We read in the Negros Chronicle May 13, 2007 issue that the first division of the Commission on Elections rendered last May 11, 2007 a midnight resolution (SPA No. 07-242) disqualifying Edgar G.Teves as candidate of the third congressional district of Negros Oriental.
This is of course not final since Edgar G.Teves can still file an appeal with the Comelec en banc, and the case can eventually go all the way up to the Supreme Court.
So on election day, Edgar G.Teves is still a candidate for congressman agasint the grandson of Rep. Herminio G.Teves, Henry Pryde.
The reason why the Comelec first division disqualified Edgar was because of Section 12 of the Omnibus election code which disqualifies any person who has been sentenced by final judgment for a crime "involving moral torpitude."
The main issue in this Comelec resolution is the phrase "involving moral torpitude."
Let us remember and emphasize that mere conviction is not sufficient to disqualify a candidate. The conviction of the crime must involve moral torpitude.
"Moral torpitude" is defined as an act of baseness,vileness,or depravity in the private duties which a man owes hisfellowmen, or to society in general,contrary to the accepted and customery rule of right and duty between man and woman or conduct contrary to justice, honesty, modesty, or good morals.
There is no dispute that EdgarTeves was convicted and sentenced by final judgment by the Supreme Court on December 14, 2004 (G.R.158182).
This conviction stemmed from Edgar Teves' continued ownership of cockpit while being mayor of the town of Valencia, Negros Oriental.
The Supreme court found Edgar guilty of violating Section 3(h) of the anti graft law (R.A. 3019). Ownership of a cockpit by a government official is expressly prohibited by the local government code under Section 89(2).
But the issue is whether that conviction is one involving moral torpitude.
There is nothing in the Supreme Court that suggests that such conviction was one that involved moral torpitude.
As a matter of fact, the sentence of Edgar was reduced from imprisonment of up to ten years, to a mere fine of only P10,000.
If the Supreme Court reduces the penalty upon an accused (from imprisonment to a mere fine), how can the crime committed involve moral depravity, baseness,vileness, or malicious intent?
We take note of the very wordings of the Supreme Court in its decision on December 17, 2004, in applying a highly reduced sentence upon Edgar Teves:
In the imposition on petitioner Edgar Teves of the penalty provided in the LGC of 1991, we take judicial notice of the fact that under the old LGC, mere possession of pecuniary interest in a cockpit was not among the prohibitions enumerated in Section 41 thereof. Such possession became unlawful or prohibited only upon the advent of the LGC of 1991, which took effect on 1 January 1992. Petitioner Edgar Teves stands charged with an offense in connection with his prohibited interest committed on or about 4 February 1992, shortly after the maiden appearance of the prohibition. Presumably, he was not yet very much aware of the prohibition. Although ignorance thereof would not excuse him from criminal liability, such would justify the imposition of the lighter penalty of a fine of P10,000 under Section 514 of the LGC of 1991
The Supreme court here even advanced an assumption of ignorance (of the law) on the part of EdgarTeves.
Is ignorance tantamount to moral torpitude, so as to justify Edgar's disqualification?
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