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Consolidated Cases

Legal Ethics
Table of Contents

Caroline Castaneda Jimenez v Atty. Edgar Francisco


A.C. No. 10548, December 10, 2014

Heirs of Lydio Falame v Atty Edgar Baguio


A.C. 6876 March 7, 2008

Felicitas S. Quiambao v Atty. Nestor A. Bamba


A.C. 6708 August 25, 2005

Julian Penilla v Atty. Quintin Alcid


A.C. 9149 September 4, 2013

Elisa Venterez v Atty. Rodrigo Cosme


A.C. No. 7421 October 10, 2007

Eufrosina Yap Tan v Nicolas Sabandal


A.C. 44 November 29, 1983

In the matter of proceedings for disciplinary action against Atty. Vicente Raul
Almacen v Virginia Y Yaptinchay
G.R. No. L-27654 February 18, 1970

Format:

I. Title of the Case


II. Judicial History
III. Statement of Relevant Facts
IV. Statement of Issue/s
V. Ruling of the Court

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SECOND DIVISION

A.C. No. 10548, December 10, 2014

CAROLINE CASTAÑEDA JIMENEZ, Complainant, v. ATTY. EDGAR B.


FRANCISCO, Respondent.

DECISION

MENDOZA, J.:

This refers to the Resolutions of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, Board
of Governors (IBP-BOG), dated January 3, 20131 and March 22,
2014,2 adopting and approving the findings of the Commission on Bar
Discipline (CBD) which found Atty. Edgar B. Francisco (Atty. Francisco)
administratively liable for multiple violations of the Code of Professional
Responsibility (CPR) and recommended the penalty of suspension of one (1)
year from the practice of law.

On September 6, 2007, the CBD received a complaint, dated July 14,


2007,3 filed by Caroline Castañeda Jimenez (complainant) against Atty.
Francisco for multiple violations of the CPR. On October 24, 2007, Atty.
Francisco filed his Answer.4 On June 26, 2009, the mandatory conference
was held and terminated. Only the counsel for Atty. Francisco appeared. The
notice of the said conference addressed to complainant was returned with
the notation “unknown at the given address.” No new address was provided
by the complainant. Both parties were required to submit their respective
position papers. For this purpose, Atty. Francisco adopted his Answer.

The Antecedents

Mario Crespo, otherwise known as Mark Jimenez (Jimenez), filed a complaint


for estafa against complainant, her sister Rosemarie Flaminiano, Marcel
Crespo, Geraldine Antonio, Brenda Heffron, Magdalena Cunanan, and Isabel
Gonzalez.5 The said complaint was docketed as IS No. 074314 with the
Office of the City Prosecutor of Makati City. Jimenez alleged that he was the
true and beneficial owner of the shares of stock in Clarion Realty and
Development Corporation (Clarion), which was incorporated specifically for
the purpose of purchasing a residential house located in Forbes Park, Makati

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City (Forbes property). The incorporators and original stockholders of Clarion
were as follows:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
Thomas K.
- P500,000.00
Chua
Teresita C.
- P500,000.00
Alsua
Myla
- P249,998.00
Villanueva
Edgar B.
- P1.00
Francisco
Soledad
- P1.00
Gamat
Simultaneous with the drafting of Clarion’s Articles of Incorporation, the
above-named stockholders, except for Myla Villanueva (Myla), executed a
deed of assignment of their respective shares in favor of complainant, who
was then Jimenez’s common-law partner. Clarion’s total capitalization was
only P5,000,000.00. Thus, in order to achieve its purpose of purchasing the
Forbes property, Clarion simulated a loan from the complainant in the
amount of P80,750,000.00. Thereafter, Clarion purchased the Forbes
property in the amount of P117,000,000.00 from Gerardo Contreras. To
effect the sale, Myla handed a check in the said amount which was funded
entirely by Jimenez. The sale, however, was undervalued. In the deed of
sale, it was made to appear that the Forbes property was purchased for
P78,000,000.00 only. Further, the money used as the purchase price was
not reflected in the books of Clarion.

On July 19, 2001, Thomas Chua and Teresita Alsua assigned their shares in
Clarion to Jimenez by virtue of a deed of trust. On the other hand, Myla’s
249,997 shares were transferred to complainant based on a deed of
assignment. The remaining one (1) share was transferred to Ma. Carolina C.
Crespo. These transactions appeared in Clarion’s General Information Sheet
(GIS) filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Resultantly,
the subscribed shares of Clarion were as follows:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
Mark
- P 500,000.00
Jimenez
Caroline
- P 749,997.00
Jimenez
Ma.
Carolina C. - P 1.00
Crespo
Edgar B.
- P 1.00
Francisco
Soledad
- P 1.00
Gamat

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On November 5, 2002, Jimenez transferred all his shares to complainant by
another deed of assignment, making her the holder of Clarion shares
amounting to P1,249,997.00.

According to Jimenez’s complaint, while he was in prison in the United States


in 2004, he learned from Atty. Francisco that his son, Marcel Crespo
(Marcel), approached the complainant and threatened her, claiming that the
United States Internal Revenue Service (IRS) was about to go after their
properties. Marcel succeeded in persuading complainant to transfer her
nominal shares in Clarion to Geraldine Antonio, through another deed of
assignment. Again, this was reflected in Clarion’s GIS for the year 2004.

Thereafter, Jimenez was informed by Atty. Francisco that, through


fraudulent means, complainant and her co-respondents in the estafa case,
put the Forbes property for sale sometime in August 2004. The said property
was eventually sold to Philmetro Southwest Enterprise Inc. (Philmetro) for
the amount of P118,000,000.00 without Jimenez’s knowledge. This sale was
again undervalued at P78,000.000.00 per the deed of sale. Atty. Francisco
relayed to Jimenez that he was the one who received the payment for the
sale of the Forbes property and that he handed all the proceeds thereof to
Rosemarie Flaminiano in the presence of complainant.

Jimenez’s complaint for estafa was based on complainant’s alleged


participation in the fraudulent means in selling the Forbes property which
was acquired by Clarion with Jimenez’s money. Complainant was duty-bound
to remit all the proceeds of the sale to Jimenez as the true and beneficial
owner. Complainant and her co-respondents, however, misappropriated and
converted the funds for their personal use and benefit.

In support of Jimenez’s complaint for estafa, Atty. Francisco executed an


affidavit reiterating its factual averments.6 A perusal of this affidavit likewise
would show the following claims and admissions, among other things, of
Atty. Francisco:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary

1. Sometime in August 2004, complainant called him, asking for


assistance in the documentation of the sale of the Forbes
property owned by Clarion. Atty. Francisco asked her if she had
secured permission from Mark Jimenez and complainant
answered in the affirmative.

2. The Board of Directors of Clarion issued a resolution authorizing


him to negotiate the sale of the property.

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3. For purposes of the sale, he opened an account with Security
Bank, San Francisco Del Monte branch. When the cash payment
was deposited, he withdrew the amount and handed the same to
Rosemarie Flaminiano in the presence of complainant.

4. All transfers of shares were caused without any consideration.


The transfer taxes, however, were paid.

5. When Mark Jimenez returned to the Philippines, he was able to


confirm that the sale of the Forbes property was without his
knowledge and approval. The proceeds of the sale had already
been farmed out to different corporations established by
complainant and her sister.

6. The frequent changes in stockholdings were premeditated in


order to steal the money of Mark Jimenez.

The Complaint

Complainant was shocked upon reading the allegations in the complaint for
estafa filed by Jimenez against her. She felt even more betrayed when she
read the affidavit of Atty. Francisco, on whom she relied as her personal
lawyer and Clarion’s corporate counsel and secretary of Clarion. This
prompted her to file a disciplinary case against Atty. Francisco for
representing conflicting interests. According to her, she usually conferred
with Atty. Francisco regarding the legal implications of Clarion’s transactions.
More significantly, the principal documents relative to the sale and transfer
of Clarion’s property were all prepared and drafted by Atty. Francisco or the
members of his law office.7 Atty. Francisco was the one who actively
participated in the transactions involving the sale of the Forbes property.
Without admitting the truth of the allegations in his affidavit, complainant
argued that its execution clearly betrayed the trust and confidence she
reposed on him as a lawyer. For this reason, complainant prayed for the
disbarment of Atty. Francisco.

The Respondent’s Position

In his Answer,8 Atty. Francisco replied that Jimenez initially engaged his
services in 1998 for the incorporation of Clarion for the purpose of
purchasing a residential house in Forbes Park, where he intended to live with
his long-time partner, the complainant; that the original incorporators and
stockholders of Clarion held their respective shares in trust for Jimenez; that
the subsequent changes in the ownership of Clarion shareholdings were also
pursuant to Jimenez’s orders; and that as the corporate secretary and legal
counsel of Clarion, he prepared all the legal documentation to give effect to

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the said transfers and, ultimately, to the purchase of the Forbes property.

Atty. Francisco further stated that sometime in 2004, Jimenez was


imprisoned in the United States for excessive contributions to the
Democratic Party; that during this time, Jimenez’s son, Marcel, and the
complainant, asked him again to change the ownership of Clarion shares in
order to avoid the attachment of Jimenez’s properties in a tax evasion case;
that he acceded to the request on the belief that this was in accordance with
Jimenez’s wishes; and that as a result, almost 100% of Clarion’s ownership
was transferred in the name of Geraldine Antonio.

Atty. Francisco also claimed that, thereafter, complainant tasked him to talk
to prospective buyers and to negotiate the sale of the Forbes property until
it was sold for P118,000,000.00; that Marcel and complainant led him to
believe that Jimenez had knowledge of the sale as they were in constant
communication with him; that all these representations, however, turned out
to be false when Jimenez returned to the Philippines and discovered that the
proceeds of the sale were coursed through other corporations set up by
complainant and her sister; that Jimenez likewise learned of the successive
sale of his other properties, including Meridian Telekoms Inc., by the
members of his family; and that this led to the filing of the estafa case
against the complainant and the others. As a witness to the fraud committed
against Jimenez, Atty. Francisco executed the affidavit narrating the facts
and circumstances surrounding the said transactions.

Atty. Francisco mainly argued that he violated neither the rule on disclosures
of privileged communication nor the proscription against representing
conflicting interests, on the ground that complainant was not his client. He
was the lawyer of Jimenez and the legal counsel of Clarion, but never of the
complainant. He might have assisted her in some matters, but these were all
under the notion that Jimenez had given him authority to do so. Further,
though he acted as legal counsel for Clarion, no attorney-client relationship
between him and complainant was formed, as a corporation has a separate
and distinct personality from its shareholders. While he admitted that the
legal documentation for the transfer of shares and the sale of the Forbes
property were prepared by him and notarized by the members of his law
firm, he averred that these acts were performed in his capacity as the
corporate secretary and legal counsel of Clarion, and not as a lawyer of
complainant. Therefore, he served no conflicting interests because it was not
a “former client” and a “subsequent client” who were the opposing parties in
litigation.

He opined that assuming that complainant was indeed his client, the rule on
privileged communication does not apply to his case. Here, complainant

6
failed to allege, much less prove, the requisites for the application of the
privilege. When Atty. Francisco denied being her lawyer, the complainant
should have established, by clear and convincing evidence, that a lawyer-
client relationship indeed existed between them. Complainant failed to do
this.

Arguing that the execution of his affidavit in the estafa case was but a
truthful narration of facts by a witness, Atty. Francisco cited Gonzaga v.
Cañete,9 where the Court ruled that “the fact that one of the witnesses for
the defendant had been formerly the lawyer for the defendant in this suit
was no ground for rejecting his testimony.” In this case, he merely attested
to the fraudulent acts of complainant, in the course of which, he defended
and served Jimenez as a client. This was likewise pursuant to the rule that
unlawful and illegal motives and purposes were not covered by the privilege.
It was just unfortunate that he fell for the ploy of complainant.

The Findings of the Investigating Commissioner

In the Commissioner’s Report,10 dated November 7, 2011, the Investigating


Commissioner, Atty. Jose I. dela Rama, Jr. (Investigating Commissioner),
found Atty. Francisco guilty of violations of the CPR and recommended that
he be suspended for one (1) year from the practice of law.

Initially, the Investigating Commissioner noted that the subsequent affidavit


of desistance executed by Jimenez in the estafa case did not affect the
investigation conducted by the CBD as it was not an ordinary court which
accepted compromises or withdrawals of cases. After weighing on the claims
of the parties, the Investigating Commissioner concluded that nothing in the
records would show that a lawyer-client relationship existed between Atty.
Francisco and Jimenez.11 The circumstances would show that Atty. Francisco
was an original incorporator and shareholder of Clarion. He was also the
legal counsel and corporate secretary of the said corporation, the articles of
incorporation of which did not include Jimenez as an original incorporator.
He became a stockholder only in 2001, when Jimenez acquired shares from
Thomas Chua and Teresita Alsua. Jimenez’s participation in Clarion affairs
again stopped when he assigned the entirety of his shares in favor of
complainant.

Granting that Jimenez really owned 100% of Clarion as alluded to by Atty.


Francisco, the report stated that it would appear that the latter permitted
misrepresentations as to Clarion’s ownership to be reported to the SEC
through its GIS. The Investigating Commissioner also pointed out Atty.
Francisco’s clear admission that the transfer of shares within Clarion were
“without any consideration,” ran counter to the deeds of assignment that he

7
again admittedly executed as corporate counsel. Worse, Atty. Francisco
admitted to have simulated the loan and undervalued the consideration of
the effected sale of the Forbes property, which displayed his unlawful,
dishonest, immoral, and deceitful conduct in violation of Canon 1 of the CPR.
Further, when he executed the affidavit containing allegations against the
interest of Clarion and complainant, the Investigating Commissioner held
that Atty. Francisco violated the rule on privileged communication and
engaged in an act that constituted representation of conflicting interests in
violation of Canons 15 and 21 of the CPR.

In its January 3, 2013 Resolution,12 the IBP-BOG adopted and approved, in


toto, the findings and recommendation of the CBD against Atty. Francisco.

The respondent received a copy of the said resolution on March 26, 2013
and moved for its reconsideration.13

Atty. Francisco appealed to the compassion of the IBP-BOG, reasoning out


that the penalty of suspension of one (1) year is too severe considering that
in his more than three decades of practice, he had never been involved in
any act that would warrant the imposition of disciplinary action upon him. It
was only in 2007, when his client, Jimenez, experienced a difficult crisis
involving his children and common-law partner that he experienced a major
upheaval in his professional life. He apologized for his not being too
circumspect in dealing with the relatives of Jimenez.

As to the charges against him, Atty. Francisco reiterated that his


participation in the execution of the documents pertaining to the sale of the
Forbes property were all connected to his capacity as Clarion’s corporate
secretary and legal counsel, not to mention his ties with his client and friend,
Jimenez. He admitted that he owed fidelity to Clarion and Jimenez, but
denied that this duty extended to the incorporators and shareholders of
Clarion. Thus, when complainant sought advice in her capacity as a
shareholder in Clarion, no fiduciary duty arose on his part. In his own words,
Atty. Francisco insisted that “Carol is not Clarion and vice versa.”14

Attached to Atty. Francisco’s motion for reconsideration was an affidavit


executed by Jimenez, stating that he had retained the legal services of Atty.
Francisco since 1999. Espousing Atty. Francisco’s defenses, Jimenez
asserted that Atty. Francisco’s law firm was in charge of all the companies
he owned in the Philippines. He directed Atty. Francisco to execute all the
documentation to show his ownership of these companies, including Clarion.
These documents were in the possession of complainant for safekeeping.
When Jimenez ran for Congress in 2001, Atty. Francisco personally assisted
him in the filing of his certificate of candidacy and the proceedings before

8
the electoral tribunals. While he was in prison in the United States, it was
Atty. Francisco who visited and told him that his children, Myla and Marcel,
were then facilitating the sale of one of his companies, Meridian Telekoms,
Inc., without his knowledge. He asked Atty. Francisco to keep quiet about
his children’s betrayal and to wait until he could go home. When he filed the
criminal cases against his children and complainant, the latter even filed a
frivolous kidnapping case against Atty. Francisco. According to Jimenez, the
people who committed crimes against him were now exhausting all possible
means to keep Atty. Francisco silent and to prevent the latter from
performing his duties as a lawyer.

In its March 22, 2014 Resolution,15 the IBP-BOG denied the respondent’s
motion for reconsideration.

No petition for review was filed with the Court.

The Court’s Ruling

Violations of Canons 1 and 10 of the CPR and the Lawyer’s Oath

Canon 1 and Rule 1.01 of the CPR provide:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary


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

Rule 1.0 – A lawyer shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or


deceitful conduct.
Canon 1 clearly mandates the obedience of every lawyer to laws and legal
processes. To the best of his ability, a lawyer is expected to respect and
abide by the law and, thus, avoid any act or omission that is contrary
thereto. A lawyer’s personal deference to the law not only speaks of his
character but it also inspires respect and obedience to the law, on the part of
the public. Rule 1.0, on the other hand, states the norm of conduct to be
observed by all lawyers.

Any act or omission that is contrary to, or prohibited or unauthorized by, or


in defiance of, disobedient to, or disregards the law is “unlawful.” “Unlawful”
conduct does not necessarily imply the element of criminality although the
concept is broad enough to include such element.16 To be “dishonest” means
the disposition to lie, cheat, deceive, defraud or betray; be unworthy;
lacking in integrity, honesty, probity, integrity in principle, fairness and
straightforwardness17 while conduct that is “deceitful” means the proclivity
for fraudulent and deceptive misrepresentation, artifice or device that is
used upon another who is ignorant of the true facts, to the prejudice and
damage of the party imposed upon.18

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Membership in the legal profession is bestowed upon individuals who are not
only learned in law, but also known to possess good moral character.
Lawyers should act and comport themselves with honesty and integrity in a
manner beyond reproach, in order to promote the public’s faith in the legal
profession.19“To say that lawyers must at all times uphold and respect the
law is to state the obvious, but such statement can never be
overemphasized. Considering that, of all classes and professions, [lawyers
are] most sacredly bound to uphold the law, it is imperative that they live by
the law.”20

When Atty. Francisco was admitted to the Bar, he also took an oath to “obey
the laws,” “do no falsehood,” and conduct himself as a lawyer according to
the best of his knowledge and discretion.21

In the facts obtaining in this case, Atty. Francisco clearly violated the canons
and his sworn duty. He is guilty of engaging in dishonest and deceitful
conduct when he admitted to having allowed his corporate client, Clarion, to
actively misrepresent to the SEC, the significant matters regarding its
corporate purpose and subsequently, its corporate shareholdings. In the
documents submitted to the SEC, such as the deeds of assignment and the
GIS, Atty. Francisco, in his professional capacity, feigned the validity of
these transfers of shares, making it appear that these were done for
consideration when, in fact, the said transactions were fictitious, albeit upon
the alleged orders of Jimenez. The Investigating Commissioner was correct
in pointing out that this ran counter to the deeds of assignment which he
executed as corporate counsel. In his long practice as corporate counsel, it is
indeed safe to assume that Atty. Francisco is knowledgeable in the law on
contracts, corporation law and the rules enforced by the SEC. As corporate
secretary of Clarion, it was his duty and obligation to register valid transfers
of stocks. Nonetheless, he chose to advance the interests of his clientele
with patent disregard of his duties as a lawyer. Worse, Atty. Francisco
admitted to have simulated the loan entered into by Clarion and to have
undervalued the consideration of the effected sale of the Forbes property. He
permitted this fraudulent ruse to cheat the government of taxes.
Unquestionably, therefore, Atty. Francisco participated in a series of grave
legal infractions and was content to have granted the requests of the
persons involved.

Despite assertions that these were in accordance to Jimenez’s wishes, or


pursuant to complainant’s misrepresentations, the Court cannot turn a blind
eye on Atty. Francisco’s act of drafting, or at the very least, permitting
untruthful statements to be embodied in public documents. If the Court
allows this highly irregular practice for the specious reason that lawyers are

10
constrained to obey their clients’ flawed scheming and machinations, the
Court would, in effect, sanction wrongdoing and falsity. This would
undermine the role of lawyers as officers of the court.

Time and again, the Court has reminded lawyers that their support for the
cause of their clients should never be attained at the expense of truth and
justice. While a lawyer owes absolute fidelity to the cause of his client, full
devotion to his genuine interest, and warm zeal in the maintenance and
defense of his rights, as well as the exertion of his utmost learning and
ability, he must do so only within the bounds of the law. It needs to be
emphasized that the lawyer's fidelity to his client must not be pursued at the
expense of truth and justice, and must be held within the bounds of reason
and common sense. His responsibility to protect and advance the interests of
his client does not warrant a course of action propelled by ill motives and
malicious intentions.22

In the same vein, Atty. Francisco’s admissions show that he lacks candor
regarding his dealings. Canon 10 of the CPR provides that, “[a] lawyer owes
candor, fairness and good faith to the court.” Corollary thereto, Rule 10.0 of
the CPR provides that “a lawyer shall do no falsehood, nor consent to the
doing of any in Court, nor shall he mislead or allow the Court to be misled by
an artifice.” Lawyers are officers of the court, called upon to assist in the
administration of justice. They act as vanguards of our legal system,
protecting and upholding truth and the rule of law. They are expected to act
with honesty in all their dealings, especially with the court.23

From the foregoing, Atty. Francisco clearly violated his duties as a lawyer
embodied in the CPR, namely, to avoid dishonest and deceitful conduct,
(Rule 1.01, Canon 1) and to act with candor, fairness and good faith (Rule
10.01, Canon 10). Also, Atty. Franciso desecrated his solemn oath not to do
any falsehood nor consent to the doing of the same.

Rule on Conflicting Interests and Disclosure of Privileged


Communication

With respect to Atty. Francisco’s alleged representation of conflicting


interests and disclosure of privileged communication, the Court deviates
from the findings of the IBP-BOG.

