LAWYERS Jose Manuel Diokno and Andre Palacios claimed they were counsels for 20 Palawan and Zambales fishermen when they filed a writ of kalikasan with the Supreme Court to compel government agencies to rehabilitate and protect the West Philippine Sea from “environmental damage due to poaching and other illegal activities being undertaken by Chinese nationals.”
It was all a lie, a total fraud. The fishermen, in very detailed sworn testimonies, said they knew nothing about such a suit, and were shocked when they read in the newspapers or were told by their neighbors that they were involved in the high-profile case suing the government.
Diokno and his accomplices are guilty of claiming in a court of law to represent people who did not authorize them to do so. What Diokno and his gang did is a patent violation of Section 27 of the Rules of Court No. 138, punishable by disbarment: “A member of the bar may be removed or suspended from his office as attorney by the Supreme Court for…for willfully appearing as an attorney for a party to a case without authority to do so.”
But not only that. These lawyers violated Article 171 of the Revised Penal Code, which penalizes falsification. Diokno and his gang fraudulently claimed in the petition before the high court that the fishermen were filing the kalikasan suit, and they attributed to the latter statements that they had not made.
This is an open-and-shut case, these lawyers are fraudsters, con men who lied to the Supreme Court. The Solicitor General wouldn’t be doing his job if he doesn’t pursue criminal and disbarment cases against Diokno and his gang.
As I explained in a previous column*, this was a despicable conspiracy to cause political chaos. If the Supreme Court granted the petition and ordered the Navy and other state agencies to kick out fishermen from China and Vietnam from the disputed areas in the Spratlys, this would either have led, if President Duterte followed the order, to military skirmishes against forces of two nations, or to a constitutional crisis, if he refused to implement it.
What makes this case also important is that Palacios — with two other lawyers Abdiel Fajardo and Gil Aquino — claimed that they were representing the Integrated Bar of the Philippines in the suit. Have the country’s lawyers lost all their balls or their principles — or both — in letting their organization be used in a huge fraud, undertaken for political purposes? Are they even aware that Palacios and the two other lawyers claimed in their petition that they were representing the IBP?
How much worse can lawyers spit on our rule of law? They filed a case in the highest court, fraudulently claiming it was by poor fishermen?
Diokno made the lame excuse that Navy lawyers had asked the fishermen to disclaim the kalikasan suit, and even had the gall to threaten those who took the testimonies with disbarment.
But he didn’t offer an iota of evidence, not a single testimony from a fisherman, to prove that they had been asked by the Navy or any other government official to disclaim the suit. This is a lawyer, and a dean of a law school? Their scam exposed and wanting to bury it from public attention, Diokno and his gang agreed to withdraw the case, just slithered away, claiming that he didn’t want the fishermen to be put at “risk.” What a scoundrel.
The Solicitor General’s move for the case to be dismissed was based on the fishermen’s claim that they didn’t authorize Diokno et al. to be their representatives. Their agreement to withdraw the suit was legally a concurrence in the fishermen’s allegations.
The sworn affidavits of the fishermen are so detailed to be, as Diokno claims, fabricated or made by Navy lawyers. In their testimonies (in Filipino), the fishermen in fact seemed to be angry. The Palawan fishermen claimed: “Why would we file a case against those government agencies, when they have been helping us a lot in our livelihood as fishermen?”
The Zambales fishermen were even angrier as they were fooled.
They did go to the IBP, to its Zambales chapter, for help. But not from harassment from Chinese vessels, but to stop the closure of a school and eviction of residents in their community, Sitio Kinabukasan. The IBP representative there claimed the organization would help them if they signed a blank document with copies of their IDs, which the fishermen assumed would contain their plea for the school and the residents’ stay.
The IBP lawyers even asked the fishermen to go to their Manila headquarters — at their expense — and to sign what they were told was a “petition” — but which they weren’t even allowed to read, nor were given copies of. They were shocked, they said, when they read later in the newspapers that they were the complainants in the “petition” to the Supreme Court involving the West Philippines Sea.
And these are not just lawyers, but officers of the IBP! Diokno is even dean of the De La Salle Law School. What example is he showing to De La Salle law students, that you can break the law if you just know how, and are fighting for a purportedly noble cause? And Diokno even thought he should be a senator of the Republic?
To be honest, I was already suspicious of Diokno and his gang when they filed the suit in April, suspecting them to be using the fishermen and misrepresenting them, as part of the Yellow and Reds’ campaign to pressure Duterte to undertake a belligerent stand against the Chinese.
None of the fishermen actually complained of instances that Chinese or Vietnamese fishermen, nor any foreign vessel had harassed them, nor did they see such fishermen harvesting endangered species or using cyanide or explosives in their fishing, nor did they say that the seas in the Spratlys and Scarborough were being environmentally damaged.
Yet in the suit, these were cited as basis for the complaint. The suit, revealingly, also cited “the documents the Philippines submitted in its arbitration suit against China and the tribunal’s ruling.” C’mon now, not to denigrate those fishermen’s knowledge of current events, but would you believe that they were closely monitoring the arbitration case against China, and filed the suit because they were the poor victims in that case?
Diokno, who has hobnobbed with Communist Party cadres too much that he has imbibed their amorality, obviously didn’t even think that there was something wrong in putting words in the mouths of poor people, making them appear to be going against the very government agencies that were helping them — using them as cannon fodder for his camp’s siege of the Republic.
After all, this has been the usual practice of the Left, who claim to represent the working classes and speak for them so much, they don’t really need to consult with them.
Government using this obvious case of fraud should tell the communists they can no longer do this.
* “Imbecilic kalikasan writ suit will result in political chaos and economic collapse,” July 12, 2019.