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EN BANC

A.C. No. 7348, September 27, 2016

ROUEL YAP PARAS, Complainant, v. ATTY. JUSTO P. PARAS, Respondent.

RESOLUTION

PER CURIAM:

Through this administrative Complaint1 directly filed before this Court, Rouel Yap Paras (Rouel)
charges his father Atty. Justo J. Paras (Atty. Paras) with violation of his lawyer's oath and the
Code of Professional Responsibility.2 Atty. Paras allegedly voluntarily offered properties he did
not own nor possess to the Department of Agrarian Reform for coverage under the
Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program.3 Atty. Paras has been previously disciplined twice
upon complaint of his wife.4chanrobleslaw

In September 2006, Rouel found out that a listing of possible beneficiaries for the Department of
Agrarian Reform's Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program was being made by a certain Edna
Mijares and Tomas Visitacion.5 On the same month, he received at their residence in Negros
Oriental6 a copy of a Notice of Coverage7 dated September 8, 2006 from the Department of Land
Reform. The Notice of Coverage was addressed to Atty. Paras and was signed by Provincial
Agrarian Reform Officer Grace B. Fua. Five (5) of the six (6) properties listed in the Notice of
Coverage were those subject of Civil Case No. 02-028-BY pending before Branch 45 of the
Regional Trial Court of Bais City, Negros Oriental.8 Civil Case No. 02-028-BY is based on a
Complaint9 filed by Rouel against Atty. Paras for annulment of Original Certificates of Title of
the properties.

Rouel referred the matter to his counsel, who wrote Provincial Agrarian Reform Officer Grace B.
Fua.10 In the letter dated October 9, 2006, his counsel requested a copy of all documents
pertaining to the September 8, 2006 Notice of Coverage addressed to Atty. Paras.11 Rouel's
counsel also informed the Department of Agrarian Reform that: (1) the real properties were
subject of a pending case;12 (2) Atty. Paras was suspended by this Court for unlawfully "having
the said properties titled in his name[;]"13 (3) the properties were titled in the name of Atty. Paras
only for free patent title coverage;14 (4) Atty. Paras did not possess the properties;15 and (5)
Rouel was the real owner and in possession of the properties.16chanrobleslaw

The Department of Agrarian Reform granted the request and furnished Rouel with all documents
related to the Notice of Coverage.17 Among these documents were: (1) Atty. Paras' October 20,
2004 letter18 to Provincial Agrarian Reform Officer Stephen M. Leonidas; (2) an authorization
letter19 by Atty. Paras for Edna R. Mijares; and (3) an October 9, 2006 Certification20 by
Provincial Agrarian Reform Officer Grace B. Fua.21chanrobleslaw

On October 25, 2006, Rouel Yap Paras filed this Complaint before this Court and alleged:

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1. That respondent, ATTY. JUSTO J. PARAS,. had violated the LAWYER'S OATH and
the Code of Professional Responsibility, thus:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
a) Section 27, Rule 138 of the Rules of Court, thus:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
1. Deceit
2. Violation of Oath of Office
3. Willful disobedience of any lawful order of a superior court;
b) The Code of Professional Responsibility in Canon 1, "A lawyer shall uphold the
Constitution, obey the laws of the land, and promote respect for law and legal processes";
Canon 3, "a lawyer in making known his legal services shall use only trne, honest, fair,
dignified and objective information or statement of facts; Canon 7, "a lawyer shall at all
times up hold [sic] the integrity and dignity of the legal profession[,]"; Canon 10 that "a
lawyer owes candor, fairness and good faith to the court"; Canon 8, "a lawyer shall
conduct himself with courtesy, fairness and candor towards his professional colleagues...";
2. That the respondent engaged in an unlawful, dishonest and deceitful conduct when he
deliberate[ly] represented himself as "LANDOWNER", and voluntarily offered real
properties to the DAR for CARP coverage, when he knew fully well that he is NOT THE
OWNER OF THE SUBJECT REAL PROPERTIES;
.....

3. That RESPONDENT, ATTY. JUSTO J. PARAS, ... with manifest bad faith and inexcusable
negligence, proceeded to present himself to the DAR, and offered the subject properties, even
with his full knowledge of the pending litigations involving the said properties;

4. That in spite of the pendency of the "PETITION FOR annulment of OCT NOS. 32360, 32361,
32362, and 33476 and DAMAGES" proceedings, which is pending before the Regional Trial
Court Branch 45, Bais City, respondent, ATTY. JUSTO J. PARAS, had instigated the
VOLUNTARY OFFER OF COVERAGE TO THE DAR, to dispossess the complainant, his
mother, and the members of the YAP family of their property rights, as it is very clear that
ATTY. JUSTO J. PARAS was fully aware that the subject real properties WERE NOT OWNED
BY HIM, and he DID NOT HAVE ANY ACTUAL PHYSICAL POSSESSION of the subject
real properties;

5. That the AUTHORIZATION issued to EDNA MIJARES by respondent, is a GROSS


MISREPRESENTATION, and this had caused innocent barrio folks of Barangay
Matobato, Bindoy, Negros Oriental to pay P500.00 to Edna Mijares, in view of the false
promise that they will be included as DAR beneficiaries, even if they were not tenants or
residing in the subject property;
....

7. THAT RESPONDENT HAD THE SOLE INTENT OF DISPOSSESSING THE


UNDERSIGNED, HIS LEGITIMATE SON, OF HIS PROPERTY RIGHTS, USING HIS
LEGAL PROFESSION, AS HIS WEAPON OF VENGEANCE, TO UNDERMINE THE
CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS OF THE UNDERSIGNED, HIS MOTHER, ROSA YAP
PARAS, AND MEMBERS OF THE YAP FAMILY OF BINDOY, NEGROS
ORIENTAL[.]22(Emphasis and underscoring in the original)
Complainant prayed that respondent be disbarred as respondent had already been suspended by
this Court in two (2) previous administrative cases.23chanrobleslaw

On February 22, 2007, respondent filed his Comment.24 He alleged that the present Complaint is
"identical in subject-matter, principal parties involved, issues and persecutory
intent"25cralawred with A.C. No. 734926 filed against him by Rosa Yap-Paras, complainant's
mother.27 However, respondent admitted that:

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the properties subject-matter of the instant [administrative] complaint ... [are] subject of a
pending trial court proceedings [sic] before RTC, Branch 45, Bais City: Civil Case No. 02-028-
BY, entitled: ROUEL YAP PARAS vs. JUSTO J. PARAS and Register of Deeds of Negros
Oriental, for "Annulment of OCT Nos. 32360, 32350, 32361, 32362 and 33476 and
damages.["]28

On the allegation of voluntary offer of properties, respondent claimed:

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4. That under ... [the] Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law . . . the implementation of the law
under C[omprehensive] A[graria]n R[eform] P[rogram] on private properties is under two (2)
modes, namely:

chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary1) Compulsory Acquisition by DAR (Sec. 16, CARL), or 2)


Voluntary Offer of Sale (VOS, under Sees. 19 & 20, RA 6657). Under Mode 1, DAR on its own
initiative listing and documentation compulsorily covers usually big real properties owned by a
single landowner in a given community thru service of its "NOTICE OF COVERAGE". The
other Mode 2 covers properties offered for sale under VOS by landowner. The pursuit of
whichever mode of acquisition is left to the discretion of DAR unless offer is made.

Respondent's CARP coverage is thru the COMPULSORY MODE. This is evidenced by ... a
"NOTICE OF COVERAGE" of DAR- sent by DAR to Respondent informing him of the extent
of coverage of compulsory acquisition by DAR with listing (initial) of his real properties
covered. In fact Respondent had been informed that following or subsequent "NOTICE OF
COVERAGE" shall include or involve properties not covered by titles or under tax declarations
only, real properties which respondent owned in Bindoy as well as in the neighboring
municipalities of Ayungon and Mabinay, all in the province of Negros Oriental.

It being a compulsory coverage process initiated, pursued and documented primarily by DAR,
the listing of all real properties titled, covered only by tax declarations or possessed by
Respondent are all the workings of DAR. Respondent never submitted to DAR a listing of his
properties.29

Respondent prayed for the dismissal of this case.30chanrobleslaw

On April 11, 2007, this Court referred the case to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines for
investigation, report, and recommendation.31chanrobleslaw

On August 22, 2007, a mandatory conference was set for October 26, 2007 at 2:00
p.m.32 Counsel of complainant appeared for complainant, while respondent appeared for
himself.33 The conference ended with both parties submitting their issues to Investigating
Commissioner Salvador B. Hababag (Commissioner Hababag) of the Commission on Bar
Discipline.34chanrobleslaw

Complainant's counsel submitted the following issues for resolution:

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1. Whether or not the respondent should be liable for misrepresenting himself as owner of the
subject real properties when in truth an[d] in fact. he is not;

2. Whether or not the respondent violated the Code of Professional Responsibility which requires
a lawyer to observe honesty, candor, integrity and in the pleadings filed therein;

3. Whether or not the respondent is bound by the findings of the Supreme Court in
Administrative Case No. 4947 the fact that respondent committed deceit and falsehood in having
applied for pre-patent [sic] of the lands owned by another over which he had no actual physical
possession being aware of the fact that the same was previously transferred in the name of
Aurora Yap and which act reflected his fitness to practice law in violation of Rule 7.03[,] Canon
7 of the Code of Professional Responsibility.35

Respondent, on the other hand, submitted the following Issues for resolution:

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1. Whether or not the previously filed and pending Civil Case No.

02-028-BY filed by the complainant and seeking annulment of free-patent titles is a prejudicial
question to this case;

2. Whether or not complainant has successfully identified his quitclaimed acquired properties as
to be related to the three (3) free patented titles of the respondent.36

Both parties were ordered to submit position papers.37chanrobleslaw

On November 23, 2007, complainant filed his Position Paper.38 He reiterated the circumstances
and grounds for respondent's disbarment and emphasized respondent's October 20, 2004 letter to
Provincial Agrarian Reform Officer Stephen M. Leonidas, stating:

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[C]ontrary to the misrepresentations of the respondent, he offered the subject real properties for
VOLUNTARY ACQUISITION with the DAR as shown in his letter....
....
IT IS VERY CLEAR THAT THE RESPONDENT HAD THE DELIBERATE AND
MALICIOUS INTENT TO DEPRIVE THE COMPLAINANT OF OWNERSHIP RIGHTS TO
THE SUBJECT REAL PROPERTIES, USING HIS LEGAL KNOWLEDGE TO
CIRCUMVENT THE JUDICIAL PROCESSES BY USING THE DAR, INSPITE OF THE
DECISION OF THE SUPREME COURT SUSPENDING HIM FOR ONE YEAR FOR "HIS
DECEIT AND FALSEHOOD IN THE APPLICATION FOR A FREE PATENT OVER SAID
PROPERTIES.["] NOW HE HAS DEFIED AGAIN THE SUPREME COURT BY
VOLUNTARILY OFFERING THIS LAND FOR COMPENSATION BY DAR BY FALSELY
CLAIMING AS THE OWNER OF SAID PROPERTIES[;]

THAT IT WAS ONLY IN 2006, THAT THE DAR GAVE NOTICE OF THE COMPULSORY
ACQUISITION, AND INSPITE OF THE POSSESSION OF COMPLAINANT, THE
RESPONDENT HAD CONTINUED TO PURSUE THE DAR ACQUISITION, BY
CONDUCTING MEETINGS WITH HIS ["]DAR BENEFICIARIES", AS PROOF OF HIS
.BENEVOLENCE, SINCE HE IS GIVING AWAY ALL THE TITLED PROPERTIES, IN HIS
NAME, KNOWING THAT HE IS NOT THE TRUE OWNER/POSSESSOR THEREOF;

THAT RESPONDENT WAS FOLLOWING UP THE RELEASE OF THE CHECKS


REPRESENTING THE DAR PAYMENT FOR THE SUBJECT REAL PROPERTIES, TO BE
IN HIS NAME, THUS, THE INTENT TO "CASH IN", IS SO GROSS AND UNJUST, AND
SHOWS THAT RESPONDENT DOES NOT DESERVE TO BE AN OFFICER OF THE
COURT AND A MEMBER OF THE BAR[.]39(Emphasis in the original)

On December 18, 2007, respondent filed his Position Paper.40 He claimed that (1) the pendency
of Civil Case No. 02-028-BY is a prejudicial question to the present case;41 and that (2)
complainant "failed to identify [the] four (4) quitclaim-acquired properties as the same as those
gratuitously given by Government to Respondent by way of free patent titles."42 To prove his
second claim, respondent compared the size of properties in the quitclaim to complainant as
against the size of free patent titled properties he acquired.43chanrobleslaw

On January 14, 2008, complainant filed his Reply.44 He restated his claims and added that "while
respondent claims ownership over real properties located in Bindoy, Negros [O]riental, he has
not paid any of REAL TAXES over the subject real properties[.]"45chanrobleslaw

In his Report and Recommendation46 dated January 5, 2008, Commissioner Hababag found
respondent guilty of violating his lawyer's oath and the Code of Professional Responsibility,
thus:47chanrobleslaw

Respondent has been deplorably lacking in the candor required of him as member of the bar in
his acts of applying for the issuance of a free patent over the properties in issue despite
knowledge that the same had already been sold by his· mother to complainant's aunt. This fact,
respondent even admitted in the comment, he committed deceit and falsehood in his application
for free patent over the said properties when he manifested under oath that he had been in the
actual possession and occupation of the said lands despite the fact these were continuously in the
possession and occupation of complainant's family, as evidenced no less by respondent's own
statements in the pleadings filed before the IBP in Adm. Case No. 4947.
The practice of law is not a right but merely a privilege bestowed by the State upon those who
show that they possess, and continue to possess, the qualifications required by law for the
conferment of such privilege. . . . One of those requirements is the observance of honesty and
candor.

The facts and evidence obtaining in the instant case indubitably reveal respondent's failure to live
up to his duties as lawyer in consonance with the strictures of the lawyer's oath and the Code of
Professional Responsibility, he has shown no remorse nor reformation thereby occasioning
sanction for his stubbornness.48chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary

The penalty of a one (1)-year suspension from the practice of law was
recommended.49chanrobleslaw

In Resolution No. XVIII-2008-4250 dated January 17, 2008, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines
Board of Governors adopted and approved Commissioner Hababag's Report and
Recommendation. However, the Board of Governors modified the penalty and reduced
respondent's suspension from one (1) year to six (6) months.51chanrobleslaw

On April 25, 2008, complainant moved for reconsideration52 of the January 17, 2008 Resolution,
praying that the penalty of suspension be reconsidered and a penalty of disbarment be imposed
instead. On January 3, 2013, the Motion for Reconsideration was denied in the Board of
Governors' Resolution No. XX-2013-07.53chanrobleslaw

The sole issue for this Court's resolution is whether respondent violated his lawyer's oath and the
Code of Professional Responsibility when he voluntarily offered property that he neither owned
nor possessed for coverage under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program.

We confirm the guilt of respondent. However, we modify the penalty imposed.

In deciding this case, this Court takes judicial notice of two (2) administrative cases filed by
Rosa Yap Panis against respondent.

In Paras v. Atty. Paras,54 respondent was found guilty of falsifying Rosa Yap-Paras' signature in
bank loan documents and other related instruments; and of immorality, concubinage, and
abandonment of his own family.55 Respondent was meted the penalty of a six (6)-month
suspension from the practice of law for the first offense, and a one (1)-year suspension for the
second offense.56chanrobleslaw

In Yap-Paras v. Atty. Paras,57 respondent was found guilty of violating his lawyer's oath and the
Code of Professional Responsibility when he "[applied] for the issuance of a free patent over the
properties in issue despite his knowledge that the same had already been sold by his mother to
complainant's sister."58 This Court also found that:

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[He] committed deceit and falsehood in his application for free patent over the said properties
when he manifested under oath that he had been in the actual possession and occupation of the
said lands despite the fact that these were continuously in the possession and occupation of
complainant's family, as evidenced no less by respondents own statements in the pleadings filed
before the IBP.59

Respondent was suspended from the practice of law for one (1) year.60chanrobleslaw

Both Yap-Paras and this case involve the same real properties. Both likewise refer to
respondent's deceit and misrepresentation as basis for his administrative sanction.

In this case, one of the complainant's claims was that:

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[R]espondent engaged in an unlawful, dishonest and deceitful conduct when he deliberate[ly]
represented himself as "LANDOWNER," and voluntarily offered real properties to the DAR for
CARP coverage, when he knew fully well that he is NOT THE OWNER OF THE SUBJECT
REAL PROPERTIES[.]61 (Emphasis in the original)

Respondent's violation of his lawyer's oath and of the Code of Professional Responsibility, by
misrepresenting himself as the owner of the properties, has already been decided in Yap-Paras:

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In the instant case, it is clear to the Court that respondent violated his lawyer's oath as well as the
Code of Professional Responsibility which mandates upon each lawyer, as his duty to society
and to the courts, the obligation to obey the laws of the land and to do no falsehood nor consent
to the doing of any in court. Respondent has been deplorably lacking in the candor required of
him as a member of the Bar and an officer of the court in his acts of applying for the issuance of
a free patent over the properties in issue despite his knowledge that the same had already been
sold by his mother to complainant's sister. This fact, respondent even admitted in the comment
that he filed before this Court when he alleged that the said properties were public land under the
Forestal Zone "when the mother of the respondent ceded to Aurora Yap some portions of entire
occupancy of the Parases." Moreover, respondent committed deceit and falsehood in his
application for free patent over the said properties when he manifested under oath that he had
been in the actual possession and occupation of the said lands despite the fact that these were
continuously in the possession and occupation of complainants family, as evidenced no less by
respondent's own statements in the pleadings filed before the IBP.62 (Emphasis supplied, citation
omitted)

Commissioner Hababag likewise found respondent guilty of the same offense in this case:

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Respondent has been deplorably lacking in the candor required of him as member of the bar in
his acts of applying for the issuance of a free patent over the properties in issue despite
knowledge that the same had already been sold by his mother to complainant's aunt. This fact,
respondent even admitted in the comment, he committed deceit and falsehood in his application
for free patent over the said properties when he manifested under oath that he had been in the
actual possession and occupation of the said lands despite the fact these were continuously in the
possession and occupation of complainant's family, as evidenced no less by respondent's own
statements in the pleadings filed before the IBP in Adm. Case No. 4947.63 (Emphasis supplied)

Although respondent's violation in this case was not squarely addressed by Commissioner
Hababag's Report and Recommendation, the records of the case reveal that respondent's
voluntary offer of properties was motivated by ill will, for which he should be sanctioned.