Rule 15.03, Canon 15 of the CPR provides that, “[a] lawyer shall not
represent conflicting interests except by written consent of all concerned
given after a full disclosure of the facts.”24 “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

11
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 his dealings and transactions with the client. Part
of the lawyer’s duty in this regard is to avoid representing conflicting
interests…”25 Thus, even if lucrative fees offered by prospective clients are at
stake, a lawyer must decline professional employment if the same would
trigger a violation of the prohibition against conflict of interest.

In Quiambao v. Bamba,26 the Court discussed the application of the rule on


conflict of interest in this wise:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
In broad terms, lawyers are deemed to represent conflicting interests when,
in behalf of one client, it is their duty to contend for that which duty to
another client requires them to oppose. Developments in jurisprudence have
particularized various tests to determine whether a lawyer’s conduct lies
within this proscription. One test is whether a lawyer is duty-bound to fight
for an issue or claim in behalf of one client and, at the same time, to oppose
that claim for the other client. Thus, if a lawyer’s argument for one client has
to be opposed by that same lawyer in arguing for the other client, there is a
violation of the rule.

Another test of inconsistency of interests is whether the acceptance of a new


relation would prevent the full discharge of the lawyer’s duty of undivided
fidelity and loyalty to the client or invite suspicion of unfaithfulness or
double-dealing in the performance of that duty. Still another test is whether
the lawyer would be called upon in the new relation to use against a former
client any confidential information acquired through their connection or
previous employment.

The proscription against representation of conflicting interest applies to a


situation where the opposing parties are present clients in the same action
or in an unrelated action. It is of no moment that the lawyer would not be
called upon to contend for one client that which the lawyer has to oppose for
the other client, or that there would be no occasion to use the confidential
information acquired from one to the disadvantage of the other as the two
actions are wholly unrelated. It is enough that the opposing parties in one
case, one of whom would lose the suit, are present clients and the nature or
conditions of the lawyer’s respective retainers with each of them would
affect the performance of the duty of undivided fidelity to both clients.
From the foregoing, it is obvious that the rule on conflict of interests
presupposes a lawyer-client relationship. The purpose of the rule is precisely
to protect the fiduciary nature of the ties between an attorney and his client.
12
Conversely, a lawyer may not be precluded from accepting and representing
other clients on the ground of conflict of interests, if the lawyer-client
relationship does not exist in favor of a party in the first place.

In determining whether or not Atty. Francisco violated the rule on conflict of


interests, a scrutiny of the parties’ submissions with the IBP reveals that the
complainant failed to establish that she was a client of Atty. Francisco.

First, complainant’s claim of being Atty. Francisco’s client remains


unsubstantiated, considering its detailed refutation. All that the complaint
alleged was that Atty. Francisco was Clarion’s legal counsel and that
complainant sought advice and requested documentation of several transfers
of shares and the sale of the Forbes property. This was only successful in
showing that Atty. Francisco, indeed, drafted the documents pertaining to
the transaction and that he was retained as legal counsel of Clarion. There
was no detailed explanation as to how she supposedly engaged the services
of Atty. Francisco as her personal counsel and as to what and how she
communicated with the latter anent the dealings she had entered into. With
the complaint lacking in this regard, the unrebutted answer made by Atty.
Francisco, accompanied with a detailed narrative of his engagement as
counsel of Jimenez and Clarion, would have to prevail.

Second, there is a stark disparity in the amount of narrative details


presented by the parties. Atty. Francisco’s claim that he was the counsel of
Clarion and Jimenez, and not of the complainant, was clearly established in a
sworn statement executed by Jimenez himself. Complainant’s evidence pales
in comparison with her claims of being the client of Atty. Francisco couched
in general terms that lacked particularity of circumstances.

Third, noteworthy is the fact that complainant opted not to file a reply to
Atty. Francisco’s answer. This could have given her opportunity to present
evidence showing their professional relationship. She also failed to appear
during the mandatory conference with the IBP-CBD without even updating
her residential address on record. Her participation in the investigation of the
case apparently ended at its filing.

In suspension or disbarment proceedings, lawyers enjoy the presumption of


innocence, and the burden of proof rests upon the complainant to clearly
prove the allegations in the complaint by preponderant evidence.
Preponderance of evidence means that the evidence adduced by one side is,
as a whole, superior to or has greater weight than that of the other. It
means evidence which is more convincing to the court as worthy of belief
than that which is offered in opposition thereto. Under Section 1 of Rule 133,
in determining whether or not there is preponderance of evidence, the court

13
may consider the following: (a) all the facts and circumstances of the case;
(b) the witnesses’ manner of testifying, their intelligence, their means and
opportunity of knowing the facts to which they are testifying, the nature of
the facts to which they testify, the probability or improbability of their
testimony; (c) the witnesses’ interest or want of interest, and also their
personal credibility so far as the same may ultimately appear in the trial;
and (d) the number of witnesses, although it does not mean that
preponderance is necessarily with the greater number.27

Markedly, Atty. Francisco could have prevented his entanglement with this
fiasco among the members of Jimenez’s family by taking an upfront and
candid stance in dealing with Jimenez’s children and complainant. He could
have been staunch in reminding the latter that his tasks were performed in
his capacity as legal counsel for Clarion and Jimenez. Be that as it may, Atty.
Francisco’s indiscretion does not detract the Court from finding that the
totality of evidence presented by the complainant miserably failed to
discharge the burden of proving that Atty. Francisco was her lawyer. At
most, he served as the legal counsel of Clarion and, based on the affirmation
presented, of Jimenez. Suffice it to say, complainant failed to establish that
Atty. Francisco committed a violation of the rule on conflict of interests.

Consequently, the rule on lawyer-client privilege does not apply. In Mercado


v. Vitriolo,28 the Court elucidated on the factors essential to establish the
existence of the said privilege, viz:

In fine, the factors are as follows:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary


(1) There exists an attorney-client relationship, or a prospective
attorney-client relationship, and it is by reason of this relationship
that the client made the communication.

Matters disclosed by a prospective client to a lawyer are protected by the


rule on privileged communication even if the prospective client does not
thereafter retain the lawyer or the latter declines the employment. The
reason for this is to make the prospective client free to discuss whatever he
wishes with the lawyer without fear that what he tells the lawyer will be
divulged or used against him, and for the lawyer to be equally free to obtain
information from the prospective client.

xxx

(2) The client made the communication in confidence.

The mere relation of attorney and client does not raise a


presumption of confidentiality. The client must intend the

14
communication to be confidential.

A confidential communication refers to information transmitted by voluntary


act of disclosure between attorney and client in confidence and by means
which, so far as the client is aware, discloses the information to no third
person other than one reasonably necessary for the transmission of the
information or the accomplishment of the purpose for which it was given.

Our jurisprudence on the matter rests on quiescent ground. Thus, a


compromise agreement prepared by a lawyer pursuant to the instruction of
his client and delivered to the opposing party, an offer and counter-offer for
settlement, or a document given by a client to his counsel not in his
professional capacity, are not privileged communications, the element of
confidentiality not being present.

(3) The legal advice must be sought from the attorney in his
professional capacity.

The communication made by a client to his attorney must not be intended


for mere information, but for the purpose of seeking legal advice from his
attorney as to his rights or obligations. The communication must have been
transmitted by a client to his attorney for the purpose of seeking legal
advice.

If the client seeks an accounting service, or business or personal assistance,


and not legal advice, the privilege does not attach to a communication
disclosed for such purpose.

[Emphases supplied]
Considering these factors in the case at bench, the Court holds that the
evidence on record fails to demonstrate the claims of complainant. As
discussed, the complainant failed to establish the professional relationship
between her and Atty. Francisco. The records are further bereft of any
indication that the “advice” regarding the sale of the Forbes property was
given to Atty. Francisco in confidence. Neither was there a demonstration of
what she had communicated to Atty. Francisco nor a recital of circumstances
under which the confidential communication was relayed. All that complaint
alleged in her complainant was that “she sought legal advice from
respondent in various occasions.”29 Considering that complainant failed to
attend the hearings at the IBP, there was no testimony as to the specific
confidential information allegedly divulged by Atty. Francisco without her
consent. It is, therefore, difficult, if not impossible, to determine if there was
any violation of the rule on privileged communication. As held in Mercado,
such confidential information is a crucial link in establishing a breach of the

15
rule on privileged communication between attorney and client. It is not
enough to merely assert the attorney-client privilege.30 It cannot be gainsaid
then that complainant, who has the burden of proving that the privilege
applies, failed in this regard.

The Penalty

A member of the Bar may be penalized, even disbarred or suspended from


his office as an attorney, for violating of the lawyer’s oath and/or for
breaching the ethics of the legal profession as embodied in the CPR,31 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.32 The appropriate penalty on an errant lawyer depends on the
exercise of sound judicial discretion based on the surrounding facts.33

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.

While the Court finds no violation of the rule on conflict of interests and
disclosure of privileged communication, the acts of Atty. Francisco, in
actively and passively allowing Clarion to make untruthful representations to
the SEC and in other public documents, still constitute malpractice and gross
misconduct in his office as attorney, for which a suspension from the
practice of law for six (6) months is warranted.

WHEREFORE, the Court finds Atty. Edgar B. Francisco GUILTY of violation


of Canons 1 and 10 of the Code of Professional Responsibility for which he
is SUSPENDED from the practice of law for a period of six (6) months,
effective upon receipt of this Decision, with a STERN WARNING that a
commission of the same or similar offense in the future will result in the
imposition of a more severe penalty.

Let a copy of this Decision be entered into the records of Atty. Edgar B.
Francisco and furnished to the Office of the Clerk of Court, the Office of the
Bar Confidant, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, and all courts in the
Philippines, for their information and guidance.

16
Atty. Francisco is DIRECTED to inform the Court of the date of his receipt of
this Decision so that the Court can determine the reckoning point when his
suspension shall take effect.

SO ORDERED.

Peralta,*Del Castillo, (Acting Chairperson), Villarama, Jr.,** and Leonen, JJ.,


concur.

Republic of the Philippines


SUPREME COURT
Manila

SECOND DIVISION

ADM. CASE NO. 6876 March 7, 2008

HEIRS OF LYDIO "JERRY" FALAME, namely: MELBA FALAME, LEO FALAME and
JERRY FALAME,petitioners,
vs.
ATTY. EDGAR J. BAGUIO, respondent.

RESOLUTION

TINGA, J.:

On Petition for Review1 is the Resolution of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP)
Board of Governors dismissing the disbarment complaint filed by the Heirs of Lydio
"Jerry" Falame (complainants) against Atty. Edgar J. Baguio (respondent), docketed as
CBD Case No. 04-1191.

In their Complaint2 against respondent, complainants alleged that on 15 July 1991, their
father, the late Lydio "Jerry" Falame (Lydio), engaged the services of respondent to
represent him in an action for forcible entry docketed as Civil Case No. A-2694 (the first
civil case) and entitled "Heirs of Emilio T. Sy, represented by Anastacia Velayo Vda. De
Sy and Belen V. Sy vs. Lydio 'Jerry' Falame, Raleigh Falame and Four (4) John Does,"
in which Lydio was one of the defendants.3

Complainants recounted that respondent, as counsel for the defendants, filed the
answer to the complaint in the first civil case. Subsequently, when the parties to the first
civil case were required to file their respective position papers, respondent used and
submitted in evidence the following: (1) a special power of attorney dated 1 July 1988
executed by Lydio in favor of his brother, Raleigh Falame, appointing the latter to be his
attorney-in-fact; and (2) the affidavit of Raleigh Falame dated 23 July 1988, executed

17
before respondent, in which Raleigh stated that Lydio owned the property subject of the
first civil case.4

Complainants claimed that even after the Municipal Trial Court of Dipolog City had ruled
in favor of the defendants in the first civil case, Lydio retained the services of
respondent as his legal adviser and counsel for his businesses until Lydio's death on 8
September 1996.5

However, on 23 October 2000, in representation of spouses Raleigh and Noemi


Falame, respondent filed a case against complainants allegedly involving the property
subject of the first civil case, entitled "Spouses Rally F. Falame and Noemi F. Falame v.
Melba A. Falame, Leo A. Falame, Jerry A. Falame, Jr., Sugni Realty Holdings and
Development Corporations, their representatives, agents and persons acting in their
behalf" and docketed as Civil Case No. 5568 (the second civil case) before the Regional
Trial Court of Dipolog City, Branch 6. The complaint sought the declaration of nullity of
the deed of sale, its registration in the registry of deeds, Transfer Certificate of Title No.
20241 issued as a consequence of the registration of the deed of sale, and the real
estate mortgage on the said property. Alternatively, it prayed for specific performance
and reconveyance or legal redemption and damages with preliminary injunction and
restraining order.6

Firstly, complainants maintained that by acting as counsel for the spouses Falame in
the second civil case wherein they were impleaded as defendants, respondent violated
his oath of office and duty as an attorney. Plainly, they contended that the spouses
Falame's interests are adverse to those of his former client, Lydio. 7

Secondly, complainants claimed that respondent knowingly made false statements of


fact in the complaint in the second civil case to mislead the trial court. In so doing,
respondent violated paragraph (d), Section 208 of Rule 138 of the Rules of
Court,9 complainants asserted further.

Lastly, complainants alleged that the second civil case is a baseless and fabricated suit
which respondent filed as counsel for complainants' uncle against the heirs of
respondent's deceased client. Specifically, they averred that respondent filed the case
for the sole purpose of retaining, maintaining and/or withholding the possession of the
subject property from complainants who are its true owners. Complainants concluded
that respondent violated paragraph (g), Section 2010 of Rule 138 of the Rules of Court.11

In his Answer with Motion to Dismiss,12 respondent controverted complainants'


allegations. He emphasizes that it was only Raleigh Falame who personally engaged
his legal services for him and on Lydio's behalf and that, in fact, it was Raleigh who paid
him the attorney's fees. He also stated that he signed the jurat in Raleigh's affidavit,
which was submitted as evidence in the first civil case, believing to the best of his
knowledge that there is good ground to support it. Insisting that he did not betray the
confidence reposed in him by Lydio as the latter's counsel in the first civil case,
respondent maintained that he did not reveal or use any fact he acquired knowledge of

18
during the existence of the attorney-client relation in the first civil case as he had never
even conferred with nor talked to Lydio in the first place. Respondent likewise
contended that he did not knowingly make any misleading or untruthful statement of fact
in the complaint in the second civil case and neither did he employ any means
inconsistent with truth and honor in the hearing of the case.13

Respondent vigorously averred that Lydio had not retained him as counsel in any case
or transaction. Stressing the long interval of twelve years separating the termination of
the first civil case and his acceptance of the second civil case, respondent pointed out
that the first civil case was not between Lydio and Raleigh but rather between the heirs
of Emilio T. Sy on one hand and Lydio and Raleigh on the other where physical
possession of property was at stake. Respondent further averred that in contrast the
second civil case is one involving the spouses Raleigh and Noemi Falame as plaintiffs,
and Melba, Leo and Jerry Jr., all surnamed Falame, and Sugni Realty Holdings and
Development Corporation, as defendants—a case which arose from the wrongful acts
committed by Melba, Leo and Jerry Jr. after Lydio's death.14

Respondent maintained that since the second civil case was still pending before the trial
court, the IBP had no jurisdiction over the instant administrative case. He added that
complainants filed this administrative case when Raleigh could no longer testify in his
own favor as he had died a year earlier.15

In their Position Paper16 dated 7 September 2004, in addition to their previous charges
against respondent, complainants claimed that respondent violated Rule 15.03 17 of the
Code of Professional Responsibility when he represented the cause of the spouses
Falame against that of his former client, Lydio.18

On 25 June 2005, the IBP Board of Governors passed Resolution No. XVI-2005-167
adopting and approving Investigating Commissioner Winston D. Abuyuan's report and
recommendation for the dismissal of this administrative case, thus:19

x x x The charge lacks specification as to what part of the lawyer's oath was
violated by the respondent and what confidence was disclosed. The
complainants may have in mind the prohibition against disclosure of secret
information learned in confidence, but there is no specification in the complaint
what secret or information learned in confidence under Civil Case No. A-2694
was disclosed or will be disclosed by respondent in Civil Case No. 5568. In
administrative complaints for disbarment or suspension against lawyers, the
complainant must specify in the affidavit-complaint the alleged secrets or
confidential information disclosed or will be disclosed in the professional
employment (Uy v. Gonzalez, 426 SCRA 422; 431). In the absence of such
specification, the complaint must fail.

In the complaint, there is no specific charge against respondent for violation of


Canon 15, Rule 15.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility about the
prohibition against representation of conflicting interest. So, the allegation in

19
paragraph 1, page 8 and 9 of complainants' position paper stating: With all due
respect, it is submitted that respondent violated Canon 15, Rule 15.03 of the
Code of Professional Responsibility" cannot be countenanced. The reason being
that it is an elementary principle of due process to which the respondent is
entitled that only those charged in the complaint can be proved by the
complainants. A charge not specified in the complaint cannot be proved (Uy v.
Gonzales, id.)

x x x But still this charge will not proper for lack of sufficient bases.

xxx

Civil Case No. 5568, which was commenced on 03 October 2000, or three years
since the complainants became owners of Lydio Falame's properties, is a suit
against the complainants, not as representatives of Lydio Falame, but as owners
of their respective aliquot interests in the property in question (Gayon v. Gayon,
36 SCRA 104; 107-108). The complainants are sued not on the basis of the acts,
rights, obligations and interest of Lydio Falame on the material possession of the
improvements found on Lot 345 litigated in Civil Case No. A-2694 nor even on
such land itself, but rather on the facts alleged in the second amended and
supplemental complaint which give rise to their cause of action against them.

While the complainants could not specify under what circumstances the
respondent committed [the] alleged breach of confidence, breach of secrecy or
revelation of secret or confidential information[,] the respondent has shown that
he did not commit any violation of such duties or obligations of an attorney.

It is clear that only Raleigh Falame engaged the legal services of the respondent
for his and Lydio Falame's defense in Civil Case No. A-2694.

xxx

The other allegations of the complainants that the respondent violated paragraph
(d), Section 20 of Rule 139, Rules of Court, and his lawyer's oath when he
allegedly betrayed the trust and confidence of his former client by denying
knowledge of the fact that the land was owned by Lydio Falame and when he did
not disclose to the Court that at one time his present clients categorically
declared and unconditionally recognized the full ownership of the late Lydio
Falame and complainant Melba Falame over subject matter of both cases
equally lacks evidentiary basis.

xxx

It is beyond the competence of the complainants to conclude and is outside the


jurisdiction of this Honorable Commission to rule as to whether or nor (sic) the
complaint in Civil Case No.5568 is baseless or fabricated. It is only the

20
Honorable Court which has the exclusive jurisdiction to determine the same and
cannot be the subject of an administrative complaint against the respondent.

xxx

WHEREFORE, premises considered, it is respectfully recommended that this


complaint be dismissed on grounds of prescription, the same having been filed
four (4) years after the alleged misconduct took place and for lack of merit.

RESPECTFULLY SUBMITTED.20

Dissatisfied, complainants filed the instant petition for review under Rule 45 of the Rules
of Court reiterating their allegations in the complaint and their position paper. 21 They
likewise assert that the IBP erred in holding that the instant administrative complaint had
been filed out of time since it was filed on 16 January 2004, or three (3) years, four (4)
months and sixteen (16) days after the second civil case was filed on 23 October
2000.22 In addition, in their Consolidated Comment (should be Consolidated
Reply),23 complainants invoke the Court's ruling in Frias v. Bautista-Lozada24to support
their contention that administrative complaints against members of the bar do not
prescribe.25

In his Comment,26 respondent principally maintains that the charges imputed to him
have never been proven by clear, convincing and satisfactory evidence which is the
quantum of proof required in administrative cases against lawyers, and that
complainants have the burden to prove their accusations as he enjoys the presumption
of innocence.27 Respondent likewise asserts that in accusing him of violation of Rule
15.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility only in their position paper and in the
instant petition, complainants infringed his right to due process and to be informed of
the nature and cause of accusation against him.28

There is merit in the petition.

At the outset, the Court holds that the instant administrative action is not barred by
prescription. As early as 1947, the Court held in Calo, Jr. v. Degamo,29 to wit:

The ordinary statutes of limitation have no application to disbarment proceedings,


nor does the circumstance that the facts set up as a ground for disbarment
constitute a crime, prosecution for which in a criminal proceeding is barred by
limitation, affect the disbarment proceeding x x x (5 Am. Jur. 434)30

This doctrine was reaffirmed in the relatively recent case of Frias v. Bautista-
Lozada31where the Court held that Rule VII, Section 1 of the Rules of Procedure of the
CBD-IBP, which provides for a prescriptive period for the filing of administrative
complaints against lawyers, should be struck down as void and of no legal effect for
being ultra vires.32

21
Prescinding from the unavailability of the defense of prescription, the Court concurs with
the Investigating Commissioner's opinion that some of the charges raised by
complainants in their complaint are unsubstantiated.

There is, however, sufficient basis to hold respondent accountable for violation of Rule
15.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility. While this charge was not raised in the
initiatory pleading, it was put forward in complainants' position paper filed with the IBP
and in the petition filed with the Court. In fact, respondent proffered his defenses to the
charge in his position paper before the IBP and likewise in his comment before the
Court. In his very first pleading before the IBP, the answer with motion to dismiss, he
denied having Lydio as his client. Such absence of attorney-client relationship is the
essential element of his defense to the charge of conflict of interest, as articulated in his
subsequent submissions.

The Court, therefore, rules and so holds that respondent has been adequately apprised
of and heard on the issue. In administrative cases, the requirement of notice and
hearing does not connote full adversarial proceedings. Actual adversarial proceedings
only become necessary for clarification when there is a need to propound searching
questions to witnesses who give vague testimonies. Due process is fulfilled when the
parties were given reasonable opportunity to be heard and to submit evidence in
support of their arguments.33

Rule 15.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility provides:

A lawyer shall not represent conflicting interests except by written consent of all
concerned given after a full disclosure of the facts.

