SC: Disbarred abogado guilty of using Sereno, Leonen, Aquino’s names to threaten judge
The Supreme Court (SC) has found disbarred abogado Manuel Camacho guilty this time of influence-peddling and even threatening to have a judge disbarred if he did not get his way.
In a recent 16-page en banc decision, the SC said Camacho violated Canons 10, 11, 13 and 19 of the Code of Professional Responsibility (CPR) and would have been suspended for 2 years—had he not been disbarred already in 2016.
Still, the SC saw it fit to sanction Camacho “for the sole purpose of recording it in his personal file” in the Office of the Bar Confidant (OBC), especially for the purpose of his application for the lifting of his disbarment.
In his complaint, Dagupan City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 42 Judge Ariel Florentino Dumlao, Jr., said Camacho claimed to be close friends with former Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and Associate Justice Marvic Leonen, who were his colleagues in the University of the Philippines (UP) College of Law.
Dumlao said Camacho—who represented Pathways Trading International, Inc., in a case before the Dagupan court—tried to fraternize with him by mentioning his supposed connections. The judge initially shrugged this off out of respect for an elder fellow UP graduate.
However, Camacho allegedly began calling Dumlao to deny the notice of appeal filed by Pathways’ opponent and offered to share a portion of his attorney’s fees.
Otherwise, Camacho supposedly threatened that he would have the judge disbarred since he was connected to Sereno and Leonen. The abogado even dropped the name of then-President Benigno Simeon Aquino III, who would supposedly appoint him as a presidential legal consultant.
On May 22, 2014, Camacho allegedly barged into Dumlao’s office and tried to make him sign a garnishment order in favor of Pathway. The abogado similarly attempted to sway Court Sheriff Russel Blair Nabua, who refused like the judge.
Again, Camacho supposedly made a scene and threatened to have Dumlao removed from office because “the two justice know about this.” The abogado later sent text messages stating he would file a graft complaint against the judge and the sheriff.
The SC said even Camacho’s act of discussing the case with the judge in private had a “highly immoral implication.”
“By implying that he can influence Supreme Court Justices to advocate for his cause, respondent trampled upon the integrity of the judicial system and eroded confidence in the judiciary,” read the decision penned by Associate Justice Alexander Gesmundo.
“This gross disrespect of the judicial system shows that he is wanting in moral fiber and that he lacks integrity in his character,” it added.
All justices—including Leonen—concurred in the decision.
Camacho was disbarred on January 12, 2016, for entering into a compromise agreement without the knowledge of his client, Marsman-Drysdale Agribusiness Holdings, Inc. (MDAHI), and for failing to account for P1.29-million in docket fees he collected from the company.