POSTSCRIPT / October 4, 2021 / Thursday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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‘Bid to disqualify BBM won’t prosper’

THE PETITION filed Tuesday by civic leaders to disqualify Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. from running for president in the 2022 national elections will not prosper. It might even cast the late dictator’s son as an underdog, which could favor him.

This was the consensus of election lawyers whose opinion we sought yesterday on the bid filed with the Commission on Elections to disqualify him. One lawyer described the move as “suntok sa buwan” (aiming for the moon), while another said “Malabo yan (it’s unlikely)!”

The petitioners asked the Comelec to deny due course to Marcos’ certificate of candidacy, or to cancel it if already issued, on the ground that he made a false declaration in his CoC where he claimed to be eligible to be a candidate.

The petitioners claimed that Marcos is not eligible to run for any public office as he is, they said, “a convicted criminal”.

One of the election lawyers we consulted pointed out, however, that Section 12 of the Omnibus Election Code says that disqualification based on such conviction is lifted after five years from the serving of sentence.

He added that the penalty imposed on Marcos was a mere fine which he could claim to have already paid more than 25 years ago, or beyond the five years needed to remove the disqualification.

He expressed doubts the records of that 1995 case were still available. His remark reminded us of the disappearance of crucial evidence in some ill-gotten wealth cases prosecuted by the Presidential Commission on Good Government against the Marcos heirs.

The petitioners were identified in news reports as Father Christian Buenafe of the Task Force Detainees; Fides Lim of the prison group Kapatid whose husband Vicente Ladlad is identified as a martial law victim; Ma. Edeliza Hernandez of the Medical Action Group; Celia Lagman Sevilla of the Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearance; Roland Vibal of the Philippine Alliance of Human Rights; and Josephine Lascano of the Balay Rehabilitation Center.

They were represented by Theodore Te, a human rights lawyer who was once a Supreme Court spokesperson.

The petitioners recalled that the Quezon City Regional Trial Court convicted Marcos in 1995 for not paying income taxes, failing to file his income tax returns from 1982 to 1984, and not paying income tax for 1985, when he was vice governor and then governor of Ilocos Norte.

He was sentenced to serve prison terms for each of the offenses. In one offense, he was meted three years for failure to pay income tax in 1985.

In 1997, however, the Court of Appeals Special Third Division acquitted Marcos of all charges of non-payment of income taxes but affirmed his guilt of failing to file ITRs. The CA removed prison time for the conviction and imposed only a P30,000 fine with surcharge.

Under Comelec’s Rule 23, a CoC can be canceled if “any material representation contained therein as required by law is false”.

The petitioners said that when Marcos declared in his CoC that he was eligible to run, although he was not because of his prior conviction, he made a misrepresentation that should disqualify him.

They said that Marcos also made a misrepresentation when he ticked the “No” box in the CoC that asked if he has “ever been found liable for any offense which carries the accessory penalty of perpetual disqualification from office.”

Although the conviction by the CA did not impose any prison time but only P30,000 in fines, the petitioners cited Presidential Decree No. 1994 which amended the 1977 tax code under which Marcos was convicted.

They said that the amendment provided that if the offender is a public official, he shall be perpetually disqualified from holding any public office.

Another line of attack opened by the petitioners was along Marcos’ failure to file ITRs for multiple years, which they said is a crime of moral turpitude, the conviction of which disqualifies a person from holding public office.

 How fast must PH open up?

OPENING up certain areas of economic activity then reimposing restrictions when COVID-19 infections occur will be most costly, according to Zhong Nanshan, China’s top respiratory diseases expert.

He gave his opinion in an interview with CGTN, China’s state-owned international media arm, published Monday. Philippine public health policy-makers may want to mull over his ideas.

The Duterte administration has been torn between minimizing the movement of people to reduce viral spread and loosening up to allow activities to stimulate the economy back to normal.

Easing the area-specific lockdowns had led at times to infection surges, prompting the reimposition of tighter restrictions.

Zhong Nanshan said China has no option but to aim for zero infections because the coronavirus was replicating quickly and the global death rate of about 2 percent was unacceptable.

There have been questions over how long China should maintain its policy, with most of its people vaccinated and sporadic outbreaks difficult to prevent.

Zhong Nanshan said: “Some countries have decided to open up entirely despite still having a few infections. That led to a large number of infections in the past two months and they decided to reimpose restrictions. This flip-flopping approach is actually more costly. The psychological impact on citizens and society is greater.”

More than 100,000 vaccine doses, meanwhile, were damaged Sunday when a fire hit the maintenance and supply area of the Department of Health building in Pagadian City, Zamboanga del Sur.

Health Undersecretary Myrna Cabotaje, who is National Vaccine Operation Center head, said they want to know why there were still that many vaccines stored at the Zamboanga del Sur provincial health office.

“It (fire) is beyond us, it’s force of nature,” she said. “But why did they still have so many vaccines? Didn’t they move them? We will look into that and see who are accountable.”

(First published in the Philippine STAR of November 4, 2021)

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