The Supreme Court on Friday ordered the suspension of the controversial former election officer of Maguindanao from the practice of law for irregularities he committed during a local election in 2004.
In a six-page resolution dated Sept. 16, the SC’s Third Division, through now Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta, ordered that lawyer Lintang Bedol be “suspended from the practice of law for a period of one year, with a stern warning that a repetition of the same or a similar offense will warrant the imposition of a more severe penalty.”
A disbarment complaint was filed against Bedol by Mike A. Fermin after one of his opponents, Bai Susan Samad, a defeated candidate for the mayoralty post of Kabuntalan, Maguindanao filed a petition to declare a failure of elections in a precinct in the town’s Barangay Guiawa.
A Commission on Elections resolution dated July 27, 2004 declared a failure of election and the holding of the special election in the said precinct.
Before the issuance of the resolution, Bedol, in his capacity as the provincial election supervisor of Maguindanao, had issued a notice dated July 23, 2004 to all candidates, informing them of the scheduled special elections.
On July 26, 2004, Bedol again issued a notice that the canvassing of votes shall be held in Shariff Aguak, Maguindanao.
The complainant said Bedol committed a “shameless disregard of the truth and brazen disrespect for the rule of law” in handing down the premature notices.
The complainant added that the “false and illegal notices showed his [Bedol]'s dishonest ways and predilection to wrongdoings and his natural susceptibility to the culture of corruption and deception which renders him totally unfit to remain as an honorable member of the Bar.”
Bedol’s disbarment, the complainant said, is needed “to protect future clients from falling prey to his corrupt and evil deeds.”
In sanctioning Bedol, the high court underscored that “A government lawyer is a keeper of public faith and is burdened with a high degree of social responsibility, higher than his brethren in private practice.”
“Members of the bar are reminded that their first duty is to comply with the rules of procedure, rather than seek exceptions as loopholes.
Respondent is expected to promote respect for the law and legal processes,” Peralta said in the ruling.
Associate Justices Mario Victor F. Leonen, Andres B. Reyes Jr., and Henri Jean Paul Inting concurred.
Bedol was embroiled in the “Hello Garci” scandal, a leaked conversation between former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and former Comelec Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano on the alleged rigging of 2004 presidential elections results.
He was also charged with electoral sabotage for allegedly manipulating the results of the 2007 mid-term elections in Maguindanao in favor of administration candidates.