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II.

March 4, 2014

A.C. No. 10179


(Formerly CBD 11-2985)

BENJAMIN Q. ONG, Complainant,


vs.
ATTY. WILLIAM F. DELOS SANTOS, Respondent.

DECISION

BERSAMIN, J.:

A lawyer's issuance of a worthless check renders him in breach of his oath to obey the laws. To
accord with the canon of professional responsibility that requires him to uphold the Constitution,
obey the laws of the land, and promote respect for the law and legal processes, he thereby becomes
administratively liable for gross misconduct.

Antecedents

In January 2008, complainant Benjamin Ong was introduced to respondent Atty. William F. Delos
Santos by Sheriff Fernando Mercado of the Metropolitan Trial Court of Manila. After several calls
and personal interactions between them, Ong and Atty. Delos Santos became friends.1 In time,
according to Ong, Atty. Delos Santos asked him to encash his postdated check inasmuch as he was
in dire need of cash. To reassure Ong that the check would be funded upon maturity, Atty. Delos
Santos bragged about his lucrative practice and his good paying clients. Convinced of Atty. Delos
Santos’ financial stability, Ong handed to Atty. Delos Santos on January 29, 2008 the amount of
P100,000.00 in exchange for the latter’s Metrobank Check No. 0110268 postdated February 29,
2008.2However, the check was dishonored upon presentment for the reason that the account was
closed.3 Ong relayed the matter of the dishonor to Atty. Delos Santos, and demanded immediate
payment, but the latter just ignored him.4When efforts to collect remained futile, Ong brought a
criminal complaint for estafa and for violation of Batas Pambansa Blg. 22 against Atty. Delos
Santos.5 Ong also brought this disbarment complaint against Atty. Delos Santos in the Integrated Bar
of the Philippines (IBP), which docketed the complaint as CBD Case No. 11-2985.

Findings and Recommendation


of the IBP Bar Commissioner

In his Commissioner’s Report,6 IBP Bar Commissioner Jose I. Dela Rama, Jr. stated that Ong had
sufficiently established the existence of the dishonored check; and that Atty. Delos Santos did not
file his answer despite notice, and did not also present contrary evidence.7 He recommended that
Atty. Delos Santos be held liable for violating Canon 1, Rule 1.01 and Canon 7, Rule 7.03 of the
Code of Professional Responsibility; and that the penalty of suspension from the practice of law for
two years, plus the return of the amount of P100,000.00 to the complainant,8be meted on Atty. Delos
Santos in view of an earlier disbarment case brought against him (Lucman v. Atty. Delos Santos,
CBD Case No. 09-253).

Resolution No. XX-2013-253


On March 20, 2013, the IBP Board of Governors issued Resolution No. XX-2013-253 adopting and
approving the findings of IBP Commissioner Dela Rama, Jr.,9 to wit:

RESOLVED to ADOPT and APPROVE, as it is hereby unanimously ADOPTED and APPROVED the
Report and Recommendation of the Investigating Commissioner in the above-entitled case, herein
made part of this Resolution as Annex "A," and finding the recommendation fully supported by the
evidence on record and the applicable laws and rules and considering that Respondent violated
Canon 1, Rule 1.01 and Canon 7, Rule 7.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, Atty. William
F. Delos Santos is hereby SUSPENDED from the practice of law for three (3) years and ORDERED
to RETURN the amount of One Hundred Thousand (P100,000.00) Pesos to complainant with legal
interest within thirty days from receipt of notice.

Issue

By issuing the worthless check, did Atty. Delos Santos violate Canon 1, Rule 1.01 and Canon 7,
Rule 7.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility?

Ruling

We agree with the findings of the IBP but modify the recommended penalty.

Every lawyer is an officer of the Court. He has the duty and responsibility to maintain his good moral
character. In this regard, good moral character is not only a condition precedent relating to his
admission into the practice of law, but is a continuing imposition in order for him to maintain his
membership in the Philippine Bar.10 The Court unwaveringly demands of him to remain a competent,
honorable, and reliable individual in whom the public may repose confidence.11 Any gross
misconduct that puts his moral character in serious doubt renders him unfit to continue in the
practice of law.12

Batas Pambansa Blg. 22 has been enacted in order to safeguard the interest of the banking system
and the legitimate public checking account users.13 The gravamen of the offense defined and
punished by Batas Pambansa Blg. 22, according to Lozano v. Martinez,14 is the act of making and
issuing a worthless check, or any check that is dishonored upon its presentment for payment and
putting it in circulation; the law is designed to prohibit and altogether eliminate the deleterious and
pernicious practice of issuing checks with insufficient funds, or with no credit, because the practice is
deemed a public nuisance, a crime against public order to be abated. The Court has observed in
Lozano v. Martinez:

The effects of the issuance of a worthless check transcends the private interests of the parties
directly involved in the transaction and touches the interests of the community at large. The mischief
it creates is not only a wrong to the payee or holder, but also an injury to the public. The harmful
practice of putting valueless commercial papers in circulation, multiplied a thousandfold, can very
well pollute the channels of trade and commerce, injure the banking system and eventually hurt the
welfare of society and the public interest.15 xxx

Being a lawyer, Atty. Delos Santos was well aware of the objectives and coverage of Batas
Pambansa Blg. 22. If he did not, he was nonetheless presumed to know them, for the law was penal
in character and application. His issuance of the unfunded check involved herein knowingly violated
Batas Pambansa Blg. 22, and exhibited his indifference towards the pernicious effect of his illegal
act to public interest and public order.16 He thereby swept aside his Lawyer’s Oath that enjoined him
to support the Constitution and obey the laws. He also took for granted the express commands of
the Code of Professional Responsibility, specifically Canon 1, Rule 1.01 and Canon 7, Rule 7.03,
viz:

CANON 1 - A LAWYER SHALL UPHOLD THE CONSTITUTION, OBEY THE LAWS OF THE LAND
AND PROMOTE RESPECT FOR THE LAW AND LEGAL PROCESSES.

Rule 1.01 - A Lawyer shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct.

CANON 7 - A LAWYER SHALL AT ALL TIMES UPHOLD THE INTEGRITY AND DIGNITY OF THE
LEGAL PROFESSION AND SUPPORT THE ACTIVITIES OF THE INTEGRATED BAR.

Rule 7.03 - A lawyer shall not engage in conduct that adversely reflects on his fitness to practice law,
nor shall he, whether in public or private life, behave in a scandalous manner to the discredit of the
legal profession.

These canons, the Court has said in Agno v. Cagatan,17 required of him as a lawyer an enduring high
sense of responsibility and good fidelity in all his dealings, thus:

The afore-cited canons emphasize the high standard of honesty and fairness expected of a lawyer
not only in the practice of the legal profession but in his personal dealings as well. A lawyer must
conduct himself with great propriety, and his behavior should be beyond reproach anywhere and at
all times. For, as officers of the courts and keepers of the public's faith, they are burdened with the
highest degree of social responsibility and are thus mandated to behave at all times in a manner
consistent with truth and honor. Likewise, the oath that lawyers swear to impresses upon them the
duty of exhibiting the highest degree of good faith, fairness and candor in their relationships with
others. Thus, lawyers may be disciplined for any conduct, whether in their professional or in their
private capacity, if such conduct renders them unfit to continue to be officers of the court.18

That his act involved a private dealing with Ong did not matter. His being a lawyer invested him –
whether he was acting as such or in a non- professional capacity – with the obligation to exhibit good
faith, fairness and candor in his relationship with others. There is no question that a lawyer could be
disciplined not only for a malpractice in his profession, but also for any misconduct committed
outside of his professional capacity.19 His being a lawyer demanded that he conduct himself as a
person of the highest moral and professional integrity and probity in his dealings with others.20

Moreover, in issuing the dishonored check, Atty. Delos Santos put into serious question not only his
personal integrity but also the integrity of the entire Integrated Bar. It cannot be denied that Ong
acceded to Atty. Delos Santos’ request for encashment of the check because of his complete
reliance on the nobility of the Legal Profession. The following excerpts from Ong’s testimony bear
this out, to wit:

COMM. DELA RAMA: What did you feel when you were issued a bounced check by the
respondent?

MR. ONG: Actually, the reason I even loaned him money because actually he was not even my
friend. He was just referred to me. The reason why I felt at ease to loan him money was because the
sheriff told me that abogado eto. It is his license that would be at stake that’s why I lent him the
money.21

xxxx
COMM. DELA RAMA: In other words, what you are saying is that you felt betrayed when the lawyer
issued a bounced check in your favor.

MR. ONG

Yes, Commissioner.

COMM. DELA RAMA:

Why, what is your expectation of a lawyer?

MR. ONG

They uphold the law, they know the law. He

should not have issued the check if you know it cannot be funded because actually I have many
lawyer friend[s] and I have always high regard for lawyers.22

Atty. Delos Santos should always be mindful of his duty to uphold the law and to be circumspect in
all his dealings with the public. Any transgression of this duty on his part would not only diminish his
reputation as a lawyer but would also erode the public’s faith in the Legal Profession as a whole. His
assuring Ong that he was in good financial standing because of his lucrative law practice when the
contrary was true manifested his intent to mislead the latter into giving a substantial amount in
exchange for his worthless post-dated check. Such actuation did not speak well of him as a member
of the Bar.

Accordingly, Atty. Delos Santos was guilty of serious misconduct, warranting appropriate
administrative sanction. Noting that the criminal complaint charging him with the violation of Batas
Pambansa Blg. 22 was already dismissed, and that he already repaid to Ong the full amount of
P100,000.00,23 both of which are treated as mitigating circumstances in his favor, we find the
recommendation of the IBP Board of Governors to suspend him from the practice of law for a period
of three years harsh. Thus, we reduce the penalty to suspension from the practice of law to six
months in order to accord with the ruling in Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation v.
Carandang.24

ACCORDINGLY, the Court PRONOUNCES respondent ATTY. WILLIAM F. DELOS SANTOS


GUILTY of violating the Lawyer’s Oath, and Canon 1, Rule 1.01 and Canon 7, Rule 7.03 of the Code
of

Professional Responsibility, and, accordingly, SUSPENDS HIM FROM THE PRACTICE OF LAW
FOR A PERIOD OF SIX MONTHS EFFECTIVE FROM NOTICE, with a stern warning that any
similar infraction in the future will be dealt with more severely.

Let copies of this decision be furnished to the Office of the Bar Confidant to be appended to Atty.
Delos Santos' personal record as an attorney; to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines; and to all
courts in the country for their information and guidance.
SO ORDERED.

2. A.C. No. 7474 September 9, 2014

PRESIDING JUDGE JOSE L. MADRID, REGIONAL TRIAL COURT, BRANCH 51, SORSOGON
CITY,Complainant,
vs.
ATTY. JUAN S. DEALCA, Respondent.

DECISION

BERSAMIN, J.:

Complainant Presiding Judge of the Regional Trial Court has had enough of the respondent, a law
practitioner, who had engaged in the unethical practice of filing frivolous administrative cases against
judges and personnel of the courts because the latter filed a motion to inhibit the complainant from
hearing a pending case. Hence, the complainant has initiated this complaint for the disbarment of
respondent on the ground of gross misconduct and gross violation of the Code of Professional
Responsibility.

Antecedents

On February 7, 2007, Atty. Juan S.Dealca entered his appearance in Criminal Case No. 2006-6795,
entitled "People of the Philippines v. Philip William Arsenault" then pending in Branch 51 of the
Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Sorsogon City, presided by complainant Judge Jose L. Madrid.1 Atty.
Dealca sought to replace Atty. Vicente Judar who had filed a motion to withdraw as counsel for the
accused. But aside from entering his appearance as counsel for the accused, Atty. Dealca also
moved that Criminal Case No. 2006-6795 be re-raffled to another Branch of the RTC "[c]onsidering
the adverse incidents between the incumbent Presiding Judge and the undersigned," where" he
does not appear before the incumbent Presiding Judge, and the latter does not also hear cases
handled by the undersigned."2

Judge Madrid denied Atty. Dealca’s motion to re-raffle through an order issued on February 14,
2007,3 viz:

xxxx

This Court will not allow that a case be removed from it just because of the personal sentiments of
counsel who was not even the original counsel of the litigant.

Moreover, the motion of Atty. Dealca is an affront to the integrity of this Court and the other Courts in
this province as hewould like it to appear that jurisdiction over a Family Court case is based on his
whimsical dictates.

This was so because Atty. Dealca had filed Administrative as well as criminal cases against this
Presiding Judge which were all dismissed by the Hon. Supreme Court for utter lack ofmerit. This is
why he should not have accepted this particular case so as not to derail the smooth proceedings in
this Court with his baseless motions for inhibition. It is the lawyer’s duty to appear on behalf of a
client in a case but not to appear for a client to remove a case from the Court. This is unethical
practice in the first order.
WHEREFORE, foregoing considered, the Motion of Atty. Juan S. Dealca is hereby DENIED.
Relative to the Motion to Withdraw as Counsel for the Accused filed by Atty. Vicente C. Judar dated
January 29, 2007, the same is hereby DENIED for being violative of the provisions of Section 26 of
Rule 138 of the Rules of Court.

So also, the Appearance of Atty. Juan S. Dealca as new counsel for accused Philip William
Arsenault is likewise DENIED.

SO ORDERED.

Consequently, Judge Madrid filed a letter complaint4 in the Office of the Bar Confidant citing Atty.
Dealca’sunethical practice of entering his appearance and then moving for the inhibition of the
presiding judge on the pretext of previous adverse incidents between them.

On April 10, 2007, we treated the complaint as a regular administrative complaint, and required Atty.
Dealca to submit his comment.5

In his comment-complaint,6 Atty. Dealca asserted that Judge Madrid’s issuance of the February 14,
2007 order unconstitutionally and unlawfully deprived the accused of the right to counsel, to due
process, and to a fair and impartial trial; that Judge Madrid exhibited bias in failing to act on the
motion to lift and set aside the warrant ofarrest issued against the accused; and that it should be
Judge Madrid himself who should be disbarred and accordingly dismissed from the Judiciary for
gross ignorance of the law.

On July 17, 2007, the Court referred the matter to the IBP for appropriate investigation,report and
recommendation.7Several months thereafter, the Court also indorsed pertinent documents in
connection with A.M. OCA IPI No. 05-2385-RTJ, entitled "Joseph Yap III v. Judge Jose L. Madrid
and Court Stenographer MerlynD. Dominguez, both of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 51,
Sorsogon City" (Yap v. Judge Madrid).8

On June 6, 2007, the Court in Yap v. Judge Madriddismissed for its lack of merit the administrative
complaint against Judge Madrid for allegedly falsifying the transcript of stenographic notes of the
hearing on March 4, 2005 in Civil Case No. 2001-6842 entitled Joseph D. Yap V, et al. v. Joseph H.
Yap III, but referred to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) for investigation, report and
recommendation the propensity of Atty. Dealca to file administrative or criminal complaints against
judges and court personnel whenever decisions, orders or processes were issued adversely to him
and his clients.9

In compliance with the referral,the IBP-Sorsogon Chapter submitted its report with the following
findings and recommendation:10

xxxx

The documentary evidence offered by complainants show that respondent Atty. Juan S. Dealca filed
by himself (1) Bar Matter No. 1197 and acting as counsel for the complainants (2) Adm. Matter OCA
IPI No. 04-2113-RTJ; (3) OMB-L-C-05-0478-E;(4) Adm. Matter OCA IPI No. 05-2385-RTJ and (5)
Adm. Matter OCA IPI No. 05-2191-RTJ. These five (5) cases are factual evidence of the cases that
respondent had filed by himself and as counsel for the complainants against court officers, judges
and personnel as a consequence of the IBP Election and incidents in cases that respondent had
handled as counselfor the parties in the said cases.
It will be noted that in Bar Matter No. 1197, the respondents were judges (Judge Jose L. Madrid &
Judge Honesto A. Villamor) and lawyers in IBP Sorsogon Chapters, who are no doubt officers of the
court, and the case aroused (sic) out ofthe unfavorable consensus of the IBP chapter members that
was adverse to the position of the respondent. The other four (4) cases aroused [sic] out of the
cases handled by respondent for the complainants who failed to secure a favorable action from the
court.

Specifically, Adm. Matter OCA IPI No. 04-2113-RTJ was a result of the case before the sala of
Judge Jose L. Madrid (RTC 51) entitled "Alita P. Gomez vs. Rodrigo Jarabo, et al.," for: Accion
Publiciana and Damages, that was handled by respondent for the complainant Alita Gomez. OMB-L-
C-0478-E was an off shoot of Civil Case No. 2001-6842 entitled "Marilyn D. Yap, Joseph D. Yap V,
et al., vs. Joseph H. Yap III" for: Support pending before the sala ofcomplainant Judge Jose L.
Madrid (RTC 51). Respondent, after an unfavorable decision against defendant Joseph H. Yap III,
entered his appearance and pleaded for the latter. As a result of an adverse order, this ombudsman
case arose.

Administrative Matter OCA IPI No. 05-2191-RTJ was also a result of the Civil Case No. 5403 entitled
"Salve Dealca Latosa vs. Atty. Henry Amado Roxas, with Our Lady’s Village Foundation and Most
Reverend Arnulfo Arcilla, DD as third party defendant that was heard, tried, decided and pending
execution before the sala of Judge Honesto A. Villamor (RTC 52).

Administrative Matter OCA IPI No. 05-2385-RTJ was also a consequence of Civil Case No. 2001-
6842 entitled "Marilyn D. Yap, Joseph D. Yap V, et al., vs. Joseph H. Yap III" for Support pending
before the sala of complainant JudgeJose L. Madrid (RTC 51).

All these four (4) cases are precipitated by the adverse ruling rendered by the court against the
clients of the respondent that instead of resorting to the remedies available under the Rules of
Procedure, respondent assisted his clients in filing administrative and criminal case against the
judges and personnel of the court.

The other documentary evidence of the complainants such as the (a) VERIFIED COMPLAINT dated
March 7, 2003 in Civil Service Case entitled "EDNA GOROSPE-DEALCA vs. JULIANA
ENCINASCARINO, et al.; (b) NOTICE OF RESOLUTION on October 22, 2005 in Adm. Case No.
6334 entitled "SOFIAJAO vs. ATTY. EPIFANIA RUBY VELACRUZ-OIDA" passed by the Board
ofGovernors of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines which Resolution No. XVII-2005-92 provides:
"RESOLVED to ADOPT and APPROVE the Report and Recommendation of the Investigating
Commissioner dismissing the case for lacks (sic) merit; (c) RESOLUTION of the Third Division of the
Supreme Court dated February 1, 2006 in Administrative Case No. 6334 (Sofia Jao vs. Epifania
Ruby Velacruz-Oida) – The notice of resolution dated October 22, 2005 ofthe Integrated Bar ofthe
Philippines (IBP) dismissing the case for lack of merit; (d) VERIFIED COMPLAINT in Adm. Case No.
6334 dated February 17, 2004 entitled "Sofia Jao vs. Atty. Epifania Ruby Velacruz-Oida" for:
Malpractice (Forum Shopping), and (e) ORDER dated January 18, 2007 by Acting Presiding Judge
RAUL E. DE LEON in Criminal Cases Nos. 2451 to 2454 entitled "People of the Philippines vs.
Cynthia Marcial, et al. For: Falsification of Medical Records" which provides for the dismissal of the
cases against all the accused, do not show participation on the part of the respondent that he signed
the pleadings, although the verified complaint is one executed by the wife of the respondent.
Moreover, these cases are pertaining to persons other than judges and personnel of the court that
are not squarely covered by the present investigation against respondent, although, it is an
undeniable fact that respondent had appeared for and in behalf of his wife, the rest of the
complainants in the Civil Service Case and Sofia Jao against Land Bank of the Philippines, the latter
case resulted in the administrative case of Atty. Epifania Ruby Velacruz-Oida, respondent’s sister
member of the Bar. All these documentary evidence from (a) to (e) are helpful in determining the
"PROPENSITY" of the respondent as a member of the bar in resorting to harassment cases instead
of going through the procedures provided for by the Rules of Court in the event of adverse ruling,
order or decision of the court.

xxxx

WHEREFORE, it is most respectfully recommended that in view of the above-foregoings [sic], a


penalty of SUSPENSION in the practice of law for a period of six (6) monthsfrom finality of the
decision be ordered against respondent Atty. Juan S. Dealca.

Findings and Recommendation of the IBP

IBP Commissioner Salvador B. Hababag ultimately submitted his Report and


Recommendation11 finding Atty. Dealca guilty of violating the Lawyer’s Oath and the Code of
Professional Responsibility by filing frivolous administrative and criminalcomplaints; and
recommending that Atty. Dealca be suspended from the practice of law for one year because his
motion to inhibit Judge Madrid was devoid of factual or legal basis, and was grounded on purely
personal whims.

In Resolution No. XVIII-2008-41,12 the IBP Board of Governors modified the recommendation and
dismissed the administrative complaint for its lack of merit, thus:

RESOLVED to AMEND, as it is hereby AMENDED, the Recommendation of the Investigating


Commissioner, and APPROVE the DISMISSAL of the above-entitled case for lack of merit. Judge
Madrid filed a petition,13 which the IBP Board of Governors treated as a motion for reconsideration,
and soon denied through its Resolution No. XX-2012-545.14

Issues

(1) Did Atty. Dealca file frivolousadministrative and criminal complaints against judges and
court personnel in violation of the Lawyer’s Oath and the Code of Professional
Responsibility?

(2) Was Atty. Dealca guilty of unethical practice in seeking the inhibition of Judge Madrid in
Criminal Case No. 2006-6795?

Ruling of the Court

We REVERSE Resolution No. XX-2012-545.

Atty. Dealca must guard against his own impulse of initiating unfounded suits

Atty. Dealca insists on the propriety of the administrative and criminal cases he filed against judges
and court personnel, including Judge Madrid. He argues that as a vigilant lawyer, he was duty bound
to bring and prosecute cases against unscrupulous and corrupt judges and court personnel.15

We see no merit in Atty. Dealca’s arguments.


Although the Court always admires members of the Bar who are imbued with a high sense of
vigilance to weed out from the Judiciary the undesirable judges and inefficient or undeserving court
personnel, any acts taken in that direction should be unsullied by any taint of insincerity or self
interest. The noble cause of cleansing the ranks of the Judiciary is not advanced otherwise. It is for
that reason that Atty. Dealca’s complaint against Judge Madrid has failed our judicious scrutiny, for
the Court cannot find any trace of idealism or altruismin the motivations for initiating it. Instead, Atty.
Dealca exhibited his proclivity for vindictiveness and penchant for harassment, considering that, as
IBP Commissioner Hababag pointed out,16 his bringing of charges against judges, court personnel
and even his colleagues in the Law Profession had all stemmed from decisions or rulings being
adverse to his clients or his side. He well knew, therefore, that he was thereby crossing the line of
propriety, because neither vindictiveness nor harassment could be a substitute for resorting tothe
appropriate legal remedies. He should now be reminded that the aim of every lawsuit should be to
render justice to the parties according to law, not to harass them.17

The Lawyer’s Oath is a source ofobligations and duties for every lawyer, and any violation thereof by
an attorney constitutes a ground for disbarment, suspension, or other disciplinary action.18 The oath
exhorts upon the members of the Bar not to "wittingly or willingly promote or sue any groundless,
false or unlawful suit." These are not mere facile words, drift and hollow, but a sacred trust that must
be upheld and keep inviolable.19

As a lawyer, therefore, Atty. Dealca was aware of his duty under his Lawyer’s Oath not to initiate
groundless, false or unlawful suits. The duty has also been expressly embodied inRule 1.03, Canon
1 of the Code of Professional Responsibility thuswise:

Rule 1.03 – A lawyer shall not, for any corrupt motive or interest, encourage any suit or proceeding
or delay any man’s cause.

His being an officer of the court should have impelled him to see to it that the orderly administration
of justice must not be unduly impeded. Indeed, as he must resist the whims and caprices ofhis
clients and temper his clients’ propensities to litigate,20 so must he equally guard himself against his
own impulses of initiating unfounded suits. While it is the Court’s duty to investigate and uncover the
truth behindcharges against judges and lawyers, it is equally its duty to shield them from unfounded
suits that are intended to vex and harass them, among other things.21

Moreover, Atty. Dealca must be mindful of his mission to assist the courts in the proper
administration of justice. He disregarded his mission because his filing of the unfounded complaints,
including this one against Judge Madrid, increased the workload of the Judiciary. Although no
person should be penalized for the exercise ofthe right to litigate, the right must nonetheless be
exercised in good faith.22 Atty. Dealca’s bringing of the numerous administrative and criminal
complaints against judges, court personnel and his fellow lawyers did not evince any good faith on
his part, considering that he made allegations against them therein that he could not substantially
prove, and are rightfully deemed frivolous and unworthy of the Court’s precious time and serious
consideration.

Repeatedly denying any wrongdoing in filing the various complaints, Atty. Dealca had the temerity to
confront even the Court with the following arrogant tirade, to wit:

With due respect, what could be WRONG was the summary dismissal of cases filed against erring
judges and court personnel ‘for lack of merit’, i.e. without even discussing the facts and the law of
the case.23
Atty. Dealca was apparently referring to the minute resolutions the Court could have promulgated in
frequently dismissing his unmeritorious petitions. His arrogant posturing would not advance his
cause now. He thereby demonstrated his plain ignorance of the rules of procedure applicable to the
Court.The minute resolutions have been issued for the prompt dispatch of the actions by the
Court.24 Whenever the Court then dismisses a petition for review for its lack of merit through a minute
resolution, it is understood that the challenged decision or order, together with all its findings of fact
and law, is deemed sustained or upheld,25 and the minute resolution then constitutes the actual
adjudication on the merits of the case. The dismissal of the petition, or itsdenial of due course
indicates the Court’s agreement with and its adoption of the findings and conclusions of the court a
quo.26

The requirement for stating the facts and the law does not apply to the minute resolutions that the
Court issuesin disposing of a case. The Court explained why in Borromeo v. Court of Appeals:27

The [Supreme] Court x x x disposes of the bulk of its cases by minute resolutions and decrees them
as final and executory, as where a case is patently without merit, where the issues raised are factual
in nature, where the decision appealed from is supported by substantial evidence and is in accord
with the facts of the case and the applicable laws, where it is clear from the records that the petition
is filed merely to forestall the early execution of judgment and for non-compliance with the rules. The
resolution denying due course or dismissing the petition always gives the legal basis.

xxxx

The Court is not ‘duty bound’ to render signed Decisions all the time. It has ample discretion to
formulate Decisions and/or Minute Resolutions, provided a legal basis is given, depending on its
evaluation of a case.

