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The Manila Times
Rep. Edcel C. Lagman’s
Weekly Thursday Column

ONE of the least invoked rules which expedites the adjudication of litigations is “judgment on the pleadings”.

Section 1 of Rule 19 of the Rules of Court provides: “Where an answer fails to tender an issue, or otherwise admits the material allegations of the adverse party’s pleading, the court may, on motion of that party, direct judgment on such pleading.” This rule has suppletory application to proceedings before the Commission on Elections (Comelec).

The rule of judgment on the pleadings is applicable to the first petition (Buenafe petition), among other related petitions, seeking to cancel or deny due course to the certificate of candidacy (COC) of Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. for false material representation of his eligibility to run for public office. This expeditious resolution is consequent to his answer’s failure to tender or raise an issue and admission of the petition’s material allegations.

The Buenafe petition is anchored alternatively on two laws in relation to Sec. 78 and Sec. 74 of the Omnibus Election Code (OEC): first, Sec. 228(c) of the 1977 National Internal Revenue Code (NIRC) wherein a person convicted of a crime punishable under the NIRC is “perpetually disqualified from holding public office, to vote, and to participate in any election”; and second, Sec. 12 of the OEC which imposes the accessory penalty of disqualification “to be a candidate and to hold public office” on a person convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude. The ineligibility of Marcos, Jr. under either law is sufficient to nullify his COC.

The material allegations in the Buenafe petition are:

  1. Marcos, Jr. has been convicted of repeated failure to file his income tax returns (ITRs) from 1982 to 1985 in violation of the 1977 NIRC;

  2. This conviction became final when Marcos, Jr. withdrew his appeal before the Supreme Court;

  3. This conviction disqualifies him from “holding public office, to vote, and to participate in any election” under Sec. 228(c) of the 1977 NIRC, as amended by Presidential Decree No. 1994 which took effect on Jan. 1, 1986. The non-filing on April 15, 1986 of Marcos, Jr.’s 1985 ITR is effectively covered by the amendment;  

  4. Despite knowledge of his conviction and perpetual disqualification from holding public office, he filed his COC for president with the following false material representations that: a) he is eligible for the position of president despite his perpetual disqualification from holding public office; and b) he falsely represented not having been convicted of any offense wherein he is perpetually disqualified from running for public office;

  5. Alternatively, his conviction for repeated failure to file his ITRs constitutes a criminal offense involving moral turpitude.  

The brief answer of Marcos, Jr., contains the following allegations and admissions:

  1. The petition is bereft of any specific allegation of a material representation required under Sec. 74 of the OEC;

  2. He had been previously elected governor, representative, and senator;

  3. He has all the qualifications for President under the Constitution, and “consequently there can be no violation of Sec. 78 in relation to Sec. 74 of the Omnibus Election Code”;

  4. The Court of Appeals convicted him of four counts of failure to file his ITR, but his sentence was limited to fines, the gravest of which was P30,000.00 in Criminal  Case No. Q-91-24391;

  5. Admitted by silence that he has not paid the fines to the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City as well as the deficiency taxes to the Bureau of Internal Revenue; and

  6. The Court of Appeals did not make any finding that his crime involved moral turpitude. 

Judgment on the pleadings on the Buenafe petition is warranted because Marcos, Jr.’s answer failed to traverse the material allegations of the petition and even admitted the same, to wit:

  1. He admitted his final conviction of repeated failure to file his ITRs which is a crime punishable under the NIRC for which he is perpetually disqualified “from holding public office, to vote, and to participate in any election”.

  2. Despite his gratuitous assertion that the petition is “bereft of any specific allegation of a material representation”, the petition is replete with repetitious allegations on his false material representation under Sec. 74 (Contents of the COC) in relation of Sec. 78 (Petition to Deny Due Course) of the OEC.

  3. His having been elected governor, representative and senator is immaterial as it did not obliterate his disqualification which is imprescriptible, as it is perpetual, and can be invoked any time. Moreover, the doctrine of condonation by election has been abandoned by the Supreme Court and does not apply to criminal cases. Furthermore, estoppel cannot be raised against the State, thus his previous election does not bar the subsequent enforcement of his perpetual disqualification.

  4. The imposition of fine only without imprisonment does not diminish the import and consequence of his subject conviction.

  5. His answer does not state that he has paid the fines and tax deficiencies, despite the petitioners’ averment that they are not aware of any such satisfaction of judgment.

  6. His averment that he is qualified to run for president under the Constitution overlooks the validity of statutes disqualifying convicted persons from running for and holding public office, like the NIRC and the OEC. Eligibility means having all of the qualifications and none of the disqualifications. While the Constitution prescribes the basic qualifications for president, the Congress has the power to provide for disqualification of candidates.

  7. Moreover, he fails to qualify as a “registered voter” under the Constitution because his subject conviction stripped him of the right to vote.

Since the Buenafe petition can be granted on the basis of Marcos, Jr.’s categorical admission of his final conviction of a crime punishable under the NIRC which perpetually disqualifies him from holding public office, there is no longer any need to resolve the alternative issue on whether the crime for which he was convicted involves moral turpitude. Verily, a face-to-face or even virtual oral argument is unnecessary and could be an exercise in propaganda.

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