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IBP to summon 'extortionists' in Abalos' poll case

The country’s official organization of lawyers will summon the two lawyers who allegedly acted as emissaries of Pasay City Judge Jesus Mupas in attempting to extort P100 million from former Commission on Elections (Comelec) chairman Benjamin Abalos Sr., who is facing electoral sabotage charges.   Roan Libarios, president of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP), said the two will be required to appear at a hearing on January 13, 2012 at 2 p.m. at the IBP building in Pasig City as soon as Abalos’ lawyers identify them.   Abalos’ camp had earlier identified the two as Atty. Desiderio and Atty. Mercado and has asked Tupas to inhibit from hearing the former Comelec chairman’s electoral sabotage case.   Abalos said the two lawyers attempted to extort money from him worth P100 million in exchange for a favorable ruling on his urgent petitions to fix bail and house arrest.   Libarios said the IBP has four lawyers with the surname Mercado and five with Desiderio. He also said Abalos’ lawyers have been asked to submit verified statements and appear during the hearing. Under the Constitution, a lawyer must be a member of the IBP in order to practice law.   Libarios said Mupas has also been invited to the hearing “in the interest of transparency” although the IBP has no authority to compel the judge to attend the proceeding.   The IBP board decided to hold the hearing motu propio “to clear the name of the legal profession and the lawyers…but if evidence warrants, the IBP will not hesitate to disbar the lawyers,” said Libarios, who is also the chairman of IBP’s board of governors.   Abalos, who resigned from Comelec in October 2007, was among those implicated in the alleged rigging of the 2007 midterm elections to favor the senatorial bets of then-President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.   Arroyo, now a congresswoman, has also been charged with electoral sabotage and is currently on house arrest at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center in Quezon City. — KBK, GMA News