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Influence Peddling

of Atty. Barrios, Jr. (respondent), and to render its report and


recommendation.

EN BANC
SPOUSES MANUEL C.
RAFOLS, JR. and LOLITA
B. RAFOLS, Complainants,

Hence, this decision.

A.C. No. 4973


Promulgated:
March 15, 2010

-versus -

Antecedents

ATTY. RICARDO G.
JR., Respondent.

BARRIOS,

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

The anomaly denounced by the SOCSARGEN IBP


Chapter was narrated in the joint affidavit dated March 3,
1998

PER CURIAM:

of

Spouses

Manuel

B. Rafols (complainants),

[4]

C. Rafols,

Jr.

and

Lolita

whose narrative was corroborated

by the affidavit dated March 11, 1998 of Larry Sevilla;[5] the

The
primary
objective
of
administrative cases against lawyers is not
only to punish and discipline the erring
individual lawyers but also to safeguard the
administration of justice by protecting the
courts and the public from the misconduct
of lawyers, and to remove from the legal
profession persons whose utter disregard of
their lawyers oath has proven them unfit to
continue discharging the trust reposed in
them as members of the bar. A lawyer may
be disbarred or suspended for misconduct,
whether in his professional or private
capacity, which shows him to be wanting in
moral character, honesty, probity and good
demeanor or unworthy to continue as an
officer of the court.

affidavit dated March 16, 1998 of Allan Rafols;[6] and the


affidavit dated March 16, 1998 of Daisy Rafols,[7] all of which
were

attached

to

the

letter

of

the

IBP

Chapter

President. Atty. Erlinda C. Verzosa, then Deputy Clerk of Court


and Bar Confidant, referred for appropriate action a copy of
the letter and affidavits to then Court Administrator Alfredo
L. Benipayo.

In turn, then Senior Deputy Court Administrator

Rivera v. Corral, A.C. No. 3548, July 4, 2002, 384

Reynaldo L. Suarez filed with the Court an Administrative


Matter for Agenda, recommending in relation to Atty. Barrios,

SCRA 1.

Jr., as follows:
By its Board Resolution No. 1 dated March 7, 1998,
the

South Cotabato-Sarangani-General

Santos

xxx
5. The
Office
of
the
Bar
Confidant be FURNISHED with a copy of the
letter-note and its attachments so that it
may conduct its own investigation in the
matter with respect to the actuations of
Atty. Ricardo Barrios, Jr.[8]
xxx

City

(SOCSARGEN) Chapter of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines


(IBP) resolved to refer to the IBP Board of Governors in Manila,
for appropriate action and investigation, the purported
anomaly involving Judge Teodoro Dizon Jr. and Atty. Ricardo G.
Jr.[1] Thus,

Barrios,

on March

Atty. JoeffreyL. Montefrio,

the

24,

1998,

SOCSARGEN IBP

Chapter

President, transmitted the referral to the Office of the Court


Administrator (OCA).

In the resolution dated October 21, 1998, the Court


approved the recommendations,[9] and directed the Office of
the Bar Confidant to investigate the actuations of the
respondent, and to render its report and recommendation

The matter involving Judge Dizon, Jr., which was


docketed

as

Administrative

1426 entitled Manuel

Matter

C. Rafols and

(AM)
Lolita

thereon.

No. RTJ-98C. Rafols v.

Judge Teodoro Dizon, Jr., RTC, General Santos City, Branch 37,
[2]

was resolved in a per curiam decision promulgated on

Proceedings of the OBC

January 31, 2006,[3] whereby the Court dismissed Judge Dizon,


Jr. from the service, with forfeiture of all benefits, except
accrued leave credits, and with prejudice to re-employment in
the government or any of its subdivisions, instrumentalities or
agencies,

including

government-owned

and

government

-controlled corporations.

Only the respondent appeared during the hearing before the


OBC. Denying the charges against him, he sought the
dismissal of the complaint and re-affirmed the contents of his
comment. Despite notice, the complainants did not appear
before

the

OBC.

However,

the

complainants

and

the

respondent had testified during the administrative hearing


In the same per curiam decision, the Court reiterated
its resolution of October 21, 1998 for the Office of the Bar
Confidant (OBC) to conduct an investigation of the actuations

involving Judge Dizon, Jr. before Court of Appeals Associate


Justice

Jose Sabio Jr.

as

the

Investigating

Justice.

Also

testifying thereat were the complainants witnesses, namely:


Allan Rafols, Daisy Rafols and Larry Sevilla.

relayed to the complainants the message that the judge


A.

Evidenc

needed the balance of P100,000.00 in order to complete the

e for the

construction of his new house in time for the reception of his

Complainants

daughters wedding. However, the complainants managed to


raise only P80,000.00, which they delivered to the respondent

The complainants were the plaintiffs in Civil Case No.

on that same day.

6209 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) in General Santos City,


wherein they sought the cancellation of a deed of sale. Civil

On January 20, 1998, Judge Dizon, Jr. called up the

Case No. 6209 was assigned to Branch 37 of the RTC, presided

complainants residence and instructed their son to request his

by Judge Dizon, Jr. The complainants were represented by the

parents to return his call, leaving his cell phone number. When

respondent, paying to him P15,000.00 as acceptance fee.

Manuel returned the call the next day, the judge instructed
Manuel to see him in his office. During their meeting in his

On December 22, 1997, at 9:30 a.m., the respondent

chambers, the judge demanded the balance of P30,000.00.

visited the complainants at their residence and informed

Manuel

clarified

to

the

judge

that

his

balance

was

complainant Manuel that the judge handling their case

onlyP20,000.00 due to the previous amount given being

wanted to talk to him. The respondent and Manuel thus went

already P80,000.00. The judge informed him that the amount

to the East Royal Hotels coffee shop where Judge Dizon, Jr.

that the respondent handed was short. Saying that he badly

was already waiting. The respondent introduced Manuel to the

needed the money, the judge insisted on P30,000.00, and

judge, who informed Manuel that their case was pending in

even suggested that the complainants should borrow in order

hissala. The judge likewise said that he would resolve the case

to raise that amount.

in their favor, assuring their success up to the Court of


Appeals, if they could deliver P150,000.00 to him. As he had

On January 22, 1998, Judge Dizon, Jr. called the complainants

no money at that time, Manuel told the judge that he would

to inquire whether the P30,000.00 was ready for pick up. After

try to produce the amount. The judge then stated that he

Manuel replied that he was ready with the amount, the judge

would wait for the money until noon of that day. Thus, Manuel

asked him to wait for 20 minutes. The judge and his driver

left the coffee shop together with the respondent, who

later arrived on board his Nissan pick-up. Upon instructions of

instructed

the judges driver, the complainants followed the Nissan pick-

Manuel

to

come

up

with

the

money

before noon because the judge badly needed it. The two of

up

them

by

Estate, Espina, General Santos City. There, the judge alighted

that

and approached the complainants and shook their hands. At

onlyP50,000.00 could be released the next day. From the

that point, Manuel handed P30,000.00 to the judge. The judge

lending institution, they went to the complainants shop to look

then told Manuel that the RTC judge in Iloilo City before whom

for Ditas Rafols,

the perpetuation of the testimony of Soledad Elevencionado-

went

to

Allan Rafols,

lending

but

Manuel

Allans

institution,
was

accompanied

told

wife,

who

there

offered

to

withdraw P20,000.00 from her savings account.

until

somewhere

inside

the Doa Soledad

Provido was made should still testify as a witness during the


trial in his sala in order for the complainants to win. The judge

On their way to the bank, Manuel, Allan and Ditas dropped off

persuaded the complainants to give money also to that judge;

the respondent

otherwise, they should not blame him for the outcome of the

Judge Dizon,

Jr.

at the hotel for


that

the

the

money

latter
was

to

forthcoming.

Afterwards, Ditas and


withdrewP20,000.00 and P30,000.00

assure

case.

Manuel
from

their

respective

The complainants were forced to give money to the

bank accounts, and went back to the hotel with the cash.

judge, because they feared that the judge would be biased

There, they saw the judge and his driver, who beckoned to

against them unless they gave in to his demands. But when

them to go towards the judges Nissan pick-up then parked

they ultimately sensed that they were being fooled about their

along the highway in front of the hotel. Manuel alighted from

case, they consulted Larry Sevilla, their mediamen friend, and

his car and approached the judge. Manuel personally handed

narrated to Sevilla all the facts and circumstances surrounding

the money to the judge, who told Manuel after asking about

the case. They agreed that the details should be released to

the amount that it was not enough. Thereafter, Manuel

the media. The expos was published in the Newsmaker, a

entered the hotels coffee shop and informed the respondent

local newspaper.

that he had already handed the money to the judge.