Prior to respondent's voluntary offer of properties, he was sanctioned by the Board of Governors
in Resolution No. XVI-2004-120 dated February 27, 2004.64 The Board of Governors adopted
the recommendation of Investigating Commissioner Lydia A. Navarro, thus:

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[R]espondent committed deceit and falsehood in having applied for free patent over lands owned
by another over which he had no actual physical possession being aware of the fact that the same
was previously transferred in the name of Aurora Yap[.]65

Despite the issuance of the Resolution and the full knowledge that the properties were subject of
a pending civil case,66 respondent submitted in August 2004 to the Department of Agrarian
Reform of Bantayan, Dumaguete City a list of landholdings he allegedly owned for voluntary
offer under Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program coverage.67 He even wrote a letter dated
October 20, 2004 addressed to Provincial Agrarian Reform Officer Stephen M. Leonidas
requesting that the list of properties he submitted be covered under the Compulsory Acquisition
Scheme instead, as he could not get his spouse's conformity for voluntary offer.68chanrobleslaw

The existence of the letter was contrary to his claim in his Comment that he had no hand in the
Compulsory Acquisition scheme:

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It being a compulsory coverage process initiated, pursued and documented primarily by DAR,
the listing of all real properties titled, covered only by tax declarations or possessed by
Respondent are all the workings of DAR. Respondent never submitted to DAR a listing of his
properties.69 (Emphasis supplied)

He further contradicted himself when he admitted the October 20, 2004 letter during the
mandatory conference:

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ATTY. YAP:
The existence of the Letter of the Respondent, Atty. Justo J. Paras dated October 20, 2004 to
Stephen M. Leonidas, Provincial Agrarian· Reform Officer of the Department of Agrarian
Reform, Bantayan, Dumaguete City which is in [sic] filed with the Department of Agrarian
Reform, Negros Oriental?
COMM. HABABAG:
Any comment?
ATTY. PARAS:
We admit that.70
Eight (8) months after this Court promulgated its Resolution in Yap Paras,71 which confirmed
the Board of Governors' Resolution No. XVI-2004-120, respondent authorized Edna R. Mijares,
Chair of the Domolog Tagaytay Multi-Purpose Cooperative, to come up with a list of
beneficiaries for the properties he requested to be covered under the Compulsory Acquisition
Scheme of the Department of Agrarian Reform.72chanrobleslaw

By authorizing Edna R. Mijares, respondent pushed for the inclusion of his alleged properties for
Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program coverage. He did this notwithstanding the Resolution
finding him guilty of "commit[ing] deceit and falsehood in his application for free patent over
the said properties when he manifested under oath that he had been in the actual possession and
occupation of the said lands despite the fact that these were continuously in the possession and
occupation of complainants family[.]"73chanrobleslaw

Respondent's acts constitute a violation of his lawyer's oath, which states:

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I,__________________, do solemnly swear that I will maintain allegiance to the Republic of the
Philippines; I will support 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 the doing of any in
court; I will not wittingly or willingly promote or sue any groundless, false or unlawful suit, nor
give aid nor consent to the same. I will delay no man for money or malice, and will conduct
myself as a lawyer according to the best of my knowledge and discretion with all good fidelity as
well to the courts as to my clients; and I impose upon myself this voluntary obligation without
any mental reservation or purpose of evasion. So help me God. (Emphasis supplied)

His deliberate act of disregarding this Court's ruling is conduct unbecoming of a lawyer and
degrades the legal profession. He is likewise guilty of violating Canon 1, Rule 1.01 and Canon
10, Rule 10.01 of the Code of Professional Responsibility:

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

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

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.

In offering to government property that he knew he neither owned nor possessed, respondent
committed dishonesty, misrepresentation, and deceit. Although deceit and misrepresentation are
present in both Yap-Paras and in this case, the surrounding circumstances are different. In Yap-
Paras, deceit and misrepresentation were used to apply for the issuance of a free patent. On the
other hand, in this case, they were used for a voluntary offer of land for Comprehensive Agrarian
Reform Program coverage. The application for the issuance of a free patent and the voluntary
offer of property for Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program coverage are distinct from one
another and are not prerequisites of each other. His offense in the previous case is separate and
distinct from this case, for which he is sanctioned anew.

Respondent has already been sanctioned three (3) times. The dispositive portion of Paras, which
was dated October 17, 2000, reads:

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In the light of the foregoing, respondent is hereby SUSPENDED from the practice of law for SIX
(6) MONTHS on the charge of falsifying his wife's signature in bank documents and other
related loan instruments; and for ONE (1) YEAR from the practice of law on the charges of
immorality and abandonment of his own family, the penalties to be served simultaneously. Let
notice of this decision be spread in respondent's record as an attorney, and notice ofthe same
served on the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and on the Office of the Court Administrator for
circulation to all the courts concerned.

SO ORDERED.74 (Emphasis supplied)

In Yap-Paras, respondent was suspended and warned by this Court:

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WHEREFORE, finding respondent Atty. Justo J. Paras guilty of committing a falsehood in
violation of It's lawyer's oath and of the Code of Professional Responsibility,the Court
Resolved to SUSPEND respondent from the practice of law for a period of one (1) year, with a
WARNING that commission of the same or similar offense in the future will result in the
imposition of a more severe penalty.

Let copies of this Resolution be furnished the IBP, as well as the Office of the Bar Confidant and
the Court Administrator who shall circulate it to all courts for their information and guidance and
likewise be entered in the record of respondent as attorney.

SO ORDERED.75 (Emphasis supplied)

This is respondent's fourth case involving the same properties and his second infraction of an
offense of the same nature. The six (6)-month suspension imposed by the Commission on Bar
Discipline is too light a penalty. Respondent deserves· a graver penalty for his acts of dishonesty,
misrepresentation, and deceit.

WHEREFORE, this Court finds respondent Atty. Justo J. Paras

GUILTY of violating the lawyer's oath and Canon 1, Rule 1.01 and Canon 10, Rule 10.01 of the
Code of Professional Responsibility. He is hereby DISBARRED from the practice of law and
his name stricken from the Roll of Attorneys.
Let copies of this Resolution be furnished to the Office of the Bar Confidant to be appended to
respondent's personal record as attorney, to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, and to the
Office of the Court Administrator for dissemination to all courts throughout the country for their
information and guidance.

SO ORDERED.chanRoblesvirtualL

A.C. No. 5581 January 14, 2014

ROSE BUNAGAN-BANSIG, Complainant,


vs.
ATTY. ROGELIO JUAN A. CELERA, Respondent.

DECISION

PER CURIAM:

Before us is a Petition for Disbarment1 dated January 8, 2002 filed by complainant Rose
Bunagan-Bansig (Bansig) against respondent Atty. Rogelio Juan A. Celera (respondent) for
Gross Immoral Conduct.

In her complaint, Bansig narrated that, on May 8, 1997, respondent and Gracemarie R. Bunagan
(Bunagan), entered into a contract of marriage, as evidenced by a certified xerox copy of the
certificate of marriage issued by the City Civil Registry of Manila.2 Bansig is the sister of
Gracemarie R. Bunagan, legal wife of respondent.

However, notwithstanding respondent's marriage with Bunagan, respondent contracted another


marriage on January 8, 1998 with a certain Ma. Cielo Paz Torres Alba (Alba), as evidenced by a
certified xerox copy of the certificate of marriage issued by the City Registration Officer of San
Juan, Manila.3

Bansig stressed that the marriage between respondent and Bunagan was still valid and in full
legal existence when he contracted his second marriage with Alba, and that the first marriage had
never been annulled or rendered void by any lawful authority.

Bansig alleged that respondent’s act of contracting marriage with Alba, while his marriage is still
subsisting, constitutes grossly immoral and conduct unbecoming of a member of the Bar, which
renders him unfit to continue his membership in the Bar.

In a Resolution4 dated February 18, 2002, the Court resolved to require respondent to file a
comment on the instant complaint.

Respondent failed to submit his comment on the complaint, despite receipt of the copy of the
Court's Resolution, as evidenced by Registry Return Receipt No. 30639. Thus, the Court, in a
Resolution5 dated March 17, 2003, resolved to require respondent to show cause why he should
not be disciplinarily dealt with or held in contempt for failing to file his comment on the
complaint against him.6

On December 10, 2002, Bansig filed an Omnibus Ex Parte Motion7 praying that respondent's
failure to file his comment on the complaint be deemed as a waiver to file the same, and that the
case be submitted for disposition.

On May 4, 2003, in a Motion, respondent claimed that while it appeared that an administrative
case was filed against him, he did not know the nature or cause thereof since other than Bansig's
Omnibus Motion, he received no other pleading or any processes of this Court. Respondent,
however, countered that Bansig's Omnibus Motion was merely a ploy to frighten him and his
wife from pursuing the criminal complaints for falsification of public documents they filed
against Bansig and her husband. He also explained that he was able to obtain a copy of the
Court's Show Cause Order only when he visited his brother who is occupying their former
residence at 59-B Aguho St., Project 3, Quezon City. Respondent further averred that he also
received a copy of Bansig's Omnibus Motion when the same was sent to his law office address.

Respondent pointed out that having been the family's erstwhile counsel and her younger sister's
husband, Bansig knew his law office address, but she failed to send a copy of the complaint to
him. Respondent suspected that Bansig was trying to mislead him in order to prevent him from
defending himself. He added that Bansig has an unpaid obligation amounting to ₱2,000,000.00
to his wife which triggered a sibling rivalry. He further claimed that he and his wife received
death threats from unknown persons; thus, he transferred to at least two (2) new residences, i.e.,
in Sampaloc, Manila and Angeles City. He then prayed that he be furnished a copy of the
complaint and be given time to file his answer to the complaint.

In a Resolution8 dated July 7, 2003, the Court resolved to (a) require Bansig to furnish
respondent with a copy of the administrative complaint and to submit proof of such service; and
(b) require respondent to file a comment on the complaint against him.

In compliance, Bansig submitted an Affidavit of Mailing to show proof that a copy of the
administrative complaint was furnished to respondent at his given address which is No. 238
Mayflower St., Ninoy Aquino Subdivision, Angeles City, as evidenced by Registry Receipt No.
2167.9

On March 17, 2004, considering that respondent failed anew to file his comment despite receipt
of the complaint, the Court resolved to require respondent to show cause why he should not be
disciplinarily dealt with or held in contempt for such failure.10

On June 3, 2004, respondent, in his Explanation,11 reiterated that he has yet to receive a copy of
the complaint. He claimed that Bansig probably had not complied with the Court's Order,
otherwise, he would have received the same already. He requested anew that Bansig be directed
to furnish him a copy of the complaint.

Again, on August 25, 2004, the Court granted respondent's prayer that he be furnished a copy of
the complaint, and required Bansig to furnish a copy of the complaint to respondent.12
On October 1, 2004, Bansig, in her Manifestation,13 lamented the dilatory tactics allegedly
undertaken by respondent in what was supposedly a simple matter of receipt of complaint.
Bansig asserted that the Court should sanction respondent for his deliberate and willful act to
frustrate the actions of the Court. She attached a copy of the complaint and submitted an
Affidavit of Mailing stating that again a copy of the complaint was mailed at respondent's
residential address in Angeles City as shown by Registry Receipt No. 3582.

On May 16, 2005, the Court anew issued a Show Cause Order to respondent as to why he should
not be disciplinarily dealt with or held in contempt for failure to comply with the Resolution
dated July 7, 2003 despite service of copy of the complaint by registered mail.14

On August 1, 2005, the Court noted the returned and unserved copy of the Show Cause Order
dated May 16, 2005 sent to respondent at 238 Mayflower St., Ninoy Aquino Subd. under
Registry Receipt No. 55621, with notation "RTS-Moved." It likewise required Bansig to submit
the correct and present address of respondent.15

On September 12, 2005, Bansig manifested that respondent had consistently indicated in his
correspondence with the Court No. 238 Mayflower St., Ninoy Aquino Subdivision, Angeles City
as his residential address. However, all notices served upon him on said address were returned
with a note "moved" by the mail server. Bansig averred that in Civil Case No. 59353, pending
before the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 1, Tuguegarao City, respondent entered his
appearance as counsel with mailing address to be at "Unit 8, Halili Complex, 922 Aurora Blvd.,
Cubao, Quezon City."16

On February 13, 2006, the Court resolved to resend a copy of the Show Cause Order dated May
16, 2005 to respondent at his new address at Unit 8, Halili Complex, 922 Aurora Blvd., Cubao,
Quezon City.17

On June 30, 2008, due to respondent's failure to comply with the Show Cause Order dated May
16, 2005, for failure to file his comment on this administrative complaint as required in the
Resolution dated July 7, 2003, the Court resolved to: (a) IMPOSE upon Atty. Celera a FINE of
₱1,000.00 payable to the court, or a penalty of imprisonment of five (5) days if said fine is not
paid, and (b) REQUIRE Atty. Celera to COMPLY with the Resolution dated July 7, 2003 by
filing the comment required thereon.18

In a Resolution19 dated January 27, 2010, it appearing that respondent failed to comply with the
Court's Resolutions dated June 30, 2008 and July 7, 2003, the Court resolved to: (1) DISPENSE
with the filing by respondent of his comment on the complaint; (2) ORDER the arrest of Atty.
Celera; and (3) DIRECT the Director of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to (a)
ARREST and DETAIN Atty. Celera for non-compliance with the Resolution dated June 30,
2008; and (b) SUBMIT a report of compliance with the Resolution. The Court likewise resolved
to REFER the complaint to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines for investigation, report and
recommendation.20

However, the Return of Warrant21 dated March 24, 2010, submitted by Atty. Frayn M. Banawa,
Investigation Agent II, Anti-Graft Division of the NBI, showed that respondent cannot be located
because neither Halili Complex nor No. 922 Aurora Blvd., at Cubao, Quezon City cannot be
located. During surveillance, it appeared that the given address, i.e., No. 922 Aurora Blvd.,
Cubao, Quezon City was a vacant lot with debris of a demolished building. Considering that the
given address cannot be found or located and there were no leads to determine respondent's
whereabouts, the warrant of arrest cannot be enforced.

The Integrated Bar of the Philippines, meanwhile, in compliance with the Court's Resolution,
reported that as per their records, the address of respondent is at No. 41 Hoover St., Valley View
Royale Subd., Taytay, Rizal.

Respondent likewise failed to appear before the mandatory conference and hearings set by the
Integrated Bar of the Philippines, Commission on Bar Discipline (IBP-CBD), despite several
notices. Thus, in an Order dated August 4, 2010, Commissioner Rebecca Villanueva-Maala, of
the IBP-CBD, declared respondent to be in default and the case was submitted for report and
recommendation. The Order of Default was received by respondent as evidenced by a registry
return receipt. However, respondent failed to take any action on the matter.

On January 3, 2011, the IBP-CBD, in its Report and Recommendation, recommended that
respondent Atty. Celera be suspended for a period of two (2) years from the practice of law.

RULING

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.22 The issue to be determined is whether
respondent is still fit to continue to be an officer of the court in the dispensation of justice.
Hence, an administrative proceeding for disbarment continues despite the desistance of a
complainant, or failure of the complainant to prosecute the same, or in this case, the failure of
respondent to answer the charges against him despite numerous notices.

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. 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.23

In the instant case, there is a preponderance of evidence that respondent contracted a second
marriage despite the existence of his first marriage. The first marriage, as evidenced by the
certified xerox copy of the Certificate of Marriage issued on October 3, 2001 by the City Civil
Registry of Manila, Gloria C. Pagdilao, states that respondent Rogelio Juan A. Celera contracted
marriage on May, 8, 1997 with Gracemarie R. Bunagan at the Church of Saint Augustine,
Intramuros, Manila; the second marriage, however, as evidenced by the certified xerox copy of
the Certificate of Marriage issued on October 4, 2001 by the City Civil Registry of San Juan,
Manila, states that respondent Rogelio Juan A. Celera contracted marriage on January 8, 1998
with Ma. Cielo Paz Torres Alba at the Mary the Queen Church, Madison St., Greenhills, San
Juan, Metro Manila.

Bansig submitted certified xerox copies of the marriage certificates to prove that respondent
entered into a second marriage while the latter’s first marriage was still subsisting. We note that
the second marriage apparently took place barely a year from his first marriage to Bunagan
which is indicative that indeed the first marriage was still subsisting at the time respondent
contracted the second marriage with Alba.

The certified xerox copies of the marriage contracts, issued by a public officer in custody
thereof, are admissible as the best evidence of their contents, as provided for under Section 7 of
Rule 130 of the Rules of Court, to wit:

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.

Moreover, the certified xerox copies of the marriage certificates, other than being admissible in
evidence, also clearly indicate that respondent contracted the second marriage while the first
marriage is subsisting. By itself, the certified xerox copies of the marriage certificates would
already have been sufficient to establish the existence of two marriages entered into by
respondent. The certified xerox copies should be accorded the full faith and credence given to
public documents. For purposes of this disbarment proceeding, these Marriage Certificates
bearing the name of respondent are competent and convincing evidence to prove that he
committed bigamy, which renders him unfit to continue as a member of the Bar.24

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.

