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Disciplinary Action

RULE 139 – B OF REVISED RULES OF COURT OF THE PHILIPPINES

St. Louis University Laboratory High School Faculty and Staff v. Dela Cruz -
A. C. No. 6010, August 28, 2006
Tan v. IBP Commission on Bar Discipline – G.R. No. 173940, September 5, 2006
Soriano v. Dizon – A.C. No. 6792, January 25, 2006
Sampana v. Angara – A.C. No. 5839, August 22, 2006
Bellosillov. Board of Governors of the IBP - 486 SCRA 152
Soriano v. Reyes – 489 SCRA 328
Jimenez v. Jimenez – A.C. No. 6712, February 6, 2006
Lim v. Montano – A.C. No. 5653, February 27, 2006
Santos v. Cacho-Calicdan – A.C. No. 5359, September 19, 2006
Bautista v. Bernabe – A.C. No. 6963, February 9, 2006
Ramon C. Gonzalez v. Arnel Alcaraz – A.C. No. 5321, September 27, 2006
Foronda v. Guerrero – A.C. No. 5469, January 27, 2006
Maligaya v. Doronilla, Jr. – A.C. No. 6198, September 15, 2006
Velez v. De. Vera – A.C. No. 6697, July 25, 2006
PAGCOR v. Carandang – A.C. No. 6010, August 28, 2006
Tomlin,II v. Moya, II – A.C. No. 6971, February 23, 2006
Asa v. Castillo – A.C. No. 6501, August 31, 2006
Mercado v. Security Bank Corporation – G.R. No. 160445, February 26, 2006
Ferancullo v. Ferancullo – A.C. No. 7214, November 30, 2006
Ronquillo v. Cezar – 491 SCRA 5, June 16, 2006
Donton v. Tansingco – 493 SCRA 1, June 27, 2006
Pamatong v. Davide – A.C. No. 7197, January 23, 2007
Vitug v. Rongcal – A.C. No. 6313, September 7, 2006

Courts and Judges

CODE OF JUDICIAL CONDUCT

Panaligan v. Ibay – A.M. No. RTJ-06-1972, June 21, 2006, 491 SCRA 545
Betoy v. Coliflores – A.M. No. MTJ-05-1608, February 28, 2006, 483 SCRA 435
Enriquez v. Caminade _ A.M. No. RTJ-051966, March 21, 2006, 485 SCRA 98
Office of the Court Adminitrator v. Legaspi – A.M. No. RTJ-051895, March 14,
2006, 484 SCRA 584
De Vega v. Asdala – A. M. No. RTJ-06-1997
Sanchez v. Alaan – A. M. No. MTJ-04-1570, September 5, 2006
Beltran v. Dinopol – A.M. No. RTJ-06-2020, September 20, 2006
Office of the Court Administrator v. Gaudiel, Jr. – 480 SCRA 266
De Castro v. Cawaling – A.M. No. MTJ-021465, February 6, 2006, 481 SCRA
535
Tiongco v. Savillo – A. M. No. RTJ-02-1719, March 31, 2006, 486 SCRA 48
Office of the Court Administrator v. Alumbres – 479 SCRA 375
Umale v. Fadul, Jr. – A. M. No. MTJ-06-1660, November of 2006
National Bureau of Investigation v. Adaoag – A. M. No. MTJ-03-1503, November
16, 2006
Rockland Construction Co. v. Singzon – A. M. No. RTJ-06-2002, November 24,
2006
Fortune Life Insurance Company v. Luczon, Jr. – A. M. No. RTJ-05-1901,
November 30, 2006
Mariano v. Garfin – A.M. No. RTJ-06-2024, October 17, 2006
Busilac Builders, Inc. v. Aguilar – A. M. No. RTJ-03-1809, October 17, 2006
Munsayac v. Reyes – A.M. No. P-2020, June 26, 2006
Nacionales v. Madlangbayan – A. M. No. P-06-2171, June 15, 2006, 490 SCRA
538

Notarial Law/Practice

NOTARIAL PRACTICE OF 2004 (AM No 02-8-13-SC)

Heirs of the late Spouses Lucas and Francisca Villanueva v. Beradio – A.C. No.
6270, January 22, 2007
Maria Divina Cruz-Villanueva v. Rivera – A.C. No. 7123, November 20, 2006
Bautista v. Bernabe – A.C. No. 6963, February 9, 2006, 482 SCRA 1.
Mallari v. Alsol – G.R. No. 150866, March 6, 2006, 484 SCRA 148
Espino v. Vicente – G.R. No. 168396, June 22, 2006, 492 SCRA 330
Cirelos v. Hernandez – G.R. No. 146523, June 15, 2006, 490 SCRA 625
Union Bank of the Philippines v. Ong – G.R. No. 152347, June 21, 2006 491
SCRA 581
Penson v. Maranan – G.R. No. 148630, June 20 2006, 491 SCRA 396
Jocelyn a. Saquing v. Mora – A.C. No. 6678, October 9, 2006
Lingan v. Calubaquib – A.C. No. 5377, June 15, 2006, 490 SCRA 526

Bar Matter No 2012 - Comprehensive Legal Aid Service

EN BANC
ST. LOUIS UNIVERSITY LABORATORY HIGH SCHOOL (SLU-LHS) FACULTY
and STAFF,

Complainant,

- versus -

ATTY. ROLANDO C. DELA CRUZ,

Respondent.
A.C. No. 6010

Present:

PANGANIBAN, C.J.,

PUNO,

QUISUMBING,

YNARES-SANTIAGO,

SANDOVAL-GUTIERREZ,

CARPIO,

AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ,

CORONA,*

CARPIO MORALES,

CALLEJO, SR.,

AZCUNA,

TINGA,

CHICO-NAZARIO,

GARCIA, and

VELASCO, JR., JJ.

Promulgated:

August 28, 2006


x--------------------------------------------------x

DECISION

CHICO-NAZARIO, J.:

This is a disbarment case filed by the Faculty members and Staff of the Saint Louis
University-Laboratory High School (SLU-LHS) against Atty. Rolando C. Dela Cruz,
principal of SLU-LHS, predicated on the following grounds:

1) Gross Misconduct:

From the records of the case, it appears that there is a pending criminal case for
child abuse allegedly committed by him against a high school student filed before the
Prosecutor’s Office of Baguio City; a pending administrative case filed by the Teachers,
Staff, Students and Parents before an Investigating Board created by SLU for his alleged
unprofessional and unethical acts of misappropriating money supposedly for the teachers;
and the pending labor case filed by SLU-LHS Faculty before the NLRC, Cordillera
Administrative Region, on alleged illegal deduction of salary by respondent.

2) Grossly Immoral Conduct:

In contracting a second marriage despite the existence of his first marriage; and

3) Malpractice:

In notarizing documents despite the expiration of his commission.


According to complainant, respondent was legally married to Teresita Rivera on 31
May 1982 at Tuba, Benguet, before the then Honorable Judge Tomas W. Macaranas. He
thereafter contracted a subsequent marriage with one Mary Jane Pascua, before the
Honorable Judge Guillermo Purganan. On 4 October 1994, said second marriage was
subsequently annulled for being bigamous.

On the charge of malpractice, complainant alleged that respondent deliberately


subscribed and notarized certain legal documents on different dates from 1988 to 1997,
despite expiration of respondent’s notarial commission on 31 December 1987. A
Certification[1] dated 25 May 1999 was issued by the Clerk of Court of Regional Trial
Court (RTC), Baguio City, to the effect that respondent had not applied for commission
as Notary Public for and in the City of Baguio for the period 1988 to 1997. Respondent
performed acts of notarization, as evidenced by the following documents:

1. Affidavit of Ownership[2] dated 8 March 1991, executed by Fernando T.


Acosta, subscribed and sworn to before Rolando Dela Cruz;

2. Affidavit[3] dated 26 September 1992, executed by Maria Cortez Atos,


subscribed and sworn to before Rolando Dela Cruz;

3. Affidavit[4] dated 14 January 1992, executed by Fanolex James A. Menos,


subscribed and sworn to before Rolando Dela Cruz;

4. Affidavit[5] dated 23 December 1993, executed by Ponciano V. Abalos,


subscribed and sworn to before Rolando Dela Cruz;

5. Absolute Date of Sale[6] dated 23 June 1993, executed by Danilo Gonzales


in favor of Senecio C. Marzan, notarized by Rolando Dela Cruz;
6. Joint Affidavit By Two Disinherited Parties[7] dated 5 March 1994,
executed by Evelyn C. Canullas and Pastora C. Tacadena, subscribed and sworn to before
Rolando Dela Cruz;

7. Sworn Statement[8] dated 31 May 1994, executed by Felimon B. Rimorin,


subscribed and sworn to before Rolando Dela Cruz;

8. Deed of Sale[9] dated 17 August 1994, executed by Woodrow Apurado in


favor of Jacinto Batara, notarized by Rolando Dela Cruz;

9. Joint Affidavit by Two Disinterested Parties[10] dated 1 June 1994,


executed by Ponciano V. Abalos and Arsenio C. Sibayan, subscribed and sworn to before
Rolando Dela Cruz;

10. Absolute Deed of Sale[11] dated 23 March 1995, executed by Eleanor


D.Meridor in favor of Leonardo N. Benter, notarized by Rolando Dela Cruz;

11. Deed of Absolute Sale[12] dated 20 December 1996, executed by


Mandapat in favor of Mario R. Mabalot, notarized by Rolando Dela Cruz;

12. Joint Affidavit By Two Disinterested Parties[13] dated 17 April 1996,


executed by Villiam C. Ambong and Romeo L. Quiming, subscribed and sworn to before
Rolando Dela Cruz;

13. Conditional Deed of Sale[14] dated 27 February 1997, executed by Aurelia


Demot Cados in favor of Jose Ma. A. Pangilinan, notarized by Rolando Dela Cruz;

14. Memorandum of Agreement[15] dated 19 July 1996, executed by JARCO


represented by Mr. Johnny Teope and AZTEC Construction represented by Mr. George
Cham, notarized by Rolando Dela Cruz.
Quite remarkably, respondent, in his comment, denied the charges of child abuse,
illegal deduction of salary and others which are still pending before the St. Louis
University (SLU), National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) and the Prosecutor’s
Office. He did not discuss anything about the allegations of immorality in contracting a
second marriage and malpractice in notarizing documents despite the expiration of his
commission.

After the filing of comment, We referred[16] the case to the Integrated Bar of the
Philippines (IBP), for investigation, report and recommendation.

The IBP conducted the mandatory preliminary conference.

The complainants, thereafter, submitted their position paper which is just a


reiteration of their allegations in their complaint.

Respondent, on his part, expressly admitted his second marriage despite the
existence of his first marriage, and the subsequent nullification of the former. He also
admitted having notarized certain documents during the period when his notarial
commission had already expired. However, he offered some extenuating defenses such
as good faith, lack of malice and noble intentions in doing the complained acts.

After the submission of their position papers, the case was deemed submitted for
resolution.

On 30 March 2005, Commissioner Acerey C. Pacheco submitted his report and


recommended that:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, it is respectfully recommended that
respondent be administratively penalized for the following acts:

a. For contracting a second marriage without taking the appropriate legal steps to
have the first marriage annulled first, he be suspended from the practice of law for one
(1) year, and

b. For notarizing certain legal documents despite full knowledge of the expiration
of his notarial commission, he be suspended from the practice of law for another one (1)
year or for a total of two (2) years.[17]

On 17 December 2005, the IBP Board of Governors, approved and adopted the
recommendation of Commissioner Pacheco, 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 contracted a second marriage without taking appropriate
legal steps to have the first marriage annulled, Atty. Rolando C. dela Cruz is hereby
SUSPENDED from the practice of law for one (1) year and for notarizing legal
documents despite full knowledge of the expiration of his notarial commission Atty.
Rolando C. dela Cruz is SUSPENDED from the practice of law for another one (1) year,
for a total of two (2) years Suspension from the practice of law.[18]

This Court finds the recommendation of the IBP to fault respondent well taken,
except as to the penalty contained therein.

At the threshold, it is worth stressing that the practice of law is not a right but a privilege
bestowed by the State on those who show that they possess the qualifications required by
law for the conferment of such privilege. Membership in the bar is a privilege burdened
with conditions. A lawyer has the privilege and right to practice law only during good
behavior, and he can be deprived of it for misconduct ascertained and declared by
judgment of the court after opportunity to be heard has been afforded him. Without
invading any constitutional privilege or right, an attorney’s right to practice law may be
resolved by a proceeding to suspend, based on conduct rendering him unfit to hold a
license or to exercise the duties and responsibilities of an attorney. It must be understood
that the purpose of suspending or disbarring him as an attorney is to remove from the
profession a person whose misconduct has proved him unfit to be entrusted with the
duties and responsibilities belonging to an office of attorney and, thus, to protect the
public and those charged with the administration of justice, rather than to punish an
attorney. Elaborating on this, we said on Maligsa v. Atty. Cabanting,[19] that the Bar
should maintain a high standard of legal proficiency as well as of honesty and fair
dealing. A lawyer brings honor to the legal profession by faithfully performing his duties
to society, to the bar, to the courts and to his clients. A member of the legal fraternity
should refrain from doing any act which might lessen in any degree the confidence and
trust reposed by the public in the fidelity, honesty and integrity of the legal profession.
Towards this end, an attorney may be disbarred or suspended for any violation of his oath
or of his duties as an attorney and counselor, which include statutory grounds enumerated
in Section 27, Rule 138 of the Rules of Court, all of these being broad enough to cover
practically any misconduct of a lawyer in his professional or private capacity.

Equally worthy of remark is that the law profession does not prescribe a dichotomy
of standards among its members. There is no distinction as to whether the transgression
is committed in the lawyer’s professional capacity or in his private life. This is because a
lawyer may not divide his personality so as to be an attorney at one time and a mere
citizen at another.[20] Thus, not only his professional activities but even his private life,
insofar as the latter may reflect unfavorably upon the good name and prestige of the
profession and the courts, may at any time be the subject of inquiry on the part of the
proper authorities.[21]

One of the conditions prior to admission to the bar is that an applicant must possess good
moral character. Possession of such moral character as requirement to the enjoyment of
the privilege of law practice must be continuous. Otherwise, “membership in the bar may
be terminated when a lawyer ceases to have good moral conduct.”[22]

In the case at bench, there is no dispute that respondent and Teresita Rivera
contracted marriage on 31 May 1982 before Judge Tomas W. Macaranas. In less than a
year, they parted ways owing to their irreconcilable differences without seeking judicial
recourse. The union bore no offspring. After their separation in-fact, respondent never
knew the whereabouts of Teresita Rivera since he had lost all forms of communication
with her. Seven years thereafter, respondent became attracted to one Mary Jane Pascua,
who was also a faculty member of SLU-LHS. There is also no dispute over the fact that
in 1989, respondent married Mary Jane Pascua in the Municipal Trial Court (MTC) of
Baguio City, Branch 68. Respondent even admitted this fact. When the second marriage
was entered into, respondent’s prior marriage with Teresita Rivera was still subsisting, no
action having been initiated before the court to obtain a judicial declaration of nullity or
annulment of respondent’s prior marriage to Teresita Rivera or a judicial declaration of
presumptive death of Teresita Rivera.

Respondent was already a member of the Bar when he contracted the bigamous second
marriage in 1989, having been admitted to the Bar in 1985. As such, he cannot feign
ignorance of the mandate of the law that before a second marriage may be validly
contracted, the first and subsisting marriage must first be annulled by the appropriate
court. The second marriage was annulled only on 4 October 1994 before the RTC of
Benguet, Branch 9, or about five years after respondent contracted his second marriage.
The annulment of respondent’s second marriage has no bearing to the instant disbarment
proceeding. Firstly, as earlier emphasized, the annulment came after the respondent’s
second bigamous marriage. Secondly, as we held in In re: Almacen, a disbarment case is
sui generis for it is neither purely civil nor purely criminal but is rather an investigation
by the court into the conduct of its officers. Thus, if the acquittal of a lawyer in a
criminal action is not determinative of an administrative case against him, or if an
affidavit of withdrawal of a disbarment case does not affect its course, then neither will
the judgment of annulment of respondent’s second marriage also exonerate him from a
wrongdoing actually committed. So long as the quantum of proof - clear preponderance
of evidence - in disciplinary proceedings against members of the Bar is met, then liability
attaches.[23]

Section 27, Rule 138 of the Rules of Court cites grossly immoral conduct as a ground for
disbarment.

The Court has laid down with a common definition of what constitutes immoral conduct,
vis-à-vis, grossly immoral conduct. Immoral conduct is “that conduct which is willful,
flagrant, or shameless, and which shows a moral indifference to the opinion of the good
and respectable members of the community” and what is “grossly immoral,” that is, it
must be so corrupt and false as to constitute a criminal act or so unprincipled as to be
reprehensible to a high degree.”[24]
Undoubtedly, respondent’s act constitutes immoral conduct. But is it so gross as to
warrant his disbarment? Indeed, he exhibited a deplorable lack of that degree of morality
required of him as a member of the Bar. In particular, he made a mockery of marriage
which is a sacred institution demanding respect and dignity. His act of contracting a
second marriage while the first marriage was still in place, is contrary to honesty, justice,
decency and morality.[25]

However, measured against the definition, we are not prepared to consider respondent’s
act as grossly immoral. This finds support in the following recommendation and
observation of the IBP Investigator and IBP Board of Governors, thus:

The uncontested assertions of the respondent belies any intention to flaunt the law
and the high moral standard of the legal profession, to wit:

a. After his first failed marriage and prior to his second marriage or for a
period of almost seven (7) years, he has not been romantically involved with any woman;

b. His second marriage was a show of his noble intentions and total love for
his wife, whom he described to be very intelligent person;

c. He never absconded from his obligations to support his wife and child;

d. He never disclaimed paternity over the child and husbandry (sic) with
relation to his wife;

e. After the annulment of his second marriage, they have parted ways when
the mother and child went to Australia;

f. Since then up to now, respondent remained celibate.[26]


In the case of Terre v. Terre,[27] respondent was disbarred because his moral
character was deeply flawed as shown by the following circumstances, viz: he convinced
the complainant that her prior marriage to Bercenilla was null and void ab initio and that
she was legally single and free to marry him. When complainant and respondent had
contracted their marriage, respondent went through law school while being supported by
complainant, with some assistance from respondent’s parents. After respondent had
finished his law course and gotten complainant pregnant, respondent abandoned the
complainant without support and without the wherewithal for delivering his own child
safely to a hospital.

In the case of Cojuangco, Jr. v. Palma,[28] respondent was also disbarred for his
grossly immoral acts such as: first, he abandoned his lawful wife and three children;
second, he lured an innocent young woman into marrying him; third, he mispresented
himself as a “bachelor” so he could contract marriage in a foreign land; and fourth, he
availed himself of complainant’s resources by securing a plane ticket from complainant’s
office in order to marry the latter’s daughter. He did this without complainant’s
knowledge. Afterwards, he even had the temerity to assure complainant that “everything
is legal.”

Such acts are wanting in the case at bar. In fact, no less than the respondent himself
acknowledged and declared his abject apology for his misstep. He was humble enough to
offer no defense save for his love and declaration of his commitment to his wife and
child.

Based on the reasons stated above, we find the imposition of disbarment upon him
to be unduly harsh. The power to disbar must be exercised with great caution, and may be
imposed only in a clear case of misconduct that seriously affects the standing and
character of the lawyer as an officer of the Court. Disbarment should never be decreed
where any lesser penalty could accomplish the end desired.[29] In line with this
philosophy, we find that a penalty of two years suspension is more appropriate. The
penalty of one (1) year suspension recommended by the IBP is too light and not
commensurate to the act committed by respondent.
As to the charge of misconduct for having notarized several documents during the years
1988-1997 after his commission as notary public had expired, respondent humbly
admitted having notarized certain documents despite his knowledge that he no longer had
authority to do so. He, however, alleged that he received no payment in notarizing said
documents.

It has been emphatically stressed that notarization is not an empty, meaningless,


routinary act. On the contrary, it is invested with substantive public interest, such that
only those who are qualified or authorized may act as notaries public. Notarization of a
private document converts the document into a public one making it admissible in court
without further proof of its authenticity. A notarial document is by law entitled to full
faith and credit upon its face and, for this reason, notaries public must observe with the
utmost care the basic requirements in the performance of their duties. Otherwise, the
confidence of the public in the integrity of this form of conveyance would be
undermined.[30]

The requirements for the issuance of a commission as notary public must not be
treated as a mere casual formality. The Court has characterized a lawyer’s act of
notarizing documents without the requisite commission to do so as “reprehensible,
constituting as it does not only malpractice but also x x x the crime of falsification of
public documents.”[31]

The Court had occasion to state that where the notarization of a document is done
by a member of the Philippine Bar at a time when he has no authorization or commission
to do so, the offender may be subjected to disciplinary action or one, performing a
notarial act without such commission is a violation of the lawyer’s oath to obey the laws,
more specifically, the Notarial Law. Then, too, by making it appear that he is duly
commissioned when he is not, he is, for all legal intents and purposes, indulging in
deliberate falsehood, which the lawyer’s oath similarly proscribes. These violations fall
squarely within the prohibition of Rule 1.01 of Canon 1 of the Code of Professional
Responsibility, which provides: “A lawyer shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest,
immoral or deceitful conduct.” By acting as a notary public without the proper
commission to do so, the lawyer likewise violates Canon 7 of the same Code, which
directs every lawyer to uphold at all times the integrity and dignity of the legal
profession.

In the case of Buensuceso v. Barera,[32] a lawyer was suspended for one year when he
notarized five documents after his commission as Notary Public had expired, to wit: a
complaint for ejectment, affidavit, supplemental affidavit, a deed of sale, and a contract
to sell. Guided by the pronouncement in said case, we find that a suspension of two (2)
years is justified under the circumstances. Herein respondent notarized a total of fourteen
(14) documents[33] without the requisite notarial commission.

Other charges constituting respondent’s misconduct such as the pending criminal


case for child abuse allegedly committed by him against a high school student filed
before the Prosecutor’s Office of Baguio City; the pending administrative case filed by
the Teachers, Staff, Students and Parents before an Investigating Board created by SLU;
and the pending labor case filed by SLU-LHS Faculty before the NLRC, Cordillera
Administrative Region, on alleged illegal deduction of salary by respondent, need not be
discussed, as they are still pending before the proper forums. At such stages, the
presumption of innocence still prevails in favor of the respondent.

WHEREFORE, finding respondent Atty. Rolando Dela Cruz guilty of immoral


conduct, in disregard of the Code of Professional Responsibility, he is hereby
SUSPENDED from the practice of law for a period of two (2) years, and another two (2)
years for notarizing documents despite the expiration of his commission or a total of four
(4) years of suspension.

Let copies of this Decision be furnished all the courts of the land through the Court
Administrator, as well as the IBP, the Office of the Bar Confidant, and recorded in the
personal records of the respondent.

SO ORDERED.

MINITA V. CHICO-NAZARIO

Associate Justice
WE CONCUR:

ARTEMIO V. PANGANIBAN
Chief Justice

REYNATO S. PUNO

Associate Justice

LEONARDO A. QUISUMBING
Associate Justice

CONSUELO YNARES-SANTIAGO

Associate Justice

ANGELINA SANDOVAL-GUTIERREZ

Associate Justice
ANTONIO T. CARPIO

Associate Justice

MA. ALICIA AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ

Associate Justice

On Leave

RENATO C. CORONA
Associate Justice

CONCHITA CARPIO MORALES


Associate Justice

ROMEO J. CALLEJO, SR.

Associate Justice

ADOLFO S. AZCUNA

Associate Justice
DANTE O. TINGA

Associate Justice

CANCIO C. GARCIA

Associate Justice

PRESBITERO J. VELASCO, JR.

Associate Justice

[1] Rollo, p. 5.

[2] Id. at 6.
[3] Id. at 7-8

[4] Id. at 9.

[5] Id. at 10.

[6] Id. at 11.

[7] Id. at 12.

[8] Id. at 13.

[9] Id. at 14.

[10] Id. at 15.

[11] Id. at 16.

[12] Id. at 17.

[13] Id. at 18.

[14] Id. at 19-21.

[15] Id. at 22-23.

[16] Id. at 309.

[17] Id. at 477.

[18] Id. at 472.

[19] 338 Phil. 912, 916-917 (1997).

[20] In re: Almacen, G.R. No. L-27654, 18 February 1970, 31 SCRA 562, 581

[21] Bustamante-Alejandro v. Alejandro, A.C. No. 4256, 13 February 2004, 422


SCRA 527, 532.

[22] Royong v. Oblena, 117 Phil. 865, 878 (1963).

[23] Cojuangco, Jr. v. Palma, A.C. No. 2474, 15 September 2004, 438 SCRA 306,
317.

[24] See Reyes v. Wong, A.C. No. 547, 29 January 1975, 63 SCRA 667, 673.
[25] Villasanta v. Peralta, 101 Phil 313, 314 (1957).

[26] Rollo, p. 476.

[27] Adm. Case. No. 2349, 3 July 1992, 211 SCRA 6, 12.

[28] Adm. Case No. 2474, 15 September 2004, 438 SCRA 306, 315.

[29] T’boli Agro-Industrial Development, Inc. v. Atty. Solilapsi, 442 Phil. 499,
515 (2002).

[30] Arrieta v. Llosa, 346 Phil. 932, 937 (1997).

[31] Buensuceso v. Barrera, A.C. No. 3727, 11 December 1992, 216 SCRA 309,
312.

[32] Id.

[33] Supra notes 2-15.

G.R. No. 173940 September 5, 2006


TOMAS G. TAN, ET AL. vs. IBP COMMISSION ON BAR DISCIPLINE, ET AL.

Republic of the Philippines


SUPREME COURT
Manila

THIRD DIVISION

G.R. No. 173940 September 5, 2006


(Formerly CBD Case No. 02-967)

TOMAS G. TAN & CST ENTERPRISES INC., represented by NELSON G. TAN,


petitioners,
vs.
IBP COMMISSION ON BAR DISCIPLINE and ATTY. JAIME N. SORIANO,
respondents.

DECISION

TINGA, J.:

This petition stemmed from a pending disbarment case before the Integrated Bar of the
Philippines.
Sometime in January of 2002, petitioner Tomas G. Tan (petitioner Tan), stockholder and
director of co-petitioner CST Enterprises, Inc. (CST), discovered that two parcels of land
owned by the corporation were used to obtain loans from Philippine Business Bank
(PBB), with the real estate mortgage annotated at the back of the titles covering the
properties. Upon verification, he learned that a certain John Dennis Chua, representing
CST, mortgaged the properties. Chua was purportedly authorized by the Board of
Directors of the corporation as shown by the Corporate Secretary’s Certificate dated 04
April 2001 signed by Atty. Jaime N. Soriano (respondent).

On 28 May 2002, petitioner Tan filed in his personal capacity and as minority
stockholder of CST under a derivative action, a letter-complaint with the IBP charging
respondent of deceit, malpractice, falsification of public documents, gross misconduct
and violation of oath of office.1 According to petitioners, respondent has never been
elected as corporate secretary nor acted as such for CST, and in fact no board meeting
was held on 30 March 2001 to so authorize John Dennis Chua because on the said date
two of three directors, petitioner Tan and Felipe Chua, were out of the country.
Furthermore, John Dennis Chua has never been connected in any capacity with CST,
petitioners aver.2

Petitioners also filed with the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Makati a civil case docketed
as Civil Case No. 02-299 and captioned as one for "Declaration of Unenforceability of
Promissory Notes and Mortgage, Nullity of Secretary’s Certificate, Injunction,"
Damages, etc. with Prayer for Issuance of TRO/ Preliminary Injunction, against
respondent, Atty. Stephen Z. Taala and PBB, along with other persons.3

In the course of the proceedings in the said civil case, petitioners claim to have gathered
more information and seen the "extent of the plot or machinations" of respondent and the
participation of other individuals, including Atty. Taala who was the Assistant Vice
President for Legal Services of PBB.4 Atty. Taala had testified in Civil Case No. 02-299
that Felipe Chua personally delivered to him CST’s titles to the mortgaged lots and that
Felipe Chua assured him that respondent is the Corporate Secretary of CST.5 Thus,
CST’s loan application was recommended for favorable consideration.

On 16 June 2003, petitioners filed with the IBP, Commission on Bar Discipline
(Commission) a Motion to Amend/Supplement the Complaint with Motion to Admit
Amended/Supplemental Complaint,6 claiming that respondent and Atty. Taala had
facilitated and recommended the approval of the allegedly spurious loans and mortgage
entered into by John Dennis Chua. The Commission, however, denied the motion on 28
December 2003 on the ground that the amendments/supplements involve proceedings
pending before the trial courts and that the determination of the matters presented belong
to said courts which have already acquired jurisdiction over them.7

Petitioners sought reconsideration of the order, but the Commission denied the motion,
ruling that the Commission cannot make a premature finding on and/or investigation of
the alleged acts of Atty. Taala since the same are the subject of a pending civil case.
Anent the alleged untruthful statements of respondent, the Commission ruled that there is
no need to amend the complaint since the said statements may be refuted in the ensuing
proceedings in the case.8

Assailing the denial of the motion for the admission of the Amended/Supplemental
Complaint, petitioners filed before this Court a petition for certiorari under Rule 65,
wherein they impute grave abuse of discretion on the part of the Commission. Petitioners
submit that respondent and Atty. Taala through false testimonies intend to bind CST to
the spurious loans and real estate mortgage to its damage and prejudice.9 They claim that
the denial to admit the Amended/Supplemental Complaint would have the effect of
preventing petitioners from filing a new complaint against respondent along with Atty.
Taala for their conspiratorial illegal acts involving the same loan transactions, as any
judgment of the Commission on the original complaint may serve as res judicata to bar
judgment on the other acts complained of in the Amended/Supplemental Complaint.10
Likewise, limiting the facts and issues to those defined in the original complaint would
make respondent answerable only for the less serious charges subject of the original
complaint but not for the graver charges in the Amended/Supplemental Complaint
regarding respondent’s untruthful allegations.11

In addition, petitioners claim that respondent’s allegations in his Verified Answer are
untruthful and perjurious as he knowingly cited untruthful testimonies and affidavits from
the records of the civil case with the RTC of Makati. One such untruthful testimony is
that of Atty. Taala to the effect that Felipe Chua personally delivered the original titles of
the Muntinlupa properties to PBB in compliance with the loan requirements.12
According to petitioners, Atty. Taala’s twin claims that he met with Felipe Chua on 05
April 2001 and that Felipe Chua submitted the Secretary’s Certificate on the same date
are untruthful since Felipe was out of the country on the said date. Likewise, Felipe Chua
could not have attended the meeting with respondent in January 2001 because he was
also abroad at that time.13

Finally, petitioners aver that the proceeds of the spurious loans amounting to P91.1
Million Pesos covered by the real estate mortgage on CST’s real estate properties were
funneled to the Mabuhay Sugar Central, Inc., a corporation where respondent is the
incorporator, stockholder and President.14

Petitioners thus pray of this Court to set aside the Commission’s order denying admission
of the Amended/Supplemental Complaint, or in the alternative, allow petitioner to file a
new complaint against respondent and Atty. Taala based on the same loan transactions.15

In his Comment16 before the Court, respondent claims that petitioners breached the rule
that proceedings against attorneys should be kept private and confidential, when the latter
disclosed in Civil Case No. 02-299 the contents of his Verified Answer filed before the
Commission, quoting almost verbatim said contents. This had the effect of announcing to
the whole world the pending disbarment case, respondent stresses, and is meant to harass
and vex him, as well as to damage his reputation even before a final verdict is reached by
the Commission. Respondent questions petitioners’ motive in not filing a separate case
before the IBP against Atty. Taala and accordingly having him tried separately. Finally,
respondent posits that the Commission did not commit grave abuse of discretion in
denying petitioner’s motion to amend its complaint since the nullity or regularity of the
mortgage loan in CST’s name is not an issue in the administrative case against him.

The crux of the petition is whether the Commission committed grave abuse of discretion
when it denied petitioner’s Amended/Supplemental Complaint.

The Commission did not. The petition must be dismissed.

Petitioners have filed Civil Case No. 02-299, seeking the declaration of unenforceability
of promissory notes and mortgage, nullity of secretary’s certificate, injunction, damages,
and the issuance of a temporary restraining order or preliminary injunction. In the said
case, petitioners allege that the loans contracted by CST from PBB were not sanctioned
nor ratified by the CST Board of Directors and/ or stockholders, but were only facilitated
by respondent and Atty. Taala, as well as by other persons through the use of the spurious
Secretary’s Certificate. Likewise pending is another case against respondent and John
Dennis Chua, et al. for estafa through falsification of public documents, docketed as
Criminal Case No. 04-3776 of the RTC of Makati which appears to involve the same
allegedly unauthorized mortgage.17

The Court notes that petitioners are seeking similar, if not identical, reliefs from the
regular courts and the Commission. Thus, in addition to the prayer to disbar respondent
and Atty. Taala, petitioners implore the Commission to make a finding that respondent
lawyers be found liable for using untruthful statements under oath, conspiracy to commit
estafa, employing deceit and other manipulative acts as well as fraud, and falsification of
public documents ─charges which are included in his allegations in the civil and criminal
cases.

Obviously, the Commission is not empowered to resolve matters which are pending
resolution by the regular courts to which jurisdiction properly pertains. The IBP,
particularly the Commission on Bar Discipline, is merely tasked to investigate and make
recommendations on complaints for disbarment, suspension and discipline of lawyers. It
is not a regular court and thus is not endowed with the power to investigate and resolve
judicial matters pending before the regular courts.

To cite a specific vital aspect. In the proposed Amended/Supplemental Complaint,


petitioners seek to hold respondent administratively liable for his "untruthful and
perjurious" statements in his Verified Answer in the administrative case. Precisely,
however, the truth or falsity of said statements are still to be litigated in the civil case.

Disbarment proceedings are sui generis, they belong to a class of their own, and are
distinct from that of civil or criminal actions.18 To be sure, a finding of liability in a civil
case or a conviction in a criminal case is not necessary for finding a member of the bar
guilty in an administrative proceeding. However, in the instant case, the civil and
criminal cases involving the acts referred to in the proposed amended/supplemental
complaint are still pending adjudication before the regular courts. Prudence dictates that
the action of the Commission related to the proposed amended/supplemental complaint in
the administrative case be sustained in order to avoid contradictory findings in that case
and in the court cases.19

The call for judiciousness stems from the need to ensure the smooth and orderly
disposition of the related cases pending before the courts and the Commission and avert
conflict in the rulings in the bar discipline case and in the judicial cases. Preemption of
the regular courts by an administrative case is a worrisome spectacle.

Now we turn to a significant sidelight.

Respondent charges petitioners with divulging what is essentially confidential


information, which is a violation of Section 18,20 Rule 139-B of the Rules of Court. He
alleges that petitioners even made the basis of his amended complaint in the civil case the
allegations contained in respondent’s Verified Answer before the Commission.

A review of the records disclose that petitioners lifted and cited most of the amendatory
averments in respondent’s Verified Answer in the administrative case as the core of their
Amended Complaint in the civil case. In fact, petitioners even identified the Verified
Answer and the disbarment proceedings itself as the sources of the averments in the
Amended Complaint before the trial court, thus:

47. On May 28, 2002, disbarment/disciplinary proceedings were filed with the
Commission on Bar Discipline of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines against Defendant
Soriano for having executed such null and void secretary’s certificate, among others. This
disbarment case was docketed as CBD Case No. 02-967.

48. The averments of Defendant Soriano in his Verified Answer ("Soriano Verified
Answer" for brevity) dated September 27, 2002 filed in said disbarment case, as well as
the pertinent papers and earlier testimonies in this case and the results of the ongoing
investigation and inquiries of Plaintiff Tan, further reveal: x x x.21

Disciplinary proceedings against a lawyer are private and confidential until its final
determination.22 The confidential nature of the proceedings has a three-fold purpose, to
wit: (i) to enable the court and the investigator to make the investigation free from any
extraneous influence or interference; (ii) to protect the personal and professional
reputation of attorneys from baseless charges of disgruntled, vindictive and irresponsible
persons or clients by prohibiting the publication of such charges pending their resolution;
and (iii) to deter the press from publishing the charges or proceedings based thereon.23

Petitioners had in effect announced to the world the pending disbarment case against
respondent. Not only did they disclose the ongoing proceedings, they also divulged most,
if not all of the contents of respondent’s Verified Answer. Clearly, petitioners’ acts
impinged on the confidential nature of the disbarment proceedings against Atty. Soriano.
WHEREFORE, the petition is DISMISSED. Petitioners are REMINDED to preserve the
confidentiality of the administrative proceedings. The IBP is ordered to resume its
hearings in CBD No. 02-267 consistently with this resolution. Costs against petitioners.

SO ORDERED.

Quisumbing, Chairperson, Carpio, Carpio-Morales, Velasco, Jr., J.J., concur.

Footnotes

1 IBP records, Vol. IV, pp. 1-3.

2 Id. at 2.

3 IBP records, Vol. VI, pp. 137-178. Civil Case No. 02-299 was raffled to Branch 142 of
the RTC, Makati.

4 Rollo, p. 3.

5 Id. at 32-33, citing the 24 October 2002 Order of the Makati RTC Branch 142 in Civil
Case No. 02-299.

6 Amended/Supplemental Complaint, rollo, pp. 15-82.

7 IBP records, Vol. IV, p. 309.

8 Id. at 346.

9 Rollo, p. 8.

10 Id. at 5.

11 Id.

12 Id. at 7.

13Id.

14 Id. at 8.

15 Petitioners did not seek this alternative relief in their Amended/Supplemental


Complaint.

16 Rollo, pp. 109-113.


17 IBP records, Vol. VI, pp. 546-555. Attached to petitioner’s Provisional Position Paper
are copies of John Dennis Chua’s Counter ─Affidavit and Rejoinder Affidavit, which
form part of the records of Criminal Case No. 04-3776, entitled "People of the
Philippines v. Jaime N. Soriano, et al.," pending before Makati RTC, Branch 139. From
the contents of the said affidavits, it can be gathered that the allegations against the
accused concern the procurement of the loans and the execution of the real estate
mortgage over the properties of CST.

18 Roldan v. Panganiban, A.C. No. 4552, 14 December 2004, 446 SCRA 249, 263.

19 See Gerona v. Datingaling, A.C. No. 4801, 27 February 2003, 398 SCRA 148.

20 Sec. 18. Confidentiality- Proceedings against attorneys shall be private and


confidential. However, the final order of the Supreme Court shall be published like its
decision in other cases.

21 IBP records, Vol. VI, pp. 147-148.

22Supra note 21.

23 R.A. Agpalo, The Code of Professional Responsibility for Lawyers, (1st ed. 1991) p.
347, citations omitted.

A.C. No. 6792 January 25, 2006


ROBERTO SORIANO vs. ATTY. MANUEL DIZON

Republic of the Philippines


SUPREME COURT
Manila

EN BANC

A.C. No. 6792 January 25, 2006

ROBERTO SORIANO, Complainant,


vs.
Atty. MANUEL DIZON, Respondent.

DECISION

PER CURIAM:

Before us is a Complaint-Affidavit1 for the disbarment of Atty. Manuel Dizon, filed by


Roberto Soriano with the Commission on Bar Discipine (CBD) of the Integrated Bar of
the Philippines (IBP). Complainant alleges that the conviction of respondent for a crime
involving moral turpitude, together with the circumstances surrounding the conviction,
violates Canon 1 of Rule 1.01 of the Code of Professional Responsibility;2 and
constitutes sufficient ground for his disbarment under Section 27 of Rule 138 of the Rules
of Court.3

Because of the failure of Atty. Dizon to submit his Answer to the Complaint, the CBD
issued a Notice dated May 20, 2004, informing him that he was in default, and that an ex-
parte hearing had been scheduled for June 11, 2004.4 After that hearing, complainant
manifested that he was submitting the case on the basis of the Complaint and its
attachments.5 Accordingly, the CBD directed him to file his Position Paper, which he did
on July 27, 2004.6 Afterwards, the case was deemed submitted for resolution.

On December 6, 2004, Commissioner Teresita J. Herbosa rendered her Report and


Recommendation, which was later adopted and approved by the IBP Board of Governors
in its Resolution No. XVI-2005-84 dated March 12, 2005.

In his Complaint-Affidavit, Soriano alleged that respondent had violated Canon 1, Rule
1.01 of the Code of Professional Responsibility; and that the conviction of the latter for
frustrated homicide,7 which involved moral turpitude, should result in his disbarment.

The facts leading to respondent’s conviction were summarized by Branch 60 of the


Regional Trial Court of Baguio City in this wise:

"x x x. The accused was driving his brown Toyota Corolla and was on his way home
after gassing up in preparation for his trip to Concepcion, Tarlac with his wife. Along
Abanao Street, a taxi driver overtook the car driven by the accused not knowing that the
driver of the car he had overtaken is not just someone, but a lawyer and a prominent
member of the Baguio community who was under the influence of liquor. Incensed, the
accused tailed the taxi driver until the latter stopped to make a turn at [the] Chugum and
Carino Streets. The accused also stopped his car, berated the taxi driver and held him by
his shirt. To stop the aggression, the taxi driver forced open his door causing the accused
to fall to the ground. The taxi driver knew that the accused had been drinking because he
smelled of liquor. Taking pity on the accused who looked elderly, the taxi driver got out
of his car to help him get up. But the accused, by now enraged, stood up immediately and
was about to deal the taxi driver a fist blow when the latter boxed him on the chest
instead. The accused fell down a second time, got up again and was about to box the taxi
driver but the latter caught his fist and turned his arm around. The taxi driver held on to
the accused until he could be pacified and then released him. The accused went back to
his car and got his revolver making sure that the handle was wrapped in a handkerchief.
The taxi driver was on his way back to his vehicle when he noticed the eyeglasses of the
accused on the ground. He picked them up intending to return them to the accused. But as
he was handing the same to the accused, he was met by the barrel of the gun held by the
accused who fired and shot him hitting him on the neck. He fell on the thigh of the
accused so the latter pushed him out and sped off. The incident was witnessed by Antonio
Billanes whose testimony corroborated that of the taxi driver, the complainant in this
case, Roberto Soriano."8
It was the prosecution witness, Antonio Billanes, who came to the aid of Soriano and
brought the latter to the hospital. Because the bullet had lacerated the carotid artery on the
left side of his neck,9 complainant would have surely died of hemorrhage if he had not
received timely medical assistance, according to the attending surgeon, Dr. Francisco
Hernandez, Jr. Soriano sustained a spinal cord injury, which caused paralysis on the left
part of his body and disabled him for his job as a taxi driver.

The trial court promulgated its Decision dated November 29, 2001. On January 18, 2002,
respondent filed an application for probation, which was granted by the court on several
conditions. These included satisfaction of "the civil liabilities imposed by [the] court in
favor of the offended party, Roberto Soriano."10

According to the unrefuted statements of complainant, Atty. Dizon, who has yet to
comply with this particular undertaking, even appealed the civil liability to the Court of
Appeals.11

In her Report and Recommendation, Commissioner Herbosa recommended that


respondent be disbarred from the practice of law for having been convicted of a crime
involving moral turpitude.

The commissioner found that respondent had not only been convicted of such crime, but
that the latter also exhibited an obvious lack of good moral character, based on the
following facts:

"1. He was under the influence of liquor while driving his car;

"2. He reacted violently and attempted to assault Complainant only because the latter,
driving a taxi, had overtaken him;

"3. Complainant having been able to ward off his attempted assault, Respondent went
back to his car, got a gun, wrapped the same with a handkerchief and shot Complainant[,]
who was unarmed;

"4. When Complainant fell on him, Respondent simply pushed him out and fled;

"5. Despite positive identification and overwhelming evidence, Respondent denied that
he had shot Complainant;

"6. Apart from [his] denial, Respondent also lied when he claimed that he was the one
mauled by Complainant and two unidentified persons; and,

"7. Although he has been placed on probation, Respondent has[,] to date[,] not yet
satisfied his civil liabilities to Complainant."12
On July 8, 2005, the Supreme Court received for its final action the IBP Resolution
adopting the Report and Recommendation of the Investigating Commissioner.

We agree with the findings and recommendations of Commissioner Herbosa, as approved


and adopted by the IBP Board of Governors.

Under Section 27 of Rule 138 of the Rules of Court, conviction for a crime involving
moral turpitude is a ground for disbarment or suspension. By such conviction, a lawyer is
deemed to have become unfit to uphold the administration of justice and to be no longer
possessed of good moral character.13 In the instant case, respondent has been found
guilty; and he stands convicted, by final judgment, of frustrated homicide. Since his
conviction has already been established and is no longer open to question, the only issues
that remain to be determined are as follows: 1) whether his crime of frustrated homicide
involves moral turpitude, and 2) whether his guilt warrants disbarment.

Moral turpitude has been defined as "everything which is done contrary to justice,
modesty, or good morals; an act of baseness, vileness or depravity in the private and
social duties which a man owes his fellowmen, or to society in general, contrary to
justice, honesty, modesty, or good morals."14

The question of whether the crime of homicide involves moral turpitude has been
discussed in International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) v. NLRC,15 a labor case
concerning an employee who was dismissed on the basis of his conviction for homicide.
Considering the particular circumstances surrounding the commission of the crime, this
Court rejected the employer’s contention and held that homicide in that case did not
involve moral turpitude. (If it did, the crime would have been violative of the IRRI’s
Employment Policy Regulations and indeed a ground for dismissal.) The Court explained
that, having disregarded the attendant circumstances, the employer made a
pronouncement that was precipitate. Furthermore, it was not for the latter to determine
conclusively whether a crime involved moral turpitude. That discretion belonged to the
courts, as explained thus:

"x x x. Homicide may or may not involve moral turpitude depending on the degree of the
crime. Moral turpitude is not involved in every criminal act and is not shown by every
known and intentional violation of statute, but whether any particular conviction involves
moral turpitude may be a question of fact and frequently depends on all the surrounding
circumstances. x x x."16 (Emphasis supplied)

In the IRRI case, in which the crime of homicide did not involve moral turpitude, the
Court appreciated the presence of incomplete self-defense and total absence of
aggravating circumstances. For a better understanding of that Decision, the circumstances
of the crime are quoted as follows:

"x x x. The facts on record show that Micosa [the IRRI employee] was then urinating and
had his back turned when the victim drove his fist unto Micosa's face; that the victim then
forcibly rubbed Micosa's face into the filthy urinal; that Micosa pleaded to the victim to
stop the attack but was ignored and that it was while Micosa was in that position that he
drew a fan knife from the left pocket of his shirt and desperately swung it at the victim
who released his hold on Micosa only after the latter had stabbed him several times.
These facts show that Micosa's intention was not to slay the victim but only to defend his
person. The appreciation in his favor of the mitigating circumstances of self-defense and
voluntary surrender, plus the total absence of any aggravating circumstance demonstrate
that Micosa's character and intentions were not inherently vile, immoral or unjust."17

The present case is totally different. As the IBP correctly found, the circumstances clearly
evince the moral turpitude of respondent and his unworthiness to practice law.

Atty. Dizon was definitely the aggressor, as he pursued and shot complainant when the
latter least expected it. The act of aggression shown by respondent will not be mitigated
by the fact that he was hit once and his arm twisted by complainant. Under the
circumstances, those were reasonable actions clearly intended to fend off the lawyer’s
assault.

We also consider the trial court’s finding of treachery as a further indication of the
skewed morals of respondent. He shot the victim when the latter was not in a position to
defend himself. In fact, under the impression that the assault was already over, the
unarmed complainant was merely returning the eyeglasses of Atty. Dizon when the latter
unexpectedly shot him. To make matters worse, respondent wrapped the handle of his
gun with a handkerchief so as not to leave fingerprints. In so doing, he betrayed his sly
intention to escape punishment for his crime.

The totality of the facts unmistakably bears the earmarks of moral turpitude. By his
conduct, respondent revealed his extreme arrogance and feeling of self-importance. As it
were, he acted like a god on the road, who deserved to be venerated and never to be
slighted. Clearly, his inordinate reaction to a simple traffic incident reflected poorly on
his fitness to be a member of the legal profession. His overreaction also evinced
vindictiveness, which was definitely an undesirable trait in any individual, more so in a
lawyer. In the tenacity with which he pursued complainant, we see not the persistence of
a person who has been grievously wronged, but the obstinacy of one trying to assert a
false sense of superiority and to exact revenge.

It is also glaringly clear that respondent seriously transgressed Canon 1 of the Code of
Professional Responsibility through his illegal possession of an unlicensed firearm18 and
his unjust refusal to satisfy his civil liabilities.19 He has thus brazenly violated the law
and disobeyed the lawful orders of the courts. We remind him that, both in his attorney’s
oath20 and in the Code of Professional Responsibility, he bound himself to "obey the
laws of the land."

All told, Atty. Dizon has shown through this incident that he is wanting in even a basic
sense of justice. He obtained the benevolence of the trial court when it suspended his
sentence and granted him probation. And yet, it has been four years21 since he was
ordered to settle his civil liabilities to complainant. To date, respondent remains adamant
in refusing to fulfill that obligation. By his extreme impetuosity and intolerance, as
shown by his violent reaction to a simple traffic altercation, he has taken away the
earning capacity, good health, and youthful vigor of his victim. Still, Atty. Dizon
begrudges complainant the measly amount that could never even fully restore what the
latter has lost.

Conviction for a crime involving moral turpitude may relate, not to the exercise of the
profession of lawyers, but certainly to their good moral character.22 Where their
misconduct outside of their professional dealings is so gross as to show them morally
unfit for their office and unworthy of the privileges conferred upon them by their license
and the law, the court may be justified in suspending or removing them from that
office.23

We also adopt the IBP’s finding that respondent displayed an utter lack of good moral
character, which is an essential qualification for the privilege to enter into the practice of
law. Good moral character includes at least common honesty.24

In the case at bar, respondent consistently displayed dishonest and duplicitous behavior.
As found by the trial court, he had sought, with the aid of Vice-Mayor Daniel Fariñas, an
out-of-court settlement with complainant’s family.25 But when this effort failed,
respondent concocted a complete lie by making it appear that it was complainant’s family
that had sought a conference with him to obtain his referral to a neurosurgeon.26

The lies of Atty Dizon did not end there. He went on to fabricate an entirely implausible
story of having been mauled by complainant and two other persons.27 The trial court had
this to say:

"The physical evidence as testified to by no less than three (3) doctors who examined
[Atty. Dizon] does not support his allegation that three people including the complainant
helped each other in kicking and boxing him. The injuries he sustained were so minor
that it is improbable[,] if not downright unbelievable[,] that three people who he said
were bent on beating him to death could do so little damage. On the contrary, his injuries
sustain the complainant’s version of the incident particularly when he said that he boxed
the accused on the chest. x x x."28

Lawyers must be ministers of truth. No moral qualification for bar membership is more
important than truthfulness.29 The rigorous ethics of the profession places a premium on
honesty and condemns duplicitous behavior.30 Hence, lawyers must not mislead the
court or allow it to be misled by any artifice. In all their dealings, they are expected to act
in good faith.

The actions of respondent erode rather than enhance public perception of the legal
profession. They constitute moral turpitude for which he should be disbarred. "Law is a
noble profession, and the privilege to practice it is bestowed only upon individuals who
are competent intellectually, academically and, equally important, morally. Because they
are vanguards of the law and the legal system, lawyers must at all times conduct
themselves, especially in their dealings with their clients and the public at large, with
honesty and integrity in a manner beyond reproach."31

The foregoing abhorrent acts of respondent are not merely dishonorable; they reveal a
basic moral flaw. Considering the depravity of the offense he committed, we find the
penalty recommended by the IBP proper and commensurate.

The purpose of a proceeding for disbarment is to protect the administration of justice by


requiring that those who exercise this important function be competent, honorable and
reliable -- lawyers in whom courts and clients may repose confidence.32 Thus, whenever
a clear case of degenerate and vile behavior disturbs that vital yet fragile confidence, we
shall not hesitate to rid our profession of odious members.

