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ENBANC

[B.M.No.1036.June10,2003]

DONNAMARIES.AGUIRRE,complainant,vs.EDWINL.RANA,respondent.

CARPIO,J.:

DECISION

TheCase

BeforeoneisadmittedtothePhilippineBar,hemustpossesstherequisitemoralintegrity formembershipinthelegalprofession.Possessionofmoralintegrityisofgreaterimportance than possession of legal learning. The practice of law is a privilege bestowed only on the morallyfit.Abarcandidatewhoismorallyunfitcannotpracticelawevenifhepassesthebar examinations.

TheFacts

Respondent Edwin L. Rana (respondent) was among those who passed the 2000 Bar Examinations.

On 21 May 2001, one day before the scheduled mass oath­taking of successful bar examineesasmembersofthePhilippineBar,complainantDonnaMarieAguirre(complainant) filedagainstrespondentaPetitionforDenialofAdmissiontotheBar.Complainant charged respondentwithunauthorizedpracticeoflaw,gravemisconduct,violationoflaw,andgrave misrepresentation.

The Court allowed respondent to take his oath as a member of the Bar during the scheduled oath­taking on 22 May 2001 at the Philippine International Convention Center. However, the Court ruled that respondent could not sign the Roll of Attorneys pending the resolutionofthechargeagainsthim.Thus,respondenttookthelawyersoathonthescheduled datebuthasnotsignedtheRollofAttorneysuptonow.

Complainantchargesrespondentforunauthorizedpracticeoflawandgravemisconduct. Complainant alleges that respondent, while not yet a lawyer, appeared as counsel for a candidate in the May 2001 elections before the Municipal Board of Election Canvassers (MBEC) of Mandaon, Masbate. Complainant further alleges that respondent filed with the MBEC a pleading dated 19 May 2001 entitled Formal Objection to the Inclusion in the Canvassing of Votes in Some Precincts for the Office of Vice­Mayor. In this pleading, respondent represented himself as counsel for and in behalf of Vice Mayoralty Candidate, GeorgeBunan,andsignedthepleadingascounselforGeorgeBunan(Bunan).

On the charge of violation of law, complainant claims that respondent is a municipal

governmentemployee,beingasecretaryoftheSangguniangBayanofMandaon,Masbate.As such, respondent is not allowed by law to act as counsel for a client in any court or administrativebody.

On the charge of grave misconduct and misrepresentation, complainant accuses respondentofactingascounselforvicemayoraltycandidateGeorgeBunan(Bunan)without the latter engaging respondents services. Complainant claims that respondent filed the pleadingasaploytopreventtheproclamationofthewinningvicemayoraltycandidate.

On22May2001,theCourtissuedaresolutionallowingrespondenttotakethelawyers

oathbutdisallowedhimfromsigningtheRollofAttorneysuntilheisclearedofthecharges against him. In the same resolution, the Court required respondent to comment on the complaintagainsthim.

InhisComment,respondentadmitsthatBunansoughthisspecificassistancetorepresent himbeforetheMBEC.RespondentclaimsthathedecidedtoassistandadviceBunan,notasa lawyer but as a person who knows the law. Respondent admits signing the 19 May 2001 pleadingthatobjectedtotheinclusionofcertainvotesinthecanvassing.Heexplains,however, that he did not sign the pleading as a lawyer or represented himself as an attorney in the pleading.

Onhisemployment assecretaryof theSangguniangBayan, respondent claimsthat he

submittedhisresignationon11May2001whichwasallegedlyacceptedonthesamedate.He

submittedacopyoftheCertificationofReceiptofRevocableResignationdated28May2001

signed by Vice­Mayor Napoleon Relox. Respondent further claims that the complaint is politicallymotivatedconsideringthatcomplainantisthedaughterofSilvestreAguirre,thelosing candidateformayorofMandaon,Masbate.Respondentpraysthatthecomplaintbedismissed forlackofmeritandthathebeallowedtosigntheRollofAttorneys.

On22June2001,complainantfiledherReplytorespondentsCommentandrefutedthe

claim of respondent that his appearance before the MBEC was only to extend specific

assistancetoBunan.Complainantallegesthaton19May2001EmilyEstipona­Hao(Estipona­

Hao)filedapetitionforproclamationasthewinningcandidateformayor.Respondentsigned ascounselforEstipona­Haointhispetition.Whenrespondentappearedascounselbeforethe

MBEC,complainantquestionedhisappearanceontwogrounds:(1)respondenthadnottaken

hisoathasalawyer;and(2)hewasanemployeeofthegovernment.

