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Bond of brothers: Lex Talionis frat members get key gov’t posts

Lex Talionis (law of retaliation) seems to be living up to its Latin meaning, as its members have taken over important government posts with a vengeance
/ 12:08 AM May 21, 2017

What do Social Security System Commissioner Arthur Amansec, Prosecutor General Victor Sepulveda, Witness Protection Program Director Alexander Ramos, Bureau of Corrections chief Benjamin delos Santos and  newly designated Ambassador to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Adnan Alonto have in common?

They are among the growing number of Lex Talionis fraternity members who are holding key, if not juicy, positions in the government, and were handpicked by their fraternity brother, President Duterte.

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While it still has to produce a chief justice of the Supreme Court,  Lex Talionis can already boast of two associate justices, namely Jose Catral Mendoza and  Bienvenido  Reyes, who were appointed by former Presidents  Gloria Arroyo and Benigno  Aquino, respectively.

Mr. Duterte is expected to appoint more Lex Talionis members as vacancies are expected in the high court. When that happens, Lex Talionis would be the first non-Greek-lettered “ruling” fraternity, easing out Upsilon Sigma Phi of University of the Philippines.

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Described as an “exclusive fraternal organization of Filipino jurists, legal practitioners and law students,” Lex Talionis has risen from being a middle-tier fraternity to a position of influence in terms of rank and number in  government.

The chair and chief operating officer of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation, Alfredo Lim, is the incumbent president of Lex Talionis. Another frat man, Edwin Bermudez, is senior vice president of Pagcor.

SEC, Amlac posts

Constitutionalist and law book author Dennis Funa is head of the Insurance Commission and member of the Anti-Money Laundering Council (Amlac); Emil Aquino is a commissioner of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

Former head of the Commission of Human Rights in Region XI,  Alberto Sipaco Jr., is the chair and CEO of  Philippine Mining Development Corporation, while John Paul Ganalon is the general counsel of the Corporate Governance for Government-Owned and Operated Corporations.

Mel John Verzosa is deputy administrator of the National Tobacco Administration, and Thomas Lajom III  is a director of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority.

Nueva Ecija chief prosecutor and former Lex Talionis chairman Danilo Yang is the incumbent president of the Prosecutors’ League of the Philippines.

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But nowhere is Lex Talionis more entrenched than in the Department of Justice (DOJ) where fraternity stalwart Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II holds fort.

Justice Undersecretaries Antonio Kho Jr., Erickson Balmes, Raymund Mecate, and Reynante Orceo are Aguirre’s fraternity brothers. Another undersecretary, Deo Marco, is the son of a Lex Talionis member.

Justice Assistant Secretary  George O. Ortha II is also a fraternity brother, along with Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Peter L. Ong, head of the DOJ panel that worked on the case filed against Mr. Duterte’s staunch critic,  Sen. Leila de Lima.

By law, the DOJ has a budget for three undersecretaries and three assistant secretaries, a longtime prosecutor told the Inquirer. Aguirre can maintain five undersecretaries and 3 assistant secretaries only with additional budget from Malacañang, the source added.

DOJ employees recalled how Lex Talionis members swooped down on the agency last year for a takeover.

“It was swift. They were so arrogant that some ranking DOJ prosecutors were not even allowed time to pack their things. This had never happened before,” the source said.

Aguirre’s plan to replace the entire body with Lex Talionis members was however thwarted by prosecutors who cited provisions in the law creating the National Prosecution Service.

“There’s a provision that prohibits transfers without the consent of the prosecutor, and only for a period of three months,” one of the sources explained of Republic Act No. 10071.

And who can forget Deputy Immigration Commissioners Al Argosino and Michael Robles? He had felt “betrayed,” Aguirre himself said of his two appointees who were seen on CCTV carting off millions of what turned out to be bribe money from Chinese casino mogul Jack Lam.

The Lex Talionis Fraternitas (Sodalitas Ducum Futurorum) was founded on September 29, 1969, at San Beda College of Law in Manila. A chapter in Ateneo de Davao University School of Law was established in 1974 and  was registered with the SEC in 1983.

Eye for an eye

According to its website, the fraternity name Lex Talionis is Latin for “law of retaliation,” or the dictum more popularly known as “an eye for an eye; a tooth for a tooth.” Sodalitas ducum futurorum is Latin for “solidarity of future leaders.”

An Inquirer source close to the fraternity said Lex Talionis “is a secret society, and those violating the secrecy rule are punished with expulsion.”

The source traced the roots of Lex Talionis to  “Lex,” a fraternity founded by Bienvenido Marquez Jr., a student at  San Beda College of Law, in the late 1960s.

A native of Quezon province, Marquez would be elected to the Marcos-era National Assembly in 1984, and would later become Quezon representative  from 1987 to 1992.

“Lex” proved shortlived, according to the source, and would later split into Lex Talionis and Lex Leonum.

Among those who joined Lex Talionis were Aguirre, the  late Ambassador Roy Señeres, retired Judge Antonio Eugenio, Associate Justice Jose Mendoza, and Abdullah Mamao, who would become the presidential adviser on overseas Filipino workers.

Forming Lex Leonum then were Arthur Tugade and Rodolfo Salalima, whom Mr. Duterte would appoint transportation secretary and information and communications technology secretary, respectively.

These days, Lex Talionis, Lex Leonum and alumni of San Beda College of Law have formed a united front behind Mr. Duterte, their most famous graduate.

In fact, next to being from Davao City and other parts of Mindanao, it appears that the other important criteria for appointment to a government post are membership in Lex Talionis and a diploma from  San Beda College of Law.

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TAGS: Adnan Alonto, Alexander Ramos, Benjamin de los Santos, Bienvenido Marquez Jr., Bienvenido Reyes, Jose Catral Mendoza, law of retaliation, Lex Talionis, Rodrigo Duterete, Victor Sepulvedo, Vitaliano Aguirre II
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