We remain aware that the power to disbar must be exercised with great caution, and that
disbarment should never be decreed when any lesser penalty would accomplish the end
desired. In the instant case, however, the Court cannot extend that munificence to
respondent. His actions so despicably and wantonly disregarded his duties to society and
his profession. We are convinced that meting out a lesser penalty would be irreconcilable
with our lofty aspiration for the legal profession -- that every lawyer be a shining
exemplar of truth and justice.

We stress that membership in the legal profession is a privilege demanding a high degree
of good moral character, not only as a condition precedent to admission, but also as a
continuing requirement for the practice of law. Sadly, herein respondent has fallen short
of the exacting standards expected of him as a vanguard of the legal profession.

In sum, when lawyers are convicted of frustrated homicide, the attending circumstances –
not the mere fact of their conviction – would demonstrate their fitness to remain in the
legal profession. In the present case, the appalling vindictiveness, treachery, and brazen
dishonesty of respondent clearly show his unworthiness to continue as a member of the
bar.

WHEREFORE, RESPONDENT MANUEL DIZON is hereby DISBARRED, and his


name is ORDERED STRICKEN from the Roll of Attorneys. Let a copy of this Decision
be entered in his record as a member of the Bar; and let notice of the same be served on
the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, and on the Office of the Court Administrator for
circulation to all courts in the country.

SO ORDERED.

ARTEMIO V. PANGANIBAN
Chief Justice
REYNATO S. PUNO
Associate Justice LEONARDO A. QUISUMBING
Asscociate Justice
CONSUELO YNARES-SANTIAGO
Associate Justice ANGELINA SANDOVAL-GUTIERREZ
Asscociate Justice
ANTONIO T. CARPIO
Associate Justice MA. ALICIA AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ
Asscociate Justice
RENATO C. CORONA
Associate Justice CONCHITA CARPIO MORALES
Asscociate Justice
ROMEO J. CALLEJO, SR.
Associate Justice ADOLFO S. AZCUNA
Asscociate Justice
DANTE O. TINGA
Associate Justice MINITA V. CHICO-NAZARIO
Asscociate Justice

CANCIO C. GARCIA
Associate Justice

Footnotes

1 Rollo, pp. 1-5.

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

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

3 "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 x x x."

4 Rollo, p. 32.

5 Id., p. 36.

6 Id., pp. 40-46.

7 The dispositive portion reads:

"WHEREFORE, the Court hereby finds the accused, ATTY. MANUEL DIZON, guilty
beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of FRUSTRATED HOMICIDE, as charged. There
being one mitigating circumstance of voluntary surrender and one aggravating
circumstance of treachery, the Court hereby imposes upon him an indeterminate penalty
of 6 months of arresto mayor as minimum period to 6 years of prision correccional as
maximum period.

"The accused is also adjudged civilly liable and is hereby ordered to pay unto the private
offended party, Roberto Soriano[,] the following:

a. P76,293.00 as actual damages;

b. P100,000.00 as moral damages; and

c. P100,000.00 as exemplary damages.

"SO ORDERED." (Rollo, p. 27)

8 RTC Decision, pp. 18-19; rollo, pp. 23-24. Penned by Judge Edilberto T. Claravall of
Branch 60, Regional Trial Court, Baguio City.

9 Id., pp. 6-7 & 11-12.

10 Probation Order, p. 2; rollo, p. 29.

11 Rollo, p. 3.

12 IBP Report, pp. 4-5.

13 Nuñez v. Astorga, 452 SCRA 353, February 28, 2005.

14 International Rice Research Institute v. NLRC, 221 SCRA 760, 767, May 12, 1993,
per Nocon, J. citing Can v. Galing, 155 SCRA 663, 667-668, November 27, 1987, per
Padilla, J.; Tak Ng v. Republic, 106 Phil. 727, 730, December 23, 1959, per Barrera, J.;
In Re Basa, 41 Phil. 275, 276, December 7, 1920, per Malcolm, J.

15 Id.

16 Id., p. 768. Citations omitted.

17 Id., pp. 767-768.

18 RTC Decision, p. 5; rollo, p. 10.

19 IBP Report, p. 5.

20 "I, (name), of (address), do solemnly swear that I will maintain allegiance to the
Republic of the Philippines; I will support and defend its Constitution and obey the laws
as well as the legal orders of the duly constituted authorities therein; I will do no
falsehood nor consent to its commission; I will not wittingly or willingly promote or sue
any groundless, false, or unlawful suit nor give aid nor consent to the same; I will not
delay any man’s cause for money or malice and will conduct myself as a lawyer
according to the best of my knowledge and discretion with all good fidelity as well to the
courts as to my clients and I impose upon myself this obligation voluntarily, without any
mental reservation or purpose of evasion. So help me God." (Emphasis supplied)

21 The RTC Decision is dated November 29, 2001, while the Probation Order is dated
May 3, 2002.

22 People v. Tuanda, 181 SCRA 692, January 30, 1990.

23 See Co v. Bernardino, 349 Phil. 16, January 28, 1998.

24 Tan v. Sabandal, 206 SCRA 473, February 24, 1992.

25 RTC Decision, p. 21; rollo, p. 26.

26 Id., pp. 12 & 17.

27 Id, pp. 11-12 & 16-17.

28 Id., pp. 20 & 25.

29 Tan v. Sabandal, supra.

30 Olbes v. Deciembre, AC No. 5365, April 27, 2005.

31 Resurreccion v. Sayson, 300 SCRA 129, December 14, 1998, per curiam.

32 Ting-Dumali v. Torres, 427 SCRA 108, April 14, 2004; De Jesus-Paras v. Vailoces,
111 Phil. 569, April 12, 1961.

FIRST DIVISION

ARTURO C. SAMPANA,
Complainant,

- versus -

ATTY. EDGARDO J. ANGARA and ATTY. DEMAREE J.B. RAVAL,

Respondents.

A.C. No. 5839

Present:

PANGANIBAN, C.J.

Chairperson,

YNARES-SANTIAGO,

AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ,

CALLEJO, SR., and


CHICO-NAZARIO, JJ.

Promulgated:

August 22, 2006

x- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -x

DECISION

CHICO-NAZARIO, J.:

Before Us is a Complaint[1] for the disbarment of incumbent Senator Edgardo J. Angara


(respondent Angara) and Atty. Demaree J.B. Raval (respondent Raval), filed by Arturo
C. Sampana with the Commission on Bar Discipline (CBD) of the Integrated Bar of the
Philippines (IBP). Complainant alleges that respondents committed various offenses
amounting to gross misconduct, violation of their oath as lawyers, and the Code of
Professional Responsibility by instructing, inducing, cajoling, and instigating the
complainant in perpetrating falsehoods and in committing unlawful acts.[2]

In his Affidavit dated 31 October 2001,[3] complainant Arturo C. Sampana, a journalist


by profession, alleged that he first met Robert Rivero (Rivero) in 1995 while they were
campaigning for the election of Ed Morales (Morales) as Provincial Board Member of the
1st Congressional District of Bulacan. In 1996, complainant, together with Rivero and
Morales, established the LUZON PEN, a provincial community newspaper in Bulacan,
which was partly financed by Florencio “Rey” Parena (Parena).[4] The latter then was
being linked to alleged drug lord, Alfredo Tiongco (Tiongco).[5] After LUZON PEN
had closed down in 1997, complainant became a radio correspondent for Balita ng Bayan
in DZXL (now RMN news) whereas Rivero became the anchor of the same radio
program.
In 1998, complainant established and became the Editor-in-Chief of NEWS PEN, a
national weekly newspaper. It was owned by Fernando Gaddi (Gaddi), the brother of
complainant’s late friend, Efren Gaddi. While they were organizing the NEWS PEN,
Gaddi inquired from complainant if he knows of any person who had access to then
Senator Tessie Aquino-Oreta (Oreta), who, at that time, was the newly designated
Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Education. Gaddi needed Oreta’s favorable
recommendation for his proposed textbook supply contract with the Department of
Education and Culture. Complainant recommended Rivero, who was then a Senate
reporter, to Gaddi. Eventually, complainant and Rivero agreed to work for the favorable
recommendation by Oreta of Gaddi’s P200,000,000.00 textbook supply contract. Gaddi
agreed to give complainant and Rivero the amount of P1,000,000.00 and P2,000,000.00,
respectively, if they succeeded in persuading Oreta to recommend Gaddi for the said
textbook supply contract. They also agreed that the P2,000,000.00 share of Rivero will
be further shared with a staff member of Oreta named Jane Cruz (Jane), who later on also
became the wife of Rivero. At this point, Rivero became the Contributing Editor of
NEWS PEN.

On various dates in 1998 and after securing Oreta’s favorable recommendation, Gaddi
delivered to Rivero a check in the amount of P500,000.00, and cash worth P800,000.00,
as partial payment of his obligations to Rivero and complainant. Rivero, who was
supposed to turn over to complainant the latter’s share in the amount of P500,000.00,
failed to do so, claiming that he gave the said amount to Oreta. According to Rivero,
Oreta needed the money for her then ailing mother, Doña Aurora. However, complainant
found out later that the said amount was given by Rivero to his wife, Jane. Thinking that
he was double-crossed, complainant broke ties with Rivero. In April 1999, complainant
and Rivero reconciled during their meeting at the office of then Senator Blas Ople.

In July 2001, Rivero appeared on television to expose the alleged misuse of Philippine
Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) funds. Thereafter, Rivero called complainant on his
cellular phone and told him “Art, na-set up ako dito. Tulungan mo ako may papuputukin
akong kwento para makabawi ako. Malaking tao ang matatamaan dito, kasama na si
Obet [Pagdanganan].”[6] Complainant agreed to help Rivero but he reminded him that
Pagdanganan had a pending libel case against complainant and LUZON PEN in
connection with the Barasoain Church Project scam story published in the same
newspaper. Rivero, however, assured complainant that the libel case will not be affected
since Pagdanganan had already executed an affidavit of desistance therein.

Subsequently, Rivero again called complainant and told him to implicate First Gentleman
Miguel Arroyo (Mike Arroyo), Senator Joker Arroyo, Ernesto Herrera and Senator Juan
Flavier in connection with some irregularities. Rivero assured complainant that there is
nothing to worry about since the matter will eventually be settled and that once he joined
him in implicating Mike Arroyo to some irregularities, the latter will be forced to
compromise with them for a large amount of money. Complainant, who was also a
writer/correspondent in Manila Times, The Daily Tribune (Tribune), and BANAT
newspapers, told Rivero that he could not write this controversy in Manila Times. In
reply, Rivero suggested that he just write the same in Tribune and BANAT.

Sometime in the second week of August 2001, Rivero called complainant and told him
“Tulungan natin si Lacson [Senator Panfilo Lacson]. May papuputukin tayo – babanatan
ko si Mike Arroyo, pagkatapos tirahin mo naman sina Corpuz [Lt. Col. Victor Corpuz], at
gamitin mo ang nalalaman mo sa Tiongco-Parena case. Magkakapera tayo ng malaki
dito, susuportahan tayo ng grupo ni Angara [respondent Angara] at Lacson.”[7] Rivero
also informed complainant that the group of respondent Angara and Lacson would give
them P1,000,000.00 plus “other benefits” including the printing and marketing of
complainant’s book-in-progress. Further, Rivero told complainant “Makakabawi ka rin
sa akin, doon sa hindi ko naibigay sa iyo noon. Pare, yung asawa ko si Jane nasa staff ni
Lacson, kaya pasuk na pasuk tayo, may pera at suporta pa. Marami pang tatamaan dito –
sina Senators Joker and Flavier at ex-senator Herrera at ex-governor Obet.”[8]

Thereafter, Rivero instructed complainant to meet him and the group of respondent
Angara and Senator Panfilo Lacson (Lacson) on 22 August 2001 at the parking lot of
Westin Philippine Plaza (WPP) in Pasay City. Complainant was informed by Rivero that
he will execute an affidavit against Col. Victor Corpus (Corpus), the Intelligence Service
of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP), and Senator Joker Arroyo on the above-
mentioned date. Rivero also told complainant to prepare in advance a written statement to
be used at the Senate Committee hearings on Lacson’s involvement in drug trafficking.

On 22 August 2001, at about nine in the morning, complainant met Rivero and Raymond
Burgos (Burgos), a publicist of Lacson and respondent Angara, at the parking lot of
WPP. From the parking lot, they proceeded to the lobby of the business center thereof
where they met respondent Raval and two ABELLO CONCEPCION REGALA & CRUZ
(more commonly known as ACCRA Law Office) lawyer-assistants namely, Atty. Johnas
M. Lamorena (Lamorena) and Atty. John P. Virgino (Virgino). Rivero introduced
complainant to respondent Raval by saying “Ito ang kasama natin gigiba kay Corpuz.”[9]
Afterwards, respondent Raval explained to complainant that he will execute an affidavit
which will destroy the credibility of Corpus and ISAFP since the two were implicating
Lacson to some illegal activities. He also divulged to complainant that Rivero will
execute an affidavit which will implicate Mike Arroyo and several others to some illegal
activities. Moreover, he disclosed to complainant that they will be presented to testify
before separate Senate hearings.
After finishing his written statement, complainant submitted it to respondent Raval. The
latter made a remark that while the same is “okay,” he needed “to add” some statements
to produce the desired impact, and fully destroy the reputation of Corpus and ISAFP.[10]
When complainant hesitated thereon, Rivero approached him and said “Pare, ok lang yan,
ako nga, ang daming ipinadagdag si Mario (respondent Raval).”[11] Complainant
noticed that Rivero was holding a paper which appears to be an affidavit. Rivero told
him that it is an affidavit against Mike Arroyo.

Later, respondent Raval called respondent Angara on his cellular phone and relayed the
contents of the written statement of complainant. At the end of the conversation,
respondent Raval said “Sir, ok ito, pero may kailangan akong idagdag para may impact
kay Corpuz at Joker. Ok ba Sir? Ngayon na?”[12] Subsequently, respondent Raval
informed complainant that respondent Angara had already given the “go signal” to
prepare and finalize his affidavit with the necessary additions, and that the affidavit must
be shown to him once it is finalized. At this juncture, complainant heard Burgos talking
to his “boss” on the phone, informing him of the developments. Complainant also heard
respondent Raval and Rivero discussing the draft of the supposed privilege speech of
Senator Aquilino Pimentel with regard to the PCSO scam, and which involved Mike
Arroyo.

Thereafter, respondent Raval, together with Lamorena and Virgino, assisted complainant
in writing his affidavit by means of a laptop computer owned by Lamorena. At this
point, respondent Raval instructed him to concoct and include the following statement in
his affidavit:

“During the period that I was under protective custody and even after that, I met Lt. Col.
Corpuz several times in the premises of ISAFP.”[13]

Complainant, at first, hesitated to include the same therein, claiming that he never really
saw, much less met with Corpus during the time he was under protective custody of
ISAFP in 1997. Nevertheless, complainant agreed to include the same in his affidavit.
Respondent Raval also induced him to state therein that ISAFP Generals Calimlim,
Libarnes and Lastimoso were the persons named by Tiongco who had persuaded him to
turn state witness against Lacson. Again, complainant acceded. Later on, respondent
Raval told complainant “Eto pa, para may impact kay Mike Arroyo, sabihin mo na in-
approach ni Mike Arroyo si Parena para huwag nang isali si GMA sa listahan ng mga
sangkot kay Tiongco.”[14] Rivero intervened and said “Oo para pareho tayo.”[15] This
time, however, complainant refused arguing that this would be easy to disprove, and that
the two above-stated additions are enough.

Unfazed, respondent Raval persuaded complainant to “attack” Senator Joker Arroyo in


his affidavit by stating that the latter gave Rivero P160,000.00, in order to “buy his
silence.” He also told complainant to state therein that Senator Robert Barbers, who was
at that time the Chairman of the Committee on Senate inquiry on drug trade, kidnapping
for ransom and money laundering, which was investigating Lacson, was responsible for
the release of suspected drug lord, Lawrence Hwang. According to respondent Raval,
this exposé would greatly affect the “equilibrium” of Barbers as regards the investigation
of Lacson. Complainant, however, refused to include these statements in his affidavit.

Still undismayed, respondent Raval induced complainant to include therein the name of
Senator Vicente Sotto III (Sotto) as among those wrongly implicated by ISAFP in
Parena’s affidavit. Complainant refused saying that Sotto was a known close friend of
Tiongco. Nevertheless, upon respondent Raval’s insistence, complainant relented and
said, “Bahala kayo.”[16]

Subsequently, respondent Raval, together with Lamorena and Virgino, took complainant
to the Senate office of respondent Angara. While they were walking in the lobby of the
Senate, respondent Raval met some of his colleagues therein and stated “Malaki nagastos
ko pero ok lang, may resulta naman. Matutuwa si Boss.”[17] Upon reaching the office
of respondent Angara, complainant saw respondent Angara standing near the door of an
inner room. Respondent Raval walked directly to respondent Angara and chatted with
him. He also showed to respondent Angara the complainant’s draft affidavit.
Afterwards, respondent Raval pointed to complainant as if to confirm the latter’s
presence to respondent Angara. At this point, respondent Angara smiled and waved his
hand at complainant. Subsequently, complainant, together with respondent Raval,
Lamorena and Virgino, went to the Senate lounge to take their lunch. After ordering
their food, respondent Raval excused himself saying that he will meet respondent Angara
at the Session Hall. Later, respondent Raval returned and directed complainant to sign
his affidavit. After complainant had signed his affidavit, respondent Raval took
possession of the same and told complainant that he will go back to his office to have the
same notarized. Upon his return with a companion, respondent Raval gave complainant a
copy of his notarized affidavit. The unidentified companion of respondent Raval gave
complainant an envelope containing P10,000.00 and said “Boss, heto panggastos mo.
Bahala na si Robert (Rivero) at Raymond (Burgos) sa iba pang kasunod.”[18]
Respondent Raval shook the hand of complainant, gave him his cellular phone number
and left. Later that evening, Rivero called complainant and inquired what happened.
Complainant replied that respondent Angara had paid him P10,000.00. Then, Rivero told
complainant “Standby ka lang, mayroon pang darating.”[19]

Sometime in the first week of September 2001, Burgos called complainant and told the
latter to call Rivero on his new cellular phone number. When complainant called Rivero,
the latter told him to expect a call from Ninez Cacho Olivarez (Olivarez) of the Tribune.
A few days later, Olivarez called complainant and told the latter to proceed to her office
in Tribune located at T.M. Kalaw corner A. Mabini Street, Manila.

On 6 September 2001, at about 10:30 in the morning, complainant went to the office of
Olivarez and was interviewed therein by Benjamin Pulta (Pulta) with regard to the 1997
ISAFP operation on Tiongco and Parena. Pulta’s article entitled “Corpuz following 1997
ISAFP script”[20] appeared in the 7 September 2001 issue of the Tribune. The article
was based on Pulta’s interview with complainant and the latter’s affidavit previously
executed with respondent Raval.

Thereafter, Rivero called complainant and told him that he was being “hit” by Orlan
Mauricio and Pagdanganan on Channel 9. He also informed complainant that the group
of respondent Angara and Lacson wanted him to write something against presidential
son, Mikey Arroyo, in BANAT and Tribune. Subsequently, complainant called his
former colleague in Inquirer newspaper and now Editor-in-Chief of BANAT tabloid, Jun
Alano (Alano). He informed Alano that Mikey Arroyo was a close friend and protector of
alleged drug lord, Parena. Further, Mikey Arroyo even held a shooting for the telenovela
in Parena’s videoke bar “DIOSA” now “CLASSMATES.” Complainant claimed that this
fact, which appeared in BANAT’s issue on 8 October 2001, was based on information
relayed to him by Rivero over the telephone. However, complainant later confirmed that
Mikey Arroyo did not really know Parena.

Subsequently, Rivero informed complainant that the group of respondent Angara and
Lacson wanted him to link Mike Arroyo in the controversy involving the renovation of
the Barasoain Church. Complainant relented. Thus, on 13 October 2001, the headline on
BANAT reads: “Big Mike, Sabit Din Sa Barasoain Scam.”[21] Complainant also wrote
the same story on the same date in Tribune.
Still unsatisfied, Rivero told complainant to “hit” Dante Ang (Ang). Rivero instructed
complainant to secure a copy of the appointment papers of Teodoro Berbano (Berbano)
as a highly paid consultant of Ang’s Public Relations firm, Dante Ang and Associates.
Berbano was the President of the sequestered Journal Group of Publications (JGP). The
plan was to show that Ang was using the sequestered JGP for the benefit of his clients in
his public relations firm. Complainant succeeded in obtaining a copy of Berbano’s
appointment papers. Thus, Rivero directed complainant to turn over the said papers to
Burgos, who, in turn, will give him the amount of P50,000.00. Shortly thereafter, Burgos
called complainant and instructed the latter to meet him on 14 October 2001 in Columbia
Cyber Café located at the 4th floor of the SM Megamall between 4:00 to 5:00 in the
afternoon.

On 14 October 2001, complainant, together with a colleague named Jun Acot, went to the
venue of the meeting. Complainant submitted therein Berbano’s appointment papers to
Burgos. When complainant inquired with Burgos about the P50,000.00 mentioned by
Rivero, Burgos told him that Rivero did not give him any money. According to Burgos,
Rivero told him to inform complainant that the said amount will be delivered to the latter
in the future. Burgos, then, instructed complainant to research the background of Chito
Arabejo, a Bureau of Immigration and Deportation officer, who was reported to have
arrested a Spanish national in possession of a huge sum of money in United States
dollars. Burgos explained that the complainant’s next “assignment” was to write in
BANAT and Tribune that these dollars were supposedly part of the pay-off which Mike
Arroyo allegedly received from a controversial telecommunications franchise deal.

When complainant called Rivero and demanded the amount of money they agreed upon,
Rivero was surprised and asked him “Wala bang ibinibigay si Raymond (Burgos)?”[22]
On 22 October 2001, an article in BANAT came out exposing the appointment of
Berbano by Ang.

On 12 November 2001, complainant filed a complaint for the disbarment of respondents


Angara and Raval with the IBP on the ground that the two have instructed, induced,
cajoled, and instigated him to include false statements in his affidavit dated 22 August
2001 in their attempt to destroy or discredit Corpuz, the ISAFP, and other public
officials. Complainant claimed therein that the aforesaid acts of respondents Angara and
Raval constituted a violation of the Code of Professional Responsibility under the Rules
of Court and that these rendered them unfit to practice law.
In his Answer dated 28 November 2001,[23] respondent Angara denied having
instructed, induced, cajoled or instigated the complainant to include false statements in
his Affidavit dated 22 August 2001.

He claimed that on 12 November 2001, he read a column by Jarius Bondoc (Bondoc) in


the Philippine Star entitled, “Induced to hack at Joker, Corpus”; that it was only upon
reading the said column that he came to know of the complainant and the latter’s
Complaint, and Affidavit dated 22 August 2001 and 31 October 2001; that upon sensing
that a demolition job was being undertaken against him, he immediately sent a letter
dated 14 November 2001 to Bondoc, informing the latter of the fabrications contained in
the complainant’s Affidavit dated 22 August 2001; that respondent Raval is a consultant
in his office in the Senate; that respondent Raval is also a Special Counsel for the
Committee on the Revision of Codes and Laws in the Senate; that respondent Raval is
free to engage in private practice of law in his spare time; that by reason of concern over
the complainant’s allegations in Bondoc’s column, he inquired from respondent Raval
about the matter contained therein; and that at this point, he was approached by his
colleague, Sotto, who explained to him that he engaged the services of respondent Raval
in helping complainant execute the Affidavit dated 22 August 2001.

Respondent Angara also stated that respondent Raval is allowed under the law to engage
in private practice, and that he has no control or supervision over the same; that
respondent Raval’s engagement by Sotto to assist the complainant in executing the
Affidavit dated 22 August 2001 was not relayed to him; and that Sotto had, in fact,
executed an Affidavit stating that:

9. Senator Edgardo J. Angara has no knowledge of, much less participation in,
the preparation of the affidavit of Mr. Sampana; neither does Senator Lacson; I never
discussed the matter with anyone of them until Atty. Raval requested me, after the
column of Mr. Jarius Bondoc came out in the Philippine Star on November 12, 2001, to
clarify with them the matter of my engagement of the services of Atty. Raval for the
taking of the affidavit of Mr. Sampana.

10. Mr. Sampana offered to help and execute an affidavit; I accepted his offer,
and there was no pressure exerted by me, by Atty. Raval or by anyone to admit to
anything that Mr. Sampana did not disclose or admit of his own personal knowledge.
11. I am executing this affidavit in connection with the disbarment case filed by
Mr. Sampana with the Integrated Bar of the Philippines against Senator Angara and Atty.
Raval, to prove the untruthfulness and lack of basis of the allegation of Mr. Sampana that
he was “instructed, induced, cajoled and instigated… through monetary and other
considerations” to execute his affidavit of August 22, 2001.[24]

Furthermore, respondent Angara posited that he does not personally know and has never
met complainant, and that he has no knowledge or involvement in the preparation and
execution of complainant’s Affidavit dated 22 August 2001; and that the repeated
mention of his name and references to the law firm he founded strongly demonstrate
complainant’s design to smear his good name and reputation.

Likewise, respondent Raval, in his Affidavit dated 26 November 2001,[25] and Answer
dated 27 November 2001,[26] denied having instructed, induced, cajoled and instigated
complainant to include false statements in his Affidavit dated 22 August 2001.

He explained that he is a Consultant to the Senate Office of respondent Angara with an


additional assignment as Special Counsel to the Senate Committee on Constitutional
Amendments, Revision of Codes and Laws; that he had the permission of respondent
Angara to engage in the private practice of law; that on 22 August 2001, Sotto requested
him to interview and to take the affidavit of a possible witness at the Business Center of
WPP; that to facilitate the taking of affidavit, he asked complainant therein if he had
already prepared anything in writing regarding the disclosures he wanted to make; that
complainant presented a two-page typewritten document with the latter’s handwritten
corrections; and that he posed questions to complainant and the latter freely and
voluntarily gave answers while the former’s two lawyer-assistants, Lamorena and
Virgino, dutifully and faithfully encoded the complainant’s statement which constitutes
his Affidavit dated 22 August 2001.

Respondent Raval also asseverated that the statements contained in the complainant’s
Affidavit dated 22 August 2001 were principally based on, if not totally identical to, the
two-page document presented to him by complainant and the answers he gave in
response to his questions; that the taking of the affidavit was done in the usual and
regular course, and he did not coerce nor pressure complainant to give statements against
his will; that from the Business Center of WPP, they proceeded to the Senate Lounge
where they took their lunch and had the Affidavit dated 22 August 2001 notarized; that
later on, Sotto joined them for lunch at the Lounge; that he and complainant gave the
notarized Affidavit dated 22 August 2001 to Sotto; that after Sotto had left to proceed to
the Senate Session Hall, he and his two assistants left the Senate Lounge to resume their
duties in assisting respondent Angara in the plenary deliberations of the Senate; and that
complainant had thanked them and left afterwards.

Respondent Raval claimed that Lamorena and Virgino are not, and have never been,
connected with the ACCRA Law Office and that they did not represent themselves to
complainant as lawyers from the ACCRA Law Office; that the allegations of complainant
about respondent Angara’s knowledge or participation in the preparation of the Affidavit
dated 22 August 2001 are baseless and totally untrue; that respondent Angara was
completely ignorant of what he had done to heed the request of Sotto; and that the
allegation of complainant that he was “instructed, induced, cajoled, and instigated
through monetary and/or other considerations to make false statements under oath,”
resulting in the execution of his Affidavit dated 22 August 2001, is baseless and totally
untrue.

CBD Commissioner Dennis B. Funa (Funa) was in charge of the hearing of the
complaint. After an exchange of pleadings and the filing of their respective Position
Papers[27] by the parties, Funa finally rendered his Report and Recommendation dated
25 June 2002.[28] Funa recommended that the case against respondent Angara be
dismissed for insufficiency of evidence. On the other hand, he found respondent Raval
guilty of violating the Code of Professional Responsibility and, thus, should be given the
penalty of two years suspension. On 3 August 2002, the IBP Board of Governors
(Board) issued a Resolution,[29] reversing and modifying the Report and
Recommendation dated 25 June 2002, and dismissing the case against respondents
Angara and Raval for lack of basis. On 2 September 2002, the Board, through Director
for Bar Discipline Victor C. Fernandez, submitted a copy of its Resolution dated 3
August 2002 as well as the records of the instant case to this Court, pursuant to Rule 139-
B of the 1997 Rules of Court.[30]

On 21 October 2002, complainant filed a Petition for Review[31] assailing the Resolution
of the Board dated 3 August 2002 and praying that the same be reversed and set aside by
this Court. Thereafter, on 20 November 2002 this Court issued a Resolution[32] which
noted the Resolution of IBP-CBD dated 3 August 2002. On 13 January 2003, this Court,
pursuant to the Petition for Review of complainant dated 21 October 2001, issued a
Resolution[33] requiring respondents Angara and Raval to file their comments thereon.
In compliance therewith, respondents Angara and Raval filed their separate
Comment[34] on 10 March 2003. Subsequently, on 24 May 2004, complainant filed his
Consolidated Reply[35] thereon.

Complainant, in his Petition for Review dated 21 October 2001, raise the following
arguments for our consideration:

I.

THE HONORABLE BOARD MANIFESTLY ERRED AND HAS DEPARTED FROM


THE USUAL COURSE OF ADJUDICATORY PROCEEDINGS WHEN IT
RENDERED THE ASSAILED RESOLUTION NO. XV-2002-455 REVERSING AND
MODIFYING THE REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION DATED 25 JUNE 2002 OF
THE HONORABLE INVESTIGATING COMMISSIONER CONSIDERING THAT:

A) The Honorable Board did not State The Facts And The Reasons On Which
It Based Its Resolution To Reverse And Modify The Report And Recommendation Dated
25 June 2002; And

B) The Undisputed Facts And Circumstances Of The Instant Case Clearly


Establishes The Culpability Of Respondent Atty. Raval.

II.

THE HONORABLE BOARD AND THE HONORABLE INVESTIGATING


COMMISSIONER MANIFESTLY ERRED AND HAS DEPARTED FROM THE
USUAL COURSE OF ADJUDICATORY PROCEEDINGS WHEN THEY FAILED TO
HOLD RESPONDENT ATTY. ANGARA LIABLE FOR ACTING IN CONSPIRACY
WITH RESPONDENT ATTY. RAVAL, NOTWITHSTANDING THE CONCLUSIVE
DETERMINATION MADE BY THE HONORABLE INVESTIGATING
COMMISSIONER IN THE REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION DATED 25 JUNE
2002, THAT THE ALLEGATIONS OF THE PETITIONER WERE PRESENTED
WITH “CANDOR” AND HIS SWORN STATEMENTS WERE
“STRAIGHTFORWARD.”[36]

Complainant asserts that the Board failed to comply with Rule 139-B, Section 12,
paragraph (a), of the Rules of Court, when it issued the one-page Resolution dated 3
August 2002 without clearly and distinctly stating therein the facts and the reasons on
which it is based. Thus, according to him, such resolution must be reversed and set aside
by this Court.

The contention is without merit.

Rule 139-B, Section 12, paragraph (a), of the Rules, in Disbarment and Discipline of
Attorneys states the procedure in the review by the Board of the report of the
investigator/commissioner, and the manner by which its decision is to be rendered, to wit:

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
upon such review shall be in writing and shall clearly and distinctly state the facts and the
reasons on which it is based. It shall be promulgated within a period not exceeding thirty
(30) days from the next meeting of the Board following the submittal of the Investigator’s
report.

The assailed Resolution of the Board dated 3 August 2002 reads:

NOTICE OF RESOLUTION

Sir/Madam:
Please take notice that on August 3, 2002 a resolution was passed by the Board of
Governors of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines in the above-entitled case the original
of which is now on file in this office, quote:

RESOLUTION NO. XV-2002-455

CBD Case No. 01-899

Arturo C. Sampana vs.

Atty. Edgardo J. Angara and

Atty. Demaree B. Raval

RESOLVED to REVERSE and MODIFY, the Report and Recommendation of the


Investigating Commissioner of the above-entitled case, herein made part of this
Resolution/Decision as Annex “A”; and, after a careful review, study and discussions, the
case against Respondents is hereby DISMISSED for lack of basis.

JAIME M. VIBAR

National Secretary

N.B. President Teofilo S. Pilando, Jr. inhibits himself from discussion of the above-
entitled case in as much as he personally knows the respondents, and in-fact, appointed
Atty. Raval as Commissioner of the Bar Discipline. Be it noted that President Pilando
steps out of the Board Room and did not participate on the proceedings.[37]
The Board’s Resolution dated 3 August 2002[38] has sufficiently and substantially
complied with the requirements of the law. A perusal of the assailed resolution would
show that the Report and Recommendation of Commissioner Funa was made an integral
part therein. In fact, it was attached thereto and referred to as Annex “A.” This simply
implies that the facts, issues, and evidences in the same report were incorporated by
reference in the same resolution. It is significant to note that this procedure is a usual and
regular course in the issuance of resolution and decision by the Board upon review of the
report of Investigating Commissioner. This is judicially recognized and accepted.
Furthermore, it must be emphasized that there is nothing that prevents the Board from
adopting by reference the said report. Under Rule 139-B, Section 12, paragraph (a), of
the Rules, the investigation and report of the Commissioner is always subject to review
by the Board of Governors. Simply put, the findings of the Investigating Commissioner
are merely recommendatory and it is the Board of Governors that will decide whether to
affirm or reject, in whole or in part, the report of the Commissioner.

Moreover, it is stated in such resolution that the Board made a careful review, study and
discussion of the instant case before dismissing the same. As indicated therein, the reason
given by the Board in dismissing the instant case is lack of basis. Further, a note therein
mentioned that the Board’s President Teofilo S. Pilando, Jr. (Pilando), had inhibited
himself from the discussion of the complaint and report in as much as he personally
knows respondents Angara and Raval, and, in fact, appointed respondent Raval as
Commissioner of the Bar Discipline. It was also noted therein that Pilando stepped out of
the Board Room and did not participate in the proceedings. Such circumstance shows that
the Board conducted a proceeding wherein it deliberated and discussed the instant
complaint before issuing the assailed resolution. Based on the foregoing, the resolution in
dispute has established the facts and reason on which it is based. Hence, contrary to
complainant’s claim, the same resolution is legal and effective.

We shall now proceed to discuss and determine the allegations of complainant against
respondents Raval and Angara, respectively.

Complainant claims that respondent Raval induced him to include false allegations in his
Affidavit dated 22 August 2001. According to him, such act constitutes a violation of the
Code of Professional Responsibility and, thus, warrants the imposition of the penalty of
disbarment or suspension against respondent Raval.

We disagree.
According to respondent Raval, complainant was merely referred to him by then Senator
Sotto, and he did nothing more but to assist complainant in executing an affidavit on the
alleged involvement of some senators and other politicians in drug trafficking and other
illegal activities. The statements in the affidavit were made by complainant freely and
voluntarily.

The veracity of the foregoing claim of respondent Raval is attested to and supported by
the affidavits[39] on record of Sotto, who referred complainant to respondent Raval, and
of Lamorena and Vergino, who assisted respondent Raval in taking down the statements
of the complainant and preparing his affidavit. On the other hand, the allegations of
complainant against respondent Raval is supported only by his own affidavit dated 31
October 2001.[40] Rivero, whom complainant has referred to as his companion during
the meeting with respondent Raval, is not shown to have executed any affidavit which
supports the allegations of complainant against respondent Raval. Furthermore, it
appears from the complainant’s Affidavit dated 31 October 2001 that he admitted being
involved in some shady deals wherein he agreed to “hit” or implicate some personalities
and politicians in illegal activities in exchange for a lump sum of money.[41] This, to our
mind, casts doubt on the credibility of complainant and his statements in the instant case.

Complainant argues that respondent Angara acted in conspiracy with respondent Raval in
inducing him to include false statements in his Affidavit dated 22 August 2001. Thus,
according to him, the penalty of disbarment or suspension should also be imposed against
respondent Angara.[42]

We are not persuaded.

In his Affidavit dated 31 October 2001, complainant alleged the following as his bases
for implicating respondent Angara with respondent Raval, to wit:

12. Robert told me that the Angara-Lacson group would give me P1 million, plus
“other benefits” including the printing and marketing of my book-in-progress. x x x
13. Robert again later called me up and told me to meet him and the group of
Senators Angara and Lacson onAugust 22, 2001 at the parking lot of Westin Philippine
Plaza in Pasay City. x x x

14. x x x There, Robert told me that the lawyers of Senator Angara will be arriving.
Soon enough, Atty. Demaree Raval, and two lawyers-assistants, whom he referred to as
Jhonas Lamorena (cell phone no. 0917-537-5871) and John Virgino and who identified
themselves as ACCRA lawyers, arrived. x x x

xxxx

19. After the call, Atty. Raval told me that Senator Angara had already given the go
ahead to prepare my affidavit with whatever necessary additions and that I was supposed
to be brought to him after we had finalized my affidavit.

xxxx

24. x x x Atty. Raval then pointed at me as if to confirm my presence to the Senator.


Senator Angara smiled and waved at me. x x x[43] (Italics supplied.)

It can be gleaned from the foregoing that much of complainant’s allegations against
respondent Angara relied on what had been told to him by Rivero and respondent Raval.
No personal conversation, acquaintance or meeting ever took place between complainant
and respondent Angara. Moreover, assuming that respondent Angara did give the “go
ahead” to “prepare” complainant’s affidavit, there was no competent evidence to show
that respondent Angara had any part in the inclusion of false statements in the
complainant’s 22 August 2001 Affidavit. Also, the reference to “Angara-Lacson group”
does not refer to respondent Angara himself. Obviously, the smiling and waving of hand
of respondent Angara to complainant does not in any way indicate that he conspired with
respondent Raval in inducing complainant to make false allegations. It can be observed
that complainant based his conspiracy theory on respondent Angara’s professional
association with respondent Raval. This is not, however, sufficient to support
complainant’s averment of conspiracy. As we stated earlier, the culpability of Raval was
not established. Moreover, mere companionship does not establish conspiracy.[44]

It is well-settled that conspiracy must be shown to exist as clearly and as convincingly as


the commission of the offense itself.[45] Evidently, complainant failed to establish the
existence of conspiracy between respondents Raval and Angara.

The power to disbar or suspend a lawyer should be used with utmost caution and only for
serious reasons so as not to unjustly deprive him of his means of livelihood and distinct
reputation in the society. It must be exercised only in clear cases of misconduct that
seriously affect the standing and character of the lawyer as an officer of the court. In
disbarment proceedings, the complainant has the burden of proving his case against
respondent. In the case of Angeles v. Figueroa[46] we held:

It is settled that the power to disbar or suspend ought always to be exercised on the
preservative and not on the vindictive principle, with great caution and only for the most
weighty reasons. The burden of proof rests on the complainant and the case against the
respondent must be established by clear, convincing and satisfactory proof. Thus, the
adage that “he who asserts, not who denies, must prove.”

Indeed, complainants are the ones who bear the burden of showing through satisfactory
evidence the bases of their complaint. As explained by this Court in Boyboy vs. Yabut,
Jr. [A.C. No. 5225, April 29, 2003, 401 SCRA 622]:

. . . [A] mere charge or allegation of wrongdoing does not suffice. Accusation is not
synonymous with guilt. There must always be sufficient evidence to support the charge.
This brings to the fore the application of the age-old but familiar rule that he who alleges
must prove his allegations… [R]espondent… is not under obligation to prove his negative
averment, much less to disprove what has not been proved by complainants. Thus, we
have consistently held that if the complainant/plaintiff, upon whom rests the burden of
proving his cause of action, fails to show in a satisfactory manner the facts upon which he
bases his claim, the respondent/defendant is under no obligation to prove his exception or
defense.
The reason for this rule is that:

The profession of an attorney is acquired after long and laborious study. It is a lifetime
profession. By years of patience, zeal and ability, the attorney may be able to amass
considerable means to support himself and his family, besides the honor and prestige that
accompany his office and profession. To deprive him of such honored station in life
which would result in irreparable injury must require proof of the highest degree… While
courts will not hesitate to mete out proper disciplinary punishment upon lawyers who fail
to live up to their sworn duties they will, on the other hand, protect them from the unjust
accusations of dissatisfied litigants. The success of a lawyer in his profession depends
almost entirely on his reputation. Anything which will harm his good name is to be
deplored. Private persons, and particularly disgruntled opponents, may not, therefore, be
permitted to use the courts as vehicles through which to vent their rancor on members of
the Bar.

Indeed, complainant in the instant case failed to establish with clear and convincing
evidence the culpability of respondents Raval and Angara.

WHEREFORE, the petition for review is DENIED.

SO ORDERED.

MINITA V. CHICO-NAZARIO

Associate Justice
WE CONCUR:

ARTEMIO V. PANGANIBAN

Chief Justice

Chairperson

CONSUELO YNARES-SANTIAGO MA. ALICIA AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ

Associate Justice Associate Justice

ROMEO J. CALLEJO, SR.

Associate Justice

[1] Rollo, pp. 1-9.

[2] Id. at 7.

[3] Id. at 12-21.


[4] Florencio Parena was a former Bulacan policeman and publisher of Luzon
Pen. The Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP)
investigated him and his alleged business associate and suspected drug lord, Alfredo
Tiongco, as regards their involvement in drug trafficking, bribery of several politicians
including some senators, and other illegal activities. In 1997, a Senate inquiry was
conducted to determine the allegations that some senators then were receiving “protection
money” from drug trafficking operators.

[5] Alfredo Tiongco is a businessman engaged in brokerage, trucking, trading


and restaurant operations. The ISAFP questioned him and his alleged business associate,
Florencio Parena, with regard to their involvement in drug trafficking and bribery of
several government officials, including some senators, for the protection of his illegal
activities. In 1997, a Senate inquiry was conducted to determine the allegations that some
senators then were receiving “protection money” from drug trafficking operators.

[6] Rollo, p. 13.

[7] Id. at 14.

[8] Id.

[9] Id. at 15.

[10] Id.

[11] Id.

[12] Id.

[13] Id. at 16.

[14] Id. at 17.

[15] Id.

[16] Id.

[17] Id. at 18.

[18] Id.

[19] Id.

[20] Id. at 19.


[21] Id. at 20.

[22] Id. at 21.

[23] Id. at 43-54.

[24] Id at 69-70.

[25] Id. at 65-66.

[26] Id. at 60-64.

[27] Id. at 119-134, 136-153, 186-194.

[28] Id. at 199-226.

[29] Id. at 198.

[30] Id. at 197.

[31] Id at 228-259.

[32] Id. at 227.

[33] Id. at 356.

[34] Id. at 368-385 and 386-399.

[35] Id. at 414-423.

[36] Id. at 237-238.

[37] Id. at 198.

[38] Id.

[39] Id. at 69-73.

[40] Id. at 12-21.

[41] Id. at 14 and 18.

[42] Id. at 2.

[43] Id. at 16-18.


[44] People of the Philippines v. Furugganan, G.R. Nos. 90191-96, 28 January
1991, 193 SCRA 471, 481, citing People v. Sosing, 197 Phil. 344, 353 (1982).

[45] Pecho v. People, 331 Phil. 1, 17 (1996), citing Perez v. Sandiganbayan, G.R.
Nos. 76203-04, 6 December 1989, 180 SCRA 9, 14.

[46] A.C. No. 5050, 20 September 2005, 470 SCRA 186, 195-196.

G.R. No. 126980 March 31, 2006


SALLY V. BELLOSILLO VS. THE BOARD OF GOVERNORS OF THE
INTEGRATED BAR OF THE PHILIPPINES, ET AL.

Republic of the Philippines


SUPREME COURT
Manila

SECOND DIVISION

G.R. No. 126980 March 31, 2006

SALLY V. BELLOSILLO, Petitioner,


vs.
THE BOARD OF GOVERNORS OF THE INTEGRATED BAR OF THE
PHILIPPINES and ANICETO G. SALUDO, JR., Respondents.

RESOLUTION

GARCIA, J.:

Under consideration is this petition for certiorari assailing the Resolution,1 dated March
30, 1996, of the respondent Board of Governors of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines
(IBP Board of Governors), adopting and approving the Report and Recommendation2 of
the Investigating Commissioner in a complaint for disbarment filed by the herein
petitioner Sally V. Bellosillo against respondent Atty. Aniceto G. Saludo, Jr. in
Administrative (Adm.) Case No. 3297. The assailed Resolution reads:

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


the Report and Recommendation of the Investigating Commissioner in the above-entitled
case, hereinmade part of this Resolution/Decision as Annex "A"; and, finding the
recommendation therein to be fully supported by the evidence on record and the
applicable laws and rules, the complaint against Respondent is hereby DISMISSED.

The records of the case disclose the following:


On January 31, 1989, the petitioner filed a complaint3 for disbarment against the
respondent for alleged gross professional misconduct and malpractice. Essentially,
petitioner charged respondent of pocketing the settlement money in the Philippine Plaza
bombing incident; improper financial dealings through borrowings of cash and post-dated
checks; and unwarranted solicitations in the form of gifts, pianos, lechon, and
wallpapering of respondent’s house.

In his Answer,4 dated May 31, 1989, with a number of documents attached thereto,
respondent denied all the charges and dismissed them as deliberate falsehoods. He
asserted that it was he, not the petitioner, who was the lender of money.

On August 4, 1989, the petitioner filed a Reply.5

In answer to said Reply, respondent filed a motion to dismiss6 the charges for failure to
show a prima facie case against him. Respondent argued that despite the challenge to
produce receipts and documents, the petitioner could not produce any document or
evidence that he settled the claims of the Philippine Plaza bombing victims and
misappropriated the proceeds thereof for his benefit; that with respect to the post-dated
checks, the petitioner has changed her theory by alleging that it was she who was lending
money to the respondent and the checks issued to her by the respondent were payments
of said borrowings; and assuming arguendo the change in theory to be true, the parties’
transactions were ordinary business transactions where conflicts do not provide grounds
for disbarment.

Respondent’s motion to dismiss as well as his subsequent motion for reconsideration


were denied by the Hearing Commissioner.

From such denial, respondent then filed a petition for review7 with the IBP Board of
Governors. The petition, however, was likewise denied by the latter which even ordered
the investigation to proceed with deliberate speed.

Respondent then went to this Court by way of a petition for certiorari and prohibition
with prayer for preliminary injunction, challenging the above-mentioned orders of the
IBP Board of Governors, and insisting that the pleadings of the parties on record,
affidavits and admissions would clearly show lack of prima facie case against him, so
that the case should be dismissed outright.

On October 13, 1992, the Court issued a Resolution8 dismissing respondent’s petition,
but directing the IBP Board of Governors, as follows:

The IBP Board is directed to look into whether or not, on the basis of all the records
before it, there is a prima facie case, or, as claimed by the [respondent], circumstances
warrant the outright dismissal of the case. If the interests of justice require it, reception of
evidence may then proceed giving due process to both parties involved.9 (Word in
bracket supplied).
On March 30, 1996, the IBP Board of Governors issued the herein assailed Resolution10
which adopted and approved the 31-page Report and Recommendation11 of the
Investigating Commissioner, dated November 22, 1995, pertinent portions of which read:

In sum, it appears that complainant’s actuations were motivated by vengeance, hatred and
ill-will acting as she did only after the aforesaid civil cases were filed against her, for
which she blamed the respondent.

Complainant has already made a history of issuing bouncing checks. In the case of
Philippine National Bank vs. Sally Bellosillo, CA. G.R. No. 67070-12, involving
bouncing checks issued by the complainant, the Court of Appeals found that –

Sally V. Bellosillo was deliberately lying. And a person who is shown to be committing a
deliberate falsehood to the court should not be believed.

xxx xxx xxx

xxx The fact that the appellants Bellosillo and Villamora, Sr. issued checks and had
caused them to be encashed and the proceeds thereof to be received by the last endorsees,
knowing fully well that they have no sufficient cash deposit, or that they did not intend
to, or did not deposit funds sufficient to back up the checks they issued, is substantial
basis for their liability to answer for their fraudulent schemes and actions. It is an insult to
human decency for these appellants to now unashamedly claim that the successful
encashment of the checks was at the risk of their co-defendants Ortiz and that they are not
liable for cheating the bank. It is just saying that it is the cheated person who is to blame
for allowing himself to be cheated and that the cheater is free from blame. In other words,
the said appellants seem to justify their cheating by implying that there would be no
cheater if no person allows himself to be cheated, and that the cheater should be rewarded
with an impunity of his act. (Exh. "2" of Answer.)

Finally, we are not unmindful of the other imputations leveled against respondent which
are mere fangless embellishments to the more demeaning charges already discussed.
Thus, the charge for supposed "unwarranted solicitations" in the form of gift certificates,
lechon and expensive attaché cases, is negated by complainant’s admission that she gave
those gifts in appreciation of respondent’s concerns for their interest (pp. 5-6 of
Complaint). The related charge that respondent requested for, and got, two pianos in 1985
is completely belied by the checks evidencing payment thereof which are dated 1980,
1981 and 1982 (Annexes A-3, A-4 and A-5 of Complaint).

We find no prima facie case against respondent. For this reason, "further investigation is
not warranted." (Lacsamana vs. De la Pena, 57 SCRA 22, 23 (1974); also, Requio vs. Dy-
Liaco, 75 SCRA 118 (1977). For to subject respondent to further investigation, even in
the absence of a prima facie case, will be to unnecessarily prolong his agony, unfairly
expose his name and reputation as a lawyer to erroneous conclusions and unfavorable
innuendos, the charges that he was unfaithful, even as they were unfounded, being
unfortunately not without their adverse effects (Aragon vs. Matol, 30 SCRA 1 (1969).
For as the Supreme Court ruled:

"There is this additional point to consider. As Cardozo aptly observed: ~Reputation (in
the legal profession) is a plant of tender growth, and its bloom, once lost, is not easily
restored. This Court, certainly is not averse to having such risk minimized. Where, as in
this case, the good name of counsel was traduced by an accusation made in reckless
disregard of the truth, an action prompted by based ingratitude, the severest censure is
called for.

"Certainly, this is not easy to say that if a case were presented showing nonfeasance or
malfeasance on the part of a lawyer, appropriate disciplinary action would not be taken.
This is not such a case however. Respondent, as has been so clearly shown, was in no
wise culpable; there is no occasion for the corrective power of this Court coming into
play." (Albano v. Coloma, 21 SCRA 411, 420 [1967]).

WHEREFORE, finding no prima facie case to justify a full dress hearing, it is hereby
recommended that the present administrative case be dismissed.

In its Resolution12 of January 15, 1997, the Court noted the herein assailed Resolution
dated March 30, 1996 of the IBP Board of Governors.

On December 3, 1996, the petitioner went to this Court by way of this petition for
certiorari challenging the March 30, 1996 Resolution of the IBP Board of Governors.
Petitioner imputes grave abuse of discretion on the part of IBP Board of Governors for
allegedly not ruling on her several charges against the respondent. Petitioner demands
that a full-dress investigation and hearing be conducted because the challenged
Resolution of the IBP Board of Governors is biased for the reason alone that the
Investigating Commissioner and the respondent are both members of the U.P. Sigma Rho
Fraternity.

On July 14, 1997, the Court issued a Resolution13 treating the present petition as one
filed under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court, and requiring the respondent to file his
Comment thereon.

After the respondent has filed his Comment, petitioner filed her Reply thereto on
November 14, 1997.

The petition must be denied.

