Monday, August 08, 2005

RAUL ROCO: A BICOLANO BETRAYAL

“‘Tis not seasonable to call a man a traitor that has an army at his heels."
John Selden (1584-1654), British jurist, statesman. "Traitor," Table Talk (1686).

We pride ourselves with our regionalistic inclinations. We identify ourselves with our friends, relatives, and neighbours. And we find ourselves more in common with our kababayan. Our townmates, provincemates, and yes, our cabalens, kabayans, kasagpi, kauragon, etc., are our extended primos. Especially when we speak the same dialect.

Ferdinand Marcos was the pride of the Ilocandia. The Osmenas, the Visayans. The Laurels, the Batanguenos. Diosdado Macapagal, his cabalens from Pampanga. FVR, the Pangalatoks. Now here comes Raul Roco, the unmistakeable rocket of Bicolandia. "Sain ka maduman, Raul Roco?" Quo vadis, Raul ? What happened to your kababayans? Why are they forsaking you?

It came as a shock when the governor of Camarines Sur where Roco comes from, being its erstwhile congressman for two terms, has spoken in behalf of the six governors from the Bicol Region that they are, to a man, a believer of Danding Cojuangco. When asked why he's supporting Cojuangco, Gov. Villafuerte said, "We'd rather support a non-Bicolano. Raul Roco does not deserve our support." That came as a bolt from the blue. How do the Bicolanos react to that declaration? Do these governors, with their much vaunted political machinery, have the capacity to elect Danding as President?

Bicolanos unite! This is the best time to change your governors! These elected officials are blind to the aspirations of their constituencies. For almost a century, the Bicolanos have patiently waited that one of them would some day occupy Malacanang. Tecla San Andres Ziga was the region's first senator. And there were others after her. Louie Villafuerte was once a top Bicolano honcho, who had the ear of Marcos. With the dictator around and his first family and the other military and cabinet heavyweights, Villafuerte contented himself as just like that.

But the most elusive prize is yet to come. Now, more than ever, the Bicolanos have the best bet in the person of Roco. In 1998, Roco slugged it out with Erap. He was overwhelmed by the Masa who thought that Erap was their messiah. In retrospect, a great number of the electorate now looks at topnotch lawyer Roco as the best bet in 1998 only that, we have tried the likes of him before. Choosing Erap, the actor, was a leap in the dark. Indeed we groped ourselves back into the light. Now that the spotlight has once again focused on Raul Roco, with some handlers calling him as the man to beat, the Bicolano governors have a different agenda of their own. To further jolt Roco, they opted to make the Bicol region, Naga City at that, as the first leg of the Boss's listening sortie. Whoever thought of that gambit must be skinned alive. Roco must be seething from within. He expects his compatriots to fall behind his second wind, not to sabotage it. The Tagalogs, not known generally for being petty, have an apt aphorism, "kung hindi man ako makakatulong, hindi ako makakasagabal."

Those governors not only have they announced their treachery; they have made known their intention to tear down. For in a political contest, what else will they do to Roco since they have proclaimed already their preference to his most likely opponent? "There is no substitute for victory," claimed Carlos Romulo. Expect therefore the wrecking crew of these local chiefs training their guns towards Roco's direction. What, on the other hand, if Roco wins? Where shall we pick up those governors? Hence, they have unnecessarily burdened themselves by campaigning for whoever is Roco's opponent just to ensure that Roco doesn't make it. This is crab mentality at its best.

It was a sorry sight, these governors and local leaders humouring Cojuangco as he alighted from his Lear Jet. They were grinning from ear to ear, introducing Danding to their drivers, gofers, and factotums. "Boss," they chorused, "where we're going there'd they go!" While Danding was strutting naked in Naga City, these low lifes were one in saying, "Boss, what a fine outfit you have." What about the 5,000 well-wishers? Danding is familiar with the hakot-system; in fact, he might even be its inventor.

It was even more pathetic for a Visayan congressman to boast, when he was waving the written signatures of 70 congressmen who expressed their support to GMA, claiming that easily each one of them could deliver 50,000 votes. Whose leg was he pulling? Has he not heard of the fate of Ramon Mitra who had the legendary backing of the entire Congress in his run for the Presidency in 1992? This is not lost to Danding, and as we said, this is the cause of his deep misery. As a sabungero, he knows that his Kristos are two-faced freeloaders.

This early, the Bicolanos have already made their decisions. In their various Capitolios come July, 2004, there'll be new tenants, certainly not the six stooges who betrayed their kauragon.

