SC disbars lawyer re bar exam leakage

SOURCE: Aurea Calica. Lawyer disbarred for 2003 Bar ‘leak’. February 5, 2004 - 12:00am.

The Supreme Court, in 2004, disbarred a lawyer and reprimanded the examiner responsible for the leakage of questions in last year’s Bar examination on mercantile law. 

Danilo de Guzman, of the Balgos and Perez law firm, admitted downloading the test questions from the computer of his boss, examiner Marcial Balgos.

Balgos is a senior partner of former justice secretary Hernando Perez in the law firm. Apart from the reprimand, Balgos was stripped of any honorarium from serving as Bar examiner.

The court also directed the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to question him and eight other people to determine their alleged involvement and possible liabilities in the leak.

The eight are Cheryl Palma, Balgos’ secretary; Silvestre Atienza, a Manuel L. Quezon University law student and office manager of the law firm; and MLQU law students James Bugain, Ronald Collado, Ronan Garvida, Allan Guiapal, Randy Iñigo and Erwin Tan.

Collado allegedly distributed the exam questions to 30 MLQU examinees taking the Bar. The law students and De Guzman are members of the Beta Sigma Lambda fraternity.

The high court ordered the NBI to find out how De Guzman managed to obtain the test questions.

De Guzman graduated from FEU in 1998 and passed the Bar with a grade of 86.4 percent. As member of the fraternity, he was active in the so-called "Bar ops" or review sessions for the examinees. He resigned from the law firm on Oct. 22 last year, a month after the incident.

The resolution of the issue came almost five months after the Sept. 21 mercantile law examinations.

The examinees were supposed to re-take the mercantile law examinations last October but the court decided to cancel it to save the trouble. It instead assigned different percentages per subject of the examinations.

Following a recommendation of an investigating committee headed by retired Supreme Court justice Carolina Griño-Aquino, the court said De Guzman showed he was morally unfit to continue as member of the legal profession for grave dishonesty, lack of integrity and criminal behavior.

De Guzman committed a "criminal act of larceny" and theft of intellectual property for obtaining the test questions.

He also violated Balgos’ rights to privacy of communication and to security of his papers and effects against unauthorized search and seizure.

"He transgressed the very first canon of the lawyers‚ Code of Professional Responsibility which provides that a lawyer shall uphold the Constitution, obey the laws of the land and promote respect for law and legal processes," the SC said in its decision.

De Guzman violated the same Code for abetting cheating or dishonesty by his fellow fraternity members, the court said.He distributed the test questions to some members of the fraternity "possibly for pecuniary profit and to give them undue advantage over the other examiners in the mercantile law examination."

The investigating committee found out that 82 percent of the questions asked in the mercantile law examinations were leaked by De Guzman and that this proved the leakage originated from the office of Balgos and not from the office of Justice Jose Vitug, chairman of the 2003 Bar examinations.

As for Balgos, who confessed his unfamiliarity with the use of computers, the SC said he should have exercised due care to safeguard the integrity of the exams.

Balgos should "have prepared the test questions in his trusty typewriter, in the privacy of his home, where they would have been safe from the prying eyes of secretaries and assistant attorneys."

His "negligence was not the proximate but the root case of the Bar leakage," the court said.

Based on the committee investigation, Balgos prepared three sets of questionnaires in his office computer and asked his secretary to print them for him.

Balgos testified before the committee that he had thought all along that he alone had access to his computer and was surprised to discover that it was interconnected with others in the office.

De Guzman later admitted to Balgos downloading the questions from his computer.

"He allegedly thought they were quizzes for a book that Attorney Balgos might be preparing. He saved them in his hard disk," the committee said.

De Guzman then thought of faxing the test questions to his fraternity brother, Garvida, on Sept. 17, 2003, or four days before the examinations.

Garvida faxed the test questions to Iñigo and Bugain. Iñigo then passed them to Guiapal, who gave a copy to Collado.

The leak was discovered by Vitug a day after the examinations.

SOURCE: Aurea Calica. Lawyer disbarred for 2003 Bar ‘leak’. February 5, 2004 - 12:00am.