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MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews / 13 February) – “In a government of laws the existence of the government would be imperiled if it fails to observe the law scrupulously. If the government becomes a lawbreaker it breeds contempt for law; it invites every man to become a law unto himself,” Sterling Seagrave quotes Justice Louis Brandeis of the United States in his book Marcos Dynasty.

The decision of the Commission on Elections First Division to dismiss the consolidated petition against the candidacy of former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. has done exactly just that – breed contempt for the law.

Moreover, the decision made a mockery of the court that convicted Marcos Jr. for four counts of tax evasion, the basis of the several petitions against his candidacy which the petitioners argued amounted to moral turpitude. It posits rather curiously that there’s no law penalizing the non-filing of income tax returns. Which begs the question, “So, what law did the court apply when it convicted Marcos Jr.?”

Supporters of Marcos Jr. applauded the Comelec not because it decided based on merits but simply because its decision favored their candidate; it’s one hurdle removed on the way to his reclaiming the Palace, although the case could reach all the way up to the Supreme Court.

If the decision accomplished anything, it is to reinforce doubts against an agency not really known to be a paragon of integrity. It resurrected the ghosts of “Hello, Garci,” which enabled Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to steal the 2004 election from the late Fernando Poe Jr. The only difference is that while the “Garci” scandal involved pure thuggery through vote padding and shaving, the First Division, minus the impeccable Commissioner Rowena Guanzon, who has retired a few days before, built its decision allowing Marcos Jr. to run upon an argument that only created questions on their sanity as lawyers.

Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez took pains to explain that the decision doesn’t mean that it’s all right to not file income tax returns. Yet, no matter how hard he tried to defend his colleagues’ position, it all boils down to the fact that the decision disregards Marcos Jr.’s conviction by declaring that it had no basis in law. It’s as if the respondent did not commit any crime at all.

With a stroke of the pen the poll body sent across a message that one may not file income tax returns and get away with it. Or, does the privilege apply only to the high and mighty?

If Commissioner Aimee Ferolino et al of the First Division cared to remember, they would have realized that Marcos Jr.’s conviction was sort of poetic justice – he was found guilty based on, among others, a decree issued by his dictator-father.

But perhaps they have millions of other reasons for their decision.

(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. H. Marcos C. Mordeno can be reached at hmcmordeno@gmail.com.)

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