Respondent exhibited a deplorable lack of that degree of morality required of him as a member
of the Bar. He made a mockery of marriage, a sacred institution demanding respect and dignity.
His act of contracting a second marriage while his first marriage is subsisting constituted grossly
immoral conduct and are grounds for disbarment under Section 27, Rule 138 of the Revised
Rules of Court.25

This case cannot be fully resolved, however, without addressing rather respondent’s defiant
stance against the Court as demonstrated by his repetitive disregard of its Resolution requiring
him to file his comment on the complaint. This case has dragged on since 2002. In the span of
more than 10 years, the Court has issued numerous directives for respondent's compliance, but
respondent seemed to have preselected only those he will take notice of and the rest he will just
ignore. The Court has issued several resolutions directing respondent to comment on the
complaint against him, yet, to this day, he has not submitted any answer thereto. He claimed to
have not received a copy of the complaint, thus, his failure to comment on the complaint against
him. Ironically, however, whenever it is a show cause order, none of them have escaped
respondent's attention. Even assuming that indeed the copies of the complaint had not reached
him, he cannot, however, feign ignorance that there is a complaint against him that is pending
before this Court which he could have easily obtained a copy had he wanted to.

The Court has been very tolerant in dealing with respondent's nonchalant attitude towards this
case; accommodating respondent's endless requests, manifestations and prayers to be given a
copy of the complaint. The Court, as well as Bansig, as evidenced by numerous affidavits of
service, have relentlessly tried to reach respondent for more than a decade; sending copies of the
Court's Resolutions and complaint to different locations - both office and residential addresses of
respondent. However, despite earnest efforts of the Court to reach respondent, the latter, however
conveniently offers a mere excuse of failure to receive the complaint. When said excuse seemed
no longer feasible, respondent just disappeared. In a manner of speaking, respondent’s acts were
deliberate, maneuvering the liberality of the Court in order to delay the disposition of the case
and to evade the consequences of his actions. Ultimately, what is apparent is respondent’s
deplorable disregard of the judicial process which this Court cannot countenance.

Clearly, respondent's acts constitute willful disobedience of the lawful orders of this Court,
which under Section 27, Rule 138 of the Rules of Court is in itself alone a sufficient cause for
suspension or disbarment. Respondent’s cavalier attitude in repeatedly ignoring the orders of the
Supreme Court constitutes utter disrespect to the judicial institution. Respondent’s conduct
indicates a high degree of irresponsibility. We have repeatedly held that a Court’s Resolution is
"not to be construed as a mere request, nor should it be complied with partially, inadequately, or
selectively." Respondent’s obstinate refusal to comply with the Court’s orders "not only betrays
a recalcitrant flaw in his character; it also underscores his disrespect of the Court's lawful orders
which is only too deserving of reproof."26

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

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

Considering respondent's propensity to disregard not only the laws of the land but also the lawful
orders of the Court, it only shows him to be wanting in moral character, honesty, probity and
good demeanor. He is, thus, unworthy to continue as an officer of the court.
IN VIEW OF ALL THE FOREGOING, we find respondent ATTY. ROGELIO JUAN A.
CELERA, guilty of grossly immoral conduct and willful disobedience of lawful orders rendering
him unworthy of continuing membership in the legal profession. He is thus ordered
DISBARRED from the practice of law and his name stricken of the Roll of Attorneys, effective
immediately.1âwphi1

Let copies of this Decision be furnished the Office of the Bar Confidant, which shall forthwith
record it in the personal file of respondent. All the Courts of the Philippines and the Integrated
Bar of the Philippines shall disseminate copies thereof to all its Chapters.

SO ORDERED.

A.C. No. 6707 March 24, 2006

GISELA HUYSSEN, Complainant,


vs.
ATTY. FRED L. GUTIERREZ, Respondent.

DECISION

PER CURIAM:

This treats of a Complaint1 for Disbarment filed by Gisela Huyssen against respondent Atty.
Fred L. Gutierrez.

Complainant alleged that in 1995, while respondent was still connected with the Bureau of
Immigration and Deportation (BID), she and her three sons, who are all American citizens,
applied for Philippine Visas under Section 13[g] of the Immigration Law. Respondent told
complainant that in order that their visa applications will be favorably acted upon by the BID
they needed to deposit a certain sum of money for a period of one year which could be
withdrawn after one year. Believing that the deposit was indeed required by law, complainant
deposited with respondent on six different occasions from April 1995 to April 1996 the total
amount of US$20,000. Respondent prepared receipts/vouchers as proofs that he received the
amounts deposited by the complainant but refused to give her copies of official receipts despite
her demands. After one year, complainant demanded from respondent the return of US$20,000
who assured her that said amount would be returned. When respondent failed to return the sum
deposited, the World Mission for Jesus (of which complainant was a member) sent a demand
letter to respondent for the immediate return of the money. In a letter dated 1 March 1999,
respondent promised to release the amount not later than 9 March 1999. Failing to comply with
his promise, the World Mission for Jesus sent another demand letter. In response thereto,
respondent sent complainant a letter dated 19 March 1999 explaining the alleged reasons for the
delay in the release of deposited amount. He enclosed two blank checks postdated to 6 April and
20 April 1999 and authorized complainant to fill in the amounts. When complainant deposited
the postdated checks on their due dates, the same were dishonored because respondent had
stopped payment on the same. Thereafter, respondent, in his letter to complainant dated 25 April
1999, explained the reasons for stopping payment on the checks, and gave complainant five
postdated checks with the assurance that said checks would be honored. Complainant deposited
the five postdated checks on their due dates but they were all dishonored for having been drawn
against insufficient funds or payment thereon was ordered stopped by respondent. After
respondent made several unfulfilled promises to return the deposited amount, complainant
referred the matter to a lawyer who sent two demand letters to respondent. The demand letters
remained unheeded.

Thus, a complaint2 for disbarment was filed by complainant in the Commission on Bar
Discipline of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP).

On 15 November 2000, Victor C. Fernandez, Director for Bar Discipline, required3 respondent to
submit his answer within 15 days from receipt thereof.

In his Counter-Affidavit dated 2 July 2001,4 respondent denied the allegations in the complaint
claiming that having never physically received the money mentioned in the complaint, he could
not have appropriated or pocketed the same. He said the amount was used as payment for
services rendered for obtaining the permanent visas in the Philippines. Respondent explained
thus:

a) Through a close-friend, Jovie Galaraga, a Pastor and likewise a friend of the


complainant, the latter was introduced to me at my office at the Bureau of Immigration
with a big problem concerning their stay in the Philippines, herself and three sons, one of
which is already of major age while the two others were still minors then. Their problem
was the fact that since they have been staying in the Philippines for almost ten (10) years
as holders of missionary visas (9G) they could no longer extend their said status as under
the law and related polic[i]es of the government, missionary visa holders could only
remain as such for ten (10) years after which they could no longer extend their said status
and have to leave the country.

b) Studying their case and being U.S. Citizen (sic), I advised them that they better secure
a permanent visa under Section 3 of the Philippine Immigration Law otherwise known as
Quota Visa and thereafter, provided them with list of the requirements in obtaining the
said visa, one of which is that the applicant must have a $40,000 deposited in the bank. I
also inform that her son Marcus Huyssen, who was already of major age, has to have the
same amount of show money separate of her money as he would be issued separate visa,
while her two minor children would be included as her dependents in her said visa
application. I advised them to get a lawyer (sic), complainant further requested me to
refer to her to a lawyer to work for their application, which I did and contacted the late
Atty. Mendoza, an Immigration lawyer, to do the job for the complainant and her family.

c) The application was filed, processed and followed-up by the said Atty. Mendoza until
the same was finished and the corresponding permanent visa were obtained by the
complainant and her family. Her son Marcus Huyssen was given an independent
permanent visa while the other two were made as dependents of the complainant. In
between the processing of the papers and becoming very close to the complainant, I
became the intermediary between complainant and their counsel so much that every
amount that the latter would request for whatever purpose was coursed through me which
request were then transmitted to the complainant and every amount of money given by
the complainant to their counsel were coursed thru me which is the very reason why my
signature appears in the vouchers attached in the complaint-affidavit;

d) That as time goes by, I noticed that the amount appeared to be huge for services of a
lawyer that I myself began to wonder why and, to satisfy my curiosity, I met Atty.
Mendoza and inquired from him regarding the matter and the following facts were
revealed to me:

1) That what was used by the complainant as her show money from the bank is
not really her money but money of World Mission for Jesus, which therefore is a
serious violation of the Immigration Law as there was a misrepresentation. This
fact was confirmed later when the said entity sent their demand letter to the
undersigned affiant and which is attached to the complaint-affidavit;

2) That worst, the same amount used by the complainant, was the very same
amount used by her son Marcus Huyssen, in obtaining his separate permanent
visa. These acts of the complainant and her son could have been a ground for
deportation and likewise constitute criminal offense under the Immigration Law
and the Revised Penal Code. These could have been the possible reason why
complainant was made to pay for quite huge amount.

e) That after they have secured their visas, complainant and her family became very close
to undersigned and my family that I was even invited to their residence several times;

f) However after three years, complainant demanded the return of their money given and
surprisingly they want to recover the same from me. By twist of fate, Atty. Mendoza is
no longer around, he died sometime 1997;

g) That it is unfortunate that the real facts of the matter is now being hidden and that the
amount of money is now being sought to be recovered from me;

h) That the fact is I signed the vouchers and being a lawyer I know the consequences of
having signed the same and therefore I had to answer for it and pay. I tried to raised the
fund needed but up to the present my standby loan application has not been released and
was informed that the same would only be forthcoming second week of August. The
same should have been released last March but was aborted due to prevalent condition.
The amount to be paid, according to the complainant has now become doubled plus
attorney’s fees of P200,000.00.

Complainant submitted her evidence on 4 September 2002 and April 2003, and filed her Formal
Offer of Evidence on 25 August 2003.
On several occasions, the complaint was set for reception of respondent’s evidence but the
scheduled hearings (11 settings) were all reset at the instance of the respondent who was
allegedly out of the country to attend to his client’s needs. Reception of respondent’s evidence
was scheduled for the last time on 28 September 2004 and again respondent failed to appear,
despite due notice and without just cause.

On 5 November 2004, Investigating Commissioner Milagros V. San Juan submitted her


report5 recommending the disbarment of respondent. She justified her recommendation in this
manner:

At the outset it should be noted that there is no question that respondent received the amount of
US$20,000 from complainant, as respondent himself admitted that he signed the vouchers
(Annexes A to F of complainant) showing his receipt of said amount from complainant.
Respondent however claims that he did not appropriate the same for himself but that he delivered
the said amount to a certain Atty. Mendoza. This defense raised by respondent is untenable
considering the documentary evidence submitted by complainant. On record is the 1 March 1999
letter of respondent addressed to the World Mission for Jesus (Annex H of Complaint) where he
stated thus:

"I really understand your feelings on the delay of the release of the deposit but I repeat, nobody
really intended that the thing would happen that way. Many events were the causes of the said
delay particularly the death of then Commissioner L. Verceles, whose sudden death prevented us
the needed papers for the immediate release. It was only from compiling all on the first week of
January this year, that all the said papers were recovered, hence, the process of the release just
started though some important papers were already finished as early as the last quarter of last
year. We are just going through the normal standard operating procedure and there is no day
since January that I do not make any follow – ups on the progress of the same."

and his letter dated 19 March 1999 (Annex L of Complaint) where he stated thus:

"I am sending you my personal checks to cover the refund of the amount deposited by your good
self in connection with the procurement of your permanent visa and that of your family. It might
take some more time before the Bureau could release the refund as some other pertinent papers
are being still compiled are being looked at the files of the late Commissioner Verceles, who
approved your visa and who died of heart attack. Anyway, I am sure that everything would be
fine later as all the documents needed are already intact. This is just a bureaucratic delay."

From the above letters, respondent makes it appear that the US$20,000 was officially deposited
with the Bureau of Immigration and Deportation. However, if this is true, how come only Petty
Cash Vouchers were issued by respondent to complainant to prove his receipt of the said sum
and official receipts therefore were never issued by the said Bureau? Also, why would
respondent issue his personal checks to cover the return of the money to complainant if said
amount was really officially deposited with the Bureau of Immigration? All these actions of
respondent point to the inescapable conclusion that respondent received the money from
complainant and appropriated the same for his personal use. It should also be noted that
respondent has failed to establish that the "late Atty. Mendoza" referred to in his Counter-
Affidavit really exists. There is not one correspondence from Atty. Mendoza regarding the visa
application of complainant and his family, and complainant has also testified that she never met
this Atty. Mendoza referred to by respondent.

Considering that respondent was able to perpetrate the fraud by taking advantage of his position
with the Board of Special Inquiry of the Bureau of Immigration and Deportation, makes it more
reprehensible as it has caused damage to the reputation and integrity of said office. It is
submitted that respondent has violated Rule 6.02 of Canon 6 of the Code of Professional
Responsibility which reads:

"A lawyer in the government service shall not use his public position to promote or advance his
private interests, nor allow the latter to interfere with his public duties."

On 4 November 2004, the IBP Board of Governors approved6 the Investigating Commissioner’s
report with modification, thus:

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


modification, 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 applicable laws and rules, and
considering respondent’s violation of Rule 6.02 of Canon 6 of the Code of Professional
Responsibility, Atty. Fred L. Gutierrez is hereby DISBARRED from the practice of law and
ordered to return the amount with legal interest from receipt of the money until payment. This
case shall be referred to the Office of the Ombudsman for prosecution for violation of Anti-Graft
and Corrupt Practices Acts and to the Department of Justice for appropriate administrative
action.

We agree with the IBP Board of Governors that respondent should be severely sanctioned.

We begin with the veritable fact that lawyers in government service in the discharge of their
official task have more restrictions than lawyers in private practice. Want of moral integrity is to
be more severely condemned in a lawyer who holds a responsible public office.7

It is undisputed that respondent admitted8 having received the US$20,000 from complainant as
shown by his signatures in the petty cash vouchers9 and receipts10 he prepared, on the false
representation that that it was needed in complainant’s application for visa with the BID.
Respondent denied he misappropriated the said amount and interposed the defense that he
delivered it to a certain Atty. Mendoza who assisted complainant and children in their
application for visa in the BID.11 Such defense remains unsubstantiated as he failed to submit
evidence on the matter. While he claims that Atty. Mendoza already died, he did not present the
death certificate of said Atty. Mendoza. Worse, the action of respondent in shifting the blame to
someone who has been naturally silenced by fate, is not only impudent but downright
ignominious. When the integrity of a member of the bar is challenged, it is not enough that he
deny the charges against him; he must meet the issue and overcome the evidence against
him.12 He must show proof that he still maintains that degree of morality and integrity which at
all times is expected of him. In the case at bar, respondent clearly fell short of his duty. Records
show that even though he was given the opportunity to answer the charges and controvert the
evidence against him in a formal investigation, he failed, without any plausible reason, to appear
several times whenever the case was set for reception of his evidence despite due notice.

The defense of denial proferred by respondent is, thus, not convincing. It is settled that denial is
inherently a weak defense. To be believed, it must be buttressed by a strong evidence of non-
culpability; otherwise, such denial is purely self-serving and is with nil evidentiary value.

When respondent issued the postdated checks as his moral obligation, he indirectly admitted the
charge. Such admissions were also apparent in the following letters of respondent to
complainant:

1) Letter13 dated 01 March 1992, pertinent portion of which reads:

Be that as it may, may I assure you for the last time that the said deposit is forthcoming, the latest
of which is 09 March 1999. Should it not be released on said date, I understand to pay the same
to you out of my personal money on said date. No more reasons and no more alibis. Send
somebody here at the office on that day and the amount would be given to you wether (sic) from
the Bureau or from my own personal money.

2) Letter14 dated 19 March 1999, reads in part:

I am sending you my personal checks to cover the refund of the amount deposited by your
goodself in connection with the procurement of your permanent visa and that of your family.

It might take some more time before the Bureau could release the refund as some other pertinent
papers are still being compiled and are being looked at the files of the late Commissioner
Verceles, who approved your visa and who died of heart attack. Anyway, I am sure that
everything would be fine later as all the documents needed are already intact. This is just a
bureaucratic delay.

xxxx

As you would see, I have to pay you in peso. I have issued you 2 checks, one dated April 6, 1999
and the other one dated April 20, 1999. I leave the amount vacant because I would want you to
fill them up on their due dates the peso equivalent to $10,000 respectively. This is to be sure that
the peso equivalent of your P20,000 would be well exchanged. I have postdated them to enable
me to raise some more pesos to cover the whole amount but don’t worry as the Lord had already
provided me the means.

3) Letter15 dated 25 April 1999 provides:

Anyway, let me apologize for all these troubles. You are aware that I have done my very best for
the early return of your money but the return is becoming bleak as I was informed that there are
still papers lacking. When I stopped the payment of the checks I issued, I was of the impression
that everything is fine, but it is not. I guess it is time for me to accept the fact that I really have to
personally return the money out of my own. The issue should stop at my end. This is the truth
that I must face. It may hurt me financially but it would set me free from worries and anxieties.

I have arranged for a loan from money lenders and was able to secure one last Saturday the
releases of which are on the following:

May 4, 1999- 200,000

May 11, 1999 -200,000

May 20, 1999-200,000

June 4, 1999-200,000

I have given my property (lot situated in the province) as my collateral.

I am therefore putting an end to this trouble. I am issuing four checks which I assure you will be
sufficiently funded on their due dates by reason of my aforestated loans. Just bear with me for
the last time, if any of these checks, is returned, don’t call me anymore. Just file the necessary
action against me, I just had to put an end to this matter and look forward. x x x

4) Letter16 dated 12 May 1999, which reads:

The other day I deposited the amount of P289,000 to the bank to cover the first check I issued. In
fact I stopped all payments to all other checks that are becoming due to some of my creditors to
give preference to the check I issued to you.

This morning when I went to the Bank, I learned that the bank instead of returning the other
checks I requested for stop payment - instead honored them and mistakenly returned your check.
This was a very big surprise to me and discouragement for I know it would really upset you.

In view of this I thought of sending you the amount of P200,000 in cash which I initially plan to
withdraw from the Bank. However, I could not entrust the same amount to the bearer nor can I
bring the same to your place considering that its quite a big amount. I am just sending a check for
you to immediately deposit today and I was assured by the bank that it would be honored this
time.

Normally, this is not the actuation of one who is falsely accused of appropriating the money of
another. As correctly observed by the Investigating Commissioner, respondent would not have
issued his personal checks if said amount were officially deposited with the BID. This is an
admission of misconduct.