The constitutionality of the minute resolutions was the issue raised in Komatsu Industries (Phils.),
Inc. v. Court of Appeals.28 The petitioner contended that the minute resolutions violated Section
14,29 Article VIII of the Constitution. The Court, throughJustice Regalado, declared that resolutions
were not decisions withinthe constitutional contemplation, for the former "merely hold that the
petition for review should not be entertained and even ordinary lawyers have all this time so
understood it; and the petition to review the decisionof the Court of Appeals is not a matter of right
but of sound judicial discretion, hence there is no need to fully explain the Court’s denial since, for
one thing, the facts and the law are already mentioned in the Court of Appeal’s decision." It pointed
out that the constitutional mandate was applicable only in cases submitted for decision, i.e., given
due course to and after the filing of briefs or memoranda and/or other pleadings, but not where the
petition was being refused due course, with the resolutions for that purpose stating the legal basis of
the refusal. Thus, when the Court, after deliberating on the petition and the subsequent pleadings,
decided to deny due course to the petition and stated that the questions raised were factual, or there
was no reversible error in the lower court’s decision, there was a sufficient compliance with the
constitutional requirement.30

II

Atty. Dealca violated Canon 11 and Rule 11.04 of the Code of Professional Responsibility

Atty. Dealca maintains that Judge Madrid should have "in good grace inhibited himself" upon his
motion toinhibit in order to preserve "confidence in the impartiality of the judiciary."31 However, IBP
Commissioner Hababag has recommended that Atty. Dealca be sanctioned for filing the motion to
inhibit considering that the motion, being purely based on his personal whims, was bereft of factual
and legal bases.32
The recommendation of IBP Commissioner Hababag is warranted.

Lawyers are licensed officers of the courts empowered to appear, prosecute and defend the legal
causes for their clients. As a consequence, peculiar duties, responsibilities and liabilities are
devolved upon them by law. Verily, their membership in the Bar imposes certain obligations upon
them.33

In this regard, Canon 11 and Rule 11.04 of the Code of Professional Responsibility pertinently state:

Canon 11 — A lawyer shall observe and maintain the respect due to the courts and to the judicial
officers and should insist on similar conduct by others.

xxxx

Rule 11.04 — A lawyer shall not attribute to a Judge motives not supported by the record or haveno
materiality to the case.1âwphi1

In light of the foregoing canons, all lawyers are bound to uphold the dignity and authority of the
courts, and to promote confidence in the fair administration of justice. It is the respect for the courts
that guarantees the stability of the judicial institution; elsewise, the institution would be resting on a
very shaky foundation.34

The motion to inhibit filed by Atty. Dealca contained the following averment, to wit:

Considering the adverse incidents between the incumbent Presiding Judge and the undersigned, he
does not appear before the incumbent Presiding Judge, andthe latter does not also hear cases
handled by the undersignedx x x.35 (Bold emphasis supplied)

Atty. Dealca’s averment that Judge Madrid did not hear cases being handled by him directly
insinuated that judges could choose the cases they heard, and could refuse to hear the cases in
which hostility existed between the judges and the litigants or their counsel. Such averment, if true at
all, should have been assiduously substantiated by him because it put in bad light not only Judge
Madrid but all judges in general. Yet, he did not even include any particulars that could have
validated the averment. Nor did he attach any document to support it.

Worth stressing, too, is that the right of a party to seek the inhibition or disqualification of a judge
who does not appear to be wholly free, disinterested, impartial and independent in handling the case
must be balanced with the latter’s sacred duty to decide cases without fear of repression. Thus, it
was incumbent upon Atty. Dealca to establish by clear and convincing evidence the ground of bias
and prejudice in order to disqualify Judge Madrid from participating in a particular trial in which Atty.
Dealca was participating as a counsel.36 The latter’s bare allegations of Judge Madrid’s partiality or
hostility did not suffice,37 because the presumption that Judge Madrid would undertake his noble role
to dispense justice according to law and the evidence and without fear or favor should only be
overcome by clear and convincing evidence to the contrary.38 As such, Atty. Dealca clearly
contravened his duties as a lawyer as expressly stated in Canon 11 and Rule 11.04, supra.

On a final note, it cannot escape our attention that this is not the first administrative complaint to be
ever brought against Atty. Dealca. In Montano v. Integrated Bar of the Philippines,39 we reprimanded
1avv phi1

him for violating Canon 22 and Rule 20.4, Canon 20 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, and
warned him that a repetition of the same offense would be dealt with more severely. Accordingly,
based on the penalties the Court imposed on erring lawyers found violating Canon 1, Rule
1.03,40 and Canon 11, Rule 11.0441 of the Code, we deem appropriate to suspend Atty. Dealca from
the practice of law for a period one year. ACCORDINGLY, the Court FINDS and DECLARES
respondent ATTY. JUAN S. DEALCA GUILTY of violating Canon 1, Rule 1.03 and Canon 11, Rule
11. 04 of the Code of Professional Responsibility; and SUSPENDS him from the practice of law for
one year effective from notice of this decision, with a STERN WARNING that any similar infraction in
the future will be dealt with more severely.

Let copies of this decision be furnished to the Office of the Bar Confidant to be appended to Atty.
Dealca's personal record as an attorney; to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines; and to all courts in
the country for their information and guidance.

SO ORDERED.

3. A.C. No. 8084, August 24, 2015

PATROCINIA H. SALABAO, Complainant, v. ATTY. ANDRES C. VILLARUEL, JR., Respondent.

RESOLUTION

DEL CASTILLO, J.:

This is a complaint for disbarment filed by Patrocinia H. Salabao (complainant) against Atty. Andres C.
Villaruel, Jr. (respondent) for abuse of court processes in violation of Canons 10 and 12 of the Code of
Professional Responsibility.1 After respondent filed his Answer2 we referred this case to the Integrated Bar of
the Philippines (IBP) for investigation, report and recommendation.3 redarc law

Factual Background

The facts pertinent to this complaint are summarized in the Report and Recommendation of Investigating
Commissioner Oliver A. Cachapero as follows: Lawlib raryofCR Alaw

Complainant narrates that in 1995 she filed a case against Elmer Lumberio for his deceitful or fraudulent
conduct of taking her precious real property situated in Taguig City. After hearing, the Regional Trial Court
(RTC), Branch 162, Pasig City issued its resolution in her favor in 2002.

Respondent then entered the picture as counsel for Lumberio. From then on, Complainant complained that
Respondent had made her suffer because of his abuse of processes and disregard for her rights as a litigant.

She narrates as follows:Lawlib raryofCRAlaw

In 2002, the Regional Trial Court, Branch 162, Pasig City which tried Civil Case No. 65147 issued its
resolution in her favor. In order to delay the case, Respondent brought the case on appeal to the Court of
Appeals under CA-GR CV No. 76360. The Court of Appeals decided in her favor on January 13, 2004 but
Respondent again filed an appeal before the Supreme Court under GR No. 167413. Lumberio lost and the
case became final and executory.

Undeterred, respondent tried to defer the execution of the decision of the RTC, Branch 162, by bringing to
the Court of Appeals a Petition for Annulment of Judgment under CA-GR SP No. 97564. When rebuffed, he
again appealed to the Supreme Court under GR No. 181243 sans a clear or new arguments other than what
he had presented before the Court of Appeals.

Still, Respondent filed a Petition for Certiorari seeking to annul the 29 November 2007 Order of the RTC
before the Court of Appeals under CA-GR SP No. 101992 which was however dismissed. From hereon, there
was not stopping the Respondent. Once again he filed a new complaint before the RTC of Mauban, Quezon,
Branch 64 under Civil Case No. 08-0666-M. Apart from this, Respondent filed several Motion, Inhibition and
Contempt that were meant to delay the resolution of the case. He likewise filed an administrative case
against Judge Briccio Ygaña of RTC Branch 153, Taguig City. Complainant then complained that Respondent
had done more than enough to suppress her rights as a winning litigant and filed this case for abuse of
processes pursuant to Rule 10.03 and Rule 10.02 of Canon 10 and Rule 12.04 of Canon 12 of the Code of
Professional Responsibility (CPR).

Respondent, for his part, denied the accusation and clarified that the several pleadings he had filed had
centered on the legality of the court's decision ordering the cancellation of the title of Lumberio in such
ordinary proceeding for cancellation of the title. To his mind, the said ordinary proceeding for cancellation of
title before the RTC Branch 153, Taguig City was void because the law vests upon the government through
the Solicitor General the power to initiate a reversion case if there is such a ground to cancel the title issued
by the Land Management Bureau in favor of Lumberio.

With respect to the civil case before the RTC of Ma[u]ban, Branch 64, he explained that the said case does
not show that herein counsel committed any act of dishonesty which may subject him to any prosecution as
he is just exercising his profession to the best of his ability.4

In his Report and Recommendation, the Investigating Commissioner found at respondent "relentlessly filed
petitions and appeals in order to exhaust all possible remedies to obtain relief for his client"5 which he
considered as tantamount to "abusive and a spiteful effort to delay the execution of Judgment."6 He noted
that after the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Pasig City, Branch 162 issued a Resolution in Civil Case No.
65147 adverse to his client, respondent filed a barrage of cases/pleadings such as an appeal to the Court of
Appeals (CA) which affirmed the RTC ruling, a petition for review with the Supreme Court which was denied
for having been filed out of time; a petition for annulment of the RTC judgment which was dismissed by the
CA; another petition for review before this Court which was again denied; a petition for certiorari which was
dismissed by the CA; another civil case before the RTC of Mauban, Quezon which was dismissed for
"improper venue, res judicata, and violation of the anti-forum shopping law"7 and that it involved the same
issues as the one filed in Pasig RTC. Moreover, he filed several inhibitions, motions and an administrative
complaint against the presiding judge. The Investigating Commissioner, stated: Lawlibra ryofCRAlaw

x x x [O]ne can immediately appreciate and see the abusive and spiteful conduct of Respondent. He as a
lawyer could have hardly missed knowing that his subsequent actions were merely meant to harass the
opposing litigant as in fact the Supreme Court had already issued its final ruling on the matter. After the
ruling of the High Court, Respondent should have known that the case had been finally adjudicated and no
amount of judicial exercise could turn the decision in his client's favor. From then on, he should have saved
his efforts of filing cases and motions in court, as they are futile anyway, because he has his duty to the
court above that to his client.

Needless to state, the Respondent is found herein to have violated Canon 12, Rule 12.02 and Rule 12.04 of
the CPR for which he should be meted with the appropriate administrative penalty.8

He thus recommended that respondent be meted out the penalty of suspension for four months.

In its Resolution No. XX-2013-251 dated 20 March 2013, the IBP Board of Governors adopted and approved
the findings and recommendation of the Investigating Commissioner.

Respondent filed a Motion for Reconsideration on July 20, 2013, stating that: Lawlibra ryofCRAlaw

2. x x x he had only exhausted all possible remedies available under the premises;

xxxx

With all candor and honesty, undersigned believes that he was only doing his legal duty as a lawyer to
exhaust all legal remedies taking steps within its framework. He has not done any wrongdoing while taking
such routes. He has never been dishonest;

xxxx

4. Respondent believes that undersigned deserves an acquittal given the fact that it was not shown that he
acted in bad: faith in taking such legal remedies.

5. Respondent cannot also be charged with abuse of judicial process because complainant has other
recourse available to execute the said decision in her favor while there were petitions filed, complainant also
did not allege that respondent has abused the judicial process. The courts to which the said petitions were
filed also did not cite the respondent in contempt of court [nor was a warning] given.

xx x x

6. Moreover, respondent is now suffering from renal failure which requires him to undergo dialysis three (3)
times in a week. To suspend him for four months would mean that he would stop his dialysis for four moths
[sic] which may cause his immediate death. This Honorable Commission would not be too happy to see one
of its members begging for alms from PCSO and government officials to shoulder his dialysis of about
P100,000.00 per month.9

In a subsequent Resolution No. XXI-2014-182 dated March 23, 2014, the IBP Board of Governors affirmed
its earlier Resolution and denied respondent's Motion for Reconsideration, saying that there was no cogent
reason to reverse the findings of the Commission on Bar Discipline.

The Court's Ruling

While it is true that lawyers owe "entire devotion" to the cause of their clients,10 it cannot be emphasized
enough that their first and primary duty is "not to the client but to the administration of justice."11 Canon 12
of the Code of Professional Responsibility states that "A lawyer shall exert every effort and consider it his
duty to assist in the speedy and efficient administration of justice." Thus, in the use of Court processes, the
lawyer's zeal to win must be tempered by the paramount consideration that justice be done to all parties
involved, and the la|wyer for the losing party should not stand in the way of the execution of a valid
judgment. This is a fundamental principle in legal ethics and professional responsibility that has iterations in
various forms: Lawlib raryofCRAlaw

The Lawyer's Oath: LawlibraryofCR Alaw

x x x I will not wittingly or willingly promote or sue any groundless, false or unlawful suit, nor give aid nor
consent to the same; I will delay no man for money or malice, and will conduct myself as a lawyer according
to the best of my knowledge and discretion with all good fidelity as well to the courts as to my clients x x x
(Emphasis supplied)

Rule 138, Section 20, Rules of Court: Lawlibra ryofCRAlaw

Duties of attorneys. - It is the duty of an attorney: xxxx

(c) To counsel or maintain such actions or proceedings only as appear to him to be just, and such defenses
only as he believes to be honestly debatable under the law;

xxxx

(g) Not to encourage either the commencement or the continuance of an action or proceeding, or delay any
man's cause, from any corrupt motive or interest; (Emphasis supplied)

Code of Professional Responsibility: Law lib raryofCRAlaw

Rule 1.03 - A lawyer shall not, for any corrupt motive or interest, encourage any suit or proceeding or delay
any man's cause.

Rule 10.03 - A lawyer shall observe the rules of procedure and shall not misuse them to defeat the ends of
justice.

Rule 12.02 - A lawyer shall not file multiple actions arising from the same cause.

Rule 12.04 - A lawyer shall not unduly delay a case, impede the execution of a judgment or misuse Court
processes. (Emphasis supplied)

Because a lawyer is an officer of the court called upon to assist in the administration of justice, any act of a
lawyer that obstructs, perverts, or impedes the administration of justice constitutes misconduct and justifies
disciplinary action against him.12 redarclaw

In this case, the judgment in favor of complainant had become final and executory by July 27, 2005.
Respondent however proceeded to file no less than twelve (12) motions and cases in various courts
subsequent to the Entry of Judgment: Lawlib raryofCR Alaw

Regional Trial Court of Taguig City:

1. Urgent Motion for Reconsideration of the Order dated April 27,2006

2. Motion to Admit Affidavit of Third-Party Claimant

3. Motion for Early Resolution

4. Motion to Observe Judicial Courtesy while the case is pending appeal with the Court of Appeals

5. Urgent Motion to Defer/Suspend Execution in view of the Order of the CA

6. Urgent Motion to Reconsider Order

Court of Appeals:

1. Urgent Motion for Issuance of Temporary Restraining Order with the Court of Appeals

2. Motion for Reconsideration

3. Petition for Certiorari

4. Urgent Motion to Reiterate the Issuance of Order for Judicial Courtesy

Supreme Court:

1. Petition for Certiorari

2. Motion for Issuance of Temporary Restraining Order

From the nature and sheer number of motions and cases filed, it is clear that respondent's intention was to
delay the execution of the final judgment.

But even assuming for the sake of argument that respondent was only doing his duty as a lawyer to exhaust
all legal remedies to protect the interest of his client, his other actions belie his claim of good faith.
Respondent filed a civil case for damages with the Regional Trial Court of Mauban, Quezon in what was
clearly a case of forum-shopping. Moreover, respondent filed three Motions to Inhibit against the three
judges hearing these cases, and even a motion to cite the sheriff in contempt of court who was simply
carrying out his duty to execute the decision.

In his defense, respondent argued that the Courts did not call attention to his improper behavior and
dilatory tactics. This is not true. In her Order inhibiting herself from the case, Judge Homena-Valencia
stated: Lawlib raryofCRAlaw

This presiding judge would like to emphasize that, having assumed her position as acting presiding judge of
this branch only last September 2005, she does not know any of the parties from Adam. As such, she could
not be inclined to show bias in favor of one of them. She refuses, however, to be drawn into a discussion, to
put it mildly, with respondent's counsel as to her knowledge of the law.

However, to obviate any suspicion as to her objectivity, she inhibits herself from further hearing this case
although the reasons stated by the defendant are not one of those provided for in the Rules for the
voluntary inhibition of a judge.
Respondent's counsel is hereby advised to be more professional in his language, he, being a lawyer, is first
and foremost an officer of the court.13

In the October 23, 2007 Decision14 of the CA in CA-G.R. SP No. 97564, respondent was rebuked for the
misuse of court processes, thus: Lawlib raryofCRAlaw

This Petition for Annulment of Judgment is petitioner's last-ditch effort to defer the execution of the 31 July
2002 Decision of the Regional Trial Court of Pasig City, Branch 162, which has long attained finality.

xxxx

In epitome, to sustain petitioner's insinuation of extrinsic fraud is to make a mockery of Our judicial system.
We take exception to the unjustified delay in the enforcement of the RTC Decision dated 31 July 2002 which
has long become final and executory. This is obviously a spiteful ploy to deprive respondent of the fruits of
her victory.

WHEREFORE, the Petition for Annulment of Judgment is hereby DISMISSED.15


Moreover, in his Omnibus Order16 dated September 18, 2008, Judge Briccio C. Ygaña17 stated: Lawlibra ryofCRAlaw

This case is a clear example of how a party, aided by a smart lawyer, could unduly delay a case, impede the
execution of judgment or misuse court processes. Defendant and counsel are very lucky that the herein
plaintiff has the patience of Job. Should this case reach the attention of the Supreme Court, where the whole
story will be known, they will have a lot of explaining to do.18

It is quite clear that respondent has made a mockery of the judicial process by abusing Court processes,
employing dilatory tactics to frustrate the execution of a final judgment, and feigning ignorance of Ms duties
as an officer of the court. He has breached his sworn duty to assist in the speedy and efficient
administration of justice, and violated the Lawyer's Oath, Rules 10.03 and 12.04 of the Code of Professional
Responsibility, and Rule 138, Sec. 20 (c) and (g) of the Rules of Court. In so doing, he is administratively
liable for his actions.

Rule 138, Sec. 27 of the Rules of Court provides the penalties of disbarment and suspension as follows: Lawli bra ryofCRAlaw

Disbarment or suspension of attorneys by Supreme Court; grounds therefor. - A member of the bar may be
disbarred or suspended from his office as attorney by the Supreme Court for any deceit, malpractice, or
other gross misconduct in such office, grossly immoral conduct, or by reason of his conviction of a crime
involving moral turpitude, or for any violation of the oath which he is required to take before admission to
practice, or for a wilful disobedience of any lawful order of a superior court, or for corruptly or wilfully
appearing as an attorney for a party to a case without authority so to do x x x.

In previous decisions involving abuse of court processes,19 this Court has imposed the penalty of suspension
ranging from six months to two years. In light of the following aggravating circumstances - multiplicity of
motions and cases filed by respondent, the malice evinced by his filing of various motions to prevent the
judges and sheriff from fulfilling their legal duties, feigned ignorance of his duties as an officer of the court,
and his lack of remorse for his actions - the Court finds that a penalty of suspension for 18 months would be
commensurate to the damage and prejudice that respondent has inflicted on complainant Salabao for his
actions.

WHEREFORE, premises considered, respondent Atty. Andres C. Villaruel, Jr. is hereby found GUILTY of
violation of the Lawyer's Oath and Rules 10.03 and 12.04 of the Code of Professional Responsibility and is
hereby suspended from the practice of law for a period of eighteen (18) months.

Let copies of this Resolution be furnished the Office of the Bar Confidant and noted in Atty. Villaruel's record
as a member of the Bar.

SO ORDERED. cralawlawlibra ry

A.C. No. 8172, April 12, 2016


ALEX NULADA, Complainant, v. ATTY. ORLANDO S. PAULMA, Respondent.

RESOLUTION

PERLAS-BERNABE, J.:

The instant administrative case arose from a verified complaint1 for disbarment by reason of dishonesty and
conviction of a crime involving moral turpitude filed by Complainant Alex Nulada (complainant) against
respondent Atty. Orlando S. Paulma (respondent).

The Facts

Complainant alleged that on September 30, 2005, respondent issued in his favor a check in the amount of
P650,000.00 as payment for the latter's debt. Because of respondent's standing as a respected member of
the community and his being a member of the Sangguniang Bayan of the Municipality of Miagao,2 Province
of Iloilo, complainant accepted the check without question.3

Unfortunately, when he presented the check for payment, it was dishonored due to insufficient fluids.
Respondent failed to make good the amount of the check despite notice of dishonor and repeated demands,
prompting complainant to file a criminal complaint for violation of Batas Pambansa Bilang (BP) 224 against
respondent,5 before the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor, Province of Iloilo, docketed as I.S. No. 2006-
637,6 which issued a Resolution7 dated May 26, 2006 recommending the filing of the appropriate information
against respondent before the Municipal Trial Court of Miagao, Province of Iloilo (MTC).8 Subsequently, said
information was docketed as Criminal Case No. 2604.9

After due proceedings, the MTC rendered a Decision10 dated October 30, 2008 finding respondent guilty of
violation of BP 22 and ordering him to pay the amount of P150,000.00 as fine, with subsidiary imprisonment
in case of failure to pay. Furthermore, he was ordered to pay: (1) the sum of P650,000.00 representing the
amount of the check with interest pegged at the rate of twelve percent (12%) per annum computed from
the time of the filing of the complaint; (2) filing fees in the amount of P10,000.00; and (3) attorney's fees in
the amount of P20,000.00 plus appearance fees of P1,500.00 per hearing.11

Records show that respondent appealed his conviction to the Regional Trial Court of Guimbal, Iloilo, Branch
67 (RTC), docketed as Criminal Case No. 346.12 In a Decision13 dated March 13, 2009, the RTC affirmed in
toto the MTC ruling. On April 16, 2009, the RTC Decision became final and executory.14

Prior to the promulgation of the RTC Decision, or on February 12, 2009, complainant filed this administrative
complaint before the Court, through the Office of the Bar Confidant.

In his defense,15 respondent denied that he committed dishonesty against complainant, as prior to
September 30, 2005, he informed the latter that there were insufficient funds to cover the amount of the
check. Respondent claimed that he merely issued the check in order to accommodate a friend in whose
favor he obtained the loan, stressing that he did not personally benefit from the proceeds
thereof.16Unfortunately, said friend had died and respondent had no means by which to pay for the amount
of the check.17 He also claimed that complainant threatened him and used his unfunded check to the latter's
personal advantage.18

Thereafter, the Court, in its Resolution dated November 14, 2011,19 referred this administrative case to the
Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) for its investigation, report, and recommendation.

The IBP's Report and Recommendation

After conducting mandatory conferences, the Commission on Bar Discipline (CBD) of the IBP issued a Report
and Recommendation20 dated June 26, 2013, recommending that respondent be suspended from the
practice of law for a period of six (6) months for violation of the lawyer's oath and the Code of Professional
Responsibility (CPR), as well as for having been found guilty of a crime involving moral turpitude.21

It found that the offense for which respondent was found guilty of, i.e., violation of BP 22, involved moral
turpitude, and that he violated his lawyer's oath and the CPR when he committed the said offense. Stressing
the importance of the lawyer's oath, the IBP held that by his conviction of the said crime, respondent has
shown that he is "unfit to protect the administration of justice or that he is no longer of good moral
character"22 which justifies either his suspension or disbarment.23

Subsequently, or on October 10, 2014, the IBP Board of Governors issued a Notice of Resolution24adopting
and approving with modification the IBP's Report and Recommendation dated June 26, 2013, suspending
respondent from the practice of law for a period of two (2) years for having violated the lawyer's oath and
the CPR, as well as for having been found guilty of a crime involving moral turpitude.25 cralaw red

The Issue Before the Court

The issue advanced for the Court's resolution is whether or not respondent should be administratively
disciplined for having been found guilty of a crime involving moral turpitude.

The Court's Ruling

The Court sustains the findings and conclusions of the CBD of the IBP, as approved, adopted, and modified
by the IBP Board of Governors.