RespondentfiledaReply(Re:ReplytoRespondentsComment)reiteratinghisclaimthat

theinstantadministrativecaseismotivatedmainlybypoliticalvendetta.

On17July2001,theCourtreferredthecasetotheOfficeoftheBarConfidant(OBC)for

evaluation,reportandrecommendation.

OBCsReportandRecommendation

TheOBCfoundthatrespondentindeedappearedbeforetheMBECascounselforBunan in the May 2001 elections. The minutes of the MBEC proceedings show that respondent activelyparticipatedintheproceedings.TheOBClikewisefoundthatrespondentappearedin the MBEC proceedings even before he took the lawyers oath on 22 May 2001. The OBC believes that respondents misconduct casts a serious doubt on his moral fitness to be a memberoftheBar.TheOBCalsobelievesthatrespondentsunauthorizedpracticeoflawisa ground to deny his admission to the practice of law. The OBC therefore recommends that

respondentbedeniedadmissiontothePhilippineBar.

Ontheothercharges,OBCstatedthatcomplainantfailedtocitealawwhichrespondent allegedly violated when he appeared as counsel for Bunan while he was a government employee. Respondent resigned as secretary and his resignation was accepted. Likewise, respondentwasauthorizedbyBunantorepresenthimbeforetheMBEC.

TheCourtsRuling

WeagreewiththefindingsandconclusionsoftheOBCthatrespondentengagedinthe

unauthorizedpracticeoflawandthusdoesnotdeserveadmissiontothePhilippineBar.

Respondent took his oath as lawyer on 22 May 2001. However, the records show that

respondentappearedascounselforBunanpriorto22May2001,beforerespondenttookthe

lawyersoath.InthepleadingentitledFormalObjectiontotheInclusionintheCanvassingof

VotesinSomePrecinctsfortheOfficeofVice­Mayordated19May2001,respondentsignedas

counselforGeorgeBunan.Inthefirstparagraphofthesamepleadingrespondentstatedthat he was the (U)ndersigned Counsel for, and in behalf of Vice Mayoralty Candidate,

GEORGET.BUNAN.BunanhimselfwrotetheMBECon14May2001thathehadauthorized

Atty.EdwinL.RanaashiscounseltorepresenthimbeforetheMBECandsimilarbodies.

On14May2001,mayoraltycandidateEmilyEstipona­Haoalsoretainedrespondentasher

counsel.Onthesamedate,14May2001,ErlyD.HaoinformedtheMBECthatAtty.EdwinL.

RanahasbeenauthorizedbyREFORMALM­PPCasthelegalcounselofthepartyandthe

candidateofthesaidparty.RespondenthimselfwrotetheMBECon14May2001thathewas

enteringhisappearanceascounselforMayoraltyCandidateEmilyEstipona­Haoandfor

theREFORMALM­PPC.On19May2001,respondentsignedascounselforEstipona­Haoin

thepetitionfiledbeforetheMBECprayingfortheproclamationofEstipona­Haoasthewinning

candidateformayorofMandaon,Masbate.

All these happened even before respondent took the lawyers oath. Clearly, respondent engagedinthepracticeoflawwithoutbeingamemberofthePhilippineBar.

InPhilippineLawyersAssociationv.Agrava, [1] theCourtelucidatedthat:

Thepracticeoflawisnotlimitedtotheconductofcasesorlitigationincourt;itembracesthe preparationofpleadingsandotherpapersincidenttoactionsandspecialproceedings,themanagementof suchactionsandproceedingsonbehalfofclientsbeforejudgesandcourts,andinaddition, conveyancing.Ingeneral,alladvicetoclients,andallactiontakenfortheminmattersconnectedwiththe law,incorporationservices,assessmentandcondemnationservicescontemplatinganappearancebeforea judicialbody,theforeclosureofamortgage,enforcementofacreditor'sclaiminbankruptcyand insolvencyproceedings,andconductingproceedingsinattachment,andinmattersofestateand guardianshiphavebeenheldtoconstitutelawpractice,asdothepreparationanddraftingoflegal instruments,wheretheworkdoneinvolvesthedeterminationbythetrainedlegalmindofthelegaleffect

offactsandconditions.(5Am.Jur.p.262,263).(Italicssupplied)xxx

InCayetanov.Monsod, [2] theCourtheldthatpracticeoflawmeansanyactivity,inorout of court, which requires the application of law, legal procedure, knowledge, training and experience.Toengageinthepracticeoflawistoperformactswhichareusuallyperformedby membersofthelegalprofession.Generally,topracticelawistorenderanykindofservice whichrequirestheuseoflegalknowledgeorskill.

