Sunteți pe pagina 1din 85

Republic of the Philippines

SUPREME COURT
Manila

EN BANC

A.C. 1928 December 19, 1980

In the Matter of the IBP Membership Dues Delinquency of Atty. MARCIAL A. EDILLION (IBP
Administrative Case No. MDD-1), petitioner,

FERNANDO, C.J.:

The full and plenary discretion in the exercise of its competence to reinstate a disbarred member of
the bar admits of no doubt. All the relevant factors bearing on the specific case, public interest, the
integrity of the profession and the welfare of the recreant who had purged himself of his guilt are
given their due weight. Respondent Marcial A. Edillon was disbarred on August 3, 1978, 1 the vote
being unanimous with the late.

Chief Justice Castro ponente. From June 5, 1979, he had repeatedly pleaded that he be reinstated.
The minute resolution dated October 23, 1980, granted such prayer. It was there made clear that it
"is without prejudice to issuing an extended opinion." 2

Before doing so, a recital of the background facts that led to the disbarment of respondent may not
be amiss. As set forth in the resolution penned by the late Chief Justice Castro: "On November 29.
1975, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP for short) Board of Governors, unanimously adopted
Resolution No. 75-65 in Administrative case No. MDD-1 (In the Matter of the Membership Dues
Delinquency of Atty. Marcial A. Edillon) recommending to the Court the removal of the name of the
respondent from its Roll of Attorneys for 'stubborn refusal to pay his membership dues' to the IBP
since the latter's constitution notwithstanding due notice. On January 21, 1976, the IBP, through its
then President Liliano B. Neri, submitted the said resolution to the Court for consideration and
approval,. Pursuant to paragraph 2, Section 24, Article III of the By-Laws of the IBP, which. reads: ...
Should the delinquency further continue until the following June 29, the Board shall promptly inquire
into the cause or causes of the continued delinquency and take whatever action it shall deem
appropriate, including a recommendation to the Supreme Court for the removal of the delinquent
member's name from the Roll of Attorneys. Notice of the action taken should be submit by registered
mail to the member and to the Secretary of the Chapter concerned.' On January 27, 1976, the Court
required the respondent to comment on the resolution and letter adverted to above he submitted his
comment on February 23, 1976, reiterating his refusal to pay the membership fees due from him. On
March 2, 1976, the Court required the IBP President and the IBP Board of Governors to reply to
Edillon's comment: On March 24, 1976, they submitted a joint reply. Thereafter, the case was set for
hearing on June 3, 1976. After the hearing, the parties were required to submit memoranda in
amplification of their oral arguments. The matter was thenceforth submitted for resolution." 3

Reference was then made to the authority of the IBP Board of Governors to recommend to the
Supreme Court the removal of a delinquent member's name from the Roll of Attorneys as found in
Rules of Court: 'Effect of non-payment of dues. — Subject to the provisions of Section 12 of this
Rule, default in the payment of annual dues for six months shall warrant suspension of membership
in the Integrated Bar, and default in such payment for one year shall be a ground for the removal of
the name of the delinquent member from the Roll of Attorneys. 4
The submission of respondent Edillion as summarized in the aforesaid resolution "is that the above
provisions constitute an invasion of his constitutional rights in the sense that he is being compelled,
as a pre-condition to maintaining his status as a lawyer in good standing, to be a member of the IBP
and to pay the corresponding dues, and that as a consequence of this compelled financial support of
the said organization to which he is admittedly personally antagonistic, he is being deprived of the
rights to liberty and property guaranteed to him by the Constitution. Hence, the respondent
concludes, the above provisions of the Court Rule and of the IBP By-Laws are void and of no legal
force and effect. 5 It was pointed out in the resolution that such issues was raised on a previous case
before the Court, entitled 'Administrative Case No. 526, In the Matter of the Petition for the
Integration of the Bar of the Philippines, Roman Ozaeta, et al., Petitioners.' The Court exhaustively
considered all these matters in that case in its Resolution ordaining the integration of the Bar of the
Philippines, promulgated on January 9, 1973. 6 The unanimous conclusion reached by the Court was
that the integration of the Philippine Bar raises no constitutional question and is therefore legally
unobjectionable, "and, within the context of contemporary conditions in the Philippine, has become
an imperative means to raise the standards of the legal profession, improve the administration of
justice, and enable the Bar to discharge its public responsibility fully and effectively." 7

As mentioned at the outset, the vote was unanimous. From the time the decision was rendered,
there were various pleadings filed by respondent for reinstatement starting with a motion for
reconsideration dated August 19, 1978. Characterized as it was by persistence in his adamantine
refusal to admit the full competence of the Court on the matter, it was not unexpected that it would
be denied. So it turned out. 8 It was the consensus that he continued to be oblivious to certain balic
juridical concepts, the appreciation of which does not even require great depth of intellect. Since
respondent could not be said to be that deficient in legal knowledge and since his pleadings in other
cases coming before this Tribunal were quite literate, even if rather generously sprinkled with
invective for which he had been duly taken to task, there was the impression that his recalcitrance
arose from and sheer obstinacy. Necessary, the extreme penalty of disbarment visited on him was
more than justified.

Since then, however, there were other communications to this Court where a different attitude on his
part was discernible. 9 The tone of defiance was gone and circumstances of a mitigating character
invoked — the state of his health and his advanced age. He likewise spoke of the welfare of former
clients who still rely on him for counsel, their confidence apparently undiminished. For he had in his
career been a valiant, if at times unreasonable, defender of the causes entrusted to him.

This Court, in the light of the above, felt that reinstatement could be ordered and so it did in the
resolution of October 23, 1980. It made certain that there was full acceptance on his part of the
competence of this Tribunal in the exercise of its plenary power to regulate the legal profession and
can integrate the bar and that the dues were duly paid. Moreover, the fact that more than two years
had elapsed during which he war. barred from exercising his profession was likewise taken into
account. It may likewise be said that as in the case of the inherent power to punish for contempt and
paraphrasing the dictum of Justice Malcolm in Villavicencio v. Lukban, 10 the power to discipline,
especially if amounting to disbarment, should be exercised on the preservative and not on the
vindictive principle. 11

One last word. It has been pertinently observed that there is no irretrievable finality as far as
admission to the bar is concerned. So it is likewise as to loss of membership. What must ever be
borne in mind is that membership in the bar, to follow Cardozo, is a privilege burdened with
conditions. Failure to abide by any of them entails the loss of such privilege if the gravity thereof
warrant such drastic move. Thereafter a sufficient time having elapsed and after actuations
evidencing that there was due contrition on the part of the transgressor, he may once again be
considered for the restoration of such a privilege. Hence, our resolution of October 23, 1980.
The Court restores to membership to the bar Marcial A. Edillon.

Teehankee, Barredo, Makasiar, Concepcion, Jr., Fernandez, Guerrero, Abad Santos, De Castro and
Melencio-Herrera, JJ., concur.

Aquino, J., concurs in the result.

Republic of the Philippines


SUPREME COURT
Manila

EN BANC

A.M. No. 10-10-4-SC March 8, 2011

RE: LETTER OF THE UP LAW FACULTY ENTITLED "RESTORING INTEGRITY: A STATEMENT


BY THE FACULTY OF THE UNIVERSITY OF THE PHILIPPINES COLLEGE OF LAW ON THE
ALLEGATIONS OF PLAGIARISM AND MISREPRESENTATION IN THE SUPREME COURT"

DECISION

LEONARDO-DE CASTRO, J.:

For disposition of the Court are the various submissions of the 37 respondent law professors1 in
response to the Resolution dated October 19, 2010 (the Show Cause Resolution), directing them to
show cause why they should not be disciplined as members of the Bar for violation of specific
provisions of the Code of Professional Responsibility enumerated therein.

At the outset, it must be stressed that the Show Cause Resolution clearly dockets this as an
administrative matter, not a special civil action for indirect contempt under Rule 71 of the Rules of
Court, contrary to the dissenting opinion of Associate Justice Maria Lourdes P. A. Sereno (Justice
Sereno) to the said October 19, 2010 Show Cause Resolution. Neither is this a disciplinary
proceeding grounded on an allegedly irregularly concluded finding of indirect contempt as intimated
by Associate Justice Conchita Carpio Morales (Justice Morales) in her dissenting opinions to both
the October 19, 2010 Show Cause Resolution and the present decision.

With the nature of this case as purely a bar disciplinary proceeding firmly in mind, the Court finds
that with the exception of one respondent whose compliance was adequate and another who
manifested he was not a member of the Philippine Bar, the submitted explanations, being mere
denials and/or tangential to the issues at hand, are decidedly unsatisfactory. The proffered defenses
even more urgently behoove this Court to call the attention of respondent law professors, who are
members of the Bar, to the relationship of their duties as such under the Code of Professional
Responsibility to their civil rights as citizens and academics in our free and democratic republic.

The provisions of the Code of Professional Responsibility involved in this case are as follows:

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

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

Rule 10.02 - A lawyer shall not knowingly misquote or misrepresent the contents of
paper, the language or the argument of opposing counsel, or the text of a decision or
authority, or knowingly cite as law a provision already rendered inoperative by repeal
or amendment, or assert as a fact that which has not been proved.

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

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

RULE 11.05 A lawyer shall submit grievances against a Judge to the proper
authorities only.

CANON 13 — A lawyer shall rely upon the merits of his cause and refrain from any impropriety
which tends to influence, or gives the appearance of influencing the court.

Established jurisprudence will undeniably support our view that when lawyers speak their minds,
they must ever be mindful of their sworn oath to observe ethical standards of their profession, and in
particular, avoid foul and abusive language to condemn the Supreme Court, or any court for that
matter, for a decision it has rendered, especially during the pendency of a motion for such decision’s
reconsideration. The accusation of plagiarism against a member of this Court is not the real issue
here but rather this plagiarism issue has been used to deflect everyone’s attention from the actual
concern of this Court to determine by respondents’ explanations whether or not respondent
members of the Bar have crossed the line of decency and acceptable professional conduct and
speech and violated the Rules of Court through improper intervention or interference as third parties
to a pending case. Preliminarily, it should be stressed that it was respondents themselves who called
upon the Supreme Court to act on their Statement,2 which they formally submitted, through Dean
Marvic M.V.F. Leonen (Dean Leonen), for the Court’s proper disposition. Considering the defenses
of freedom of speech and academic freedom invoked by the respondents, it is worth discussing here
that the legal reasoning used in the past by this Court to rule that freedom of expression is not a
defense in administrative cases against lawyers for using intemperate speech in open court or in
court submissions can similarly be applied to respondents’ invocation of academic freedom. Indeed,
it is precisely because respondents are not merely lawyers but lawyers who teach law and mould the
minds of young aspiring attorneys that respondents’ own non-observance of the Code of
Professional Responsibility, even if purportedly motivated by the purest of intentions, cannot be
ignored nor glossed over by this Court.

To fully appreciate the grave repercussions of respondents’ actuations, it is apropos to revisit the
factual antecedents of this case.

BACKGROUND OF THE CASE

Antecedent Facts and Proceedings


On April 28, 2010, the ponencia of Associate Justice Mariano del Castillo (Justice Del Castillo) in
Vinuya, et al. v. Executive Secretary (G.R. No. 162230) was promulgated. On May 31, 2010, the
counsel3 for Vinuya, et al. (the "Malaya Lolas"), filed a Motion for Reconsideration of the Vinuya
decision, raising solely the following grounds:

I. Our own constitutional and jurisprudential histories reject this Honorable Courts’ (sic)
assertion that the Executive’s foreign policy prerogatives are virtually unlimited; precisely,
under the relevant jurisprudence and constitutional provisions, such prerogatives are
proscribed by international human rights and humanitarian standards, including those
provided for in the relevant international conventions of which the Philippines is a party.4

II. This Honorable Court has confused diplomatic protection with the broader, if fundamental,
responsibility of states to protect the human rights of its citizens – especially where the rights
asserted are subject of erga omnes obligations and pertain to jus cogens norms.5

On July 19, 2010,6 counsel for the Malaya Lolas, Attys. H. Harry L. Roque, Jr. (Atty. Roque) and
Romel Regalado Bagares (Atty. Bagares), filed a Supplemental Motion for Reconsideration in G.R.
No. 162230, where they posited for the first time their charge of plagiarism as one of the grounds for
reconsideration of the Vinuya decision. Among other arguments, Attys. Roque and Bagares asserted
that:

I.

IN THE FIRST PLACE, IT IS HIGHLY IMPROPER FOR THIS HONORABLE COURT’S JUDGMENT
OF APRIL 28, 2010 TO PLAGIARIZE AT LEAST THREE SOURCES – AN ARTICLE PUBLISHED
IN 2009 IN THE YALE LAW JOURNAL OF INTERNATIONAL LAW, A BOOK PUBLISHED BY THE
CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY PRESS IN 2005 AND AN ARTICLE PUBLISHED IN 2006 IN THE
CASE WESTERN RESERVE JOURNAL OF INTERNATIONAL LAW – AND MAKE IT APPEAR
THAT THESE SOURCES SUPPORT THE JUDGMENT’S ARGUMENTS FOR DISMISSING THE
INSTANT PETITION WHEN IN TRUTH, THE PLAGIARIZED SOURCES EVEN MAKE A STRONG
CASE FOR THE PETITION’S CLAIMS.7

They also claimed that "[i]n this controversy, the evidence bears out the fact not only of extensive
plagiarism but of (sic) also of twisting the true intents of the plagiarized sources by the ponencia to
suit the arguments of the assailed Judgment for denying the Petition."8

According to Attys. Roque and Bagares, the works allegedly plagiarized in the Vinuya decision were
namely: (1) Evan J. Criddle and Evan Fox-Decent’s article "A Fiduciary Theory of Jus Cogens;"9 (2)
Christian J. Tams’ book Enforcing Erga Omnes Obligations in International Law;10 and (3) Mark Ellis’
article "Breaking the Silence: On Rape as an International Crime."11

On the same day as the filing of the Supplemental Motion for Reconsideration on July 19, 2010,
journalists Aries C. Rufo and Purple S. Romero posted an article, entitled "SC justice plagiarized
parts of ruling on comfort women," on the Newsbreak website.12 The same article appeared on the
GMA News TV website also on July 19, 2010.13

On July 22, 2010, Atty. Roque’s column, entitled "Plagiarized and Twisted," appeared in the Manila
Standard Today.14 In the said column, Atty. Roque claimed that Prof. Evan Criddle, one of the
authors purportedly not properly acknowledged in the Vinuya decision, confirmed that his work, co-
authored with Prof. Evan Fox-Decent, had been plagiarized. Atty. Roque quoted Prof. Criddle’s
response to the post by Julian Ku regarding the news report15 on the alleged plagiarism in the
international law blog, Opinio Juris. Prof. Criddle responded to Ku’s blog entry in this wise:
The newspaper’s16 [plagiarism] claims are based on a motion for reconsideration filed yesterday with
the Philippine Supreme Court yesterday. The motion is available here:

http://harryroque.com/2010/07/18/supplemental-motion-alleging-plagiarism-in-the-supreme-court/

The motion suggests that the Court’s decision contains thirty-four sentences and citations that are
identical to sentences and citations in my 2009 YJIL article (co-authored with Evan Fox-Decent).
Professor Fox-Decent and I were unaware of the petitioners’ [plagiarism] allegations until after the
motion was filed today.

Speaking for myself, the most troubling aspect of the court’s jus cogens discussion is that it implies
that the prohibitions against crimes against humanity, sexual slavery, and torture are not jus cogens
norms. Our article emphatically asserts the opposite. The Supreme Court’s decision is available
here: http://sc.judiciary.gov.ph/jurisprudence/2010/april2010/162230.htm17

On even date, July 22, 2010, Justice Del Castillo wrote to his colleagues on the Court in reply to the
charge of plagiarism contained in the Supplemental Motion for Reconsideration.18

In a letter dated July 23, 2010, another purportedly plagiarized author in the Vinuya decision, Dr.
Mark Ellis, wrote the Court, to wit:

Your Honours:

I write concerning a most delicate issue that has come to my attention in the last few days.

Much as I regret to raise this matter before your esteemed Court, I am compelled, as a question of
the integrity of my work as an academic and as an advocate of human rights and humanitarian law,
to take exception to the possible unauthorized use of my law review article on rape as an
international crime in your esteemed Court’s Judgment in the case of Vinuya et al. v. Executive
Secretary et al. (G.R. No. 162230, Judgment of 28 April 2010).

My attention was called to the Judgment and the issue of possible plagiarism by the Philippine
chapter of the Southeast Asia Media Legal Defence Initiative (SEAMLDI),19 an affiliate of the
London-based Media Legal Defence Initiative (MLDI), where I sit as trustee.

In particular, I am concerned about a large part of the extensive discussion in footnote 65, pp. 27-28,
of the said Judgment of your esteemed Court. I am also concerned that your esteemed Court may
have misread the arguments I made in the article and employed them for cross purposes. This
would be ironic since the article was written precisely to argue for the appropriate legal remedy for
victims of war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity.

I believe a full copy of my article as published in the Case Western Reserve Journal of International
Law in 2006 has been made available to your esteemed Court. I trust that your esteemed Court will
take the time to carefully study the arguments I made in the article.

I would appreciate receiving a response from your esteemed Court as to the issues raised by this
letter.

With respect,
(Sgd.)
Dr. Mark Ellis20

In Memorandum Order No. 35-2010 issued on July 27, 2010, the Court formed the Committee on
Ethics and Ethical Standards (the Ethics Committee) pursuant to Section 13, Rule 2 of the Internal
Rules of the Supreme Court. In an En Banc Resolution also dated July 27, 2010, the Court referred
the July 22, 2010 letter of Justice Del Castillo to the Ethics Committee. The matter was subsequently
docketed as A.M. No. 10-7-17-SC.

On August 2, 2010, the Ethics Committee required Attys. Roque and Bagares to comment on the
letter of Justice Del Castillo.21

On August 9, 2010, a statement dated July 27, 2010, entitled "Restoring Integrity: A Statement by
the Faculty of the University of the Philippines College of Law on the Allegations of Plagiarism and
Misrepresentation in the Supreme Court" (the Statement), was posted in Newsbreak’s website22 and
on Atty. Roque’s blog.23 A report regarding the statement also appeared on various on-line news
sites, such as the GMA News TV24 and the Sun Star25 sites, on the same date. The statement was
likewise posted at the University of the Philippines College of Law’s bulletin board allegedly on
August 10, 201026 and at said college’s website.27

On August 11, 2010, Dean Leonen submitted a copy of the Statement of the University of the
Philippines College of Law Faculty (UP Law faculty) to the Court, through Chief Justice Renato C.
Corona (Chief Justice Corona). The cover letter dated August 10, 2010 of Dean Leonen read:

The Honorable
Supreme Court of the Republic of the Philippines

Through: Hon. Renato C. Corona


Chief Justice
Subject: Statement of faculty
from the UP College of Law
on the Plagiarism in the case of
Vinuya v Executive Secretary

Your Honors:

We attach for your information and proper disposition a statement signed by thirty[-]eight
(38)28 members of the faculty of the UP College of Law. We hope that its points could be considered
by the Supreme Court en banc.

Respectfully,

(Sgd.)
Marvic M.V.F. Leonen
Dean and Professor of Law

(Emphases supplied.)

The copy of the Statement attached to the above-quoted letter did not contain the actual signatures
of the alleged signatories but only stated the names of 37 UP Law professors with the notation
(SGD.) appearing beside each name. For convenient reference, the text of the UP Law faculty
Statement is reproduced here:

RESTORING INTEGRITY

A STATEMENT BY THE FACULTY OF


THE UNIVERSITY OF THE PHILIPPINES COLLEGE OF LAW
ON THE ALLEGATIONS OF PLAGIARISM AND MISREPRESENTATION
IN THE SUPREME COURT

An extraordinary act of injustice has again been committed against the brave Filipinas who had
suffered abuse during a time of war. After they courageously came out with their very personal
stories of abuse and suffering as "comfort women", waited for almost two decades for any
meaningful relief from their own government as well as from the government of Japan, got their
hopes up for a semblance of judicial recourse in the case of Vinuya v. Executive Secretary, G.R. No.
162230 (28 April 2010), they only had these hopes crushed by a singularly reprehensible act of
dishonesty and misrepresentation by the Highest Court of the land.

It is within this frame that the Faculty of the University of the Philippines College of Law views the
charge that an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court committed plagiarism and misrepresentation
in Vinuya v. Executive Secretary. The plagiarism and misrepresentation are not only affronts to the
individual scholars whose work have been appropriated without correct attribution, but also a serious
threat to the integrity and credibility of the Philippine Judicial System.

In common parlance, ‘plagiarism’ is the appropriation and misrepresentation of another person’s


work as one’s own. In the field of writing, it is cheating at best, and stealing at worst. It constitutes a
taking of someone else’s ideas and expressions, including all the effort and creativity that went into
committing such ideas and expressions into writing, and then making it appear that such ideas and
expressions were originally created by the taker. It is dishonesty, pure and simple. A judicial system
that allows plagiarism in any form is one that allows dishonesty. Since all judicial decisions form part
of the law of the land, to allow plagiarism in the Supreme Court is to allow the production of laws by
dishonest means. Evidently, this is a complete perversion and falsification of the ends of justice.

A comparison of the Vinuya decision and the original source material shows that the ponente merely
copied select portions of other legal writers’ works and interspersed them into the decision as if they
were his own, original work. Under the circumstances, however, because the Decision has been
promulgated by the Court, the Decision now becomes the Court’s and no longer just the ponente’s.
Thus the Court also bears the responsibility for the Decision. In the absence of any mention of the
original writers’ names and the publications from which they came, the thing speaks for itself.

So far there have been unsatisfactory responses from the ponente of this case and the spokesman
of the Court.

It is argued, for example, that the inclusion of the footnotes from the original articles is a reference to
the ‘primary’ sources relied upon. This cursory explanation is not acceptable, because the original
authors’ writings and the effort they put into finding and summarizing those primary sources are
precisely the subject of plagiarism. The inclusion of the footnotes together with portions of their
writings in fact aggravates, instead of mitigates, the plagiarism since it provides additional evidence
of a deliberate intention to appropriate the original authors’ work of organizing and analyzing those
primary sources.
It is also argued that the Members of the Court cannot be expected to be familiar with all legal and
scholarly journals. This is also not acceptable, because personal unfamiliarity with sources all the
more demands correct and careful attribution and citation of the material relied upon. It is a matter of
diligence and competence expected of all Magistrates of the Highest Court of the Land.

But a far more serious matter is the objection of the original writers, Professors Evan Criddle and
Evan Fox-Descent, that the High Court actually misrepresents the conclusions of their work entitled
"A Fiduciary Theory of Jus Cogens," the main source of the plagiarized text. In this article they argue
that the classification of the crimes of rape, torture, and sexual slavery as crimes against humanity
have attained the status of jus cogens, making it obligatory upon the State to seek remedies on
behalf of its aggrieved citizens. Yet, the Vinuya decision uses parts of the same article to arrive at
the contrary conclusion. This exacerbates the intellectual dishonesty of copying works without
attribution by transforming it into an act of intellectual fraud by copying works in order to mislead and
deceive.

The case is a potential landmark decision in International Law, because it deals with State liability
and responsibility for personal injury and damage suffered in a time of war, and the role of the
injured parties’ home States in the pursuit of remedies against such injury or damage. National
courts rarely have such opportunities to make an international impact. That the petitioners were
Filipino "comfort women" who suffered from horrific abuse during the Second World War made it
incumbent on the Court of last resort to afford them every solicitude. But instead of acting with
urgency on this case, the Court delayed its resolution for almost seven years, oblivious to the deaths
of many of the petitioners seeking justice from the Court. When it dismissed the Vinuya petition
based on misrepresented and plagiarized materials, the Court decided this case based on polluted
sources. By so doing, the Supreme Court added insult to injury by failing to actually exercise its
"power to urge and exhort the Executive Department to take up the claims of
the Vinuya petitioners. Its callous disposition, coupled with false sympathy and nonchalance, belies
a more alarming lack of concern for even the most basic values of decency and respect. The
reputation of the Philippine Supreme Court and the standing of the Philippine legal profession before
other Judiciaries and legal systems are truly at stake.

The High Court cannot accommodate less than absolute honesty in its decisions and cannot accept
excuses for failure to attain the highest standards of conduct imposed upon all members of the
Bench and Bar because these undermine the very foundation of its authority and power in a
democratic society. Given the Court’s recent history and the controversy that surrounded it, it cannot
allow the charges of such clear and obvious plagiarism to pass without sanction as this would only
further erode faith and confidence in the judicial system. And in light of the significance of this
decision to the quest for justice not only of Filipino women, but of women elsewhere in the world who
have suffered the horrors of sexual abuse and exploitation in times of war, the Court cannot coldly
deny relief and justice to the petitioners on the basis of pilfered and misinterpreted texts.

The Court cannot regain its credibility and maintain its moral authority without ensuring that its own
conduct, whether collectively or through its Members, is beyond reproach. This necessarily includes
ensuring that not only the content, but also the processes of preparing and writing its own decisions,
are credible and beyond question. The Vinuya Decision must be conscientiously reviewed and not
casually cast aside, if not for the purpose of sanction, then at least for the purpose of reflection and
guidance. It is an absolutely essential step toward the establishment of a higher standard of
professional care and practical scholarship in the Bench and Bar, which are critical to improving the
system of administration of justice in the Philippines. It is also a very crucial step in ensuring the
position of the Supreme Court as the Final Arbiter of all controversies: a position that requires
competence and integrity completely above any and all reproach, in accordance with the exacting
demands of judicial and professional ethics.
With these considerations, and bearing in mind the solemn duties and trust reposed upon them as
teachers in the profession of Law, it is the opinion of the Faculty of the University of the Philippine
College of Law that:

(1) The plagiarism committed in the case of Vinuya v. Executive Secretary is


unacceptable, unethical and in breach of the high standards of moral conduct and
judicial and professional competence expected of the Supreme Court;

(2) Such a fundamental breach endangers the integrity and credibility of the entire
Supreme Court and undermines the foundations of the Philippine judicial system by
allowing implicitly the decision of cases and the establishment of legal precedents
through dubious means;

(3) The same breach and consequent disposition of the Vinuya case does violence to
the primordial function of the Supreme Court as the ultimate dispenser of justice to all
those who have been left without legal or equitable recourse, such as the petitioners
therein;

(4) In light of the extremely serious and far-reaching nature of the dishonesty and to
save the honor and dignity of the Supreme Court as an institution, it is necessary for
the ponente of Vinuya v. Executive Secretary to resign his position, without prejudice
to any other sanctions that the Court may consider appropriate;

(5) The Supreme Court must take this opportunity to review the manner by which it
conducts research, prepares drafts, reaches and finalizes decisions in order to
prevent a recurrence of similar acts, and to provide clear and concise guidance to the
Bench and Bar to ensure only the highest quality of legal research and writing in
pleadings, practice, and adjudication.

Malcolm Hall, University of the Philippines College of Law, Quezon City, 27 July 2010.

(SGD.) MARVIC M.V.F. LEONEN


Dean and Professor of Law

(SGD.) FROILAN M. BACUNGAN (SGD.) PACIFICO A. AGABIN


Dean (1978-1983) Dean (1989-1995)

(SGD.) MERLIN M. MAGALLONA (SGD.) SALVADOR T. CARLOTA


Dean (1995-1999) Dean (2005-2008) and Professor of Law

REGULAR FACULTY

(SGD.) CARMELO V. SISON (SGD.) JAY L. BATONGBACAL


Professor Assistant Professor

(SGD.) PATRICIA R.P. SALVADOR


(SGD.) EVELYN (LEO) D. BATTAD
DAWAY
Assistant Professor
Associate Dean and Associate Professor
(SGD.) DANTE B. GATMAYTAN (SGD.) GWEN G. DE VERA
Associate Professor Assistant Professor

(SGD.) THEODORE O. TE (SGD.) SOLOMON F. LUMBA


Assistant Professor Assistant Professor

(SGD.) FLORIN T. HILBAY (SGD.) ROMMEL J. CASIS


Assistant Professor Assistant Professor

LECTURERS

(SGD.) JOSE GERARDO A. ALAMPAY (SGD.) JOSE C. LAURETA


(SGD.) ARTHUR P. AUTEA (SGD.) DINA D. LUCENARIO
(SGD.) ROSA MARIA J. BAUTISTA (SGD.) OWEN J. LYNCH
(SGD.) MARK R. BOCOBO (SGD.) ANTONIO M. SANTOS
(SGD.) DAN P. CALICA (SGD.) VICENTE V. MENDOZA
(SGD.) TRISTAN A. CATINDIG (SGD.) RODOLFO NOEL S. QUIMBO
(SGD.) SANDRA MARIE O. CORONEL (SGD.) GMELEEN FAYE B. TOMBOC
(SGD.) ROSARIO O. GALLO (SGD.) NICHOLAS FELIX L. TY
(SGD.) CONCEPCION L. JARDELEZA (SGD.) EVALYN G. URSUA
(SGD.) ANTONIO G.M. LA VIÑA (SGD.) RAUL T. VASQUEZ
(SGD.) SUSAN D. VILLANUEVA29
(SGD.) CARINA C. LAFORTEZA
(Underscoring supplied.)

