The Supreme Court (SC) has ruled with finality that the conviction Rep. Ronald Singson (First District, Ilocos Sur) in a Hong Kong court over illegal drugs cannot be used as a ground for his disqualification and ouster from Congress.
A two-page resolution of the SC en banc obtained by The Manila Times, dated June 23, 2015, but was released just recently, junked a motion for reconsideration asking the High Court to reverse its ruling and reconsider itself by ousting Singson from Congress because of his drug conviction.
According to the High Court, the appeal bears no merit and no new arguments, which would warrant a reversal of the ruling, were presented.
“Acting on the motion for reconsideration [of the resolution dated April 21, 2015], dated June 5, 2015 filed by counsel for petitioner, the court resolved to deny with finality the said motion for reconsideration as no substantial arguments were presented to warrant reversal of the questioned resolution,” it said.
The SC en banc added that “no further pleadings or motions shall be entertained.”
As such, the court ordered the entry of judgment for the case.
The SC stood pat in its April 21, 2015 ruling that said the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET) and the Commission on Elections (Comelec) were both correct in not disqualifying and ejecting Singson from his post in the House of Representatives.
It said the HRET and the Comelec did not commit grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction that would warrant the reversal of their earlier rulings.
The 15-man SC junked a petition for certiorari filed by Singson’s opponent, Bertrand Baterina, for lack of merit and for having the case beyond prescription.
The young Singson, son of former Ilocos Sur Gov. Luis “Chavit” Singson, was arrested in Hong Kong for possession of illegal drugs after he was caught carrying 0.24 ounces (6.67 grams) of cocaine at Hong Kong’s international airport in July 2010.
He was convicted by the Hong Kong District Court after pleading guilty and was sentenced in February 2011 to 1 year and 6 months in prison and has fully served his sentence in a Hong Kong jail.
When the May 13, 2013 elections came, Singson ran again for Congress and fought with Baterina.
He got a total of 83,910 votes over Baterina’s 40,135 votes.
Baterina petitioned Singson’s candidacy before the Comelec on April 24, 2013 for disqualification and subsequently questioned his victory before the HRET on June 27, 2013 via petition for quo warranto inquiring into his eligibility to run because of prior conviction involving moral turpitude.
Both Comelec and Congress had given the green light for Singson to run and be elected, respectively, as congressman for the First District of Ilocos Sur before the House of Representatives.
An SC ruling pointed out that Baterina filed his case beyond the 30-day reglamentary period after the final judgment or order from the Comelec was received.
On the merits of the case, it ruled that “contrary to Baterina’s argument, it is well settled that our courts do not take judicial notice of foreign laws and judgments; hence, foreign judgments must be alleged and proven according to our law on evidence. The printout of the downloaded copy of the Hong Kong decision [submitted by Baterina]from an unverified website cannot therefore be considered in evidence.”
The SC argued that the crime of Singson does not involve moral turpitude since the crime was only possession of illegal drugs for his own consumption, not drug trafficking.
“We have held that moral turpitude implies something ‘immoral in itself,’ regardless of the fact that it is punishable by law or not. It must not merely be mala prohibita but the act itself must be inherently immoral. The doing of the act itself, and not its prohibition by statute, fixes the moral turpitude,” it said.