Section 27, Rule 138 of the Rules of Court provides:


chanRoble svirtual Lawlib ra ry

Section 27. Disbarment or suspension of attorneys by Supreme Court; grounds therefor. - A member of the
bar may be disbarred or suspended from his office as attorney by the Supreme Court for any deceit,
malpractice, or other gross misconduct in such office, grossly immoral conduct, or by reason of his
conviction of a crime involving moral turpitude, or for any violation of the oath which he is required to take
before admission to practice, or for a willful disobedience of any lawful order of a superior court, Or for
corruptly or willfully appearing as an attorney for a party to a case without authority to do so. The practice
of soliciting cases at law for the purpose of gain, either personally or through paid agents or brokers,
constitutes malpractice.
Canon 1 of the CPR mandates all members of the bar "to obey the laws of the land and promote respect for
law x x x." Rule 1.01 thereof specifically provides that "[a] lawyer shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest,
immoral or deceitful conduct." By taking the lawyer's oath, a lawyer becomes a guardian of the law and an
indispensable instrument for the orderly administration of justice.26 As such, he can be disciplined for any
conduct, in his professional or private capacity, which renders him unfit to continue to be an officer of the
court.27 cralawre d

In Enriquez v. De Vera,28 the Court discussed the purpose and nature of a violation of BP 22 in relation to an
administrative case against a lawyer, as in this case, to wit:
chanRoble svirtual Lawlib ra ry

[BP] 22 has been enacted in order to safeguard the interest of the banking system and the legitimate public
checking account users. The gravamen of the offense defined and punished by [BP] 22 [x x x] is the act of
making and issuing a worthless check, or any check that is dishonored upon its presentment for payment
and putting it in circulation; the law is designed to prohibit and altogether eliminate the deleterious and
pernicious practice of issuing checks with insufficient funds, or with no credit, because the practice is
deemed a public nuisance, a crime against public order to be abated.

xxxx

Being a lawyer, respondent was well aware of the objectives and coverage of [BP] 22. If he did not, he was
nonetheless presumed to know them, for the law was penal in character and application. His issuance of the
unfunded check involved herein knowingly violated [BP] 22, and exhibited his indifference towards the
pernicious effect of his illegal act to public interest and public order. He thereby swept aside his Lawyer's
Oath that enjoined him to support the Constitution and obey the laws.29 ChanRobles Virtualawl ibra ry

Clearly, the issuance of worthless checks in violation of BP Blg. 22 indicates a lawyer's unfitness for the trust
and confidence reposed on him, shows such lack of personal honesty and good moral character as to render
him unworthy of public confidence, and constitutes a ground for disciplinary action.30

In this case, respondent's conviction for violation of BP 22, a crime involving moral turpitude, had been
indubitably established. Such conviction has, in fact, already become final. Consequently, respondent
violated the lawyer's oath, as well as Rule 1.01, Canon 1 of the CPR, as aptly found by the IBP and, thus,
must be subjected to disciplinary action.

In Heenan v. Espejo,31 the Court suspended therein respondent from the practice of law for a period of two
(2) years when the latter issued checks which were dishonored due to insufficiency of funds. In A-1 Financial
Services, Inc. v. Valerio,32 the same penalty was imposed by the Court to respondent who issued worthless
checks to pay off her loan. Likewise, in Dizon v. De Taza,33 the Court meted the penalty of suspension for a
period of two (2) years to respondent for having issued bouncing checks, among other infractions. Finally,
in Wong v. Moya II,34 respondent was ordered suspended from the practice of law for a period of two (2)
years, because aside from issuing worthless checks and failure to pay his debts, respondent also breached
his client's trust and confidence to his personal advantage and had shown a wanton disregard of the IBP's
Orders in the course of its proceedings. Accordingly, and in view of the foregoing instances when the erring
lawyer was suspended for a period of two (2) years for the same violation, the Court finds it appropriate to
mete the same penalty to respondent in this case.

As a final word, it should be emphasized that membership in the legal profession is a privilege burdened
with conditions.35 A lawyer is required to observe the law and be mindful of his or her actions whether acting
in a public or private capacity.36 Any transgression of this duty on his part would not only diminish his
reputation as a lawyer but would also erode the public's faith in the legal profession as a whole.37 In this
case, respondent's conduct fell short of the exacting standards expected of him as a member of the bar, for
which he must suffer the necessary consequences. chanrobles law

WHEREFORE, respondent Atty. Orlando S. Paulma is hereby SUSPENDED from the practice of law for a
period of two (2) years, effective upon his receipt of this Resolution. He is warned that a repetition of the
same or similar act will be dealt with more severely.

Let a copy of this Resolution be entered in Atty. Paulma's personal record with the Office of the Bar
Confidant, and copies be served to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and the Office of the Court
Administrator for circulation to all the courts in the land.

SO ORDERED. cralawlawlibra ry
A.C. No. 5951, July 12, 2016

JUTTA KRURSEL, Complainant, v. ATTY. LORENZA A. ABION, Respondent.

RESOLUTION

PER CURIAM:

In a verified Complaint,1 filed on January 23, 2003, complainant Jutta Krursel, a German national, charges
respondent Atty. Lorenza A. Abion with forgery, swindling, and falsification of a public document. She asks
that respondent be disbarred.2 chanrobles law

Complainant alleges that she engaged the services of respondent to assist her in filing a case against
Robinsons Savings Bank - Ermita Branch land its officers, in relation to the bank's illegal
withholding/blocking of her account.3 chanrobleslaw

In March 2002, respondent filed, on complainant's behalf, a complaint against Robinsons Savings Bank and
its officers before the Monetary Board I of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas for "Conducting Business in an
Unsafe and Unsound Manner in violation of Republic Act No. 8791[.]"4 chanroble slaw

Without complainant's knowledge, respondent withdrew the complaint with prejudice through a letter5dated
April 15, 2002 addressed to I the Monetary Board. Complainant claims that respondent forged her signature
and that of a certain William Randeli Coleman (Coleman) in the letter.6 She adds that she never authorized
nor acceded to respondent's withdrawal of the complaint.7 chanro bleslaw

Complainant was further surprised to discover two (2) Special Powers of Attorney dated March 7, 20028and
March 24, 2002,9 which appear to have her and Coleman's signature as principals. The documents
constituted respondent as
their attorney-in-fact to represent, to receive, sign in their behalf, all papers, checks, accounts receivables,
wired remittances, hi their legal and extra legal efforts to retrieve and unblock the peso and dollar savings
accounts opened up with the Robinsons Savings Bank at its branch office at Ermita, Manila, in order for her
to withdraw and to encash all their accounts, receivables, checks, savings, remittances.10 chan roblesv irtuallawl ib rary

Again, complainant claims that the signatures were forged.11 She denies ever having executed a special
power of attorney for respondent.12 chanro bles law

Complainant further alleges that on March 24, 2002, respondent filed before this Court a Complaint for "Writ
of Preliminary Prohibitive and Mandatory Injunction with Damages[.]"13 For such services, respondent
demanded and received the following amounts on May 7, 2002: ChanRobles Vi rtualawl ib rary

Php
- For filing fee to the Supreme Court
225,000.00

Php
- For Sheriff's Service Fee
55,000.00

Php
- For Atty. Soriano, Clerk of Court, to expedite matters
50.000.00

Php
- Total14 (Emphasis in the original)
330,000.00
Respondent failed to account for these amounts despite complainant's demands for a
receipt.15Complainant's demand letter16 dated June 24, 2002 for accounting and receipts was attached to
the Complaint as Annex E.

Instead of providing a receipt for the amounts received, respondent allegedly presented complainant a
document purporting to be an Order17 dated May 10, 2002 from this Court's First Division, resolving the
case' in complainant's favor. The Order was purportedly signed by Atty. Virginia; R. Soriano, "Division Clerk
of the First Division of the Supreme Court."18 Complainant sought the advice of Atty. Abelardo L.
Aportadera, Jr., who, in turn, wrote to Atty. Virginia Ancheta-Soriano (Atty. Soriano) on July 30,
200219inquiring about the supposed Order.20 Atty. Soriano replied21 denying the signature as hers. She
stated that the Order did not even follow this Court's format, and that, on the contrary, the case had been
dismissed.22c hanrobles law

Finally, complainant alleges that in April 2002, while she was sick and in the hospital, respondent asked for
complainant's German passportj to secure its renewal from the German Embassy.23 For this service,
respondent asked for the total amount of P440,000.00 to cover the following expenses: ChanRobles Vi rtua lawlib rary

May 20, 2002 - Php 40,000.00 - For Processing of Travel Papers


May 27, 2002 - Php 50,000.00 - For Additional Fee for the Travel Papers
June 3, 2002 - Php 350.000,00 - For the release of Travel Papers
as required by Atty. O. Dizon, BID
Php 450,000.00 [sic]24 (Emphasis in the original)
These sums were allegedly not properly accounted for despite complainant's demand.25 Respondent cralaw red

eventually presented a purportedly renewed German passport, which complainant rejected because it was
obviously fake.26 Complainant later found out that her original German passport was in the possession of
Robinsons Savings Bank.27 chanroble slaw

Complainant avers that respondent's malicious acts warrant her removal from the roster of lawyers.28She
adds that she and Coleman filed before the Office of the City Prosecutor of Quezon City a criminal
Complaint29 against respondent for the unlawful acts committed against them.30 chanroble slaw

In the Resolution31 dated February 24, 2003, this Court required respondent to file her comment.

Copies of the February 24, 2003 Resolution were subsequently served on respondent's various addresses.
However, these were returned unserved with the notations "Unclaimed," "Party Moved Out," "Moved Out,"
and "Party in Manila."32 This Court requested the assistance of the National Bureau of Investigation, but
respondent could still not be found.33 chanrob leslaw

In the Resolution34 dated October 10, 2011, this Court referred the case to the Integrated Bar of the
Philippines for investigation, report, and recommendation.

On March 14, 2012, the Commission on Bar Discipline of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines directed both
parties to appear for mandatory conference.35 However, copies of the Notice of Mandatory Conference were
returned unserved as both parties were stated to have "moved out."36 chanroble slaw

Hence, in the Order37 dated April 24, 2012, the Commission on Bar Discipline deemed the case submitted for
resolution on the basis of the Complaint (with attachments) filed before this Court.

In his Report and Recommendation38 dated July 6, 2013, Investigating Commissioner Peter Irving C.
Corvera recommended that respondent be disbarred for fabricating and forging Special Powers of Attorney
and an order from this Court, coupled with her exaction of money from complainant without receipt or
accounting despite demands.39 These acts are in culpable violation of Canon 1; Rule 1.01; Canon 16, Rule
16.01; and Canon 17 of the Code of Professional Responsibility.40 cha nrob leslaw

In the Resolution41 dated October 10, 2014, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines Board of Governors
adopted and approved the findings and recommendations of the Investigating Commissioner. Respondent
did hot file a motion for reconsideration or any other subsequent pleading.

On October 13, 2015, the Board of Governors transmitted its Resolution to this Court for final action under
Rule 139-B of the Rulesj of Court.42 chanroble slaw

The issue for resolution is whether respondent should be disbarred for committing forgery, falsification, and
swindling.

At the outset, we cannot ignore this Court's several attempts to serve a copy of the February 24, 2003
Resolution (requiring respondent to file a comment on the Complaint for disbarment) on respondent at her
address ion record and at the different addresses provided by complainant and the Integrated Bar of the
Philippines, only to be returned unserved. On June 1, 2011, this Court requested the assistance of the
National Bureau of Investigation to locate respondent, but to no avail.43 All these circumstances reveal that
either respondent was disinterested in contesting the charges against her or she was deliberately eluding
the service of this Court's Resolutions to evade the consequences of her actions.

Respondent's willful behavior has effectively hindered this Court's process service and unduly prolonged this
case. This evasive attitude is unbecoming of a lawyer, an officer of the court who swore to "obey the laws as
well as the legal orders of the duly constituted authorities."44
chanroble slaw

In Stemmerick v. Mas,45 this Court held that proper notice of the disbarment proceedings was given to the
respondent lawyer who abandoned his law office after committing the embezzlement against his client.
Thus:ChanRoblesVi rtua lawlib rary

Respondent should not be allowed to benefit from his disappearing act. He can neither defeat this Court's
jurisdiction over him as a member of the bar nor evade administrative liability by the mere ruse of
concealing his whereabouts. Thus, service of the complaint and other orders and processes on respondent's
office was sufficient notice to him.

Indeed, since he himself rendered the service of notice on him impossible, the notice requirement cannot
apply to him and he is thus considered to have waived it. The law does not require that the impossible be
done. Nemo tenetur ad impossibile. The law obliges no one to perform an impossibility. Laws and rules must
be interpreted in a way that they are in accordance with logic, common sense, reason and practicality.

In this connection, lawyers must update their records with the IBP by informing the IBP National Office or
their respective chapters of any change in office or residential address and other contact details. In case
such change is not duly updated, service of notice on the office or residential address appearing in the
records of the IBP National Office shall constitute sufficient notice to a lawyer for purposes of administrative
proceedings against him.46 (Citations omitted)
Here, respondent's apparent disregard of the judicial process cannot be tolerated. Under the circumstances,
respondent is deemed to have waived her right to present her evidence for she cannot use her
disappearance as a shield against any liability she may have incurred.

Respondent's evasive attitude is tantamount to "a willful disobedience of any lawful order of a superior
court,"47 which alone is a ground for disbarment or suspension.

We proceed to address the charges raised in the Complaint.

II

Complainant claims that respondent forged her and Coleman's signatures in two (2) documents: first, in the
Special Powers of Attorney dated March 7, 200248 and March 24, 2002;49 and second, in respondents April
15, 2002 letter50 withdrawing her complaint against Robinsons Savings Bank before the Monetary Board of
the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas.

A comparison of the signature of complainant Jutta Krursel in her Complaint and Verification and
Certification, on one hand, and her contested signature in the Special Power of Attorney dated March 7,
2002, on the other, visibly shows significant differences in the stroke, form, and general appearance of the
two (2) signatures. The inevitable conclusion is that the two (2) signatures were not penned by one person.
Similarly, complainant's contested signature under the Conforme portion in the April 15, 2002 letter of
respondent clearly appears to have been forged.

Nonetheless, with respect to complainant's forged signature in Special Power of Attorney, we find no other
evidence pointing to respondent as the author of the forgery. Jurisprudence51 creates a presumption that a
person who was in possession of, or made use of, or benefitted from ithe forged or falsified documents is the
forger. However, in this case, the facts are insufficient for us to presume that respondent forged
complainant's signature.

Although the Special Power of Attorney may have been executed in respondent's favor—as it authorized her
to represent, receive, and sign papers, checks, remittances, accounts, and receivables on behalf! of
complainant—her appointment as attorney-in-fact was only in relation to complainant's "legal and extra[-
]legal efforts to retrieve and unblock [complainant's] peso and dollar savings accounts with Robinsons
Savings Bank, Ermita."52 chanrobles law

The authority given was only in furtherance of complainant's employment of respondent's legal services.
There was no allegation or proof that respondent benefitted from or used the falsified document.53Moreover,
complainant had possession of the Special Power of Attorney, a icopy of which was attached to her
Complaint. In all likelihood, the Special Power of Attorney may not only have been known to complainant;
she may have conformed to its preparation all along.

However, the same conclusion cannot be made with regard to compiainant's forged signature in the April 15,
2002 letter. In the Verification54 attached to the letter, respondent declared under oath that she jcaused the
preparation of the letter of withdrawal of the complaint with prejudice. She declared under oath that she
also caused the conforme of her clients after informing them of the facts, both as counsel and attorney-in-
fact.

Thus, respondent committed serious acts of deceit in: (1) withdrawing the complaint with prejudice, without
the knowledge and consent of complainant; and (2) forging complainant's signature or causing her signature
to be forged in the April 15, 2002 letter, thus making it appear that complainant conformed to the
withdrawal of the complaint.

In Sebastian v. Calis:55
Deception and other fraudulent acts by a lawyer are disgraceful and dishonorable. They reveal moral flaws in
a lawyer. They are unacceptable practices. A lawyer's relationship with others should be characterized by
the highest degree of good faith, fairness and candor. This is the essence of the lawyer's oath. The lawyer's
oath is not mere facile words, drift and hollow, but a sacred trust that must be upheld and keep inviolable.
The nature of the office of an attorney requires that he should be a person of good moral character. This
requisite is not only a condition precedent to admission to the practice of law, its continued possession is
also essential for remaining in the practice of law. We have sternly warned that any gross misconduct of a
lawyer, whether in his professional or private capacity, puts his moral character in serious doubt as a
member of the Bar, and renders him unfit to continue in the practice of law.56 (Citations omitted)
Respondent's deception constitutes a gross violation of professional ethics and a breach of her fiduciary duty
to her client, subjecting her to disciplinary action.57 chanrob leslaw

III

Furthermore, we agree with the Committee on Bar Discipline's fmding that complainant has sufficiently
proven her allegations regarding the falsified order.

The appearance of the purported May 10, 2002 Order58 in G.R. No. 152946 is markedly different from the
orders and resolutions of this Court. Indeed, it was later confirmed through the letter59 issued by Atty.
Soriano, Clerk of Court of the First Division, that there was no such order issued, that the signature there
was not hers, and that the format did not follow this Court's format.

Complainant avers that she paid substantial amounts of money to respondent in relation to the filing of the
complaint for injunction in G.R. No. 152946, though respondent did not issue any receipt or accounting
despite her demands. Instead, respondent allegedly furnished complainant with the fabricated May 10, 2002
Order purportedly ruling in her favor. Complainant later found out that no such order existed. The case was
already dismissed.

Respondent's acts amount to deceit, malpractice, or gross misconduct in office as an attorney.60 She
violated her oath to "do no falsehood"61 and to "conduct [her] self as a lawyer . . . with all good fidelity as
well to the courts as to; [her] clients."62 She also violated the following provisions of the Code of
Professional Responsibility:Cha nRobles Vi rtualaw lib rary

Rule 1.01 - A lawyer shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct.

....

CANON 7. A LAWYER SHALL AT ALL TIMES UPHOLD THE INTEGRITY AND DIGNITY OF THE LEGAL
PROFESSION AND SUPPORT THE ACTIVITIES OF THE INTEGRATED BAR.

....

Rule 7.03 — A lawyer shall not engage in conduct that adversely reflects on his fitness to practice law, nor
should he, whether in public or private life, behave in a scandalous manner to the discredit of the legal
profession.
....

CANON 15. A LAWYER SHALL OBSERVE CANDOR, FAIRNESS AND LOYALTY IN ALL HIS DEALINGS AND
TRANSACTIONS WITH HIS CLIENT.

....

CANON 17. A LAWYER OWES FIDELITY TO THE CAUSE OF HIS CLIENT AND HE SHALL BE MINDFUL OF THE
TRUST AND CONFIDENCE REPOSED IN HIM.

CANON 18. A LAWYER SHALL SERVE HIS CLIENT WITH COMPETENCE AND DILIGENCE.

....

Rule 18.04 - A lawyer shall keep his elient informed of the status of his case and shall respond within a
reasonable time to the client's request for information.
Respondent's transgressions are grave and serious. She abused her legal knowledge and training. She took
undue advantage of the trust reposed on her by her client. Her misconduct exhibits a brazen disregard of
her duties as a lawyer. The advocate for justice became the perpetrator of injustice.

Aside from defrauding her client, respondent recklessly put Arty. Soriano's career in jeopardy by fabricating
an order, thus making a mockery of the judicial system. That a lawyer is not merely a professional but also
an officer of the court cannot be overemphasized. She owes the courts of justice and its judicial officers
utmost respect.63 Her conduct degrades the administration of justice and weakens the people faith in the
judicial system. She inexorably besmirched the entire legal profession.

In Embido v. Pe, Jr.,64 Assistant Provincial Prosecutor Salvador Pe, Jr. was found guilty of violating Canon 7,
Rule 7.03 and was meted the penalty of disbarment for falsifying a court decision "in a non-existent court
proceeding."65 Thus: ChanRobles Vi rtualaw lib rary

Gross immorality, conviction of a crime involving moral turpitude, or fraudulent transactions can justify a
lawyer's disbarment or suspension from the practice of law. Specifically, the deliberate falsification of the
court decision by the respondent was an act that reflected a high degree of moral turpitude on his part.
Worse, the act made a mockery of the administration of justice in this country, given the purpose of the
falsification, which was to mislead a foreign tribunal on the personal status of a person. He thereby became
unworthy of continuing as a member of the Bar.66 (Citations omitted)
Respondent's unethical and unscrupulous conduct proves her unworthy of the public's trust and confidence.
She shamelessly transgressed all the things she swore to uphold, which makes her unfit to continue as a
member of the bar. Hence, we find no hesitation in removing respondent from the Roll of Attorneys.

However, we find a dearth of evidence to support complainant's claim as to the amounts demanded and
received by respondent, that is: (1) a total of P330,000.00 in relation to G.R. No. 152946; and (2) a total of
P440,000.00 for the renewal of complainant's passport. The demand letter dated June 24, 2002, attached to
the Complaint as Annex E, is not competent proof of the actual amounts paid to and received by
respondent. The demand letter does not contain the date when the addressee received the letter; this
produces doubt as to whether the demand letter was actually sent/delivered to respondent.

In administrative cases, it is the complainant who has the burden to prove, by substantial evidence,67the
allegations in the complaint.68 chan roble slaw

WHEREFORE, this Court finds respondent Arty. Lorenza A. Abion GUILTY of gross misconduct in violation
of the Lawyer's Oath and the Code of Professional Responsibility. She is hereby DISBARREDfrom the
practice of law. The Office of the Bar Confidant is DIRECTED to remove the name of Lorenza A. Abion from
the Roll of Attorneys.

This Resolution is without prejudice to any pending or contemplated proceedings to be initiated against
respondent.

The Legal Office of the Office of the Court Administrator is DIRECTED to file the appropriate criminal
charges against respondent!for falsifying an order of this Court.

Let copies of this Resolution be furnished to the Bar Confidant, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, and the
Office of the Court Administrator for dissemination to all courts in the country.
This Resolution takes effect immediately.

SO ORDERED. chanRoblesvirt ual Lawlib rary


III. Duty of the Lawyer to the Society

1. Adm. Case No. 8108, July 15, 2014


2. DANTE LA JIMENEZ & LAURO G. VIZCONDE, Complainants, v. ATTY. FELISBERTO L.
VERANO, JR., Respondent.

[Adm. Case No. 10299]


3. ATTY. OLIVER O. LOZANO, Complainant, v. ATTY. FELISBERTO L. VERANO, JR., Respondent.
4. R E S O L U T I O N
5. SERENO, C.J.:
6. Before this Court is the Resolution1 of the Board of Governors of the Integrated Bar of the
Philippines (IBP) finding respondent Atty. Felisberto Verano liable for improper and inappropriate
conduct tending to influence and/or giving the appearance of influence upon a public official. The
Joint Report and Recommendation submitted by Commissioner Felimon C. Abelita III recommended
that respondent be issued a warning not to repeat the same nor any similar action, otherwise the
Commission will impose a more severe penalty. The Commission adopted the said ruling on 16 April
2013.2

The complainants in Administrative Case (A.C.) No. 8108 are Dante La Jimenez and Lauro G.
Vizconde, while complainant in Adm. Case No. 10299 is Atty. Oliver O. Lozano. At the time of the
filing of the complaints, respondent Atty. Verano was representing his clients Richard S. Brodett and
Joseph R. Tecson.
7. FACTUAL ANTECEDENTS
8.
Brodett and Tecson (identified in media reports attached to the Complaint as the “Alabang Boys”)
were the accused in cases filed by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) for the illegal
sale and use of dangerous drugs.3 In a Joint Inquest Resolution issued on 2 December 2008, the
charges were dropped for lack of probable cause.4

Because of the failure of Prosecutor John R. Resado to ask clarificatory questions during the
evaluation of the case, several media outlets reported on incidents of bribery and “cover-up”
allegedly prevalent in investigations of the drug trade. This prompted the House Committee on
Illegal Drugs to conduct its own congressional hearings. It was revealed during one such hearing
that respondent had prepared the release order for his three clients using the letterhead of the
Department of Justice (DOJ) and the stationery of then Secretary Raul Gonzales.5

Jimenez and Vizconde, in their capacity as founders of Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption
(VACC), sent a letter of complaint to Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno. They stated that respondent
had admitted to drafting the release order, and had thereby committed a highly irregular and
unethical act. They argued that respondent had no authority to use the DOJ letterhead and should
be penalized for acts unbecoming a member of the bar.6

For his part, Atty. Lozano anchored his Complaint on respondent’s alleged violation of Canon 1 of
the Code of Professional Responsibility, which states that a lawyer shall uphold the Constitution,
obey the laws of the land, and promote respect for legal processes.7 Atty. Lozano contended that
respondent showed disrespect for the law and legal processes in drafting the said order and sending
it to a high-ranking public official, even though the latter was not a government prosecutor.8 Atty.
Lozano’s verified Complaint-Affidavit was filed with the Committee on Bar Discipline of the IBP and
docketed as CBD Case No. 09-2356.9

Officers of the IBP, Cebu City Chapter, issued a Resolution condemning the unethical conduct of
respondent and showing unqualified support for the VACC’s filing of disbarment proceedings.10 On
27 February 2009, Atty. Lozano withdrew his Complaint on the ground that a similar action had
been filed by Dante Jimenez.11 On 2 June 2009, the Court referred both cases to the IBP for
consolidation, as well as for investigation, report and recommendation.
9. RESPONDENT’S VERSION
10.
In his Comment, respondent alludes to the Joint Inquest Resolution dropping the charges against
his clients for lack of probable cause, arguing that the resolution also ordered the immediate release
of Brodett and Tecson. He reasoned that the high hopes of the accused, together with their families,
came crashing down when the PDEA still refused to release his clients.12 Sheer faith in the
innocence of his clients and fidelity to their cause prompted him to prepare and draft the release
order. Respondent admits that perhaps he was overzealous; yet, “if the Secretary of Justice
approves it, then everything may be expedited.”13 In any case, respondent continues, the drafted
release order was not signed by the Secretary and therefore remained “a mere scrap of paper with
no effect at all.”14
11. FINDINGS OF THE INVESTIGATING COMMISSIONER
12.
The Commissioner noted that both complaints remained unsubstantiated, while the letter-complaint
of Jimenez and Vizconde had not been verified. Therefore, no evidence was adduced to prove the
charges.

