OPINION: The disbarment of Atty. Ferdinand E. Marcos

Buddy Gomez — Cyberbuddy

Posted at Nov 22 2019 09:53 PM

Had ex-President Ferdinand E. Marcos’ health held up long enough to have been haled before the Southern New York US District Court of Judge John Keenan in the Spring of 1989, the open and shut RICO (Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) case filed against him would have found Marcos guilty beyond reasonable doubt.

Not only would the deposed dictator have served time in a Federal prison facility, he would also have been disbarred from the practice of law in the Philippines, which in truth he was not actively professionally engaged in since he entered politics some forty years earlier. Nonetheless, his attorney’s license would have been revoked!

Current events here in the U.S. with reference to the ongoing Trump impeachment inquiry and the dramatis personae central to this historic American political imbroglio, principally President Donald Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, jarred my memory to hark back to the events that led to the Marcos saga’s denouement. And to this, I was personally a witness.

In 1989, Rudy Giuliani was the US Southern District of New York (SDNY) Attorney and he famously put together the RICO (Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) indictment against the Marcoses. (Embezzlement of more than a $100 million in Philippine Government funds used to purchase NYC real estate) And evidently with such fame, Giuliani was able successfully parlay it to have been elected Mayor of NYC in 1994.

Well, as the wheels turn, some thirty years after, that very SDNY which Giuliani headed in 1989 has just put him under three separate criminal investigations in preparation for very possible forthcoming indictments. Those will be for a variety of complicities with and conspiracies related to Trumpian skullduggeries because Giuliani is neck-deep into this criminal morass.

Now, how is that for the system of American justice! Inconceivable in the Philippines, right?

The prospect of Attorney Rudolph W.L. Giuliani being disbarred is now distinct. His license to practice law will be revoked. There is a precedent to this potential happening. It involves an even more imposing personality, one of greater international renown.

President Richard M.Nixon, two years after Watergate, was himself disbarred by the New York Supreme Court for “obstruction …. of justice.” The Court records indicated that while Richard M. Nixon was holding office as President, he was “not acting in his capacity as attorney.” However, the Court possesses the power “to discipline an attorney for…..misconduct other than professional malfeasance when such conduct reflects adversely upon the legal profession and is not in accordance with the high standards imposed upon members of the bar.”

Unsurprisingly, our Philippine rule hews along the same tenet. “…disbarment may be based upon acts in or out of court or upon facts that would preclude his admission to the bar.” “The misconduct may have been committed in the professional employment or be totally independent of such relation. ….. Regard should be made to the strict standards of the legal profession, the dignity of the court, and the welfare and interest of the general public.”

Amidst the humungous torrent of legal problems chasing after the Marcoses as more and more discoveries were piling up in the offices of the Presidential Commission on Good Government (a quasi-judicial agency specifically created to recover ill-gotten wealth accumulated by the Marcoses and cronies during the Marcos Presidency, much of which was under Martial Law), this was indeed ‘peccata minuta.’ Unnoticed was an administrative case filed with the Philippine Supreme Court against Ferdinand E. Marcos “for disbarment with writ of preliminary injunction or restraining order” by Atty. Martiniano P. Vivo who had served as Commissioner of Immigration in the early 1960s.

Cited as grounds for disbarment were violations of the Constitution and of his oath as a lawyer; and the commission of “grossly disreputable misconduct which reflect adversely upon the legal profession and is not in accordance with the high standards imposed upon members of the bar.” This was followed by a listing of illustrative unimpeachable instances that included, inter alia, the declaration of Martial Law, violations of human rights; the national foreign debt tied up with “unexplainable accumulation of wealth by respondent and his cronies.”

With the demise of the deposed dictator in Honolulu on September 28, 1989, his RICO indictment in New York City was, of course, expunged. And so with Marcos’ then-pending disbarment case in the Philippines.

There is an element of comedy, from my point of view, as to how Atty. Vivo’s administrative case came about. I believe that it is worth retelling. I also like to think that the matter of disbarment, not only would it not even have been thought of, would have been left alone like a dog festering in its fleas, unminded. What for would Martiniano P. Vivo have lifted a finger?

As far as I could piece together, after consulting my treasured notes, here is what happened and how it evolved.

Had there been no staged rebellion by raucous “Marcos Loyalists” on January 27, 1987 there might have been no animus to even think of a deposed Marcos as a lawyer, let alone filing for disbarment cum restraining order against such an individual who was booted out of the country, already in exile and unlikely to ever return. We do remember, however, that Marcos was serially pestering the Aquino government with publicized declarations of excuse after excuse, expressing his desire to return to the Philippines and there, face the courts instead of the Federal Judge in New York City.

On that date, a horde of so-called “Marcos Loyalists” by forcible surprise took over the premises of Radio-TV Network GMA 7 in Quezon City. The siege took all of two days until quelled and subdued with summary arrests. Some 199 individuals were involved, subsequently charged with rebellion. Obviously in coordination with some military elements, there was also a simultaneous attempted take over of an Air Force facility and its armory in Sangley Point in Cavite by a motley cabal of 32 officers and enlisted personnel. They too were arrested and were to face court-martial charges.

Suspectedly taking cue from the Marcos lair-in-exile up in Honolulu’s Makiki Heights, and evidently correspondingly coached in Quezon City, the accused kaboodle moved for the postponement of their investigation by the Government’s Prosecuting Office
(known as Fiscal, which corresponds to a District Attorney in the U.S.). invoking their constitutional right “to have a counsel of their own choice.” That is, until such time that they shall have elected their defense counsel.

Among those arrested and charged were two local fast-fading movie vamps. Still somewhat voluptuous at the time, Alona Alegre and Elizabeth Oropesa spoke on behalf of most of the accused, declaring that they are availing of the legal services of their chosen counsel. One named Attorney Ferdinand E. Marcos!

Immediately upon having gotten wind of the announced choice of counsel by Alona and Elizabeth, but without independent contact with any of the accused (and much more so, with the military personnel facing court martial), Marcos forthwith issued a statement: “It is an honor for me to defend such a group of courageous men fighting for freedom and the preservation of democracy in the Philippines.”

The clincher: “This would, therefore, necessitate that the Aquino government allow me to go home to defend the honor of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.”

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Tomas 'Buddy' Gomez III began his professional media career in ABS-CBN's (previously Chronicle Broadcasting Network) DZQL-Radio Reloj in 1957, after which he spent 25 years with the Ayala Group.

In 1986, the then Pres. Cory Aquino appointed him Consul General to Hawaii and later served as her Press Secretary.

During the Ramos administration, he was chairman and president of state-owned IBC-13 Network.

After government service, he became an ‘OFW’ in the U.S., working as front-desk clerk and then assistant general manager of a hotel. He also worked as a furniture and antique restoration specialist.

He is now retired and lives in San Antonio, Texas.

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.