A lawyer may not, without being guilty of professional misconduct, act as counsel for a
person whose interest conflicts with that of his present or former client. 34 The test is
whether, on behalf of one client, it is the lawyer's duty to contest for that which his duty
to another client requires him to oppose or when the possibility of such situation will
develop.35 The rule covers not only cases in which confidential communications have
been confided, but also those in which no confidence has been bestowed or will be
used.36 In addition, the rule holds even if the inconsistency is remote or merely probable
or the lawyer has acted in good faith and with no intention to represent conflicting
interests.37

The rule concerning conflict of interest prohibits a lawyer from representing a client if
that representation will be directly adverse to any of his present or former clients. In the
same way, a lawyer may only be allowed to represent a client involving the same or a
substantially related matter that is materially adverse to the former client only if the
former client consents to it after consultation. The rule is grounded in the fiduciary
obligation of loyalty.38 In the course of a lawyer-client relationship, the lawyer learns all
the facts connected with the client's case, including the weak and strong points of the
case. The nature of that relationship is, therefore, one of trust and confidence of the
highest degree. 39

22
The termination of attorney-client relation provides no justification for a lawyer to
represent an interest adverse to or in conflict with that of the former client. The client's
confidence once reposed should not be divested by mere expiration of professional
employment. Even after the severance of the relation, a lawyer should not do anything
which will injuriously affect his former client in any matter in which he previously
represented him nor should he disclose or use any of the client's confidences acquired
in the previous relation.40

In relation to this, Canon 17 of the Code of Professional Responsibility provides that a


lawyer owes fidelity to the cause of his client and shall be mindful of the trust and
confidence reposed on him. His highest and most unquestioned duty is to protect the
client at all hazards and costs even to himself.41 The protection given to the client is
perpetual and does not cease with the termination of the litigation, nor is it affected by
the party's ceasing to employ the attorney and retaining another, or by any other change
of relation between them. It even survives the death of the client.42

In the case at bar, respondent admitted having jointly represented Lydio and Raleigh as
defendants in the first civil case. Evidently, the attorney-client relation between Lydio
and respondent was established despite the fact that it was only Raleigh who paid him.
The case of Hilado v. David43tells us that it is immaterial whether such employment was
paid, promised or charged for.44

As defense counsel in the first civil case, respondent advocated the stance that Lydio
solely owned the property subject of the case. In the second civil case involving the
same property, respondent, as counsel for Raleigh and his spouse, has pursued the
inconsistent position that Raleigh owned the same property in common with Lydio, with
complainants, who inherited the property, committing acts which debase respondent's
rights as a co-owner.

The fact that the attorney-client relation had ceased by reason of Lydio's death or
through the completion of the specific task for which respondent was employed is not
reason for respondent to advocate a position opposed to that of Lydio. 45 Precedents tell
us that even after the termination of his employment, an attorney may not act as
counsel against his client in the same general matter, even though, while acting for his
former client, he acquired no knowledge which could operate to his client's
disadvantage in the subsequent adverse employment.46 And while complainants have
never been respondent's clients, they derive their rights to the property from Lydio's
ownership of it which respondent maintained in the first civil case.

For representing Raleigh's cause which is adverse to that of his former client—Raleigh's
supposed co-ownership of the subject property— respondent is guilty of representing
conflicting interests. Having previously undertaken joint representation of Lydio and
Raleigh, respondent should have diligently studied and anticipated the

potential conflict of interest. Accordingly, disciplinary action is warranted. 47 Heretofore,


respondent is enjoined to look at any representation situation from "the point of view

23
that there are possible conflicts"; and further, "to think in terms of impaired loyalty" that
is to evaluate if his representation in any way will impair loyalty to a client.48Considering,
however, that this is respondent's first offense, the Court resolves to reprimand
respondent, with admonition to observe a higher degree of fidelity in the practice of his
profession.49

WHEREFORE, respondent Atty. Edgar J. Baguio is found GUILTY of representing


conflicting interests and meted out the penalty of REPRIMAND. He is further
admonished to observe a higher degree of fidelity in the practice of his profession and
to bear in mind that a repetition of the same or similar acts will be dealt with more
severely.

SO ORDERED.

Carpio, Acting Chairperson Carpio-Morales, Azcuna*, Velasco, Jr., JJ., concur.

FIRST DIVISION

FELICITAS S. QUIAMBAO, Adm. Case No. 6708


Complainant, (CBD Case No. 01 -874)

Present:

DAVIDE, JR., C.J.,


(Chairman),
- versus - QUISUMBING,
SANTIAGO,
CARPIO, and
AZCUNA, JJ.
ATTY. NESTOR A. BAMBA , Promulgated:
Respondent.
August 25, 2005
X- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -X

RESOLUTION

DAVIDE, JR., C.J.:

24
We are aware of the hapless fact that there are not enough lawyers to
serve an exploding population. This unfortunate state of affairs, however,
will not seize this Court from exercising its disciplinary power over lawyers
culpable of serious indiscretion s. The incidence of public force must be
deployed to bear upon the community to eventually forge a legal profession
that provides quality, ethical, accessible, and cost -effective legal service to
our people and whose members are willing and able to answer the call to
public service.

In this administrative case for disbarment, complainant Felicitas S.


Quiambao charges respondent Atty. Nestor A. Bamba with violation of the
Code of Professional Responsibility for representing conflicting interests
when the latter filed a case against her while he was at that time
representing her in another case, and for committing other acts of
disloyalty and double-dealing.

From June 2000 to January 2001, the complainant was the president
and managing director of Allied Investigation Bureau, Inc. (AIB), a family -
owned corporation engaged in providing security and investigation
services. She avers that she procured the legal services of the respondent
not only for the corporate affairs of AIB but also for her personal case .
Particularly, the respondent acted as her counsel of record in an ejectment
case against Spouses Santiago and Florita Torroba filed by her on 29
December 2000 before the Metropolitan Trial Court (MeTC) of Paraaque
City, which was docketed as Civil Case N o. 11928. She paid attorneys fees
for respondents legal services in that case. [ 1 ] About six months after she
resigned as AIB president, or on 14 June 2001, t he respondent filed on
behalf of AIB a complaint for replevin and damages against her before the
MeTC of Quezon City for the purpose of recovering from her the car of AIB
assigned to her as a service vehicle. This he did without withdrawing as
counsel of record in the ejectment case, which was then still pending. [ 2 ]

Apart from the foregoing litigation matter, the complainant, in her


Position Paper, charges t he respondent with acts of disloyalty and double -
dealing. She avers that the respondent proposed to her that she organize
her own security agency and that he would assist her in its organization,
25
causing her to resign as president of AIB. The respondent in deed assisted
her in December 2000 in the formation of another security agency,
Quiambao Risk Management Specialists, Inc., (QRMSI), which was later
registered under complainants name, with the respondent as a silent
partner represented by his associate At ty. Gerardo P. Hernandez. The
respondent was paid attorneys fees for his legal services in organizing and
incorporating QRMSI. He also planned to steal or pirate some of the more
important clients of AIB. While serving as legal counsel for AIB and a silent
partner of QRMSI, he convinced complainants brother Leodegario
Quiambao to organize another security agency, San Esteban Security
Services, Inc. (SESSI) where he (the respondent) served as its incorporator,
director, and president. The respondent and Leod egario then illegally
diverted the funds of AIB to fund the incorporation of SESSI, and likewise
planned to eventually close down the operations of AIB and transfer the
business to SESSI. [ 3 ]

For his part, the respondent admits that he represented the


complainant in the aforementioned ejectment case and later represented
AIB in the replevin case against her. He, however, denies that he was the
personal lawyer of the complainant, and avers that he was made to believe
that it was part of his function as counsel for AIB to handle even the
personal cases of its officers. Even assuming that the complainant confided
to him privileged information about her legal inte rests, the ejectment case
and the replevin case are unrelated cases involving different issues and
parties and, therefore, the privileged information which might have been
gathered from one case would have no use in the other. At any rate, it was
the compl ainant herself who insisted that he stay as her counsel despite the
perceived differences among her, her brother, and AIB over the motor
vehicle subject of the replevin case. The complainant even asked him to
assist her in her monetary claims against AIB. [ 4 ]

The respondent also denies the charge raised by the complainant in


her position paper that he agreed to be a silent partner of QRMSI through
his nominee, Atty. Gerardo P. Hernandez, who was his former law partner.
He declined complainants offer to assume that role and suggested Atty.
Hernandez in his place; thus, 375 shares of stock were registered in Atty.
26
Hernandezs name as consideration of his (Atty. H ernandezs) legal services
as corporate secretary and legal counsel of QRMSI. The respondent also
denies that he convinced complainants brother Leodegario to organize
another security agency and that the funds of AIB were unlawfully diverted
to SESSI. It was to complement the business of AIB, which was then in
danger of collapse, that SESSI was established. Leodegarios wife and her
son have the effective control over SESSI. Respondents subscribed
shareholdings in SESSI comprise only 800 shares out of 12,500 subscribed
shares. He serves AIB and SESSI in different capacities: as legal counsel of
the former and as president of the latter. [ 5 ]

In his Report and Rec ommendation [ 6 ] dated 31 August 2004, the


investigating commissioner of the IBP found the respondent guilty of
representing conflicting interests based on the following undisputed facts:
first, the respondent was still complainants counsel of record in the
ejectment case when he filed, as legal counsel of AIB, the replevin case
against her; and second, the respondent was still the legal counsel of AIB
when he advised the complainant on the incorporation of another security
agency, QRMSI, and recommended his former law partner, Atty. Gerardo
Hernandez, to be its corporate secretary and legal counsel and also when
he conferred with Leodegario to organize another s ecurity agency, SESSI,
where the respondent became an incorporator, stockholder, and president.
Thus, the investigating commissioner recommended that the respondent be
suspended from the practice of law for one year.

The IBP Board of Governors adopted an d approved the investigating


commissioners report and recommendation, but reduced the penalty from
one year to a stern reprimand. [ 7 ]

The issue in this case is whether the respondent is guilty of


misconduct for representing conflicting interests in contravention of the
basic tenets of the legal profession.

Rule 15.03, Canon 5 of the Code of Professional Responsibility provides:


A lawyer shall not represent conflicting interests except by written consent
of all concerned given after a full disclosure of the facts. This prohibition
27
is founded on principles of public policy and good taste. [ 8 ] In the course
of a lawyer-client relationship, the lawyer learns all the facts connected
with the clients case, including the weak and strong points of the case. The
nature of that relationship is, therefore, one of trust and confidence of the
highest degree. [ 9 ] It behooves lawyers not only to keep inviolate the clients
confidence, but also to avoid the appearance of treachery and double-
dealing for only then can litigants be encouraged to entrust their secrets
to their lawyers, which is of paramount importance in the administration
of justice. [ 1 0 ]

In broad terms, lawyers are deemed to represent conflicting interests when,


in behalf of one client, it is their duty to contend for that which duty to
another client requires them to oppose. [ 1 1 ] Developments in jurisprudence
have particularized various tests to determine whether a lawyers conduct
lies within this proscription. One test is whether a lawyer is duty -bound to
fight for an issue or claim in behalf of one client and, at the same time, to
oppose that claim for the other client. [ 1 2 ] Thus, if a lawyers argument for
one client has to be opposed by that same lawyer in arguing for the other
client, there is a violation of the rule.

Another test of inconsistency of interests is whether the acceptance


of a new relation would prevent the full discharge of the lawyers duty of
undivided fidelity and loyalty to the client or invite suspicion of
unfaithfulness or double -dealing in the performance of that duty. [ 1 3 ] Still
another test is whethe r the lawyer would be called upon in the new relation
to use against a former client any confidential information acquired
through their connection or previous employment. [ 1 4 ]

The proscription against representation of conflicting interests


applies to a situation where the opposing parties are present clients in the
same action or in an unrelated action. It is of no moment that the lawyer
would not be calle d upon to contend for one client that which the lawyer
has to oppose for the other client, or that there would be no occasion to use
the confidential information acquired from one to the disadvantage of the
other as the two actions are wholly unrelated. It is enough that the opposing
28
parties in one case, one of whom would lose the suit, are present clients and
the nature or conditions of the lawyers respective retainers with each of
them would affect the performance of the duty of undivided fidelity to both
clients. [ 1 5 ]

In this case, it is undisputed that at the time the respondent filed the
replevin case on behalf of AIB he was still the counsel of record o f the
complainant in the pending ejectment case. We do not sustain respondents
theory that since the ejectment case and the replevin case are unrelated
cases fraught with different issues, parties, and subject matters, the
prohibition is inapplicable. His representation of opposing clients in both
cases, though unrelated, obviously constitutes conflict of interest or, at the
least, invites suspicion of double -dealing. While the respondent may assert
that the complainant expressly consented to his continued representation
in the ejectment case, the respondent failed to show that he fully disclosed
the facts to both his clients and he failed to present any written consent of
the complainant and AIB as required under Rule 15.03, Canon 15 of the
Code of Professi onal Responsibility.

Neither can we accept respondents plea that he was duty -bound to handle
all the cases referred to him by AIB, including the personal cases of its
officers which had no connection to its corporate affairs. That the
representation of conflicting interest is in good faith and with honest
intention on the part of the lawyer does not make the prohibition
inoperative. [ 1 6 ] Moreover, lawyers ar e not obliged to act either as an adviser
or advocate for every person who may wish to become their client. They
have the right to decline such employment, subject, however, to Canon 14
of the Code of Professional Responsibility. [ 1 7 ] Although there are instances
where lawyers cannot decline representation, [ 1 8 ] they cannot be made to
labor under conflict of interest between a present client and a prospective
one. [ 1 9 ]

Additionally, in his position paper, the respo ndent alleges that when the
complainant invited the respondent to join QRMSI, he vehemently refused
to join them due to his perception of conflicting interest as he was then
(and still is at present) the Legal Counsel of AIB, which is also a security
29
agency. [ 2 0 ] To bolster his allegation, he invoked the affidavits of
complainants witnesses which contained statements of his apprehension of
conflict of interest should he join QRMSI. [ 2 1 ]

Surprisingly, despite his apprehension or awareness of a possible conflict


of interest should he join QRMSI, the respondent later allowed himself to
become an incorporator, stockholder, and president of SESSI, which is also
a security agency. He justified his act by claiming that that while both AIB
and SESSI are engaged in security agency business, he is serving in different
capacities. As the in -house legal counsel of AIB, he serves its legal interest
the parameter of which evolves around legal matters such as protecting the
legal rights and interest of the corporation; conducting an investigation or
a hearing on violations of company rules and regulations of their office
employees and security guards; sending demand letters in collection cases;
and representing the corporation in any litigation for or against it. And as
president of SESSI, he serves the operational aspects of the business such
as how does it operate[], how much do they price their services, what kind
or how do they train[] their security guards, how they solicit clients. Thus,
conflict of interest is far -fetched. Moreover, the respondent argues that the
complainant, not being a stockholder of AIB and SESSI, has no right to
question his alleged conflict of interest in serving the two security
agencies. [ 2 2 ]

While the complainant lacks personality to question the alleged conflict of


interests on the part of the respondent in serving both security agencies,
we cannot just turn a blind eye to respondents act. It must be noted that
the proscription against representati on of conflicting interests finds
application where the conflicting interests arise with respect to the same
general matter however slight the adverse interest may be. It applies even
if the conflict pertains to the lawyers private activity or in the perfo rmance
of a function in a non -professional capacity. [ 2 3 ] In the process of
determining whether there is a conflict of interest, an important criterion
is probability, not certainty, of conflict.

Since the respondent has financial or pecuniary interest in SESSI, which is


engaged in a business competing with his clients, and, more importantly,
30
he occupies the highest position in SESSI, one cannot help enterta ining a
doubt on his loyalty to his client AIB. This kind of situation passes the
second test of conflict of interest, which is whether the acceptance of a new
relationship would prevent the full discharge of the lawyers duty of
undivided fidelity and loya lty to the client or invite suspicion of
unfaithfulness or double -dealing in the performance of that duty. The close
relationship of the majority stockholders of both companies does not negate
the conflict of interest. Neither does his protestation that hi s shareholding
in SESSI is a mere pebble among the sands.

In view of all of the foregoing, we find the respondent guilty of serious


misconduct for representing conflicting interests.
Furthermore, it must be noted that Republic Act No. 5487, otherwise
known as the Private Security Agency Law , prohibits a person from
organizing or having an interest in more than one security agency. From
respondents position paper, it can be culled that Leodegario Quiambao is
the president and managing director of AIB, hold ing 60% of the outstanding
shares; while his four other siblings who are permanent residents in the
United States own the remaining 40%. [ 2 4 ] This prohibitio n notwithstanding,
the respondent organized SESSI, with Leodegarios wife and son as majority
stockholders holding about 70% of the outstanding shares and with him (the
respondent), as well as the rest of the stockholders, holding minimal
shares. [ 2 5 ] In doing so, the respondent virtually allowed Leodegario and the
latters wife to violate or circumvent the law by having an interest in more
than one security agency. It must be noted that in the affidavit [ 2 6 ] of
Leodegarios wife, she mentioned of their conjugal property. In the absence
of evidence to the contrary , the property relation of Leodegario and his wife
can be presumed to be that of conjugal partnership of gains; hence, the
majority shares in AIB and SESSI are the conjugal property of Leodegario
and his wife, thereby placing themselves in possession of an interest in
more than one security agency in contravention of R.A. No. 5487. Thus, in
organizing SESSI, the respondent violated Rule 1.02, Canon 1 of the Code
of Professional Responsibility, which mandates lawyers to promote respect
for the law and refrai n from counseling or abetting activities aimed at
defiance of the law.

31
As to the recommendation that the penalty be reduced from a
suspension of one year to a stern warning, we find the same to be without
basis. We are disturbed by the reduction made by th e IBP Board of
Governors of the penalty recommended by the investigating commissioner
without clearly and distinctly stating the facts and reasons on which that
reduction is based.
Section 12(a), Rule 139 -B of the Rules of Court reads in part as
follows:

SEC. 12. Review and decision by the Board of Governors .


(a) Every case heard by an investigator shall be reviewed by
the IBP Board of Governors upon the record and evidence
transmitted to it by the Investigator with his report. The
decision of the Board u pon such review shall be in writing and
shall clearly and distinctly state the facts and the reasons on
which it is based.

We may consider the resolution of the IBP Board of Governors as a


memorandum decision adopting by reference the report of the investigating
commissioner. However, we look with disfavor the change in the
recommended penalty without any explanation therefor. Again, we remind
the IBP Board of Governors of the importance of the requirement to
announce in plain terms its legal reasoni ng, since the requirement that its
decision in disciplinary proceedings must state the facts and the reasons on
which its decision is based is akin to what is required of the decisions of
courts of record. [ 2 7 ] The reasons for handing down a penalty occupy no
lesser station than any other portion of the ratio.

In similar cases where the respondent was found guilty of


representing conflicting interests a penalty ranging from one to three years
suspension was imposed. [ 2 8 ] In this case, we find that a suspension from
the practice of law for one year is warrant ed.

WHEREFORE, respondent Atty. Nestor A. Bamba is hereby


held GUILTY of violation of Rule 15.03 of Canon 15 and Rule 1.02 of Canon
1 of the Code of Professional Responsibility. He is SUSPENDED from the
practice of law for a period of ONE (1) YEAR effective from receipt of this

32
Resolution, with a warning that a similar infraction in the future shall be
dealt with more severely.

Let copies of this Resolution be furnished to the Office of the Bar


Confidant and the Integrated Bar of the Philippines.

SO ORDERED.

HILARIO G. DAVIDE, JR.


Chief Justice

WE CONCUR:

LEONARDO A. QUISUMBING CONSUELO YNARES-SANTIAGO


Associate Justice Associate Justice

ANTONIO T. CARPIO ADOLFO S. AZCUNA


Associate Justice Associate Justice

Item No. 89
Agenda for 22 August 2005

FIRST DIVISION

FORCONCURRENCE

33
FELICITAS S. QUIAMBAO, Adm. Case No. 6708
Complainant, (CBD Case No. 01 -874)

- versus -

ATTY. NESTOR A. BAMBA ,


Respondent.

Republic of the Philippines


SUPREME COURT
Manila

FIRST DIVISION

A.C. No. 9149 September 4, 2013

JULIAN PENILLA, COMPLAINANT,


vs.
ATTY. QUINTIN P. ALCID, JR., RESPONDENT.

DECISION

VILLARAMA, JR., J.:

Before this Court is an administrative complaint1 filed against respondent Atty. Quintin
P. Alcid, Jr. for violation of the Lawyer’s Oath and the Code of Professional
Responsibility, and for gross misconduct in the performance of his duty as a lawyer.

The antecedent facts follow:

Complainant Julian Penilla entered into an agreement with Spouses Rey and Evelyn
Garin (the spouses) for the repair of his Volkswagen automobile. Despite full payment,
the spouses defaulted in their obligation. Thus, complainant decided to file a case for
breach of contract against the spouses where he engaged the services of respondent
as counsel.

Respondent sent a demand letter to the spouses and asked for the refund of
complainant’s payment. When the spouses failed to return the payment, respondent
advised complainant that he would file a criminal case for estafa against said spouses.
Respondent charged ₱30,000 as attorney’s fees and ₱10,000 as filing fees.
Complainant turned over the relevant documents to respondent and paid the fees in
tranches. Respondent then filed the complaint for estafa before Asst. City Prosecutor
Jose C. Fortuno of the Office of the City Prosecutor of Quezon City. Respondent
attended the hearing with complainant but the spouses did not appear. After the
hearing, complainant paid another ₱1,000 to respondent as appearance fee.

