Moral Turpitude

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Under the Omnibus Election Code, individuals who are sentenced by final judgment for a crime involving moral turpitude are disqualified from running from public office.

Recently retired Commission on Elections Commissioner Rowena Guanzon released her separate opinion on the disqualification case filed against Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr., ahead of the release of the official decision of the COMELEC First Division. 

In her separate opinion, Atty. Guanzon voted to disqualify Marcos, Jr. from running for the position of the President of the Philippines

The undisputed facts are:  (1) That Marcos, Jr. was convicted beyond reasonable doubt of violating our tax code, for failure to file his income tax returns for the years 1982, 1983, 1984 and 1985 and (2) the decision, which was appealed to the Court of Appeals, became final and executory upon entry of judgment on August 31, 2001.

Atty. Guanzon opines that “by not filing an income tax return, he deprived the government of the chance to ascertain whether what were withheld correctly corresponded with what he earned” that Marcos “acted as if the law did not apply to him” and that these were conscious and deliberateacts to violate the law and “reflective of a serious defect in one’s moral fiber”.


While there is no hard and fast rule on what constitutes moral turpitude, the Supreme Court has repeatedly defined moral turpitude as “everything which is done contrary to justice, modesty, or good morals; an act of baseness, vileness or depravity in the private and social duties which a man owes his fellowmen, or to society in general, contrary to justice, honesty, modesty, or good morals.”

Some foreign jurisprudence describes it as an “offense or crime that is vile or an insult to morality” and typically includes crimes involving fraud, dishonesty, or anything that goes against the norms of society.

Some may argue that the determination of moral turpitude is subjective, dependent on one’s individual values on certain matters.  However, some may also argue that it is objective in the sense that there are certain things that are just inherently wrong and evil.  Murder, rape, fraud, robbery and theft.

Marcos, Jr. was convicted beyond reasonable doubt for violating our tax code by not filing his income tax returns for four (4) consecutive years.  That is a fact.  That is also wrong.

The question is, did the wrong actions of Marcos, Jr. constitute an act of moral turpitude, in that the non-filing of his income tax returns for four (4) consecutive years were contrary to justice, modesty or good morals?

Were his actions tainted with vileness, fraud or dishonesty that went against the norms of society? 

Were they conscious and deliberate acts that, in the words of Atty. Guanzon, are “reflective of a serious defect in one’s moral fiber” that would justify his disqualification for running for the President of the Philippines?

For now, I will have to wait until this matter is finally settled.