By Cong Corrales and Lito Rulona
THE regional judge who handled a civil case that led to the suspension of Councilor Alvin Calingin yesterday said the city lawmaker can still appeal his case for the second time before the Supreme Court.
“No one can stop him from filing a second motion for reconsideration,” said Judge Evelyn Nery of the 19th branch of the Regional Trial Court here.
“But the question is,” added Nery, “could it be granted?”
A second motion for reconsideration “is tantamount to questioning the integrity and credibility of the High Tribunal,” said another judge who spoke on condition of anonymity because he did not handle the Calingin case.
He said the SC normally does grant a second motion for reconsideration.
The Rules of Court, Rule 124, Sec 16a states, “No party shall be allowed a second motion for reconsideration of a judgment or final order.”
“This is what we call a prohibited pleading. He (Calingin) should just take it like a man and serve his suspension, otherwise, the six-month suspension could drag on,” the judge said.
Calingin was suspended from practicing law for six months “for failure to observe candor, fairness and loyalty required of him” in his dealings with a client.
The Office of the Court Administrator, in a circular, also ordered Calingin to return to the complainant, Ramon Contreras, P100 thousand. According to the document, the money, intended as a final payment for a property, was not accounted.
The June 28 circular, signed by Court Administrator Jose Midas Marquez, gave Calingin a “stern warning.”
Calingin told the city council last Tuesday that he would appeal the SC decision for the second time and attached an affidavit of desistance supposedly signed by Contreras.
Calingin called the case “old” and he denied that Contreras was his client.
He claimed it was a case of misunderstanding on the part of Contreras and his client, and the two have allegedly reconciled.
The citizens’ groups Bangon Kagay-an and Save CDO Now Movement have submitted to city hall a joint resolution calling for the resignation of Calingin.
They said Calingin lost his moral ascendancy as a public official by “betraying the trust of his client.”
They said a lawyer and public official like Calingin and a lawyer have “responsibilities [that] are expected to be over and beyond the basic requirements of good citizenship.”
The complainant has allegedly executed an affidavit of desistance. Copies of the affidavit were allegedly sent to the Commission on Bar Discipline of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) and the Office of the Court Administrator of the Supreme Court (SC).
A supplemental affidavit of desistance affirmed the truthfulness of the affidavits he executed on Feb. 14, 2007 and Sept. 22, 2007 in favor of Calingin.
In it, Contreras claimed he filed his complaint against Calingin because of his “erroneous” assumption at that time that the lawyer failed to give to him P100 thousand. The money was allegedly given to Calingin by Bernardina Navarro, a land vendee.
“I did not know at that time that the secretary of Atty. Calingin already paid the capital gain tax and other fees and incidental expenses for the sale transaction. During the time, I was still all the while thinking that I still have to pay the capital gain tax, transfer fee, and other incidental expenses, being the vendor,” reads part of Contreras’s affidavit.
Nixon Baban, leader of Bangon Kagay-an, posted the views of a “concerned lawyer.”
According to Baban, the lawyer opined that while an affidavit of desistance is proof that there may have already been an agreement between the parties, it does not in any way negate the fact that a wrong was done that prompted the filing of the case in the first place.
“As in criminal cases where a crime is committed and a private complainant is involved, the issuance of an affidavit of desistance by the private complainant does not automatically absolve the accused. The affidavit of desistance merely signals the restraint of the private complainant from pursuing the complaint and bearing witness against the accused.
“As lawyers and officers of the court, we owe utmost candor to clients and to the court. We are required to follow the rules with utmost fealty and obedience because of the very delicate nature of the trust reposed upon us by the public. Therefore, if we follow the canons of professional responsibility to the letter and implement the same in its strictest sense, even a shadow of doubt and the smallest improriety (such as failure to account for funds) is sufficient to hold a lawyer liable for failure to observe candor, fairness and loyalty to his client.
“Disbarment cases and other administrative complaints of such nature follow a process that will give due process to the lawyer who is subject of the proceedings. If such affidavits were issued in 2007, I am almost certain that these affidavits were already submitted for the scrutiny of the high court. Perhaps, these were factored in and that is the reason why only a six-month suspension and not disbarment was meted out as the penalty. Nonetheless, I am quite sure the Supreme Court conducted the proceedings fairly and that whatever penalty that has been imposed is a product of serious consideration and study.”