Bongbong's party lawyer says he can't be disqualified from seeking presidency

Published January 17, 2022, 11:08 AM

by Joseph Pedrajas

Presidential aspirant Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. cannot be disqualified to run for presidency on the basis of his tax-related case, his party’s lawyer said Sunday night.

George Briones, Marcos Jr.’s Partido Federal ng Pilipinas (PFP) general counsel, said in a statement posted on the party’s Facebook page that the Commission on Elections (Comelec) cannot perpetually disqualify him from running for the highest seat in the country because if it does so, then it must have also disqualified him when he ran as a governor, congressman, senator and vice president.

Briones’ argument came in response to petition filed by priest Christian Buenafe of the Task Force Detainees of the Philippines and Fides Lim of political prisoners’ group KAPATID, which said the presidential wannabe is not qualified to run because he was convicted by a Quezon City court for his multiple failures to file income tax returns from 1982 to 1985.

“For one thing is abundantly clear, perpetual disqualification is not ‘demmed written’ in the decision of the Court of Appeals dated 31 October 1997. Because if it were so, the Comelec would not have allowed BBM (Bongbong Marcos) to run for governor, congressman, senator, vice president and now president of the Philippines,” Briones said.

According to the lawyer, Marcos Jr.’s conviction by the court to pay on time his taxes does not constitute a penalty to disqualify him to run for a government position “because the Tax Code is unlike the Revised Penal Code with explicit rules and long standing jurisprudence on accessory penalties.”

“Under article 26 of the Revised Penal Code, a ‘fine’ does not carry with it the accessory penalty of ‘perpetual disqualification’ from holding office,” he said.

Briones also implied that the Court of Appeals, wherein Marcos Jr.’s conviction was reaffirmed but modified, must have included in the dispositive portion of its decision the penalty to disqualify him.

“A sanction which prohibits a citizen from holding public office for the duration of his lifetime, needs to be written in the dispositive portion of the decision in order to inform the accused of the penalty meted upon him by the court, so he can appeal such clearly stated adverse judgment to the higher court,” he said.

Therefore, Briones asserted, Comelec should first “annul the Decision of the Court of Appeals, to write in the dispositive portion thereof respondent’s perpetual disqualification, before it can pronounce that respondent lied in his COC (certificate of candidacy) when he said he is eligible to run for president, when he allegedly is not.”