Thereafter, the respondent and Judge Dizon, Jr. made
On December 24, 1997, at about 6:00 a.m., the respondent

several attempts to appease the complainants by sending

again visited the complainants. He was on board the judges

gifts and offering to return a portion of the money, but the

Nissan pick-up driven by the judges driver. The respondent

complainants declined the offers.

complainants handing the money to the judge. He admitted


According

to

the

complainants,

demanded P25,000.00 as

his

the

expenses

respondent

in

securing

the

that he was the one who had requested the judge to


personally

collect

his

unpaid

attorneys

fees

from

the

testimony of Soledad Elevencionado-Provido in Iloilo City to be

complainants with respect to their previous and terminated

used as evidence in their civil case. In addition, the

case; and that the judge did not ask money from the

respondent

complainants in exchange for a favorable decision in their

requested

the

complainants

to

borrow P60,000.00 from the bank because he wanted to

case.

redeem his foreclosed Isuzu Elf, and because he needed to


give P11,000.00 to his nephew who was due to leave for work

On January

28,

abroad.

complainants

1998,

the

residence,

respondent

but

was

returned

surprised

to
to

the
find

complainant Lolita crying aloud. She informed him that the


B.

Evidence for

judge was again asking an additionalP30,000.00 although

the Respondent

they had given him P30,000.00 only the week before. She
divulged that the judge had told her that their case would

In his verified comment dated March 22, 2006,

[10]

the

surely lose because: (a) they had engaged a counsel who

respondent confirmed that the complainants engaged him as

was mahinangklase; (b) the judge hearing Civil Case No. 5645

their counsel in Civil Case No. 6209. His version follows.

in Iloilo and the woman who had testified in Civil Case No.
6029 had not been presented; and (c) they would have to

On December 22, 1997, the respondent introduced


Manuel to Judge Dizon, Jr. inside the East Royal Hotels coffee

spend at least P10,000.00 for said judges accommodations in


General Santos City.[12]

shop. The respondent stayed at a distance, because he did


not want to hear their conversation. Later, Manuel approached
the

respondent

and

gave

him P2,000.00.

When

On January 31, 1998, Judge Dizon, Jr. went to the

the

house of the respondent, but the latter was not home. The

respondent asked what the money was for, Manuel replied

judge left a note addressed to the complainants, and

that it was in appreciation of the formers introducing the latter

instructed the respondents secretary to deliver the note to the

to the judge. The respondent stated that Manuel did not

complainants along with a gift (imported table clock).

mention what transpired between the latter and the judge;

[13]

and that the judge did not tell him (respondent) what

refused to accept the gift several times; it was later stolen

transpired in that conversation.

from his house in Cebu City.

According to the respondent, the complainants consistently

Two days later, the respondent again visited the

On February 1, 1998, the respondent delivered the note and

complainants at their house in General Santos City on board

gift to the complainants, but the latter refused to receive it,

the judges Nissan pick-up driven by the judges driver, in order

telling him that they were no longer interested to continue

to receive the P80,000.00 from the complainants. The amount

with the case. At the same time, the complainants assured

was being borrowed by the judge for his swimming pool. Later

him that they bore no personal grudge against him, because

on, the judge told the respondent to keep P30,000.00 as a

they had a problem only with Judge Dizon, Jr.

token of their friendship. After Manuel handed theP80,000.00,


the

respondent

and

headed

On February 24, 1998, the respondent went to the

judges

National Bureau of Investigation Regional Office, Region XI,

wristwatch

and the Philippine National Police Regional Office, Region XI,

for P15,000.00 from a pawnshop. The driver brought the

both in Davao City, to request the investigation of the matter.

remaining amount of P35,000.00 to the judge in his home.

[14]

towards Davao City,


instruction,

they

the

where,

judges

driver

according

redeemed

the

to

the

judges

On January 27, 1998, Judge Dizon, Jr. visited the

On March 2, 1998, the respondent paid Judge Dizon,

respondent at the latters house to ask him to execute an

Jr. a visit upon the latters request. In that meeting, the

affidavit. Declining the request at first, the respondent

respondent

relented only because the judge became physically weak in

complainants to accept the judges gift and about their

his presence and was on the verge of collapsing. Nonetheless,

decision not to continue with the case.[15]

told

the

judge

about

the

refusal

of

the

the respondent refused to notarize the document.


On the next day, Judge Dizon, Jr. sent a note to the
In

that

affidavit dated January

the

respondent to inform him that the judge had raised the

respondent denied that Judge Dizon, Jr. asked money from the

amount that he had borrowed from the complainants. [16] The

complainants;

judge requested the respondent to tell the complainants that

and

stated

that

he

27,

did

1998,

[11]

not

see

the

admission to practice, or for a willful


disobedience of any lawful order of a
superior court, or for corruptly or willfully
appearing as an attorney for a party to a
case without authority to do so. The practice
of soliciting cases at law for the purpose of
gain, either personally or through paid
agents or brokers constitute malpractice.

he (Judge Dizon, Jr.) was going to return whatever he had


borrowed from them. However, the complainants informed the
respondent that he should tell the judge that they were no
longer interested in getting back the money.

The respondent made a follow-up at the NBI and PNP


The burden of proof in disbarment and suspension

Regional Offices in Davao City of his request for assistance


after Manuel mentioned to him that he (Manuel) knew of
many armed men ready at any time to help him in his

proceedings always rests on the shoulders of the complainant.


The Court exercises its disciplinary power only if the
complainant

problem with the judge.

establishes

the

complaint

by

clearly

preponderant evidence that warrants the imposition of the


harsh penalty.[19] As a rule, an attorney enjoys the legal

Report and Recommendation of the OBC

presumption that he is innocent of the charges made against


In its Report and Recommendation dated May 15,
2008,[17] the OBC opined that the administrative case against
the respondent could not be dismissed on the ground of

him until the contrary is proved. An attorney is further


presumed as an officer of the Court to have performed his
duties in accordance with his oath.[20]

failure to prosecute due to the complainants failure to appear


Here, the complainants successfully overcame the

in the scheduled hearing despite due notice.

respondents
Based on the facts already established and identified,
as

rendered

in

the

decision

2006 in Manuel Rafols and

dated January

Lolita

21,

B. Rafols v.

presumed

innocence

and

the

presumed

regularity in the performance of his duties as an attorney of


the complainants. The evidence against him was substantial,
and was not contradicted.

Judge Teodoro A. Dizon,[18] the OBC rejected the respondents


To begin with, the respondents denial of knowledge

denial of any knowledge of the transaction between his clients

of the transaction between the complainants and Judge Dizon,

and the judge.

Jr. was not only implausible, but also unsubstantiated. It was


the respondent himself who had introduced the complainants

The OBC recommended:

to the judge. His act of introducing the complainants to the


WHEREFORE, in the light of the
foregoing premises, it is respectfully
recommended
that
respondent
ATTY.
RICARDO BARRIOS, Jr. be SUSPENDED from
the practice of law for three (3) years with a
stern warning that a repetition of similar act
in the future will be dealt more severely.

judge strongly implied that the respondent was aware of the

Ruling of the Court

xxx Being the Officer of the Court, he must


have known that meeting litigants outside
the court is something beyond the bounds
of the rule and that it can never be justified
by any reason. He must have known the
purpose of Judge Dizon in requesting him to
meet the complainants-litigants outside the
chamber of Judge Dizon. By his overt act in
arranging
the
meeting
between
Judge Dizon and complainants- litigants in
the Coffee Shop of the East Royal Hotel, it is
crystal clear that he must have allowed
himself
and
consented
to
Judge Dizons desire to ask money from the
complainants-litigants
for
a
favorable
decision of their case which was pending
before the sala of Judge Dizon.[21]

We

approve

and

adopt

the

report

illegal purpose of the judge in wanting to talk with the


respondents

and

complainants and their witnesses, but we impose the supreme


penalty of disbarment, which we believe is the proper penalty.
I

Section 27, Rule 138 of the Rules of Court, which


disbarment

and

suspension

of

we

unqualifiedly

accept

the

and Recommendation, viz:

competently supported by the evidence adduced by the

the

Thus,

aptness of the following evaluation made in the OBCs Report

recommendations of the OBC, which we find to be fully and

governs

clients.

attorneys,

provides:
Secondly, the respondents insistence that he did not
Section
27. Disbarment
and
suspension
of
attorneys
by
the
Supreme Court;
grounds therefor.
A
member of the bar may be disbarred or
suspended from his office as attorney by the
Supreme Court for any deceit, malpractice,
or other gross misconduct in such office,
grossly immoral conduct, or by reason of his
conviction for a crime involving moral
turpitude, or for any violation of the oath
which he is required to take before

see the complainants act of handing the money to the judge is


unbelievable. In his comment, the respondent even admitted
having

himself

received

theP80,000.00 from

the

complainants, and having kept P30,000.00 of that amount


pursuant to the instruction of the judge as a token of the
friendship between him and the judge.[22] The admission

proved that the respondent had known all along of the illegal

whether in dealing with his clients or with the public at large,

transaction between the judge and the complainants, and

as to be beyond reproach at all times. [26] Any violation of the

belied his feigned lack of knowledge of the delivery of the

high moral standards of the legal profession justifies the

money to the judge.

imposition on the attorney of the appropriate penalty,


including suspension and disbarment.[27]

Thirdly, his attempt to explain that the complainants


had given the money to the judge as a loan, far from

Specifically,

the Code

of

Professional

softening our strong impression of the respondents liability,

Responsibility enjoins an attorney from engaging in unlawful,

confirmed his awareness of the gross impropriety of the

dishonest, or deceitful conduct.[28] Corollary to this injunction

transaction. Being the complainants attorney in the civil case

is the rule that an attorney shall at all times uphold the

being heard before the judge, the respondent could not but

integrity and dignity of the Legal Profession and support the

know that for the judge to borrow money from his clients was

activities of the Integrated Bar.[29]

highly irregular and outrightly unethical. If he was innocent of


wrongdoing, as he claimed, he should have desisted from

The respondent did not measure up to the exacting

having any part in the transaction. Yet, he did not, which

standards of the Law Profession, which demanded of him as

rendered his explanation unbelievable. Compounding the

an

unworthiness of his explanation was his admission of having

advantage that conflicted in any way, directly or indirectly,

retained P30,000.00 of the borrowed money upon the judges

with the interest of his clients. For monetary gain, he

instruction.

disregarded the vow to delay no man for money or malice and

attorney

the

absolute

abdication

of

any

personal

to conduct myself as a lawyer according to the best of my


And, lastly, the OBC has pointed out that the

knowledge and discretion, with all good fidelity as well to the

respondents act of requesting the NBI Regional Office

courts as to my clients that he made when he took the

in Davao City to investigate was an afterthought on his part.