34
Henceforth, complainant and respondent have conflicting narrations of the subsequent
events and transactions that transpired.

Complainant alleges that when the case was submitted for resolution, respondent told
him that they have to give a bottle of Carlos Primero I to Asst. City Prosecutor Fortuno
to expedite a favorable resolution of the case. Complainant claims that despite initial
reservations, he later acceded to respondent’s suggestion, bought a bottle of Carlos
Primero I for ₱950 and delivered it to respondent’s office.

Asst. City Prosecutor Fortuno later issued a resolution dismissing the estafa case
against the spouses. Respondent allegedly told complainant that a motion for
reconsideration was "needed to have [the resolution] reversed." 2Respondent then
prepared the motion and promised complainant that he would fix the problem. On
February 18, 2002, the motion was denied for lack of merit. Respondent then told
complainant that he could not do anything about the adverse decision and presented
the option of filing a civil case for specific performance against the spouses for the
refund of the money plus damages. Complainant paid an additional ₱10,000 to
respondent which he asked for the payment of filing fees. After complainant signed the
complaint, he was told by respondent to await further notice as to the status of the case.
Complainant claims that respondent never gave him any update thereafter.

Complainant asserts having made numerous and unsuccessful attempts to follow-up


the status of the case and meet with respondent at his office. He admits, however, that
in one instance he was able to talk to respondent who told him that the case was not
progressing because the spouses could not be located. In the same meeting,
respondent asked complainant to determine the whereabouts of the spouses.
Complainant returned to respondent’s office on January 24, 2005, but because
respondent was not around, complainant left with respondent’s secretary a letter
regarding the possible location of the spouses.

Complainant claims not hearing from respondent again despite his several letters
conveying his disappointment and requesting for the return of the money and the
documents in respondent’s possession. Complainant then sought the assistance of the
radio program "Ito ang Batas with Atty. Aga" to solve his predicament. Following the
advice he gathered, complainant went to the Office of the Clerk of Court of the
Caloocan City Metropolitan Trial Court and Regional Trial Court (RTC). Complainant
learned that a civil case for Specific Performance and Damages was filed on June 6,
20023 but was dismissed on June 13, 2002. He also found out that the filing fee was
only ₱2,440 and not ₱10,000 as earlier stated by respondent. Atty. Aga of the same
radio program also sent respondent a letter calling his attention to complainant’s
problem. The letter, like all of complainant’s previous letters, was unheeded.

On January 9, 2006, complainant filed before the Integrated Bar of the Philippines-
Commission on Bar Discipline (IBP-CBD) the instant administrative case praying that
respondent be found guilty of gross misconduct for violating the Lawyer’s Oath and the

35
Code of Professional Responsibility, and for appropriate administrative sanctions to be
imposed.

Respondent harps a different tale.

In an Answer4 filed on January 30, 2006, respondent prayed that the case be dismissed
for lack of merit. He denied charging complainant ₱10,000 as filing fees for the estafa
case and claimed that he charged and received only ₱2,000. He also countered that the
payment of ₱30,000 made by the complainant was his acceptance fee for both the
estafa case and civil case. Respondent likewise denied the following other allegations of
complainant: that he assured the success of the case before the prosecutor; that he
asked complainant to give a bottle of Carlos Primero I to the prosecutor; that he
promised to fix the case; and that he charged ₱10,000, as he only charged ₱5,000, as
filing fee for the civil case.

Respondent explained that it was not a matter of indifference on his part when he failed
to inform petitioner of the status of the case. In fact, he was willing to return the money
and the documents of complainant. What allegedly prevented him from communicating
with complainant was the fact that complainant would go to his office during days and
times that he would be attending his daily court hearings.

The IBP-CBD called for a mandatory conference on April 28, 2006. Only complainant
and his counsel attended.5The conference was reset and terminated on June 9, 2006.
The parties were directed to file their verified position papers within 15 days, 6 to which
complainant and respondent complied.7

On July 18, 2006, respondent filed a Reply8 praying for the dismissal of the case for
lack of factual and legal bases. He stated that he had performed his duties as
complainant’s counsel when he filed the criminal case before the Office of the City
Prosecutor of Quezon City and the civil case before the RTC of Caloocan City. He
averred that he should not be blamed for the dismissal of both cases as his job was to
ensure that justice is served and not to win the case. It was unethical for him to
guarantee the success of the case and resort to unethical means to win such case for
the client. He continued to deny that he asked complainant to give the prosecutor a
bottle of Carlos Primero I and that the filing fees he collected totalled ₱20,000.
Respondent argued that it is incredulous that the total sum of all the fees that he had
allegedly collected exceeded ₱30,000 – the amount being claimed by complainant from
the spouses.

In its Report and Recommendation9 dated September 12, 2008, the IBP-CBD
recommended the suspension of respondent from the practice of law for six months "for
negligence within the meaning of Canon 18 and transgression of Rule 18.04 of the
Code of Professional Responsibility," viz:

In the case under consideration, there are certain matters which keep sticking out like a
sore thumb rendering them difficult to escape notice.

36
One is the filing of a criminal complaint for estafa arising out of a violation of the contract
for repair of the Volks Wagon (sic) car. It is basic that when an act or omission
emanates from a contract, oral or written, the consequent result is a breach of the
contract, hence, properly actionable in a civil suit for damages. As correctly pointed out
by the Investigating Prosecutor, the liability of the respondent is purely civil in nature
because the complaint arose from a contract of services and the respondent (spouses
Garin) failed to perform their contractual obligation under the contract.

xxxx

Another one is the filing of a civil complaint for specific performance and damages (after
the dismissal of the criminal complaint for estafa) in the Regional Trial Court of
Caloocan City where the actual damages claimed is ₱36,000.00.

It is also basic that the civil complaint for ₱36,000.00 should have been filed with the
MTC [which] has jurisdiction over the same. One of the "firsts" that a lawyer ascertains
in filing an action is the proper forum or court with whom the suit or action shall be filed.
In June 2002 when the civil complaint was filed in court, the jurisdiction of the MTC has
already expanded such that the jurisdictional amount of the RTC is already
₱400,000.00.

xxxx

Another thing is the various follow-ups made by respondent’s client as evidenced by the
letters marked as Exhibits "D", "E", "F", "G" and "H" which were all received by
complainant’s secretary, except for Exhibit "H" which was received by Atty. Asong, not
to mention Exhibit "M" which was sent by "Atty. Aga". These efforts of the complainant
were not reciprocated by the respondent with good faith. Respondent chose to ignore
them and reasoned out that he is willing to meet with the complainant and return the
money and documents received by reason of the legal engagement, but omitted to
communicate with him for the purpose of fixing the time and place for the meeting. This
failure suggests a clear disregard of the client’s demand which was done in bad faith on
the part of respondent.10

On December 11, 2008, the IBP Board of Governors issued Resolution No. XVIII-2008-
646, adopting and approving the recommendation of the IBP-CBD. The
Resolution11 reads:

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


Report and Recommendation of the Investigating Commissioner of 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 18 and Rule 18.04 of the Code
of Professional Responsibility for his negligence, Atty. Quintin P. Alcid, Jr. is hereby
SUSPENDED from the practice of law for six (6) months.

37
On April 24, 2009, respondent sought reconsideration12 and asked that the penalty of
suspension be reduced to warning or reprimand. After three days, or on April 27, 2009,
respondent filed a "Motion to Admit Amended ‘Motion for Reconsideration’ Upon Leave
of Office."13 Respondent asserted that the failure to inform complainant of the status of
the cases should not be attributed to him alone. He stressed that complainant had
always been informed that he only had time to meet with his clients in the afternoon at
his office in Quezon City. Despite such notice, complainant kept going to his office in
Tandang Sora. He admitted that though he committed lapses which would amount to
negligence in violation of Canon 18 and Rule 18.04, they were done unknowingly and
without malice or bad faith. He also stressed that this was his first infraction.

In its Resolution No. XIX-2011-473 dated June 26, 2011, the IBP Board of Governors
denied respondent’s Motion for Reconsideration for lack of merit.14 On August 15, 2011,
respondent filed a second Motion for Reconsideration15which was no longer acted upon
due to the transmittal of the records of the case to this Court by the IBP on August 16,
2011.16

On September 14, 2011, the Court issued a Resolution17 and noted the aforementioned
Notices of Resolution dated December 11, 2008 and June 26, 2011. On December 14,
2011, it issued another Resolution18 noting the Indorsement dated August 16, 2011 of
Director Alicia A. Risos-Vidal and respondent’s second Motion for Reconsideration
dated August 15, 2011.

We sustain the findings of the IBP that respondent committed professional negligence
under Canon 18 and Rule 18.04 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, with a
modification that we also find respondent guilty of violating Canon 17 and Rule 18.03 of
the Code and the Lawyer’s Oath.

A lawyer may be disbarred or suspended for any violation of his oath, a patent disregard
of his duties, or an odious deportment unbecoming an attorney. A lawyer must at no
time be wanting in probity and moral fiber which are not only conditions precedent to his
entrance to the Bar but are likewise essential demands for his continued membership
therein.19

The Complaint before the IBP-CBD charged respondent with violation of his oath and
the following provisions under the Code of Professional Responsibility:

a)

Canon 15 – A lawyer shall observe candor, fairness and loyalty in all his dealings and
transactions with his client;

b)

Rule 15.[06, Canon 15 – A lawyer shall not state or imply that he is able to influence any
public official, tribunal or legislative body;

38
c)

Rule 16.01[, Canon 16 – A lawyer shall account for all money or property collected or
received for or from his client;

d)

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;

e)

Canon 18 – A lawyer shall serve his client with competence and diligence;

f)

Rule 18.03[, Canon 18 – A lawyer shall not neglect a legal matter entrusted to him and
his negligence in connection therewith shall render him liable; and

g)

Rule 18.04[, Canon 18 – A lawyer shall keep his client informed of the status of his case
and shall respond within a reasonable time to the client’s request for information. 20

A review of the proceedings and the evidence in the case at bar shows that respondent
violated Canon 18 and Rules 18.03 and 18.04 of the Code of Professional
Responsibility. Complainant correctly alleged that respondent violated his oath under
Canon 18 to "serve his client with competence and diligence" when respondent filed a
criminal case for estafa when the facts of the case would have warranted the filing of a
civil case for breach of contract. To be sure, after the complaint for estafa was
dismissed, respondent committed another similar blunder by filing a civil case for
specific performance and damages before the RTC. The complaint, having an
alternative prayer for the payment of damages, should have been filed with the
Municipal Trial Court which has jurisdiction over complainant’s claim which amounts to
only ₱36,000. As correctly stated in the Report and Recommendation of the IBP-CBD:

Batas Pambansa Blg. 129[,] as amended by R.A. No. 7691 which took effect on April
15, 1994[,] vests in the MTCs of Metro Manila exclusive original jurisdiction of civil
cases where the amount of demand does not exceed ₱200,000.00 exclusive of interest,
damages of whatever kind, attorney’s fees, litigation expenses and costs (Sec. 33), and
after five (5) years from the effectivity of the Act, the same shall be adjusted to
₱400,000.00 (Sec. 34).21

The errors committed by respondent with respect to the nature of the remedy adopted in
the criminal complaint and the forum selected in the civil complaint were so basic and
could have been easily averted had he been more diligent and circumspect in his role

39
as counsel for complainant. What aggravates respondent’s offense is the fact that his
previous mistake in filing the estafa case did not motivate him to be more conscientious,
diligent and vigilant in handling the case of complainant. The civil case he subsequently
filed for complainant was dismissed due to what later turned out to be a basic
jurisdictional error.

That is not all. After the criminal and civil cases were dismissed, respondent was plainly
negligent and did not apprise complainant of the status and progress of both cases he
filed for the latter. He paid no attention and showed no importance to complainant’s
cause despite repeated follow-ups. Clearly, respondent is not only guilty of
incompetence in handling the cases. His lack of professionalism in dealing with
complainant is also gross and inexcusable. In what may seem to be a helpless attempt
to solve his predicament, complainant even had to resort to consulting a program in a
radio station to recover his money from respondent, or at the very least, get his
attention.

Respondent’s negligence under Rules 18.03 and 18.04 is also beyond contention. A
client pays his lawyer hard-earned money as professional fees. In return, "[e]very case
a lawyer accepts deserves his full attention, skill and competence, regardless of its
importance and whether he accepts it for a fee or for free. Rule 18.03 of the Code of
Professional Responsibility enjoins a lawyer not to ‘neglect a legal matter entrusted to
him, and his negligence in connection therewith shall render him liable.’ He must
constantly keep in mind that his actions or omissions or nonfeasance would be binding
upon his client. He is expected to be acquainted with the rudiments of law and legal
procedure, and a client who deals with him has the right to expect not just a good
amount of professional learning and competence but also a whole-hearted fealty to the
client’s cause."22 Similarly, under Rule 18.04, a lawyer has the duty to apprise his client
of the status and developments of the case and all other information relevant thereto.
He must be consistently mindful of his obligation to respond promptly should there be
queries or requests for information from the client.

In the case at bar, respondent explained that he failed to update complainant of the
status of the cases he filed because their time did not always coincide. The excuse
proffered by respondent is too lame and flimsy to be given credit. Respondent himself
admitted that he had notice that complainant had visited his office many times. Yet,
despite the efforts exerted and the vigilance exhibited by complainant, respondent
neglected and failed to fulfill his obligation under Rules 18.03 and 18.04 to keep his
client informed of the status of his case and to respond within a reasonable time to the
client’s request for information.

Finally, respondent also violated Canon 17 of the Code which states that "[a] lawyer
owes fidelity to the cause of his client and he shall be mindful of the trust and
confidence reposed in him." The legal profession dictates that it is not a mere duty, but
an obligation, of a lawyer to accord the highest degree of fidelity, zeal and fervor in the
protection of the client’s interest. The most thorough groundwork and study must be
undertaken in order to safeguard the interest of the client. The honor bestowed on his

40
person to carry the title of a lawyer does not end upon taking the Lawyer’s Oath and
signing the Roll of Attorneys. Rather, such honor attaches to him for the entire duration
of his practice of law and carries with it the consequent responsibility of not only
satisfying the basic requirements but also going the extra mile in the protection of the
interests of the client and the pursuit of justice. Respondent has defied and failed to
perform such duty and his omission is tantamount to a desecration of the Lawyer’s
Oath.

All said, in administrative cases for disbarment or suspension against lawyers, it is the
complainant who has the burden to prove by preponderance of evidence23 the
allegations in the complaint. In the instant case, complainant was only able to prove
respondent’s violation of Canons 17 and 18, and Rules 18.03 and 18.04 of the Code of
Professional Responsibility, and the Lawyer’s Oath. Complainant failed to substantiate
his claim that respondent violated Canon 15 and Rule 15.06 of the Code of Professional
Responsibility when respondent allegedly instructed him to give a bottle of Carlos
Primero I to Asst. City Prosecutor Fortuno in order to get a favorable decision. Similarly,
complainant was not able to present evidence that respondent indeed violated Rule
16.01 of Canon 16 by allegedly collecting money from him in excess of the required
filing fees.

As to respondent’s proven acts and omissions which violate Canons 17 and 18 and
Rules 18.03 and 18.04 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, and the Lawyer’s
Oath, we find the same to constitute gross misconduct for which he may be suspended
under Section 27, Rule 138 of the Rules of Court, viz:

SEC. 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 appearing as an attorney for a party to a case
without authority to do so. x x x.

WHEREFORE, the Resolution of the IBP Board of Governors adopting and approving
the Decision of the Investigating Commissioner is hereby AFFIRMED with a
MODIFICATION that respondent Atty. Quintin P. Alcid, Jr. is hereby found GUILTY of
gross misconduct for violating Canons 17 and 18, and Rules 18.03 and 18.04 of the
Code of Professional Responsibility, as well as the Lawyer’s Oath. This Court hereby
imposes upon respondent the penalty of SUSPENSION from the practice of law for a
period of SIX (6) MONTHS to commence immediately upon receipt of this Decision.
Respondent is further ADMONISHED to be more circumspect and diligent in handling
the cases of his clients, and STERNLY WARNED that a commission of the same or
similar acts in the future shall be dealt with more severely.

Let copies of this Decision be furnished to the Office of the Court Administrator to be
disseminated to all courts throughout the country, to the Office of the Bar Confidant to

41
be appended to Atty. Quintin P. Alcid, Jr.’s personal records, and to the Integrated Bar
of the Philippines for its information and guidance.

SO ORDERED.

MARTIN S. VILLARAMA, JR.


Associate Justice

WE CONCUR:

MARIA LOURDES P. A. SERENO


Chief Justice
Chairperson

LUCAS P. BERSAMIN BIENVENIDO L. REYES


Associate Justice Associate Justice

ESTELA M. PERLAS-BERNABE*
Associate Justice

Republic of the Philippines


SUPREME COURT
Manila

THIRD DIVISION

A. C. No. 7421 October 10, 2007

ELISA V. VENTEREZ, GENARO DE VERA, INOCENCIA V. RAMIREZ, PACITA V.


MILLS, ANTONINA V. PALMA and RAMON DE VERA, Complainants,
vs.
ATTY. RODRIGO R. COSME, Respondent.

RESOLUTION

CHICO-NAZARIO, J.:

Before Us is a Complaint filed by complainants Eliza V. Venterez, Genaro de Vera,


Inocencia V. Ramirez, Pacita V. Mills, Antonina V. Palma and Ramon de Vera against
respondent Atty. Rodrigo R. Cosme, charging the latter with Abandonment, Gross
Negligence and Dereliction of Duty.

Complainants contracted the legal services of respondent in Civil Case No. 981 entitled,
"Sps. Daniel and Lolita Oviedo, et al. v. Eliza de Vera, et al.," for Declaration of
Ownership with Damages filed before the Municipal Trial Court (MTC) of Calasiao,
Pangasinan. Respondent represented the complainants, who were defendants in said

42
case, until a Decision thereon was rendered by the MTC on 25 February 2004. The
MTC ruled against the complainants. Respondent received a copy of the said Decision
on 3 March 2004.

Complainants alleged that they directed the respondent to either file a Motion for
Reconsideration or a Notice of Appeal, but respondent failed or refused to do so. The
15-day period within which to file an appeal or a motion for reconsideration of the MTC
Decision expired on 18 March 2004. Complainant Elisa V. Venterez was constrained to
contract another lawyer to prepare the Motion for Reconsideration which was filed on 19
March 2004. It must be stressed that the said motion was signed by complainant Elisa
V. Venterez herself as the said lawyer did not enter his appearance.

On 23 March 2004, the said Motion for Reconsideration was denied1 by the MTC.
Respondent was not furnished a copy of the denial of the motion per a
Certification2 issued by Clerk of Court II Zenaida C. de Vera. On 31 March 2004, a
Motion for Issuance of Writ of Execution3 was filed by the plaintiffs in Civil Case No. 981
but respondent never bothered to file an opposition to or any comment on the said
motion despite receipt thereof. The motion was eventually granted 4 by the MTC on 23
April 2004. On 28 April 2004, a Writ of Execution5 was issued and on 26 April 2004, an
Entry of Judgment6 was made in the said case.

Two months after respondent received a copy of the Decision, the respondent filed his
Notice of Retirement of Counsel with the MTC on 3 May 2004.

Feeling aggrieved by respondent’s actuations, complainants filed the instant


administrative complaint against him.7

In his Answer,8 respondent denied the claim of complainants that soon after the
Decision was rendered by the MTC, they (complainants) directed him to file an appeal
or a motion for reconsideration thereof. For his defense, respondent averred that
Salvador Ramirez (the son of one of the complainants, Inocencia V. Ramirez), informed
him that "he [was] withdrawing the case from the respondent because he already
engaged another lawyer to take over the case, so respondent gave the records of the
case to him." Respondent explained that "after Salvador Ramirez withdrew the case
from the respondent, and engaged another lawyer, the respondent turned over the
records of the case to him and the respondent ceased as the counsel of the
complainants." Respondent further alleged that the said Motion for Reconsideration was
already prepared by another lawyer. He denied being furnished a copy of the Motion for
Reconsideration allegedly prepared and filed by another lawyer engaged by
complainant Elisa V. Venterez and that he was served with a copy of the denial of the
said Motion by the MTC. Respondent also clarified that the "last day of the 15-day
period for the perfection of the appeal is 19 March 2004 since a copy of the decision
was served on the respondent on 4 March 2004." Finally, respondent argued that "when
the respondent was served a copy of the Motion for Writ of Execution, he immediately
notified Salvador Ramirez about said Motion but Salvador Ramirez came to see the
respondent only on 3 May 2005, when the respondent asked him to sign a Notice of

43
Retirement of Counsel signed by Salvador Ramirez which respondent immediately filed
in court."

Pursuant to the complaint, a hearing was conducted by the Commission on Bar


Discipline of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) at the IBP Building, Ortigas
Center, Pasig City, on 15 February 2006.

On 11 April 2006, Investigating Commissioner Dennis A. B. Funa submitted his Report


and Recommendation,9finding respondent liable for gross negligence and
recommending the imposition upon him of the penalty of three months suspension, to
wit:

PREMISES CONSIDERED, it is submitted that Respondent is GUILTY of Gross


Negligence and should be given the penalty of THREE (3) MONTHS SUSPENSION.

Thereafter, the IBP Board of Governors passed Resolution10 No. XVII-2006-457 dated 8
September 2006, approving and adopting the recommendation of the Investigating
Commissioner, thus:

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


Report and Recommendation of the Investigating Commissioner of 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 is guilty of gross negligence, Atty. Rodrigo
Cosme is hereby SUSPENDED from the practice of law for three (3) months. 11

We sustain the findings and recommendation of the IBP Board of Governors.

The core issue is whether the respondent committed culpable negligence in handling
complainants’ case, as would warrant disciplinary action.

