Lawyer suspended over Vicki Belo insult: SC decision a 'paradox'

MANILA, Philippines – After being suspended by the Supreme Court (SC) for posting malicious statements against cosmetic surgeon Vicki Belo, lawyer Argee Guevarra said the SC's decision was contradictory.  

In a statement posted on Facebook on Saturday, January 7, Guevarra said the SC decision against him "creates a paradox in legal history and has far-reaching consequences on the primordial right of every Filipino’s exercise of free speech and of expression."

He recalled that the SC had previously dismissed debarment proceedings filed against him in 1997 by former first lady Imelda Marcos, after he had called her a "vampire" and a "kleptocrat" in his newspaper columns.

Guevarra argued that the 2017 decision of the SC should have applied the same standards when it dismissed Marcos' disciplinary case against him in 1997.

"If the 1997 Supreme Court standards for dismissing a disciplinary case against me filed by Imelda Marcos for calling her a “kleptocrat” and a “vampire” in a newspaper column is to be applied, then the 2017 Supreme Court must similarly weigh such considerations in applying the appropriate penalty, if at all I should be penalized, for branding Vicki Belo as Doctor Quack Quack, “Reyna ng Kaplastikan” and “Reyna ng Kapalpakan” in my 2009 Facebook posts – at a time when no law existed in the Philippines to regulate social media and when the Internet was then the refuge for Freedom Of Speech Absolutists," he wrote.

Guevarra's controversial Facebook posts were related to the cases filed by his client, Josefina Norcio, against Belo for alleged botched surgical procedures on her buttocks in 2002 and 2005.

Guevarra said the SC decision on the Belo case "uniquely inoculates and immunizes Vicki Belo, a public figure, from any form of criticism."

"Inasmuch as the Supreme Court should discipline errant lawyers, I submit that It, too, should be the vanguard in protecting members of the legal profession from harassment suits filed by losing litigants," he added. –