BAGUIO CITY — When it rains, it pours.
Camp John Hay lawyers Georgina Alvarez and Hilario Belmes are facing disbarment raps before the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP).
This after being sued last month for robbery, malicious mischief, grave threats and coercion before the City Prosecutor’s Office together with other key officials of the privately run-Camp John Hay Development Corporation (CJHDevCo) in connection to complaints by business concessionaire Corazon Aniceto who claimed her restaurant inside the John Hay Special Economic Zone was illegally demolished upon their orders.
Aniceto, through her lawyer Emiliano Gayo, claimed before the IBP’s Commission on Bar Discipline that Alvarez, also CJHDevCo’s Senior Vice President and Belmes, the firm’s legal officer, “took the law into their hands and abetted their co-officers and co-employees of CJH to take the law into their hands in clear grave abuse of rights.”
The disbarment complaint against Alvarez and Belmes also emanates from Aniceto’s July 9 complaint before Assistant City Prosecutor Rolando Vergara on the demolition of her restaurant El Rancho by CJHDevCo on the wee hours of the morning on April 30, 2008 despite an injunctive relief already filed in court.
“Without any court order or any notice to me, (they) demolished the structures of the restaurant and forcibly took away all the things there,” Aniceto claimed.
Aniceto accordingly lost at least P5 million of her hard-earned money from her sheer entrepreneurial efforts for the past decades.
Lawyer Gayo insisted “although there was notice to vacate, there was no notice of demolition,” though Alvarez had insisted that the concessionaire’s contract had lapsed and the firm needs the area for the Ayala development plan, thus their notice for her to walk away from John Hay.
Gayo had suspected Aniceto was singled out citing why other structures beside the former El Rancho restaurant have not been demolished until now.
Including Alvarez and Belmes, Aniceto had sued CJHEDevCo Officer-in-charge Frederico Alquiros, Project development officer Engr. Saldy Masarate, Chief security officer Albert Escalderon, Supply Officer Austin Tiongan, Security supervisor Renato Reyes and several others John Does for the same criminal and civil suit.
Lawyer’s Code breach
As lawyers, Alvarez and Belmes breached the Code of Professional responsibility and their Oath of Office when they allegedly ordered the demolition despite a case still pending in court Aniceto claimed before the IBP’s Commission on Bar Discipline,.
The complainant also claimed that the demolition at early dawn “was to surprise (me) and render (me) unable to seek injunctive reliefs.” Alvarez and Belmes “not only disrespected and disregarded the law and legal process, but engaged in unlawful conduct and abetted activities aimed at defiance of the law and at lessing confidence in the legal system in violation of their oath as lawyers and of Canon 1, rules 1.01 and 1.02 of the Code of Professional responsibility,” she added.
Canon 1 states that a lawyer shall uphold the Constitution, obey the laws of the land and promote respect for law and for legal processes. Its Rule 1.01 stipulates that a lawyer shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct, while Rule 1.02 says that a lawyer shall not counsel or abet activities aimed at defiance of the law or at lessening confidence in the legal system.
“These tenets underscore the role of a lawyer as the vanguard of our legal system, which both Alvarez and Belmes defied and violated,” Gayo explained .
By taking the law into their hands, Gayo further claimed, Alvarez and Belmes, have caused Aniceto to lose her sole source of livelihood, in violation of her Constitutional right not to be deprived of property, without due process of law.
Aniceto was earlier allowed by the courts to litigate as a “pauper litigant” because she had nothing to pay for the filing fees at the prosecutor’s office here.
Still, Alvarez claimed the disbarment case is still part of Aniceto’s harassment against them. “It is unfortunate that aside from harassing our officers with criminal cases, comes this,” she said
The CJHDevCo senior vice-president also claimed that these were already “part of desperate moves (of Aniceto) to unfairly attack counsels.”
Alvarez vowed they would face the suits squarely.
Aniceto’s earlier criminal complaint was also tagged by Alvarez as “totally without basis”.
Alvarez had said that Aniceto’s axe to grind comes from her “losing the injunctive relief she earlier sought but was denied.”
Aniceto earlier petitioned Executive Judge Edilberto Claravall for a Temporary Restraining Order and was granted. When the TRO lapsed, again Aniceto asked for a Preliminary Injunction but was denied.
Gayo filed for a motion for reconsideration which is still pending in court. “It is not resolved yet because the civil case and other reliefs we sought in the civil case have not gone to trial,” he said contrary to Alvarez’s insistence. # Contributed by Ace Alegre