Lawyer disbarred after involvement in fake marriage annulment
MANILA, Philippines — A lawyer and former Integrated Bar of the Philippines officer has been disbarred by the Supreme Court (SC) after his involvement with faking a marriage annulment.
“The Supreme Court has disbarred a former officer of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) – South Cotabato and General Santos Chapter for violating the Lawyer’s Oath and the Code of Professional Responsibility (CPR) in connection with his involvement ‘in the reprehensible practice of perpetuating annulment packages,’” said the SC in a statement on Friday.
The lawyer, Remegio P. Rojas, claimed that he can expedite an annulment case for Jocelyn G. Bartolome, whose Singapore-based brother wanted to officially separate from his wife, said the SC.
Bartolome, who filed the complaint against the Rojas, reconnected with the lawyer through social media in 2010 and met with him to discuss the annulment.
“Complainant Bartolome said that Rojas claimed he has a relative in Cotabato who is a presiding Judge and that he can expedite the case for a fee of P150,000.00 for the judge. After arriving at a settlement, Bartolome handed Rojas a check payable to the order of ‘cash’ in the amount of P90,000.00 as payment in advance for the judge,” said the SC.
After paying the amount, Bartolome and Rojas met again in Quezon City in February 2012 where Rojas gave her a copy of the final decision. Rojas assured her that the original document would be mailed to her in Iloilo, where her brother was married.
However, when Bartolome checked with the National Statistics Office, she found out that her brother was still legally married to his wife.
“Bartolome tried to confront Rojas, but he was no longer communicating with her. She later sought the legal assistance of her lawyer cousin who found that the ‘decision’ handed by Rojas was a fake one,” the SC said.
The SC said that Bartolome sent a demand letter to Rojas in May 2014, asking him for the return of the P90,000 plus legal interests. Rojas sent the money back in July 2014.
“In his defense, Rojas said that he and Bartolome were romantically involved in their college days and that they rekindled their friendship when they reconnected in the social media,” stated the SC.
Rojas also claimed that he was scammed by a Muktar Santo, who processed the said annulment case in the Cotabato Regional Trial Court. He denied authoring the fake document.
However, the IBP Investigating Commissioner still recommended Rojas’ disbarment, which was later changed by the IBP Board of Governors to suspension of law practice for five years.
The SC then chose to uphold the IBP Investigating Commissioner’s decision to disbar Rojas, as he violated the CPR’s Rule 1.01, which stated that “a lawyer shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct.”
“We cannot give Atty. Rojas a free pass. To give in to his plea is to make a travesty of the judicial system and the legal profession and to go against this Court’s bounden duty to safeguard the public against erring lawyers.
“Lawyers who have been found to have violated their oath must be accountable for their actions and must face the consequences of their ill choices that affect the legal profession,” stated the SC.