By KAILA MARIE ALFORTE and JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA — Human rights groups are seeking the disqualification of former senator and son and namesake of the former dictator, Ferdinand Marcos Jr. in his bid to run for president in the 2022 national elections, citing the “inescapable fact” of his conviction over tax evasion charges 26 years ago.
The petitioners from different civic and human rights groups assert that Marcos Jr. is not eligible to run for public office, over what they said was material misrepresentations, per his claims in his Certificate of Candidacy that he has never been found liable for any offense.
“…Marcos falsified his Certificate of Candidacy when he claimed that he was eligible to be a candidate for President of the Philippines in the 2022 national elections when in fact he is disqualified from doing so,” said Fides Lim, spokesperson of Kapatid, a support group of families and friends of political prisoners in a statement and one of the petitioners of the disqualification bid against Marcos Jr.
Other petitioners include Fr. Christian Buenafe, Ma. Edeliza P. Hernandez, Celia Sevilla, Roland Vibal, and Josephine Lascano. They were assisted by human rights lawyer and former Supreme Court spokesperson Theodore Te.
The Comission on Elections (Comelec), through its spokesperson, estimates that it will take until late December before a resolution on the petition could be reached.
Marcos Jr., through his lawyer, has earlier dismissed the disqualification petition as mere “propaganda,” adding that they do not engage in “gutter politics.” But petitioners, in their media interviews, are not convinced, saying that the truth has no political color.
“In fact, the assertions made by respondent Marcos Jr. in the Subject COC are not only false, they are even perjurious – another crime involving moral turpitude,” read the 52-page petition, which the Supreme Court defined in a 1967 decision as contrary to justice, honesty, or good morals.
Violating tax law perpetually disqualifies one from public office
Petitioners said that per Presidential Decree No. 1994 dated Nov. 5, 1985, Marcos Jr. ‘s conviction of violating the National Internal Revenue Code (NIRC) perpetually disqualifies him from holding any public office, voting, and participating in any election. They also argued that such disqualification applies to all convictions.
“Clearly the inescapable fact is that the mere conviction for the violations of provisions of the NIRC perpetually disqualifies respondent Marcos Jr. from participating in any election, more so to run for any public office.”
In 1995, a Quezon City court convicted Marcos Jr. of violating the NIRC and sentenced him to three-year imprisonment and a fine of P30,000 ($595). He was also convicted of seven other counts of tax violations with varying prison terms and fines.
The Court of Appeals later affirmed the conviction for four charges but removed the penalty of imprisonment despite this being mandated by the law.
In 2001, Marcos Jr. withdrew his appeal before the Supreme Court.
“Despite the dates of mandatory filing having lapsed for the relevant years, respondent Marcos Jr. still failed to file, even belatedly, any income tax return for the taxable years 1982 to 1985,” the petition read, adding that the NIRC allows late filing of income tax returns subject to a 25-percent surcharge.
By such, petitioners argued that he “continuously committed the crimes” from the time of his failure to file his income tax returns, to the time that he was charged with tax evasion cases, and even after the conviction. This, they added, showed his “continued intent to evade his liability of filing the necessary income tax returns and ultimately evade the payment of taxes.”
Estate taxes worth P203.8 billion
Petitioners said his repeated failure to file his income tax returns is not a mere “omission” but “plainly shows respondent Marcos Jr.’s moral turpitude.”
As then vice governor and governor of Ilocos Norte from 1981 to 1983 and 1983 to 1986, respectively, petitioners said he failed to abide by and enforce the laws by not filing his income tax returns when he was already a public official. “This shows moral depravity and abuse,” they said.
Petitioners noted that they are not aware of any record that Marcos Jr. has already paid the fine imposed on him for the conviction of four counts of his tax evasion charges. Apart from him, they said that they are also unaware of any record showing that the Marcos family having paid estate taxes, following the death of the dictator.
In the 1977 NIRC, which was in effect at the time of Marcos Sr.’s death, the duty to file estate tax returns falls on the administrator or the heirs.
With a base estate of P23.29 billion ($462.6 million), petitioners said the liability of Marcos Jr., both as an heir and court-appointed administrator, and the rest of the heirs of the dictator Marcos is at P203.8 billion ($4 billion). This includes interests, surcharge, and other penalties.
“Considering the propensity of respondent Marcos Jr. to evade his positive duties as a taxpayer and the totality of the circumstances of his prior conviction for the violation of the NIRC is one with moral turpitude,” the petition read.
Meanwhile, in a statement, Jerome Adonis of the Kilusang Mayo Uno found this unacceptable, saying that the Marcoses can afford to evade as much as $4 billion when ordinary workers and their meager pay carry the burden of paying taxes.
Deliberate intent to mislead, misinform and deceive
Petitioners said that per the certificate of candidacy (COC) that Marcos Jr. filed, there was a deliberate intent to mislead, misinform, and deceive the electorate, saying that his knowledge of the fact that he was convicted of tax evasion charges is undeniable.
In the COC, Marcos Jr. ticked the “no” box when asked if he had been found liable for any offense that carried the penalty of perpetual disqualification to hold public office. He also declared this as true before a notary public.
“Clearly, the misrepresentation made by respondent Marcos Jr. is apparent and cannot be denied herein and should warrant the cancellation of the subject COC,” the petition read.
Meanwhile, the Campaign Against the Return of Marcoses and Martial Law (CARMMA) described Marcos Jr. as “thief, liar, and convicted tax evader,” adding that “his bid for the presidency is a mockery of our democracy and electoral processes.”
Under the Duterte administration, the Marcoses have been exonerated, with the late dictator’s hero’s burial and Imelda Marcos still scot-free despite being convicted to serve 42 years in prison over seven counts of graft charges. The president’s daughter and mayor of Davao, Sara Duterte, has also been seen in talks with the Marcoses and are rumored to be forming an alliance in the upcoming national elections.
“We in CARMMA, many of whom are martial law survivors or related to martial law victims, support and join the clamor to disqualify Marcos Jr. as we enjoin all democratic forces and freedom-loving Filipinos to resist the restoration of the Marcoses and their brand of tyrannical rule,” the group said. (RVO)