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Lawyer disbarred for having simultaneous marriages

MANILA, Philippines – The Supreme Court (SC) disbarred on Tuesday, March 10, a lawyer found to have maintained two marriages simultaneously.

In a unanimous vote, the High Court found Tristan Catindig guilty of gross immorality, violating the Lawyer’s Oath and Rule 1.01, Canon 7, and Rule 7.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility. 

He is no longer allowed to practice law.

His disbarment case was filed by Dr Elmar Perez, his partner in the second marital contract he entered into. They share a son.

The SC adopted the recommendation of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) Commission on Bar Discipline, which ruled "that contracting a marriage during the subsistence of a previous one amounts to grossly immoral conduct."

Catindig's case was publicly disclosed Tuesday by the SC Public Information Office (PIO), which started publicly announcing the names and nature of cases of disbarred lawyers upon the order of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.

Sereno said this is part of the court's efforts in ensuring the public will not fall victim to fly-by-night lawyers.

"Gusto namin lahat ng nagpa-practice lisensyado para hindi naman kayo maserbisyuhan ng peke," she said on the sidelines of the 3rd ASEAN Chief Justices Meeting. (What we want is that all those who practice [law] are licensed, so that you will not be provided with fake services.)

"I hope by this time the message has been strongly felt: seryoso itong court na ito sa pagdi-discipline (this Court is serious with disciplining lawyers)," she added.

Allegations

In Catindig's case, Perez alleged that he made her believe that their marriage was recognized in Philippine law given his divorce in the United States in 1984 from his first wife. This was not the case.

Having found out the truth, Perez said Catindig then promised to have his first marriage annulled under Philippine law.

While he eventually petitioned on August 13, 2001, for the annulment of his first marriage, he nevertheless left Perez and their son on October 31 of that year. 

Complainant Perez said an anonymous letter was sent to her alleging that Catindig was having an affair with a fellow lawyer, Karen Baydo. The letter said Catindig professed his love to Baydo and also promised her marriage. 

The SC announced Tuesday the dismissal of the administrative charge against lawyer Baydo, Catindig's co-respondent.

Baydo was not meted the same guilty verdict "for absence of any evidence to prove" Catindig and her had an affair.

In his defense, Catindig claimed "that his relationship with Perez had turned sour long before he met Baydo." Both Baydo and Catindig denied the affair. – Rappler.com