Greed bringing down The Firm, says nemesis

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Former Solicitor General Frank Chavez: Enough is enough. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines—Greed, arrogance and impunity.

These traits, according to former Solicitor General Frank Chavez, could mean the requiem for the Villaraza Cruz Marcelo & Angangco, or CVC Law Office, often described as the most powerful law firm in the country.

Chavez, a known critic and nemesis of “The Firm,” as the CVC Law Office is referred to, was reacting to an Inquirer report on the imminent breakup of the law firm. The report said a “government bloc” composed of 15 senior and junior partners led by Avelino Cruz and Simeon Marcelo have threatened to bolt the firm, leaving the faction led by chairman and CEO F. Arthur “Pancho” Villaraza and  Raoul Angangco with eight partners.

“This implosion would only augur well for the law profession and the judiciary system which they treated like their playground. It only shows that no one law firm can forever dominate the legal landscape,” said Chavez in a phone interview.

Inquirer sources claimed the squabbling among the senior partners involved “management directions” but had reached the point of discussing the dissolution of the company and the sale of the firm’s posh new office building in Taguig City.

“The strength of a partnership is gauged by the weakness of its leading lights. If the leading lights are motivated in the practice of law beyond the cases they are handling and are captured by considerations of greed, arrogance and an unguided feeling of impunity in their acts, then an implosion of the firm is bound to happen,” said Chavez.

Chavez accused The Firm of engaging in “political lawyering” in its heyday in the Ramos and Arroyo administrations.

His attacks against The Firm a few years ago earned him 11 libel suits. At least five have been dismissed and Chavez said he expects the rest to “die a natural death.”

According to Chavez, CVC Law began in 1980 among cronies of then President Ferdinand Marcos and Makati City Mayor Nemesio Yabut.

“They started out as an ordinary law firm until they made the government their client during the time of President Fidel Ramos, who was a relative of founding partner Antonio Carpio,” said Chavez.

He claimed The Firm started the movement to oust President Joseph Estrada. “They contributed singly or as a firm to the campaign kitty of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. And when she took over, it was a sort of recognition and awards day for them—they got juicy posts in her administration.”

“But during the time that Noynoy Aquino was leading, they started positioning themselves for various posts and that was when I put my foot down. Enough is enough,” said Chavez.

When news leaked out last week of the troubles at The Firm, the Inquirer contacted CVC Law managing partner Bienvenido I. Somera Jr. but he replied in a text message that he “can’t comment at the moment.” Several attempts to reach Villaraza through an intermediary yielded the same result. Marcelo did not return the Inquirer’s calls.—Gil C. Cabacungan

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