Respondent’s act of asking money from complainant in consideration of the latter’s pending
application for visas is violative of Rule 1.0117 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, which
prohibits members of the Bar from engaging or participating in any unlawful, dishonest, or
deceitful acts. Moreover, said acts constitute a breach of Rule 6.0218 of the Code which bars
lawyers in government service from promoting their private interest. Promotion of private
interest includes soliciting gifts or anything of monetary value in any transaction requiring the
approval of his office or which may be affected by the functions of his office.19 Respondent’s
conduct in office betrays the integrity and good moral character required from all lawyers,
especially from one occupying a high public office. A lawyer in public office is expected not
only to refrain from any act or omission which might tend to lessen the trust and confidence of
the citizenry in government; he must also uphold the dignity of the legal profession at all times
and observe a high standard of honesty and fair dealing. Otherwise said, a lawyer in government
service is a keeper of the public faith and is burdened with high degree of social responsibility,
perhaps higher than his brethren in private practice.

In a desperate attempt to put up a smoke or to camouflage his misdeed, he went on committing


another by issuing several worthless checks, thereby compounding his case.

In a recent case, we have held that the issuance of worthless checks constitutes gross
misconduct,20 as the effect "transcends the private interests of the parties directly involved in the
transaction and touches the interests of the community at large. The mischief it creates is not
only a wrong to the payee or holder, but also an injury to the public since the circulation of
valueless commercial papers can very well pollute the channels of trade and commerce, injure
the banking system and eventually hurt the welfare of society and the public interest. Thus,
paraphrasing Black’s definition, a drawer who issues an unfunded check deliberately reneges on
his private duties he owes his fellow men or society in a manner contrary to accepted and
customary rule of right and duty, justice, honesty or good morals."21

Consequently, we have held that the act of a person in issuing a check knowing at the time of the
issuance that he or she does not have sufficient funds in, or credit with, the drawee bank for the
payment of the check in full upon its presentment, is also a manifestation of moral turpitude.22

Respondent’s acts are more despicable. Not only did he misappropriate the money of
complainant; worse, he had the gall to prepare receipts with the letterhead of the BID and issued
checks to cover up his misdeeds. Clearly, he does not deserve to continue, being a member of the
bar.

Time and again, we have declared that the practice of law is a noble profession. It is a special
privilege bestowed only upon those who are competent intellectually, academically and morally.
A lawyer must at all times conduct himself, especially in his dealings with his clients and the
public at large, with honesty and integrity in a manner beyond reproach. He must faithfully
perform his duties to society, to the bar, to the courts and to his clients. A violation of the high
standards of the legal profession subjects the lawyer to administrative sanctions which includes
suspension and disbarment.23 More importantly, possession of good moral character must be
continuous as a requirement to the enjoyment of the privilege of law practice; otherwise, the loss
thereof is a ground for the revocation of such privilege.24

Indeed, the primary objective of administrative cases against lawyers is not only to punish and
discipline the erring individual lawyers but also to safeguard the administration of justice by
protecting the courts and the public from the misconduct of lawyers, and to remove from the
legal profession persons whose utter disregard of their lawyer’s oath have proven them unfit to
continue discharging the trust reposed in them as members of the bar.25 These pronouncement
gain practical significance in the case at bar considering that respondent was a former member of
the Board of Special Inquiry of the BID. It bears stressing also that government lawyers who are
public servants owe fidelity to the public service, a public trust. As such, government lawyers
should be more sensitive to their professional obligations as their disreputable conduct is more
likely to be magnified in the public eye.26

As a lawyer, who was also a public officer, respondent miserably failed to cope with the strict
demands and high standards of the legal profession.

Section 27, Rule 138 of the Revised Rules of Court mandates that a lawyer may be disbarred or
suspended by this Court for any of the following acts: (1) deceit; (2) malpractice; (3) gross
misconduct in office; (4) grossly immoral conduct; (5) conviction of a crime involving moral
turpitude ; (6) violation of the lawyer’s oath; (7) willful disobedience of any lawful order of a
superior court; and (8) willfully appearing as an attorney for a party without authority to do so.27

In Atty. Vitriolo v. Atty. Dasig,28 we ordered the disbarment of a lawyer who, during her tenure
as OIC, Legal Services, Commission on Higher Education, demanded sums of money as
consideration for the approval of applications and requests awaiting action by her office. In Lim
v. Barcelona,29 we also disbarred a senior lawyer of the National Labor Relations Commission,
who was caught by the National Bureau of Investigation in the act of receiving and counting
money extorted from a certain person.

Respondent’s acts constitute gross misconduct; and consistent with the need to maintain the high
standards of the Bar and thus preserve the faith of the public in the legal profession, respondent
deserves the ultimate penalty of expulsion from the esteemed brotherhood of lawyers.30

WHEREFORE, Atty. Fred L. Gutierrez is hereby DISBARRED from the practice of law and
ordered to return the amount he received from the complainant with legal interest from his
receipt of the money until payment. This case shall be referred to the Office of the Ombudsman
for criminal prosecution for violation of Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Acts and to the
Department of Justice for appropriate administrative action. Let copies of this Decision be
furnished the Bar Confidant to be spread on the records of the respondent; the Integrated Bar of
the Philippines for distribution to all its chapters; and the Office of the Court Administrator for
dissemination to all courts throughout the country.

SO ORDERED.

A.C. No. 6788 August 23, 2007


(Formerly, CBD 382)

DIANA RAMOS, Complainant,


vs.
ATTY. JOSE R. IMBANG, Respondent.
RESOLUTION

PER CURIAM:

This is a complaint for disbarment or suspension1 against Atty. Jose R. Imbang for multiple
violations of the Code of Professional Responsibility.

The Complaint

In 1992, the complainant Diana Ramos sought the assistance of respondent Atty. Jose R. Imbang
in filing civil and criminal actions against the spouses Roque and Elenita Jovellanos.2 She gave
respondent ₱8,500 as attorney's fees but the latter issued a receipt for ₱5,000 only.3

The complainant tried to attend the scheduled hearings of her cases against the Jovellanoses.
Oddly, respondent never allowed her to enter the courtroom and always told her to wait outside.
He would then come out after several hours to inform her that the hearing had been cancelled
and rescheduled.4 This happened six times and for each "appearance" in court, respondent
charged her ₱350.

After six consecutive postponements, the complainant became suspicious. She personally
inquired about the status of her cases in the trial courts of Biñan and San Pedro, Laguna. She was
shocked to learn that respondent never filed any case against the Jovellanoses and that he was in
fact employed in the Public Attorney's Office (PAO).5

Respondent's Defense

According to respondent, the complainant knew that he was in the government service from the
very start. In fact, he first met the complainant when he was still a district attorney in the
Citizen's Legal Assistance Office (predecessor of PAO) of Biñan, Laguna and was assigned as
counsel for the complainant's daughter.6

In 1992, the complainant requested him to help her file an action for damages against the
Jovellanoses.7 Because he was with the PAO and aware that the complainant was not an
indigent, he declined.8 Nevertheless, he advised the complainant to consult Atty. Tim Ungson, a
relative who was a private practitioner.9 Atty. Ungson, however, did not accept the complainant's
case as she was unable to come up with the acceptance fee agreed upon.10Notwithstanding Atty.
Ungson's refusal, the complainant allegedly remained adamant. She insisted on suing the
Jovellanoses. Afraid that she "might spend" the cash on hand, the complainant asked respondent
to keep the ₱5,000 while she raised the balance of Atty. Ungson's acceptance fee.11

A year later, the complainant requested respondent to issue an antedated receipt because one of
her daughters asked her to account for the ₱5,000 she had previously given the respondent for
safekeeping.12 Because the complainant was a friend, he agreed and issued a receipt dated July
15, 1992.13
On April 15, 1994, respondent resigned from the PAO.14 A few months later or in September
1994, the complainant again asked respondent to assist her in suing the Jovellanoses. Inasmuch
as he was now a private practitioner, respondent agreed to prepare the complaint. However, he
was unable to finalize it as he lost contact with the complainant.15

Recommendation of the IBP

Acting on the complaint, the Commission on Bar Discipline (CBD) of the Integrated Bar of the
Philippines (IBP) where the complaint was filed, received evidence from the parties. On
November 22, 2004, the CBD submitted its report and recommendation to the IBP Board of
Governors.16

The CBD noted that the receipt17 was issued on July 15, 1992 when respondent was still with the
PAO.18 It also noted that respondent described the complainant as a shrewd businesswoman and
that respondent was a seasoned trial lawyer. For these reasons, the complainant would not have
accepted a spurious receipt nor would respondent have issued one. The CBD rejected
respondent's claim that he issued the receipt to accommodate a friend's request.19 It found
respondent guilty of violating the prohibitions on government lawyers from accepting private
cases and receiving lawyer's fees other than their salaries.20 The CBD concluded that respondent
violated the following provisions of the Code of Professional Responsibility:

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

Rule 16.01. A lawyer shall account for all money or property collected or received for or from a
client.

Rule 18.01. A lawyer should not undertake a legal service which he knows or should know that
he is not qualified to render. However, he may render such service if, with the consent of his
client, he can obtain as collaborating counsel a lawyer who is competent on the matter.

Thus, it recommended respondent's suspension from the practice of law for three years and
ordered him to immediately return to the complainant the amount of ₱5,000 which was
substantiated by the receipt.21

The IBP Board of Governors adopted and approved the findings of the CBD that respondent
violated Rules 1.01, 16.01 and 18.01 of the Code of Professional Responsibility. It, however,
modified the CBD's recommendation with regard to the restitution of ₱5,000 by imposing
interest at the legal rate, reckoned from 1995 or, in case of respondent's failure to return the total
amount, an additional suspension of six months.22

The Court's Ruling

We adopt the findings of the IBP with modifications.

Lawyers are expected to conduct themselves with honesty and integrity.23 More specifically,
lawyers in government service are expected to be more conscientious of their actuations as they
are subject to public scrutiny. They are not only members of the bar but also public servants who
owe utmost fidelity to public service.24

Government employees are expected to devote themselves completely to public service. For this
reason, the private practice of profession is prohibited. Section 7(b)(2) of the Code of Ethical
Standards for Public Officials and Employees provides:

Section 7. Prohibited Acts and Transactions. -- In addition to acts and omissions of public
officials and employees now prescribed in the Constitution and existing laws, the following
constitute prohibited acts and transactions of any public official and employee and are hereby
declared unlawful:

xxx xxx xxx

(b) Outside employment and other activities related thereto, public officials and employees
during their incumbency shall not:

xxx xxx xxx

(1) Engage in the private practice of profession unless authorized by the Constitution or law,
provided that such practice will not conflict with their official function.25

Thus, lawyers in government service cannot handle private cases for they are expected to devote
themselves full-time to the work of their respective offices.

In this instance, respondent received ₱5,000 from the complainant and issued a receipt on July
15, 1992 while he was still connected with the PAO. Acceptance of money from a client
establishes an attorney-client relationship.26Respondent's admission that he accepted money from
the complainant and the receipt confirmed the presence of an attorney-client relationship
between him and the complainant. Moreover, the receipt showed that he accepted the
complainant's case while he was still a government lawyer. Respondent clearly violated the
prohibition on private practice of profession.

Aggravating respondent's wrongdoing was his receipt of attorney's fees. The PAO was created
for the purpose of providing free legal assistance to indigent litigants.27 Section 14(3), Chapter 5,
Title III, Book V of the Revised Administrative Code provides:

Sec. 14. xxx

The PAO shall be the principal law office of the Government in extending free legal assistance to
indigent persons in criminal, civil, labor, administrative and other quasi-judicial cases.28

As a PAO lawyer, respondent should not have accepted attorney's fees from the complainant as
this was inconsistent with the office's mission.29 Respondent violated the prohibition against
accepting legal fees other than his salary.
Canon 1 of the Code of Professional Responsibility provides:

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

Every lawyer is obligated to uphold the law.30 This undertaking includes the observance of the
above-mentioned prohibitions blatantly violated by respondent when he accepted the
complainant's cases and received attorney's fees in consideration of his legal services.
Consequently, respondent's acceptance of the cases was also a breach of Rule 18.01 of the Code
of Professional Responsibility because the prohibition on the private practice of profession
disqualified him from acting as the complainant's counsel.

Aside from disregarding the prohibitions against handling private cases and accepting attorney's
fees, respondent also surreptitiously deceived the complainant. Not only did he fail to file a
complaint against the Jovellanoses (which in the first place he should not have done), respondent
also led the complainant to believe that he really filed an action against the Jovellanoses. He
even made it appear that the cases were being tried and asked the complainant to pay his
"appearance fees" for hearings that never took place. These acts constituted dishonesty, a
violation of the lawyer's oath not to do any falsehood.31

Respondent's conduct in office fell short of the integrity and good moral character required of all
lawyers, specially one occupying a public office. Lawyers in public office are expected not only
to refrain from any act or omission which tend to lessen the trust and confidence of the citizenry
in government but also uphold the dignity of the legal profession at all times and observe a high
standard of honesty and fair dealing. A government lawyer is a keeper of public faith and is
burdened with a high degree of social responsibility, higher than his brethren in private
practice.321avvphi1

There is, however, insufficient basis to find respondent guilty of violating Rule 16.01 of the
Code of Professional Responsibility. Respondent did not hold the money for the benefit of the
complainant but accepted it as his attorney's fees. He neither held the amount in trust for the
complainant (such as an amount delivered by the sheriff in satisfaction of a judgment obligation
in favor of the client)33 nor was it given to him for a specific purpose (such as amounts given for
filing fees and bail bond).34 Nevertheless, respondent should return the ₱5,000 as he, a
government lawyer, was not entitled to attorney's fees and not allowed to accept them.35

WHEREFORE, Atty. Jose R. Imbang is found guilty of violating the lawyer’s oath, Canon 1,
Rule 1.01 and Canon 18, Rule 18.01 of the Code of Professional Responsibility. Accordingly, he
is hereby DISBARRED from the practice of law and his name is ordered stricken from the
Roll of Attorneys. He is also ordered to return to complainant the amount of ₱5,000 with interest
at the legal rate, reckoned from 1995, within 10 days from receipt of this resolution.

Let a copy of this resolution be attached to the personal records of respondent in the Office of the
Bar Confidant and 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.

A.C. No. 11113, August 09, 2016

CLEO B. DONGGA-AS, Complainant, v. ATTY. ROSE BEATRIX CRUZ-ANGELES,


ATTY. WYLIE M. PALER, AND ATTY. ANGELES GRANDEA, OF THE ANGELES,
GRANDEA & PALER LAW OFFICE, Respondent.

DECISION

PERLAS-BERNABE, J.:

For the Court's resolution is a Complaint-Affidavit1 filed on February 11, 2005 by complainant
Cleo B. Dongga-as (complainant), before the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) –
Commission on Bar Discipline (CBD), against respondents Atty. Rose Beatrix Cruz-Angeles
(Atty. Cruz-Angeles), Atty. Wylie M. Paler (Atty. Paler), and Atty. Angeles Grandea (Atty.
Grandea; collectively, respondents) of the Angeles, Grandea & Paler Law Office (law firm),
charging them of various violations of the Code of Professional Responsibility (CPR) for, inter
alia, refusing to return the money given by complainant in exchange for legal services which
respondents failed to perform.

The Facts

Complainant alleged that sometime in May 2004, he engaged the law firm of respondents to
handle the annulment of his marriage with his wife, Mutya Filipinas Puno-Dongga-as (Mutya).
In his meeting with Attys. Cruz-Angeles and Paler, complainant was told that: (a) the case would
cost him P300,000.00, with the first P100,000.00 payable immediately and the remaining
P200,000.00 payable after the final hearing of the case; (b) respondents will start working on the
case upon receipt of PI00,000.00, which will cover the acceptance fee, psychologist fee, and
filing fees; and (c) the time-frame for the resolution of the case will be around three (3) to four
(4) months from filing. Accordingly, complainant paid respondents P100,000.00 which was duly
received by Atty. Cruz-Angeles.2chanrobleslaw

From then on, complainant constantly followed-up his case with Attys. Cruz-Angeles and Paler.
However, despite his constant prodding, Attys. Cruz-Angeles and Paler could not present any
petition and instead, offered excuses for the delay, saying that: (a) they still had to look for a
psychologist to examine Mutya; (b) they were still looking for a "friendly" court and public
prosecutor; and (c) they were still deliberating where to file the case.3 They promised that the
petition would be filed on or before the end of June 2004, but such date passed without any
petition being filed. As an excuse, they reasoned out that the petition could not be filed since
they have yet to talk to the judge who they insinuated will favorably resolve complainant's
petition.4chanrobleslaw

Sometime in the third week of July 2004, Attys. Cruz-Angeles and Paler asked for an additional
payment of P250,000.00 in order for them to continue working on the case. Hoping that his
petition would soon be filed, complainant dutifully paid the said amount on July 23, 2004, which
was again received by Atty. Cruz-Angeles.5 However, to complainant's dismay, no appreciable
progress took place. When complainant inquired about the delay in the filing of the case, Atty.
Cruz-Angeles attempted to ease his worries by saying that the draft petition was already
submitted to the judge for editing and that the petition will soon be finalized.6chanrobleslaw

In the last week of September 2004, complainant received a text message from Atty. Cruz-
Angeles informing him that the National Statistics Office bore no record of his marriage. The
latter explained then that this development was favorable to complainant's case because, instead
of the proposed petition for annulment of marriage, they would just need to file a petition for
declaration of nullity of marriage. She also informed complainant that they would send someone
to verify the records of his marriage at the Local Civil Registrar of La Trinidad, Benguet (Civil
Registrar) where his marriage was celebrated. However, upon complainant's independent
verification through his friend, he discovered that the records of his marriage in the Civil
Registrar were intact, and that the alleged absence of the records of his marriage was a mere ruse
to cover up the delay in the filing of the petition.7chanrobleslaw

Utterly frustrated with the delay in the filing of his petition for annulment, complainant went to
respondents' law office to terminate their engagement and to demand for a refund of the
aggregate amount of P350,000.00 he earlier paid them. However, Attys. Cruz-Angeles and Paler
refused to return the said amount, and to complainant's surprise, sent him two (2) billing
statements dated October 5, 20048 and October 10, 20049 in the amounts of P258,000.00 and
P324,000.00, respectively. Notably, the October 5, 2004 billing statement included a fee for
"consultants (prosecutors)" amounting to P45,000.00.10 In view of the foregoing, complainant
filed the instant Complaint-Affidavit before the IBP-CBD, docketed as CBD Case No. 05-1426.