In 2004, those governors are by their lonesome, mercifully. They have no army to speak of, thus, we can conveniently call them nothing but cheap traitors (This blog was written and published on October 28, 2003 at www.sonnypulgar.com)

EPILOGUE

There is a little known fact about Raul Roco, when on July 31, 1987, he was haled by the Presidential Commission on Good Government, together with TEODORO R. REGALA, EDGARDO J. ANGARA, AVELINO V. CRUZ, JOSE C. CONCEPCION, ROGELIO A. VINLUAN, VICTOR P. LAZATIN and EDUARDO U. ESCUETA, before the Sandiganbayan for the recovery of ill gotten wealth as co-principals with Eduardo Cojuangco.

The said lawyers, as partners of ACCRA Law Firm, were included in the Third Amended Complaint on the strength of the following allegations:

Defendants Eduardo Cojuangco, Jr., Edgardo J. Angara, Jose C. Concepcion, Teodoro Regala, Avelino V. Cruz, Rogelio A. Vinluan, Eduardo U. Escueta, Paraja G. Hayudini and Raul Roco of the Angara Concepcion Cruz Regala and Abello law offices (ACCRA) plotted, devised, schemed conspired and confederated with each other in setting up, through the use of the coconut levy funds, the financial and corporate framework and structures that led to the establishment of UCPB, UNICOM, COCOLIFE, COCOMARK, CIC, and more than twenty other coconut levy funded corporations, including the acquisition of San Miguel Corporation shares and its institutionalization through presidential directives of the coconut monopoly. Through insidious means and machinations, ACCRA, being the wholly-owned investment arm, ACCRA Investments Corporation, became the holder of approximately fifteen million shares representing roughly 3.3% of the total outstanding capital stock of UCPB as of 31 March 1987. This ranks ACCRA Investments Corporation number 44 among the top 100 biggest stockholders of UCPB which has approximately 1,400,000 shareholders. On the other hand, corporate books show the name Edgardo J. Angara as holding approximately 3,744 shares as of February, 1984.

Atty. Mario Ongkiko of the PCGG, in support of the aforesaid complaint, manifested:

With the permission of this Hon. Court. I propose to establish through these ACCRA lawyers that, one, their so-called client is Mr. Eduardo Cojuangco. Second, it was Mr. Eduardo Cojuangco who furnished all the monies to these subscription payments of these corporations who are now the petitioners in this case. Third, that these lawyers executed deeds of trust, some in the name of a particular person, some in blank. Now, these blank deeds are important to our claim that some of the shares are actually being held by the nominees for the late President Marcos. Fourth, they also executed deeds of assignment and some of these assignments have also blank assignees. Again, this is important to our claim that some of the shares are for Mr. Conjuangco and some are for Mr. Marcos. Fifth, that most of thes e corporations are really just paper corporations. Why do we say that? One: There are no really fixed sets of officers, no fixed sets of directors at the time of incorporation and even up to 1986, which is the crucial year. And not only that, they have no permits from the municipal authorities in Makati. Next, actually all their addresses now are care of Villareal Law Office. They really have no address on records. These are some of the principal things that we would ask of these nominees stockholders, as they called themselves.

Raul Roco, true to his self, opted to divulge his principals in the transaction and offered to present the pertinent papers and documents in support thereof, particularly, (a) the disclosure of the identity of his clients; (b) submission of documents substantiating the lawyer-client relationship; and (c) the submission of the deeds of assignments petitioners executed in favor of his client covering their respective shareholdings. The Sandiganbayan excluded him as party-respondent. The rest of the ACCRA lawyers asked the Supreme Court that they be dropped as well, but without making any disclosure whatsoever. They slugged it out with the High Court on the strength of the lawyer-client privelege.

In a contorted majority decision, the unlamented Justice Santiago Kapunan, absolved the ACCRA lawyers from revealing their principals and from compelling the latter from submitting relevant instruments in support of the transaction on the vague mantle of protection of lawyer-client relationship (Regala v. Sandiganbayan, et al., G.R. No. 105938 September 20, 1996). The Supreme Court ruled:

Where the communicated information, which clearly falls within the privilege, would suggest possible criminal activity but there would be not much in the information known to the prosecution which would sustain a charge except that revealing the name of the client would open up other privileged information which would substantiate the prosecution's suspicions, then the client's identity is so inextricably linked to the subject matter itself that it falls within the protection. The Baird exception, applicable to the instant case, is consonant with the principal policy behind the privilege, i.e., that for the purpose of promoting freedom of consultation of legal advisors by clients, apprehension of compelled disclosure from attorneys must be eliminated. This exception has likewise been sustained in In re Grand Jury Proceedings 51 and Tillotson v. Boughner. What these cases unanimously seek to avoid is the exploitation of the general rule in what may amount to a fishing expedition by the prosecution.