However, by his own admissions in paragraphs 11 and 12 of his Comment, respondent drafted the
release order specifically for the signature of the DOJ Secretary. This act of “feeding” the draft order
to the latter was found to be highly irregular, as it tended to influence a public official. Hence,
Commissioner Abelita found respondent guilty of violating Canon 13 of the Code of Professional
Responsibility and recommended that he be issued a warning not to repeat the same or any similar
action.15
13. RULING OF THE COURT
14.
We emphasize at the outset that the Court may conduct its own investigation into charges against
members of the bar, irrespective of the form of initiatory complaints brought before it. Thus, a
complainant in a disbarment case is not a direct party to the case, but a witness who brought the
matter to the attention of the Court.16 By now, it is basic that there is neither a plaintiff nor a
prosecutor in disciplinary proceedings against lawyers. The real question for determination in these
proceedings is whether or not the attorney is still a fit person to be allowed the privileges of a
member of the bar.17

As to Atty. Lozano’s withdrawal of his verified Complaint, we reiterate our ruling in Rayos-Ombac v.
Rayos: chanrob lesvi rtua llawli bra ry

15. The affidavit of withdrawal of the disbarment case allegedly executed by complainant does not, in
any way, exonerate the respondent. A case of suspension or disbarment may proceed regardless of
interest or lack of interest of the complainant. What matters is whether, on the basis of the facts
borne out by the record, the charge of deceit and grossly immoral conduct has been duly proven x x
x. The complainant or the person who called the attention of the court to the attorney's alleged
misconduct is in no sense a party, and has generally no interest in the outcome except as all good
citizens may have in the proper administration of justice. Hence, if the evidence on record
warrants, the respondent may be suspended or disbarred despite the desistance of
complainant or his withdrawal of the charges.18 (Emphasis supplied)
16.
After a careful review of the records, we agree with the IBP in finding reasonable grounds to hold
respondent administratively liable. Canon 13, the provision applied by the Investigating
Commissioner, states that “a lawyer shall rely upon the merits of his cause and refrain from any
impropriety which tends to influence, or gives the appearance of influencing the court.” We believe
that other provisions in the Code of Professional Responsibility likewise prohibit acts of influence-
peddling not limited to the regular courts, but even in all other venues in the justice sector, where
respect for the rule of law is at all times demanded from a member of the bar.

During the mandatory hearing conducted by the Committee on Bar Discipline, respondent stated
that the PDEA refused to release his clients unless it received a direct order from the DOJ Secretary.
This refusal purportedly impelled him to take more serious action, viz.: chanroble svirtual lawlib rary

17. ATTY VERANO: x x x By Monday December 22 I think my only recourse was to see the Secretary
himself personally. The Secretary is the type of a person who opens his [sic] kasi he is very political
also so he opens his office. If I’m not mistaken that day because of the timing we will afraid [sic]
that Christmas time is coming and that baka nga sila maipit sa loob ng Christmas time. So the
family was very sad x x x kung pwede ko raw gawan ng paraan na total na-dismissed na ang kaso.
So, what I did was thinking as a lawyer now…I prepared the staff to make it easy, to make it
convenient for signing authority that if he agrees with our appeal he will just sign it and send it over
to PDEA. So hinanda ko ho yon. And then I sent it first to the Office of the other Secretary si
Blancaflor.

xxxx
So I think it’s a Tuesday I had to do something and I said I will see the Secretary first with the
parents of Rodette, yong nanay at saka tatay, so we went to see him after 1:00 o’clock or 1:30 in
the afternoon. By then, that draft was still with Blancaflor. Andon ho ang Secretary tinanggap
naman kami, so we sat down with him x x x Pinaliwanag ho namin in-explain x x x Anyway, sabi
niya what can I do if I move on this, they will think that kasama rin ako dyan sa Fifty Million na yan.
Sabi ko, Your Honor, wala akong Fifty Million, hindi naman ho milyonaryo ang mga pamilyang ito.
So, sabi ko pwede ho bang maki-usap…sabi niya okay I will see what I can do. I will study the
matter, those particular words, I will study the matter. Tumuloy pa ho ang kwentuhan, as a matter
of fact, 2 oras ho kami ron eh. They were not pushing us away, he was entertaining us, and we
were discussing the case.19
18.
Respondent likewise stated that his “experience with Secretary Gonzales is, he is very open;” and
that “because of my practice and well, candidly I belong also to a political family, my father was a
Congressman. So, he (Gonzalez) knows of the family and he knows my sister was a
Congresswoman of Pasay and they were together in Congress. In other words, I am not a complete
stranger to him.”20 Upon questioning by Commissioner Rico A. Limpingco, respondent admitted that
he was personally acquainted with the Secretary; however, they were not that close.21

These statements and others made during the hearing establish respondent’s admission that 1) he
personally approached the DOJ Secretary despite the fact that the case was still pending before the
latter; and 2) respondent caused the preparation of the draft release order on official DOJ stationery
despite being unauthorized to do so, with the end in view of “expediting the case.”

The way respondent conducted himself manifested a clear intent to gain special treatment and
consideration from a government agency. This is precisely the type of improper behavior sought to
be regulated by the codified norms for the bar. Respondent is duty-bound to actively avoid any act
that tends to influence, or may be seen to influence, the outcome of an ongoing case, lest the
people’s faith in the judicial process is diluted.

The primary duty of lawyers is not to their clients but to the administration of justice. To that end,
their clients’ success is wholly subordinate. The conduct of a member of the bar ought to and must
always be scrupulously observant of the law and ethics. Any means, not honorable, fair and honest
which is resorted to by the lawyer, even in the pursuit of his devotion to his client’s cause, is
condemnable and unethical.22

Rule 1.02 states: "A lawyer shall not counsel or abet activities aimed at defiance of the law or at
lessening confidence in the legal system." Further, according to Rule 15.06, "a lawyer shall not state
or imply that he is able to influence any public official, tribunal or legislative body.” The succeeding
rule, Rule 15.07, mandates a lawyer “to impress upon his client compliance with the laws and the
principles of fairness.”

Zeal and persistence in advancing a client’s cause must always be within the bounds of the law.23 A
self-respecting independence in the exercise of the profession is expected if an attorney is to remain
a member of the bar. In the present case, we find that respondent fell short of these exacting
standards. Given the import of the case, a warning is a mere slap on the wrist that would not serve
as commensurate penalty for the offense.

In Sylvia Santos vs. Judge Evelyn S. Arcaya-Chua, the Court saw fit to impose a six-month
suspension against a judge who likewise committed acts of influence peddling when she solicited
P100,000.00 from complainant Santos when the latter asked for her help in the case of her friend
Emerita Muñoz, who had a pending case with the Supreme Court, because respondent judge was a
former court attorney of the high court.24 We find that the same penalty is appropriate in the
present case.

WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, Atty. Felisberto L. Verano, Jr. is found GUILTY of violating
Rules 1.02 and 15.07, in relation to Canon 13 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, for which
he is SUSPENDED from the practice of law for six (6) months effective immediately. This also
serves as an emphatic WARNING that repetition of any similar offense shall be dealt with more
severely.

Let copies of this Decision be appended to the respondent’s bar records. The Court Administrator is
hereby directed to inform the different courts of this suspension.

SO ORDERED.

2, A.C. No. 10579, December 10, 2014

ERLINDA FOSTER, Complainant, v. ATTY. JAIME V. AGTANG, Respondent.

DECISION

PER CURIAM:

This refers to the Resolution1 of the Board of Governors (BOG), Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP),
dated March 23, 2014, affirming with modification the findings of the Investigating Commissioner, who
recommended the suspension of respondent Atty. Jaime V. Agtang (respondent) from the practice of law for
one (1) year for ethical impropriety and ordered the payment of his unpaid obligations to complainant.

From the records, it appears that the IBP, thru its Commission on Bar Discipline (CBD), received a
complaint2, dated May 31, 2011, filed by Erlinda Foster (complainant) against respondent for “unlawful,
dishonest, immoral and deceitful”3 acts as a lawyer.

In its July 1, 2011 Order,4 the IBP-CBD directed respondent to file his Answer within 15 days from receipt of
the order. Respondent failed to do so and complainant sent a query as to the status of her complaint. On
October 10, 2011, the Investigating Commissioner issued the Order5 setting the case for mandatory
conference/hearing on November 16, 2011. It was only on November 11, 2011, or five (5) days before the
scheduled conference when respondent filed his verified Answer.6

During the conference, only the complainant together with her husband appeared. She submitted a set of
documents contained in a folder, copies of which were furnished the respondent. The Investigating
Commissioner7 indicated that the said documents would be reviewed and the parties would be informed if
there was a need for clarificatory questioning; otherwise, the case would be submitted for resolution based
on the documents on file. The Minutes8 of the mandatory conference showed that respondent arrived at
11:10 o’clock in the morning or after the proceeding was terminated.

On December 12, 2011, the complainant filed her Reply to respondent’s Answer.

On April 18, 2012, complainant submitted copies of the January 24, 2012 Decisions9 of the Municipal Trial
Court in Small Claims Case Nos. 2011-0077 and 2011-0079, ordering respondent [defendant therein] to pay
complainant and her husband the sum of P100,000.00 and P22,000.00, respectively, with interest at the
rate of 12% per annum from December 8, 2011 until fully paid, plus cost of suit.10

Complainant’s Position

From the records, it appears that complainant was referred to respondent in connection with her legal
problem regarding a deed of absolute sale she entered into with Tierra Realty, which respondent had
notarized. After their discussion, complainant agreed to engage his legal services for the filing of the
appropriate case in court, for which they signed a contract. Complainant paid respondent P20,000.00 as
acceptance fee and P5,000.00 for incidental expenses.11

On September 28, 2009, respondent wrote a letter12 to Tropical Villas Subdivision in relation to the legal
problem referred by complainant. He then visited the latter in her home and asked for a loan of
P100,000.00, payable in sixty (60) days, for the repair of his car. Complainant, having trust and confidence
on respondent being her lawyer, agreed to lend the amount without interest. A promissory note13 evidenced
the loan.

In November 2009, complainant became aware that Tierra Realty was attempting to transfer to its name a
lot she had previously purchased. She referred the matter to respondent who recommended the immediate
filing of a case for reformation of contract with damages. On November 8, 2009, respondent requested and
thereafter received from complainant the amount of P150,000.00, as filing fee.14 When asked about the
exorbitant amount, respondent cited the high value of the land and the sheriffs’ travel expenses and
accommodations in Manila, for the service of the summons to the defendant corporation. Later, complainant
confirmed that the fees paid for the filing of Civil Case No. 14791-65, entitled Erlinda Foster v. Tierra Realty
and Development Corporation, only amounted to P22,410.00 per trial court records.15

During a conversation with the Registrar of Deeds, complainant also discovered that respondent was the one
who notarized the document being questioned in the civil case she filed. When asked about this, respondent
merely replied that he would take a collaborating counsel to handle complainant’s case. Upon reading a copy
of the complaint filed by respondent with the trial court, complainant noticed that: 1] the major differences
in the documents issued by Tierra Realty were not alleged; 2] the contract to buy and sell and the deed of
conditional sale were not attached thereto; 3] the complaint discussed the method of payment which was
not the point of contention in the case; and 4] the very anomalies she complained of were not mentioned.
Respondent, however, assured her that those matters could be brought up during the hearings.

On April 23, 2010, respondent wrote to complainant, requesting that the latter extend to him the amount of
P70,000.00 or P50,000.00 “in the moment of urgency or emergency.”16 Complainant obliged the request
and gave respondent the sum of P22,000.00.

On August 31, 2010, respondent came to complainant’s house and demanded the sum of P50,000.00,
purportedly to be given to the judge in exchange for a favorable ruling. Complainant expressed her
misgivings on this proposition but she eventually gave the amount of P25,000.00 which was covered by a
receipt,17 stating that “it is understood that the balance of P25,000.00 shall be paid later after favorable
judgment for plaintiff Erlinda Foster.” On November 2, 2010, respondent insisted that the remaining amount
be given by complainant prior to the next hearing of the case, because the judge was allegedly asking for
the balance. Yet again, complainant handed to respondent the amount of P25,000.00.18

On September 29, 2010, complainant’s case was dismissed. Not having been notified by respondent,
complainant learned of the dismissal on December 14, 2010, when she personally checked the status of the
case with the court. She went to the office of respondent, but he was not there. Instead, one of the office
staff gave her a copy of the order of dismissal.

On December 15, 2010, respondent visited complainant and gave her a copy of the motion for
reconsideration. On January 15, 2011, complainant went to see respondent and requested him to prepare a
reply to the comment filed by Tierra Realty on the motion for reconsideration; to include additional facts
because the Land Registration Authority would not accept the documents unless these were amended; and
to make the additional averment that the defendant was using false documents.

On January 18, 2011, respondent’s driver delivered to complainant a copy of the reply with a message from
him that the matters she requested to be included were mentioned therein. Upon reading the same,
however, complainant discovered that these matters were not so included. On the same occasion, the driver
also asked for P2,500.00 on respondent’s directive for the reimbursement of the value of a bottle of wine
given to the judge as a present. Complainant was also told that oral arguments on the case had been set
the following month.19

On February 2, 2011, complainant decided to terminate the services of respondent as her counsel and wrote
him a letter of termination,20 after her friend gave her copies of documents showing that respondent had
been acquainted with Tierra Realty since December 2007. Subsequently, complainant wrote to respondent,
requesting him to pay her the amounts he received from her less the contract fee and the actual cost of the
filing fees. Respondent never replied.

Respondent’s Position

In his Answer,21 respondent alleged that he was 72 years old and had been engaged in the practice of law
since March 1972, and was President of the IBP Ilocos Norte Chapter from 1998 to 1999. He admitted the
fact that he notarized the Deed of Absolute Sale subject of complainant’s case, but he qualified that he was
not paid his notarial fees therefor. He likewise admitted acting as counsel for complainant for which he
claimed to have received P10,000.00 as acceptance fee and P5,000.00 for incidental fees. Anent the loan of
P100,000.00, respondent averred that it was complainant, at the behest of her husband, who willingly
offered the amount to him for his patience in visiting them at home and for his services. The transaction was
declared as “no loan” and he was told not to worry about its payment. As regards the amount of
P150,000.00 he received for filing fees, respondent claimed that the said amount was suggested by the
complainant herself who was persistent in covering the incidental expenses in the handling of the case. He
denied having said that the sheriffs of the court would need the money for their hotel accommodations.
Complainant’s husband approved of the amount. In the same vein, respondent denied having asked for a
loan of P50,000.00 and having received P22,000.00 from complainant. He also denied having told her that
the case would be discussed with the judge who would rule in their favor at the very next hearing. Instead,
it was complainant who was bothered by the possibility that the other party would befriend the judge. He
never said that he would personally present a bottle of wine to the judge.

Further, respondent belied the Registrar’s comment as to his representation of Tierra Realty in the past.
Respondent saw nothing wrong in this situation since complainant was fully aware that another counsel was
assisting him in the handling of cases. Having been fully informed of the nature of her cause of action and
the consequences of the suit, complainant was aware of the applicable law on reformation of contracts.
Finally, by way of counterclaim, respondent demanded just compensation for the services he had rendered
in other cases for the complainant.

Reply of Complainant

In her Reply,22 complainant mainly countered respondent’s defenses by making reference to the receipts in
her possession, all evidencing that respondent accepted the amounts mentioned in the complaint.
Complainant also emphasized that respondent and Tierra Realty had relations long before she met him.
While respondent was employed as Provincial Legal Officer of the Provincial Government of Ilocos Norte, he
was involved in the preparation of several documents involving Flying V, an oil company owned by Ernest
Villavicencio, who likewise owned Tierra Realty. Complainant insisted that the amount of P100,000.00 she
extended to respondent was never considered as “no loan.”

On June 26, 2012, complainant furnished the Investigating Commissioner copies of the Resolution, dated
June 20, 2012, issued by the Office of the City Prosecutor of Laoag City, finding probable cause against
respondent for estafa.23

Findings and Recommendation of the IBP

In its July 3, 2012 Report and Recommendation,24 the Investigating Commissioner found respondent guilty
of ethical impropriety and recommended his suspension from the practice of law for one (1) year.

In its September 28, 2013 Resolution, the IBP-BOG adopted and approved with modification the
recommendation of suspension by the Investigating Commissioner and ordered respondent to return to
complainant: 1) his loan of P122,000.00; and 2) the balance of the filing fee amounting to P127,590.00.

Respondent received a copy of the said resolution on January 16, 2014 to which he filed a motion for
reconsideration.25 Complainant filed her opposition thereto, informing the IBP-BOG that an information
charging respondent for estafa had already been filed in court and that a corresponding order for his arrest
had been issued.26

In its March 23, 2014 Resolution, the IBP-BOG denied respondent’s motion for reconsideration but modified
the penalty of his suspension from the practice of law by reducing it from one (1) year to three (3) months.
Respondent was likewise ordered to return the balance of the filing fee received from complainant
amounting to P127,590.00.

No petition for review was filed with the Court.

The only issue in this case is whether respondent violated the Code of Professional Responsibility (CPR).

The Court’s Ruling

The Court sustains the findings and recommendation of the Investigating Commissioner with respect to
respondent’s violation of Rules 1 and 16 of the CPR. The Court, however, modifies the conclusion on his
alleged violation of Rule 15, on representing conflicting interests. The Court also differs on the penalty.

Rule 1.0, Canon 1 of the CPR, provides that “[a] lawyer shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or
deceitful conduct.” It is well-established that a lawyer’s conduct is “not confined to the performance of his
professional duties. A lawyer may be disciplined for misconduct committed either in his professional or
private capacity. The test is whether his conduct shows him to be wanting in moral character, honesty,
probity, and good demeanor, or whether it renders him unworthy to continue as an officer of the court.”27
In this case, respondent is guilty of engaging in dishonest and deceitful conduct, both in his professional and
private capacity. As a lawyer, he clearly misled complainant into believing that the filing fees for her case
were worth more than the prescribed amount in the rules, due to feigned reasons such as the high value of
the land involved and the extra expenses to be incurred by court employees. In other words, he resorted to
overpricing, an act customarily related to depravity and dishonesty. He demanded the amount of
P150,000.00 as filing fee, when in truth, the same amounted only to P22,410.00. His defense that it was
complainant who suggested that amount deserves no iota of credence. For one, it is highly improbable that
complainant, who was then plagued with the rigors of litigation, would propose such amount that would
further burden her financial resources. Assuming that the complainant was more than willing to shell out an
exorbitant amount just to initiate her complaint with the trial court, still, respondent should not have
accepted the excessive amount. As a lawyer, he is not only expected to be knowledgeable in the matter of
filing fees, but he is likewise duty-bound to disclose to his client the actual amount due, consistent with the
values of honesty and good faith expected of all members of the legal profession.

Moreover, the “fiduciary nature of the relationship between the counsel and his client imposes on the lawyer
the duty to account for the money or property collected or received for or from his client.”28Money entrusted
to a lawyer for a specific purpose but not used for the purpose should be immediately returned. A lawyer’s
failure to return upon demand the funds held by him on behalf of his client gives rise to the presumption
that he has appropriated the same for his own use in violation of the trust reposed in him by his client. Such
act is a gross violation of general morality as well as of professional ethics. It impairs public confidence in
the legal profession and deserves punishment.29

It is clear that respondent failed to fulfill this duty. As pointed out, he received various amounts from
complainant but he could not account for all of them. Worse, he could not deny the authenticity of the
receipts presented by complainant. Upon demand, he failed to return the excess money from the alleged
filing fees and other expenses. His possession gives rise to the presumption that he has misappropriated it
for his own use to the prejudice of, and in violation of the trust reposed in him by, the client.30 When a
lawyer receives money from the client for a particular purpose, the lawyer is bound to render an accounting
to the client showing that the money was spent for the intended purpose. Consequently, if the lawyer does
not use the money for the intended purpose, the lawyer must immediately return the money to the client.31

Somewhat showing a propensity to demand excessive and unwarranted amounts from his client, respondent
displayed a reprehensible conduct when he asked for the amount of P50,000.00 as “representation
expenses” allegedly for the benefit of the judge handling the case, in exchange for a favorable decision.
Respondent himself signed a receipt showing that he initially took the amount of P 25,000.00 and, worse, he
subsequently demanded and received the other half of the amount at the time the case had already been
dismissed. Undoubtedly, this act is tantamount to gross misconduct that necessarily warrants the supreme
penalty of disbarment. The act of demanding a sum of money from his client, purportedly to be used as a
bribe to ensure a positive outcome of a case, is not only an abuse of his client’s trust but an overt act of
undermining the trust and faith of the public in the legal profession and the entire Judiciary. This is the
height of indecency. As officers of the court, lawyers owe their utmost fidelity to public service and the
administration of justice. In no way should a lawyer indulge in any act that would damage the image of
judges, lest the public’s perception of the dispensation of justice be overshadowed by iniquitous doubts. The
denial of respondent and his claim that the amount was given gratuitously would not excuse him from any
liability. The absence of proof that the said amount was indeed used as a bribe is of no moment. To tolerate
respondent’s actuations would seriously erode the public’s trust in the courts.

As it turned out, complainant’s case was dismissed as early as September 29, 2010. At this juncture,
respondent proved himself to be negligent in his duty as he failed to inform his client of the status of the
case, and left the client to personally inquire with the court. Surely, respondent was not only guilty of
misconduct but was also remiss in his duty to his client.

Respondent’s unbecoming conduct towards complainant did not stop here. Records reveal that he likewise
violated Rule 16.04, Canon 16 of the CPR, which states that “[a] lawyer shall not borrow money from his
client unless the client’s interests are fully protected by the nature of the case or by independent advice.
Neither shall a lawyer lend money to a client except, when in the interest of justice, he has to advance
necessary expenses in a legal matter he is handling for the client.” In his private capacity, he requested
from his client, not just one, but two loans of considerable amounts. The first time, he visited his client in
her home and borrowed P100,000.00 for the repair of his car; and the next time, he implored her to extend
to him a loan of P70,000.00 or P50,000.00 “in the moment of urgency or emergency” but was only given
P22,000.00 by complainant. These transactions were evidenced by promissory notes and receipts, the
authenticity of which was never questioned by respondent. These acts were committed by respondent in his
private capacity, seemingly unrelated to his relationship with complainant, but were indubitably acquiesced
to by complainant because of the trust and confidence reposed in him as a lawyer. Nowhere in the records,
particularly in the defenses raised by respondent, was it implied that these loans fell within the exceptions
provided by the rules. The loans of P100,000.00 and P22,000.00 were surely not protected by the nature of
the case or by independent advice. Respondent’s assertion that the amounts were given to him out of the
liberality of complainant and were, thus, considered as “no loan,” does not justify his inappropriate behavior.
The acts of requesting and receiving money as loans from his client and thereafter failing to pay the same
are indicative of his lack of integrity and sense of fair dealing. Up to the present, respondent has not yet
paid his obligations to complainant.

Time and again, the Court has consistently held that deliberate failure to pay just debts constitutes gross
misconduct, for which a lawyer may be sanctioned with suspension from the practice of law. Lawyers are
instruments for the administration of justice and vanguards of our legal system. They are expected to
maintain not only legal proficiency, but also a high standard of morality, honesty, integrity and fair dealing
so that the people’s faith and confidence in the judicial system is ensured. They must, at all times, faithfully
perform their duties to society, to the bar, the courts and their clients, which include prompt payment of
financial obligations.32

Verily, when the Code or the Rules speaks of “conduct” or “misconduct,” the reference is not confined to
one’s behavior exhibited in connection with the performance of the lawyer’s professional duties, but also
covers any misconduct which, albeit unrelated to the actual practice of his profession, would show him to be
unfit for the office and unworthy of the privileges which his license and the law vest him with. Unfortunately,
respondent must be found guilty of misconduct on both scores.

With respect to respondent’s alleged representation of conflicting interests, the Court finds it proper to
modify the findings of the Investigating Commissioner who concluded that complainant presented
insufficient evidence of respondent’s “lawyering” for the opposing party, Tierra Realty.

Rule 15.03, Canon 15 of the CPR, provides that “[a] lawyer shall not represent conflicting interest except by
written consent of all concerned given after a full disclosure of the facts.” The relationship between a lawyer
and his/her client should ideally be imbued with the highest level of trust and confidence. This is the
standard of confidentiality that must prevail to promote a full disclosure of the client’s most confidential
information to his/her lawyer for an unhampered exchange of information between them. Needless to state,
a client can only entrust confidential information to his/her lawyer based on an expectation from the lawyer
of utmost secrecy and discretion; the lawyer, for his part, is duty-bound to observe candor, fairness and
loyalty in all dealings and transactions with the client. Part of the lawyer’s duty in this regard is to avoid
representing conflicting interests.”33 Thus, even if lucrative fees offered by prospective clients are at stake, a
lawyer must decline professional employment if the same would trigger the violation of the prohibition
against conflict of interest. The only exception provided in the rules is a written consent from all the parties
after full disclosure.

The Court deviates from the findings of the IBP. There is substantial evidence to hold respondent liable for
representing conflicting interests in handling the case of complainant against Tierra Realty, a corporation to
which he had rendered services in the past. The Court cannot ignore the fact that respondent admitted to
having notarized the deed of sale, which was the very document being questioned in complainant’s case.
While the Investigating Commissioner found that the complaint in Civil Case No. 14791-65 did not question
the validity of the said contract, and that only the intentions of the parties as to some provisions thereof
were challenged, the Court still finds that the purpose for which the proscription was made exists. The Court
cannot brush aside the dissatisfied observations of the complainant as to the allegations lacking in the
complaint against Tierra Realty and the clear admission of respondent that he was the one who notarized
the assailed document. Regardless of whether it was the validity of the entire document or the intention of
the parties as to some of its provisions raised, respondent fell short of prudence in action when he accepted
complainant’s case, knowing fully that he was involved in the execution of the very transaction under
question. Neither his unpaid notarial fees nor the participation of a collaborating counsel would excuse him
from such indiscretion. It is apparent that respondent was retained by clients who had close dealings with
each other. More significantly, there is no record of any written consent from any of the parties involved.

The representation of conflicting interests is prohibited “not only because the relation of attorney and client
is one of trust and confidence of the highest degree, but also because of the principles of public policy and
good taste. An attorney has the duty to deserve the fullest confidence of his client and represent him with
undivided loyalty. Once this confidence is abused or violated the entire profession suffers.”34
Penalties and Pecuniary Liabilities

A member of the Bar may be penalized, even disbarred or suspended from his office as an attorney, for
violation of the lawyer’s oath and/or for breach of the ethics of the legal profession as embodied in the
CPR.35 For the practice of law is “a profession, a form of public trust, the performance of which is entrusted
to those who are qualified and who possess good moral character.”36 The appropriate penalty for an errant
lawyer depends on the exercise of sound judicial discretion based on the surrounding facts.37

Under Section 27, Rule 138 of the Revised Rules of Court, a member of the Bar may be disbarred or
suspended on any of the following grounds: (1) deceit; (2) malpractice or other gross misconduct in office;
(3) grossly immoral conduct; (4) conviction of a crime involving moral turpitude; (5) violation of the
lawyer's oath; (6) willful disobedience of any lawful order of a superior court; and (7) willful appearance as
an attorney for a party without authority. A lawyer may be disbarred or suspended for misconduct, whether
in his professional or private capacity, which shows him to be wanting in moral character, honesty, probity
and good demeanor, or unworthy to continue as an officer of the court.

