IN THE CRIMINAL CASE AGAINST TORRES
After hearing the arguments of both parties and reviewing dozens of pages of arguments in support and in opposition to the motion to disqualify Gov. Ralph DLG Torres’ counsels, judge pro tempore Alberto E. Tolentino has taken the matter under advisement and will soon issue a written order.
Following yesterday’s hearing on the motion to disqualify Viola Alepuyo and Anthony Aguon as counsels for Torres in the criminal suit filed by the Office of the Attorney General, Tolentino said he will rule on it before the case’s evidentiary hearing on Tuesday, May 31.
Torres did not appear at the hearing but was represented by Alepuyo, Aguon, and Matthew Holley.
Last May 2, OAG chief solicitor Robert Glass notified the court about a potential conflict within Alepuyo and Aguon due to their representation of Torres and certain trial witnesses, specifically Frances Dela Cruz and officer Jomalyn Gelacio. On May 3, the court converted the notice to a motion and set a briefing schedule and hearing date on the motion for May 24.
On May 13, Holley filed his opposition, arguing procedural deficiencies in the filing due to the court’s conversion of the notice to a motion, and “only briefly responding to the merits of the notice, mostly arguing that the Sixth Amendment choice of counsel is paramount and cannot be disturbed,” according to Glass.
Glass, for his arguments, said the defense had argued that disqualifying Alepuyo and Aguon would impose an undue hardship and prejudice but provided no argument or reasoning for what undue hardship or prejudice Torres would face.
“In the single, declaratory sentence, the defense only provides arguments of counsel, which are not evidence. The U.S. Supreme Court cases are binding precedent when interpreting the Sixth Amendment, and set the procedure for the issue of potential conflicts between defendant’s counsel and prosecution witnesses; and that the trial court has inherent power to convert the notice to a motion for purposes of its inquiry into the issue,” he said.
In response, Holley argued that the OAG also has a conflict of interest in this case and this conflict of interest is nonwaivable and uncurable and requires disqualification.
“If, however, this court determines that the conflict is subject to Rule 1.7(b), then disqualification is still mandated as the OAG has not satisfied the criteria of Rule 1.7(b), most notably, the lack of written consent from its client to prosecute him after consultation with the client. Here, the OAG did not have any consultation with its client before initiating this prosecution or prior to seeking to deprive its client of his Sixth Amendment right. Likewise, the OAG did not obtain, and still does not have, written consent from its client allowing the OAG to criminally prosecute him or seek to deprive him of his Sixth Amendment right to counsel of his choice,” said Holley.