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Professional rivalry

What is it with the law and accountancy professions that their national organizations are often riven with intramurals?

Time and again, the Supreme Court had to intervene in the resolution of disputes over the election of the national officers of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP), the organization that all Filipino lawyers are required to join as a condition for their practice of law in our country.

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By virtue of a decision of the tribunal rendered during the martial law years (when lawyers, except for a handful of brave human rights lawyers, lost their balls), the lawyers are obliged to sign up and pay membership fees to the IBP.

The running joke among lawyers who resent the loss of their right not to be members of associations is, the IBP maintains its membership through Intimidation, Bullying and Punishment.

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To ensure equal representation of lawyers from different parts of the country in the IBP’s leadership structure, election to the position of president is rotated among the heads of its regional chapters.

Until the electoral process was made more democratic, Metro Manila-based lawyers, especially those connected with big law offices, dominated the IBP’s board of trustees and standing committees.

The rivalry of law fraternities in the country’s prestigious law schools has even gotten into the picture with their members engaging in expensive campaigns to get elected into the body that chooses the IBP’s leadership.

Selection

From the looks of it, the litigious nature of lawyers seems to have infected the country’s accountants, in particular their national organization, the Philippine Institute of Certified Public Accountants.

Early this week, Biz Buzz disclosed the simmering intramural within Picpa’s board of directors that could adversely affect the organization’s juridical personality.

According to Biz Buzz, some incumbent Picpa officials are questioning the authenticity of the documents submitted by the 1996 board of directors to support its earlier application to extend Picpa’s corporate life when it expired in 1997.

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They claim that the board and members’ meetings that supposedly approved the extension of the corporate life did not convene at all. Hence, the certificates issued attesting to such approvals may have been falsified.

If these allegations are proven to be true, Picpa’s corporate personality will be in very serious trouble.

The scuttlebutt in the corporate circles is, these issues are an offshoot of the running battle for control of the organization between Metro Manila-based accountants and their provincial counterpart.

Rotation

By way of background, the electoral process of Picpa is similar to that of the IBP: The members elect 21 regional and sectoral directors who constitute the national board of directors that chooses the president among themselves.

The sectors entitled to representation are public practice, commerce and industry, education/academe and government.

Until its rules were amended in 2005, the position of Picpa president was a virtual private preserve of the country’s leading accountancy and auditing firm, SGV & Company.

With its army of accountants based in Metro Manila and branches in different parts of the country, including the accountants of companies that hired it as its external auditor, SGV held sway over the national organization.

Chafing at Imperial Manila’s stranglehold over Picpa, the “promdis,” or accountants in the provinces, combined forces to push for an amendment of the electoral process and selection of the national president.

In 2006, the regional and sectoral representation scheme was adopted and a rotation system put in place in the choice of the national president.

This time around, occupancy of the top post follows a pre-arranged sequence of geographical representation, i.e., National Capital Region, Visayas, Luzon and Mindanao.

What’s more, the board of directors has to make sure no president, regardless of the geographic area he represents, shall come from the same sector for more than two consecutive years.

Dispute

Apparently taking a leaf from our national and local elections, the 2009 Picpa elections were hotly contested.

The election of the regional director who later, by virtue of the rotation system, assumed the presidency became the subject of an electoral protest. The losing candidate questioned the validity of the proxies used by the winning candidate.

The squabble became so intense that the Board of Accountancy, the regulatory body that supervises the accountancy profession, had to step into the picture to avoid a disruption of significant Picpa activities that relate to the integrity of the accountancy practice.

Like in the IBP, electoral protests are always a “matter of principle” or, to use the favorite mantra of election lawyers, “aimed at ensuring that the will of the electorate is obeyed.”

Disputes of a similar nature are hardly heard of in the national organizations of medical doctors, dentists, architects and other professions.

Again, I go back to my question, what is in lawyers and accountants that make leadership in their national organizations so contentious? Money, power, prestige or all of the above?

(For feedback, write to [email protected] com. ph.)

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TAGS: Accountants, IBP, lawyers, Philippines, Picpa, professional rivalry, professions
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