Column: Willie’s lawyer: ‘I will not be bullied into silence’

Published on April 26, 2011.

WILLIE REVILLAME’s counsel, Leonard de Vera, wrote an immediate response to last week’s column, to explain the two-year Supreme Court-ordered suspension mentioned in it. I am happy to print his reply in full; my comments follow.

“I plead for equal space and prominence for my letter in your column, after you attacked me in your April 19, 2011 column apparently on the basis of a news release. To be fair, I wish you had tried to hear my side first.

“Here are the facts:

“Regarding the California case you mentioned, you may not be aware, but this case was already dismissed with finality by the Supreme Court En Banc on December 11, 2003 (418 SCRA 26). I am baffled up to now how the Supreme Court could have turned around on its own decision on a case it has unanimously dismissed en banc in 2003 on the same issue, based on the same facts and the same parties, two years after.

“That two years after was in 2005. The case was suddenly resurrected that year, immediately before I was to assume the National Presidency of the IBP. It was re-filed, not by the elder Willis (as I will put in its proper perspective below) but by other parties who did not want me to assume the presidency of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines. The timing could not have been more suspect.

“The administrative complaint against me arose from an insurance case I handled involving Julius Willis (then a minor) who figured in an automobile accident in 1986. I was authorized by the elder Willis (father of Julius who was given authority by the son to control the case because the latter was then studying in San Diego, California) for the release of the insurance money in the settlement of the case. I received a check in settlement which I endorsed with the authority of the elder Willis with the mutual understanding that I could use the same for a time. Such authority was confirmed, under oath, by the elder Willis during the hearing. The money was returned to the client, as previously agreed upon, with no damage done nor any misrepresentation made by me to anyone.

“The same complaint, involving the same parties, the same issues, the same evidence was thrown against me before the Supreme Court that year in 2005 preceding my supposed assumption to the IBP presidency. The Supreme Court assigned the Office of the Bar Confidant, through Atty. Cristina M. Layusa, to investigate and make recommendations regarding the complaint which, after hearings and investigations, recommended its dismissal. But the Supreme Court still suspended me.

“I would like to mention that at that time, the IBP National Officers for the year 2003-2005 filed a Petition for Certiorari and Prohibition with prayer for the issuance of a Temporary Restraining Order and/or Preliminary Injunction dated September 14, 2004 before the Supreme Court questioning the unconstitutionality of the tremendous increase in court filing fees to double the salaries of judges and justices. I was assigned as lead counsel. Lawyers especially litigants strongly objected as oppressive the huge increases of filing fees. The IBP later withdrew the Petition for Certiorari but three (3) Governors of the IBP myself including, objected to the withdrawal. I was about to assume my position as President-elect of the IBP in 2005 when the Supreme Court suspended me.

“You have attacked Mr. Willie Revillame unfairly. The Department of Justice (DOJ) has exonerated him of any liability in the ULTRA stampede incident.

“This demolition job on Mr. Revillame and me is unfortunate and vicious.

“Of this I can assure you. I shall not be bullied into silence by anyone when I stand to defend the rights of my clients. And those causes worth fighting for.

“This is the price we suffer for our advocacies no matter how unfair and painful the costs may be.”

* * *

Of the many issues raised in De Vera’s letter, let me confine myself only to the following. The Supreme Court did suspend De Vera. His reply, therefore, is an exercise in nuance: He seeks to place the suspension in perspective. Since the Court makes mistakes too, I welcome De Vera’s effort to propose his own meaning about the whole affair.

But he thinks I am unfair to his client because I continue to think Willie Revillame is ultimately accountable for the Ultra stampede—unfair, he says, because of the DOJ exoneration.

But if he can nuance a Supreme Court order, why can’t I nuance a mere DOJ finding? If I am unfair to Revillame, then by the same logic De Vera is unfair to the Court too.

Here, in fact, is the core issue. Do the same rules apply to everyone, or is there a special set of rules that applies to TV’s best-paid entertainer and, by extension, to his lawyer?

To repeat what I wrote last week: De Vera’s scorched-earth approach to criticism is unhelpful.

* * *

RIZAL 150 NEWS. Perhaps the anniversary event that will have the widest immediate impact on the public is the “Rizal run” organized by the Department of Education. As it happens, Rizal’s 150th birthday falls on a Sunday; a DepEd initiative, spelled out in Memorandum No. 90 dated April 7, calls for a simultaneous “National Fun Run for Education” in “all regions and divisions nationwide” on June 19.

Aside from honoring Rizal in a counter-intuitive but in fact deeply appropriate way (Rizal was dedicated not only to the life of the mind but also to the active life; he exercised even when he went hungry, indeed thought of exercise as a substitute for food), the “Rizal run” also seeks to gather donations of labor or of goods to benefit public schools. Instead of the usual participation fee, runners pledge their support for schools in the form of school supplies and classroom furniture or tutorial assistance and peer counseling. A runaway idea!

 

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