Lawyers Oath.[30] He also disobeyed the explicit command to

We agree with the OBC, for the respondent obviously acted in

him as an attorney to accept nocompensation in connection

order to anticipate the complainants moves against him and

with his clients business

the judge. To be sure, the respondent sensed that the

except from him or with his knowledge and approval. [31] He

complainants would not simply forgive and forget the

conveniently ignored that the relation between him and his

mulcting they had suffered at the hands of the judge and their

clients was highly fiduciary in nature and of a very delicate,

own attorney from the time that the complainants assured

exacting, and confidential character.[32]

him that they were no longer interested to get back their


money despite their being very angry at the judges greed.

Verily,
misconduct,

the

which

respondent
is

improper

was
or

guilty

wrong

of

gross

conduct,

the

Overall, the respondent denials were worthless and

transgression of some established and definite rule of action,

unavailing in the face of the uncontradicted evidence showing

a forbidden act, a dereliction of duty, willful in character, and

that he had not only personally arranged the meeting

implies a wrongful intent and not mere error of judgment.

between

[33]

Manuel

and

Judge Dizon,

Jr.,

but

had

also

Any gross misconduct of an attorney in his professional or

communicated to the complainants the judges illegal reason

private capacity shows him unfit to manage the affairs of

for the meeting. It is axiomatic that any denial, to be accepted

others, and is a ground for the imposition of the penalty of

as a viable defense in any proceeding, must be substantiated

suspension or disbarment, because good moral character is

by clear and convincing evidence. This need derives from the

an essential qualification for the admission of an attorney and

nature of a denial as evidence of a negative and self-serving

for the continuance of such privilege.[34]

character, weightless in law and insufficient to overcome the


testimony of credible witnesses on affirmative matters. [23]

The
disgraced

II

conclusion

Judge Dizon,

that
Jr.

the

respondent

and

the

were conspirators against

the

formers own clients, whom he was sworn to protect and to


serve with utmost fidelity and morality, is inevitable for the

The practice of law is a privilege heavily burdened


with

conditions.

[24]

The attorney is a vanguard

of

our

Court to make in this administrative case. And, being


conspirators, they both deserve the highest penalty. The

legal system, and, as such, is expected to

disbarment of the respondent is in order, because such

maintain not only legal proficiency but also a very high

sanction is on par with the dismissal of Judge Dizon, Jr.

standard of morality, honesty, integrity, and fair dealing in


order that the peoples faith and confidence in the legal
system

are ensured.

[25]

Thus, he must conduct himself,

WHEREFORE,
disbarred.

Atty.

Ricardo

G.

Barrios,

Jr.

is

This decision shall be entered in the records of Atty.


Barrios, Jr. as a member of the Philippine Bar.

Copies of the decision shall be furnished to the Bar

x x x During the Preliminary Conference x x x, respondent


Atty. Flores entered his appearance and was given time to file
a Pre-Trial Brief. x x x On May 24, 2010, respondent Atty.
Flores filed his Pre-Trial Brief but without proof of MCLE
compliance hence it was expunged from the records without
prejudice to the filing of another Pre-Trial Brief containing the
required MCLE compliance. x x x Atty. Flores asked for ten (10)
days to submit proof.

Confidant and the Integrated Bar of the Philippines for record


purposes; and to the Court Administrator, for circulation to all
courts nationwide.

SO ORDERED.
Intemperate Language
Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila
SECOND DIVISION
A.C. No. 8954

November 13, 2013

HON. MARIBETH RODRIGUEZ-MANAHAN, Presiding


Judge, Municipal Trial Court, San Mateo,
Rizal,Complainant,
vs.
ATTY. RODOLFO FLORES, Respondent.
RESOLUTION
DEL CASTILLO, J.:
Respondent Atty. Rodolto Flores (Atty. Flores) was counsel for
the defendant in Civil Case No. 1863 captioned as Marsha
Aranas plaintiff versus Arnold Balmores defendant a suit for
damages filed before the Municipal Trial Court of San Mateo,
Rizal and presided by herein complainant Judge Maribeth
Rodriguez-Manahan (Judge Manahan). During the proceedings
in Civil Case No. 1863, Judge Manahan issued an Order 1 dated
January 12, 2011, whereby she voluntarily inhibited from
hearing Civil Case No. 1863. The said Order reads in part, viz:

The preliminary conference was reset several times (August


11, September 8) for failure of respondent Atty. Flores to
appear and submit his Pre-Trial Brief indicating thereon his
MCLE compliance. The court a quo likewise issued Orders
dated September 15 and October 20, 2010 giving respondent
Atty. Flores a last chance to submit his Pre-Trial Brief with stern
warning that failure to do so shall be considered a waiver on
his part.
Meanwhile, respondent Atty. Flores filed a Manifestation in
Court dated September 14, 2010 stating among others, the
following allegations:
xxxx
4. When you took your oath as member of the Bar,
you promised to serve truth, justice and fair play. Do
you think you are being truthful, just and fair by
serving a cheater?
5. Ignorance of the law excuses no one for which
reason even Erap was convicted by the
Sandiganbayan.1wphi1But even worse is a lawyer
who violates the law.
6. Last but not the least, God said Thou shall not lie.
Again the Philippine Constitution commands: Give
every Filipino his due. The act of refusal by the
plaintiff is violative of the foregoing divine and
human laws.
xxxx

More than mere contempt do his (Atty. Flores) unethical


actuations, his traits of dishonesty and discourtesy not only to
his own brethren in the legal profession, but also to the bench
and judges, would amount to grave misconduct, if not a
malpractice of law, a serious ground for disciplinary action of
a member of the bar pursuant to Rules 139 a & b.

Respondent Atty. Flores later filed his Pre-Trial Brief bearing an


MCLE number which was merely superimposed without
indicating the date and place of compliance. During the
preliminary conference on November 24, 2010, respondent
Atty. Flores manifested that he will submit proof of compliance
of his MCLE on the following day. On December 1, 2010,
respondent Atty. Flores again failed to appear and to submit
the said promised proof of MCLE compliance. In its stead,
respondent Atty. Flores filed a Letter of even date stating as
follows:

IN VIEW WHEREOF, furnish a copy of this Order to the Bar


Discipline Committee, Integrated Bar of the Philippines, to the
Supreme Court en banc, for appropriate investigation and
sanction.2

If only to give your Honor another chance to prove your pro


plaintiff sentiment, I am hereby filing the attached Motion
which you may once more assign to the waste basket of
nonchalance.

Upon receipt of the copy of the above Order, the Office of the
Bar Confidant (OBC) deemed the pronouncements of Judge
Manahan as a formal administrative Complaint against Atty.
Flores. Docketed as A.C. No. 8954, the case was referred to
the Executive Judge of the Regional Trial Court of Rizal for
investigation, report and recommendation.3

With the small respect that still remains, I have asked the
defendant to look for another lawyer to represent him for I am
no longer interested in this case because I feel I cannot do
anything right in your sala.5

In her Investigation, Report and


Recommendation,4 Investigating Judge Josephine Zarate
Fernandez (Investigating Judge) narrated the antecedents of
the case as follows:
A complaint for Damages was filed before the Municipal Trial
Court (MTC) of San Mateo, Rizal docketed as Civil Case No.
1863, entitled Marsha Aranas vs. Arnold Balmores. The Public
Attorneys Office (PAO) thru Atty. Ferdinand P. Censon
represented the complainant while Atty. Rodolfo Flores
appeared as counsel for the defendant.

