Disbarment complaints against lawyers who take up the cudgels for persons affected in controversial cases in courts must not be filed “to silence legitimate advocacies for public interests.”
This was the plea aired by lawyer Zafiro Lauron who was threatened with a disbarment case for pursuing an investigation into the purported offshore accounts of the owners of Panay Electric Co. (PECO) in Iloilo City.
“If they want to file a disbarment case against me, be my guest. There’s no legal ground for that. This harassment from PECO means they want to cow me in fear so I will remain silent,” Lauron said in a statement issued to journalists covering the Supreme Court (SC).
“As a resident of Iloilo City, I am compelled by my civic duty to pursue any information that may appear detrimental to the interest of the people of the city. If nothing wrong is found against them, well and good. But if the company did anything wrong then they have to face the court and the people they serve,” he also said in his statement.
A disbarment complaint seeks the removal of a lawyer from the roll of attorneys for unethical or criminal conduct. It may also be filed before the SC for a lawyer’s incompetence or incapacity.
PECO is involved in court cases against More Electric and Power Corp. (MORE Power) which got the congressional franchise as the power and electric distribution firm in Iloilo City after PECO failed to renew its franchise that expired on Jan. 19, 2019.
On Feb. 14, 2019, President Duterte signed Republic Act No. 11212 which gave MORE Power a 25-year franchise to operate a power distribution firm in Iloilo City.
The two firms have pending cases in the various courts. The Iloilo City Regional Trial Court (RTC) had affirmed it’s decision that allowed MORE Power’s takeover of PECO’s assets.
Both firms, however, have been jostling it out before the SC when MORE Power challenged a Mandaluyong City RTC ruling which declared unconstitutional certain provisions in its franchise.
The SC had issued a restraining order against the Mandaluyong City RTC order. The resolution on the main petition is still pending before the High Court.
On the alleged foreshore accounts, published reports stated that PECO disputed the allegations. PECO said:
“This is a rehashed issue that had long been disproven. Neither PECO nor the Cacho family has any current British Virgin Islands investments. The financial records of the company and the Cacho family are open for scrutiny by the appropriate authorities. Whatever investments the Company or family may have are all above-board and compliant with law.”
Lauron said he is neither a lawyer for MORE Power nor for PECO.
“As a company that supplied electricity to the people of Iloilo City, PECO has to account for every centavo that passed its tillers. So it’s lawyers should advice their client to be patient and just show proof that the allegation that came out… are not true instead of shooting the messenger, me,“ he also said in his statement.