Lawyer stripped of license for having two wives

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Friday, February 28, 2014

A LAWYER has been disallowed by the Supreme Court (SC) to practice the legal profession for his marriage to two women.

Stricken off the roll of attorneys is Rogelio Juan Celera, who was found guilty of "grossly" immoral conduct and willful disobedience of lawful orders in connection with the disbarment case filed in 2002 by Rose Bunagan-Bansig, sister of the lawyer's legal wife Gracemarie Bunagan.

A certified photocopy of the marriage contract showed Celera and Bunagan tied the knot on May 8, 1997.

Eight months later, Celera married a certain Ma. Cielo Paz Torres Alba on January 8, 1998 even if his first marriage had never been annulled or rendered void, according to Bansig.

Bansig asked the SC to resolve the complaint as early as December 10, 2002, saying Celera's failure to file his comment can be deemed as waiver to defend his side.

On May 4, 2003, Celera countered that the motion was a ploy to frighten him and his wife from pursuing the criminal complaints for falsification of public documents they filed against Bansig and her husband.

He said Bansig owed P2 million to his wife, which triggered a sibling rivalry.

He also asked the Court to give him a copy of the complaint, which was sent to his residential and office addresses in Quezon City, Pampanga and Rizal.

The lawyer still failed to comment on the complaint years later, prompting the SC in 2010 to order the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to arrest Celera for contempt.

But it was an unsuccessful hunt as the NBI reported that the given address in Cubao, Quezon City was a vacant lot with debris of a demolished building and there were no leads to determine his location.

"Even assuming that indeed copies of the complaint had not reached him, he cannot, however, feign ignorance that there is a complaint against him that is pending before this Court which could have easily obtained a copy had he wanted to," the SC said on January 14.

Celera's "willful disobedience" of the Court's orders is already a sufficient cause for suspension or disbarment under Section 27, Rule 138 of the Rules of Court, the SC said.

It added that SC resolutions should "not to be construed as a mere request, nor should it be complied with partially, inadequately, or selectively."

"Considering respondent's propensity to disregard not only the laws of the land but also the lawful orders of the court, it only shows him to be wanting in moral character, honesty, probity and good demeanor. He is, thus, unworthy to continue as an officer of the court," the decision stated.

The marriage certificates also proved that he committed bigamy, which makes him unfit to continue as a member of the Bar. Celera became a lawyer in 1993. (Sunnex)

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