SC Resolves IBP Issue; Salazar Assumes Presidency

Article excerpt

Byline: REY G. PANALIGAN

The Supreme Court (SC) yesterday resolved the dispute over the presidency of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) as it ordered lawyer Jose Vicente B. Salazar to take his oath and immediately assume his post as IBP national president for the term 2005-2007.

In a 48-page decision, the SC also ordered the suspension from the practice of law for two years of Leonard S. de Vera and affirmed his removal by the IBP board of governors as governor and executive vice president (EVP), a position he banked on in claiming the IBP presidency.

At the same time, the SC upheld the election of Salazar as EVP, the post that catapulted him to the presidency via the automatic succession rule provided for in the IBP bylaws.

Salazar, 36, is the youngest lawyer to assume the IBP presidency, IBP records showed.

While the dispute was raging over the IBP presidency, the SC had temporarily designated outgoing President Jose Anselmo Cadiz as holdover president of the country's biggest organization of lawyers.

The disbarment case against De Vera was filed by Zoilo Antonio Velez who challenged De Vera's moral fitness to remain as a member of the bar.

According to Velez, De Vera concealed the suspension order rendered against him by the State Bar of California in connection with the insurance case he handled involving the vehicular accident of a certain Julius Willis III.

Velez said the hearing referee in the administrative case recommended that De Vera be suspended from the practice of law after he was found to have used for personal purposes his client's funds intended for the settlement of the case.

He said as a result, De Vera was forced to surrender his license to practice law to evade his recommended three-year suspension as a lawyer.

Resolving Velez's complaint, the SC said based on the facts established by the complainant, De Vera's use of his client's funds "is highly unethical."

It noted that De Vera did not deny the allegation that he received $ 12,000 intended for his client and that he deposited the money in his personal account and later spent it for personal purposes.

"In herein case, as it is admitted by Atty. De Vera himself that he used his client's money for personal use, he has unwittingly sealed his own fate since this admission constitutes more than substantial evidence of malpractice. The act of Atty. De Vera in holding on to his client's money without the latter's acquiescence is conduct indicative of lack of integrity and propriety. It is clear that Atty. De Vera, by depositing the check in his own account and using the same for his own benefit, is guilty of deceit, malpractice, gross misconduct and unethical behavior," the SC said.

But the SC said it could not disbar De Vera and remove his name from the list of lawyers in the country because the suspension for two years as a member of the bar is already appropriate for the offense he committed. …