Petitioner considers the assailed Resolution of the IBP Board of Governors as generally a
biased judgment due to her perception that because the Investigating Commissioner,
Atty. Plaridel C. Jose, and the respondent are both members of the U.P. Sigma Rho
Fraternity, the former must, as a matter of course, favor the latter. In its April 6, 1989
Resolution,14 the Court has earlier rejected this erroneous perception when, resolving
petitioner’s letter for this Court to direct any member of the U.P. Sigma Rho Fraternity to
desist from participating in the IBP proceedings on the case against respondent, the Court
stated:

Membership in a college fraternity, by itself, does not constitute a ground to disqualify an


investigator, prosecutor or judge from acting on the case of a respondent who happens to
be a member of the same fraternity. A trial Judge, appellate Justice, or member of this
Court who is or was a member of a college fraternity, a university alumni association, a
socio-civic association like Jaycees or Rotary, a religion oriented organization like
Knights of Columbus or Methodist Men, and various other fraternal organizations is not
expected to automatically inhibit himself or herself from acting whenever a case
involving a member of his or her group happens to come before him or her for action.

A member in good standing of any reputable organization is expected all the more to
maintain the highest standards of probity, integrity, and honor and to faithfully comply
with the ethics of the legal profession.

Petitioner next imputes grave abuse of discretion against the IBP Board of Governors for
not ruling on her several charges, thereby invoking her theory that her present petition
could be treated both as a petition for review under Rule 45 and a petition for certiorari
under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court. But these remedies are mutually exclusive and not
alternative or successive; when the first is available, the second cannot be resorted to.15
Moreover, we have already stated in our Resolution16 of October 13, 1992 that only
issues originally pleaded in the complaint, there having been no amendment to it, are the
issues to be tried. Accordingly, the alleged other misdeeds of the respondent, namely:
attempting to bribe a deportation hearing officer in respect to the Philippine Plaza
bombing incident; pocketing of the grease money intended for the above attempted
bribery; having abetted the perpetuation of fraud in the case for dissolution of petitioner’s
conjugal partnership; and receiving privilege from a party whose interest is adverse to
that of the petitioner, need not be inquired into nor may this Court re-examine and re-
evaluate whatever evidence, if any, has been presented by the petitioner before the IBP
Board of Governors.

We now proceed to address petitioner’s contentions that the finding of no prima facie
case against the respondent is contrary to the facts and circumstances disclosed by the
records.

Generally, a prima facie case consists of that amount of evidence which would be
sufficient to counterbalance the general presumption of innocence and warrant a
conviction, if not countered and contradicted by evidence tending to contradict it and
render it improbable, or to prove other facts inconsistent with it.17 It is in this context
that, in its Resolution of October 13, 1992, the Court directed the IBP Board of
Governors to look into whether or not, on the basis of all the records before it, there is
prima facie case to warrant reception of evidence or if circumstances warrant the outright
dismissal of the administrative complaint against the respondent. The challenged
Resolution of the IBP Board of Governors shows faithful compliance with this Court’s
directive.
Contrary to petitioner’s allegations that the finding of lack of a prima facie case insofar as
the charge of massive borrowing of post-dated checks by the respondent is derived solely
from speculations and averments unsubstantiated by documentary proof, and also
contrary to the nature of the checks submitted by the petitioner, there are telling
circumstances found by the Investigating Commissioner which fully and correctly
support the contested findings of the IBP Board of Governors. To quote a few of such
circumstances:

Complainant claims that when she discovered in late 1986 that "Atty. Saludo had not
been funding all the checks since 1984," she issued stop-payment orders and/or reduced
account balances. In other words, it took her two (2) years to discover that he was not
funding the checks. We find this unbelievable considering that complainant being, as she
claims, a business woman. Moreover, by such assertion, she implies that prior to 1984,
Atty. Saludo was funding his checks. xxx

Complainant likewise contradicted her foregoing allegations in her verified Reply, in


which she made a comparison of the checks which she issued to respondent and vice-
versa and she came up with the following comparative analysis:
COMPLAINANT RESPONDENT

Number Value Number Value

1979 - - 10 P 1,155,000.00
1980 - - 760,000.00
1981 8 P 15,206.00 6 795,000.00
1982 48 631,860.50 18 1,453,000.00
1983 175 2,532,277.00 24 3,761,500.00
1984 227 10,732,495.00 31 9,850,000.00
1985 21 1,846,000.00 1 230,000.00
1986 8 310,500.00

Total P16,068,338.50 P 18,004,500.00

The foregoing data, however, shows that complainant owes respondent the sum of
P1,936,161.50. It appears contrary to complainant’s allegations that "it was Atty. Saludo
who was borrowing checks from me and pretending to repay my capital plus interest."
Following complainant’s theory that she was the one lending respondent’s money from
1981 to 1985, it is unbelievable that she still continue to lend him money after 1981 if he
stopped being proper in his financial dealings with her in 1981.

xxx xxx xxx

More significantly, the records show that complainant received checks in huge amounts
from respondent and, in turn, complainant gave respondent several checks in small,
identical amounts with consecutive check numbers and in intervals of fixed periods
which are features of installment payments. It shows that it was respondent who was
lending money to complainant in her money market operations and the checks she issued
were installment payments of her borrowings xxx.18

The fact that complainant was the one borrowing from respondent and not the other way
around is also shown by the fact that she issued replacement checks for her dishonored
checks. xxx

If said replacement checks were issued to replace dishonored checks, she would not have
been issuing them, placing the word "replacement" on the face thereof, which she claims
as mere accommodation.19

The transactions involving post-dated checks could not then, as advanced by the
petitioner, constitute a prima facie case for grave professional misconduct by the
respondent. Even from the viewpoint of petitioner’s submission that she was the lender of
post-dated checks and respondent was the borrower, still it is clearly evident that such
arose from the parties’ personal dealings and relationship, and not from an attorney-client
relationship. These alleged transactions involved a purely personal interest, a civil
transaction.

In Uy vs. Gonzales,20 we held that a proceeding for suspension or disbarment is not in


any sense a civil action; it involves no private interest and affords no redress for private
grievance. They are undertaken and prosecuted solely for public welfare. Nonetheless, a
lawyer may be disbarred or suspended for any 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. In the present case, the
petitioner failed to prove any of the circumstances enumerated above, by the subject post-
dated checks transactions, and by the other charges against the respondent as hereunder
noted.

The IBP Board of Governors dismissed the charge that the respondent pocketed the
settlement money due to Nonoy Zuñiga and Sammy Villarin from the Philippine Plaza
for their injuries in the bombing incident in 1980, on its findings that the petitioner’s
complaint stating that "we later learned that Atty. Saludo got all the money that the
victims and we were entitled to" is plainly hearsay; that the joint affidavit of Messrs.
Zuñiga and Villarin never imputed the alleged appropriation of the money by the
respondent; and that the unexplained delay of nine years before the complaint for
disbarment was filed casts suspicion on the motive of the petitioner.

Moreover, it appears that despite the order of the Investigating Commissioner requiring
petitioner to submit "receipts from the Philippine Plaza for payments to the victims
received by Atty. Saludo," she failed to comply therewith. Such assessments indeed
justify the outright dismissal of that imputation.

On the alleged cash borrowings of the respondent from the petitioner, we see no reason to
depart from the findings of the IBP Board of Governors that the charge was incredulous
and contrary to normal human behavior. As pointed out by the Investigating
Commissioner in his Report and Recommendation:

The complaint also states that these borrowings accumulated over a period of years from
1981 and that "1981 marked the start of the period when he stopped being very proper in
his dealings with us concerning money matters." (Complaint, p. 4). If it were so, we find
difficult to understand why she continued, as she claims, lending him cash and checks in
1982, 1983, 1984 and 1985. She further claims in one breath that [respondent’s] cash
borrowings amounted to not less than P50,000 each time, and because of her trust on him,
she did not ask him to issue receipts. Yet in another breath, she claims to have check
receipts evidencing alleged gifts of "lechon" to [respondent] with value less than a
thousand pesos (Annex A-1, Complaint). Why she did not ask for receipts of
[respondent’s] "cash" borrowing amounting, as she claims, from P50,000.00 and to as
high as P500,000.00 cash is something we could not comprehend.

The incredible aspect of the charge is further shown by her assertion that at one instance,
respondent borrowed cash from her in the amount of half a million pesos, and that her
maid or yaya delivered to him said cash of P500,000.00. We find it contrary to normal
behavior for the complainant to entrust to her yaya that amount of cash for delivery to the
respondent.21 (Words in brackets supplied).

Finally, we agree with the IBP Board of Governors that the charge relative to the
supposed unwarranted solicitations in the form of gift certificates, lechon and expensive
attaché cases, is negated by the petitioner’s own admission that she gave those gifts in
appreciation of respondent’s concerns for her and her family’s interests. The related
charge that the respondent requested for, and got, two pianos in 1985 is completely belied
by the checks dated 1980, 1981 and 1982, evidencing respondent’s payment therefor.22
Besides, these were plainly personal dealings, not professional misconduct.

The Court reiterates that the power to disbar must be exercised with great caution, and
only in a clear case of misconduct that seriously affects the standing and character of a
lawyer as an officer of the court and as a member of the Bar. To be the basis of
disciplinary action, the lawyer’s conduct must not only be immoral but grossly immoral.
That is, it must be so corrupt as to constitute a criminal act or as unprincipled as to be
reprehensible to a high degree or committed under such scandalous or revolting
circumstances as to shock the common sense of decency.23 For the Court to exercise its
disciplinary powers, the case against the respondent must be established by clear,
convincing and satisfactory proof. Indeed, considering the serious consequences of
disbarment or suspension of a member of the Bar, the Court has consistently held that
clear preponderant evidence is necessary to justify the imposition of the administrative
penalty.24

In Estrella Real Estate Corporation vs. Court of Appeals,25 the Court declared that in the
absence of any showing that the findings of the IBP are totally devoid of support in the
record or that they are so glaringly erroneous as to constitute serious abuse of discretion,
such findings must stand. Consequently, absent any showing that there is grave abuse of
discretion in dismissing the complaint, the Court must give credence to the findings and
recommendation of the Investigating Commissioner and the IBP Board of Governors that
the complaint must be dismissed for lack of merit.

Given the foregoing, the Court finds petitioner’s demand for a full-dress hearing to be
without basis. It is only when the complaint bears merit, or when the answer fails to show
that the complaint indeed lacks merit, or when the respondent fails to file an answer that
an investigation shall proceed. Otherwise, if the complaint is bereft of merit, either on its
face or as proven by respondent’s answer, it will be unjust to mandate the Investigator to
conduct a full-dress investigation.26 Here, the petitioner has not even carried well enough
the burden of establishing a prima facie case against the respondent.

WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED and the assailed Resolution of the IBP Board of
Governors, dated March 30, 1996, dismissing the complaint against respondent in Adm.
Case No. 3297 is AFFIRMED.

SO ORDERED.

CANCIO C. GARCIA
Associate Justice

WE CONCUR:

REYNATO S. PUNO
Associate Justice
Chairperson
ANGELINA SANDOVAL-GUTIERREZ
Associate Justice RENATO C. CORONA
Asscociate Justice

ADOLFO S. AZCUNA
Associate Justice

ATTESTATION

I attest that the conclusions in the above resolution were reached in consultation before
the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Court’s Division.

REYNATO S. PUNO
Associate Justice
Chairperson, Second Division

CERTIFICATION

Pursuant to Article VIII, Section 13 of the Constitution, and the Division Chairperson's
Attestation, it is hereby certified that the conclusions in the above resolution were
reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the
Court.

ARTEMIO V. PANGANIBAN
Chief Justice

Footnotes

1 Rollo, p. 50.

2 Id. at 51-82.

3 Record, Volume 1, pp. 1-23.

4 Record, Volume II-B, pp. 381-428.

5 Record, Volume II-B, pp. 513-564.

6 Record, Volume II-B, pp. 573-589.

7 Record, Volume II-B, pp. 718-728.

8 Record, Volume II-B, pp. 769-771.

9 Record, Volume II-B, p. 769.

10 Rollo, pp. 80-82.

11 Id. at 51-82.

12 Record, Volume I, p. 245.

13 Rollo, p. 129.

14 Record, Volume II, pp. 2-3.

15 Banco Filipino and Mortgage and Savings Bank vs. Court of Appeals, G.R. No.
132703, June 23, 2000, 334 SCRA 305.

16 Record, Volume II-B, pp. 769-771.

17 Bautista vs. Sarmiento, G.R. No. L-45137, September 23, 1985, 138 SCRA 592.

18 Rollo, pp. 66-68.

19 Id. at 75-76.
20 Adm. Case No. 5280, March 30, 2004, 426 SCRA 422, 430.

21 Rollo, pp. 63-64.

22 Petitioner’s Complaint, Record, Volume I, pp. 5-6.

23 Dante vs. Dante, A.C. No. 6486, September 22, 2004, 438 SCRA 582.

24 Lilia Tabang and Concepcion Tabang vs. Atty. Glenn C. Gacott, Adm. Case No. 6490,
September 29, 2004, 439 SCRA 307.

25 Estrella Real Estate Corp. vs. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 128862, September 30,
1999, 315 SCRA 650.

26 Nicanor B. Gatmaytan, Jr. vs. Atty. Isidro C. Ilao, A.C No. 6086, January 26, 2005,
449 SCRA 269.

A.C. No. 4676 May 4, 2006


SPS. ANTONIO AND NORMA SORIANO VS. ATTY. REYNALDO P. REYES

Republic of the Philippines


SUPREME COURT
Manila

FIRST DIVISION

A.C. No. 4676 May 4, 2006

SPS. ANTONIO and NORMA SORIANO, Complainants,


vs.
ATTY. REYNALDO P. REYES, Respondent.

DECISION

CHICO-NAZARIO, J.:

For alleged gross negligence in handling two civil cases, a complaint1 for disbarment was
filed by complainant spouses Antonio and Norma Soriano against Atty. Reynaldo P.
Reyes.

Complainants alleged that sometime in the latter part of 1990, they engaged the services
of respondent in a case they filed against Peninsula Development Bank entitled, "Norton
Resources and Development Corporation, et al. v. Peninsula Development Bank." The
case was for Declaration of Nullity with Injunction and/or Restraining Order before the
Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Davao City, Br. 13, docketed as Civil Case No. 20-465-
90.2 While the case was pending, respondent reassured complainants that he was
diligently attending to the case and will inform them of the status of their case.

In 1994, complainants again engaged the services of respondent in a case they filed
against the Technology and Livelihood Resource Center entitled, "Spouses Antonio M.
Soriano and Norma Soriano v. Technology and Livelihood Resource Center" for
Declaration of Nullity with Injunction and Temporary Restraining Order before the RTC
of Davao City, Br. 16, docketed as Civil Case No. 22-674-94.3 During the pendency of
the second case, complainants inquired from respondent the status of the earlier Civil
Case No. 20-465-90, the latter informed them that the same was still pending and/or
ongoing.

Later, complainants learned that Civil Case No. 20-465-90 was dismissed4 on 16
December 1991 for failure of the respondent to file a pre-trial brief. The dismissal reads:

On record is a pre-trial brief filed by defendant, thru counsel, Atty. Marlon B. Llauder,
and this morning a supplemental pre-trial brief was submitted by defendant’s counsel.
Atty. Reynaldo Reyes, counsel for the plaintiffs is present in Court but he moved for a
suspension of the pre-trial conference this morning for the reason that plaintiffs are
proposing to amicably settle this case. Defendant’s counsel vehemently objected to the
postponement of the pre-trial conference and instead moved for a declaration of plaintiffs
as non-suited for the reason that up to this time, plaintiffs have not submitted their pre-
trial brief in violation of the Order of the Court, dated October 11, 1991, wherein
plaintiffs’ counsel was afforded five (5) days from said date within which to submit to
Court plaintiffs’ pre-trial brief.

The said motion is well-taken for the reason that the records failed to show that plaintiffs
filed pre-trial brief. They are thus, declared as non-suited.

This case is hereby ordered dismissed.5 (Underscoring supplied.)

A motion6 for reconsideration was filed but the same was denied in an Order dated 27
April 1992.

As to Civil Case No. 22-674-94, complainants likewise found out that the case was
dismissed for failure to prosecute. The order reads:

The records show that summons with a copy of the complaint have been served upon the
defendant on May 11, 1994, but plaintiffs did not file the necessary pleadings in order to
prosecute the same.

IN VIEW HEREOF, for failure to prosecute this case is ordered DISMISSED.

Furnish copy of this order, Atty. Reynaldo P. Reyes, plaintiffs’ counsel and defendant’s
counsel, Atty. Francisco Figura.7 (Underscoring supplied.)
Upon filing of a Motion for Reconsideration, though, the case was reconsidered and
reinstated8 on 15 August 1995.

Claiming that the acts of respondent greatly prejudiced and damaged them, complainants
filed a Complaint for disbarment against respondent before this Court.

On 20 October 1997, the Supreme Court referred9 the case to the Integrated Bar of the
Philippines (IBP) for investigation, report and recommendation or decision.

In his Comment,10 respondent admitted that he was hired by the complainants in the case
against the Peninsula Development Bank in the latter part of 1990. He averred that
Peninsula Development Bank foreclosed the property of the complainants for failure to
pay monetary obligations amounting to several millions of pesos. He said that some of
the properties of the complainants were foreclosed in 1989, and the one-year redemption
period was to expire in the latter part of 1990. About one week before the expiration of
the redemption period, the complainants, through the respondent, filed a case against the
Peninsula Development Bank before the RTC of Davao City, which was docketed as
Civil Case No. 20-465-90. From the time of the filing of the complaint up to the present,
herein complainants are in continuous possession of the already foreclosed properties,
consisting of a Ford Econovan and farm tractors. According to respondent, complainants
are still holding office in the real properties subject of the foreclosure and a portion
thereof is being rented by a big taxi company. He disclosed that at the time he was hired
in 1990, the agreement was that he would be paid the amount of Three Hundred
Thousand Pesos (P300,000.00) as attorney’s fees in five years. Respondent claimed that
he assisted complainants in applying for a loan to pay off their obligations with Peninsula
Development Bank but because of the numerous estafa cases filed against complainants,
said loans did not materialize. Respondent further claimed that their agreed strategy was
to arrange a settlement with regard to Civil Case No. 20-465-90. Respondent said he later
realized that the complainants had no interest in paying their obligations to Peninsula
Development Bank, and his attorney’s fees. Respondent added that they differed in
opinion with regard to the handling of the case and that complainants did not understand
that the filing of the case had already helped them gain time to negotiate with the bank
especially on the matter of interest incurred by their loans. Finally, respondent concluded
by saying that his attorney’s fees, paid in meager installments, remain outstanding and
unpaid.

In their reply,11 complainants refuted respondent’s allegation of the alleged "numerous


estafa cases" filed against them. Complainants averred that the certification attached by
respondent showing that there were estafa cases filed against them has no bearing insofar
as the disbarment case is concerned. They likewise denied that respondent assisted them
in their loan application. They engaged the services of the respondent to prevent them
from losing their properties to the Peninsula Development Bank and for no other reason.
Finally, complainants maintained that respondent was paid his attorney’s fees.
As early as 27 June 2000, the case had already been scheduled for hearing by
Commissioner Agustine V. Gonzaga of the Commission on Bar Discipline. On 18
January 2002, after several hearings, the Commission admitted the documentary evidence
offered as part of the testimony of complainants. On 1 March 2002, the day respondent
was ordered to present his defense evidence, he failed to appear. Counsel for the
complainants moved that the respondent be deemed to have waived his right to present
his evidence for failure to appear on scheduled hearing despite due notice. In the interest
of substantial justice, respondent was given a period of 10 days to comment on the
complainants’ motion and scheduled the case for hearing on 19 April 2002. Despite due
notice, however, respondent again failed to appear, thus, the Hearing Commissioner
declared that respondent was considered to have waived his right to present his defense
evidence. The parties were given 20 days from 19 April 2002 to file their respective
memoranda, after which the case will be deemed submitted for resolution.

Only complainants filed a memorandum.

On 28 May 2003, Investigating Commissioner Milagros V. San Juan found respondent


negligent in handling the cases of complainants; hence, said Investigating Commissioner
recommended that he be disbarred. The pertinent portions of the report read:

There is no question that the respondent was engaged by the complainants as their
counsel in two cases, namely Civil Case No. 20-465-90 and Civil Case No. 22-674-94.
The respondent accepted both cases by filing a case of Nullity with Injunction and/or
Restraining Order before the Regional Trial Court Br. 13, Davao City, against Peninsula
Development Bank and against Livelihood Resource Center for Declaration of Nullity
with Injunction and/or Temporary Restraining Order docketed as 22-674-94, Br. 16 RTC
Davao City. The failure and negligence of respondent in handling the aforementioned
cases is fully reflected in the Order of the Court re: Civil Case No. 20-465-90 which
reads:

On record is a pre–trial brief filed by defendant thru counsel, Atty. Marlon B. Llander
and this morning a supplemental pre–trial brief was submitted by defendants’ counsel,
Atty. Reynaldo Reyes, counsel for the plaintiff is present in court but he moved for a
suspension of the pre–trial conference this morning for the reason that plaintiffs are
proposing to amicably settle this case. Defendants’ counsel vehemently objected to the
postponement of the pre–trial conference and instead moved for a declaration of
plaintiff’s as non–suited for the reason that up to this time, plaintiff have not submitted
their pre–trial brief in violation of the Order of the Court, dated October 11, 1991
wherein plaintiff’s counsel was afforded five (5) days time from date within which to
submit to court plaintiff’s pre–trial brief.

The motion is well taken for the reason that the records failed to show that plaintiffs filed
pre–trial brief. They are thus declared as non–suited.
This case is hereby ordered dismissed. "x x x Regarding Civil Case No. 22-674-94,
Regional Trial Court Br. 16, Davao City in the case filed against Technology and
Livelihood Resource Center the court issued an Order dated May 5, 1995 which reads:

"The record show that summons with a copy of the Complaint have been served upon the
defendant on May 11, 1994, but plaintiffs did not file the necessary pleadings in order to
prosecute the same."

In view hereof, for failure to prosecute this case is ordered Dismissed. "x x x The records
show that the real status of the cases were kept from the complainants by respondent.
Despite the dismissal of both cases due to respondent’s negligence and irresponsibility he
continued receiving compensation from complainants are evidenced by the receipts and
vouchers which respondent acknowledged with his signatures. (Exhibits "F", "G", "H",
"H-1" and "I"). Likewise, the respondent deceived the complainant by giving them false
hopes that everything was alright and there was no problem regarding the cases.

All the foregoing show that there is clear violation of his oath as a lawyer particularly
Canon 17 and Canon 18 of the Code of Professional Responsibility. Thus, it is submitted
that Atty. Reynaldo P. Reyes be meted the penalty of Disbarment.12

On 21 June 2003, the IBP Board of Governors adopted and approved13 the
recommendation of the Investigating Commissioner.

In the interregnum, a Motion to Withdraw Testimony and Evidence14 was filed by


complainant Norma B. Soriano before this Court, stating that:

1. That although the complainant in this case names the spouses Antonio Soriano and
Norma B. Soriano as the complainants, it is only complainant Norma B. Soriano who has
testified and presented evidence during the hearing of this case due to the untimely
demise of her husband, complainant Antonio Soriano;

2. That subsequently to the undersigned complainants testimony and presentation of


evidence, she has come upon information and facts that need to be reviewed and re-
examine[d] in the highest interests of justice;

3. That before going into those information and facts that she came to learn after she gave
her testimony before this Honorable Board, it is important to stress the following
antecedent circumstances:

(a) That it was undersigned complainant’s late husband who conferred constantly with
respondent Atty. Reynaldo P. Reyes;

(b) That herein complainant was not present in a conference with Atty. Reyes at the time
his professional services were hired. So, it was only the deceased complainant Antonio
Soriano who was familiar with the scope of professional engagement;
(c) That undersigned complainant did not participate in the conference between her late
husband and respondent counsel on the agreed strategy because the late husband was the
one actively managing the affairs of the family. Moreover, herein complainant was not
really knowledgeable of the facts and details involved in the cases handled by respondent
counsel;

(d) That for example, it was only later after her testimony that she learned that respondent
was also attending to and handling the other cases of the late complainant Antonio
Soriano, especially those cases filed in Makati, Complainant herein had the mistaken
impression that the complainant-decedent had availed of the services of lawyers in
Makati. Hence, the fees that respondent Atty. Reyes received after the cases below were
for those cases in Makati;

(e) That it was a surprise for herein undersigned complainant to also learn that respondent
Atty. Reyes went out of his way to accompany her late husband to a financier, who was
an intimate friend of respondent, in Quezon City for the purpose (sic) sourcing the
necessary funds to pay off our obligations to some creditors as the agreed strategy at the
very start. Thus, it appears that respondent counsel went out of his way to help the late
complainant Antonio Soriano solve his problems; and

(f) That I likewise subsequently learned that when respondent counsel became a city
councilor of Davao City, he did what he can to help the late complainant Antonio Soriano
have a council clearance over a parcel of land that he was selling for a memorial park.

4. That the foregoing facts and information that herein undersigned complainant learned
after she gave her testimony seriously prompts her to seek the withdrawal of her
testimony and her evidence in order that she can re-evaluate the same; and

5. That complainant herein is filing the instant motion in the interests of truth and justice
as it is farthest from her intention to have this case resolved through an inadvertent
presentation of facts that do not exactly reflect the entirety of the story and the truth, no
matter how innocently and in good faith they were presented.15

The above quoted motion is tantamount to a withdrawal or desistance of the complaint.

As we have previously ruled, the affidavit of withdrawal of the disbarment case executed
by a complainant does not automatically exonerate the respondent.

A case of suspension or disbarment may proceed regardless of interest or lack of interest


of the complainant.16 What matters is whether, on the basis of the facts borne out by the
record, the charge of negligence has been duly proved. This rule is premised on the
nature of disciplinary proceedings. A proceeding for suspension or disbarment is not in
any sense a civil action where the complainant is a plaintiff and the respondent lawyer is
a defendant. Disciplinary proceedings involve no private interest and afford no redress
for private grievance. They are undertaken and prosecuted solely for the public welfare.
They are undertaken for the purpose of preserving courts of justice from the official
ministration of persons unfit to practice in them. The attorney is called to answer to the
court for his conduct as an officer of the court. The complainant or the person who called
the attention of the court to the attorney’s alleged misconduct is in no sense a party, and
has generally no interest in the outcome except as all good citizens may have in the
proper administration of justice. Hence, if the evidence on record warrants, the
respondent may be suspended or disbarred despite the desistance of complainant or his
withdrawal of the charges.17 Accordingly, notwithstanding the motion to withdraw
evidence and testimony, the disbarment proceeding should proceed.

Looking into the merits of the complaint against respondent, we decide to modify the
findings of the IBP.

As to Civil Case No. 20-465-90, records show that it was dismissed for failure of
respondent to file the pre-trial brief.

Respondent’s failure to file the pre-trial brief constitutes inexcusable negligence.18 The
importance of filing a pre-trial brief cannot be gainsaid. For one, the lawyers are
compelled to prepare their cases in advance. They eliminate haphazard preparation. Since
pre-trial is a serious business of the court, preparation of the lawyers and parties for the
pre-trial in both questions of fact and of law cannot be overemphasized as an essential
requirement for a pre-trial conference. They enable both parties to view the documentary
evidence of the other even before they are presented in court. They enable the parties to
know the testimonies of each other’s witnesses. Pre-trial briefs also apprise the courts of
the additional points the parties are willing to stipulate upon, or the additional points
which could be inquired into for the purpose of additional stipulations. They also apprise
the court of the respective demands of the parties, thus, enabling the court to discuss
more intelligently an amicable settlement between or among the parties.19 The failure to
submit a pre-trial brief could very well, then, be fatal to the case of the client as in fact it
is a ground for dismissal of the case. 20 For this reason, respondent’s failure to submit the
pre-trial brief to the court within the given period constitutes negligence which entails
disciplinary action. Not only is it a dereliction of duty to his client but to the court as
well. Hence, this Court, in Spouses Galen v. Atty. Paguirigan,21 explained:

An attorney is bound to protect his client’s interest to the best of his ability and with
utmost diligence. A failure to file brief for his client certainly constitutes inexcusable
negligence on his part. The respondent has indeed committed a serious lapse in the duty
owed by him to his client as well as to the Court not to delay litigation and to aid in the
speedy administration of justice.

In this case, respondent did not only fail to file the pre-trial brief within the given period.
Worse, he had not submitted the required pre-trial brief even at the time he filed a motion
for reconsideration of the order of dismissal several months later. Expectedly, the motion
for reconsideration was denied by the court. Respondent’s negligence is apparent in the
trial court’s denial of the motion for reconsideration, to wit:
The court, in the exercise of sound discretion, afforded the plaintiffs who were then
present, five (5) days from October 11, 1991, within which to submit to the Court
plaintiff pre-trial brief, but despite the order, and until December 16, 1991, a period of
more than two (2) months has elapsed, yet herein plaintiffs still failed to file or submit the
required pre-trial brief, which to the mind of this Court, is an obstinate refusal on the part
of the plaintiffs to file said pre-trial brief, despite counsel’s knowledge of the importance
of the same.

The plaintiffs, even in the filing of their Motion for reconsideration did not even care to
attach pre-trial brief if indeed they are sincere in their intention to do so.

Clearly, respondent was not able to protect his client’s interest through his own fault.

A lawyer is expected to be familiar with the rudiments of law and procedure and anyone
who acquires his service is entitled to, not just competent service, but also whole-hearted
devotion to his client’s cause. It is the duty of a lawyer to serve his client with
competence and diligence and he should exert his best efforts to protect, within the
bounds of law, the interest of his client. A lawyer should never neglect a legal matter
entrusted to him, otherwise his negligence in fulfilling his duty will render him liable for
disciplinary action.22

Canon 18, Rule 18.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility provides that a lawyer
shall not neglect a legal matter entrusted to him and his negligence in connection
therewith shall render him liable. In this case, by reason of Atty. Reyes’s negligence,
complainant suffered actual loss. He should have given adequate attention, care and time
to his cases. This is why a practicing lawyer may accept only so many cases that he can
efficiently handle. Otherwise, his clients will be prejudiced. Once he agrees to handle a
case, he should undertake the task with dedication and care. If he should do any less, then
he is not true to his lawyer’s oath.23

Respondent’s excuse that complainants, from the time of filing of the complaint up to the
time of filing his comment, were in continuous possession of the foreclosed property is
flimsy. It only shows the cavalier attitude which respondent took towards his client’s
cause.

Anent Civil Case No. 22-624-94, the case was indeed dismissed for failure to prosecute
although the said dismissal was later on reconsidered. However, this does not detract to
the conclusion that, truly, respondent failed to demonstrate the required diligence in
handling the case of complainants.24

Quite apart from the above, respondent also lacked candor in dealing with his clients as
he omitted to apprise complainants of the status of the two cases and even assured the
complainants that he was diligently attending to said cases.25

In Garcia v. Atty. Manuel,26 this Court found therein respondent lawyer in bad faith for
failing to inform his client of the status of the case. In said decision, the court has
adamantly stressed that the lawyer-client relationship is highly fiduciary.27 There is
always a need for the client to receive from the lawyer periodic and full updates on
developments affecting the case. The lawyer should apprise the client on the mode and
manner that the lawyer is utilizing to defend the client’s interests.28

In failing to inform his clients of the status of their cases, respondent failed to exercise
such skill, care, and diligence as men of the legal profession commonly possess and
exercise in such manners of professional employment.29

Time and again we have stated that disbarment is the most severe form of disciplinary
sanction, and, as such, the power to disbar must always be exercised with great caution
for only the most imperative reasons and in clear cases of misconduct affecting the
standing and moral character of the lawyer as an officer of the court and a member of the
bar. Accordingly, disbarment should not be decreed where any punishment less severe –
such as a reprimand, suspension, or fine – would accomplish the end desired.30

The appropriate penalty on an errant lawyer depends on the exercise of sound judicial
discretion based on the surrounding facts. The penalties for a lawyer’s failure to file the
required brief or pleading range from reprimand, warning with fine, suspension and in
grave cases, disbarment. In one case,31 the penalty for a lawyer’s failure to file a pre-trial
brief and other pleadings such as position papers leading to the dismissal of the case, is
suspension of six months. Therefore, we find the penalty of disbarment as recommended
by the IBP to be unduly harsh and we deem it appropriate to impose the penalty of one
(1) year suspension, taking into account that this appears to be his first offense.

Wherefore, in view of the foregoing, respondent Atty. Reynaldo Reyes is found GUILTY
of violating Canons 17 and 18 of the Code of Professional Responsibility and is
SUSPENDED from the practice of law for one (1) year effective upon finality hereof
with WARNING that a repetition of the same negligent act charged in this complaint will
be dealt with more severely.

Let copies of this Decision be furnished the Office of the Bar Confidant, to be appended
to respondent’s personal records as attorney; the

Integrated Bar of the Philippines; and all courts of the country for their information and
guidance.

SO ORDERED.

MINITA V. CHICO-NAZARIO
Associate Justice

WE CONCUR:

ARTEMIO V. PANGANIBAN
Chief Justice
Chairperson
CONSUELO YNARES-SANTIAGO
Associate Justice MA. ALICIA AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ
Asscociate Justice

ROMEO J. CALLEJO, SR.


Associate Justice

Footnotes

1 Rollo, pp. 3-6.

2 Written in the Rollo as Civil Case No. 20,465-90.

3 Written in the Rollo as Civil Case No. 22,674-94.

4 Rollo, p. 7.

5 Rollo, Vol. I, p. 7.

6 Rollo, Vol. III, pp. 55-56.

7 Id., p. 10.

8 Rollo, Vol. I, p. 23.

9 Id., p. 35.

10 Id., pp. 27-31.

11 Rollo, Vol. II, pp. 1-4.

12 Rollo, Vol. V, pp. 7-9.

13 Id., p. 2.

14 Id., p. 28-29.

15 Id., pp. 28-29.

16 Go v. Candoy, 128 Phil. 461, 465 (1967).

17 Rayos-Ombac v. Rayos, 349 Phil. 7, 15 (1998).

18 Heirs of Tiburcio F. Ballesteros, Sr. v. Apiag, A.C. No. 5760, 30 September 2005, 471
SCRA 111, 124.
19 R.J. Francisco, Civil Procedure (First Ed., 2001) p. 607.

20 Rule 18, Section 6 x x x Failure to file the pre-trial brief shall have the same effect as
failure to appear at the pre-trial; and Rule 18, Section 5. Effect of failure to appear. - The
failure of the plaintiff to appear when so required pursuant to the next preceding section
shall be cause for dismissal of the action. x x x

21 428 Phil. 590, 596 (2002), citing Tan v. Lapak, G.R. No. 93707, 23 January 2001, 350
SCRA 74, 83 and In Re: Santiago F. Marcos, A.C. No. 922, 29 December 1987, 156
SCRA 844, 847.

22 Spouses Galen v. Atty. Paguirigan, 428 Phil. 590, 597 (2002).

23 Moton v. Atty. Cadiao, 377 Phil. 1, 5 (1999).

24 Rollo, Vol. I, p. 11.

25 Rule 18.04. - A lawyer should keep the client informed of the status of his case and
shall respond within a reasonable time to the client’s request for information.

26 443 Phil 479, 486 (2003).

27 Espiritu v. Atty. Cabredo IV, 443 Phil. 24, 30 (2003).

28 Macarilay v. Seriña, A.C. No. 6591, 4 May 2005, 458 SCRA 12, 22-23.

29 Godofredo C. Pineda v. Atty. Teddy C. Macapagal, A.C. No. 6026, 29 November


2005.

30 Amaya v. Tecson, A.C. No. 5996, 7 February 2005, 450 SCRA 510, 516.

31 Heirs of Tiburcio F. Ballesteros, Sr. v. Apiag, supra note 18.

A.C. No. 6712 February 6, 2006


CRISANTA JIMENEZ VS. ATTY. JOEL JIMENEZ

Republic of the Philippines


SUPREME COURT
Manila

FIRST DIVISION

A.C. No. 6712 February 6, 2006


CRISANTA JIMENEZ, Complainant,
vs.
ATTY. JOEL JIMENEZ, Respondent.

DECISION

YNARES-SANTIAGO, J.:

On September 20, 2002, petitioner Crisanta Jimenez filed a complaint1 before the
Commission on Bar Discipline of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) against
respondent Atty. Joel Jimenez for allegedly engaging in dishonest, immoral, or deceitful
conduct; failing to account property received from a client; and failing to deliver property
upon demand of a client.

Petitioner alleged that on September 11, 2001, respondent received in trust several
documents for the purpose of transferring the registration thereof in her name. Due to a
misunderstanding between petitioner’s husband and respondent’s father, petitioner
demanded on October 17, 2001 the return of the documents but respondent failed and
refused to turn over the same. Petitioner also claimed that on September 17, 2001,
respondent surreptitiously took from her residence a black bag containing important
documents. She thus instituted cases for qualified theft and estafa against the respondent
and his father. In addition, she filed the instant administrative case for respondent’s
disbarment.

In his answer, respondent admitted that he received on September 11, 2001 certain
documents from Aurora Realon, an agent of petitioner’s husband, Antonio Jimenez, his
uncle, the latter being a brother of his father, with instructions to deliver the same to his
father. On October 17, 2001, petitioner demanded the return of the documents but his
father refused pending an accounting of his share in the business venture with Antonio
and in pursuance with the agency agreement between the two. Respondent also
disclaimed any responsibility to account or deliver property to petitioner due to the
absence of any lawyer-client relationship between them. He alleged that petitioner and
her husband are persecuting him to collaterally attack his father, with whom they have a
serious misunderstanding regarding their agency agreement.

He also averred that on January 14, 2002, the Makati Prosecutor’s Office dismissed the
complaint for estafa for lack of merit and insufficiency of evidence.2 Petitioner’s appeal
to the Department of Justice was denied on August 5, 2003.3 As regards the case for
qualified theft, the Justice Secretary reversed and set aside the resolution of the Office of
the City Prosecutor of Parañaque City finding probable cause and directed the latter to
move for the withdrawal of the complaint pending before the Regional Trial Court of
Parañaque City, Branch 274.4

It appears, however, that the trial court denied the motion to withdraw information for
qualified theft thus, respondent and his father filed a petition for certiorari before the
appellate court docketed as CA-G.R. SP No. 75138. On March 13, 2003, the Court of
Appeals ordered the trial judge to grant the motion to withdraw information and to
dismiss the criminal complaint for qualified theft against respondent and his father.5

In the report6 dated September 30, 2004, the Investigating Commissioner7 concluded
that respondent could not be held administratively liable for the charges against him and
thus recommended the dismissal of the complaint, which report and recommendation was
adopted and approved by the IBP Board of Governors on November 4, 2004.

On April 28, 2005, petitioner filed a petition for review8 before this Court assailing the
resolution of the IBP Board of Governors adopting and approving the recommendation of
the investigating commissioner to dismiss the administrative case. She argued that the
IBP erred in finding that there was insufficient evidence to hold respondent
administratively liable.

In his comment,9 respondent alleged that on June 30, 2005, this Court rendered a
decision in Jimenez v. Jimenez10 which upheld the decision of the Court of Appeals to
grant the motion to withdraw the information in the criminal case of qualified theft
against him and his father.

We agree with the findings and recommendation of the IBP.lavvph!1.net

The factual milieu of the present case lacks evidence of any dishonest, immoral, or
deceitful conduct committed by respondent. Petitioner anchors this administrative
complaint on the alleged crimes committed by respondent. However, the complaints for
qualified theft and estafa were both ordered dismissed for lack of merit and insufficiency
of evidence.

The documents received by respondent from Realon were not held by him in trust for the
petitioner. What was delivered to respondent was the material or physical possession of
the documents and not the juridical possession thereof. Juridical possession of said
documents pertains to the receipt by respondent’s father being the attorney-in-fact of the
petitioner and Antonio by virtue of a special power of attorney.

As held in Jimenez v. Jimenez:11

Contrary to petitioner’s claim in said Complaint-Affidavit that respondent Jose Jimenez


admitted to real-estate agent Aurora Realon that his son-co-respondent Joel Jimenez got
hold of the documents and turned them over to him, no such claim appears in Aurora’s
affidavit submitted by petitioner in support of her complaint.

Even in the Joint Affidavit of Carlos and Eduardo Jimenez also submitted by petitioner in
support of her complaint, there is no showing that respondent Joel took the documents
and turned them over to respondent Jose, as the affiants merely stated having suggested
to respondent Jose Jimenez "to return all the documents that were taken by his son . . .
from the house of Antonio Jimenez, together with the documents that were entrusted to
him by Aurora Realon . . . ," which alleged taking by Joel Jimenez was a mere conclusion
of the affiants, hence, cannot serve to prove actual taking of the documents by respondent
Joel Jimenez.

What is gathered through from petitioner’s evidence is that some of the documents were
entrusted to respondent Jose Jimenez in his capacity as attorney-in-fact and the others
were turned over by Aurora Realon to said respondent through his son co-respondent Joel
Jimenez. Parenthetically, if the documents have remained in the possession of respondent
Jose Jimenez, any question bearing thereon could be raised in the Complaint, as
amended, filed by respondent Jose Jimenez before the RTC of Pampanga, against
petitioner and her spouse, for "Collection of Sum of Money, Accounting and Damages x
x x.

The long-settled rule is that the dismissal of a criminal case on the ground of
insufficiency of evidence against an accused who is also a respondent in an
administrative case does not necessarily foreclose the administrative proceeding against
him or carry with it the relief from administrative liability.12 The quantum of evidence
needed in a criminal case is different from that required in an administrative case. In the
former, proof beyond reasonable doubt is needed;13 while the latter, substantial
evidence,14 defined as such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as
adequate to support a conclusion,15 is enough. However, if the complainant fails to meet
the required standard or to establish his/her case by clear, convincing, and satisfactory
evidence16 as in this case, this Court shall not hesitate to dismiss any disbarment
proceedings against any lawyer. After all, the power to disbar must be exercised with
great caution, and may be imposed only in a clear case of misconduct that seriously
affects the standing and character of the lawyer as an officer of the Court and as a
member of the bar.17

In the instant case, no sufficient evidence was presented to prove that respondent engaged
in dishonest, immoral, or deceitful conduct. There was no factual or legal basis, much
less substantial ground to hold respondent administratively liable.

Likewise, we find no merit in the allegations of petitioner that respondent failed to


account and deliver property she demanded from him. As correctly pointed out by
respondent, he has no duty to account anything to the petitioner as there is no attorney-
client relationship between them. The only relationship between them is that of an
estranged aunt and a nephew-in-law; whereby the former once asked the latter to act as a
courier between her and his father. Besides, with or without any of these relations, the
respondent has nothing to account or deliver to petitioner as the documents in question
were never within his juridical possession nor were they unlawfully taken by him.

WHEREFORE, the petition for review is DENIED. The Resolution of the Board of
Governors of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines dated November 4, 2004 in CBD Case
No. 02-1012 is AFFIRMED. The administrative complaint for disbarment of respondent
Atty. Joel Jimenez is DISMISSED for lack of merit.

SO ORDERED.
CONSUELO YNARES-SANTIAGO
Associate Justice

WE CONCUR:

ARTEMIO V. PANGANIBAN
Chief Justice
Chairperson
MA. ALICIA AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ
Associate Justice ROMEO J. CALLEJO, SR.
Asscociate Justice

MINITA V. CHICO-NAZARIO
Associate Justice

Footnotes

1 Rollo, pp. 1-5.

2 Id. at 32.

3 Id. at 139-144.

4 Id. at 38-39.

5 Id. at 87. Penned by Associate Justice Martin S. Villarama, Jr. and concurred in by
Associate Justices Godardo A. Jacinto and Mario L. Guariña III.

6 Id. at 285-298.

7 Wilfredo E. J. E. Reyes.

8 Rollo, pp. 300-313.

9 Id. at 347-366.

10 G.R. No. 158148, June 30, 2005, 462 SCRA 516. Penned by Associate Justice
Conchita Carpio Morales and concurred in by Associate Justice (now Chief Justice)
Artemio V. Panganiban and Associate Justices Angelina Sandoval-Gutierrez, Renato C.
Corona and Cancio C. Garcia.

11 Id. at 527.

12 Office of the Court Administrator v. Cañete, A.M. No. P-91-621, November 10, 2004,
441 SCRA 512, 520.
13 Rules of Court, Rule 133, Sec. 2.

14 Id., Sec. 5.

15 Mollaneda v. Umacob, 411 Phil. 159, 176 (2001).

16 Urban Bank, Inc. v. Peña, 417 Phil. 70, 78 (2001).

17 Alitagtag v. Garcia, 451 Phil. 420, 426 (2003).

FIRST DIVISION

JOHN SIY LIM, A.C. No. 5653

Complainant,

Present:

PANGANIBAN, C.J., Chairperson,

YNARES-SANTIAGO,

- versus- AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ,

CALLEJO, SR., and

CHICO-NAZARIO,* JJ.

ATTY. CARMELITO A. Promulgated:

MONTANO,

Respondent. February 27, 2006

x----------------------------------- ---------------x
DECISION

CALLEJO, SR., J.:

Atty. Carmelito A. Montano stands charged with gross misconduct relative to his filing of
Civil Case No. C-19928 entitled Spouses Tomas See Tuazon and Natividad See Deecho
v. John Siy Lim and the Register of Deeds of Caloocan City.[1]

It appears that complainant John Siy Lim was the defendant in Civil Case No. C-14542
for reformation of contract, quieting of title, with damages, then pending before the
Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Caloocan City, Branch 131.[2] The subject of the dispute
was a 650-square meter conjugal lot along A. del Mundo Street, 7th Avenue, Caloocan
City covered by Transfer Certificate of Title (TCT) No. 860. After trial, the RTC ruled in
favor of defendant (complainant herein), and declared that the deed of sale the parties
executed on July 15, 1987 was an absolute and unconditional conveyance of subject
property by the plaintiff in favor of such defendant. On motion for reconsideration,
however, the trial court reversed itself and declared that the sale was in fact an equitable
mortgage. It thus ordered the cancellation of TCT No. 152621 and the reinstatement of
the previous title on the subject property.

The complainant appealed the case to the Court of Appeals, docketed as CA-G.R. CV
No. 40167. In its Decision dated March 31, 1995, the appellate court reversed the ruling
of the RTC, to wit:

WHEREFORE, the appealed Order dated November 16, 1992, is hereby REVERSED
and SET ASIDE, and the original Decision of the trial court, dated December 2, 1991,
hereby REINSTATED, with the modification that plaintiff-appellee is ordered to pay
defendant-appellant the sum of Five Thousand (P5,000.00) Pesos a month as reasonable
rental for the use and occupation of Apartment No. 161 from July 15, 1988 until the
premises shall have been vacated and possession thereof peacefully turned over to
defendant-appellant.
The counterclaim for attorney’s fees of defendant-appellant is DENIED. There is no clear
showing that the action taken by plaintiff-appellee was done in bad faith. There should be
no penalty on the right to litigate.[3]

The aggrieved party elevated the matter to this Court, and the petition was docketed as
G.R. No. 119794. On October 3, 2000, the Court affirmed the ruling of the CA and
denied the petition.[4] Entry of judgment was made of record on October 3, 2000.[5]

On January 4, 2002, respondent filed a Notice of Appearance[6] as counsel of Tomas See


Tuazon (the losing party) in the RTC of Caloocan City, Branch 131 in Civil Case No. C-
14542. On January 7, 2002, he filed, in behalf of his client, a “Motion to Comply to [sic]
Decision without Writ,”[7] worded as follows:

1. Plaintiff is aware that pursuant to the decision of the court, as affirmed by the Court of
Appeals and the Supreme Court, the decision on the present case had already become
final and executory.

2. In order to avoid undue inconvenience on the part of herein defendant, plaintiff shall
voluntarily settle the money judgment as stated in the decision sought to be enforced.

3. The plaintiff will be filing Eight Hundred Ten Thousand (P810,000.00) Pesos,
equivalent to 162 months of rent as per decision and the same to be covered by
supersedeas bond issued by a reliable insurance company to answer for said obligation.

4. Every month starting February 15, 2002, plaintiff shall deposit to the court the amount
of P5,000.00 as monthly rent.[8]

On the same date, respondent, in behalf of his clients (the spouses Tomas See
Tuazon) filed the Complaint[9] for nullity of TCT and other documents, reconveyance,
maintenance of physical possession before the RTC of Caloocan City, eventually raffled
to Branch 121 thereof (Civil Case No. C-19928).
Meantime, on February 19, 2002, Judge Luisito C. Sardillo of Branch 126[10] issued an
Order[11] in Civil Case No. C-14542 granting the Motion for Execution with
Manifestation earlier filed by the prevailing party (complainant herein), and denying for
lack of merit, the “Motion to Comply to [sic] Decision without Writ” filed by respondent
counsel.

This prompted the complainant to file the instant complaint for disbarment against
respondent. In his Complaint-Affidavit[12] dated March 20, 2002, complainant alleged
that respondent filed the complaint in Civil Case No. C-19928 out of malice, pointing out
that it involves “the same parties, the same causes of action and relief prayed for as that
of Civil Case No. C-14542.” Thus, the complainant prayed that the respondent be
“disbarred and/or suspended from the practice of law for his gross misconduct,” on the
following allegation:

6. Evidently, I have been subjected to harassment by the antics of the respondent in filing
a recycled case docketed as Civil Case No. C-19928 on January 07, 2002. Respondent is
guilty in abetting the conduct of his clients, Sps. Tuazon. He has clearly violated his
lawyer’s oath not to promote or sue groundless, false or unlawful suits among others.
Instead of counseling his clients to abide and obey the decision of our Supreme Court, the
final arbiter of all controversies and disputes, he is showing disrespect to a final and
executory decision of our court.[13]

In his Comment,[14] respondent denied the allegations against him. While he admitted
that he filed Civil Case No. C-19928 as counsel for the plaintiff therein, he claimed that it
was not filed with malicious intent. Moreover, while the new case involved the same
party, it was for a different cause of action and relief, and, as such, the principle of res
judicata did not apply. He further explained that the complaint in Civil Case No. C-14542
was for declaratory relief or reformation of instrument, while Civil Case No. 19928 was
for annulment of title. He accepted the case based on “his professional appreciation that
his client had a good case.”

In his Reply,[15] the complainant stressed that the respondent was guilty of forum
shopping; Civil Case No. C-19928 was nothing but a revival of the old complaint; and
“the lame excuse of the respondent that the present case is an action in rem while the
other case is an action in personam” did not merit consideration.
On November 25, 2002, the Court resolved to refer the matter to the Integrated Bar of the
Philippines (IBP) for investigation, report and recommendation.[16]

On September 1, 2003, the IBP Commission on Bar Discipline assigned the case to
Commissioner Salvador L. Peña. Only the counsel for the respondent appeared at the
mandatory conference held on September 30, 2003. Finding that there were no factual
issues in the case, Commissioner Peña terminated the mandatory conference and ordered
the parties to submit their respective verified Position Papers, and, thereafter, considered
the case submitted for resolution.

The case was re-assigned to Commissioner Doroteo B. Aguila who submitted his Report
and Recommendation dated May 9, 2005, finding the respondent guilty of misconduct. It
was recommended that respondent be meted a two months’ suspension from the practice
of law.

According to the Investigating Commissioner, the elements of res judicata are present in
this case as to bar the filing of Civil Case No. C-19928 since (a) the judgment in Civil
Case No. C-14542, upholding the validity of the absolute deed of sale, had attained
finality; (b) the court which rendered the decision had the required jurisdiction; and (c)
the disposition of the case was a judgment on the merits.

On October 22, 2005, the Board of Governors of the IBP Commission on Bar
Discipline issued Resolution No. XVII-2005-108, adopting said Report and
Recommendation with the modification that respondent be suspended from the practice
of law for six (6) months.

We agree that respondent is administratively liable.

In this case, it is clear that respondent is guilty of forum shopping. By his own admission,
he was aware that Civil Case No. C-14542 was already final and executory when he filed
the second case (Civil Case No. C-19928). His allegation that he “was not the original
counsel of his clients” and that “when he filed the subsequent case for nullity of TCT, his
motive was to protect the rights of his clients whom he believed were not properly
addressed in the prior case for reformation and quieting of title,” deserves scant
consideration. As a responsible member of the bar, he should have explained the effect of
such final and executory decision on his clients’ rights, instead of encouraging them to
file another case involving the same property and asserting the same rights.

