Supreme Court of the Philippines

SC disbars ex-Customs official over ‘fake’ sale of seized vehicle

Jairo Bolledo

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SC disbars ex-Customs official over ‘fake’ sale of seized vehicle

HIGH COURT. File photo of the Supreme Court in Padre Faura, Manila, taken on December 5, 2023.

Angie de Silva/Rappler

The Supreme Court says the totality of evidence proved that Jorge Monroy failed to maintain the high moral standards of lawyers

MANILA, Philippines – The Supreme Court (SC) moved to disbar a former official of the Bureau of Customs (BOC) after he was found to have used his influence “in an elaborate scheme of pretending to sell a vehicle confiscated by the Bureau.”

In a decision published this week, the SC said it had disbarred lawyer Jorge Monroy after he was found guilty of violating canon II, sections 1, 2, and 28 of the Code of Professional Responsibility and Accountability – the new code of conduct governing lawyers. The High Court said Monroy “falsely represented” that his position as Director III in the BOC’s financial services unit had the power to sell vehicles confiscated by the bureau.

Disbarment means Monroy can no longer practice law and his name will be removed from the Roll of Attorneys. He was also ordered to pay a P20,000 fine for disobeying the orders of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines to respond to the allegations against him in the disbarment case.

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The High Court said being a lawyer is a privilege with continuing requirements. If a lawyer cannot sustain the high degree of moral character expected from members of the Bar, the High Court has the power to suspend or withdraw such privilege.

In explaining why Monroy was found guilty, the SC said the BOC official had the transaction inside his office and even used his staff to gain the complainant’s trust. The SC added that the totality of evidence proved that Monroy failed to maintain the high moral standards of lawyers.

“The Court held that Monroy’s blatant violation of the law, as shown by his conviction by the Sandiganbayan, his lack of remorse when complainant repeatedly begged him to return her money, and his futile attempt to use an unknown employee of the BOC as a scapegoat all demonstrate his unfitness to continue in the practice of law,” the SC said.

What happened before

Almost 24 years ago, in July 2000, Monroy asked Julieta Co, the complainant, to buy a seized Toyota Land Cruiser for P1.4 million. The BOC official said the transaction was legal and that receipts would be issued, so Co trusted Monroy because he was also Co’s family friend.

On July 18 of the same year, Co gave Monroy a check amounting to P150,000. After three days, Monroy said the vehicle was ready for delivery. Later, the complainant prepared a check amounting to P1,250,000 to pay the remaining balance, but the lawyer insisted on receiving the payment in cash. Monroy received the money in his office.

In different occasions, Monroy stalled the delivery of the vehicle and even made an excuse that a person from the Department of Finance has yet to sign the documents before the vehicle could be released. When the complainant returned to Monroy’s office after some time, the then-Customs official said the vehicle could no longer be released to Co because someone allegedly ran off with the money.

Monroy promised to return the money. As Co kept on demanding for her money, the former Customs official kept on avoiding her. This pushed the complainant to file disbarment and criminal complaints against the official.

Co filed two criminal complaints against Monroy: one for violation of section 3(e) of Republic Act No. 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, and another for estafa under the Revised Penal Code. Later on, the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan found Monroy guilty of both criminal charges.

Despite the presence of a warrant of arrest, Monroy remained at large, the SC said. –

1 comment

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  1. ET

    This news made me both happy and angry. Firstly, it made me happy because punishment has been meted out against someone unfit to continue being a lawyer. Secondly, it made me angry because of the duration of the case’s resolution (24 years?). In addition, while a BOC Customs Lawyer was disbarred because of such a “fake sale,” yet nobody looked into the behavior of a former President who is also a lawyer—for example, his death threats, his call for Mindanao’s secession, hiring of a Chinese citizen as Presidential adviser, etc. Because of this, it seems unfair to the disbarred BOC official – just because he was not the President of our country.

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Jairo Bolledo

Jairo Bolledo is a multimedia reporter at Rappler covering justice, police, and crime.