The Investigating Judge found Atty. Flores to have failed to


give due respect to the court by failing to obey court orders,
by failing to submit proof of his compliance with the
Mandatory Continuing Legal Education (MCLE) requirement,
and for using intemperate language in his pleadings. The
Investigating Judge recommended that Atty. Flores be
suspended from the practice of law for one year. 6
The OBC adopted the findings and recommendation of the
Investigating Judge.7
Our Ruling

There is no doubt that Atty. Flores failed to obey the trial


courts order to submit proof of his MCLE compliance
notwithstanding the several opportunities given him. "Court
orders are to be respected not because the judges who issue
them should be respected, but because of the respect and
consideration that should be extended to the judicial branch
of the Government. This is absolutely essential if our
Government is to be a government of laws and not of men.
Respect must be had not because of the incumbents to the
positions, but because of the authority that vests in them.
Disrespect to judicial incumbents is disrespect to that branc
the Government to which they belong, as well as to the State
which has instituted the judicial system."8
Atty. Flores also employed intemperate language in his
pleadings. As an officer of the court, Atty. Flores is expected to
be circumspect in his language. Rule 11.03, Canon 11 of the
Code of Professional Responsibility enjoins all attorneys to
abstain from scandalous, offensive or menacing language or
behavior before the Courts. Atty. Flores failed in this respect.
At this juncture, it is well to remind respondent that:
While a lawyer owes absolute fidelity to the cause of his client
full devotion to his client's genuine interest and warm zeal in
the maintenance and defense of his client's rights, as well as
the exertion of his utmost learning and ability, he must do so
only within the bounds of law. A lawyer is entitled to voice his
c1iticism within the context of the constitutional guarantee of
freedom of speech which must be exercised responsibly. After
all, every right carries with it the corresponding obligation.
Freedom is not freedom from responsibility, but freedom with
responsibility. The lawyer's fidelity to his client must not be
pursued at the expense of truth and orderly administration of
justice. It must be done within the confines of reason and
common sense.9
However, we find the recommended penalty too harsh and
not commensurate with the infractions committed by the
respondent. It appears that this is the first infraction
committed by respondent. Also, we are not prepared to
impose on the respondent the penalty of one-year suspension
for humanitarian reasons. Respondent manifested before this
Court that he has been in the practice of law for half a
century.10 Thus, he is already in his twilight years. Considering
the foregoing, we deem it proper to fine respondent in the
amount of P5,000.00 and to remind him to be more
circumspect in his acts and to obey and respect court
processes.
ACCORDINGLY, respondent Atty. Rodolfo Flores is FINED in the
amount of P5,000.00 with STERN WARNING that the repetition
of a similar offense shall be dealt with more severely.
SO ORDERED.
FIRST DIVISION
A.C. No. 10628, July 01, 2015
MAXIMINO NOBLE III, Complainant, v. ATTY. ORLANDO O.
AILES, Respondent.
RESOLUTION
PERLAS-BERNABE, J.:
This instant administrative case arose from a verified
Complaint1 for disbarment dated April 16, 2012 filed by
complainant Maximino Noble III (Maximino) against
respondent Atty. Orlando O. Ailes (Orlando) before the
Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP).
The Facts
Maximino alleged that on August 18, 2010, Orlando, a lawyer,
filed a complaint2 for damages against his own brother,
Marcelo O. Ailes, Jr. (Marcelo), whom Maximino represented,

together with other defendants, therein. In the said complaint,


Orlando stated the following data: "IBP-774058-12/07/09-QC
x x x MCLE Compliance No. II-00086893/Issued on March 10,
2008."4 Maximino claimed that at the time of the filing of the
said complaint, Orlando's IBP O.R. number should have
already reflected payment of his IBP annual dues for the year
2010, not 2009, and that he should have finished his third
Mandatory Continuing Legal Education (MCLE) Compliance,
not just the second.
Sometime in December 2011, Maximino learned from Marcelo
that the latter had filed a separate case for grave threats
and estafa5 against Orlando. When Maximino was furnished a
copy of the complaint, he discovered that, through text
messages, Orlando had been maligning him and dissuading
Marcelo from retaining his services as counsel, claiming that
he was incompetent and that he charged exorbitant fees,
saying, among others: "x x x Better dismiss [your] hi-track
lawyer who will impoverish [you] with his unconscionable
[professional] fee. Max Noble, as shown in court records,
never appeared even once, that's why you lost in the pre-trial
stage, x x x get rid of [Noble] as [your] lawyer. He is out to
squeeze a lot of money from [you], x x x daig mo nga
mismong abogado mong polpol."6 Records show that Orlando
even prepared a Notice to Terminate Services of Counsel 7 in
the complaint for damages, which stated that Maximino "x x x
has never done anything to protect the interests of the
defendants in a manner not befitting his representation as a
seasoned law practitioner and, aside from charging enormous
amount of professional fees and questionable expenses, said
counsel's contracted services reached as far only in preparing
and filing uncalled for motions to dismiss x x x" as well as a
Compromise Agreement,8 both of which he sent to Marcelo for
his signature. Affronted, Maximino filed the instant complaint
charging Orlando with violation of Rule 7.03 of Canon 7, the
entire Canon 8 of the Code of Professional Responsibility
(CPR), Bar Matter (BM) Nos. 8509 and 192210, and prayed for
the disbarment of respondent as well as the award of
damages.
In his defense,11 Orlando denied the charges against him and
claimed that his late submission of the third MCLE compliance
is not a ground for disbarment and that the Notice to
Terminate Services of Counsel and Compromise Agreement
were all made upon the request of Marcelo when the latter
was declared in default in the aforementioned civil case.
Moreover, he insisted that the allegedly offensive language in
his text messages sent to Marcelo was used in a "brother-tobrother communication" and were uttered in good
faith.12ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
Meanwhile, the criminal case for grave threats and estafa filed
by Marcelo against Orlando was downgraded to unjust
vexation13 and, on June 19, 2012, after voluntarily entering a
plea of guilty, Orlando was convicted of the crime of unjust
vexation, consisting in his act of vexing or annoying Marcelo
by "texting insulting, threatening and persuading words to
drop his lawyer over a case x x x."14
IBP Report and Recommendation
In a Report and Recommendation15 dated April 30, 2013, the
IBP Commissioner recommended the dismissal of the case
against Orlando, finding that a transgression of the MCLE
compliance requirement is not a ground for disbarment as in
fact, failure to disclose the required information would merely
cause the dismissal of the case and the expunction of the
pleadings from the records. Neither did the IBP Commissioner
find any violation of the CPR so gross or grave as to warrant
any administrative liability on the part of Orlando, considering
that the communication between Orlando and Marcelo, who
are brothers, was done privately and not directly addressed to
Maximino nor intended to be published and known by third
persons.
In a Resolution16 dated May 11, 2013, the IBP Board of
Governors adopted and approved the IBP Commissioner's
Report and Recommendation and dismissed the case against
Orlando, warning him to be more circumspect in his dealings.
Maximino moved for reconsideration17 which was however
denied in a Resolution18 dated May 3, 2014 with modification
deleting the warning.
Aggrieved, Maximino filed the present petition for review
on certioranri.19ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
The Issue Before the Court
The issue for the Court's resolution is whether or not the IBP
correctly dismissed the complaint against Orlando.

The Court's Ruling


The petition is partly meritorious.
The practice of law is a privilege bestowed on lawyers who
meet high standards of legal proficiency and morality. 20 It is a
special privilege burdened with conditions before the legal
profession, the courts, their clients and the society such that a
lawyer has the duty to comport himself in a manner as to
uphold integrity and promote the public's faith in the
profession.21 Consequently, a lawyer mustat all times, whether
in public or private life, act in a manner beyond reproach
especially when dealing with fellow
lawyers.22ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
In this relation, Rule 7.03 of Canon 7 as well as Canon 8 of the
CPR provides:
Rule 7.03 A lawyer shall not engage in conduct that
adversely reflects on his fitness to practice law, nor shall he,
whether in public or private life, behave in a scandalous
manner to the discredit of the legal profession.
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.
Rule 8.02 - A lawyer shall not, directly or indirectly, encroach
upon the professional employment of another lawyer;
however, it is the right of any lawyer, without fear or favor, to
give proper advice and assistance to those seeking relief
against unfaithful or neglectful counsel.
Though a lawyer's language may be forceful and emphatic, it
should always be dignified and respectful, befitting the dignity
of the legal profession. The use of intemperate language and
unkind ascriptions has no place in the dignity of the judicial
forum.23 In Buatis Jr. v. People,24 the Court treated a lawyer's
use of the words "lousy," "inutile," "carabao English,"
"stupidity," and "satan" in a letter addressed to another
colleague as defamatory and injurious which effectively
maligned his integrity. Similarly, the hurling of insulting
language to describe the opposing counsel is considered
conduct unbecoming of the legal profession.25
In this case, the IBP found the text messages that Orlando
sent to his brother Marcelo as casual communications
considering that they were conveyed privately. To the Court's
mind, however, the tenor of the messages cannot be treated
lightly. The text messages were clearly intended to malign and
annoy Maximino, as evident from the use of the word "polpol"
(stupid). Likewise, Orlando's insistence that Marcelo
immediately terminate the services of Maximino indicates
Orlando's offensive conduct against his colleague, in violation
of the above-quoted rules. Moreover, Orlando's voluntary plea
of guilty to the crime of unjust vexation in the criminal case
filed against him by Marcelo was, for all intents and purposes,
an admission that he spoke ill, insulted, and disrespected
Maximino - a departure from the judicial decorum which
exposes the lawyer to administrative liability.
On this score, it must be emphasized that membership in the
bar is a privilege burdened with conditions such that a
lawyer's words and actions directly affect the public's opinion
of the legal profession. Lawyers are expected to observe such
conduct of nobility and uprightness which should remain with
them, whether in their public or private lives, and may be
disciplined in the event their conduct falls short of the
standards imposed upon them.26 Thus, in this case, it is
inconsequential that the statements were merely relayed to
Orlando's brother in private. As a member of the bar, Orlando
should have been more circumspect in his words, being fully
aware that they pertain to another lawyer to whom fairness as
well as candor is owed. It was highly improper for Orlando to
interfere and insult Maximino to his client.
Indulging in offensive personalities in the course of judicial
proceedings, as in this case, constitutes unprofessional
conduct which subjects a lawyer to disciplinary action.27 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.28 The Court has consistently reminded
the members of the bar to abstain from all offensive
personality and to advance no fact prejudicial to the honor
and reputation of a party. Considering the circumstances, it is
glaringly clear how Orlando transgressed the CPR when he
maligned Maximino to his client.29
With regard to Orlando's alleged violation of BM No. 1922, the