The essence of forum shopping is the filing of multiple suits involving the same parties
for the same cause of action, either simultaneously or successively, for the purpose of
obtaining a favorable judgment. It exists when, as a result of an adverse opinion in one
forum, a party seeks a favorable opinion in another, or when he institutes two or more
actions or proceedings grounded on the same cause to increase the chances of obtaining a
favorable decision. An important factor in determining its existence is the vexation
caused to the courts and the parties-litigants by the filing of similar cases to claim
substantially the same reliefs.[17] Forum shopping exists where the elements of litis
pendentia are present or where a final judgment in one case will amount to res judicata in
another.[18] Thus, the following requisites should concur:

(a) identity of parties, or at least such parties as represent the same interests in both
actions, (b) identity of rights asserted and relief prayed for, the relief being founded on
the same facts, and (c) the identity of the two preceding particulars is such that any
judgment rendered in the other action will, regardless of which party is successful,
amount to res judicata in the action under consideration. x x x[19]

The fact that the parties in the first and second cases are not identical will not prevent the
application of the principle of res judicata. Mere substantial identity of parties, or a
community of interests between a party in the first case and a party in the subsequent
case, even if the latter was not impleaded in the first case, is sufficient.[20] Moreover, a
party cannot, by varying the form of action or adopting a different method of presenting
his case, escape the operation of the principle that one and the same cause of action shall
not be twice litigated between the same parties or their privies.[21] This was what
respondent resorted to in order to give some semblance of merit to the complaint for
annulment of title. He should have realized that

the ruling of the Court in Tuazon v. Court of Appeals[22] effectively determined with
finality the rights and obligations of the parties under the questioned deed of sale.
A lawyer owes fidelity to the cause of his client but not at the expense of truth and the
administration of justice.[23] The filing of multiple petitions constitutes abuse of the
Court’s processes and improper conduct that tends to impede, obstruct and degrade the
administration of justice and will be punished as contempt of court. Needless to state, the
lawyer who files such multiple or repetitious petitions (which obviously delays the
execution of a final and executory judgment) subjects himself to disciplinary action for
incompetence (for not knowing any better) or for willful violation of his duties as an
attorney to act with all good fidelity to the courts, and to maintain only such actions as
appear to him to be just and are consistent with truth and honor. [24]

The filing of another action concerning the same subject matter, in violation of the
doctrine of res judicata, runs contrary to Canon 12 of the Code of Professional
Responsibility, which requires a lawyer to exert every effort and consider it his duty to
assist in the speedy and efficient administration of justice. By his actuations, respondent
also violated Rule 12.02[25] and Rule 12.04[26] of the Code, as well as a lawyer’s
mandate “to delay no man for money or malice.”[27]

Lawyers should be reminded that their primary duty is to assist the courts in the
administration of justice. Any conduct which tends to delay, impede or obstruct the
administration of justice contravenes such lawyer’s duty. Indeed, the Court has time and
again warned not to resort to forum shopping for this practice clogs the court dockets.[28]

While we rule that the respondent should be sanctioned for his actions, we also note that
the power to disbar should be exercised with great caution, to be imposed only in a clear
case of misconduct that seriously affects the standing and character of the lawyer as an
officer of the Court and as a member of the bar. Disbarment should never be decreed
where any lesser penalty could accomplish the end desired.[29]

WHEREFORE, for violating Canon 12 of the Code of Professional Responsibility,


respondent Atty. Carmelito A. Montano is SUSPENDED from the practice of law for a
period of six (6) months. He is STERNLY WARNED that any future violation of his
duties as a lawyer will be dealt with more severely. This Decision is immediately
executory. Atty. Montano is DIRECTED to inform the Court of the date of receipt of this
decision.

SO ORDERED.
ROMEO J. CALLEJO, SR.

Associate Justice

WE CONCUR:

ARTEMIO V. PANGANIBAN

Chief Justice

Chairperson

CONSUELO YNARES-SANTIAGO MA. ALICIA AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ


Associate Justice Associate Justice

On leave
MINITA V. CHICO-NAZARIO

Associate Justice
* On leave.

[1] Rollo, pp. 17-24.

[2] The judge who originally heard the case was Judge Antonio J. Fineza, who was found
guilty of gross misconduct in this Court’s Decision of May 5, 2003 in A.M. No. RTJ-02-
1705 [450 Phil. 642 (2003)], for his refusal to issue a writ of execution in said case. It
appears that the case was later transferred to Branch 126 (id. at 7-17).

[3] Id. at 40.

[4] Id. at 31-46.

[5] Id. at 47.

[6] Id. at 4.

[7] Id. at 5-6.

[8] Id. (Emphasis supplied)

[9] Id. at 17-24.

[10] As earlier noted, the case was transferred to this sala.

[11] Rollo, pp. 48-54.

[12] Id. at 1-2.

[13] Id. at 2.

[14] Id. at 58-62.

[15] Id. at 63-67.

[16] Id. at 68.

[17] Foronda v. Guerrero, A.C. No. 5469, August 10, 2004, 436 SCRA 9, 23.

[18] T’Boli Agro-Industrial Development, Inc. v. Solilapsi, 442 Phil. 499, 508 (2002).

[19] Id.
[20] Dapar v. Biascan, G.R. No. 141880, September 27, 2004, 439 SCRA 179, 199,
citing Rovels Enterprises, Inc. v. Ocampo, 439 Phil. 777, 790-791 (2002).

[21] j. feria and m.c. noche, civil procedure annotated, volume 2, (2001 ed.) 131, citing
Peñalosa v. Tuason, 22 Phil. 303 (1912) and Paz v. Inandan, 75 Phil. 608 (1945).

[22] 396 Phil. 32 (2000).

[23] Garcia v. Francisco, A.C. No. 3923, March 30, 1993, 220 SCRA 512, 515.

[24] Foronda v. Guerrero, supra note 15, at 23.

[25] Rule 12.02 – A lawyer shall not file multiple actions arising from the same cause.

[26] Rule 12.04 – A lawyer shall not unduly delay a case, impede the execution of a
judgment or misuse court processes.

[27] See Foronda v. Guerrero, supra note 15, at 24.

[28] Sanchez v. Brion, 319 Phil. 67, 70 (1995).

[29] Alitagtag v. Atty. Garcia, 451 Phil. 420, 426 (2003).

THIRD DIVISION

ORLANDO ANGELO A. SANTOS, A.C. No. 5395

Complainant,

Present:

QUISUMBING, J.,

Chairperson,

- versus - CARPIO,
CARPIO-MORALES, and

TINGA,

VELASCO, JJ.

ATTY. MA. VIVIANE CACHO-CALICDAN,

Respondent. Promulgated:

September 19, 2006

x------------------------------------------------------------------------------------x

RESOLUTION

Tinga, J.:

This administrative case stemmed from a Complaint-Affidavit[1] filed by Orlando


Angelo A. Santos (complainant) on 28 December 2000 for disbarment against Atty. Ma.
Viviane Cacho-Calicdan (respondent).

Estifanio Biasura (Biasura) filed criminal and administrative cases against


complainant, a Land Management Officer IV of the Regional Office No. 1 of the
Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). Said cases were assigned
to respondent, a Graft Investigation Officer II of the Office of the Ombudsman, who
acted as the hearing officer in the administrative case against complainant. Complainant
was eventually found guilty by the Office of the Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon on 5
October 2000 of violating Section 7, par. (d) in relation to Section 3, par. (d) of Republic
Act (R.A.) No. 6713[2] and meted a penalty of six (6) months’ suspension without pay.
In his Complaint-Affidavit, complainant alleges several irregularities against
respondent committed in the course of the hearing of his complaint. Complainant claims
that while he was in the process of conducting his cross-examination on Biasura during
the formal investigation of the administrative complaint, respondent uttered to
complainant, “You concentrate in proving your innocence.” The utterance allegedly
manifested respondent’s partiality to Biasura.

Complainant further accuses respondent of falsifying court records. Complainant


alleges that respondent, in collusion with the court stenographer, altered the transcript of
proceedings taken on 25 June 1998 by deleting what exactly transpired during the
hearing. Complainant avers that during the hearing, respondent suspended the cross-
examination then being conducted by complainant on Biasura, only to be postponed later
but on condition that complainant would be allowed to continue his unfinished cross-
examination. However, the transcript instead stated that the hearing of 25 June 1998 was
merely reset to 5 August, omitting mention of the stipulation that complainant would be
allowed to resume his cross-examination.

At the next scheduled hearing on 5 August 1998, complainant failed to appear and
instead filed a motion to dismiss on the ground that a criminal complaint based on
violation of R.A. No. 6713 was then pending before the Sandiganbayan. In an Order[3]
dated 27 August 1998, respondent denied the motion to dismiss. However, the same
order also stated that complainant had already waived his right to further cross-examine
Biasura. This order is being cited by complainant to bolster his claim that respondent
committed the falsification earlier adverted to.

Complainant moved for reconsideration of the Order of 27 August 1998,


contending that he never manifested that he was waiving his right to further cross-
examine Biasura and that the order denied him of his constitutional right to confront his
accuser. In his motion for reconsideration, complainant expressed his desire to continue
with the cross-examination on certain material points, to wit: (1) Biasura’s testimony on
the circumstances when the alleged demands were made; (2) Biasura’s claim that he was
granted/awarded by the DENR Regional Office No. 1 an approved survey plan of Lot No.
20206, San Fabian Cadastre; (3) Biasura’s claim that complainant blatantly refused to
give copies of a Decision dated 21 April 1993 and a report related thereto; and (4) glaring
inconsistencies in Biasura’s accounts during the direct examination and those made in his
Complaint-Affidavit and Reply/Comment.[4]
In an Order[5] dated 24 September 1998, respondent granted complainant’s
motion. He was however advised to limit his cross-examination to the facts stated by
Biasura. In the same order, respondent nonetheless found it necessary to stress the
following points:

(a) That herein respondent (complainant) already subjected complainant


(Biasura) to cross-examination with respect to point (1) of his Motion for
Reconsideration.

(b) Points (2) and (3) are not covered by complainant’s direct examination.

(c) Point (4). The inconsistencies, if ever there is (sic), between the testimony
of complainant during the direct examination and his complaint affidavit and Reply-
Comment in the criminal complaint as already explained, during the last hearing is not
within the scope of the administrative hearing. The direct examination of the
complainant, as the transcript showed, only covered the allegations with respect to herein
respondent Santos, that he made solicitations from the complainant in the form of money
and piece of land in exchange for a favorable decision and when respondent’s demand
was not fully given, the Decision dated April 21, 1993 in favor of complainant was
subsequently reversed.[6]

Complainant takes issue with the foregoing conclusions of respondent. In particular, he


argues that points (2) and (3) were actually covered by the direct examination according
to the transcript of stenographic notes.

In addition, complainant avers that on the day of the hearing on his motion for
reconsideration, respondent did not take action on the motion and instead left the office
early. Complaint further asserts that the 24 September 1998 order was issued despite
knowledge of the existence of the motion for respondent to inhibit from the case.[7]

Mention must be made that on 30 September 1998, complainant filed a motion for
respondent to inhibit herself from conducting the administrative proceedings. The
motion was granted and the case was re-assigned to Graft Investigation Officer Joaquin
F. Salazar (Salazar).
In her Comment,[8] respondent submits that the statements she allegedly uttered neither
convey bias or partiality to Biasura. She asserts that in the course of complainant’s cross-
examination, the questions propounded by the latter dealt with the alleged activities of
Biasura which were not at issue in the case and were moreover not testified to during the
direct examination.[9]

On the issue of falsification, respondent insists there was no false declaration or


falsification committed. She explains that the proposal to set aside the hearing adverted
to by complainant was made off-record; hence, it was not incorporated in the transcript of
stenographic notes.

Respondent denies having belatedly acted on complainant’s motion for reconsideration.


She contends that as of the date of the hearing on the motion for reconsideration, she has
yet to receive a copy of the motion from the Records Division and the other parties have
yet to file their respective comments.

At this point, it is noteworthy to mention that prior to the filing of the present disbarment
complaint, complainant lodged a complaint before the Civil Service Commission on 19
July 1999 charging respondent, together with her stenographer, Joel Barja Ativo, and
Salazar for falsification of records and grave misconduct. The complaint was referred to
the Office of the Ombudsman.

In a Fact-Finding Report[10] dated 31 August 1999, the Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon
dismissed the case for lack of merit. Dealing extensively with the issues raised by
complainant, the Report advanced the following observations:

The alleged alterations in the transcripts are likewise unfounded, since they are plain and
simple typographical errors which would only highlight the real issues in this case which
is the act of soliciting money in exchange for a favorable decision. Evidently, this was
done by herein-complainant in his naked attempt to evade the real issues against him and
to delay the administration of justice. Moreover, all the points raised by the complainant
are entirely baseless and tainted with malice. The records and the actions of respondent
hearing officer are regular and in accordance with established rules of procedure. It
appears from the evaluation of the undersigned that this complaint was designed to harass
herein respondents in order to derail the proceedings against him and this proves to be
beneficial to his interest and advantage. As it is, complainant is up [sic] to set a dangerous
trend that whoever hearing officer that will not take his side will end up a victim of a
complaint before any other forum. Lastly, the entire proceedings were all set aside by the
new hearing officer and an entirely new proceeding is now on-going.

In view of the foregoing, there was no falsification that we can speak of and neither are
respondents liable for Grave Misconduct as the elements of corruption, clear intent to
violate the law or flagrant disregard of established rules are not manifested.[11]

The Report was approved by then Ombudsman Aniano Desierto on 1 October 1999.

The complaint in the case was referred to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines
(IBP) for investigation. In its Order dated 7 March 2002, three areas of concern were
identified to be the subject of the administrative complaint, namely: (1) Order of 24
September 1998, (2) utterances made by respondent during the hearings, and (3) alleged
intervention of respondent in the preparation of the transcript of stenographic notes of the
25 June 1998 hearing.[12] Thereafter, the IBP, in its Investigation Report[13] dated 28
February 2003, recommended the dismissal of the complaint for lack of merit. The IBP
ruled, thus:

A careful scrutiny of the assailed Order dated September 24, 1998 contains
guidelines issued by Respondent Calicdan, consistent with her functions as Hearing
Officer/Ombudsman Investigator. In issuing the same, Respondent Calicdan acted
without malice and criminal intent. Good faith is evident on her part, considering that the
subject Order was mainly for the orderly conduct of the administrative case she was
presiding over.

The Fact-Finding Report dated August 31, 1999 of the Ombudsman in the
administrative complaint filed by Complainant Santos against Respondent Calicdan, on
the very same matters subject of this disbarment case, is comprehensive, and clearly point
to the innocence of Respondent Calicdan with respect to the charge for falsification.[14]

Upon review of the records, the Court is in full accord with the findings and conclusion
of the IBP.

A lawyer may be disbarred or suspended from practice for any deceit, malpractice, gross
misconduct in office, grossly immoral conduct, conviction of a crime involving moral
turpitude, violation of the lawyer’s oath, willful disobedience of any lawful order of a
superior court, or willful and unauthorized appearance for a party to a case, as specified
in Section 27, Rule 138 of the Rules of Court. A deceitful act, in particular, constitutes a
violation of Rule 10.01 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, which provides:

A lawyer shall not do any falsehood nor consent to the doing of any in court; nor shall he
mislead, or allow the court to be misled by any artifice.

Nonetheless, the power to disbar must be exercised with great caution.[15] In


disbarment proceedings, the case against the respondent must be established by clear,
convincing, and satisfactory proof, the burden of which rests upon the complainant.[16]
Only a clear case of misconduct that seriously affects the standing and character of the
lawyer as an officer of the Court and as a member of the bar will warrant disbarment.[17]

In the instant case, complainant failed to substantiate his charges of falsification, to


establish the basis of respondent’s disbarment. He claimed that during the hearing on 25
June 1998, respondent merely suspended the cross-examination being conducted by the
former on Biasura. Complainant accused respondent of altering the transcript of
proceedings by making it appear that the hearing was reset to 5 August and complainant
was required to submit his position paper.[18] The complainant, in questioning the
veracity of the transcript of the proceedings, failed to present evidence that the said
transcript has been altered. Against his bare allegations, the presumption that official duty
has been regularly performed prevails. Otherwise stated, it is presumed that a public
official properly and regularly discharges his duties, or performs act required by law; in
accordance with the law and the authority conferred on him; and that he will not do any
act contrary to his official duty or omit to do anything which such duty may require.[19]
Accordingly, we uphold the assailed transcript of proceedings as the faithful and accurate
recording of all matters that transpired during the 25 June 1998 hearing.

The alleged omissions in the said transcript were reflected in the 27 August 1998 Order,
the integrity of which complainant also assails in his Complaint-Affidavit. It appears that
the IBP did not dwell on the 27 August 1998 Order, focusing instead on the validity of
the 24 September 1998 Order. This notwithstanding, we can conclude with comfort that
no irregularity attaches to the 27 August 1998 Order, as well. The statement therein that
complainant had waived his right to further cross-examine Biasura and that the parties
were to submit their respective position papers does not contradict the transcript which,
absent any evidence disputing its veracity, stands as the official record of what had
transpired during the hearing.

Even assuming that there is a grain of truth in complainant’s allegations regarding the
transcript of the hearing and the 27 August 1998 Order, it should be noted that the alleged
irregularities ultimately did not work to complainant’s prejudice. This was because in the
24 September 1998 Order, respondent affirmed the right of the complainant to continue
his cross-examination of Biasura, the very right which complainant purports to have been
infringed upon by reason of the transcript and the 27 August 1998 Order.

We now turn to the remaining issues as identified by the IBP in its March 2002 Order –
whether the alleged utterances by respondent to complainant warrant administrative
sanction against her, and whether any irregularity attaches to the 24 September 1998
Order.

Complainant has accused respondent of unduly favoring Biasura when the latter made the
following remark: “You concentrate in proving your innocence.” There is no evidence
on record that respondent unduly favored Biasura. Respondent, in her Comment, averred
that the aforesaid statements, if ever uttered, neither convey bias nor partiality. She
explained that the cross-examination questions propounded by him did not deal with the
issue in the said case, as they did not address the matter subject of Biasura’s testimony on
direct examination. It bears noting that complainant, a layman, was not assisted by a
lawyer during the proceedings before the Deputy Ombudsman. Therefore, it is safe to
conclude that complainant is not versed with rules of procedure. It could be said that
respondent was merely guiding complainant on how to pose the proper questions, in no
way exhibiting bias against his cause. In fact, in the Order[20] of 24 September 1998,
respondent reminded complainant to limit his cross-examination only to the facts testified
to by Biasura.

Finally, we see no taint of irregularity in the Order of 24 September 1998. It should be


recalled that almost all of complainant’s questions in the cross-examination before the
Ombudsman were objected to by the counsel for the opposing party; thus, respondent
deemed it fair to give leeway to complainant by proposing to suspend the proceedings.
The Order of 24 September 1998 did allow complainant to continue his cross-
examination of Biasura, but advised him to limit his cross-examination to the facts
testified to by Biasura. The four points stressed by respondent in the 24 September
1998 Order are merely reflective of this concern. We agree with the IBP that the
questioned order only manifests

respondent’s good faith in the performance of her duties as a hearing officer. The
assailed guidelines were precisely issued to ensure the orderly conduct of the
proceedings.

We agree with the finding of the Ombudsman, shared by the IBP, that bad faith and
malice had attended the filing of the present complaint. In view of his suspicion of bias
on the part of respondent, the filing of the motion to inhibit would have sufficed. And
yet, despite respondent’s inhibiting herself from further conducting the administrative
proceedings against him, complainant still proceeded to file an administrative case before
the Civil Service Commission against respondent and, subsequently, the disbarment
complaint before this Court.

Based on the foregoing, complainant failed to establish by substantial evidence that


respondent committed the imputed acts to justify administrative sanction.

WHEREFORE, the complaint is DISMISSED.


SO ORDERED.

DANTE O. TINGA Associate Justice

WE CONCUR:

LEONARDO A. QUISUMBING

Associate Justice

Chairperson

ANTONIO T. CARPIO CONCHITA CARPIO MORALES


Associate Justice Associate Justice

PRESBITERO J. VELASCO, JR.

Associate Justice

[1]Rollo, pp. 5-7.

[2]Entitled “An Act Establishing a Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Officials
and Employees.”

[3]Rollo, pp. 8-9.

[4]Id. at 36.

[5]Id. at 41-42.

[6]Id. at 41.

[7]Id. at 230-231.
[8]Id. at 52-56.

[9]Id. at 54.

[10]Id. at 277-285.

[11]Id. at 283.

[12]Id. at 408.

[13]Id. at 485-488.

[14]Id. at 487.

[15]Ramos v. Ngaseo, A.C. No. 6210, 9 December 2004, 445 SCRA 529; Santiago v.
Rafanan, A. C. No. 6252, 5 October 2004, 440 SCRA 91.

[16]Berbano v. Barcelona, A.C. No. 6084, 3 September 2003, 410 SCRA 258, 264, citing
Concepcion v. Fandiño, Jr., 334 SCRA 136, 142 (2000).

[17]Dantes v. Dantes, A.C. No. 6486, 22 September 2004, 438 SCRA 582, 590.

[18]Rollo, pp. 5-6.


[19]Herrera, Oscar M., Remedial Law VI, 1999 ed., citing 31 C.J.S. 798.

[20]Supra note 4.

A.C. No. 6963 February 9, 2006


VICTORINA BAUTISTA VS. ATTY. SERGIO E. BERNABE

Republic of the Philippines


SUPREME COURT
Manila

FIRST DIVISION

A.C. No. 6963 February 9, 2006

VICTORINA BAUTISTA, Complainant,


vs.
ATTY. SERGIO E. BERNABE, Respondent.

DECISION

YNARES-SANTIAGO, J.:

In a Complaint1 filed before the Commission on Bar Discipline of the Integrated Bar of
the Philippines (IBP) on November 16, 2004, complainant Victorina Bautista2 prays for
the suspension or disbarment of respondent Atty. Sergio E. Bernabe for malpractice and
unethical conduct in the performance of his duties as a notary public and a lawyer.

Complainant alleged that on January 3, 1998, respondent prepared and notarized a


Magkasanib na Salaysay3 purportedly executed by Donato Salonga and complainant’s
mother, Basilia de la Cruz.4 Both affiants declared that a certain parcel of land in Bigte,
Norzagaray, Bulacan, was being occupied by Rodolfo Lucas and his family for more than
30 years. Complainant claimed that her mother could not have executed the joint affidavit
on January 3, 1998 because she has been dead since January 28, 1961.5

In his Answer,6 respondent denied that he falsified the Magkasanib na Salaysay. He


disclaimed any knowledge about Basilia’s death. He alleged that before he notarized the
document, he requested for Basilia’s presence and in her absence, he allowed a certain
Pronebo, allegedly a son-in-law of Basilia, to sign above the name of the latter as shown
by the word "by" on top of the name of Basilia. Respondent maintained that there was no
forgery since the signature appearing on top of Basilia’s name was the signature of
Pronebo.
On April 4, 2005, respondent filed a manifestation7 attaching thereto the affidavit of
desistance8 of complainant which reads in part:

Ako na si, VICTORINA BAUTISTA CAPA, x x x matapos makapanumpa ng naaayon


sa batas ay malaya at kusang loob na nagpapahayag ng mga sumusunod:

1. Na ako ang siyang tumatayong nagrereklamo laban kay Abogado, SERGIO


EXQUIVEL BERNABE, sa isang kaso sa Tanggapan ng Integrated Bar of the
Philippines na may Blg. CBD CASE NO. 04-1371;

2. Na ang nasabing habla ay hindi ko kagustuhan sapagkat iyon ay pinapirmahan lamang


sa akin ni ELISEO OLOROSO at ng kanyang Abogado na si Atty. MARCIAL MORFE
MAGSINO at sa katunayan hindi ako nakaharap sa Notaryo Publiko na si Abogado
CARLITOS C. VILLARIN;

3. Na ang pagpapapirma sa akin ay isang panlilinlang at ako ay ginawang kasangkapan


para sirain ang magandang pangalan nitong si Abogado SERGIO ESQUIVEL
BERNABE;

4. Na dahil sa ganitong pangyayari, aking hinihiling sa Tanggapan ng Integrated Bar of


the Philippines (IBP) na ang reklamo ko laban sa nasabing Abogado SERGIO
ESQUIVEL BERNABE ay mapawa[la]ng bisa.

In the report dated August 29, 2005, the Investigating Commissioner9 recommended that:

1. Atty. Sergio Esquibel Bernabe be suspended from the practice of the legal profession
for one (1) month;

2. Any existing commission of Atty. Sergio Esquibel Bernabe as notary public, be


revoked; and

3. Atty. Sergio Esquibel Bernabe be barred from being granted a notarial commission for
a period of one (1) year.10

In a resolution dated October 22, 2005, the Board of Governors of the IBP adopted and
approved the recommendation of the Investigating Commissioner with modification that
respondent be suspended from the practice of law for one year and his notarial
commission be revoked and that he be disqualified for reappointment as notary public for
two years.

We agree with the findings and recommendation of the IBP.

The records sufficiently established that Basilia was already dead when the joint affidavit
was prepared on January 3, 1998. Respondent’s alleged lack of knowledge of Basilia’s
death does not excuse him. It was his duty to require the personal appearance of the
affiant before affixing his notarial seal and signature on the instrument.

A notary public should not notarize a document unless the persons who signed the same
are the very same persons who executed and personally appeared before him to attest to
the contents and truth of what are stated therein. The presence of the parties to the deed
will enable the notary public to verify the genuineness of the signature of the affiant.11

Respondent’s act of notarizing the Magkasanib na Salaysay in the absence of one of the
affiants is in violation of Rule 1.01,12 Canon 1 of the Code of Professional
Responsibility and the Notarial Law.13 By affixing his signature and notarial seal on the
instrument, he led us to believe that Basilia personally appeared before him and attested
to the truth and veracity of the contents of the affidavit when in fact it was a certain
Pronebo who signed the document. Respondent’s conduct is fraught with dangerous
possibilities considering the conclusiveness on the due execution of a document that our
courts and the public accord on notarized documents. Respondent has clearly failed to
exercise utmost diligence in the performance of his function as a notary public and to
comply with the mandates of the law.14

Respondent was also remiss in his duty when he allowed Pronebo to sign in behalf of
Basilia. A member of the bar who performs an act as a notary public should not notarize a
document unless the persons who signed the same are the very same persons who
executed and personally appeared before him. The acts of the affiants cannot be delegated
to anyone for what are stated therein are facts of which they have personal knowledge.
They should swear to the document personally and not through any representative.
Otherwise, their representative’s name should appear in the said documents as the one
who executed the same. That is the only time the representative can affix his signature
and personally appear before the notary public for notarization of the said document.
Simply put, the party or parties who executed the instrument must be the ones to
personally appear before the notary public to acknowledge the document.15

Complainant’s desistance or withdrawal of the complaint does not exonerate respondent


or put an end to the administrative proceedings. A case of suspension or disbarment may
proceed regardless of interest or lack of interest of the complainant. What matters is
whether, on the basis of the facts borne out by the record, the charge of deceit and grossly
immoral conduct has been proven. This rule is premised on the nature of disciplinary
proceedings. A proceeding for suspension or disbarment is not a civil action where the
complainant is a plaintiff and the respondent lawyer is a defendant. Disciplinary
proceedings involve no private interest and afford no redress for private grievance. They
are undertaken and prosecuted solely for the public welfare. They are undertaken for the
purpose of preserving courts of justice from the official ministration of persons unfit to
practice in them. The attorney is called to answer to the court for his conduct as an officer
of the court. The complainant or the person who called the attention of the court to the
attorney’s alleged misconduct is in no sense a party, and has generally no interest in the
outcome except as all good citizens may have in the proper administration of justice.16
We find the penalty recommended by the IBP to be in full accord with recent
jurisprudence. In Gonzales v. Ramos,17 respondent lawyer was found guilty of notarizing
the document despite the non-appearance of one of the signatories. As a result, his
notarial commission was revoked and he was disqualified from reappointment for a
period of two years. In addition, he was suspended from the practice of law for one year.

Finally, it has not escaped our notice that in paragraph 218 of complainant’s affidavit of
desistance, she alluded that Atty. Carlitos C. Villarin notarized her Sinumpaang
Salaysay19 dated November 12, 2004 which was attached to the complaint filed with the
Commission on Bar Discipline of the IBP, without requiring her to personally appear
before him in violation of the Notarial Law. This allegation must likewise be
investigated.

WHEREFORE, for breach of the Notarial Law and Code of Professional Responsibility,
the notarial commission of respondent Atty. Sergio E. Bernabe, is REVOKED. He is
DISQUALIFIED from reappointment as Notary Public for a period of two years. He is
also SUSPENDED from the practice of law for a period of one year, effective
immediately. He is further WARNED that a repetition of the same or of similar acts shall
be dealt with more severely. He is DIRECTED to report the date of receipt of this
Decision in order to determine when his suspension shall take effect.

The Commission on Bar Discipline of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines is


DIRECTED to investigate the allegation that Atty. Carlitos C. Villarin notarized the
Sinumpaang Salaysay of Victorina Bautista dated November 12, 2004 without requiring
the latter’s personal appearance.lavvph!1.net

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

SO ORDERED.

CONSUELO YNARES-SANTIAGO
Associate Justice

WE CONCUR:

ARTEMIO V. PANGANIBAN
Chief Justice
Chairperson
MA. ALICIA AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ
Associate Justice
Asscociate Justice

MINITA V. CHICO-NAZARIO
Associate Justice
Footnotes

1 Rollo, pp. 1-2.

2 Referred to as Victorina Bautista Kapa and Victorina Bautista Capa in other parts of the
records.

3 Rollo, p. 6.

4 Referred to as Basilia de la Cruz Bautista and Basilia B. Cruz in other parts of the
records. See also Affidavit of Victorina Bautista, rollo, p. 7.

5 See Annex "A," rollo, p. 5.

6 Rollo, pp. 18-20.

7 Id. at 31-32.

8 Id. at 33.

9 Commissioner Doroteo B. Aguila.

10 Report and Recommendation, p. 4.

11 Gonzales v. Ramos, A.C. No. 6649, June 21, 2005, 460 SCRA 352, 357.

12 A lawyer shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct.

13 See Social Security Commission v. Corral, A.C. No. 6249, October 14, 2004, 440
SCRA 291, 295.

14 Gonzales v. Ramos, supra at 358-359.

15 Bon v. Ziga, Adm. Case No. 5436, May 27, 2004, 429 SCRA 177, 185.

16 Rayos-Ombac v. Rayos, 349 Phil. 7, 15 [1998].

17 Supra note 11 at 359.

18 See rollo, p. 33. Paragraph 2 of complainant’s affidavit of desistance reads:

Na ang nasabing habla ay hindi ko kagustuhan sapagkat iyon ay pinapirmahan lamang sa


akin ni ELISEO OLOROSO at ng kanyang Abogado na si Atty. MARCIAL MORFE
MAGSINO at sa katunayan hindi ako nakaharap sa Notaryo Publiko na si Abogado
CARLITOS C. VILLARIN[.] (Emphasis added)
19 Rollo, pp. 3-4.

FIRST DIVISION

RAMON C. GONZALEZ, A.C. No. 5321

Complainant,

Present:

PANGANIBAN, CJ, Chairperson,

YNARES-SANTIAGO,

- versus - AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ,

CALLEJO, SR., and

CHICO-NAZARIO, JJ.

Atty. ARNEL C. ALCARAZ, Promulgated:

Respondent. September 27, 2006

x -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --- -- -- -- -- -- x

DECISION

PANGANIBAN, CJ:
Disbarment cases are sui generis. Being neither criminal nor civil in nature, these
are not intended to inflict penal or civil sanctions. The main question to be determined is
whether respondent is still fit to continue to be an officer of the court in the dispensation
of justice.

The Case and the Facts

This case arose from a Complaint-Affidavit[1] filed by Ramon C. Gonzalez with


the Office of the Bar Confidant of the Supreme Court. The Complaint was subsequently
referred to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) for investigation, report and
recommendation.[2] Complainant charged Atty. Arnel C. Alcaraz with grave
misconduct, abuse of authority, and acts unbecoming a lawyer. The antecedents were
summarized by the IBP Commission on Bar Discipline (IBP-CBD) as follows:

“x x x [C]omplainant alleges that on 11 August 2000, while he was driving along the
South Superhighway upon entering the Sucat Toll Gate heading towards Makati,
respondent, who was driving a Nissan Infiniti suddenly cut across his path while
overtaking him and almost hit his car had he not been able to evade it. According to
complainant, he chased respondent’s car and when he was side by side with respondent’s
car, he angrily confronted respondent and then drove on. Complainant claims that
respondent then chased him and shot him twice but fortunately missed him by a few
inches[,] but broken glass coming from the shattered window allegedly hit him and
slightly wounded his right arm and stomach. Complainant adds that respondent allegedly
tried to escape but he was able to chase him and block his way at the Nichols Toll Gate
where the PNCC guards responded to his call for assistance. According to complainant,
respondent attempted to escape and avoid the PNCC guards by ‘proclaiming boisterously
that he is a lawyer and a customs official’ but complainant was able to block his way
again and their vehicles collided in the process. Complainant claims that he requested the
PNCC guards to confiscate respondent’s firearm and accompany them to the nearest
police station. At the time of the ‘arrest,’ respondent allegedly opened the back door of
his car and pretended to have accidentally dropped so much money which distracted the
policemen from further searching the car.
“At the police station, respondent allegedly identified himself and his lady companion, a
certain Ferlita Semeniano, and [said] that he was the Deputy Customs Collector assigned
at Batangas City. Complainant claims that respondent yielded ‘one (1) Super .38 cal.
Springfield Automatic Pistol, SN NMII 3138, one (1) magazine with seven (7) live
ammos and three (3) spent (empty) shells.’ Complainant adds that respondent presented
only an unsigned Memorandum Receipt (MR) of the firearm without any Mission Order
or Permit to Carry. Complainant claims that respondent allegedly kept calling persons to
help him and a ‘fabricated Mission Order was brought and presented by another person
more than eight hours after the shooting incident and apprehension.’

“Complainant alleges that the Nissan Infiniti used by respondent is allegedly a luxury
vehicle which was not covered by any document whatsoever and ‘it was not verified
whether stolen or smuggled.’

“Complainant finally alleges that the PNP Crime Laboratory examined his car and ‘they
recovered one slug in between the wall of the left rear door while the other bullet went
through the right front seat and exited at the left rear door of complainant’s car and that
cases of Frustrated Homicide and Illegal Possession of Firearms were already filed at the
Parañaque City Prosecutor’s Office.

xxx xxx xxx

“In his Comment dated 04 January 2001, respondent claims that the present
administrative case is unfounded and unwarranted and was allegedly filed in bad faith,
with malice and ill motive and allegedly has no other purpose but to harass, vex,
humiliate and dishonor him. In support thereof, respondent points to the fact that
complainant filed ‘substantially identical complaint affidavits with the same identical
alleged cause of action as that of the present administrative case at [various] judicial,
quasi-judicial and administrative tribunals and accused him of forum-shopping.

“Respondent denied the narration of facts stated in complainant’s Complaint-Affidavit as


‘self-serving, a misrepresentation of facts and obviously tainted.’ Respondent claims that
he was not the aggressor during the incident and that he did not provoke complainant.
Respondent claims that he ‘justly acted in self-defense and defense of a stranger under
the true actuality of facts and circumstances the[n] prevailing.’
“Respondent also claims that the acts complained of in the present case were not
connected with the practice of the legal profession and the fact that he was a lawyer is
merely coincidental, immaterial and irrelevant.

xxx xxx xxx

“In connection with the cases filed by the parties against each other, respondent
submitted the xxx Resolutions/Decisions issued in said cases to show that the charges
filed against him by the complainant were dismissed while the criminal cases he filed
against the latter [were] filed in court.

xxx xxx xxx

“Finally, it is the submission of the respondent that since the alleged acts complained of
are not within the sphere of his professional duties as a lawyer, but rather are acts done in
his non-professional or private capacity, the same, cannot allegedly be the subject of an
administrative complaint for disbarment.”[3]

Report and Recommendation

of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines

In his Report,[4] IBP Investigating Commissioner Rafael Antonio M. Santos said


that the dismissal of the criminal and other administrative charges filed by complainant
indicated that respondent’s version of the incident was given credence by the
investigating officials and agencies of the various other tribunals in which these charges
were filed. Consequently, since no sufficient evidence warranted the imposition of
further disciplinary sanctions on respondent, the investigating commissioner
recommended the dismissal of the administrative case.
In Resolution No. XVI-2005-29 dated March 12, 2005, the board of governors of
the IBP adopted the Report and Recommendation of Commissioner Santos.

On July 8, 2005, the Resolution, together with the records of the case, was
transmitted to this Court for final action, pursuant to Section 12(b) of Rule 139-B of the
Rules of Court. On August 4, 2005, complainant asked this Court to set aside Resolution
No. XVI-2005-29 of the IBP board of governors. Upon orders of this Court,[5]
respondent filed on August 22, 2005, his Comment on complainant’s plea.

The Court’s Ruling

The Court disagrees with the findings and recommendation of the IBP.

Administrative Liability of Respondent

At the outset, we stress that the dismissal of the criminal cases against respondent
did not erase the occurrence of the shooting incident, which he himself does not deny.
Moreover, this incident has been established by clear and convincing evidence. Thus, he
must face the consequences of his actions.

The first Canon of the Code of Professional Responsibility provides as follows:

“CANON 1. - A lawyer shall uphold the constitution, obey the laws of the land and
promote respect for law and legal processes.”[6]

Furthermore, respondent bound himself to “obey the laws” in his attorney’s oath,
[7] which underscores the role of lawyers as officers of our legal system. A lawyer’s
brash transgression of any, especially a penal, law is repulsive and reprehensible and
cannot be countenanced by this Court.[8]

Admitting that he fired shots in the direction of complainant while they were
speeding along South Luzon Expressway,[9] respondent justifies his actions by claiming
self-defense and defense of a stranger. During the traffic altercation, complainant
allegedly exchanged angry words with respondent and, from an open car window, even
threw a handful of coins at the latter.[10] Respondent further avers that, from his higher
vantage point, he saw complainant draw a pistol.[11] The former contends that when he
fired the shots, he had no intention of hitting complainant but merely wanted to scare him
away.

Reviewing the factual circumstances, we are convinced that the defenses proffered
are mere afterthoughts. Based on the physical and documentary evidence, complainant’s
version of the incident is more credible.

First, the allegation of respondent that complainant hit him with coins is highly
improbable. At that time, both vehicles were speeding along the highway. Since the
PNP Crime Laboratory Report[12] showed that the bullets fired by respondent had come
from the right side, his vehicle must have been to the right of complainant’s. If we were
to accept this version, the coins hurled by complainant had to pass through his car’s right
window and then through the left window of respondent’s admittedly taller sports utility
vehicle (SUV). Given their relative positions, it is highly incredible that the coins could
have hit respondent and his companion.

Second, assuming that respondent and his companion were indeed hit by coins, this
alleged fact was not a sufficient unlawful aggression that would justify shooting at
complainant.

As a lawyer, respondent should know that the following three requisites must
concur to justify self-defense: (1) unlawful aggression; (2) reasonable necessity of the
means employed to prevent or repel it; and (3) lack of sufficient provocation on the part
of the person claiming self-defense.[13] On the other hand, in defense of a stranger, the
first two requisites must also be present together with the element that the person
defending was not induced by revenge, resentment or other evil motive.[14]
Of these requisites, unlawful aggression is a conditio sine qua non for upholding
both self-defense and defense of a stranger; the fundamental raison d’etre of these
defenses is the necessity to prevent or repel an aggression.[15] The alleged throwing of
coins by complainant cannot be considered a sufficient unlawful aggression. Unlawful
aggression presupposes actual, sudden, unexpected or imminent threat to life and limb.
[16] There was no aggression to prevent or repel. Absent this imminent threat,
respondent had no legal reason to shoot “in the direction of complainant.”

Third, for lack of supporting evidence, neither can merit be accorded to


respondent’s claim of imminent threat after allegedly seeing complainant draw a pistol.
The Joint Affidavit[17] of PNCC Officers Florencio Celada y Seso, Jr. and Mario Puso y
Visaya mentioned no firearm found in the possession of complainant. Except for the bare
and belated allegations of respondent, there was no showing that complainant’s alleged
possession of the pistol had been reported to the PNCC officers or later to the police
headquarters. Thus, without proof of the existence of the firearm, respondent has not
convincingly shown any legal justification for his act of firing at complainant.[18]

Fourth, right after the shooting incident, respondent fled the scene. He stopped
only when PNCC officers blocked his vehicle in response to complainant’s call for
assistance. If respondent was only protecting himself and his companion, then his
righteous indignation should have propelled him to report immediately his version of the
incident to the PNCC officers.

Disbarment Proceedings

Sui Generis

Respondent maintains that the dismissal of the cases filed by complainant against
him in the various tribunals and agencies proves that the present case for disbarment is
unfounded.

We do not agree.
Well-established is the rule that administrative cases against lawyers belong to a
class of their own. These cases are distinct from and proceed independently of civil and
criminal cases.[19] In Re Almacen,[20] the Court discoursed on this point thus:

“x x x [D]isciplinary proceedings [against lawyers] are sui generis. Neither purely civil
nor purely criminal, x x x [they do] not involve x x x a trial of an action or a suit, but
[are] rather investigation[s] by the Court into the conduct of its officers. Not being
intended to inflict punishment, [they are] in no sense a criminal prosecution.
Accordingly, there is neither a plaintiff nor a prosecutor therein. [They] may be initiated
by the Court motu proprio. Public interest is [their] 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 prove[n] themselves no longer worthy to be entrusted with the duties
and responsibilities pertaining to the office of an attorney. x x x.”[21]

Respondent’s administrative liability stands on grounds different from those in the other
cases previously filed against him; thus, the dismissal of these latter cases does not
necessarily result in administrative exculpation. Settled is the rule that, being based on a
different quantum of proof, the dismissal of a criminal case on the ground of
insufficiency of evidence does not necessarily foreclose the finding of guilt in an
administrative proceeding.[22]

Misconduct Committed

in a Private Capacity

Untenable is respondent’s argument that the acts complained of cannot be the


subject of a complaint for disbarment, because they were done in his private capacity.
Whether in their professional or in their private capacity, lawyers may be disbarred
or suspended for misconduct. This penalty is a consequence of acts showing their
unworthiness as officers of the courts; as well as their lack of moral character, honesty,
probity, and good demeanor.[23] When the misconduct committed outside of their
professional dealings is so gross as to show them to be morally unfit for the office and the
privileges conferred upon them by their license and the law, they may be suspended or
disbarred.[24]

In Cordon v. Balicanta,[25] this Court explained the rationale for this holding as
follows:

“x x x. If the practice of law is to remain an honorable profession and attain its


basic ideal, those enrolled in its ranks should not only master its tenets and principles but
should also, in their lives, accord continuing fidelity to them. Thus, the requirement of
good moral character is of much greater import, as far as the general public is concerned,
than the possession of legal learning. Lawyers are expected to abide by the tenets of
morality, not only upon admission to the Bar but also throughout their legal career, in
order to maintain one's good standing in that exclusive and honored fraternity. Good
moral character is more than just the absence of bad character. Such character expresses
itself in the will to do the unpleasant thing if it is right and the resolve not to do the
pleasant thing if it is wrong. This must be so because ‘vast interests are committed to his
care; he is the recipient of unbounded trust and confidence; he deals with his client's
property, reputation, his life, his all.’”[26]

The vengeful and violent behavior exhibited by respondent in what should have
been a simple traffic altercation reveals his conceit and delusions of self-importance. By
firing his gun openly in a congested highway and exposing complainant and the general
public to danger, he showed his utter lack of a sense of responsibility, as well as of
respect for law and order.

Accordingly, administrative sanction is warranted by respondent’s gross misconduct. In


line with Lao v. Medel,[27] Co v. Bernardino,[28] and Saburnido v. Madroño,[29]
suspension from the practice of law for one year is appropriate in this case.
WHEREFORE, Atty. Arnel C. Alcaraz is found GUILTY of gross misconduct and is
hereby SUSPENDED for one year from the practice of law, effective upon his receipt of
this Decision. He is warned that a repetition of the same or a similar act will be dealt
with more severely.

SO ORDERED.

ARTEMIO V. PANGANIBAN
Chief Justice

Chairperson,
First Division

W E C O N C U R:

CONSUELO YNARES-SANTIAGO MA. ALICIA AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ


Associate Justice Associate Justice

ROMEO J. CALLEJO, SR. MINITA V. CHICO-NAZARIO

Associate Justice Associate Justice

[1] Dated August 21, 2000; rollo, pp. 1-2.


[2] Resolution dated February 12, 2001; rollo, p. 45.

[3] November 5, 2004 Report of the IBP Investigating Commissioner, pp. 4-13.

[4] Id.

[5] September 21, 2005 Resolution of the Third Division.

[6] Emphasis ours.

[7] “I, (name), of (address), do solemnly swear that I will maintain allegiance to the
Republic of the Philippines; I will support and defend its Constitution and obey the laws
as well as the legal orders of the duly constituted authorities therein; I will do no
falsehood nor consent to its commission; I will not wittingly or willingly promote or sue
any groundless, false, or unlawful suit nor give aid nor consent to the same; I will not
delay any man’s cause for money or malice and will conduct myself as a lawyer
according to the best of my knowledge and discretion with all good fidelity as well to the
courts as to my clients and I impose upon myself this obligation voluntarily, without any
mental reservation or purpose of evasion. So help me God.” (Emphasis supplied)

[8] Gonzaga v. Realubin, 312 Phil. 381, March 14, 1995; Bautista v. Gonzales, 182
SCRA 151, February 12, 1990.

[9] Respondent’s Sworn Statement dated September 3, 2000, p. 2; rollo, p. 65.

[10] Id. at 1; rollo, p. 64.

[11] Id. at 2; rollo, p. 65.

[12] Rollo, p. 59.

[13] Revised Penal Code, Article 11(1).

[14] Id., Art. 11(3).

[15] Rimano v. People, 416 SCRA 569, November 27, 2003; People v. Gonza, 415
SCRA 507, November 11, 2003; People v. Caratao, 451 Phil. 588, June 10, 2003.

[16] People v. Escarlos, 410 SCRA 463, September 10, 2003; People v. Caratao,
supra.

[17] Rollo, p. 76.

[18] See People v. Diego, 424 Phil. 743, January 17, 2002.
[19] Gatchalian Promotions Talents Pool, Inc. v. Naldoza, 374 Phil. 1, September 29,
1999.

[20] 31 SCRA 562, February 18, 1970; see also Gatchalian Promotions Talents Pool,
Inc. v. Naldoza, supra.

[21] Id. at 600-601, per Castro, J.

[22] Pablejan v. Calleja, A.M. No. P-06-2102, January 24, 2006; Office of the Court
Administrator v. Cañete, 441 SCRA 512, 520, November 10, 2004.

[23] Calub v. Suller, 380 Phil. 532, January 28, 2000; Saburnido v. Madroño, 418
Phil. 241, September 26, 2001; Lao v. Medel, 453 Phil. 115, July 1, 2003.

[24] Soriano v. Dizon, AC No. 6792, January 25, 2006; Quingwa v. Puno, 125 Phil.
831, February 28, 1967.

[25] 439 Phil. 95, October 4, 2002.

[26] Id. at. 115-116.

[27] Supra.

[28] 349 Phil.16, January 28, 1998.

[29] Supra.

EN BANC

RICARDO A. FORONDA, A.C. No. 5469

Petitioner,

Present:

PANGANIBAN, C.J.,

PUNO,
QUISUMBING,

YNARES-SANTIAGO,

- versus - SANDOVAL-GUTIERREZ,

CARPIO,

AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ,

CORONA,

CARPIO MORALES,

CALLEJO, SR.,

AZCUNA,

TINGA,

ATTY. ARNOLD V. GUERRERO, CHICO-NAZARIO, and

Respondent. GARCIA, JJ.

Promulgated:

January 27, 2006

x------------------------------------ --------------x

RESOLUTION
CALLEJO, SR., J.:

In a Decision dated August 10, 2004, this Court found Atty. Arnold V. Guerrero of
“trifling with judicial processes by resorting to forum shopping” for filing multifarious
petitions, motions and actions concerning the sale of a particular property and suspended
him from the practice of law for two (2) years.

On February 27, 2005, respondent filed a motion for reconsideration which the Court
resolved to deny with finality in a Resolution dated February 15, 2004.

On May 3, 2005, respondent filed an “Ex-Parte Plea for Clemency” pleading for
compassion and praying that the suspension meted against him be lifted immediately.
According to respondent, he is fully aware that his suspension was a “corrective and a
punitive measure for his professional indiscretion.” He pleads that he be given a chance
to prove that he is now reformed and that he is worthy of the compassion and clemency
which the Court may give him.

We grant the petition.

It has been more than 17 months since we ordered respondent’s suspension from the
practice of law. To our mind, this is more than enough time for him to reflect and realize
the gravity of his actuations. Respondent is contrite and remorseful. He has humbly
acknowledged his transgression and offered his most sincere apology. This Court is not
only a court of law and of justice, but one with compassion;[1] not a Court of vengeance
but of justice.[2] We give prima facie credence to his vow “to be more circumspect and
careful in the discharge of his professional functions and duties” and not to “repeat the
same mistake again in the future”.

Respondent is, however, sternly reminded that the practice of law is a privilege burdened
with conditions. Adherence to the rigid standards of mental fitness, maintenance of the
highest degree of morality and faithful compliance with the rules of legal profession are
the conditions required for remaining a member of good standing of the bar and for
enjoying the privilege to practice law.[3] More importantly, while lawyers owe their
entire devotion to the interest of their clients and zeal in the defense of their client’s right,
they should not forget that they are, first and foremost, officers of the court, bound to
exert every effort to assist in the speedy and efficient administration of justice.[4]

WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. The order suspending Atty. Arnold V.


Guerrero is LIFTED. This order is immediately executory. He is STERNLY WARNED
that any act of a similar nature shall be dealt with even more severely.

SO ORDERED.

ROMEO J. CALLEJO, SR.

Associate Justice

WE CONCUR:

ARTEMIO V. PANGANIBAN

Chief Justice

REYNATO S. PUNO LEONARDO A. QUISUMBING


Associate Justice Associate Justice

CONSUELO YNARES-SANTIAGO ANGELINA SANDOVAL-GUTIERREZ

Associate Justice Associate Justice

ANTONIO T. CARPIO MA. ALICIA AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ

Associate Justice Associate Justice

RENATO C. CORONA CONCHITA CARPIO MORALES

Associate Justice Associate Justice


ADOLFO S. AZCUNA DANTE O. TINGA

Associate Justice Associate Justice

MINITA V. CHICO-NAZARIO CANCIO C. GARCIA

Associate Justice Associate Justice

[1] Minute Resolution in Amane v. Atty. Susan Mendoza-Arce, A.M. No. P-94-1080,
November 27, 2001, citing Torralba v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 124526, October 2,
1996.

[2] Zaldivar v. Sandiganbayan, G.R. Nos. 79690-707, April 7, 1993, 221 SCRA 132.

[3] Id. at 135.

[4] Eternal Gardens Memorial Park Corp. v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 123698, August
5, 1998, 355 Phil. 369 (1998).

A.C. No. 6198 September 15, 2006


RENATO M. MALIGAYA vs. ATTY. ANTONIO G. DORONILLA, JR.

Republic of the Philippines


SUPREME COURT
Manila

SECOND DIVISION

A.C. No. 6198 September 15, 2006


RENATO M. MALIGAYA, complainant,
vs.
ATTY. ANTONIO G. DORONILLA, JR., respondent.

