BACOLOD City – A lawyer accused of threats and extortion by victims of human rights violations during the Martial Law, who received reparations from the government, turned the tables on his accusers.
In a statement emailed to the Daily Guardian on June 12, 2018, Atty. Rey Gorgonio said, “a lawyer is entitled to protection from malicious attack on his person, his honor, his profession and dignity as a human being.”
He cited that on June 10, 2018, at about 2 p.m. more or less, at the Office of the Negros Press Club, my good reputation, honor and dignity as a lawyer was maliciously besmirched by persons whom I have served to the best of my ability as I was able to have their cases filed before the Human Rights Victims Claims Board approved. Thus they were awarded millions of pesos.”
He further claimed that “from March 2014 until the filing of their claims before the Human Rights Victims Claims Board, on July 3 and 4, and in the last week of September 2014, at the Bacolod People’s House, and before the Commission on Human Rights Office, Edmundo Diaz, Danilo Malimbag, Ma. Fe Tanallon, Violeta Oyos, along with many other victims of Martial Law came to my office and engaged my legal services.”
He narrated that at that time, “these persons have no money to pay for acceptance fees and other legal services, and it was them who proposed to pay me half of their award.”
Out of deep sympathy to their plight, Gorgonio said “I only settled for a measly twenty percent (20%) of their total award should they recover any from the claims board to which they voluntarily and willingly agreed. I relied on their representation and was made to believe that they will comply in good faith like my other clients have done.”
Gorgonio further said that since April to July 2014, Diaz, Malimbag, Tanallon, Oyos, along with numerous Human Rights Violations Victims during Martial Law, “were lining up in my office.”
Since the time allotted for the filing of the claim was very short and there were numerous victims lining up in his office, he said “I have to work early in the morning from 7 a.m. until almost midnight and had to work during Saturdays and Sundays for me to be able to conduct interview, draft their affidavits, and that of their witnesses, including drafting of other documents such as Declaration of Heirship, correction of entry of their Birth Certificates, Death Certificates, and affidavits of disinterested persons.”
The lawyer claimed that he had to shell out his personal money because “most of them have no money and they could hardly shoulder for their food, transportation including board and lodging.
Gorgonio also pointed out that “It is an utter lie for them to claim that they paid me for the notarial of their documents including the drafting of their affidavits and Declaration of Heirship as they did not pay any single centavo. It is a practice in my office to issue a receipt whenever we receive payment for our legal services.”
He explained that since the Declarations of Heirships are required by law to be published in a newspaper of general circulation, “I required them to source out even half of the amount to be paid for the publication and I will shoulder the rest for the said document to be published in a newspaper of general circulation for three consecutive weeks.”
“Unfortunately, however, after they received their compensation starting on May 11, 2018, none of them came to my office. Worse, I was informed that Edmundo Diaz and Ma Fe Tanallo, were collecting fees from other claimants,” Gorgonio said.
He added “by reason of their refusal to comply with their legal obligations, demand letters were served and demanded compliance of their legal obligations. I gave them 10 days from receipt thereof within which to comply. I requested my brother-in-law, Joeven Torrecampo, to serve my demand letter. He is a peace loving person with no other intention but to serve copies of the demand letters. How can they be threatened?”
After the lapse of the period given, the lawyer said he filed cases against the Human Rights claimants, and the cases are now pending before the Hall of Justice in Bacolod City.
Gorgonio said he also deserves protection from being taken advantage of by his clients.
“In line with my legal profession, I would like to quote the decision of the Supreme Court decision similar to my case, thus: While, indeed, the practice of law is not a business venture, a lawyer, nevertheless, is entitled to be duly compensated for professional services rendered. So, also, he must be protected against clients who wrongly refuse to give him just due,” he added.
Gorgonio also cited Albano vs. Coloma:
“Counsel, any counsel, who is worthy of his hire, is entitled to be fully recompensed for his services. With his capital consisting solely of his brains and with his skill, acquired at a tremendous cost not only in money but in the expenditure of time and energy, he is entitled to the protection of any judicial tribunal against any attempt on the part of a client to escape payment of his fees. It is indeed ironic if after putting forth the best that is in him to secure justice for the party he represents, he himself would not get his due. Such an eventuality this Court is determined to avoid. It views with disapproval any and every effort of those benefited by counsel’s services to deprive him of his hard-earned honorarium. Such an attitude deserves condemnation.”
Gorgonio said it is very unfortunate that after he succeeded in serving justice to Tanallon, Diaz, Malimbag, Oyos and their companions as they were awarded millions of pesos as compensation, “they besmirched my reputation, and dignity as a person and a lawyer, accusing me of extorting money from them.”
“These persons must remember that they received millions of pesos through my brains acquired in tremendous cost not only in money but in the expenditure of time and energy without paying me any single centavo. I hope that with this statement, I have enlightened you with the true facts and circumstances surrounding the malicious publication of the issues raised by the aforenamed persons and with the cases I filed in the court, justice be served on me.”