MANILA — The Supreme Court has taken action against five attorneys for making discriminatory comments related to the LGBTQ+ community on their social media profiles.

In a 26-page unanimous ruling, the high court rebuked lawyers Morgan Rosales Nicanor, Joseph Marion Peña Navarrete, Noel Antay Jr., and Israel Calderon. Additionally, lawyer Ernesto Tabujara 3rd was fined P25,000, all due to their infringement of Rule 7.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility.

Furthermore, the Court issued a stern warning, indicating that if a similar violation is repeated, it will be met with more severe consequences.

On June 29, 2021, the Supreme Court proactively resolved to inquire about Antay, Tabujara, Calderon, Nicanor, and Navarrete’s reasons for not facing administrative charges for their specific Facebook posts.

Antay initiated a Facebook discussion with a post detailing his involvement in the prosecution and conviction of an LGBTA community member for significant fraud. The newly convicted individual then verbally attacked him, accusing him of being intolerant. Antay narrated, “A judge (who appears effeminate) came to my defense and cautioned the felon to behave. Just another day at work.”

Subsequently, Tabujara commented, inquiring about the identity of the judge, making a remark about the judge’s appearance during hearings. He later joked about lawyers claiming that on a certain floor of a courthouse, “insane” judges resided on the second floor, while those downstairs were gay and corrupt individuals.

Calderon responded to Antay’s post by saying, “Maybe he fancies you,” and later added, “He recognized your intelligence and good looks, yet you still managed to convict him. Since he couldn’t have you, he became irritated. Just kidding.”

Nicanor concurred, commenting, “(I think he likes you, boss. Hehehe),” to which Tabujara responded, “You should have pinched him! Just kidding!”

Navarrete joined the conversation, recounting a memory related to Nicanor’s client and an incident involving a certain judge. He mentioned how Nicanor looked at the judge’s client.

In the August 31, 2022, Report and Recommendation, the Office of the Bar Confidant (OBC) suggested that the lawyers be reprimanded due to their comments targeting LGBTQIA+ community members and judges. The OBC emphasized that even though no names were explicitly mentioned, the lawyers’ statements were derogatory and disgraceful, in violation of the conduct expected from legal professionals. The OBC recommended admonition as the penalty, considering the lawyers’ apologies and apparent remorse.

The Supreme Court found the five lawyers accountable for their statements. It addressed the issue of the lawyers’ privacy rights in relation to their online activities, stating that such rights are restricted, especially when dealing with social media. The Court reiterated that setting Facebook posts as viewable by “Friends” only does not guarantee complete protection from other users’ scrutiny. Consequently, the Court dismissed Antay’s claim of privacy rights regarding his post. (ai/mnm)