In her defense,11 Atty. Cruz-Angeles admitted to have received a total of P350,000.00 from
complainant,12 but denied that she was remiss in her duties, explaining that the delay in the filing
of the petition for annulment of marriage was due to complainant's failure to give the current
address of Mutya and provide sufficient evidence to support the petition.13 Further, Atty. Cruz-
Angeles alleged that it was Atty. Paler who was tasked to draft and finalize the petition.14 For his
part,15 Atty. Paler moved for the dismissal of the case for failure to state a cause of action,
arguing too that complainant filed the present administrative complaint only to avoid payment of
attorney's fees.16chanrobleslaw

The IBP's Report and Recommendation

In a Report and Recommendation17 dated July 10, 2012, the IBP Investigating Commissioner
found Attys. Cruz-Angeles and Paler administratively liable and, accordingly, recommended that
they be meted the penalty of suspension from the practice of law for four (4) months. However,
Atty. Grandea was exonerated of any liability as his participation in the charges has not been
discussed, much less proven.18chanrobleslaw

The Investigating Commissioner found that complainant indeed engaged the services of Attys.
Cruz-Angeles and Paler in order to annul his marriage with his wife, Mutya. Despite receiving
the aggregate amount of P350,000.00 from complainant, Attys. Cruz-Angeles and Paler
neglected the legal matter entrusted to them, as evidenced by their failure to just even draft
complainant's petition for annulment despite being engaged for already five (5) long
months.19 Moreover, as pointed out by the Investigating Commissioner, despite their preliminary
assessment that complainant's petition would not likely prosper, Attys. Cruz-Angeles and Paler
still proceeded to collect an additional P250,000.00 from complainant. Worse, they even billed
him an exorbitant sum of P324,000.00.20 Thus, the Investigating Commissioner opined that the
amounts respondents had already collected and would still want to further collect from
complainant can hardly be spent for research in connection with the annulment case that was not
filed at all. Neither can they cover just fees for Attys. Cruz-Angeles and Paler who did nothing to
serve complainant's cause.21chanrobleslaw

In a Resolution22 dated September 28, 2013, the IBP Board of Governors adopted and approved
the aforesaid Report and Recommendation, with modification increasing the recommended
penalty to two (2) years suspension from the practice of law. Atty. Cruz-Angeles moved for
reconsideration,23 which was, however, denied in a Resolution24 dated June 7, 2015.

The Issue Before the Court

The essential issue in this case is whether or not Attys. Cruz-Angeles and Paler should be held
administratively liable for violating the CPR.

The Court's Ruling

A judicious perusal of the records reveals that sometime in May 2004, complainant secured the
services of Attys. Cruz-Angeles and Paler for the purpose of annulling his marriage with Mutya,
and in connection therewith, paid Attys. Cruz-Angeles and Paler the aggregate sum of
P350,000.00 representing legal fees. However, despite the passage of more than five (5) months
from the engagement, Attys. Cruz-Angeles and Paler failed to file the appropriate pleading to
initiate the case before the proper court; and worse, could not even show a finished draft of such
pleading. Such neglect of the legal matter entrusted to them by their client constitutes a flagrant
violation of Rule 18.03, Canon 18 of the CPR, to wit:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
CANON 18 – A LAWYER SHALL SERVE HIS CLIENT WITH COMPETENCE AND
DILIGENCE.

Rule 18.03 – A lawyer shall not neglect a legal matter entrusted to him, and his negligence in
connection therewith shall render him liable.
Case law exhorts that, "once a lawyer takes up the cause of his client, he is duty-bound to serve
the latter with competence, and to attend to such client's cause with diligence, care, and devotion
whether he accepts it for a fee or for free. He owes fidelity to such cause and must always be
mindful of the trust and confidence reposed upon him. Therefore, a lawyer's neglect of a legal
matter entrusted to him by his client constitutes inexcusable negligence for which he must be
held administratively liable,"25cralawred as in this case.

In this relation, Attys. Cruz-Angeles and Paler also violated Rules 16.01 and 16.03, Canon 16 of
the CPR when they failed to return to complainant the amount of P350,000.00 representing their
legal fees, viz. :
CANON 16 – A LAWYER SHALL HOLD IN TRUST ALL MONEYS AND PROPERTIES
OF HIS CLIENT THAT MAY COME INTO HIS POSSESSION.

Rule 16.01 – A lawyer shall account for all money or property collected or received for or from
the client.

Rule 16.03– A lawyer shall deliver the funds and property of his client when due or upon
demand, x x x.
It bears stressing that "the relationship between a lawyer and his client is highly fiduciary and
prescribes on a lawyer a great fidelity and good faith. The highly fiduciary nature of this
relationship imposes upon the lawyer the duty to account for the money or property collected or
received for or from his client. Thus, a lawyer's failure to return upon demand the funds held by
him on behalf of his client, as in this case, gives rise to the presumption that he has appropriated
the same for his own use in violation of the trust reposed in him by his client. Such act is a gross
violation of general morality, as well as of professional ethics."26chanrobleslaw

Furthermore, Attys. Cruz-Angeles and Paler misrepresented to complainant that the delay in the
filing of his petition for annulment was due to the fact that they were still looking for a "friendly"
court, judge, and public prosecutor who will not be too much of a hindrance in achieving success
in the annulment case. In fact, in the two (2) billing statements dated October 5, 200427 and
October 10, 2004,28 Attys. Cruz-Angeles and Paler made it appear that they went to various
locations to look for a suitable venue in filing the said petition, and even paid various amounts to
prosecutors and members of the National Bureau of Investigation to act as their "consultants."
Such misrepresentations and deceits on the part of Attys. Cruz-Angeles and Paler are violations
of Rule 1.01, Canon 1 of the CPR, viz.:
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.
Rule 1.01, Canon 1 of the CPR instructs that "[a]s officers of the court, lawyers are bound to
maintain not only a high standard of legal proficiency, but also of morality, honesty, integrity,
and fair dealing."29Clearly, Attys. Cruz-Angeles and Paler fell short of such standard when they
committed the afore-described acts of misrepresentation and deception against complainant.
Their acts are not only unacceptable, disgraceful, and dishonorable to the legal profession; they
also reveal basic moral flaws that make Attys. Cruz-Angeles and Paler unfit to practice
law.30chanrobleslaw

As members of the Bar, Attys. Cruz-Angeles and Paler should not perform acts that would tend
to undermine and/or denigrate the integrity of the courts, such as insinuating that they can find a
"friendly" court and judge that will ensure a favorable ruling in complainant's annulment case. It
is their sworn duty as lawyers and officers of the court to uphold the dignity and authority of the
courts. Respect for the courts guarantees the stability of the judicial institution. Without this
guarantee, the institution would be resting on very shaky foundations.31 This is the very thrust of
Canon 11 of the CPR, which provides 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." Hence,
lawyers who are remiss in performing such sworn duty violate the aforesaid Canon 11, and as
such, should be held administratively liable and penalized accordingly, as in this
case.[32]chanrobleslaw

Moreover, Canon 7 of the CPR commands every lawyer to "at all times uphold the integrity and
dignity of the legal profession" for the strength of the legal profession lies in the dignity and
integrity of its members. It is every lawyer's duty to maintain the high regard to the profession by
staying true to his oath and keeping his actions beyond reproach. It must be reiterated that as an
officer of the court, it is a lawyer's sworn and moral duty to help build and not destroy
unnecessarily that high esteem and regard towards the courts so essential to the proper
administration of justice; as acts and/or omissions emanating from lawyers which tend to
undermine the judicial edifice is disastrous to the continuity of the government and to the
attainment of the liberties of the people. Thus, all lawyers should be bound not only to safeguard
the good name of the legal profession, but also to keep inviolable the honor, prestige, and
reputation of the judiciary.33 In this case, Attys. Cruz-Angeles and Paler compromised the
integrity not only of the judiciary, but also of the national prosecutorial service, by insinuating
that they can influence a court, judge, and prosecutor to cooperate with them to ensure the
annulment of complainant's marriage. Indubitably, Attys. Cruz-Angeles and Paler also violated
Canon 7 of the CPR, and hence, they should be held administratively liable therefor.

Anent the proper penalty for Attys. Cruz-Angeles and Paler, jurisprudence provides that in
similar cases where lawyers neglected their client's affairs, failed to return the latter's money
and/or property despite demand, and at the same time committed acts of misrepresentation and
deceit against their clients, the Court imposed upon them the penalty of suspension from the
practice of law for a period of two (2) years. In Jinon v. Jiz 34 the Court suspended the lawyer for
a period of two (2) years for his failure to return the amount his client gave him for his legal
services which he never performed. Also, in Agot v. Rivera, 35 the Court suspended the lawyer
for a period of two (2) years for his (a) failure to handle the legal matter entrusted to him and to
return the legal fees in connection therewith; and (b) misrepresentation that he was an
immigration lawyer, when in truth, he was not. Finally, in Spouses Lopez v. Limos, 36 the Court
suspended the erring lawyer for three (3) years for her failure to file a petition for adoption on
behalf of complainants, return the money she received as legal fees, and for her commission of
deceitful acts in misrepresenting that she had already filed such petition when nothing was
actually filed, resulting in undue prejudice to therein complainants. In this case, not only did
Attys. Cruz-Angeles and Paler fail to file complainant's petition for annulment of marriage and
return what the latter paid them as legal fees, they likewise misrepresented that they can find a
court, judge, and prosecutor who they can easily influence to ensure a favorable resolution of
such petition, to the detriment of the judiciary and the national prosecutorial service. Under these
circumstances, the Court individually imposes upon Attys. Cruz-Angeles and Paler the penalty of
suspension from the practice of law for a period of three (3) years.

Finally, the Court sustains the IBP's recommendation ordering Attys. Cruz-Angeles and Paler to
return the amount of P350,000.00 they received from complainant as legal fees. It is well to note
that "while the Court has previously held that disciplinary proceedings should only revolve
around the determination of the respondent-lawyer's administrative and not his civil liability, it
must be clarified that this rule remains applicable only to claimed liabilities which are purely
civil in nature – for instance, when the claim involves moneys received by the lawyer from his
client in a transaction separate and distinct and not intrinsically linked to his professional
engagement."37 Hence, since Attys. Cruz-Angeles and Paler received the aforesaid amount as
part of their legal fees, the Court finds the return thereof to be in order.
WHEREFORE, respondents Atty. Rose Beatrix Cruz-Angeles and Atty. Wylie M. Paler are
found GUILTYof violating Rule 1.01, Canon 1, Canon 7, Canon 11, Rule 18.03, Canon 18, and
Rules 16.01 and 16.03, Canon 16 of the Code of Professional Responsibility. Accordingly, each
of them is hereby SUSPENDEDfrom the practice of law for a period of three (3) years, effective
upon the finality of this Decision, with a STERN WARNING that a repetition of the same or
similar acts will be dealt with more severely.

Likewise, respondents Atty. Rose Beatrix Cruz-Angeles and Atty. Wylie M. Paler
are ORDERED to return to complainant Cleo B. Dongga-as the legal fees they received from
the latter in the aggregate amount of P350,000.00 within ninety (90) days from the finality of this
Decision. Failure to comply with the foregoing directive will warrant the imposition of a more
severe penalty.

Meanwhile, the complaint as against Atty. Angeles Grandea is DISMISSED for lack of merit.

Let copies of this Decision be served on the Office of the Bar Confidant, the Integrated Bar of
the Philippines, and all courts in the country for their information and guidance and be attached
to respondents' personal records as attorney.

SO ORDERED.chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary

A.C. No. 7360 July 24,2012

ATTY. POLICARIO I. CATALAN, JR., Complainant,


vs.
ATTY. JOSELITO M. SILVOSA, Respondent.

DECISION

PER CURIAM:

This is a complaint filed by Atty. Policarpio I. Catalan, Jr. (Atty. Catalan) against Atty. Joselito
M. Silvosa (Atty. Silvosa). Atty. Catalan has three causes of action against Atty. Silvosa; (1)
Atty. Silvosa appeared as counsel for the accused in the same case for which he previously
appeared as prosecutor; (2) Atty. Silvosa bribed his then colleague Prosecutor Phoebe Toribio
(Pros.Toribio) for P30,000; and (3) the Sandiganbayan convicted Atty. Silvosa in Criminal Case
No. 27776 for direct bribery. Integrated Bar of the Philippines’ (IBP) Commissioner for Bar
Discipline Dennis A.B. Funa (Comm. Funa) held Atty. Silvosa liable only for the first cause of
action and recommended the penalty of reprimand. The Board of Governors of the IBP twice
modified Comm. Funa’s recommendation: first, to a suspension of six months, then to a
suspension of two years.

Atty. Silvosa was an Assistant Provincial Prosecutor of Bukidnon and a Prosecutor in Regional
Trial Court (RTC), Branch 10, Malaybalay City, Bukidnon. Atty. Silvosa appeared as public
prosecutor in Criminal Case No. 10256-00, "People of the Philippines v. SPO2 Elmor Esperon y
Murillo, et al." (Esperon case), for the complex crime of double frustrated murder, in which case
Atty. Catalan was one of the private complainants. Atty. Catalan took issue with Atty. Silvosa’s
manner of prosecuting the case, and requested the Provincial Prosecutor to relieve Atty. Silvosa.

In his first cause of action, Atty. Catalan accused Atty. Silvosa of appearing as private counsel in
a case where he previously appeared as public prosecutor, hence violating Rule 6.03 of the Code
of Professional Responsibility.1 Atty. Catalan also alleged that, apart from the fact that Atty.
Silvosa and the accused are relatives and have the same middle name, Atty. Silvosa displayed
manifest bias in the accused’s favor. Atty. Silvosa caused numerous delays in the trial of the
Esperon case by arguing against the position of the private prosecutor. In 2000, Provincial
Prosecutor Guillermo Ching granted Atty. Catalan’s request to relieve Atty. Silvosa from
handling the Esperon case. The RTC rendered judgment convicting the accused on 16 November
2005. On 23 November 2005, Atty. Silvosa, as private lawyer and as counsel for the accused,
filed a motion to reinstate bail pending finality of judgment of the Esperon case.

In his second cause of action, Atty. Catalan presented the affidavit of Pros. Toribio. In a case for
frustrated murder where Atty. Catalan’s brother was a respondent, Pros. Toribio reviewed the
findings of the investigating judge and downgraded the offense from frustrated murder to less
serious physical injuries. During the hearing before Comm. Funa, Pros. Toribio testified that,
while still a public prosecutor at the time, Atty. Silvosa offered her P30,000 to reconsider her
findings and uphold the charge of frustrated murder.

Finally, in the third cause of action, Atty. Catalan presented the Sandiganbayan’s decision in
Criminal Case No. 27776, convicting Atty. Silvosa of direct bribery on 18 May 2006. Nilo
Lanticse (Lanticse) filed a complaint against Atty. Silvosa before the National Bureau of
Investigation (NBI). Despite the execution of an affidavit of desistance by the complainant in a
homicide case in favor of Lanticse’s father-in-law, Arsenio Cadinas (Cadinas), Cadinas still
remained in detention for more than two years. Atty. Silvosa demanded P15,000 from Lanticse
for the dismissal of the case and for the release of Cadinas. The NBI set up an entrapment
operation for Atty. Silvosa. GMA 7’s television program Imbestigador videotaped and aired the
actual entrapment operation. The footage was offered and admitted as evidence, and viewed by
the Sandiganbayan. Despite Atty. Silvosa’s defense of instigation, the Sandiganbayan convicted
Atty. Silvosa. The dispositive portion of Criminal Case No. 27776 reads:

WHEREFORE, this court finds JOSELITO M. SILVOSA GUILTY, beyond reasonable doubt,
of the crime of direct bribery and is hereby sentenced to suffer the penalty of:

(A) Imprisonment of, after applying the Indeterminate Sentence Law, one year, one
month and eleven days of prision correccional, as minimum, up to three years, six
months and twenty days of prision correccional, as maximum;

(B) Fine of TEN THOUSAND PESOS (Php 10,000.00), with subsidiary imprisonment in
case of insolvency; and

(C) All other accessory penalties provided for under the law.

SO ORDERED.2
In his defense, on the first cause of action, Atty. Silvosa states that he resigned as prosecutor
from the Esperon case on 18 October 2002. The trial court released its decision in the Esperon
case on 16 November 2005 and cancelled the accused’s bail. Atty. Silvosa claims that his
appearance was only for the purpose of the reinstatement of bail. Atty. Silvosa also denies any
relationship between himself and the accused.

On the second cause of action, Atty. Silvosa dismisses Pros. Toribio’s allegations as "self-
serving" and "purposely dug by [Atty. Catalan] and his puppeteer to pursue persecution."

On the third cause of action, while Atty. Silvosa admits his conviction by the Sandiganbayan and
is under probation, he asserts that "conviction under the 2nd paragraph of Article 210 of the
Revised Penal Code, do [sic] not involve moral turpitude since the act involved ‘do [sic] not
amount to a crime.’" He further claims that "it is not the lawyer in respondent that was convicted,
but his capacity as a public officer, the charge against respondent for which he was convicted
falling under the category of crimes against public officers x x x."

In a Report and Recommendation dated 15 September 2008, Comm. Funa found that:

As for the first charge, the wordings and prohibition in Rule 6.03 of the Code of Professional
Responsibility [are] quite clear. [Atty. Silvosa] did intervene in Criminal Case No. 10246-00.
[Atty. Silvosa’s] attempt to minimize his role in said case would be unavailing. The fact is that
he is presumed to have acquainted himself with the facts of said case and has made himself
familiar with the parties of the case. Such would constitute sufficient intervention in the case.
The fact that, subsequently, [Atty. Silvosa] entered his appearance in said case only to file
a Motion to

Post Bail Bond Pending Appeal would still constitute a violation of Rule 6.03 as such act is
sufficient to establish a lawyer-client relation.

