MANILA, Philippines - The Supreme Court (SC) has referred to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) the disbarment case filed by lawyer Agustin Sundiam against Justice Secretary Leila De Lima and presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda.
Speaking to reporters at a press conference at the Supreme Court compound in Baguio City, SC spokesman and Court Administrator Jose Midas Marquez said the matter was referred to the IBP for its report and recommendation.
Marquez said disbarment cases may be handled by either the high court's Office of the Bar Confidant (OBC) or the IBP.
"In this case, the complaint was referred to the IBP... most probably because the Office of the Bar Confidant is under the SC," Marquez said.
The complaint against De Lima and Lacierda cited alleged contemptuous utterances by both Cabinet officials against Chief Justice Renato Corona, who was impeached by allies of the Aquino administration at the House of Representatives and who now faces a full-blown trial at the Senate sitting as an impeachment court.
In a 5-page petition filed last January 16, Sundiam asked the high tribunal to allow proceedings for the disbarment and/or suspension of De Lima and Lacierda from the practice of law, and to impose disciplinary actions against them.
Sundiam said both cabinet officials "echoed" President Aquino's "contemptuous remarks" against the Chief Justice during the 1st National Criminal Justice Summit at the Manila Hotel last December 5.
Sundiam alleged that De Lima and Lacierda violated the Lawyer's Oath, the Code of Professional Responsibility, and the Rules of Court.
During the said event, which happened days before the initiation of the impeachment complaint against Corona, Mr. Aquino bashed Corona for being a "midnight appointee" of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, and for supposedly being a roadblock in his reform agenda.
"Shortly thereafter, the respondents also made utterances and remarks on national television which were bannered in all newspapers in the country and which this Honorable Court may take judicial notice, echoing the said contemptuous remarks of the President of the Philippines apparently in their respective aforesaid capacities as cabinet members," Sundiam's petition read.
"These contemptuous remarks of the respondents are violative of the Lawyer's Oath, the Code of Professional Responsibility and Section 20(b), Rule 138 of the Rules of Court which direct the respondents-lawyers to observe and maintain the respect and dignity due to the courts of justice and judicial officers," the petition read.
Sundiam alleged that the remarks issued by De Lima and Lacierda against the Chief Justice, head of the Judiciary, constituted indirect contempt.
Sundiam's petition further alleged that "the subject remarks were calculated precisely to degrade or tend to degrade the administration of justice, and erode and undermine the people's confidence" in the Supreme Court and the judicial officers.