November 28, 2022

A CONGRESSMAN on Thursday questioned the reported plan of the Supreme Court to reopen the estate tax case against the family of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

Albay First District Rep. Edcel Lagman, president of the opposition Liberal Party, issued the statement after Chief Justice Alexander Gesmundo said certain circumstances allow the review of court decisions that have been accorded finality.

In 1997, the court ruled with finality that the Marcos family owed the government P23 billion in estate taxes, with the figure rising to over P200 billion due to penalties and surcharges.

In a statement, Lagman said reopening the case would violate the principle of final judgment which rejects the revival of cases already ruled with finality by a competent court.

“If final and executory decisions of the Supreme Court can be reopened in perpetuity, then litigations would be interminable or endless and the hallowed doctrine of res judicata is abandoned with impunity,” he said.

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“Res judicata means conclusiveness of judgment or a matter that has been adjudicated (with finality) by a competent court may not be pursued further by the same parties,” he said.

Lagman, a lawyer, pointed out that the Marcos family’s estate tax case had been ruled with finality in March 1999.

“The decision of the High Court in the estate tax liability of the Marcoses, which has ballooned from P23B to P203B due to interests and surcharges, became final and executory way back on March 9, 1999, or more than two decades ago,” he said.

Lagman said the Marcos family had been given three decades to contest the case in court, starting from when they were allowed to return to the Philippines from exile in 1991.

“Before 1999, the Marcoses were allowed starting in 1991 to return to the Philippines to face corruption charges, and Imelda Marcos even ran for president in 1992, seven years before the finality of the tax case. Verily, the Marcoses were in the Philippines to contest their estate tax liability,” he said. “The lapse of time has made the final decision immutable. Jurisprudential doctrines can be reversed in a subsequent similar case, but not in the same prior case where the verdict has already become final and executory.”

At the Kapihan sa Manila Bay forum last Wednesday, Gesmundo said “no decision is set in stone” when it comes to cases that were decided with finality.

He cited circumstances where a case may be revisited despite a final decision by the Supreme Court. The modification in the decision would also depend on the Court’s composition, he said.

Gesmundo said there were previous cases that, while deemed final and executory, were reopened “simply because the [Supreme Court] determined that there was violation of due process.”

“In those instances, the Court is always guided that cases should be terminated at a certain point in time, it is called res judicata,” he said.

“What is important are the issues being brought by the parties before the SC. Is it a question of constitutional rights blatantly violated? Then we have to take a second look,” the magistrate said.

In an interview with Toni Gonzaga in September, Marcos said the tax case should be opened because his family “had no chance to answer” when the Supreme Court issued its decision.