Bacolod City

SC suspends lawyer in Yanson family feud in Bacolod

Erwin Delilan

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SC suspends lawyer in Yanson family feud in Bacolod

ALLIES. Ginette Yanson Dumancas and brother Leo Rey Yanson flank family matriarch Olivia during her 89th birthday celebration on January 23, 2023.

Dindo Danao

A complaint alleges that the lawyer falsely certified a quorum in a special stockholders' meeting of the Yanson group's Vallacar Transit Incorporated

BACOLOD, Philippines – The Supreme Court (SC) has suspended one of the lawyers in the controversial Yanson family feud in Bacolod City for gross misconduct.

The High Tribunal suspended lawyer Jun Maxwell Orlina from the practice of law for one year, showed a decision issued and signed by SC Deputy Division Clerk of Court and acting SC 1st Division Clerk of Court Maria Teresa Sibulo.

The ruling was made on August 9, 2023 but posted on SC website only on December 18, 2023.

Orlina serves as one of the legal counsels of what has been dubbed in Bacolod as the Yanson 2 or Y2, which is composed of siblings Leo Ray and Ginnette Yanson Dumancas.

In August 2023, their mother, billionaire Olivia Villaflores Yanson secured a legal approval from a regional court for the probate of her will, designating only two of her six children – Leo Ray and Ginnette – as rightful heirs to the vast family business empire. 

The Yanson Group, owner of one of Asia’s largest bus fleets comprising nearly 5,000 units, has a workforce of about 18,000 employees.

After the family’s patriarch, Ricardo Yanson, passed away on October 28, 2015, the family has been involved in a turbulent feud, including a physical struggle for control of their company.

The Bacolod City Regional Trial Court Branch 44, in its August 31, 2023 ruling, affirmed that Olivia was in sound mental capacity when she freely executed her will. 

Dismissing allegations of undue influence put forth by her disinherited children Roy, Emily, Celina and Ricardo Jr. – also known as the Yanson 4 or Y4 – the court upheld the validity of the testament, solidifying Leo Ray and Ginnette’s claim to the significant Yanson business legacy.

Lawyer’s oath

Earlier that month, however, the SC found Orlina guilty of violating the lawyer’s oath, Section 1 of Canon II and Section 2 of Canon III of the Code of Professional Responsibility and Accountability (CPRA).

“He (Orlina) is directed to report the date of his receipt of Resolution to enable this Court to determine when the penalties shall take effect,” a portion of the August 9 decision read.

Neither Orlina nor the Y2 faction has issued a statement as of this posting. Rappler will update this story once they do.

The SC decision was based on a 2019 complaint by Roy and Emily Yanson against Orlina. The complaint accused Orlina of falsely certifying a quorum in a special stockholders’ meeting of the Vallacar Transit Incorporated (VTI), conducted by Leo Ray, Ginette, and Olivia, on August 19, 2019. The complaint alleged that Orlina knew the meeting was in violation of the Revised Corporation Code and the company’s By-laws.

The complaint was referred by the SC to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines-Commission on Bar Discipline (IBP-CBD) for investigation.

IBP resolution

On November 12, 2022, the IBP-CBD issued a resolution suspending Orlina from practicing law and providing notarial services for one year after it found the lawyer to have “purposely made false statements regarding the shareholdings of VTI and falsely certified to the existence of a quorum in a Special Stockholders’ meeting of VTI conducted by his clients.”

In the resolution, the IBP stated that documents showed that the Y4 faction “collectively own the majority shares of stocks in VTI,” equivalent to 61% of the firm’s outstanding capital stock.

“That special board meeting on July 7, 2019 wherein the board of directors (BOD) of VTI removed respondent’s client, Leo Ray as VTI president for loss of trust and confidence, and the designation of Roy as president of the company was a valid exercise of corporate powers as the Board present (that time) constituted a quorum, as reflected in the General Information Sheet (GIS) of VTI,” a portion of the IBP-CBD’s resolution read.

In that meeting, Orlina was named corporate secretary of VTI.

The IBP-CBD, however, stated that the special stockholders’ meeting called by Leo Ray on August 19, 2019 had no effect.

 “That meeting,” the IBP-CBD stated, “did not meet the required quorum under Section 51 of RCC to conduct business.”

SC’s warning

In the August 9, 2023 ruling, the SC adopted the IBP findings, report, and recommendation.

The SC said Orlina “participated in the August 19, 2019 Special Stockholders’ meeting and was designated as Acting Corporate Secretary despite knowing that it was being conducted in violation of the RCC and the By-Laws of VTI.”

The SC also noted that Orlina participated in a press conference held immediately after the meeting just to announce the outcome of the 2019 meeting.

The SC stated that Orlina “violated the lawyer’s oath, and failed to exhibit the proper conduct in accordance with Section 1, Canon II of the CPRA, and similarly, fell short of his duty to be a responsible and accountable lawyer in accordance with Section 2, Canon III of the CPRA.”

“Atty. Orlina’s participation in the illegal acts amounts to gross misconduct,” the SC stated as it warned that a repetition of a similar violation would be dealt with more severely. –

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