SC Disbars Former IBP Officer Involved in Fake Annulment of Marriage Decisions

The Supreme Court has disbarred a former officer of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) – South Cotabato and General Santos Chapter for violating the Lawyer’s Oath and the Code of Professional Responsibility (CPR) in connection with his involvement “in the reprehensible practice of perpetuating annulment packages.”

In a per curiam Decision, the Court En Banc also ordered that the name of respondent Atty. Remegio P. Rojas be stricken off from the Roll of Attorneys.

Atty. Rojas’s disbarment stemmed from the complaint of Jocelyn G. Bartolome who accused the former of violating the Lawyer’s Oath and Rules 1.01, 7.03, and 10.01, and Canon 15 of the CPR.

Bartolome claimed she had known Rojas since their college days and reconnected with him in 2010 when she chanced upon his social media account. They then later met to catch up and discussed, among others, that her brother, Jonas B. Guingab, who was based in Singapore wanted to file an annulment case against his wife. That same year, they met again later and narrated in detail the annulment case. Complainant Bartolome said that Rojas claimed he has a relative in Cotabato who is a presiding Judge and that he can expedite the case for a fee of P150,000.00 for the judge. After arriving at a settlement, Bartolome handed Rojas a check payable to the order of “cash” in the amount of P90,000.00 as payment in advance for the judge.

On January 30, 2011, Bartolome received a call from her bank requesting confirmation of an encashment of the check she issued and that it was Rojas who was attempting to encash the check. Subsequently, Rojas promised Bartolome that the decision would be available in December 2011. In February 2012, they met in Tomas Morato, Quezon City where Rojas handed to her a photocopy of the supposed “final decision” of the annulment case. She asked for original copy, but was informed by Rojas that the same would be mailed to her and in Iloilo City where Guingab was married.

In January 2013, Rojas updated Bartolome that the National Statistics Office (NSO) was about to receive the “Annotation of Marriage,” but Bartolome later found out that her brother was still validly married when she checked with the NSO. Bartolome tried to confront Rojas, but he was no longer communicating with her. She later sought the legal assistance of her lawyer cousin who found that the “decision” handed by Rojas was a fake  one. In May 2014, Bartolome sent a demand letter to call him out about the fake ruling and the return of the P90,000.00, plus legal interests. Rojas, in July 2014, wired back the said amount.

In his defense, Rojas said that he and Bartolome were romantically involved in their college days and that they rekindled their friendship when they reconnected in the social media. He denied the complainant’s claims and said that he himself got scammed by a certain Muktar Santo who purportedly processed and lodged the annulment case before the Cotabato Regional Trial Court. He denied authorship of the fake decision and stressed that he only wanted to help Bartolome. Rojas sought judicial clemency and banked on his alleged proven character and reputation as an officer of the IBP, Philippine Red Cross, and civic organizations; as well as his being a university professor.

The IBP Investigating Commissioner recommended that Rojas be disbarred for being the author/forger of a fake court decision. The IBP Board of Governors adopted the recommendation, but modified the penalty from disbarment to suspension from the practice of law for five years.

Upholding the findings of the IBP Investigating Commissioner, the Supreme Court noted that Rojas admitted his involvement “in the reprehensible practice of perpetuating ‘annulment packages,’ albeit disavowing authorship and with the caveat that he only did so to help the complainant, and is the process, was also scammed by Santos.”

Said the Court: “All these, regardless of his intention of presenting supposedly mitigating circumstances, besmirched the legal profession to the highest degree, by making a mockery of the judicial system. He simply violated his sworn oath to be honest, and to obey the law and the Constitution. It also created an impression to the public that the judicial process can be trifled with, and undermined the judicial processes of the courts.”

The Court held that Atty. Rojas failed his Oath, especially considering his qualifications as a former officer of the IBP South Cotabato and General Santos Chapter, a former law professor, and officer of various civic organizers. It said: “Atty. Rojas deliberately defiled the legal profession and was utterly remiss in his duties to the profession, to the society, and to the courts.”

The CPR, particularly Canon 1, requires the lawyer to uphold the Constitution, obey the laws of the land, and to promoted respect for law and legal processes. Rule 1.01 sets the path in doing so, viz: A lawyer shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct. It added that Rojas’s actions likewise defied Canon 10 of the CPR which mandates that a lawyer owes candor, fairness, and good faith to the Court.

“We cannot give Atty. Rojas a free pass. To give in to his plea is to make a travesty of the judicial system and the legal profession and to go against this Court’s bounden duty to safeguard the public against erring lawyers. Lawyers who have been found to have violated their oath must be accountable for their actions and must face the consequences of their ill choices that affect the legal profession.”

The Court said that Rojas has not met the guidelines set by the Court to consider granting him clemency. It stressed that Rojas must first be held accountable, acknowledge his transgressions, and suffer the penalty therefor. [SC Disbars Former IBP Officer Involved in Fake Annulment of Marriage Decisions. Supreme Court of the Philippines. November 25, 2022. Last retrieved at 3:27 PM, November 25, 2022. SC Disbars Former IBP Officer Involved in Fake Annulment of Marriage Decisions | Supreme Court of the Philippines (]