Nonong Cruz never stopped being a lawyer to his client even if he had to play ball with her cronies and partymates. (This is not to say that his law office did not benefit from his ties with the President , it did in terms of influence with government agencies). But apparently when you peel layers and layers of his character the lawyer remained and something else too that didn’t look the same as Raul Gonzales’s, Gabby Claudio’s, and Mike Defensor’s insides.
The attorney-client relationship is not an employer-employee relationship or a patron-political supporter relationship; clients whether they’re presidents of the republic, people’s organizations, business leaders, government department heads are hard-put to understand this. “A lawyer shall not allow the client to dictate how the case should be handled,” is a little-known rule. You can paraphrase it with: A lawyer should protect the client even from his/her own self. Because clients think that the lawyer as advocate and the lawyer as counsel/ adviser are the same, the client thinks that legal advice can be revised/ changed/ tailored to suit the partyline.
And what had been the “Nonong Cruz legal advice”? It was of course confidential, but you see glimpses of it. While he kept quiet or even publicly defended the President during the Hello Garci crisis, his legal advice to the client could be seen in the following: Newsbreak, 10 April 2006 (source: newsbreak.com.ph)
Newsbreak: How about the election issue, the Garci tapes? Nonong Cruz: There are two ways to address it: moving forward, establish the principle that the military should be insulated from politics. What has happened in the past should be based on evidence. If with evidence, we have the Comelec and the courts to deal with it. We tried [insulating the soldiers from politics] in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao elections in 2005. The military should only be where there are armed threats. They shouldn’t be canvassing, counting votes. We shouldn’t use soldiers to transport election paraphernalia. They’re not to be given poll duties. The President, together with the national security cluster, approved this in principle.
xxx (Note: This is like telling his client: Don’t do this again. From now on, we’ll insulate the military from poll duties. In the interview he did not even dispute the contents of the Hello Garci tapes and even indirectly validated them by saying, henceforth, we should insulate the military from politics)
Newsbreak: One thing has been forgotten: the accountability of officers responsible for the wiretapping of Virgilio Garcillano. Shouldn’t intelligence reforms take off from this? Nonong Cruz: Intelligence reforms are a key component. I’ve directed the heads of the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP) and AFP intelligence, they have a good track record –to focus on the primary mandate of anti-insurgency and anti-terrorism. We’re not supposed to be involved in anti-kidnapping and anti-smuggling. That’s for the police. They’re now working on a 10-year plan to improve the ISAFP and other intelligence agencies.
Newsbreak: Isn’t finding out who ordered the wiretap and what happened in ISAFP crucial to reforming the intelligence agencies? Nonong Cruz: That’s important. But equally important are the reforms going forward. That’s my focus, the10-year plan. We’re getting help from Department of Defense in the
US in coming up with the plan.
xxx (Note: This is Nonong Cruz impliedly saying, yes the wiretap is true; he did not outrightly deny the authenticity of the Hello Garci tapes, or its contents, but just impliedly said, let’s not repeat in 2007 what we did to the soldiers in 2004.). Newsbreak: How about strengthening the grievance mechanism?
Nonong Cruz: One of the principal functions of the inspector general is to conduct climatic surveys regularly. Not a single one has been done before. The grievance mechanism should be pro-active. The best is through scientific surveys, focused group discussions. This will be an intelligent basis for decision-making. This is the first time…we started the process in September 2005. This should be done every year. When I came here, there was no data!
Newsbreak: The President is going to do her own FGD.
Nonong Cruz: No, she will wait for this. We’ve clarified this with Mike Defensor. Newsbreak: Aren’t you worried that we’re seeing, so far, the broadest anti-Arroyo movement, as shown by the alliances in the failed coup? Nonong Cruz: The communists have engaged the rebel soldiers.
It requires vigilance. But if you look at it historically, we’re in the early stages of nation-building. You go through these. It’s important that we stick to the principles of a democratic and republican system, separation of Church and State, insulating the military from partisan politics, removing the temptation of civilians giving civilian work to the military. (Newsbreak, 10 April 2006)
For a year, the client appeared to heed his advice, but it soon became apparent to the lawyer that his client had been getting advice elsewhere and no longer from him; he was being second-guessed by other “advisers” and there’s no greater insult or expression of loss of confidence than a client simply ignoring you even if you have to clean the mess afterwards. His legal advice on the people’s initiative is, of course, confidential, but any lawyer who reads the cases would probably say the advice was simple: “Ma’am, there’s a permanent injunction on this.” He was probably told, well, let’s get it lifted; it’s not like we’ve never done that before. And when Nonong Cruz did not lift a finger and the case was lost, Raul Gonzales might have had the Tagalog admonition in his head “hwag kang magmalinis” (“don’t play holier-than-thou”); or, it’s not like you’ve never played ball before with magistrates. Nonong Cruz probably thought, “Not today.” Which brings us to the end. Nonong Cruz said it was time to go. When is it a lawyer’s time to go? The Rules of Court say: Canon 22. – A lawyer shall withdraw his services only for good cause and upon notice in the following:
a) when the client pursues an illegal or immoral course of conduct in connection with the matter he is handling;
(b) when the client insists that the lawyer pursue conduct violative of these canons and rules; (c) when his inability to work with co-counsel will not promote the best interest of the client;
(d)when the mental or physical condition of the lawyer renders it difficult for him to carry out the employment effectively. xxx Lawyers of course will carry to their grave the confidences reposed in them by the client; long after a client’s downfall, no one would be left, save a lawyer’s continuing duty to protect the client’s trust and confidence.
He should have left earlier, but he chose his time and it wasn’t too late; it’s never too late to leave a client who keeps violating the law.