Sandiganbayan bars Faeldon’s lawyer from representing him in graft cases

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Sandiganbayan bars Faeldon’s lawyer from representing him in graft cases

Lito Borras/Rappler

Nicanor Faeldon's lawyer and wife, a city councilor in Oriental Mindoro, is barred by the Local Government Code from appearing as counsel in his criminal cases, the Sandiganbayan rules

MANILA, Philippines – Anti-graft court Sandiganbayan prohibited the lawyer of former Bureau of Customs (BOC) commissioner Nicanor Faeldon from representing him in court, citing the Local Government Code of 1991.

Faeldon’s legal counsel and wife Jelina Maree Magsuci is an incumbent councilor in Calapan City, Oriental Mindoro, which puts her in conflict with the law’s provision that bars any Sanggunian member who is a lawyer from “appearing as counsel in any criminal case wherein his or her client is a government official accused of an offense committed in relation to public office.”

The Office of the Ombudsman filed two counts of graft against Faeldon in 2021, in connection with the alleged smuggling of Vietnamese rice worth P34 million in Cagayan de Oro in 2017.

Then-senator Panfilo Lacson sued Faeldon in 2017 for supposedly illegally approving the release of the tens of thousands of bags of rice even though customs officers already confiscated them due to non-compliance with permits and non-payment of customs duties and taxes.

No sanction yet

The court, in an 11-page resolution promulgated on March 7 but released only on Monday, April 1, essentially granted the prosecution’s motion for disqualification, but took no action on the request to slap sanctions against Magsuci.

The Sandiganbayan said it is up to “the proper authorities to take any action it may deem appropriate” against her.

Magsuci had argued that the disqualification effort against her was a sham pleading, since Faeldon was no longer tied to the BOC or any government agency when she began representing him in court and won for city council.

Faeldon left BOC in September 2019, then hired Magsuci in May 2021.

She also insisted that the intention of the Local Government Code is to prevent only an incumbent government official from using his resources to his advantage.

The court, however, rebuffed Magsuci.

“The Court cannot accept this contention. The plain text of the provision does not require such status on the part of the accused. It simply states that in a criminal case, ‘an officer or employee of the national or local government is accused of an offense committed in relation to his office’,” the ruling read.

Sandiganbayan bars Faeldon’s lawyer from representing him in graft cases

It added that the prohibition is anchored on Canon III on Fidelity of the Code of Professional Responsibility and Accountability, which bars lawyers in government service from representing “an interest adverse to the government.” –

1 comment

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  1. ET

    Good work, Anti-graft Court Sandiganbayan.

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