No lawyer is obliged to advocate for every person who may wish to become his client,
but once he agrees to take up the cause of a client, the lawyer owes fidelity to such
cause and must be mindful of the trust and confidence reposed in him.12 Among the
fundamental rules of ethics is the principle that an attorney who undertakes an action
impliedly stipulates to carry it to its termination, that is, until the case becomes final and
executory. A lawyer is not at liberty to abandon his client and withdraw his services
without reasonable cause and only upon notice appropriate in the circumstances. 13 Any
dereliction of duty by a counsel affects the client.14 This means that his client is entitled
to the benefit of any and every remedy and defense that is authorized by the law and he
may expect his lawyer to assert every such remedy or defense.15

The Decision in Civil Case No. 981 was rendered by the MTC of Calasaio, Pangasinan,
on 25 February 2004. Respondent admitted16 that he was served a copy of the said
Decision on 4 March 2004. After having received a copy of the MTC Decision,
respondent did not bother to file a Motion for Reconsideration or a notice of appeal with

44
the proper courts. Thus, complainants were compelled to engage the services of a new
counsel to file a Motion for Reconsideration with the MTC who did not, however, enter
his appearance as new counsel. It bears stressing that during this time, respondent had
not yet filed any notice of withdrawal as counsel for the complainants in Civil Case No.
981. Respondent only formally withdrew as counsel for complainant in Civil Case No.
981 when he filed with the MTC his Notice17 of Retirement as Counsel on 5 May 2004,
on the ground that "he was also retired as Counsel for the [complainants] two days after
he received copy of the decision rendered in this case when SALVADOR RAMIREZ, a
representative of the [complainants], withdrew all the records of the case from
[respondent] to be given to his new counsel."

We cannot accept respondent’s defense that he had already withdrawn from the case
two days after his receipt of the MTC Decision and that he had allegedly communicated
this withdrawal to Salvador Ramirez, son of one of the herein complainants, Inocencia
Ramirez. It is an apparent attempt on the part of respondent to wash his hands of any
liability for failing to pursue any of the available remedies to complainants from the
adverse MTC Decision.

The rule in this jurisdiction is that a client has the absolute right to terminate the
attorney-client relation at any time with or without cause.18 The right of an attorney to
withdraw or terminate the relation other than for sufficient cause is, however,
considerably restricted.19 Among the fundamental rules of ethics is the principle that an
attorney who undertakes to conduct an action impliedly stipulates to carry it to its
conclusion.20 He is not at liberty to abandon it without reasonable cause.21 A lawyer's
right to withdraw from a case before its final adjudication arises only from the client's
written consent or from a good cause.22

Section 26, Rule 138 of the Revised Rules of Court provides:

Sec. 26. Change of attorneys -- An attorney may retire at any time from any action or
special proceeding, by the written consent of his client filed in court. He may also retire
at any time from an action or special proceeding, without the consent of his client,
should the court, on notice to the client and attorney, and on hearing, determine that he
ought to be allowed to retire. In case of substitution, the name of the attorney newly
employed shall be entered on the docket of the court in place of the former one, and
written notice of the change shall be given to the adverse party.

A lawyer may retire at any time from any action or special proceeding with the written
consent of his client filed in court and with a copy thereof served upon the adverse
party. Should the client refuse to give his consent, the lawyer must file an application
with the court. The court, on notice to the client and adverse party, shall determine
whether the lawyer ought to be allowed to retire. The application for withdrawal must be
based on a good cause.23

What constitute good cause for the withdrawal of services by the counsel are identified
under Rule 22.01, Canon 22 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, which provides:

45
CANON 22 -- A LAWYER SHALL WITHDRAW HIS SERVICES ONLY FOR GOOD
CAUSE AND UPON NOTICE APPROPRIATE IN THE CIRCUMSTANCES.

Rule 22.01-- A lawyer may WITHDRAW his services in any of the following cases:

a) When the client pursues an illegal or immoral course of conduct in connection


with the matter he is handling;

b) When the client insists that the lawyer pursue conduct violative of these
canons and rules;

c) When his inability to work with co-counsel will not promote the best interest of
the client;

d) When the mental or physical condition of the lawyer renders it difficult for him
to carry out the employment effectively;

e) When the client deliberately fails to pay the fees for the services or fails to
comply with the retainer agreement;

f) When the lawyer is elected or appointed to public office; and

g) Other similar cases.

The instant case does not fall under any of the grounds aforementioned. Neither can the
circumstances of this case be considered analogous to the grounds thus explicitly
enumerated. Contrary to respondent’s contention, his professional relations as a lawyer
with his clients are not terminated by the simple turnover of the records of the case to
his clients. Respondent’s defense completely crumbles in face of the fact that Salvador
Ramirez is not even a party in Civil Case No. 981 and, hence, had no authority to
withdraw the records of the said case from respondent or to terminate the latter’s
services.

Assuming, nevertheless, that respondent was justified in withdrawing his services, he,
however, cannot just do so and leave complainants in the cold, unprotected. The lawyer
has no right to presume that his petition for withdrawal will be granted by the
court.24 Until his withdrawal shall have been approved, the lawyer remains counsel of
record who is expected by his clients, as well as by the court, to do what the interests of
his clients require.25 He must still appear before the court to protect the interest of his
clients by availing himself of the proper remedy, for the attorney-client relations are not
terminated formally until there is a withdrawal of record.

Without a proper revocation of his authority and withdrawal as counsel, respondent


remains counsel of record for the complainants in Civil Case No. 981; and whether he
has a valid cause to withdraw from the case, he cannot immediately do so and leave his
clients without representation. An attorney may only retire from the case either by a

46
written consent of his client or by permission of the court after due notice and hearing, in
which event, the attorney should see to it that the name of the new attorney is recorded
in the case.26 Respondent did not comply with these obligations. Therefore, he remains
the counsel of record for the complainants in Civil Case No. 981 with the duty to protect
complainants’ interest. Had he made the necessary inquiries as to the status of the
case, he would have known that he was still the counsel of record as no entry of
appearance was ever made by another counsel. It would have been easily discernible
on his part that there was no change in his status as complainants’ lawyer. As of that
time, their client-lawyer relationship was still subsisting. Therefore, he would have
known that the Motion for Reconsideration was denied; and a writ of execution had
been issued under the circumstances.

All told, we rule and so hold that on account of respondent’s failure to protect the
interest of complainants, respondent indeed violated Rule 18.03, Canon 18 of the Code
of Professional Responsibility, which states that "a lawyer shall not neglect a legal
matter entrusted to him, and his negligence in connection therewith shall render him
liable." Respondent is reminded that the practice of law is a special privilege bestowed
only upon those who are competent intellectually, academically and morally. This Court
has been exacting in its expectations for the members of the Bar to always uphold the
integrity and dignity of the legal profession and refrain from any act or omission which
might lessen the trust and confidence of the public.1âwphi1

The determination of the appropriate penalty to be imposed on an errant lawyer involves


the exercise of sound judicial discretion based on the facts of the case. 27 In cases of
similar nature, the penalty imposed by the Court consisted of reprimand, 28 fine of five
hundred pesos with warning,29 suspension of three months,30 six months31and even
disbarment32 in an aggravated case.

The facts of the case show that respondent failed to live up to his duties as a lawyer
pursuant to the Code of Professional Responsibility. We conclude that a 3-month
suspension from the practice of law is a just penalty under the circumstances.

WHEREFORE, the resolution of the IBP Board of Governors approving and adopting
the report and recommendation of the Investigating Commissioner is hereby
AFFIRMED. Accordingly, ATTY. RODRIGO R. COSME is hereby SUSPENDED from
the practice of law for a period of THREE (3) MONTHS, with a stern warning that a
repetition of the same or similar wrongdoing will be dealt with more severely.

Let a copy of this decision be attached to respondent’s personal record with the Office
of the Bar Confidant and copies be furnished to all chapters of the Integrated Bar of the
Philippines and to all courts of the land.

SO ORDERED.

MINITA V. CHICO-NAZARIO
Associate Justice

47
WE CONCUR:

CONSUELO YNARES-SANTIAGO
Associate Justice
Chairperson

MA. ALICIA AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ ANTONIO EDUARDO B. NACHURA


Associate Justice Associate Justice

RUBEN T. REYES
Associate Justice

Republic of the Philippines


SUPREME COURT
Manila

EN BANC

A.M. No. 44 November 29, 1983

EUFROSINA YAP TAN, complainant,


vs.
NICOLAS EL. SABANDAL, respondent.

Bar Matter No. 59 November 29, 1983

BENJAMIN CABIGON, complainant,


vs.
NICOLAS EL. SABANDAL, respondent.

SBC No. 624 November 29, 1983

CORNELIO AGNIS and DIOMEDES D. AGNIS, complainants,


vs.
NICOLAS EL. SABANDAL, respondent.

Nelbert T Poculan for respondent Sabandal in BM 59.

Alberto Concha for oppositors in BM 44.

RESOLUTION

MELENCIO-HERRERA, J.:ñé+.£ªwph!1

48
At issue in the above-entitled consolidated cases is the petition of respondent Nicolas
El. Sabandal, a successful Bar examinee in 1978, to be admitted to the Philippine Bar
and to be allowed to sign the Roll of Attorneys.

Complainants-oppositors , namely, Eufrosina Y. Tan (Bar Matter No. 44, Eufrosina Y.


Tan vs. Nicolas E. Sabandal); Benjamin Cabigon (Bar Matter No. 59, Benjamin Cabigon
vs. Nicolas E. Sabandal) and Cornelio Agnis, et al. (SBC-624, Cornelio Agnis, et al. vs.
Nicolas E. Sabandal), have opposed the petition. They have charged respondent with:
illegal practice of law for accepting clients and for his appearances as a lawyer even if
he has not yet been admitted to the Bar; dishonesty, for filling up daily tune records as
an Investigator of the Bureau of Lands during those days that he appeared as counsel;
falsification of public documents; gross dishonesty in public service; and violations of
the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

The above-entitled cases, upon respondent's Motion, were ordered consolidated in the
Resolution of the Court dated November 12, 1982, and were referred to the Office of the
Chief Attorneys for investigation, report and recommendation.

At the hearings conducted on search 23, 24 and 25, 1983, only complainants-oppositors
Eufrosina Y. Tan and Benjamin Cabigon, complainants in Bar Matters 44 and 59,
respectively, appeared birth their respective counsel and presented their evidence oral
and documentary . The other complainants-oppositors namely Diomedes D. Agnis, Dr.
Gabriel Catane, Hedy Catane, Antonio Agnis and Fe E. Agnis, complainants in SBC-
624, failed to appear at the hearings despite several notices sent to them by registered
mail at their addresses of record. Cornelio Agnis had died in the meantime.

Respondent Nicolas El. Sabandal waived his right to attend the investigations for
reasons of financial constraints and his belief that the evidence he had already
submitted together with his pleadings are sufficient to prove his case so that he felt it
unnecessary to submit additional evidence.

In support of her charge of deception by appearing as counsel and accepting clients,


Eufrosina Yap Tan, in Bar Matter No. 44, testified on and submitted the following
documentary evidence: (1) photostatic copies of transcripts of stenographic notes of (a)
the hearing in CAR Case No. 347 entitled Eufrosina Y. Tan vs. Spouses Daniel
Iman and Rosa Carreon, et als., before the Court of Agrarian Relations, XVI Regional
District, Branch III, on June 23, 1981, wherein respondent manifested "Atty. Nicolas
Sabandal, appearing for the defendants, Your Honor" and alleged that Atty. Senen
Angeles, counsel of record, was sick (Exhibits "A " and "A-I "); (b) the hearings in Civil
Case No. 98 entitled Benjamin Cabigon, et al. vs. Florentina Buntoran, et al., for
Forcible Enter and Damages, before the Municipal Court of Roxas, Zamboanga del
Norte, on September 23, 1980, wherein one of the appearances recorded was that of
"Atty. Nicolas Sabandal: For the defendants", and where respondent manifested "Your
Honor please, appearing for the defendants in collaboration with Atty., Angeles "
(exhibits " H ", " H-1 " and " H-3 "), and on December 16, 1980 when respondent made
a manifestation for the defendants (Exhibits "I" and "I-2"); (2) xerox copy of a letter

49
dated June 21, 1981 written by respondent to the Station Commander of Rizal,
Zamboanga del Norte, Obdulio Villanueva, which respondent wrote in part: "we are
informed that our office is being used by Mrs. Tan to harass our clients . ... (Exhibits "B"
and "B-1"): and (3) copy of the Order of Judge Nicanor M. Ilicito, Jr., in CAR Case No.
326, entitled Sps. Daniel and Rosk Iman vs. Eufrosina Yap Tan, stating in part that
"plaintiffs, through Atty. Nicolas Sabandal, informed the Court that plaintiff's counsel on
record, Atty. Cyril Ruiz, is in bed and could not come in today's hearing" (Exhibits "G"
and "G-1)

On the same issue, in Bar Matter No. 59, complainant Benjamin Cabigon testified on
and presented the following exhibits: (1) the appearance of respondent in, Civil Case
No. 98, the Forcible Entry case entitled. Cabigon vs. Bonturan before the Municipal
Court of Roxas (Exhibit "B"), already mentioned by Eufrosina Tan in Bar Matter No. 44;
(2) a Certification by the Court Clerk, Interpreter 1, of the Municipal Court of Roxas,
Zamboanga del Norte, that respondent had appeared before said Court on October 1,
1981 in Criminal Cases Nos. 606, 607, and 622; on October 16, 1981 and August 12,
1981 in Criminal Case No. 622; and on July 29, 1981 in Criminal Case No. 667 (Exhibit
"A" );(3) the preliminary investigation in Criminal Case No. 667 (People vs. Florentina
Bonturan, et als.) for qualified Theft of Forest Products wherein Felipe Inggo testified
that respondent was the lawyer of the Bonturans (Exhibit "D-3"), while accused
Bernardo Gatina declared that respondent was his lawyer (Exhibits "D-6 " and "D-7 ");
so also with the accused, Antonio Ganuran, who gave the same declaration and added
that he used to pay respondent and Atty. Angeles for handling his cases (Exhibits "D-8"
and "D-9").

To prove her other charges as to the unfitness of respondent to be a member of the


Bar, Eufrosina IX an exhibited a Warrant of Arrest against respondent in Criminal Case
No. 667 entitled People vs. Florentina Buntoran, et a]. for the crime of Qualified Theft of
Forest Products for having allegedly ordered the falling and sewing of a day tree
(Exhibit "E"), and the Amended Complaint in the same case including respondent
among the accused (Exhibits "F" and "F-1"); and the administrative charge against
respondent in the Bureau of Lands and before the Tanodbayan for falsification of public
documents.

For his part, Benjamin Cabigon (in Bar Matter No. 59) also presented a transcript of
proceedings during the preliminary investigation on July 6, 1981 in the same Criminal
Case No. 667 (People vs. Florentina Buntoran, et al.) before the municipal Court for
Qualified Theft of Forest Products wherein the defense of three of the accused was that
it was respondent who had ordered the cutting of the day tree (Exhibits "D-2 ", "D-4 "
and "D-5 ").

In his defense, respondent maintained that the charges against him were "baseless and
mere products of oppositor's bedevilled mind, for the truth being that petitioner's
admission to the Philippine Bar is a sharp thorn in the throat of oppositor Eufrosina Tan,
who had been waging a campaign of ejectment against her tenant-farmers some of
whom are relatives and friends of petitioners"; and a scheme by Cabigon "to stifle

50
anybody who extends assistance to his opponents and to press the Subano settlers of
Gusa, Roxas, Zamboanga del Norte, to give up their ancestral lands to Cabigon"; that
he was merely assisting his parents-in-law, Daniel Iman and Rosa Carreon, in CAR
cases Nos. 347 and 326 as allowed under Sec. 14(k) of PD 946, and that it was the
stenographer who had inadvertently entered his name as "Atty. Sabandal" in those
cases; that being an employee of the Bureau of Lands does not bar him from attending
to personal cases applying by analogy section 34, Rule 138 of the Rules of Court, nor
does he need any authority to appear from said Bureau since the cases are not work
connected; that insofar as Criminal Cases Nos. 606, 607 and 622 of the Municipal Court
of Roxas are concerned, it was Atty. Senen O. Angeles who was the counsel of record
as shown by the Notice of Hearing (Annex "3", Amended Comment); that on the dates
that those cases were set on hearing, he was on leave as shown by a Certification of
the District Land Officer (Annex "9", Amended Comment); that in appearing in those
cases he was merely helping distressed friends and relatives; that if he had absented
himself from office it was to attend to his personal needs and procure materials for the
nipa house that he was building and not to attend to the case of Lito Dandoy, one of the
accused in Criminal Cases Nos. 606 and 607; that the term "chant" should be construed
as a "dependent or person under the protection of another and not a person who
engages in the profession"; and that the Code of Ethics does not apply to him but only
to members of the Bar.

As his documentary evidence, respondent submitted: (1) a copy of a subpoena for the
first day of trial in Criminal Cases Nos. 606, 607 and 622 issued by the Municipal Court
of Roxas, Zamboanga del Norte, addressed to Atty. Senen O. Angeles, Dipolog City
and Atty. Benedicto O. Cainta, Dipolog City, dated September 3, 1980, to show that
they, not respondent, were the counsel of record (Annex "3", Amended Comment); (2)
Certification from the Clerk of Court of the Municipal Court of Roxas that the dates of
respondent's appearance in Criminal Cases Nos. 606, 607 and 622 was October 1,
1980 and not 1981; and in Criminal Case No. 622, the date was October 16, 1980 and
not October 16, 1981 (Annex "1", Comment); (3) a certification by the District Lands
Officer, Benjamin Cabading, of the District Land Office No. IX-8, Bureau of Lands,
Dipolog City, Zamboanga del Norte on the leaves of absences of respondent on
October 1, 1980, October 16, 1980 July 29, 1981 and August 12, 1981 (Annex "3",
Comment), together with Civil Service Form No. 48 (Annexes "6", "7", and "8" Amended
Comment) wherein he recorded his leaves of absences to prove that he applied for
leave whenever he appeared either for a friend or his parents-in-law, and to disprove
dishonesty (Annex "3", Comment); (4) duplicate copies of the reinvestigation report
(Annex "A ") and the Amended Information (Annex "B") filed by Second Assistant
Provincial Fiscal Rodolfo T. Mata, in the Court of First Instance, 16th Judicial District,
Dipolog City in Criminal Case No. 2734 for Qualified Theft of Forest Products
wherefrom respondent's name was dropped as one of the accused on the ground that
his inclusion was based on hearsay evidence (Annex "A", Motion to Submit Additional
Counter Evidence); as well as the Order of the Court dropping him from the Information
(Annex "C", Ibid.); (5) the dismissal of the charge against him by the Director of Lands
in Dagpin vs. Sabandal, et al. (Annex " I ", petitioner's Motion to Dismiss); (6) the
dismissal of the charge against him for falsification of public document by the

51
Tanodbayan (Annex " I ", petitioner's Manifestation dated February 9, 1981; Annex "2",
Reply); (7) Affidavit of Atty. Nelbert T. Poculan, who had helped respondent prepare his
original Comment, denying the truth of the statement in the Comment that "respondent
absented himself from his work and appeared to protect the rights of Dandoy" alleging
that respondent's purpose in absenting himself was "to procure materials for his nipa
residence" (Annex " 1 ", Amended Comment); (8) Affidavit of Atty. Senen 0. Angeles
wherein Atty. Angeles declared that he was the counsel of record in Criminal Cases
Nos. 606, 607 and 622, not the respondent who merely accompanied accused Lito
Dandoy in Criminal Case 622 to the Court (Annex "4", Amended Comment); (9) an
Affidavit of Lito Dandoy, one of the accused in Criminal Cases Nos. 606 and 607 for
Qualified Theft of Coconuts, and the accused in Criminal Case No. 622 for Slight
Physical Injuries, to the effect that respondent was his intimate friend to whom he turned
for help when a Warrant of Arrest was issued against him; that it was upon his
insistence that respondent accompanied him to the Municipal Court of Roxas and that
he gave no compensation, in cash or kind, to respondent for the latter's help (Annex "5",
Amended Comment).

From the array of evidence presented by the parties, it is evident that the charges of
violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, gross dishonesty in public service
and falsification of public documents, have not been substantiated.

However, the evidence supports the charge of unauthorized practice of law. While
respondent's infraction may be mitigated in that he appeared for his in-laws in CAR
Cases Nos. 347 and 326 where they were parties, it is clear from the proceedings in
CAR Case No. 347 that he clarified his position only after the opposing counsel had
objected to his appearance. Besides, he specifically manifested "Atty. Nicolas
Sabandal, appearing for the defendants, Your Honor" (Exhibit 'A-1 '). He called himself
"Attorney" knowing full well that he was not yet admitted to the bar. Oppositors'
evidence sufficiently shows that respondent had held himself out as an attorney" in the
agrarian, civil and criminal cases mentioned by said oppositors. Respondent cannot
shift the blame on the stenographer, for he could have easily asked for rectification.
Even if respondent appeared merely in collaboration with Atty. Senen Angeles in the
several cases, that collaboration could only have been ostensibly as a lawyer.
Oppositors had also presented evidence of proceedings wherein witnesses testified as
to respondent's being their lawyer and their compensating him for his services (Exhibits
"D-8 " and "D-9 It may be that in the Court of a municipality, even non-lawyers may
appear (Sec. 34, Rule 138, Rules of Court). If respondent had so manifested, no one
could have challenged him. What he did, however, was to hold himself out as a lawyer,
and even to write the Station Commander of Roxas, complaining of harassment to "our
clients", when he could not but have known that he could not yet engage in the practice
of law. His argument that the term "client" is a "dependent or person under the
protection of another and not a person who engages in the profession" is puerile.

