By Vince Alvic Alexis F. Nonato

Menorca lawyer suspended

Posted on August 10, 2016

THE SUPREME COURT (SC) has ordered the lawyer of former Iglesia ni Cristo church worker Lowell R. Menorca II suspended from practice for three years over a misconduct complaint filed in 2003.

Rose-Beatrix Cruz-Angeles, as well as another lawyer, Wylie M. Paler, were ordered suspended for three years for failing to produce an annulment petition sought by their client despite being paid P350,000 in legal fees.

The two lawyers were found to have violated the rules against misconduct, negligence of entrusted legal matters, as well as the rules providing that lawyers shall obey the laws, uphold the integrity of the legal profession, observe respect for the courts, serve the client with competence and diligence, account for all collected money, and deliver the clients’ funds and property.

The three-year suspension period will begin once the Tuesday decision becomes final. The two lawyers were also ordered to return the P350,000 to the complainant within 90 days from the decision’s finality.

The complainant said he paid the amount in installments, but despite constant follow-ups, the lawyers were unable to produce the petition for annulment.

In her defense, Ms. Angeles admitted receiving the amount, but denied being remiss in her duties and said the complainant failed to give his estranged wife’s address and provide sufficient evidence.

The Integrated Bar of the Philippines Investigating Committee, however, found the two lawyers administratively liable, and the Board of Governors recommended a penalty of two years’ suspension.

While it adopted the IBP’s findings, the Supreme Court (SC) decided to impose a higher penalty of three years’ suspension, SC Public Information Office Chief Theodore O. Te said in a briefing.

Ms. Angeles in a statement on her public Facebook account said she would “not argue the merits of my case,” and would leave the decision on future action to her partner, G. Ahmed G. Paglinawan.

Although she believed she was “not accorded due process,” Ms. Angeles acknowledged that she was an officer of the court subject to its disciplines.

“I am also subject to the legal system. And I believe in that system. Even if it fails individuals, I do not believe that it fails society. Though it can stand improvement, there is no better way yet,” she said.

“I accept that the Supreme Court has the power to discipline the members of the Bar, and I will cast no aspersions on any member of the judiciary or the High Court pertaining to this matter. They do what they have to do, in light of what comes before them.”

Ms. Angeles was recently prominent for representing the family of Mr. Menorca, who accused the politically-influential leadership of the Iglesia ni Cristo of ordering their abduction for allegedly being critical of the church.

She had also represented now-Customs Commissioner Nicanor E. Faeldon when he was facing charges in connection with the July 2003 Oakwood mutiny against the government of then-President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Most recently, she was the lawyer of Army reservist Vhon Martin Tanto, who became infamous in social media as a suspect for the fatal “road-rage” shooting of a cyclist in Quiapo, Manila.