Gross failure
A LAW EACH DAY (KEEPS TROUBLE AWAY) - Atty. Jose C. Sison (The Philippine Star) - January 10, 2020 - 12:00am

This case once more shows that the practice of law is not a right but a privilege granted by the State to those who show that they possess and continue to possess the qualifications required by law for the conferment of such privilege.

When a lawyer’s moral character is assailed, the burden is upon him to meet the charges squarely and present evidence, to the satisfaction of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP), Board of Governors and the Supreme Court that he is morally fit to keep his name in the Roll of Attorneys. This is illustrated in this case of Atty. Abogado.

Atty. Abogado is a practicing lawyer in his hometown married to Carla, with Myra as his secretary in the law office. Later on Myra became Abogado’s lover and common law wife. After five years, Abogado brought Myra to the mountainous area of their town where he left her with a religious group of faith healers which he headed. Although he visited her daily at the start, his visits became scarce after just two months, prompting Myra to return to her hometown. But the furious Abogado brought her back to the religious group where his followers tortured, brainwashed and injected her with drugs. When she tried to escape, the group members tied her spread-eagled to a bed, wearing only a T-shirt and diapers, and fed her stale food. She was guarded 24 hours by the women members including a certain Cita.

When Myra’s mother, Lilia, heard about her deplorable situation, she sought the help of the province’s social welfare department which immediately dispatched two women volunteers to rescue her. The religious group refused to release her, however without instruction from Atty. Abogado. So the police officers of the town (PO2 Lao and PO1 Robles) rescued Myra and returned her to her mother. Then Myra filed a complaint against Atty. Abogado for disbarment, before the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP), Commission on Bar Discipline (CBD),  criminal charges for serious illegal detention and bigamy for contracting a second marriage to Lina despite the subsistence of his marriage to his first wife Carla.

On the disbarment charge, Atty. Abogado did not even answer the complaint nor appeared at the hearing. So the CBD of the IBP found Atty. Abogado guilty of violation of Canon 1 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, for violating his lawyer’s oath to uphold the Constitution and obey the laws of the land, and Canon 7, for grossly immoral conduct, gross misconduct and thus recommended his disbarment.

The IBP and subsequently, the Supreme Court (SC), approved this recommendation. According to the SC, Atty. Abogado’s acts of converting his secretary into a mistress and contracting two marriages with Carla and Lina are grossly immoral which no civilized society in the world can countenance. The subsequent detention and torture of Myra is gross misconduct which only a beast may be able to do said the SC. Abogado has not discharged the burden of proving that he is morally fit to keep his name in the Roll of Attorneys. He never attended the hearings or come up with his defense. The counter affidavit of Cita, one of the women of the religious group in connection with the charge of serious illegal detention which Atty. Abogado cited before the SC, even shows that there was really physical restraint employed by Abogado upon the person of Myra. Despite his claim that on the day Myra was fetched by the policemen and the two women of the DSWD, she was already roaming freely around the place, and thus could not have been physically detained. Myra’s freedom of locomotion was still restrained physically because it is not really necessary that she be physically kept within an enclosure. She was always accompanied wherever she would roam such that it was impossible for her to escape especially considering the remoteness and the distance of the mountainous area from her hometown. The members of the Faith Healers Association had the express or implied orders of Atty. Abogado, their leader, to guard Myra and not to let her go freely. That can be gleaned from the affidavit of Cita who was being reprimanded by Atty. Abogado every time he learns that Myra had untangled the cloth on her wrists and feet. By engaging in acts which are grossly immoral and acts which constitute grave misconduct, Atty. Abogado has ceased to possess the qualifications of a lawyer (Mecaral vs. Velasquez, A.C. No. 8392, June 29, 2010).

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