There are, after all, alternative source of information available to the prosecutor which do not depend on utilizing a defendant's counsel as a convenient and readily available source of information in the building of a case against the latter. Compelling disclosure of the client's name in circumstances such as the one which exists in the case at bench amounts to sanctioning fishing expeditions by lazy prosecutors and litigants which we cannot and will not countenance. When the nature of the transaction would be revealed by disclosure of an attorney's retainer, such retainer is obviously protected by the privilege. 53 It follows that petitioner attorneys in the instant case owe their client(s) a duty and an obligation not to disclose the latter's identity which in turn requires them to invoke the privilege.

In fine, the crux of petitioners' objections ultimately hinges on their expectation that if the prosecution has a case against their clients, the latter's case should be built upon evidence painstakingly gathered by them from their own sources and not from compelled testimony requiring them to reveal the name of their clients, information which unavoidably reveals much about the nature of the transaction which may or may not be illegal. The logical nexus between name and nature of transaction is so intimate in this case the it would be difficult to simply dissociate one from the other. In this sense, the name is as much "communication" as information revealed directly about the transaction in question itself, a communication which is clearly and distinctly privileged. A lawyer cannot reveal such communication without exposing himself to charges of violating a principle which forms the bulwark of the entire attorney-client relationship.

The uberrimei fidei relationship between a lawyer and his client therefore imposes a strict liability for negligence on the former. The ethical duties owing to the client, including confidentiality, loyalty, competence, diligence as well as the responsibility to keep clients informed and protect their rights to make decisions have been zealously sustained. In Milbank, Tweed, Hadley and McCloy v. Boon, the US Second District Court rejected the plea of the petitioner law firm that it breached its fiduciary duty to its client by helping the latter's former agent in closing a deal for the agent's benefit only after its client hesitated in proceeding with the transaction, thus causing no harm to its client. The Court instead ruled that breaches of a fiduciary relationship in any context comprise a special breed of cases that often loosen normally stringent requirements of causation and damages, and found in favor of the client.

Chief Justice Hilario Davide issued a scathing dissenting opinion where he dished out:

I respectfully submit that the attorney-client privilege is not a magic mantra whose invocation will ipso facto and ipso jure drape he who invokes it with its protection. Plainly put, it is not enough to assert the privilege. The person claiming the privilege or its exceptions has the obligation to present the underlying facts demonstrating the existence of the privilege. When these facts can be presented only by revealing the very information sought to be protected by the privilege, the procedure is for the lawyer to move for an inspection of the evidence in an in camera hearing. The hearing can even be in camera and ex-parte. Thus, it has been held that "a well-recognized means for an attorney to demonstrate the existence of an exception to the general rule, while simultaneously preserving confidentiality of the identity of his client, is to move the court for an in camera ex-parte hearing. Without the proofs adduced in these in camera hearings, the Court has no factual basis to determine whether petitioners fall within any of the exceptions to the general rule.

In the case at bar, it cannot be gainsaid that petitioners have not adduced evidence that they fall within any of the above mentioned exceptions for as aforestated, the Sandiganbayan did not recognize the exceptions, hence, the order compelling them to reveal the identity of their client. In ruling that petitioners need not further establish the factual basis of their claim that they fall within the exceptions to the general rule, the majority held:

The circumstances involving the engagement of lawyers in the case at bench therefore clearly reveal that the instant case falls under at least two exceptions to the general rule. First, disclosure of the alleged client's name would lead to establish said client's connection with the very fact in issue of the case, which is privileged information, because the privilege, as stated earlier, protects the subject matter or the substance (without which there would be no attorney-client relationship). Furthermore, under the third main exception, revelation of the client's name would obviously provide the necessary link for the prosecution to build its case, where none otherwise exists. It is the link, in the word of Baird, "that would inevitably form the chain of testimony necessary to convict the (client) of a . . . crime.

Raul died unburdened by the temporal lawyer’s obbligato of perchance felon representation. Upon meeting his Creator, Raul only needs his own able counsel.

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