Conviction for crimes involving moral turpitude a bar to taking board exams

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Persida Acosta

Dear PAO,
I have a friend who will take the customs brokers’ licensure examinations next year. He, however, is worried because he was previously convicted of the crime of falsification of a public document. My friend just wants to know if he may still be qualified to take the licensure examinations.

Thank you and God bless,
June

Dear June,
Qualifications before an applicant can take the licensure examinations for customs brokers are:

“SEC. 16. Qualifications of Applicants for Examinations. – In order to be admitted to the licensure examinations for [the]customs broker profession, a candidate shall at the time of filing his/her application establish to the satisfaction of the board that:


(a) he/she is a citizen of the Philippines or of a foreign country qualified to take the examinations as provided in the reciprocity provision of this Act;

(b) he/she is a holder of a Bachelor’s Degree in Customs Administration: Provided, That a holder of a master’s degree in Customs Administration shall be allowed to qualify within five (5) years from the effectivity of this Act; and

(c) he/she is of good moral character and must not have been convicted of any crime involving moral turpitude.” [Emphasis supplied.]

In International Rice Research Institute vs. NLRC, the Supreme Court, through former Associate Justice Rodolfo Nocon (G.R. No. 97239 May 12, 1993), explained the meaning of the term “moral turpitude”:

“Moral turpitude has been defined in Can v. Galing (G.R. No. 54258, SCRA 663 (1987)) citing In Re Basa (41 Phil. 275)and Tak Ng v. Republic (106 Phil. 727) 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.

What crime involves moral turpitude is for the Supreme Court to determine. Thus, the precipitate conclusion of the IRRI that conviction for the crime of homicide involves moral turpitude is unwarranted considering that the crime which resulted from an act of incomplete self-defense from an unlawful aggression by the victim has not been so classified as involving moral turpitude.

x x x
This is not to say that all convictions for the crime of homicide do not involve moral turpitude. Homicide may or may not involve moral turpitude depending on the degree of the crime. Moral turpitude is not involved in every criminal act and is not shown by every known and intentional violation of statute, but whether any particular conviction involves moral turpitude may be a question of fact and frequently depends on all the surrounding circumstances. While . . . generally but not always, crimes mala in se involve moral turpitude, while crimes mala prohibita do not, it, cannot always be ascertained whether moral turpitude does or does not exist by classifying a crime as malum in seor as malum prohibitum, since there are crimes which are mala in se and yet but rarely involve moral turpitude and there are crimes which involve moral turpitude and are mala prohibita only. It follows therefore, that moral turpitude is somewhat a vague and indefinite term, the meaning of which must be left to the process of judicial inclusion or exclusion as the cases are reached.” [Emphasis supplied]

Relatively, the crime of falsification of a public document is one that involves moral turpitude pursuant to Supreme Court decisions. In the case of Cecilia Pagaduan vs. Civil Service Commission and Rema Martin Salvador (G.R. No. 206379, November 19, 2014), the Supreme Court through Associate Justice Jose Mendoza explained:

“As early as 1961, in the case of De Jesus-Paras vs. Vailoces (111 Phil. 569, 570-571 (1961)), the court disbarred a lawyer on the ground of conviction of a crime involving moral turpitude, after having found that the said lawyer was convicted of the crime of falsification of public documents. Similarly, in In Re- Attorney Jose Avanceña (127 Phil. 426, 429 (1967)), the said lawyer was disbarred from the practice of law due to a conviction by final judgment of a crime involving moral turpitude after being convicted of the crime of falsification of public documents. Lastly, in RE: SC Decision dated May 20, 2008 in G.R. No. 161455 under Rule 139-B of the Rules of Court v. Atty. Rodolfo D. Pactolin (RE: SC Decision dated May 20, 2008 in G.R. No. 161455 under Rule 139-B of the Rules of Court v. Pactolin, A.C. No. 7940, April 24, 2012, 670 SCRA 366, 371), the court reiterated that the crime of falsification of public document is contrary to justice, honesty and good morals and, therefore, involves moral turpitude.” [Emphasis supplied.]

It is clear from the aforementioned case that a conviction for the crime of falsification of public documents involves moral turpitude. Hence, your friend’s conviction for that crime would resultantly disqualify him/her from taking the licensure examinations for customs broker profession.

Again, we find it necessary to mention that this opinion is solely based on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. The opinion may vary when the facts are changed or elaborated.

We hope that we were able to enlighten you on the matter.

Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to dearpao@manilatimes.net

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