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Supreme Court penalizes five lawyers over homophobic Facebook posts

By NICK GARCIA Published Aug 17, 2023 11:51 am

The Supreme Court (SC) said it penalized five lawyers over their homophobic posts on Facebook.

In a post on its website on Aug. 17, the SC said that in its 26-page unanimous decision, it reprimanded Morgan Rosales Nicanor, Joseph Marion Peña Navarrete, Noel Antay Jr., and Israel Calderon, as well as imposed a P25,000 fine on Ernesto Tabujara III.

The high court said they violated the Code of Professional Responsibility's Rule 7.03, which states that a lawyer "shall not engage in conduct that adversely reflects on his fitness to practice law, nor shall he whether in public or private life, behave in a scandalous manner to the discredit of the legal profession."

In June 2021, the SC said it asked Antay, Tabujara, Calderon, Nicanor, and Navarrete to explain why no administrative charges must be filed against them for certain Facebook posts.

Antay initiated a thread, saying he had "(j)ust prosecuted and helped convict a member of the LGBT community for large scale estafa."

"The new convict then began cussing at me accusing me of being a bigot. A first for me," he's quoted as saying. “The judge (who is somewhat effeminate) comes to my defense and warns the felon to behave. All in a day’s work," along with smileys.

Tabujara commented on the post, asking about the "bakla" judge as he mentioned their eyeliner and eye shadow.

“Sa 2nd floor puro may sira ulo mga judge, sa baba bakla at mga corrupt," he also wrote.

Calderon, meanwhile, told Antay that the judge supposedly has a crush on him.

"Nakita n’ya intelligence mo given na good looks eh na convict mo pa s’ya. Tapos syempre di ka mapapasakamay n’ya kaya ayon imbyerna I. [sic]. Charot haha.”

Nicanor agreed, while Tabujara joked, “Dapat kinurot mo! Charot!”

The Office of the Bar Confidant (OBC) said though no other names were mentioned, their comments were made "in a degrading and shameful manner," which is contrary to the duty of lawyers to “conduct themselves with the highest degree of propriety and decorum” and to “refrain from making remarks and conjectures that tend to ridicule a certain segment of the population such as the LGBTQIA+ community.”

The OBC recommended giving a warning for now, "taking into consideration that the lawyers concerned have apologized and appear to be remorseful."

The SC, however, noted that a repetition of the same or similar offense will be more severely dealt with.

In also slapping Tabujara with a fine, the SC said he has an "unapologizing stance," with “no slightest hint of remorse." He also did so "in a reckless, wanton, and malevolent manner."

“What made his infraction worse… is that Atty. Tabujara III made a sweeping statement about the mental fitness of judges and implied that homosexual judges have the same degree of immorality as those of corrupt judges," the court said.