Chief justice on Marcos estate tax case: No decision is set in stone

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 27) — Chief Justice Alexander Gesmundo said no decision is “written in stone” when it comes to cases that were decided with finality, including the Marcos family's unpaid estate taxes that have allegedly ballooned to ₱203 billion.

During a forum, Gesmundo was asked by reporters about the call of President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. to reopen the case so it can be argued upon, as well as on what grounds the court can revisit cases in general.

"No decision of the court was written in stone," he responded.

Gesmundo cited circumstances where a case may be revisited despite receiving the Supreme Court's final decision. For instance, the modification in the decision would also depend on the court's composition.

"Parang kagaya sa America—may conservative, may liberal. Kapag majority conservative mahirap ka na magpa-reverse ng decision, pero kapag majority liberal napakadali nilang gawin 'yan," Gesmundo said.

[Translation: Like in America—there's conservative, there’s liberal. If the majority is conservative, it will be difficult to reverse the decision, but if the liberal leads, it would be easy to do that.]

"May kanya-kanyang pananaw yan sa kaso, iisa yung pinag uusapan nating bagay pero iba-iba yung anggulo ang paningin ng mahistrado diyan kaya ang importante kung gaano kagaling 'yung pagdedepensa ng position mo," he added.

[Translation: They have differing views. We may be talking about one thing, but we all look at different angles. So it depends on how good you are at defending your position.]

Gesmundo also 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.

Saying it's on a case-to-case basis, Gesmundo also said a prior judgment can be modified or reversed "if there are reasons so unique and the parties are filing a reconsideration or sometimes from a division to the en banc to have the case be heard."

"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," he said.

In a sit-down interview with Toni Gonzaga last September, Marcos addressed the controversial issue, saying it should be opened and argued that his family "had no chance to answer" when the decision came out.

"Now, we are all here. Open the case, and let us argue it," he said at that time.

In 1997, the Supreme Court ruled with finality that the Marcos family owed the government ₱23 billion in estate taxes, with the figure rising to over ₱200 billion due to penalties and surcharges.

CNN Philippines Correspondent AC Nicholls contributed to this report.