Respondent's additional defense that the code of professional ethics does not apply to
him as he is not yet a member of the Bar proves him unfit to be admitted to the
profession that exacts the highest ethical conduct of all its members, and good moral

52
character even for applicants for admission to the Bar. He could at least have shown his
fitness for admission by showing adherence to and observance of the standards of
conduct required by all who aspire to profess the law.

ACCORDINGLY, the petition of Nicolas El. Sabandal to be allowed to take the oath as
member of the Philippine Bar and to sign the Roll of Attorneys in accordance with Rule
138 of the Rules of Court is hereby denied.

For failure of complainants-oppositors, namely, Diomedes D. Agnis, Dr. Gabriel Catane,


Hedy Catane, Antonio Agnis and Fe E. Agnis in SBC-624 to appear before the
Investigator of this Court, their oppositions to the petition of Nicolas El. Sabandal to be
admitted to the Philippine Bar and to be allowed to sign the Roll of Attorneys are hereby
dismissed, with prejudice.

SO ORDERED.1äwphï1.ñët

Teehankee, Makasiar Guerrero, Abad Santos, De Castro, Plana, Escolin Relova and
Gutierrez, Jr., JJ., concur.

Fernando and CJ., Aquino, J., took no part.

Concepcion Jr., J., I reserve my vote.

Republic of the Philippines


SUPREME COURT
Manila

EN BANC

G.R. No. L-27654 February 18, 1970

IN THE MATTER OF PROCEEDINGS FOR DISCIPLINARY ACTION AGAINST ATTY.


VICENTE RAUL ALMACEN In L-27654, ANTONIO H. CALERO,

vs.

VIRGINIA Y. YAPTINCHAY.

RESOLUTION

CASTRO, J.:

53
Before us is Atty. Vicente Raul Almacen's "Petition to Surrender Lawyer's Certificate of
Title," filed on September 25, 1967, in protest against what he therein asserts is "a great
injustice committed against his client by this Supreme Court." He indicts this Court, in
his own phrase, as a tribunal "peopled by men who are calloused to our pleas for
justice, who ignore without reasons their own applicable decisions and commit culpable
violations of the Constitution with impunity." His client's he continues, who was deeply
aggrieved by this Court's "unjust judgment," has become "one of the sacrificial victims
before the altar of hypocrisy." In the same breath that he alludes to the classic symbol of
justice, he ridicules the members of this Court, saying "that justice as administered by
the present members of the Supreme Court is not only blind, but also deaf and dumb."
He then vows to argue the cause of his client "in the people's forum," so that "the
people may know of the silent injustice's committed by this Court," and that "whatever
mistakes, wrongs and injustices that were committed must never be repeated." He ends
his petition with a prayer that

... a resolution issue ordering the Clerk of Court to receive the certificate of
the undersigned attorney and counsellor-at-law IN TRUST with
reservation that at any time in the future and in the event we regain our
faith and confidence, we may retrieve our title to assume the practice of
the noblest profession.

He reiterated and disclosed to the press the contents of the aforementioned petition.
Thus, on September 26, 1967, the Manila Times published statements attributed to him,
as follows:

Vicente Raul Almacen, in an unprecedented petition, said he did it to


expose the tribunal's "unconstitutional and obnoxious" practice of
arbitrarily denying petitions or appeals without any reason.

Because of the tribunal's "short-cut justice," Almacen deplored, his client


was condemned to pay P120,000, without knowing why he lost the case.

xxx xxx xxx

There is no use continuing his law practice, Almacen said in this


petition, "where our Supreme Court is composed of men who are
calloused to our pleas for justice, who ignore without reason their own
applicable decisions and commit culpable violations of the Constitution
with impunity.

xxx xxx xxx

He expressed the hope that by divesting himself of his title by which he


earns his living, the present members of the Supreme Court "will become
responsive to all cases brought to its attention without discrimination, and

54
will purge itself of those unconstitutional and obnoxious "lack of merit" or
"denied resolutions. (Emphasis supplied)

Atty. Almacen's statement that

... our own Supreme Court is composed of men who are calloused to our
pleas of [sic] justice, who ignore their own applicable decisions and
commit culpable violations of the Constitution with impunity

was quoted by columnist Vicente Albano Pacis in the issue of the Manila Chronicle of
September 28, 1967. In connection therewith, Pacis commented that Atty. Almacen had
"accused the high tribunal of offenses so serious that the Court must clear itself," and
that "his charge is one of the constitutional bases for impeachment."

The genesis of this unfortunate incident was a civil case entitled Virginia Y. Yaptinchay
vs. Antonio H. Calero,1 in which Atty. Almacen was counsel for the defendant. The trial
court, after due hearing, rendered judgment against his client. On June 15, 1966 Atty.
Almacen received a copy of the decision. Twenty days later, or on July 5, 1966, he
moved for its reconsideration. He served on the adverse counsel a copy of the motion,
but did not notify the latter of the time and place of hearing on said motion. Meanwhile,
on July 18, 1966, the plaintiff moved for execution of the judgment. For "lack of proof of
service," the trial court denied both motions. To prove that he did serve on the adverse
party a copy of his first motion for reconsideration, Atty. Almacen filed on August 17,
1966 a second motion for reconsideration to which he attached the required registry
return card. This second motion for reconsideration, however, was ordered withdrawn
by the trial court on August 30, 1966, upon verbal motion of Atty. Almacen himself, who,
earlier, that is, on August 22, 1966, had already perfected the appeal. Because the
plaintiff interposed no objection to the record on appeal and appeal bond, the trial court
elevated the case to the Court of Appeals.

But the Court of Appeals, on the authority of this Court's decision in Manila Surety &
Fidelity Co., Inc. vs. Batu Construction & Co., L-16636, June 24, 1965, dismissed the
appeal, in the following words:

Upon consideration of the motion dated March 27, 1967, filed by plaintiff-
appellee praying that the appeal be dismissed, and of the opposition
thereto filed by defendant-appellant; the Court RESOLVED TO DISMISS,
as it hereby dismisses, the appeal, for the reason that the motion for
reconsideration dated July 5, 1966 (pp. 90-113, printed record on appeal)
does not contain a notice of time and place of hearing thereof and is,
therefore, a useless piece of paper (Manila Surety & Fidelity Co., Inc. vs.
Batu Construction & Co., G.R. No. L-16636, June 24, 1965), which did not
interrupt the running of the period to appeal, and, consequently, the
appeal was perfected out of time.

55
Atty. Almacen moved to reconsider this resolution, urging that Manila Surety & Fidelity
Co. is not decisive. At the same time he filed a pleading entitled "Latest decision of the
Supreme Court in Support of Motion for Reconsideration," citing Republic of the
Philippines vs. Gregorio A. Venturanza, L-20417, decided by this Court on May 30,
1966, as the applicable case. Again, the Court of Appeals denied the motion for
reconsideration, thus:

Before this Court for resolution are the motion dated May 9, 1967 and the
supplement thereto of the same date filed by defendant- appellant, praying
for reconsideration of the resolution of May 8, 1967, dismissing the
appeal.

Appellant contends that there are some important distinctions between


this case and that of Manila Surety and Fidelity Co., Inc. vs. Batu
Construction & Co., G.R. No. L- 16636, June 24, 1965, relied upon by this
Court in its resolution of May 8, 1967. Appellant further states that in the
latest case, Republic vs. Venturanza, L-20417, May 30, 1966, decided by
the Supreme Court concerning the question raised by appellant's motion,
the ruling is contrary to the doctrine laid down in the Manila Surety &
Fidelity Co., Inc. case.

There is no substantial distinction between this case and that of Manila


Surety & Fidelity Co.

In the case of Republic vs. Venturanza, the resolution denying the motion
to dismiss the appeal, based on grounds similar to those raised herein
was issued on November 26, 1962, which was much earlier than the date
of promulgation of the decision in the Manila Surety Case, which was June
24, 1965. Further, the resolution in the Venturanza case was interlocutory
and the Supreme Court issued it "without prejudice to appellee's restoring
the point in the brief." In the main decision in said case (Rep. vs.
Venturanza the Supreme Court passed upon the issue sub silencio
presumably because of its prior decisions contrary to the resolution of
November 26, 1962, one of which is that in the Manila Surety and Fidelity
case. Therefore Republic vs. Venturanza is no authority on the matter in
issue.

Atty. Almacen then appealed to this Court by certiorari. We refused to take the case,
and by minute resolution denied the appeal. Denied shortly thereafter was his motion for
reconsideration as well as his petition for leave to file a second motion for
reconsideration and for extension of time. Entry of judgment was made on September 8,
1967. Hence, the second motion for reconsideration filed by him after the Said date was
ordered expunged from the records.

It was at this juncture that Atty. Almacen gave vent to his disappointment by filing his
"Petition to Surrender Lawyer's Certificate of Title," already adverted to — a pleading

56
that is interspersed from beginning to end with the insolent contemptuous, grossly
disrespectful and derogatory remarks hereinbefore reproduced, against this Court as
well as its individual members, a behavior that is as unprecedented as it is
unprofessional.

Nonetheless we decided by resolution dated September 28, 1967 to withhold action on


his petition until he shall have actually surrendered his certificate. Patiently, we waited
for him to make good his proffer. No word came from him. So he was reminded to turn
over his certificate, which he had earlier vociferously offered to surrender, so that this
Court could act on his petition. To said reminder he manifested "that he has no pending
petition in connection with Case G.R. No. L-27654, Calero vs. Yaptinchay, said case is
now final and executory;" that this Court's September 28, 1967 resolution did not require
him to do either a positive or negative act; and that since his offer was not accepted, he
"chose to pursue the negative act."

In the exercise of its inherent power to discipline a member of the bar for contumely and
gross misconduct, this Court on November 17, 1967 resolved to require Atty. Almacen
to show cause "why no disciplinary action should be taken against him." Denying the
charges contained in the November 17 resolution, he asked for permission "to give
reasons and cause why no disciplinary action should be taken against him ... in an open
and public hearing." This Court resolved (on December 7) "to require Atty. Almacen to
state, within five days from notice hereof, his reasons for such request, otherwise, oral
argument shall be deemed waived and incident submitted for decision." To this
resolution he manifested that since this Court is "the complainant, prosecutor and
Judge," he preferred to be heard and to answer questions "in person and in an open
and public hearing" so that this Court could observe his sincerity and candor. He also
asked for leave to file a written explanation "in the event this Court has no time to hear
him in person." To give him the ampliest latitude for his defense, he was allowed to file a
written explanation and thereafter was heard in oral argument.

His written answer, as undignified and cynical as it is unchastened, offers -no apology.
Far from being contrite Atty. Almacen unremittingly repeats his jeremiad of
lamentations, this time embellishing it with abundant sarcasm and innuendo. Thus:

At the start, let me quote passages from the Holy Bible, Chapter 7, St.
Matthew: —

"Do not judge, that you may not be judged. For with what
judgment you judge, you shall be judged, and with what
measure you measure, it shall be measured to you. But why
dost thou see the speck in thy brother's eye, and yet dost not
consider the beam in thy own eye? Or how can thou say to
thy brother, "Let me cast out the speck from thy eye"; and
behold, there is a beam in thy own eye? Thou hypocrite, first
cast out the beam from thy own eye, and then thou wilt see
clearly to cast out the speck from thy brother's eyes."

57
"Therefore all that you wish men to do to you, even to do you
also to them: for this is the Law and the Prophets."

xxx xxx xxx

Your respondent has no intention of disavowing the statements mentioned


in his petition. On the contrary, he refirms the truth of what he stated,
compatible with his lawyer's oath that he will do no falsehood, nor consent
to the doing of any in court. But he vigorously DENY under oath that the
underscored statements contained in the CHARGE are insolent,
contemptuous, grossly disrespectful and derogatory to the individual
members of the Court; that they tend to bring the entire Court, without
justification, into disrepute; and constitute conduct unbecoming of a
member of the noble profession of law.

xxx xxx xxx

Respondent stands four-square that his statement is borne by TRUTH and


has been asserted with NO MALICE BEFORE AND AFTER THOUGHT
but mainly motivated with the highest interest of justice that in the
particular case of our client, the members have shown callousness to our
various pleas for JUSTICE, our pleadings will bear us on this matter, ...

xxx xxx xxx

To all these beggings, supplications, words of humility, appeals for charity,


generosity, fairness, understanding, sympathy and above all in the highest
interest of JUSTICE, — what did we get from this COURT? One word,
DENIED, with all its hardiness and insensibility. That was the unfeeling of
the Court towards our pleas and prayers, in simple word, it is plain
callousness towards our particular case.

xxx xxx xxx

Now that your respondent has the guts to tell the members of the Court
that notwithstanding the violation of the Constitution, you remained
unpunished, this Court in the reverse order of natural things, is now in the
attempt to inflict punishment on your respondent for acts he said in good
faith.

Did His Honors care to listen to our pleadings and supplications for
JUSTICE, CHARITY, GENEROSITY and FAIRNESS? Did His Honors
attempt to justify their stubborn denial with any semblance of reason,
NEVER. Now that your respondent is given the opportunity to face you, he
reiterates the same statement with emphasis, DID YOU? Sir. Is this. the
way of life in the Philippines today, that even our own President, said: —

58
"the story is current, though nebulous ,is to its truth, it is still being
circulated that justice in the Philippines today is not what it is used to be
before the war. There are those who have told me frankly and brutally that
justice is a commodity, a marketable commodity in the Philippines."

xxx xxx xxx

We condemn the SIN, not the SINNER. We detest the ACTS, not the
ACTOR. We attack the decision of this Court, not the members. ... We
were provoked. We were compelled by force of necessity. We were angry
but we waited for the finality of the decision. We waited until this Court has
performed its duties. We never interfered nor obstruct in the performance
of their duties. But in the end, after seeing that the Constitution has placed
finality on your judgment against our client and sensing that you have not
performed your duties with "circumspection, carefulness, confidence and
wisdom", your Respondent rise to claim his God given right to speak the
truth and his Constitutional right of free speech.

xxx xxx xxx

The INJUSTICES which we have attributed to this Court and the further
violations we sought to be prevented is impliedly shared by our President.
... .

xxx xxx xxx

What has been abhored and condemned, are the very things that were applied to us.
Recalling Madam Roland's famous apostrophe during the French revolution, "O Liberty,
what crimes are committed in thy name", we may dare say, "O JUSTICE, what
technicalities are committed in thy name' or more appropriately, 'O JUSTICE, what
injustices are committed in thy name."

xxx xxx xxx

We must admit that this Court is not free from commission of any abuses,
but who would correct such abuses considering that yours is a court of last
resort. A strong public opinion must be generated so as to curtail these
abuses.

xxx xxx xxx

The phrase, Justice is blind is symbolize in paintings that can be found in


all courts and government offices. We have added only two more symbols,
that it is also deaf and dumb. Deaf in the sense that no members of this
Court has ever heard our cries for charity, generosity, fairness,
understanding sympathy and for justice; dumb in the sense, that inspite of

59
our beggings, supplications, and pleadings to give us reasons why our
appeal has been DENIED, not one word was spoken or given ... We refer
to no human defect or ailment in the above statement. We only describe
the. impersonal state of things and nothing more.

xxx xxx xxx

As we have stated, we have lost our faith and confidence in the members
of this Court and for which reason we offered to surrender our lawyer's
certificate, IN TRUST ONLY. Because what has been lost today may be
regained tomorrow. As the offer was intended as our self-imposed
sacrifice, then we alone may decide as to when we must end our self-
sacrifice. If we have to choose between forcing ourselves to have faith and
confidence in the members of the Court but disregard our Constitution and
to uphold the Constitution and be condemned by the members of this
Court, there is no choice, we must uphold the latter.

But overlooking, for the nonce, the vituperative chaff which he claims is not intended as
a studied disrespect to this Court, let us examine the grain of his grievances.

He chafes at the minute resolution denial of his petition for review. We are quite aware
of the criticisms2 expressed against this Court's practice of rejecting petitions by minute
resolutions. We have been asked to do away with it, to state the facts and the law, and
to spell out the reasons for denial. We have given this suggestion very careful thought.
For we know the abject frustration of a lawyer who tediously collates the facts and for
many weary hours meticulously marshalls his arguments, only to have his efforts
rebuffed with a terse unadorned denial. Truth to tell, however, most petitions rejected by
this Court are utterly frivolous and ought never to have been lodged at all.3 The rest do
exhibit a first-impression cogency, but fail to, withstand critical scrutiny. By and large,
this Court has been generous in giving due course to petitions for certiorari.

Be this as it may, were we to accept every case or write a full opinion for every petition
we reject, we would be unable to carry out effectively the burden placed upon us by the
Constitution. The proper role of the Supreme Court, as Mr. Chief Justice Vinson of the
U.S. Supreme Court has defined it, is to decide "only those cases which present
questions whose resolutions will have immediate importance beyond the particular facts
and parties involved." Pertinent here is the observation of Mr. Justice Frankfurter
in Maryland vs. Baltimore Radio Show, 94 L. ed 562, 566:

A variety of considerations underlie denials of the writ, and as to the same


petition different reasons may read different justices to the same result ... .

Since there are these conflicting, and, to the uninformed, even confusing
reasons for denying petitions for certiorari, it has been suggested from
time to time that the Court indicate its reasons for denial. Practical
considerations preclude. In order that the Court may be enabled to

60
discharge its indispensable duties, Congress has placed the control of the
Court's business, in effect, within the Court's discretion. During the last
three terms the Court disposed of 260, 217, 224 cases, respectively, on
their merits. For the same three terms the Court denied, respectively,
1,260, 1,105,1,189 petitions calling for discretionary review. If the Court is
to do its work it would not be feasible to give reasons, however brief, for
refusing to take these cases. The tune that would be required is
prohibitive. Apart from the fact that as already indicated different reasons
not infrequently move different members of the Court in concluding that a
particular case at a particular time makes review undesirable.

Six years ago, in Novino, et al., vs. Court of Appeals, et al., 1,21098, May 31, 1963 (60
O.G. 8099), this Court, through the then Chief Justice Cesar Bengzon, articulated its
considered view on this matter. There, the petitioners counsel urged that a "lack of
merit" resolution violates Section 12 of Article VIII of the Constitution. Said Chief Justice
Bengzon:

In connection with identical short resolutions, the same question has been
raised before; and we held that these "resolutions" are not "decisions"
within the above constitutional requirement. They merely hold that the
petition for review should not be entertained in view of the provisions of
Rule 46 of the Rules of Court; and even ordinary lawyers have all this time
so understood it. It should be remembered that a petition to review the
decision of the Court of Appeals is not a matter of right, but of sound
judicial discretion; and so there is no need to fully explain the court's
denial. For one thing, the facts and the law are already mentioned in the
Court of Appeals' opinion.

By the way, this mode of disposal has — as intended — helped the Court
in alleviating its heavy docket; it was patterned after the practice of the
U.S. Supreme Court, wherein petitions for review are often merely ordered
"dismissed".

We underscore the fact that cases taken to this Court on petitions for certiorari from the
Court of Appeals have had the benefit of appellate review. Hence, the need for
compelling reasons to buttress such petitions if this Court is to be moved into accepting
them. For it is axiomatic that the supervisory jurisdiction vested upon this Court over the
Court of Appeals is not intended to give every losing party another hearing. This axiom
is implied in sec. 4 of Rule 45 of the Rules of Court which recites:

Review of Court of Appeals' decision discretionary.—A review is not a


matter of right but of sound judicial discretion, and will be granted only
when there are special and important reasons therefor. The following,
while neither controlling nor fully measuring the court's discretion, indicate
the character of reasons which will be considered:

61
(a) When the Court of Appeals has decided a question of substance, not
theretofore determined by the Supreme Court, nor has decided it in a way
probably not in accord with law or with the applicable decisions of the
Supreme Court;

(b) When the Court of Appeals has so far departed from the accepted and
usual course of judicial proceedings, or so far sanctioned such departure
by the lower court, as to call for the exercise of the power of supervision.

Recalling Atty. Almacen's petition for review, we found, upon a thoroughgoing


examination of the pleadings. and records, that the Court of Appeals had fully and
correctly considered the dismissal of his appeal in the light of the law and applicable
decisions of this Court. Far from straying away from the "accepted and usual course of
judicial proceedings," it traced the procedural lines etched by this Court in a number of
decisions. There was, therefore, no need for this Court to exercise its supervisory
power.

As a law practitioner who was admitted to the Bar as far back as 1941, Atty. Almacen
knew — or ought to have known — that for a motion for reconsideration to stay the
running of the period of appeal, the movant must not only serve a copy of the motion
upon the adverse party (which he did), but also notify the adverse party of the time and
place of hearing (which admittedly he did not). This rule was unequivocally articulated
in Manila Surety & Fidelity vs. Batu Construction & Co., supra:

The written notice referred to evidently is prescribed for motions in general


by Rule 15, Sections 4 and 5 (formerly Rule 26), which provides that such
notice shall state the time, and place of hearing and shall be served upon
all the Parties concerned at least three days in advance. And according to
Section 6 of the same Rule no motion shall be acted upon by the court
without proof of such notice. Indeed it has been held that in such a case
the motion is nothing but a useless piece of paper (Philippine National
Bank v. Damasco, I,18638, Feb. 28, 1963; citing Manakil v. Revilla, 42
Phil. 81; Roman Catholic Bishop of Lipa v. Municipality of Unisan, 41 Phil.
866; and Director of Lands vs. Sanz, 45 Phil. 117). The reason is obvious:
Unless the movant sets the time and place of hearing the Court would
have no way to determine whether that party agrees to or objects to the
motion, and if he objects, to hear him on his objection, since the Rules
themselves do not fix any period within which he may file his reply or
opposition.

If Atty. Almacen failed to move the appellate court to review the lower court's judgment,
he has only himself to blame. His own negligence caused the forfeiture of the remedy of
appeal, which, incidentally, is not a matter of right. To shift away from himself the
consequences of his carelessness, he looked for a "whipping boy." But he made sure
that he assumed the posture of a martyr, and, in offering to surrender his professional
certificate, he took the liberty of vilifying this Court and inflicting his exacerbating rancor

62
on the members thereof. It would thus appear that there is no justification for his
scurrilous and scandalous outbursts.

