While browsing the Supreme Court website, I chanced upon this recent decision of the Supreme Court about a lawyer from the Bureau of Immigration who received USD 20,000 from a missionary who had a Philippine Visa problem.
The Complainant said that in 1995, while the lawyer (the "Respondent") was still connected with the Bureau of Immigration and Deportation (BID), she and her three sons, who are all American citizens, applied for Philippine Visas under Section 13[g] of the Immigration Law.
Respondent told Complainant that in order that their visa applications will be favorably acted upon by the BID they needed to deposit a certain sum of money for a period of one year which could be withdrawn after one year. Believing that the deposit was indeed required by law, Complainant deposited with respondent on six different occasions from April 1995 to April 1996 the total amount of US$20,000. Respondent prepared receipts/vouchers as proofs that he received the amounts deposited by the complainant but refused to give her copies of official receipts despite her demands.
After one year, Complainant demanded from respondent the return of US$20,000 who assured her that said amount would be returned. When Respondent failed to return the sum deposited, the World Mission for Jesus (of which Complainant was a member) sent a demand letter to Respondent for the immediate return of the money. In a letter dated 1 March 1999, respondent promised to release the amount not later than 9 March 1999. Failing to comply with his promise, the World Mission for Jesus sent another demand letter. In response thereto, respondent sent Complainant a letter dated 19 March 1999 explaining the alleged reasons for the delay in the release of deposited amount. He enclosed two blank checks postdated to 6 April and 20 April 1999 and authorized complainant to fill in the amounts. When Complainant deposited the postdated checks on their due dates, the same were dishonored because Respondent had stopped payment on the same.
Thereafter, Respondent, in his letter to Complainant dated 25 April 1999, explained the reasons for stopping payment on the checks, and gave complainant five postdated checks with the assurance that said checks would be honored. Complainant deposited the five postdated checks on their due dates but they were all dishonored for having been drawn against insufficient funds or payment thereon was ordered stopped by respondent. After respondent made several unfulfilled promises to return the deposited amount, complainant referred the matter to a lawyer who sent two demand letters to respondent. The demand letters remained unheeded.
The amazing thing is the Respondent had a different spin in the story. He claims that:
He never physically received the money mentioned in the complaint, he could not have appropriated or pocketed the same. He said the amount was used as payment for services rendered for obtaining the permanent visas in the Philippines. Respondent explained thus:
"a) Through a close-friend, Jovie Galaraga, a Pastor and likewise a friend of the complainant, the latter was introduced to me at my office at the Bureau of Immigration with a big problem concerning their stay in the Philippines, herself and three sons, one of which is already of major age while the two others were still minors then. Their problem was the fact that since they have been staying in the Philippines for almost ten (10) years as holders of missionary visas (9G) they could no longer extend their said status as under the law and related polic[i]es of the government, missionary visa holders could only remain as such for ten (10) years after which they could no longer extend their said status and have to leave the country.
b) Studying their case and being U.S. Citizen (sic), I advised them that they better secure a permanent visa under Section 3 of the Philippine Immigration Law otherwise known as Quota Visa and thereafter, provided them with list of the requirements in obtaining the said visa, one of which is that the applicant must have a $40,000 deposited in the bank. I also inform that her son Marcus Huyssen, who was already of major age, has to have the same amount of show money separate of her money as he would be issued separate visa, while her two minor children would be included as her dependents in her said visa application. I advised them to get a lawyer (sic), complainant further requested me to refer to her to a lawyer to work for their application, which I did and contacted the late Atty. Mendoza, an Immigration lawyer, to do the job for the complainant and her family.
c) The application was filed, processed and followed-up by the said Atty. Mendoza until the same was finished and the corresponding permanent visa were obtained by the complainant and her family. Her son Marcus Huyssen was given an independent permanent visa while the other two were made as dependents of the complainant. In between the processing of the papers and becoming very close to the complainant, I became the intermediary between complainant and their counsel so much that every amount that the latter would request for whatever purpose was coursed through me which request were then transmitted to the complainant and every amount of money given by the complainant to their counsel were coursed thru me which is the very reason why my signature appears in the vouchers attached in the complaint-affidavit;
d) That as time goes by, I noticed that the amount appeared to be huge for services of a lawyer that I myself began to wonder why and, to satisfy my curiosity, I met Atty. Mendoza and inquired from him regarding the matter and the following facts were revealed to me:
1) That what was used by the complainant as her show money from the bank is not really her money but money of World Mission for Jesus, which therefore is a serious violation of the Immigration Law as there was a misrepresentation. This fact was confirmed later when the said entity sent their demand letter to the undersigned affiant and which is attached to the complaint-affidavit;
2) That worst, the same amount used by the complainant, was the very same amount used by her son Marcus Huyssen, in obtaining his separate permanent visa. These acts of the complainant and her son could have been a ground for deportation and likewise constitute criminal offense under the Immigration Law and the Revised Penal Code. These could have been the possible reason why complainant was made to pay for quite huge amount.
e) That after they have secured their visas, complainant and her family became very close to undersigned and my family that I was even invited to their residence several times;
f) However after three years, complainant demanded the return of their money given and surprisingly they want to recover the same from me. By twist of fate, Atty. Mendoza is no longer around, he died sometime 1997;
g) That it is unfortunate that the real facts of the matter is now being hidden and that the amount of money is now being sought to be recovered from me;
h) That the fact is I signed the vouchers and being a lawyer I know the consequences of having signed the same and therefore I had to answer for it and pay. I tried to raised the fund needed but up to the present my standby loan application has not been released and was informed that the same would only be forthcoming second week of August. The same should have been released last March but was aborted due to prevalent condition. The amount to be paid, according to the complainant has now become doubled plus attorney’s fees of P200,000.00."
Who do you think will win? Since this blog entry is getting too long, I will discuss the Supreme Court ruling tomorrow. But if you cannot wait check out this link from the Supreme Court website.
(A.C. No. 6707. March 24, 2006
Gisela Huyssen Vs. Atty. Fred L. Gutierrez)