Supreme Court disbars Plinky Recto’s exBy Jerome Aning
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—The Supreme Court has ordered a lawyer of the defunct Urban Bank disbarred for accusing a member of the court of bribery and “fabricating” a ruling involving the sale of the bank’s assets more than a decade ago and another justice of protecting the first one.
The court, in a per curiam decision dated April 17, ordered Magdaleno Peña’s name stricken from the roll of attorneys.
A per curiam decision—literally, by the court—is one made by the court as a whole but anonymously in the sense that it does not give the identity of the justice who penned the ruling.
“For violating Canons, 8, 10 and 11 of the Code of Professional Responsibility [for lawyers] and for failing to give due respect to the courts and his fellow lawyers… Peña is hereby disbarred from the practice of law, effective upon receipt of this decision…” the Supreme Court ruling stated.
Peña is the incumbent mayor of Pulupandan, Negros Occidental. He is the estranged husband of actress and television host Maria Roxanne “Plinky” Recto; he lost a custody battle for their seven-year-old son last year.
In November last year, Peña filed a complaint with the Supreme Court’s committee on ethics and ethical standards in which he accused Justice Antonio Carpio of falsifying a Nov. 13, 2002 ruling of the tribunal’s First Division to favor Urban Bank. Peña also accused Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno of “protecting” Carpio by refusing to inhibit herself from the case despite her closeness to Carpio.
The tribunal ruled that Peña’s “conduct, demeanor and language with respect to his cause of action—in this Court, no less—tend to undermine the integrity and reputation of the judiciary, as well as inflict unfounded accusations against fellow lawyers.”
“Most disconcerting for this Court is this uncanny ability to obtain confidential and internal court records and to use them shamelessly in his pleadings in furtherance of his cause.”
The high court also directed the Supreme Court clerk of court to investigate how Peña obtained several confidential and internal court records. The clerk was also instructed to report on the matter and make recommendations on the administrative and disciplinary liabilities, if any, of court personnel possibly involved in the Urban Bank case.
The court said it “cannot just make short shrift of his (Peña’s) inclination towards casually moving for the inhibition of justices of the Court based on unfounded claims, since he has not shown remorse or contrition for his ways.”
It pointed out that Peña “has shown and displayed in these proceedings that he has fallen short of the ethical standards of the noble profession and must be sanctioned accordingly.”
In November 2002, Carpio, who was then the ponente or the justice in charge of writing the decision, acted on a motion for clarification by Urban Bank and issued an order explaining that the First Division had suspended the one-year period given to Urban Bank and its successor, Export-Import Bank, to redeem the properties sold at public auctions, including 85 Makati City condominium units, held the year before.
The transfer of shares owned by Urban Bank at the Makati Sports Club and sold to Peña and other buyers was also stopped.
Peña claimed that the division did not seek his side, that Carpio’s decision was “fabricated” and that the justice may have been bribed.
In October last year, Sereno, a member of the Supreme Court’s Second Division, wrote a decision that partly upheld a decision of the Court of Appeals that declared that the regional trial court of Bago City had committed grave abuse of discretion in awarding damages against Urban Bank Inc. and its officers.
The Second Division denied Peña’s claim of P28.5 million as reimbursement of expenses in the ejection of tenants from a Pasay City property that was sold to Urban Bank in 1994. The lawyer was given only P4.5 million.
Peña sought the re-raffling of the case and Sereno’s inhibition from the case because she allegedly owed her appointment to the Court to Carpio’s former law office, Carpio Villaraza Cruz Marcelo Angangco Law Office.
Sereno said she found nothing wrong with Carpio’s order since it was approved by the other members of the division. She denied the lawyer’s allegation of irregularities, adding, “Attorney Peña’s imagination has gotten the better of him.”