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Business

Firmly behind the law

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With Justice Renato Corona now firmly installed as Supreme Court Chief Justice, a lot of stories and disparaging rumors are coming out of the woodwork alleging that controversies regarding the appointment of Corona were supposedly instigated by “The Firm.”

Our friend, former Solicitor General Frank Chavez, has accused former Defense Secretary Nonong Cruz and former Ombudsman Simeon Marcelo, partners of The Firm otherwise known as CVC Law, of trying to stage a “comeback” via the Aquino administration by pushing Associate Justice Tony Carpio (a former CVC Law partner) to become the new Chief Justice. 

The feisty Chavez also claims that the topnotch law firm is trying to place its “people” in the Cabinet of the incoming president, with Marcelo ostensibly interested in a seat at the Judicial and Bar Council. Cruz has also been mentioned as possibly the next Justice Secretary. The former solicitor general also said The Firm engaged in influence peddling and questionable transactions before it broke its ties with the Arroyo administration.

Marcelo has broken his silence, denying the allegations of Chavez and saying the latter was fed wrong information. Marcelo, who said he does not have any interest in the JBC, has been very vocal in assailing the Supreme Court decision allowing GMA to appoint the next Chief Justice, saying it was an erroneous decision – a position shared by Chavez.

But The Firm, in particular its founding partner Pancho Villaraza, has never denied the fact that they would have wanted a former senior partner to become the next Chief Justice. And who wouldn’t? It would have been a crowning glory for The Firm. After all, the appointment would enhance the reputation of the law firm even more. However, The Firm totally denies instigating the criticisms regarding the appointment of Corona or of engaging in any demolition job against the new Chief Justice.

Both Carpio and Corona have known each other for over four decades, and Chief Justice Corona says their friendship will not be ruined by controversies. Both were obviously gunning for the same position but they had a difference in opinion on who should appoint the next chief justice. Carpio believes it is the incoming president who should do the appointing, which is why he declined to be part of the short list of nominees for the position.

According to Villaraza, it was differences regarding Charter Change, specifically the so-called People’s Initiative, which caused The Firm to break its ties with the GMA administration. If one could recall, CVC Law associates who were in the Arroyo administration eventually left declaring their “independence,” and returned to their old law firm. Among them were former DND Undersecretary Rodel Cruz and Joe Tenefrancia, salutatorian of UP Law batch 1991.

As for accusations of “influence peddling” and getting their members appointed to various positions in the incoming Aquino administration, Pancho says it’s not so unthinkable for CVC Law members to be tapped for Cabinet positions simply because their lawyers are among the best in the land. After all, The Firm only recruits the best and the brightest from the fresh crop of law graduates, he says.

Nonong Cruz whom I know personally is a brilliant lawyer with impeccable credentials. He finished BS Math at the Ateneo and graduated Salutatorian and Cum Laude from the UP College of Law in 1977, placing 7th in the Bar exams that same year. In fact when he was the Defense chief, we kidded him about running for president. He has a brilliant mind and a charismatic personality like Gilbert Teodoro.

As DND Secretary, Nonong Cruz was lauded for pushing the Philippine Defense Reform or PDR program that tried to modernize and institute systemic reforms within the AFP by “civilianizing” the Defense establishment. If it’s true that he is slated for the Justice portfolio, then his qualifications, previous experiences and his track record should speak for him.

As Ombudsman, Simeon Marcelo did a good job investigating corrupt government officials as well as erring members of the police and military. During the impeachment of Joseph Estrada, he was at the limelight as the principal private prosecutor and then subsequently as the head public prosecutor during the trial of the former president for plunder. Those who have known Marcelo for a long time are certainly convinced that he would in fact be an asset to the administration of Noynoy Aquino.

For a top legal firm like CVC Law, negative rumors, controversies and vicious attacks are par for the course especially if they are vocal regarding touchy issues. Like many other groups, The Firm believes GMA should not be the one to appoint the next chief justice because it violates the Constitution. But then again, The Firm knows that is now water under the bridge so everybody should just move on. And when the dust finally settles and everything is said and done, the men and women of The Firm firmly believe in the rule of law and are firmly behind it.

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Email: babe_tcb@yahoo.com

AQUINO AS OMBUDSMAN CHAVEZ CHIEF CHIEF JUSTICE FIRM FORMER JUSTICE LAW MARCELO NONONG CRUZ
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