Meanwhile, in a letter dated August 18, 2010, Prof. Christian J. Tams made known his sentiments on
the alleged plagiarism issue to the Court.30 We quote Prof. Tams’ letter here:

Glasgow, 18 August 2010

Vinuya, et al. v. Executive Secretary et al. (G.R. No. 162230)

Hon. Renato C. Corona, Chief Justice

Your Excellency,

My name is Christian J. Tams, and I am a professor of international law at the University of Glasgow.
I am writing to you in relation to the use of one of my publications in the above-mentioned judgment
of your Honourable Court.

The relevant passage of the judgment is to be found on p. 30 of your Court’s Judgment, in the
section addressing the concept of obligations erga omnes. As the table annexed to this letter shows,
the relevant sentences were taken almost word by word from the introductory chapter of my book
Enforcing Obligations Erga Omnes in International Law (Cambridge University Press 2005). I note
that there is a generic reference to my work in footnote 69 of the Judgment, but as this is in relation
to a citation from another author (Bruno Simma) rather than with respect to the substantive
passages reproduced in the Judgment, I do not think it can be considered an appropriate form of
referencing.
I am particularly concerned that my work should have been used to support the Judgment’s cautious
approach to the erga omnes concept. In fact, a most cursory reading shows that my book’s central
thesis is precisely the opposite: namely that the erga omnes concept has been widely accepted and
has a firm place in contemporary international law. Hence the introductory chapter notes that "[t]he
present study attempts to demystify aspects of the ‘very mysterious’ concept and thereby to facilitate
its implementation" (p. 5). In the same vein, the concluding section notes that "the preceding
chapters show that the concept is now a part of the reality of international law, established in the
jurisprudence of courts and the practice of States" (p. 309).

With due respect to your Honourable Court, I am at a loss to see how my work should have been
cited to support – as it seemingly has – the opposite approach. More generally, I am concerned at
the way in which your Honourable Court’s Judgment has drawn on scholarly work without properly
acknowledging it.

On both aspects, I would appreciate a prompt response from your Honourable Court.

I remain

Sincerely yours

(Sgd.)
Christian J. Tams31

In the course of the submission of Atty. Roque and Atty. Bagares’ exhibits during the August 26,
2010 hearing in the ethics case against Justice Del Castillo, the Ethics Committee noted that Exhibit
"J" (a copy of the Restoring Integrity Statement) was not signed but merely reflected the names of
certain faculty members with the letters (SGD.) beside the names. Thus, the Ethics Committee
directed Atty. Roque to present the signed copy of the said Statement within three days from the
August 26 hearing.32

It was upon compliance with this directive that the Ethics Committee was given a copy of the signed
UP Law Faculty Statement that showed on the signature pages the names of the full roster of the UP
Law Faculty, 81 faculty members in all. Indubitable from the actual signed copy of the Statement
was that only 37 of the 81 faculty members appeared to have signed the same. However, the 37
actual signatories to the Statement did not include former Supreme Court Associate Justice Vicente
V. Mendoza (Justice Mendoza) as represented in the previous copies of the Statement submitted by
Dean Leonen and Atty. Roque. It also appeared that Atty. Miguel R. Armovit (Atty. Armovit) signed
the Statement although his name was not included among the signatories in the previous copies
submitted to the Court. Thus, the total number of ostensible signatories to the Statement remained
at 37.

The Ethics Committee referred this matter to the Court en banc since the same Statement, having
been formally submitted by Dean Leonen on August 11, 2010, was already under consideration by
the Court.33

In a Resolution dated October 19, 2010, the Court en banc made the following observations
regarding the UP Law Faculty Statement:

Notably, while the statement was meant to reflect the educators’ opinion on the allegations of
plagiarism against Justice Del Castillo, they treated such allegation not only as an established fact,
but a truth. In particular, they expressed dissatisfaction over Justice Del Castillo’s explanation on
how he cited the primary sources of the quoted portions and yet arrived at a contrary conclusion to
those of the authors of the articles supposedly plagiarized.

Beyond this, however, the statement bore certain remarks which raise concern for the Court. The
opening sentence alone is a grim preamble to the institutional attack that lay ahead. It reads:

An extraordinary act of injustice has again been committed against the brave Filipinas who had
suffered abuse during a time of war.

The first paragraph concludes with a reference to the decision in Vinuya v. Executive Secretary as
a reprehensible act of dishonesty and misrepresentation by the Highest Court of the land. x x x.

The insult to the members of the Court was aggravated by imputations of deliberately delaying the
resolution of the said case, its dismissal on the basis of "polluted sources," the Court’s alleged
indifference to the cause of petitioners [in the Vinuya case], as well as the supposed alarming lack of
concern of the members of the Court for even the most basic values of decency and respect.34 x x x.
(Underscoring ours.)

In the same Resolution, the Court went on to state that:

While most agree that the right to criticize the judiciary is critical to maintaining a free and democratic
society, there is also a general consensus that healthy criticism only goes so far. Many types of
criticism leveled at the judiciary cross the line to become harmful and irresponsible attacks. These
potentially devastating attacks and unjust criticism can threaten the independence of the
judiciary. The court must "insist on being permitted to proceed to the disposition of its business in an
orderly manner, free from outside interference obstructive of its functions and tending to embarrass
the administration of justice."

The Court could hardly perceive any reasonable purpose for the faculty’s less than objective
comments except to discredit the April 28, 2010 Decision in the Vinuya case and undermine the
Court’s honesty, integrity and competence in addressing the motion for its reconsideration. As if the
case on the comfort women’s claims is not controversial enough, the UP Law faculty would fan the
flames and invite resentment against a resolution that would not reverse the said decision. This
runs contrary to their obligation as law professors and officers of the Court to be the first to uphold
the dignity and authority of this Court, to which they owe fidelity according to the oath they have
taken as attorneys, and not to promote distrust in the administration of justice.35 x x x. (Citations
omitted; emphases and underscoring supplied.)

Thus, the Court directed Attys. Marvic M.V.F. Leonen, Froilan M. Bacungan, Pacifico A. Agabin,
Merlin M. Magallona, Salvador T. Carlota, Carmelo V. Sison, Patricia R.P. Salvador Daway, Dante
B. Gatmaytan, Theodore O. Te, Florin T. Hilbay, Jay L. Batongbacal, Evelyn (Leo) D. Battad, Gwen
G. De Vera, Solomon F. Lumba, Rommel J. Casis, Jose Gerardo A. Alampay, Miguel R. Armovit,
Arthur P. Autea, Rosa Maria J. Bautista, Mark R. Bocobo, Dan P. Calica, Tristan A. Catindig, Sandra
Marie O. Coronel, Rosario O. Gallo, Concepcion L. Jardeleza, Antonio G.M. La Viña, Carina C.
Laforteza, Jose C. Laureta, Owen J. Lynch, Rodolfo Noel S. Quimbo, Antonio M. Santos, Gmeleen
Faye B. Tomboc, Nicholas Felix L. Ty, Evalyn G. Ursua, Raul T. Vasquez, Susan D. Villanueva and
Dina D. Lucenario to show cause, within ten (10) days from receipt of the copy of the Resolution,
why they should not be disciplined as members of the Bar for violation of Canons 1,36 11 and 13 and
Rules 1.02 and 11.05 of the Code of Professional Responsibility.37

Dean Leonen was likewise directed to show cause within the same period why he should not be
disciplinarily dealt with for violation of Canon 10, Rules 10.01, 10.02 and 10.03 for submitting
through his letter dated August 10, 2010, during the pendency of G.R. No. 162230 and of the
investigation before the Ethics Committee, for the consideration of the Court en banc, a dummy
which is not a true and faithful reproduction of the UP Law Faculty Statement.38

In the same Resolution, the present controversy was docketed as a regular administrative matter.

Summaries of the Pleadings Filed by Respondents in Response to the October 19, 2010 Show
Cause Resolution

On November 19, 2010, within the extension for filing granted by the Court, respondents filed the
following pleadings:

(1) Compliance dated November 18, 2010 by counsels for 35 of the 37 respondents,
excluding Prof. Owen Lynch and Prof. Raul T. Vasquez, in relation to the charge of violation
of Canons 1, 11 and 13 and Rules 1.02 and 11.05 of the Code of Professional
Responsibility;

(2) Compliance and Reservation dated November 18, 2010 by Prof. Rosa Maria T. Juan-
Bautista in relation to the same charge in par. (1);

(3) Compliance dated November 19, 2010 by counsel for Prof. Raul T. Vasquez in relation to
the same charge in par. (1);

(4) Compliance dated November 19, 2010 by counsels for Dean Leonen, in relation to the
charge of violation of Canon 10, Rules 10.01, 10.02 and 10.03; and

(5) Manifestation dated November 19, 2010 by counsel for Prof. Owen Lynch.

Common Compliance of 35 Respondents (Excluding Prof. Owen Lynch and Prof. Raul Vasquez)

Thirty-five (35) of the respondent UP Law professors filed on November 19, 2010 a common
compliance which was signed by their respective counsels (the Common Compliance). In the
"Preface" of said Common Compliance, respondents stressed that "[they] issued the Restoring
Integrity Statement in the discharge of the ‘solemn duties and trust reposed upon them as teachers
in the profession of law,’ and as members of the Bar to speak out on a matter of public concern and
one that is of vital interest to them."39 They likewise alleged that "they acted with the purest of
intentions" and pointed out that "none of them was involved either as party or counsel"40 in the
Vinuya case. Further, respondents "note with concern" that the Show Cause Resolution’s findings
and conclusions were "a prejudgment – that respondents indeed are in contempt, have breached
their obligations as law professors and officers of the Court, and have violated ‘Canons [1], 11 and
13 and Rules 1.02 and 11.05 of the Code of Professional Responsibility."41

By way of explanation, the respondents emphasized the following points:

(a) Respondents’ alleged noble intentions

In response to the charges of failure to observe due respect to legal processes42 and the
courts43 and of tending to influence, or giving the appearance of influencing the Court44 in the
issuance of their Statement, respondents assert that their intention was not to malign the
Court but rather to defend its integrity and credibility and to ensure continued confidence in
the legal system. Their noble motive was purportedly evidenced by the portion of their
Statement "focusing on constructive action."45 Respondents’ call in the Statement for the
Court "to provide clear and concise guidance to the Bench and Bar to ensure only the
highest quality of legal research and writing in adjudication," was reputedly "in keeping with
strictures enjoining lawyers to ‘participate in the development of the legal system by initiating
or supporting efforts in law reform and in the improvement of the administration of justice’"
(under Canon 4 of the Code of Professional Responsibility) and to "promote respect for the
law and legal processes" (under Canon 1, id.).46 Furthermore, as academics, they allegedly
have a "special interest and duty to vigilantly guard against plagiarism and misrepresentation
because these unwelcome occurrences have a profound impact in the academe, especially
in our law schools."47

Respondents further "[called] on this Court not to misconstrue the Restoring Integrity
Statement as an ‘institutional attack’ x x x on the basis of its first and ninth
paragraphs."48 They further clarified that at the time the Statement was allegedly drafted and
agreed upon, it appeared to them the Court "was not going to take any action on the grave
and startling allegations of plagiarism and misrepresentation."49 According to respondents,
the bases for their belief were (i) the news article published on July 21, 2010 in the Philippine
Daily Inquirer wherein Court Administrator Jose Midas P. Marquez was reported to have said
that Chief Justice Corona would not order an inquiry into the matter;50 and (ii) the July 22,
2010 letter of Justice Del Castillo which they claimed "did nothing but to downplay the gravity
of the plagiarism and misrepresentation charges."51 Respondents claimed that it was their
perception of the Court’s indifference to the dangers posed by the plagiarism allegations
against Justice Del Castillo that impelled them to urgently take a public stand on the issue.

(b) The "correctness" of respondents’ position that Justice Del Castillo committed plagiarism
and should be held accountable in accordance with the standards of academic writing

A significant portion of the Common Compliance is devoted to a discussion of the merits of


respondents’ charge of plagiarism against Justice Del Castillo. Relying on University of the
Philippines Board of Regents v. Court of Appeals52 and foreign materials and jurisprudence,
respondents essentially argue that their position regarding the plagiarism charge against
Justice Del Castillo is the correct view and that they are therefore justified in issuing their
Restoring Integrity Statement. Attachments to the Common Compliance included, among
others: (i) the letter dated October 28, 2010 of Peter B. Payoyo, LL.M, Ph.D.,53 sent to Chief
Justice Corona through Justice Sereno, alleging that the Vinuya decision likewise lifted
without proper attribution the text from a legal article by Mariana Salazar Albornoz that
appeared in the Anuario Mexicano De Derecho Internacional and from an International Court
of Justice decision; and (ii) a 2008 Human Rights Law Review Article entitled "Sexual
Orientation, Gender Identity and International Human Rights Law" by Michael O’Flaherty and
John Fisher, in support of their charge that Justice Del Castillo also lifted passages from said
article without proper attribution, but this time, in his ponencia in Ang Ladlad LGBT Party v.
Commission on Elections.54

(c) Respondents’ belief that they are being "singled out" by the Court when others have
likewise spoken on the "plagiarism issue"

In the Common Compliance, respondents likewise asserted that "the plagiarism and
misrepresentation allegations are legitimate public issues."55 They identified various
published reports and opinions, in agreement with and in opposition to the stance of
respondents, on the issue of plagiarism, specifically:

(i) Newsbreak report on July 19, 2010 by Aries Rufo and Purple Romero;56
(ii) Column of Ramon Tulfo which appeared in the Philippine Daily Inquirer on July
24, 2010;57

(iii) Editorial of the Philippine Daily Inquirer published on July 25, 2010;58

(iv) Letter dated July 22, 2010 of Justice Del Castillo published in the Philippine Star
on July 30, 2010;59

(v) Column of Former Intellectual Property Office Director General Adrian Cristobal,
Jr. published in the Business Mirror on August 5, 2010;60

(vi) Column of Former Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban published in the Philippine
Daily Inquirer on August 8, 2010;61

(vii) News report regarding Senator Francis Pangilinan’s call for the resignation of
Justice Del Castillo published in the Daily Tribune and the Manila Standard Today on
July 31, 2010;62

(viii) News reports regarding the statement of Dean Cesar Villanueva of the Ateneo
de Manila University School of Law on the calls for the resignation of Justice Del
Castillo published in The Manila Bulletin, the Philippine Star and the Business Mirror
on August 11, 2010;63

(ix) News report on expressions of support for Justice Del Castillo from a former
dean of the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila, the Philippine Constitutional
Association, the Judges Association of Bulacan and the Integrated Bar of the
Philippines – Bulacan Chapter published in the Philippine Star on August 16,
2010;64 and

(x) Letter of the Dean of the Liceo de Cagayan University College of Law published
in the Philippine Daily Inquirer on August 10, 2010.65

In view of the foregoing, respondents alleged that this Court has singled them out for
sanctions and the charge in the Show Cause Resolution dated October 19, 2010 that they
may have violated specific canons of the Code of Professional Responsibility is unfair and
without basis.

(d) Freedom of expression

In paragraphs 28 to 30 of the Common Compliance, respondents briefly discussed their


position that in issuing their Statement, "they should be seen as not only to be performing
their duties as members of the Bar, officers of the court, and teachers of law, but also as
citizens of a democracy who are constitutionally protected in the exercise of free
speech."66 In support of this contention, they cited United States v. Bustos,67 In re: Atty.
Vicente Raul Almacen, 68 and In the Matter of Petition for Declaratory Relief Re:
Constitutionality of Republic Act 4880, Gonzales v. Commission on Elections.69

(e) Academic freedom

In paragraphs 31 to 34 of the Common Compliance, respondents asserted that their Statement was
also issued in the exercise of their academic freedom as teachers in an institution of higher learning.
They relied on Section 5 of the University of the Philippines Charter of 2008 which provided that
"[t]he national university has the right and responsibility to exercise academic freedom." They
likewise adverted to Garcia v. The Faculty Admission Committee, Loyola School of Theology70 which
they claimed recognized the extent and breadth of such freedom as to encourage a free and healthy
discussion and communication of a faculty member’s field of study without fear of reprisal. It is
respondents’ view that had they remained silent on the plagiarism issue in the Vinuya decision they
would have "compromised [their] integrity and credibility as teachers; [their silence] would have
created a culture and generation of students, professionals, even lawyers, who would lack the
competence and discipline for research and pleading; or, worse, [that] their silence would have
communicated to the public that plagiarism and misrepresentation are inconsequential matters and
that intellectual integrity has no bearing or relevance to one’s conduct."71

In closing, respondents’ Common Compliance exhorted this Court to consider the following portion
of the dissenting opinion of Justice George A. Malcolm in Salcedo v. Hernandez,72 to wit:

Respect for the courts can better be obtained by following a calm and impartial course from the
bench than by an attempt to compel respect for the judiciary by chastising a lawyer for a too
vigorous or injudicious exposition of his side of a case. The Philippines needs lawyers of
independent thought and courageous bearing, jealous of the interests of their clients and unafraid of
any court, high or low, and the courts will do well tolerantly to overlook occasional intemperate
language soon to be regretted by the lawyer which affects in no way the outcome of a case.73

On the matter of the reliefs to which respondents believe they are entitled, the Common Compliance
stated, thus:

WHEREFORE:

A. Respondents, as citizens of a democracy, professors of law, members of the Bar and


officers of the Court, respectfully pray that:

1. the foregoing be noted; and

2. the Court reconsider and reverse its adverse findings in the Show Cause
Resolution, including its conclusions that respondents have: [a] breached their
"obligation as law professors and officers of the Court to be the first to uphold the
dignity and authority of this Court, … and not to promote distrust in the administration
of justice;" and [b] committed "violations of Canons 10, 11, and 13 and Rules 1.02
and 11.05 of the Code of Professional Responsibility."

B. In the event the Honorable Court declines to grant the foregoing prayer, respondents
respectfully pray, in the alternative, and in assertion of their due process rights, that before
final judgment be rendered:

1. the Show Cause Resolution be set for hearing;

2. respondents be given a fair and full opportunity to refute and/or address the
findings and conclusions of fact in the Show Cause Resolution (including especially
the finding and conclusion of a lack of malicious intent), and in that connection, that
appropriate procedures and schedules for hearing be adopted and defined that will
allow them the full and fair opportunity to require the production of and to present
testimonial, documentary, and object evidence bearing on the plagiarism and
misrepresentation issues in Vinuya v. Executive Secretary (G.R. No. 162230, April
28, 2010) and In the Matter of the Charges of Plagiarism, etc. Against Associate
Justice Mariano C. Del Castillo (A.M. No. 10-7-17-SC); and

3. respondents be given fair and full access to the transcripts, records, drafts, reports
and submissions in or relating to, and accorded the opportunity to cross-examine the
witnesses who were or could have been called in In The Matter of the Charges of
Plagiarism, etc. Against Associate Justice Mariano C. Del Castillo (A.M. No. 10-7-17-
SC).74

Compliance and Reservation of Prof. Rosa Maria T. Juan-Bautista

Although already included in the Common Compliance, Prof. Rosa Maria T. Juan-Bautista (Prof.
Juan-Bautista) filed a separate Compliance and Reservation (the Bautista Compliance), wherein she
adopted the allegations in the Common Compliance with some additional averments.

Prof. Juan-Bautista reiterated that her due process rights allegedly entitled her to challenge the
findings and conclusions in the Show Cause Resolution. Furthermore, "[i]f the Restoring Integrity
Statement can be considered indirect contempt, under Section 3 of Rule 71 of the Rules of Court,
such may be punished only after charge and hearing."75

Prof. Juan-Bautista stressed that respondents signed the Statement "in good faith and with the best
intentions to protect the Supreme Court by asking one member to resign."76 For her part, Prof. Juan-
Bautista intimated that her deep disappointment and sadness for the plight of the Malaya Lolas were
what motivated her to sign the Statement.

On the point of academic freedom, Prof. Juan-Bautista cited jurisprudence77 which in her view
highlighted that academic freedom is constitutionally guaranteed to institutions of higher learning
such that schools have the freedom to determine for themselves who may teach, what may be
taught, how lessons shall be taught and who may be admitted to study and that courts have no
authority to interfere in the schools’ exercise of discretion in these matters in the absence of grave
abuse of discretion. She claims the Court has encroached on the academic freedom of the
University of the Philippines and other universities on their right to determine how lessons shall be
taught.

Lastly, Prof. Juan-Bautista asserted that the Statement was an exercise of respondents’
constitutional right to freedom of expression that can only be curtailed when there is grave and
imminent danger to public safety, public morale, public health or other legitimate public interest.78

Compliance of Prof. Raul T. Vasquez

On November 19, 2010, Prof. Raul T. Vasquez (Prof. Vasquez) filed a separate Compliance by
registered mail (the Vasquez Compliance). In said Compliance, Prof. Vasquez narrated the
circumstances surrounding his signing of the Statement. He alleged that the Vinuya decision was a
topic of conversation among the UP Law faculty early in the first semester (of academic year 2010-
11) because it reportedly contained citations not properly attributed to the sources; that he was
shown a copy of the Statement by a clerk of the Office of the Dean on his way to his class; and that,
agreeing in principle with the main theme advanced by the Statement, he signed the same in utmost
good faith.79

In response to the directive from this Court to explain why he should not be disciplined as a member
of the Bar under the Show Cause Resolution, Prof. Vasquez also took the position that a lawyer has
the right, like all citizens in a democratic society, to comment on acts of public officers. He invited the
attention of the Court to the following authorities: (a) In re: Vicente Sotto;80 (b) In re: Atty. Vicente
Raul Almacen;81 and (c) a discussion appearing in American Jurisprudence (AmJur) 2d.82 He claims
that he "never had any intention to unduly influence, nor entertained any illusion that he could or
should influence, [the Court] in its disposition of the Vinuya case"83 and that "attacking the integrity of
[the Court] was the farthest thing on respondent’s mind when he signed the Statement."84 Unlike his
colleagues, who wish to impress upon this Court the purported homogeneity of the views on what
constitutes plagiarism, Prof. Vasquez stated in his Compliance that:

13. Before this Honorable Court rendered its Decision dated 12 October 2010, some espoused the
view that willful and deliberate intent to commit plagiarism is an essential element of the same.
Others, like respondent, were of the opinion that plagiarism is committed regardless of the intent of
the perpetrator, the way it has always been viewed in the academe. This uncertainty made the issue
a fair topic for academic discussion in the College. Now, this Honorable Court has ruled that
plagiarism presupposes deliberate intent to steal another’s work and to pass it off as one’s
own.85 (Emphases supplied.)

Also in contrast to his colleagues, Prof. Vasquez was willing to concede that he "might have been
remiss in correctly assessing the effects of such language [in the Statement] and could have been
more careful."86 He ends his discussion with a respectful submission that with his explanation, he
has faithfully complied with the Show Cause Resolution and that the Court will rule that he had not in
any manner violated his oath as a lawyer and officer of the Court.

Separate Compliance of Dean Leonen regarding the charge of violation of Canon 10 in relation to
his submission of a "dummy" of the UP Law Faculty Statement to this Court

In his Compliance, Dean Leonen claimed that there were three drafts/versions of the UP Law
Faculty Statement, which he described as follows:

 "Restoring Integrity I" which bears the entire roster of the faculty of the UP College of Law
in its signing pages, and the actual signatures of the thirty-seven (37) faculty members
subject of the Show Cause Resolution. A copy was filed with the Honorable Court by Roque
and Butuyan on 31 August 2010 in A.M. No. 10-7-17-SC.

 "Restoring Integrity II" which does not bear any actual physical signature, but which
reflects as signatories the names of thirty-seven (37) members of the faculty with the
notation "(SGD.)". A copy of Restoring Integrity II was publicly and physically posted in the
UP College of Law on 10 August 2010. Another copy of Restoring Integrity II was also
officially received by the Honorable Court from the Dean of the UP College of Law on 11
August 2010, almost three weeks before the filing of Restoring Integrity I.

 "Restoring Integrity III" which is a reprinting of Restoring Integrity II, and which presently
serves as the official file copy of the Dean’s Office in the UP College of Law that may be
signed by other faculty members who still wish to. It bears the actual signatures of the thirty-
seven original signatories to Restoring Integrity I above their printed names and the notation
"(SGD.") and, in addition, the actual signatures of eight (8) other members of the faculty
above their handwritten or typewritten names.87

For purposes of this discussion, only Restoring Integrity I and Restoring Integrity II are relevant since
what Dean Leonen has been directed to explain are the discrepancies in the signature pages of
these two documents. Restoring Integrity III was never submitted to this Court.
On how Restoring Integrity I and Restoring Integrity II were prepared and came about, Dean Leonen
alleged, thus:

2.2 On 27 July 2010, sensing the emergence of a relatively broad agreement in the faculty
on a draft statement, Dean Leonen instructed his staff to print the draft and circulate it among
the faculty members so that those who wished to may sign. For this purpose, the staff
encoded the law faculty roster to serve as the printed draft’s signing pages. Thus did the first
printed draft of the Restoring Integrity Statement, Restoring Integrity I, come into being.

2.3. As of 27 July 2010, the date of the Restoring Integrity Statement, Dean Leonen was
unaware that a Motion for Reconsideration of the Honorable Court’s Decision in Vinuya vs.
Executive Secretary (G.R. No. 162230, 28 April 2010) had already been filed, or that the
Honorable Court was in the process of convening its Committee on Ethics and Ethical
Standards in A.M. No. 10-7-17-SC.

2.4. Dean Leonen’s staff then circulated Restoring Integrity I among the members of the
faculty. Some faculty members visited the Dean’s Office to sign the document or had it
brought to their classrooms in the College of Law, or to their offices or residences. Still other
faculty members who, for one reason or another, were unable to sign Restoring Integrity I at
that time, nevertheless conveyed to Dean Leonen their assurances that they would sign as
soon as they could manage.

2.5. Sometime in the second week of August, judging that Restoring Integrity I had been
circulated long enough, Dean Leonen instructed his staff to reproduce the statement in a
style and manner appropriate for posting in the College of Law. Following his own
established practice in relation to significant public issuances, he directed them to reformat
the signing pages so that only the names of those who signed the first printed draft would
appear, together with the corresponding "(SGD.)" note following each name. Restoring
Integrity II thus came into being.88

According to Dean Leonen, the "practice of eliminating blanks opposite or above the names of non-
signatories in the final draft of significant public issuances, is meant not so much for aesthetic
considerations as to secure the integrity of such documents."89 He likewise claimed that "[p]osting
statements with blanks would be an open invitation to vandals and pranksters."90

With respect to the inclusion of Justice Mendoza’s name as among the signatories in Restoring
Integrity II when in fact he did not sign Restoring Integrity I, Dean Leonen attributed the mistake to a
miscommunication involving his administrative officer. In his Compliance, he narrated that:

2.7. Upon being presented with a draft of Restoring Integrity II with the reformatted signing
pages, Dean Leonen noticed the inclusion of the name of Justice Mendoza among the
"(SGD.)" signatories. As Justice Mendoza was not among those who had physically signed
Restoring Integrity I when it was previously circulated, Dean Leonen called the attention of
his staff to the inclusion of the Justice’s name among the "(SGD.)" signatories in Restoring
Integrity II.

2.8. Dean Leonen was told by his administrative officer that she had spoken to Justice
Mendoza over the phone on Friday, 06 August 2010. According to her, Justice Mendoza had
authorized the dean to sign the Restoring Integrity Statement for him as he agreed
fundamentally with its contents. Also according to her, Justice Mendoza was unable at that
time to sign the Restoring Integrity Statement himself as he was leaving for the United States
the following week. It would later turn out that this account was not entirely
accurate.91 (Underscoring and italics supplied.)

Dean Leonen claimed that he "had no reason to doubt his administrative officer, however, and so
placed full reliance on her account"92 as "[t]here were indeed other faculty members who had also
authorized the Dean to indicate that they were signatories, even though they were at that time
unable to affix their signatures physically to the document."93

However, after receiving the Show Cause Resolution, Dean Leonen and his staff reviewed the
circumstances surrounding their effort to secure Justice Mendoza’s signature. It would turn out that
this was what actually transpired:

2.22.1. On Friday, 06 August 2010, when the dean’s staff talked to Justice Mendoza on the
phone, he [Justice Mendoza] indeed initially agreed to sign the Restoring Integrity Statement
as he fundamentally agreed with its contents. However, Justice Mendoza did not exactly say
that he authorized the dean to sign the Restoring Integrity Statement. Rather, he inquired if
he could authorize the dean to sign it for him as he was about to leave for the United States.
The dean’s staff informed him that they would, at any rate, still try to bring the Restoring
Integrity Statement to him.

