CEBU CITY COUNCILOR Edgar Labella yesterday denied any formal partnership with the lawyer of land owner Mariano Godinez, who wants 168 structures demolished in sitio San Miguel, barangay Apas.
Labella said there was no truth to accusations by Rep. Tomas Osmeña of Cebu City’s south district that he was trying to earn election funds by “deceiving” Apas families with his free legal services.
“There is no formal partnership between me and Atty. Roberto Palmares who is representing Godinez. I just share office space with him to save on costs as I handle mostly pro bono (no-charge) cases,” said Labella.
Osmeña earlier alleged that if Godinez succeeds in driving away residents in the contested Apas lot, his lawyer, Palmares, would earn at least P90 million or roughly 10 percent of the assessed value of the contested land.
Osmeña then said Palmares was the partner of Labella in a law firm.
Both lawyers have been holding office at the second floor of a building across the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño since 1999, but the arrangement is just office sharing, said Labella.
“We do not share cases because Atty. Palmares and I have no formal partnership,” said Labella.
Labella said a conflict of interest would only arise if he had a partnership with Palmares, legal counsel of the lot owner, while Labella supports the cause of Apas residents facing demolition.
Besides, Labella said he was representing the Cebu city government when he entered his court appearance in the Temporary Restraining Order petition to stop the demolition in Apas last Friday.
“My appearance was in behalf of the city government, to assist Atty. Collin Rosell of the Department for the Welfare of the Urban Poor,” Labella said.
He said he was sent by Mayor Michael Rama “to invoke the general welfare clause in favor of the residents.”
Labella, a former Ombudsman director, said had expected attacks from former allies in Bando Osmeña-Pundok Kauswagan (BO-PK) but it came as a “shock” when Osmeña accused him of unethical legal practices, which could be used as a ground for disbarment.
Osmeña yesterday said he doesn’t plan to go that far and file a complaint. He said Labella’s non-disclosure of his relationship with Palmares was tantamount to deceiving Apas residents. /Doris C. Bongcac, Chief of Reporters