Here, respondent demonstrated not just a negligent disregard of his duties as a lawyer but a wanton
betrayal of the trust of his client and, in general, the public. Accordingly, the Court finds that the suspension
for three (3) months recommended by the IBP-BOG is not sufficient punishment for the unacceptable acts
and omissions of respondent. The acts of the respondent constitute malpractice and gross misconduct in his
office as attorney. His incompetence and appalling indifference to his duty to his client, the courts and
society render him unfit to continue discharging the trust reposed in him as a member of the Bar.

For taking advantage of the unfortunate situation of the complainant, for engaging in dishonest and deceitful
conduct, for maligning the judge and the Judiciary, for undermining the trust and faith of the public in the
legal profession and the entire judiciary, and for representing conflicting interests, respondent deserves no
less than the penalty of disbarment.38

Notably, the Court cannot order respondent to return the money he borrowed from complainant in his
private capacity. In Tria-Samonte v. Obias,39 the Court held that it cannot order the lawyer to return money
to complainant if he or she acted in a private capacity because its findings in administrative cases have no
bearing on liabilities which have no intrinsic link to the lawyer’s professional engagement. In disciplinary
proceedings against lawyers, the only issue is whether the officer of the court is still fit to be allowed to
continue as a member of the Bar. The only concern of the Court is the determination of respondent’s
administrative liability. Its findings have no material bearing on other judicial actions which the parties may
choose against each other.

To rule otherwise would in effect deprive respondent of his right to appeal since administrative cases are
filed directly with the Court. Furthermore, the quantum of evidence required in civil cases is different from
the quantum of evidence required in administrative cases. In civil cases, preponderance of evidence is
required. Preponderance of evidence is “a phrase which, in the last analysis, means probability of the truth.
It is evidence which is more convincing to the court as worthier of belief than that which is offered in
opposition thereto.”40 In administrative cases, only substantial evidence is needed. Substantial evidence,
which is more than a mere scintilla but is such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as
adequate to support a conclusion, would suffice to hold one administratively liable.41Furthermore, the Court
has to consider the prescriptive period applicable to civil cases in contrast to administrative cases which are,
as a rule, imprescriptible.42

Thus, the IBP-BOG was correct in ordering respondent to return the amount of P127,590.00 representing
the balance of the filing fees he received from complainant, as this was intimately related to the lawyer-
client relationship between them. Similar to this is the amount of P50,000.00 which respondent received
from complainant, as representation expenses for the handling of the civil case and for the purported
purchase of a bottle of wine for the judge. These were connected to his professional relationship with the
complainant. While respondent’s deplorable act of requesting the said amount for the benefit of the judge is
stained with mendacity, respondent should be ordered to return the same as it was borne out of their
professional relationship. As to his other obligations, respondent was already adjudged as liable for the
personal loans he contracted with complainant, per the small claims cases filed against him.

All told, in the exercise of its disciplinary powers, “the Court merely calls upon a member of the Bar to
account for his actuations as an officer of the Court with the end in view of preserving the purity of the legal
profession.”43 The Court likewise aims to ensure the proper and honest administration of justice by “purging
the profession of members who, by their misconduct, have proven themselves no longer worthy to be
entrusted with the duties and responsibilities of an attorney.”44

WHEREFORE, finding the respondent, Atty. Jaime V. Agtang, GUILTY of gross misconduct in violation of
the Code of Professional Responsibility, the Court hereby DISBARS him from the practice of law
and ORDERS him to pay the complainant, Erlinda Foster, the amounts of P127,590.00, P50,000.00 and
P2,500.00.

Let a copy of this Decision be sent to the Office of the Bar Confidant, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines
and the Office of the Court Administrator to be circulated to all courts.

SO ORDERED.
A.M. No. 09-6-1-SC, January 21, 2015

RE: VIOLATION OF RULES ON NOTARIAL PRACTICE

DECISION

MENDOZA, J.:

This case stemmed from three (3) letter-complaints for Violation of Rules on Notarial Practice endorsed to
the Office of the Bar Confidant (OBC) for appropriate action. The first letter-complaint,1 dated March 2,
2009, was filed by the commissioned notaries public within and for the jurisdiction of Lingayen, Pangasinan,
namely, Atty. Butch Cardinal Torio, Atty. Nepthalie Pasiliao, Atty. Dominique Evangelista, and Atty. Elizabeth
C. Tugade (complainants) before the Executive Judge of the Regional Trial Court, Lingayen, Pangasinan
(RTC-Lingayen) against Atty. Juan C. Siapno, Jr. (Atty. Siapno) for notarizing documents without a
commission.

In their letter, complainants alleged that Atty. Siapno was maintaining a notarial office along Alvear Street
East, Lingayen, Pangasinan, and was performing notarial acts and practices in Lingayen, Natividad and
Dagupan City without the requisite notarial commission. They asserted that Atty. Siapno was never
commissioned as Notary Public for and within the jurisdiction of Lingayen, Natividad and Dagupan City.
Instead, he applied and was commissioned to perform notarial functions by Executive Judge Anthony Sison
of the RTC, San Carlos City, Pangasinan from March 22, 2007 to December 31, 2008. His notarial
commission, however, was never renewed upon expiration. Complainants presented evidence supporting
their allegations such as the pictures of Atty. Siapno’s law office in Lingayen, Pangasinan; and documents to
prove that Atty. Siapno performed acts of notarization in Lingayen, Natividad and Dagupan City, to wit: (1)
Addendum to Loan and Mortgage Agreement2 showing that the Promissory Note was notarized before Atty.
Siapno in Lingayen, Pangasinan in 2007; (2) Deed of Absolute Sale,3 dated January 24, 2008, notarized in
Natividad, Pangasinan; (3) Joint Affidavit of Two Disinterested Persons Re: Given Name and Date of
Birth,4 dated January 6, 2009, notarized in Dagupan City; and (4) Acknowledgement of Debt,5dated January
24, 2008, notarized in Dagupan City.

Complainants also averred that Atty. Siapno had delegated his notarial authority to his secretaries, Mina
Bautista (Bautista) and Mary Ann Arenas (Arenas), who wrote legal instruments and signed the documents
on his behalf.

On March 17, 2009, the RTC-Lingayen forwarded the said letter-complaint to the Office of the Court
Administrator (OCA)6 which, in turn, indorsed the same to the OBC.

The second letter-complaint7 was filed by Audy B. Espelita (Espelita) against Atty. Pedro L. Santos (Atty.
Santos). It alleged that in 2008, Espelita lost his driver’s license and he executed an affidavit of loss which
was notarized by Atty. Santos. The said affidavit, however, was denied for authentication when presented
before the Notarial Section in Manila because Atty. Santos was not commissioned to perform notarial
commission within the City of Manila.

The third letter-complaint8 came from a concerned citizen reporting that a certain Atty. Evelyn who was
holding office at Room 402 Leyba Bldg., 381 Dasmariñas Street, Sta. Cruz, Manila, had been notarizing and
signing documents for and on behalf of several lawyers.

In its Resolution,9 dated June 9, 2009, the Court directed the Executive Judge of the RTC-Lingayen to
conduct a formal investigation on the complaint against Atty. Siapno and Executive Judge Reynaldo G. Ros
(Judge Ros) of the RTC-Manila to conduct a formal investigation on the alleged violation of the Notarial Law
by Atty. Santos, and the illegal activities of a certain Atty. Evelyn, and thereafter, to submit a report and
recommendation thereon.

Re: Complaint against Atty. Siapno

With regard to the complaint against Atty. Siapno, the Executive Judge conducted a hearing wherein the
complainants affirmed the allegations in their letter-complaint. For his part, Atty. Siapno denied the
accusations and averred that the law office in Lingayen, Pangasinan, was not his and that Bautista and
Arenas were not his secretaries.10
In her Report and Recommendation,11 the Executive Judge found that Atty. Siapno was issued a notarial
commission within the jurisdiction of Lingayen, Pangasinan, from January 20, 2003 to December 31, 2004
and February 8, 2005 to December 3, 2006. His commission, however, was cancelled on June 8, 2006 and
he was not issued another commission thereafter. The Executive Judge found Atty. Siapno to have violated
the 2004 Rules on Notarial Commission when he performed notarial functions without commission and
recommended that he be fined in the amount of Fifty Thousand Pesos (P50,000.00).

The Court agrees with the findings of the Executive Judge but not to the recommended penalty.

A review of the records and evidence presented by complainants shows that Atty. Siapno indeed maintained
a law office in Lingayen, Pangasinan, just beside the law office of one of the complainants, Atty. Elizabeth
Tugade. It was also proven that Atty. Siapno notarized several instruments with an expired notarial
commission outside the territorial jurisdiction of the commissioning court. Section 11, Rule III of the 2004
Rules on Notarial Practice provides that:chanro blesvi rtu allawli bra ry

Jurisdiction and Term – A person commissioned as notary public may perform notarial acts in any place
within the territorial jurisdiction of the commissioning court for a period of two (2) years commencing the
first day of January of the year in which the commissioning is made, unless earlier revoked or the notary
public has resigned under these Rules and the Rules of Court.
Under the rule, only persons who are commissioned as notary public may perform notarial acts within the
territorial jurisdiction of the court which granted the commission. Clearly, Atty. Siapno could not perform
notarial functions in Lingayen, Natividad and Dagupan City of the Province of Pangasinan since he was not
commissioned in the said places to perform such act.

Time and again, this Court has stressed that notarization is not an empty, meaningless and routine act. It is
invested with substantive public interest that only those who are qualified or authorized may act as notaries
public.12 It must be emphasized that the act of notarization by a notary public converts a private document
into a public document making that document admissible in evidence without further proof of authenticity. A
notarial document is by law entitled to full faith and credit upon its face, and for this reason, notaries public
must observe with utmost care the basic requirements in the performance of their duties.

By performing notarial acts without the necessary commission from the court, Atty. Siapno violated not only
his oath to obey the laws particularly the Rules on Notarial Practice but also Canons 1 and 7 of the Code of
Professional Responsibility which proscribes all lawyers from engaging in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or
deceitful conduct and directs them to uphold the integrity and dignity of the legal profession, at all times.13

In a plethora of cases, the Court has subjected lawyers to disciplinary action for notarizing documents
outside their territorial jurisdiction or with an expired commission. In the case of Nunga v. Viray,14 a lawyer
was suspended by the Court for three (3) years for notarizing an instrument without a commission.
In Zoreta v. Simpliciano,15 the respondent was likewise suspended from the practice of law for a period of
two (2) years and was permanently barred from being commissioned as a notary public for notarizing
several documents after the expiration of his commission. In the more recent case of Laquindanum v.
Quintana,16 the Court suspended a lawyer for six (6) months and was disqualified from being commissioned
as notary public for a period of two (2) years because he notarized documents outside the area of his
commission, and with an expired commission.

Considering that Atty. Siapno has been proven to have performed notarial work in Ligayen, Natividad and
Dagupan City in the province of Pangasinan without the requisite commission, the Court finds the
recommended penalty insufficient. Instead, Atty. Siapno must be barred from being commissioned as notary
public permanently and suspended from the practice of law for a period of two (2) years.

Re: Complaints against Atty. Santos and Atty. Evelyn

In a letter,17 dated July 29, 2013, Judge Ros informed the Court that he could not have complied with the
June 9, 2009 and August 4, 2009 orders of the Court because he was no longer the Executive Judge of the
RTC-Manila at that time. To date, no formal investigation has been conducted on the alleged violation of
Atty. Santos and the reported illegal activities of a certain Atty. Evelyn.

With respect to the complaints against Atty. Santos and a certain Atty. Evelyn, the Clerk of Court is ordered
to RE-DOCKET the same as separate administrative cases.

The incumbent Executive Judge of the RTC-Manila, whether permanent or in acting capacity, is ordered to
conduct a formal investigation on the matter and to submit his Report and Recommendation within sixty
(60) days from receipt of copy of this decision.

WHEREFORE, respondent Atty. Juan C. Siapno, Jr. is hereby SUSPENDED from the practice of law for two
(2) years and BARRED PERMANENTLY from being commissioned as Notary Public, effective upon his
receipt of a copy of this decision.

Let copies of this decision be furnished all the courts of the land through the Office of the Court
Administrator, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, the Office of the Bar Confidant, and be recorded in the
personal files of the respondent.

With respect to the complaints against Atty. Pedro L. Santos and a certain Atty. Evelyn, the Clerk of Court is
ordered to RE-DOCKET them as separate administrative cases. The Executive Judge of the Regional Trial
Court, Manila, is ordered to conduct a formal investigation on the matter and to submit his Report and
Recommendation within sixty (60) days from receipt of a copy of this decision.

SO ORDERED.
A.C. No. 10573 January 13, 2015

FERNANDO W. CHU, Complainant,


vs.
ATTY. JOSE C. GUICO, JR., Respondent.

DECISION

PER CURIAM:

Fernando W. Chu invokes the Court's disciplinary authority in resolving this disbarment complaint
against his former lawyer, respondent Atty. Jose C. Guico, Jr., whom he has accused of gross
misconduct.

Antecedents

Chu retained Atty. Guico as counsel to handle the labor disputes involving his company, CVC San
Lorenzo Ruiz Corporation (CVC).1 Atty. Guico’s legal services included handling a complaint for
illegal dismissal brought against CVC (NLRC Case No. RAB-III-08-9261-05 entitled Kilusan ng
Manggagawang Makabayan (KMM) Katipunan CVC San Lorenzo Ruiz Chapter, Ladivico Adriano, et
al. v. CVC San Lorenzo Ruiz Corp. and Fernando Chu).2 On September 7, 2006, Labor Arbiter
Herminio V. Suelo rendered a decision adverse to CVC.3 Atty. Guico filed a timely appeal in behalf of
CVC.

According to Chu, during a Christmas party held on December 5, 2006 at Atty. Guico’s residence in
Commonwealth, Quezon City, Atty. Guico asked him to prepare a substantial amount of money to be
given to the NLRC Commissioner handling the appeal to insure a favorable decision.4 On June 10,
2007, Chu called Atty. Guico to inform him that he had raised ₱300,000.00 for the purpose. Atty.
Guico told him to proceed to his office at No. 48 Times Street, Quezon City, and togive the money to
his assistant, Reynaldo (Nardo) Manahan. Chu complied, and later on called Atty. Guico to confirm
that he had delivered the money to Nardo. Subsequently, Atty. Guico instructed Chu to meet him on
July 5, 2007 at the UCC Coffee Shop on T. Morato Street, Quezon City. Atthe UCC Coffee Shop,
Atty. Guico handed Chu a copy of an alleged draft decision of the NLRC in favor of CVC.5 The draft
decision6was printed on the dorsal portion of used paper apparently emanating from the office of
Atty. Guico. On that occasion, the latter told Chu to raise another ₱300,000.00 to encourage the
NLRC Commissioner to issue the decision. But Chu could only produce ₱280,000.00, which he
brought to Atty. Guico’s office on July 10, 2007 accompanied by his son, Christopher Chu, and one
Bonifacio Elipane. However, it was Nardo who received the amount without issuing any receipt.7

Chu followed up on the status of the CVC case with Atty. Guico in December 2007. However, Atty.
Guico referred him to Nardo who in turn said that he would only know the status after Christmas. On
January 11, 2008, Chu again called Nardo, who invited him to lunch at the Ihaw Balot Plaza in
Quezon City. Once there, Chu asked Nardo if the NLRC Commissioner had accepted the money,
but Nardo replied in the negative and simply told Chu to wait. Nardo assured that the money was still
with Atty. Guico who would return it should the NLRC Commissioner not accept it.8

On January 19, 2009, the NLRC promulgated a decision adverse to CVC.9 Chu confronted Atty.
Guico, who in turn referred Chu to Nardo for the filing of a motion for reconsideration. After the
denial of the motion for reconsideration, Atty. Guico caused the preparation and filing of an appeal in
the Court of Appeals. Finally, Chu terminated Atty. Guico as legal counsel on May 25, 2009.10
In his position paper,11 Atty. Guico described the administrative complaint as replete with lies and
inconsistencies, and insisted that the charge was only meant for harassment. He denied demanding
and receiving money from Chu, a denial that Nardo corroborated with his own affidavit.12 He further
denied handing to Chu a draft decision printed on used paper emanating from his office, surmising
that the used paper must have been among those freely lying around in his office that had been
pilfered by Chu’s witnesses in the criminal complaint he had handled for Chu.13

Findings and Recommendation of the


IBP Board of Governors

IBP Commissioner Cecilio A.C. Villanueva found that Atty. Guico had violated Rules 1.01 and 1.02,
Canon I of the Code of Professional Responsibility for demanding and receiving ₱580,000.00 from
Chu; and recommended the disbarment of Atty. Guico in view of his act of extortion and
misrepresentation that caused dishonor to and contempt for the legal profession.14

On February 12, 2013, the IBP Board of Governors adopted the findings of IBP Commissioner
Villanueva in its Resolution No. XX-2013-87,15 but modified the recommended penalty of disbarment
to three years suspension, viz.:

RESOLVED to ADOPT and APPROVE, as it is hereby unanimously ADOPTED and APPROVED,


with modification, the Report and Recommendation of the Investigating Commissioner in the above-
entitled case, herein made part of this Resolution as Annex "A," and finding the recommendation
fully supported by the evidence on record and the applicable laws and rules and considering
Respondent’s violation of Canon 1, Rules 1.01 and 1.02 of the Code of Professional Responsibility,
Atty. Jose C. Guico, Jr. is hereby SUSPENDED from the practice of law for three (3) years with
Warning that a repetition of the same or similar act shall be dealt with more severely and Ordered to
Return the amount of Five Hundred Eighty Thousand (₱580,000.00) Pesos with legal interest within
thirty (30) days from receipt of notice.

Atty. Guico moved for reconsideration,16 but the IBP Board of Governors denied his motion for
reconsideration on March 23, 2014 in Resolution No. XXI-2014-173.17

Neither of the parties brought a petition for review vis-à-vis Resolution No. XX-2013-87 and
Resolution No. XXI-2014-173.

Issue

Did Atty. Guico violate the Lawyer’s Oath and Rules 1.01 and 1.02, Canon I of the Code of
Professional Responsibility for demanding and receiving ₱580,000.00 from Chu to guarantee a
favorable decision from the NLRC?

Ruling of the Court

In disbarment proceedings, the burden of proof rests on the complainant to establish respondent
attorney’s liability by clear, convincing and satisfactory evidence. Indeed, this Court has consistently
required clearly preponderant evidence to justify the imposition of either disbarment or suspension
as penalty.18

Chu submitted the affidavits of his witnesses,19 and presented the draft decision that Atty. Guico had
represented to him as having come from the NLRC. Chu credibly insisted that the draft decision was
printed on the dorsal portion of used paper emanating from Atty. Guico’s office,20 inferring that Atty.
Guico commonly printed documents on used paper in his law office. Despite denying being the
source of the draft decision presented by Chu, Atty. Guico’s participation in the generation of the
draft decision was undeniable. For one, Atty. Guico impliedly admitted Chu’s insistence by
conceding that the used paper had originated from his office, claiming only that used paper was just
"scattered around his office."21 In that context, Atty. Guico’s attempt to downplay the sourcing of used
paper from his office was futile because he did not expressly belie the forthright statement of Chu.
All that Atty. Guico stated by way of deflecting the imputation was that the used paper containing the
draft decision could have been easily taken from his office by Chu’s witnesses in a criminal case that
he had handled for Chu,22 pointing out that everything in his office, except the filing cabinets and his
desk, was "open to the public xxx and just anybody has access to everything found therein."23 In our
view, therefore, Atty. Guico made the implied admission because he was fully aware that the used
paper had unquestionably come from his office.

The testimony of Chu, and the circumstances narrated by Chu and his witnesses, especially the act
of Atty. Guico of presenting to Chu the supposed draft decision that had been printed on used paper
emanating from Atty. Guico’s office, sufficed to confirm that he had committed the imputed gross
misconduct by demanding and receiving ₱580,000.00 from Chu to obtain a favorable decision. Atty.
Guico offered only his general denial of the allegations in his defense, but such denial did not
overcome the affirmative testimony of Chu. We cannot but conclude that the production of the draft
decision by Atty. Guico was intended to motivate Chu to raise money to ensure the chances of
obtaining the favorable result in the labor case. As such, Chu discharged his burden of proof as the
complainant to establish his complaint against Atty. Guico. In this administrative case, a fact may be
deemed established if it is supported by substantial evidence, or that amount of relevant evidence
which a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to justify a conclusion.24

What is the condign penalty for Atty. Guico?

In taking the Lawyer’s Oath, Atty. Guico bound himself to:

x x x maintain allegiance to the Republic of the Philippines; x x x support its Constitution and obey
the laws as well as the legal orders of the duly constituted authorities therein; x x x do no falsehood,
nor consent to the doing of any in court; x x x delay no man for money or malice x x x. The Code of
Professional Responsibility echoes the Lawyer’s Oath, to wit:

CANON 1 — A lawyer shall uphold the constitution, obey the laws of the land and promote respect
for law and for legal processes.1âwphi1

Rule 1.01 — A lawyer shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct.

Rule 1.02 — A lawyer shall not counsel or abet activities aimed at defiance of the law or at lessening
confidence in the legal system.

The sworn obligation to respect the law and the legal processes under the Lawyer’s Oath and the
Code of Professional Responsibility is a continuing condition for every lawyer to retain membership
in the Legal Profession. To discharge the obligation, every lawyer should not render any service or
give advice to any client that would involve defiance of the very laws that he was bound to uphold
and obey,25 for he or she was always bound as an attorney to be law abiding, and thus to uphold the
integrity and dignity of the Legal Profession.26 Verily, he or she must act and comport himself or
herself in such a manner that would promote public confidence in the integrity of the Legal
Profession.27 Any lawyer found to violate this obligation forfeits his or her privilege to continue such
membership in the legal profession.
Atty. Guico willingly and wittingly violated the law in appearing to counsel Chu to raise the large
sums of money in order to obtain a favorable decision in the labor case. He thus violated the law
against bribery and corruption. He compounded his violation by actually using said illegality as his
means of obtaining a huge sum from the client that he soon appropriated for his own personal
interest. His acts constituted gross dishonesty and deceit, and were a flagrant breach of his ethical
commitments under the Lawyer’s Oath not to delay any man for money or malice; and under Rule
1.01 of the Code of Professional Responsibility that forbade him from engaging in unlawful,
dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct. His deviant conduct eroded the faith of the people in him as
an individual lawyer as well as in the Legal Profession as a whole. In doing so, he ceased to be a
servant of the law.

Atty. Guico committed grave misconduct and disgraced the Legal Profession. Grave misconduct is
"improper or wrong conduct, the transgression of some established and definite rule of action, a
forbidden act, a dereliction of duty, willful in character, and implies a wrongful intent and not mere
error of judgment."28 There is no question that any gross misconduct by an attorney in his
professional or private capacity renders him unfit to manage the affairs of others, and is a ground for
the imposition of the penalty of suspension or disbarment, because good moral character is an
essential qualification for the admission of an attorney and for the continuance of such privilege.29

Accordingly, the recommendation of the IBP Board of Governors to suspend him from the practice of
law for three (3) years would be too soft a penalty. Instead, he should be disbarred,30 for he exhibited
his unworthiness of retaining his membership in the legal profession. As the Court has reminded in
Samonte v. Abellana:31

Disciplinary proceedings against lawyers are designed to ensure that whoever is granted the
privilege to practice law in this country should remain faithful to the Lawyer’s Oath. Only thereby can
lawyers preserve their fitness to remain as members of the Law Profession. Any resort to falsehood
or deception, including adopting artifices to cover up one’s misdeeds committed against clients and
the rest of the trusting public, evinces an unworthiness to continue enjoying the privilege to practice
law and highlights the unfitness to remain a member of the Law Profession. It deserves for the guilty
lawyer stern disciplinary sanctions.

Lastly, the recommendation of the IBP Board of Governors that Atty. Guico be ordered to return the
amount of ₱580,000.00 to Chu is well-taken. That amount was exacted by Atty. Guico from Chu in
the guise of serving the latter’s interest as the client. Although the purpose for the amount was
unlawful, it would be unjust not to require Atty. Guico to fully account for and to return the money to
Chu. It did not matter that this proceeding is administrative in character, for, as the Court has pointed
out in Bayonla v. Reyes:32

Although the Court renders this decision in an administrative proceeding primarily to exact the
ethical responsibility on a member of the Philippine Bar, the Court’s silence about the respondent
lawyer’s legal obligation to restitute the complainant will be both unfair and inequitable. No victim of
gross ethical misconduct concerning the client’s funds or property should be required to still litigate
in another proceeding what the administrative proceeding has already established as the
respondent’s liability. x x x

ACCORDINGLY, the Court FINDS and DECLARES respondent ATTY. JOSE S. GUICO, JR.
GUILTY of the violation of the Lawyer’s Oath, and Rules 1.01 and 1.02, Canon I of the Code of
Professional Responsibility, and DISBARS him from membership in the Integrated Bar of the
Philippines. His name is ORDERED STRICKEN from the Roll of Attorneys.
Let copies of this Decision be furnished to the Office of the Bar Confidant, to be appended to Atty.
Guico’s personal record as an attorney; to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines; and to all courts and
quasi-judicial offices in the country for their information and guidance.

SO ORDERED.
SECOND DIVISION

A.C. No. 8776, March 22, 2015

ANTONINA S. SOSA, Complainant, v. ATTY. MANUEL V. MENDOZA, Respondent.