2.22.2. Due to some administrative difficulties, Justice Mendoza was unable to sign the
Restoring Integrity Statement before he left for the U.S. the following week.

2.22.3. The staff was able to bring Restoring Integrity III to Justice Mendoza when he went to
the College to teach on 24 September 2010, a day after his arrival from the U.S. This time,
Justice Mendoza declined to sign.94

According to the Dean:

2.23. It was only at this time that Dean Leonen realized the true import of the call he received from
Justice Mendoza in late September. Indeed, Justice Mendoza confirmed that by the time the hard
copy of the Restoring Integrity Statement was brought to him shortly after his arrival from the U.S.,
he declined to sign it because it had already become controversial. At that time, he predicted that the
Court would take some form of action against the faculty. By then, and under those circumstances,
he wanted to show due deference to the Honorable Court, being a former Associate Justice and not
wishing to unduly aggravate the situation by signing the Statement.95 (Emphases supplied.)

With respect to the omission of Atty. Armovit’s name in the signature page of Restoring Integrity II
when he was one of the signatories of Restoring Integrity I and the erroneous description in Dean
Leonen’s August 10, 2010 letter that the version of the Statement submitted to the Court was signed
by 38 members of the UP Law Faculty, it was explained in the Compliance that:

Respondent Atty. Miguel Armovit physically signed Restoring Integrity I when it was circulated to
him. However, his name was inadvertently left out by Dean Leonen’s staff in the reformatting of the
signing pages in Restoring Integrity II. The dean assumed that his name was still included in the
reformatted signing pages, and so mentioned in his cover note to Chief Justice Corona that 38
members of the law faculty signed (the original 37 plus Justice Mendoza.)96

Dean Leonen argues that he should not be deemed to have submitted a dummy of the Statement
that was not a true and faithful reproduction of the same. He emphasized that the main body of the
Statement was unchanged in all its three versions and only the signature pages were not the same.
This purportedly is merely "reflective of [the Statement’s] essential nature as a ‘live’ public manifesto
meant to continuously draw adherents to its message, its signatory portion is necessarily evolving
and dynamic x x x many other printings of [the Statement] may be made in the future, each one
reflecting the same text but with more and more signatories."97 Adverting to criminal law by analogy,
Dean Leonen claims that "this is not an instance where it has been made to appear in a document
that a person has participated in an act when the latter did not in fact so participate"98 for he "did not
misrepresent which members of the faculty of the UP College of Law had agreed with the Restoring
Integrity Statement proper and/or had expressed their desire to be signatories thereto."99

In this regard, Dean Leonen believes that he had not committed any violation of Canon 10 or Rules
10.01 and 10.02 for he did not mislead nor misrepresent to the Court the contents of the Statement
or the identities of the UP Law faculty members who agreed with, or expressed their desire to be
signatories to, the Statement. He also asserts that he did not commit any violation of Rule 10.03 as
he "coursed [the Statement] through the appropriate channels by transmitting the same to Honorable
Chief Justice Corona for the latter’s information and proper disposition with the hope that its points
would be duly considered by the Honorable Court en banc."100 Citing Rudecon Management
Corporation v. Camacho,101 Dean Leonen posits that the required quantum of proof has not been
met in this case and that no dubious character or motivation for the act complained of existed to
warrant an administrative sanction for violation of the standard of honesty provided for by the Code
of Professional Responsibility.102

Dean Leonen ends his Compliance with an enumeration of nearly identical reliefs as the Common
Compliance, including the prayers for a hearing and for access to the records, evidence and
witnesses allegedly relevant not only in this case but also in A.M. No. 10-7-17-SC, the ethical
investigation involving Justice Del Castillo.

Manifestation of Prof. Owen Lynch (Lynch Manifestation)

For his part, Prof. Owen Lynch (Prof. Lynch) manifests to this Court that he is not a member of the
Philippine bar; but he is a member of the bar of the State of Minnesota. He alleges that he first
taught as a visiting professor at the UP College of Law in 1981 to 1988 and returned in the same
capacity in 2010. He further alleges that "[h]e subscribes to the principle, espoused by this Court and
the Supreme Court of the United States, that ‘…[d]ebate on public issues should be uninhibited,
robust and wide open and that it may well include vehement, caustic, and sometimes unpleasantly
sharp attacks on government and public officials."103 In signing the Statement, he believes that "the
right to speak means the right to speak effectively."104 Citing the dissenting opinions in Manila Public
School Teachers Association v. Laguio, Jr.,105 Prof. Lynch argued that "[f]or speech to be effective, it
must be forceful enough to make the intended recipients listen"106 and "[t]he quality of education
would deteriorate in an atmosphere of repression, when the very teachers who are supposed to
provide an example of courage and self-assertiveness to their pupils can speak only in timorous
whispers."107 Relying on the doctrine in In the Matter of Petition for Declaratory Relief Re:
Constitutionality of Republic Act 4880, Gonzales v. Commission on Elections,108 Prof. Lynch believed
that the Statement did not pose any danger, clear or present, of any substantive evil so as to remove
it from the protective mantle of the Bill of Rights (i.e., referring to the constitutional guarantee on free
speech).109 He also stated that he "has read the Compliance of the other respondents to the Show
Cause Resolution" and that "he signed the Restoring Integrity Statement for the same reasons they
did."110

ISSUES

Based on the Show Cause Resolution and a perusal of the submissions of respondents, the material
issues to be resolved in this case are as follows:
1.) Does the Show Cause Resolution deny respondents their freedom of expression?

2.) Does the Show Cause Resolution violate respondents’ academic freedom as law
professors?

3.) Do the submissions of respondents satisfactorily explain why they should not be
disciplined as Members of the Bar under Canons 1, 11, and 13 and Rules 1.02 and 11.05 of
the Code of Professional Responsibility?

4.) Does the separate Compliance of Dean Leonen satisfactorily explain why he should not
be disciplined as a Member of the Bar under Canon 10, Rules 10.01, 10.02 and 10.03?

5.) Are respondents entitled to have the Show Cause Resolution set for hearing and in
relation to such hearing, are respondents entitled to require the production or presentation of
evidence bearing on the plagiarism and misrepresentation issues in the Vinuya case (G.R.
No. 162230) and the ethics case against Justice Del Castillo (A.M. No. 10-7-17-SC) and to
have access to the records and transcripts of, and the witnesses and evidence presented, or
could have been presented, in the ethics case against Justice Del Castillo (A.M. No. 10-7-17-
SC)?

DISCUSSION

The Show Cause Resolution does not deny respondents their freedom of expression.

It is respondents’ collective claim that the Court, with the issuance of the Show Cause Resolution,
has interfered with respondents’ constitutionally mandated right to free speech and expression. It
appears that the underlying assumption behind respondents’ assertion is the misconception that this
Court is denying them the right to criticize the Court’s decisions and actions, and that this Court
seeks to "silence" respondent law professors’ dissenting view on what they characterize as a
"legitimate public issue."

This is far from the truth. A reading of the Show Cause Resolution will plainly show that it was
neither the fact that respondents had criticized a decision of the Court nor that they had charged one
of its members of plagiarism that motivated the said Resolution. It was the manner of the criticism
and the contumacious language by which respondents, who are not parties nor counsels in
the Vinuya case, have expressed their opinion in favor of the petitioners in the said pending case for
the "proper disposition" and consideration of the Court that gave rise to said Resolution. The Show
Cause Resolution painstakingly enumerated the statements that the Court considered excessive and
uncalled for under the circumstances surrounding the issuance, publication, and later submission to
this Court of the UP Law faculty’s Restoring Integrity Statement.

To reiterate, it was not the circumstance that respondents expressed a belief that Justice Del Castillo
was guilty of plagiarism but rather their expression of that belief as "not only as an established fact,
but a truth"111 when it was "[o]f public knowledge [that there was] an ongoing investigation precisely
to determine the truth of such allegations."112 It was also pointed out in the Show Cause Resolution
that there was a pending motion for reconsideration of the Vinuya decision.113 The Show Cause
Resolution made no objections to the portions of the Restoring Integrity Statement that respondents
claimed to be "constructive" but only asked respondents to explain those portions of the said
Statement that by no stretch of the imagination could be considered as fair or constructive, to wit:

Beyond this, however, the statement bore certain remarks which raise concern for the Court. The
opening sentence alone is a grim preamble to the institutional attack that lay ahead. It reads:
An extraordinary act of injustice has again been committed against the brave Filipinas who had
suffered abuse during a time of war.

The first paragraph concludes with a reference to the decision in Vinuya v. Executive Secretary as
a reprehensible act of dishonesty and misrepresentation by the Highest Court of the land. x x x.

The insult to the members of the Court was aggravated by imputations of deliberately delaying the
resolution of the said case, its dismissal on the basis of "polluted sources," the Court’s alleged
indifference to the cause of petitioners [in the Vinuya case], as well as the supposed alarming lack of
concern of the members of the Court for even the most basic values of decency and respect.114 x x x.
(Underscoring ours.)

To be sure, the Show Cause Resolution itself recognized respondents’ freedom of expression when
it stated that:

While most agree that the right to criticize the judiciary is critical to maintaining a free and democratic
society, there is also a general consensus that healthy criticism only goes so far. Many types of
criticism leveled at the judiciary cross the line to become harmful and irresponsible attacks. These
potentially devastating attacks and unjust criticism can threaten the independence of the
judiciary. The court must "insist on being permitted to proceed to the disposition of its business in an
orderly manner, free from outside interference obstructive of its functions and tending to embarrass
the administration of justice."

The Court could hardly perceive any reasonable purpose for the faculty’s less than objective
comments except to discredit the April 28, 2010 Decision in the Vinuya case and undermine the
Court’s honesty, integrity and competence in addressing the motion for its reconsideration. As if the
case on the comfort women’s claims is not controversial enough, the UP Law faculty would fan the
flames and invite resentment against a resolution that would not reverse the said decision. This
runs contrary to their obligation as law professors and officers of the Court to be the first to uphold
the dignity and authority of this Court, to which they owe fidelity according to the oath they have
taken as attorneys, and not to promote distrust in the administration of justice.115 x x x. (Citations
omitted; emphases and underscoring supplied.)

Indeed, in a long line of cases, including those cited in respondents’ submissions, this Court has
held that the right to criticize the courts and judicial officers must be balanced against the equally
primordial concern that the independence of the Judiciary be protected from due influence or
interference. In cases where the critics are not only citizens but members of the Bar, jurisprudence
has repeatedly affirmed the authority of this Court to discipline lawyers whose statements regarding
the courts and fellow lawyers, whether judicial or extrajudicial, have exceeded the limits of fair
comment and common decency.

As early as the 1935 case of Salcedo v. Hernandez,116 the Court found Atty. Vicente J. Francisco
both guilty of contempt and liable administratively for the following paragraph in his second motion
for reconsideration:

We should like frankly and respectfully to make it of record that the resolution of this court, denying
our motion for reconsideration, is absolutely erroneous and constitutes an outrage to the rights of the
petitioner Felipe Salcedo and a mockery of the popular will expressed at the polls in the municipality
of Tiaong, Tayabas. We wish to exhaust all the means within our power in order that this error may
be corrected by the very court which has committed it, because we should not want that some
citizen, particularly some voter of the municipality of Tiaong, Tayabas, resort to the press publicly to
denounce, as he has a right to do, the judicial outrage of which the herein petitioner has been the
victim, and because it is our utmost desire to safeguard the prestige of this honorable court and of
each and every member thereof in the eyes of the public. But, at the same time we wish to state
sincerely that erroneous decisions like these, which the affected party and his thousands of voters
will necessarily consider unjust, increase the proselytes of 'sakdalism' and make the public lose
confidence in the administration of justice.117 (Emphases supplied.)

The highlighted phrases were considered by the Court as neither justified nor necessary and further
held that:

[I]n order to call the attention of the court in a special way to the essential points relied upon in his
argument and to emphasize the force thereof, the many reasons stated in his said motion were
sufficient and the phrases in question were superfluous. In order to appeal to reason and justice, it is
highly improper and amiss to make trouble and resort to threats, as Attorney Vicente J. Francisco
has done, because both means are annoying and good practice can never sanction them by reason
of their natural tendency to disturb and hinder the free exercise of a serene and impartial judgment,
particularly in judicial matters, in the consideration of questions submitted for resolution.

There is no question that said paragraph of Attorney Vicente J. Francisco's motion contains a more
or less veiled threat to the court because it is insinuated therein, after the author shows the course
which the voters of Tiaong should follow in case he fails in his attempt, that they will resort to the
press for the purpose of denouncing, what he claims to be a judicial outrage of which his client has
been the victim; and because he states in a threatening manner with the intention of predisposing
the mind of the reader against the court, thus creating an atmosphere of prejudices against it in
order to make it odious in the public eye, that decisions of the nature of that referred to in his motion
promote distrust in the administration of justice and increase the proselytes of sakdalism, a
movement with seditious and revolutionary tendencies the activities of which, as is of public
knowledge, occurred in this country a few days ago. This cannot mean otherwise than contempt of
the dignity of the court and disrespect of the authority thereof on the part of Attorney Vicente J.
Francisco, because he presumes that the court is so devoid of the sense of justice that, if he did not
resort to intimidation, it would maintain its error notwithstanding the fact that it may be proven, with
good reasons, that it has acted erroneously.118 (Emphases supplied.)

Significantly, Salcedo is the decision from which respondents culled their quote from
the minority view of Justice Malcolm. Moreover, Salcedo concerned statements made in a pleading
filed by a counsel in a case, unlike the respondents here, who are neither parties nor counsels in
the Vinuya case and therefore, do not have any standing at all to interfere in the Vinuya case.
Instead of supporting respondents’ theory, Salcedo is authority for the following principle:

As a member of the bar and an officer of this court, Attorney Vicente J. Francisco, as any attorney, is
in duty bound to uphold its dignity and authority and to defend its integrity, not only because it has
conferred upon him the high privilege, not a right (Malcolm, Legal Ethics, 158 and 160), of being
what he now is: a priest of justice (In re Thatcher, 80 Ohio St. Rep., 492, 669), but also because
in so doing, he neither creates nor promotes distrust in the administration of justice, and prevents
anybody from harboring and encouraging discontent which, in many cases, is the source of disorder,
thus undermining the foundation upon which rests that bulwark called judicial power to which those
who are aggrieved turn for protection and relief.119 (Emphases supplied.)

Thus, the lawyer in Salcedo was fined and reprimanded for his injudicious statements in his
pleading, by accusing the Court of "erroneous ruling." Here, the respondents’ Statement goes way
beyond merely ascribing error to the Court.
Other cases cited by respondents likewise espouse rulings contrary to their position. In re: Atty.
Vicente Raul Almacen,120 cited in the Common Compliance and the Vasquez Compliance, was an
instance where the Court indefinitely suspended a member of the Bar for filing and releasing to the
press a "Petition to Surrender Lawyer’s Certificate of Title" in protest of what he claimed was a great
injustice to his client committed by the Supreme Court. In the decision, the petition was described,
thus:

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

"x x x a resolution issue ordering the Clerk of Court to receive the certificate of the undersigned
attorney and counsellor-at-law IN TRUST with reservation that at any time in the future and in the
event we regain our faith and confidence, we may retrieve our title to assume the practice of the
noblest profession."121

It is true that in Almacen the Court extensively discussed foreign jurisprudence on the principle that a
lawyer, just like any citizen, has the right to criticize and comment upon actuations of public officers,
including judicial authority. However, the real doctrine in Almacen is that such criticism of the courts,
whether done in court or outside of it, must conform to standards of fairness and propriety. This case
engaged in an even more extensive discussion of the legal authorities sustaining this view. To 1awphi 1

quote from that decision:

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

For, membership in the Bar imposes upon a person obligations and duties which are not mere flux
and ferment. His investiture into the legal profession places upon his shoulders no burden more
basic, more exacting and more imperative than that of respectful behavior toward the courts. He
vows solemnly to conduct himself "with all good fidelity x x x to the courts;" and the Rules of Court
constantly remind him "to observe and maintain the respect due to courts of justice and judicial
officers." The first canon of legal ethics enjoins him "to maintain towards the courts a respectful
attitude, not for the sake of the temporary incumbent of the judicial office, but for the maintenance of
its supreme importance."

As Mr. Justice Field puts it:

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

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

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

xxxx

In his relations with the courts, a lawyer may not divide his personality so as to be an attorney at one
time and a mere citizen at another. Thus, statements made by an attorney in private conversations
or communications or in the course of a political campaign, if couched in insulting language as to
bring into scorn and disrepute the administration of justice, may subject the attorney to disciplinary
action.122 (Emphases and underscoring supplied.)

In a similar vein, In re: Vicente Sotto,123 cited in the Vasquez Compliance, observed that:

[T]his Court, in In re Kelly, held the following:

The publication of a criticism of a party or of the court to a pending cause, respecting the same, has
always been considered as misbehavior, tending to obstruct the administration of justice, and
subjects such persons to contempt proceedings. Parties have a constitutional right to have their
causes tried fairly in court, by an impartial tribunal, uninfluenced by publications or public clamor.
Every citizen has a profound personal interest in the enforcement of the fundamental right to have
justice administered by the courts, under the protection and forms of law, free from outside coercion
or interference. x x x.

Mere criticism or comment on the correctness or wrongness, soundness or unsoundness of the


decision of the court in a pending case made in good faith may be tolerated; because if well founded
it may enlighten the court and contribute to the correction of an error if committed; but if it is not well
taken and obviously erroneous, it should, in no way, influence the court in reversing or modifying its
decision. x x x.

xxxx

To hurl the false charge that this Court has been for the last years committing deliberately "so many
blunders and injustices," that is to say, that it has been deciding in favor of one party knowing that
the law and justice is on the part of the adverse party and not on the one in whose favor the decision
was rendered, in many cases decided during the last years, would tend necessarily to undermine the
confidence of the people in the honesty and integrity of the members of this Court, and consequently
to lower or degrade the administration of justice by this Court. The Supreme Court of the Philippines
is, under the Constitution, the last bulwark to which the Filipino people may repair to obtain relief for
their grievances or protection of their rights when these are trampled upon, and if the people lose
their confidence in the honesty and integrity of the members of this Court and believe that they
cannot expect justice therefrom, they might be driven to take the law into their own hands, and
disorder and perhaps chaos might be the result. As a member of the bar and an officer of the courts
Atty. Vicente Sotto, like any other, is in duty bound to uphold the dignity and authority of this Court,
to which he owes fidelity according to the oath he has taken as such attorney, and not to promote
distrust in the administration of justice. Respect to the courts guarantees the stability of other
institutions, which without such guaranty would be resting on a very shaky foundation.124 (Emphases
and underscoring supplied.)

That the doctrinal pronouncements in these early cases are still good law can be easily gleaned
even from more recent jurisprudence.

In Choa v. Chiongson,125 the Court administratively disciplined a lawyer, through the imposition of a
fine, for making malicious and unfounded criticisms of a judge in the guise of an administrative
complaint and held, thus:

As an officer of the court and its indispensable partner in the sacred task of administering justice,
graver responsibility is imposed upon a lawyer than any other to uphold the integrity of the courts
and to show respect to its officers. This does not mean, however, that a lawyer cannot criticize a
judge. As we stated in Tiongco vs. Hon. Aguilar:

It does not, however, follow that just because a lawyer is an officer of the court, he cannot criticize
the courts. That is his right as a citizen, and it is even his duty as an officer of the court to avail of
such right. Thus, in In Re: Almacen (31 SCRA 562, 579-580 [1970]), this Court explicitly declared:

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

xxxx

Nevertheless, such a right is not without limit. For, as this Court warned in Almacen:

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

xxxx

Elsewise stated, the right to criticize, which is guaranteed by the freedom of speech and of
expression in the Bill of Rights of the Constitution, must be exercised responsibly, for every right
carries with it a corresponding obligation. Freedom is not freedom from responsibility, but freedom
with responsibility. x x x.

xxxx

Proscribed then are, inter alia, the use of unnecessary language which jeopardizes high esteem in
courts, creates or promotes distrust in judicial administration (Rheem, supra), or tends necessarily to
undermine the confidence of people in the integrity of the members of this Court and to degrade the
administration of justice by this Court (In re: Sotto, 82 Phil. 595 [1949]); or of offensive and abusive
language (In re: Rafael Climaco, 55 SCRA 107 [1974]); or abrasive and offensive language
(Yangson vs. Salandanan, 68 SCRA 42 [1975]; or of disrespectful, offensive, manifestly baseless,
and malicious statements in pleadings or in a letter addressed to the judge (Baja vs. Macandog, 158
SCRA [1988], citing the resolution of 19 January 1988 in Phil. Public Schools Teachers Association
vs. Quisumbing, G.R. No. 76180, and Ceniza vs. Sebastian, 130 SCRA 295 [1984]); or of
disparaging, intemperate, and uncalled-for remarks (Sangalang vs. Intermediate Appellate Court,
177 SCRA 87 [1989]).

Any criticism against a judge made in the guise of an administrative complaint which is clearly
unfounded and impelled by ulterior motive will not excuse the lawyer responsible therefor under his
duty of fidelity to his client. x x x.126 (Emphases and underscoring supplied.)

In Saberon v. Larong,127 where this Court found respondent lawyer guilty of simple misconduct for
using intemperate language in his pleadings and imposed a fine upon him, we had the occasion to
state:

The Code of Professional Responsibility mandates:

CANON 8 - A lawyer shall conduct himself with courtesy, fairness and candor toward his
professional colleagues, and shall avoid harassing tactics against opposing counsel.

Rule 8.01 - A lawyer shall not, in his professional dealings, use language which is abusive, offensive
or otherwise improper.

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

Rule 11.03 - A lawyer shall abstain from scandalous, offensive or menacing language or
behavior before the Courts.

To be sure, the adversarial nature of our legal system has tempted members of the bar to use strong
language in pursuit of their duty to advance the interests of their clients.

However, while a lawyer is entitled to present his case with vigor and courage, such
enthusiasm does not justify the use of offensive and abusive language. Language abounds
with countless possibilities for one to be emphatic but respectful, convincing but not
derogatory, illuminating but not offensive.

On many occasions, the Court has reminded members of the Bar to abstain from all offensive
personality and to advance no fact prejudicial to the honor or reputation of a party or witness,
unless required by the justice of the cause with which he is charged. In keeping with the dignity of
the legal profession, a lawyer’s language even in his pleadings must be dignified.128

Verily, the accusatory and vilifying nature of certain portions of the Statement exceeded the limits of
fair comment and cannot be deemed as protected free speech. Even In the Matter of Petition for
Declaratory Relief Re: Constitutionality of Republic Act 4880, Gonzales v. Commission on
Elections,129 relied upon by respondents in the Common Compliance, held that:

From the language of the specific constitutional provision, it would appear that the right is not
susceptible of any limitation. No law may be passed abridging the freedom of speech and of the
press. The realities of life in a complex society preclude however a literal interpretation. Freedom of
expression is not an absolute. It would be too much to insist that at all times and under all
circumstances it should remain unfettered and unrestrained. There are other societal values that
press for recognition. x x x.130 (Emphasis supplied.)

One such societal value that presses for recognition in the case at bar is the threat to judicial
independence and the orderly administration of justice that immoderate, reckless and unfair attacks
on judicial decisions and institutions pose. This Court held as much in Zaldivar v. Sandiganbayan
and Gonzales,131 where we indefinitely suspended a lawyer from the practice of law for issuing to
the media statements grossly disrespectful towards the Court in relation to a pending case, to wit:

Respondent Gonzales is entitled to the constitutional guarantee of free speech. No one seeks to
deny him that right, least of all this Court. What respondent seems unaware of is that freedom of
speech and of expression, like all constitutional freedoms, is not absolute and that freedom of
expression needs on occasion to be adjusted to and accommodated with the requirements of
equally important public interest. One of these fundamental public interests is the maintenance of the
integrity and orderly functioning of the administration of justice. There is no antinomy between free
expression and the integrity of the system of administering justice. For the protection and
maintenance of freedom of expression itself can be secured only within the context of a functioning
and orderly system of dispensing justice, within the context, in other words, of viable independent
institutions for delivery of justice which are accepted by the general community. x x x.132 (Emphases
supplied.)

For this reason, the Court cannot uphold the view of some respondents133 that the Statement
presents no grave or imminent danger to a legitimate public interest.

The Show Cause Resolution does not interfere with respondents’ academic freedom.

It is not contested that respondents herein are, by law and jurisprudence, guaranteed academic
freedom and undisputably, they are free to determine what they will teach their students and how
they will teach. We must point out that there is nothing in the Show Cause Resolution that dictates
upon respondents the subject matter they can teach and the manner of their instruction. Moreover, it
is not inconsistent with the principle of academic freedom for this Court to subject lawyers who teach
law to disciplinary action for contumacious conduct and speech, coupled with undue intervention in
favor of a party in a pending case, without observing proper procedure, even if purportedly done in
their capacity as teachers.

A novel issue involved in the present controversy, for it has not been passed upon in any previous
case before this Court, is the question of whether lawyers who are also law professors can invoke
academic freedom as a defense in an administrative proceeding for intemperate statements tending
to pressure the Court or influence the outcome of a case or degrade the courts.

Applying by analogy the Court’s past treatment of the "free speech" defense in other bar discipline
cases, academic freedom cannot be successfully invoked by respondents in this case. The implicit
ruling in the jurisprudence discussed above is that the constitutional right to freedom of expression of
members of the Bar may be circumscribed by their ethical duties as lawyers to give due respect to
the courts and to uphold the public’s faith in the legal profession and the justice system. To our mind,
the reason that freedom of expression may be so delimited in the case of lawyers applies with
greater force to the academic freedom of law professors.

It would do well for the Court to remind respondents that, in view of the broad definition in Cayetano
v. Monsod,134 lawyers when they teach law are considered engaged in the practice of law. Unlike
professors in other disciplines and more than lawyers who do not teach law, respondents are bound
by their oath to uphold the ethical standards of the legal profession. Thus, their actions as law
professors must be measured against the same canons of professional responsibility applicable to
acts of members of the Bar as the fact of their being law professors is inextricably entwined with the
fact that they are lawyers.

Even if the Court was willing to accept respondents’ proposition in the Common Compliance that
their issuance of the Statement was in keeping with their duty to "participate in the development of
the legal system by initiating or supporting efforts in law reform and in the improvement of the
administration of justice" under Canon 4 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, we cannot agree
that they have fulfilled that same duty in keeping with the demands of Canons 1, 11 and 13 to give
due respect to legal processes and the courts, and to avoid conduct that tends to influence the
courts. Members of the Bar cannot be selective regarding which canons to abide by given particular
situations. With more reason that law professors are not allowed this indulgence, since they are
expected to provide their students exemplars of the Code of Professional Responsibility as a whole
and not just their preferred portions thereof.

The Court’s rulings on the submissions regarding the charge of violation of Canons 1, 11 and 13.

Having disposed of respondents’ main arguments of freedom of expression and academic freedom,
the Court considers here the other averments in their submissions.

With respect to good faith, respondents’ allegations presented two main ideas: (a) the validity of their
position regarding the plagiarism charge against Justice Del Castillo, and (b) their pure motive to
spur this Court to take the correct action on said issue.

The Court has already clarified that it is not the expression of respondents’ staunch belief that
Justice Del Castillo has committed a misconduct that the majority of this Court has found so
unbecoming in the Show Cause Resolution. No matter how firm a lawyer’s conviction in the
righteousness of his cause there is simply no excuse for denigrating the courts and engaging in
public behavior that tends to put the courts and the legal profession into disrepute. This doctrine,
which we have repeatedly upheld in such cases as Salcedo, In re Almacen and Saberong, should be
applied in this case with more reason, as the respondents, not parties to the Vinuya case,
denounced the Court and urged it to change its decision therein, in a public statement using
contumacious language, which with temerity they subsequently submitted to the Court for "proper
disposition."

That humiliating the Court into reconsidering the Vinuya Decision in favor of the Malaya Lolas was
one of the objectives of the Statement could be seen in the following paragraphs from the same:

And in light of the significance of this decision to the quest for justice not only of Filipino women, but
of women elsewhere in the world who have suffered the horrors of sexual abuse and exploitation in
times of war, the Court cannot coldly deny relief and justice to the petitioners on the basis of pilfered
and misinterpreted texts.

xxxx

(3) The same breach and consequent disposition of the Vinuya case does violence to the primordial
function of the Supreme Court as the ultimate dispenser of justice to all those who have been left
without legal or equitable recourse, such as the petitioners therein.135 (Emphases and underscoring
supplied.)
Whether or not respondents’ views regarding the plagiarism issue in the Vinuya case had valid basis
was wholly immaterial to their liability for contumacious speech and conduct. These are two separate
matters to be properly threshed out in separate proceedings. The Court considers it highly
inappropriate, if not tantamount to dissembling, the discussion devoted in one of the compliances
arguing the guilt of Justice Del Castillo. In the Common Compliance, respondents even go so far as
to attach documentary evidence to support the plagiarism charges against Justice Del Castillo in the
present controversy. The ethics case of Justice Del Castillo (A.M. No. 10-7-17-SC), with the filing of
a motion for reconsideration, was still pending at the time of the filing of respondents’ submissions in
this administrative case. As respondents themselves admit, they are neither parties nor counsels in
the ethics case against Justice Del Castillo. Notwithstanding their professed overriding interest in
said ethics case, it is not proper procedure for respondents to bring up their plagiarism arguments
here especially when it has no bearing on their own administrative case.