As for the second charge, there is certain difficulty to dissect a claim of bribery that occurred
more than seven (7) years ago. In this instance, the conflicting allegations are merely based on
the word of one person against the word of another. With [Atty. Silvosa’s] vehement denial, the
accusation of witness [Pros.] Toribio stands alone unsubstantiated. Moreover, we take note that
the alleged incident occurred more than seven (7) years ago or in 1999, [l]ong before this
disbarment case was filed on November 2006. Such a long period of time would undoubtedly
cast doubt on the veracity of the allegation. Even the existence of the bribe money could not be
ascertained and verified with certainty anymore.

As to the third charge, [Atty. Silvosa] correctly points out that herein complainant has no
personal knowledge about the charge of extortion for which [Atty. Silvosa] was convicted by the
Sandiganbayan. [Atty. Catalan] was not a party in said case nor was he ever involved in said
case. The findings of the Sandiganbayan are not binding upon this Commission. The findings in
a criminal proceeding are not binding in a disbarment proceeding. No evidence has been
presented relating to the alleged extortion case.
PREMISES CONSIDERED, it is submitted that [Atty. Silvosa] is GUILTY only of the First
Charge in violating Rule 6.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility and should be given the
penalty of REPRIMAND.

Respectfully submitted.3

In a Resolution dated 9 October 2008, the IBP Board of Governors adopted and approved with
modification the Report and Recommendation of Comm. Funa and suspended Atty. Silvosa from
the practice of law for six months. In another Resolution dated 28 October 2011, the IBP Board
of Governors increased the penalty of Atty. Silvosa’s suspension from the practice of law to two
years. The Office of the Bar Confidant received the notice of the Resolution and the records of
the case on 1 March 2012.

We sustain the findings of the IBP only in the first cause of action and modify its
recommendations in the second and third causes of action.

Atty. Catalan relies on Rule 6.03 which states that "A lawyer shall not, after leaving government
service, accept engagement or employment in connection with any matter in which he had
intervened while in said service." Atty. Silvosa, on the hand, relies on Rule 2.01 which provides
that "A lawyer shall not reject, except for valid reasons the cause of the defenseless or the
oppressed" and on Canon 14 which provides that "A lawyer shall not refuse his services to the
needy."

We agree with Comm. Funa’s finding that Atty. Silvosa violated Rule 6.03. When he entered his
appearance on the Motion to Post Bail Bond Pending Appeal, Atty. Silvosa conveniently forgot
Rule 15.03 which provides that "A lawyer shall not represent conflicting interests except by
written consent of all concerned given after a full disclosure of facts."

Atty. Silvosa’s attempts to minimize his involvement in the same case on two occasions can only
be described as desperate. He claims his participation as public prosecutor was only to appear in
the arraignment and in the pre-trial conference. He likewise claims his subsequent participation
as collaborating counsel was limited only to the reinstatement of the original bail. Atty. Silvosa
will do well to take heed of our ruling in Hilado v. David:4

An attorney is employed — that is, he is engaged in his professional capacity as a lawyer or


counselor — when he is listening to his client’s preliminary statement of his case, or when he is
giving advice thereon, just as truly as when he is drawing his client’s pleadings, or advocating
his client’s pleadings, or advocating his client’s cause in open court.

xxxx

Hence the necessity of setting down the existence of the bare relationship of attorney and client
as the yardstick for testing incompatibility of interests. This stern rule is designed not alone to
prevent the dishonest practitioner from fraudulent conduct, but as well to protect the honest
lawyer from unfounded suspicion of unprofessional practice. It is founded on principles of public
policy, on good taste. As has been said in another case, the question is not necessarily one of the
rights of the parties, but as to whether the attorney has adhered to proper professional standard.
With these thoughts in mind, it behooves attorneys, like Caesar’s wife, not only to keep inviolate
the client’s confidence, but also to avoid the appearance of treachery and double-dealing. Only
thus can litigants be encouraged to entrust their secrets to their attorneys which is of paramount
importance in the administration of justice.

Indeed, the prohibition against representation of conflicting interests applies although the
attorney’s intentions were honest and he acted in good faith.5

Atty. Silvosa denies Pros. Toribio’s accusation of bribery and casts doubt on its veracity by
emphasizing the delay in presenting a complaint before the IBP. Comm. Funa, by stating that
there is difficulty in ascertaining the veracity of the facts with certainty, in effect agreed with
Atty. Silvosa. Contrary to Comm. Funa’s ruling, however, the records show that Atty. Silvosa
made an attempt to bribe Pros. Toribio and failed. Pros. Toribio executed her affidavit on 14
June 1999, a day after the failed bribery attempt, and had it notarized by Atty. Nemesio Beltran,
then President of the IBP-Bukidnon Chapter. There was no reason for Pros. Toribio to make
false testimonies against Atty. Silvosa. Atty. Silvosa, on the other hand, merely denied the
accusation and dismissed it as persecution. 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.6 Atty. Silvosa failed in this respect.

Unfortunately for Atty. Silvosa, mere delay in the filing of an administrative complaint against a
member of the bar does not automatically exonerate a respondent. Administrative offenses do not
prescribe. No matter how much time has elapsed from the time of the commission of the act
complained of and the time of the institution of the complaint, erring members of the bench and
bar cannot escape the disciplining arm of the Court.7

We disagree with Comm. Funa’s ruling that the findings in a criminal proceeding are not binding
in a disbarment proceeding.

First, disbarment proceedings may be initiated by any interested person. There can be no doubt
of the right of a citizen to bring to the attention of the proper authority acts and doings of public
officers which a citizen feels are incompatible with the duties of the office and from which
conduct the public might or does suffer undesirable consequences.8 Section 1, Rule 139-B reads:

Section 1. How Instituted. – Proceedings for the disbarment, suspension, or discipline of


attorneys may be taken by the Supreme Court motu proprio, or by the Integrated Bar of the
Philippines (IBP) upon the verified complaint of any person. The complaint shall state clearly
and concisely the facts complained of and shall be supported by affidavits of persons having
personal knowledge of the facts therein alleged and/or by such documents as may substantiate
said facts.

The IBP Board of Governors may, motu proprio or upon referral by the Supreme Court or by a
Chapter Board of Officers, or at the instance of any person, initiate and prosecute proper charges
against erring attorneys including those in government service.
xxxx

It is of no moment that Atty. Catalan is not the complainant in Criminal Case No. 27776, and
that Lanticse, the complainant therein, was not presented as a witness in the present case. There
is no doubt that the Sandiganbayan’s judgment in Criminal Case No. 27776 is a matter of public
record and is already final. Atty. Catalan supported his allegation by submitting documentary
evidence of the Sandiganbayan’s decision in Criminal Case No. 27776. Atty. Silvosa himself
admitted, against his interest, that he is under probation.

Second, conviction of a crime involving moral turpitude is a ground for disbarment. Moral
turpitude is defined as an act of baseness, vileness, or depravity in the private duties which a man
owes to his fellow men, or to society in general, contrary to justice, honesty, modesty, or good
morals.9 Section 27, Rule 138 provides:

Section 27. Disbarment or suspension of attorneys by Supreme Court; grounds therefor. – A


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

In a disbarment case, this Court will no longer review a final judgment of conviction.10

Third, the crime of direct bribery is a crime involving moral turpitude. In Magno v.
COMELEC,11

we ruled:

By applying for probation, petitioner in effect admitted all the elements of the crime of direct
bribery:

1. the offender is a public officer;

2. the offender accepts an offer or promise or receives a gift or present by himself or


through another;

3. such offer or promise be accepted or gift or present be received by the public officer
with a view to committing some crime, or in consideration of the execution of an act
which does not constitute a crime but the act must be unjust, or to refrain from doing
something which it is his official duty to do; and

4. the act which the offender agrees to perform or which he executes is connected with
the performance of his official duties.
Moral turpitude can be inferred from the third element. The fact that the offender agrees to
accept a promise or gift and deliberately commits an unjust act or refrains from performing an
official duty in exchange for some favors, denotes a malicious intent on the part of the offender
to renege on the duties which he owes his fellowmen and society in general. Also, the fact that
the offender takes advantage of his office and position is a betrayal of the trust reposed on him
by the public. It is a conduct clearly contrary to the accepted rules of right and duty, justice,
honesty and good morals. In all respects, direct bribery is a crime involving moral turpitude.
(Italicization in the original)

Atty. Silvosa’s representation of conflicting interests and his failed attempt at bribing Pros.
Toribio merit at least the penalty of suspension.1âwphi1 Atty. Silvosa’s final conviction of the
crime of direct bribery clearly falls under one of the grounds for disbarment under Section 27 of
Rule 138. Disbarment follows as a consequence of Atty. Silvosa’s conviction of the crime. We
are constrained to impose a penalty more severe than suspension because we find that Atty.
Silvosa is predisposed to flout the exacting standards of morality and decency required of a
member of the Bar. His excuse that his conviction was not in his capacity as a lawyer, but as a
public officer, is unacceptable and betrays the unmistakable lack of integrity in his character. The
practice of law is a privilege, and Atty. Silvosa has proved himself unfit to exercise this
privilege.

WHEREFORE, respondent Atty. Joselito M. Silvosa is hereby DISBARRED and his


name ORDERED STRICKEN from the Roll of Attorneys. Let a copy of this Decision be
furnished to the Office of the Bar Confidant, to be appended to respondent’s personal record as
attorney. Likewise, copies shall be furnished to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and to the
Office of the Court Administration for circulation to all courts in the country.

SO ORDERED.

A.C. No. 11095 [Formerly CBD Case No. 11-3140], September 20, 2016

EUFEMIA A. CAMINO, Complainant, v. ATTY. RYAN REY L. PASAGUI, Respondent.

DECISION

PER CURIAM:

Before us is a Disbarment Complaint1 dated July 13, 2011 filed by Eufemia A. Camino against
respondent Atty. Ryan Rey L. Pasagui before the Integrated Bar of the Philippines-Commission
on Bar Discipline (IBP-CBD), docketed as CBD Case No. 11-3140, now A.C. No. 11095.

The facts are as follows:

chanRoblesvirtualLawlibraryComplainant Eufemia A. Camino (Camino) is the vendor of a lot


covered by Transfer Certificate of Title (TCT) No. T-70247,2 still registered under the name of
the Heirs of Camino's father. Respondent Atty. Ryan Rey L. Pasagui (Atty. Pasagui) was
allegedly the lawyer of Congresswoman Mila Tan (Tan) who was in charge of handling the
payments for the property which Camino sold to Tan in 2010. Camino narrated that sometime
after the election, Atty. Pasagui offered her Tan's payment in the amount of Thirty Thousand
Pesos (P30,000.00). However, Camino refused to accept the same as she wanted to have the
payment in full and added that she also returned to Atty. Pasagui the postdated check amounting
to Two Million Pesos (P2,000,000.00) which Tan previously issued.

Atty. Pasagui then advised her to this effect, "maupay ngani na war ay mo karawta, kay
magrerecall man ngani diri ka na mababaydan kay war ay na hi Congresswoman Mila Tan
kwarta. Pamiling nala hin iba na buyer ibabalik nato it kwarta ha iya ngan maghihimo nala ako
hin demand letter na kinahanglan na maimpasan kay kun diri makahatag, ibabalik nala an iya
nahatag" (Good that you did not accept it because there will be a recall and Congresswoman
Mila would not have enough money to pay you. Look for another buyer and we'll return her
money. I will prepare a demand letter that she must pay you or else you will just pay her back the
amount she has paid). Camino further alleged that Atty. Pasagui assured her that he will take care
of everything and encouraged her to look for another buyer and advised her to set its price at
Seven Million Pesos (Php7,000,000.00).

Few weeks after, Camino informed Atty. Pasagui that she has a buyer but the latter wanted to
have a clean title of the property since said property is still under the names of all the heirs of her
father. Atty. Pasagui then asked for the title to make the verifications and facilitate the
transferring of the title under her name considering that she has paid her siblings with their
respective shares. Atty. Pasagui then told her that the transfer of the title in her name will cost
about Seven Hundred Thousand Pesos (P700,000.00) or more and that the said amount would be
enough because he can ask for discounts from his friend at the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR).

Sometime in January 2011, Atty. Pasagui told Camino that they will proceed with the sale to
another buyer since Tan did not give any payment yet even after sending her the demand letter.
Atty. Pasagui, however, failed to show Camino the said demand letter.

Convinced by Atty. Pasagui's assurance that she could still sell the property to another buyer, she
consented to his proposition and told him that she will look for a sufficient amount of money
necessary for the processing of the transfer of the title.

In the evening of February 3, 2011, Camino informed Atty. Pasagui that she already has the
amount of P120,000.00 to start the processing of the transfer of title in her name. However, on
the day they were supposed to meet, Atty. Pasagui failed to meet her and instead sent his mother,
Susie Pasagui, to receive the P120,000.00.3chanrobleslaw

Thereafter, Atty. Pasagui advised Camino to apply for a loan at Perpetual Help Credit
Cooperative, Inc. (PHCCI), Alang-alang, Leyte, using her residential house and lot at V & G as
collateral. The proceeds thereof will then be used for the necessary expenses in transferring the
title in Camino's name. He claimed that the loan can be released in one (1) week.

Thus, Camino and her husband, Perpetuo P. Camino, executed a Special Power of Attorney
(SPA)4 in favor of respondent Atty. Pasagui, authorizing the latter to obtain a loan in their behalf
with PHCCI to be secured by their own property covered by TCT No. T-35197.5chanrobleslaw
A month after, Camino went to Atty. Pasagui's house to inquire about the status of the loan
application. She was then told that the application was still in process and the maximum loanable
amount was only Seven Hundred Thousand Pesos (P700,000.00) and that the release will be on a
staggered basis.

Doubtful, Camino personally went to PHCCI and asked for the copy of his loan application.
Upon securing a copy of the application, Camino discovered that the loan was already approved
and that the proceeds thereof amounting to One Million Pesos (P1,000,000.00) was released on
February 15, 2011.

Sometime in April 2011, Atty. Pasagui, together with his parents invited complainant and her
son, Francis Peter Camino, to the pension house where Tan was staying. At that time, Camino
have yet to confront Atty. Pasagui about her discovery that he already collected the loan
proceeds from PHCCI as she was hoping that he would be the one to tell her himself.

On the way to the pension house, Camino recalled that Atty. Pasagui advised her to refuse
payment from Tan should she attempt to hand over an amount less than Two Hundred Thousand
Pesos (P200,000.00). Camino then wondered why Tan would still offer her payment of
P200,000.00 when she thought that Atty. Pasagui already told her that the sale of the property
will no longer push through.

When they reached the pension house, Atty. Pasagui went directly to the room of Tan and spent
almost thirty minutes inside. When they got out of the room, Tan handed to her an envelope
containing the amount of P150,000.00. Atty. Pasagui then gave her a signal to accept the said
amount. She accepted the money from Tan who also promised her the full payment on April 28,
2011.

On April 28, 2011, Camino tried to call Atty. Pasagui to follow up on Tan's payment but he did
not answer her call. Neither did Atty. Pasagui get in touch with her after their meeting.

Camino then decided to check the status of the title of the property at the Register of Deeds. She
found out that Atty. Pasagui neither processed the transfer of the title in her name nor paid the
necessary fees for its transfer. Camino also went to Atty. Pasagui's house to inquire about Tan's
promise of payment but he was not around.

Confused, on June 6, 2011, with the assistance of a lawyer, Camino wrote Atty. Pasagui and
reminded him of their agreement that he will be the one to facilitate and secure a loan with
PHCCI in order to finance the payment of the necessary expenses for the transfer of the title in
her name.6 Camino mentioned that she was able to secure a printout of the loan interest
worksheet and that it was reflected therein that Atty. Pasagui already received the proceeds of the
loan. Camino alleged that sufficient time have elapsed already, yet, even after several inquiries
and verification from the Register of Deeds and other government agencies concerned, there had
been no transaction filed in connection with the transfer of the ownership of the property.
Camino added that she tried to get in touch with Atty. Pasagui but the same was futile, thus, she
demanded from him to account and turn-over the proceeds of the real estate loan from the
PHCCI and to return back to her all pertinent documents and papers which were entrusted to
him.7chanrobleslaw

In his Answer8 dated June 16, 2011, Atty. Pasagui explained, to wit
As of the moment, however, the undersigned is already facilitating for the release of your
documents from Perpetual Help Credit Cooperative, Inc., Alang-alang Branch, Alang-alang,
Leyte. As to your pertinent documents relative to Transfer Certificate of Title No. T-70247, the
same is not within my possession as those documents are in the possession of the person who
bought the same real properly way back in the year 2009.
On August 12, 2011, the IBP-CBD ordered Atty. Pasagui to submit his Answer to the
complaint.9chanrobleslaw

Atty. Pasagui, in his Answer10 dated September 21, 2011, admitted that he had indeed applied for
a loan with PHCCI but insisted that the same was personal to him, thus, he will also be the one to
personally pay for it. He further alleged that he is not under any obligation to report or account to
Camino where the proceeds of the loan went because it is he, himself, Who will pay it anyway.

On October 12, 2011, the IBP-CBD notified the parties to appear before the Commission for the
mandatory conference.11chanrobleslaw

In its Report and Recommendation12 dated July 10, 2014, the IBP-CBD found Atty. Pasagui
guilty of violating Rule 1.01 of the Code of Professional Responsibility for Lawyers which is a
mandate for lawyers to desist from "dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct." It recommended
that Atty. Pasagui be reprimanded with a warning that a repetition of the same infraction will
result in the imposition of a more severe penalty.

In Resolution No. XXI-2014-93813 dated December 14, 2014, the IBP-Board of Governors
resolved to adopt and approve with modification as to the penalty the Report and
Recommendation of the IBP-CBD. Instead, it recommended that Atty. Pasagui be suspended
from the practice of law for one (1) year for violation of Rule 1.01 of the Code of Professional
Responsibility, without prejudice to the filing by the complainant of an appropriate action in
court.