Court agrees with the IBP that his failure to disclose the
required information for MCLE compliance in the complaint for
damages he had filed against his brother Marcelo is not a
ground for disbarment. At most, his violation shall only be
cause for the dismissal of the complaint as well as the
expunction thereof from the
records.30ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
WHEREFORE, the Court finds respondent Atty. Orlando O.
Ailes GUILTY of violating Rule 7.03 of Canon 7 as well as the
entire Canon 8 of the Code of Professional Responsibility. He is
herebyADMONISHED to be more circumspect in dealing with
his professional colleagues and STERNLY WARNED that a
commission of the same or similar acts in the future shall be
dealt with more severely.
SO ORDERED.

SECOND DIVISION
A.C. No. 10303, April 22, 2015
JOY A. GIMENO, Complainant, v. ATTY. PAUL CENTILLAS
ZAIDE, Respondent.
DECISION
BRION, J.:
We review Resolution No. XX-2011-2641 of the Board of
Governors of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) in CBD
Case No. 07-2069, which imposed on Atty. Paul Centillas Zaide
(Atty. Zaide) the penalty of one-year suspension from the
practice of law, revocation of notarial commission, if existing,
and two years suspension from being commissioned as a
notary public, for violation of the 2004 Rules on Notarial
Practice (Notarial Practice Rules).2
The Case
On August 8, 2007, complainant Joy A. Gimeno (Gimeno) filed
a complaint3 with the IBP's Commission on Bar Discipline,
charging Atty. Zaide with: (1) usurpation of a notary public's
office; (2) falsification; (3) use of intemperate, offensive and
abusive language; and (4) violation of lawyer-client trust.
In her complaint, Gimeno alleged that even before Atty.
Zaide's admission4 to the Bar and receipt5 of his notarial
commission, he had notarized a partial extrajudicial partition
with deed of absolute sale on March 29, 2002.6 She also
accused Atty. Zaide of making false and irregular entries in his
notarial registers.7
Gimeno further submitted that she was Atty. Zaide's former
client. She engaged the services of his law firm ZaragozaMakabangkit-Zaide Law Offices (ZMZ) in an annulment of title
case that involved her husband and her parents-in-law.
Despite their previous lawyer-client relationship, Atty. Zaide
still appeared against her in the complaint for estafa and
violation of RA 30198 that one Priscilla Somontan (Somontan)
filed against her with the Ombudsman. Gimeno posited that
by appearing against a former client, Atty. Zaide violated the
prohibition against the representation of conflicting clients'
interests.9
Lastly, Gimeno contended that Atty. Zaide called her a
"notorious extortionist" in the same administrative complaint
that Somontan filed against her.10 In another civil case where
she was not a party, Gimeno observed that Atty. Zaide
referred to his opposing counsel as someone suffering from
"serious mental incompetence" in one of his
pleadings.11 According to Gimeno, these statements constitute
intemperate, offensive and abusive language, which a lawyer
is proscribed from using in his dealings.
In his answer12 dated September 13, 2007, Atty. Zaide argued
that he did not notarize the March 29, 2002 partial
extrajudicial partition. As it appeared on the notarial page of
this document, his notarial stamp and falsified signature were
superimposed over the typewritten name of Atty. Elpedio
Cabasan, the lawyer who actually notarized this
document.13 Atty. Zaide claimed that Gimeno falsified his
signature to make it appear that he notarized it before his
admission to the Bar.
On the alleged falsification of his notarial entries, Atty. Zaide
contended that he needed to simultaneously use several

notarial registers in his separate satellite offices in order to


better cater to the needs of his clients and accommodate their
growing number.14 This explains the irregular and nonsequential entries in his notarial registers.
Further, Atty. Zaide argued that Gimeno was never his client
since she did not personally hire him as her counsel. Gimeno
engaged the services of ZMZ where he previously worked as
an associate. The real counsel of Gimeno and her relatives in
their annulment of title case was Atty. Leo Montalban
Zaragoza, one of ZMZ's partners.15 On this basis, the
respondent should not be held liable for representing
conflicting clients' interests.
Finally, he denied that he used any intemperate, offensive,
and abusive language in his pleadings.16
The IBP Proceedings
On October 4, 2007, the IBP CBD issued an order setting the
case for mandatory conference.17 After this, both parties were
required to submit their position papers.
In his report and recommendation18 dated May 18, 2010,
Commissioner Pedro A. Magpayo, Jr. (Commissioner Magpayo)
found Atty. Zaide administratively liable for violating the
Notarial Practice Rules, representing conflicting interests, and
using abusive and insulting language in his pleadings.
He noted that Atty. Zaide violated Section 1 (a) and 1 (b), Rule
VI of the Notarial Practice Rules when he maintained several
active notarial registers in different offices. These provisions
respectively require a notary public to "keep, maintain,
protect and provide for lawful inspection, a chronological
official register of notarial acts consisting of a permanently
bound book with numbered papers" and to "keep only one
active notarial register at any given time."19
However, Commissioner Magpayo opined that Atty. Zaide
should not be held administratively liable for usurping a
notary public's office. The investigating commissioner noted
that the evidence presented on this issue is not enough to
prove that Atty. Zaide signed and notarized the March 29,
2002 partial extrajudicial partition even after his admission to
the Bar and receipt of his notarial commission.20
Commissioner Magpayo also found that the evidence
presented proved that Gimeno was indeed Atty. Zaide's
former client. He disagreed with Atty. Zaide's defense that
Gimeno only hired ZMZ but did not personally hire him to
defend them in their annulment of title case. The retainer of a
law firm is equivalent to the retainer of all its lawyers. 21 But
despite this previous attorney-client relationship, the
investigating commissioner noted that Atty. Zaide should not
be held liable for representing conflicting interests since the
annulment of title case is totally unrelated to the Ombudsman
complaint that Somontan filed against Gimeno through Atty.
Zaide.
Finally, the investigating commissioner noted that Atty. Zaide
used intemperate, offensive, and abusive language when he
called Gimeno a "notorious extortionist" in one of his
pleadings.22
For violating the Notarial Practice Rules, Commissioner
Magpayo recommended that Atty. Zaide be suspended for
three months, and for another six months for employing
abusive and insulting language.23
The IBP Board of Governors' Findings
In its November 19, 2011 resolution, the IBP Board of
Governors (Board) opined that the evidence on record fully
supports the findings of the investigating commissioner.
However, the Board modified the recommended penalty and
imposed instead the penalty of one year suspension from the
practice of law, revocation of notarial commission, if existing,
and two years suspension from being commissioned as a
notary public.24
Atty. Zaide sought for the reconsideration25 of the Board's
November 19, 2011 resolution but this was also denied in its
subsequent June 21, 2013 resolution.26
The Court's Ruling
The Court agrees with the IBP Board of Governors' findings
and recommended penalty, and accordingly confirms them.
For an orderly disposition of the case, we shall discuss each of
the main issues that the parties identified.