Still on motive, it is also proposed that the choice of language in the Statement was intended for
effective speech; that speech must be "forceful enough to make the intended recipients
listen."136 One wonders what sort of effect respondents were hoping for in branding this Court as,
among others, callous, dishonest and lacking in concern for the basic values of decency and
respect. The Court fails to see how it can ennoble the profession if we allow respondents to send a
signal to their students that the only way to effectively plead their cases and persuade others to their
point of view is to be offensive.

This brings to our mind the letters of Dr. Ellis and Prof. Tams which were deliberately quoted in full in
the narration of background facts to illustrate the sharp contrast between the civil tenor of these
letters and the antagonistic irreverence of the Statement. In truth, these foreign authors are the ones
who would expectedly be affected by any perception of misuse of their works. Notwithstanding that
they are beyond the disciplinary reach of this Court, they still obviously took pains to convey their
objections in a deferential and scholarly manner. It is unfathomable to the Court why respondents
could not do the same. These foreign authors’ letters underscore the universality of the tenet that
legal professionals must deal with each other in good faith and due respect. The mark of the true
intellectual is one who can express his opinions logically and soberly without resort to exaggerated
rhetoric and unproductive recriminations.

As for the claim that the respondents’ noble intention is to spur the Court to take "constructive action"
on the plagiarism issue, the Court has some doubts as to its veracity. For if the Statement was
primarily meant for this Court’s consideration, why was the same published and reported in the
media first before it was submitted to this Court? It is more plausible that the Statement was
prepared for consumption by the general public and designed to capture media attention as part of
the effort to generate interest in the most controversial ground in the Supplemental Motion for
Reconsideration filed in the Vinuya case by Atty. Roque, who is respondents’ colleague on the UP
Law faculty.

In this regard, the Court finds that there was indeed a lack of observance of fidelity and due respect
to the Court, particularly when respondents knew fully well that the matter of plagiarism in the Vinuya
decision and the merits of the Vinuya decision itself, at the time of the Statement’s issuance, were
still both sub judice or pending final disposition of the Court. These facts have been widely
publicized. On this point, respondents allege that at the time the Statement was first drafted on July
27, 2010, they did not know of the constitution of the Ethics Committee and they had issued the
Statement under the belief that this Court intended to take no action on the ethics charge against
Justice Del Castillo. Still, there was a significant lapse of time from the drafting and printing of the
Statement on July 27, 2010 and its publication and submission to this Court in early August when
the Ethics Committee had already been convened. If it is true that the respondents’ outrage was
fueled by their perception of indifference on the part of the Court then, when it became known that
the Court did intend to take action, there was nothing to prevent respondents from recalibrating the
Statement to take this supervening event into account in the interest of fairness.

Speaking of the publicity this case has generated, we likewise find no merit in the respondents’
reliance on various news reports and commentaries in the print media and the internet as proof that
they are being unfairly "singled out." On the contrary, these same annexes to the Common
Compliance show that it is not enough for one to criticize the Court to warrant the institution of
disciplinary137 or contempt138 action. This Court takes into account the nature of the criticism and
weighs the possible repercussions of the same on the Judiciary. When the criticism comes from
persons outside the profession who may not have a full grasp of legal issues or from individuals
whose personal or other interests in making the criticism are obvious, the Court may perhaps
tolerate or ignore them. However, when law professors are the ones who appear to have lost sight of
the boundaries of fair commentary and worse, would justify the same as an exercise of civil liberties,
this Court cannot remain silent for such silence would have a grave implication on legal education in
our country.

With respect to the 35 respondents named in the Common Compliance, considering that this
appears to be the first time these respondents have been involved in disciplinary proceedings of this
sort, the Court is willing to give them the benefit of the doubt that they were for the most part well-
intentioned in the issuance of the Statement. However, it is established in jurisprudence that where
the excessive and contumacious language used is plain and undeniable, then good intent can only
be mitigating. As this Court expounded in Salcedo:

In his defense, Attorney Vicente J. Francisco states that it was not his intention to offend the court or
to be recreant to the respect thereto but, unfortunately, there are his phrases which need no further
comment. Furthermore, it is a well settled rule in all places where the same conditions and practice
as those in this jurisdiction obtain, that want of intention is no excuse from liability (13 C. J., 45).
Neither is the fact that the phrases employed are justified by the facts a valid defense:

"Where the matter is abusive or insulting, evidence that the language used was justified by the facts
is not admissible as a defense. Respect for the judicial office should always be observed and
enforced." (In re Stewart, 118 La., 827; 43 S., 455.) Said lack or want of intention constitutes at most
an extenuation of liability in this case, taking into consideration Attorney Vicente J. Francisco's state
of mind, according to him when he prepared said motion. This court is disposed to make such
concession. However, in order to avoid a recurrence thereof and to prevent others, by following the
bad example, from taking the same course, this court considers it imperative to treat the case of said
attorney with the justice it deserves.139 (Emphases supplied.)

Thus, the 35 respondents named in the Common Compliance should, notwithstanding their claim of
good faith, be reminded of their lawyerly duty, under Canons 1, 11 and 13, to give due respect to the
courts and to refrain from intemperate and offensive language tending to influence the Court on
pending matters or to denigrate the courts and the administration of justice.

With respect to Prof. Vasquez, the Court favorably notes the differences in his Compliance
compared to his colleagues. In our view, he was the only one among the respondents who showed
true candor and sincere deference to the Court. He was able to give a straightforward account of
how he came to sign the Statement. He was candid enough to state that his agreement to the
Statement was in principle and that the reason plagiarism was a "fair topic of discussion" among the
UP Law faculty prior to the promulgation of the October 12, 2010 Decision in A.M. No. 10-7-17-SC
was the uncertainty brought about by a division of opinion on whether or not willful or deliberate
intent was an element of plagiarism. He was likewise willing to acknowledge that he may have been
remiss in failing to assess the effect of the language of the Statement and could have used more
care. He did all this without having to retract his position on the plagiarism issue, without demands
for undeserved reliefs (as will be discussed below) and without baseless insinuations of deprivation
of due process or of prejudgment. This is all that this Court expected from respondents, not for them
to sacrifice their principles but only that they recognize that they themselves may have committed
some ethical lapse in this affair. We commend Prof. Vaquez for showing that at least one of the
respondents can grasp the true import of the Show Cause Resolution involving them. For these
reasons, the Court finds Prof. Vasquez’s Compliance satisfactory.

As for Prof. Lynch, in view of his Manifestation that he is a member of the Bar of the State of
Minnesota and, therefore, not under the disciplinary authority of this Court, he should be excused
from these proceedings. However, he should be reminded that while he is engaged as a professor in
a Philippine law school he should strive to be a model of responsible and professional conduct to his
students even without the threat of sanction from this Court. For even if one is not bound by the
Code of Professional Responsibility for members of the Philippine Bar, civility and respect among
legal professionals of any nationality should be aspired for under universal standards of decency and
fairness.

The Court’s ruling on Dean Leonen’s Compliance regarding the charge of violation of Canon 10.

To recall, the Show Cause Resolution directed Dean Leonen to show cause why he should not be
disciplinary dealt with for violation of Canon 10, Rules 10.01, 10.02 and 10.03 and for submitting a
"dummy" that was not a true and faithful reproduction of the signed Statement.

In his Compliance, Dean Leonen essentially denies that Restoring Integrity II was not a true and
faithful reproduction of the actual signed copy, Restoring Integrity I, because looking at the text or
the body, there were no differences between the two. He attempts to downplay the discrepancies in
the signature pages of the two versions of the Statement (i.e., Restoring Integrity I and Restoring
Integrity II) by claiming that it is but expected in "live" public manifestos with dynamic and evolving
pages as more and more signatories add their imprimatur thereto. He likewise stresses that he is not
administratively liable because he did not misrepresent the members of the UP Law faculty who
"had agreed with the Restoring Integrity Statement proper and/or who had expressed their desire to
be signatories thereto."140

To begin with, the Court cannot subscribe to Dean Leonen’s implied view that the signatures in the
Statement are not as significant as its contents. Live public manifesto or not, the Statement was
formally submitted to this Court at a specific point in time and it should reflect accurately its
signatories at that point. The value of the Statement as a UP Law Faculty Statement lies precisely in
the identities of the persons who have signed it, since the Statement’s persuasive authority mainly
depends on the reputation and stature of the persons who have endorsed the same. Indeed, it is
apparent from respondents’ explanations that their own belief in the "importance" of their positions
as UP law professors prompted them to publicly speak out on the matter of the plagiarism issue in
the Vinuya case.

Further, in our assessment, the true cause of Dean Leonen’s predicament is the fact that he did not
from the beginning submit the signed copy, Restoring Integrity I, to this Court on August 11, 2010
and, instead, submitted Restoring Integrity II with its retyped or "reformatted" signature pages. It
would turn out, according to Dean Leonen’s account, that there were errors in the retyping of the
signature pages due to lapses of his unnamed staff. First, an unnamed administrative officer in the
dean’s office gave the dean inaccurate information that led him to allow the inclusion of Justice
Mendoza as among the signatories of Restoring Integrity II. Second, an unnamed staff also failed to
type the name of Atty. Armovit when encoding the signature pages of Restoring Integrity II when in
fact he had signed Restoring Integrity I.
The Court can understand why for purposes of posting on a bulletin board or a website a signed
document may have to be reformatted and signatures may be indicated by the notation (SGD). This
is not unusual. We are willing to accept that the reformatting of documents meant for posting to
eliminate blanks is necessitated by vandalism concerns.

However, what is unusual is the submission to a court, especially this Court, of a signed document
for the Court’s consideration that did not contain the actual signatures of its authors. In most cases, it
is the original signed document that is transmitted to the Court or at the very least a photocopy of the
actual signed document. Dean Leonen has not offered any explanation why he deviated from this
practice with his submission to the Court of Restoring Integrity II on August 11, 2010. There was
nothing to prevent the dean from submitting Restoring Integrity I to this Court even with its blanks
and unsigned portions. Dean Leonen cannot claim fears of vandalism with respect to court
submissions for court employees are accountable for the care of documents and records that may
come into their custody. Yet, Dean Leonen deliberately chose to submit to this Court the facsimile
that did not contain the actual signatures and his silence on the reason therefor is in itself a display
of lack of candor.

Still, a careful reading of Dean Leonen’s explanations yield the answer. In the course of his
explanation of his willingness to accept his administrative officer’s claim that Justice Mendoza
agreed to be indicated as a signatory, Dean Leonen admits in a footnote that other professors had
likewise only authorized him to indicate them as signatories and had not in fact signed the
Statement. Thus, at around the time Restoring Integrity II was printed, posted and submitted to this
Court, at least one purported signatory thereto had not actually signed the same. Contrary to Dean
Leonen’s proposition, that is precisely tantamount to making it appear to this Court that a person or
persons participated in an act when such person or persons did not.

We are surprised that someone like Dean Leonen, with his reputation for perfection and stringent
standards of intellectual honesty, could proffer the explanation that there was no misrepresentation
when he allowed at least one person to be indicated as having actually signed the Statement when
all he had was a verbal communication of an intent to sign. In the case of Justice Mendoza, what he
had was only hearsay information that the former intended to sign the Statement. If Dean Leonen
was truly determined to observe candor and truthfulness in his dealings with the Court, we see no
reason why he could not have waited until all the professors who indicated their desire to sign the
Statement had in fact signed before transmitting the Statement to the Court as a duly signed
document. If it was truly impossible to secure some signatures, such as that of Justice Mendoza who
had to leave for abroad, then Dean Leonen should have just resigned himself to the signatures that
he was able to secure.

We cannot imagine what urgent concern there was that he could not wait for actual signatures
before submission of the Statement to this Court. As respondents all asserted, they were neither
parties to nor counsels in the Vinuya case and the ethics case against Justice Del Castillo. The
Statement was neither a pleading with a deadline nor a required submission to the Court; rather, it
was a voluntary submission that Dean Leonen could do at any time.

In sum, the Court likewise finds Dean Leonen’s Compliance unsatisfactory. However, the Court is
willing to ascribe these isolated lapses in judgment of Dean Leonen to his misplaced zeal in pursuit
of his objectives. In due consideration of Dean Leonen’s professed good intentions, the Court deems
it sufficient to admonish Dean Leonen for failing to observe full candor and honesty in his dealings
with the Court as required under Canon 10.
Respondents’ requests for a hearing, for production/presentation of evidence bearing on the
plagiarism and misrepresentation issues in G.R. No. 162230 and A.M. No. 10-7-17-SC, and for
access to the records of A.M. No. 10-7-17-SC are unmeritorious.

In the Common Compliance, respondents named therein asked for alternative reliefs should the
Court find their Compliance unsatisfactory, that is, that the Show Cause Resolution be set for
hearing and for that purpose, they be allowed to require the production or presentation of witnesses
and evidence bearing on the plagiarism and misrepresentation issues in the Vinuya case (G.R. No.
162230) and the plagiarism case against Justice Del Castillo (A.M. No. 10-7-17-SC) and to have
access to the records of, and evidence that were presented or may be presented in the ethics case
against Justice Del Castillo. The prayer for a hearing and for access to the records of A.M. No. 10-7-
17-SC was substantially echoed in Dean Leonen’s separate Compliance. In Prof. Juan-Bautista’s
Compliance, she similarly expressed the sentiment that "[i]f the Restoring Integrity Statement can be
considered indirect contempt, under Section 3 of Rule 71 of the Rules of Court, such may be
punished only after charge and hearing."141 It is this group of respondents’ premise that these reliefs
are necessary for them to be accorded full due process.

The Court finds this contention unmeritorious.

Firstly, it would appear that the confusion as to the necessity of a hearing in this case springs largely
from its characterization as a special civil action for indirect contempt in the Dissenting Opinion of
Justice Sereno (to the October 19, 2010 Show Cause Resolution) and her reliance therein on the
majority’s purported failure to follow the procedure in Rule 71 of the Rules of Court as her main
ground for opposition to the Show Cause Resolution.

However, once and for all, it should be clarified that this is not an indirect contempt proceeding and
Rule 71 (which requires a hearing) has no application to this case. As explicitly ordered in the Show
Cause Resolution this case was docketed as an administrative matter.

The rule that is relevant to this controversy is Rule 139-B, Section 13, on disciplinary proceedings
initiated motu proprio by the Supreme Court, to wit:

SEC. 13. Supreme Court Investigators.—In proceedings initiated motu proprio by the Supreme Court
or in other proceedings when the interest of justice so requires, the Supreme Court may refer the
case for investigation to the Solicitor General or to any officer of the Supreme Court or judge of a
lower court, in which case the investigation shall proceed in the same manner provided in sections 6
to 11 hereof, save that the review of the report of investigation shall be conducted directly by the
Supreme Court. (Emphasis supplied.)

From the foregoing provision, it cannot be denied that a formal investigation, through a referral to the
specified officers, is merely discretionary, not mandatory on the Court. Furthermore, it is only if the
Court deems such an investigation necessary that the procedure in Sections 6 to 11 of Rule 139-A
will be followed.

As respondents are fully aware, in general, administrative proceedings do not require a trial type
hearing. We have held that:

The essence of due process is simply an opportunity to be heard or, as applied to administrative
proceedings, an opportunity to explain one's side or an opportunity to seek a reconsideration of the
action or ruling complained of. What the law prohibits is absolute absence of the opportunity to be
heard, hence, a party cannot feign denial of due process where he had been afforded the
opportunity to present his side. A formal or trial type hearing is not at all times and in all instances
essential to due process, the requirements of which are satisfied where the parties are afforded fair
and reasonable opportunity to explain their side of the controversy.142 (Emphases supplied.)

In relation to bar discipline cases, we have had the occasion to rule in Pena v. Aparicio143 that:

Disciplinary proceedings against lawyers are sui generis. Neither purely civil nor purely criminal, they
do not involve a trial of an action or a suit, but is rather an investigation by the Court into the conduct
of one of its officers. Not being intended to inflict punishment, it is in no sense a criminal prosecution.
Accordingly, there is neither a plaintiff nor a prosecutor therein. It may be initiated by the Court motu
proprio. Public interest is its primary objective, and the real question for determination is whether or
not the attorney is still a fit person to be allowed the privileges as such. Hence, in the exercise of its
disciplinary powers, the Court merely calls upon a member of the Bar to account for his actuations
as an officer of the Court with the end in view of preserving the purity of the legal profession and the
proper and honest administration of justice by purging the profession of members who by their
misconduct have proved themselves no longer worthy to be entrusted with the duties and
responsibilities pertaining to the office of an attorney. In such posture, there can thus be no occasion
to speak of a complainant or a prosecutor.144 (Emphases supplied.)

In Query of Atty. Karen M. Silverio-Buffe, Former Clerk of Court – Br. 81, Romblon – On the
Prohibition from Engaging in the Private Practice of Law,145 we further observed that:

[I]n several cases, the Court has disciplined lawyers without further inquiry or resort to any formal
investigation where the facts on record sufficiently provided the basis for the determination of their
administrative liability.

In Prudential Bank v. Castro, the Court disbarred a lawyer without need of any further investigation
after considering his actions based on records showing his unethical misconduct; the misconduct not
only cast dishonor on the image of both the Bench and the Bar, but was also inimical to public
interest and welfare. In this regard, the Court took judicial notice of several cases handled by the
errant lawyer and his cohorts that revealed their modus operandi in circumventing the payment of
the proper judicial fees for the astronomical sums they claimed in their cases. The Court held that
those cases sufficiently provided the basis for the determination of respondents' administrative
liability, without need for further inquiry into the matter under the principle of res ipsa loquitur.

Also on the basis of this principle, we ruled in Richards v. Asoy, that no evidentiary hearing is
required before the respondent may be disciplined for professional misconduct already established
by the facts on record.

xxxx

These cases clearly show that the absence of any formal charge against and/or formal investigation
of an errant lawyer do not preclude the Court from immediately exercising its disciplining authority,
as long as the errant lawyer or judge has been given the opportunity to be heard. As we stated
earlier, Atty. Buffe has been afforded the opportunity to be heard on the present matter through her
letter-query and Manifestation filed before this Court.146 (Emphases supplied.)

Under the rules and jurisprudence, respondents clearly had no right to a hearing and their
reservation of a right they do not have has no effect on these proceedings. Neither have they shown
in their pleadings any justification for this Court to call for a hearing in this instance. They have not
specifically stated what relevant evidence, documentary or testimonial, they intend to present in their
defense that will necessitate a formal hearing.
Instead, it would appear that they intend to present records, evidence, and witnesses bearing on the
plagiarism and misrepresentation issues in the Vinuya case and in A.M. No. 10-7-17-SC on the
assumption that the findings of this Court which were the bases of the Show Cause Resolution were
made in A.M. No. 10-7-17-SC, or were related to the conclusions of the Court in the Decision in that
case. This is the primary reason for their request for access to the records and evidence presented
in A.M. No. 10-7-17-SC.

This assumption on the part of respondents is erroneous. To illustrate, the only incident in A.M. No.
10-7-17-SC that is relevant to the case at bar is the fact that the submission of the actual signed
copy of the Statement (or Restoring Integrity I, as Dean Leonen referred to it) happened there. Apart
from that fact, it bears repeating that the proceedings in A.M. No. 10-7-17-SC, the ethics case
against Justice Del Castillo, is a separate and independent matter from this case.

To find the bases of the statements of the Court in the Show Cause Resolution that the respondents
issued a Statement with language that the Court deems objectionable during the pendency of the
Vinuya case and the ethics case against Justice Del Castillo, respondents need to go no further than
the four corners of the Statement itself, its various versions, news reports/columns (many of which
respondents themselves supplied to this Court in their Common Compliance) and internet sources
that are already of public knowledge.

Considering that what respondents are chiefly required to explain are the language of the Statement
and the circumstances surrounding the drafting, printing, signing, dissemination, etc., of its various
versions, the Court does not see how any witness or evidence in the ethics case of Justice Del
Castillo could possibly shed light on these facts. To be sure, these facts are within the knowledge of
respondents and if there is any evidence on these matters the same would be in their possession.

We find it significant that in Dean Leonen’s Compliance he narrated how as early as September
2010, i.e., before the Decision of this Court in the ethics case of Justice Del Castillo on October 12,
2010 and before the October 19, 2010 Show Cause Resolution, retired Supreme Court Justice
Vicente V. Mendoza, after being shown a copy of the Statement upon his return from abroad,
predicted that the Court would take some form of action on the Statement. By simply reading a hard
copy of the Statement, a reasonable person, even one who "fundamentally agreed" with the
Statement’s principles, could foresee the possibility of court action on the same on an implicit
recognition that the Statement, as worded, is not a matter this Court should simply let pass. This
belies respondents’ claim that it is necessary for them to refer to any record or evidence in A.M. No.
10-7-17-SC in order to divine the bases for the Show Cause Resolution.

If respondents have chosen not to include certain pieces of evidence in their respective compliances
or chosen not to make a full defense at this time, because they were counting on being granted a
hearing, that is respondents’ own look-out. Indeed, law professors of their stature are supposed to
be aware of the above jurisprudential doctrines regarding the non-necessity of a hearing in
disciplinary cases. They should bear the consequence of the risk they have taken.

Thus, respondents’ requests for a hearing and for access to the records of, and evidence presented
in, A.M. No. 10-7-17-SC should be denied for lack of merit.

A final word

In a democracy, members of the legal community are hardly expected to have monolithic views on
any subject, be it a legal, political or social issue. Even as lawyers passionately and vigorously
propound their points of view they are bound by certain rules of conduct for the legal profession. This
Court is certainly not claiming that it should be shielded from criticism. All the Court demands is the
same respect and courtesy that one lawyer owes to another under established ethical standards. All
lawyers, whether they are judges, court employees, professors or private practitioners, are officers of
the Court and have voluntarily taken an oath, as an indispensable qualification for admission to the
Bar, to conduct themselves with good fidelity towards the courts. There is no exemption from this
sworn duty for law professors, regardless of their status in the academic community or the law
school to which they belong.

WHEREFORE, this administrative matter is decided as follows:

(1) With respect to Prof. Vasquez, after favorably noting his submission, the Court finds his
Compliance to be satisfactory.

(2) The Common Compliance of 35 respondents, namely, Attys. Marvic M.V.F. Leonen,
Froilan M. Bacungan, Pacifico A. Agabin, Merlin M. Magallona, Salvador T. Carlota, Carmelo
V. Sison, Patricia R.P. Salvador Daway, Dante B. Gatmaytan, Theodore O. Te, Florin T.
Hilbay, Jay L. Batongbacal, Evelyn (Leo) D. Battad, Gwen G. De Vera, Solomon F. Lumba,
Rommel J. Casis, Jose Gerardo A. Alampay, Miguel R. Armovit, Arthur P. Autea, Rosa Maria
J. Bautista, Mark R. Bocobo, Dan P. Calica, Tristan A. Catindig, Sandra Marie O. Coronel,
Rosario O. Gallo, Concepcion L. Jardeleza, Antonio G.M. La Viña, Carina C. Laforteza, Jose
C. Laureta, Rodolfo Noel S. Quimbo, Antonio M. Santos, Gmeleen Faye B. Tomboc,
Nicholas Felix L. Ty, Evalyn G. Ursua, Susan D. Villanueva and Dina D. Lucenario, is found
UNSATISFACTORY. These 35 respondent law professors are reminded of their lawyerly
duty, under Canons 1, 11 and 13 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, to give due
respect to the Court and to refrain from intemperate and offensive language tending to
influence the Court on pending matters or to denigrate the Court and the administration of
justice and warned that the same or similar act in the future shall be dealt with more
severely.

(3) The separate Compliance of Dean Marvic M.V.F. Leonen regarding the charge of
violation of Canon 10 is found UNSATISFACTORY. He is further ADMONISHED to be more
mindful of his duty, as a member of the Bar, an officer of the Court, and a Dean and
professor of law, to observe full candor and honesty in his dealings with the Court and
warned that the same or similar act in the future shall be dealt with more severely.

(4) Prof. Lynch, who is not a member of the Philippine bar, is excused from these
proceedings. However, he is reminded that while he is engaged as a professor in a
Philippine law school he should strive to be a model of responsible and professional conduct
to his students even without the threat of sanction from this Court.

(5) Finally, respondents’ requests for a hearing and for access to the records of A.M. No. 10-
7-17-SC are denied for lack of merit.

SO ORDERED.

Republic of the Philippines


SUPREME COURT
Manila

EN BANC

A.C. No. 7676 June 10, 2014


AMADO T. DIZON, Complainant,
vs.
ATTY. NORLITA DE TAZA, Respondent.

DECISION

REYES, J.:

This concerns an administrative complaint1 for disbarment against Atty. Norlita De Taza (Atty. De
Taza) for the latter's demand for and receipt of exorbitant sums of money from her client purportedly
to expedite the proceedings of their case which was pending before the Court.

The Facts

Amado Dizon (complainant) alleged that sometime in February 2005, he, along with his siblings
engaged the services of Romero De Taza Cruz and Associates to represent them in the case of
Eliza T. Castaneda, et al. v. Heirs of Spouses Martin and Lucia Dizon with G.R. No. 174552.2 The
complainant claimed that sometime in February 2007, Atty. De Taza demanded the sum of Seventy-
Five Thousand Pesos (₱75,000.00) from him to expedite the proceedings before the Court. This
amount was over and above the parties’ stipulated retainer fee as evidenced by a contract.3

According to the complainant, unknown to him at that time was that, a month earlier or in January
2007, Atty. De Taza had already demanded and received a total of Eight Hundred Thousand Pesos
(₱800,000.00) from his sibling Aurora Dizon, for the same reason that Atty. De Taza proffered to
him, which was to expedite the proceedings of their case before the Court. Handwritten
receipts4 signed by one Atty. Norlita De Taza were submitted by the complainant, which state:

15 Jan. 2007

Receipt

That the amount received ₱300,000 shall be used to expedite the case which, in turn shall result in
the following:

1. Decision favorable to plaintiff w/in 2 mos. from receipt of said amount;

2. Back rentals up to present should be returned, if the same should not be included in the
Decision, the 300,000.00 shall be returned.

Signed

Atty. Norlita De Taza518 Jan. 2007

Receipt

The amount of ₱500,000 has been advanced as part of expense [sic] to expedite the process before
the courts. The said amount has been advanced by Ms. Aurora Dizon and the same should be
reimbursed to her by her siblings upon winning the case with finality.

Signed
Atty. Norlita De Taza6

On October 24, 2007, the complainant went to this Court in Padre Faura, Manila and learned that
the Court had already denied the petition on November 20, 2006, contrary to Atty. De Taza’s
representations that the case was still pending. He tried to communicate with Atty. De Taza, but she
could no longer be found.7

Thereafter, on November 6, 2007, the complainant instituted a complaint for disbarment8 against
Atty. De Taza. He also attached several affidavits and documents9 from other individuals who
attested that Atty. De Taza issued bouncing checks and/or failed to pay off her debts to them. A
certain Ana Lynda Pineda executed an affidavit10 which was attached to the complaint, alleging that
Atty. De Taza issued 11 checks11 in her favor amounting to ₱481,400.00, which were all dishonored
by the bank. Demand letters sent to her went unheeded.

Likewise, Darwin Tiamzon, a creditor of Atty. De Taza, whose Affidavit12 was attached to the
complaint, averred that Atty. De Taza issued a check13 for ₱50,000.00 as payment for her loan. Said
check was dishonored by the bank for being drawn against a closed account.

Furthermore, a certain Eleanor Sarmiento submitted an affidavit,14 stating that Atty. De Taza owes
her ₱29,560.39 and failed to pay the said amount despite repeated demands.

On November 14, 2007, the complainant through a letter15 informed the Court that Atty. De Taza is
planning to leave the country as she was joining her husband in the United States of America
(U.S.A.).

In a Resolution16 dated December 10, 2007, Atty. De Taza was required by the Court to file a
Comment. However, the copy of the Resolution was returned unserved with the postal carrier’s
notation "RTS (Return to Sender)-Moved". The Court then resolved by virtue of the
Resolution17 dated July 2, 2008, to send a copy to Atty. De Taza’s office address at Romero De Taza
Cruz and Associates. Said copy was also returned unserved with the notation "RTS-not connected."

