(Article published in the May 3, 2006
issue of Manila Standard Today)
must be kindred spirits, the spouses-lawyers Ellis F. Jacoba and Olivia
Velasco-Jacoba, on the one hand and I on the other.
A wanna-be senator is possibly a deviant cousin and Ma. Theresa
Pangilinan a tenth degree niece. It
appears we have in our spirits the soul’s equivalent of an aberrant gene
that causes a proclivity for infelicity of language.
infelicity gene, I hasten to state, is peculiar.
By some strange alchemy of content and context, the spoken language
causes great unhappiness on the people who hear and then recoils to make
the source in some form or another unhappy too. In other words, my
spiritual kin and I seem to have the dubious talent of making, at least
some if not many, people unhappy with what we say, provoking them in turn
to make us somehow regret it.
Husband and wife Jacobas were, in the case decided in March of this year,
suspended by the Supreme Court from the practice of law for two (2) years
and two (2) months respectively (Lacuron v. Jacoba, A.C. No. 5921, March
10, 2006) for disrespectful language in a motion for reconsideration filed
in a lower court. I, with
others, was detained for six (6) hours on 15 March 2005 at the Senate
Sergeant-at-arms office for describing, in a petition for prohibition
filed before the Supreme Court, the investigation then being conducted by
a senate committee headed by Senator Edgardo J. Angara as “in aid of
collection.” Famous but
still aspirant for the Senate spiritual relative was said to have been
barred for life, on account of language and behavior unacceptable to
another senate committee, from practicing his profession (presumably, law)
in the Upper House of Congress. And
young Maria Theresa just might be hounded by the dogs of prosecution of
the ever amusing Secretary of Justice, Raul Gonzalez, for articulating in
a forceful manner what she rightfully believes is written in many hearts
of her countrymen.
Supreme Court last March decided that the habeas corpus case that I and my
co-detainees filed to question our 6-hour detention was already moot and
academic since we were anyway released by the time the Supreme Court
decided acted on it. I am not
aware whether the usually pugnacious senatorial aspirant contested his
exclusion from Senate practice or, which I consider unlikely, had
uncharacteristically accepted his fate like a meek lamb.
Justice Secretary Raul Gonzales has not gone much beyond barking at
Maria Theresa. Hence, my
comment today, if I may, is limited to the Supreme Court’s action on the
Jacoba-Valasco-Jacoba Law Firm (“Jacoba Law Firm”) was lawyer for the
plaintiff in an unlawful detainer case.
They won the case at the level of the municipal trial court.
But the defendant appealed and won at the level of
the regional trial court presided over by Judge Ubaldino A. Lacurum.
As is routinely done by a number of self-respecting but losing
lawyers, Jacoba Law Firm filed a motion for reconsideration of the
resolution by Judge Lacurum.
the said motion for reconsideration, linguistic indignation, if not rage,
like Prometeus, was unbound. In its motion, the Jacoba law firm described
the resolution as “an abhorrent nullity”, a “legal monstrosity”, a
“horrendous mistake”, a ‘horrible error”, a “real boner”, and
“an insult to the Judiciary and an Anachronism in the Judicial
Process”. The good judge,
hurt by the language, cited them, individually for contempt, and
complained with the Integrated Bar of the Philippines.
After due hearing, the IBP found the Jacobas “prone to using
offensive language and derogatory remarks and phrases which amounted to
discourtesy and disrespect for authority”.
The Supreme Court agreed and meted out the penalty earlier
the Jacobas had a penchant for, to say the least, interesting language.
The husband assumed authorship of the motion for reconsideration
that offended the gentle judge when he said that he simply “trained his
guns and fired at the errors which he perceived and believed to be gigantic
and monumental.” (Emphasis supplied). The wife, for her part,
admitted that “if we are to pick such stringent words at random and
bunch them together, side by side x x x then collectively and certainly
they present a cacophonic picture
of total and utter disrespect.” (Emphasis supplied).
consequently expressed willingness to apologize “for whatever mistake
[they] may have committed in a
moment of unguarded discretion when [they] may have ‘stepped on the
line and gone out of bounds’.” Clearly,
she was contrite enough to be open to doing some version of the
presidential “I am sorry” for
the “lapse of judgment” in the “Hello Garci” show.