Violation of the Notarial Practice Rules


a. Usurpation of a notarial office
As the investigating commissioner found, Gimeno did not
present any concrete evidence to show that Atty. Zaide
notarized the March 29, 2002 partial extrajudicial partition
prior to his admission to the Bar and receipt of his notarial
commission.
It appears that this document originally carried the name of
one Atty. Elpedio Cabasan, as notary public. Atty. Zaide's
signature and notarial stamp that bears his name, roll
number,, PTR number, IBP number, and the expiration date of
his notarial commission, were merely superimposed over Atty.
Cabasan's typewritten name.
Notably, Atty. Zaide admitted that the details stamped on the
document are his true information. However, he denied that
he personally stamped and signed the document. In fact,
this document never appeared in his notarial register
and was never included in his notarial report for the
year 2002. He contended that Gimeno falsified his signature
and used his notarial stamp to make it appear that he was the
one who notarized it.
This Court notes that at the time the document was
purportedly notarized, Atty. Zaide's details as a lawyer
and as a notary public had not yet existed. He was
admitted to the Bar only on May 2, 2002; thus, he could not
have obtained and used the exact figures pertaining to
his roll number, PTR number, IBP number and the
expiration date of his notarial commission, prior to this
date, particularly on March 29, 2002.
This circumstance, coupled with the absence of any evidence
supporting Gimeno's claim such as a witness to the alleged
fictitious notarization, leads us to the conclusion that Atty.
Zaide could not have notarized the document before
his Bar admission and receipt of his notarial
commission.
We can only conclude that his professional details, which were
only generated after his Bar admission, were stamped on the
March 29, 2002 document. How this happened is not clear
from the evidence before us.
b. Maintaining different notarial registers in separate
notarial offices
We find that Atty. Zaide violated the Notarial Practice Rules by
maintaining different notarial registers in several offices.
Because of this practice, the following notarized documents
had been irregularly numbered and
entered:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
Boo Yea
Document27
Date
Doc. No.
Page
k
r
Special Power of
200
6/20/05
273
55
18
Attorney
5
Secretary's
200
10/28/05
226
46
18
Certificate
5
Affidavit of
200
10/31/05
272
55
18
Quitclaim
5
200
Affidavit of Loss
4/17/06
54
11
25
6
Affidavit of Two
200
Disinterested
4/17/06
310
61
25
6
Persons
Petition for
Issuance of
200
4/17/06
72
15
25
Owner's
6
Duplicate copy
Affidavit of
200
4/19/06
461
93
23
Parental Consent
6
Confirmation of
200
4/21/06
283
56
25
Sale
6
Deed of Absolute
200
4/27/06
304
60
25
Sale
6
Section l(a), Rule VI of the Notarial Practice Rules provides
that "a notary public shall keep, maintain, protect and provide
for lawful inspection as provided in these
Rules, a chronological official notarial register of
notarial acts consisting of a permanently bound book with
numbered pages." The same section further provides that "a
notary public shall keep only one active notarial register
at any given time."28 On this basis, Atty. Zaide's act of
simultaneously keeping several active notarial registers is a
blatant violation of Section 1, Rule VI.
The Notarial Practice Rules strictly requires a notary public to

maintain only one active notarial register and ensure that the
entries in it are chronologically arranged. The "one active
notarial register" rule is in place to deter a notary public from
assigning several notarial registers to different offices manned
by assistants who perform notarial services on his behalf.
Since a notarial commission is personal to each lawyer, the
notary public must also personally administer the notarial
acts29 that the law authorizes him to execute. This important
duty is vested with public interest. Thus, no other person,
other than the notary public, should perform it.
On the other hand, entries in a notarial register need to be in
chronological sequence in order to address and prevent the
rampant practice of leaving blank spaces in the notarial
register to allow the antedating of notarizations.
In these lights, we cannot accept Atty. Zaide's explanation
that he needed to maintain several active notarial registers in
separate offices so he could accommodate the increasing
number of his clients requiring his notarial services.
This Court stresses that a notary public should not
trivialize his functions as his powers and duties are
impressed with public interest.30 A notary public's office is
not merely an income-generating venture. It is a public duty
that each lawyer who has been privileged to receive a notarial
commission must faithfully and conscientiously perform.
Atty. Zaide should have been acutely aware of the
requirements of his notarial commission. His flagrant violation
of Section 1, Rule VI of the Notarial Practice Rules is not
merely a simple and excusable negligence. It amounts to a
clear violation of Canon 1 of the Code of Professional
Responsibility, which provides that "a lawyer [should] uphold
the constitution, obey the laws of the land and promote
respect for law and legal processes."
Representing conflicting interests
The investigating commissioner properly noted that Atty.
Zaide should not be held liable for representing conflicting
clients' interests.
Rule 15.03, Canon 15 of the Code of Professional
Responsibility provides:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
Rule 15.03 - A lawyer shall not represent conflicting interests
except by written consent of all concerned given after a full
disclosure of the facts.
In Aninon v. Sabitsana,31 the Court laid down the tests to
determine if a lawyer is guilty of representing conflicting
interests between and among his clients.
One of these tests is whether the acceptance of a new
relation would prevent the full discharge of a lawyer's
duty of undivided fidelity and loyalty to the client or
invite suspicion of unfaithfulness or double-dealing in
the performance of that duty.32
Another test is whether a lawyer would be called upon in the
new relation to use against a former client any
confidential information acquired through their
connection or previous employment.33
Applying these tests, we find no conflict of interest when Atty.
Zaide appeared against Gimeno, his former law firm's client.
The lawyer-client relationship between Atty. Zaide and Gimeno
ceased when Atty. Zaide left ZMZ. Moreover, the case where
Gimeno engaged ZMZ's services is an entirely different
subject matter and is not in any way connected to the
complaint that Somontan filed against Gimeno with the
Ombudsman.
The prior case where Gimeno hired ZMZ and where Atty. Zaide
represented her family pertained to the annulment of a land
title. Somontan was never a party to this case since this only
involved Gimeno's relatives. On the other hand, the case
where Atty. Zaide appeared against Gimeno involved
Somontan's Ombudsman complaint against Gimeno for her
alleged mishandling of the funds that Somontan entrusted to
her, and for Gimeno's alleged corruption as an examiner in
the Register of Deeds of Iligan City. Clearly, the annulment
of title case and the Ombudsman case are totally
unrelated.
There was also no double-dealing on the part of Atty. Zaide
because at the time Somontan engaged his services, he had
already left ZMZ. More importantly, nothing in the record
shows that Atty. Zaide used against Gimeno any
confidential information which he acquired while he
was still their counsel in the annulment of title case.

Under these circumstances, Atty. Zaide should not be held


liable for violating the prohibition against the representation
of conflicting interests.
Use of intemperate, offensive and abusive language in
professional dealings
The prohibition on the use of intemperate, offensive and
abusive language in a lawyer's professional dealings, whether
with the courts, his clients, or any other person, is based on
the following canons and rules of the Code of Professional
Responsibility:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
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. (emphasis supplied)
As shown in the record, Atty. Zaide, in the reply that he
drafted in the Ombudsman case, called Gimeno a "notorious
extortionist."34 And in another case, Gimeno observed that
Atty. Zaide used the following demeaning and immoderate
language in presenting his comment against his opposing
counsel:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
Her declaration in Public put a shame, DISGRACE,
INDIGNITY AND HUMILIATION in the whole Justice System,
and the Department of Justice in particular, where the
taxpayers paid for her salary over her incompetence
and poor performance as a prosecutor... This is a clear
manifestation that the Public prosecutor suffers serious
mental incompetence as regard her mandate as an
Assistant City Prosecutor.35(emphasis supplied)
This clearly confirms Atty. Zaide's lack of restraint in the use
and choice of his words a conduct unbecoming of an officer
of the court.
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, and illuminating but not offensive. 36
On many occasions, the Court has reminded the members of
the Bar to abstain from any offensive personality and to
refrain from any act prejudicial to the honor or reputation of a
party or a witness.In keeping with the dignity of the legal
profession, a lawyer's language even in his pleadings,
must be dignified.37
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Court resolves
to ADOPT the recommended penalty of the Board of
Governors of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines. Atty. Paul
Centillas Zaide is foundGUILTY of violating the 2004 Rules on
Notarial Practice and for using intemperate, offensive and,
abusive language in violation of Rule 8.01, Canon 8 and Rule
11.03, Canon 11 of the Code of Professional Responsibility. His
notarial commission, if existing, is hereby REVOKED, and he
is declared DISQUALIFIED from being commissioned as a
notary public for a period of two (2) years. He is
also SUSPENDED for one (1) year from the practice of law.
SO ORDERED.
THIRD DIVISION
ANTERO J. POBRE,
Complainant,
- versus Sen. MIRIAM DEFENSORSANTIAGO,
Respondent.

A.C. No. 7399


Present:
CHICO-NAZARIO, J.,
Acting Chairperson,
CARPIO MORALES,*
VELASCO, JR.,
NACHURA, and
PERALTA, JJ.

Promulgated:
August 25, 2009
x----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------x

DECISION
VELASCO, JR., J.:

In his sworn letter/complaint dated December 22, 2006, with


enclosures, Antero J. Pobre invites the Courts attention to the
following excerpts of Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiagos
speech delivered on the Senate floor:
x x x I am not angry. I am irate. I am
foaming in the mouth. I am homicidal. I am
suicidal.
I
am
humiliated,
debased,
degraded. And I am not only that, I feel like
throwing up to be living my middle years in
a country of this nature. I am nauseated. I
spit on the face of Chief Justice Artemio
Panganiban and his cohorts in the Supreme
Court, I am no longer interested in the
position [of Chief Justice] if I was to be
surrounded by idiots. I would rather be in
another environment but not in the
Supreme Court of idiots x x x.

thereof. Explaining the import of the underscored portion of


the provision, the Court, in Osmea, Jr. v. Pendatun, said:
Our
Constitution
enshrines
parliamentary
immunity
which
is
a
fundamental privilege cherished in every
legislative assembly of the democratic
world. As old as the English Parliament, its
purpose is to enable and encourage a
representative of the public to discharge his
public trust with firmness and success for it
is indispensably necessary that he should
enjoy the fullest liberty of speech and that
he should be protected from resentment of
every one, however, powerful, to whom the
exercise of that liberty may occasion
offense.[1]

As American jurisprudence puts it, this legislative


privilege is founded upon long experience and arises as a
means of perpetuating inviolate the functioning process of the
legislative

department.