It was then required in the Resolution18 dated October 8, 2008 that the complainant inform the Court
of Atty. De Taza’s new address, which the complainant faithfully complied with by giving Atty. De
Taza’s new address in the U.S.A. The Court, in its Resolution19 dated January 26, 2009, directed the
Clerk of Court to resend a copy of the Resolution dated December 10, 2007 with a copy of the
complaint to Atty. De Taza using the latter’s U.S.A. address.

Like the previous occasions, the copy of the Resolution dated December 10, 2007 with the complaint
was returned; this time, with the postal carrier’s notation "RTS-Unclaimed". The Court in its
Resolution20 dated September 9, 2009, held that the said copy of the Resolution was deemed served
and resolved to consider Atty. De Taza as having waived the filing of her comment. The case was
referred to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) for investigation, report and recommendation.

A Notice of Mandatory Conference21 was sent to the parties, in which they failed to appear. Thus, the
parties were directed to file their respective position papers. The complainant, in a letter22 addressed
to the IBP, averred that he was already residing abroad and maintained that he had already
submitted his documentary evidence at the time of the filing of his complaint. Atty. De Taza, for her
part, did not file any position paper.

In its Report and Recommendation23 dated January 4,2011, the IBP Commission on Bar Discipline
recommended that Atty. De Taza be suspended for a period of two years from the practice of law.
The IBP Board of Governors modified the Commission on Bar Discipline’s recommendation in a
Resolution24 dated January 3, 2013, viz:

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


with modification, the Report and Recommendation of the Investigating Commissioner in the above-
entitled case, herein made part of this Resolution as Annex "A", and finding the recommendation
fully supported by the evidence on record and the applicable laws and rules, and considering
Respondent’s demand of [P]800,000.00 to expedite the case pending in the Supreme Court when, in
fact, the case had long been dismissed, Atty. Norlita De Taza is hereby SUSPENDED from the
practice of law for one (1) year.25 (Emphasis supplied)

The Issue

WHETHER ATTY. DE TAZASHOULD BE HELD ADMINISTRATIVELY LIABLE FOR ISSUING


BOUNCING CHECKS, DEMANDING AND/OR RECEIVING MONEY FROM HER CLIENTS
UNDERTHE GUISE OF HAVING THE PROCEEDINGS BEFORE THE COURT EXPEDITED. Ruling

The Court acknowledges the fact that Atty. De Taza was not able to refute the accusations against
her. Numerous attempts were made to afford her an opportunity to defend herself from the
complainant’s allegations, but all these efforts were only met with silence. Whether her transfer of
residence was an unscrupulous move on her part to evade her creditors, only she would certainly
know. But as far as the Court is concerned, all means were exhausted to give Atty. De Taza an
avenue to oppose the complainant’s charges. Her failure and/or refusal to file a comment will not be
a hindrance for the Court to mete out an appropriate sanction.

The Court has time and again ruled that disciplinary proceedings are investigations by the Court to
ascertain whether a lawyer is fit to be one. There is neither a plaintiff nor a prosecutor therein. As
this Court held in Gatchalian Promotions Talents Pool, Inc. v. Atty. Naldoza,26 citing In the Matter of
the Proceedings for Disciplinary Action Against Atty. Almacen, et al. v. Yaptinchay:27 "Disciplinary
proceedings against lawyers are sui generis. Neither purely civil nor purely criminal, they do not
involve a trial of an action or a suit, but are rather investigations by the Court into the conduct of one
of its officers. Not being intended to inflict punishment, [they are] in no sense a criminal prosecution.
Accordingly, there is neither a plaintiff nor a prosecutor therein. [They] may be initiated by the Court
motu proprio. Public interest is [their] primary objective, and the real question for determination is
whether or not the attorney is still a fit person to be allowed the privileges as such. Hence, in the
exercise of its disciplinary powers, the Court merely calls upon a member of the Bar to account for
his actuations as an officer of the Court with the end in view of preserving the purity of the legal
profession and the proper and honest administration of justice by purging the profession of members
who by their misconduct have prove[n] themselves no longer worthy to be entrusted with the duties
and responsibilities pertaining to the office of an attorney. x x x.28 (Italics supplied)

"In administrative proceedings, only substantial evidence, i.e., that amount of relevant evidence that
a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion, is required."29 Based on the
documentary evidence submitted by the complainant, it appears that Atty. De Taza manifested a
propensity for borrowing money, issuing bouncing checks and incurring debts which she left unpaid
without any reason. The complainant even submitted a document evidencing Atty. De Taza’s
involvement in an estafa and violation of Batas Pambansa (B.P.) No. 22 case filed before the Office
of the City Prosecutor in Angeles City (I.S. 07-J-2815-36) for drawing checks against a closed
account, among other complaint-affidavits executed by her other creditors. Such conduct, while
already off-putting when attributed to an ordinary person, is much more abhorrent when the same is
exhibited by a member of the Bar. As a lawyer, Atty. De Taza must remember that she is not only a
symbol but also an instrument of justice, equity and fairness.
"We have held that the issuance of checks which were later dishonored for having been drawn
against a closed account indicates a lawyer’s unfitness for the trust and confidence reposed on her.
It shows a lack of personal honesty and good moral character as to render her unworthy of public
confidence. The issuance of a series of worthless checks also shows the remorseless attitude of
respondent, unmindful to the deleterious effects of such act to the public interest and public order. It
1âwphi1

also manifests a lawyer’s low regard to her commitment to the oath she has taken when she joined
her peers, seriously and irreparably tarnishing the image of the profession she should hold in high
esteem."30

Atty. De Taza’s actuations towards the complainant and his siblings were even worse as she had the
gall to make it appear to the complainant that the proceedings before the Court can be expedited
and ruled in their favor in exchange for an exorbitant amount of money. Said scheme was employed
by Atty. De Taza just to milk more money from her clients. Without a doubt, Atty. De Taza’s actions
are reprehensible and her greed more than apparent when she even used the name of the Court to
defraud her client.

When a lawyer receives money from the client for a particular purpose, the lawyer is bound to render
an accounting to the client showing that the money was spent for that particular purpose. And if he
does not use the money for the intended purpose, the lawyer must immediately return the money to
his client.31 In this case, the purpose for which Atty. De Taza demanded money is baseless and non-
existent. Thus, her demand should not have even been made in the first place.

Section 27, Rule 138 of the Revised Rules of Court provides for the disbarment or suspension of a
lawyer for any of the following: (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.32

The Court in Victoria C. Heenan v. Atty. Erlinda Espejo33 suspended the respondent from the practice
of law for two years when the latter issued checks which were dishonored due to insufficiency of
funds. In A-1 Financial Services, Inc. v. Valerio,34 the same penalty was meted out by this Court to
the erring lawyer who issued worthless checks to pay off her loan.

Additionally, in Anacta v. Resurreccion,35 the Court held that suspension from the practice of law for
four years was the appropriate sanction for a lawyer who defrauded his client into paying ₱42,000.00
to him for the purported filing of a petition for annulment of marriage. The respondent therein
presented to his client a copy of the petition with stamped receipt from the trial court when in reality,
no such petition was filed.

In Celaje v. Atty. Soriano,36 the respondent therein demanded ₱14,000.00 from the complainant to be
put up as injunction bond and asked for additional sums of money on other occasions, supposedly to
pay the judge who was handling the case. When the complainant verified this with the judge, the
judge denied the respondent’s allegations. The complainant later learned that the bond was also
unnecessary, as the application for a writ was already denied by the trial court. Due to the foregoing,
the Court suspended the respondent from the practice of law for two years.

"Law is a noble profession, and the privilege to practice it is bestowed only upon individuals who are
competent intellectually, academically and, equally important, morally. Because they are vanguards
of the law and the legal system, lawyers must at all times conduct themselves, especially in their
dealings with their clients and the public at large, with honesty and integrity in a manner beyond
reproach."37 "The Judiciary has been besieged enough with accusations of corruption and
malpractice. For a member of the legal profession to further stoke the embers of mistrust on the
judicial system with such irresponsible representations is reprehensible and cannot be tolerated."38

All told, the Court holds that there is no reason to deviate from the report and recommendation of the
IBP Commission on Bar Discipline which is to suspend Atty. De Taza from the practice of law for two
years.

WHEREFORE, respondent Atty. Norlita De Taza is hereby SUSPENDED from the practice of law for
TWO YEARS with a STERN WARNING that a repetition of the same or similar infraction would be
dealt with more severely.

Let copies of this Decision be furnished all courts of the land, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines,
as well as the Office of the Bar Confidant for their information and guidance, and let it be entered in
Atty. Norlita De Taza's record in this Court.

SO ORDERED.

Republic of the Philippines


SUPREME COURT
Manila

THIRD DIVISION

A.C. No. 5359 March 10, 2014

ERMELINDA LAD VOA. DE DOMINGUEZ, represented by her Attorney-in-Fact, VICENTE A.


PICHON, Complainant,
vs.
ATTY. ARNULFO M. AGLERON, SR., Respondent.

RESOLUTION

MENDOZA, J.:

Complainant Ermelinda Lad Vda. De Dominguez (complainant) was the widow of the late Felipe
Domiguez who died in a vehicular accident in Caraga, Davao Oriental, on October 18, 1995,
involving a dump truck owned by the Municipality of Caraga. Aggrieved, complainant decided to file
charges against the Municipality of Caraga and engaged the services of respondent Atty. Arnulfo M.
Agleron, Sr. (Atty. Agleron). On three (3) occasions, Atty. Agleron requested and received from
complainant the following amounts for the payment of filing fees and sheriffs fees, to wit: (1) June 3,
1996 -₱3,000.00; (2) June 7, 1996 -Pl,800.00; and September 2, 1996 - ₱5,250.00 or a total of
₱10,050.00. After the lapse of four (4) years, however, no complaint was filed by Atty. Agleron
against the Municipality of Caraga.1

Atty. Agleron admitted that complainant engaged his professional service and received the amount
of ₱10,050.00. He, however, explained that their agreement was that complainant would pay the
filing fees and other incidental expenses and as soon as the complaint was prepared and ready for
filing, complainant would pay 30% of the agreed attorney’s fees of ₱100,000.00. On June 7, 1996,
after the signing of the complaint, he advised complainant to pay in full the amount of the filing fee
and sheriff’s fees and the 30% of the attorney’s fee, but complainant failed to do so. Atty. Agleron
averred that since the complaint could not be filed in court, the amount of ₱10,050.00 was deposited
in a bank while awaiting the payment of the balance of the filing fee and attorney’s fee.2

In reply,3 complainant denied that she did not give the full payment of the filing fee and asserted that
the filing fee at that time amounted only to ₱7,836.60.

In the Report and Recommendation,4 dated January 12, 2012, the Investigating Commissioner found
Atty. Agleron to have violated the Code of Professional Responsibility when he neglected a legal
matter entrusted to him, and recommended that he be suspended from the practice of law for a
period of four (4) months.

In its April 16, 2013 Resolution,5 the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) Board of Governors
adopted and approved the report and recommendation of the Investigating Commissioner with
modification that Atty. Agleron be suspended from the practice of law for a period of only one (1)
month.

The Court agrees with the recommendation of the IBP Board of Governors except as to the penalty
imposed.

Atty. Agleron violated Rule 18.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, which provides that:

Rule 18.03-A lawyer shall not neglect a legal matter entrusted to him, and his negligence in
connection therewith shall render him liable.

Once a lawyer takes up the cause of his client, he is duty bound to serve his client with competence,
and to attend to his client’s cause with diligence, care and devotion regardless of whether he
accepts it for a fee or for free.6 He owes fidelity to such cause and must always be mindful of the
trust and confidence reposed on him.7

In the present case, Atty. Agleron admitted his failure to file the complaint against the Municipality of
Caraga, Davao Oriental, despite the fact that it was already prepared and signed. He attributed his
non-filing of the appropriate charges on the failure of complainant to remit the full payment of the
filing fee and pay the 30% of the attorney's fee. Such justification, however, is not a valid excuse that
would exonerate him from liability. As stated, every case that is entrusted to a lawyer deserves his
full attention whether he accepts this for a fee or free. Even assuming that complainant had not
remitted the full payment of the filing fee, he should have found a way to speak to his client and
inform him about the insufficiency of the filing fee so he could file the complaint. Atty. Agleron
obviously lacked professionalism in dealing with complainant and showed incompetence when he
failed to file the appropriate charges.
1âw phi 1

In a number of cases,8 the Court held that a lawyer should never neglect a legal matter entrusted to
him, otherwise his negligence renders him liable for disciplinary action such as suspension ranging
from three months to two years. In this case, the Court finds the suspension of Atty. Agleron from the
practice of law for a period of three (3) months sufficient.

WHEREFORE, the resolution of the IBP Board of Governors is hereby AFFIRMED with
MODIFICATION. Accordingly, respondent ATTY. ARNULFO M. AGLERON, SR. is hereby
SUSPENDED from the practice of law for a period of THREE (3) MONTHS, with a stern warning that
a repetition of the same or similar wrongdoing will be dealt with more severely.
Let a copy of this resolution be furnished the Bar Confidant to be included in 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.

Republic of the Philippines


SUPREME COURT
Manila

THIRD DIVISION

A.C. No. 10164 March 10, 2014

STEPHAN BRUNET and VIRGINIA ROMANILLOS BRUNET, Complainants,


vs.
ATTY. RONALD L. GUAREN, Respondent.

RESOLUTION

MENDOZA, J.:

On August 9, 2002, complainant spouses Stephan and Virginia Brunet (complainants) filed a
complaint against respondent Atty. Ronald L. Guaren (Atty. Guaren) before the Commission on Bar
Discipline (CED), Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP).

Complainants alleged that in February 1997, they engaged the services of Atty. Guaren for the titling
of a residential lot they acquired in Bonbon, Nueva Caseres; that Atty. Guaren asked for a fee of Ten
Thousand Pesos (₱10,000.00) including expenses relative to its proceeding; that it was agreed that
full payment of the fee shall be made after the delivery of the title; that Atty. Guaren asked for an
advance fee of One Thousand Pesos (Pl,000.00) which they gave; that Atty. Guaren took all the
pertinent documents relative to the titling of their lot-certified true copy of the tax declaration, original
copy of the deed of exchange, sketch plan, deed of donation, survey plan, and original copy of the
waiver; that on March 10, 1997, Atty. Guaren asked for additional payment of Six Thousand Pesos
(₱6,000.00) which they dutifully gave; that from 1997 to 2001, they always reminded Atty. Guaren
about the case and each time he would say that the titling was in progress; that they became
bothered by the slow progress of the case so they demanded the return of the money they paid; and
that respondent agreed to return the same provided that the amount of Five Thousand Pesos
(₱5,000.00) be deducted to answer for his professional fees.

Complainants further alleged that despite the existence of an attorney-client relationship between
them, Atty. Guaren made a special appearance against them in a case pending before the
Metropolitan Circuit Trial Court, Oslob, Cebu (MCTC).

Atty. Guaren admitted that he indeed charged complainants an acceptance fee of ₱10,000.00, but
denied that the amount was inclusive of expenses for the titling of the lot. He claimed, however, that
he received the payment of ₱1,000.00 and ₱6,000.00; that their agreement was that the case would
be filed in court after the complainants fully paid his acceptance fee; that he did not take the
documents relative to the titling of the lot except for the photocopy of the tax declaration; and that he
did not commit betrayal of trust and confidence when he participated in a case filed against the
complainants in MCTC explaining that his appearance was for and in behalf of Atty. Ervin
Estandante, the counsel on record, who failed to appear in the said hearing.

In the Report and Recommendation,1 dated August 24, 2012, the Investigating Commissioner found
Atty. Guaren to have violated the Canon of Professional Responsibility when he accepted the titling
of complainants’ lot and despite the acceptance of ₱7,000.00, he failed to perform his obligation and
allowed 5 long years to elapse without any progress in the titling of the lot. Atty. Guaren should also
be disciplined for appearing in a case against complainants without a written consent from the latter.
The CBD recommended that he be suspended for six (6) months.

In its May 20, 2013 Resolution,2 the IBP Board of Governors, adopted and approved with
modification the Report and Recommendation of the CBD, suspending Atty. Guaren from the
practice of law for three (3) months only.

The Court adopts the findings of the IBP Board of Governors on the unethical conduct of Atty.
Guaren, except as to the penalty.

The practice of law is not a business. It is a profession in which duty to public service, not money, is
the primary consideration. Lawyering is not primarily meant to be a money-making venture, and law
advocacy is not a capital that necessarily yields profits. The gaining of a livelihood should be a
secondary consideration. The duty to public service and to the administration of justice should be the
primary consideration of lawyers, who must subordinate their personal interests or what they owe to
themselves.3

Canons 17 and 18 of the Code of Professional Responsibility provides that:

CANON 17 - A lawyer owes fidelity to the cause of his client and he shall be mindful of the trust and
confidence reposed in him.

CANON 18 - A lawyer shall serve his client with competence and diligence.

In the present case, Atty. Guaren admitted that he accepted the amount of ₱7,000.00 as partial
payment of his acceptance fee. He, however, failed to perform his obligation to file the case for the
titling of complainants' lot despite the lapse of 5 years. Atty. Guaren breached his duty to serve his
client with competence and diligence when he neglected a legal matter entrusted to him. 1âwphi1

WHEREFORE, respondent Atty. Ronald L. Guaren is found GUILTY of having violated Canons 17
and 18 of the Code of Professional Responsibility and is hereby SUSPENDED from the practice of
law for a period of SIX (6) MONTHS effective from receipt of this Resolution, with a warning that a
similar infraction in the future shall be dealt with more severely.

Let a copy of this resolution be furnished the Bar Confidant to be included in 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.
FIRST DIVISION

A.C. No. 10543, March 16, 2016

NENITA D. SANCHEZ, Petitioner, v. ATTY. ROMEO G. AGUILOS, Respondent.

DECISION

BERSAMIN, J.:

This administrative case relates to the performance of duty of an attorney towards his client in which the
former is found and declared to be lacking in knowledge and skill sufficient for the engagement.
Does quantum meruit attach when an attorney fails to accomplish tasks which he is naturally expected to
perform during his professional engagement?

Antecedents

Complainant Nenita D. Sanchez has charged respondent Atty. Romeo G. Aguilos (respondent) with
misconduct for the latter's refusal to return the amount of P70,000.00 she had paid for his professional
services despite his not having performed the contemplated professional services. She avers that in March
2005, she sought the legal services of the respondent to represent her in the annulment of her marriage
with her estranged husband, Jovencio C. Sanchez; that the respondent accepted the engagement, fixing his
fee at P150,000.00, plus the appearance fee of P5,000.00/hearing; that she then gave to him the initial
amount of P90,000.00;1 that she had gone to his residence in May 2005 to inquire on the developments in
her case, but he told her that he would only start working on the case upon her full payment of the
acceptance fee; that she had only learned then that what he had contemplated to file for her was a petition
for legal separation, not one for the annulment of her marriage; that he further told her that she would have
to pay a higher acceptance fee for the annulment of her marriage;2 that she subsequently withdrew the case
from him, and requested the refund of the amounts already paid, but he refused to do the same as he had
already started working on the case;3 that she had sent him a letter, through Atty. Isidro S.C. Martinez, to
demand the return of her payment less whatever amount corresponded to the legal services he had already
performed;4 that the respondent did not heed her demand letter despite his not having rendered any
appreciable legal services to her;5 and that his constant refusal to return the amounts prompted her to bring
an administrative complaint against him6 in the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) on March 20, 2007.

In his answer dated May 21, 2007,7 the respondent alleges that the complainant and her British fiancee
sought his legal services to bring the petition for the annulment of her marriage; that based on his
evaluation of her situation, the more appropriate case would be one for legal separation anchored on the
psychological incapacity of her husband; that she and her British fiancee agreed on P150,000.00 for his legal
services to bring the action for legal separation, with the fiancee paying him P70,000.00, as evidenced by
his handwritten receipt;8 that for purposes of the petition for legal separation he required the complainant to
submit copies of her marriage contract and the birth certificates of her children with her husband, as well as
for her to submit to further interviews by him to establish the grounds for legal separation; that he later on
communicated with her and her fiancee upon finalizing the petition, but they did not promptly respond to his
communications; that in May 2005, she admitted to him that she had spent the money that her fiancee had
given to pay the balance of his professional fees; and that in June 2005, she returned to him with a note at
the back of the prepared petition for legal separation essentially requesting him not to file the petition
because she had meanwhile opted to bring the action for the annulment of her marriage instead.

The respondent admits that he received the demand letter from Atty. Martinez, but states that he dismissed
the letter as a mere scrap of paper because the demand lacked basis in law. It is noted that he wrote in the
last part of his answer dated May 21, 2007 in relation to the demand letter the following:
chanRoble svirtual Lawlib ra ry
Hence, respondent accordingly treated the said letter demand for refund dated 15 August 2005 (Annex "B"
of the complaint) as a mere scrap of paper or should have been addressed by her counsel ATTY. ISIDRO
S.C. MARTINEZ, who unskillfully relied on an unverified information furnished him, to the urinal project
of the MMDA where it may serve its rightful purpose.9 ChanRoble sVirt ualawli bra ry

Findings and Recommendation of the IBP

The IBP Commission on Bar Discipline (IBP-CBD) summoned the parties to a mandatory conference on
August 3, 2007,10 but only the complainant and her counsel attended the conference. On his part, the
respondent sent a letter dated July 20, 2007 to the IBP-CBD to reiterate his answer.11 Due to his non-
appearance, the IBP-CBD terminated the conference on the same day, but required the complainant to
submit a verified position paper within 10 days. She did not submit the position paper in the end.

In his commissioner's report dated July 25, 2008,12 IBP Investigating Commissioner Jose I. De La Rama, Jr.
declared that the respondent's insistence that he could have brought a petition for legal separation based on
the psychological incapacity of the complainant's husband was sanctionable because he himself was
apparently not conversant with the grounds for legal separation; that because he rendered some legal
services to the complainant, he was entitled to receive only P40,000.00 out of the P70,000.00 paid to him as
acceptance fee, the P40,000.00 being the value of the services rendered under the principle of quantum
meruit; and that, accordingly, he should be made to return to her the amount of P30,000.00.

IBP Investigating Commissioner De La Rama, Jr. observed that the respondent's statement in the last part
of his answer, to the effect that the demand letter sent by Atty. Martinez in behalf of the complainant should
be treated as a scrap of paper, or should have been addressed "to the urinal project of the MMDA where it
may serve its rightful purpose," was uncalled for and improper; and he opined that such offensive and
improper language uttered by the respondent against a fellow lawyer violated Rule 8.0113 of the Code of
Professional Responsibility.

IBP Investigating Commissioner De La Rama, Jr. ultimately recommended as follows:


chanRoble svirtual Lawlib ra ry

The undersigned Commissioner is most respectfully recommending the following:

(1) To order the respondent to return to the complainant the amount of


P30,000.00 which he received for the purpose of preparing a petition
for legal separation. Undersigned believes that considering the degree
of professional services he has extended, the amount of P40,000.00 he
received on March 10, 2005 would be sufficient payment for the same.

(2) For failure to distinguish between the grounds for legal separation and
annulment of marriage, respondent should be sanctioned.

(3) Lastly, for failure to conduct himself with courtesy, fairness towards his
colleagues and for using offensive or improper language in his pleading,
which was filed right before the Commission on Bar Discipline, he must
also be sanctioned and disciplined in order to avoid repetition of the
said misconduct.

WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, it is most respectfully recommended that Atty. Romeo G. Aguilos be
ordered to return to complainant Nenita D. Sanchez the amount of P30,000.00 which the former received as
payment for his services because it is excessive.

It is also recommended that the Atty. Romeo G. Aguilos be suspended from the practice of law for a period
of six (6) months for failure to show his respect to his fellow lawyer and for using offensive and improper
language in his pleadings.
Through Resolution No. XVIII-2008-476 dated September 20, 2008,14 the IBP Board of Governors affirmed
the findings of Investigating Commissioner De La Rama, Jr., but modified the recommendation of the
penalty, viz.:
chanRoble svirtual Lawlib ra ry

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 respondent's failure to show
respect to his fellow lawyer and for showing offensive and improper words in his pleadings, Atty. Romeo G.
Aguilos, is hereby WARNED and Ordered to Return the Thirty Thousand (P30,000.00) Pesos to
complainant within thirty (30) days from receipt of notice.15 ChanRobles Vi rtua lawlib rary

The respondent filed a motion for reconsideration,16 which the IBP Board of Governors denied through
Resolution No. XXI-2014-177 dated March 23, 2014.17

Issues

The two issues for consideration and resolution are: (a) whether or not the respondent should be held
administratively liable for misconduct; and (b) whether or not he should be ordered to return the attorney's
fees paid.

Ruling of the Court

We adopt and affirm Resolution No. XVIII-2008-476 and Resolution No. XXI-2014-177, but modify the
recommended penalty.

1.

Respondent was liable for misconduct, and he should be ordered to return the entire amount
received from the client

The respondent offered himself to the complainant as a lawyer who had the requisite professional
competence and skill to handle the action for the annulment of marriage for her. He required her to pay
P150,000.00 as attorney's fees, exclusive of the filing fees and his appearance fee of P5,000.00/hearing. Of
that amount, he received the sum of P70,000.00.

On the respondent's conduct of himself in his professional relationship with the complainant as his client, we
reiterate and adopt the thorough analysis and findings by IBP Investigating Commissioner De La Rama, Jr.
to be very apt and cogent, viz.:
chanRoble svirtual Lawlib ra ry

As appearing in Annex "4", which is the handwritten retainer's contract between the respondent and the
complainant, there is a sweeping evidence that there is an attorney-client relationship. The respondent
agreed to accept the case in the amount of P150,000.00. The acceptance fee was agreed upon to be paid on
installment basis. Excluded in the agreement is the payment of appearance fee, filing fee and other legal
documentation.

That next question is - for what case the P150,000.00 was intended for? Was it intended for the filing of the
annulment case or legal separation?

In the verified Answer filed by the respondent, even the latter is quite confused as to what action he is going
to file in court. The intention of the British national and the complainant was to get married. At that time
and maybe up to now, the complainant is still legally married to a certain Jovencio C. Sanchez. That
considering that the two are intending to get married, we can safely assume that the complainant was
contemplating of filing a petition for annulment of marriage in order to free her from the marriage bond with
her husband. It is only then, granting that the petition will be granted, that the complainant will be free to
marry the British subject. The legal separation is but a separation of husband and wife from board and bed
and the marriage bond still exists. Granting that the petition for legal separation will be granted, one is not
free to marry another person.

A reading of the answer filed by the respondent would show that he himself is not well versed in the grounds
for legal separation. He stated the following;
. . . respondent suggested to them to file instead a legal separation case for the alleged psychological
incapacity of her husband to comply with his marital obligations developed or of their marriage on February
6, 1999. (please see par. 2 of the Answer).
If the intention was to file a petition for legal separation, under A.M. 02-11-11-SC, the grounds are as
follows:
chanRoble svirtual Lawlib ra ry

Sec. 2. Petition-

(a) Who may and when to file - (1) A petition for legal separation may be filed only by the husband or the
wife, as the case may be, within five years from the time of the occurrence of any of the following causes:

(a) Repeated physical violence or grossly abusive conduct directed against the petitioner, a common child,
or a child of the petitioner;

(b) Physical violence or moral pressure to compel the petitioner to change religious or political affiliation;

(c) Attempt of respondent to corrupt or induce the petitioner, a common child, or a child of the petitioner, to
engage in prostitution, or connivance in such corruption or inducement;

(d) Final judgment sentencing the respondent to imprisonment of more than six years, even if pardoned;

(e) Drug addiction or habitual alcoholism of the respondent;

(f) Lesbianism or homosexuality of the respondent;

(g) Contracting by the respondent of a subsequent bigamous marriage, whether in or outside the
Philippines;

(h) Sexual infidelity or perversion of the respondent;

(i) Attempt on the life of petitioner by the respondent; or

(j) Abandonment of petitioner by respondent without justifiable cause for more than one year.
Psychological incapacity, contrary to what respondent explained to the complainant, is not one of those
mentioned in any of the grounds for legal separation.

Even in Article 55 of the Family Code of the Philippines, psychological incapacity is never a ground for the
purpose of filing a petition for legal separation.

On the other hand, psychological incapacity has always been used for the purpose of filing a petition for
declaration of nullity or annulment of marriage.

That as provided for by Article 36 of the New Family Code, it stales that "a marriage contracted by any party
who, at the time of the celebration, was psychologically incapacitated to comply with the essential marital
obligations of marriage, shall likewise be void even if such incapacity becomes manifest only after its
solemnization."

