FORMER Immigration associate commissioner Al Argosino, one of those accused of receiving a P50- million bribe from casino operator Jack Lam, has been suspended by the Supreme Court (SC) for one year.
The suspension means that Argosino cannot practice law for a year.
In a decision penned by Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and concurred in by Associate Justices Teresita Leonardo-de Castro, Lucas Bersamin, Estela Perlas-Bernabe and Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa, the High Court’s First Division found that Argosino violated the Code of Professional Responsibility and the Lawyer’s Oath.
Argosino’s suspension stemmed from the complaint filed by Avida Land Corp. (formerly Laguna Properties Holdings, Inc.) which had a dispute with Rodman Construction & Development Corp. (Rodman), which was represented by Argosino.
Avida entered into a contract to sell with Rodman, under which the latter was to acquire a subdivision house and lot in Santa Rosa, Laguna through bank financing.
If the financing would be disapproved, Rodman was supposed to pay the full contract price of P4.4 million. After settling the downpayment, Rodman took possession of the property.
Soon after, Rodman filed a complaint before the Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board (HLURB) seeking the nullification of the contract to sell.
The HLURB Board directed Rodman “to immediately pay its outstanding balance failing in which respondent shall have the right to rescind the contract subject to a refund of all the sums paid by complainant less deductions as may be stipulated in the contract and less monthly compensation for the use of the premises at the rate of 1 % of the contract price per month.”
On February 21, 2007, Avida filed a complaint against Argosino alleging that his conduct in relation to the
HLURB case manifested a disregard of several tenets.
In its ruling, the SC found Argosino guilty of professional misconduct.
“Despite the simplicity of the issue involved in the HLURB case, the path towards its resolution became long, tedious, and frustrating because of the deliberate attempts of respondent to delay the actual execution of the judgment. He continued to file pleadings over issues already passed upon even after being enjoined not to do so, and made unfounded accusations of bias or procedural defects,” the tribunal said.
“These acts manifest his propensity to disregard the authority of a tribunal and abuse court processes, to the detriment of the administration of justice. The defense that respondent is merely defending the cause of his client is untenable. As a lawyer, respondent indeed owes fidelity to the cause of his client and is expected to serve the latter with competence and diligence.”