Oct 16, 2020 @ 16:04

Pinarusahan kahit patay: SC disbars abogado for immorality eight years after being killed in front of mistress

The Supreme Court (SC) has disbarred abogado Manolo Zerna for living with his mistress, eight years after he was reportedly shot dead in front of her and their son.

In a recent 8-page en banc decision, the SC found Zerna guilty of gross immorality and ordered his name stricked out from the Roll of Attorneys.

The SC was aware of Zerna’s reported death in 2012, but said the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) did not officially receive any information about it as recently as 2019. The IBP, it may be noted, recommended that Zerna be held liable for the affair on September 28, 2013.

This was why the Office of the Bar Confidant (OBC) recommended that the SC still resolve Zerna’s administrative case, which arose from a complaint filed by his wife Nena Ybañez Zerna in 2010.

The spouses got married in 1990. Nena alleged that after Zerna took his oath as a member of the Bar in 1999, he stopped giving financial support to their three children and started having illicit affairs with many women.

Nena said she discovered in September 1999 that Zerna had a short-lived affair with a balikbayan named Grace. In December 1999, she learned about his relationship with a certain Judelyn and went to her apartment, only to have Zerna himself open the door.

In March 2000, Zerna supposedly mauled Nena after she confronted him about Judelyn’s purported letter. After she left him, she found out she carried on an affair with Evelyn Martinez.

In July 2009, Nena filed criminal charges for concubinage against Zerna for living with Evelyn and having a child together.

Zerna claimed in his comment that his marriage to Nena was void ab initio for lack of a valid marriage license, as she forged his signature and obtained it without his personal appearance. He said he did not go to court for their children’s sake.

He denied the allegation that he failed to give financial support. He even accused Nena of never supporting him financially and emotionally as a dutiful wife should.

He also described Evelyn as “just a close family friend,” and said Grace was a prospective client and Judelyn was “just a friend.”

However, the SC said Zerna’s affairs were established by email messages and photographs, as well as witness affidavits.

It added that Zerna’s defense was untenable because Article 40 of the Family Code required a final judgment before the absoluty nullity of a previous marriage may be invoked for the purpose of remarriage.

“It bears emphasis that aside from respondent’s claim that complainant was not the hapless and pitiful wife she claimed to be and that complainant’s allegations of his infidelities were purely brought about by misplaced and unfounded jealousy, respondent did not present countervailing evidence to substantiate his bare allegations,” read the per curiam decision.

The SC said it was “reprehensible” for Zerna to leave his wife and children “to maintain an illicit relationship with another woman with little to no attempt on his part to be discreet about his liaison.”

It described Zerna’s behavior as “a grossly immoral conduct and only indicative of an extremely low regard for the fundamental ethics of his profession.”

Inquirer.net and Dumaguete Metro Post reported on August 5, 2012 that Zerna, who was thinking of running for city councilor, was shot by an unidentified gunman as he, Evelyn and their son arrived at their house.

Zerna succumbed to five gunshot wounds.

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