That lawyers shall keep abreast of the legal developments and participate in continuing legal education
program (Canon 5 of the Code of Professional Responsibility) in order to prevent repetition of such kind of
advise that respondent gave to the complainant. In giving an advise, he should be able to distinguish
between the grounds for legal separation and grounds for annulment of marriage. But as the respondent
stated in his answer, it appears that he is mixed up with the basic provisions of the law.18 ChanRoblesVirt ualawli bra ry

Clearly, the respondent misrepresented his professional competence and skill to the complainant. As the
foregoing findings reveal, he did not know the distinction between the grounds for legal separation and for
annulment of marriage. Such knowledge would have been basic and expected of him as a lawyer accepting a
professional engagement for either causes of action. His explanation that the client initially intended to
pursue the action for legal separation should be disbelieved. The case unquestionably contemplated by the
parties and for which his services was engaged, was no other than an action for annulment of the
complainant's marriage with her husband with the intention of marrying her British fiancee. They did not
contemplate legal separation at all, for legal separation would still render her incapacitated to re-marry.
That the respondent was insisting in his answer that he had prepared a petition for legal separation, and
that she had to pay more as attorney's fees if she desired to have the action for annulment was, therefore,
beyond comprehension other than to serve as a hallow afterthought to justify his claim for services
rendered.

As such, the respondent failed to live up to the standards imposed on him as an attorney. He thus
transgressed Canon 18, and Rules 18.01, 18.02 and 18.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, to wit:
chanRoble svirtual Lawlib ra ry

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

Rules 18.01 - A lawyer shall not undertake a legal serviee 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.

Rule 18.02 - A lawyer shall not handle any legal matter without adequate preparation.

Rule 18.03 - A lawyer shall not neglect a legal matter entrusted to him, and his negligence in connection
therewith shall render him liable. (Emphasis supplied)
The next to be dealt with is the matter of the attorney's fees. We can easily agree that every attorney is
entitled to have and receive a just and reasonable compensation for services performed at the special
instance and request of his client. As long as the attorney is in good faith and honestly trying to represent
and serve the interests of the client, he should have a reasonable compensation for such services.19

The attorney's fees shall be those stipulated in the retainer's agreement between the client and the
attorney, which constitutes the law between the parties for as long as it is not contrary to law, good morals,
good customs, public policy or public order.20 The underlying theory is that the retainer's agreement
between them gives to the client the reasonable notice of the arrangement on the fees. Once the attorney
has performed the task assigned to him in a valid agreement, his compensation is determined on the basis
of what he and the client agreed.21 In the absence of the written agreement, the lawyer's compensation
shall be based on quantum meruit, which means "as much as he deserved."22 The determination of
attorney's fees on the basis of quantum meruit is also authorized "when the counsel, for justifiable cause,
was not able to finish the case to its conclusion."23 Moreover, quantum meruit becomes the basis of recovery
of compensation by the attorney where the circumstances of the engagement indicate that it will be contrary
to the parties' expectation to deprive the attorney of all compensation.

Nevertheless, the court shall determine in every case what is reasonable compensation based on the
obtaining circumstances,24 provided that the attorney does not receive more than what is reasonable, in
keeping with Section 24 of Rule 138 of the Rules of Court, to wit:
chanRoble svirtual Lawlib ra ry

Section 24. Compensation of attorneys; agreement as to fees - An attorney shall be entitled to have and
recover from his client no more than a reasonable compensation for his services, with a view to the
importance of the subject matter of the controversy, the extent of the services rendered, and the
professional standing of the attorney. No court shall be bound by the opinion of attorneys as expert
witnesses as to the proper compensation, but may disregard such testimony and base its conclusion on its
own professional knowledge. A written contract for services shall control the amount to be paid therefor
unless found by the court to be unconscionable or unreasonable.
The courts supervision of the lawyer's compensation for legal services rendered is not only for the purpose
of ensuring the reasonableness of the amount of attorney's fees charged, but also for the purpose of
preserving the dignity and integrity of the legal profession.25
cralawre d

The respondent should not have accepted the engagement because as it was later revealed, it was way
above his ability and competence to handle the case for annulment of marriage. As a consequence, he had
no basis to accept any amount as attorney's fees from the complainant. He did not even begin to perform
the contemplated task he undertook for the complainant because it was improbable that the agreement with
her was to bring the action for legal separation. His having supposedly prepared the petition for legal
separation instead of the petition for annulment of marriage was either his way of covering up for his
incompetence, or his means of charging her more. Either way did not entitle him to retain the amount he
had already received.

The written receipt dated March 10, 2005 shows that the respondent received P70,000.00 as acceptance
fee. His refusal to return the amount to the complainant rested on his claim of having already completed the
first phase of the preparation of the petition for legal separation after having held conferences with the
complainant and her British fiancee. In this respect, IBP Investigating Commission De la Rama, Jr. opined
that the respondent could retain P40,000.00 of the P70,000.00 because the respondent had rendered some
legal services to the complainant, specifically: (a) having the complainant undergo further interviews
towards establishing the ground for legal separation; (b) reducing into writing the grounds discussed during
the interviews based on her statement in her own dialect (Annexes 1 and 2) after he could not understand
the written statement prepared for the purpose by her British fiancee; (c) requiring her to submit her
marriage contract with her husband Jovencio C. Sanchez (Annex 3), and the certificates of live birth of her
four children: Mary Joy, Timothy, Christine, and Janette Anne, all surnamed Sanchez (Annexes 4, 5, 6 and
7); and (d) finalizing her petition for legal separation (Annex 8) in the later part of April, 2007.

The opinion of IBP Investigating Commission De la Rama, Jr. in favor of the respondent was too generous.
We cannot see how the respondent deserved any compensation because he did not really begin to perform
the contemplated tasks if, even based on his version, he would prepare the petition for legal separation
instead of the petition for annulment of marriage. The attorney who fails to accomplish the tasks he should
naturally and expectedly perform during his professional engagement does not discharge his professional
responsibility and ethical duty toward his client. The respondent was thus guilty of misconduct, and may be
sanctioned according to the degree of the misconduct. As a consequence, he may be ordered to restitute to
the client the amount received from the latter in consideration of the professional engagement, subject to
the rule on quantum meruit, if warranted.

Accordingly, the respondent shall be fined in the amount of P10,000.00 for his misrepresentation of his
professional competence, and he is further to be ordered to return the entire amount of P70,000.00 received
from the client, plus legal interest of 6% per annum reckoned from the date of this decision until full
payment.

2.

Respondent did not conduct himself with courtesy, fairness and candor towards his professional
colleague

The Rules of Court mandates members of the Philippine Bar to "abstain from all offensive personality and to
advance no fact prejudicial to the honor or reputation of a party or witness, unless required by the justice of
the cause with which he is charged."26 This duty of lawyers is further emphasized in the Code of Professional
Responsibility, whose Canon 8 provides: "A lawyer shall conduct himself with courtesy, fairness and candor
toward his professional colleagues, and shall avoid harassing tactics against opposing counsel." Rule 8.01 of
Canon 8 specifically demands that: "A lawyer shall not, in his professional dealings, use language which is
abusive, offensive or otherwise improper."

The Court recognizes the adversarial nature of our legal system which has necessitated lawyers to use
strong language in the advancement of the interest of their clients.27 However, as members of a noble
profession, lawyers are always impressed with the duty to represent their clients' cause, or, as in this case,
to represent a personal matter in court, with courage and zeal but that should not be used as license for the
use of offensive and abusive language. In maintaining the integrity and dignity of the legal profession, a
lawyer's language - spoken or in his pleadings - must be dignified.28 As such, every lawyer is mandated to
carry out his duty as an agent in the administration of justice with courtesy, dignity and respect not only
towards his clients, the court and judicial officers, but equally towards his colleagues in the Legal Profession.

The respondent's statement in his answer that the demand from Atty. Martinez should be treated "as a mere
scrap of paper or should have been addressed by her counsel x x x to the urinal project of the MMDA where
it may service its rightful purpose" constituted simple misconduct that this Court cannot tolerate.

In his motion for reconsideration, the respondent tried to justify the offensive and improper language by
asserting that the phraseology was not per se uncalled for and improper. He explained that he had sufficient
cause for maintaining that the demand letter should be treated as a mere scrap of paper and should be
disregarded. However, his assertion does not excuse the offensiveness and impropriety of his language. He
could have easily been respectful and proper in responding to the letter.

As penalty for this particular misconduct, he is reprimanded, with the stern warning that a repetition of the
offense will be severely punished. chanro bleslaw

WHEREFORE, the Court AFFIRMS the Resolution No. XVIII-2008-476 dated September 20, 2008 of the
Integrated Bar of the Philippines Board of Governors, with the MODIFICATION that Atty. Romeo G. Aguilos
is hereby FINED P10,000.00 for misrepresenting his professional competence to the client,
and REPRIMANDS him for his use of offensive and improper language towards his fellow attorney, with the
stern warning that a repetition of the offense shall be severely punished.

The Court ORDERS Atty. Romeo G. Aguilos to RETURN to the complainant within thirty (30) days from
notice the sum of P70,000.00, plus legal interest of 6% per annum reckoned from the date of this decision
until full payment.
Let copies of this decision be attached to the personal records of Atty. Romeo G. Aguilos as a member of the
Philippine Bar, and be furnished to the Office of the Bar Confidant, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and
the Office of the Court Administrator for proper dissemination to all courts throughout the country.

SO ORDERED. cralawlawlibra ry

EN BANC

A.C. No. 11246, June 14, 2016

ARNOLD PACAO, Complainant, v. ATTY. SINAMAR LIMOS, Respondent.

DECISION

PER CURIAM:

Before this Court is a verified complaint1 filed on November 4, 2011 by Arnold Pacao (complainant), seeking
the disbarment of Atty. Sinamar Limos (Atty. Limos) for conduct unbecoming of a member of the Bar.

The Facts

Sometime in March 2008, complainant's wife Mariadel Pacao, former vault custodian of BHF Pawnshop (BHF)
branch in Mandaluyong City, was charged with qualified theft by BHF. At the preliminary investigation, Atty.
Limos appeared as counsel for BHF. Thereafter, the case was filed before the Regional Trial Court of
Mandaluyong City.2 ChanRoblesVi rt ualawlib ra ry

To buy peace, the complainant initiated negotiation with BHF, through Atty. Limos, for a possible settlement.
A meeting was then arranged between the complainant and Atty. Limos, where the latter represented that
she was duly authorized by BHF. After a series of negotiations, Atty. Limos relayed that BHF is demanding
the sum of P530,000.00 to be paid in full or by installments. Further negotiation led to an agreement
whereby the complainant would pay an initial amount of P200,000.00 to be entrusted to Atty. Limos, who
will then deliver to the complainant a signed affidavit of desistance, a compromise agreement, and a joint
motion to approve compromise agreement for filing with the court.3 ChanRoblesVirt ualawli bra ry

On October 29, 2009, the complainant gave the initial amount of P200,000.00 to Atty. Limos, who in turn,
signed an Acknowledgment Receipt4 recognizing her undertakings as counsel of BHF. However, Atty. Limos
failed to meet the terms of their agreement. Notwithstanding such failure, Atty. Limos still sought to get
from the complainant the next installment amount of their purported agreement, but the latter refused.5 ChanRobles Vi rtua lawlib rary

Thereafter, in June 2010, the complainant met BHF's representative, Camille Bonifacio, who informed him
that Atty. Limos was no longer BHF's counsel and was not authorized to negotiate any settlement nor
receive any money in behalf of BHF. The complainant also learned that BHF did not receive the P200,000.00
initial payment that he gave to Atty. Limos.6 ChanRoblesVi rtua lawlib rary

This prompted the complainant to send a demand letter7 to Atty. Limos to return the P200,000.00 initial
settlement payment, but the latter failed and refused to do so.8 ChanRoblesVirtualawl ibra ry

The complainant then filed a disbarment case against Atty. Limos before the Integrated Bar of the
Philippines (IBP) - Commission on Bar Discipline (CBD). The IBP-CBD required Atty. Limos to file an answer
but she did not file any responsive pleading.9 A mandatory conference was then set on March 1 and 29,
2012, and April 19, 2012, but Atty. Limos failed to attend. Thereafter, the IBP-CBD ordered the parties to
submit their position paper, but once again, Atty. Limos did not bother to submit her position paper.

On May 5, 2014, the Investigating Commissioner recommended the disbarment of Atty. Limos.10 The
Investigating Commissioner found enough evidence on record to prove that Atty. Limos committed fraud
and practiced deceit on the complainant to the latter's prejudice by concealing or omitting to disclose the
material fact that she no longer had the authority to negotiate and conclude a settlement for and on behalf
of BHF, nor was authorized to receive the P200,000.00 from the complainant. Atty. Limos was likewise
ordered to return to the complainant the full amount of P200,000.00 with interest thereon at the rate of
12% per annum from the date of her receipt of the said amount to the date of her return of the full
amount.11 ChanRoblesVi rtualaw lib rary

In a Resolution12 dated April 19, 2015, the IBP Board of Governors adopted and approved the Investigating
Commissioner's report and recommendation.

On March 8, 2016, the IBP transmitted the notice of the resolution and the case records to the Court for
final action pursuant to Rule 139-B of the Rules of Court.13 As per verification of the Court, neither party has
filed a motion for reconsideration or a petition for review thereafter.

The Issue

Whether or not the instant disbarment complaint constitutes a sufficient basis to disbar Atty. Limos from the
practice of law?14 ChanRobles Virtualawl ibra ry

Ruling of the Court

To begin with, the Court notes that this is not the first time that Atty. Limos is facing an administrative case,
for she had already been twice suspended from the practice of law, by this Court, for three months each
in Villaflores v. Atty. Limos15 and Wilkie v. Atty. Limos.16 In Villaflores, Atty. Limos received attorney's fees
of P20,000.00 plus miscellaneous expenses of P2,000.00, but she failed to perform her undertaking with her
client; thus she was found guilty of gross negligence and dereliction of duty. Likewise, in Wilkie, Atty. Limos
was held administratively liable for her deceitful and dishonest conduct when she obtained a loan of
P250,000.00 from her client and issued two postdated checks in the latter's favor to pay the said loan
despite knowledge of insufficiency of funds to cover the same. In both cases, the Court, gave Atty. Limos a
warning that repetition of the same or similar acts by her will merit a more severe penalty.

Once again, for the third time, Atty. Limos is facing an administrative case before this Court for receiving the
amount of P200,000.00 from the complainant purportedly for a possible amicable settlement with her client
BHF. However, Atty. Limos was no longer BHF's counsel and was not authorize to negotiate and conclude a
settlement for and on behalf of BHF nor was she authorized to receive any money in behalf of BHF. Her
blunder is compounded by the fact that she did not turn over the money to BHF, nor did she return the
same to the complainant, despite due demand. Furthermore, she even tried to get the next installment
knowing fully well that she was not authorized to enter into settlement negotiations with the complainant as
her engagement as counsel of BHF had already ceased.

The fact that this is Atty. Limos' third transgression exacerbates her offense. The foregoing factual
antecedents demonstrate her propensity to employ deceit and misrepresentation. It is not too farfetched for
this Court to conclude that from the very beginning, Atty. Limos had planned to employ deceit on the
complainant to get hold of a sum of money. Such a conduct is unbecoming and does not speak well of a
member of the Bar.

Atty. Limos' case is further highlighted by her lack of regard for the charges brought against her. Similar
with Wilkie, despite due notice, Atty. Limos did not bother to answer the complaint against her. She also
failed to file her mandatory conference brief and her verified position paper. Worse, Atty. Limos did not even
enter appearance either personally or by counsel, and she failed to appear at the scheduled date of the
mandatory conferences which she was duly notified.17 ChanRobles Vi rtualaw lib rary

By her failure to present convincing evidence, or any evidence for that matter, to justify her actions, Atty.
Limos failed to demonstrate that she still possessed the integrity and morality demanded of a member of the
Bar. Her seeming indifference to the complaint brought against her was made obvious by her unreasonable
absence from the proceedings before the IBP. Her disobedience to the IBP is, in fact, a gross and blatant
disrespect for the authority of the Court.
Despite her two prior suspensions, still, Atty. Limos is once again demonstrating to this Court that not only
is she unfit to stay in the legal profession for her deceitful conduct but is also remiss in following the dictates
of the Court, which has supervision over her. Atty. Limos' unwarranted obstinacy is a great insolence to the
Court which cannot be tolerated.

The present case comes clearly under the grounds given in Section 27,18 Rule 138 of the Revised Rules of
Court. The Court, however, does not hesitate to impose the penalty of disbarment when the guilty party has
become a repeat offender. Considering the serious nature of the instant offense and in light of Atty. Limos'
prior misconduct which grossly degrades the legal profession, the imposition of the ultimate penalty of
disbarment is warranted.

In imposing the penalty of disbarment upon Atty. Limos, the Court is aware that the power to disbar is one
to be exercised with great caution and only in clear cases of misconduct that seriously affect the standing
and character of the lawyer as a legal professional and as an officer of the Court.19 However, Atty. Limos'
recalcitrant attitude and unwillingness to heed with the Court's warning, which is deemed to be an affront to
the Court's authority over members of the Bar, warrant an utmost disciplinary sanction from this Court. Her
repeated desecration of her ethical commitments proved herself to be unfit to remain in the legal profession.
Worse, she remains apathetic to the need to reform herself.

"[T]he practice of law is not a right but 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.
Membership in the bar is a privilege burdened with conditions."20 "Of all classes and professions, the lawyer
is most sacredly bound to uphold the laws. He is their sworn servant; and for him, of all men in the world, to
repudiate and override the laws, to trample them underfoot and to ignore the very bonds of society, argues
recreancy to his position and office, and sets a pernicious example to the insubordinate and dangerous
elements of the body politic."21ChanRobles Virtualawl ibra ry

Indeed, Atty. Limos has disgraced the legal profession. The facts and evidence obtaining in this case
definitely establish her failure to live up to her duties as a lawyer in accordance with the strictures of the
lawyer's oath, the Code of Professional Responsibility and the Canons of Professional Ethics, thereby making
her unworthy to continue as a member of the bar.

WHEREFORE, respondent Atty. Sinamar Limos, having violated the Code of Professional Responsibility by
committing grave misconduct and willful insubordination, is DISBARRED and her name ordered STRICKEN
OFF the Roll of Attorneys effective immediately.

Let a copy of this Decision be entered in the records of Atty. Sinamar Limos. Further, let other copies be
served on the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and on the Office of the Court Administrator, which is
directed to circulate them to all the courts in the country for their information and guidance.

This Decision is immediately executory.

SO ORDERED.

EN BANC

August 9, 2016

A.C. No. 11350


[Formerly CBD Case No. 14-4211]

ADEGOKE R. PLUMPTRE, Complainant


vs.
ATTY. SOCRATES R. RIVERA, Respondent
RESOLUTION

PER CURIAM:

This resolves a disbarment case against respondent Atty. Socrates R. Rivera for absconding with
money entrusted to him and soliciting money to bribe a judge, On May 13, 2014, complainant
Adegoke R. Plumptre filed a complaint for disbarment1 against respondent before the Integrated Bar
of the Philippines.

Complainant alleges that on March 7, 2014, he called respondent and asked for help in his
application for a work permit from the Bureau of Immigration.2 They met a few days later, and
complainant paid respondent ₱10,000.00 as professional fee. 3

They met again, and complainant gave respondent another Pl 0,000.00, together with his passport.
This was allegedly for the processing of his work permit. 4

They met for a third time since respondent asked complainant to submit ID photos. 5 Respondent
asked complainant for another ₱10,000.00, but complainant refused as they only agreed on the
amount of ₱20,000.00.6

Respondent also asked complainant for P8,000.00, allegedly for complainant's other case, which
respondent was also working on.7 He explained that P5,000.00 would be given to a Las Pifias judge
to reverse the motion for reconsideration against complainant, while P3,000.00 would be used to
process the motion for reconsideration. Complainant gave him the P8,000.00.8

Complainant claims that after respondent received the money, he never received any updates on the
status of his work permit and pending court case.9 Further, whenever he called respondent to follow
up on his work permit, respondent hurled invectives at him and threatened him and his wife.10

Complainant would retort by saying that he would file complaints against respondent if he did not
give back the money and passport. That was the last time complainant heard from respondent. 11

After inquiring -and researching on respondent's whereabouts, 12 complainant was able to track down
respondent and get back his passport, which respondent coursed through complainant's
aunt. 13 However, despite the return of complainant's passport, respondent still refused to return the
₱28,000.00 earlier endorsed to him. 14

Complainant then decided to file a complaint against respondent before the Integrated Bar of the
Philippines. 15

On May 14, 2014, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines issued the Order16 directing respondent to file
an answer to the complaint.

Respondent failed to show up at the September 17, 2014 mandatory conference, 17 as well as at the
second mandatory conference set on October 22, 2014. 18 The parties were directed to submit their
verified position papers, after which the case was submitted for resolution. 19

On May 27, 2015, the Investigating Commissioner recommended respondent's suspension for two
(2) years from the practice of law and the return of P28,000.00 to complainant.20
On June 20, 2015, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines Board of Governors adopted and
approved21 the Investigating Commissioner's recommendation, but modified it to disbar respondent
from the practice of law, thus:

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


modification, the Report and Recommendation of the Investigating Commissioner in the above-
entitled case, herein made part of this Resolution as Annex "A ", for Respondent's violation of Canon
1, Canon 7, Canon 16, Rule 16.01, Canon 17 and Rule 18.04 of the Code of Professional
Responsibility, aggravated by his failure to file Answer and to appear in the Mandatory Conference.
Thus, Atty. Socrates R. Rivera is hereby DISBARRED from the practice of law and his name
stricken off from the Roll of Attorneys and Ordered to Return the Twenty Eight Thousand
(₱28,000.00) Pesos to Complainant.22 (Emphasis in the original)

On April 20, 2016, the Integrated Bar of the, Philippines transmitted the case to this Court for final
action under Rule 139-B of the Rules of Court.23

This Court modifies the findings of the Board of Governors.

Respondent's repeated failure to comply with several Resolutions of the Integrated Bar of the
Philippines requiring him to comment on the complaint lends credence to complainant's allegations.
It manifests his tacit admission. Hence, we resolve this case on the basis of the complaint and other
documents submitted to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines.

In Macarilay v. Serina,24 this Court held that "[t]he unjustified withholding of funds belonging to the
client warrants the imposition of disciplinary action against the lawyer."25 By absconding with the
money entrusted to him by his client and behaving in a manner not befitting a member of the bar,
respondent violated the following Canons of the Code of Professional Responsibility:

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

....

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.

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
1âwphi1

for or from the client.

....

CANON 17 - A lawyer owes fidelity to the cause of his client and he shall be mindful of the trust and
confidence reposed in him.

....

CANON 18 - A lawyer shall serve his client with competence and diligence.
....

Rule 18.03. - A lawyer shall not neglect a legal matter entrusted to him, and his negligence in
connection therewith shall render him liable. 1âwphi 1

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

As his client's advocate, a lawyer is duty-bound to protect his client's interests and the degree of
service expected of him in this capacity is his "entire devotion to the interest of the client, warm zeal
in the maintenance and defense of his rights and the exertion of his utmost learning and
ability."26 The lawyer also has a fiduciary duty, with the lawyer-client relationship imbued with utmost
trust and confidence.27

Respondent failed to serve his client with fidelity, competence, and diligence. He not only neglected
the attorney-client relationship established between them; he also acted in a reprehensible manner
towards complainant, i.e., cussing and threatening complainant and his family with bodily harm,
hiding from complainant, and refusing without reason to return the money entrusted to him for the
processing of the work permit. Respondent's behavior demonstrates his lack of integrity and moral
soundness.

Del Mundo v Capistrano28 has reiterated the exacting standards expected of law practitioners:

To stress, the practice of law is a privilege given to lawyers who meet the high standards of legal
proficiency and morality, including honesty, integrity_ and fair dealing. They must perform their
fourfold duty to society, the legal profession, the courts and their clients, in accordance with the
values and norms of the legal profession as embodied in the Code of Professional Responsibility.
Falling short of this standard, the Court will not hesitate to discipline an erring lawyer by imposing an
appropriate penalty based on the exercise of sound judicial discretion in consideration of the
surrounding facts. 29 (Emphasis supplied, citations omitted)

A lawyer must, at no time, lack probity and moral fiber, which are not only conditions precedent to
his entrance to the bar but are likewise essential demands for his continued membership. 30

II

When complainant refused to give respondent any more money to process his work permit,
respondent persuaded complainant to give him an additional ₱8,000.00 purportedly to ensure that a
motion for reconsideration pending before a Las Pifias judge would be decided in complainant's
favor. 31 However, after receiving ₱28,000.00 from complainant for the work permit and ensuring the
success of complainant's court case, respondent made himself scarce and could no longer be
contacted.

Although nothing in the records showed whether the court case was indeed decided in complainant's
favor, respondent's act of soliciting money to bribe a judge served to malign the judge and the
judiciary by giving the impression that court cases are won by the party with the deepest pockets
and not on the merits. 32

"A lawyer shall not counsel or abet activities aimed at defiance of the law or at lessening confidence
in the legal system."33 Further, "a lawyer shall not state or imply that he is able to influence any public
official, tribunal or legislative body."34
By implying that he can negotiate a favorable ruling for the sum of ₱8,000.00, respondent trampled
upon the integrity of the judicial system and eroded confidence on the judiciary. This gross
disrespect of the judicial system shows that he is wanting in moral fiber and betrays the lack of
integrity in his character. The practice of law is a privilege, and respondent has repeatedly shown
that he is unfit to exercise it.

III

As for the sufficiency of notice to respondent of the disbarment proceedings against him, this Court
notes that on May 14, 2014, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines directed respondent to answer the
complaint against him, but he failed to file his answer.35 The Integrated Bar of the Philippines set two
(2) separate dates for mandatory conferences36 after respondent failed to attend the first setting, but
he failed to appear in both instances.37 All issuances from the Integrated Bar of the Philippines had
the requisite registry receipts attached to them.

Stemmerik v. Mas38 discussed the sufficiency of notice of disbarment proceedings. This Court held
that lawyers must update their records with the Integrated Bar of the Philippines by informing it of
any change in office or residential address and contact details.39 Service of notice on the office or
residential address appearing in the Integrated Bar of the Philippines records shall constitute
sufficient notice to a lawyer for administrative proceedings against him or her.40

WHEREFORE, respondent Atty. Socrates R. Rivera 1s SUSPENDED from the practice of law for
three (3) years. He is ORDERED to return to complainant Adegoke R. Plumptre the amount of
₱28,000.00 with interest at 6% per annum from the date of promulgation of this Resolution until fully
paid. He is likewise DIRECTED to submit to this Court proof of payment of the amount within 10
days from payment.

Let copies of this Resolution be entered in respondent's personal record as a member of the bar,
and be furnished to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and the Office of the Court Administrator for
dissemination to all courts in the country.

SO ORDERED.

Republic of the Philippines


SUPREME COURT
Manila

EN BANC

B.M. No. 712 March 19, 1997

RE: PETITION OF AL ARGOSINO TO TAKE THE LAWYERS OATH

RESOLUTION

PADILLA, J.:
Petitioner Al Caparros Argosino passed the bar examinations held in 1993. The Court however
deferred his oath-taking due to his previous conviction for Reckless Imprudence Resulting In
Homicide.

The criminal case which resulted in petitioner's conviction, arose from the death of a neophyte during
fraternity initiation rites sometime in September 1991. Petitioner and seven (7) other accused initially
entered pleas of not guilty to homicide charges. The eight (8) accused later withdrew their initial
pleas and upon re-arraignment all pleaded guilty to reckless imprudence resulting in homicide.

On the basis of such pleas, the trial court rendered judgment dated 11 February 1993 imposing on
each of the accused a sentence of imprisonment of from two (2) years four (4) months :and one (1)
day to four (4) years.

On 18 June 1993, the trial court granted herein petitioner's application for probation.

On 11 April 1994, the trial court issued an order approving a report dated 6 April 1994 submitted by
the Probation Officer recommending petitioner's discharge from probation.

On 14 April 1994, petitioner filed before this Court a petition to be allowed to take the lawyer's oath
based on the order of his discharge from probation.

On 13 July 1995, the Court through then Senior Associate Justice Florentino P. Feliciano issued a
resolution requiring petitioner Al C. Argosino to submit to the Court evidence that he may now be
regarded as complying with the requirement of good moral character imposed upon those seeking
admission to the bar.

In compliance with the above resolution, petitioner submitted no less than fifteen (15)
certifications/letters executed by among others two (2) senators, five (5) trial court judges, and six (6)
members of religious orders. Petitioner likewise submitted evidence that a scholarship foundation
had been established in honor of Raul Camaligan, the hazing victim, through joint efforts of the
latter's family and the eight (8) accused in the criminal case.

On 26 September 1995, the Court required Atty. Gilbert Camaligan, father of Raul, to comment on
petitioner's prayer to be allowed to take the lawyer's oath.