Nonetheless we gave this unprecedented act of Atty. Almacen the most circumspect
consideration. We know that it is natural for a lawyer to express his dissatisfaction each
time he loses what he sanguinely believes to be a meritorious case. That is why lawyers
are given 'wide latitude to differ with, and voice their disapproval of, not only the courts'
rulings but, also the manner in which they are handed down.

Moreover, every citizen has the right to comment upon and criticize the actuations of
public officers. This right is not diminished by the fact that the criticism is aimed at a
judicial authority,4 or that it is articulated by a lawyer.5 Such right is especially
recognized where the criticism concerns a concluded litigation,6 because then the
court's actuations are thrown open to public consumption.7 "Our decisions and all our
official actions," said the Supreme Court of Nebraska,8 "are public property, and the
press and the people have the undoubted right to comment on them, criticize and
censure them as they see fit. Judicial officers, like other public servants, must answer
for their official actions before the chancery of public opinion."

The likely danger of confusing the fury of human reaction to an attack on one's integrity,
competence and honesty, with "imminent danger to the administration of justice," is the
reason why courts have been loath to inflict punishment on those who assail their
actuations.9 This danger lurks especially in such a case as this where those who Sit as
members of an entire Court are themselves collectively the aggrieved parties.

Courts thus treat with forbearance and restraint a lawyer who vigorously assails their
actuations. 10 For courageous and fearless advocates are the strands that weave
durability into the tapestry of justice. Hence, as citizen and officer of the court, every
lawyer is expected not only to exercise the right, but also to consider it his duty to
expose the shortcomings and indiscretions of courts and judges. 11

Courts and judges are not sacrosanct. 12 They should and expect critical evaluation of
their performance. 13 For like the executive and the legislative branches, the judiciary is
rooted in the soil of democratic society, nourished by the periodic appraisal of the
citizens whom it is expected to serve.

Well-recognized therefore is the right of a lawyer, both as an officer of the court and as
a citizen, to criticize in properly respectful terms and through legitimate channels the
acts of courts and judges. The reason is that

An attorney does not surrender, in assuming the important place accorded


to him in the administration of justice, his right as a citizen to criticize the
decisions of the courts in a fair and respectful manner, and the
independence of the bar, as well as of the judiciary, has always been
encouraged by the courts. (In re Ades, 6 F Supp. 487) .

63
Criticism of the courts has, indeed, been an important part of the traditional work of the
bar. In the prosecution of appeals, he points out the errors of lower courts. In written for
law journals he dissects with detachment the doctrinal pronouncements of courts and
fearlessly lays bare for -all to see that flaws and inconsistence" of the doctrines (Hill v.
Lyman, 126 NYS 2d 286). As aptly stated by Chief Justice Sharswood in Ex Parte
Steinman, 40 Am. Rep. 641:

No class of the community ought to be allowed freer scope in the


expansion or publication of opinions as to the capacity, impartiality or
integrity of judges than members of the bar. They have the best
opportunities for observing and forming a correct judgment. They are in
constant attendance on the courts. ... To say that an attorney can only act
or speak on this subject under liability to be called to account and to be
deprived of his profession and livelihood, by the judge or judges whom he
may consider it his duty to attack and expose, is a position too monstrous
to be
entertained. ... .

Hence, as a citizen and as Officer of the court a lawyer is expected not only to exercise
the right, but also to consider it his duty to avail of such right. No law may abridge this
right. Nor is he "professionally answerable for a scrutiny into the official conduct of the
judges, which would not expose him to legal animadversion as a citizen." (Case of
Austin, 28 Am. Dee. 657, 665).

Above all others, the members of the bar have the beat Opportunity to
become conversant with the character and efficiency of our judges. No
class is less likely to abuse the privilege, as no other class has as great an
interest in the preservation of an able and upright bench. (State Board of
Examiners in Law v. Hart, 116 N.W. 212, 216)

To curtail the right of a lawyer to be critical of the foibles of courts and judges is to seal
the lips of those in the best position to give advice and who might consider it their duty
to speak disparagingly. "Under such a rule," so far as the bar is concerned, "the merits
of a sitting judge may be rehearsed, but as to his demerits there must be profound
silence." (State v. Circuit Court, 72 N.W. 196)

But it is the cardinal condition of all such criticism that it shall be bona fide, and shall not
spill over the walls of decency and propriety. A wide chasm exists between fair criticism,
on the One hand, and abuse and slander of courts and the judges thereof, on the other.
Intemperate and unfair criticism is a gross violation of the duty of respect to courts. It is
Such a misconduct that subjects a lawyer to disciplinary action.

For, membership in the Bar imposes upon a person obligations and duties which are not
mere flux and ferment. His investiture into the legal profession places upon his
shoulders no burden more basic, more exacting and more imperative than that of
respectful behavior toward the courts. He vows solemnly to conduct himself "with all

64
good fidelity ... to the courts; 14 and the Rules of Court constantly remind him "to
observe and maintain the respect due to courts of justice and judicial officers." 15 The
first canon of legal ethics enjoins him "to maintain towards the courts a respectful
attitude, not for the sake of the temporary incumbent of the judicial office, but for the
maintenance of its supreme importance."

As Mr. Justice Field puts it:

... the obligation which attorneys impliedly assume, if they do not by


express declaration take upon themselves, when they are admitted to the
Bar, is not merely to be obedient to the Constitution and laws, but to
maintain at all times the respect due to courts of justice and judicial
officers. This obligation is not discharged by merely observing the rules of
courteous demeanor in open court, but includes abstaining out of court
from all insulting language and offensive conduct toward judges personally
for their judicial acts. (Bradley, v. Fisher, 20 Law. 4d. 647, 652)

The lawyer's duty to render respectful subordination to the courts is essential to the
orderly administration of justice. Hence, in the — assertion of their clients' rights,
lawyers — even those gifted with superior intellect are enjoined to rein up their tempers.

The counsel in any case may or may not be an abler or more learned
lawyer than the judge, and it may tax his patience and temper to submit to
rulings which he regards as incorrect, but discipline and self-respect are
as necessary to the orderly administration of justice as they are to the
effectiveness of an army. The decisions of the judge must be obeyed,
because he is the tribunal appointed to decide, and the bar should at all
times be the foremost in rendering respectful submission. (In Re Scouten,
40 Atl. 481)

We concede that a lawyer may think highly of his intellectual endowment


That is his privilege. And he may suffer frustration at what he feels is
others' lack of it. That is his misfortune. Some such frame of mind,
however, should not be allowed to harden into a belief that he may attack
a court's decision in words calculated to jettison the time-honored
aphorism that courts are the temples of right. (Per Justice Sanchez
in Rheem of the Philippines vs. Ferrer, L-22979. June 26, 1967)

In his relations with the courts, a lawyer may not divide his personality so as to be an
attorney at one time and a mere citizen at another. Thus, statements made by an
attorney in private conversations or communications 16 or in the course of a political,
campaign, 17 if couched in insulting language as to bring into scorn and disrepute the
administration of justice, may subject the attorney to disciplinary action.

Of fundamental pertinence at this juncture is an examination of relevant parallel


precedents.

65
1. Admitting that a "judge as a public official is neither sacrosanct nor immune to public
criticism of his conduct in office," the Supreme Court of Florida in State v. Calhoon, 102
So. 2d 604, 608, nevertheless declared that "any conduct of a lawyer which brings into
scorn and disrepute the administration of justice demands condemnation and the
application of appropriate penalties," adding that:

It would be contrary to, every democratic theory to hold that a judge or a


court is beyond bona fide comments and criticisms which do not exceed
the bounds of decency and truth or which are not aimed at. the destruction
of public confidence in the judicial system as such. However, when the
likely impairment of the administration of justice the direct product of false
and scandalous accusations then the rule is otherwise.

2. In In Re Glenn, 130 N.W. 2d 672, an attorney was suspended for putting out and
circulating a leaflet entitled "JUSTICE??? IN OTUMWA," which accused a municipal
judge of having committed judicial error, of being so prejudiced as to deny his clients a
fair trial on appeal and of being subject to the control of a group of city officials. As a
prefatory statement he wrote: "They say that Justice is BLIND, but it took Municipal
Judge Willard to prove that it is also DEAF and DUMB!" The court did not hesitate to
find that the leaflet went much further than the accused, as a lawyer, had a right to do.

The entire publication evidences a desire on the part Of the accused to


belittle and besmirch the court and to bring it into disrepute with the
general public.

3. In In Re Humphrey, 163 Pac. 60, the Supreme Court of California affirmed the two-
year suspension of an attorney who published a circular assailing a judge who at that
time was a candidate for re-election to a judicial office. The circular which referred to
two decisions of the judge concluded with a statement that the judge "used his judicial
office to enable -said bank to keep that money." Said the court:

We are aware that there is a line of authorities which place no limit to the
criticism members of the bar may make regarding the capacity,
impartiality, or integrity of the courts, even though it extends to the
deliberate publication by the attorney capable of correct reasoning of
baseless insinuations against the intelligence and integrity of the highest
courts. See State Board, etc. v. Hart. 116 N.W. 212, 17 LRA (N.S.) 585,
15 Ann Cas 197 and note: Ex parte Steinman 95 Pac. 220, 40 Am. Rep.
637. In the first case mentioned it was observed, for instance:

"It may be (although we do not so decide) that a libelous


publication by an attorney, directed against a judicial officer,
could be so vile and of such a nature as to justify the
disbarment of its author."

66
Yet the false charges made by an attorney in that case were of graver
character than those made by the respondent here. But, in our view, the
better rule is that which requires of those who are permitted to enjoy the
privilege of practicing law the strictest observance at all times of the
principles of truth, honesty and fairness, especially in their criticism of the
courts, to the end that the public confidence in the due administration of
justice be upheld, and the dignity and usefulness of the courts be
maintained. In re Collins, 81 Pac. 220.

4. In People ex rel Chicago Bar Asso. v. Metzen, 123 N.E. 734, an attorney,
representing a woman who had been granted a divorce, attacked the judge who set
aside the decree on bill of review. He wrote the judge a threatening letter and gave the
press the story of a proposed libel suit against the judge and others. The letter began:

Unless the record in In re Petersen v. Petersen is cleared up so that my


name is protected from the libel, lies, and perjury committed in the cases
involved, I shall be compelled to resort to such drastic action as the law
allows and the case warrants.

Further, he said: "However let me assure you I do not intend to allow such dastardly
work to go unchallenged," and said that he was engaged in dealing with men and not
irresponsible political manikins or appearances of men. Ordering the attorney's
disbarment, the Supreme Court of Illinois declared:

... Judges are not exempt from just criticism, and whenever there is proper
ground for serious complaint against a judge, it is the right and duty of a
lawyer to submit his grievances to the proper authorities, but the public
interest and the administration of the law demand that the courts should
have the confidence and respect of the people. Unjust criticism, insulting
language, and offensive conduct toward the judges personally by
attorneys, who are officers of the court, which tend to bring the courts and
the law into disrepute and to destroy public confidence in their integrity,
cannot be permitted. The letter written to the judge was plainly an attempt
to intimidate and influence him in the discharge of judicial functions, and
the bringing of the unauthorized suit, together with the write-up in the
Sunday papers, was intended and calculated to bring the court into
disrepute with the public.

5. In a public speech, a Rhode Island lawyer accused the courts of the state of being
influenced by corruption and greed, saying that the seats of the Supreme Court were
bartered. It does not appear that the attorney had criticized any of the opinions or
decisions of the Court. The lawyer was charged with unprofessional conduct, and was
ordered suspended for a period of two years. The Court said:

A calumny of that character, if believed, would tend to weaken the


authority of the court against whose members it was made, bring its

67
judgments into contempt, undermine its influence as an unbiased arbiter
of the people's right, and interfere with the administration of justice. ...

Because a man is a member of the bar the court will not, under the guise
of disciplinary proceedings, deprive him of any part of that freedom of
speech which he possesses as a citizen. The acts and decisions of the
courts of this state, in cases that have reached final determination, are not
exempt from fair and honest comment and criticism. It is only when an
attorney transcends the limits of legitimate criticism that he will be held
responsible for an abuse of his liberty of speech. We well understand that
an independent bar, as well as independent court, is always a vigilant
defender of civil rights. In Re Troy, 111 Atl. 723. 725.

6. In In Re Rockmore, 111 NYS 879, an attorney was suspended for six months for
submitting to an appellate court an affidavit reflecting upon the judicial integrity of the
court from which the appeal was taken. Such action, the Court said, constitutes
unprofessional conduct justifying suspension from practice, notwithstanding that he fully
retracted and withdrew the statements, and asserted that the affidavit was the result of
an impulse caused by what he considered grave injustice. The Court said:

We cannot shut our eyes to the fact that there is a growing habit in the
profession of criticising the motives and integrity of judicial officers in the
discharge of their duties, and thereby reflecting on the administration of
justice and creating the impression that judicial action is influenced by
corrupt or improper motives. Every attorney of this court, as well as every
other citizen, has the right and it is his duty, to submit charges to the
authorities in whom is vested the power to remove judicial officers for any
conduct or act of a judicial officer that tends to show a violation of his
duties, or would justify an inference that he is false to his trust, or has
improperly administered the duties devolved upon him; and such charges
to the tribunal, if based upon reasonable inferences, will be encouraged,
and the person making them
protected. ... While we recognize the inherent right of an attorney in a case
decided against him, or the right of the Public generally, to criticise the
decisions of the courts, or the reasons announced for them, the habit of
criticising the motives of judicial officers in the performance of their official
duties, when the proceeding is not against the officers whose acts or
motives are criticised, tends to subvert the confidence of the community in
the courts of justice and in the administration of justice; and when such
charges are made by officers of the courts, who are bound by their duty to
protect the administration of justice, the attorney making such charges is
guilty of professional misconduct.

7. In In Re Mitchell, 71 So. 467, a lawyer published this statement:

68
I accepted the decision in this case, however, with patience, barring
possible temporary observations more or less vituperative and finally
concluded, that, as my clients were foreigners, it might have been
expecting too much to look for a decision in their favor against a widow
residing here.

The Supreme Court of Alabama declared that:

... the expressions above set out, not only transcend the bounds of
propriety and privileged criticism, but are an unwarranted attack, direct, or
by insinuation and innuendo, upon the motives and integrity of this court,
and make out a prima facie case of improper conduct upon the part of a
lawyer who holds a license from this court and who is under oath to
demean himself with all good fidelity to the court as well as to his client.

The charges, however, were dismissed after the attorney apologized to the Court.

8. In State ex rel. Dabney v. Breckenridge, 258 Pac. 747, an attorney published in a


newspaper an article in which he impugned the motives of the court and its members to
try a case, charging the court of having arbitrarily and for a sinister purpose undertaken
to suspend the writ of habeas corpus. The Court suspended the respondent for 30 days,
saying that:

The privileges which the law gives to members of the bar is one most
subversive of the public good, if the conduct of such members does not
measure up to the requirements of the law itself, as well as to the ethics of
the profession. ...

The right of free speech and free discussion as to judicial determination is


of prime importance under our system and ideals of government. No right
thinking man would concede for a moment that the best interest to private
citizens, as well as to public officials, whether he labors in a judicial
capacity or otherwise, would be served by denying this right of free
speech to any individual. But such right does not have as its corollary that
members of the bar who are sworn to act honestly and honorably both
with their client and with the courts where justice is administered, if
administered at all, could ever properly serve their client or the public good
by designedly misstating facts or carelessly asserting the law. Truth and
honesty of purpose by members of the bar in such discussion is
necessary. The health of a municipality is none the less impaired by a
polluted water supply than is the health of the thought of a community
toward the judiciary by the filthy wanton, and malignant misuse of
members of the bar of the confidence the public, through its duly
established courts, has reposed in them to deal with the affairs of the
private individual, the protection of whose rights he lends his strength and

69
money to maintain the judiciary. For such conduct on the part of the
members of the bar the law itself demands retribution — not the court.

9. In Bar Ass'n of San Francisco v. Philbrook, 170 Pac. 440, the filing of an affidavit by
an attorney in a pending action using in respect to the several judges the terms criminal
corrupt, and wicked conspiracies,," "criminal confederates," "colossal and confident
insolence," "criminal prosecution," "calculated brutality," "a corrupt deadfall," and similar
phrases, was considered conduct unbecoming of a member of the bar, and the name of
the erring lawyer was ordered stricken from the roll of attorneys.

10. In State Board of Examiners v. Hart, 116 N.W. 215, the erring attorney claimed that
greater latitude should be allowed in case of criticism of cases finally adjudicated than in
those pending. This lawyer wrote a personal letter to the Chief Justice of the Supreme
Court of Minnesota impugning both the intelligence and the integrity of the said Chief
Justice and his associates in the decisions of certain appeals in which he had been
attorney for the defeated litigants. The letters were published in a newspaper. One of
the letters contained this paragraph:

You assigned it (the property involved) to one who has no better right to it
than the burglar to his plunder. It seems like robbing a widow to reward a
fraud, with the court acting as a fence, or umpire, watchful and vigilant that
the widow got no undue
advantage. ... The point is this: Is a proper motive for the decisions
discoverable, short of assigning to the court emasculated intelligence, or a
constipation of morals and faithlessness to duty? If the state bar
association, or a committee chosen from its rank, or the faculty of the
University Law School, aided by the researches of its hundreds of bright,
active students, or if any member of the court, or any other person, can
formulate a statement of a correct motive for the decision, which shall not
require fumigation before it is stated, and quarantine after it is made, it will
gratify every right-minded citizen of the state to read it.

The Supreme Court of Minnesota, in ordering the suspension of the attorney for six
months, delivered its opinion as follows:

The question remains whether the accused was guilty of professional


misconduct in sending to the Chief Justice the letter addressed to him.
This was done, as we have found, for the very purpose of insulting him
and the other justices of this court; and the insult was so directed to the
Chief Justice personally because of acts done by him and his associates
in their official capacity. Such a communication, so made, could never
subserve any good purpose. Its only effect in any case would be to gratify
the spite of an angry attorney and humiliate the officers so assailed. It
would not and could not ever enlighten the public in regard to their judicial
capacity or integrity. Nor was it an exercise by the accused of any
constitutional right, or of any privilege which any reputable attorney,

70
uninfluenced by passion, could ever have any occasion or desire to
assert. No judicial officer, with due regard to his position, can resent such
an insult otherwise than by methods sanctioned by law; and for any words,
oral or written, however abusive, vile, or indecent, addressed secretly to
the judge alone, he can have no redress in any action triable by a jury.
"The sending of a libelous communication or libelous matter to the person
defamed does not constitute an actionable publication." 18 Am. & Eng.
Enc. Law (2d Ed.) p. 1017. In these respects the sending by the accused
of this letter to the Chief Justice was wholly different from his other acts
charged in the accusation, and, as we have said, wholly different
principles are applicable thereto.

The conduct of the accused was in every way discreditable; but so far as
he exercised the rights of a citizen, guaranteed by the Constitution and
sanctioned by considerations of public policy, to which reference has been
made, he was immune, as we hold, from the penalty here sought to be
enforced. To that extent his rights as a citizen were paramount to the
obligation which he had assumed as an officer of this court. When,
however he proceeded and thus assailed the Chief Justice personally, he
exercised no right which the court can recognize, but, on the contrary,
willfully violated his obligation to maintain the respect due to courts and
judicial officers. "This obligation is not discharged by merely observing the
rules of courteous demeanor in open court, but it includes abstaining out
of court from all insulting language and offensive conduct toward the
judges personally for their official acts." Bradley v. Fisher, 13 Wall. (U.S.)
355, 20 L. Ed. 646. And there appears to be no distinction, as regards the
principle involved, between the indignity of an assault by an attorney upon
a judge, induced by his official act, and a personal insult for like cause by
written or spoken words addressed to the judge in his chambers or at his
home or elsewhere. Either act constitutes misconduct wholly different from
criticism of judicial acts addressed or spoken to others. The distinction
made is, we think entirely logical and well sustained by authority. It was
recognized in Ex parte McLeod supra. While the court in that case, as has
been shown, fully sustained the right of a citizen to criticise rulings of the
court in actions which are ended, it held that one might be summarily
punished for assaulting a judicial officer, in that case a commissioner of
the court, for his rulings in a cause wholly concluded. "Is it in the power of
any person," said the court, "by insulting or assaulting the judge because
of official acts, if only the assailant restrains his passion until the judge
leaves the building, to compel the judge to forfeit either his own self-
respect to the regard of the people by tame submission to the indignity, or
else set in his own person the evil example of punishing the insult by
taking the law in his own hands? ... No high-minded, manly man would
hold judicial office under such conditions."

71
That a communication such as this, addressed to the Judge personally,
constitutes professional delinquency for which a professional punishment
may be imposed, has been directly decided. "An attorney who, after being
defeated in a case, wrote a personal letter to the trial justice, complaining
of his conduct and reflecting upon his integrity as a justice, is guilty of
misconduct and will be disciplined by the court." Matter of Manheim 133
App. Div. 136, 99 N.Y. Supp. 87 The same is held in Re Griffin (City Ct.) 1
N.Y. 7 and in Re Wilkes (City Ct.) 3 N.Y. In the latter case it appeared that
the accused attorney had addressed a sealed letter to a justice of the City
Court of New York, in which it was stated, in reference to his decision: "It
is not law; neither is it common sense. The result is I have been robbed of
80." And it was decided that, while such conduct was not a contempt
under the state, the matter should be "called to the attention of the
Supreme Court, which has power to discipline the attorney." "If," says the
court, "counsel learned in the law are permitted by writings leveled at the
heads of judges, to charge them with ignorance, with unjust rulings, and
with robbery, either as principals or accessories, it will not be long before
the general public may feel that they may redress their fancied grievances
in like manner, and thus the lot of a judge will be anything but a happy
one, and the administration of justice will fall into bad repute."

