Missed SC deadline another misstep for same-sex marriage petition

MANILA, Philippines – The Supreme Court (SC) en banc has issued a show cause order against lawyer Jesus Falcis to explain why he should not be disciplined for missing the deadline to pass his memorandum, the Court said on Tuesday, August 7.

Falcis and the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) were required to submit their memoranda after the Supreme Court heard in two days of oral arguments a historic petition to legalize same-sex marriage in the Philippines.

The memoranda would clarify some issues raised during the oral arguments.

Falcis’ deadline to submit his memorandum was on July 26. His camp submitted a motion for extension, but it was submitted on July 26, the day of the deadline.

"The Court noted that the grant of additional time to file any pleading is a matter addressed to this Court’s sound discretion and that lawyers should never presume that their motions for extension of time will be granted as a matter of course, or for the length of time sought," SC Spokesman Theodore Te said in a news conference on Tuesday.

A source said the usual process for litigators is to submit their motion for extension 3-5 days ahead of the deadline.

"Petitioners and counsels were directed to show cause because disobedience of a lawful order of the court may be punished as indirect contempt," Te said.

Aside from that, the memorandum that they eventually submitted will not be considered by the Court.

"The Court also denied petitioners’ Motion for Extension of Time to file Memorandum for lack of merit.  For this reason, the Court dispensed with petitioner and petitioners-in-intervention’s Memorandum," Te said.

Falcis said he was abroad July 26 to coach a debate team, and had entrusted the filing of the memorandum to lawyer Darwin Angeles, from the firm MOSDVELTT which he had hired to help out in the petition.

"My co-counsels from MOSDVELTT Law have filed the memorandum promptly and timely as far as I know. We will explain to the Supreme Court whatever question or concern they may have when we receive a copy of the show cause order," Falcis said.

This is another bump on the road for Falcis’ petition, which was the first of its kind in the country.

The Court reminded Falcis that it had already warned him "to be circumspect of the duties attendant to his being a lawyer, and that any further contemptuous acts shall be dealt with more severely."

Direct contempt

In early July, the en banc found Falcis guilty of direct contempt for wearing casual clothes to the preliminary conference attended by justices inside the Supreme Court. 

Lawyers who attend hearings before justices should always wear a coat and tie or a lawyer’s barong. Falcis wore "a casual jacket, cropped jeans, and loafers without socks.”

Falcis explained then that he and Angeles had a miscommunication. Falcis said he thought Angeles would be the counsel on record instead of him; but when he realized he was the only lawyer on record, it was too late to change. 

During the oral arguments, SC justices lectured Falcis during  on what they said were procedural flaws in his petition.

But constitutional law professor Dan Gatmaytan said the SC is just not ready for same-sex marriage and that the justices "were trying to find a reason not to decide the case."

Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio said during the oral arguments that same-sex civil union is constitutional.

Same-sex marriage and same-sex civil union, Carpio said, are the same in terms of the rights that will be granted to the couple. 

Falcis insists they have equal rights to marriage, but he said they are still studying if civil union can be a middle ground. – Rappler.com

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.

image