We sustain the findings of the IBP-CBD except as to the penalty.

A lawyer is duty-bound to observe candor, fairness and loyalty in all his dealings and
transactions with his clients. The profession, therefore, demands of an attorney an absolute
abdication of every personal advantage conflicting in any way, directly or indirectly, with the
interest of his client. In this case, Atty. Pasagui failed to measure up to the exacting standard
expected of him.14chanrobleslaw

Rule 1.0, Canon 1 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, provides that "[a] lawyer shall not
engage in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct." It is well established that a
lawyer's conduct is "not confined to the performance of his professional duties. A lawyer may be
disciplined for misconduct committed either in his professional or private capacity. The test is
whether his conduct shows him to be wanting in moral character, honesty, probity, and good
demeanor, or whether it renders him unworthy to continue as an officer of the
court."15chanrobleslaw

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

In the instant case, Atty. Pasagui's guilt is undisputed. Atty. Pasagui's defense that the loan was
personal to him fails to convince. A perusal of the Special Power of Attorney issued by Camino
and her husband to Atty. Pasagui clearly shows that the application of the loan with PHCCI was
in behalf of the Caminos and that the property mortgaged was likewise the property of the latter.
If it were true that it was a personal loan to him, Atty. Pasagui failed to provide an explanation as
to why he used Camino's property as collateral. There was likewise no explanation as to why the
Caminos would allow such set up of applying a loan for the personal benefit of Atty. Pasagui
using their own property as collateral. In the absence of any agreement between the parties, as in
this case, it does not make sense that the Caminos would allow their own residential property to
be mortgaged in order to finance something that will not be of benefit to them. It is then
plausible that the true intention of the Caminos in designating Atty. Pasagui as attorney-in-fact
was for the purpose of obtaining a loan with the PHCCI to finance the expenses of the transfer of
title in Camino's name. Thus, by his failure to make good of their agreement to use the proceeds
of the loan for the transfer of the title in Camino's name, Atty. Pasagui not only betrayed the trust
and confidence reposed upon him but he is also guilty of engaging in dishonest and deceitful
conduct. The failure of Atty. Pasagui to inform Camino of the status of the transfer of title
despite the release of the loan to finance the transfer of the title, is a clear indicium that he
converted the money for his own use and constituted a gross violation of professional ethics and
betrayal of public confidence in the legal profession.17 He violated Canon 16 of the Code of
Professional Responsibility, which states that "[a] lawyer shall hold in trust all moneys and
properties of his client that may come into his possession."
Furthermore:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
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.

Rule 16.03. A lawyer shall deliver the funds and property of his client when due or upon
demand. However, he shall have a lien over the funds and may apply so much thereof as may be
necessary to satisfy his lawful fees and disbursements, giving notice promptly thereafter to his
client. He shall also have a lien to the same extent on all judgments and executions he has
secured for his client as provided for in the Rules of Court.
A lawyer, under his oath, pledges himself not to delay any man for money or malice and is
bound to conduct himself with all good fidelity to his clients. He is obligated to report promptly
the money of his client that has come into his possession. He should not commingle it with his
private property or use it for his personal purposes without his client's consent. When a lawyer
collects or receives money from his client for a particular purpose (such as for filing fees,
registration fees, transportation and office expenses), he should promptly account to the client
how the money was spent. If he does not use the money for its intended purpose, he must
immediately return it to the client.18 Respondent, by converting the money of his client to his
own personal use without her consent, was guilty of deceit, malpractice and gross misconduct.
Not only did he degrade himself but as an unfaithful lawyer he besmirched the fair name of an
honorable profession.

Furthermore, Atty. Pasagui's act of propositioning himself as a lawyer of Tan and Camino who
have opposing interests as one being the seller and the other one, the buyer, is deplorable. As
lawyer of the buyer, Tan, he facilitated the buyer's payments to Camino, but at the same time
when it seemed that he could get a higher price from another buyer, he encouraged Camino to
cancel the sale in favor of Tan. Clearly, such actuations of Atty. Pasagui are tantamount to
double-dealing and conflict of interest, and manifests unethical practice of law. Attorneys, like
Caesar's wife, must not only keep inviolate their client's confidence, but must also avoid the
appearance of treachery and double-dealing, for only then can litigants be encouraged to entrust
their secrets to their attorneys which is of paramount importance in the administration of
justice.19chanrobleslaw

PENALTY

A member of the Bar may be penalized, even disbarred or suspended from his office as an
attorney, for violation of the lawyer's oath and/or for breach of the ethics of the legal profession
as embodied in the Code of Professional Responsibility. For the practice of law is "a profession,
a form of public trust, the performance of which is entrusted to those who are qualified and who
possess good moral character." The appropriate penalty for an errant lawyer depends on the
exercise of sound judicial discretion based on the surrounding facts.20chanrobleslaw

Here, Atty. Pasagui demonstrated not just a negligent disregard of his duties as a lawyer but a
wanton betrayal of the trust of his client and, in general, the public. Accordingly, the Court finds
that the suspension for one (1) year recommended by the IBP-Board of Governors is not
sufficient punishment for Atty. Pasagui's unacceptable acts and omissions. The acts of the
respondent constitute malpractice and gross misconduct in his office as attorney. His
incompetence and appalling indifference to his duty to his client, the courts and society render
him unfit to continue discharging the trust reposed on him.

The Court also deems it appropriate to order the return of the moneys which respondent received
as attorney-in-fact, for the purpose of facilitating the transfer of the title in the name of the
complainant with the corresponding payment of legal interest as pronounced in the case of Nacar
v. Gallery Frames.21True, in disciplinary proceedings against lawyers, the only issue is whether
the officer of the court is still fit to be allowed to continue as a member of the Bar. In such cases,
the Court's only concern is the determination of respondent's administrative liability; it should
not involve his civil liability for moneys received from his client in a transaction separate,
distinct, and not intrinsically linked to his professional engagement. However, in this case, it
appeared that the Caminos entrusted the task of facilitating the transfer of the title by virtue of
respondent's legal expertise. The receipt of the moneys was not by virtue of a personal
transaction between the complainant and respondent. After all, if a person, in respect to business
affairs or troubles of any kind, consults a lawyer with a view to obtaining professional advice or
assistance, and the attorney voluntarily permits or acquiesces with the consultation, as in this
case, then the professional employment is established.22 Once lawyers agree to take up the cause
of a client, they owe fidelity to such cause and must always be mindful of the trust and
confidence reposed in them.23chanrobleslaw

WHEREFORE, Resolution No. XXI-2014-938 dated December 14, 2014 of the IBP-Board of
Governors which found respondent Atty. Ryan Rey L. Pasagui GUILTY of violation of Rule
1.01 of the Code of Professional Responsibility is AFFIRMED with MODIFICATION as to
the penalty. Respondent Atty. Ryan Rey L. Pasagui is instead meted the penalty
of DISBARMENT. Respondent is further ORDERED to immediately RETURN the loan
proceeds amounting to P1,000,000.00 and to pay legal interest at the rate of twelve percent
(12%) per annum computed from the release of the loan on February 15, 2011 up to June 30,
2013, and six percent (6%) per annum from July 1, 2013 until fully paid, as well as, the
P120,000.00 received for the purpose of transferring the title in the name of the complainant and
to pay legal interest at the rate of twelve percent (12%) per annum computed from receipt of the
amount on February 3, 2011 up to June 30, 2013, and six percent (6%) per annum from July 1,
2013 until fully paid. He is likewise ORDERED to RETURN all other documents pertinent to
the loan obtained from PHCCI and those received from complainant.

Let a copy of this Decision be furnished to the Office of the Bar Confidant, to be appended to the
personal record of respondent; the Integrated Bar of the Philippines; and the Office of the Court
Administrator for circulation to all courts in the country for their information and guidance.

This Decision shall be immediately executory.

SO ORDERED.

A.C. No. 9608 November 27, 2012

MARIA VICTORIA B. VENTURA, Complainant,


vs.
ATTY. DANILO S. SAMSON, Respondent.

DECISION

PER CURIAM:

The Court has often reminded members of the bar to live up to the standards and norms of the
legal profession by upholding the ideals and principles embodied in the Code of Professional
Responsibility. Lawyers are bound to maintain not only a high standard of legal proficiency, but
also of morality, honesty, integrity and fair dealing. Lawyers are at all times subject to the
watchful public eye and community approbation. Needless to state, those whose conduct – both
public and private – fail this scrutiny have to be disciplined and, after appropriate proceedings,
accordingly penalized.1

Complainant Maria Victoria B. Ventura filed on July 29, 2004 a Complaint2 for Disbarment or
Suspension before the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) Commission on Bar Discipline
against respondent Atty. Danilo S. Samson for "grossly immoral conduct."

In her complaint, complainant alleged that

2. The herein Complainant MARIA VICTORIA B. VENTURA executed a Sworn


Statement dated 19 April 2002 and a Supplemental-Complaint dated 10 May 2002 stating
therein that the crime of RAPE was committed against her person sometime in
December, 2001 and on 19 March 2002 when she was merely thirteen (13) years of age
by herein Respondent ATTY. DANILO S. SAMSON, then thirty eight (38) years old,
married to Teresita B. Samson, Filipino and resident of Barangay 5, San Francisco,
Agusan Del Sur, Philippines….

3. In his Counter-Affidavit, herein Respondent ATTY. DANILO S. SAMSON admitted


that sexual intercourse indeed transpired between the herein Complainant MARIA
VICTORIA B. VENTURA and himself….

4. After the conduct of preliminary investigation, the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor
of Agusan Del Sur, Philippines issued a RESOLUTION dated 10 June 2002 dismissing
the charge of RAPE and finding the existence of probable cause for the crime of
QUALIFIED SEDUCTION and issued the corresponding INFORMATION for
QUALIFIED SEDUCTION on 04 July 2002….

5. Thereafter, the herein Complainant filed a MOTION FOR RECONSIDERATION


dated 26 August 2002 which was denied in the RESOLUTION dated 02 October 2002 of
the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor of Agusan Del Sur….

6. The aforesaid RESOLUTION dated 02 October 2002 was elevated to the Department
of Justice, by way of a PETITION FOR REVIEW, and is pending resolution by the
Department of Justice.

xxxx

8. The act/s committed by the herein Respondent Atty. Danilo S. Samson against the
herein Complainant MARIA VICTORIA B. VENTURA as hereinbefore stated clearly
constitute … "grossly immoral conduct" under Section 27 of Rule 138 of the Rules of
Court of the Philippines which provides for a penalty of "DISBARMENT or
SUSPENSION of an Attorney by the SUPREME COURT."

Complainant narrated in her Sworn Statement3 that sometime in December 2001, at around
midnight, she was sleeping in the maid’s room at respondent’s house when respondent entered
and went on top of her. Respondent kissed her lips, sucked her breast, and succeeded in having
sexual intercourse with her. She felt pain and found blood stain in her panty. She stated that
another incident happened on March 19, 2002 at respondent’s poultry farm in Alegria, San
Francisco, Agusan del Sur. Respondent asked her to go with him to the farm. He brought her to
an old shanty where he sexually abused her. Thereafter, respondent gave her five hundred pesos
and warned her not to tell anyone what had happened or he would kill her and her mother.

In her Supplemental-Complaint,4 complainant averred that respondent allowed her to sleep in his
house after her mother agreed to let her stay there while she studied at the Agusan National High
School. She further stated that on the night she was sexually abused, she was awakened when
respondent went on top of her. She struggled to free herself and shouted, but respondent covered
her mouth and nobody could hear as nobody was in the house. Complainant also claimed that on
March 19, 2002, between 5:00 p.m. to 6:00 pm, respondent forced her to ride a multi-cab. When
they arrived at his poultry farm in Alegria, respondent dragged her to a dilapidated shack. She
resisted his advances but her efforts proved futile.

Respondent alleged in his Answer5 that

2. Respondent admits the allegations in paragraph 2 of the complaint to the effect that
Maria Victoria Ventura filed a complaint against him for Rape at the Provincial
Prosecutor’s Office with qualification that the said complaint for Rape was dismissed.
Respondent, however, has no knowledge or information as to the truth of the allegation
that she was 13 years….

xxxx

5. Respondent vehemently denies the truth of the allegations in paragraph 8 of the


complaint to the effect that the acts of respondent in having sex with complainant
constitute … grossly immoral conduct. The truth is that the act of respondent in having
sex with complainant was done with mutual agreement after respondent gave money to
complainant. Respondent respectfully submits that his act of having sex with complainant
once does not constitute… grossly immoral conduct.

There is no human law that punishes a person who has sex with a woman with mutual
agreement and complainant accepts compensation therefore. Having sex with
complainant once with just compensation does not amount to immoral conduct….

xxxx

6. The complaint is instigated by Corazon Ventura who was an employee at the Law
Office of respondent herein. The said Corazon Ventura entertained hatred and had a
grudge against the herein respondent who terminated her services due to
misunderstanding….

7. The filing of the Criminal Case against respondent as well as this Administrative Case
is a well orchestrated and planned act of Corazon Ventura as vengeance against
respondent as a result of her separation from the employment in the Law Office of the
respondent. This claim is supported by the Affidavit of Natividad Ruluna, the former
Office Clerk at the Law Office of respondent….

8. To show that Corazon Ventura desires to get back at respondent, she demanded from
respondent to settle with her and demanded the payment of the amount of P2,000,000.00;
otherwise she will file a case against him in Court for Rape and for disbarment.
Respondent did not come across with Corazon Ventura, the latter made good her threats
and filed the criminal case for Rape. [sic] When the case for rape did not prosper because
the Prosecutor dropped the Rape Case, Corazon Ventura sent word to respondent that she
is amenable for the amount of P400,000.00. In effect, Corazon Ventura wanted to extort
from respondent so that she can get even with him and his wife for separating her from
the employment;

9. Complainant is a woman of loose moral character. This is supported by the Affidavit


of Patronio Punayan, Jr. which is hereto attached as Annex "3". And Corazon Ventura
can afford to utilize Maria Victoria Ventura as her instrument in putting down the
respondent herein because Maria Victoria Ventura is not her biological daughter and she
knows before hand that her ward has a questionable reputation. The fact that Corazon
Ventura is not the biological mother of Maria Victoria Ventura is shown by the pre-trial
order in Criminal Case No. 5414….

xxxx

Respondent has not violated any grounds mentioned in this rule. Respondent respectfully
submits that his having sex with complainant with just compensation once does not amount to
immoral conduct. For who among men will not yield to temptation when a woman shall invite
him for sex?

Attached to respondent’s Answer is his Counter-Affidavit6 which he submitted to the Provincial


Prosecutor. He alleged therein that complainant usually stayed late at night with her male friends
when her mother was out of the house. He claimed that he heard rumors that complainant had
sexual affairs with different boys. Respondent narrated that on March 19, 2002, he saw
complainant with some of her classmates near their rented house. Complainant told him that they
wanted to go out to swim but they did not have money. When she asked if he could spare some
amount, he gave her money. He told her in jest that he wanted to see her that afternoon and go to
a place where they could be alone, and he was surprised when she agreed. He just thought that
for complainant, sex is a common thing despite her age. At around 5:00 p.m., he fetched
complainant at her house. She casually walked towards the car and boarded it. He told her that
they will not check in a lodging house because people might recognize him. Upon reaching his
poultry farm, respondent met his farm worker and asked him if he could use the latter’s hut. The
farm worker agreed and they went straight to the hut.

Inside the farm worker’s hut, complainant did not hesitate in entering the room. Respondent did
not notice any involuntariness on her part as she undressed herself. He asserted that they had
sexual intercourse based on their mutual understanding. Thereafter, the complainant dressed up
and walked back to the multi-cab where she waited for him. He told her not to tell anyone about
what had happened, to which she replied "natural buang kay motug-an" meaning, she’s not crazy
as to tell anyone. He alleged that she accepted the money he gave because she needed to buy
some things but her mother did not give her any allowance. Respondent insisted that what
happened between them was the first and the last incident. He claimed that he was able to
confirm that complainant is no longer a virgin.

It likewise appears that the Investigating Prosecutors found that probable cause exists for
respondent to stand trial for qualified seduction.7 The charge of rape, however, was dismissed for
insufficiency of evidence. An Information was filed with the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of
Agusan del Sur, Branch 6, but complainant who was not satisfied with the dismissal of the rape
charge, filed a motion for reconsideration. When said motion was denied, complainant filed a
petition for review with the Department of Justice (DOJ). However, the DOJ sustained the
findings of the prosecutor.

Then, on December 14, 2006, complainant and her mother appeared before the public prosecutor
and executed their respective Affidavits of Desistance.8 Complainant stated that what happened
between respondent and her in March 2002 was based on mutual understanding. Thus, she was
withdrawing the complaint she filed against respondent before the RTC as well as the one she
filed before the IBP Commission on Bar Discipline. Accordingly, the criminal case against
respondent was dismissed.9

In its Report and Recommendation10 dated October 10, 2007, the IBP Commission on Bar
Discipline recommended that respondent be suspended for a period of one year from the practice
of law for immorality with the warning that repetition of the same or similar act will merit a
more severe penalty.

On November 10, 2007, the Board of Governors of the IBP issued Resolution No. XVIII-2007-
237, to wit:

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


APPROVED with modification, the Report and Recommendation of the Investigating
Commissioner of the above-entitled case, herein made part of this Resolution as Annex "A"; and,
finding the recommendation fully supported by the evidence on record and the applicable laws
and rules, and considering that respondent is found guilty of immorality, the victim is a minor,
respondent and his wife was victim’s guardians and for being a married man, Atty. Danilo S.
Samson is hereby SUSPENDED from the practice of law for five (5) years with Stern Warning
that repetition of the same or similar act in the future will be dealt with more severely.11

Complainant now moves to reconsider the IBP Resolution. She argues that the penalty imposed
by the IBP is not commensurate to the gravity and depravity of the offense. She contends that
respondent committed grossly immoral conduct by forcing himself to have sexual intercourse
with a young and innocent lass of 13 years of age. He also took advantage of his moral
ascendancy over complainant considering that she was then staying at respondent’s residence.
Moreover, there was a betrayal of the marital vow of fidelity considering that respondent was a
married man. She insists that this detestable behavior renders respondent unfit and undeserving
of the honor and privilege which his license confers upon him.Thus, complainant prays that the
penalty of disbarment be imposed.12

Meanwhile, respondent also filed a Motion for Reconsideration13 of the IBP Resolution. He
asserts that complainant has not presented any proof of her minority. Likewise, during the sexual
encounter, complainant was not under their custody. He contends that complainant’s mother
even testified that her daughter stayed at respondent’s house only until February 2002. He further
stresses that because of his admission and remorse, and since this is the first time he has been
found administratively liable, he is entitled to a reduction of the penalty to one year suspension
from the practice of law.

