IBP junks de Lima appeal on disbarment-A A +A
Monday, August 6, 2012
MANILA (Updated 5:29 p.m.) -- She may be considered a Palace favorite, but Justice Secretary Leila de Lima may just have to kiss her ambition to become Chief Justice goodbye.
The Integrated Bar of the Philippines' (IBP) Board of Governors formally voted Monday to turn down the latest motion for reconsideration filed by de Lima seeking the dismissal of three disbarment complaints filed against her.
She has filed at least five motions at the IBP to dismiss the complaints.
"Early this morning, the IBP governors unanimously voted to deny Secretary de Lima's appeal to have her disbarment cases be dismissed as the Justice Secretary had not provided new arguments that will merit the dismissal of her case," IBP national president Lawyer Roan Libarios said.
Libarios said that although de Lima is an alter ego of the President, she is not immune from criminal, civil or administrative suits.
The IBP board said that it could not dismiss outright the complaints since the Supreme Court found basis to have the cases probed further when the Court referred it to the IBP.
"If a disbarment complaint is filed with the SC and the High Court refers it to the IBP for investigation, there is presumption that the SC has already found basis. Otherwise, the SC would have summarily dismissed the case, instead of referring it to the IBP to conduct investigation," he said.
IBP spokesperson Trixie Cruz-Angeles, in a separate interview, said that the IBP board did not give credence to the argument of de Lima that she has immunity from suits being a member of President Aquino's cabinet.
"She cannot raise the argument that she's immune from law suits since there's no law which indicates that alter-egos of presidents can enjoy the same privileges that are accorded to our country's leader. She cannot be shielded by President Aquino's immunity even though she's an alter-ego of the president," Angeles said.
The disbarment complaints were filed by lawyers Agustin Sundiam, Ricardo Rivera and Fernando Perito.
Sundiam alleged that de Lima is liable for utterances made on national television saying that former Chief Justice Renato Corona is a "walking constitutional crisis," apparently in support of Aquino's criticism of the former Supreme Court magistrate during a criminal justice summit held in Manila on December 5 last year.
The Rivera and Perito complaints were consolidated by the JBC into one case as they refer to the same incident of de Lima's alleged defiance of the SC's temporary restraining order on the travel ban issued by her office against former President, now Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo last year.
For the same act of defiance, she was ordered by the High Court to show cause why she should not be cited for contempt.
With two disbarment case still pending at the IBP, de Lima's chances of becoming the next chief justice hanged in the balance since those cases can be used as basis for her disqualification.
Under Rule 4, Section 5 of the JBC rules, the nominees are considered to be disqualified from appointment to any judicial post or as Ombudsman or Deputy Ombudsman if they have a pending criminal or regular administrative cases; those with pending criminal cases in foreign courts or tribunal; those who have been convicted in any criminal case; or in an administrative case, where the penalty imposed is at least a fine of more than P10,000, unless granted judicial clemency.
In a statement on the IBP's denial of her motion for reconsideration, de Lima said that up to the present, neither the SC nor the IBP has come up with any resolution showing that there had already been a prima facie finding of merit in the disbarment complaint referred by the SC to the IBP.
De Lima said the lawyers group's decision is based on assumptions and not on the clear language of the Rules of Court on IBP investigations and SC decisions and circulars on when a person is deemed to be formally charged, and a Office of the Court Administrator circular, which state that a person shall be considered formally charged in administrative proceedings only upon the filing of a complaint at the instance of the disciplining authority (SC), or upon the finding of the existence of a prima face case by the disciplining authority, in case of a complaint filed by a private person.
"Be that as it may, I have already stated in my letters to the JBC that 'I leave my fate to the JBC, with the hope that the Council allows each of the candidates' bid for the post stand or fall based on their own respective merits, and not through the expedient and not remotely underhanded means of disqualifying an otherwise qualified candidate," she said. (JCV/Sunnex)