SC asks De Lima, Lacierda to answer disbarment raps
MANILA, Philippines—The Supreme Court has given Justice Secretary Leila de Lima and Edwin Lacierda, a spokesman of President Benigno Aquino, 10 days to respond to a disbarment case filed against them by a fellow lawyer.
Court administrator Jose Midas Marquez said the magistrates on Tuesday voted to require De Lima and Lacierda to submit their comment on the disbarment case filed by lawyer Agustin Sundiam, who accused the two Cabinet officials of violating their professional oaths as court rules when they publicly spoke against Chief Justice Renato Corona,
Corona is currently under trial at the Senate after being impeached by the House of Representatives last December.
In his petition filed on January 16, Sundiam asked the high court to take disciplinary action against Lacierda and De Lima for their “utterances and remarks on national television which were bannered by all newspapers” in support of Aquino’s criticism of Corona during a criminal justice summit held in Manila on December 5 last year.
“These contemptuous remarks of the respondents are violative of the Lawyer’s Oath, the Code of Professional Responsibility and Section 20 (b), Rule 138 of the Rules of Court which direct the respondents-lawyers to observe and maintain the respect and dignity due to the courts of justice and judicial officers,” Sundiam said.
The remarks of the two officials may also constitute indirect contempt defined and punishable under the Revised Rules on Civil Procedure, he said.
“There is no gainsaying that the subject remarks were calculated precisely to degrade or tend to degrade the administration of justice, and erode and undermine the people’s confidence in this Honorable Supreme Court and the judicial officers,” Sundiam said.
He particularly cited De Lima’s statement in December describing Corona “a tyrant who holds himself above justice and accountability.”
With this, Sundiam asked the high tribunal to start appropriate proceedings “for the disbarment and/or suspension of respondents from practice of law” and other disciplinary action against the two.
De Lima said she would answer the complaint after receiving the order. She stressed that she was merely exercising her right to free expression when she spoke against Corona.
“It’s called free expression, a constitutional right the Chief Justice himself has publicly exercised in at least two occasions before an assembly of court sympathizers,” De Lima said in a text message.
It would be recalled that disbarment case was filed last November against De Lima by another lawyer, Ricardo Rivera, for her alleged defiance of the Supreme Court’s temporary restraining order on a travel ban against former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who was then asking permission to leave the country purportedly to seek medical treatment for a degenerative bone condition.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.