‘Disturbing’ socmed posts prompt Court to push for amendment of lawyers’ code

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Supreme Court (SC) Associate Justice Maria Filomena Singh admitted on Monday that “disturbing” social media posts of several lawyers prompted the 15-man High Tribunal to push for the amendment of the lawyers’ code.

Justice Singh, who is the vice-chairperson of the subcommittee for the review of the 34-year-old Code of Professional Responsibility (CPR), pointed out  that lawyers’ actions, whether personal or professional, are covered by the code.

However, the magistrate did not mention  the specific posts or identify the lawyers who made the disturbing posts.

“So this is something that we want to emphasize to our lawyers, to keep on reminding them that not just because you’re posting something personal, the code stops its application to whatever action you have taken,” Singh said in an interview over ABS-CBN News Channel.

“To be very candid, it was actually several posts that came out on social media that promoted and really pushed the Court to finally constitute a sub-committee for the revision of the code. These posts were very disturbing, and of grave concern to the Court particularly because of certain accusations and statements, which were at the very least irresponsible,” she added.

Singh said now is the “perfect time” to update the code, especially with the prevalent use of social media even among lawyers.

“We know that for the longest time there have been no set of rules or body of rules governing the use of social media and social media has been around for a  while,” she noted.

Under the proposed Code of Professional Responsibility and Accountability (CPRA), lawyers are mandated to “ensure that his or her online posts uphold the dignity of the legal profession and shield it from disrepute, as well as maintain respect for the law.”

It also bars lawyers from  posting, sharing, uploading and or disseminating false or unverified statements on social media.

Lawyers are also not allowed to reveal, “directly or indirectly, in his or her online posts confidential information obtained from a client or in the course of, or emanating from, the representation, except when allowed by law or this Code.”

It also mandates that lawyers should uphold the dignity of the legal profession in all social media interactions in a manner that enhances the confidence of the public in the legal system, as well as promote its responsible use.

It also prohibits lawyers from creating, maintaining or operating accounts in social media for the purpose of hiding his or her identity to circumvent the law or the provisions of the CPRA.

A proposed provision also states that “a lawyer shall not reveal, directly or indirectly, in his or her online posts confidential information obtained from a client or in the course of, or emanating from, the representation, except when allowed by law or this Code.”

The proposed CPRA also include a prohibition on lawyers from dating, sexual or romantic relationships with their clients during the engagement, unless the consensual relationship existed before lawyer-client relationship started.

The SC held the penultimate caravan to discuss the proposed CPRA in Baguio City attended by about 180 judges and lawyers last week.

The previous caravans were held in Cebu, Davao and Naga Cities.

The caravan will culminate in the National Summit on Ethical Standards for Lawyers to be held next month.