Supreme Court spares IBP, Diokno in West PH Sea case mess

MANILA, Philippines – Short of serious sanctions that Solicitor General Jose Calida wanted, the Supreme Court (SC) merely "warned" the  Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) and human rights lawyer Chel Diokno over the pulling out of a writ of kalikasan case against the Duterte government.

The SC en banc voted 15-0 to issue this warning to the IBP and Diokno, who had to withdraw the petition after some of their fishermen clients disowned it.

"Counsels for petitioners were sternly warned that the commission of the same or similar infractions in the future would be dealt with more severely," SC Spokesperson Brian Keith Hosaka said in a news conference on Tuesday, September 3.

It was a highly-political petition that sought to compel the Duterte government to enforce maritime and environmental laws to protect the West Philippine Sea.

Solicitor General Jose Calida, with the help of the Philippine Navy, obtained affidavits from some of the fishermen disowning the petition and saying they were misled into signing it.

The IBP and Diokno eventually withdrew the case after more of their clients asked to withdraw. The IBP and Diokno also withdrew as counsel to the fishermen that they could no longer locate at the time.

Responding to the withdrawal, the Supreme Court asked the IBP and Diokno to prove that all of their fishermen clients were fully informed about the petition they were filing.

"Due to the unusual procedural developments of the case, the Supreme Court, through the ponente, Associate Justice Marvic Leonen, emphasized that counsels should establish and maintain a form of communication with their clients at all times. Mere difficulty in contacting clients should not be used by counsels as an excuse to renege on their duties to disengage from their commitments," Hosaka said.

The SC also decided to dismiss the entire petition based on the withdrawal alone.

"The Supreme Court did not pass upon any of the substantive issues raised," Hosaka said.

Calida had earlier threatened disbarment against IBP lawyers and Diokno. –

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email or tweet @lianbuan.