SC suspends lawyer for 'malicious' posts vs Vicki Belo

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 05 2017 08:11 PM | Updated as of Jan 06 2017 02:59 AM

The Supreme Court has suspended a lawyer from law practice for a year for publicly insulting and undermining the reputation of Dr. Victoria "Vicki" Belo-Henares and the Belo Medical Group, Inc. (BMGI) through his social media posts.

The Supreme Court said it found lawyer Roberto "Argee" C. Guevarra guilty of violating the Code of Professional Responsibility. The 13-page suspension order was promulgated on Dec. 1, 2016 and was penned by Associate Justice Estela M. Perlas-Bernabe.

Belo filed an administrative complaint for disbarment against Guevarra after the latter posted a series of posts on his Facebook account, which the court said, "insulted and verbally abused" Belo.

Guevarra was then counsel for a certain Josefina Norcio who filed criminal cases against Belo for an allegedly botched surgical procedure on her buttocks in 2002 and 2005.

In his Facebook posts, Guevarra wrote, among others, that Belo "will go down in Medical History as a QUACK DOCTOR!!! QUACK QUACK QUACK QUACK." He also wrote he was "out to get Puwetic Justice here!" and that he was thinking "how the payola machinery of Vicki Belo killed the news of a picket demonstration in front of the Belo clinic."

The Supreme Court said Guevarra showed bad faith and revealed an intention to besmirch Belo's name and reputation when he called him names, such as "quack doctor," "Reyna ng Payola" and "Reyna ng Kapalpakan."

Guevarra also threatened to paralyze the operations of Belo's clinics "and seek out her patients and customers to boycott her" for performing plastic surgery procedures "without licensed and trained doctors, (that) nearly killed a client."

"By posting the subject remarks on Facebook directed at complainant and BMGI, respondent disregarded the fact that, as a lawyer, he is bound to observe proper decorum at all times, be it in his public or private life," the High Court said in a statement.

"Instead, he acted inappropriately and rudely, used words unbecoming of an officer of the law, and conducted himself in an aggressive was by hurling insults and maligning complainant's and BMGI's reputation," it added.

According to the Supreme Court, Guevarra never denied that he posted the said remarks.

Moreover, Guevarra claimed that his right to privacy was violated when BMGI accessed his Facebook posts that were supposed to be on his "private account" that could only be viewed by his circle of friends.

However, the court was not convinced.

"Restricting the privacy of one's Facebook posts to 'Friends' does not guarantee absolute protection from the prying eyes of another user who does not belong to one's circle of friends. The user's own Facebook friend can share said content or tag his or her own Facebook friend thereto, regardless of whether the user tagged by the latter is Facebook friends or not with the former," the court said.

The High Court warned Guevarra that a repetition of the same or similar acts shall be dealt with more severely.