CHICAGO – There are very few Filipino American lawyers in Chicago. But at the rate Fil-Am lawyers here are conducting their practice, it is not far-fetched to say that most of them may soon be out of the legal profession.
This year, Fil-Am Attorney Manny Aguja surrendered his law license after he was embroiled in a marriage fraud.
Two weeks ago, CBS Channel 2 TV reported that Filipino-American lawyer, Alfonso S. Bascos, caused an elderly American man with symptoms of severe dementia to sign a will and a trust, placing himself in an unpleasant, conflict-of-interest situation.
Any lawyer worth his salt should find out if the trustee signing away his huge estate has the legal and mental capacity to sign a will and a trust.
The lawyer should have asked the trustee “What is your name?” “How old are you?”What is the date today?” and “Do you know why you are here today?”
If the trustee cannot answer these basic questions, he should be turned over to the Cook County Public Guardian who would take the will and trust to a probate court which would appoint a successor trustee, executor, beneficiaries and residue beneficiaries.
Suddenly, the sense of an inquisitive trial lawyer totally deserted Bascos. He never asked Marshall F. Davies (the trustee) “whether or not he understood everything” his Filipino-American caregiver Carmelita Pasamba was asking him to do – to sign a special power of attorney (SPA), a will and a trust prepared by Bascos.
In a deposition taken last September, it was stated that when James Burton, Cook County Public Guardian lawyer, asked Bascos if he had inquired from Pasamba and Davies the worth of the estate of Davies, Bascos said, “no” because he did not know that Pasamba was going to take advantage of the mentally challenged Davies.
But why would Bascos allow himself to be “retained as attorney for my executor” (Pasamba’s husband, Edgardo Pasamba), if Bascos did not have an idea of the worth of Davies’ estate? If Bascos knew that Davies’s estate was worth nothing, why the need to retain an attorney for the executor?
Had Bascos not prepared the trust, who would have benefited most for being the beneficiaries after Davies dies? Among the beneficiaries would have been the Jose Rizal Center, home of the Filipino-American Council of Greater Chicago (FACC) which would have received $5,000; FACC’s seniors program, $5,000; FACC’s Health Care Program, $5,000; FACC’s free-legal services office established by Bascos himself, $5,000. FACC would have one of the three residue beneficiaries of the estate, aside from Pasamba and the Salvation Army.
In denying that he had prepared the trust, Bascos pointed to Ms. Pasamba as the one who listed all the FACC beneficiaries.
Bascos emailed me, clarifying that “Cora Sopena (one of the two witnesses to the will; the other, Mauro Larracas, already deceased) has corrected her statement to you. You wrongly heard her statement. You quoted her “buhay pa pala” (so Davies still alive). Her true statement was “buhay pa siya?” (Is Davies still alive?) was a questioned (sic) to you. There is a big difference between those two.” Bascos, however, did not explain the difference.
“Also, your statement in your article re: “ This is a black eye to the Filipino community. How can it be ‘a black to the eye to community’ when the act is committed by a single individual. You were generalizing and editorializing. You were attributing the bad act of one individual as the act of the community that it sustained ‘black eye,’ too. An analogy: Robert Maddoff (sic), the trusted investment guru stole the billions of his investors’ money and was convicted, was it black eye to the whole American community? Certainly not.”
When Pasamba asked Davies to sign checks totaling $827,940.03 although Davies did not know what he was signing because he was suffering from severe dementia, Pasamba did not only destroy (put a black eye on) the unsullied reputation of Filipino caregivers in the mainstream community, but it also put into question whether future Filipino caregivers would still earn the trust of the mainstream community. And
Secondly, there is no “Robert Maddoff.” There is only Bernard “Ponzi Scheme” Madoff.
If Bascos does not consider Maddoff a black eye to the American community, is he suggesting that President Richard Nixon and Gov. Rod Blagojevich (both lawyers) were choir boys and pride of the American community just like Manny Aguja is to the Filipino community? And so, is Pasamba a Mother Theresa?
Thank God, Madoff did not complete his law study.
If Bascos sticks to this warped value system, I would not blame William Shakespeare for suggesting, ‘’The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.’’