Of the two apologies, I am not in a position to know which was more
genuine; but I have no reason to doubt the sincerity of a fellow lawyer.
I do doubt, however, based on my reading of the Jacobas case, is whether that it was really what were written by the
Jacobas, when taken by themselves, that made the Court impose disciplinary
action on them. After all, in
at least three occasions, the Supreme Court was confronted with two of
said words and phrases, and at no instance did the Supreme Court indicate
any form of displeasure.
his dissent to the rare 5-5 decision in the early case of Ramos v. COMELEC, Justice Perfecto quoted in full the report of the
provincial surgeon Domingo Abella, first lieutenant of the military police
command in charge of the duties of watching the 1947 elections for the
maintenance of peace and order in the town of Bato in Camarines Sur.
A paragraph in said report reads:
the election just held on 11 November 1947, the rules were reversed. The
Nacionalistas were in the minority and were the complainants against the
abuses of the Liberals who were in the saddle with the great differences
that the abuses this time were widespread, flagrant, offensive to the
conscience of any decent-thinking individual, and done so brazenly and
with such audacity and self-assertion as to imply to the gullible that the
law is on the side of the Liberals no matter what boners
they might commit.” (Emphasis supplied. Ramos v. COMELEC, 80 Phil
722,732). The rest of the
members of the Court made no comment on the military man’s use of “boners”.
years later, the Supreme Court ponencia in Boysaw
v. Interphil Promotions, quoted
with approval the appellee’s contention that “the two qualities
that ought to concur or dwell on each and every piece of evidence that is
invoked as a ground for new trial in order to warrant the
reopening…inhered separately on two unrelated species of proof” which
“creates a legal monstrosity that
deserves no recognition.” (Emphasis
supplied. Boysaw v. Interphil Promotions, Inc. 148 SCRA 635,647).
as if confirming that it sees nothing wrong with the phrase “legal
monstrosity”, the ponencia of a Supreme Court decision in
2000, Republic v. Salem
Investment Corporation quoted verbatim, and without complaining, a
petitioner’s contention assailing a ruling of the lower court as
“absurd and preposterous. It
is a legal monstrosity.” (Republic v. Salem, 334 SCRA
at least two of the words and phrases used by the Jacobas were considered
innocuous. A more detailed
research, I am confident, would indicate the courts’ tolerance of the
others. So what could have made the Supreme Court see them in a different
light the same when written by the Jacobas?
Aside from the contextual tone of the entire motion (thus proving
in a way that in law the sum is greater than the total of its parts), it
appears to me that it was really the prior record of the Jacobas that
worked against them.
spouses had previously been administratively penalized by the Supreme
Court. Mr. Jacoba was
penalized with suspension from the practice of law for six months in
Administrative Case No. 2594 and for one year in Administrative Cases No.
5505 for two different lapses of professional duty.
Mrs. Jacoba, in turn, was made to pay a fine of Php 5000 in
Administrative Case No. 6296 for ignoring a prohibition in barangay
cases clearly had an influence on the Supreme Court’s decision to
discipline. Ponente Justice Antonio T. Carpio wrote:
“In these cases, the Court sternly warned respondents that a repetition of similar acts would merit a stiffer penalty. Yet, here again we are faced with the question of whether respondents have conducted themselves with the courtesy and candor required of them as members of the bar and officers of the court. We find respondents to have fallen short of the mark.” (Emphasis supplied. Lacurum v. Jacoba, A.C. No. 5921, March 10, 2006).
A strong dose of humility and obedience apparently is what is necessary to counter one’s predisposition to infelicitous language. Oremus.