'Labag sa legal ethics': Lawyer sees gov't hand in fishermen's withdrawal of SC petition

Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 10 2019 11:58 AM | Updated as of Jul 10 2019 06:19 PM

MANILA – One of the lawyers who filed the petition asking the Supreme Court to compel Philippine government officials to enforce Philippine environmental laws to protect the West Philippine Sea claimed on Wednesday the government may be behind the fishermen’s move to disown the petition.

Solicitor General Jose Calida on Tuesday submitted to the high court affidavits of 19 fishermen who allegedly said they had nothing to do with the petition.

In a statement, Chel Diokno insisted his clients had “full knowledge and consent” on the filing of the petition before the high court.

“Nagsampa ng petition for Writ of Kalikasan ang mga mangingisda ng Zambales at Palawan para protektahan sila ng gobyerno. They did this with full knowledge and consent, dahil ang gusto lang naman nila e makapangisda sa sarili nating dagat, at kumita ng sapat para mabuhay ang kanilang mga pamilya,” he said.

Thirty-seven fishermen who are members of the Kalayaan Palawan Farmers and Fisherfolk Association, 3 fishermen from Zambales and the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) itself were named as petitioners in the petition for a writ of kalikasan and continuing mandamus filed in April this year.

In his opening statement during oral arguments on Tuesday, Calida quoted the president of the Kalayaan fisherfolk group, Roberto Asiado, as saying: “Wala kaming alam dito at di naming suportado ang inihaing petisyon.”

He also cited the affidavit of fisherman Monico Abogado calling the petition “isang malaking panlilinlang ito at paggamit lamang sa aming asosasyon.”

But Diokno expressed doubt on how the Solicitor General supposedly obtained the affidavits of the 19 fishermen, saying it is a violation of legal ethics to communicate with opposing parties clients without the knowledge of their lawyer.

“Ngayon, pagkatapos 'makausap' ng abogado ng Navy, umatras na daw ang mga mangingisda. Hindi raw kanila ang kaso,” he said.

"Hindi lang kahina-hinala na patagong nakipag-usap ang gobyerno sa mga kliyente namin, labag din sa legal ethics 'yan. Mukhang na-Recto 22 na naman ang mga Pilipino," he added, referring to the fishermen involved the alleged ramming of a Filipino fishing boat by a Chinese vessel in the Reed Bank who retracted their statements after a meeting with Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol.

Diokno said he is more concerned about the welfare of his clients.

"Bilang isa sa mga abogado sa kasong ito, mas inaalala ko ang kaligtasan ng mga mangingisda natin. Pinakita na ng administrasyong Duterte na walang makakapigil sa lakas nito. Sana gamitin nila 'yan para protektahan ang kapwa Pilipino,” he said.

Calida on Tuesday claimed victory in the writ of kalikasan petition, saying both parties have agreed to dismiss the petition.

The Supreme Court, however, denied the petition has been dismissed, saying it could not confirm what was agreed upon by the parties during the closed-door meeting with the justices.

In a tweet Wednesday, the SC Public Information Office said the high court “will not speculate as to what the parties will file.”

Petitioners’ counsels earlier said they were given until Friday to file a joint motion.