DECISION

BRION, J.:

Before this Court is the Complaint for the disbarment/suspension of Atty. Manuel V. Mendoza (Atty.
Mendoza) filed on October 22, 2010 by Antonina S. Sosa (Ms. Sosa), for violation of Rule 1.01 of the Code
of Professional Responsibility arising from non-payment of debt.1

This Court, in a Resolution dated April 18, 2012, referred the case to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines
(IBP) for investigation, report and recommendation.2

On May 11, 2013, the IBP Board of Governors adopted and approved with modification the Investigating
Commissioner’s report and recommendation. The IBP resolved to suspend Atty. Mendoza from the practice
of law for six (6) months, likewise ordering him to return the amount of the debt with legal interest.3

On December 10, 2013, the IBP Director for Bar Discipline transmitted to this Court the Notice of the
Resolution and the records of the case.4

The Factual Background

Ms. Sosa alleged that on July 28, 2006, she extended a loan of Five Hundred Thousand Pesos (P500,000.00)
to Atty. Mendoza at an interest of twenty-five thousand pesos (P25,000.00) to be paid not later than
September 25, 2006. They agreed that a penalty or collection charge of ten percent (10%) per month shall
accrue in case of default.5

To ensure the payment of the obligation, Atty. Mendoza signed a promissory note and issued a postdated
check for P500,000.00.6

Atty. Mendoza failed to comply with his obligation on due date. Upon demand to pay, he requested Ms.
Sosa not to deposit the postdated check. She acceded and deferred the deposit of the check based on Atty.
Mendoza’s promise that he would later pay. The check was subsequently returned/dishonored after Ms.
Sosa finally deposited it sometime in October 2006; it was “Drawn Against Insufficient Funds.” Ms. Sosa
then obtained the services of a lawyer, Atty. Ernesto V. Cabrera (Atty. Cabrera), to legally address Atty.
Mendoza’s failure to pay.

On January 11, 2010, Atty. Cabrera sent a letter7 to Atty. Mendoza demanding payment of the loan plus
interest and collection charges. Atty. Mendoza ignored the demand letter despite receipt, as proven by the
Registry Receipt and Registry Return Receipt.8 Likewise, he did not, in any manner, contact Ms. Sosa to
explain why he failed to pay.

In view of the repeated failure of Atty. Mendoza to pay, Ms. Sosa filed the complaint for disbarment or
suspension, charging Atty. Mendoza for violation of Rule 1.01 of the Code of Professional
Responsibility. This Rule states that “[a] lawyer shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or
deceitful conduct.”

Acting on the complaint, this Court required Atty. Mendoza to comment on the complaint in a Resolution
dated January 10, 2011.9 He filed an Urgent Motion for Extension on March 18, 2011,10 which this Court
granted in a Resolution dated October 19, 2011. Atty. Mendoza finally filed his Brief Comment on January
10, 2012.11

Atty. Mendoza admitted in his Brief Comment the existence of the loan and that it is a valid
obligation. However, he alleged that he only received One Hundred Thousand Pesos (P100,000.00) from
one Elenita Cruz (Elenita), a friend of the complainant. Atty. Mendoza did not attach an affidavit from Elenita
nor any evidence proving that he only received P100,000.00.12
The Proceedings before the IBP

On July 4, 2012, Investigating Commissioner Honesto A. Villamor issued the Notice of Mandatory
Conference/Hearing scheduled on August 16, 2012.

When the case was called for hearing, only Atty. Cabrera appeared. Atty. Cabrera marked the complainant’s
documentary exhibits and the mandatory conference was subsequently declared terminated. The parties
were then directed to submit their respective verified position papers, documentary exhibits and/or affidavits
of their witnesses, if any, within fifteen (15) days.

In her position paper,13 Ms. Sosa reiterated her allegations in her Complaint-Affidavit. She argued that Atty.
Mendoza is liable not only administratively but also civilly.

Atty. Mendoza, in his Manifestation,14admitted that (i) he arrived late during the scheduled hearing; (ii) he
had on hand Six Hundred Thousand Pesos (P600,000.00); (iii) he was advised by the Hearing Officer to
communicate with the complainant’s counsel; and (iv) the validity of his obligation and that he has to
pay the same.

Atty. Mendoza did not make good his offer to pay despite the express manifestation he made.15

The IBP Findings

The Investigating Commissioner found Atty. Mendoza liable not only administratively but also civilly. He
gave credence to Ms. Sosa’s allegations that Atty. Mendoza failed to pay the loan despite Ms. Sosa’s
attempts to collect. He also took notice of Atty. Mendoza’s admission that the obligation is valid.

The IBP Board of Governors adopted with modification the findings of the Investigating Commissioner. In a
Resolution dated May 11, 2013, the IBP ruled:

RESOLVED to ADOPT and APPROVE, as it is hereby unanimously ADOPTED and APPROVED, with
modification, the Report and Recommendation of the Investigating Commissioner x x x finding the
recommendation fully supported by the evidence on record and the applicable laws and rules and
considering that [the respondent] is guilty of misconduct for his failure to pay a just and valid debt, Atty.
Manuel V. Mendoza is hereby SUSPENDED from the practice of law for six (6) months and Ordered
to Return the amount of Five Hundred Thousand (P500,000.00) to [the complainant] with legal
interest.

The Court’s Ruling

We adopt with modification the findings and recommendation of the IBP.

This Court has held that any gross misconduct of a lawyer in his professional or in his private capacityis a
ground for the imposition of the penalty of suspension or disbarment because good character is an essential
qualification for the admission to and continued practice of law.16 Any wrongdoing, whether professional
or non-professional, indicating unfitness for the profession justifies disciplinary action.17

Gross misconduct is defined as "improper or wrong conduct, the transgression of some established and
definite rule of action, a forbidden act, a dereliction of duty, willful in character, and implies a wrongful
intent and not a mere error in judgment."18

Rule 1.01 of the Code of Professional Responsibility is emphatic: “[a] lawyer shall not engage in unlawful,
dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct.”

The facts of the case show that Atty. Mendoza engaged in improper or wrong conduct, as found under Rule
1.01, as the failure to pay the loan was willful in character and implied a wrongful intent and not a mere
error in judgment.

We find it undisputed that Atty. Mendoza obtained a loan in the amount of P500,000.00. He signed the
promissory note and acknowledgement receipt showing he received P500,000.00.19 Although he initially
denied getting this amount and claimed that he only received P100,000.00, he did not present any evidence
to prove his claim. He later also admitted the validity of his loan without qualification as to the amount.20
Also undisputed is the fact that Ms. Sosa tried to collect the amount due upon maturity but Atty. Mendoza
failed to pay. In fact, Ms. Sosa deferred depositing the postdated check upon Atty. Mendoza’s request, and
based on his promises that he would pay. Despite all these, he still failed to comply with his
obligation. Worse, the check – when finally deposited – was dishonored, a fact that Atty. Mendoza did not
dispute.

Atty. Mendoza further claimed he had P600,000.00 on hand during the hearing with the IBP Investigating
Officer.21 He allegedly failed to deliver the amount to Ms. Sosa or her counsel because he arrived late.

We find Atty. Mendoza’s excuse to be flimsy. It could have been very easy for him to deliver the
P600,000.00 to Ms. Sosa if he had the real intention to pay. In fact, Ms. Sosa wrote, through her counsel,
Atty. Mendoza asking him to settle his obligation because of his manifestation that he already had the
money.22

It is unclear to us why Atty. Mendoza ignored Ms. Sosa’s request for settlement after claiming that he
already had the needed funds. He was either lying he had the money, or had no intention of paying in the
first place. Atty. Mendoza was also not candid with the IBP Investigating Officer when he claimed he had
P600,000.00 and that he was ready to pay his obligation. What is clear is that his obligation remains
outstanding after all these years.

In Yuhico v. Atty. Gutierrez23 this Court sitting en banc held:

We have held that deliberate failure to pay just debts constitute gross misconduct, for which a
lawyer may be sanctioned with suspension from the practice of law. Lawyers are instruments for the
administration of justice and vanguards of our legal system. They are expected to maintain not only legal
proficiency, but also a high standard of morality, honesty, integrity and fair dealing so that the people’s faith
and confidence in the judicial system is ensured. They must, at all times, faithfully perform their
duties to society, to the bar, the courts and to their clients, which include prompt payment of
financial obligations. They must conduct themselves in a manner that reflects the values and norms of
the legal profession as embodied in the Code of Professional Responsibility. [Emphasis supplied.]

Other than his claim that he was disposing of real properties in order to settle his obligation,24 Atty.
Mendoza failed to explain why he failed to pay despite his admission of a just and valid loan. Whatever his
reasons or excuses may be, dire financial condition does not justify non-payment of debt, as we have held
in Yuhico. 25

We also reiterate that –

[A] lawyer can do honor to the legal profession by faithfully performing his duties to society, to the bar, to
the courts and to his clients. No moral qualification for bar membership is more important than
truthfulness and candor. To this end nothing should be done by any member of the legal fraternity which
might tend to lessen in any degree the confidence of the public in the fidelity, honesty and integrity of the
profession.

While it is true that there was no attorney-client relationship between respondent and complainant, it is
well-settled that an attorney may be removed or otherwise disciplined not only for malpractice and
dishonesty in the profession, but also for gross misconduct not connected with his professional
duties, showing him to be unfit for the office and unworthy of the privileges which his license and the law
confer upon him.26[Emphasis supplied and citations omitted.]

The facts and evidence in this case clearly establish Atty. Mendoza’s failure to live up to his duties as a
lawyer as dictated by the lawyer's oath, the Code of Professional Responsibility and the Canons of
Professional Ethics, thereby degrading not only his personal integrity but his profession as well.27

To reiterate, his failure to honor his just debt constitutes dishonest and deceitful conduct. This dishonest
conduct was compounded by Atty. Mendoza’s act of interjecting flimsy excuses that only strengthened the
conclusion that he refused to pay a valid and just debt.28

While we agree with the punishment meted out by the IBP, we differ with its recommendation
ordering Atty. Mendoza to pay the amount of the loan plus legal interest.

We take exception to the IBP’s order to pay only because the case before us is solely an administrative
complaint for disbarment and is not a civil action for collection of a sum of money. The quantum of
evidence in these two types of cases alone deters us from agreeing with the IBP’s order to pay; the
administrative complaint before us only requires substantial evidence to justify a finding of liability, while a
civil action requires greater evidentiary standard of preponderance of evidence.

A proceeding for suspension or disbarment is not a civil action where the complainant is a plaintiff and the
respondent lawyer is a defendant. Disciplinary proceedings involve no private interest and afford no
redress for private grievance. They are undertaken and prosecuted solely for the public welfare. 29

The purpose of disbarment is mainly to determine the fitness of a lawyer to continue acting as an officer of
the court and as participant in the dispensation of justice.30 The purpose of disbarment is to protect the
courts and the public from the misconduct of the officers of the court and to ensure the administration of
justice by requiring that those who exercise this important function shall be competent, honorable and
trustworthy men in whom courts and clients may repose confidence.31

We are aware that jurisprudence has allowed a complainant in a disbarment case to collect an outstanding
debt from a lawyer.32 However, in the recent case of Heenan v. Atty. Espejo,33 this Court sitting en
banc did not agree with the IBP’s recommendation to order the erring lawyer to return the money he
borrowed from the complainant. We said in this case:

In disciplinary proceedings against lawyers, the only issue is whether the officer of the court is still fit to be
allowed to continue as a member of the Bar. Our only concern is the determination of respondent’s
administrative liability. Our findings have no material bearing on other judicial action which the
parties may choose to file against each other. Furthermore, disciplinary proceedings against
lawyers do not involve a trial of an action, but rather investigations by the Court into the conduct
of one of its officers. The only question for determination in these proceedings is whether or not the
attorney is still fit to be allowed to continue as a member of the Bar. Thus, this Court cannot rule on the
issue of the amount of money that should be returned to the complainant.34 [Emphasis supplied and
citations omitted.]

We note that as in the facts of the present case, the respondent-lawyer in the Heenan case also did not
deny the validity of her loan nor did she proffer any reason for issuing unfunded checks.

As a final note, we understand the frustration of, and sympathize with Ms. Sosa in her present
situation. However, because the matter before us is not a civil action for the collection money, we cannot
order Atty. Mendoza to pay his outstanding loan. We can only clarify that our ruling in this case is without
prejudice to any future civil or criminal action that Ms. Sosa, if she so decides, may file against Atty.
Mendoza in the future. Our action likewise is without prejudice to any action we may take that is not based
on the violation of the Code of Professional Responsibility.

WHEREFORE, premises considered, ATTY. MANUEL V. MENDOZA is SUSPENDED from the practice of
law for a period of one (1) year for violation of Rule 1.01 of the Code of Professional Responsibility with
a STERN WARNING that commission of the same or similar offense in the future will result in the
imposition of a more severe penalty.

SO ORDERED.
January 26, 2016

A.C. No. 10952

ENGEL PAUL ACA, Complainant,


vs.
ATTY. RONALDO P. SALVADO, Respondent.

DECISION

PER CURIAM:

This refers to the October 11, 2014 Resolution1 of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines Board of
Governors (IBP-BOG) which adopted and approved with modification the Report and
Recommendation2 of the Investigating Commissioner suspending Atty. Ronaldo P. Salvado (Atty.
Salvado) from the practice of law.

The Complaint:

On May 30, 2012, Engel Paul Aca filed an administrative complaint3 for disbarment against Atty.
Salvado for violation of Canon 1, Rule 1.014 and Canon 7, Rule 7.035 of the Code of Professional
Responsibility (CPR).

Complainant alleged, among others, that sometime in 2010, he met Atty. Salvado through Atty.
Samuel Divina (Atty. Divina), his childhood friend; that Atty. Salvado introduced himself as a lawyer
and a businessman engaged in several businesses including but not limited to the lending business;
that on the same occasion, Atty. Salvado enticed the complainant to invest in his business with a
guarantee that he would be given a high interest rate of 5% to 6% every month; and that he was
assured of a profitable investment due by Atty. Salvado as the latter had various clients and
investors.

Because of these representations coupled by the assurance of Atty. Salvado that he would not place
his reputation as a lawyer on the line, complainant made an initial investment in his business. This
initial investment yielded an amount corresponding to the principal plus the promised interest. On
various dates from 2010 to 2011, complainant claimed that he was again induced by Atty. Salvado to
invest with promises of high rates of return.

As consideration for these investments, Atty. Salvado issued several post-dated checks in the total
amount of P6,107,000.00, representing the principal amount plus interests. All checks were drawn
from PSBank Account number 040331-00087-9, fully described as follows:

Check Number Date Issued Amount


0060144 August 14, 2011 P657 ,000.00

0060147 September 29, 2011 P 530,000.00


0060190 September 29, 2011 P60,000.00

0060194 October 16, 2011 P90,000.00


0060206 October 17, 2011 P2, 120,000.00
0060191 October 29, 2011 P1,060,000.00
0060195 November 16, 2011 P1,590,000.00

Upon presentment, however, complainant was shocked to learn that the aforementioned checks
were dishonored as these were drawn from insufficient funds or a closed account.

Complainant made several verbal and written demands upon Atty. Salvado, who at first, openly
communicated with him, assuring him that he would not abscond from his obligations and that he
was just having difficulty liquidating his assets and collecting from his own creditors. Complainant
was even informed by Atty. Salvado that he owned real properties that could serve as payment for
his obligations. As time went by, however, Atty. Salvado began to avoid complainant's calls and text
messages. Attempts to meet up with him through common friends also proved futile. This prompted
complainant to refer the matter to his lawyer Atty. Divina, for appropriate legal action.

On December 26, 2011, Atty. Divina personally served the Notice of Dishonor on Atty. Salvado,
directing him to settle his total obligation in the amount of P747,000.00, corresponding to the cash
value of the first two (2) PSBank checks, within seven (7) days from receipt of the said
notice.6 Nevertheless, Atty. Salvado refused to receive the said notice when Atty. Divina's
messenger attempted to serve it on him.

Sometime in April 2012, complainant yet again engaged the services of Atty. Divina, who, with his
filing clerk and the complainant's family, went to Atty. Salvado's house to personally serve the
demand letter. A certain "Mark" who opened the gate told the filing clerk that Atty. Salvado was no
longer residing there and had been staying in the province already.

As they were about to leave, a red vehicle arrived bearing Atty. Salvado. Complainant quickly
alighted from his vehicle and confronted him as he was about to enter the gate of the house.
Obviously startled, Atty. Salvado told him that he had not forgotten his debt and invited complainant
to enter the house so they could talk. Complainant refused the invitation and instead told Atty.
Salvado that they should talk inside his vehicle where his companions were.

During this conversation, Atty. Salvado assured complainant that he was working on "something" to
pay his obligations. He still refused to personally receive or, at the least, read the demand letter.

Despite his promises, Atty. Salvado failed to settle his obligations.

For complainant, Atty. Salvado's act of issuing worthless checks not only constituted a violation
of Batas Pambansa Bilang 22 (B.P. 22) or the "Anti-Bouncing Checks Law," but also reflected his
depraved character as a lawyer. Atty. Salvado not only refused to comply with his obligation, but
also used his knowledge of the law to evade criminal prosecution. He had obviously instructed his
household staff to lie as to his whereabouts and to reject any correspondence sent to him. This
resort to deceitful ways showed that Atty. Salvado was not fit to remain as a member of the Bar.

The Defense of the Respondent

On July 24, 2012, Atty. Salvado filed his Answer,7 denying that he told complainant that he had
previously entered into various government contracts and that he was previously engaged in some
other businesses prior to engaging in the lending and rediscounting business. Atty. Salvado asserted
that he never enticed complainant to invest in his business, but it was Atty. Divina's earnings of good
interest that attracted him into making an investment. He further stated that during their initial
meeting, it was complainant who inquired if he still needed additional investments; that it was Atty.
Divina who assured complainant of high returns; and that complainant was fully aware that the
money invested in his businesses constituted a loan to his clients and/or borrowers. Thus, from time
to time, the return of investment and accrued interest when due – as reflected in the maturity dates
of the checks issued to complainant- could be delayed, whenever Atty. Salvado' s clients requested
for an extension or renewal of their respective loans. In other words, the checks he issued were
merely intended as security or evidence of investment.

Atty. Salvado also claimed that, in the past, there were instances when he would request
complainant not to deposit a check knowing that it was not backed up by sufficient funds. This
arrangement had worked until the dishonor of the checks, for which he readily offered his house and
lot located in Marikina City as collateral.

The Reply of Complainant

On August 30, 2012, complainant filed his Reply,8 pointing out that Atty. Salvado did not deny
receiving money from him by way of investment. Thus, he must be deemed to have admitted that he
had issued several postdated checks which were eventually dishonored. Atty. Salvado 's claim that it
was complainant himself who prodded him about making investments must be brushed aside for
being self-serving and baseless. Assuming arguendo, that complainant indeed made offers of
investment, Atty. Salvado should have easily refused knowing fully well that he could not fund the
checks that he would be issuing when they become due. If it were true that the checks were issued
for complainant's security, Atty. Salvado could have drafted a document evidencing such agreement.
His failure to present such document, if one existed at all, only proved that the subject checks were
issued as payment for complainant's investment.9

Complainant also clarified that his complaint against Atty. Salvado was never meant to harass him.
Despite the dishonor of the checks, he still tried to settle the dispute with Atty. Salvado who left him
with no choice after he refused to communicate with him properly.

Thereafter, the parties were required to file their respective mandatory conference briefs and
position papers. Atty. Salvado insisted that he had acted in all honesty and good faith in his
1âw phi 1

dealings with the complainant. He also emphasized that the title to his house and lot in Greenheights
Subdivision, Marikina City, had been transferred in the name of complainant after he executed a
deed of sale as an expression of his "desire and willingness to settle whatever is due to the
complainant."10

Report and Recommendation of Investigating Commissioner

On January 2, 2014, the Investigating Commissioner recommended that Atty. Salvado be meted a
penalty of suspension from the practice of law for six ( 6) months for engaging in a conduct that
adversely reflects on his fitness to practice law and for behaving in a scandalous manner to the
discredit of the legal profession. Atty. Salvado's act of issuing checks without sufficient funds to
cover the same constituted willful dishonesty and immoral conduct which undermine the public
confidence in the legal profession.

The IBP-BOG Resolution

On October 11, 2014, the IBP-BOG adopted and approved the recommendation with modification as
to the period of suspension. The IBP-BOG increased the period of Atty. Salvado's suspension from
six (6) months to two (2) years.
Neither a motion for reconsideration before the IBP-BOG nor a petition for review before this Court
was filed. Nonetheless, the IBP elevated to this Court the entire records of the case for appropriate
action with the IBP Resolution being merely recommendatory and, therefore, would not attain finality,
pursuant to par. (b), Section 12, Rule 139-B of the Rules of Court.11

The Court's Ruling

The parties gave conflicting versions of the controversy. Complainant, claimed to have been lured by
Atty. Salvado into investing in his businesses with the promise of yielding high interests, which he
believed because he was a lawyer who was expected to protect his public image at all times. Atty.
Salvado, on the other hand, denied having enticed the complainant, whom he claimed had invested
by virtue of his own desire to gain profits. He insisted that the checks that he issued in favor of
complainant were in the form of security or evidence of investment. It followed, according to Atty.
Salvado, that he must be considered to have never ensured the payment of the checks upon
maturity. Atty. Salvado strongly added that the dishonor of the subject checks was "purely a result of
his gullibility and inadvertence, with the unfortunate result that he himself was a victim of failed
lending transactions xxx."12

The Court sustains the findings of the IBP-BOG and adopts its recommendation in part.

First. A perusal of the records reveals that complainant's version deserves credence, not only due to
the unambiguous manner by which the narrative of events was laid down, but also by the coherent
reasoning the narrative has employed. The public is, indeed, inclined to rely on representations
made by lawyers. As a man of law, a lawyer is necessarily a leader of the community, looked up to
as a model citizen.13 A man, learned in the law like Atty. Salvado, is expected to make truthful
representations when dealing with persons, clients or otherwise. For the Court, and as the IBP-BOG
had observed, complainant's being beguiled to part with his money and believe Atty. Salvado as a
lawyer and businessman was typical human behavior worthy of belief. The Court finds it hard to
believe that a person like the complainant would not find the profession of the person on whose
businesses he would invest as important to consider. Simply put, Atty. Salvado's stature as a
member of the Bar had, in one way or another, influenced complainant's decision to invest.

Second. It must be pointed out that the denials proffered by Atty. Salvado cannot belie the dishonor
of the checks. His strained explanation that the checks were mere securities cannot be
countenanced. Of all people, lawyers are expected to fully comprehend the legal import of bouncing
checks. In Lozano v. Martinez,14 the Court ruled that the gravamen of the offense punished
by B.P. 22 is the act of making and issuing a worthless check; that is, a check that is dishonored
upon its presentation for payment. The thrust of the law is to prohibit, under pain of penal sanctions,
the making and circulation of worthless checks. Because of its deleterious effects on the public
interest, the practice is proscribed by the law.

Hence, the excuse of "gullibility and inadvertence" deserves scant consideration. Surely, Atty.
Salvado is aware that promoting obedience to the Constitution and the laws of the land is the
primary obligation of lawyers. When he issued the worthless checks, he discredited the legal
profession and created the public impression that laws were mere tools of convenience that could be
used, bended and abused to satisfy personal whims and desires. In Lao v. Medel,15 the Court wrote
that the issuance of worthless checks constituted gross misconduct, and put the erring lawyer's
moral character in serious doubt, though it was not related to his professional duties as a member of
the Bar. Covered by this dictum is Atty. Salvado's business relationship with complainant. His
issuance of the subject checks display his doubtful fitness as an officer of the court. Clearly, he
violated Rule 1.01 and Rule 7.03 of the CPR.
Third. Parenthetically, the Court cannot overlook Atty. Salvado's deceiving attempts to evade
payment of his obligations. Instead of displaying a committed attitude to his creditor, Atty. Salvado
1âwphi1

refused to answer complainant's demands. He even tried to make the complainant believe that he
was no longer residing at his given address. These acts demonstrate lack of moral character to
satisfy the responsibilities and duties imposed on lawyers as professionals and as officers of the
court. The subsequent offers he had made and the eventual sale of his properties to the
complainant, unfortunately cannot overturn his acts unbecoming of a member of the Bar.

Fourth. The Court need not elaborate on the correctness of the Investigating Commissioner's
reliance on jurisprudence stating that administrative cases against lawyers belong to a class of their
own and may proceed independently of civil and criminal cases, including violations of B.P. 22.

Accordingly, the only issue in disciplinary proceedings against lawyers is the respondent's fitness to
remain as a member of the Bar. The Court's findings have no material bearing on other judicial
actions which the parties may choose to file against each other.16

All told, the Court finds that Atty. Salvado's reprehensible conduct warrants a penalty commensurate
to his violation of the CPR and the Lawyer's Oath.

WHEREFORE, the Court finds Atty. Ronaldo P. Salvado GUILTY of violating Rule 1.01, Canon 1
and Rule 7 .03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility. Accordingly, the Court SUSPENDS him
from the practice of law for a period of two (2) years.

Let copies of this decision be furnished the Office of the Bar Confidant, the Integrated Bar of the
Philippines, and all courts all over the country. Let a copy of this decision be attached to the personal
records of the respondent.

SO ORDERED.
A.C. No. 10605, February 17, 2016

BIENVENIDO T. CANLAPAN, Complainant, v. ATTY. WILLIAM B. BALAYO, Respondent.

RESOLUTION

LEONEN, J.:

Before this court is a verified Complaint1 filed by Bienvenido T. Canlapan, a retired Scout Executive2 of the
Boy Scout of the Philippines - Mayon Albay Council, against Atty. William B. Balayo for violation of Canon 1,
Rules 1.01 and 1.03, and Canon 12, Rule 12.04 of the Code of Professional Responsibility:
chanRoble svirtual Lawlib ra ry

Rule 1.01. - A lawyer shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct.

....

Rule 1.03 - A lawyer shall not, for any corrupt motive or interest, encourage any suit or proceeding or delay
any man's cause.