In his comment dated 4 December 1995, Atty. Camaligan states that:

a. He still believes that the infliction of severe physical injuries which led to the death of his son was
deliberate rather than accidental. The offense therefore was not only homicide but murder since the
accused took advantage of the neophyte's helplessness implying abuse of confidence, taking
advantage of superior strength and treachery.

b. He consented to the accused's plea of guilt to the lesser offense of reckless imprudence resulting
in homicide only out of pity for the mothers of the accused and a pregnant wife of one of the accused
who went to their house on Christmas day 1991 and Maundy Thursday 1992, literally on their knees,
crying and begging for forgiveness and compassion. They also told him that the father of one of the
accused had died of a heart attack upon learning of his son's involvement in the incident.

c. As a Christian, he has forgiven petitioner and his co-accused for the death of his son. However, as
a loving father who had lost a son whom he had hoped would succeed him in his law practice, he
still feels the pain of an untimely demise and the stigma of the gruesome manner of his death.
d. He is not in a position to say whether petitioner is now morally fit for admission to the bar. He
therefore submits the matter to the sound discretion of the Court.

The practice of law is a privilege granted only to those who possess the strict intellectual and moral
qualifications required of lawyers who are instruments in the effective and efficient administration of
justice. It is the sworn duty of this Court not only to "weed out" lawyers who have become a disgrace
to the noble profession of the law but, also of equal importance, to prevent "misfits" from taking the
lawyer's oath, thereby further tarnishing the public image of lawyers which in recent years has
undoubtedly become less than irreproachable.

The resolution of the issue before us required weighing and reweighing of the reasons for allowing or
disallowing petitioner's admission to the practice of law. The senseless beatings inflicted upon Raul
Camaligan constituted evident absence of that moral fitness required for admission to the bar since
they were totally irresponsible, irrelevant and uncalled for.

In the 13 July 1995 resolution in this case we stated:

. . . participation in the prolonged and mindless physical behavior, [which] makes


impossible a finding that the participant [herein petitioner] was then possessed of
good moral character. 1

In the same resolution, however, we stated that the Court is prepared to consider de novo the
question of whether petitioner has purged himself of the obvious deficiency in moral character
referred to above.

Before anything else, the Court understands and shares the sentiment of Atty. Gilbert Camaligan.
The death of one's child is, for a parent, a most traumatic experience. The suffering becomes even
more pronounced and profound in cases where the death is due to causes other than natural or
accidental but due to the reckless imprudence of third parties. The feeling then becomes a struggle
between grief and anger directed at the cause of death.

Atty. Camaligan's statement before the Court- manifesting his having forgiven the accused is no less
than praiseworthy and commendable. It is exceptional for a parent, given the circumstances in this
case, to find room for forgiveness.

However, Atty. Camaligan admits that he is still not in a position to state if petitioner is now morally fit
to be a lawyer.

After a very careful evaluation of this case, we resolve to allow petitioner Al Caparros Argosino to
take the lawyer's oath, sign the Roll of Attorneys and practice the legal profession with the following
admonition:

In allowing Mr. Argosino to take the lawyer's oath, the Court recognizes that Mr. Argosino is not
inherently of bad moral fiber. On the contrary, the various certifications show that he is a devout
Catholic with a genuine concern for civic duties and public service.

The Court is persuaded that Mr. Argosino has exerted all efforts to atone for the death of Raul
Camaligan. We are prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt, taking judicial notice of the general
tendency of youth to be rash, temerarious and uncalculating.
We stress to Mr. Argosino that the lawyer's oath is NOT a mere ceremony or formality for practicing
law. Every lawyer should at ALL TIMES weigh his actions according to the sworn promises he
makes when taking the lawyer's oath. If all lawyers conducted themselves strictly according to the
lawyer's oath and the Code of Professional Responsibility, the administration of justice will
undoubtedly be faster, fairer and easier for everyone concerned.

The Court sincerely hopes that Mr. Argosino will continue with the assistance he has been giving to
his community. As a lawyer he will now be in a better position to render legal and other services to
the more unfortunate members of society.

PREMISES CONSIDERED, petitioner Al Caparros Argosino is hereby ALLOWED to take the


lawyer's oath on a date to be set by the Court, to sign the Roll of Attorneys and, thereafter, to
practice the legal profession.

SO ORDERED.

THIRD DIVISION

[A.M. SDC-97-2-P. February 24, 1997]

SOPHIA ALAWI, Complainant, vs. ASHARY M. ALAUYA, Clerk


of Court VI, Shari'a District Court, Marawi City, Respondent.

DECISION

NARVASA, C.J.:

Sophia Alawi was (and presumably still is) a sales representative (or
coordinator) of E. B. Villarosa & Partners Co., Ltd. of Davao City, a
real estate and housing company. Ashari M. Alauya is the incumbent
executive clerk of court of the 4th Judicial Shari'a District in Marawi
City. They were classmates, and used to be friends.

It appears that through Alawi's agency, a contract was executed for


the purchase on installments by Alauya of one of the housing units
belonging to the above mentioned firm (hereafter, simply Villarosa
& Co.); and in connection therewith, a housing loan was also
granted to Alauya by the National Home Mortgage Finance
Corporation (NHMFC).
Not long afterwards, or more precisely on December 15, 1995,
Alauya addressed a letter to the President of Villarosa & Co.
advising of the termination of his contract with the company. He
wrote:

" ** I am formally and officially withdrawing from and notifying you


of my intent to terminate the Contract/Agreement entered into
between me and your company, as represented by your Sales
Agent/Coordinator, SOPHIA ALAWI, of your company's branch office
here in Cagayan de Oro City, on the grounds that my consent was
vitiated by gross misrepresentation, deceit, fraud, dishonesty and
abuse of confidence by the aforesaid sales agent which made said
contract void ab initio. Said sales agent acting in bad faith
perpetrated such illegal and unauthorized acts which made said
contract an Onerous Contract prejudicial to my rights and interests."

He then proceeded to expound in considerable detail and quite


acerbic language on the "grounds which could evidence the bad
faith, deceit, fraud, misrepresentation, dishonesty and abuse of
confidence by the unscrupulous sales agent ** ;" and closed with
the plea that Villarosa & Co. "agree for the mutual rescission of our
contract, even as I inform you that I categorically state on record
that I am terminating the contract **. I hope I do not have to
resort to any legal action before said onerous and manipulated
contract against my interest be annulled. I was actually fooled by
your sales agent, hence the need to annul the controversial
contract."

Alauya sent a copy of the letter to the Vice-President of Villarosa &


Co. at San Pedro, Gusa, Cagayan de Oro City. The envelope
containing it, and which actually went through the post, bore no
stamps. Instead at the right hand corner above the description of
the addressee, the words, "Free Postage PD 26," had been typed.

On the same date, December 15, 1995, Alauya also wrote to Mr.
Fermin T. Arzaga, Vice-President, Credit & Collection Group of the
National Home Mortgage Finance Corporation (NHMFC) at Salcedo
Village, Makati City, repudiating as fraudulent and void his contract
with Villarosa & Co.; and asking for cancellation of his housing loan
in connection therewith, which was payable from salary deductions
at the rate of P4,338.00 a month. Among other things, he said:

" ** (T)hrough this written notice, I am terminating, as I hereby


annul, cancel, rescind and voided, the 'manipulated contract'
entered into between me and the E.B. Villarosa & Partner Co., Ltd.,
as represented by its sales agent/coordinator, SOPHIA ALAWI, who
maliciously and fraudulently manipulated said contract and
unlawfully secured and pursued the housing loan without my
authority and against my will. Thus, the contract itself is deemed to
be void ab initio in view of the attending circumstances, that my
consent was vitiated by misrepresentation, fraud, deceit,
dishonesty, and abuse of confidence; and that there was no meeting
of the minds between me and the swindling sales agent who
concealed the real facts from me."

And, as in his letter to Villarosa & Co., he narrated in some detail


what he took to be the anomalous actuations of Sophia Alawi.

Alauya wrote three other letters to Mr. Arzaga of the NHMFC, dated
February 21, 1996, April 15, 1996, and May 3, 1996, in all of which,
for the same reasons already cited, he insisted on the cancellation
of his housing loan and discontinuance of deductions from his salary
on account thereof.a He also wrote on January 18, 1996 to Ms.
Corazon M. Ordoez, Head of the Fiscal Management & Budget
Office, and to the Chief, Finance Division, both of this Court, to stop
deductions from his salary in relation to the loan in question, again
asserting the anomalous manner by which he was allegedly duped
into entering into the contracts by "the scheming sales agent."b

The upshot was that in May, 1996, the NHMFC wrote to the
Supreme Court requesting it to stop deductions on Alauya's UHLP
loan "effective May 1996," and began negotiating with Villarosa &
Co. "for the buy-back of ** (Alauya's) mortgage, and ** the refund
of ** (his) payments."c

On learning of Alauya's letter to Villarosa & Co. of December 15,


1995, Sophia Alawi filed with this Court a verified complaint dated
January 25, 1996 -- to which she appended a copy of the letter, and
of the above mentioned envelope bearing the typewritten words,
"Free Postage PD 26."1 In that complaint, she accused Alauya of:

1. "Imputation of malicious and libelous charges with no solid


grounds through manifest ignorance and evident bad faith;"

2. "Causing undue injury to, and blemishing her honor and


established reputation;"

3. "Unauthorized enjoyment of the privilege of free postage **;"


and

4. Usurpation of the title of "attorney," which only regular members


of the Philippine Bar may properly use.

She deplored Alauya's references to her as "unscrupulous, swindler,


forger, manipulator, etc." without "even a bit of evidence to cloth
(sic) his allegations with the essence of truth," denouncing his
imputations as irresponsible, "all concoctions, lies, baseless and
coupled with manifest ignorance and evident bad faith," and
asserting that all her dealings with Alauya had been regular and
completely transparent. She closed with the plea that Alauya "be
dismissed from the service, or be appropriately disciplined (sic) ** "

The Court resolved to order Alauya to comment on the complaint.


Conformably with established usage that notices of resolutions
emanate from the corresponding Office of the Clerk of Court, the
notice of resolution in this case was signed by Atty. Alfredo P.
Marasigan, Assistant Division Clerk of Court.2chanroblesvi rt uallawl ibra ry

Alauya first submitted a "Preliminary Comment"3 in which he


questioned the authority of Atty. Marasigan to require an
explanation of him, this power pertaining, according to him, not to
"a mere Asst. Div. Clerk of Court investigating an Executive Clerk of
Court." but only to the District Judge, the Court Administrator or the
Chief Justice, and voiced the suspicion that the Resolution was the
result of a "strong link" between Ms. Alawi and Atty. Marasigan's
office. He also averred that the complaint had no factual basis;
Alawi was envious of him for being not only "the Executive Clerk of
court and ex-officio Provincial Sheriff and District Registrar," but
also "a scion of a Royal Family **."4

In a subsequent letter to Atty. Marasigan, but this time in much less


aggressive, even obsequious tones,5 Alauya requested the former to
give him a copy of the complaint in order that he might comment
thereon.6 He stated that his acts as clerk of court were done in good
faith and within the confines of the law; and that Sophia Alawi as
sales agent of Villarosa & Co. had, by falsifying his signature,
fraudulently bound him to a housing loan contract entailing monthly
deductions of P4,333.10 from his salary.

And in his comment thereafter submitted under date of June 5,


1996, Alauya contended that it was he who had suffered "undue
injury, mental anguish, sleepless nights, wounded feelings and
untold financial suffering," considering that in six months, a total
of P26,028.60 had been deducted from his salary.7 He declared that
there was no basis for the complaint; in communicating with
Villarosa & Co. he had merely acted in defense of his rights. He
denied any abuse of the franking privilege, saying that he
gave P20.00 plus transportation fare to a subordinate whom he
entrusted with the mailing of certain letters; that the words: "Free
Postage PD 26," were typewritten on the envelope by some other
person, an averment corroborated by the affidavit of Absamen C.
Domocao, Clerk IV (subscribed and sworn to before respondent
himself, and attached to the comment as Annex J);8 and as far as
he knew, his subordinate mailed the letters with the use of the
money he had given for postage, and if those letters were indeed
mixed with the official mail of the court, this had occurred
inadvertently and because of an honest mistake.9 chanroblesvi rtua llawli bra ry

Alauya justified his use of the title, "attorney," by the assertion that
it is "lexically synonymous" with "Counsellors-at-law," a title to
which Shari'a lawyers have a rightful claim, adding that he prefers
the title of "attorney" because "counsellor" is often mistaken for
"councilor," "konsehal or the Maranao term "consial," connoting a
local legislator beholden to the mayor. Withal, he does not consider
himself a lawyer.
He pleads for the Court's compassion, alleging that what he did "is
expected of any man unduly prejudiced and injured."10 He claims he
was manipulated into reposing his trust in Alawi, a classmate and
friend.11 He was induced to sign a blank contract on Alawi's
assurance that she would show the completed document to him
later for correction, but she had since avoided him; despite
"numerous letters and follow-ups" he still does not know where the
property -- subject of his supposed agreement with Alawi's
principal, Villarosa & Co. -- is situated;12 He says Alawi somehow
got his GSIS policy from his wife, and although she promised to
return it the next day, she did not do so until after several months.
He also claims that in connection with his contract with Villarosa &
Co., Alawi forged his signature on such pertinent documents as
those regarding the down payment, clearance, lay-out, receipt of
the key of the house, salary deduction, none of which he ever
saw.13chanroblesvi rtual lawlib rary

Averring in fine that his acts in question were done without malice,
Alauya prays for the dismissal of the complaint for lack of merit, it
consisting of "fallacious, malicious and baseless allegations," and
complainant Alawi having come to the Court with unclean hands,
her complicity in the fraudulent housing loan being apparent and
demonstrable.

It may be mentioned that in contrast to his two (2) letters to


Assistant Clerk of Court Marasigan (dated April 19, 1996 and April
22, 1996), and his two (2) earlier letters both dated December 15,
1996 -- all of which he signed as "Atty. Ashary M. Alauya" -- in his
Comment of June 5, 1996, he does not use the title but refers to
himself as "DATU ASHARY M. ALAUYA."

The Court referred the case to the Office of the Court Administrator
for evaluation, report and recommendation.14 chanroblesvi rt uallawli bra ry

The first accusation against Alauya is that in his aforesaid letters, he


made "malicious and libelous charges (against Alawi) with no solid
grounds through manifest ignorance and evident bad faith,"
resulting in "undue injury to (her) and blemishing her honor and
established reputation." In those letters, Alauya had written inter
alia that:
1) Alawi obtained his consent to the contracts in question "by gross
misrepresentation, deceit, fraud, dishonesty and abuse of
confidence;"

2) Alawi acted in bad faith and perpetrated ** illegal and


unauthorized acts ** ** prejudicial to ** (his) rights and interests;"

3) Alawi was an "unscrupulous (and "swindling") sales agent" who


had fooled him by "deceit, fraud, misrepresentation, dishonesty and
abuse of confidence;" and

4) Alawi had maliciously and fraudulently manipulated the contract


with Villarosa & Co., and unlawfully secured and pursued the
housing loan without ** (his) authority and against ** (his) will,"
and "concealed the real facts **."

Alauya's defense essentially is that in making these statements, he


was merely acting in defense of his rights, and doing only what "is
expected of any man unduly prejudiced and injured," who had
suffered "mental anguish, sleepless nights, wounded feelings and
untold financial suffering," considering that in six months, a total
of P26,028.60 had been deducted from his salary.15 chanroblesv irt ualla wlibra ry

The Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and
Employees (RA 6713) inter alia enunciates the State policy of
promoting a high standard of ethics and utmost responsibility in the
public service.16 Section 4 of the Code commands that "(p)ublic
officials and employees ** at all times respect the rights of others,
and ** refrain from doing acts contrary to law, good morals, good
customs, public policy, public order, public safety and public
interest."17 More than once has this Court emphasized that "the
conduct and behavior of every official and employee of an agency
involved in the administration of justice, from the presiding judge to
the most junior clerk, should be circumscribed with the heavy
burden of responsibility. Their conduct must at all times be
characterized by, among others, strict propriety and decorum so as
to earn and keep the respect of the public for the judiciary."18

Now, it does not appear to the Court consistent with good morals,
good customs or public policy, or respect for the rights of others, to
couch denunciations of acts believed -- however sincerely -- to be
deceitful, fraudulent or malicious, in excessively intemperate.
insulting or virulent language. Alauya is evidently convinced that he
has a right of action against Sophia Alawi. The law requires that he
exercise that right with propriety, without malice or vindictiveness,
or undue harm to anyone; in a manner consistent with good morals,
good customs, public policy, public order, supra; or otherwise
stated, that he "act with justice, give everyone his due, and observe
honesty and good faith."19 Righteous indignation, or vindication of
right cannot justify resort to vituperative language, or downright
name-calling. As a member of the Shari'a Bar and an officer of a
Court, Alawi is subject to a standard of conduct more stringent than
for most other government workers. As a man of the law, he may
not use language which is abusive, offensive, scandalous, menacing,
or otherwise improper.20 As a judicial employee, it is expected that
he accord respect for the person and the rights of others at all
times, and that his every act and word should be characterized by
prudence, restraint, courtesy, dignity. His radical deviation from
these salutary norms might perhaps be mitigated, but cannot be
excused, by his strongly held conviction that he had been grievously
wronged.

As regards Alauya's use of the title of "Attorney," this Court has


already had occasion to declare that persons who pass the Shari'a
Bar are not full-fledged members of the Philippine Bar, hence may
only practice law before Shari'a courts.21 While one who has been
admitted to the Shari'a Bar, and one who has been admitted to the
Philippine Bar, may both be considered "counsellors," in the sense
that they give counsel or advice in a professional capacity, only the
latter is an "attorney." The title of "attorney" is reserved to those
who, having obtained the necessary degree in the study of law and
successfully taken the Bar Examinations, have been admitted to the
Integrated Bar of the Philippines and remain members thereof in
good standing; and it is they only who are authorized to practice
law in this jurisdiction.

Alauya says he does not wish to use the title, "counsellor" or


"counsellor-at-law," because in his region, there are pejorative
connotations to the term, or it is confusingly similar to that given to
local legislators. The ratiocination, valid or not, is of no moment. His
disinclination to use the title of "counsellor" does not warrant his
use of the title of attorney.

Finally, respecting Alauya's alleged unauthorized use of the franking


privilege, the record contains no evidence adequately establishing
the accusation.

WHEREFORE, respondent Ashari M. Alauya is hereby


REPRIMANDED for the use of excessively intemperate, insulting or
virulent language, i.e., language unbecoming a judicial officer, and
for usurping the title of attorney; and he is warned that any similar
or other impropriety or misconduct in the future will be dealt with
more severely.

SO ORDERED.

EN BANC

B. M. No. 1036 June 10, 2003

DONNA MARIE S. AGUIRRE, Complainant,


vs.
EDWIN L. RANA, Respondent.

DECISION

CARPIO, J.:

The Case

Before one is admitted to the Philippine Bar, he must possess the requisite moral integrity for
membership in the legal profession. Possession of moral integrity is of greater importance than
possession of legal learning. The practice of law is a privilege bestowed only on the morally fit. A bar
candidate who is morally unfit cannot practice law even if he passes the bar examinations.

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

On 21 May 2001, one day before the scheduled mass oath-taking of successful bar examinees as
members of the Philippine Bar, complainant Donna Marie Aguirre ("complainant") filed against
respondent a Petition for Denial of Admission to the Bar. Complainant charged respondent with
unauthorized practice of law, grave misconduct, violation of law, and grave misrepresentation.

The Court allowed respondent to take his oath as a member of the Bar during the scheduled oath-
taking on 22 May 2001 at the Philippine International Convention Center. However, the Court ruled
that respondent could not sign the Roll of Attorneys pending the resolution of the charge against
him. Thus, respondent took the lawyer’s oath on the scheduled date but has not signed the Roll of
Attorneys up to now.

Complainant charges respondent for unauthorized practice of law and grave misconduct.
Complainant alleges that respondent, while not yet a lawyer, appeared as counsel for a candidate in
the May 2001 elections before the Municipal Board of Election Canvassers ("MBEC") of Mandaon,
Masbate. Complainant further alleges that respondent filed with the MBEC a pleading dated 19 May
2001 entitled Formal Objection to the Inclusion in the Canvassing of Votes in Some Precincts for the
Office of Vice-Mayor. In this pleading, respondent represented himself as "counsel for and in behalf
of Vice Mayoralty Candidate, George Bunan," and signed the pleading as counsel for George Bunan
("Bunan").

On the charge of violation of law, complainant claims that respondent is a municipal government
employee, being a secretary of the Sangguniang Bayan of Mandaon, Masbate. As such, respondent
is not allowed by law to act as counsel for a client in any court or administrative body.

On the charge of grave misconduct and misrepresentation, complainant accuses respondent of


acting as counsel for vice mayoralty candidate George Bunan ("Bunan") without the latter engaging
respondent’s services. Complainant claims that respondent filed the pleading as a ploy to prevent
the proclamation of the winning vice mayoralty candidate.

On 22 May 2001, the Court issued a resolution allowing respondent to take the lawyer’s oath but
disallowed him from signing the Roll of Attorneys until he is cleared of the charges against him. In
the same resolution, the Court required respondent to comment on the complaint against him.

In his Comment, respondent admits that Bunan sought his "specific assistance" to represent him
before the MBEC. Respondent claims that "he decided to assist and advice Bunan, not as a lawyer
but as a person who knows the law." Respondent admits signing the 19 May 2001 pleading that
objected to the inclusion of certain votes in the canvassing. He explains, however, that he did not
sign the pleading as a lawyer or represented himself as an "attorney" in the pleading.

On his employment as secretary of the Sangguniang Bayan, respondent claims that he submitted
his resignation on 11 May 2001 which was allegedly accepted on the same date. He submitted a
copy of the Certification of Receipt of Revocable Resignation dated 28 May 2001 signed by Vice-
Mayor Napoleon Relox. Respondent further claims that the complaint is politically motivated
considering that complainant is the daughter of Silvestre Aguirre, the losing candidate for mayor of
Mandaon, Masbate. Respondent prays that the complaint be dismissed for lack of merit and that he
be allowed to sign the Roll of Attorneys.

On 22 June 2001, complainant filed her Reply to respondent’s Comment and refuted the claim of
respondent that his appearance before the MBEC was only to extend specific assistance to Bunan.
Complainant alleges that on 19 May 2001 Emily Estipona-Hao ("Estipona-Hao") filed a petition for
proclamation as the winning candidate for mayor. Respondent signed as counsel for Estipona-Hao
in this petition. When respondent appeared as counsel before the MBEC, complainant questioned
his appearance on two grounds: (1) respondent had not taken his oath as a lawyer; and (2) he was
an employee of the government.

Respondent filed a Reply (Re: Reply to Respondent’s Comment) reiterating his claim that the instant
administrative case is "motivated mainly by political vendetta."

On 17 July 2001, the Court referred the case to the Office of the Bar Confidant ("OBC") for
evaluation, report and recommendation.

OBC’s Report and Recommendation

The OBC found that respondent indeed appeared before the MBEC as counsel for Bunan in the May
2001 elections. The minutes of the MBEC proceedings show that respondent actively participated in
the proceedings. The OBC likewise found that respondent appeared in the MBEC proceedings even
before he took the lawyer’s oath on 22 May 2001. The OBC believes that respondent’s misconduct
casts a serious doubt on his moral fitness to be a member of the Bar. The OBC also believes that
respondent’s unauthorized practice of law is a ground to deny his admission to the practice of law.
The OBC therefore recommends that respondent be denied admission to the Philippine Bar.

On the other charges, OBC stated that complainant failed to cite a law which respondent allegedly
violated when he appeared as counsel for Bunan while he was a government employee.
Respondent resigned as secretary and his resignation was accepted. Likewise, respondent was
authorized by Bunan to represent him before the MBEC.

The Court’s Ruling

We agree with the findings and conclusions of the OBC that respondent engaged in the
unauthorized practice of law and thus does not deserve admission to the Philippine Bar.

Respondent took his oath as lawyer on 22 May 2001. However, the records show that respondent
appeared as counsel for Bunan prior to 22 May 2001, before respondent took the lawyer’s oath. In
the pleading entitled Formal Objection to the Inclusion in the Canvassing of Votes in Some Precincts
for the Office of Vice-Mayor dated 19 May 2001, respondent signed as "counsel for George Bunan."
In the first paragraph of the same pleading respondent stated that he was the "(U)ndersigned
Counsel for, and in behalf of Vice Mayoralty Candidate, GEORGE T. BUNAN." Bunan himself wrote
the MBEC on 14 May 2001 that he had "authorized Atty. Edwin L. Rana as his counsel to represent
him" before the MBEC and similar bodies.

On 14 May 2001, mayoralty candidate Emily Estipona-Hao also "retained" respondent as her
counsel. On the same date, 14 May 2001, Erly D. Hao informed the MBEC that "Atty. Edwin L. Rana
has been authorized by REFORMA LM-PPC as the legal counsel of the party and the candidate of
the said party." Respondent himself wrote the MBEC on 14 May 2001 that he was entering his
"appearance as counsel for Mayoralty Candidate Emily Estipona-Hao and for the REFORMA LM-
PPC." On 19 May 2001, respondent signed as counsel for Estipona-Hao in the petition filed before
the MBEC praying for the proclamation of Estipona-Hao as the winning candidate for mayor of
Mandaon, Masbate.

All these happened even before respondent took the lawyer’s oath. Clearly, respondent engaged in
the practice of law without being a member of the Philippine Bar.
In Philippine Lawyers Association v. Agrava,1 the Court elucidated that:

The practice of law is not limited to the conduct of cases or litigation in court; it embraces the
preparation of pleadings and other papers incident to actions and special proceedings, the
management of such actions and proceedings on behalf of clients before judges and courts, and in
addition, conveyancing. In general, all advice to clients, and all action taken for them in
matters connected with the law, incorporation services, assessment and condemnation services
contemplating an appearance before a judicial body, the foreclosure of a mortgage, enforcement of
a creditor's claim in bankruptcy and insolvency proceedings, and conducting proceedings in
attachment, and in matters of estate and guardianship have been held to constitute law practice, as
do the preparation and drafting of legal instruments, where the work done involves the determination
by the trained legal mind of the legal effect of facts and conditions. (5 Am. Jur. p. 262, 263). (Italics
supplied) x x x

In Cayetano v. Monsod,2 the Court held that "practice of law" means any activity, in or out of court,
which requires the application of law, legal procedure, knowledge, training and experience. To
engage in the practice of law is to perform acts which are usually performed by members of the legal
profession. Generally, to practice law is to render any kind of service which requires the use of legal
knowledge or skill.

Verily, respondent was engaged in the practice of law when he appeared in the proceedings before
the MBEC and filed various pleadings, without license to do so. Evidence clearly supports the
charge of unauthorized practice of law. Respondent called himself "counsel" knowing fully well that
he was not a member of the Bar. Having held himself out as "counsel" knowing that he had no
authority to practice law, respondent has shown moral unfitness to be a member of the Philippine
Bar.3

The right to practice law is not a natural or constitutional right but is a privilege. It is limited to
persons of good moral character with special qualifications duly ascertained and certified. The
exercise of this privilege presupposes possession of integrity, legal knowledge, educational
attainment, and even public trust4 since a lawyer is an officer of the court. A bar candidate does not
acquire the right to practice law simply by passing the bar examinations. The practice of law is a
privilege that can be withheld even from one who has passed the bar examinations, if the person
seeking admission had practiced law without a license.5

The regulation of the practice of law is unquestionably strict. In Beltran, Jr. v. Abad,6 a candidate
passed the bar examinations but had not taken his oath and signed the Roll of Attorneys. He was
held in contempt of court for practicing law even before his admission to the Bar. Under Section 3 (e)
of Rule 71 of the Rules of Court, a person who engages in the unauthorized practice of law is liable
for indirect contempt of court.7

True, respondent here passed the 2000 Bar Examinations and took the lawyer’s oath. However, it is
1âwphi 1

the signing in the Roll of Attorneys that finally makes one a full-fledged lawyer. The fact that
respondent passed the bar examinations is immaterial. Passing the bar is not the only qualification
to become an attorney-at-law.8 Respondent should know that two essential requisites for becoming a
lawyer still had to be performed, namely: his lawyer’s oath to be administered by this Court and his
signature in the Roll of Attorneys.9

On the charge of violation of law, complainant contends that the law does not allow respondent to
act as counsel for a private client in any court or administrative body since respondent is the
secretary of the Sangguniang Bayan.
Respondent tendered his resignation as secretary of the Sangguniang Bayan prior to the acts
complained of as constituting unauthorized practice of law. In his letter dated 11 May 2001
addressed to Napoleon Relox, vice- mayor and presiding officer of the Sangguniang Bayan,
respondent stated that he was resigning "effective upon your acceptance."10 Vice-Mayor Relox
accepted respondent’s resignation effective 11 May 2001.11 Thus, the evidence does not support the
charge that respondent acted as counsel for a client while serving as secretary of the Sangguniang
Bayan.

