“A ruling allowing BBM to run for president has legal precedent.”
The Commission on Elections (Comelec) recently disallowed several parties from intervening in the disqualification (DQ) cases against ex-Senator Bongbong Marcos (BBM) pending before the poll body.
BBM is running for president, and those petitions want BBM disqualified from pursuing his candidacy, supposedly because BBM is disqualified pursuant to certain provisions of the Omnibus Election Code (Election Code) and the National Internal Revenue Code (Tax Code).
The bulk of the legal arguments postulate that the DQ petitions are untenable and baseless, and that disqualifying BBM violates the latter’s constitutional rights. I discussed those arguments in an article published earlier under this column. Nonetheless, I wish to state that the best legal argument in favor of BBM has been overlooked.
Section 2, Article VII of the Constitution enumerates in meticulous detail the qualifications for the presidency: “No person may be elected President unless he is a natural-born citizen of the Philippines, a registered voter, able to read and write, at least forty years of age on the day of the election, and a resident of the Philippines for at least ten years immediately preceding such election.”
The Constitution imposes no other qualifications for the presidency.
Section 3, Article VII of the Constitution states also in detail the disqualifications for the presidency: “No President shall be eligible for any reelection. No person who has succeeded as President and has served as such for more than four years shall be qualified for election to the same office at any time.”
Take note that Section 3 above employs the words eligible and qualified. These terms clearly indicate that Section 3 is all about who are ineligible for the presidency.
The Constitution mentions no other disqualifications for the presidency.
Therefore, the only requirements for one to be President of the Philippines are: (1) one must possess all of the qualifications provided in Section 2 quoted above, and (2) none of the disqualifications listed in Section 3 likewise quoted.
May the legislature enact a law which will add to the qualifications and disqualifications listed in Sections 2 and 3, Article VII, respectively? No, it cannot do so. To hold otherwise is to vest in Congress the power to amend the Constitution through mere legislation—which is unconstitutional.
Congress has no constitutional power to amend the Constitution through the mere exercise of its legislative power. If Congress wants to amend the Constitution, it must first convene as a constituent assembly, formally propose the amendments it wants, and then submit those proposed amendments for ratification by the Filipino people in a plebiscite called for that purpose. A mere law enacted by the legislature cannot validly amend the Constitution.
Accordingly, any legislative enactment that amends any provision of the Constitution is unconstitutional. Being unconstitutional, that legislative enactment cannot be enforced for any reason whatsoever.
The DQ petitions invoke, as supposed grounds for disqualifying BBM, provisions of the Election Code and the Tax Code, which are not among the grounds for disqualification listed in Section 3, Article VII of the Constitution.
Since the provisions of the Election Code and the Tax Code cited against BBM have the effect of adding to the list of the grounds for qualification and/or disqualification listed in Sections 2 and 3 above, those provisions in both codes are unconstitutional.
Clearly, therefore, the DQ petitions against BBM are based on unconstitutional provisions of law. Therefore, the outright dismissal of those petitions is inevitable.
Elective barangay positions are created by law. Congress has the power to decide who may and who may not run for barangay posts. The presidency is created by the Constitution. Congress has no power to decide who may and who may not run for president.
A ruling allowing BBM to run for president has legal precedent.
After President Ferdinand Marcos put the entire country under martial law in September 1972, then Senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino, Jr., the top political opposition leader back then, was detained at Fort Bonifacio, and charged before a military tribunal. The jurisdiction of the military tribunal over Ninoy Aquino was upheld by the Supreme Court in 1975. In 1977, the military tribunal sentenced Aquino to death by musketry.
Despite having been convicted of a capital offense, the Comelec and the Supreme Court allowed Aquino to run for a seat in the Interim Batasang Pambansa in 1978.
The DQ petitions invoke a final and executory ruling of the Court of Appeals regarding the failure of BBM to file his income tax returns (ITRs) in 1985. Surely, the failure to file ITRs pales in comparison to what Aquino was convicted of by the military tribunal.
Since the Constitution says sovereignty resides in the people and all government authority emanates from them, then the Comelec should let the voters decide in their sovereign capacity if they want BBM to be president.