MANILA — Lawyer-activist Roberto "Argee" Guevarra said on Saturday he will comply with the Supreme Court's decision suspending him from practicing law for one year "as a matter of duty," but said the ruling is contradictory.
"This decision . . . creates a paradox in legal history and has far-reaching consequences on the primordial right of every Filipino's exercise of free speech and of expression," he said in a press statement posted on social networking site Facebook.
On Friday, the Supreme Court said in a 13-page decision penned by Associate Justice Estela Perlas-Bernabe that Guevarra was guilty of violating the lawyers' Code of Professional Responsibility.
Guevarra said he thought the decision was inconsistent with a previous set of cases he had handled.
Guevarra cited three libel cases filed against him by Imelda Marcos in 1996 after he wrote a series of articles in his BusinessWorld column that described her as a kleptocrat.
The cases were dismissed after the preliminary investigation, he said. The following year, the high court also dismissed Marcos' debarment petition to prevent him from taking his lawyer's oath.
In the Vicki Belo case, Guevarra was the counsel for a certain Josefina Norcio, who filed criminal cases against Belo accusing her of botching surgical procedures in 2002 and 2005.
Guevarra merely "took up the cudgels for (Norcio) to launch a campaign on Facebook," the lawyer said, as his client could not afford to put up ads or pay for commercials.
"I admit to calling Belo 'Doctor Quack Quack,' 'Reyna ng Kaplastikan' (Belo, after all, claims that she is a plastic surgeon to the stars) and 'Reyna ng Kapalpakan' in my Facebook. In 2009, the anti-Cybercrime law — specifically a provision thereof — was still a wisp in the eye of our legislators," Guevarra said.
Belo filed a libel complaint against Guevarra before the Rizal Provincial Prosecutor's Office but was dismissed after a preliminary investigation. However, the investigating prosecutor's recommendation for dismissal was overturned by the chief provincial prosecutor.
"A criminal information was filed against me before a branch in the Regional Trial Court in Antipolo but the case was later on dismissed after the court granted my motion for judicial determination of probable cause," Guevarra said.
Belo then filed a disbarment case against Guevarra with the Integrated Bar of the Philippines' board of governors recommending a six-month suspension, "which eventually led to this improvident Supreme Court decision."
Guevarra said the contradictory rulings create confusion because, he added, the high court effectively inoculated and immunized Belo from any form of criticism.
"Inasmuch as the Supreme Court should discipline errant lawyers, I submit that it, too, should be the vanguard in protecting members of the legal profession from harassment suits filed by losing litigants," he said.