The recent case of Johnson v. State (Ala.) 44 South. 671, was in this
respect much the same as the case at bar. The accused, an attorney at
law, wrote and mailed a letter to the circuit judge, which the latter received
by due course of mail, at his home, while not holding court, and which
referred in insulting terms to the conduct of the judge in a cause wherein
the accused had been one of the attorneys. For this it was held that the
attorney was rightly disbarred in having "willfully failed to maintain respect
due to him [the judge] as a judicial officer, and thereby breached his oath
as an attorney." As recognizing the same principle, and in support of its
application to the facts of this case, we cite the following: Ex
parte Bradley, 7 Wall (U.S.) 364, 19 L. Ed. 214; Beene v. State, 22 Ark.
149; Commonwealth v. Dandridge, 2 Va. Cas. 408; People v. Green, 7
Colo 237, 244, 3 Pac. 65, 374, 49 Am. Rep. 351; Smith's Appeal, 179 Pa.
14, 36 Atl. 134; Scouten's Appeal, 186 Pa. 270, Atl. 481.

Our conclusion is that the charges against the accused have been so far
sustained as to make it our duty to impose such a penalty as may be
sufficient lesson to him and a suitable warning to others. ...

11. In Cobb v. United States, 172 F. 641, the court affirmed a lawyer's suspension for
18 months for publishing a letter in a newspaper in which he accused a judge of being
under the sinister influence of a gang that had paralyzed him for two years.

12. In In Re Graves, 221 Pac. 411, the court held that an attorney's unjustifiable attack
against the official acts and decisions of a judge constitutes "moral turpitude." There,

72
the attorney was disbarred for criticising not only the judge, but his decisions in general
claiming that the judge was dishonest in reaching his decisions and unfair in his general
conduct of a case.

13. In In Re Doss, 12 N.E. 2d 659, an attorney published newspaper articles after the
trial of cases, criticising the court in intemperate language. The invariable effect of this
sort of propaganda, said the court, is to breed disrespect for courts and bring the legal
profession into disrepute with the public, for which reason the lawyer was disbarred.

14. In State v. Grimes, 354 Pac. 2d 108, an attorney, dissatisfied with the loss of a case,
prepared over a period of years vicious attacks on jurists. The Oklahoma Supreme
Court declared that his acts involved such gross moral turpitude as to make him unfit as
a member of the bar. His disbarment was ordered, even though he expressed an
intention to resign from the bar.

The teaching derived from the above disquisition and impressive affluence of judicial
pronouncements is indubitable: Post-litigation utterances or publications, made by
lawyers, critical of the courts and their judicial actuations, whether amounting to a crime
or not, which transcend the permissible bounds of fair comment and legitimate criticism
and thereby tend to bring them into disrepute or to subvert public confidence in their
integrity and in the orderly administration of justice, constitute grave professional
misconduct which may be visited with disbarment or other lesser appropriate
disciplinary sanctions by the Supreme Court in the exercise of the prerogatives inherent
in it as the duly constituted guardian of the morals and ethics of the legal fraternity.

Of course, rarely have we wielded our disciplinary powers in the face of unwarranted
outbursts of counsel such as those catalogued in the above-cited jurisprudence. Cases
of comparable nature have generally been disposed of under the power of courts to
punish for contempt which, although resting on different bases and calculated to attain a
different end, nevertheless illustrates that universal abhorrence of such condemnable
practices.

A perusal of the more representative of these instances may afford enlightenment.

1. In Salcedo vs. Hernandez, 61 Phil. 724, where counsel branded the denial of his
motion for reconsideration as "absolutely erroneous and constituting an outrage to the
rigths of the petitioner Felipe Salcedo and a mockery of the popular will expressed at
the polls," this Court, although conceding that

It is right and plausible that an attorney, in defending the cause and rights
of his client, should do so with all the fervor and energy of which he is
capable, but it is not, and never will be so for him to exercise said right by
resorting to intimidation or proceeding without the propriety and respect
which the dignity of the courts requires. The reason for this is that respect
for the courts guarantees the stability of their institution. Without such
guaranty, said institution would be resting on a very shaky foundation,

73
found counsel guilty of contempt inasmuch as, in its opinion, the statements made
disclosed

... an inexcusable disrespect of the authority of the court and an intentional


contempt of its dignity, because the court is thereby charged with no less
than having proceeded in utter disregard of the laws, the rights to the
parties, and 'of the untoward consequences, or with having abused its
power and mocked and flouted the rights of Attorney Vicente J.
Francisco's client ... .

2. In In re Sotto, 82 Phil. 595, counsel, a senator and the author of the Press Freedom
Law, reaching to, the imprisonment for contempt of one Angel Parazo, who, invoking
said law, refused to divulge the source of a news item carried in his paper, caused to be
published in i local newspaper a statement expressing his regret "that our High Tribunal
has not only erroneously interpreted said law, but it is once more putting in evidence the
incompetency or narrow mindedness of the majority of its members," and his belief that
"In the wake of so many blunders and injustices deliberately committed during these last
years, ... the only remedy to put an end to go much evil, is to change the members of
the Supreme Court," which tribunal he denounced as "a constant peril to liberty and
democracy" and "a far cry from the impregnable bulwark of justice of those memorable
times of Cayetano Arellano, Victorino Mapa, Manuel Araullo and other learned jurists
who were the honor and glory of the Philippine Judiciary." He there also announced that
one of the first measures he would introduce in then forthcoming session of Congress
would have for its object the complete reorganization of the Supreme Court. Finding him
in contempt, despite his avowals of good faith and his invocation of the guarantee of
free speech, this Court declared:

But in the above-quoted written statement which he caused to be


published in the press, the respondent does not merely criticize or
comment on the decision of the Parazo case, which was then and still is
pending consideration by this Court upon petition of Angel Parazo. He not
only intends to intimidate the members of this Court with the presentation
of a bill in the next Congress, of which he is one of the members,
reorganizing the Supreme Court and reducing the number of Justices from
eleven, so as to change the members of this Court which decided the
Parazo case, who according to his statement, are incompetent and narrow
minded, in order to influence the final decision of said case by this Court,
and thus embarrass or obstruct the administration of justice. But the
respondent also attacks the honesty and integrity of this Court for the
apparent purpose of bringing the Justices of this Court into disrepute and
degrading the administration. of justice ... .

To hurl the false charge that this Court has been for the last years
committing deliberately so many blunders and injustices, that is to say,
that it has been deciding in favor of Que party knowing that the law and
justice is on the part of the adverse party and not on the one in whose

74
favor the decision was rendered, in many cases decided during the last
years, would tend necessarily to undermine the confidence of the people
in the honesty and integrity of the members of this Court, and
consequently to lower ,or degrade the administration of justice by this
Court. The Supreme Court of the Philippines is, under the Constitution, the
last bulwark to which the Filipino people may repair to obtain relief for their
grievances or protection of their rights when these are trampled upon, and
if the people lose their confidence in the honesty and integrity of the
members of this Court and believe that they cannot expect justice
therefrom, they might be driven to take the law into their own hands, and
disorder and perhaps chaos might be the result. As a member of the bar
and an officer of the courts, Atty. Vicente Sotto, like any other, is in duty
bound to uphold the dignity and authority of this Court, to which he owes
fidelity according to the oath he has taken as such attorney, and not to
promote distrust in the administration of justice. Respect to the courts
guarantees the stability of other institutions, which without such guaranty
would be resting on a very shaky foundation.

Significantly, too, the Court therein hastened to emphasize that

... an attorney as an officer of the court is under special obligation to be


respectful in his conduct and communication to the courts; he may be
removed from office or stricken from the roll of attorneys as being guilty of
flagrant misconduct (17 L.R.A. [N.S.], 586, 594.)

3. In Rheem of the Philippines vs. Ferrer: In re Proceedings against Alfonso Ponce


Enrile, et al., supra, where counsel charged this Court with having "repeatedly fallen"
into ,the pitfall of blindly adhering to its previous "erroneous" pronouncements, "in
disregard of the law on jurisdiction" of the Court of Industrial Relations, our
condemnation of counsel's misconduct was unequivocal. Articulating the sentiments of
the Court, Mr. Justice Sanchez stressed:

As we look back at the language (heretofore quoted) employed in the


motion for reconsideration, implications there are which inescapably arrest
attention. It speaks of one pitfall into which this Court has repeatedly
fallen whenever the jurisdiction of the Court of Industrial Relations comes
into question. That pitfall is the tendency of this Court to rely on its own
pronouncements in disregard of the law on jurisdiction. It makes a
sweeping charge that the decisions of this Court, blindly adhere to earlier
rulings without as much as making any reference to and analysis of the
pertinent statute governing the jurisdiction of the industrial court. The plain
import of all these is that this Court is so patently inept that in determining
the jurisdiction of the industrial court, it has committed error and
continuously repeated that error to the point of perpetuation. It pictures
this Court as one which refuses to hew to the line drawn by the law on
jurisdictional boundaries. Implicit in the quoted statements is that the

75
pronouncements of this Court on the jurisdiction of the industrial court are
not entitled to respect. Those statements detract much from the dignity of
and respect due this Court. They bring into question the capability of the
members — and some former members of this Court to render justice.
The second paragraph quoted yields a tone of sarcasm which counsel
labelled as "so called" the "rule against splitting of jurisdiction."

Similar thoughts and sentiments have been expressed in other cases 18 which, in the
interest of brevity, need not now be reviewed in detail.

Of course, a common denominator underlies the aforecited cases — all of them


involved contumacious statements made in pleadings filed pending litigation. So that, in
line with the doctrinal rule that the protective mantle of contempt may ordinarily be
invoked only against scurrilous remarks or malicious innuendoes while a court mulls
over a pending case and not after the conclusion thereof, 19 Atty. Almacen would now
seek to sidestep the thrust of a contempt charge by his studied emphasis that the
remarks for which he is now called upon to account were made only after this Court had
written finis to his appeal. This is of no moment.

The rule that bars contempt after a judicial proceeding has terminated, has lost much of
its vitality. For sometime, this was the prevailing view in this jurisdiction. The first stir for
a modification thereof, however, came when, in People vs. Alarcon, 20 the then Chief
Justice Manuel V. Moran dissented with the holding of the majority, speaking thru
Justice Jose P. Laurel, which upheld the rule above-adverted to. A complete
disengagement from the settled rule was later to be made in In re Brillantes, 21 a
contempt proceeding, where the editor of the Manila Guardian was adjudged in
contempt for publishing an editorial which asserted that the 1944 Bar Examinations
were conducted in a farcical manner after the question of the validity of the said
examinations had been resolved and the case closed. Virtually, this was an adoption of
the view expressed by Chief Justice Moran in his dissent in Alarcon to the effect that
them may still be contempt by publication even after a case has been terminated. Said
Chief Justice Moran in Alarcon:

A publication which tends to impede, obstruct, embarrass or influence the


courts in administering justice in a pending suit or proceeding, constitutes
criminal contempt which is 'summarily punishable by courts. A publication
which tends to degrade the courts and to destroy public confidence in
them or that which tends to bring them in any way into disrepute,
constitutes likewise criminal contempt, and is equally punishable by
courts. What is sought, in the first kind of contempt, to be shielded against
the influence of newspaper comments, is the all-important duty of the
courts to administer justice in the decision of a pending case. In the
second kind of contempt, the punitive hand of justice is extended to
vindicate the courts from any act or conduct calculated to bring them into
disfavor or to destroy public confidence in them. In the first there is no
contempt where there is no action pending, as there is no decision which

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might in any way be influenced by the newspaper publication. In the
second, the contempt exists, with or without a pending case, as what is
sought to be protected is the court itself and its dignity. Courts would lose
their utility if public confidence in them is destroyed.

Accordingly, no comfort is afforded Atty. Almacen by the circumstance that his


statements and actuations now under consideration were made only after the judgment
in his client's appeal had attained finality. He could as much be liable for contempt
therefor as if it had been perpetrated during the pendency of the said appeal.

More than this, however, consideration of whether or not he could be held liable for
contempt for such post litigation utterances and actuations, is here immaterial. By the
tenor of our Resolution of November 17, 1967, we have confronted the situation here
presented solely in so far as it concerns Atty. Almacen's professional identity, his sworn
duty as a lawyer and his fitness as an officer of this Court, in the exercise of the
disciplinary power the morals inherent in our authority and duty to safeguard and ethics
of the legal profession and to preserve its ranks from the intrusions of unprincipled and
unworthy disciples of the noblest of callings. In this inquiry, the pendency or non-
pendency of a case in court is altogether of no consequence. The sole objective of this
proceeding is to preserve the purity of the legal profession, by removing or suspending
a member whose misconduct has proved himself unfit to continue to be entrusted with
the duties and responsibilities belonging to the office of an attorney.

Undoubtedly, this is well within our authority to do. By constitutional mandate, 22 our is
the solemn duty, amongst others, to determine the rules for admission to the practice of
law. Inherent in this prerogative is the corresponding authority to discipline and exclude
from the practice of law those who have proved themselves unworthy of continued
membership in the Bar. Thus —

The power to discipline attorneys, who are officers of the court, is an


inherent and incidental power in courts of record, and one which is
essential to an orderly discharge of judicial functions. To deny its
existence is equivalent to a declaration that the conduct of attorneys
towards courts and clients is not subject to restraint. Such a view is
without support in any respectable authority, and cannot be tolerated. Any
court having the right to admit attorneys to practice and in this state that
power is vested in this court-has the inherent right, in the exercise of a
sound judicial discretion to exclude them from practice. 23

This, because the admission of a lawyer to the practice of law is a representation to all
that he is worthy of their confidence and respect. So much so that —

... whenever it is made to appear to the court that an attorney is no longer


worthy of the trust and confidence of the public and of the courts, it
becomes, not only the right, but the duty, of the court which made him one
of its officers, and gave him the privilege of ministering within its bar, to

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withdraw the privilege. Therefore it is almost universally held that both the
admission and disbarment of attorneys are judicial acts, and that one is
admitted to the bar and exercises his functions as an attorney, not as a
matter of right, but as a privilege conditioned on his own behavior and the
exercise of a just and sound judicial discretion. 24

Indeed, in this jurisdiction, that power to remove or suspend has risen above being a
mere inherent or incidental power. It has been elevated to an express mandate by the
Rules of Court. 25

Our authority and duty in the premises being unmistakable, we now proceed to make an
assessment of whether or not the utterances and actuations of Atty. Almacen here in
question are properly the object of disciplinary sanctions.

The proffered surrender of his lawyer's certificate is, of course, purely potestative on
Atty. Almacen's part. Unorthodox though it may seem, no statute, no law stands in its
way. Beyond making the mere offer, however, he went farther. In haughty and coarse
language, he actually availed of the said move as a vehicle for his vicious tirade against
this Court. The integrated entirety of his petition bristles with vile insults all calculated to
drive home his contempt for and disrespect to the Court and its members. Picturing his
client as "a sacrificial victim at the altar of hypocrisy," he categorically denounces the
justice administered by this Court to be not only blind "but also deaf and dumb." With
unmitigated acerbity, he virtually makes this Court and its members with verbal talons,
imputing to the Court the perpetration of "silent injustices" and "short-cut justice" while at
the same time branding its members as "calloused to pleas of justice." And, true to his
announced threat to argue the cause of his client "in the people's forum," he caused the
publication in the papers of an account of his actuations, in a calculated effort ;to startle
the public, stir up public indignation and disrespect toward the Court. Called upon to
make an explanation, he expressed no regret, offered no apology. Instead, with
characteristic arrogance, he rehashed and reiterated his vituperative attacks and,
alluding to the Scriptures, virtually tarred and feathered the Court and its members as
inveterate hypocrites incapable of administering justice and unworthy to impose
disciplinary sanctions upon him.

The virulence so blatantly evident in Atty. Almacen's petition, answer and oral
argumentation speaks for itself. The vicious language used and the scurrilous
innuendoes they carried far transcend the permissible bounds of legitimate criticism.
They could never serve any purpose but to gratify the spite of an irate attorney, attract
public attention to himself and, more important of all, bring ;this Court and its members
into disrepute and destroy public confidence in them to the detriment of the orderly
administration of justice. Odium of this character and texture presents no redeeming
feature, and completely negates any pretense of passionate commitment to the truth. It
is not a whit less than a classic example of gross misconduct, gross violation of the
lawyer's oath and gross transgression of the Canons of Legal Ethics. As such, it cannot
be allowed to go unrebuked. The way for the exertion of our disciplinary powers is thus
laid clear, and the need therefor is unavoidable.

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We must once more stress our explicit disclaimer of immunity from criticism. Like any
other Government entity in a viable democracy, the Court is not, and should not be,
above criticism. But a critique of the Court must be intelligent and discriminating, fitting
to its high function as the court of last resort. And more than this, valid and healthy
criticism is by no means synonymous to obloquy, and requires detachment and
disinterestedness, real qualities approached only through constant striving to attain
them. Any criticism of the Court must, possess the quality of judiciousness and must be
informed -by perspective and infused by philosophy. 26

It is not accurate to say, nor is it an obstacle to the exercise of our authority in ;the
premises, that, as Atty. Almacen would have appear, the members of the Court are the
"complainants, prosecutors and judges" all rolled up into one in this instance. This is an
utter misapprehension, if not a total distortion, not only of the nature of the proceeding
at hand but also of our role therein.

Accent should be laid on the fact that disciplinary proceedings like the present are sui
generis. Neither purely civil nor purely criminal, this proceeding is not — and does not
involve — a trial of an action or a suit, but is rather an investigation by the Court into the
conduct of its officers. 27 Not being intended to. inflict punishment, it is in no sense a
criminal prosecution. Accordingly, there is neither a plaintiff nor a prosecutor therein It
may be initiated by the Court motu proprio. 28 Public interest is its primary objective, and
the real question for determination is whether or not the attorney is still a fit person to be
allowed the privileges as such. Hence, 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 and the
proper and honest administration of justice by purging the profession of members who
by their misconduct have proved themselves no longer worthy to be entrusted with the
duties and responsibilities pertaining to the office of an attorney. 29 In such posture,
there can thus be no occasion to speak of a complainant or a prosecutor.

Undeniably, the members of the Court are, to a certain degree, aggrieved parties. Any
tirade against the Court as a body is necessarily and inextricably as much so against
the individual members thereof. But in the exercise of its disciplinary powers, the Court
acts as an entity separate and distinct from the individual personalities of its members.
Consistently with the intrinsic nature of a collegiate court, the individual members act
not as such individuals but. only as a duly constituted court. Their distinct individualities
are lost in the majesty of their office. 30So that, in a very real sense, if there be any
complainant in the case at bar, it can only be the Court itself, not the individual
members thereof — as well as the people themselves whose rights, fortunes and
properties, nay, even lives, would be placed at grave hazard should the administration
of justice be threatened by the retention in the Bar of men unfit to discharge the solemn
responsibilities of membership in the legal fraternity.

Finally, the power to exclude persons from the practice of law is but a necessary
incident of the power to admit persons to said practice. By constitutional precept, this
power is vested exclusively in this Court. This duty it cannot abdicate just as much as it

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cannot unilaterally renounce jurisdiction legally invested upon it. 31 So that even if it be
conceded that the members collectively are in a sense the aggrieved parties, that fact
alone does not and cannot disqualify them from the exercise of that power because
public policy demands that they., acting as a Court, exercise the power in all cases
which call for disciplinary action. The present is such a case. In the end, the imagined
anomaly of the merger in one entity of the personalities of complainant, prosecutor and
judge is absolutely inexistent.

Last to engage our attention is the nature and extent of the sanctions that may be
visited upon Atty. Almacen for his transgressions. As marked out by the Rules of Court,
these may range from mere suspension to total removal or disbarment. 32 The discretion
to assess under the circumstances the imposable sanction is, of course, primarily
addressed to the sound discretion of the Court which, being neither arbitrary and
despotic nor motivated by personal animosity or prejudice, should ever be controlled by
the imperative need that the purity and independence of the Bar be scrupulously
guarded and the dignity of and respect due to the Court be zealously maintained.

That the misconduct committed by Atty. Almacen is of considerable gravity cannot be


overemphasized. However, heeding the stern injunction that disbarment should never
be decreed where a lesser sanction would accomplish the end desired, and believing
that it may not perhaps be futile to hope that in the sober light of some future day, Atty.
Almacen will realize that abrasive language never fails to do disservice to an advocate
and that in every effervescence of candor there is ample room for the added glow of
respect, it is our view that suspension will suffice under the circumstances. His
demonstrated persistence in his misconduct by neither manifesting repentance nor
offering apology therefor leave us no way of determining how long that suspension
should last and, accordingly, we are impelled to decree that the same should be
indefinite. This, we are empowered to do not alone because jurisprudence grants us
discretion on the matter 33 but also because, even without the comforting support of
precedent, it is obvious that if we have authority to completely exclude a person from
the practice of law, there is no reason why indefinite suspension, which is lesser in
degree and effect, can be regarded as falling outside of the compass of that authority.
The merit of this choice is best shown by the fact that it will then be left to Atty. Almacen
to determine for himself how long or how short that suspension shall last. For, at any
time after the suspension becomes effective he may prove to this Court that he is once
again fit to resume the practice of law.

ACCORDINGLY, IT IS THE SENSE of the Court that Atty. Vicente Raul Almacen be, as
he is hereby, suspended from the practice of law until further orders, the suspension to
take effect immediately.

Let copies of this resolution. be furnished the Secretary of Justice, the Solicitor General
and the Court of Appeals for their information and guidance.

Concepcion,. C.J., Reyes, J.B.L., Dizon, Makalintal, Zaldivar, Sanchez, Teehankee,


Barredo and Villamor JJ., concur.

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Fernando, J., took no part.

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