Comelec chief's wife seeks disbarment of UST law dean Divina, 20 others

THE estranged wife of Commission on Elections (Comelec) chair Andres Bautista filed Tuesday, September 26, disbarment complaints against University of Santo Tomas (UST) law dean Nilo Divina and 20 other lawyers in the Divina Law Firm for their ties to alleged corruption.

The case filed by Patricia Bautista before the Supreme Court stemmed from the alleged commissions paid by the Divina Law Firm to her husband, who supposedly accumulated P1-billion in ill-gotten wealth.

Divina is the managing partner of Divina Law Firm.

Aside from Divina, the 20 lawyers included in Patricia Bautista's disbarment complaint are the following:

u2022 Alfonso Verzosa

• Estrella Elamparo

• Alden Francis Gonzales

• John Michael Galauran

• Jessie Matibag

• Isaiah Asuncion III

• Camille Khristine Aromas

• Ismael Sarangaya Jr.

• Jay-R Ipac

• Janna Mae Tecson

• Lourdes Annifel Caspe

• Paula Danica Landayan

• Ian Jerny de Leon

• Rachel Marie Felices

• Ciselie Marie Gamosisayan

• Jemimah Grace Garcia

• Anna Katrina Singcol

• Rhegine Peralta

• Benito Cataran

• Dara Acusar

Patricia Bautista said the lawyers should be investigated for the possibility of dissolution pursuant to Article 180 (3) of the Civil Code.

"Although I was informed that clamor for the dissolution of a partnership must be brought up before the Securities and Exchange Commission, it is out of concern to inform this Honorable Court that there really are law firms in this country who engage in highly dubious transactions yet make it appear as if their activities are without any hint of illegality," the complaint read.

Patricia said she chose to file the complaint with the SC and not with the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) as Divina has strong ties with the leadership in the IBP and that "may cause bias and partiality in the investigation."

She also stressed that it is proper for the SC to take cognizance in the complaint considering that the issue she had raised is of transcendental importance.

She also said that the SC under Section 1 of Rule 139 B of the Rules of Court can, on its own, investigate erring lawyers upon the filing of the complaint.

Patricia accused her estranged husband of using his positions in government to get commissions from the Divina Law Firm. She said the poll body chief had received commissions from the law firm for assisting its clients with the Comelec.

Divina Law Firm is legal counsel of Smartmatic, the Dutch-Venezuelan company that supplied the vote counting machines that were used in the country's previous automated elections.

Bautista had previously denied receiving commissions from Divina. He said the payment he had received from the UST law dean was for the two condominium units he had bought from him.

Divina, when sought for his reaction, shrugged off the issue and said he is not worried as he has always acted in accordance with the law.

"I have always acted in accordance with law and the ethical demands of the law profession. I am not worried at all about any threat of disbarment," Divina said.

Divina claimed that the disbarment complaint against him was prompted by the House of Representative justice panel's junking of the impeachment complaints filed against Bautista.

"They are probably sour that their impeachment complaint against Chairman Bautista was dismissed," he said.

The House committee on justice on September 20 dismissed the impeachment complaint against Bautista after its members found it insufficient in form by 26-2 votes.

The impeachment complaint, which was mostly based on the allegations of Patricia Bautista against her husband, was filed former lawmaker Jacinto Paras and lawyer Ferdinand Topacio last August 23. (SunStar Philippines)


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