Vizconde files disbarment case vs Carpio

The High Court has ruled that sitting justices can only be removed through impeachment and cannot be disbarred

DISBAR HIM. Vizconde accused Carpio of influencing appointments in the judiciary when he was presidential legal counsel in 1992.

MANILA, Philippines –  Lauro Vizconde, who lost a 20-year-old murder case at the Supreme Court, filed a disbarment case against Acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio on Monday, August 6. Disbarment cases  – once they become regular administrative cases –  are grounds for disqualification from posts in the judiciary. But here’s the catch: the High Court had previously ruled that sitting justices can only be removed through impeachment.

Vizconde moved for Carpio’s disbarment because he allegedly, as one of the co-founders of the CVC (Villaraza, Cruz, Marcelo and Angangco) law office or The Firm, “influenced appointments” to various posts in the judiciary way back in 1992, when Carpio served as the chief legal counsel of then President Fidel Ramos. 

Vizconde said that to be appointed during that period, aspirants had to “first visit Carpio’s office,” referring to The Firm.

He added that Carpio and The Firm also waded in political waters by pushing for the ouster of then President Joseph Estrada in 2001 and backing the rise of then vice president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to the highest post in the country.

Vizconde said Carpio also had a hand in the impeachment and removal of then Chief Justice Renato Corona. Corona was removed on May 29 for his failure to declare his P183 million in peso and dollar bank deposits in his statement of assets, liabilities and networth. 

Vizconde also said Carpio “does not pass the test of morality because he fathered a child outside of marriage as stated in a Manila Times editorial.” The Manila Times did not cite a source in its editorial.

Vizconde previously filed an opposition against Carpio before the Judicial and Bar Council, where he accused him of lobbying for the 2010 acquittal of the principal suspect behind the murders of his wife and children, Hubert Webb. Vizconde cited Corona as the source of this information. But the SC, when confronted with this issue last year, said that Carpio did not lobby for Webb.

Impeach, not disbar 

The JBC – the body that screens and vets aspirants for judiciary posts – has yet to make a definitive stand on how it will implement its own rule on disqualifying contenders with pending regular and administrative cases. The council previously disqualified applicants on these grounds.

But it has yet to make a final decision on Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, who faces disbarment complaints and is a leading contender for chief justice. The Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) on Monday, August 6, rejected De Lima’s appeal for the body to dismiss the complaints.

The JBC was supposed to vote on its shortlist on August 6, but moved its deliberations on Wednesday, August 8.

The SC has ruled that sitting justices can only be removed by impeachment. 

In the administrative cases Re: Raul Gonzalez and Cuenco v. Fernan, the SC said: “To grant a complaint for disbarment of a Member of the Court during the Member’s incumbency, would in effect be to circumvent and hence to ran afoul of the constitutional mandate that Members of the Court may be removed from office only by impeachment for and conviction of certain offenses listed in Article XI (2) of the Constitution.”

Both cases involved then Chief Justice Marcelo Fernan and lawyer Miguel Cuenco, who filed a disbarment case against Fernan because the latter allegedly continued to lobby for the cases he handled when he was still a private practitioner. The SC found no merit in the complaint.

The SC will take up Vizconde’s disbarment complaint against Carpio on August 7.-

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