THE Integrated Bar of the Philippines on Friday reminded lawyer and House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez of the “highest standards of morality, behavior and professionalism” expected of lawyers.
The IBP made the statement even as Malacañang said it would not interfere in the ongoing row between Alvarez and Davao del Norte Rep. Antonio Floirendo Jr., saying it was their business.
Alvarez and Floreindo are both known allies of President Rodrigo Duterte.
“Let’s put it this way. This a personal matter between two men,” presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella said.
“The Palace will allow them to settle it privately between themselves,” Abella said when asked if the row could impede the progress of the President’s legislative agenda.
The rift became public after Alvarez filed a graft complaint against Floirendo before the Office of the Ombudsman, over what he said was an anomalous contract between his company, Tagum Agricultural Development Co., Inc. and the Bureau of Corrections for land used by his banana plantation inside the Davao Penal Colony.
The quarrel reportedly started over suspicions that Floirendo was leading a plot to oust Alvarez as Speaker and to replace him with former president and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
Floirendo has denied being part of any plot.
Other reports said the row started with a fight between Floirendo’s live-in partner, Cathy Binag, and Alvarez’s girlfriend, Jennifer Maliwanag Vicencio.
Floirendo has said he is “ready to face” the graft charges, but called on Alvarez to meet with him to settle the issue “like gentlemen.”
Meanwhile, the minority bloc in the House of Representatives said it is considering filing an ethics complaint against Alvarez, who admitted he had a mistress.
“That is something we in the minority bloc will discuss,” Magdalo party-list Rep. Gary Alejano said.
Alejano, who filed an impeachment complaint against President Duterte, said that Alvarez’s admission gave the House a bad name.
“His forthrightness does not equate to what is right and proper. His actions placed the image of his office and the institution he represents in a bad light which is not a good example or something worthy of emulation, especially of our youth,” Alejano said.
But should Alejano or anybody decides to file a case against the Speaker, IBP president Rosario Setias-Reyes said the organization would accord Alvarez due process.
“In the event that someone should file a complaint against Congressman Alvarez, he will, of course, be granted the full measure of his right to due process but these shall be the same standards against which his actions shall be measured,” the statement read.
The IBP added that lawyers are held to a “higher” standard than most which are enforced by the Supreme Court and the lawyers’ organization.
“The IBP has always and shall always maintain the highest standards of morality, behavior and professionalism among its members,” it said.
Alvarez on Thursday told his critics to “go ahead” with a disbarment case against him, after he admitted having a girlfriend and engaging in extramarital affairs.
He also admitted in a radio interview that he has “many” children out of wedlock.
“Meron po [akong anak sa labas], marami. Pero hindi sa relationship ko ngayon,” Alvarez said.
[I have children out of wedlock, many. But not with my current partner.]
Alvarez also said he is willing to answer disbarment complaints on account of his extramarital affairs.
“Hindi ko naman pwedeng sabihin na hindi totoo ’yang kwento na ’yan. Eh di mag-file ng disbarment, sasagutin ko din ’yan,” he said.
[I can’t say these stories aren’t true. If they file a disbarment complaint, I will answer it.]
He also reiterated that he has long been estranged from his legal wife, Emelita Apostol Alvarez.
Alvarez’s admission of his extra-marital affairs puts him at risk of disbarment and even possible disciplinary actions.
A lawmaker and an ally of Alvarez who requested anonymity, criticized Alvarez for his “ungentlemanly remarks.”
“The problem with the Speaker is he thinks between his legs,” the lawmaker said, adding that Alvarez should not have washed his dirty linen in public with his admission.
Gabriela Rep Arlene Brosas said Alvarez’s extramarital affairs and his insinuation that all other lawyers in the country might be disbarred too for such an act was a reckless generalization.
“It casts unnecessary intrigue on the legal profession, which is irrelevant to the main issue that Speaker Alvarez is in,” Brosas said.
Brosas said Alvarez’ flaunting of his extramarital affairs was in bad taste, and an admission of a crime.
“May I remind the Speaker that concubinage and adultery are still crimes in this country,” she said.
Brosas added: “As defender of women’s rights, we express grave concern as to how Speaker Alvarez flaunts his extramarital affairs as something ordinary and acceptable. It reeks of machismo unbecoming of a public servant, more so of the Speaker of the House of Representatives.”
Akbayan Rep. Tom Villarin said a public official should exercise his office with the highest standards always in mind.
“Admitting an affair will not make you truthful nor give you an excuse just because everyone is doing it,” Villarin said.
But Alvarez found an ally in Isabela. Rep. Rodolfo Albano, who said he saw nothing wrong with the Speaker having a mistress.
“Speaker Alvarez and his wife are separated already. It is an open secret,” Albano said.
On Friday, Malacañang fended off suggestions that the President had a double standard on extramarital affairs, condemning Senator Leila de Lima for her affair with her married driver and alleged bagman, while remaining silent about Alvarez.
“I think it is not a question of being double standard. The fact remains that the relationship of the senator has something to do with the crime with which she has been accused of,” said Abella.
COMMENT DISCLAIMER: Reader comments posted on this Web site are not in any way endorsed by Manila Standard. Comments are views by manilastandard.net readers who exercise their right to free expression and they do not necessarily represent or reflect the position or viewpoint of manilastandard.net. While reserving this publication’s right to delete comments that are deemed offensive, indecent or inconsistent with Manila Standard editorial standards, Manila Standard may not be held liable for any false information posted by readers in this comments section.