....

Rule 12.04 - A lawyer shall not unduly delay a case, impede the execution of a judgment or misuse court
processes.
Complainant avers that at the mandatory conference held on June 26, 2014 at 10 a.m., before Executive
Labor Arbiter Jose C. Del Valle, Jr., in connection with a money claim filed by complainant against the Boy
Scouts of the Philippines - Mayon Albay Council3 (Mayon Council), respondent arrogantly threw his arm
toward the complainant while menacingly saying: "Maski sampulo pang abogado darhon mo, dai mo makua
ang gusto mo!" ("Even if you bring ten lawyers here, you will not get what you want!")4

Respondent allegedly made this remark when complainant approached the Mayon Council representatives
and told them that complainant, not having been informed beforehand that Ervin O. Fajut (Fajut), Chair of
the Mayon Council would bring a lawyer, was placed at a disadvantaged position because he had none.5

Complainant was allegedly taken aback and felt humiliated by respondent's actuation, which showed a
blatant disrespect for the elderly considering that respondent was much younger.6 The incident was
witnessed by Higino M. Mata (Mata), First Vice Chair of the Mayon Council, who executed an Affidavit,7and
employees of the National Labor Relations Commission, including the security guard.8

Complainant further avers that he expected the conference to be brief as it was called merely for him to
confirm9 the parties' amicable settlement as evidenced by the June 7, 2014 Memorandum
Agreement,10where the Mayon Council agreed to pay complainant his accrued leave benefits in the total
amount of P487,000.00 on an installment basis. However, it became adversarial when Fajut reneged on the
agreement allegedly due to respondent's influence.11

Complainant faults respondent for impeding the enforcement of the signed compromise agreement dated
June 7, 2014.12 This was allegedly in violation of a lawyer's duty to assist in the speedy and efficient
administration of justice.13

Complainant never imagined that, in his twilight years and in his quest for justice, he would be publicly
humiliated by a young lawyer actively participating in the conference, who was neither a party to the labor
case nor was authorized by the Mayon Council to appear on its behalf.14

In his Comment15 dated December 1, 2014, respondent avers that he has assisted Fajut in several cases. In
addition, Fajut also consulted respondent on the legality of ordinances and resolutions submitted to his office
as a member of the Sangguniang Bayan of Malinao, Albay. When Fajut was elected Chair of the Mayon
Council, he asked respondent to help him on legal matters concerning his new role.16

Upon Fajut's invitation, respondent attended the Executive Meeting of the Mayon Council on June 7,
2014.17 In that meeting, respondent saw how the Executive Committee was cajoled by Mata, First Vice Chair
of the Mayon Council, into agreeing to the Memorandum of Agreement without discussing its legality. The
Agreement was presented to the Executive Committee prepared and signed by complainant and by Jose
Bonto, former acting Chairperson of the Mayon Council.18

Respondent avers that after the Executive Meeting, a former employee of the Mayon Council informed Fajut
that the Agreement was illegal because its assertion that complainant never availed himself of sick leaves
for 39 years was not true.19

Thus, on June 10, 2014, Fajut allegedly consulted respondent at his office on the legality of the
Memorandum of Agreement dated June 7, 2014. Respondent, being himself a boy scout once, volunteered
to render free legal assistance to Fajut.20 After interviewing Fajut and examining the documents he brought,
respondent rendered his written legal opinion21 dated June 10, 2014.

Respondent further avers that on June 26, 2014, respondent happened to be at the Labor Arbiter's Office to
attend to three cases. While there, Fajut approached and asked respondent to make a special appearance
for him as it appeared that the Memorandum of Agreement was notarized by Notary Public Enrico Voltaire
Rivera despite Fajut's refusal to appear before the notary public. Fajut also said that he had been actively
seeking the cancellation of the Agreement.22

Respondent avers that the Acknowledgement portion23 of the Memorandum of Agreement showed that only
complainant and the witnesses appeared before the notary public and acknowledged their signatures on the
Agreement. There was no mention of Fajut, who was the signatory on behalf of the May on Council. Thus, to
prevent the perpetration of any fraud against the Mayon Council and/or Fajut, respondent agreed to make a
special appearance for the limited purpose of protesting the defective notarization of the Memorandum of
Agreement.24

During the hearing, complainant allegedly became visibly angry and raised his voice against respondent
because of the legal opinion that he wrote. Respondent had no choice but to defend his legal opinion.
Nonetheless, he raised as an issue the fact of the improper notarization of the Memorandum of
Agreement.25 cralaw red

At that point, allegedly to diffuse the tension, the Labor Arbiter asked to talk to the parties individually.
While outside the room, complainant pestered respondent and repeatedly exclaimed that it was unfair for
Fajut to bring a lawyer while complainant had none.26

Respondent avers that he replied in a matter-of-fact tone: "Maski pira pang abogado ang darahon mo,
pareho man sana ang resulta kaiyan" ("You can bring as many lawyers as you want, the result will be the
same").27cralawred

Respondent further states that he did not flail his hands nor do anything threatening, menacing,
defamatory, or disrespectful towards complainant. He did not even raise his voice. Respondent was not
arrogant in his dealings with complainant. He only answered back because he was unduly provoked by
complainant's persistent and uncalled-for statements against him and his client, Fajut.28

Furthermore, to respondent's mind, whether complainant had a lawyer or not, the results would be the
same: the Memorandum of Agreement would not be approved by the Labor Arbiter because of the defective
notarization. Indeed, the Labor Arbiter required the parties to submit their position papers.29

On June 30, 2014, Fajut allegedly requested respondent to attend the Executive Committee meeting of the
May on Council and to explain the legal opinion that he wrote. During the meeting, respondent allegedly
answered questions from the members of the Executive Committee.30

Respondent avers that in all of these instances, he waived his fees as he wanted to donate his services to
the Boy Scouts. Furthermore, he acted only upon the request of Fajut, and not because of any corrupt
motive or interest.31

Attached to the Comment is the Supporting Affidavit32 executed by Fajut on December 1, 2014,
corroborating respondent's allegations.

We find respondent guilty of conduct unbecoming of a lawyer and officer of the court for his disrespectful
utterances against an elderly. However, we dismiss the other charges imputed against him for lack of merit.

I
Complainant alleges that respondent's act of publicly berating and throwing his arm toward him, a senior
citizen, while menacingly saying, "Maski sampulo pang abogado darahon mo, dai mo makua ang gusto
mo!"33 is indicative of immoral conduct, disrespect for elders, and a total loss of moral fiber of the person.

Respondent denies that he flailed his hands or did anything menacing, antagonistic, or disrespectful towards
complainant. However, he admits that he uttered in a matter-of-fact tone, "Maski pira pang abogado ang
darahon mo, pareho man sana ang resulta kaiyan,"34 because of complainant's uncalled-for statements
against him and Fajut. This was corroborated by Fajut in his Affidavit.

The manner in which the remark was made is inconclusive in view of the conflicting testimonies of the
witnesses. Nonetheless, we find rude and disrespectful the utterances made by respondent against
complainant, who was already 70 years old at that time. The tenor of the message cannot t>e taken lightly.
It was meant to annoy and humiliate complainant. Not only was it ill-mannered; it was also unbecoming of a
lawyer, considering that he did it to an elderly and in front of co-litigants and National Labor Relations
Commission employees.

Elderly people have, in our society, occupied a revered stature. We teach our children to treat elders with
utmost respect. A special week is dedicated to the elderly every year to give them recognition and honor in
order to raise the people's level of awareness of the important role senior citizens play in society.35

Under the 1987 Constitution, it is the duty of the family and the state to care for its elderly
members.36Pursuant to this provision and the constitutional principles on social justice37 and priority of the
elderly to an integrated and comprehensive health delivery system,38 Republic Act No. 7432,39 otherwise
known as the Senior Citizens Act, was passed into law on April 23, 1992. Republic Act No. 7432, as
amended by Republic Act No. 9257,40 grants certain privileges and benefits to senior citizens in accordance
with the following declared policies:
chanRoble svirtual Lawlib ra ry

(a) To motivate and encourage the senior citizens to contribute to nation


building;

(b) To encourage their families and the communities they live with to
reaffirm the valued Filipino tradition of caring for the senior citizens;

(c) To give full support to the improvement of the total well-being of the
elderly and their full participation in society considering that senior
citizens are integral part of Philippine society;

(d) To recognize the rights of senior citizens to take their proper place in
society. This must be the concern of the family, community, and
government;

(e) To provide a comprehensive health care and rehabilitation system for


disabled senior citizens to foster their capacity to attain a more
meaningful and productive ageing; and

(f) To recognize the important role of the private sector in the


improvement of the welfare of senior citizens and to actively seek their
partnership.
Republic Act No. 9994, otherwise known as the Expanded Senior Citizen Act of 2010, further amended the
policies and objectives, as follows:
chanRoble svirtual Lawlib ra ry

(a) To recognize the rights of senior citizens to take their proper place in
society and make it a concern of the family, community, and
government;

(b) To give full support to the improvement of the total well-being of the
elderly and their full participation in society, considering that senior
citizens are integral part of Philippine society;

(c) To motivate and encourage the senior citizens to contribute to nation


building;

(d) To encourage their families and the communities they live with to
reaffirm the valued Filipino tradition of caring for the senior citizens;

(e) To provide a comprehensive health care and rehabilitation system for


disabled senior citizens to foster their capacity to attain a more
meaningful and productive ageing; and

(f) To recognize the important role of the private sector in the


improvement of the welfare of senior citizens and to actively seek their
partnership.
As servants of the law, lawyers must be model citizens and set the example of obedience to law. The
practice of law is a privilege bestowed on lawyers who meet high standards of legal proficiency and
morality.41 Canon 1 of the Code of Professional Responsibility expresses the lawyer's fundamental duty to
"uphold the Constitution, obey the laws of the land[,] and promote respect for law[.]" Respondent's display
of improper attitude and arrogance toward an elderly constitute conduct unbecoming of a member of the
legal profession and cannot be tolerated by this court.

Respondent also violated Canon 7 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, which enjoins lawyers to uphold
the dignity and integrity of the legal profession at all times. Rule 7.03 provides:
chanRoble svirtual Lawlib ra ry

Rule 7.03 — A lawyer shall not engage in conduct that adversely reflect on his fitness to practice law, nor
shall he, whether in public or private life behave in scandalous manner to the discredit of the legal
profession.
Furthermore, Rule 8.01 of Canon 8 requires a lawyer to employ respectful and restrained language in
keeping with the dignity of the legal profession.42 Although the remark was allegedly made in response to
undue provocation and pestering on the part of complainant, respondent should have exercised restraint.
Notwithstanding his personal opinion on the merits of complainant's claims (in light of the defective
notarization in the Memorandum of Agreement dated June 7, 2014), it was improper for respondent to state
that even if complainant brought 10 (or as many) lawyers as he wanted, he would not prosper in his claims
against the Mayon Council. Careless remarks such as this tend to create and promote distrust in the
administration of justice, undermine the people's confidence in the legal profession, and erode public respect
for it. "Things done cannot be undone and words uttered cannot be taken back."43

I11 feelings between litigants may exist, but they should not be allowed to influence counsels in their
conduct and demeanor towards each other or towards suitors in the case. As officers of the court and
members of the bar, lawyers are expected to be always above reproach.44 They cannot indulge in offensive
personalities. They should always be temperate, patient, and courteous both in speech and conduct, notl
only towards the court but also towards adverse parties and witnesses.45

In Santiago v. Oca:46
The Court may suspend or disbar a lawyer for "any misconduct showing any fault or deficiency in his moral
character, honesty, probity or good demeanor," whether in his professional or private life because "good
character is an essential qualification for the admission to the practice of law and for the continuance of such
privilege."

Thus, it has been ruled:


chanRoble svirtual Lawlib ra ry

To note, "the possession of good moral character is both a condition precedent and a continuing requirement
to warrant admission to the Bar and to retain membership in the legal profession." This proceeds from the
lawyer's duty to observe the highest degree of morality in order to safeguard the Bar's integrity.
Consequently, any errant behavior on the part of a, lawyer, be it in the lawyer's public or private activities,
which tends to show deficiency in moral character, honesty, probity or good demeanor, is sufficient to
warrant suspension or disbarment.47 ChanRobles Vi rtua lawlib rary

In Sangalang v. Intermediate Appellate Court,48 the respondent was suspended for three (3) months for his
insulting language in his motion for reconsideration amounting to disrespect toward this court. In Torres v.
Javier,49 the respondent was suspended for one (1) month for employing offensive and improper language in
his pleadings.

In this case, we find suspension from the practice of law for one (1) month a reasonable sanction for
respondent's misconduct.

II

With respect to the other charges against respondent, we find them to have not been adequately proven.

Complainant avers that it was immoral and gross misconduct on the part of respondent, who was not a
party to the case, to prevent the due implementation of the Memorandum of Agreement dated June 7, 2014.
Complainant further points to the following statements of respondent as shown in the Minutes of the
Executive Committee Meeting dated June 30, 2014.50
Mr. Balayo, the counsel, averred that while the case may not be brought before the Ombudsman, a case
may arise, before any court, criminally, to which his client claims protection from and further averred that
the Council may be held liable, more those who voted in favor of the agreement.

....

Mr. Balayo again stressed the situation of "doing things right" and "doing the right thing." That while the
board wanted to do what is right, Mr. Canlapan however, was not able to bring his claim timely, and
therefore; his right to do so is already forfeited and waived under the Labor Code.51 ChanRoblesVi rtualaw lib rary

Complainant argues that the foregoing actuations of respondent violate Canon 12, Rule 12.04, which
demands that lawyers should not "unduly delay a case, impede the execution of judgment or misuse ¦court
processes." He adds that respondent should have encouraged the peaceful resolution of the labor case
considering that the parties had already signed the compromise agreement.

We find nothing improper in the actions and statements of respondent. What respondent did was a mere
honest effort to protect the interest of his client, the Chair of the Boy Scouts of trie Philippines - Mayon
Albay Council. The Boy Scouts of the Philippines is a public corporation or government instrumentality;
hence, the money to be paid to complainant is public money and subject to audit by the Commission on
Audit.52 Hence, if the Memorandum of Agreement causes any undue injury to any party, including the
government, the parties to the Agreement can be brought to court on administrative and/or criminal
charges.

It was Fajut who went to respondent's office to seek legal advice after he was informed by a former Mayon
Council employee that the Agreement was invalid. Respondent rendered his legal opinion dated June 10,
2014 in response to a query posed by Fajut pertaining to the legality of the payment of accrued sick leave
benefits to complainjant. In his opinion, respondent advised Fajut to retrieve the Compromise Agreement
that he improvidently signed, to cause its cancellation, or to move for its disapproval before the Labor
Arbiter on the following grounds: (1) complainant failed to preserit evidence (such as his Daily Time Record)
to prove his factual claim that he never utilized his sick leave and vacation leave for 39 years; and (2) even
assuming that complainant's claim that he never availed himself of sick leaves was factually true, there was
no basis to approve a claim that goes back 39 years.

Respondent further explained that the Boy Scout of the Philippines Employees Manual showed that
commutation of unused sick leaves must be done at the end of each year. Necessarily, the claim of
commutation to cash of unused sick leaves for years 1975 to 2010 was already barred by Article 29153 of
the Labor Code. Respondent advised that at most, complainant could only claim benefits for a period of
three (3) years.

Respondent appeared in the proceedings before the Labor Arbiter on behalf of Fajut and only for the very
limited purpose of pointing out to the Labor Arbiter the defect in the notarization of the Memorandum of
Agreement. It was Fajut who approached respondent and asked him to make a special appearance on his
behalf for the sole reason that complainant cjiose to present to the Labor Arbiter a defectively notarized
Agreement, one which a signatory thereof actively tried to have cancelled in view of his doubts as to its
validity.

Moreover, respondent's participation and statements in the June 30, 2014 Executive Committee meeting
cannot be characterized as malicious and unprofessional. The issue of the criminal liability of those who
voted in favor of the Agreement arose because of trie threats of criminal cases to be filed by a certain Mr.
Redillas and a certain Mr. Navarra, both former officers of the Mayon Council.54 It is clear that respondent
was merely expressing his legal opinion and not advocating any course of action.

We hold that the foregoing acts do not amount to obstruction of the administration of justice. It is the right
qf every lawyer, without fear or favor, to give proper advice to those seeking relief. Respondent's
assertiveness in espousing with candor his client's cause was: merely in accord with his duty to act in the
best interests of his client.55

WHEREFORE, this court finds Atty. William B. Balayo guilty of conduct unbecoming of a lawyer and
violating Canon 1, Canon 7, Rule 7.03, and Canon 8, Rule 8.01 of the Code of Professional Responsibility. He
is hereby SUSPENDED from the practice of law for one (1) month, and WARNED that commission of the
same or similar acts in the future will be dealt with more severely.

SO ORDERED. cralawlawlibra ry
A.C. No. 5816

DR. ELMAR 0. PEREZ, Complainant,


vs.
ATTY. TRISTAN A. CATINDIG and ATTY. KAREN E. BAYDO, Respondents.

DECISION

PER CURIAM:

Before the Court is an administrative complaint1 for disbarment filed by Dr. Elmar 0. Perez (Dr.
Perez) with the Office of the Bar Confidant on August 27, 2002 against Atty. Tristan A. Catindig
(Atty. Catindig) and Atty. Karen E. Baydo (Atty. Baydo) (respondents) for gross immorality and
violation of the Code of Professional Responsibility.

The Facts

In her complaint, Dr. Perez alleged that she and Atty. Catindig had been friends since the mid-
1960’s when they were both students at the University of the Philippines, but they lost touch after
their graduation. Sometime in 1983, the paths of Atty. Catindig and Dr. Perez again crossed. It was
at that time that Atty. Catindig started to court Dr. Perez.2

Atty. Catindig admitted to Dr. Perez that he was already wed to Lily Corazon Gomez (Gomez),
having married the latter on May 18, 1968 at the Central Methodist Church in Ermita, Manila, which
was followed by a Catholic wedding at the Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes in Quezon City.3 Atty.
Catindig however claimed that he only married Gomez because he got her pregnant; that he was
afraid that Gomez would make a scandal out of her pregnancy should he refuse to marry her, which
could have jeopardized his scholarship in the Harvard Law School.4

Atty. Catindig told Dr. Perez that he was in the process of obtaining a divorce in a foreign country to
dissolve his marriage to Gomez, and that he would eventually marry her once the divorce had been
decreed. Consequently, sometime in 1984, Atty. Catindig and Gomez obtained a divorce decree
from the Dominican Republic. Dr. Perez claimed that Atty. Catindig assured her that the said divorce
decree was lawful and valid and that there was no longer any impediment to their marriage.5

Thus, on July 14, 1984, Atty. Catindig married Dr. Perez in the State of Virginia in the United States
of America (USA). Their union was blessed with a child whom they named Tristan Jegar Josef
Frederic.6

Years later, Dr. Perez came to know that her marriage to Atty. Catindig is a nullity since the divorce
decree that was obtained from the Dominican Republic by the latter and Gomez is not recognized by
Philippine laws. When she confronted Atty. Catindig about it, the latter allegedly assured Dr. Perez
that he would legalize their union once he obtains a declaration of nullity of his marriage to Gomez
under the laws of the Philippines. He also promised to legally adopt their son.7

Sometime in 1997, Dr. Perez reminded Atty. Catindig of his promise to legalize their union by filing a
petition to nullify his marriage to Gomez. Atty. Catindig told her that he would still have to get the
consent of Gomez to the said petition.8

Sometime in 2001, Dr. Perez alleged that she received an anonymous letter9 in the mail informing
her of Atty. Catindig’s scandalous affair with Atty. Baydo, and that sometime later, she came upon a
love letter10 written and signed by Atty. Catindig for Atty. Baydo dated April 25, 2001. In the said
letter, Atty. Catindig professed his love to Atty. Baydo, promising to marry her once his "impediment
is removed." Apparently, five months into their relationship, Atty. Baydo requested Atty. Catindig to
put a halt to their affair until such time that he is able to obtain the annulment of his marriage. On
August 13, 2001, Atty. Catindig filed a petition to declare the nullity of his marriage to Gomez.11

On October 31, 2001, Atty. Catindig abandoned Dr. Perez and their son; he moved to an upscale
condominium in Salcedo Village, Makati City where Atty. Baydo was frequently seen.12

In a Resolution13 dated October 9, 2002, the Court directed the respondents to file their respective
comments, which they separately did on November 25, 2002.14

Atty. Catindig, in his Comment,15 admitted that he married Gomez on May 18, 1968. He claimed,
however, that immediately after the wedding, Gomez showed signs that she was incapable of
complying with her marital obligations, as she had serious intimacy problems; and that while their
union was blessed with four children, their relationship simply deteriorated.

Eventually, their irreconcilable differences led to their de facto separation in 1984. They then
consulted Atty. Wilhelmina Joven (Atty. Joven), a mutual friend, on how the agreement to separate
and live apart could be implemented. Atty. Joven suggested that the couple adopt a property regime
of complete separation of property. She likewise advised the couple to obtain a divorce decree from
the Dominican Republic for whatever value it may have and comfort it may provide them.16

Thus, on April 27, 1984, Atty. Catindig and Gomez each executed a Special Power of Attorney
addressed to a Judge of the First Civil Court of San Cristobal, Dominican Republic, appointing an
attorney-in-fact to institute a divorce action under its laws. Atty. Catindig likewise admitted that a
divorce by mutual consent was ratified by the Dominican Republic court on June 12, 1984. Further,
Atty. Catindig and Gomez filed a Joint Petition for Dissolution of Conjugal Partnership before the
Regional Trial Court of Makati City, Branch 133, which was granted on June 23, 1984.17

Atty. Catindig claimed that Dr. Perez knew of the foregoing, including the fact that the divorce
decreed by the Dominican Republic court does not have any effect in the Philippines.
Notwithstanding that she knew that the marriage of Atty. Catindig and Gomez still subsisted, Dr.
Perez demanded that Atty. Catindig marry her. Thus, Atty. Catindig married Dr. Perez in July 1984 in
the USA.18

Atty. Catindig claimed that Dr. Perez knew that their marriage was not valid since his previous
marriage to Gomez was still subsisting, and that he only married Dr. Perez because he loved her
and that he was afraid of losing her if he did not. He merely desired to lend a modicum of legitimacy
to their relationship.19

Atty. Catindig claimed that his relationship with Dr. Perez turned sour. Eventually, he left their home
in October 2001 to prevent any acrimony from developing.20

He denied that Atty. Baydo was the reason that he left Dr. Perez, claiming that his relationship with
Dr. Perez started to fall apart as early as 1997. He asserted that Atty. Baydo joined his law firm only
in September 1999; and that while he was attracted to her, Atty. Baydo did not reciprocate and in
fact rejected him. He likewise pointed out that Atty. Baydo resigned from his firm in January 2001.21

For her part, Atty. Baydo denied that she had an affair with Atty. Catindig. She claimed that Atty.
Catindig began courting her while she was employed in his firm. She however rejected Atty.
Catindig’s romantic overtures; she told him that she could not reciprocate his feelings since he was
married and that he was too old for her. She said that despite being turned down, Atty. Catindig still
pursued her, which was the reason why she resigned from his law firm.22

On January 29, 2003, the Court referred the case to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) for
investigation, report and recommendation within 90 days from notice.23

On June 2, 2003, the IBP’s Commission on Bar Discipline (CBD) issued an Order24 setting the
mandatory conference of the administrative case on July 4, 2003, which was later reset to August
29, 2003. During the conference, the parties manifested that they were already submitting the case
for resolution based on the pleadings already submitted. Thereupon, the IBP-CBD directed the
parties to submit their respective position papers within 10 days from notice. Respondents Atty.
Catindig and Atty. Baydo filed their position papers on October 17, 200325 and October 20,
2003,26 respectively. Dr. Perez filed her position paper27 on October 24, 2003.

Findings of the IBP Investigating Commissioner

On May 6, 2011, after due proceedings, the Investigating Commissioner of the IBP-CBD issued a
Report and Recommendation,28 which recommended the disbarment of Atty. Catindig for gross
immorality, violation of Rule 1.01, Canon 7 and Rule 7.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility.
The Investigating Commissioner pointed out that Atty. Catindig’s act of marrying Dr. Perez despite
knowing fully well that his previous marriage to Gomez still subsisted was a grossly immoral and
illegal conduct, which warrants the ultimate penalty of disbarment. The Investigating Commissioner
further opined that:

In this case, the undisputed facts gathered from the evidence and the admissions of Atty. Catindig
established a pattern of grossly immoral conduct that warrants fustigation and his disbarment. His
conduct was not only corrupt or unprincipled; it was reprehensible to the highest degree.

There is no dichotomy of morality. A lawyer and a professor of law, both in his official and personal
conduct, must display exemplary behavior. Respondent’s bigamous marriage and his proclivity for
extramarital adventurism have definitely caused damage to the legal and teaching professions. How
can he hold his head up high and expect his students, his peers and the community to look up to him
as a model worthy of emulation when he failed to follow the tenets of morality? In contracting a
second marriage notwithstanding knowing fully well that he has a prior valid subsisting marriage,
Atty. Catindig has made a mockery of an otherwise inviolable institution, a serious outrage to the
generally accepted moral standards of the community.29

On the other hand, the Investigating Commissioner recommended that the charge against Atty.
Baydo be dismissed for dearth of evidence; Dr. Perez failed to present clear and preponderant
evidence in support of the alleged affair between the respondents.

Findings of the IBP Board of Governors

On December 10, 2011, the IBP Board of Governors issued a Resolution,30 which adopted and
approved the recommendation of the Investigating Commissioner.

Atty. Catindig sought a reconsideration31 of the December 10, 2011 Resolution of the IBP Board of
Governors, claiming that the Investigating Commissioner erred in relying solely on Dr. Perez’s
uncorroborated allegations. He pointed out that, under Section 1 of Rule 139-B of the Rules of Court,
a complaint for disbarment must be supported by affidavits of persons having knowledge of the facts
therein alleged and/or by such documents as may substantiate said facts. He said that despite the
absence of any corroborating testimony, the Investigating Commissioner gave credence to Dr.
Perez’ testimony.