RESOLUTION

CORONA, J.:

Atty. Antonio G. Doronilla, Jr. of the Judge Advocate General's Service is before us on a
charge of unethical conduct for having uttered a falsehood in open court during a hearing
of Civil Case No. Q-99-38778.1

Civil Case No. Q-99-38778 was an action for damages filed by complainant Renato M.
Maligaya, a doctor and retired colonel of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, against
several military officers for whom Atty. Doronilla stood as counsel. At one point during
the February 19, 2002 hearing of the case, Atty. Doronilla said:

And another matter, Your Honor. I was appearing in other cases he [complainant
Maligaya] filed before against the same defendants. We had an agreement that if we
withdraw the case against him, he will also withdraw all the cases. So, with that
understanding, he even retired and he is now receiving pension.2 (emphasis supplied)

Considering this to be of some consequence, presiding Judge Reynaldo B. Daway asked a


number of clarificatory questions and thereafter ordered Atty. Doronilla to put his
statements in writing and "file the appropriate pleading."3 Weeks passed but Atty.
Doronilla submitted no such pleading or anything else to substantiate his averments.

On April 29, 2002, Maligaya filed a complaint against Atty. Doronilla in the Integrated
Bar of the Philippines (IBP) Commission on Bar Discipline.4 The complaint, which
charged Atty. Doronilla with "misleading the court through misrepresentation of facts
resulting [in] obstruction of justice,"5 was referred to a commissioner6 for investigation.
Complainant swore before the investigating commissioner that he had never entered into
any agreement to withdraw his lawsuits.7 Atty. Doronilla, who took up the larger part of
two hearings to present evidence and explain his side, admitted several times that there
was, in fact, no such agreement.8 Later he explained in his memorandum that his main
concern was "to settle the case amicably among comrades in arms without going to
trial"9 and insisted that there was no proof of his having violated the Code of
Professional Responsibility or the lawyer's oath.10 He pointed out, in addition, that his
false statement (or, as he put it, his "alleged acts of falsity") had no effect on the
continuance of the case and therefore caused no actual prejudice to complainant.11

In due time, investigating commissioner Lydia A. Navarro submitted a report and


recommendation finding Atty. Doronilla guilty of purposely stating a falsehood in
violation of Canon 10, Rule 10.01 of the Code of Professional Responsibility12 and
recommending that he be "suspended from the government military service as legal
officer for a period of three months."13 This was adopted and approved in toto by the
IBP Board of Governors on August 30, 2003.14

There is a strong public interest involved in requiring lawyers who, as officers of the
court, participate in the dispensation of justice, to behave at all times in a manner
consistent with truth and honor.15 The common caricature that lawyers by and large do
not feel compelled to speak the truth and to act honestly should not become a common
reality.16 To this end, Canon 10 and Rule 10.01 of the Code of Professional
Responsibility state:

CANON 10 – A LAWYER OWES CANDOR, FAIRNESS, AND GOOD FAITH TO


THE COURT.

Rule 10.01 – A lawyer shall not do any falsehood, nor consent to the doing of any in
court; nor shall he mislead, or allow the Court to be misled by any artifice.

By stating untruthfully in open court that complainant had agreed to withdraw his
lawsuits, Atty. Doronilla breached these peremptory tenets of ethical conduct. Not only
that, he violated the lawyer's oath to "do no falsehood, nor consent to the doing of any in
court," of which Canon 10 and Rule 10.01 are but restatements. His act infringed on
every lawyer's duty to "never seek to mislead the judge or any judicial officer by an
artifice or false statement of fact or law."17

Atty. Doronilla's unethical conduct was compounded, moreover, by his obstinate refusal
to acknowledge the impropriety of what he had done. From the very beginning of this
administrative case, Atty. Doronilla maintained the untenable position that he had done
nothing wrong in the hearing of Civil Case No. Q-99-38778. He persisted in doing so
even after having admitted that he had, in that hearing, spoken of an agreement that did
not in truth exist. Rather than express remorse for that regrettable incident, Atty.
Doronilla resorted to an ill-conceived attempt to evade responsibility, professing that the
falsehood had not been meant for the information of Judge Daway but only as "a sort of
question" to complainant regarding a "pending proposal" to settle the case.18

The explanation submitted by Atty. Doronilla, remarkable only for its speciousness,19
cannot absolve him. If anything, it leads us to suspect an unseemly readiness on his part
to obfuscate plain facts for the unworthy purpose of escaping his just deserts. There is in
his favor, though, a presumption of good faith20 which keeps us from treating the
incongruity of his proffered excuse as an indication of mendacity. Besides, in the light of
his avowal that his only aim was "to settle the case amicably among comrades in arms
without going to trial,"21 perhaps it is not unreasonable to assume that what he really
meant to say was that he had intended the misrepresentation as a gambit to get the
proposed agreement on the table, as it were. But even if that had been so, it would have
been no justification for speaking falsely in court. There is nothing in the duty of a lawyer
to foster peace among disputants that, in any way, makes it necessary under any
circumstances for counsel to state as a fact that which is not true. A lawyer's duty to the
court to employ only such means as are consistent with truth and honor22 forbids
recourse to such a tactic. Thus, even as we give Atty. Doronilla the benefit of the doubt
and accept as true his avowed objective of getting the parties to settle the case amicably,
we must call him to account for resorting to falsehood as a means to that end.

Atty. Doronilla's offense is within the ambit of Section 27, Rule 138 of the Rules of
Court, which in part declares:

A member of the bar may be disbarred or suspended from his office as attorney by the
Supreme Court for any deceit x x x or for any violation of the oath which he is required
to take before admission to practice x x x.

The suspension referred to in the foregoing provision means only suspension from the
practice of law. For this reason, we disagree with the IBP's recommendation for Atty.
Doronilla's suspension from the government military service. After all, the only purpose
of this administrative case is to determine Atty. Doronilla's liability as a member of the
legal profession, not his liability as a legal officer in the military service. Thus, it would
be improper for us to order, as a penalty for his breach of legal ethics and the lawyer's
oath, his suspension from employment in the Judge Advocate General's Service. Of
course, suspension from employment as a military legal officer may well follow as a
consequence of his suspension from the practice of law but that should not be reason for
us to impose it as a penalty for his professional misconduct. We would be going beyond
the purpose of this proceeding were we to do so. Therefore, we shall treat the IBP's
recommendation as one for suspension from the practice of law.

At any rate, we are not inclined to adopt the IBP's recommendation on the duration of
Atty. Doronilla's suspension. We need to consider a few circumstances that mitigate his
liability somewhat. First, we give him credit for exhibiting enough candor to admit,
during the investigation, the falsity of the statement he had made in Judge Daway's
courtroom. Second, the absence of material damage to complainant may also be
considered as a mitigating circumstance.23 And finally, since this is Atty. Doronilla's
first offense, he is entitled to some measure of forbearance.24

Nonetheless, his unrepentant attitude throughout the conduct of this administrative case
tells us that a mere slap on the wrist is definitely not enough. Atty. Doronilla, it seems,
needs time away from the practice of law to recognize his error and to purge himself of
the misbegotten notion that an effort to compromise justifies the sacrifice of truthfulness
in court.

WHEREFORE, Atty. Antonio G. Doronilla, Jr. is hereby SUSPENDED from the practice
of law for TWO MONTHS. He is WARNED that a repetition of the same or similar
misconduct shall be dealt with more severely.

Let a copy of this Resolution be attached to his personal record and copies furnished the
Integrated Bar of the Philippines, the Office of the Court Administrator, the Chief-of-
Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Commanding General of the AFP
Judge Advocate General's Service.
SO ORDERED.

Puno, Chairperson, Sandoval-Gutierrez, Azcuna, Garcia, J.J., concur.

Footnotes

1 The case, entitled "Renato M. Maligaya v. Octavio S. Dauz, et al.," was filed and heard
in Branch 90, Regional Trial Court of Quezon City.

2 Rollo, p. 8 (Aside from this damage suit, complainant filed other cases against the
military officers. The military, on the other hand, had instituted an administrative case
against complainant prior to his retirement. The case was dismissed when he retired from
the service in 1999. Id., p. 186).

3 Id., p. 9.

4 Docketed as CBD Case No. 02-955.

5 Rollo, p. 3.

6 Commissioner Lydia A. Navarro.

7 TSN, July 11, 2002, pp. 28, 35, 60, & 78.

8 ATTY. Doronilla:

Actually there is no agreement but there was a proposal to dismiss and to withdraw all the
cases. There was no agreement. TSN July 11, 2002, p. 105;

COMM. NAVARRO:

An answer. His question was, was there an agreement in the cases pending before Judge
Daway and he answered, there was no agreement.

ATTY. DORONILLA:

There was no agreement. Id., p. 106;

ATTY. DORONILLA:

Q: Is it true that in the hearing of July 11, 2002 on page 105 you said actually that there
was no agreement but there was proposal to dismiss and to withdraw all the cases?

A: There was no agreement. TSN, December 10, 2002, p. 43;


COMM. NAVARRO:

Has there been an agreement?

ATTY. DORONILLA:

There was no agreement as I said in an agreement there must be two parties to have it
consummated (sic). Our part is already done… Id., p. 52.

9 Rollo, p. 217.

10 Id.

11 Id. p. 218.

12 Infra.

13 Report and Recommendation, p. 6.

14 Per Resolution No. XVI-2003-37.

15 Sabayle v. Tandayag, A.C. No. 140-J, 8 March 1988, 158 SCRA 497, 506.

16 Id.

17 Rules of Court, Rule 138, Sec. 20.

18 Q: What made you make a manifestation saying (sic) that there was an agreement?

A: That manifestation is a sort of question to the plaintiff. It is not giving information to


the court. TSN July 11, 2002, p. 102

Q: What do you mean when you say (sic) there was an agreement?

A: It was only a question propounded to the plaintiff on the premise that there was a
pending proposal to agree on those withdrawal (sic). To withdraw the case before the
separation board and the case before Judge Daway (sic). TSN, July 11, 2002, pp. 106-
107.

19 The contention if taken literally was preposterous, for he had quite obviously been
addressing Judge Daway when he said there was an agreement, and that assertion could
not have been construed as other than a statement of fact.

20 Cuaresma v. Daquis, No. L-35113, 25 March 1975, 63 SCRA 257, 260.

21 Supra note 9.
22 Rules of Court, Rule 138, Sec. 20 (d); Pangan v. Ramos, A.C. No. 1053, 7 September
1979, 93 SCRA 87, 89.

23 Cailing v. Espinosa, 103 Phil. 1165 (1958).

24 See e.g., Whitson v. Atienza, A.C. No. 5535, 28 August 2003, 410 SCRA 10;
Alcantara v. Atty. Pefianco, 441 Phil. 514 (2002); Fernandez v. Atty. Novero, Jr., 441
Phil. 506 (2002).

EN BANC

ZOILO ANTONIO VELEZ,

Complainant,

- versus -

ATTY. LEONARD S. DE VERA,

Respondent.

x------------------------- x
RE: OATH-TAKING OF ATTY. LEONARD S. DE VERA, INCOMING PRESIDENT
OF THE INTEGRATED BAR OF THE PHILIPPINES

x ---------------------- ---x

IN THE MATTER OF THE REMOVAL OF ATTY. LEONARD S. DE VERA FROM


THE IBP BOARD OF GOVERNORS AS EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT AND
GOVERNOR

IN THE MATTER OF THE LETTER-COMPLAINT OF ATTY. LEONARD S. DE


VERA DATED MAY 18, 2005 TO FORTHWITH DENY/DISAPPROVE THE IBP
RESOLUTION UNJUSTLY, ILLEGALLY, ARBITRARILY, AND ABRUPTLY
REMOVING HIM FROM THE BOARD OF GOVERNORS OF THE IBP FOR
ABSOLUTE LACK OF BASIS AND FOR FLAGRANT DENIAL OF DUE PROCESS.

A.C. No. 6697


Bar Matter No. 1227

A.M. No. 05-5-15-SC

Present:

PANGANIBAN, C. J.,

PUNO,

QUISUMBING,

YNARES-SANTIAGO,

SANDOVAL-GUTIERREZ,

CARPIO,

MARTINEZ,

CORONA,

CARPIO MORALES,

CALLEJO,
AZCUNA,

TINGA,

CHICO-NAZARIO,

GARCIA and

VELASCO JJ.

Promulgated:

July 25, 2006

x- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -x

DECISION

Per Curiam:

Before Us are three consolidated cases revolving around Integrated Bar of the Philippines
(IBP) Governor and Executive Vice-President (EVP) Atty. Leonard de Vera. The first
pertains to a disbarment case questioning Atty. de Vera’s moral fitness to remain as a
member of the Philippine Bar, the second refers to Atty. de Vera’s letter-request to
schedule his oath taking as IBP National President, and the third case concerns the
validity of his removal as Governor and EVP of the IBP by the IBP Board. The
resolution of these cases will determine the national presidency of the IBP for the term
2005-2007.

A.C. No. 6697


The Office of the Bar Confidant, which this Court tasked to make an investigation, report
and recommendation on subject case,[1] summarized the antecedents thereof as follows:

In a Complaint dated 11 April 2005, complainant Zoilo Antonio Velez moved for the
suspension and/or disbarment of respondent Atty. Leonard de Vera based on the
following grounds:

1) respondent’s alleged misrepresentation in concealing the suspension order


rendered against him by the State Bar of California; and

2) respondent’s alleged violation of the so-called “rotation rule” enunciated in


Administrative Matter No. 491 dated 06 October 1989 (in the Matter: 1989 IBP
Elections).

Complainant averred that the respondent, in appropriating for his own benefit funds due
his client, was found to have performed an act constituting moral turpitude by the
Hearing Referee Bill Dozier, Hearing Department – San Francisco, State Bar of
California in Administrative Case No. 86-0-18429. Complainant alleged that the
respondent was then forced to resign or surrender his license to practice law in the said
state in order to evade the recommended three (3) year suspension. Complainant asserted
that the respondent lacks the moral competence necessary to lead the country’s most
noble profession.

Complainant, likewise, contended that the respondent violated the so-called “rotation
rule” provided for in Administrative Matter No. 491 when he transferred to IBP Agusan
del Sur Chapter. He claimed that the respondent failed to meet the requirements outlined
in the IBP By-Laws pertaining to transfer of Chapter Membership. He surmised that the
respondent’s transfer was intended only for the purpose of becoming the next IBP
National President. Complainant prayed that the respondent be enjoined from assuming
office as IBP National President.
Meanwhile, in his Comment dated 2 May 2005, respondent stated that the issues raised in
above-mentioned Complaint were the very issues raised in an earlier administrative case
filed by the same complainant against him. In fact, according to him, the said issues were
already extensively discussed and categorically ruled upon by this Court in its Decision
dated 11 December 2005 in Administrative Case No. 6052 (In Re: Petition to Disqualify
Atty. Leonard De Vera). Respondent prayed that the instant administrative complaint be
dismissed following the principle of res judicata.

On 15 June 2005, both parties appeared before the Office of the Bar Confidant for
presentation of evidence in support of their respective allegations.

Subsequently, in a Memorandum dated 20 June 2005, complainant maintained that there


is substantial evidence showing respondent’s moral baseness, vileness and depravity,
which could be used as a basis for his disbarment. Complainant stressed that the
respondent never denied that he used his client’s money. Complainant argued that the
respondent failed to present evidence that the Supreme Court of California accepted the
latter’s resignation and even if such was accepted, complainant posited that this should
not absolve the respondent from liability.

Moreover, complainant added that the principle of res judicata would not apply in the
case at bar. He asserted that the first administrative case filed against the respondent was
one for his disqualification. x x x.

Bar Matter No. 1227

A.M. No. 05-5-15-SC

As earlier adverted to, Bar Matter No. 1227 refers to Atty. de Vera’s letter-request to this
Court to schedule his oath taking as IBP National President. A.M. No. 05-5-15-SC, on
the other hand, is a letter-report dated 19 May 2005 of IBP National President Jose
Anselmo I. Cadiz (IBP President Cadiz) furnishing this Court with the IBP’s Resolution,
dated 13 May 2005, removing Atty. De Vera as member of the IBP Board and as IBP
EVP, for committing acts inimical to the IBP Board and the IBP in general.[2]

The controversy in Bar Matter No. 1227 and A.M. No. 05-5-15-SC arose from the
regular meeting of the IBP Board of Governors held on 14 January 2005. In said
meeting, by 2/3 vote (6 voting in favor and 2 against), the IBP Board approved the
withdrawal of the Petition filed before this Court docketed as “Integrated Bar of the
Philippines, Jose Anselmo I. Cadiz, et al. vs. Senate of the Philippines, et al. – Petition
for Certiorari and Prohibition with Prayer for the Issuance of Temporary Restraining
Order or Writ of Preliminary Injunction, SC-R165108.” The Petition was intended to
question the legality and/or constitutionality of Republic Act No. 9227, authorizing the
increase in the salaries of judges and justices, and to increase filing fees.[3]

The two IBP Governors who opposed the said Resolution approving the
withdrawal of the above-described Petition were herein respondent Governor and EVP de
Vera and Governor Carlos L. Valdez.[4]

On 19 January 2005, IBP President Cadiz informed this Court of the decision taken
by the IBP Board to withdraw the afore-mentioned Petition. Attached to his letter was a
copy of the IBP Board’s 14 January 2005 Resolution.[5]

On 15 April 2005, Bar Matter No. 1227, pertaining to Atty. de Vera’s request for
oathtaking as National President, was filed. The same was subsequently consolidated
with A.C. No. 6697, the disbarment case filed against Atty. de Vera.[6]

On 22 April 2005, a plenary session was held at the 10th National IBP Convention
at the CAP-Camp John Hay Convention Center, Baguio City. It was at this forum where
Atty. de Vera allegedly made some untruthful statements, innuendos and blatant lies in
connection with the IBP Board’s Resolution to withdraw the Petition questioning the
legality of Republic Act No. 9227.[7]

On 10 May 2005, this Court issued a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO)


enjoining Atty. de Vera from assuming office as IBP National President.[8]
On 12 May 2005, IBP Gov. Romulo A. Rivera wrote IBP National President Cadiz a
letter wherein he prayed for the removal of Atty. de Vera as member of the IBP Board for
having committed acts which were inimical to the IBP Board and the IBP.[9]

On 13 May 2005, in the 20th Regular Meeting of the Board held at the Waterfront Hotel,
Cebu City, the IBP Board, by 2/3 vote, resolved to remove Atty. de Vera as member of
the IBP Board of Governors and as IBP Executive Vice President.[10] Quoted hereunder
is the dispositive portion of said Resolution:

NOW THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, AS IT IS HEREBY RESOLVED, that


Governor Leonard S. de Vera is REMOVED as a member of the IBP Board of Governors
and Executive Vice President for committing acts inimical to the IBP Board of Governors
and the IBP, to wit:

1. For making untruthful statements, innuendos and blatant lies in public about the
Supreme Court and members of the IBP Board of Governors, during the Plenary Session
of the IBP 10th National Convention of Lawyers, held at CAP-Camp John Hay
Convention Center on 22 April 2005, making it appear that the decision of the IBP Board
of Governors to withdraw the PETITION docketed as “Integrated Bar of the Philippines,
Jose Anselmo I. Cadiz, et al. vs. The Senate of the Philippines, et al., Petition for
Certiorari and Prohibition With Prayer for the Issuance of A Temporary Restraining
Order or Writ of Preliminary Injunction, S.C.-R. 165108”, was due to influence and
pressure from the Supreme Court of the Philippines;

2. For making said untruthful statements, innuendos and blatant lies that brought the
IBP Board of Governors and the IBP as a whole in public contempt and disrepute;

3. For violating Canon 11 of the Code of Professional Responsibility for Lawyers


which mandates that “A lawyer shall observe and maintain the respect due to the courts
and to judicial officers and should insist on similar conduct by others”, by making
untruthful statements, innuendos and blatant lies during the Plenary Session of the IBP
10th National Convention of Lawyers in Baguio City;
4. For instigating and provoking some IBP chapters to embarrass and humiliate the
IBP Board of Governors in order to coerce and compel the latter to pursue the aforesaid
PETITION;

5. For falsely accusing the IBP National President, Jose Anselmo I. Cadiz, during the
Plenary Session of the 10th National Convention in Baguio City of withholding from him
a copy of Supreme Court Resolution, dated 25 January 2005, granting the withdrawal of
the PETITION, thereby creating the wrong impression that the IBP National President
deliberately prevented him from taking the appropriate remedies with respect thereto,
thus compromising the reputation and integrity of the IBP National President and the IBP
as a whole.[11]

On 18 May 2005, Atty. de Vera aired his sentiments to this Court by writing the then
Hon. Chief Justice Hilario G. Davide, Jr. a letter captioned as “Urgent Plea to Correct a
Glaring Injustice of the IBP Board of Governors; Vehement Protest to the Board
Resolution Abruptly Removing Atty. Leonard de Vera from the Board of Governors in
Patent Violation of Due Process; Petition to Deny/Disapprove the Completely Unjustified
and Highly Arbitrary Resolution Precipitately Ousting Atty. de Vera from the Board of
Governors in Less Than Twenty Four (24) Hours from Notice and Judgment Without
Formal Investigation.”[12]

In the said letter, Atty. de Vera strongly and categorically denied having committed
acts inimical to the IBP and its Board. He alleged that on the basis of an unverified
letter-complaint filed by IBP Governor Rivera, the IBP Board voted to expel him
posthaste, without just cause and in complete disregard of even the minimum standards of
due process. Pertinent portions of his letter read:

It is evident that the Board of Governors has committed a grave and serious injustice
against me especially when, as the incumbent Executive Vice President of the IBP, I am
scheduled to assume my position as National President of the IBP on July 1, 2005. x x x
I was denied the very basic rights of due process recognized by the Supreme Court even
in administrative cases:

1. The denial of the right to answer the charges formally or in writing. The
complaint against me was in writing.

2. The denial of the right to answer the charges within a reasonable period of
time after receipt of the complaint.

3. The denial of the right to a fair hearing.

4. The denial of the right to confront the accuser and the witnesses against me.
I challenged Gov. Rivera to testify under oath so I could question him. He refused. I
offered to testify under oath so I could be questioned. My request was denied.

5. The denial of my right to present witnesses on my behalf.

6. The denial of my right to an impartial judge. Governor Rivera was my


accuser, prosecutor, and judge all at the same time.

7. Gov. Rivera’s prejudgment of my case becomes even more evident because


when his motion to expel me was lost in a 5-3 votes (due to his inhibition to vote), Gov.
Rivera asked for another round of voting so he can vote to support his own complaint and
motion to expel me.[13] (Emphasis and underscoring in original.)

On 27 May 2005, the IBP Board responded to the 18 May 2005 letter of Atty. de Vera.
[14] In their Reply, the IBP Board explained to this Court that their decision to remove
Atty. de Vera was based on valid grounds and was intended to protect itself from a
recalcitrant member. Among the grounds cited and elucidated by the IBP Board were the
following:

(i) Atty. de Vera engaged himself in a negative media campaign and solicited
resolutions from IBP Chapters to condemn the IBP Board of Governors for its decision to
withdraw the Petition, all with the end in view of compelling or coercing the IBP Board
of Governors to reconsider the decision to withdraw the Petition.

(ii) Atty. de Vera embarrassed, humiliated and maligned the IBP Board of
Governors and the IBP National President in public or during the Plenary Session at the
10th National Convention of Lawyers.

(iii) Rather than pacify the already agitated ‘solicited’ speakers (at the plenary
session), Atty. de Vera “fanned the fire”, so to speak, and went to the extent of making
untruthful statements, innuendos and blatant lies about the Supreme Court and some
members of the IBP Board of Governors. He deliberately and intentionally did so to
provoke the members of the IBP Board of Governors to engage him in an acrimonious
public debate and expose the IBP Board of Governors to public ridicule.

(iv) Atty. de Vera uttered untruthful statements, innuendos and blatant lies, e.g.,
that some of the members of the IBP Board of Governors voted in favor of the
withdrawal of the petition (without mentioning names) because “nakakahiya kasi sa
Supreme Court, nakakaawa kasi ang Supreme Court, kasi may mga kaibigan tayo sa
Court.” He made it appear that the IBP Board of Governors approved the resolution,
withdrawing the petition, due to “influence” or “pressure” from the Supreme Court.[15]

The IBP Board explained that Atty. de Vera’s actuation during the Plenary Session was
“the last straw that broke the camel’s back.” He committed acts inimical to the interest of
the IBP Board and the IBP; hence, the IBP Board decided to remove him.
On 3 June 2005, Atty. de Vera furnished the Court with copies of resolutions and a
position paper coming from various IBP Chapters all condemning his expulsion from the
IBP Board and as IBP EVP.[16]

On 15 June 2005, IBP President Cadiz informed Chief Justice Davide that in a special
meeting of the IBP Board held at the EDSA Shangri-la Plaza on 13 June 2005, the IBP
Board took note of the vacancy in the position of the IBP EVP brought about by Atty. de
Vera’s removal. In his stead, IBP Governor Pura Angelica Y. Santiago was formally
elected and declared as IBP EVP.[17]

On 17 June 2005, Atty. de Vera protested against the election of Atty. Santiago.[18] On
20 June 2005, Atty. Santiago voluntarily relinquished the EVP position through a letter
addressed to the IBP Board.[19] Thus, on 25 June 2005, during its last regular meeting,
the IBP Board elected a new EVP in the person of IBP Governor Jose Vicente B. Salazar
to replace Atty. Santiago.

On 28 June 2005, IBP National President Cadiz, through a letter addressed to Chief
Justice Davide, reported to this Court Atty. Salazar’s election.[20] IBP National
President Cadiz also requested, among other things, that Atty. Salazar’s election be
approved and that he be allowed to assume as National President in the event that Atty.
de Vera is disbarred or suspended from the practice of law or should his removal from the
2003-2005 Board of Governors and as EVP is approved by this Court.[21] Also on 28
June 2005, Atty. de Vera protested the election of Atty. Salazar.[22]

In his Extended Comment[23] dated 25 July 2005, Atty. de Vera maintained that there
was absolutely no factual or legal basis to sustain the motion to remove him from the IBP
Board because he violated no law. He argued that if the basis for his removal as EVP
was based on the same grounds as his removal from the IBP Board, then his removal as
EVP was likewise executed without due notice and without the least compliance with the
minimum standards of due process of law.

Atty. de Vera strongly averred that, contrary to the utterly false and malicious charges
filed against him, the speakers at the Plenary Session of the Baguio Convention, although
undeniably impassioned and articulate, were respectful in their language and
exhortations, not once undermining the stature of the IBP in general and the IBP Board of
Governors in particular. He posited that speaking in disagreement with the Resolution of
the Board during the Convention’s Plenary Session is not a valid cause to remove or
expel a duly-elected member of the IBP Board of Governors; and the decision to remove
him only shows that the right to freedom of speech or the right to dissent is not
recognized by the incumbent IBP Board.

Anent the charges that he accused the National President of withholding a copy of this
Court’s Resolution granting the withdrawal of the Petition questioning the legality of
Republic Act No. 9227, Atty. de Vera avowed that he made no such remarks. As regards
the election of a new IBP EVP, Atty. de Vera contended that the said election was illegal
as it was contrary to the provisions of the IBP By-Laws concerning national officers, to
wit:

Section. 49. Term of office. - The President and the Executive Vice President shall hold
office for a term of two years from July 1 following their election until 30 June of their
second year in office and until their successors shall have been duly chosen and qualified.

In the event the President is absent or unable to act, his functions and duties shall
be performed by the Executive Vice President, and in the event of death, resignation, or
removal of the President, the Executive Vice President shall serve as Acting President for
the unexpired portion of the term. In the event of death, resignation, removal or disability
of both the President and the Executive Vice President, the Board of Governors shall
elect an Acting President to hold office for the unexpired portion of the term or during the
period of disability.

Unless otherwise provided in these By-Laws, all other officers and employees
appointed by the President with the consent of the Board shall hold office at the pleasure
of the Board or for such term as the Board may fix.[24]

To bolster his position, Atty. de Vera stressed that when both the President and the EVP
die, resign, are removed, or are disabled, the IBP By-Laws only provides for the election
of an Acting President and that no mention for an election for EVP was made. Thus,
when such election for EVP occurs, such is contrary to the express provision of the IBP
By-Laws.
Atty. de Vera also argued that even if he were validly removed as IBP EVP, his
replacement should come from Eastern Mindanao and not from any other region, due to
the Rotation Rule embodied in par. 2, Section 47, Article VII of the IBP By-Laws.

In response to Atty. de Vera’s averments, the 2003-2005 IBP Board, through its counsel,
submitted a Reply dated 27 January 2006 and clarified as follows:

(i) The IBP Board of Governors is vested with sufficient power and authority
to protect itself from an intractable member by virtue of Article VI, Section 44 of the IBP
By-Laws;

(ii) Atty. de Vera was removed as a member of the IBP Board and as IBP EVP
not because of his disagreement with the IBP Board’s position but because of the various
acts that he committed which the IBP Board determined to be inimical to the IBP Board
and the IBP as a whole;

(iii) Atty. de Vera cannot exculpate himself from liability by invoking his
constitutional right to Free Speech because, as a member of the Bar, it is his sworn duty
to observe and maintain the respect due to the courts and to judicial officers and to insist
on similar conduct by others;

(iv) The IBP Board, in effecting the removal of Atty. de Vera, observed the
fundamental principles of due process. As the records would bear, Atty. de Vera was
duly notified of the Regular Meeting of the IBP Board held on 13 May 2004; was
furnished a copy of Governor Rivera’s Letter-Complaint the day before the said meeting;
was furnished a copy of the said Meeting’s Agenda; and was allowed to personally
defend himself and his accuser, Gov. Rivera;

(v) Atty. de Vera was validly removed because the required number of votes
under Section 44 of the IBP By-Laws to remove Atty. de Vera as a member of the IBP
Board and as IBP EVP was duly complied with;
(vi) Atty. de Vera’s replacement as IBP EVP need not come from Eastern
Mindanao Region because: (a) the rotation rule under Article VII, Section 47, par. 2 of
the IBP By-Laws had already been complied with when Atty. de Vera, who hails from
Eastern Mindanao, was elected IBP EVP; and (b) the rotation rule need not be enforced if
the same will not be practicable, possible, feasible, doable or viable; and, finally, that –

(vii) Atty. Salazar was validly elected as IBP EVP and, thus, should now be
allowed to take his oath as IBP National President.[25]

The Court’s Ruling

AC No. 6697

In his Memorandum[26] dated 20 June 2005, complainant tendered the following issues
for the consideration of the Court:

I.

WHETHER OR NOT RESPONDENT ATTORNEY LEONARD S. DEVERA (sic)


COMMITED MALPRACTICE WHICH AMOUNTED TO MORAL T[U]RPITUDE IN
THE STATE BAR OF CALIFORNIA AND IN THE PHILIPPINES, IN THE COURSE
OF HIS PRACTICE OF LAW.

II.
WHETHER OR NOT THE OATH OF OFFICE AS LAWYER IS ATTACHED TO THE
PERSON OF ATTORNEY LEONARD S. DEVERA (sic) WHEREVER HE MAY GO
AND NOT NECESSARILY BOUND BY THE TERRITORIAL JURISDICTION OF
THE PHILIPPINES.

III.

WHETHER OR NOT THERE IS SUBSTANTIAL EVIDENCE TO PROVE THE


MORAL T[U]RPITUDE, AS BASIS FOR DISBARMENT OF RESPONDENT IN AN
ADMINISTRATIVE PROCEEDING.

IV.

WHETHER OR NOT RES JUDICATA APPLIES IN THIS CASE, DUE TO ADMIN.


CASE NO. [6052][27]

The disposition of the first three related issues hinges on the resolution of the fourth
issue. Consequently, we will start with the last issue.

A.C. No. 6052 is not a bar to the filing of the present administrative case.

In disposing of the question of res judicata, the Bar Confidant opined:


To reiterate, the instant case for suspension and/or disbarment against respondent
Leonard De Vera is grounded on the following:

1) respondent’s alleged misrepresentation in concealing the suspension order


rendered against him by the State Bar in California; and

2) respondent’s alleged violation of the so-called “rotation rule” enunciated in


Administrative Matter No. 491 dated 06 October 1989 (In the Matter: 1989 IBP
Elections).

It appears that the complainant already raised the said issues in an earlier administrative
case against the respondent. Verily, these issues were already argued upon by the parties
in their respective pleadings, and discussed and ruled upon by this Court in its Decision
dated 11 December 2003 in Administrative Matter No. 6052 (In Re: Petition to
Disqualify Atty. Leonard de Vera).

As such, with respect to the first issue, this Court held that:

“As for the administrative complaint filed against him by one of his clients when he was
practicing law in California, which in turn compelled him to surrender his California
license to practice law, he maintains that it cannot serve as basis for determining his
moral qualification (or lack of it) to run for the position he is aspiring for. He explains
that there is as yet no final judgment finding him guilty of the administrative charge, as
the records relied upon by the petitioners are mere preliminary findings of a hearing
referee which are recommendatory findings of an IBP Commissioner on Bar Discipline
which are subject to the review of and the final decision of the Supreme Court. He also
stresses that the complainant in the California administrative case has retracted the
accusation that he misappropriated the complainant’s money, but unfortunately the
retraction was not considered by the investigating officer. xxx”

“On the administrative complaint that was filed against respondent De Vera while he was
still practicing law in California, he explained that no final judgment was rendered by the
California Supreme Court finding him guilty of the charge. He surrendered his license to
protest the discrimination he suffered at the hands of the investigator and he found it
impractical to pursue the case to the end. We find these explanations satisfactory in the
absence of contrary proof. It is a basic rule on evidence that he who alleges a fact has the
burden to prove the same. In this case, the petitioners have not shown how the
administrative complaint affects respondent De Vera's moral fitness to run for governor.

On the other hand, as regards the second issue:

“Petitioners contend that respondent de Vera is disqualified for the post because he is not
really from Eastern Mindanao. His place of residence is in Parañaque and he was
originally a member of the PPLM IBP Chapter. He only changed his IBP Chapter
membership to pave the way for his ultimate goal of attaining the highest IBP post, which
is the national presidency. Petitioners aver that in changing his IBP membership,
respondent De Vera violated the domicile rule.

The contention has no merit. Under the last paragraph of Section 19, Article II, a lawyer
included in the Roll of Attorneys of the Supreme Court can register with the particular
IBP Chapter of his preference or choice, thus:

xxx

It is clearly stated in the aforequoted section of the By-Laws that it is not automatic that a
lawyer will become a member of the chapter where his place of residence or work is
located. He has the discretion to choose the particular chapter where he wishes to gain
membership. Only when he does not register his preference that he will become a
member of the Chapter of the place where he resides or maintains office. The only
proscription in registering one's preference is that a lawyer cannot be a member of more
than one chapter at the same time.

The same is provided in Section 29-2 of the IBP By-Laws. In fact, under this Section,
transfer of IBP membership is allowed as long as the lawyer complies with the conditions
set forth therein, thus:

xxx
The only condition required under the foregoing rule is that the transfer must be made not
less than three months prior to the election of officers in the chapter to which the lawyer
wishes to transfer.

In the case at bar, respondent De Vera requested the transfer of his IBP membership to
Agusan del Sur on 1 August 2001. One month thereafter, IBP National Secretary Jaime
M. Vibar wrote a letter addressed to Atty. Amador Z. Tolentino, Jr., Secretary of IBP
PPLM Chapter and Atty. Lyndon J. Romero, Secretary of IBP Agusan del Sur Chapter,
informing them of respondent de Vera's transfer and advising them to make the necessary
notation in their respective records. This letter is a substantial compliance with the
certification mentioned in Section 29-2 as aforequoted. Note that de Vera's transfer was
made effective sometime between 1 August 2001 and 3 September 2001. On 27
February 2003, the elections of the IBP Chapter Officers were simultaneously held all
over the Philippines, as mandated by Section 29.a of the IBP By-Laws which provides
that elections of Chapter Officers and Directors shall be held on the last Saturday of
February of every other year. Between 3 September 2001 and 27 February 2003,
seventeen months had elapsed. This makes respondent de Vera's transfer valid as it was
done more than three months ahead of the chapter elections held on 27 February 2003.

In the case of Romulo G. Dinsay vs. Atty. Leopoldo D. Cioco (Administrative Case No.
2995, 27 November 1996), this Court declared that:

“The doctrine of res judicata applies only to judicial or quasi-judicial proceedings and not
to the exercise of the [Court’s] administrative powers.”

In the said case, respondent Clerk of Court Cioco was dismissed from service for
grave misconduct highly prejudicial to the service for surreptitiously substituting the bid
price in a Certificate of Sale from P3,263,182.67 to only P730,000.00. Thereafter a
complaint for disbarment was filed against the respondent on the basis of the same
incident. Respondent, interposing res judicata, argued that he may no longer be charged
on the basis of the same incident. This Court held that while the respondent is in effect
being indicted twice for the same misconduct, this does not amount to double jeopardy as
both proceedings are admittedly administrative in nature. This Court qualified that, in the
first case, the respondent was proceeded against as an erring court personnel under the
Court’s supervisory power over courts while, in the second case, he was disciplined as a
lawyer under the Court’s plenary authority over membersof the legal profession.
In subsequent decisions of this Court, however, it appears that res judicata still
applies in administrative cases. Thus, in the case of Atty. Eduardo C. De Vera vs. Judge
William Layague (Administrastive Matter No. RTJ-93-986), this Court ruled that:

“While double jeopardy does not lie in administrative cases, it would be contrary to
equity and substantial justice to penalize respondent judge a second time for an act which
he had already answered for.”

Likewise, in the recent case of Executive Judge Henry B. Basilia vs. Judge Amado L.
Becamon, Lolita Delos Reyes and Eddie Delos Reyes (Administrative Matter No. MTJ-
02-1404, 14 December 2004), this Court held that:

“Applying the principle of res judicata or bar by prior judgment, the present
administrative case becomes dismissible.

xxx

Under the said doctrine, a matter that has been adjudicated by a court of competent
jurisdiction must be deemed to have been finally and conclusively settled if it arises in
any subsequent litigation between the same parties and for the same cause. It provides
that

[a] final judgment on the merits rendered by a court of competent jurisdiction is


conclusive as to the rights of the parties and their privies; and constitutes an absolute bar
to subsequent actions involving the same claim, demand, or cause of action. Res judicata
is based on the ground that the party to be affected, or some other with whom he is in
privity, has litigated the same matter in the former action in a court of competent
jurisdiction, and should not be permitted to litigate it again.
This principle frees the parties from undergoing all over again the rigors of unnecessary
suits and repetitious trials. At the same time, it prevents the clogging of court dockets.
Equally important, res judicata stabilizes rights and promotes the rule of law.”

In the instant administrative case, it is clear that the issues raised by the complainant had
already been resolved by this Court in an earlier administrative case. The complainant’s
contention that the principle of res judicata would not apply in the case at bar as the first
administrative case was one for disqualification while the instant administrative
complaint is one for suspension and/or disbarment should be given least credence. It is
worthy to note that while the instant administrative complaint is denominated as one for
suspension and/or disbarment, it prayed neither the suspension nor the disbarment of the
respondent but instead merely sought to enjoin the respondent from assuming office as
IBP National President.[28]

Contrary to the findings of the Bar Confidant, Adm. Case No. 6052 entitled, “In Re:
Petition to Disqualify Atty. Leonard de Vera, on Legal and Moral Grounds, From Being
Elected IBP Governor for Eastern Mindanao in the May 31 IBP Election” and
promulgated on 11 December 2003 does not constitute a bar to the filing of Adm. Case
No. 6697. Although the parties in the present administrative case and in Adm. Case No.
6052 are identical, their capacities in these cases and the issues presented therein are not
the same, thereby barring the application of res judicata.

In order that the principle of res judicata may be made to apply, four essential conditions
must concur, namely: (1) the judgment sought to bar the new action must be final; (2) the
decision must have been rendered by a court having jurisdiction over the subject matter
and the parties; (3) the disposition of the case must be a judgment or order on the merits,
and (4) there must be between the first and second action identity of parties, identity of
subject matter, and identity of causes of action.[29] In the absence of any one of these
elements, Atty. de Vera cannot argue res judicata in his favor.

It is noteworthy that the two administrative cases involve different subject matters
and causes of action. In Adm. Case No. 6052, the subject matter was the qualification of
Atty. de Vera to run as a candidate for the position of IBP Governor for Eastern
Mindanao. In the present administrative complaint, the subject matter is his privilege to
practice law. In the first administrative case, complainants’ cause of action was Atty. de
Vera’s alleged violation or circumvention of the IBP By-laws. In the present
administrative case, the primary cause of action is Atty. de Vera’s alleged violation of
lawyer’s oath and the Code of Professional Responsibility.

Finally, the two administrative cases do not seek the same relief. In the first case,
the complainants sought to prevent Atty. de Vera from assuming his post as IBP
Governor for Eastern Mindanao. In the present case, as clarified by complainant in his
Memorandum, what is being principally sought is Atty. de Vera’s suspension or
disbarment.

The distinctions between the two cases are far from trivial. The previous case was
resolved on the basis of the parties’ rights and obligations under the IBP By-laws. We
held therein that Atty. de Vera cannot be disqualified from running as Regional Governor
as there is nothing in the present IBP By-laws that sanctions the disqualification of
candidates for IBP governors. Consequently, we stressed that the petition had no firm
ground to stand on. Likewise, we held that the complainants therein were not the proper
parties to bring the suit as the IBP By-laws prescribes that only nominees - which the
complainants were not - can file with the IBP President a written protest against the
candidate. The Court’s statement, therefore, that Atty. de Vera cannot be disqualified on
the ground that he was not morally fit was mere obiter dictum. Precisely, the IBP By-
laws do not allow for pre-election disqualification proceedings; hence, Atty. de Vera
cannot be disqualified on the basis of the administrative findings of a hearing officer of
the State Bar of California suspending him from the practice of law for three years. We
held in that case that –

There is nothing in the By-Laws which explicitly provides that one must be morally fit
before he can run for IBP governorship. For one, this is so because the determination of
moral fitness of a candidate lies in the individual judgment of the members of the House
of Delegates. Indeed, based on each member's standard of morality, he is free to nominate
and elect any member, so long as the latter possesses the basic requirements under the
law. For another, basically the disqualification of a candidate involving lack of moral
fitness should emanate from his disbarment or suspension from the practice of law by this
Court, or conviction by final judgment of an offense which involves moral turpitude.[30]

What this simply means is that absent a final judgment by the Supreme Court in a proper
case declaring otherwise, every lawyer aspiring to hold the position of IBP Regional
Director is presumed morally fit. Any person who begs to disagree will not be able to
find a receptive audience in the IBP through a petition for disqualification but must first
file the necessary disbarment or suspension proceeding against the lawyer concerned.

And this is precisely what complainant has chosen to do in the instant case. As his
petition is sufficient in form and substance, we have given it due course pursuant to Rule
138 of the Rules of Court. And, considering that this case is not barred by the prior
judgment in Adm. Case No. 6052, the only issue left for consideration is whether or not
Atty. de Vera can be suspended or disbarred under the facts of the case and the evidence
submitted by complainant.

The recommendation of the hearing officer of the State Bar of California, standing alone,
is not proof of malpractice.

In the case of the Suspension From The Practice of Law In The Territory of Guam of
Atty. Leon G. Maquera,[31] we were confronted with the question of whether or not a
member of the Philippine Bar, who is concomitantly an attorney in a foreign jurisdiction
and who was suspended from the practice of law in said foreign jurisdiction, can be
sanctioned as member of the Philippine Bar for the same infraction committed in the
foreign jurisdiction.

We take the issue in Atty. Maquera one notch higher in the case of Atty. de Vera who
was admitted to the practice of law in a foreign jurisdiction (State Bar of California,
U.S.A.) and against whom charges were filed in connection with his practice in said
jurisdiction. However, unlike the case of Atty. Maquera, no final judgment for
suspension or disbarment was meted against Atty. de Vera despite a recommendation of
suspension of three years as he surrendered his license to practice law before his case
could be taken up by the Supreme Court of California.

In Maquera, we emphasized that the judgment of suspension against a Filipino lawyer in


a foreign jurisdiction does not automatically result in his suspension or disbarment in the
Philippines as the acts giving rise to his suspension are not grounds for disbarment and
suspension in this jurisdiction. Judgment of suspension against a Filipino lawyer may
transmute into a similar judgment of suspension in the Philippines only if the basis of the
foreign court’s action includes any of the grounds for disbarment or suspension in this
jurisdiction. We likewise held that the judgment of the foreign court merely constitutes
prima facie evidence of unethical acts as lawyer.

The Maquera ruling is consistent with Rule 39, Section 48, of the Rules of Court which
provides:

Sec. 48. Effect of foreign judgments or final orders. - The effect of a judgment or
final order of a tribunal of a foreign country, having jurisdiction to render the judgment or
final order is as follows:

xxxx

(b) In case of a judgment or final order against a person, the judgment or final order
is presumptive evidence of a right as between the parties and their successors in interest
by a subsequent title.

In either case, the judgment or final order may be repelled by evidence of a want of
jurisdiction, want of notice to the party, collusion, fraud, or clear mistake of law or fact.

In Philippine Aluminum Wheels, Inc. v. Fasgi Enterprises, Inc.,[32] we explained that


“[a] foreign judgment is presumed to be valid and binding in the country from which it
comes, until a contrary showing, on the basis of a presumption of regularity of
proceedings and the giving of due notice in the foreign forum.”

In herein case, considering that there is technically no foreign judgment to speak of, the
recommendation by the hearing officer of the State Bar of California does not constitute
prima facie evidence of unethical behavior by Atty. de Vera. Complainant must prove by
substantial evidence the facts upon which the recommendation by the hearing officer was
based. If he is successful in this, he must then prove that these acts are likewise unethical
under Philippine law.

There is substantial evidence of malpractice on the part of Atty. de Vera independent of


the recommendation of suspension by the hearing officer of the State Bar of California

Section 27 of Rule 138 of our Rules of Court states:

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 wilful disobedience of any lawful order of a superior court, or for
corruptly or wilfully appearing as an attorney for a party to a case without authority so to
do. The practice of soliciting cases at law for the purpose of gain, either personally or
through paid agents or brokers, constitutes malpractice.

The disbarment or suspension of a member of the Philippine Bar by a competent court or


other disciplinary agency in a foreign jurisdiction where he has also been admitted as an
attorney is a ground for his disbarment or suspension if the basis of such action includes
any of the acts hereinabove enumerated.

The judgment, resolution or order of the foreign court or disciplinary agency shall be
prima facie evidence of the ground for disbarment or suspension.[33]

Disciplinary action against a lawyer is intended to protect the court and the public from
the misconduct of officers of the court and to protect the administration of justice by
requiring that those who exercise this important function shall be competent, honorable
and reliable men in whom courts and clients may repose confidence.[34] The statutory
enunciation of the grounds for disbarment on suspension is not to be taken as a limitation
on the general power of courts to suspend or disbar a lawyer. The inherent power of the
court over its officers cannot be restricted.[35]

Malpractice ordinarily refers to any malfeasance or dereliction of duty committed by a


lawyer. Section 27 gives a special and technical meaning to the term “Malpractice.”[36]
That meaning is in consonance with the elementary notion that the practice of law is a
profession, not a business.[37]

Unprofessional conduct in an attorney is that which violates the rules on ethical code of
his profession or which is unbecoming a member of that profession.[38]

Now, the undisputed facts:

1. An administrative case against Atty. de Vera was filed before the State Bar
of California, docketed then as Adm. Case No. 86-0-18429. It arose from an insurance
case Atty. de Vera handled involving Julius Willis, III who figured in an automobile
accident in 1986. Atty. de Vera was authorized by the elder Willis (father of Julius who
was given authority by the son to control the case because the latter was then studying in
San Diego California) for the release of the funds in settlement of the case. Atty. de Vera
received a check in settlement of the case which he then deposited to his personal
account;[39]

2. The Hearing referee in the said administrative case recommended that Atty.
de Vera be suspended from the practice of law for three years;[40] and

3. Atty. de Vera resigned from the California Bar which resignation was
accepted by the Supreme Court of California.[41]

Atty. de Vera vehemently insists that the foregoing facts do not prove that he
misappropriated his client’s funds as the latter’s father (the elder Willis) gave him
authority to use the same and that, unfortunately, the hearing officer did not consider this
explanation notwithstanding the fact that the elder Willis testified under oath that he
“expected de Vera might use the money for a few days.”

By insisting that he was authorized by his client’s father and attorney-in-fact to use the
funds, Atty. de Vera has impliedly admitted the use of the Willis funds for his own
personal use.

In fact, Atty. de Vera did not deny complainant’s allegation in the latter’s memorandum
that he (de Vera) received US$12,000.00 intended for his client and that he deposited said
amount in his personal account and not in a separate trust account and that, finally, he
spent the amount for personal purposes.[42]

At this point, it bears stressing that in cases filed before administrative and quasi-judicial
bodies, a fact may be deemed established if it is supported by substantial evidence or that
amount of relevant evidence which a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to justify
a conclusion.[43] It means such evidence which affords a substantial basis from which
the fact in issue can be reasonably inferred.[44]

Beyond doubt, the unauthorized use by a lawyer of his client’s funds is highly unethical.
Canon 16 of the Code of Professional Responsibility is emphatic about this, thus:

CANON 16. A LAWYER SHALL HOLD IN TRUST ALL MONEYS AND


PROPERTIES OF HIS CLIENT THAT MAY COME TO HIS POSSESSION.

Rule 16.01. A lawyer shall account for all money or property collected or received for
or from the client.

Rule 16.02. A lawyer shall keep the funds of each client separate and apart from his
own and those of others kept by him.
In Espiritu v. Ulep[45] we held that –

The relation between attorney and client is highly fiduciary in nature. Being such, it
requires utmost good faith, loyalty, fidelity and disinterestedness on the part of the
attorney. Its fiduciary nature is intended for the protection of the client.

The Code of Professional Responsibility mandates every lawyer to hold in trust all
money and properties of his client that may come into his possession. Accordingly, he
shall account for all money or property collected or received for or from the client. Even
more specific is the Canon of Professional Ethics:

The lawyer should refrain from any action whereby for his personal benefit or gain he
abuses or takes advantage of the confidence reposed in him by his client.

Money of the client or collected for the client or other trust property coming into the
possession of the lawyer should be reported and accounted for promptly and should not
under any circumstances be commingled with his own or be used by him.

Consequently, a lawyer's failure to return upon demand the funds or property held by him
on behalf of his client gives rise to the presumption that he has appropriated the same for
his own use to the prejudice of, and in violation of the trust reposed in him by, his client.
It is a gross violation of general morality as well as of professional ethics; it impairs the
public confidence in the legal profession and deserves punishment.

Lawyers who misappropriate the funds entrusted to them are in gross violation of
professional ethics and are guilty of betrayal of public confidence in the legal profession.
Those who are guilty of such infraction may be disbarred or suspended indefinitely from
the practice of law. (Emphases supplied.)
In herein case, as it is admitted by Atty. de Vera himself that he used his client’s money
for personal use, he has unwittingly sealed his own fate since this admission constitutes
more than substantial evidence of malpractice. Consequently, Atty. de Vera now has the
burden of rebutting the evidence which he himself supplied.

In his defense, Atty. de Vera claims that he was duly authorized by the elder Willis
to use the funds intended for the latter’s son. Atty. de Vera also points out that he had
restituted the full amount of US$12,000.00 even before the filing of the administrative
case against him in the State Bar of California.[46]

Aside from these self-serving statements, however, we cannot find anywhere in the
records of this case proof that indeed Atty. de Vera was duly authorized to use the funds
of his client. In Radjaie v. Atty. Alovera[47] we declared that –

When the integrity of a member of the bar is challenged, it is not enough that he denies
the charges against him; he must meet the issue and overcome the evidence against him.
He must show proof that he still maintains that degree of morality and integrity which at
all times is expected of him.

