Ben Tulfo called out for ignorance of law, 'grossly unethical journalism'

At 8:17PM today, August 24, 202, IBP Iloilo Chapter on its Facebook page issued an official statement on Ben Tulfo's August 21, 2012 segment on BITAG Live. The full statement is quoted below:

[QUOTE] The Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) Iloilo Chapter expresses its utmost concern and strongly condemns the public denunciation of one of its members by Ben Tulfo on the Bitag Live segment featured in it the latter's BITAG OFFICIAL YouTube Channel.While IBP recognizes the widespread media influence of Mr. Tulfo, it is nonetheless asserting that such medium should not pre-dispose the populace to cast a disheartening public opinion on the legal profession by attacking one of its members who is just exercising his sworn duty as a lawyer, with competence and diligence in serving his client before the court of law, as enshrined in Canon 18 of the Lawyer’s Code of Professional Responsibility. It is highly fallacious and misleading for Mr. Tulfo to make his viewers and the public in general believe that receiving minimal fees for legal services equates to unethical legal strategies. Mr. Tulfo’s hasty accusation, premised on predominantly hearsay information, undermines the integrity and respect owing to lawyers - especially those in the private law practice.

In fulfilling his professional responsibilities, a lawyer necessarily assumes various roles that require the performance of many difficult tasks. Not every situation that he may encounter can be foreseen, but he should remain guided by the tenets of the Code of Professional Responsibility (CPR), [with] which the maligned lawyer, Atty. Kazper Vic Bermejo complied. In the same vein, the CPR expressly provides that only the Supreme Court, through the IBP, has the sole and exclusive authority to discipline its members. As such, a private individual must go through the proper channels if he wishes to question the methods or actuations of a member of the Bar. He should refrain from taking matters into his own hands.

The Chapter likewise takes this as an opportunity to inform the public on the legal issues muddled by Mr. Tulfo in his segment, by highlighting the following:

First, contrary to Mr. Tulfo’s “opinion” that the procedure is erroneous since preliminary investigation is required, direct filing with the Municipal Trial Courts or Municipal Circuit Trial Courts is warranted in cases falling under Sec 1 (b), Rule 110 of the Revised Rules on Criminal Procedure where the imposable penalty does not exceed four (4) years, two (2) months and one (1) day.

Second, while the general rule is that all disputes are subject to Barangay conciliation pursuant to the Revised Katarungang Pambarangay Law, it admits of certain exceptions: one being that it is not required for offenses for which the law prescribes a maximum penalty of imprisonment exceeding one (1) year ora fine over Five Thousand Pesos (Php 5,000.00) pursuant to paragraph I, item 6 of CIRCULAR NO, 14-93 July 15, 1993, otherwise known as the GUIDELINES ON THE KATARUNGANG PAMBARANGAY CONCILIATION PROCEDURE TO PREVENT CIRCUMVENTION OF THE REVISED KATARUNGANG PAMBARANGAY LAW (SECTIONS 399-422, CHAPTER VII, TITLE 1, BOOK III, R.A. 7160. OTHERWISE KNOWN AS THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT CODE OF 1991). Thus, the interpretation of Mr. Tulfo that the procedure requires preliminary investigation and barangay conciliation is not only erroneous, but also misleading and has no basis under the law.

While the Chapter recognizes the fundamental importance of the exercise of freedom of expression and of speech, but equally as important is the upholding of the integrity and independence of the judicial system. Mr. Tulfo’s unwarranted and misplaced denunciation of the lawyer concerned is an affront to all members of the Bar. His public condemnation of Atty. Kazper Vic Bermejo, which also attacked the judiciary and the legal profession in general, is both irresponsible and highly unethical.

Worth mentioning is the rule on sub judice which precludes making public commentaries on pending cases. Let the courts perform their sacred duties in resolving pending cases based on facts, evidence and applicable laws and jurisprudence. Any act that impedes, interferes and embarrasses the administration of justice must be strongly condemned. The act of Mr. Tulfo is tantamount to obstructing the administration of justice which tends to bring the Courts and its officers into disrepute or disrespect.

Consequently, IBP-Iloilo is taking the necessary legal steps to ensure that Mr. Tulfo will be held answerable and legally accountable for his display of grossly unethical journalism in the guise of “investigative journalism”.

Nevertheless, IBP Iloilo is likewise currently working on establishing regulatory guidelines among lawyers when making public statements concerning pending cases - in order to protect the legal profession, its community, and the public it serves.[UNQUOTE]