News and UpdatesIn the NewsSC suspends, fines Enojo

SC suspends, fines Enojo

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The Supreme Court Third Division has ordered a two-year suspension of former Negros Oriental Provincial Atty Richard Enojo for using his public office to advance his private interests.

The 12-page decision, signed by Associate Justice Henri Jean Paul Inting, and concurred by Associate Justices Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa, Japar Dimaampao, and Maria Filomena Singh, was dated Nov. 29, 2023, but was made public only recently.

It found lawyer Enojo guilty of two counts of Gross Misconduct, and for violating Sections 1 and 30 Canon II of the Code of Professional Responsibility and Accountability.

The case stemmed from Enojo’s laying claim to a portion of a lot purchased by the Dauin Point Land Corp., represented by Ralph Gavin Hughes, in 2013.

Enojo claimed that his portion of the lot was in payment for the legal services he had rendered for the lot’s previous owner.

When Hughes applied for a fencing permit on the property, Enojo sent an “unsolicited and improper legal opinion” using the official letterhead of his office to Dauin Municipal Planning & Development Coordinator Rosabelle Sanchez to oppose the fencing application, saying it was done without his consent, knowledge, and authority.

The Regional Director of the Department of Interior & Local Government of Region 7, Ananias Villacorta, wrote Sanchez stating that Enojo’s opposition to the fencing application was not only “improperly filed but was also unsubstantiated”.

The Court said Enojo also used his public office to “advance his private interests” by causing the Philippine National Police of Dauin to send a “Request for Conference” to representatives of the Dauin Point Land Corp. to harass them.

The Court found that Enojo “unlawfully claimed ownership of a property that he did not own, and that he used his public office to interfere with the legitimate sale of the property between private parties”.

The Court also said that Enojo “harassed and threatened those parties, and influenced public officials to perform acts in violation of the rules and regulations of their offices and the law”.

The Court added that Enojo “committed these unlawful acts for his own private benefit, thereby preventing the lawful owners and possessors of the property from enjoying it”.

The Ombudsman charged Enojo with administrative and criminal actions over the same acts, and the Sandiganbayan found Enojo guilty of the Anti Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

However, the Court of Appeals acquitted him in April 2022 on the ground of reasonable doubt.

Hughes then filed a disbarment complaint against Enojo.

This time, the Court gave weight to the report and recommendation of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines’ Board of Governors, wherein investigating officer Sherwin de Joya moved for Enojo’s suspension from the practice of law for two years.

The IBP said the established facts “clearly show[ed] that Respondent Enojo miserably failed to cope with the strict demands and high standards not just of the public office he occupied at that time, but more importantly, that of the legal profession”.

“Clearly, his act of exerting and flaunting his public office over matters which involved his claim over a private property that is being disputed speaks well of his integrity, or rather the lack thereof, to perform his duty as an officer of the court.”

Considering that the dispute involved matters outside his public office, “he should have exercised prudence and caution in dealing with the same, knowing fully well of the influence and authority of the public trust he was given”, the IBP recommendation continued.

“He should have refrained from flaunting and sporting his position, and should have instead protected it from any form of suspicion and doubt, honesty and integrity being required at all times in a manner beyond reproach.”

Enojo was also fined P100,000, with a stern warning that “a repetition of the same or similar acts in the future shall be dealt with more severely”. (AP)

 

 

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