Without

parliamentary

immunity,

parliament, or its equivalent, would degenerate into a polite


and ineffective debating forum. Legislators are immune from

To Pobre, the foregoing statements reflected a total disrespect


on the part of the speaker towards then Chief Justice Artemio
Panganiban and the other members of the Court and
constituted direct contempt of court. Accordingly, Pobre asks
that disbarment proceedings or other disciplinary actions be
taken against the lady senator.

deterrents to the uninhibited discharge of their legislative


duties, not for their private indulgence, but for the public
good. The privilege would be of little value if they could be
subjected to the cost and inconvenience and distractions of a
trial upon a conclusion of the pleader, or to the hazard of a
judgment against them based upon a judges speculation as to
the motives.[2]

In her comment on the complaint dated April 25,


2007, Senator Santiago, through counsel, does not deny
making the aforequoted statements. She, however, explained
that those statements were covered by the constitutional
provision on parliamentary immunity, being part of a speech
she delivered in the discharge of her duty as member of
Congress or its committee. The purpose of her speech,
according to her, was to bring out in the open controversial
anomalies in governance with a view to future remedial
legislation. She averred that she wanted to expose what she
believed to be an unjust act of the Judicial Bar Council [JBC],
which, after sending out public invitations for nomination to
the soon to-be vacated position of Chief Justice, would
eventually inform applicants that only incumbent justices of
the Supreme Court would qualify for nomination. She felt that
the JBC should have at least given an advanced advisory that
non-sitting members of the Court, like her, would not be

This Court is aware of the need and has in fact been


in the forefront in upholding the institution of parliamentary
immunity and promotion of free speech. Neither has the Court
lost sight of the importance of the legislative and oversight
functions of the Congress that enable this representative body
to look diligently into every affair of government, investigate
and denounce anomalies, and talk about how the country and
its citizens are being served. Courts do not interfere with the
legislature or its members in the manner they perform their
functions in the legislative floor or in committee rooms. Any
claim of an unworthy purpose or of the falsity and mala
fides of the statement uttered by the member of the Congress
does not destroy the privilege.[3] The disciplinary authority of
the assembly[4] and the voters, not the courts, can properly
discourage or correct such abuses committed in the name of
parliamentary immunity.[5]

considered for the position of Chief Justice.


For the above reasons, the plea of Senator Santiago
The immunity Senator Santiago claims is rooted
primarily on the provision of Article VI, Section 11 of the
Constitution, which provides: A Senator or Member of the
House of Representative shall, in all offenses punishable by
not more than six years imprisonment, be privileged from

for

the

dismissal

of

the

complaint

for

disbarment

or

disciplinary action is well taken. Indeed, her privilege speech


is not actionable criminally or in a disciplinary proceeding
under the Rules of Court. It is felt, however, that this could not
be the last word on the matter.

arrest while the Congress is in session. No member shall be


questioned nor be held liable in any other place for any
speech or debate in the Congress or in any committee

The Court wishes to express its deep concern about


the language Senator Santiago, a member of the Bar, used in
her speech and its effect on the administration of justice. To

I feel like throwing up to be living my middle


years in a country of this nature. I am
nauseated. I spit on the face of Chief
Justice Artemio Panganiban and his cohorts
in the Supreme Court, I am no longer
interested in the position [of Chief Justice] if
I was to be surrounded by idiots. I would
rather be in another environment but not in
the Supreme Court of idiots x x x. (Emphasis
ours.)

the Court, the lady senator has undoubtedly crossed the limits
of decency and good professional conduct. It is at once
apparent that her statements in question were intemperate
and highly improper in substance. To reiterate, she was
quoted as stating that she wanted to spit on the face of Chief
Justice Artemio Panganiban and his cohorts in the Supreme
Court, and calling the Court a Supreme Court of idiots.

A careful re-reading of her utterances would readily


show that her statements were expressions of personal anger

The lady senator alluded to In Re: Vicente Sotto.[6] We


draw her attention to the ensuing passage in Sotto that she
should have taken to heart in the first place:
x x x [I]f the people lose their
confidence in the honesty and integrity 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 would be
the result.
No lawyer who has taken an oath to maintain the
respect due to the courts should be allowed to erode the
peoples faith in the judiciary. In this case, the lady senator

and frustration at not being considered for the post of Chief


Justice. In a sense, therefore, her remarks were outside the
pale

of

her

official

parliamentary

functions.

Even

parliamentary immunity must not be allowed to be used as a


vehicle to ridicule, demean, and destroy the reputation of the
Court and its magistrates, nor as armor for personal wrath
and

disgust.

Authorities

are

agreed

that parliamentary

immunity is not an individual privilege accorded the individual


members of the Parliament or Congress for their personal
benefit, but rather a privilege for the benefit of the people and
the institution that represents them.

clearly violated Canon 8, Rule 8.01 and Canon 11 of the Code


To be sure, Senator Santiago could have given vent

of Professional Responsibility, which respectively provide:


Canon 8, 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 the judicial officers and should insist
on similar conduct by others.

to her anger without indulging in insulting rhetoric and


offensive personalities.

Lest it be overlooked, Senator Santiagos outburst


was directly traceable to what she considered as an unjust act
the JBC had taken in connection with her application for the
position of Chief Justice. But while the JBC functions under the

Senator/Atty. Santiago is a cut higher than most

Courts supervision, its individual members, save perhaps for

lawyers. Her achievements speak for themselves. She was a

the Chief Justice who sits as the JBCs ex-officio chairperson,

former Regional Trial Court judge, a law professor, an oft-cited

[8]

have

no

official

duty

to

nominate

candidates

for

authority on constitutional and international law, an author of

appointment to the position of Chief Justice. The Court is,

numerous law textbooks, and an elected senator of the

thus, at a loss to understand Senator Santiagos wholesale and

land. Needless to stress, Senator Santiago, as a member of

indiscriminate assault on the members of the Court and her

the Bar and officer of the court, like any other, is duty-bound

choice of critical and defamatory words against all of them.

to uphold the dignity and authority of this Court and to


maintain the respect due its members. Lawyers in public

At any event, equally important as the speech and

service are keepers of public faith and are burdened with the

debate clause of Art. VI, Sec. 11 of the Constitution is Sec.

higher degree of social responsibility, perhaps higher than

5(5) of Art. VIII of the Constitution that provides:

their brethren in private practice.[7] Senator Santiago should


have known, as any perceptive individual, the impact her
statements would make on the peoples faith in the integrity of
the courts.

As Senator Santiago alleged, she delivered her


privilege speech as a prelude to crafting remedial legislation
on the JBC. This allegation strikes the Court as an afterthought
in light of the insulting tenor of what she said. We quote the
passage once more:
x
x
x I am
not
angry. I am
irate. I am foaming in the mouth. I am
homicidal. I am suicidal. I am humiliated,
debased, degraded. And I am not only that,

Section 5. The Supreme Court shall have the


following powers:
xxxx
(5) Promulgate rules concerning the
protection and enforcement of constitutional
rights, pleading, practice, and procedure in
all courts, the admission to the practice of
the law, the Integrated Bar, and legal
assistance
to
the
underprivileged.
(Emphasis ours.)
The Court, besides being authorized to promulgate
rules concerning pleading, practice, and procedure in all
courts, exercises specific authority to promulgate rules
governing the Integrated Bar with the end in view that the
integration of the Bar will, among other things:

covers any misconduct, whichalbeit unrelated to the actual


(4) Shield the judiciary, which
traditionally cannot defend itself except
within its own forum, from the assaults that
politics and self interest may level at it, and
assist it to maintain its integrity, impartiality
and independence;

practice of their professionwould show them to be unfit for the


office and unworthy of the privileges which their license and
the law invest in them.[16]

xxxx

This Court, in its unceasing quest to promote the

(11) Enforce rigid ethical standards

peoples faith in courts and trust in the rule of law, has

x x x.[9]

consistently exercised its disciplinary authority on lawyers


In Re: Letter Dated 21 February 2005 of Atty. Noel S.

who, for malevolent purpose or personal malice, attempt to

Sorreda,[10] we reiterated our pronouncement in Rheem of the

obstruct the orderly administration of justice, trifle with the

Philippines v. Ferrer[11] that the duty of attorneys to the courts

integrity of courts, and embarrass or, worse, malign the men

can only be maintained by rendering no service involving any

and women who compose them. We have done it in the case

disrespect to the judicial office which they are bound to

of former Senator Vicente Sotto in Sotto, in the case of Atty.

uphold. The Court wrote in Rheem of the Philippines:

Noel Sorreda in Sorreda, and in the case of Atty. Francisco B.


