Patricia Bautista seeks disbarment of UST law dean Nilo Divina

Lian Buan
Patricia's legal spokesperson Lorna Kapunan alleges that the Divina Law Firm represented Smartmatic, and subsequently paid referral fees to Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista

EMBATTLED. UST Law Dean Nilo Divina faces a disbarment complaint, the latest of his legal battles related to Patricia Bautista's exposé of the alleged unexplained wealth of Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista, a close friend. Photo by Angie de Silva/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Patricia Bautista, estranged wife of Commission on Elections (Comelec) chairman Andres Bautista, filed on Tuesday, September 26, a disbarment complaint against lawyer Nilo Divina before the Supreme Court (SC).

Divina is the managing partner of the Divina Law Firm, which Patricia accused of paying commissions to her husband. These commissions make up the P1-billion worth of Bautista’s alleged unexplained wealth that Patricia has exposed.

Divina is also the dean of the University of Santo Tomas (UST) Faculty of Civil Law, embroiled in the recent controversy of the death of freshman student Horacio Castillo III. The law student allegedly died during the hazing rites of Aegis Juris Fraternity, of which Divina is also an alumnus.

Included in Patricia’s disbarment complaint are 20 other lawyers from the Divina Law Firm:

  1. Alfonso Verzosa
  2. Estrella Elamparo
  3. Alden Francis Gonzales
  4. John Michael Galauran
  5. Jessie Matibag
  6. Isaiah Asuncion III
  7. Camille Khristine Aromas
  8. Ismael Sarangaya Jr
  9. Jay-r Ipac
  10. Janna Mae Tecson
  11. Lourdes Anifel Caspe
  12. Paula Danica Landayan
  13. Ian Jerny De Leon
  14. Rchel Marie Felices
  15. Ciselie Marie Gamo-Sisayan
  16. Jemimah Grace Garcia
  17. Anna Katrina Singcol
  18. Rhegine Peralta
  19. Benito Cataran
  20. Dara Acusar

Bautista also asked the SC to consider dissolving the entire law firm. 

Divina said he is “not worried at all about any threat of disbarment.” Divina added that Patricia is “probably sour that their impeachment complaint against Chairman Bautista was dismissed.”

“I have always acted in accordance with law and the ethical demands of the law profession. I am not worried at all about any threat of disbarment. I have not read the complaint. We will respond accordingly,” Divina said in a text message to reporters.

COMPLAINT. Patricia Bautista, estranged wife of COMELEC Chair Andy Bautista, and lawyer Lorna Kapunan file a disbarment complaint before the Supreme Court (SC) against UST Law Dean Nilo Divina and 20 other lawyers from the Divina law firm on September 26, 2017. Photo by Inoue Jaena/Rappler

Referral fees

Patricia went to the SC on Tuesday with her legal spokesperson Lorna Kapunan. 

Kapunan said the disbarment complaint is based on Bautista’s own admissions that he received referral fees from the Divina Law Firm. (READ: LIST: Bank accounts, properties the Comelec chief must explain)

“They involve clients whose names we’ll later mention, but already we would like to mention that one of their clients is Smartmatic,” Kapunan said.

She added: “Sabi niya he received them earlier (he said he received them earlier), not when he was Comelec commissioner but we have documents to show that he received them close to the elections, and we also have cancelled checks paid by Divina Law not only to Bautista but to his sister Susan, to the mother and father.”

The House justice committee junked the impeachment complaint against Bautista for being insufficient in form.

“We are doing what we said we would which is to use other venues in which these documents could come to light,” Patricia said.

The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), Office of the Ombudsman, and even the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) are conducting separate investigations into Patricia’s allegations.

Divina is among Bautista’s best friends and a godfather to their eldest son Xavier.

“It would, thus, appear that Andy secured the services of Divina Law, Nilo’s law firm, in order to profit from his position in the Comelec,” Patricia earlier said in her affidavit. 

Bautista had already denied that the Divina Law Firm has clients related to Comelec.

The exposé is being linked to possible fraud in the 2016 elections because Patricia also claimed there were red flags in almost daily deposits not higher than P500,000 into Bautista’s bank accounts in 2016. The Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) is already investigating the bank

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email or tweet @lianbuan.