Verily, respondent was engaged in the practice of law when he appeared in the proceedingsbeforetheMBECandfiledvariouspleadings,withoutlicensetodoso.Evidence clearlysupportsthechargeofunauthorizedpracticeoflaw.Respondentcalledhimselfcounsel knowingfullywellthathewasnotamemberoftheBar.Havingheldhimselfoutascounsel knowingthathehadnoauthoritytopracticelaw,respondenthasshownmoralunfitnesstobea memberofthePhilippineBar. [3]

Therighttopracticelawisnotanaturalorconstitutionalrightbutisaprivilege.Itislimited topersonsofgoodmoralcharacterwithspecialqualificationsdulyascertainedandcertified. Theexerciseofthisprivilegepresupposespossessionofintegrity,legalknowledge,educational attainment,andevenpublictrust [4] sincealawyerisanofficerofthecourt.Abarcandidate doesnotacquiretherighttopracticelawsimplybypassingthebarexaminations.Thepractice oflawisaprivilegethatcanbewithheldevenfromonewhohaspassedthebarexaminations, ifthepersonseekingadmissionhadpracticedlawwithoutalicense. [5]

Theregulationofthepracticeoflawisunquestionablystrict.InBeltran,Jr.v.Abad, [6] a candidate passed the bar examinations but had not taken his oath and signed the Roll of Attorneys.Hewasheldincontemptofcourtforpracticinglawevenbeforehisadmissiontothe Bar. Under Section 3 (e) of Rule 71 of the Rules of Court, a person who engages in the unauthorizedpracticeoflawisliableforindirectcontemptofcourt. [7]

True, respondent here passed the 2000 Bar Examinations and took the lawyers oath. However,itisthesigningintheRollofAttorneysthatfinallymakesoneafull­fledgedlawyer. Thefactthatrespondentpassedthebarexaminationsisimmaterial.Passingthebarisnotthe onlyqualificationtobecomeanattorney­at­law. [8] Respondentshouldknowthattwoessential requisites for becoming a lawyer still had to be performed, namely: his lawyers oath to be administeredbythisCourtandhissignatureintheRollofAttorneys. [9]

On the charge of violation of law, complainant contends that the law does not allow respondent to act as counsel for a private client in any court or administrative body since respondentisthesecretaryoftheSangguniangBayan.

RespondenttenderedhisresignationassecretaryoftheSangguniangBayanpriortothe

actscomplainedofasconstitutingunauthorizedpracticeoflaw.Inhisletterdated11May2001

addressedtoNapoleonRelox,vice­mayorandpresidingofficeroftheSangguniangBayan, respondentstatedthathewasresigningeffectiveuponyouracceptance. [10] Vice­MayorRelox accepted respondents resignation effective 11 May 2001. [11] Thus, the evidence does not supportthechargethatrespondentactedascounselforaclientwhileservingassecretaryof theSangguniangBayan.

On the charge of grave misconduct and misrepresentation, evidence shows that Bunan indeedauthorizedrespondenttorepresenthimashiscounselbeforetheMBECandsimilar bodies. While there was no misrepresentation, respondent nonetheless had no authority to practicelaw.

WHEREFORE,respondentEdwinL.RanaisDENIEDadmissiontothePhilippineBar.

SOORDERED.

Davide, Jr., C.J., Bellosillo, Puno, Vitug, Panganiban, Quisumbing, Ynares­Santiago, Sandoval­Gutierrez,Austria­Martinez,Corona,Carpio­Morales,Callejo,Sr.,andAzcuna,JJ., concur.

[1] 105Phil.173(1959).

[2] G.R.No.100113,3September1991,201SCRA210.

[3] YapTanv.Sabandal,211Phil.252(1983).

[4] IntheMatterofthePetitionforAuthoritytoContinueUseoftheFirmNameOzaeta,Romulo,etc.,30July1979,

92SCRA1.

[5] Uiv.Bonifacio,AdministrativeCaseNo.3319,8June2000,333SCRA38.

[6] BarMatterNo.139,28March1983,121SCRA217.

[7] Peoplev.Santocildes,Jr.,G.R.No.109149,21December1999,321SCRA310.

[8] Diaov.Martinez,AdministrativeCaseNo.244,29March1963,7SCRA475.

[9] Beltran,Jr.v.Abad,B.M.No.139,28March1983,121SCRA217.

[10] RespondentsComment,AnnexA.

[11] Ibid.,AnnexB.