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MANILA, Philippines – The Supreme Court (SC) en banc moved to disbar a lawyer after refusing to give child support.
In a per curiam (by the court) decision, the SC imposed disbarment on lawyer Wilfredo Ruiz for “economic and emotional abuse, gross immorality, committing falsehood and exploiting court processes, unduly delaying a case, impeding the execution of a judgment, and misusing court processes.”
The SC noted that the protection of women and children also extends to the cleansing of the ranks of lawyers.
“A high sense of morality, honesty, and fair dealing is expected and required of members of the Bar. They must conduct themselves with great propriety, and their behavior must be beyond reproach anywhere and at all times,” the High Court said.
In disbarring Ruiz, the SC adopted the recommendation of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP)’ Investigating Commissioner and ordered the removal of his name in the Roll of Attorneys. The SC listed the following prohibitions to lawyers – related to Ruiz’s case – under the Code of Professional Responsibility (CPR), the former code of conduct for lawyers:
- Rule 1.01 – Engaging in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct
- Rule 1.02 – Counseling or abetting activities aimed at defiance of the law or at lessening confidence in the legal system
- Rule 7.03 – Engaging in conduct that adversely reflects on a lawyer’s fitness to practice law and behaving in a scandalous manner, whether in public or private life, to the discredit of the legal profession
- Rule 10.01 – Any falsehood or misleading act
- Rule 10.03 – Misuse of the rules of procedure to defeat the ends of justice
The High Court said the disbarred lawyer violated the CPR provisions when he resorted to deceitful and dishonest acts, including misusing his knowledge of law, “so he could repeatedly evade the writ of execution for his child’s support.”
According to the court, for eight years, Ruiz “systematically used bogus addresses throughout the trial court proceedings so court processes and services could not be legally served on him. As a lawyer, he ought to understand what a writ of execution is and the final and immediately executory character of the order of support.”
The SC also noted that the lawyer also resorted to victim-blaming after Ruiz blamed his former wife for not filing a motion to execute the order of support granted by the court.
“The noble legal profession is simply no place for abusers. The Court does not coddle violators of the VAWC law (Anti-Violence Against Women and Children), nor does it allow them to tarnish its collective dignity. We have all vowed to uphold the protection of women and children when we took our sacred oath,” the High Court said.
What happened before
In 2008, the unnamed wife sued Ruiz, for violation of Republic Act No. 9262 or the Anti-VAWC Law for “inflicting on her physical violence, emotional stress, and economic abuse by depriving her and her children of support.” The wife also applied for a Permanent Protection Order (PPO).
The Pasig City Regional Trial Court granted the wife’s request for a PPO, and also directed Ruiz to provide her wife and two children support amounting to half of his income. But despite the court order, the lawyer still failed to provide support.
The court later issued a writ of execution in 2013, but the lawyer still refused to provide child support. The court also had difficulty enforcing its order because Ruiz “could not be found on the five different addresses he provided the Court.” In 2016, Ruiz successfully nullified his marriage with his wife.
The wife then filed a complaint before the IBP Commission on Bar Discipline against her former husband for violations of the CPR. The IBP Investigating Commissioner later recommended Ruiz’s disbarment. – Rappler.com