The pertinent provisions in the Code of Professional Responsibility provide:

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.

xxxx

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.

xxxx

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

As we explained in Zaguirre v. Castillo,14 the possession of good moral character is both a


condition precedent and a continuing requirement to warrant admission to the bar and to retain
membership in the legal profession. It is the bounden duty of members of the bar to observe the
highest degree of morality in order to safeguard the integrity of the Bar.15 Consequently, any
errant behavior on the part of a lawyer, be it in the lawyer’s public or private activities, which
tends to show said lawyer deficient in moral character, honesty, probity or good demeanor, is
sufficient to warrant suspension or disbarment.

Immoral conduct involves acts that are willful, flagrant, or shameless, and that show a moral
indifference to the opinion of the upright and respectable members of the community.16 Immoral
conduct is gross when it is so corrupt as to constitute a criminal act, or so unprincipled as to be
reprehensible to a high degree, or when committed under such scandalous or revolting
circumstances as to shock the community’s sense of decency.17

From the undisputed facts gathered from the evidence and the admissions of respondent himself,
we find that respondent’s act of engaging in sex with a young lass, the daughter of his former
employee, constitutes gross immoral conduct that warrants sanction. Respondent not only
admitted he had sexual intercourse with complainant but also showed no remorse whatsoever
when he asserted that he did nothing wrong because she allegedly agreed and he even gave her
money. Indeed, his act of having carnal knowledge of a woman other than his wife manifests his
disrespect for the laws on the sanctity of marriage and his own marital vow of fidelity. Moreover,
the fact that he procured the act by enticing a very young woman with money showed his utmost
moral depravity and low regard for the dignity of the human person and the ethics of his
profession.

In Cordova v. Cordova,18 we held that the moral delinquency that affects the fitness of a member
of the bar to continue as such includes conduct that outrages the generally accepted moral
standards of the community, conduct for instance, which makes a mockery of the inviolable
social institution of marriage.

Respondent has violated the trust and confidence reposed on him by complainant, then a 13-
year-old minor,19 who for a time was under respondent’s care. Whether the sexual encounter
between the respondent and complainant was or was not with the latter’s consent is of no
moment. Respondent clearly committed a disgraceful, grossly immoral and highly reprehensible
act. Such conduct is a transgression of the standards of morality required of the legal profession
and should be disciplined accordingly.

Section 27, Rule 138 of the Rules of Court expressly states that a member of the bar may be
disbarred or suspended from his office as attorney by the Supreme Court for, among others, any
deceit, grossly immoral conduct, or violation of the oath that he is required to take before
admission to the practice of law. It bears to stress that membership in the Bar is a privilege
burdened with conditions. As a privilege bestowed by law through the Supreme Court,
membership in the Bar can be withdrawn where circumstances concretely show the lawyer’s lack
of the essential qualifications required of lawyers.20

Likewise, it was held in Maligsa v. Cabanting21 that a lawyer may be disbarred for any
misconduct, whether in his professional or private capacity, which shows him to be wanting in
moral character, in honesty, probity and good demeanor or unworthy to continue as an officer of
the court. Similarly, in Dumadag v. Lumaya,22 the Court pronounced:

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 the legal profession are the conditions required for remaining a member of good standing
of the bar and for enjoying the privilege to practice law.

The fact that complainant filed an Affidavit of Desistance during the pendency of this case is of
no moment. Complainant’s Affidavit of Desistance cannot have the effect of abating the instant
proceedings in view of the public service character of the practice of law and the nature of
disbarment proceedings as a public interest concern. A case of suspension or disbarment is sui
generis and not meant to grant relief to a complainant as in a civil case, but is intended to cleanse
the ranks of the legal profession of its undesirable members in order to protect the public and the
courts.1âwphi1 A disbarment case is not an investigation into the acts of respondent but on his
conduct as an officer of the court and his fitness to continue as a member of the Bar.23

Illicit sexual relations have been previously punished with disbarment, indefinite or definite
suspension, depending on the circumstances.24 In this case, respondent’s gross misbehavior and
unrepentant demeanor clearly shows a serious flaw in his character, his moral indifference to
sexual exploitation of a minor, and his outright defiance of established norms. All these could
not but put the legal profession in disrepute and place the integrity of the administration of
justice in peril, hence the need for strict but appropriate disciplinary action.25

The Court is mindful of the dictum that the power to disbar must be exercised with great caution,
and only in a clear case of misconduct that seriously affects the standing and character of the
lawyer as an officer of the Court and as a member of the bar. Thus, where a lesser penalty, such
as temporary suspension, could accomplish the end desired, disbarment should never be
decreed.26 However, in the present case, the seriousness of the offense compels the Court to
wield its power to disbar as it appears to be the most appropriate penalty.27

WHEREFORE, respondent Atty. Danilo S. Samson is hereby DISBARRED for Gross Immoral
Conduct, Violation of his oath of office, and Violation of Canon 1, Rule 1.01 and Canon 7, Rule
7.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility.

Let a copy of this Decision, which is immediately executory, be made part of the records of
respondent in the Office of the. Bar Confidant, Supreme Court of the Philippines. And let copies
of the Decision be furnished the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and circulated to all courts.

This Decision takes effect immediately.

SO ORDERED.

Adm. Case No. 8383 December 11, 2012

AMPARO BUENO, Complainant,


vs.
ATTY. RAMON A. RAÑESES, Respondents.

DECISION

PER CURIAM:

Before the Court is the Complaint for Disbarment1 against Atty. Ramon Rañeses filed on March
3, 1993 by Amparo Bueno with the Integrated Bar of the Philippines-Commission on Bar
Discipline (IBP-CBD). Commissioner Agustinus V. Gonzaga, and subsequently Commissioner
Victoria Gonzalez- de los Reyes, conducted the fact-finding investigation on the complaint.
Commissioner Rico A. Limpingco submitted a Report and Recommendation2 dated September
29, 2008 to the IBP Board of Governors which approved it in a resolution dated December 11,
2008.

In a letter3 dated August 12, 2009, IBP Director for Bar Discipline Alicia A. Risos-Vidal
transmitted to the Office of Chief Justice Reynato Puno (retired) a Notice of Resolution4 and the
records of the case.

Factual Antecedents

In her complaint,5 Bueno related that she hired Atty. Rañeses to

represent her in Civil Case No. 777. In consideration for his services, Bueno

paid Atty. Rañeses a retainer fee of P3,000.00. She also agreed to pay him

P300.00 for every hearing he attended. No receipt was issued for the retainer

fee paid.

Atty. Rañeses prepared and filed an answer in her behalf. He also attended hearings. On several
occasions, Atty. Rañeses would either be absent or late.

Bueno alleged that on November 14, 1988, Atty. Rañeses asked for P10,000.00. This amount
would allegedly be divided between him and Judge Nidea, the judge hearing Civil Case No. 777,
so that they would not lose the case. Atty. Rañeses told Bueno not to tell anyone about the
matter. She immediately sold a pig and a refrigerator to raise the demanded amount, and gave it
to Atty. Rañeses.

According to Bueno, Atty. Rañeses asked for another P5,000.00 sometime in December 1988,
because the amount she had previously given was inadequate. Bueno then sold her sala set and
colored television to raise the demanded amount, which she again delivered to Atty. Rañeses.

Bueno later discovered that the trial court had required Atty. Rañeses to comment on the adverse
party’s offer of evidence and to submit their memorandum on the case, but Atty. Rañeses failed
to comply with the court’s directive. According to Bueno, Atty. Rañeses concealed this
development from her. In fact, she was shocked when a court sheriff arrived sometime in May
1991 to execute the decision against them.

Bueno went to Atty. Rañeses’ office to ask him about what happened to the case. Atty. Rañeses
told her that he had not received any decision. Bueno later discovered from court records that
Atty. Rañeses actually received a copy of the decision on December 3, 1990. When she
confronted Atty. Rañeses about her discovery and showed him a court-issued certification, Atty.
Rañeses simply denied any knowledge of the decision.
In a separate affidavit,6 Bueno related another instance where Atty. Rañeses asked his client for
money to win a case. Sometime in June 1991, Atty. Rañeses allegedly asked her to deliver a
telegram from Justice Buena of the Court of Appeals to her aunt, Socorro Bello. He told her to
tell Bello to prepare P5,000.00, an amount that Justice Buena purportedly asked for in relation to
Criminal Case No. T-1909 that was then on appeal with the Court of Appeals.

According to Bueno, Atty. Rañeses went to Bello’s residence two weeks later. In her (Bueno’s)
presence, Bello paid Atty. Rañeses P5,000.00. Bello demanded a receipt but Atty. Rañeses
refused to issue one, telling her that none of his clients ever dared to demand a receipt for sums
received from them.

Atty. Rañeses never filed an answer against Bueno’s complaint. He repeatedly failed to attend
the hearings scheduled by Commissioner Gonzaga on March 20, 2000,[7] on May 11, 20008 and
on October 2, 2000.9 During the hearing on October 2, 2000, Commissioner Gonzaga issued an
Order10 declaring Atty. Rañeses in default. Bueno presented her evidence and was directed to file
a formal offer.

On October 10, 2000, the IBP-CBD received a "Time Motion and Request for Copies of the
Complaint and Supporting Papers"11 (dated September 30, 2000) filed by Atty. Rañeses. Atty.
Rañeses asked in his motion that the hearing on October 2, 2000 be reset to sometime in
December 2000, as he had prior commitments on the scheduled day. He also asked for copies of
the complaint and of the supporting papers, claiming that he had not been furnished with these.
In the interest of substantial justice, Commissioner Gonzaga scheduled a clarificatory hearing on
November 16, 200012

Atty. Rañeses failed to attend the hearing on November 16, 2000. In the same hearing,
Commissioner Gonzaga noted that the registry return card refuted Atty. Rañeses’ claim that he
did not receive a copy of the complaint. Commissioner Gonzaga scheduled another clarificatory
hearing on January 17, 2001. He stated that if Atty. Rañeses failed to appear, the case would be
deemed submitted for resolution after the complainant submits her memorandum.13

Atty. Rañeses did not attend the January 17, 2001 hearing. On the same day, Commissioner
Gonzaga declared the case deemed submitted for resolution after the complainant’s submission
of her memorandum.14

At some point, the case was reassigned to Commissioner De los Reyes who scheduled another
hearing on March 14, 2003.15 During the hearing, only Bueno and her counsel were present. The
Commissioner noted that the IBP-CBD received a telegram from Atty. Rañeses asking for the
hearing’s resetting because he had prior commitments. The records, however, showed that Atty.
Rañeses never filed an answer and the case had already been submitted for resolution. Thus,
Commissioner De los Reyes issued an Order16 directing Bueno to submit her formal offer of
evidence and her documentary evidence, together with her memorandum.

The IBP-CBD received Bueno’s Memorandum17 on May 27, 2003, but she did not file any
formal offer, nor did she submit any of the documentary evidence indicated as attachments to her
complaint.
The Investigating Commissioner’s Findings

In his report18 to the IBP Board of Governors, Commissioner Limpingco recommended that Atty.
Rañeses be absolved of the charge of negligence, but found him guilty of soliciting money to
bribe a judge.

Commissioner Limpingco noted that Bueno failed to provide the court records and certifications
that she indicated as attachments to her complaint. These would have proven that Atty. Rañeses
had indeed been negligent in pursuing her case. Without these documents, which are not difficult
to procure from the courts, Commissioner Limpingco concluded that he would only be left with
Bueno’s bare allegations which could not support a finding of negligence.

Commissioner Limpingco, however, found Bueno’s allegation that Atty. Rañeses solicited
money to bribe judges to be credible. According to Commissioner Limpingco, the act of
soliciting money to bribe a judge is, by its nature, done in secret. He observed that Bueno had
consistently affirmed her statements in her affidavit, while Atty. Rañeses did nothing to refute
them.

Commissioner Limpingco also noted that Atty. Rañeses even made a false claim before the
investigating commissioners, as he alleged in his "Time Motion and Request for Copies of the
Complaint and Supporting Papers" that he did not receive the complaint against him, a fact
belied by the registry receipt card evidencing his receipt.

Thus, Commissioner Limpingco recommended that Atty. Rañeses be disbarred for failure to
maintain his personal integrity and for failure to maintain public trust.

The IBP Board of Governors adopted and approved the Investigating Commissioner’s Report
and Recommendation, but reduced the penalty to indefinite suspension from the practice of
law.19

The Court’s Ruling

The Court approves the IBP’s findings but resolves to disbar Atty. Rañeses from the practice of
law in accordance with Commissioner Limpingco’s recommendation and based on our own
observations and findings in the case.

The charge of negligence

According to Canon 18 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, lawyers should serve their
clients with competence and diligence. Specifically, Rule 18.02 provides that "[a] lawyer shall
not handle any legal matter without adequate preparation." Rule 18.03, on the other hand, states
that "[a] lawyer shall not neglect a legal matter entrusted to him, and his negligence in
connection [therewith] shall render him liable."

"Once lawyers agree to take up the cause of a client, they owe fidelity to the cause and must
always be mindful of the trust and confidence reposed in them."20 A client is entitled to the
benefit of all remedies and defenses authorized by law, and is expected to rely on his lawyer to
avail of these remedies or defenses.21

In several cases, the Court has consistently held that a counsel’s failure to file an appellant’s
brief amounts to inexcusable negligence.22 In Garcia v. Bala,23 the Court even found the
respondent lawyer guilty of negligence after availing of an erroneous mode of appeal. To appeal
a decision of the Department of Agrarian Reform Adjudication Board (DARAB), the respondent
therein filed a notice of appeal with the DARAB, instead of filing a verified petition for review
with the Court of Appeals. Because of his error, the prescribed period for filing the petition
lapsed, prejudicing his clients.

In this case, Atty. Rañeses’ alleged failure to file a comment on the adverse party’s offer of
evidence and to submit the required memorandum would have amounted to negligence.
However, as noted by Commissioner Limpingco, Bueno did not support her allegations with
court documents that she could have easily procured. This omission leaves only Bueno’s bare
allegations which are insufficient to prove Atty. Rañeses’ negligence. We support the Board of
Governors’ ruling on this point.

The charge of soliciting money

In Bildner v. Ilusorio,24 the respondent lawyer therein attempted to bribe a judge to get a
favorable decision for his client. He visited the judge’s office several times and persistently
called his residence to convince him to inhibit from his client’s case. The Court found that the
respondent lawyer therein violated Canon 13 of the Code of Professional Responsibility – the
rule that instructs lawyers to refrain from any impropriety tending to influence, or from any act
giving the appearance of influencing, the court. The respondent lawyer therein was suspended
from the practice of law for one year.

In this case, Atty. Rañeses committed an even graver offense. As explained below, he committed
a fraudulent exaction, and at the same time maligned both the judge and the Judiciary. These are
exacerbated by his cavalier attitude towards the IBP during the investigation of his case; he
practically disregarded its processes and even lied to one of the Investigating Commissioners
regarding the notices given him about the case.

While the only evidence to support Bueno’s allegations is her own word, the Investigating
Commissioner found her testimony to be credible. The Court supports the Investigating
Commissioner in his conclusion. As Commissioner Limpingco succinctly observed:

By its very nature, the act [of] soliciting money for bribery purposes would necessarily take
place in secrecy with only respondent Atty. Rañeses and complainant Bueno privy to it.
Complainant Amparo Bueno has executed sworn statements and had readily affirmed her
allegations in this regard in hearings held before the IBP Investigating Commissioners.
Respondent Atty. Rañeses, for his part, has not even seen it fit to file any answer to the
complaint against him, much less appear in any hearings scheduled in this investigation.25
Further, the false claim made by Atty. Rañeses to the investigating commissioners reveals his
propensity for lying. It confirms, to some extent, the kind of lawyer that Bueno’s affidavits
depict him to be.

Rather than merely suspend Atty. Rañeses as had been done in Bildner, the Court believes that
Atty. Rañeses merits the ultimate administrative penalty of disbarment because of the multi-
layered impact and implications of what he did; by his acts he proved himself to be what a
lawyer should not be, in a lawyer’s relations to the client, to the court and to the Integrated Bar.

First, he extracted money from his client for a purpose that is both false and
fraudulent.1âwphi1 It is false because no bribery apparently took place as Atty. Rañeses in fact
lost the case. It is fraudulent because the professed purpose of the exaction was the crime of
bribery. Beyond these, he maligned the judge and the Judiciary by giving the impression that
court cases are won, not on the merits, but through deceitful means – a decidedly black mark
against the Judiciary. Last but not the least, Atty. Rañeses grossly disrespected the IBP by his
cavalier attitude towards its disciplinary proceedings.

From these perspectives, Atty. Rañeses wronged his client, the judge allegedly on the "take," the
Judiciary as an institution, and the IBP of which he is a member. The Court cannot and should
not allow offenses such as these to pass unredressed. Let this be a signal to one and all – to all
lawyers, their clients and the general public – that the Court will not hesitate to act decisively and
with no quarters given to defend the interest of the public, of our judicial system and the
institutions composing it, and to ensure that these are not compromised by unscrupulous or
misguided members of the Bar.

WHEREFORE, premises considered, respondent Atty. Ramon A. Rañeses is


hereby DISBARRED from the practice of law, effective upon his receipt of this Decision. The
Office of the Bar Confidant is DIRECTED to delete his name from the Roll of Attorneys. Costs
against the respondent.

Let all courts, through the Office of the Court Administrator, as well as the Integrated Bar of the
Philippines, be notified of this Decision.

SO ORDERED.