Atty. Stephen David INQUIRER.net/NOY MORCOSO
Lawyer Stephen David, the counsel of alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles, is in hot water for refusing to cooperate with the investigation of an alleged solicitation done by a Sandiganbayan security guard, who was dismissed for asking money from the lawyer for a Christmas party in 2014.
The Supreme Court (SC) has tasked the Office of the Bar Confidant to look into David’s “apparent obstinacy and refusal… to cooperate in the investigation” in the disciplinary case against security guard Ronald Allan Gole Cruz.
READ: Security officials testify vs suspended guard who asked P20K from Napoles lawyer
At the same time, the SC, sitting in full court, voted 11-0 to dismiss Cruz and perpetually ban him from government employment after finding him guilty of “improper solicitation.”
In a recently released eight-page en banc decision dated July 11, the SC gave weight to the testimonies of security personnel who complained Cruz allegedly received P10,000 from David in December 2014 to spend for their Christmas party.
But, the decision, penned by Chief Justice Maria Lourdes P.A. Sereno, pointed out David should have been the one “in the best position” to confirm whether Cruz received any money or not.
However, the lawyer chose to remain silent and refused to give his statement. This did not sit well with the SC.
Cooperation is a must
The decision stated that lawyers are officers of the court who have the duty to uphold its dignity and not promote distrust in the justice system.
“He is, therefore, under obligation to shed light on the truth or falsity of the issue, considering that he is at the center of the controversy,” Sereno wrote.
While David was not named a respondent in the complaint filed against Cruz by the Security and Sheriff Division of the Sandiganbayan, the SC said David’s participation should still be scrutinized by the judicial disciplinary body.
“Although Atty. David is not a respondent, his involvement in the controversy is nonetheless a matter of concern for this Court,” the decision read.
To drive home the point, the SC even recalled its October 2009 decision finding David and his wife Lanee Cui-David guilty of indirect contempt for hurling unfounded accusations against a judge to “conceal their inadequacies in the handling of their client’s case,” referring to House Deputy Majority Leader Juan Pablo Bondoc.
‘I already gave you the money’
The case arose from the accusation that Cruz asked TV5 cameraman Dave Gonzales to deliver a solicitation letter to David, whose client Napoles frequently goes to the court over several criminal cases in relation to the pork barrel scam. Gonzales claimed not to know what the envelope was for, but he gave it to the lawyer’s aide anyway.
On Dec. 1, 2014, David allegedly told guard Armando Astor at the back door entrance that “I already gave your Christmas [budget]. It’s with Gole, your fellow security [personnel].” Another guard Rosita Domingo overheard David and tried to ask about it, but the lawyer allegedly replied, “why are you asking?”
In the complaint, acting Chief Judicial Staff Officer Albert de la Cruz alleged that Cruz told him that he would sponsor the catering for the Christmas party before admitting that he received P10,000 from a pork barrel scam defense lawyer. When de la Cruz told the guard to produce the money, he supposedly refused out of fear of being implicated.
The SC said Cruz merely denied the allegations. It said this could not prevail over the testimonies of 10 security personnel and cameraman Gonzales, because these have “withstood the scrutiny of the Sandiganbayan’s Investigating Officer and the [Office of the Court Administrator].”
Even without direct evidence that he received anything, the SC said the mere fact that he demanded the money was sufficient to establish the offense.
The case was also forwarded to the Office of the Ombudsman for criminal action.
David’s wife Cui-David is now a deputy commissioner at the Bureau of Internal Revenue under the Duterte administration. He has been reportedly seen at Palace events, and the government has floated the possibility of using Napoles as witness to go after politicians allegedly spared from being implicated during the previous pork barrel scam investigations under the Aquino administration. JPV