He also claimed that he had absolutely no intention of committing any felony; that he never
concealed the status of his marriage from anyone. In fact, Atty. Catindig asserted that he had always
been transparent with both Gomez and Dr. Perez.

The IBP Board of Governors, in its Resolution32 dated December 29, 2012, denied Atty. Catindig’s
motion for reconsideration.

The Issue

The issue in this case is whether the respondents committed gross immorality, which would warrant
their disbarment.

Ruling of the Court

After a thorough perusal of the respective allegations of the parties and the circumstances of this
case, the Court agrees with the findings and recommendations of the Investigating Commissioner
and the IBP Board of Governors.

The Code of Professional Responsibility provides:

Rule 1.01 – A lawyer shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct.

Canon 7 – A lawyer shall at all times uphold the integrity and dignity of the legal profession and
support the activities of the Integrated Bar.

Rule 7.03 – A lawyer shall not engage in conduct that adversely reflects on his fitness to practice
law, nor should he, whether in public or private life, behave in a scandalous manner to the discredit
of the legal profession.

In Arnobit v. Atty. Arnobit,33 the Court held:

[T]he requirement of good moral character is of much greater import, as far as the general public is
concerned, than the possession of legal learning. Good moral character is not only a condition
precedent for admission to the legal profession, but it must also remain intact in order to maintain
one’s good standing in that exclusive and honored fraternity. Good moral character is more than just
the absence of bad character. Such character expresses itself in the will to do the unpleasant thing if
it is right and the resolve not to do the pleasant thing if it is wrong. This must be so because "vast
interests are committed to his care; he is the recipient of unbounded trust and confidence; he deals
with his client’s property, reputation, his life, his all."34 (Citation omitted)

In this regard, Section 27, Rule 138 of the Rules of Court provides that a lawyer may be removed or
suspended from the practice of law, inter alia, for grossly immoral conduct. Thus:

Sec. 27. Attorneys removed or suspended by Supreme Court on what grounds. — A member of the
bar may be removed or suspended from his office as attorney by the Supreme Court for any deceit,
malpractice, or other gross misconduct in such office, grossly immoral conduct, or by reason of his
conviction of a crime involving moral turpitude, or for any violation of the oath which he is required to
take before the admission to practice, or for a wilfull disobedience of any lawful order of a superior
court, or for corruptly or willful appearing as an attorney for a party to a case without authority so to
do. The practice of soliciting cases at law for the purpose of gain, either personally or through paid
agents or brokers, constitutes malpractice. (Emphasis ours)

"A lawyer may be suspended or disbarred for any misconduct showing any fault or deficiency in his
moral character, honesty, probity or good demeanor."35 Immoral conduct involves acts that are willful,
flagrant, or shameless, and that show a moral indifference to the opinion of the upright and
respectable members of the community. Immoral conduct is gross when it is so corrupt as to
constitute a criminal act, or so unprincipled as to be reprehensible to a high degree, or when
committed under such scandalous or revolting circumstances as to shock the community’s sense of
decency. The Court makes these distinctions, as the supreme penalty of disbarment arising from
conduct requires grossly immoral, not simply immoral, conduct.36

Contracting a marriage during the subsistence of a previous one amounts to a grossly immoral
conduct.

The facts gathered from the evidence adduced by the parties and, ironically, from Atty. Catindig’s
own admission, indeed establish a pattern of conduct that is grossly immoral; it is not only corrupt
and unprincipled, but reprehensible to a high degree.

Atty. Catindig was validly married to Gomez twice – a wedding in the Central Methodist Church in
1968, which was then followed by a Catholic wedding. In 1983, Atty. Catindig started pursuing Dr.
Perez when their paths crossed again. Curiously, 15 years into his first marriage and four children
after, Atty. Catindig claimed that his first marriage was then already falling apart due to Gomez’
serious intimacy problems.

A year after pursuing Dr. Perez, Atty. Catindig had a de facto separation from Gomez, dissolved
their conjugal partnership of gains, obtained a divorce decree from a court in the Dominican
Republic, and married Dr. Perez in the USA all in the same year. Atty. Catindig was so enchanted
with Dr. Perez at that time that he moved heaven and earth just so he could marry her right away – a
marriage that has at least a semblance of legality.

From his own admission, Atty. Catindig knew that the divorce decree he obtained from the court in
the Dominican Republic was not recognized in our jurisdiction as he and Gomez were both Filipino
citizens at that time. He knew that he was still validly married to Gomez; that he cannot marry anew
unless his previous marriage be properly declared a nullity. Otherwise, his subsequent marriage
would be void. This notwithstanding, he still married Dr. Perez. The foregoing circumstances
seriously taint Atty. Catindig’s sense of social propriety and moral values. It is a blatant and
purposeful disregard of our laws on marriage.

It has also not escaped the attention of the Court that Atty. Catindig married Dr. Perez in the USA.
Considering that Atty. Catindig knew that his previous marriage remained valid, the logical
conclusion is that he wanted to marry Dr. Perez in the USA for the added security of avoiding any
charge of bigamy by entering into the subsequent marriage outside Philippine jurisdiction.

Moreover, assuming arguendo that Atty. Catindig’s claim is true, it matters not that Dr. Perez knew
that their marriage is a nullity. The fact still remains that he resorted to various legal strategies in
order to render a façade of validity to his otherwise invalid marriage to Dr. Perez. Such act is, at the
very least, so unprincipled that it is reprehensible to the highest degree. 1âwphi1

Further, after 17 years of cohabiting with Dr. Perez, and despite the various legal actions he resorted
to in order to give their union a semblance of validity, Atty. Catindig left her and their son. It was only
at that time that he finally decided to properly seek the nullity of his first marriage to Gomez.
Apparently, he was then already entranced with the much younger Atty. Baydo, an associate lawyer
employed by his firm.

While the fact that Atty. Catindig decided to separate from Dr. Perez to pursue Atty. Baydo, in itself,
cannot be considered a grossly immoral conduct, such fact forms part of the pattern showing his
propensity towards immoral conduct. Lest it be misunderstood, the Court’s finding of gross immoral
conduct is hinged not on Atty. Catindig’s desertion of Dr. Perez, but on his contracting of a
subsequent marriage during the subsistence of his previous marriage to Gomez.

"The moral delinquency that affects the fitness of a member of the bar to continue as such includes
conduct that outrages the generally accepted moral standards of the community, conduct for
instance, which makes ‘a mockery of the inviolable social institution of marriage.’"37 In various cases,
the Court has held that disbarment is warranted when a lawyer abandons his lawful wife and
maintains an illicit relationship with another woman who has borne him a child.38

Atty. Catindig’s subsequent marriage during the subsistence of his previous one definitely manifests
a deliberate disregard of the sanctity of marriage and the marital vows protected by the Constitution
and affirmed by our laws. By his own admission, Atty. Catindig made a mockery out of the institution
of marriage, taking advantage of his legal skills in the process. He exhibited a deplorable lack of that
degree of morality required of him as a member of the bar, which thus warrant the penalty of
disbarment.

The Court is not unmindful of the rule that the power to disbar must be exercised with great caution,
and only in a clear case of misconduct that seriously affects the standing and character of the lawyer
as an officer of the Court and as a member of the bar. Where a lesser penalty, such as temporary
suspension, could accomplish the end desired, disbarment should never be decreed. Nevertheless,
in this case, the seriousness of the offense compels the Court to wield its power to disbar, as it
appears to be the most appropriate penalty.

Atty. Catindig’s claim that Dr. Perez’s allegations against him are not credible since they are
uncorroborated and not supported by affidavits contrary to Section 1, Rule 139-B of the Rules of
Court, deserves scant consideration. Verily, Atty. Catindig himself admitted in his pleadings that he
indeed married Dr. Perez in 1984 while his previous marriage with Gomez still subsisted.
Indubitably, such admission provides ample basis for the Court to render disciplinary sanction
against him.

There is insufficient evidence to prove the affair between the respondents.

The Court likewise agrees with the Investigating Commissioner that there is a dearth of evidence to
prove the claimed amorous relationship between the respondents. As it is, the evidence that was
presented by Dr. Perez to prove her claim was mere allegation, an anonymous letter informing her
that the respondents were indeed having an affair and the purported love letter to Atty. Baydo that
was signed by Atty. Catindig.

The Court has consistently held that in suspension or disbarment proceedings against lawyers, the
lawyer enjoys the presumption of innocence, and the burden of proof rests upon the complainant to
prove the allegations in his complaint. The evidence required m suspens10n or disbarment
proceedings is preponderance of evidence.39

The presentation of the anonymous letter that was received by Dr. Perez only proves that the latter
indeed received a letter informing her of the alleged relations between the respondents; it does not
prove the veracity of the allegations therein. Similarly,. the supposed love letter, if at all, only
provesAtty.that Catindig wrote Atty. Baydo a letter professing his love for her. It does not prove that
Atty. Baydo is indeed in a relationship with Atty. Catindig.

WHEREFORE, in consideration of the foregoing disquisitions, the Court resolves to ADOPT the
recommendations of the Commission on Bar Discipline of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines. Atty.
Tristan A. Catindig is found GUILTY of gross immorality and of violating the Lawyer's Oath and Rule
1.01, Canon 7 and Rule 7.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility and is hereby DISBARRED
from the practice of law.

Let a copy of this Decision be entered into the records of Atty. Tristan A. Catindig in the Office of the
Bar Confidant and his name is ORDERED STRICKEN from the Roll of Attorneys. Likewise, copies of
this Decision shall be furnished to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and circulated by the Court
Administrator to all appellate and trial courts.

The charge of gross immorality against Atty. Karen E. Baydo 1s hereby DISMISSED for lack of
evidence.

This Decision takes effect immediately.

SO ORDERED.
B.
D.
E. Duty to Keep Abreast with Legal Development

1.

C. Duty to Observe Candor and Fairness

[G.R. No. X92-1. July 30, 1979.]

PETITION FOR AUTHORITY TO CONTINUE USE OF THE FIRM NAME "SYCIP, SALAZAR, FELICIANO,
HERNANDEZ & CASTILLO." LUCIANO E. SALAZAR, FLORENTINO P, FELICIANO, BENILDO G.
HERNANDEZ. GREGORIO R. CASTILLO. ALBERTO P. SAN JUAN, JUAN C. REYES, JR., ANDRES G.
GATMAITAN, JUSTINO H. CACANINDIN, NOEL A. LAMAN, ETHELWOLDO E. FERNANDEZ, ANGELITO
C. IMPERIO, EDUARDO R. CENIZA, TRISTAN A. CATINDIG, ANCHETA K. TAN, and ALICE V.
PESIGAN, petitioners.

IN THE MATTER OF THE PETITION FOR AUTHORITY TO CONTINUE USE OF THE FIRM NAME
"OZAETA, ROMULO, DE LEON, MABANTA & REYES." RICARDO J. ROMULO, BENJAMIN M. DE LEON,
ROMAN MABANTA, JR., JOSE MA. REYES, JESUS S. J. SAYOC, EDUARDO DE LOS ANGELES, and
JOSE F. BUENAVENTURA, petitioners.

RESOLUTION

MELENCIO-HERRERA, J.:
Two separate Petitions were filed before this Court 1) by the surviving partners of Atty. Alexander Sycip,
who died on May 5, 1975, and 2) by the surviving partners of Atty. Herminio Ozaeta, who died on February
14, 1976, praying that they be allowed to continue using, in the names of their firms, the names of partners
who had passed away. In the Court’s Resolution of September 2, 1976, both Petitions were ordered
consolidated.chan roble s.com.p h : virt ual law li bra ry

Petitioners base their petitions on the following arguments: chanro b1es vi rt ual 1aw li bra ry

1. Under the law, a partnership is not prohibited from continuing its business under a firm name which
includes the name of a deceased partner; in fact, Article 1840 of the Civil Code explicitly sanctions the
practice when it provides in the last paragraph that: jgc:chanroble s.com.p h

"The use by the person or partnership continuing the business of the partnership name, or the name of a
deceased partner as part thereof, shall not of itself make the individual property of the deceased partner
liable for any debts contracted by such person or partnership." 1

2. In regulating other professions, such as accountancy and engineering, the legislature has authorized the
adoption of firm names without any restriction as to the use, in such firm name, of the name of a deceased
partner; 2 the legislative authorization given to those engaged in the practice of accountancy — a profession
requiring the same degree of trust and confidence in respect of clients as that implicit in the relationship of
attorney and client — to acquire and use a trade name, strongly indicates that there is no fundamental
policy that is offended by the continued use by a firm of professionals of a firm name which includes the
name of a deceased partner, at least where such firm name has acquired the characteristics of a "trade
name." 3

3. The Canons of Professional Ethics are not transgressed by the continued use of the name of a deceased
partner in the firm name of a law partnership because Canon 33 of the Canons of Professional Ethics
adopted by the American Bar Association declares that: jgc:chanro bles.com. ph

". . . The continued use of the name of a deceased or former partner when permissible by local custom, is
not unethical, but care should be taken that no imposition or deception is practiced through this use. . . ." 4

4. There is no possibility of imposition or deception because the deaths of their respective deceased partners
were well-publicized in all newspapers of general circulation for several days; the stationeries now being
used by them carry new letterheads indicating the years when their respective deceased partners were
connected with the firm; petitioners will notify all leading national and international law directories of the
fact of their respective deceased partners’ deaths. 5

5. No local custom prohibits the continued use of a deceased partner’s name in a professional firm’s name; 6
there is no custom or usage in the Philippines, or at least in the Greater Manila Area, which recognizes that
the name of a law firm necessarily identifies the individual members of the firm. 7

6. The continued use of a deceased partner’s name in the firm name of law partnerships has been
consistently allowed by U.S. Courts and is an accepted practice in the legal profession of most countries in
the world. 8

The question involved in these Petitions first came under consideration by this Court in 1953 when a law
firm in Cebu (the Dean case) continued its practice of including in its firm name that of a deceased partner,
C.D. Johnston. The matter was resolved with this Court advising the firm to desist from including in their
firm designation the name of C. D. Johnston, "who has long been dead." cralaw virt ua1aw li bra ry

The same issue was raised before this Court in 1958 as an incident in G. R. No. L-11964, entitled Register of
Deeds of Manila v. China Banking Corporation. The law firm of Perkins & Ponce Enrile moved to intervene as
amicus curiae. Before acting thereon, the Court, in a Resolution of April 15, 1957, stated that it "would like
to be informed why the name of Perkins is still being used although Atty. E. A. Perkins is already dead." In a
Manifestation dated May 21, 1957, the law firm of Perkins and Ponce Enrile, raising substantially the same
arguments as those now being raised by petitioners, prayed that the continued use of the firm name
"Perkins & Ponce Enrile" be held proper.

On June 16, 1958, this Court resolved: jgc: chan robles .com.p h
"After carefully considering the reasons given by Attorneys Alfonso Ponce Enrile and Associates for their
continued use of the name of the deceased E. G. Perkins, the Court found no reason to depart from the
policy it adopted in June 1953 when it required Attorneys Alfred P. Deen and Eddy A. Deen of Cebu City to
desist from including in their firm designation, the name of C. D. Johnston, deceased. The Court believes
that, in view of the personal and confidential nature of the relations between attorney and client and the
high standards demanded in the canons of professional ethics, no practice should be allowed which even in a
remote degree could give rise to the possibility of deception. Said attorneys are accordingly advised to drop
the name "PERKINS" from their firm name." cralaw virtua1aw l ibra ry

Petitioners herein now seek a re-examination of the policy thus far enunciated by the Court.

The Court finds no sufficient reason to depart from the rulings thus laid down.

A. Inasmuch as "Sycip, Salazar, Feliciano, Hernandez and Castillo" and "Ozaeta, Romulo, De Leon, Mabanta
and Reyes" are partnerships, the use in their partnership names of the names of deceased partners will run
counter to Article 1815 of the Civil Code which provides: jg c :chanrob les.c om.ph

"Art. 1815. Every partnership shall operate under a firm name, which may or may not include the name of
one or more of the partners.

"Those who, not being members of the partnership include their names in the firm name, shall be subject to
the liability of a partner."
cralaw virtua 1aw lib rary

It is clearly tacit in the above provision that names in a firm name of a partnership must either be those of
living partners and, in the case of non-partners, should be living persons who can be subjected to liability.
In fact, Article 1825 of the Civil Code prohibits a third person from including his name in the firm name
under pain of assuming the liability of a partner. The heirs of a deceased partner in a law firm cannot be
held liable as the old members to the creditors of a firm particularly where they are non-lawyers. Thus,
Canon 34 of the Canons of Professional Ethics "prohibits all agreement for the payment to the widow and
heirs of a deceased lawyer of a percentage, either gross or net, of the fees received from the future business
of the deceased lawyer’s clients, both because the recipients of such division are not lawyers and because
such payments will not represent service or responsibility on the part of the recipient." Accordingly, neither
the widow nor the heirs can be held liable for transactions entered into after the death of their lawyer-
predecessor. There being no benefits accruing, there can be no corresponding liability. chanrob les law l ibra ry : red

Prescinding the law, there could be practical objections to allowing the use by law firms of the names of
deceased partners. The public relations value of the use of an old firm name can tend to create undue
advantages and disadvantages in the practice of the profession. An able lawyer without connections will
have to make a name for himself starting from scratch. Another able lawyer, who can join an old firm, can
initially ride on that old firm’s reputation established by deceased partners.

B. In regards to the last paragraph of Article 1840 of the Civil Code cited by petitioners, supra, the first
factor to consider is that it is within Chapter 3 of Title IX of the Code entitled "Dissolution and Winding Up."
The Article primarily deals with the exemption from liability in cases of a dissolved partnership, of the
individual property of the deceased partner for debts contracted by the person or partnership which
continues the business using the partnership name or the name of the deceased partner as part thereof.
What the law contemplates therein is a hold-over situation preparatory to formal reorganization.

Secondly, Article 1840 treats more of a commercial partnership with a good will to protect rather than of a
professional partnership, with no saleable good will but whose reputation depends on the personal
qualifications of its individual members. Thus, it has been held that a saleable goodwill can exist only in a
commercial partnership and cannot arise in a professional partnership consisting of lawyers. 9

"As a general rule, upon the dissolution of a commercial partnership the succeeding partners or parties have
the right to carry on the business under the old name, in the absence of a stipulation forbidding it, (s)ince
the name of a commercial partnership is a partnership asset inseparable from the good will of the firm . . .."
(60 Am Jur 2d, s 204, p. 115) (Emphasis supplied)

On the other hand,

". . . a professional partnership the reputation of which depends on the individual skill of the members, such
as partnerships of attorneys or physicians, has no good will to be distributed us a firm asset on its
dissolution, however intrinsically valuable such skill and reputation may be, especially where there is no
provision in the partnership agreement relating to good will as an asset. . . ." (ibid, s 203, p. 115)
(Emphasis supplied).

C. A partnership for the practice of law cannot be likened to partnerships formed by other professionals or
for business. For one thing, the law on accountancy specifically allows the use of a trade name in connection
with the practice of accountancy. 10

"A partnership for the practice of law is not a legal entity. It is a mere relationship or association for a
particular purpose. . . . It is not a partnership formed for the purpose of carrying on trade or business or of
holding property." 11 Thus, it has been stated that "the use of a nom de plume, assumed or trade name in
law practice is improper." 12

"The usual reason given for different standards of conduct being applicable to the practice of law from those
pertaining to business is that the law is a ‘profession.’ . . .

"Dean Pound, in his recently published contribution to the Survey of the Legal Profession, (The Lawyer from
Antiquity to Modern Times, p. 5) defines a profession as ‘a group of men pursuing a learned art as a
common calling in the spirit of public service, — no less a public service because it may incidentally be a
means of livelihood.’

x x x

"Primary characteristics which distinguish the legal profession from business are: chan rob1e s virtual 1aw l ibra ry

1. A duty of public service, of which the emolument is a by-product, and in which one may attain the highest
eminence without making much money.

2. A relation as an ‘officer of court’ to the administration of justice involving thorough sincerity, integrity,
and reliability.

3. A relation to clients in the highest degree fiduciary.

4. A relation to colleagues at the bar characterized by candor, fairness, and unwillingness to resort to
current business methods of advertising and encroachment on their practice, or dealing directly with their
clients." 13

"The right to practice law is not a natural or constitutional right but is in the nature of a privilege or
franchise. 14 It is limited to persons of good moral character with special qualifications duly ascertained and
certified. 15 The right does not only presuppose in its possessor integrity, legal standing and attainment, but
also the exercise of a special privilege, highly personal and partaking of the nature of a public trust." 16

D. Petitioners cited Canon 33 of the Canons of Professional Ethics of the American Bar Association 17 in
support of their petitions.

It is true that Canon 33 does not consider as unethical the continued use of the name of a deceased or
former partner in the firm name of a law partnership when such a practice is permissible by local custom but
the Canon warns that care should be taken that no imposition or deception is practiced through this use.

It must be conceded that in the Philippines, no local custom permits or allows the continued use of a
deceased or former partner’s name in the firm names of law partnerships. Firm names, under our custom,
identify the more active and/or more senior members or partners of the law firm. A glimpse at the history of
the firms of petitioners and of other law firms in this country would show how their firm names have evolved
and changed from time to time as the composition of the partnership changed.

"The continued use of a firm name after the death of one or more of the partners designated by it is proper
only where sustained by local custom and not where by custom this purports to identify the active members.
...

"There would seem to be a question, under the working of the Canon, as to the propriety of adding the
name of a new partner and at the same time retaining that of a deceased partner who was never a partner
with the new one." (H.S. Drinker, op. cit., supra, at pp. 207-208) (Emphasis supplied)

The possibility of deception upon the public, real or consequential, where the name of a deceased partner
continues to be used cannot be ruled out. A person in search of legal counsel might be guided by the
familiar ring of a distinguished name appearing in a firm title.

E. Petitioners argue that U.S. Courts have consistently avowed the continued use of a deceased partner’s
name in the firm name of law partnerships. But that is so because it is sanctioned by custom.

In the case of Mendelsohn v. Equitable Life Assurance Society (33 N.Y.S. 2d 733) which petitioners Salazar,
Et. Al. quoted in their memorandum, the New York Supreme Court sustained the use of the firm name
Alexander & Green even if none of the present ten partners of the firm bears either name because the
practice was sanctioned by custom and did not offend any statutory provision or legislative policy and was
adopted by agreement of the parties The Court stated therein: jgc:c han robles. com.ph

"The practice sought to be proscribed has the sanction of custom and offends no statutory provision or
legislative policy. Canon 33 of the Canons of Professional Ethics of both the American Bar Association and
the New York State Bar Association provides in part as follows: ‘The continued use of the name of a
deceased or former partner, when permissible by local custom is not unethical, but care should be taken
that no imposition or deception is practiced through this use.’ There is no question as to local custom. Many
firms in the city use the names of deceased members with the approval of other attorneys, bar associations
and the courts. The Appellate Division of the First Department has considered the matter and reached the
conclusion that such practice should not be prohibited. (Emphasis supplied)

x x x

"Neither the Partnership Law nor the Penal Law prohibits the practice in question. The use of the firm name
herein is also sustainable by reason of agreement between the partners." 18

Not so in this jurisdiction where there is no local custom that sanctions the practice. Custom has been
defined as a rule of conduct formed by repetition of acts, uniformly observed (practiced) as a social rule,
legally binding and obligatory. 19 Courts take no judicial notice of custom. A custom must be proved as a
fact, according to the rules of evidence. 20 A local custom as a source of right cannot be considered by a
court of justice unless such custom is properly established by competent evidence like any other fact. 21 We
find such proof of the existence of a local custom. and of the elements requisite to constitute the same,
wanting herein. Merely because something is done as a matter of practice does not mean that Courts can
rely on the same for purposes of adjudication as a juridical custom. Juridical custom must be differentiated
from social custom. The former can supplement statutory law or be applied in the absence of such statute.
Not so with the latter.

Moreover, judicial decisions applying or interpreting the laws form part of the legal system. 22 When the
Supreme Court in the Deen and Perkins cases issued its Resolutions directing lawyers to desist from
including the names of deceased partners in their firm designation, it laid down a legal rule against which no
custom or practice to the contrary, even if proven, can prevail. This is not to speak of our civil law which
clearly ordains that a partnership is dissolved by the death of any partner. 23 Customs which are contrary to
law, public order or public policy shall not be countenanced. 24

The practice of law is intimately and peculiarly related to the administration of justice and should not be
considered like an ordinary "money-making trade." cralaw virtua 1aw lib rary

". . . It is of the essence of a profession that it is practiced in a spirit of public service.’A trade’ . . .’aims
primarily at personal gain; a profession at the exercise of powers beneficial to mankind.’ If, as in the era of
wide free opportunity, we think of free competitive self assertion as the highest good, lawyer and grocer and
farmer may seem to be freely competing with their fellows in their calling in order each to acquire as much
of the world’s good as he may within the limits allowed him by law. But the member of a profession does not
regard himself as in competition with his professional brethren. He is not bartering his services as is the
artisan nor exchanging the products of his skill and learning as the farmer sells wheat or corn. There should
be no such thing as a lawyers or physicians’ strike. The best service of the professional man is often
rendered for no equivalent or for a trifling equivalent and it is his pride to do what he does in a way worthy
of his profession even if done with no expectation of reward. This spirit of public service in which the
profession of law is and ought to be exercised is a prerequisite of sound administration of justice according
to law. The other two elements of a profession, namely, organization and pursuit of a learned art have their
justification in that they secure and maintain that spirit."25cralaw:red

In fine, petitioners’ desire to preserve the identity of their firms in the eyes of the public must bow to legal
and ethical impediments.

ACCORDINGLY, the petitions filed herein are denied and petitioners advised to drop the names "SYCIP" and
"OZAETA" from their respective firm names. Those names may, however, be included in the listing of
individuals who have been partners in their firms indicating the years during which they served as such. chanrobles. com.ph : vi rtua l law lib rary

SO ORDERED.