Will candidate’s conviction lead to his disqualification?
posted 18-Nov-2018  ·  
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This question begs to be asked following the recent decision of the Municipal Circuit Trial Court of Bato-San Miguel finding a local official guilty of grave oral defamation.

According to reports, MCTC-Baras-Gigmoto Presiding Judge Carlo Martin Adille, who took over the case after Judge Francisco Torres Jr. inhibited himself from hearing the case, found Bato Vice Mayor Roy Regalado guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of Grave Oral Defamation and sentenced him to imprisonment of six months.

Reliable sources say the case arose from an encounter sometime in 2014 between then private citizen Regalado and the wife of Bato Mayor Eulogio Rodriguez. The incident was apparently triggered by Regalado’s belief that it was Merly Rodriguez who had sabotaged his then budding romantic relationship with the daughter of a big-time contractor in Virac.

The accused reportedly barred the way of the Rodriguez SUV and once it stopped, tried to open the passenger door, all the while allegedly shouting unsavory words at the mayor’s wife.

As a result, both parties filed complaints against each other at the Batalay barangay council, which subsequently referred the same to the Court when no agreement was reached.

The reelectionist vice mayor has been at odds with the local chief executive since they assumed office, having filed several complaints against the mayor for alleged violation of law, including illegal land conversion. Regalado’s 2016 running mate, former Mayor Juan Rodulfo, is again facing off against the incumbent in the 2019 local elections.

Under the Omnibus Election Code, a candidate may be disqualified if he is: a) declared as incompetent or insane by competent authority; b) sentenced by final judgment for subversion, insurrection, rebellion or any offence for which he has been sentenced to a penalty of more than 18 months imprisonment; c) sentenced by final judgment for a crime involving moral turpitude; and, d) a permanent resident of or an immigrant to a foreign country (unless he has waived his status as such).

Under the Local Government Code, candidates for local elective office may be disqualified on the basis of the following: a) those sentenced by final judgment for an offense punishable by one year or more of imprisonment and within two years after serving sentence; b) those removed from office as a result of an administrative case; c) those convicted by final judgment for violating the oath of allegiance to the Republic of the Philippines; d) those with dual citizenship; e) fugitives from justice in criminal and non-political cases here and abroad; e) permanent residents in a foreign country; and, f) those who are insane or feeble-minded.

The OEC also provides for the disqualification of candidates as well as elected officials if proven guilty of having committed violations of election laws.

Assuming the case moves quite speedily in the country’s generally turtle-paced justice system and Regalado loses the appeal, he may only be disqualified if the Supreme Court passes final judgment on him for a crime involving moral turpitude.

But is grave oral defamation a crime involving moral turpitude?

Existing jurisprudence categorizes the following acts as crimes involving moral turpitude: abduction with consent, bigamy, concubinage, smuggling, rape, attempted bribery, profiteering, robbery, murder, estafa, theft, illicit sexual relations with a fellow worker, violation of Batas Pambansa Blg. 22, intriguing against honor, violation of the Anti-Fencing Law, violation of the Dangerous Drugs Act, perjury, forgery, direct bribery, frustrated homicide, adultery, arson, evasion of income tax, barratry, blackmail, bribery, duelling, embezzlement, extortion, forgery, libel, making fraudulent proof of loss on insurance contract, mutilation of public records, fabrication of evidence, offenses against pension laws, perjury, seduction under the promise of marriage, estafa, falsification of public document, and estafa thru falsification of public document.

Generally, crimes involving moral turpitude have been defined to be those crimes that involve conduct that is reckless, evil, and/or morally reprehensible. Specifically, a crime may be considered a crime involving moral turpitude if it has any of the following characteristics: shocking to the public conscience;

vile or depraved; contrary to the rules, morality, and duties of society.

In his concurring opinion in the High Court’s 2009 decision on G.R. No. 180363 involving a disqualification case, Justice Arturo Brion lists “Intriguing against Honor” as a crime against moral turpitude.

Crimes against honor, which are in the nature of character assassination, include libel, oral defamation, slander by deed, and incriminatory machinations.

Justice Brion stated that the Court first approaches cases of moral turpitude by examining whether the act is intrinsically immoral, regardless of whether it is punishable by law or not.

The second approach, he added, is made by looking at the act committed through its elements as a crime, especially when he deliberately reneges on his private duty to his fellow men or society in a manner contrary to accepted and customary rule or right and duty, justice, honesty or good morals.

Justice Brion said that the third approach essentially takes the offender and his acts into account in the light of the attendant circumstances of the crime: whether he was motivated by ill will indicating depravity.

For a disqualification case to prosper against the Bato vice mayor, there has to be a final judgment on the case. Even if such a case is actually heard, the Court will have to determine that the act for which he has been convicted involves moral turpitude.

As one legal observer opines, the May 2019 elections may well be history by the time the Supreme Court gets its final say on the matter.

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