Atty. de Vera cannot rely on the statement made by the hearing officer that the
elder Willis had indeed testified that he “expected de Vera might use the money for a few
days.” As Atty. de Vera had vigorously objected to the admissibility of the document
containing this statement, he is now estopped from relying thereon. Besides, that the
elder Willis “expected de Vera might use the money for a few days” was not so much an
acknowledgment of consent to the use by Atty. de Vera of his client’s funds as it was an
acceptance of the probability that Atty. de Vera might, indeed, use his client’s funds,
which by itself did not speak well of the character of Atty. de Vera or the way such
character was perceived.

In the instant case, the act of Atty. de Vera in holding on to his client’s money
without the latter’s acquiescence is conduct indicative of lack of integrity and propriety.
It is clear that Atty. de Vera, by depositing the check in his own account and using the
same for his own benefit is guilty of deceit, malpractice, gross misconduct and unethical
behavior. He caused dishonor, not only to himself but to the noble profession to which
he belongs. For, it cannot be denied that the respect of litigants to the profession is
inexorably diminished whenever a member of the profession betrays their trust and
confidence.[48] Respondent violated his oath to conduct himself with all good fidelity to
his client.

Nevertheless, we do not agree with complainant’s plea to disbar respondent from


the practice of law. The power to disbar must be exercised with great caution.[49]
Where any lesser penalty can accomplish the end desired, disbarment should not be
decreed.

In Mortera v. Pagatpatan,[50] we imposed upon Atty. Pagatpatan two years


suspension from his practice of law for depositing the funds meant for his client to his
personal account without the latter’s knowledge. In Reyes v. Maglaya;[51] Castillo v.
Taguines;[52] Espiritu v. Atty. Cabredo IV,[53] the respondents were meted one year
suspension each for failing to remit to their clients monies in the amounts of P1,500.00;
P500.00, and P51,161.00, respectively, received by them for their clients without the
latter’s permission. In Dumadag v. Atty. Lumaya,[54] we indefinitely suspended
respondent for failure to remit to his client the amount of the measly sum of P4,344.00
representing the amount received pursuant to a writ of execution. Considering the
amount involved here – US$12,000.00, we believe that the penalty of suspension for two
(2) years is appropriate.

Transferring IBP membership to a chapter where the lawyer is not a resident of is not a
ground for his suspension or disbarment

Complainant insists that Atty. de Vera’s transfer of membership from the Pasay,
Parañaque, Las Piñas and Muntinlupa (PPLM) Chapter to the Agusan del Sur IBP
Chapter is a circumvention of the rotation rule as it was made for the sole purpose of
becoming IBP National President. Complainant stresses that Atty. de Vera is not a
resident of Agusan del Sur nor does he hold office therein.
In Adm. Case No. 6052, we held that Atty. de Vera’s act of transferring to another IBP
Chapter is not a ground for his disqualification for the post of IBP Governor as the same
is allowed under Section 19 of the IBP By-Laws with the qualification only that the
transfer be made not less than three months immediately preceding any chapter election.

As it was perfectly within Atty. de Vera’s right to transfer his membership, it cannot be
said that he is guilty of unethical conduct or behavior. And while one may incessantly
argue that a legal act may not necessarily be ethical, in herein case, we do not see
anything wrong in transferring to an IBP chapter that -- based on the rotation rule – will
produce the next IBP EVP who will automatically succeed to the National Presidency for
the next term. Our Code of Professional Responsibility as well as the Lawyer’s Oath do
not prohibit nor punish lawyers from aspiring to be IBP National President and from
doing perfectly legal acts in accomplishing such goal.

Bar Matter No. 1227

Administrative Matter No. 05-5-15-SC

To resolve Bar Matter No. 1227 and Administrative Matter No. 05-5- 15-SC, the
following issues must be addressed:

I. Whether the IBP Board of Governors acted with grave abuse of discretion in
removing Atty. de Vera as Governor and EVP of the IBP on 13 May 2005.

i. Whether the IBP Board of Governors


complied with administrative due process in removing Atty. de Vera.

ii. Whether the IBP removed Atty. De Vera for


just and valid cause.

II. Whether Governor Salazar was validly elected as EVP of the IBP on 25 June
2005, and can consequently assume the Presidency of the IBP for the term 2005-2007.
The IBP Board observed due process in its removal of Atty. de Vera as IBP Governor

We start the discussion with the veritable fact that the IBP Board is vested with the power
to remove any of its members pursuant to Section 44, Article VI of the IBP By-Laws,
which states:

Sec. 44. Removal of members. – If the Board of Governors should determine after
proper inquiry that any of its members, elective or otherwise, has for any reason become
unable to perform his duties, the Board, by resolution of the Majority of the remaining
members, may declare his position vacant, subject to the approval of the Supreme Court.

Any member of the Board, elective or otherwise, may be removed for cause, including
three consecutive absences from Board meetings without justifiable excuse, by resolution
adopted by two-thirds of the remaining members of the Board, subject to the approval of
the Supreme Court.

In case of any vacancy in the office of Governor for whatever cause, the delegates from
the region shall by majority vote, elect a successor from among the members of the
Chapter to which the resigned governor is a member to serve as governor for the
unexpired portion of the term. (Emphasis supplied)

Under the aforementioned section, a member of the IBP Board may be removed for
cause by resolution adopted by two-thirds (2/3) of the remaining members of the Board,
subject to the approval of this Court.
In the main, Atty. de Vera questions his removal from the Board of Governors on
procedural and substantive grounds. He argues that he was denied “very basic rights of
due process recognized by the Honorable Court even in administrative cases” like the
right to answer formally or in writing and within reasonable time, the right to present
witnesses in his behalf, the right to a fair hearing. Atty. de Vera protests the fact that he
was not able to cross-examine the complainant, IBP Gov. Romulo H. Rivera (Atty.
Rivera) and that Atty. Rivera voted as well for his expulsion which made him accuser,
prosecutor and judge at the same time. Atty. de Vera emphasized the fact that Atty.
Rivera initially inhibited himself from voting on his own motion. However, when his
inhibition resulted in the defeat of his motion as the necessary 2/3 votes could not be
mustered, Atty. Rivera asked for another round of voting so he could vote to support his
own motion.

The IBP Board counters that since its members were present during the plenary session,
and personally witnessed and heard Atty. de Vera’s actuations, an evidentiary or formal
hearing was no longer necessary. Since they all witnessed and heard Atty. de Vera, it
was enough that he was given an opportunity to refute and answer all the charges
imputed against him. They emphasized that Atty. de Vera was given a copy of the
complaint and that he was present at the Board Meeting on 13 May 2005 wherein the
letter-complaint against him was part of the agenda. Therein, he was given the
opportunity to be heard and that, in fact, Atty. de Vera did argue his case.

We are in agreement with the IBP Board.

First, it needs stressing that the constitutional provision on due process safeguards
life, liberty and property.[55] It cannot be said that the position of EVP of the IBP is
property within the constitutional sense especially since there is no right to security of
tenure over said position as, in fact, all that is required to remove any member of the
board of governors for cause is a resolution adopted by 2/3 of the remaining members of
the board.

Secondly, even if the right of due process could be rightfully invoked, still, in
administrative proceedings, the essence of due process is simply the opportunity to
explain one’s side.[56] At the outset, it is here emphasized that the term “due process of
law” as used in the Constitution has no fixed meaning for all purposes due “to the very
nature of the doctrine which, asserting a fundamental principle of justice rather than a
specific rule of law, is not susceptible of more than one general statement.”[57] The
phrase is so elusive of exact apprehension,[58] because it depends on circumstances and
varies with the subject matter and the necessities of the situation.[59]

Due process of law in administrative cases is not identical with “judicial process”
for a trial in court is not always essential to due process. While a day in court is a matter
of right in judicial proceedings, it is otherwise in administrative proceedings since they
rest upon different principles. The due process clause guarantees no particular form of
procedure and its requirements are not technical. Thus, in certain proceedings of
administrative character, the right to a notice or hearing are not essential to due process of
law. The constitutional requirement of due process is met by a fair hearing before a
regularly established administrative agency or tribunal. It is not essential that hearings be
had before the making of a determination if thereafter, there is available trial and tribunal
before which all objections and defenses to the making of such determination may be
raised and considered. One adequate hearing is all that due process requires. What is
required for “hearing” may differ as the functions of the administrative bodies differ.[60]

The right to cross-examine is not an indispensable aspect of due process.[61] Nor is


an actual hearing always essential[62] especially under the factual milieu of this case
where the members of the IBP Board -- upon whose shoulders the determination of the
cause for removal of an IBP governor is placed subject to the approval of the Supreme
Court – all witnessed Atty. de Vera’s actuations in the IBP National Convention in
question.

It is undisputed that Atty. de Vera received a copy of the complaint against him and
that he was present when the matter was taken up. From the transcript of the
stenographic notes of the 13 May 2005 meeting wherein Atty. de Vera was removed, it is
patent that Atty. de Vera was given fair opportunity to defend himself against the
accusations made by Atty. Rivera.

Atty. de Vera, however, additionally questions the fact that Atty. Rivera, who
authored the complaint against him, also voted for his expulsion making him accuser,
prosecutor and judge at the same time. Atty. de Vera likewise laments the fact that Atty.
Rivera initially inhibited himself from voting but when this resulted in the defeat of his
motion for lack of the necessary 2/3 vote, he agreed to another round of voting and that,
this time, he voted in favor of his motion.
For the record, of the nine governors comprising the IBP Board, six voted for Atty. de
Vera’s expulsion (including Atty. Rivera) while 3 voted against it (including Atty. de
Vera).

Section 44 (second paragraph) of the IBP By-Laws provides:

Any member of the Board, elective or otherwise, may be removed for cause, including
three consecutive absences from Board meetings without justifiable excuse, by resolution
adopted by two-thirds of the remaining members of the Board, subject to the approval of
the Supreme Court. (Emphasis supplied.)

Under the rules, a resolution for expulsion of an IBP Governor is done via a
resolution adopted by 2/3 of the remaining members. The phrase “remaining members”
refers to the members exclusive of the complainant member and the respondent member.
The reason therefore is that such members are interested parties and are thus presumed to
be unable to resolve said motion impartially. This being the case, the votes of Attys.
Rivera and de Vera should be stricken-off which means that only the votes of the seven
remaining members are to be counted. Of the seven remaining members, five voted for
expulsion while two voted against it which still adds up to the 2/3 vote requirement for
expulsion.

The IBP Board removed Atty. de Vera as IBP Governor for just and valid cause

All the concerned parties to this case agree that what constitutes cause for the removal of
an IBP Governor has not been defined by Section 44 of the IBP By-Laws albeit it
includes three consecutive absences from Board meetings without justifiable excuse.
Thus, the IBP Board argues that it is vested with sufficient power and authority to protect
itself from an intractable member whose removal was caused not by his disagreement
with the IBP Board but due to various acts committed by him which the IBP Board
considered as inimical to the IBP Board in particular and the IBP in general.
Atty. de Vera, on the other hand, insists that speaking in disagreement with the
Resolution of the Board during the Convention’s Plenary Session is not a valid cause to
remove or expel a duly-elected member of the IBP Board of Governors and the decision
to remove him only shows that the right to freedom of speech or the right to dissent is not
recognized by the IBP Board.

After weighing the arguments of the parties and in keeping with the fundamental
objective of the IBP to discharge its public responsibility more effectively, we hereby
find that Atty. de Vera’s removal from the IBP Board was not capricious or arbitrary.

Indubitably, conflicts and disagreements of varying degrees of intensity, if not animosity,


are inherent in the internal life of an organization, but especially of the IBP since lawyers
are said to disagree before they agree.

However, the effectiveness of the IBP, like any other organization, is diluted if the
conflicts are brought outside its governing body for then there would be the impression
that the IBP, which speaks through the Board of Governors, does not and cannot speak
for its members in an authoritative fashion. It would accordingly diminish the IBP’s
prestige and repute with the lawyers as well as with the general public.

As a means of self-preservation, internecine conflicts must thus be adjusted within


the governing board itself so as to free it from the stresses that invariably arise when
internal cleavages are made public.

The doctrine of majority rule is almost universally used as a mechanism for


adjusting and resolving conflicts and disagreements within the group after the members
have been given an opportunity to be heard. While it does not efface conflicts,
nonetheless, once a decision on a contentious matter is reached by a majority vote, the
dissenting minority is bound thereby so that the board can speak with one voice, for those
elected to the governing board are deemed to implicitly contract that the will of the
majority shall govern in matters within the authority of the board.[63]
The IBP Board, therefore, was well within its right in removing Atty. de Vera as
the latter’s actuations during the 10th National IBP Convention were detrimental to the
role of the IBP Board as the governing body of the IBP. When the IBP Board is not seen
by the bar and the public as a cohesive unit, it cannot effectively perform its duty of
helping the Supreme Court enforce the code of legal ethics and the standards of legal
practice as well as improve the administration of justice.

In view of the importance of retaining group cohesiveness and unity, the expulsion
of a member of the board who insists on bringing to the public his disagreement with a
policy/resolution approved by the majority after due discussion, cannot be faulted. The
effectiveness of the board as a governing body will be negated if its pronouncements are
resisted in public by a board member.

Indeed, when a member of a governing body cannot accept the voice of the
majority, he should resign therefrom so that he could criticize in public the majority
opinion/decision to his heart’s content; otherwise, he subjects himself to disciplinary
action by the body.

The removal of Atty. de Vera as member of the Board of Governors ipso facto meant his
removal as EVP as well

The removal of Atty. de Vera as member of the Board of Governors ipso facto
meant his removal as EVP as well. Section 47, Article VII of the By-Laws of the IBP
provides:

SEC. 47. National Officers. – The Integrated Bar of the Philippines shall have a
President and Executive Vice President to be chosen by the Board of Governors from
among nine (9) regional governors, as much as practicable, on a rotation basis. x x x
Thus, to be EVP of the IBP, one must necessarily be a member of IBP Board of
Governors. Atty. de Vera’s removal from the Board of Governors, automatically
disqualified him from acting as IBP EVP. To insist otherwise would be contrary to
Section 47 of the IBP By-Laws.

The Court will not interfere with the Resolution of the IBP Board to remove Atty. de
Vera since it was rendered without grave abuse of discretion

While it is true that the Supreme Court has been granted an extensive power of
supervision over the IBP,[64] it is axiomatic that such power should be exercised
prudently. The power of supervision of the Supreme Court over the IBP should not
preclude the IBP from exercising its reasonable discretion especially in the administration
of its internal affairs governed by the provisions of its By-Laws. The IBP By-Laws were
precisely drafted and promulgated so as to define the powers and functions of the IBP
and its officers, establish its organizational structure, and govern relations and
transactions among its officers and members. With these By-Laws in place, the Supreme
Court could be assured that the IBP shall be able to carry on its day-to-day affairs,
without the Court’s interference.

It should be noted that the general charge of the affairs and activities of the IBP has
been vested in the Board of Governors. The members of the Board are elective and
representative of each of the nine regions of the IBP as delineated in its By-Laws.[65]
The Board acts as a collegiate body and decides in accordance with the will of the
majority. The foregoing rules serve to negate the possibility of the IBP Board acting on
the basis of personal interest or malice of its individual members. Hence, the actions and
resolutions of the IBP Board deserve to be accorded the disputable presumption[66] of
validity, which shall continue, until and unless it is overcome by substantial evidence and
actually declared invalid by the Supreme Court. In the absence of any allegation and
substantial proof that the IBP Board has acted without or in excess of its authority or with
grave abuse of discretion, we shall not be persuaded to overturn and set aside the Board’s
action or resolution.

There is no question that the IBP Board has the authority to remove its members as
provided in Article VI, Section 44[67] of the IBP By-Laws. Issue arises only as to
whether the IBP Board abused its authority and discretion in resolving to remove Atty. de
Vera from his post as an IBP Governor and EVP. As has been previously established
herein, Atty. de Vera’s removal from the IBP Board was in accordance with due process
and the IBP Board acted well within the authority and discretion granted to it by its By-
Laws. There being no grave abuse of discretion on the part of the IBP Board, we find no
reason to interfere in the Board’s resolution to remove Atty. de Vera.

The election of Atty. Salazar by the IBP Board as IBP EVP in replacement of Atty. De
Vera was conducted in accordance with the authority granted to the Board by the IBP By-
Laws

In the same manner, we find no reason to disturb the action taken by the 2003-2005 IBP
Board of Governors in holding a special election to fill-in the vacant post resulting from
the removal of Atty. de Vera as EVP of the IBP since the same is a purely internal matter,
done without grave abuse of discretion, and implemented without violating the Rules and
By-Laws of the IBP.

With the removal of Atty. de Vera from the Board, by virtue of the IBP Board Resolution
dated 13 May 2005, he was also removed from his post as EVP; thus, there was a
resultant vacancy in the position of IBP EVP.

Article VI, Section 41(g) of the IBP By-Laws expressly grants to the Board the
authority to fill vacancies, however arising, in the IBP positions, subject to the provisions
of Section 8 of the Integration Rule,[68] and Section 11 (Vacancies),[69] Section 44
(Removal of members),[70] Section 47 (National officers),[71] Section 48 (other
officers),[72] and Section 49 (Terms of Office)[73] of the By-Laws. The IBP Board has
specific and sufficient guidelines in its Rules and By-Laws on how to fill-in the vacancies
after the removal of Atty. de Vera. We have faith and confidence in the intellectual,
emotional and ethical competencies of the remaining members of the 2005-2007 Board in
dealing with the situation within the bounds of the IBP Rules and By-Laws.

The election by the 2003-2005 IBP Board of Governors of a new EVP, who will assume
the Presidency for the term 2005-2007, was well within the authority and prerogative
granted to the Board by the IBP By-Laws, particularly Article VII, Section 47, which
provides that “[t]he EVP shall automatically become President for the next succeeding
term.” The phrase “for the next succeeding term” necessarily implies that the EVP that
should succeed Atty. Cadiz as IBP President for the next succeeding term (i.e., 2005-
2007) should come from the members of the 2003-2005 IBP Board of Governors. Hence,
in A.M. No. 05-7-19-SC, we restrained now IBP EVP Feliciano Bautista from assuming
the position of Acting President because we have yet to resolve the question as to who
shall succeed Atty. Cadiz from the 2003-2005 IBP Board of Governors.

Accordingly, the elections of Governor Santiago on 13 June 2005 as IBP EVP, and
thereafter, Governor Salazar on 25 June 2005, as the new IBP EVP, upon the
relinquishment of Gov. Santiago of the position, were valid.

Neither can this Court give credence to the argument of Atty. De Vera that,
assuming his removal as IBP Governor and EVP was valid, his replacement as IBP EVP
should come from Eastern Mindanao Region pursuant to the rotation rule set forth in
Article VII, Section 47, of the IBP By-Laws.

According to Article VII, Section 47, of the IBP By-Laws, the EVP shall be chosen by
the Board of Governors from among the nine Regional Governors, as much as
practicable, on a rotation basis. This is based on our pronouncements in Bar Matter 491,
wherein we ruled:

“ORDER

xxxx

3. The former system of having the IBP President and Executive Vice-President
elected by the Board of Governors (composed of the governors of the nine [9] IBP
regions) from among themselves (as provided in Sec. 47, Art. VII, Original IBP By-
Laws) should be restored. The right of automatic succession by the Executive Vice-
President to the presidency upon the expiration of their two-year term (which was
abolished by this Court's resolution dated July 9, 1985 in Bar Matter No. 287) should be
as it is hereby restored.
4. At the end of the President's two-year term, the Executive Vice-President shall
automatically succeed to the office of president. The incoming board of governors shall
then elect an Executive Vice-President from among themselves. The position of
Executive Vice-President shall be rotated among the nine (9) IBP regions. One who has
served as president may not run for election as Executive Vice-President in a succeeding
election until after the rotation of the presidency among the nine (9) regions shall have
been completed; whereupon, the rotation shall begin anew.

xxxx

(Emphasis Supplied)”

In Bar Matter 491, it is clear that it is the position of IBP EVP which is actually rotated
among the nine Regional Governors. The rotation with respect to the Presidency is
merely a result of the automatic succession rule of the IBP EVP to the Presidency. Thus,
the rotation rule pertains in particular to the position of IBP EVP, while the automatic
succession rule pertains to the Presidency. The rotation with respect to the Presidency is
but a consequence of the automatic succession rule provided in Section 47 of the IBP By-
Laws.

In the case at bar, the rotation rule was duly complied with since upon the election of
Atty. De Vera as IBP EVP, each of the nine IBP regions had already produced an EVP
and, thus, the rotation was completed. It is only unfortunate that the supervening event of
Atty. de Vera’s removal as IBP Governor and EVP rendered it impossible for him to
assume the IBP Presidency. The fact remains, however, that the rotation rule had been
completed despite the non-assumption by Atty. de Vera to the IBP Presidency.

Moreover, the application of the rotation rule is not a license to disregard the spirit and
purpose of the automatic succession rule, but should be applied in harmony with the
latter. The automatic succession rule affords the IBP leadership transition seamless and
enables the new IBP National President to attend to pressing and urgent matters without
having to expend valuable time for the usual adjustment and leadership consolidation
period. The time that an IBP EVP spends assisting a sitting IBP President on matters
national in scope is in fact a valuable and indispensable preparation for the eventual
succession. It should also be pointed out that this wisdom is further underscored by the
fact that an IBP EVP is elected from among the members of the IBP Board of Governors,
who are serving in a national capacity, and not from the members at large. It is intrinsic
in the IBP By-Laws that one who is to assume the highest position in the IBP must have
been exposed to the demands and responsibilities of national leadership.

It would therefore be consistent with the purpose and spirit of the automatic succession
rule for Governor Salazar to assume the post of IBP President. By electing the
replacement EVP from among the members of the 2003-2005 Board of Governors, the
IBP benefits from the experience of the IBP EVP of 2003-2005 – in this case, Governor
Salazar – who would have served in a national capacity prior to his assumption of the
highest position.

It will also be inconsistent with the purpose and spirit of the automatic succession rule if
the EVP for the term 2003-2005 will be elected exclusively by the members of the House
of Delegates of the Eastern Mindanao region. This Court notes that the removal of Atty.
De Vera in 13 May 2005 was about a month before the expiration of the term of office of
the 2003-2005 Board of Governors. Hence, the replacement Governor would not have
been able to serve in a national capacity for two years prior to assuming the IBP
Presidency.

In any case, Section 47 of the IBP Rules uses the phrase “as much as practicable” to
clearly indicate that the rotation rule is not a rigid and inflexible rule as to bar exceptions
in compelling and exceptional circumstances.

It is in view of the foregoing that the argument advanced by Atty. De Vera that the IBP
national presidency should be assumed by a nominee from Eastern Mindanao region from
where he comes, can not hold water. It would go against the intent of the IBP By-Laws
for such a nominee would be bereft of the wealth of experience and the perspective that
only one who is honed in service while serving in a national post in the IBP would have.

We therefore rule that the IBP Board of Governors acted in accordance with the IBP By-
Laws, in electing Atty. Salazar as IBP EVP and in ensuring a succession in the leadership
of the IBP. Had the Board of Governors not done so, there would have been no one
qualified to assume the Presidency of the IBP on 1 July 2005, pursuant to Section 47 of
the IBP By-Laws.

WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, we rule as follows:

1) SUSPEND Atty. Leonard de Vera in A.C. No. 6697 from the practice of law
for TWO (2) YEARS, effective from the finality of this Resolution. Let a copy of this
Resolution be attached to the personal record of Atty. Leonard de Vera and copies
furnished the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and the Office of the Court Administrator
for dissemination to all courts;

2) DISMISS the letter-complaint of Atty. Leonard de Vera, dated 18 May 2005,


in A.M. No. 05-5-15-SC, praying for the disapproval of the Resolution, dated 13 May
2005, of the Board of Governors of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines removing him
from his posts as Governor and Executive Vice President of the Integrated Bar of the
Philippines, the said Resolution having been rendered without grave abuse of discretion;

3) AFFIRM the election by the Board of Governors of Atty. Jose Vicente B.


Salazar as Executive Vice President of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines for the
remainder of the term 2003-2005, such having been conducted in accordance with its By-
Laws and absent any showing of grave abuse of discretion; and

4) DIRECT Atty. Jose Vicente B. Salazar to immediately take his oath of office
and assume the Presidency of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines for the term 2005-
2007 in accordance with the automatic succession rule in Article VII, Section 47 of the
IBP By-Laws, upon receipt of this Resolution.

SO ORDERED.
ARTEMIO V. PANGANIBAN
Chief Justice

REYNATO S. PUNO

Associate Justice

LEONARDO A. QUISUMBING

Associate Justice

CONSUELO YNARES-SANTIAGO

Associate Justice

ANGELINA SANDOVAL-GUTIERREZ

Associate Justice

ANTONIO T. CARPIO

Associate Justice
MA. ALICIA AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ

Associate Justice

RENATO C. CORONA
Associate Justice

CONCHITA CARPIO MORALES


Associate Justice

ROMEO J. CALLEJO, SR.

Associate Justice

ADOLFO S. AZCUNA

Associate Justice
DANTE O. TINGA

Associate Justice

MINITA V. CHICO-NAZARIO

Associate Justice

CANCIO C. GARCIA

Associate Justice

PRESBITERO J. VELASCO, JR.

Associate Justice

[1] Records (A.C. No. 6697), Report and Recommendation, pp. 1-3.

[2] Rollo (A.M. No. 05-5-15-SC), pp. 1-9.


[3] Id.

[4] Id.

[5] Id.

[6] Records (B.M. No. 1227), p. 3.

[7] Rollo (A.M. No. 05-5-15-SC), pp. 1-9.

[8] Records (A.C. No. 6697), pp. 177-178.

[9] Rollo (A.M. No. 05-5-15-SC), pp. 8-9.

[10] Id. at 2.

[11] Id. at 5-6.

[12] Id. at 16-21.

[13] Id. at 19-20.

[14] Id. at 35-204.

[15] Id. at 36-37.

[16] Id. at 205-248.

[17] Id. at 307-309.

[18] Id. at 281-306.

[19] Id. at 344-346.

[20] Id. at 356-358.

[21] Id.

[22] Id. at 393-396.

[23] Id. at 489-524.

[24] Id. at 516.

[25] Id. Reply dated 27 January 2006.


[26] Records of A.C. No. 6697, pp. 239-252.

[27] Id. at 245.

[28] Records, pp. 368-371.

[29] Bachrach Corporation v. Court of Appeals, 357 Phil. 483, 491 (1998).

[30] Atty. Garcia v. Atty. De Vera, 463 Phil. 385, 413 (2003).

[31] B.M. No. 793, 30 July 2004, 435 SCRA 417.

[32] G.R. No. 137378, 12 October 2000, 342 SCRA 722, 734.

[33] As amended by SC Res. dated 13 February 1992.

[34] De Jesus Paras v. Vailoces, 111 Phil. 569, 572 (1961).

[35] Royong v. Oblena, 117 Phil. 865, 875 (1963); Quingwa v. Puno, 125 Phil.
831, 838 (1967).

[36] Act No. 2828, amending Sec. 21 of Act No. 190.

[37] 2 R-CL. 1097 cited in In re Tagorda, 23 March 1929, 53 Phil. 37, 42;
Malcolm, J., Jayme v. Bualan, 58 Phil. 422, 425 (1933); Arce v. National Bank, 62 Phil.
569, 571 (1935).

[38] Note 14, 7 C.S.S. 743.

[39] Records, pp. 38-39.

[40] Records (A.E. 6697), pp. 292.

[41] Id. at 276.

[42] See complainant’s Memorandum and compare the same with Atty. de Vera’s
Reply Memorandum (Records, pp. 239-240 and pp. 254-255).

[43] Ang Tibay v. Court of Industrial Relations, 69 Phil. 635, 640 (1940).

[44] Rubberworld (Phils.) Inc. v. National Labor Relations Commission, G.R. No.
75704, 19 July 1989, 175 SCRA 450.

[45] A.C. No. 5808, 4 May 2005, 458 SCRA 1, 8-9.

[46] “Respondent’s Manifestation,” Records, pp. 302-303.


[47] 392 Phil. 1, 17 (2000).

[48] Busiños v. Atty. Ricafort, 347 Phil. 687, 694 (1997).

[49] Alitagtag v. Atty. Garcia, 451 Phil. 420, 426 (2003).

[50] A.C. No. 4562, 15 June 2005, 460 SCRA 99.

[51] 313 Phil. 1 (1995).

[52] 325 Phil. 1 (1996).

[53] 443 Phil. 24 (2003).

[54] 390 Phil. 1 (2000).

[55] Section 1, Article III, Constitution – “No person shall be deprived of life,
liberty, or property without due process of law, nor shall any person be denied the equal
protection of the law.” See also Lumiqued v. Hon. Exevea, 346 Phil. 807, 828 (1997).

[56] Lumiqued v. Hon. Exevea, id.

[57] W.W. Willowby, THE CONSTITUTIONAL LAW OF THE UNITED


STATES, Sec. 1113.

[58] Turning v. New Jersey, 211 U.S. 78.

[59] Forbes v. Chuoco Tiaco, 16 Phil. 534, 572 (1910), citing Moyer v. Peabody,
212 U.S. 78.

[60] See Juan F. Rivera, LAW OF PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION, p. 822.

[61] Guzman v.National University, 226 Phil. 596, 603 (1986).

[62] Lumiqued v. Hon. Exevea, supra note 55.

[63] Gokongwei, Jr. v. Securites and Exchange Commission, G.R. No. L-45911,
11 April 1979, 89 SCRA 336, applicable by analogy.

[64] As recognized in In Re: Petition to Disqualify Atty. Leonard de Vera on


Legal and Moral Grounds, From Being Elected IBP Governor for Eastern Mindanao in
the May 31 IBP Election, Adm. Case No. 6052, 418 SCRA 27, 39-42.

[65] Article VI, Section 37 of the IBP By-Laws.


[66] Rule 131, Section 3 defines disputable presumptions as presumptions that
“are satisfactory if uncontradicted, but may be contradicted and overcome by other
evidence.”

[67] Sec. 44. Removal of members. – If the Board of Governors should determine
after proper inquiry that any of its members, elective or otherwise, has for any reason
become unable to perform his duties, the Board, by resolution of the Majority of the
remaining members, may declare his position vacant, subject to the approval of the
Supreme Court.

Any member of the Board, elective or otherwise, may be removed for cause, including
three consecutive absences from Board meetings without justifiable excuse, by resolution
adopted by two-thirds of the remaining members of the Board, subject to the approval of
the Supreme Court.

xxx

[68] Sec. 8. Delegates. – The President shall concurrently be the Delegate of the
Chapter to the House of Delegates. The Vice President shall be his alternate, unless the
chapter is entitled to have more than one Delegate, in which case the Vice President shall
also be a Delegate. Additional Delegates and alternates shall in proper cases be elected
by the Board.

[69] Sec. 11. Vacancies. – Except as otherwise provided in these By-Laws,


whenever the term of an office or position, whether elective or appointive, is for a fixed
period, the person chosen to fill the vacancy therein shall serve only for the unexpired
portion of the term.

[70] Sec. 44. Removal of members. – If the Board of Governors should determine
after proper inquiry that any of its members, elective or otherwise, has for any reason
become unable to perform his duties, the Board, by resolution of the Majority of the
remaining members, may declare his position vacant, subject to the approval of the
Supreme Court.

Any member of the Board, elective or otherwise, may be removed for cause, including
three consecutive absences from Board meetings without justifiable excuse, by resolution
adopted by two-thirds of the remaining members of the Board, subject to the approval of
the Supreme Court.

In case of any vacancy in the office of Governor for whatever cause, the delegates from
the region shall by majority vote, elect a successor from among the members of the
Chapter to which the resigned governor is a member to serve as governor for the
unexpired portion of the term.

[71] Sec. 47. National Officers. – The Integrated Bar of the Philippines shall have
a President and Executive Vice President to be chosen by the Board of Governors from
among nine (9) regional governors, as much as practicable, on a rotation basis. The
governors shall be ex officio Vice President for their respective regions. There shall also
be a Secretary and Treasurer of the Board of Governors to be appointed by the President
with the consent of the Board.

The Executive Vice President shall automatically become President for the next
succeeding term. The Presidency shall rotate among the nine Regions.

[72] Sec. 48. Other officers. – Other officers and employees as the Board may
require shall be appointed by the President with the consent of the Board. Such officers
and employees need not be members of the Integrated Bar.

[73] Sec. 49. Terms of office. – The President and the Executive Vice President
shall hold office for a term of two years from July 1 following their election until June 30
of their second year in office and until their successors shall have been duly chosen and
qualified.

In the event the President is absent or unable to act, his functions and duties shall be
performed by the Executive Vice President, and in the event of the death, resignation, or
removal of the President, the Executive Vice President shall serve as Acting President for
the unexpired portion of the term. In the event of the death, resignation, removal or
disability of both the President and the Executive Vice President, the Board of Governors
shall elect an Acting President to hold office for the unexpired portion of the term or
during the period of disability.

Unless otherwise provided in these By-Laws, all other officers and employees appointed
by the President with the consent of the Board shall hold office at the pleasure of the
Board or for such term as the Board may fix.

EN BANC

ST. LOUIS UNIVERSITY LABORATORY HIGH SCHOOL (SLU-LHS) FACULTY


and STAFF,

Complainant,
- versus -

ATTY. ROLANDO C. DELA CRUZ,

Respondent.

A.C. No. 6010

Present:
PANGANIBAN, C.J.,

PUNO,

QUISUMBING,

YNARES-SANTIAGO,

SANDOVAL-GUTIERREZ,

CARPIO,

AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ,

CORONA,*

CARPIO MORALES,

CALLEJO, SR.,

AZCUNA,

TINGA,

CHICO-NAZARIO,

GARCIA, and

VELASCO, JR., JJ.

Promulgated:

August 28, 2006

x--------------------------------------------------x
DECISION

CHICO-NAZARIO, J.:

This is a disbarment case filed by the Faculty members and Staff of the Saint Louis
University-Laboratory High School (SLU-LHS) against Atty. Rolando C. Dela Cruz,
principal of SLU-LHS, predicated on the following grounds:

1) Gross Misconduct:

From the records of the case, it appears that there is a pending criminal case for
child abuse allegedly committed by him against a high school student filed before the
Prosecutor’s Office of Baguio City; a pending administrative case filed by the Teachers,
Staff, Students and Parents before an Investigating Board created by SLU for his alleged
unprofessional and unethical acts of misappropriating money supposedly for the teachers;
and the pending labor case filed by SLU-LHS Faculty before the NLRC, Cordillera
Administrative Region, on alleged illegal deduction of salary by respondent.

2) Grossly Immoral Conduct:

In contracting a second marriage despite the existence of his first marriage; and

3) Malpractice:

In notarizing documents despite the expiration of his commission.

According to complainant, respondent was legally married to Teresita Rivera on 31


May 1982 at Tuba, Benguet, before the then Honorable Judge Tomas W. Macaranas. He
thereafter contracted a subsequent marriage with one Mary Jane Pascua, before the
Honorable Judge Guillermo Purganan. On 4 October 1994, said second marriage was
subsequently annulled for being bigamous.
On the charge of malpractice, complainant alleged that respondent deliberately
subscribed and notarized certain legal documents on different dates from 1988 to 1997,
despite expiration of respondent’s notarial commission on 31 December 1987. A
Certification[1] dated 25 May 1999 was issued by the Clerk of Court of Regional Trial
Court (RTC), Baguio City, to the effect that respondent had not applied for commission
as Notary Public for and in the City of Baguio for the period 1988 to 1997. Respondent
performed acts of notarization, as evidenced by the following documents:

1. Affidavit of Ownership[2] dated 8 March 1991, executed by Fernando T.


Acosta, subscribed and sworn to before Rolando Dela Cruz;

2. Affidavit[3] dated 26 September 1992, executed by Maria Cortez Atos,


subscribed and sworn to before Rolando Dela Cruz;

3. Affidavit[4] dated 14 January 1992, executed by Fanolex James A. Menos,


subscribed and sworn to before Rolando Dela Cruz;

4. Affidavit[5] dated 23 December 1993, executed by Ponciano V. Abalos,


subscribed and sworn to before Rolando Dela Cruz;

5. Absolute Date of Sale[6] dated 23 June 1993, executed by Danilo Gonzales


in favor of Senecio C. Marzan, notarized by Rolando Dela Cruz;

6. Joint Affidavit By Two Disinherited Parties[7] dated 5 March 1994,


executed by Evelyn C. Canullas and Pastora C. Tacadena, subscribed and sworn to before
Rolando Dela Cruz;

7. Sworn Statement[8] dated 31 May 1994, executed by Felimon B. Rimorin,


subscribed and sworn to before Rolando Dela Cruz;
8. Deed of Sale[9] dated 17 August 1994, executed by Woodrow Apurado in
favor of Jacinto Batara, notarized by Rolando Dela Cruz;

9. Joint Affidavit by Two Disinterested Parties[10] dated 1 June 1994,


executed by Ponciano V. Abalos and Arsenio C. Sibayan, subscribed and sworn to before
Rolando Dela Cruz;

10. Absolute Deed of Sale[11] dated 23 March 1995, executed by Eleanor


D.Meridor in favor of Leonardo N. Benter, notarized by Rolando Dela Cruz;

11. Deed of Absolute Sale[12] dated 20 December 1996, executed by


Mandapat in favor of Mario R. Mabalot, notarized by Rolando Dela Cruz;

12. Joint Affidavit By Two Disinterested Parties[13] dated 17 April 1996,


executed by Villiam C. Ambong and Romeo L. Quiming, subscribed and sworn to before
Rolando Dela Cruz;

13. Conditional Deed of Sale[14] dated 27 February 1997, executed by Aurelia


Demot Cados in favor of Jose Ma. A. Pangilinan, notarized by Rolando Dela Cruz;

14. Memorandum of Agreement[15] dated 19 July 1996, executed by JARCO


represented by Mr. Johnny Teope and AZTEC Construction represented by Mr. George
Cham, notarized by Rolando Dela Cruz.

Quite remarkably, respondent, in his comment, denied the charges of child abuse,
illegal deduction of salary and others which are still pending before the St. Louis
University (SLU), National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) and the Prosecutor’s
Office. He did not discuss anything about the allegations of immorality in contracting a
second marriage and malpractice in notarizing documents despite the expiration of his
commission.

After the filing of comment, We referred[16] the case to the Integrated Bar of the
Philippines (IBP), for investigation, report and recommendation.

The IBP conducted the mandatory preliminary conference.

The complainants, thereafter, submitted their position paper which is just a


reiteration of their allegations in their complaint.

Respondent, on his part, expressly admitted his second marriage despite the
existence of his first marriage, and the subsequent nullification of the former. He also
admitted having notarized certain documents during the period when his notarial
commission had already expired. However, he offered some extenuating defenses such
as good faith, lack of malice and noble intentions in doing the complained acts.

After the submission of their position papers, the case was deemed submitted for
resolution.

On 30 March 2005, Commissioner Acerey C. Pacheco submitted his report and


recommended that:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, it is respectfully recommended that


respondent be administratively penalized for the following acts:

a. For contracting a second marriage without taking the appropriate legal steps to
have the first marriage annulled first, he be suspended from the practice of law for one
(1) year, and
b. For notarizing certain legal documents despite full knowledge of the expiration
of his notarial commission, he be suspended from the practice of law for another one (1)
year or for a total of two (2) years.[17]

On 17 December 2005, the IBP Board of Governors, approved and adopted the
recommendation of Commissioner Pacheco, 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 contracted a second marriage without taking appropriate
legal steps to have the first marriage annulled, Atty. Rolando C. dela Cruz is hereby
SUSPENDED from the practice of law for one (1) year and for notarizing legal
documents despite full knowledge of the expiration of his notarial commission Atty.
Rolando C. dela Cruz is SUSPENDED from the practice of law for another one (1) year,
for a total of two (2) years Suspension from the practice of law.[18]

This Court finds the recommendation of the IBP to fault respondent well taken,
except as to the penalty contained therein.

At the threshold, it is worth stressing that the practice of law is not a right but a privilege
bestowed by the State on those who show that they possess the qualifications required by
law for the conferment of such privilege. Membership in the bar is a privilege burdened
with conditions. A lawyer has the privilege and right to practice law only during good
behavior, and he can be deprived of it for misconduct ascertained and declared by
judgment of the court after opportunity to be heard has been afforded him. Without
invading any constitutional privilege or right, an attorney’s right to practice law may be
resolved by a proceeding to suspend, based on conduct rendering him unfit to hold a
license or to exercise the duties and responsibilities of an attorney. It must be understood
that the purpose of suspending or disbarring him as an attorney is to remove from the
profession a person whose misconduct has proved him unfit to be entrusted with the
duties and responsibilities belonging to an office of attorney and, thus, to protect the
public and those charged with the administration of justice, rather than to punish an
attorney. Elaborating on this, we said on Maligsa v. Atty. Cabanting,[19] that the Bar
should maintain a high standard of legal proficiency as well as of honesty and fair
dealing. A lawyer brings honor to the legal profession by faithfully performing his duties
to society, to the bar, to the courts and to his clients. A member of the legal fraternity
should refrain from doing any act which might lessen in any degree the confidence and
trust reposed by the public in the fidelity, honesty and integrity of the legal profession.
Towards this end, an attorney may be disbarred or suspended for any violation of his oath
or of his duties as an attorney and counselor, which include statutory grounds enumerated
in Section 27, Rule 138 of the Rules of Court, all of these being broad enough to cover
practically any misconduct of a lawyer in his professional or private capacity.

Equally worthy of remark is that the law profession does not prescribe a dichotomy
of standards among its members. There is no distinction as to whether the transgression
is committed in the lawyer’s professional capacity or in his private life. This is because a
lawyer may not divide his personality so as to be an attorney at one time and a mere
citizen at another.[20] Thus, not only his professional activities but even his private life,
insofar as the latter may reflect unfavorably upon the good name and prestige of the
profession and the courts, may at any time be the subject of inquiry on the part of the
proper authorities.[21]

One of the conditions prior to admission to the bar is that an applicant must possess good
moral character. Possession of such moral character as requirement to the enjoyment of
the privilege of law practice must be continuous. Otherwise, “membership in the bar may
be terminated when a lawyer ceases to have good moral conduct.”[22]

In the case at bench, there is no dispute that respondent and Teresita Rivera
contracted marriage on 31 May 1982 before Judge Tomas W. Macaranas. In less than a
year, they parted ways owing to their irreconcilable differences without seeking judicial
recourse. The union bore no offspring. After their separation in-fact, respondent never
knew the whereabouts of Teresita Rivera since he had lost all forms of communication
with her. Seven years thereafter, respondent became attracted to one Mary Jane Pascua,
who was also a faculty member of SLU-LHS. There is also no dispute over the fact that
in 1989, respondent married Mary Jane Pascua in the Municipal Trial Court (MTC) of
Baguio City, Branch 68. Respondent even admitted this fact. When the second marriage
was entered into, respondent’s prior marriage with Teresita Rivera was still subsisting, no
action having been initiated before the court to obtain a judicial declaration of nullity or
annulment of respondent’s prior marriage to Teresita Rivera or a judicial declaration of
presumptive death of Teresita Rivera.
Respondent was already a member of the Bar when he contracted the bigamous second
marriage in 1989, having been admitted to the Bar in 1985. As such, he cannot feign
ignorance of the mandate of the law that before a second marriage may be validly
contracted, the first and subsisting marriage must first be annulled by the appropriate
court. The second marriage was annulled only on 4 October 1994 before the RTC of
Benguet, Branch 9, or about five years after respondent contracted his second marriage.
The annulment of respondent’s second marriage has no bearing to the instant disbarment
proceeding. Firstly, as earlier emphasized, the annulment came after the respondent’s
second bigamous marriage. Secondly, as we held in In re: Almacen, a disbarment case is
sui generis for it is neither purely civil nor purely criminal but is rather an investigation
by the court into the conduct of its officers. Thus, if the acquittal of a lawyer in a
criminal action is not determinative of an administrative case against him, or if an
affidavit of withdrawal of a disbarment case does not affect its course, then neither will
the judgment of annulment of respondent’s second marriage also exonerate him from a
wrongdoing actually committed. So long as the quantum of proof - clear preponderance
of evidence - in disciplinary proceedings against members of the Bar is met, then liability
attaches.[23]

Section 27, Rule 138 of the Rules of Court cites grossly immoral conduct as a ground for
disbarment.

The Court has laid down with a common definition of what constitutes immoral conduct,
vis-à-vis, grossly immoral conduct. Immoral conduct is “that conduct which is willful,
flagrant, or shameless, and which shows a moral indifference to the opinion of the good
and respectable members of the community” and what is “grossly immoral,” that is, it
must be so corrupt and false as to constitute a criminal act or so unprincipled as to be
reprehensible to a high degree.”[24]

Undoubtedly, respondent’s act constitutes immoral conduct. But is it so gross as to


warrant his disbarment? Indeed, he exhibited a deplorable lack of that degree of morality
required of him as a member of the Bar. In particular, he made a mockery of marriage
which is a sacred institution demanding respect and dignity. His act of contracting a
second marriage while the first marriage was still in place, is contrary to honesty, justice,
decency and morality.[25]
However, measured against the definition, we are not prepared to consider respondent’s
act as grossly immoral. This finds support in the following recommendation and
observation of the IBP Investigator and IBP Board of Governors, thus:

The uncontested assertions of the respondent belies any intention to flaunt the law
and the high moral standard of the legal profession, to wit:

a. After his first failed marriage and prior to his second marriage or for a
period of almost seven (7) years, he has not been romantically involved with any woman;

b. His second marriage was a show of his noble intentions and total love for
his wife, whom he described to be very intelligent person;

c. He never absconded from his obligations to support his wife and child;

d. He never disclaimed paternity over the child and husbandry (sic) with
relation to his wife;

e. After the annulment of his second marriage, they have parted ways when
the mother and child went to Australia;

f. Since then up to now, respondent remained celibate.[26]

In the case of Terre v. Terre,[27] respondent was disbarred because his moral
character was deeply flawed as shown by the following circumstances, viz: he convinced
the complainant that her prior marriage to Bercenilla was null and void ab initio and that
she was legally single and free to marry him. When complainant and respondent had
contracted their marriage, respondent went through law school while being supported by
complainant, with some assistance from respondent’s parents. After respondent had
finished his law course and gotten complainant pregnant, respondent abandoned the
complainant without support and without the wherewithal for delivering his own child
safely to a hospital.

In the case of Cojuangco, Jr. v. Palma,[28] respondent was also disbarred for his
grossly immoral acts such as: first, he abandoned his lawful wife and three children;
second, he lured an innocent young woman into marrying him; third, he mispresented
himself as a “bachelor” so he could contract marriage in a foreign land; and fourth, he
availed himself of complainant’s resources by securing a plane ticket from complainant’s
office in order to marry the latter’s daughter. He did this without complainant’s
knowledge. Afterwards, he even had the temerity to assure complainant that “everything
is legal.”

Such acts are wanting in the case at bar. In fact, no less than the respondent himself
acknowledged and declared his abject apology for his misstep. He was humble enough to
offer no defense save for his love and declaration of his commitment to his wife and
child.

Based on the reasons stated above, we find the imposition of disbarment upon him
to be unduly harsh. The power to disbar must be exercised with great caution, and may be
imposed only in a clear case of misconduct that seriously affects the standing and
character of the lawyer as an officer of the Court. Disbarment should never be decreed
where any lesser penalty could accomplish the end desired.[29] In line with this
philosophy, we find that a penalty of two years suspension is more appropriate. The
penalty of one (1) year suspension recommended by the IBP is too light and not
commensurate to the act committed by respondent.

As to the charge of misconduct for having notarized several documents during the years
1988-1997 after his commission as notary public had expired, respondent humbly
admitted having notarized certain documents despite his knowledge that he no longer had
authority to do so. He, however, alleged that he received no payment in notarizing said
documents.

It has been emphatically stressed that notarization is not an empty, meaningless,


routinary act. On the contrary, it is invested with substantive public interest, such that
only those who are qualified or authorized may act as notaries public. Notarization of a
private document converts the document into a public one making it admissible in court
without further proof of its authenticity. A notarial document is by law entitled to full
faith and credit upon its face and, for this reason, notaries public must observe with the
utmost care the basic requirements in the performance of their duties. Otherwise, the
confidence of the public in the integrity of this form of conveyance would be
undermined.[30]

The requirements for the issuance of a commission as notary public must not be
treated as a mere casual formality. The Court has characterized a lawyer’s act of
notarizing documents without the requisite commission to do so as “reprehensible,
constituting as it does not only malpractice but also x x x the crime of falsification of
public documents.”[31]

The Court had occasion to state that where the notarization of a document is done
by a member of the Philippine Bar at a time when he has no authorization or commission
to do so, the offender may be subjected to disciplinary action or one, performing a
notarial act without such commission is a violation of the lawyer’s oath to obey the laws,
more specifically, the Notarial Law. Then, too, by making it appear that he is duly
commissioned when he is not, he is, for all legal intents and purposes, indulging in
deliberate falsehood, which the lawyer’s oath similarly proscribes. These violations fall
squarely within the prohibition of Rule 1.01 of Canon 1 of the Code of Professional
Responsibility, which provides: “A lawyer shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest,
immoral or deceitful conduct.” By acting as a notary public without the proper
commission to do so, the lawyer likewise violates Canon 7 of the same Code, which
directs every lawyer to uphold at all times the integrity and dignity of the legal
profession.

In the case of Buensuceso v. Barera,[32] a lawyer was suspended for one year when he
notarized five documents after his commission as Notary Public had expired, to wit: a
complaint for ejectment, affidavit, supplemental affidavit, a deed of sale, and a contract
to sell. Guided by the pronouncement in said case, we find that a suspension of two (2)
years is justified under the circumstances. Herein respondent notarized a total of fourteen
(14) documents[33] without the requisite notarial commission.

Other charges constituting respondent’s misconduct such as the pending criminal


case for child abuse allegedly committed by him against a high school student filed
before the Prosecutor’s Office of Baguio City; the pending administrative case filed by
the Teachers, Staff, Students and Parents before an Investigating Board created by SLU;
and the pending labor case filed by SLU-LHS Faculty before the NLRC, Cordillera
Administrative Region, on alleged illegal deduction of salary by respondent, need not be
discussed, as they are still pending before the proper forums. At such stages, the
presumption of innocence still prevails in favor of the respondent.

WHEREFORE, finding respondent Atty. Rolando Dela Cruz guilty of immoral


conduct, in disregard of the Code of Professional Responsibility, he is hereby
SUSPENDED from the practice of law for a period of two (2) years, and another two (2)
years for notarizing documents despite the expiration of his commission or a total of four
(4) years of suspension.

Let copies of this Decision be furnished all the courts of the land through the Court
Administrator, as well as the IBP, the Office of the Bar Confidant, and recorded in the
personal records of the respondent.

SO ORDERED.

MINITA V. CHICO-NAZARIO

Associate Justice

WE CONCUR:

ARTEMIO V. PANGANIBAN
Chief Justice

REYNATO S. PUNO

Associate Justice

LEONARDO A. QUISUMBING
Associate Justice

CONSUELO YNARES-SANTIAGO

Associate Justice

ANGELINA SANDOVAL-GUTIERREZ

Associate Justice

ANTONIO T. CARPIO

Associate Justice

MA. ALICIA AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ


Associate Justice

On Leave

RENATO C. CORONA
Associate Justice

CONCHITA CARPIO MORALES


Associate Justice

ROMEO J. CALLEJO, SR.

Associate Justice

ADOLFO S. AZCUNA

Associate Justice
DANTE O. TINGA

Associate Justice

CANCIO C. GARCIA

Associate Justice

PRESBITERO J. VELASCO, JR.

Associate Justice

[1] Rollo, p. 5.

[2] Id. at 6.

