably, he was.

Finally, Te asserted that BBM is conclusively presumed to know his conviction because he appealed it to the CA and thereafter to the Supreme Court (which he later withdrew). “As a former Vice Governor, Governor, Member of Congress, and Senator, he, more than the ordinary citizen, should have been more acutely aware of the laws, their binding effect, and their lasting consequences.” Hence, by knowingly making a false representation, he intended to “mislead, misinform, or hide a fact which would otherwise render him ineligible.”

AFTER READING THE RESOLUTION AND TE’S MR, I am convinced that in regard to BBM’s representation in Item No. 11, BBM—under the then Constitution—continued to be a public officer on March 18, 1986 when he was required (but failed) to file his ITR. To the best of my knowledge, Castor Raval was sworn in only as “acting governor” of Ilocos Norte which means that BBM was still the regular governor. Also, though his father was exiled to Hawaii, BBM did not present any proof he was forced to be exiled, too, and prevented from returning home.

Moreover, his “No” answer in Item No. 22 is “false” because the offense he was convicted of carried with it—in fact and in truth—the accessory penalty of disqualification from holding a public office. The question did not require that the penalty be “imposed” by a court, only that the “offense… carries with it the accessory penalty of perpetual disqualification…” That his conviction had not been raised in his earlier quests for public office does not excuse the falsity of his answer. Jalosjos v. Comelec (Oct. 9, 2012) held that a COC can still be canceled though, in the past, the candidate had been judged by the Comelec to be eligible to run, and has served twice as mayor.

I also think that BBM cannot be said to be unaware of the consequences of the offense he was convicted of because, to quote the Civil Code, “Ignorance of the law excuses no one from compliance therewith.” And to use a maxim familiar to law students, Ignorantia juris neminem excusat.

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