Friday, March 20, 2009

Nicole Did Not Fail Us. The Justice System Did

by: Rob Ty
Mar 18, '09 12:34 PM

Sen. Francis Pangilinan's words, not mine. But I completely agree with him.

Let's one thing straight: We are not the victims here. She is. We've never been raped. Never been exposed to an overblown media circus. Never been agitated in court. Never been harassed by reporters, lawyers and embassy men.

So when someone like Korina Sanchez announces on her AM radio station that Nicole is a disgrace to Filipino women everywhere (translated from tagalog), you can't help but shudder.

So this is justice, this is hate. It's no wonder she left the country.

We are not the victims here. Yet, we are the ones who cannot forgive. Here we are, sitting in our armchairs, waving our nation's flags, our gender's hopes, our nurtured concepts of justice.

But the thing is, we did nothing. We let people like Raul Gonzalez change the prosecutors of the case. We let people like NSA Norberto Gonzales change custody of Smith in the dead of the night. We let the US embassy exert pressure on Nicole by withdrawing her US VISA. We allowed countless women like Nicole to be gobbled up by the system, by the politics.

So who are we to judge? Who are we to cast the first stone?

Truth be told, we've already used her up. We got the conviction - which allowed us to question the VFA in the Supreme Court. We got the Supreme Court decision.

What more do we want? Maybe just more blood, sweat and tears.

What Can We Do?

Right now, if you really care for Nicole, you will support the drafting of a disbarment complaint against Daniel Smith's lawyer.

Why? At the time of the affidavit (March 12), Evalyn Ursua was still Nicole's lawyer. She was only fired last Monday (March 16). Smith's lawyer violated a cardinal rule of legal ethics by talking to Nicole behind her lawyer's back. Why is this unethical? The legal reason is that it undermines a fellow attorney's ability to handle her client's case. It's a form of disrespect for a colleague. The practical reason is to prevent people from being tricked since the best defense against the opposing lawyer, is your own lawyer.

In the case of Camacho v. Pangulayan, a UP law professor accused some lawyers of directly negotiating with his clients in order to obtain an amicable settlement. In effect, they ignored him even though he was the counsel on record. The Court agreed with the professor and said that the failure to inform opposing counsel is an inexcusable violation of the canons of professional ethics and in utter disregard of a duty owing to a colleague. The erring lawyer was suspended from the practice of law for three months.

Fast forward to the present: Smith's lawyer prepares a statement, has a junior associate (who, by the way, is a UP law graduate) notarize the document, and then asks Nicole to sign it as a condition for the release of her VISA and 100,000 pesos. All this WITHOUT EVER consulting her counsel on record.

If Nicole had a lawyer, she might still have signed the affidavit. But it would have never looked this bad. Take a look at paragraphs 6-10, which incorporate all the arguments the defense raised during trial. ALL OF THEM.

And then take a look at the last sentence of the affidavit: "I would rather risk public outrage than do nothing to help the court in ensuring that justice is served." The sentence brings a whole new low to the legal profession. I admit I am ashamed of what we have become.

Nicole left everything behind so she could start anew, and I don't blame her. Not one bit.

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