[3] Id. at 7-8

[4] Id. at 9.

[5] Id. at 10.

[6] Id. at 11.

[7] Id. at 12.


[8] Id. at 13.

[9] Id. at 14.

[10] Id. at 15.

[11] Id. at 16.

[12] Id. at 17.

[13] Id. at 18.

[14] Id. at 19-21.

[15] Id. at 22-23.

[16] Id. at 309.

[17] Id. at 477.

[18] Id. at 472.

[19] 338 Phil. 912, 916-917 (1997).

[20] In re: Almacen, G.R. No. L-27654, 18 February 1970, 31 SCRA 562, 581

[21] Bustamante-Alejandro v. Alejandro, A.C. No. 4256, 13 February 2004, 422


SCRA 527, 532.

[22] Royong v. Oblena, 117 Phil. 865, 878 (1963).

[23] Cojuangco, Jr. v. Palma, A.C. No. 2474, 15 September 2004, 438 SCRA 306,
317.

[24] See Reyes v. Wong, A.C. No. 547, 29 January 1975, 63 SCRA 667, 673.

[25] Villasanta v. Peralta, 101 Phil 313, 314 (1957).

[26] Rollo, p. 476.

[27] Adm. Case. No. 2349, 3 July 1992, 211 SCRA 6, 12.

[28] Adm. Case No. 2474, 15 September 2004, 438 SCRA 306, 315.
[29] T’boli Agro-Industrial Development, Inc. v. Atty. Solilapsi, 442 Phil. 499,
515 (2002).

[30] Arrieta v. Llosa, 346 Phil. 932, 937 (1997).

[31] Buensuceso v. Barrera, A.C. No. 3727, 11 December 1992, 216 SCRA 309,
312.

[32] Id.

[33] Supra notes 2-15.

EN BANC

QUIRINO TOMLIN II, A.C. No. 6971

Complainant,

Present:

Panganiban, C.J.,

Puno,

Quisumbing,

Ynares-Santiago,

Sandoval-Gutierrez,

- versus - Carpio,

Austria-Martinez,

Corona,

Carpio-Morales,

Callejo, Sr.,
Azcuna,

Tinga,

Chico-Nazario, and

Garcia, JJ.

ATTY. SALVADOR N. MOYA II,

Respondent. Promulgated:

February 23, 2006

x ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- x

DECISION

YNARES-SANTIAGO, J.:

On December 1, 2003, Quirino Tomlin II filed a complaint[1] before the


Commission on Bar Discipline of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) against
Atty. Salvador N. Moya II for allegedly reneging on his monetary obligations and for
having issued bouncing checks; thereby violating the Code of Professional
Responsibility[2] and Batas Pambansa (B.P.) Blg. 22.[3]

Complainant averred that respondent borrowed from him P600,000.00 partially


covered by seven postdated checks. However, when complainant tried to encash them on
their respective due dates, the checks were all dishonored by the drawee bank, to wit:

Check No.

Due Date
Amount

Reason for Dishonor

MOB 1011326

May 16, 2001

P13,500.00

RTCOCI

MOB 1011311

June 11, 2001

P30,000.00

RTCOCI

MOB 1011328

June 17, 2001

P5,000.00

Account Closed

MOB 1011313

August 12, 2001


P50,000.00

Account Closed

MOB 1011329

August 16, 2001

P5,000.00

Account Closed

MOB 1011314

August 19, 2001

P50,000.00

Account Closed

MOB 1011330

September 18, 2001

P5,000.00

Account Closed

Complainant made several demands, the last being a formal letter[4] sent on September
25, 2002;[5] however, respondent still failed and refused to pay his debt without
justifiable reason. Consequently, complainant instituted a case for seven counts of
violation of B.P. Blg. 22 against the respondent before the Municipal Trial Court of Sta.
Maria, Bulacan.[6] In addition, he filed the instant case for respondent’s disbarment.
On December 1, 2003, respondent was directed to file his answer but instead he
filed several motions for extension of time to file a responsive pleading[7] and a motion
to dismiss complaint.[8]

Respondent alleged that the case should be dismissed outright for violation of the rule on
non-forum shopping. He argued that complainant did not inform the IBP about the cases
he filed for violations of B.P. Blg. 22 against respondent pending before the Municipal
Trial Court of Sta. Maria, Bulacan.[9] Respondent argued that the filing of the
administrative case despite the pendency of the criminal cases is a form of harassment
which should not be allowed.

On April 28, 2004, the Commission on Bar Discipline denied[10] the motion to
dismiss for being a prohibited pleading under Section 2, Rule 3 of its Rules of Procedure.
Respondent’s motion for reconsideration[11] was likewise denied on June 16, 2004.[12]

Thereafter, respondent filed several motions for extension of time to file an answer.
[13] His last motion for extension was however denied for lack of merit. Consequently,
the Commission on Bar Discipline declared him in default.[14]

Respondent thereafter filed a manifestation with motion to terminate proceedings


on the ground of prescription[15] and omnibus motion to recall the default order.[16]

On January 3, 2005, the Commission on Bar Discipline required the parties to


submit their respective verified position papers after which the case shall be considered
submitted for resolution.[17]

Only the complainant submitted his position paper.[18]

In the Report and Recommendation dated March 31, 2005, the Investigating
Commissioner noted that respondent failed to file an answer and/or position paper despite
several requests for extension, in disregard of the orders of the IBP. Moreover, it was
observed that the pending criminal action against respondent does not pose a prejudicial
question to the resolution of the issues in the present administrative case. Hence, it was
recommended that respondent be suspended from the practice of law for one year.

On October 22, 2005, the IBP Board of Governors adopted and approved the report of the
Investigating Commissioner, but modified the penalty of suspension from the practice of
law from one year to two years.

We agree with the findings and recommendation of the IBP.

Lawyers are instruments for the administration of justice. As vanguards of our legal
system, they are expected to maintain not only legal proficiency but also a high standard
of morality, honesty, integrity and fair dealing. In so doing, the people’s faith and
confidence in the judicial system is ensured.[19] Lawyers may be disciplined – whether
in their professional or in their private capacity – for any conduct that is wanting in
morality, honesty, probity and good demeanor.[20] Any gross misconduct of a lawyer in
his profession or private capacity is a ground for the imposition of the penalty of
suspension or disbarment because good character is an essential qualification for the
admission to the practice of law and for the continuance of such privilege.[21]

In the present case, respondent admitted his monetary obligations to the complainant but
offered no justifiable reason for his continued refusal to pay. Complainant made several
demands, both verbal and written, but respondent just ignored them and even made
himself scarce. Although he acknowledged his financial obligations to the complainant,
respondent never offered nor made arrangements to pay his debt. On the contrary, he
refused to recognize any wrongdoing nor shown remorse for issuing worthless checks, an
act constituting gross misconduct.[22] Respondent must be reminded that it is his duty as
a lawyer to faithfully perform at all times his duties to society, to the bar, to the courts
and to his clients. As part of his duties, he must promptly pay his financial obligations.
[23]

The contention that complainant violated the rule against forum shopping with the filing
of this administrative complaint is bereft of merit. There is forum-shopping whenever, as
a result of an adverse opinion in one forum, a party seeks a favorable opinion (other than
by appeal or certiorari) in another[24] or when he institutes two or more actions or
proceedings grounded on the same cause on the supposition that one or the other court
would make a favorable disposition.[25] Forum shopping applies only to judicial cases
or proceedings, not to disbarment proceedings.[26] Moreover, Criminal Case Nos. 6-
367-03 to 6-373-03 for violation of B.P. Blg. 22 refer to the respondent’s act of making
or drawing and issuance of worthless checks; while the present administrative case seeks
to discipline respondent as a lawyer for his dishonest act of failing to pay his debt in
violation of the Code of Professional Responsibility.

Respondent, being a member of the bar, should note that administrative cases against
lawyers belong to a class of their own. They are distinct from and they may proceed
independently of criminal cases. The burden of proof in a criminal case is guilt beyond
reasonable doubt while in an administrative case, only preponderance of evidence is
required. Thus, a criminal prosecution will not constitute a prejudicial question even if
the same facts and circumstances are attendant in the administrative proceedings.[27]

Besides, it is not sound judicial policy to await the final resolution of a criminal case
before a complaint against a lawyer may be acted upon; otherwise, this Court will be
rendered helpless from applying the rules on admission to and continuing membership in
the legal profession during the whole period that the criminal case is pending final
disposition when the objectives of the two proceedings are vastly disparate.[28]

Finally, we note that respondent failed to file his answer and verified position paper
despite several opportunities given him by the IBP, that is, from the time he received on
December 20, 2003[29] the Order[30] of the IBP requiring him to file an answer until
March 31, 2005 when the Investigating Commissioner submitted the Report and
Recommendation. Instead, he filed several motions for extension of time, motion to
dismiss the complaint, motion for reconsideration, manifestation with motion to terminate
proceedings, and omnibus motion to recall the default order. Until the end, respondent
offered no plausible explanation for his failure to pay his debts. Instead, he kept on
insisting, on plainly unmeritorious grounds, the dismissal of the complaint. Verily,
respondent’s failure to comply with the orders of the IBP without justifiable reason
manifests his disrespect of judicial authorities.[31] Respondent should be reminded that
the IBP has disciplinary authority over him by virtue of his membership therein.[32]

In view of the foregoing, we find the penalty of suspension from the practice of law for
two years as recommended by the IBP commensurate under the circumstances.
WHEREFORE, Atty. Salvador N. Moya II is found GUILTY of gross misconduct and
violation of the Code of Professional Responsibility and is hereby SUSPENDED from
the practice of law for two years, effective immediately, with a warning that any further
infraction by him shall be dealt with most severely.

Let copies of this Decision be furnished to all courts as well as the Integrated Bar of the
Philippines and the Office of the Bar Confidant.

SO ORDERED.

CONSUELO YNARES-SANTIAGO

Associate Justice

WE CONCUR:

ARTEMIO V. PANGANIBAN

Chief Justice
REYNATO S. PUNO LEONARDO A. QUISUMBING

Associate Justice Associate Justice

ANGELINA SANDOVAL-GUTIERREZ ANTONIO T. CARPIO

Associate Justice Associate Justice

MA. ALICIA AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ RENATO C. CORONA

Associate Justice Associate Justice

CONCHITA CARPIO-MORALES ROMEO J. CALLEJO, SR.

Associate Justice Associate Justice


ADOLFO S. AZCUNA DANTE O. TINGA

Associate Justice Associate Justice

MINITA V. CHICO-NAZARIO CANCIO C. GARCIA

Associate Justice Associate Justice

[1] Rollo, pp. 12-17.

[2] Code of Professional Responsibility, Canon 1: A lawyer shall uphold the Constitution,
obey the laws of the land and promote respect for law and for legal processes; and

Code of Professional Responsibility, Rule 1.01: A lawyer shall not engage in unlawful,
dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct.

[3] Batas Pambansa Blg. 22 (1979), Sec. 1.

[4] Rollo, p. 8.

[5] Id. at 9.

[6] Id. at 61-67.

[7] Id. at 26-29, 30-33, 34-38.

[8] Id. at 45-58.

[9] Criminal Case Nos. 6-367-03 to 6-373-03.

[10] Rollo, p. 110.

[11] Id. at 113-120.


[12] Id. at 123-124.

[13] Id. at 125-130, 135-137.

[14] Id. at 140-141.

[15] Id. at 142-146.

[16] Id. at 147-150.

[17] Id. at 152-153.

[18] Id. at 157-165.

[19] Lao v. Medel, 453 Phil. 115, 120 (2003).

[20] Garcia v. Bala, A.C. No. 5039, November 25, 2005.

[21] People v. Tuanda, A.C. No. 3360, January 30, 1990, 181 SCRA 692, 697.

[22] Lao v. Medel, supra at 121.

[23] Id. at 120.

[24] First Philippine International Bank v. Court of Appeals, 322 Phil. 280, 305 (1996).

[25] Chemphil Export & Import Corporation v. Court of Appeals, 321 Phil. 619, 655-656
(1995).

[26] Lucente v. Evangelista, Jr., 444 Phil. 721, 727 (2003).

[27] Po Cham v. Pizarro, A.C. No. 5499. August 16, 2005.

[28] In re Brillantes, Adm. Case No. 1245, March 2, 1977, 76 SCRA 1, 15.

[29] Rollo, p. 26.

[30] Id. at 25.

[31] Garcia v. Bala, supra note 20.

[32] Lao v. Medel, supra note 19 at 123.


THIRD DIVISION

ATTY. LEON L. ASA and ATTY. JOSE A. OLIVEROS,

Complainants,

-versus-

ATTY. PABLITO M. CASTILLO and ATTY. GINGER ANNE CASTILLO,

Respondents.

x - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -x

ATTY. PABLITO M. CASTILLO,

Complainant,

-versus-

ATTY. JOSE A. OLIVEROS,

Respondent.
x -----------------------x

ATTY. PABLITO M. CASTILLO,

Complainant,

-versus-

ATTY. LEON L. ASA,

Respondent.

x- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - x

ATTY. LEON L. ASA,

Complainant,

-versus-
ATTY. PABLITO M. CASTILLO,

Respondent.

A.C. No. 6501

(CBD Case Nos. 03-1076, 03-1108, 03-1109, 03-1125)

Present:

QUISUMBING, Chairperson,

CARPIO,

CARPIO MORALES,

TINGA, and

VELASCO, JR., JJ.

Promulgated:

August 31, 2006


x--------------------------------------------------x

DECISION

CARPIO MORALES, J.:

Subject of the present Decision are four administrative cases, docketed by the Integrated
Bar of the Philippines (IBP) as Commission on Bar Discipline (CBD) Case Nos. 03-
1076,03-1108,03-1109, and 03-1125.

I. CBD Case No. 03-1076

In 1996, Atty. Pablito M. Castillo (Castillo), then an associate of the Laurel Law Offices
of which Attorneys Leon L. Asa (Asa) and Jose A. Oliveros (Oliveros) are partners,
endorsed to the law firm a guardianship case, Special Proceeding No. 5222, “In re:
Guardianship of the Minors Honeylyn, Alexandra and Jerill Nonan,” which was pending
before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Angeles City, Branch 59. Castillo appeared as
counsel of record for the therein petitioner, Dr. Salvador H. Laurel, guardian ad litem of
the minors Nonan who appear to have inherited a sizeable amount of US dollars.

A misunderstanding later occurred between Asa and Castillo as regards their sharing in
the attorney’s fees in the guardianship case.

On page 6 of a pleading entitled “Reply to Petitioner-Guardian’s Comment/Opposition,


[1] ETC.” dated July 19, 2002 filed before Branch 59 of the Angeles RTC and signed by
Castillo’s daughter Ginger Anne Castillo (Ginger Anne) as “counsel” for Castillo who
filed a Notice Ad Cautelam, it was alleged that, inter alia, “Asa wants to be paid an
additional $75,000.00 for his services in providing coffee and opening doors whenever
there is a conference at the Laurel Law Offices.”[2]

Finding the above statement of Castillo and Ginger Anne to be a brazen falsehood
concocted to besmirch Asa’s reputation, Asa and Oliveros filed before IBP an
administrative complaint[3] against Castillo and Ginger Anne, for gross violation of the
lawyer’s oath and the Code of Professional Responsibility. The case was docketed as
CBD Case No. 03-1076.

In their complaint, Asa and Oliveros also charged Castillo with machinations and deceit
arising from the following alleged incidents:

In a conference held at the Laurel Law Offices prior to January 20, 2000 attended by Dr.
Laurel, the Nonan minors’ counsel abroad Atty. Benjamin Cassiday III (Cassiday), Asa
and Castillo, it was agreed that the amount to be received by Dr. Laurel in trust for the
Nonan heirs would be deposited at the Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation (RCBC),
St. Francis Square Branch, Pasig City under Dollar Savings Account No. 8-250-00043-0.
Castillo, however, proposed that the funds be deposited instead at the United Coconut
Planters Bank (UCPB), he explaining that he knew an employee there who could
facilitate “the transaction.” Dr. Laurel rejected this proposition and instead instructed
Castillo to file the appropriate motion to have the funds deposited at the RCBC.[4]

Without showing to Dr. Laurel the motion he was instructed to prepare, Castillo filed the
same with the Angeles trial court. Dr. Laurel subsequently received a copy of a March 2,
2000 RTC Order[5] signed by the then trial Judge Eliezer R. De los Santos granting his
motion and accordingly directing that the funds to be held in trust for the Nonan children
be deposited at the Trust Department of the UCPB Head Office. Dr. Laurel, Cassiday
and Asa thus filed with the Angeles City trial court an Urgent Motion for
Reconsideration[6] of the March 2, 2000 Angeles RTC Order in order to have the funds
deposited at the RCBC transferred to the RTC, as previously agreed upon. This motion
was granted.

Still in the same complaint, Asa and Oliveros alleged that in a “Reply to Answer”[7]
dated June 25, 2001 filed by Castillo with the RTC of Makati City, Branch 145 in Civil
Case No. 01-506, “Atty. P.M. Castillo v. United Coconut Planters Bank, Lorenzo V. Tan
and Angelica S. Hernandez,” Castillo again committed a clear falsehood when he therein
stated that:

On the other hand, retired Justice Felipe Kalalo of the Court of Appeals who personally
knew the plaintiff [Castillo] was also profuse in extolling his academic credentials and
accomplishments as a Trial lawyer as follows:

Q: Do you know the claimant Atty. P.M. Castillo?

A: Yes sir, because we were both active Senior Trial lawyers of the Laurel Law
Offices,[8] (Underscoring supplied),

he knowing that retired Justice Kalalo had never been at any time a lawyer at the Laurel
Law Offices. In support of this allegation, they appended to the complaint a certified true
copy of the Service Record[9] of Justice Kalalo which does not show that he was ever
connected with the Laurel Law Office.

In their Answer[10] to the complaint, Castillo and Ginger Anne declared:

There is nothing wrong or objectionable to the statement that Asa’s services in the
guardianship case consisted in providing coffee and opening doors whenever there was a
conference at the Laurel Law Offices, as this was in fact the truth, the comportment being
“strictly in accordance with long cherished Filipino hospitality,” and “he [Castillo] would
have done the same with his own visitors.”[11] In any event, they claim that the assailed
factual narration was material and relevant to Castillo’s question why Asa was given the
lion’s share of attorney’s fees when he had not rendered any known material service
which redounded to the benefit of the Nonan children.

Moreover, the Castillos declared that the deposit of the Nonan funds at the UCPB was not
attended with malice or bad faith, nor was it intended to benefit them as the funds could
only be withdrawn by Dr. Laurel who had exclusive access to all the information
pertaining to the interest and benefits accruing thereto.

As regards the assailed June 25, 2001 “Reply to Answer” filed with the Makati RTC in
Civil Case No. 01-506, the Castillos asserted that Castillo had no control nor influence
over the voluntary and spontaneous testimony of retired Justice Kalalo in his favor during
the proceedings adverted to.[12]

II. CBD Case No. 03-1108

Castillo subsequently filed a complaint[13] against Oliveros before the IBP, docketed as
CBD Case No. 03-1108, for gross violation of lawyer’s oath and the Code of Professional
Responsibility.

Castillo alleged that: (1) Oliveros assisted Cassiday in embezzling US $950,000


representing the share adjudicated to the Nonan heirs; (2) in conspiracy with Dr. Laurel
and a certain Atty. Douglas Cushnie, Oliveros resorted to forum shopping to undermine
and defeat the jurisdiction of the Philippine court in the guardianship proceedings; (3)
Oliveros, along with Asa, Dr. Laurel and Cassiday, perpetuated other acts of fraud in the
guardianship proceedings; and (4) Oliveros, together with Asa, deliberately and
maliciously filed a groundless administrative complaint against him and Ginger Anne.

In his Answer[14] to the Complaint in CBD Case No. 03-1108, Oliveros, decrying the
allegations against him as patently false, baseless and malicious, claimed that the
complaint was Castillo’s way of retaliating against him for having joined Asa in filing the
administrative complaint against him and Ginger Anne (CBD Case No. 03-1076).

III. CBD Case No. 03-1109

Castillo also filed an administrative complaint[15] against Asa before the IBP, charging
him with embezzlement, dishonesty, betrayal of trust, grave abuse of confidence and
violation of the lawyer’s oath and the Code of Professional Responsibility. The case was
docketed as CBD Case No. 03-1109.

Castillo alleged that (1) Asa, Cassiday and Dr. Laurel scandalously mismanaged the
estate of the Nonan heirs, the bulk of which they indiscriminately pocketed; (2) Asa and
Oliveros filed a groundless administrative complaint against him and Ginger Anne to
compel him to withdraw his claim for attorney’s fees against Dr. Laurel and his bid to
replace the latter as guardian of the Nonan heirs; (3) despite an Agreement[16] dated
February 16, 2000 between him and Asa that the latter would receive only 25% of
whatever he (Castillo) would receive as attorney’s fees, Asa secretly pocketed the
amounts of $24,500 and $160,500 from the guardianship case on April 18, 2000; (4) Asa
refused to account for and turn over the amount of $130,000 in attorney’s fees which
belonged to him (Castillo); and (5) Asa embarked on a scheme to force him into
resigning as counsel for Dr. Laurel to enable them to exercise absolute control over the
guardianship case and appropriate for themselves the attorney’s fees allocated for him.

In his Answer to the Complaint[17] in CBD Case No. 03-1109, Asa alleged as follows: It
was in fact Castillo who reneged on their February 16, 2000 Agreement as the latter had
earlier bluntly told him that he changed his mind and that he would not give him (Asa)
any share in the attorney’s fees he would receive from the guardianship case, Castillo
reasoning that he was the therein counsel of record and had endorsed the case to the
Laurel Law Offices. He thus reported the matter to Dr. Laurel and informed him that he
“would likewise not give Castillo’s share in the attorney’s fees he [Asa] might receive
because [Castillo] has no word of honor.”[18]

As regards the $24,500 that he allegedly secretly pocketed, Asa explained that several
days prior to April 18, 2000, Dr. Laurel and Atty. Cassiday fixed the attorney’s fees of
both Castillo and Asa at $100,000 each, based on the amount to be paid by the four heirs
or $25,000 per heir. When the first heir Merceditas Feliciano (Merceditas) paid
$1,150,000 on April 18, 2000, he deposited $24,500 of this amount in his and his wife’s
joint Dollar Account No. 247-702-9275 at the Philippine National Bank (PNB), Ortigas
Branch as his share in the attorney’s fees, while he opened a new account in the name of
Dr. Laurel to which he deposited the amount of $160,500.

Asa went on to declare that Castillo received his own $25,000 plus interest amounting to
$25,023.13 representing full payment of his attorney’s fees from Merceditas, as
evidenced by a Receipt[19] dated May 2, 2000 signed by Castillo.
Continuing, Asa declared that of the $160,500 belonging to Dr. Laurel, $100,000
represented partial payment for his consenting to be the guardian ad litem of the Nonan
heirs and $60,000 represented reimbursement for expenses incurred over several years by
Dr. Laurel, the total of which was placed temporarily on April 18, 2000 in his (Asa’s)
Dollar Account No. 8-250-00047-3 in RCBC. Dr. Laurel, however, withdrew
$160,000.00 the following day from RCBC and placed it in his own Dollar Time Deposit
Account for which $500.00 was spent for the purpose. A Certification[20] to this effect,
issued by RCBC Ortigas Business Center Manager Dolores L. Del Valle, was appended
to Asa’s Answer.

Finally, Asa declared that Castillo’s claim for $130,000 in attorney’s fees is baseless and
unconscionable, and that Castillo filed the complaint merely to harass him in retaliation
for the complaint he and Oliveros priorly filed against him and Ginger Anne.

IV. CBD Case No. 03-1125

On August 25, 2003, Asa filed yet another administrative complaint,[21] against Castillo
before the IBP, for disbarment/suspension, docketed as CBD Case No. 03-1125, charging
him with deceit, malpractice, gross misconduct in office, immoral conduct, violation of
the lawyer’s oath and the Code of Professional Responsibility in light of his baseless,
malicious and derogatory allegations in CBD Case No. 03-1109 which were founded on
deceit and deliberate falsehood, and of promoting a groundless, false and unlawful suit.

IBP REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION:

By Report and Recommendation[22] of February 27, 2004, the IBP CBD, through
Commissioner Rebecca Villanueva-Maala, recommended the dismissal of the
consolidated cases in this wise.
From the facts and evidence presented, what have been shown by the counsels are mutual
bickerings, unjustified recriminations and offensive personalities between brother
lawyers which detract from the dignity of the legal profession and do not deserve the
attention of the Commission. The voluminous case record contains but personal
peculiarities and idiosyncrasies hurled by the counsels against each other which
constitute highly unprofessional conduct. A great part of man’s comfort, as well as of his
success at the bar, depends upon his relations with his professional brethren. With them
he is in daily necessary intercourse, and he must have their respect and confidence, if he
wishes to sail along in smooth waters. Hence, the parties are advised to conduct
themselves honorably, fairly and candidly toward each other and try to maintain the
dignity of the legal profession.[23] (Underscoring supplied)

By Resolution[24] of April 16, 2004, the Board of Governors of the IBP adopted and
approved the February 27, 2004 Report and Recommendation and dismissed the
consolidated cases for lack of merit.

The records of the cases were then forwarded for final action to this Court.

Asa filed with this Court an August 2, 2004 a Motion for Reconsideration[25] in CBD
Case No. 03-1125. He too, together with Oliveros, filed on August 3, 2004 a Motion for
Reconsideration[26] in CBD Case No. 03-1076.

Castillo likewise filed with this Court a Consolidated Omnibus Motion for Partial
Reconsideration[27] dated August 9, 2004 in CBD Case No. 03-1108 and CBD Case No.
03-1109.

On January 12, 2005, Asa filed his Comment[28] on Castillo’s Consolidated Omnibus
Motion for Partial Reconsideration in CBD Case No. 03-1109 while also Oliveros filed
his Comment on the same motion on February 28, 2005.

On March 16, 2005, Castillo filed his Consolidated Reply to the Comments of Asa and
Oliveros, with Omnibus Motion to Appoint a Commissioner.[29]
THIS COURT’S RULING

In his questioned “Reply to Petitioner-Guardian’s Comment/Opposition,” Castillo’s


statement reads:

x x x Atty. Leon Asa wants to be paid an additional $75,000.00 for his services in
providing coffee and opening the doors whenever there is a conference at the Laurel Law
Offices. He also conveniently provides himself with the Nonan expediente to give
assistance to the parties during their so-called conferences. Worse, his express reluctance
to appear before this Honorable Court was repeatedly announced by Atty. Jose Oliveros
because of his so-called failing health x x x[30]

Canon 8 of the Code of Professional Responsibility mandates that a lawyer shall conduct
himself with courtesy, fairness and candor toward his professional colleagues and shall
avoid harassing tactics against opposing counsel. Rule 8.01 of the same Canon mandates
that a lawyer shall not, in his professional dealings, use language which is abusive,
offensive or otherwise improper.

That a member of the bar is enjoined to observe honorable, candid and courteous dealing
with other lawyers[31] and employ respectful and restrained language is in keeping with
the dignity of the legal profession.[32] It is through a scrupulous preference for
respectful language that a lawyer best demonstrates his observance or respect due to the
courts and judicial officers.[33]

In the case at bar, Castillo and Ginger Anne’s choice of words manifestly falls short of
this criterion. Their disparaging statements in the pleading referred to above belie their
proffered good intention and exceed the bounds of civility and propriety.
Castillo’s claim that the statement about Asa’s services is relevant and pertinent to the
claim for attorney’s fees and was, for all legal intents and purposes, a “privileged
communication”[34] deserves short shrift. Indulging in offensive personalities in the
course of judicial proceedings constitutes unprofessional conduct subject to disciplinary
action, even if the publication thereof is privileged.[35]

x x x this Court will not be inhibited from exercising its supervisory authority over
lawyers who misbehave or fail to live up to that standard expected of them as members of
the Bar. Indeed, the rule of absolute privileged communication absolves beforehand the
lawyer from civil and criminal liability based on the statements made in the pleadings.
But like the member of the legislature who enjoys immunity from civil and criminal
liability arising from any speech or debate delivered in the Batasan or in any committee
thereof, but nevertheless remains subject to the disciplinary authority of the legislature
for said speech or debate, a lawyer equally remains subject to this Court’s supervisory
and disciplinary powers for lapses in the observance of his duty as a member of the legal
profession.[36] (Underscoring supplied)

Castillo and Ginger Anne are thus admonished to exercise greater care and
circumspection in the preparation of their pleadings and refrain from using offensive or
otherwise improper language.

In support of Asa and Oliveros’ allegation that Castillo employed deceit and falsehood in
attempting to change the depositary bank for the funds to be held in trust by Dr. Laurel
for the Nonan heirs, they presented the March 2, 2000 RTC Order directing Dr. Laurel
and his principal counsel Castillo to deposit the balance of the proceeds of the settlement
with any and all of the adjudicated heirs with UCPB and the March 14, 2000 RTC Order
directing the deposit of the settlement proceeds with the RCBC.

A perusal of the Urgent Motion for Reconsideration dated March 8, 2000 signed by Dr.
Laurel, however, fails to establish any wrongdoing on the part of Castillo in having filed
the Motion to deposit the funds at UCPB. It simply stated that:
Considering the present raging controversy arising from the P50 Billion coconut levy
funds, the stability of the United Coconut Planters Bank (UCPB), Head Office at Makati,
may be seriously affected x x x

The Petitioner-Guardian can best protect the deposits of the Nonan children if the
proceeds of the settlement will be deposited with a solvent and more conservative bank
like the RIZAL COMMERCIAL BANKING CORPORATION (RCBC) x x x[37]

In administrative cases against lawyers, the quantum of proof required is clearly


preponderant evidence and the burden of proof rests upon the complainant. Moreover, an
administrative case against a lawyer must show the dubious character of the act done as
well as the motivation thereof.[38] In the case at bar, Asa and Oliveros failed to present
clear and preponderant evidence to show that Castillo willfully and deliberately resorted
to deceit and falsehood in filing the Motion to have the funds deposited at UCPB.

Respecting Castillo’s June 25, 2001 Reply to Answer in the Makati RTC Civil Case No.
01-506, he therein alleged:

On the other hand, retired Justice Felipe Kalalo of the Court of Appeals who personally
knew the plaintiff, was also profuse in extolling his academic credentials and
accomplishments as a Trial lawyer, as follows:

Q: Do you know the claimant Atty. P.M. Castillo?

A: Yes sir, because we were both active Senior Trial lawyers at the Laurel Law Offices.

Q: How could you characterize and rate the trial competency, performance and expertise
of Atty. P.M. Castillo?
A: He is highly competent, low key, aggressive and very brilliant in the conduct of trial,
as well as, in the formulation of courtroom strategies. His pleadings are also very well
written, direct to the point, convincing, scholarly and exhaustive. To be sure, he is one of
the popular trial lawyers of our firm (The Laurel Law Offices), not only because he came
from an exclusive school, but also because of his scholastic records at Ateneo de Manila
was also impressive. That is why he was taken in by former VP Salvador H. Laurel even
before the release of the 1964 bar where he was also No. 2 among the Ateneo bar
candidates for the year. He was No. 15 among the bar topnotchers. This is not to
mention his impressive and highly (sic) batting average of winning about 80% to 90% of
his load cases and work. He was also one of the busy lawyers of our office, until he went
on private practice and excelled as one of the more successful and respected trial
practitioners.[39] (Underscoring supplied)

To Asa, by the foregoing allegation, Castillo committed clear falsehood for Justice Kalalo
had never been a lawyer at any time at the Laurel Law Offices.

Castillo explained, however, that he “can only say that he has no control, nor influence on
the voluntary and spontaneous declaration and testimony of Retired Justice Felipe Kalalo
of the Court of Appeals in his favor during the highly adversarial proceedings.”[40]

Castillo’s explanation does not impress, however. The records show that the above-
quoted statements attributed by Castillo to Justice Kalalo were lifted from an unsigned
and unsubscribed affidavit entitled “Question and Answer Format in Lieu of Direct
Testimony of Justice Felipe Kalalo”[41] dated January 21, 1993. This affidavit was
earlier filed by Castillo with the Pasig RTC, Branch 154 in connection with his claim for
attorney’s fees in Civil Cases Nos. 43049 and 56637 which affidavit was subsequently
withdrawn,[42] however, as it was unsigned and unsubscribed.

Canon 10 of the Code of Professional Responsibility provides that a lawyer owes candor,
fairness and good faith to the courts. Rule 10.01 of said Canon specifically commands
that a member of the bar shall not do any falsehood, nor consent to the doing of any in
court; nor shall he mislead, or allow the court to be misled by any artifice. Rule 10.02 of
the same Canon provides that a member of the bar shall not knowingly misquote or
misrepresent the contents of a paper or assert as a fact that which has not been proved.
And Section 20(d), Rule 138 of the Rules of Court directs that a lawyer must employ
such means only as are consistent with truth and honor, and never seek to mislead the
judge or any judicial officer by any artifice or false statement of fact or law.[43]

Complete candor or honesty is thus expected from lawyers, particularly when they appear
and plead before the courts.[44] They have an obligation to the court as well as to the
opposing party to make only truthful statements in their pleadings.[45] The burden cast
on the judiciary would be intolerable if it could not take at face value what is asserted by
counsel. The time that will have to be devoted just to the task of verification of
allegations submitted could easily be imagined.[46]

In light of the above findings reflecting Castillo’s administrative culpability, his charge
against Asa and Oliveros of filing groundless disbarment cases against him and Ginger
Anne necessarily fails.

As regards Castillo’s claim that Asa secretly pocketed $24,500 and $160,500, the undated
certification issued by RCBC Branch Operation Head Dolores del Valle reading:

This is to certify that on April 18, 2000, Mr. Leon L. Asa opened a Dollar Savings
Account at our Business Center. A credit was made to his assigned Dollar Savings
Account Number 8-250-00047-3 in the amount of US Dollars: One Hundred Sixty
Thousand Five Hundred (USD: 160,500.00) as initial transaction. We further certify that
on April 19, 2000, there was a debit made for said account in the amount of US Dollars:
One Hundred Sixty Thousand (USD: 160,000.00) and that same amount was placed in
the Dollar Time Deposit Account of Salvador H. Laurel. Mr. Leon Asa left the amount
of USD: Five Hundred in his account to serve as the maintaining balance requirement.
Subject Dollar Savings Account had closed already,[47]

and Dr. Laurel Partial Inventory, Account and Report of Guardian[48] dated February 13,
2002 filed with the Angeles City RTC, Branch 59 in Sp. Proc. No. 5222 stating that:
3. On April 18, 2000, Guardian Ad Litem Salvador H. Laurel and his Principal Foreign
Legal Counsel, Atty. Benjamin Cassiday III received by way of settlement from one of
the duly adjudicated heirs of Larry Lee Hillblom, Mercedita Feliciano, by and through
her Guardian Ad Litem, Milagros Feliciano, the amount of ONE MILLION ONE
HUNDRED FIFTY THOUSAND US DOLLARS (US$1,150,000.00) which was
deposited with the Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation (RCBC), St. Francis Square
Branch, Ortigas Center, Pasig City under Dollar Savings Account No. 8-250-000430-
ABA. Routing No. RCBC PH MM in the name of “Salvador H. Laurel, in trust for
Honeylyn, Alexandra and Jeril Nonan”, in compliance with the Order of this Honorable
Court dated April 26, 2000;

4. Pursuant to the above-stated Orders of this Honorable Court, the Guardian Ad Litem
and Atty. Benjamin Cassiday III disbursed the following amounts for the purposes
indicated:

A. ATTORNEY’S FEES & OTHER NECESSARY LEGAL EXPENSES:

xxxx

(7) Partial payment of the fee of Salvador H. Laurel for consenting to be the guardian ad
litem of the Nonan children and accepting all responsibilities attached to said position
……….US$100,000.00

(8) Reimbursement to Salvador H. Laurel for expenses incurred during the last six (6)
years for airfare, car rentals, overseas calls, and representation and other incidental
expenses while in the various states in the United States in order to pursue the claim of
the Nonan children against the Hillblom estate ……….US$60,000.00

x x x x[49] (Underscoring supplied),


validate Asa’s explanation that the amount of $160,500 belonged to Dr. Laurel but was
merely temporarily placed in his (Asa’s) account.

The Partial Inventory, Account and Report of Guardian shows that $12,500 was received
by Asa as attorney’s fees for assisting Dr. Laurel and Castillo from 1996 to 2000.[50]
Confirming such disbursement is a Receipt[51] dated April 18, 2000 signed by Asa. The
remaining $12,500 of the $25,000 attorney’s fees of Asa per heir (as priorly agreed upon
by Dr. Laurel and Cassiday) were remitted by Asa to the Laurel Law Offices as Official
Receipt No. 1766[52] issued by the treasurer/cashier of the Laurel Law Offices dated
April 19, 2000 shows:

RECEIVED from Atty. Leon L. Asa the sum of Twelve thousand five hundred US
Dollars US$12,500.00 as fifty percent (50%) share of LLO [Laurel Law Offices] in
attorney’s fees of US$25,000 of Atty. Asa in SP Proc. 5222 of RTC Angeles City, Br. 59.

Cash……….US$12,500-

By: Sgd.

Treasurer/Cashier

On Asa’s alleged unjust refusal to turn over Castillo’s attorney’s fees: It appears that Asa
and Castillo each received $25,000 as attorney’s fees but pursuant to their February 2000
Agreement, the aggregate amount of $50,000 would be divided between them, and
Castillo would receive 75% thereof or $37,500, while Asa would receive 25% or
$12,500. The records show that Asa kept only $12,500 for himself, he having remitted,
as reflected above, the remaining $12,500 to the Laurel Law Offices.

Dr. Laurel eventually gave Castillo $10,000 out of the $12,500 which Asa remitted to the
Laurel Law Offices, as reflected in the Partial Inventory, Account and Report of
Guardian.[53]
Respecting Castillo’s claim that, in violation of the Code of Professional Responsibility,
Asa and Oliveros “embarked on another sinister strategy to spite, insult and provoke him
to ostracize him and make him feel unwanted to continue as [Dr. Laurel’s] lawyer in
furtherance of their conspiracy to force him into resignation for them to replace him and
have absolute control over the guardianship case, the funds of the estate and the
attorney’s fees,” the same is unsubstantiated, hence, deserves no further consideration.

As to Castillo’s charge against Asa and Oliveros of embezzlement due to alleged


scandalous mismanagement of the estate of the Nonan heirs, premised on the October 13,
2003 RTC Order[54] in SP No. 5222, this Court finds the evidence presented insufficient
to warrant the imposition of sanctions against them.

Finally, on Castillo’s Omnibus Motion to Appoint a Commissioner, the matters raised


therein[55] being entirely inappropriate, to say the least, for consideration in these
administrative proceedings, the same is denied.

A final word. The spectacle of members of the bar being engaged in bickering and
recrimination is far from edifying. Mutual bickerings and unjustified recriminations
between brother attorneys detract from the dignity of the legal profession and will not
receive any sympathy from this Court.[56] Personal colloquies between counsels which
promote unseemly wrangling should thus be carefully avoided.[57]

It appears that Castillo had previously been suspended for Six (6) Months by this Court in
CBD Case No. 176, Bongalonta v. Castillo,[58] for committing falsehood in violation of
his lawyer’s oath and of the Code of Professional Responsibility. He was then warned
that commission of the same or similar offense in the future would call for the imposition
of a more severe penalty. This Court thus imposes upon him a penalty of suspension
from the practice of law for a period of One (1) year.

WHEREFORE, the administrative cases filed against Atty. Leon L. Asa and Atty. Jose A.
Oliveros are DISMISSED.

Atty. Ginger Anne Castillo is found GUILTY of breach of Canon 8 of the Code of
Professional Responsibility and is hereby admonished to refrain from using offensive and
improper language in her pleadings.
Atty. Pablito M. Castillo is likewise found GUILTY of breach of Canons 8, as well as
Canon 10 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, and is SUSPENDED from the
practice of law for a period of One (1) Year, effective upon receipt of this Decision.

Let copies of this Decision be entered in the respective personal records of Atty. Ginger
Anne Castillo and of Atty. Pablito M. Castillo in the Office of the Bar Confidant. Let
copies too be furnished the Integrated Bar of the Philippines.

SO ORDERED.

CONCHITA CARPIO MORALES

Associate Justice

WE CONCUR:

LEONARDO A. QUISUMBING

Associate Justice

Chairperson
ANTONIO T. CARPIO

Associate Justice

DANTE O. TINGA

Associate Justice

PRESBITERO J. VELASCO, JR.

Associate Justice

[1] Rollo, pp. 16-28.

[2] Id. at 21.

[3] Id. at 1-15.

[4] Id. at 7-8.

[5] Id. at 122-123.

[6] Id. at 375-378.

[7] Id. at 126-135.

[8] Id. at 128.

[9] Id. at 136.

[10] Id. at 173-205.

[11] Id. at 184.

[12] Id. at 188.

[13] Id. at 1077-1088.


[14] Id. at 1094-1114.

[15] Id. at 456-469.

[16] Id. at 472.

[17] Id. at 478-513.

[18] Id. at 488.

[19] Id. at 541.

[20] Id. at 527.

[21] Id. at 1173-1224.

[22] Id. at 687-698.

[23] Id. at 697-698.

[24] Id. at 685-686.

[25] Id. at 739-753.

[26] Id. at 719-737.

[27] Id. at 700-712.

[28] Id. at 807-878.

[29] Id. at 1025-1047.

[30] Id. at 21.

[31] Ricafort v. Bansil, A.C. No. 6298, May 27, 2004, 429 SCRA 194, 201 (2004)
(citation omitted).

[32] Buenaseda v. Flavier, G.R. No. 106719, September 21, 1993, 226 SCRA 645, 656
(citation omitted).

[33] Lubiano v. Gordolla, A.C. No. 2343, July 30, 1982, 115 SCRA 459, 461.

[34] Rollo, p. 360.

[35] Tolentino v. Baylosis, 110 Phil. 1010, 1016 (1961).


[36] Supra note 33 at 462-463 (citations omitted).

[37] Rollo, pp. 375-376.

[38] Rudecon Management Corporation v. Camacho, A.C. No. 6403, August 31, 2004,
437 SCRA 202, 208 (citation omitted).

[39] Rollo, p. 128.

[40] Id. at 188.

[41] Id. at 262-269.

[42] Id. at 272-273.

[43] Bautista v. Gonzales, A.M. No. 1625, February 12, 1990, 182 SCRA 151, 163.

[44] Silva Vda. de Fajardo v. Bugaring, A.C. No. 5113, October 7, 2004, 440 SCRA
160, 171-172.

[45] Tolentino v. Judge Cabral, 385 Phil. 631, 652 (2000).

[46] Muñoz v. People, 152 Phil. 570, 575-576 (1973).

[47] Rollo, p. 527.

[48] Id. at 528-536.

[49] Id. at 529-531.

[50] Id. at 530.

[51] Pasig
City, Metro Manila

18 April
2000

RECEIPT

US$12,500.00
Received from Dr. Salvador H. Laurel, Guardian Ad Litem for the Nonan
Heirs, and Atty. Benjamin Cassiday III, Principal Foreign Legal Counsel for the said
Guardian, the amount of TWELVE THOUSAND FIVE HUNDRED US DOLLARS
(US$12,500.00) as full payment of my attorney’s fees corresponding to the settlement
agreement entered into with one of the four heirs, Mercedita Feliciano through her
Guardian Ad Litem Milagros Feliciano, relative to Special Proceedings No. 5222 of the
Regional Trial Court of Angeles City, Branch 59 entitled “In Re: Guardianship of the
Minors Honelyn, Alexandra and Jeril, all surnamed Nonan, Salvador H. Laurel,
Petitioner.”

Sgd.

LEON L.ASA

Partner and Assisting


Counsel

to the Guardian Dr. Salvador


H. Laurel

[52] Rollo, p. 543.

[53] Id. at 530.

[54] Id. at 713-718.

[55] (1) to investigate and determine the liability of Angeles City RTC judges,
prosecutors and lawyers who facilitated the escape of Benjamin Cassiday III from the
Philippines, despite the existence of a hold departure order and the pendency of the
embezzlement case against him involving the estate funds of $950,000; (2) to rein and
keep in tow the different RTC judges of Angeles City to observe strict fidelity to their
oath and to attend with dispatch the welfare and well being of the Nonan children by
appointing a respectable and credible guardian and in disposing the various long pending
incidents of the guardianship case; (3) to rescue the Nonan children who have no house
and lot of their own despite their enormous wealth and whose health and welfare are also
being neglected and taken for granted by the newly appointed guardian and the
guardianship court, (4) to compel the substitution of the heirs of the late guardian to
guarantee the restitution of the missing estate funds and (5) to compel the new guardian
to post a bond and repatriate expeditiously the remaining estate funds of $1,541,122.57 to
the Philippines to enable the guardianship court to control and exercise jurisdiction over
the same.
[56] Atty. Reyes v. Atty. Chiong, Jr., 453 Phil. 100, 106 (2003) (citations omitted),
People v. Atty. Sesbreno, 215 Phil. 411, 418 (1984) (citation omitted), Narido v. Atty.
Linsangan, 157 Phil. 87, 91 (1974).

[57] Canon 17, Canons of Professional Ethics.

[58] 310 Phil. 320 (1995).

G.R. No. 160445 February 16, 2006


JOSE TEOFILO T. MERCADO, ET AL. VS. SECURITY BANK CORPORATION

Republic of the Philippines


SUPREME COURT
Manila

EN BANC

G.R. No. 160445 February 16, 2006

JOSE TEOFILO T. MERCADO and MA. AGNES R. MERCADO, Petitioners,


vs.
SECURITY BANK CORPORATION, Respondent.

RESOLUTION

SANDOVAL GUTIERREZ, J.:

The dignity of the Court can never be protected where infraction of ethics meets with
complacency rather than punishment. The people should not be given cause to break faith
that a magistrate is the epitome of honor amongst men. To preserve its dignity, a court of
justice should not yield to the assaults of disrespect.1

Incidental to the present petition for review on certiorari is the contempt proceedings
against petitioner Jose Teofilo T. Mercado arising from his letter dated October 18, 2004,
insinuating that: (1) the ponente succumbed to the "tremendous pressure" of Chief Justice
Hilario G. Davide, Jr. in denying his petition; (2) the Security Bank Corporation,
respondent, financed the ponente’s travel to the United States; and (3) the ponente gave
respondent a "go signal" to sell his property.

The facts are as follows:

On December 12, 2003, Jose Teofilo T. Mercado and Ma. Agnes R. Mercado, petitioners,
filed with this Court a Petition for Review on Certiorari assailing the Court of Appeals (a)
Decision2 dated May 27, 2003 in CA-G.R. SP No. 71570 dismissing their petition for
annulment of judgment; and (b) its Resolution3 dated October 23, 2003 denying their
motion for reconsideration.

On January 12, 2004, we denied the petition because of petitioners’ failure to show that a
reversible error had been committed by the Appellate Court.4

Petitioners filed a motion for reconsideration alleging that the Court of Appeals, in
dismissing their petition for annulment of judgment, merely relied on technical rules of
procedure, thereby sacrificing the greater interest of justice and equity; and that their
former counsel’s gross negligence constitutes extrinsic fraud, a ground for annulling the
trial court’s judgment.

On March 24, 2004, we issued a Resolution granting petitioners’ motion for


reconsideration and reinstating their petition. We likewise required Security Bank
Corporation, respondent, to comment on the petition.

In its comment, respondent averred that the issues raised in the present petition are mere
rehash of the issues petitioners raised before the Appellate Court. As to the alleged
negligence of their counsel, respondent pointed out that the same cannot be considered an
extrinsic fraud since through the same counsel, they actively pursued and recovered
moral damages and attorney’s fees. Furthermore, assuming that petitioners’ counsel
refused to file a motion for reconsideration with the trial court, still, they had the option
to terminate his services and hire another; and that they should not have waited for four
(4) years before filing the petition for annulment of judgment.

On June 7, 2004, we issued a Resolution denying the petition on the ground that
petitioners indeed failed to show that a reversible error had been committed by the
Appellate Court.

Petitioners filed a motion for reconsideration, but we dismissed the same in our
Resolution dated September 15, 2004, thus:

We find no compelling reason to grant petitioner’s motion for reconsideration.

The Court of Appeals was correct in holding that before a petition for annulment of
judgment can prosper, petitioners must first file an appeal, a motion for new trial or a
petition for relief as required by the Revised Rules of Court. Having failed to do so, they
cannot avail of an action for annulment of judgment, otherwise, they would benefit from
their inaction or negligence.

It bears emphasis at this point that an action for annulment of judgment cannot and is not
a substitute for the lost remedy of appeal.

Petitioners’ contention that their failure to appeal from the trial court’s Decision was due
to the negligence of their former counsel lacks merit. Records show that they participated
actively, through their counsel, in the proceedings before the trial court. As party
litigants, they were expected to be vigilant of their interests and, therefore, should
monitor the progress of the case. Thus, they should have constantly communicated with
their counsel to be advised of the status of their case. This way, they would not have lost
their opportunity to appeal.

Granting that petitioners’ petition for annulment of judgment is in order, still the same is
dismissible. For the remedy of annulment of judgment to prosper, either one of the
following grounds must be present: (1) extrinsic fraud or (2) lack of jurisdiction or denial
of due process. Petitioner argues that their counsel’s negligence constitutes extrinsic
fraud. We are not convinced. Extrinsic fraud can be committed by a counsel against his
client when the latter is prevented from presenting his case to the court. This situation is
not present in this case.

We reiterate that in G.R. No. 151816, we ruled that the Court of Appeals did not commit
reversible error in dismissing petitioners’ petition for certiorari and prohibition assailing
the trial court’s order of execution of its Decision in favor of respondent bank.

In fine, this Resolution should now write finis to the instant case.5

Petitioners filed a second motion for reconsideration but was denied for being prohibited.

On October 18, 2004, petitioner Mercado wrote Chief Justice Hilario G. Davide, Jr.
stating that:

On March 24, 2004, the Third Division, in its Resolution, granted our Motion for
Reconsideration and even gave due course and reinstated our petition.

But when I received the Resolution dated June 7, 2004 denying my Petition for Review
on July 12, 2004, I immediately called my counsel, Atty. Jose P. Villanueva, on the
phone. I asked him why on earth the ponente denied again my petition on the same
ground ‘for failure of petitioners to show that a reversible error had been committed by
the appellate court? My counsel said, the ponente informed him that she has to deny our
petition on the same ground because of the tremendous pressure from the Chief Justice to
favor Security Bank Corporation (SBC). By the way, my counsel and the ponente are
very close and long time friends to each other. When I heard the bad news, I was so
shocked in disbelief. It is true, what you did is unthinkable, ungodly, and malicious. It is
also very suspicious that after a few days after my conversation with Atty. Villanueva, he
and his family left for London, leaving my case to the care of one of his Associates. Later
on, the ponente herself left for the U.S.A. to visit her children. Is this a coincidence? As
the saying goes, ‘when there is smoke, there is fire.’ Another coincidence, before the
receipt of the Resolution dated June 7, 2004, denying our petition on the basis of SBC’s
unsubstantiated ‘Comment,’ SBC sold our property to M. Miranda Development
Corporation and succeeded in getting a permit to demolish the four (4) building erected in
our property from the Forbes Park Association, even if the case is still pending and we
have not even filed our Motion for Reconsideration with the Supreme Court, not to
mention the Lis Pendens annotated on the title of the property in the name of SBC. The
person who bought our property from SBC for P120,000,000.00 is known to my nephew
and us. While the buyer is drinking with my nephew and others, not knowing that one of
them is my nephew, he bragged to them that he just bought the property of the Mercados
in Forbes Park. The buyer said ‘I paid already the property because SBC told me that
they already have the go-signal from the ponente to sell the property.’ Few days
thereafter, all the improvements in our property were totally demolished by a
construction company owned by my provincemate in Pampanga by the name of Mr.
Bana, whom I personally met at the site while the demolition was being carried out.

