A different ballgame for Eala

PBA Commissioner Disbarred

For carrying on “a different ballgame” outside his marriage, Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Commissioner Atty. Jose Emmanuel “Noli” M. Eala was disbarred by the Supreme Court. 

In a nine-page per curiam decision, the Court annulled and set aside Resolution No. XVII-2006-06 passed on January 28, 2006 by the Board of Governors of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) dismissing the disbarment case against Eala for lack of merit, and instead disbarred him for grossly immoral conduct, violation of his oath of office, and violation of Canons 1 and 7 of Rule 1.01 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, effective immediately.  The Court found that Eala, a married man, in carrying on an extra-marital affair with a married woman prior to the judicial declaration that her marriage was null and void “showed disrespect for an institution held sacred by the law” and “betrayed his unfitness to be a lawyer.” 

Joselano Guevarra filed a complaint for disbarment before the IBP-Committee on Bar Discipline (IBP-CBD) against Eala on the ground of gross immorality, alleging that the latter carried on an adulterous relationship with complainant’s then-wife, Irene Moje.   

Guevarra alleged that he found in their conjugal home a love letter dated on the day of their wedding from Eala to Moje, where Eala wrote, “BE MINE….AND MINE ALONE, and I WILL BE YOURS AND YOURS ALONE!  I LOVE YOU FOREVER, I LOVE YOU FOR ALWAYS.  AS LONG AS I’M LIVING MY TWEETIE YOU’LL BE!”  Guevarra also alleged that right after Moje abandoned their conjugal home, he soon saw Eala’s and Moje’s respective cars constantly parked at a place where, he later found out, Moje was already residing.  Complainant also learned that on February 14, 2002, Moje gave birth to a baby girl whose father she identified in the preparation of the birth certificate as Eala. 

Eala, in his Answer, denied both flaunting an adulterous relationship with Moje, alleging that their relationship was “low profile and known only to members of their respective families,” and having personal knowledge of the Certificate of Live Birth of Moje’s daughter.  He countered that under the circumstances, his “purely personal and low profile special relationship with Irene (Moje) is neither under scandalous circumstances nor tantamount to grossly immoral conduct as would be ground for disbarment.”   

Eala later moved to dismiss the disbarment complaint due to the pendency of a case filed by Guevarra for annulment of marriage, which was later granted by Branch 106 of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court, and a criminal complaint for adultery also filed by Guevarra against him and Moje.  

The IBP-CBD Investigating Commissioner recommended that Eala be disbarred for violating Rules 1.01 and 7.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility.  The IBP Board of Governors, however, annulled and set aside the said decision of the IBP-CBD and dismissed the disbarment case for lack of merit. 

The Court, adopting the finding of the IBP-CBD Investigating Commissioner, held that the Eala’s statements in his Answer, taken with the Certificate of Live Birth of Moje’s daughter, “sufficiently prove that there was indeed an illicit relationship between respondent and Irene (Moje) which resulted in the birth of the child.”   

The Court emphasized that Eala did not deny carrying an adulterous relationship with Moje; what he denied was having flaunted such relationship. 

“Without doubt, the adulterous relationship between respondent and Irene has been sufficiently proven by more than clearly preponderant evidence – the evidence adduced by one party which is more conclusive and credible than that of the other party and, therefore, has greater weight than the other – which is the quantum of evidence needed in an administrative case against a lawyer,” held the Court. 

The Court said that it was immaterial whether Eala carried out his affair discreetly as the case involved “a relationship between a married lawyer and a married woman who is not his wife.”  It added that “While it has been held in disbarment cases that the mere fact of sexual relations between two unmarried adults is not sufficient to warrant administrative action for such illicit behavior, it is not so with respect to betrayals of the marital vow of fidelity.” 

The Court further stressed that it was also of no consequence that the marriage between Guevarra and Moje was eventually declared void ab initio as the acts complained of occurred before such declaration of nullity.  “As a lawyer, respondent should be aware that a man and woman deporting themselves to be husband and wife are presumed, unless proven otherwise, to have entered into a lawful contract of marriage.” 

Posted: August 1, 2007
By Katrina M. Martinez  /
www.supremecourt.gov.ph

Photo from wikipedia

Advertisements

About this entry