On the charge of grave misconduct and misrepresentation, evidence shows that Bunan indeed
authorized respondent to represent him as his counsel before the MBEC and similar bodies. While
there was no misrepresentation, respondent nonetheless had no authority to practice law.

WHEREFORE, respondent Edwin L. Rana is DENIED admission to the Philippine Bar.

SO ORDERED.

Republic of the Philippines


SUPREME COURT
Manila

EN BANC

B.M. No. 1678 December 17, 2007

PETITION FOR LEAVE TO RESUME PRACTICE OF LAW,


BENJAMIN M. DACANAY, petitioner.

RESOLUTION

CORONA, J.:

This bar matter concerns the petition of petitioner Benjamin M. Dacanay for leave to resume the
practice of law.

Petitioner was admitted to the Philippine bar in March 1960. He practiced law until he migrated to
Canada in December 1998 to seek medical attention for his ailments. He subsequently applied for
Canadian citizenship to avail of Canada’s free medical aid program. His application was approved
and he became a Canadian citizen in May 2004.

On July 14, 2006, pursuant to Republic Act (RA) 9225 (Citizenship Retention and Re-Acquisition Act
of 2003), petitioner reacquired his Philippine citizenship.1 On that day, he took his oath of allegiance
as a Filipino citizen before the Philippine Consulate General in Toronto, Canada. Thereafter, he
returned to the Philippines and now intends to resume his law practice. There is a question,
however, whether petitioner Benjamin M. Dacanay lost his membership in the Philippine bar when
he gave up his Philippine citizenship in May 2004. Thus, this petition.

In a report dated October 16, 2007, the Office of the Bar Confidant cites Section 2, Rule 138
(Attorneys and Admission to Bar) of the Rules of Court:

SECTION 2. Requirements for all applicants for admission to the bar. – Every applicant for
admission as a member of the bar must be a citizen of the Philippines, at least twenty-one
years of age, of good moral character, and a resident of the Philippines; and must produce
before the Supreme Court satisfactory evidence of good moral character, and that no
charges against him, involving moral turpitude, have been filed or are pending in any court in
the Philippines.

Applying the provision, the Office of the Bar Confidant opines that, by virtue of his reacquisition of
Philippine citizenship, in 2006, petitioner has again met all the qualifications and has none of the
disqualifications for membership in the bar. It recommends that he be allowed to resume the practice
of law in the Philippines, conditioned on his retaking the lawyer’s oath to remind him of his duties
and responsibilities as a member of the Philippine bar.

We approve the recommendation of the Office of the Bar Confidant with certain modifications.

The practice of law is a privilege burdened with conditions.2 It is so delicately affected with public
interest that it is both a power and a duty of the State (through this Court) to control and regulate it in
order to protect and promote the public welfare.3

Adherence to rigid standards of mental fitness, maintenance of the highest degree of morality,
faithful observance of the rules of the legal profession, compliance with the mandatory continuing
legal education requirement and payment of membership fees to the Integrated Bar of the
Philippines (IBP) are the conditions required for membership in good standing in the bar and for
enjoying the privilege to practice law. Any breach by a lawyer of any of these conditions makes him
unworthy of the trust and confidence which the courts and clients repose in him for the continued
exercise of his professional privilege.4

Section 1, Rule 138 of the Rules of Court provides:

SECTION 1. Who may practice law. – Any person heretofore duly admitted as a member of
the bar, or thereafter admitted as such in accordance with the provisions of this Rule, and
who is in good and regular standing, is entitled to practice law.

Pursuant thereto, any person admitted as a member of the Philippine bar in accordance with the
statutory requirements and who is in good and regular standing is entitled to practice law.

Admission to the bar requires certain qualifications. The Rules of Court mandates that an applicant
for admission to the bar be a citizen of the Philippines, at least twenty-one years of age, of good
moral character and a resident of the Philippines.5 He must also produce before this Court
satisfactory evidence of good moral character and that no charges against him, involving moral
turpitude, have been filed or are pending in any court in the Philippines.6

Moreover, admission to the bar involves various phases such as furnishing satisfactory proof of
educational, moral and other qualifications;7 passing the bar examinations;8 taking the lawyer’s
oath9 and signing the roll of attorneys and receiving from the clerk of court of this Court a certificate
of the license to practice.10

The second requisite for the practice of law ― membership in good standing ― is a continuing
requirement. This means continued membership and, concomitantly, payment of annual
membership dues in the IBP;11 payment of the annual professional tax;12 compliance with the
mandatory continuing legal education requirement;13 faithful observance of the rules and ethics of
the legal profession and being continually subject to judicial disciplinary control.14
Given the foregoing, may a lawyer who has lost his Filipino citizenship still practice law in the
Philippines? No.

The Constitution provides that the practice of all professions in the Philippines shall be limited to
Filipino citizens save in cases prescribed by law.15 Since Filipino citizenship is a requirement for
admission to the bar, loss thereof terminates membership in the Philippine bar and, consequently,
the privilege to engage in the practice of law. In other words, the loss of Filipino citizenship ipso
jure terminates the privilege to practice law in the Philippines. The practice of law is a privilege
denied to foreigners.16

The exception is when Filipino citizenship is lost by reason of naturalization as a citizen of another
country but subsequently reacquired pursuant to RA 9225. This is because "all Philippine citizens
who become citizens of another country shall be deemed not to have lost their Philippine
citizenship under the conditions of [RA 9225]."17 Therefore, a Filipino lawyer who becomes a citizen
of another country is deemed never to have lost his Philippine citizenship if he reacquires it in
accordance with RA 9225. Although he is also deemed never to have terminated his membership
in the Philippine bar, no automatic right to resume law practice accrues.

Under RA 9225, if a person intends to practice the legal profession in the Philippines and he
reacquires his Filipino citizenship pursuant to its provisions "(he) shall apply with the proper authority
for a license or permit to engage in such practice."18 Stated otherwise, before a lawyer who
reacquires Filipino citizenship pursuant to RA 9225 can resume his law practice, he must first secure
from this Court the authority to do so, conditioned on:

(a) the updating and payment in full of the annual membership dues in the IBP;

(b) the payment of professional tax;

(c) the completion of at least 36 credit hours of mandatory continuing legal education; this is
specially significant to refresh the applicant/petitioner’s knowledge of Philippine laws and
update him of legal developments and

(d) the retaking of the lawyer’s oath which will not only remind him of his duties and
responsibilities as a lawyer and as an officer of the Court, but also renew his pledge to
maintain allegiance to the Republic of the Philippines.

Compliance with these conditions will restore his good standing as a member of the Philippine bar.

WHEREFORE, the petition of Attorney Benjamin M. Dacanay is hereby GRANTED, subject to


compliance with the conditions stated above and submission of proof of such compliance to the Bar
Confidant, after which he may retake his oath as a member of the Philippine bar.

SO ORDERED.

Republic of the Philippines


SUPREME COURT
Manila

EN BANC

A.C. No. 6484 June 16, 2015


ADELITA B. LLUNAR, Complainant,
vs.
ATTY. ROMULO RICAFORT, Respondent.

DECISION

PER CURIAM:

The present administrative case stemmed from the complaint-affidavit1 that Adelita B. Llunar
(complainant) filed against Atty. Romulo Ricafort (respondent) for gross and inexcusable negligence
and serious misconduct.

Antecedents

In September 2000, the complainant, as attorney-in-fact of Severina Bañez, hired the respondent to
file a case against father and son Ricardo and Ard Cervantes (Ard) for the recovery of a parcel of
land allegedly owned by the Bañez family but was fraudulently registered under the name of Ricardo
and later was transferred to Ard.

The property, which Ard had mortgaged with the Rural Bank of Malilipot, Albay, was the subject of
foreclosure proceedings at the time the respondent was hired. The respondent received from the
complainant the following afuounts: (a) ₱70,000.00 as partial payment of the redemption price of the
property; (b) ₱19,000.00 to cover the filing fees; and (c) ₱6,500.00 as attorney's fees.

Three years later, the complainant learned that no case involving the subject property was ever filed
by the respondent with the Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Legaspi City. Thus, the complainant
demanded that the respondent return to her the amount of ₱95,000.00.

The respondent refused to return the whole amount of ₱95,000.00 to the complainant. He argued
1aw p++i1

that a complaint2 for annulment of title against Ard Cervantes had actually been filed in court, though
not by him, but by another lawyer, Atty. Edgar M. Abitria. Thus, he was willing to return only what
was left of the ₱95,000.00 after deducting therefrom the ₱50,000.00 that he paid to Atty. Abitria as
acceptance fee for handling the case.

The complainant refused to recognize the complaint for annulment of title filed by Atty. Abitria and
claimed that she had no knowledge of Atty. Abitria's engagement as counsel. Besides, the complaint
was filed three (3) years late and the property could no longer be redeemed from the bank. Also, the
complainant discovered that the respondent had been suspended indefinitely from the practice of
law since May 29, 2002, pursuant to this Court's decision in Administrative Case No. 5054,3 which
the complainant suspected was the reason another lawyer, and not the respondent, filed the
complaint for annulment of title in court.

In a resolution4 dated February 2, 2005, the Court referred the case to the Integrated Bar of the
Philippines (IBP) for investigation, report, and recommendation.

In a report5 dated May 22, 2009, IBP Investigating Commissioner Cecilio C. Villanueva found the
respondent to have been grossly negligent in handling the complainant's case and to have gravely
abused the trust and confidence reposed in him by the complainant, thereby, violating Canons
156 and 17,7 and Rules 1.01,8 16.03,9 18.03,10 and 18.0411 of the Code of Professional Responsibility
(CPR).
Also, the Investigating Commissioner found the respondent to have erred in not informing his client
that he was under indefinite suspension from the practice of law. Due to these infractions,
Commissioner Villanueva recommended that the respondent remain suspended indefinitely from the
practice of law.

In Resolution No. XIX-2011-224 dated May 14, 2011, the IBP Board of Governors agreed with the
Investigating Commissioner's findings on the respondent's liability but modified the recommended
penalty from indefinite suspension to disbarment.12 It also ordered the respondent to return to the
complainant the amount of ₱95,000.00 within thirty (30) days from notice. The respondent moved for
reconsideration.

In his motion for reconsideration,13 the respondent argued that his referral of the complainant's case
to Atty. Abitria was actually with the complainant's knowledge and consent; and that he paid Atty.
Abitria ₱50,000.00 for accepting the case. These facts were confirmed by Atty. Abitria in an
affidavit14 dated November 17, 2004, but were alleged to have been overlooked by Commissioner
Villanueva in his report. The IBP Board . of Governors, in Resolution No. XX-2013-710 dated June
21, 2013, denied the respondent's motion for reconsideration.15

Our Ruling

We find the respondent guilty of Grave Misconduct in his dealings with his client and in engaging in
the practice of law while under indefinite suspension, and thus impose upon him the ultimate penalty
of DISBARMENT.

The respondent in this case committed several infractions making him liable for grave misconduct.
First, the respondent did not exert due diligence in handling the complainant's case. He failed to act
promptly in redeeming the complainant's property within the period of redemption. What is worse is
the delay of three years before a complaint to recover the property was actually filed in court. The
respondent clearly dilly-dallied on the complainant's case and wasted precious time and opportunity
that were then readily available to recover the complainant's property. Under these facts, the
respondent violated Rule 18.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility (CPR), which states that
"a lawyer shall not neglect a legal matter entrusted to him, and his negligence in connection
therewith shall render him liable."

Second, the respondent failed to return, upon demand, the amounts given to him by the complainant
for handling the latter's case. On three separate occasions, the respondent received from the
complainant the amounts of ₱19,000.00, ₱70,000.00, and ₱6,500.00 for purposes of redeeming the
mortgaged property from the bank and filing the necessary civil easels against Ard Cervantes. The
complainant approached the respondent several times thereafter to follow up on the easels to be
filed supposedly by the respondent who, in turn, reassured her that actions on her case had been
taken.

After the complainant discovered three years later that the respondent had not filed any case in
court, she demanded that the respondent return the amount of ₱95,000.00, but her demand was left
unheeded. The respondent later promised to pay her, but until now, no payment of any amount has
been made. These facts confirm that the respondent violated Canon 16 of the CPR, which mandates
every lawyer to "hold in trust all moneys and properties of his client that may come into his
possession"16 and to "account for all money or property collected or received for or from the
client."17 In addition, a lawyer's failure to return upon demand the funds or property he holds for his
client gives rise to the presumption that he has appropriated these funds or property for his own use
to the prejudice of, and in violation of the trust reposed in him by his client.18
Third, the respondent committed dishonesty by not being forthright with the complainant that he was
under indefinite suspension from the practice of law. The respondent should have disclosed this fact
at the time he was approached by the complainant for his services. Canon 15 of the CPR states that
"a lawyer shall observe candor, fairness and loyalty in all his dealings and transactions with his
clients." The respondent lacked the candor expected of him as a member of the Bar when he
accepted the complainant's case despite knowing that he could not and should not practice law.

Lastly, the respondent was effectively in the practice of law despite the indefinite suspension
imposed on him. This infraction infinitely aggravates the offenses he committed. Based on the above
facts alone, the penalty of suspension for five (5) years from the practice of law would have been
justified, but the respondent is not an ordinary violator of the profession's ethical rules; he is a repeat
violator of these rules. In Nunez v. Atty. Ricafort,19 we had adjudged the respondent liable for grave
misconduct in failing to turn over the proceeds of the sale of a property owned by his client and in
issuing bounced checks to satisfy the alias writ of execution issued by the court in the case for
violation of Batas Pambansa Blg. 22 filed against him by his client. We then suspended him
indefinitely from the practice of law - a penalty short of disbarment. Under his current liability - which
is no different in character from his previous offense - we have no other way but to proceed to
decree his disbarment. He has become completely unworthy of membership in our honorable
profession.

With respect to the amount to be returned to the complainant, we agree with the IBP that the
respondent should return the whole amount of ₱95,000.00, without deductions, regardless of
whether the engagement of Atty. Abitria as counsel was with the complainant's knowledge and
consent.

In the first place, the hiring of Atty. Abitria would not have been necessary had the respondent been
honest and diligent in handling the complainant's case from the start. The complainant should not be
burdened with the expense of hiring another lawyer to perform the services that the respondent was
hired to do, especially in this case where there was an inexcusable non-delivery of such services.

WHEREFORE, respondent Atty. Romulo Ricafort is hereby DISBARRED from the practice of law
and his name REMOVED from the Roll of Attorneys, effective immediately upon his receipt of this
Decision. Also, he is ORDERED to RETURN the amount of ₱95,000.00 to complainant Adelita B.
Llunar, within thirty (30) days from notice of this Decision.

Let a copy of this Decision be attached to the respondent's personal record and furnished the Office
of the Bar Confidant, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, and the Office of the Court Administrator
for circulation to all courts in the country. This Decision should likewise be posted on the Supreme
Court website for the information of the general public.

SO ORDERED.

EN BANC
July 12, 2016

A.C. No. 11316

PATRICK A. CARONAN, Complainant


vs.
RICHARD A. CARONAN a.k.a. "ATTY. PATRICK A. CARONAN," Respondent

DECISION

PER CURIAM:

For the Court's resolution is the Complaint-Affidavit1 filed by complainant Patrick A. Caronan
(complainant), before the Commission on Bar Discipline (CBD) of the Integrated Bar of the
Philippines (IBP), against respondent "Atty. Patrick A. Caronan," whose real name is allegedly
Richard A. Caronan (respondent), for purportedly assuming complainant's identity and falsely
representing that the former has the required educational qualifications to take the Bar Examinations
and be admitted to the practice of law.

The Facts

Complainant and respondent are siblings born to Porferio2 R. Caronan, Jr. and Norma A. Caronan.
Respondent is the older of the two, having been born on February 7, 1975, while complainant was
born on August 5, 1976.3 Both of them completed their secondary education at the Makati High
School where complainant graduated in 19934 and respondent in 1991.5 Upon his graduation,
complainant enrolled at the University of Makati where he obtained a degree in Business
Administration in 1997.6 He started working thereafter as a Sales Associate for Philippine Seven
Corporation (PSC), the operator of 7-11 Convenience Stores.7 In 2001, he married Myrna G. Tagpis
with whom he has two (2) daughters.8 Through the years, complainant rose from the ranks until, in
2009, he was promoted as a Store Manager of the 7-11 Store in Muntinlupa.9

Meanwhile, upon graduating from high school, respondent enrolled at the Pamantasan ng Lungsod
ng Maynila (PLM), where he stayed for one (1) year before transferring to the Philippine Military
Academy (PMA) in 1992.10 In 1993, he was discharged from the PMA and focused on helping their
father in the family's car rental business. In 1997, he moved to Nueva Vizcaya with his wife, Rosana,
and their three (3) children.11 Since then, respondent never went back to school to earn a college
degree.12

In 1999, during a visit to his family in Metro Manila, respondent told complainant that the former had
enrolled in a law school in Nueva Vizcaya.13

Subsequently, in 2004, their mother informed complainant that respondent passed the Bar
Examinations and that he used complainant's name and college records from the University of
Makati to enroll at St. Mary's University's College of Law in Bayombong, Nueva Vizcaya and take the
Bar Examinations.14 Complainant brushed these aside as he did not anticipate any adverse
consequences to him.15

In 2006, complainant was able to confirm respondent's use of his name and identity when he saw
the name "Patrick A. Caronan" on the Certificate of Admission to the Bar displayed at the latter's
office in Taguig City.16 Nevertheless, complainant did not confront respondent about it since he was
pre-occupied with his job and had a family to support.17
Sometime in May 2009, however, after his promotion as Store Manager, complainant was ordered to
report to the head office of PSC in Mandaluyong City where, upon arrival, he was informed that the
National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) was requesting his presence at its office in Taft Avenue,
Manila, in relation to an investigation involving respondent who, at that point, was using the name
"Atty. Patrick A. Caronan."18 Accordingly, on May 18, 2009, complainant appeared before the Anti-
Fraud and Computer Crimes Division of the NBI where he was interviewed and asked to identify
documents including: (1) his and respondent's high school records; (2) his transcript of records from
the University of Makati; (3) Land Transportation Office's records showing his and respondent's
driver's licenses; (4) records from St. Mary's University showing that complainant's transcript of
records from the University of Makati and his Birth Certificate were submitted to St. Mary's
University's College of Law; and (5) Alumni Book of St. Mary's University showing respondent's
photograph under the name "Patrick A. Caronan."19 Complainant later learned that the reason why
he was invited by the NBI was because of respondent's involvement in a case for qualified theft
and estafa filed by Mr. Joseph G. Agtarap (Agtarap), who was one of the principal sponsors at
respondent's wedding.20

Realizing that respondent had been using his name to perpetrate crimes and commit unlawful
activities, complainant took it upon himself to inform other people that he is the real "Patrick A.
Caronan" and that respondent's real name is Richard A. Caronan.21 However, problems relating to
respondent's use of the name "Atty. Patrick A. Caronan" continued to hound him. In July 2013, PSC
received a letter from Quasha Ancheta Peña & Nolasco Law Offices requesting that they be
furnished with complainant's contact details or, in the alternative, schedule a meeting with him to
discuss certain matters concerning respondent.22 On the other hand, a fellow church-member had
also told him that respondent who, using the name "Atty. Patrick A. Caronan," almost victimized his
(church-member's) relatives.23 Complainant also received a phone call from a certain Mrs. Loyda L.
Reyes (Reyes), who narrated how respondent tricked her into believing that he was authorized to
sell a parcel of land in Taguig City when in fact, he was not.24 Further, he learned that respondent
was arrested for gun-running activities, illegal possession of explosives, and violation of Batas
Pambansa Bilang (BP) 22.25

Due to the controversies involving respondent's use of the name "Patrick A. Caronan," complainant
developed a fear for his own safety and security.26 He also became the subject of conversations
among his colleagues, which eventually forced him to resign from his job at PSC.27 Hence,
complainant filed the present Complaint-Affidavit to stop respondent's alleged use of the former's
name and identity, and illegal practice of law.28

In his Answer,29 respondent denied all the allegations against him and invoked res judicata as a
defense. He maintained that his identity can no longer be raised as an issue as it had already been
resolved in CBD Case No. 09-2362 where the IBP Board of Governors dismissed30 the administrative
case31 filed by Agtarap against him, and which case had already been declared closed and
terminated by this Court in A.C. No. 10074.32 Moreover, according to him, complainant is being used
by Reyes and her spouse, Brigadier General Joselito M. Reyes, to humiliate, disgrace, malign,
discredit, and harass him because he filed several administrative and criminal complaints against
them before the Ombudsman.33

On March 9, 2015, the IBP-CBD conducted the scheduled mandatory conference where both parties
failed to appear.34 Instead, respondent moved to reset the same on April 20, 2015.35 On such date,
however, both paiiies again failed to appear, thereby prompting the IBP-CBD to issue an
Order36 directing them to file their respective position papers. However, neither of the parties
submitted any.37

The IBP's Report and Recommendation


On June 15, 2015, IBP Investigating Commissioner Jose Villanueva Cabrera (Investigating
Commissioner) issued his Report and Recommendation,38 finding respondent guilty of illegally and
falsely assuming complainant's name, identity, and academic records.39 He observed that
respondent failed to controvert all the allegations against him and did not present any proof to prove
his identity.40 On the other hand, complainant presented clear and overwhelming evidence that he is
the real "Patrick A. Caronan."41

Further, he noted that respondent admitted that he and complainant are siblings when he disclosed
upon his arrest on August 31, 2012 that: (a) his parents are Porferio Ramos Caronan and Norma
Atillo; and (b) he is married to Rosana Halili-Caronan.42 However, based on the Marriage Certificate
issued by the National Statistics Office (NSO), "Patrick A. Caronan" is married to a certain "Myrna G.
Tagpis," not to Rosana Halili-Caronan.43

The Investigating Commissioner also drew attention to the fact that the photograph taken of
respondent when he was arrested as "Richard A. Caronan" on August 16, 2012 shows the same
person as the one in the photograph in the IBP records of "Atty. Patrick A. Caronan."44 These,
according to the Investigating Commissioner, show that respondent indeed assumed complainant's
identity to study law and take the Bar Examinations.45 Since respondent falsely assumed the name,
identity, and academic records of complainant and the real "Patrick A. Caronan" neither obtained the
bachelor of laws degree nor took the Bar Exams, the Investigating Commissioner recommended that
the name "Patrick A. Caronan" with Roll of Attorneys No. 49069 be dropped and stricken off the Roll
of Attorneys.46 He also recommended that respondent and the name "Richard A. Caronan" be barred
from being admitted as a member of the Bar; and finally, for making a mockery of the judicial
institution, the IBP was directed to institute appropriate actions against respondent.47

On June 30, 2015, the IBP Board of Governors issued Resolution No. XXI-2015-607,48 adopting the
Investigating Commissioner's recommendation.

The Issues Before the Court

The issues in this case are whether or not the IBP erred in ordering that: (a) the name "Patrick A.
Caronan" be stricken off the Roll of Attorneys; and (b) the name "Richard A. Caronan" be barred
from being admitted to the Bar.

The Court's Ruling

After a thorough evaluation of the records, the Court finds no cogent reason to disturb the findings
and recommendations of the IBP.

As correctly observed by the IBP, complainant has established by clear and overwhelming evidence
that he is the real "Patrick A. Caronan" and that respondent, whose real name is Richard A.
Caronan, merely assumed the latter's name, identity, and academic records to enroll at the St.
Mary's University's College of Law, obtain a law degree, and take the Bar Examinations.

As pointed out by the IBP, respondent admitted that he and complainant are siblings when he
disclosed upon his arrest on August 31, 2012 that his parents are Porferio Ramos Caronan and
Norma Atillo.49 Respondent himself also stated that he is married to Rosana Halili-Caronan.50 This
diverges from the official NSO records showing that "Patrick A. Caronan" is married to Myrna G.
Tagpis, not to Rosana Halili-Caronan.51 Moreover, the photograph taken of respondent when he was
arrested as "Richard A. Caronan" on August 16, 2012 shows the same person as the one in the
photograph in the IBP records of "Atty. Patrick A. Caronan."52 Meanwhile, complainant submitted
numerous documents showing that he is the real "Patrick A. Caronan," among which are: (a) his
transcript of records from the University of Makati bearing his photograph;53 (b) a copy of his high
school yearbook with his photograph and the name "Patrick A. Caronan" under it;54 and (c) NBI
clearances obtained in 2010 and 2013.55

To the Court's mind, the foregoing indubitably confirm that respondent falsely used complainant's
name, identity, and school records to gain admission to the Bar. Since complainant - the real "Patrick
A. Caronan" - never took the Bar Examinations, the IBP correctly recommended that the name
"Patrick A. Caronan" be stricken off the Roll of Attorneys.

The IBP was also correct in ordering that respondent, whose real name is "Richard A. Caronan," be
barred from admission to the Bar. Under Section 6, Rule 138 of the Rules of Court, no applicant for
admission to the Bar Examination shall be admitted unless he had pursued and satisfactorily
completed a pre-law course, VIZ.:

Section 6. Pre-Law. - No applicant for admission to the bar examination shall be admitted unless he
presents a certificate that he has satisfied the Secretary of Education that, before he began the
study of law, he had pursued and satisfactorily completed in an authorized and recognized
university or college, requiring for admission thereto the completion of a four-year high school
course, the course of study prescribed therein for a bachelor's degree in arts or sciences with
any of the following subject as major or field of concentration: political science, logic, english,
spanish, history, and economics. (Emphases supplied)

In the case at hand, respondent never completed his college degree. While he enrolled at the PLM
in 1991, he left a year later and entered the PMA where he was discharged in 1993 without
graduating.56 Clearly, respondent has not completed the requisite pre-law degree.

The Court does not discount the possibility that respondent may later on complete his college
education and earn a law degree under his real name. However, his false assumption of his
1âw phi1

brother's name, identity, and educational records renders him unfit for admission to the Bar. The
practice of law, after all, is not a natural, absolute or constitutional right to be granted to everyone
who demands it.57 Rather, it is a privilege limited to citizens of good moral character.58 In In the
Matter of the Disqualification of Bar Examinee Haron S. Meling in the 2002 Bar Examinations and for
Disciplinary Action as Member of the Philippine Shari 'a Bar, Atty. Froilan R. Melendrez,59the Court
explained the essence of good moral character:

Good moral character is what a person really is, as distinguished from good reputation or from the
opinion generally entertained of him, the estimate in which he is held by the public in the place
where he is known. Moral character is not a subjective term but one which corresponds to objective
reality. The standard of personal and professional integrity is not satisfied by such conduct as it
merely enables a person to escape the penalty of criminal law. Good moral character includes at
least common honesty.60 (Emphasis supplied)

Here, respondent exhibited his dishonesty and utter lack of moral fitness to be a member of the Bar
when he assumed the name, identity, and school records of his own brother and dragged the latter
into controversies which eventually caused him to fear for his safety and to resign from PSC where
he had been working for years. Good moral character is essential in those who would be
lawyers.61 This is imperative in the nature of the office of a lawyer, the trust relation which exists
between him and his client, as well as between him and the court.62

Finally, respondent made a mockery of the legal profession by pretending to have the necessary
qualifications to be a lawyer. He also tarnished the image of lawyers with his alleged unscrupulous
activities, which resulted in the filing of several criminal cases against him. Certainly, respondent and
his acts do not have a place in the legal profession where one of the primary duties of its members is
to uphold its integrity and dignity.63

WHEREFORE, respondent Richard A. Caronan a.k.a. "Atty. Patrick A. Caronan" (respondent) is


found GUILTY of falsely assuming the name, identity, and academic records of complainant Patrick
A. Caronan (complainant) to obtain a law degree and take the Bar Examinations. Accordingly,
without prejudice to the filing of appropriate civil and/or criminal cases, the Court hereby resolves
that:

(1) the name "Patrick A. Caronan" with Roll of Attorneys No. 49069 is
ordered DROPPED and STRICKEN OFF the Roll of Attorneys;

(2) respondent is PROHIBITED from engaging in the practice of law or making any representations
as a lawyer;

(3) respondent is BARRED from being admitted as a member of the Philippine Bar in the future;

(4) the Identification Cards issued by the Integrated Bar of the Philippines to respondent under the
name "Atty. Patrick A. Caronan" and the Mandatory Continuing Legal Education Certificates issued
in such name are CANCELLED and/or REVOKED; and

(5) the Office of the Court Administrator is ordered to CIRCULATE notices and POST in the bulletin
boards of all courts of the country a photograph of respondent with his real name, " Richard A.
Caronan," with a warning that he is not a member of the Philippine Bar and a statement of his false
assumption of the name and identity of "Patrick A. Caronan."

Let a copy of this Decision be furnished the Office of the Bar Confidant, the Integrated Bar of the
Philippines, and the Office of the Court Administrator.

SO ORDERED.