Have you no conscience at all? Are you not bothered of the final judgment after life? Is
this the legacy you want to impart to your children and all the Filipino people? What you
did to my family and I is unforgivable not only to God and to humanity. You have
deprived us of our precious possession without due process. This is also the abode of my
wife, my children, their respective spouses, and my 10 grandchildren, not to mention the
several household members and their families.

I would like to believe that the Supreme Court is the last bulwark of true justice. If you,
the Chief Justice, himself, are the first person to make a mockery of our laws, no wonder
why foreign investors do not want to invest in our country because they said, there is no
justice in our courts, the Supreme Court in particular. This is in the highest degree of
injustice. You have deprived us of our basic fundamental rights in the protection of our
property without due process. There is no justice in our courts, the Supreme Court in
particular. Do you think I will bring my case to the Supreme Court by mere question of
facts? From our petition for Annulment of Judgment filed before the Court of Appeals
and now the Petition for Review on Certiorari with the Supreme Court, my wife and I as
petitioners-movants have clearly invoked ‘LACK OF JURISDICTION’ on the part of the
trial court to adjudicate respondent SBC’s ‘counterclaim’ for the payment of the loan. As
I understand, when the ground invoked as basis for Annulment of Judgment is ‘LACK
OF JURISDICTION’, the Petition may be filed at any time before it is barred by estoppel
or laches, neither of which is obtaining in our case. Even in layman’s legal point of view,
this Petition of ours clearly and undoubtedly raises a question of law.

Please I beg of you, have a last hard look on our Petition and the two (2) Motions for
Reconsideration and let us focus and not evade on the real issue on ‘LACK OF
JURISDICTION’ on the part of the trial court and not concentrate on negligence of
counsel and other trivial reasons, etc. Or better yet, please refrain from influencing the
members of the Third Division. Let them deliberate regularly on our case or inhibit
themselves on the case. Please let the Institution serve justice, and not individual
pecuniary interests. SBC’s counsels are experts in fabrication of facts and in misleading
the courts. I have a feeling that they might as well have led you to believe something,
which is not true. Please don’t be an instrument of their wicked schemes, lest the
Supreme Court itself becomes their means to perpetrate injustice. This is the only Bank
which is not interested in amicable settlement in spite of my several sincere offers of
amicable settlement since the case was filed in 1995 up to 2003, and these are all in
writing and duly received by SBC. Unfortunately, all my offers were rejected by them.
I wrote you this letter as a last resort because my family and I looked up at you before as
the most honest and upright Chief Justice. As we would like to know if you really had
intervened and put pressure, as the Ponente said to Atty. Villanueva, (my counsel) to
favor SBC because if you did, then we rest our case. Please enlighten us before we seek
another forum to seek redress the injustices, sleepless nights, humiliation and
embarrassment we suffered. If we are wrong about you, and I hope we really are wrong,
please accept our appeal for forgiveness and apologies. GOD is my witness, that what I
have told you is the truth.

Mr. Chief Justice, the Filipino people know how religious you are. Please do what a
religious man ought to do in serving justice. Please live up to our, as well as HIS
expectations. (Emphasis supplied)

On November 2, 2004, Chief Justice Davide required Mercado’s lawyer, Atty. Jose P.
Villanueva, to comment on the letter and show cause why he should not be held in
contempt of court.6

On November 17, 2004, the Court’s Third Division ordered Mercado to personally
appear on November 22, 2004 and show cause why he should not be held in contempt of
court.7

On the scheduled date, Mercado, together with Atty. Pablo G. Macapagal, his new
counsel, appeared before the Third Division and swore to the truth of the letter he wrote.8
He manifested that he only stated therein what Atty. Villanueva told him – that his
petition was denied for the second time "because of the tremendous pressure from the
Chief Justice." He further manifested that during the wake of Atty. Villanueva’s mother,
he (Atty. Villanueva) pointed to Justice Angelina Sandoval-Gutierrez, bragging that she
is "a very very good, close and long time friend of his."9 However, while stating this,
Mercado referred to Justice Conchita Carpio Morales as Justice Gutierrez.10

Forthwith, the Third Division issued in open court a Resolution11 directing Atty.
Macapagal to submit a written explanation why Mercado should not be held in contempt
of Court.

For his part, Atty. Villanueva submitted a comment,12 strongly denying Mercado’s
allegations in his letter. He denied having told petitioners that their petition had to be
denied again "because there was a tremendous pressure from the Chief Justice in favor of
Security Bank Corporation." He also stressed that there was no correlation between the
ponente’s trip to the United States and his trip to London. He explained that he and his
family went to London to attend the graduation of his daughter, Cherriemaya Veloso
Villanueva. To substantiate this, he submitted a photocopy of "London School of
Economics (LSE) and Political Science Presentation Ceremonies" where the name of his
daughter, Cherriemaya Veloso Villanueva, is listed as one of the successful graduates. He
likewise submitted a photocopy of his passport indicating his departure for London on
July 14, 2004 and his arrival in the Philippines on July 27, 2004. In addition, he said he
never met anyone from respondent bank, including its lawyers, and that there is no truth
to Mercado’s statement regarding his nephew’s alleged encounter with the new owners of
the subject property.

On December 13, 2004, Mercado submitted his explanation13 why he should not be
punished for contempt of court. He claimed that the contemptuous statements in his letter
merely reiterate the tenor of Atty. Villanueva’s statements. He offered an apology,
explaining that he wrote the letter while he was "under the impulse of personal stress" as
he was losing his residential house.

On January 26, 2005, the Third Division ordered both Mercado and Atty. Villanueva to
appear on February 21, 2005 to elucidate their respective positions.

Mercado testified that it was Atty. Villanueva who informed him that the ponente is
Justice Gutierrez. Atty. Villanueva even bragged that she is his "very, very close friend."

For his part, Atty. Villanueva testified that it was Mercado who informed him that Justice
Gutierrez is the ponente. He also confirmed that she attended the wake of his mother. But
he denied Mercado’s claim that he pointed to Justice Gutierrez and said that she is his
close friend.14

Thereafter, the Third Division designated Court of Appeals Justice Renato C. Dacudao as
Commissioner to receive evidence on the factual issues involved in the contempt
incident. 15

On May 18, 2005, Justice Dacudao submitted his Investigation, Report and
Recommendation. He found Mercado "guilty of improper conduct tending to bring the
authority and the administration of justice by the Court into disrespect when he openly
belittled, degraded, and embarrassed the Highest Court of the land, particularly the Chief
Justice x x x." However, he held that "there was no showing that he acted with malice
and/or in bad faith or that he was properly motivated." Thus, he recommended that
Mercado be fined in the sum of five thousand pesos (P5,000.00).

We cannot sustain Justice Dacudao’s finding that Mercado did not act with malice or bad
faith in imputing those derogatory and disrespectful remarks against Chief Justice Davide
and the ponente.

Bad faith imputes a dishonest purpose or some moral obliquity and conscious doing of a
wrong.16 It contemplates a state of mind affirmatively operating with furtive design or
some motive of self-interest or ill-will for ulterior purposes.17 Malice is of the same
genre. It connotes a sinister motive.

Mercado’s addressing such letter to Chief Justice Davide is a perfect illustration of bad
faith and malice tending directly to degrade the administration of justice. It transgresses
the permissible bounds of fair comment and criticisms bringing into disrepute, not only
the authority and integrity of Chief Justice Davide and the ponente, but also of the entire
Judiciary. While feigning to be searching for truth on whether Chief Justice Davide
indeed exerted "tremendous pressure" to the ponente, he repeatedly humiliated him and
the Judiciary in the most loutish and insolent manner. He accused him of doing an
"unthinkable, ungodly, and malicious" act and of depriving his (Mercado’s) family of
their "basic fundamental rights in the protection of (their) property without due process."
He concluded that what Chief Justice Davide did to his family "is unforgivable not only
to God and to humanity." In an insulting and insolent tenor, he stated that "if the Chief
Justice, himself, is the first person to make a mockery of our laws," then there is "no
wonder why foreign investors do not want to invest in our country."

Furthermore, he alleged that an irregularity or bribery attended the denial of his petition
for review. He insinuated that the travels of Atty. Villanueva and the ponente abroad
were financed by respondent bank, stating that "when there is smoke, there is fire." He
also recklessly accused the ponente of giving respondent bank a "go-signal" to sell his
property. In this backdrop, he asked Chief Justice Davide to "refrain from influencing the
members of the Third Division;" "let them deliberate regularly on the case or inhibit
themselves on the case;" and "let the Institution serve justice, and not individual
pecuniary interests."

Finally, he condemned the entire Judiciary by saying "there is no justice in our courts, the
Supreme Court in particular." And with impudence, he threatened Chief Justice Davide to
enlighten him before he "seeks another forum to seek redress for the injustices, sleepless
nights, humiliation and embarrassment" his family suffered.

Without doubt, Mercado’s letter is marked with malice, bad faith, and gross disrespect.
He committed a remarkable feat of character assassination and honor vilification.
Contrary to his claim that he is just verifying the truth of Atty. Villanueva’s statements,
the words in his letter are more accusatory than inquisitorial. What is disconcerting is that
his accusations have no basis in fact and in law. Obviously, they caused intense pain and
humiliation on the part of Chief Justice Davide and the ponente.

The Resolution of the Third Division of this Court dated September 15, 2004 denying
Mercado’s motion for reconsideration is well explained. A principle almost repeated to
satiety is that "an action for annulment of judgment cannot and is not a substitute for the
lost remedy of appeal." A party must have first availed of appeal, a motion for new trial
or a petition for relief before an action for annulment can prosper. Its obvious rationale is
to prevent the party from benefiting from his inaction or negligence. Also, the action for
annulment of judgment must be based either on (a) extrinsic fraud or (b) lack of
jurisdiction or denial of due process.18 Having failed to avail of the remedies and there
being a clear showing that neither of the grounds was present, the petition must be
dismissed. Only a disgruntled litigant would find such legal disposition unacceptable.

Mercado bewails the denial by the Third Division of his petition through a mere Minute
Resolution and after reinstating the petition. Apparently, he finds the Court’s manner of
denial and change of heart unusual and casts sinister undertone to them.
In In Re Laureta,19 we ruled that the Court is not "duty-bound" to render signed
decisions all the time. It has ample discretion to formulate decisions and/or minute
resolutions, provided a legal basis is given depending on its evaluation of a case. In the
same case, we held that "the recall of a due course Order after a review of the records of
the case is a common occurrence in the Court." Like the respondents in the said case,
Mercado should not think that it is only his petition which has been subjected to such
recall.

The Third Division initially denied Mercado’s petition because it is apparent on its face
that the Court of Appeals committed no reversible error in dismissing his petition for
annulment of judgment. Considering his motion for reconsideration alleging that the
Appellate Court merely relied on technical rules of procedure and that his former counsel
committed gross negligence, the Third Division took the most prudent course by
reinstating the petition. Now, after considering the petition and the comment thereon, the
Third Division was convinced that, indeed, the Appellate Court did not commit any
reversible error. Is this irregular? The answer is a resounding "no." The reinstatement of a
petition does not guarantee that it will be subsequently granted. Otherwise, the filing of
comment and subsequent pleadings would be an exercise in futility.

Now, in a bid to escape liability for contempt, Mercado invokes freedom of speech and
privacy of communication.

We are not persuaded.

A person charged with contempt of court for his utterances which clearly constitute
contempt may not ordinarily escape liability by merely invoking the constitutional
guaranty of freedom of speech. Liberty of speech must not be confused with abuse of
such liberty. When he attributed those contemptuous remarks to Chief Justice Davide and
the ponente, Mercado abused such liberty. His statements cast aspersions to their
reputation and integrity and create a distrust to the Judiciary.

The fact that Mercado’s letter was addressed only to the Chief Justice does not rinse it of
its contemptuous character. In In Re Laureta,20 we ruled that letters addressed to
individual Justices, in connection with the performance of their judicial functions become
part of the judicial record and are a matter of concern for the entire court.

Accordingly, we hold Mercado guilty of indirect contempt of court.

Section 3, Rule 71 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, as amended, provides:

Section 3. Indirect contempt to be punished after charge and hearing. – After a charge in
writing has been filed, and an opportunity given to the respondent to comment thereon
within such period as may be fixed by the court and to be heard by himself or counsel, a
person guilty of any of the following acts may be punished for indirect contempt:

xxxxxx
d. Any improper conduct tending, directly or indirectly, to impede, obstruct, or degrade
the administration of justice;

xxxxxx

As for Atty. Villanueva, while Justice Dacudao did not categorically state that he (Atty.
Villanueva) told Mercado that Chief Justice Davide exerted "tremendous pressure" on the
ponente, the reason why the petition was dismissed for the second time, however, we are
inclined to believe that Atty. Villanueva gave such information to Mercado. Not only
that, Atty. Villanueva also revealed the name of the ponente; that he and the ponente have
known each other since 1964; and that the ponente would be at

the wake of his mother, thus:

After a careful and conscientious examination of the evidence adduced in the instant case,
the undersigned investigator is fully convinced that it was only through Atty. Villanueva
that petitioner could have learned or known the name of the ponente in the case.

As between petitioner and Atty. Villanueva, the undersigned investigator in inclined to


give more credence to the testimony of petitioner. Not only was petitioner consistent,
firm, and candid and detailed in his testimony, but he was also able to corroborate his
claims, by submitting his diary which contained vital entries and by presenting the
testimony of his nephew. x x x

Moreover, it was admitted by Atty. Villanueva that he and Justice Gutierrez have known
each other since 1964 and that Justice Gutierrez was in the wake of his mother. These
admissions tend to strengthen the allegations of petitioner that Atty. Villanueva was the
one who told him the name of the ponente; that Atty. Villanueva told him that he and the
ponente are very close; and that when petitioner attended the wake of Atty. Villanueva’s
mother, he was told by Atty. Villanueva that Justice Gutierrez, the ponente, was coming.

Rule 15.06 of Canon 15 of the Code of Professional Responsibility states that "a lawyer
shall not state or imply that he is able to influence any public official, tribunal or
legislative body." Further, Rule 15.07 provides that "a lawyer must impress upon his
client compliance with the laws and the principles of fairness." Atty. Villanueva took the
forbidden course. In informing Mercado that he was "a very very good, close and long
time friend" of the ponente, Atty. Villanueva impressed upon the former that he can
obtain a favorable disposition of his case. However, when his petition was dismissed
twice, Mercado’s expectation crumbled. This prompted him to hurl unfounded,
malicious, and disrespectful accusations against Chief Justice Davide and the ponente.

We have repeatedly admonished lawyers from making bold assurances to their clients. A
lawyer who guarantees the successful outcome of a litigation will exert heavy pressure
and employ any means to win the case at all costs. But when the case is lost, he will
blame the courts, placing them under a cloud of suspicion. As what happened in this case,
Atty. Villanueva’s statements led Mercado, not only to suspect but also to believe, that
the entire Court, together with Chief Justice Davide and the ponente, could be pressured
or influenced,

Responsibility enjoins lawyers to observe and maintain the respect due to courts and the
judicial officers.21 Atty. Villanueva’s conduct, no doubt, degraded the integrity and
dignity of Chief Justice Davide and the ponente and this Court as well.

Thus, we find Atty. Villanueva also guilty of indirect contempt of court.

On the appropriate penalty, the general rule is that courts have inherent power to impose
a penalty for contempt reasonably commensurate with the gravity of the offense. And that
the degree of punishment for contempt is said to lie within the sound discretion of the
court.22 Considering the circumstances obtaining herein, we believe that Mercado and
Atty. Villanueva should be fined P50,000.00 each and warned that a repetition of similar
acts will warrant a more severe penalty.

One last word. The reason for the inherent power of courts to punish for contempt is that
respect for the courts guarantees the stability of the judicial institution. Without such
guarantee, the institution would be resting on a very shaky foundation.23 Thus, we must
act to preserve its honor and integrity from assaults of disrespect. One reason why respect
of the public for the Judiciary has diminished is because of unscrupulous lawyers who
imply that judges and justices can be influenced or bribed. Such conduct has no place in
the legal profession.

WHEREFORE, Jose Teofilo T. Mercado and Atty. Jose P. Villanueva are declared
GUILTY of indirect contempt of court. They are FINED P50,000.00 each and WARNED
that a repetition of similar acts will warrant a more severe penalty.

Let a copy of this Resolution be attached to Atty. Villanueva’s personal record in the
Office of the Bar Confidant and copies thereof be furnished the Integrated Bar of the
Philippines.

SO ORDERED.

ANGELINA SANDOVAL-GUTIERREZ
Associate Justice

WE CONCUR:

ARTEMIO V. PANGANIBAN
Chief Justice
REYNATO S. PUNO
Associate Justice CONSUELO YNARES-SANTIAGO
Asscociate Justice
ANTONIO T. CARPIO
Associate Justice (On leave)
RENATO C. CORONA
Asscociate Justice
ROMEO J. CALLEJO, SR.
Associate Justice DANTE O. TINGA
Asscociate Justice
LEONARDO A. QUISUMBING
Associate Justice MA. ALICIA AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ
Asscociate Justice
CONCHITA CARPIO MORALES
Associate Justice ADOLFO S. AZCUNA
Asscociate Justice
MINITA V. CHICO-NAZARIO
Associate Justice CANCIO C. GARCIA<
Asscociate Justice

CERTIFICATION

Pursuant to Article VIII, Section 13 of the Constitution, it is hereby certified that the
conclusions in the above Resolution were reached in consultation before the case was
assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Court.

ARTEMIO V. PANGANIBAN
Chief Justice

Footnotes

* On leave.

1 See Salcedo v. Hernandez, 61 Phil. 724 (1935).

2 Rollo, pp. 48-60. Penned by Justice Sergio L. Pestaño (deceased) and concurred in by
Justice Bernardo P. Abesamis (retired) and Justice Noel G. Tijam.

3 Id., pp. 80-83.

4 See Resolution, id. p. 151.

5 Rollo, pp. 320-327.

6 Letter dated November 2, 2004, id., p. 393.

7 Resolution dated January 26, 2005, id., pp. 413-415.

8 TSN, November 22, 2004, p. 27.


9 TSN, November 22, 2005, p. 36.

10 Id. pp. 37-41.

11 Rollo, p. 65.

12 Letter dated November 22, 2004, id., pp. 366-369.

13 Compliance and Explanation dated November 30, 2004, id. pp. 403-409.

14 TSN, February 21, 2005, p. 12.

15 See Resolution, rollo, p. 679.

16 Spiegel v. Beacon Participation, 8 NE 2nd Series, 895, 1007.

17 Air France v. Carrascoso, L-21438, September 28, 1966, 18 SCRA 155, 166-167.

18 Salonga v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 111478, March 13, 1997, 269 SCRA 534.

19 G.R. No. 68635, March 12, 1987, 148 SCRA 382, 417.

20 Supra.

21 Fernandez v. Verzola, A. M. No. CA-04-40, August 13, 2004, 436 SCRA 369.

22 17 Am Jur 2d § 105, citing United Marine Div. of I.L.A. v. Commonwealth, 193 Va


773, 71 SE2d 159, cert den 344 US 893, 97 L Ed 690, 73 S Ct 212.

23 See Salcedo v. Hernandez, supra.

EN BANC

AILEEN A. FERANCULLO, A.C. No. 7214

Complainant,

Present:
PANGANIBAN, C.J.,

PUNO,

- versus - QUISUMBING,

YNARES-SANTIAGO,

SANDOVAL-GUTIERREZ,

CARPIO,

AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ,

CORONA,

CARPIO MORALES,

ATTY. SANCHO M. FERANCULLO, CALLEJO, SR.,

JR., AZCUNA,

Respondent. TINGA,

CHICO-NAZARIO,

GARCIA, and

VELASCO, JR., JJ.

Promulgated:

November 30, 2006

x--------------------------------------------------------------------------------- x
DECISION

Tinga, J.

Tell the truth and shame the Devil

Shakespeare-Henry IV, Part I, III-1

Before the Court is an administrative complaint for disbarment filed by Aileen Ferancullo
(petitioner) against Atty. Sancho M. Ferancullo, Jr. (respondent) grounded on his alleged
commission of estafa, bigamy and violation of the lawyer’s oath. Both parties have
starkly contrasting stories to tell. Hence, the necessity of presenting both versions.

In a verified complaint dated December 17, 2004,[1] complainant narrated how


respondent allegedly took advantage of their attorney-client relationship to extort money
from her in consideration of the out-of-court settlement of her criminal cases and
deceived her into marrying him by concealing his previous marriage.

Her complaint-affidavit narrated that sometime in February 2004, a certain SPO1 Lino
Taytay referred her to respondent as she was in need of legal aid concerning a string of
complaints for estafa filed against her. They allegedly agreed to a monthly retainer fee of
P10,000.00 in consideration for respondent’s legal services; the first payment thereof
made in the same month of February at her residence in Central Park Condominium,
Pasay City. Respondent purportedly advised complainant to stay for the meantime at his
office located at GF-7, Elenel Apt., 2243 Luna corner Mabolo Sts., Pasay City, to avoid
arrest and to keep her safe from the people suing and threatening her. He allegedly went
to the extent of sending his cousin, Felix Reyes, to fetch complainant from her residence.
At night, complainant and respondent, together with the latter’s office staff, went out for
dining and relaxation.[2]

Complainant recounted further that respondent prodded her to move into a more secure
location, the Youth and Student Travel Association of the Philippines in Parañaque.[3]
That allegedly became the start of his courtship. Complainant averred that respondent
would send her breakfast and flowers. When asked about his personal circumstances,
respondent supposedly told complainant that he was still single although he had a child
out of wedlock. Complainant also maintained that she saw no apparent indications
suggesting that respondent was married.[4]

As indicative of their romantic relationship, respondent and complainant allegedly


traveled to different places. According to complainant, respondent took her to Antipolo to
meet his relatives and to Mindoro to attend the birthday celebration of his mother. They
also purportedly went to Cebu City to meet complainant’s eldest child.[5]

Complainant claimed that in the beginning, respondent diligently attended to her cases
and advised her not to appear at the hearings before the Office of the Prosecutor, assuring
her that he would attempt at a compromise agreement with the adverse parties. For this
purpose, between February and July 2004, complainant purportedly entrusted to
respondent varying amounts of money totaling Four Hundred Thirty One Thousand Pesos
(P431,000.00) based on his assurance that her cases merely involved money claims which
can be settled amicably. Complainant claimed that she had to ask this amount from her
parents. Complainant did not ask from respondent for any receipt evidencing the
transaction.[6]

Complainant further alleged that she and respondent moved to a unit at Parrison Tower at
F.B. Harrison, Pasay City sometime in April 2004, where they started living together as
husband and wife. The unit was purportedly owned by a client of respondent who agreed
to offset the amount of rental with the legal fees due him.[7]

To corroborate her allegation that they lived together as husband and wife, complainant
annexed to her complaint-affidavit five (5) photographs, three of which show intimate
poses of complainant and respondent.[8] Complainant also recounted that during
respondent’s birthday celebration held on May 28, 2004 at the rooftop of the Parrison
Tower, he supposedly introduced complainant as his wife to his guests.[9] Complainant
attached a VCD copy documenting the event to her reply to respondent’s answer.[10] As
averred, at the start of the video, complainant can be seen entertaining the guests and
overseeing the food preparation. Early in the party, complainant’s three children arrived.
While respondent was walking around and entertaining the guests, complainant stood
behind the buffet table supervising last minute preparation before the food was served. As
the guests started to get food from the buffet table, complainant approached respondent.
Respondent placed his hand on the hips of complainant while the latter whispered at him.
All throughout the video, complainant was either standing behind the buffet table or
conversing with respondent and the guests.

Complainant found out that she was pregnant sometime in June 2004. On August 4,
2004, complainant and respondent allegedly wed in a rite solemnized in Kawit, Cavite.
[11] In support of this averment, complainant annexed to the complaint a photocopy of
the marriage certificate.[12]

Two (2) months thereafter, in a casual conversation with a certain Teresita Santos,
another client of respondent, Santos told complainant that respondent was already
married to a certain Marlin M. Maranan. Complainant then confronted respondent who
allegedly admitted that he was married but assured complainant that he was ready to
leave his wife so that they can be together. The relationship between complainant and
respondent turned sour eventually leading to their separation.[13]

Complainant sought assistance from the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP). In a
letter dated 14 October 2006, Atty. Romarico Ayson sent a demand letter to respondent,
urging the latter to shoulder complainant’s hospitalization until her delivery and provide
monthly support for the child in the amount of Thirty Thousand Pesos (P30,000.00)
thereafter.[14]

Complainant averred that since their separation, respondent and his agents had been
threatening her with arrest and lawsuits. She also discovered that the criminal complaints
remained pending filed against her with the Office of the Prosecutor. She claimed that
respondent himself had been exerting efforts so that the criminal complaints against her
would proceed.[15]
In compliance with the IBP Order dated 6 January 2005, respondent filed an answer,[16]
denying the allegations that he committed estafa, maintained an illicit relationship and
contracted a bigamous marriage with complainant. While admitting that complainant
sought his legal services in connection with the latter’s cases for estafa and illegal
recruitment pending before the Office of the Prosecutor, respondent insisted that his
relationship with complainant was purely professional. In particular, he claimed that the
purpose of his visits to complainant’s residence was to show her court orders issued in
relation to her cases. He also averred that it was complainant who sought refuge in his
office and invited him and his legal staff for dinners to discuss her cases.[17]

Respondent maintained that complainant insisted on skipping the scheduled hearings


before the Office of the Prosecutor. He also denied receiving P431,000.00 from
complainant, arguing that on the alleged dates of payments, he was out for court
appearances.[18] He admitted going to Cebu City upon the behest of complainant who
shouldered all his expenses, but the visit was only for the purpose of discussing the cases
with complainant’s parents.[19] Respondent denied meeting complainant’s eldest child in
Cebu City and all the other alleged trips they took together.[20]

Respondent likewise denied courting complainant asserting that the latter had already
known since February 2004 that he was married.[21] He claimed to be happily married to
his legal wife. He denied living in together with complainant or providing a residence for
complainant. According to him, complainant vacated her residence at Central Park
Condominium, Pasay City because her lease application was denied.[22] While he
admitted that the unit at Parrison Tower at F.B. Harrison, Pasay City belonged to his
client, respondent insisted that his relatives had been occupying the same since March
2004, thus making it impossible for complainant to have transferred to said unit in April
2004.[23]

Respondent described as contrary to human experience the allegation of complainant that


he introduced her as his wife during his birthday celebration on 28 May 2004, where his
brothers and sisters were also present. To support this claim, he submitted the affidavits
of fifteen guests in his party, stating that respondent did not introduce complainant as his
wife.[24]

Respondent also denied that a marriage celebration between him and complainant took
place on 4 August 2004 or that he signed the marriage certificate and or that he got her
pregnant. He had already instituted corresponding criminal complaints against
complainant for the alleged falsification of his signature in the marriage certificate.
Respondent claimed that complainant was extorting money from him, hence the filing of
the administrative complaint.[25]

Complainant submitted a Reply[26] to respondent’s answer to rebut his allegations.


Annexed to her reply were receipts of payments on utilities to prove that she actually
lived at Parrison Tower and a VCD copy showing the video clip of respondent’s birthday
celebration held on 28 May 2004. Complainant and respondent also filed their respective
position papers. In addition, complainant filed a Manifestation and Reply with the
following annexes: (1) a blue polo barong and pants allegedly worn by respondent during
his birthday celebration on 28 May 2004; (2) the original bank statement reciting the
deposits made by complainant’s parents of the amount of P431,000.00;[27] (3) the
original passbook in the names of complainant

and respondent;[28] and (4) the certified xerox copy from the original of their marriage
contract.[29]

In response thereto, respondent moved to expunge from the records the annexes to
complainant’s Manifestation and Reply[30] on the ground that he was not furnished a
copy of said annexes and that the Manifestation and Reply was an unsigned pleading.
Complainant filed an opposition thereto.[31]

On 20 January 2006, the Commission on Bar Discipline of the Integrated Bar of the
Philippines (IBP) issued its Report and Recommendation to dismiss the complaint against
respondent for lack of merit. The IBP Board of Governors adopted and approved said
Report and Recommendation in a Resolution[32] dated 20 March 2006, finding the
recommendation to be fully supported by the evidence on record and the applicable laws
and rules, and considering that the complaint lacked merit. The IBP believed that the
complainant failed to present a clear, convincing and satisfactory proof to warrant the
disbarment or suspension of respondent. The IBP also ruled that the pictures and VCD
not having been duly authenticated could not be received in evidence.
As is usual in cases of this nature, the adverse parties presented conflicting versions. The
duty to examine the claims and counterclaims and the evidence to support them ideally
lies with the IBP, but in the instant case, its evaluation leaves much to be desired.

Despite the numerous factual allegations presented by both parties and the affidavits and
documents to support them, the IBP made only a general conclusion that complainant
must be motivated by greed in filing the instant administrative complaint. Thus, the Court
reviewed the records.

In administrative proceedings, the complainant has the burden of proving, by substantial


evidence, the allegations in the complaint. Substantial evidence has been defined as such
relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.
[33] For the Court to exercise its disciplinary powers, the case against the respondent
must be established by clear, convincing and satisfactory proof. Considering the serious
consequence of the disbarment or suspension of a member of the Bar, this Court has
consistently held that clear preponderant evidence is necessary to justify the imposition of
the administrative penalty.[34]

Contrary to the IBP’s opinion, there is a preponderance of evidence that respondent


maintained an illicit relationship with complainant who was not his legal wife. It also
appears that respondent contracted a second marriage with complainant as evidenced by
their marriage certificate.

The best proof of marriage between man and wife is a marriage contract.[35] Section 7 of
Rule 130 of the Rules of Court reads as follows:

Sec. 7. Evidence admissible when original document is a public record.– When the
original of a document is in the custody of a public officer or is recorded in a public
office, its contents may be proved by a certified copy issued by the public officer in
custody thereof.
The certified copy of the marriage contract, issued by a public officer in custody thereof,
was admissible as the best evidence of its contents.[36] The marriage certificate plainly
indicates that a marriage was celebrated between respondent and complainant on 4
August 2004, and it should be accorded the full faith and credence given to public
documents. The marriage certificate should prevail over respondent’s claim that the
marriage certificate or his signature therein was falsified. The rule is that a notarized
document carries the evidentiary weight conferred upon it with respect to its due
execution, and documents acknowledged before a notary public have in their favor the
presumption of regularity.[37]

Respondent contends that the certified true copy of the marriage contract should be
expunged from the records because he was not furnished a copy thereof and the
Manifestation and Reply to which it was annexed was an unsigned pleading. The records
show otherwise. A copy of said marriage certificate, denominated as Annex “G,”
accompanied the initiatory complaint filed before the IBP and furnished to respondent. In
fact, respondent admitted in paragraph 61 of his answer that he received a copy of the
marriage contract.[38] A copy of complainant’s Manifestation and Reply, to which a
certified true copy of the questioned marriage certificate was annexed, was also sent by
registered mail to the IBP.

The proscription against unsigned pleadings laid down in Section 3, Rule 7 of the Rules
of Court is not applicable in the instant case. In view of its nature, administrative
proceedings against lawyers are not strictly governed by the Rules of Court. As we held
in In re Almacen, a disbarment case is sui generis for it is neither purely civil nor purely
criminal but is rather an investigation by the court into the conduct of its officers.[39]
Hence, an administrative proceeding continues despite the desistance of a complainant, or
failure of the complainant to prosecute the same.[40] Moreover, no defect in a complaint,
notice, answer, or in the proceeding or the Investigator’s Report shall be considered as
substantial unless the Board of Governors, upon considering the whole record, finds that
such defect has resulted or may result in a miscarriage of justice.[41] That the copy of the
Manifestation and Reply furnished to respondent was not signed by either complainant or
her counsel is merely an innocuous error. In any case, the copy thereof forming part of
the IBP records was signed by complainant.
All told, the Court finds that complainant’s version is more credible, with the caveat that
the Court is not accepting hook line and sinker every allegation of complainant. There is
substantial evidence suggesting that more than a business or professional relationship
existed between complainant and respondent. Complainant presented certain evidence
either proving her claim or demonstrating as incredible respondent’s defense that
complainant was merely extorting money from him. For instance, to prove her allegation
that she and respondent lived together, complainant presented the original of the retainer
agreement between respondent and the owner of the condominium building where they
allegedly lived together. Complainant also attached to her reply copies of receipts of
payments on utilities and the original passbook of an account in the names of both
complainant and respondent. These pieces of evidence were supposed to be under the
control or custody of respondent, but the latter offered no explanation as to how
complainant was able to produce them. If respondent’s claim is to be believed,
complainant must have gone to great lengths just to fabricate or steal these pieces of
evidence, a theory that is not even suggested by respondent. Incidentally, vis-à-vis
complainant’s overwhelming allegations, respondent offered only denials which are
effectively self-serving and weak under the law on evidence. Other than his general claim
that complainant only wanted money from him, respondent did not even bother to create
his own version of the supposed extortion.

Moreover, the VCD documenting respondent’s birthday celebration on 28 May 2004


belied respondent’s claim that he acted as complainant’s legal counsel only and the
concomitant assumption that she was there herself as a guest only. In said party,
complainant entertained the guests and supervised the food preparation. Obviously, these
are not the usual actuations of a client or a guest merely invited to a party.

Respondent would have this Court disregard the contents of the VCD and of the intimate
photos of respondent and complainant on the ground that under the rules of evidence, the
person who took the pictures or videotaped the birthday party should identify and
authenticate the picture and VCD.

Respondent’s objection will be sustained in civil or criminal litigation, but not in an


administrative proceeding as in the instant case. In administrative proceedings, technical
rules of procedure and evidence are not strictly applied; administrative due process
cannot be fully equated to due process in its strict judicial sense.[42]
The Court, however, finds no sufficient evidence indicating that respondent falsely
promised the settlement of complainant’s criminal cases in consideration of the amount
of P431,000.00. The bank statements showing the deposits made by complainant’s
parents are not conclusive of said claim because they do not prove that said amounts were
received by respondent.

For what ethical breaches then may respondent be held liable?

The Code of Professional Responsibility provides:

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

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

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

On several occasions, the Court has held that an illicit relation is considered disgraceful
and immoral conduct which is subject to disciplinary action.[43] In Tucay v. Atty. Tucay,
[44] it was held:

x x x x indeed respondent has been carrying on an illicit affair with a married woman,
grossly immoral conduct and only indicative of an extremely low regard for the
fundamental ethics of his profession. This detestable behavior renders him regrettably
unfit and undeserving of the treasured honor and privileges which his license confers
upon him.
A lawyer may be disbarred or suspended for any violation of his oath, a patent disregard
of his duties, or an odious deportment unbecoming of an attorney. The grounds
enumerated in Section 27, Rule 138, of the Rules of Court, including deceit, malpractice,
or other gross misconduct in 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 the practice of law, or for a willful disobedience of
any lawful order of a superior court, or for corruptly or willfully appearing as an
attorney for a party to a case

without authority to do so, are not preclusive in nature even as they are broad enough as
to cover practically any kind of impropriety that a lawyer does or commits in his
professional career or in his private life. A lawyer at no time must be wanting in probity
and moral fiber which not only are conditions precedent to his entrance to, but are
likewise essential demands for his continued membership in, a great and noble
profession.[45]

In Dantes v. Dantes,[46] the Court ordered the disbarment of a lawyer, describing as


grossly immoral his conduct of engaging in illicit relationships and abandoning his
family. The Court exhorted lawyers to refrain from scandalous behavior, thus:

In Barrientos vs. Daarol, we ruled that as officers of the court, lawyers must not only in
fact be of good moral character but must also be seen to be of good moral character and
leading lives in accordance with the highest moral standards of the community. More
specifically, a member of the Bar and officer of the court is not only required to refrain
from adulterous relationships or keeping mistresses but must also so behave himself as to
avoid scandalizing the public by creating the belief that he is flouting those moral
standards. If the practice of law is to remain an honorable profession and attain its basic
ideals, those enrolled in its ranks should not only master its tenets and principles but
should also, in their lives, accord continuing fidelity to them. The requirement of good
moral character is of much greater import, as far as the general public is concerned, than
the possession of legal learning.

It should be noted that the requirement of good moral character has three ostensible
purposes, namely: (i) to protect the public; (ii) to protect the public image of lawyers; and
(iii) to protect prospective clients. A writer added a fourth: to protect errant lawyers from
themselves.[47]
Respondent’s intimate relationship with a woman other than his wife shows his moral
indifference to the opinion of the good and respectable members of the community.[48] It
is a time-honored rule that good moral character is not only a condition precedent to
admission to the practice of law. Its continued possession is also essential for remaining
in the practice of law.[49] However, the power to disbar must be exercised with great
caution, and only in a clear case of misconduct that seriously affects the standing and
character of the lawyer as an officer of the Court and as a member of the bar. Disbarment
should never be decreed where any lesser penalty, such as temporary suspension, could
accomplish the end desired.[50]

The penalty for maintaining an illicit relationship may either be suspension or


disbarment, depending on the circumstances of the case. In case of suspension, the period
would range from one year[51] to indefinite suspension, as in the case of Cordova v.
Cordova,[52] where the lawyer was found to have maintained an adulterous relationship
for two years and refused to support his family.

In Dantes v. Atty. Dantes,[53] disbarment was imposed as a penalty on the lawyer who
maintained illicit relationships with at least two women during the subsistence of his
marriage. And so was the case in Toledo v. Toledo[54] and Obusan v. Obusan, Jr.,[55]
where the lawyers subject of disciplinary actions were found to have abandoned their
legal wives and cohabited with other women.

The exacerbating circumstances present in the cited cases are absent in this case.
Moreover, complainant failed to prove that respondent misappropriated her money. Thus,
the Court finds that suspension from the practice of law is adequate to penalize
respondent for his grossly immoral conduct.

WHEREFORE, Atty. Sancho M. Ferancullo, Jr. is found GUILTY of gross immorality


and is hereby SUSPENDED from the practice of law for a period of two (2) years
effective upon notice hereof, with the specific WARNING that a more severe penalty
shall be imposed should he commit the same or a similar offense hereafter.
SO ORDERED.

DANTE O. TINGA Associate Justice

WE CONCUR:

ARTEMIO V. PANGANIBAN

Chief Justice

REYNATO S. PUNO

Associate Justice
LEONARDO A. QUISUMBING

Associate Justice

CONSUELO YNARES-SANTIAGO

Associate Justice

ANGELINA SANDOVAL-GUTIERREZ

Associate Justice

ANTONIO T. CARPIO

Associate Justice

MA. ALICIA AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ

Associate Justice
RENATO C. CORONA

Associate Justice

CONCHITA CARPIO MORALES

Associate Justice

ROMEO J. CALLEJO, SR.

Associate Justice

ADOLFO S. AZCUNA

Associate Justice

MINITA V. CHICO-NAZARIO

Associate Justice

CANCIO C. GARCIA
Associate Justice

PRESBITERO J. VELASCO, JR.

Associate Justice

[1]Rollo, Vol. 1, pp. 1-8.

[2]Id. at 1-2.

[3]Id. at 3.

[4]Rollo, p. 3.

[5]Id.

[6]Id. at 2-3.

[7]Id. at 3.

[8]Id. at 27.
[9]Id. at 4.

[10]Rollo, Vol. II, p. 3.

[11]Id. at 4.

[12]Id. at 22.

[13]Id. at 5.

[14]Id. at 23.

[15]Id. at 6.

[16]Id. at 40.

[17]Id. at 43.

[18]Id. at 48.

[19]Id. at 52.
[20]Id. at 53.

[21]Id. at 46.

[22]Id.

[23]Id. at 54.

[24]Id. at 133-148.

[25]Id. at 58-59.

[26]Id. at 179.

[27]Id. at 193-94.

[28]Id. at 192.

[29]Id. at 195.

[30]Rollo, Vol. II, pp. 189-191.


[31]Id. at 206.

[32]Rollo, Vol. I, p. 76.

[33]Fr. Sinnott, v. Judge Barte, 423 Phil. 522, 536 (2001).

[34]Concepcion v. Atty. Fandiño, Jr., 389 Phil. 474, 481 (2000).

[35]Villanueva, et al. v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 84464, June 21, 1991, 198 SCRA
472; Vda. De Chua v. Court of Appeals, 350 Phil. 465 (1998); People v. Alejo, G.R. No.
149370, September 23, 2003, 411 SCRA 563; Tenebro v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No.
150758, February 18, 2004, 423 SCRA 272.

[36]Tenebro v. Court of Appeals, supra.

[37]Loyola v. Court of Appeals, 383 Phil. 171, 181 (2000).

[38]Rollo, p. 70.

[39]Cojuangco, Jr. v. Atty. Palma, A. C. No. 2474, September 15, 2004, 438 SCRA 306.

[40]Rules of Court, Rule 139-B, Sec. 5.

[41]Rules of Court, Rule 139-B, Sec. 11.


[42]Ocampo v. Ombudsman, 379 Phil. 21, 28 (2000).

[43]Dela Torre- Yadao v. Cabanatan, A.M. No. P-05-1953, June 8, 2005, 459 SCRA 332.

[44]376 Phil. 336 (1999).

[45]Id. at 340.

[46]A.C. No. 6486, September 22, 2004, 438 SCRA 582.

[47]Id. at 588-589Supra.

[48]Sinnott v.Barte, supra note 30, at 293.

[49]Paras v. Atty. Paras, 397 Phil. 462, 475 (2000).

[50]Id.

[51]Re: Initial Reports On The Grenade Incident, 419 Phil. 267 (2001).

[52]A.C. No. 3249, November 29, 1989, 179 SCRA 680.


[53]Supra note 43.

[54]117 Phil. 768 (1963).

[55]213 Phil. 437 (1984).

A.C. No. 6288 June 16, 2006


MARILI C. RONQUILLO, ET AL. VS. ATTY. HOMOBONO CEZAR

Republic of the Philippines


SUPREME COURT
Manila

EN BANC

A.C. No. 6288 June 16, 2006

MARILI C. RONQUILLO, ALEXANDER RONQUILLO and JON ALEXANDER


RONQUILLO, represented by their Attorney-in-Fact SERVILLANO A. CABUNGCAL,
Complainants,
vs.
ATTY. HOMOBONO T. CEZAR, Respondent.

DECISION

PUNO, J.:

Complainants seek the disbarment or suspension of respondent from the practice of law
for unlawful, dishonest, immoral and deceitful conduct. They allege that respondent sold
them a piece of property over which he has no right nor interest, and that he refuses to
return to them the amount they have paid him for it.

Complainant Marili C. Ronquillo is a Filipino citizen currently residing in Cannes,


France, together with her minor children, Alexander and Jon Alexander.

In May 1999, complainants and respondent entered into a Deed of Assignment.1 For the
price of P1.5M, respondent transferred, in favor of the complainants, his rights and
interests over a townhouse unit and lot, located at 75 Granwood Villas Subd., BF Homes,
Quezon City. Respondent also obligated himself to deliver to complainants a copy of the
Contract to Sell he executed with Crown Asia, the townhouse developer, dated April 19,
1996. Upon full payment of the purchase price, respondent further undertook to have
Crown Asia execute a Deed of Absolute Sale over the property in favor of the
complainants.

Respondent received from complainants P750,000.00 upon execution of the Deed of


Assignment. The balance was to be paid by complainants in four equal quarterly
installments of P187,500.00 each. Thus, complainants issued in favor of respondent four
postdated checks in the amount of P187,500.00 each. Respondent was able to encash the
first check dated August 17, 1999.2

Complainants subsequently received information from Crown Asia that respondent has
not paid in full the price of the townhouse at the time he executed the Deed of
Assignment. Respondent also failed to deliver to complainants a copy of the Contract to
Sell he allegedly executed with Crown Asia. For these reasons, complainant Marili
Ronquillo ordered the bank to stop payment on the second check she issued to respondent
in the amount of P187,500.00.

On March 6, 2000, complainants, through their counsel, wrote respondent, informing him
that they were still willing to pay the balance of the purchase price of the townhouse on
the condition that respondent work on Crown Asia’s execution of the Deed of Absolute
Sale in their favor. In the alternative, complainants demanded the return of the amount of
P937,500.00, plus legal interest, within ten days.3 The amount of P937,500.00 represents
the P750,000.00 down payment and the first quarterly installment of P187,500.00 which
complainants paid respondent.

In a letter dated May 2, 2000, addressed to complainants,4 respondent claimed that he


was "working now on a private project which hopefully will be realized not long from
now," and requested for "a period of twenty days from May 15, 2000 within which to
either completely pay Crown Asia or return the money at your (complainants’) option."
The period lapsed but respondent did not make good his promise to pay Crown Asia in
full, or return the amount paid by complainants.

On February 21, 2002, complainants’ counsel sent respondent a second letter5


demanding the return of the amount of P937,500.00, including legal interest, for failing to
comply with his promise. The demand was unheeded.

Hence, this administrative complaint6 that respondent engaged in unlawful, dishonest,


immoral or deceitful conduct. Allegedly, respondent violated his oath under Rule 1.01,
Canon 1 of the Code of Professional Responsibility and he ought to be disbarred or
suspended from the practice of law.

Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) Investigating Commissioner Milagros V. San


Juan, to whom the instant disciplinary case was assigned for investigation, report and
recommendation, found respondent guilty of dishonest and deceitful conduct proscribed
under Rule 1.01, Canon 1 of the Code of Professional Responsibility. In her Report dated
October 9, 2003, she recommended that respondent be suspended from the practice of
law for a period of three (3) years. The IBP Board of Governors, through Resolution No.
XVI-2003-226, dated October 25, 2003, approved the recommendation of Commissioner
San Juan.

We agree.

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) willfully appearing as an attorney for a party
without authority. Rule 1.01, Canon 1 of the Code of Professional Responsibility
provides that "A lawyer shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful
conduct." "Conduct," as used in this rule, does not refer exclusively to the performance of
a lawyer’s professional duties. This Court has made clear in a long line of cases7 that 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.

In the instant case, respondent may have acted in his private capacity when he entered
into a contract with complainant Marili representing to have the rights to transfer title
over the townhouse unit and lot in question. When he failed in his undertaking,
respondent fell short of his duty under Rule 1.01, Canon 1 of the Code of Professional
Responsibility. It cannot be gainsaid that it was unlawful for respondent to transfer
property over which one has no legal right of ownership. Respondent was likewise guilty
of dishonest and deceitful conduct when he concealed this lack of right from
complainants. He did not inform the complainants that he has not yet paid in full the price
of the subject townhouse unit and lot, and, therefore, he had no right to sell, transfer or
assign said property at the time of the execution of the Deed of Assignment. His
acceptance of the bulk of the purchase price amounting to Nine Hundred Thirty-Seven
Thousand Five Hundred Pesos (P937,500.00), despite knowing he was not entitled to it,
made matters worse for him.

Respondent’s adamant refusal to return to complainant Marili Ronquillo the money she
paid him, which was the fruit of her labor as an Overseas Filipino Worker for ten (10)
years, is morally reprehensible. By his actuations, respondent failed to live up to the strict
standard of morality required by the Code of Professional Responsibility and violated the
trust and respect reposed in him as a member of the Bar, and an officer of the court.

Respondent’s culpability is therefore clear. He received a letter from complainants’


counsel demanding the execution of the Deed of Absolute Sale in favor of the
complainants, or, in the alternative, the return of the money paid by complainants. In
reply to said letter, respondent acknowledged his obligation, and promised to settle the
same if given sufficient time, thus:

xxx
I am working now on a private project which hopefully will be realized not long from
now but I need a little time to fix some things over. May I please request for a period of
20 days from May 15, 2000 within which to either completely pay Crown Asia or return
the money at your option. (Emphasis supplied)

In no uncertain terms, respondent admitted not having full ownership over the subject
townhouse unit and lot, as he has yet to completely pay Crown Asia. Respondent even
failed to produce the Contract to Sell he allegedly executed with Crown Asia over the
subject unit, which would show the extent of his right of ownership, if any, over the
townhouse unit and lot in question.

To be sure, complainants gave respondent sufficient time to fulfill his obligation. It was
only after almost two years had passed, after respondent promised to pay Crown Asia or
return to complainants the amount they paid him, that complainants sent respondent a
second letter8 demanding solely the return of the amount of P937,500.00, including legal
interest. By this time, it was indubitable that respondent would not be able to perform his
end of their agreement.

The practice of law is not a right but a privilege. It is granted only to those of good moral
character.9 The Bar must maintain a high standard of honesty and fair dealing.10
Lawyers must conduct themselves beyond reproach at all times, whether they are dealing
with their clients or the public at large,11 and a violation of the high moral standards of
the legal profession justifies the imposition of the appropriate penalty, including
suspension and disbarment.12

Be that as it may, we cannot grant complainants’ prayer that respondent be directed to


return the money he received from them in the amount of P937,500.00. Disciplinary
proceedings against lawyers do not involve a trial of an action, but rather investigations
by the court into the conduct of one of its officers. The only question for determination in
these proceedings is whether or not the attorney is still fit to be allowed to continue as a
member of the Bar.13 Thus, this Court cannot rule on the issue of the amount of money
that should be returned to the complainants.

IN VIEW WHEREOF, respondent Atty. Homobono T. Cezar is SUSPENDED from the


practice of law for a period of THREE (3) YEARS, effective immediately. Let a copy of
this Decision be furnished the Office of the Bar Confidant, the Integrated Bar of the
Philippines, and all courts for their information and guidance.

SO ORDERED.

REYNATO S. PUNO
Associate Justice

WE CONCUR:
ARTEMIO V. PANGANIBAN
Chief Justice
LEONARDO A. QUISUMBING
Associate Justice (on leave)
CONSUELO YNARES-SANTIAGO
Asscociate Justice

ANGELINA SANDOVAL-GUTIERREZ
Associate Justice ANTONIO T. CARPIO
Asscociate Justice
MA. ALICIA AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ
Associate Justice RENATO C. CORONA
Asscociate Justice
CONCHITA CARPIO MORALES
Associate Justice ROMEO J. CALLEJO, SR.
Asscociate Justice
ADOLFO S. AZCUNA
Associate Justice DANTE O. TINGA
Asscociate Justice
MINITA V. CHICO-NAZARIO
Associate Justice CANCIO C. GARCIA
Asscociate Justice

PRESBITERO J. VELASCO, JR.


Associate Justice

Footnotes

1 Annexes "C" to "C-1"; rollo, pp. 13-14.

2 Annex "D"; id at 15.

3 Annexes "E" to "E-1"; id at 16-17.

4 Annex "F"; id at 18.

5 Annexes "G" to "G-1"; id at 19-20.

6 Id at 1-20.

7 Lao v. Medel, A.C. No. 5916, July 1, 2003, 405 SCRA 227, 232; Ong v. Unto, A.C.
No. 2417, February 5, 2002, 376 SCRA 152, 160; Calub v. Suller, A.C. No. 1474,
January 28, 2000, 323 SCRA 556; Narag v. Narag, A.C. No. 3405, June 29, 1998, 291
SCRA 451; Nakpil v. Valdes, A.C. No. 2040, March 4, 1998, 286 SCRA 758.

8 Annexes "G" to "G-1"; rollo, pp. 19-20.


9 People v. Santodides, G.R. No. 109149, December 21, 1999, 321 SCRA 310.

10 Maligsa v. Cabanting, A.C. No. 4539, May 14, 1997, 272 SCRA 408, 413.

11 Gatchalian Promotions Talents Pool, Inc. v. Naldoza, A.C. No. 4017, September 29,
1999, 315 SCRA 406.

12 Ere v. Rubi, A.C. No. 5176, December 14, 1999, 320 SCRA 617.

13 Suzuki v. Tiamson, A.C. No. 6542, September 30, 2005, 471 SCRA 129, citing In re
Almacen, G.R. No. 27654, February 18, 1970, 31 SCRA 562.