Cruz in Tacordan

x x x As explicit is the first canon of


legal ethics which pronounces that [i]t is the
duty of a lawyer 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. That same canon, as a
corollary, makes it peculiarly incumbent
upon lawyers to support the courts against
unjust criticism and clamor. And more. The
attorneys oath solemnly binds him to a
conduct that should be with all good fidelity
x x x to the courts.

v.

Ang[17] who

repeatedly

insulted

and

threatened the Court in a most insolent manner.

The Court is not hesitant to impose some form of


disciplinary sanctions on Senator/Atty. Santiago for what
otherwise would have constituted an act of utter disrespect on
her part towards the Court and its members. The factual and
legal circumstances of this case, however, deter the Court

Also, in Sorreda, the Court revisited its holding


in Surigao Mineral Reservation Board v. Cloribel [12] that:
A lawyer is an officer of the courts;
he is, like the court itself, an instrument or
agency to advance the ends of justice. His
duty is to uphold the dignity and authority
of the courts to which he owes fidelity, not
to promote distrust in the administration of
justice. Faith in the courts, a lawyer should
seek to preserve. For, to undermine the
judicial edifice is disastrous to the continuity
of government and to the attainment of the
liberties of the people. Thus has it been said
of a lawyer that [a]s an officer of the court,
it is his sworn and moral duty to help build
and not destroy unnecessarily that high
esteem and regard towards the courts so
essential to the proper administration of
justice.[13]

from doing so, even without any sign of remorse from her.
Basic

constitutional

consideration

dictates

this

kind

of

disposition.

We, however, would be remiss in our duty if we let


the Senators offensive and disrespectful language that
definitely tended to denigrate the institution pass by. It is
imperative on our part to re-instill in Senator/Atty. Santiago
her duty to respect courts of justice, especially this Tribunal,
and

remind

her

anew

that

the

parliamentary

non-

accountability thus granted to members of Congress is not to


protect

them

against

prosecutions for

their

own

benefit, but to enable them, as the peoples representatives,

The lady senator belongs to the legal profession

to perform the functions of their office without fear of being

bound by the exacting injunction of a strict Code. Society has

made responsible before the courts or other forums outside

entrusted that profession with the administration of the law

the congressional hall.[18] It is intended to protect members of

and dispensation of justice. Generally speaking, a lawyer

Congress against government pressure and intimidation

holding a government office may not be disciplined as a

aimed at influencing the decision-making prerogatives of

member of the Bar for misconduct committed while in the

Congress and its members.

discharge of official duties, unless said misconduct also


constitutes a violation of his/her oath as a lawyer. [14]

The Rules of the Senate itself contains a provision


on Unparliamentary Acts and Language that enjoins a Senator

Lawyers may be disciplined even for any conduct


committed

as their

language against another Senator or against any public

misconduct reflects their want of probity or good demeanor,

institution.[19] But as to Senator Santiagos unparliamentary

[15]

in

their private

capacity,

as

long

from using, under any circumstance, offensive or improper

a good character being an essential qualification for the

remarks, the Senate President had not apparently called her

admission to the practice of law and for continuance of such

to order, let alone referred the matter to the Senate Ethics

privilege. When the Code of Professional Responsibility or the

Committee for appropriate disciplinary action, as the Rules

Rules of Court speaks of conduct or misconduct, the reference

dictates under such circumstance.[20] The lady senator clearly

is not confined to ones behavior exhibited in connection with

violated the rules of her own chamber. It is unfortunate that

the performance of lawyers professional duties, but also

her peers bent backwards and avoided imposing their own


rules on her.

Finally, the lady senator questions Pobres motives in


filing his complaint, stating that disciplinary proceedings must
be undertaken solely for the public welfare. We cannot agree
with her more. We cannot overstress that the senators use of

Complainant Victor C. Lingan filed his motion for


reconsideration,7 praying that respondents be disbarred, not
merely suspended from the practice of law. In the
resolution8 dated September 6, 2006, this court denied
complainant Lingan's motion for reconsideration for lack of
merit.
On March 22, 2007, Atty. Baliga, also the Regional Director of
the Commission on Human Rights Regional Office for Region
II, filed the undated ex parte clarificatory pleading with leave
of court.9

intemperate language to demean and denigrate the highest


court of the land is a clear violation of the duty of respect
lawyers owe to the courts.[21]

Finally, the Senator asserts that complainant Pobre


has failed to prove that she in fact made the statements in
question. Suffice it to say in this regard that, although she has
not categorically denied making such statements, she has
unequivocally said making them as part of her privilege
speech. Her implied admission is good enough for the Court.

WHEREFORE, the letter-complaint of Antero J. Pobre


against Senator/Atty.
is, conformably

Miriam

to

Art.

VI,

Defensor-Santiago
Sec.

11

of

the

Constitution, DISMISSED.

SO ORDERED.

In his ex parte clarificatory pleading, Atty. Baliga alleged that


on July 14, 2006, complainant Lingan wrote the Commission
on Human Rights. Lingan requested the Commission to
investigate Atty. Baliga following the latter's suspension from
the practice of law.
After this court had suspended Atty. Baliga from the practice
of law, the Commission on Human Rights En Banc issued the
resolution10 dated January 16, 2007, suspending him from his
position as Director/Attorney VI of the. Commission on Human
Rights Regional Office for Region II. According to the
Commission on Human Rights En Banc, Atty. Baliga's
suspension from the practice of law "prevent[ed] [him] from
assuming his post [as Regional Director] for want of eligibility
in the meantime that his authority to practice law is
suspended."11
Atty. Baliga argued that he cannot be suspended for acts not
connected with his functions as Commission on Human Rights
Regional Director. According to Atty. Baliga, his suspension
from the practice of law did not include his suspension from
public office. He prayed for clarification of this court's
resolution dated June 15, 2006 "to prevent further injury and
prejudice to [his] rights."12

Lawyers in the Government Service


Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila
THIRD DIVISION
A.C. No. 5377

June 30, 2014

VICTOR C. LINGAN, Complainant,


vs.
ATTYS. ROMEO CALUBAQUIB and JIMMY P.
BALIGA, Respondents.
RESOLUTION
LEONEN, J.:
This court has the exclusive jurisdiction to regulate the
practice of law. When this court orders a lawyer suspended
from the practice of law, the lawyer must desist from
performing all functions requiring the application of legal
knowledge within the period of suspension. This includes
desisting from holding a position in government requiring the
authority to practice law.
For our resolution is respondent Atty. Jimmy P. Baliga's motion
to lift one-year suspension from the practice of law. 1
In the resolution2 dated June 15, 2006, this court found Attys.
Romeo I. Calubaquib and Jimmy P. Baliga guilty of violating
Rule 1.01, Canon 1 of the Code of Professional
Responsibility3 and of the Lawyer's Oath.4 Respondents
allowed their secretaries to notarize documents in their stead,
in violation of Sections 2455 and 2466 of the Notarial Law. This
court suspended respondents from the practice of law for one
year, revoked their notarial commissions, and disqualified
them from reappointment as notaries public for two years.

This court noted without action Atty. Baliga's ex parte


clarificatory pleading as this court does not render advisory
opinions.13
On May 8, 2009, this court received a letter from complainant
Lingan. In his letter14 dated May 4, 2009, Lingan alleged that
Atty. Baliga continued practicing law and discharging his
functions as Commission on Human Rights Regional Director,
in violation of this court's order of suspension.
Complainant Lingan allegedly received a copy of the
Commission on Human Rights En Banc 's resolution
suspending Atty. Baliga as Regional Director. On Atty. Baliga's
motion, the ommission reconsidered Atty. Baliga's suspension
and instead admonished him for "[violating] the conditions of
his commission as a notary public."15According to complainant
Lingan, he was not served a copy of Atty. Baliga's motion for
reconsideration.16
Complainant Lingan claimed that the discharge of the
functions of a Commission on Human Rights Regional Director
necessarily required the practice of law. A Commission on
Human Rights Regional Director must be a member of the bar
and is designated as Attorney VI. Since this court suspended
Atty. Baliga from the practice of law, Atty. Baliga was in effect
"a non-lawyer . . . and [was] disqualified to hold the position of
[Regional Director] [during the effectivity of the order of
suspension]."17 The Commission on Human Rights, according
to complainant Lingan, should have ordered Atty. Baliga to
desist from performing his functions as Regional Director.
Complainant Lingan prayed that this court give "favorable
attention and action on the matter."18
This court endorsed complainant Lingan's letter to the Office
of the Bar Confidant for report and recommendation. 19
In its report and recommendation20 dated June 29, 2009, the
Office of the Bar Confidant found that the period of
suspension of Attys. Calubaquib and Baliga had already
lapsed. It recommended that respondents be required to file

their respective motions to lift order of suspension with


certifications from the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and
the Executive Judge of the court where they might appear as
counsel and state that they desisted from practicing law
during the period of suspension.
On the claim that the Commission on Human Rights allowed
Atty. Baliga to perform his functions as Regional Director
during the period of suspension, the Office of the Bar
Confidant said that the Commission "deliberate[ly]
disregard[ed]"21 this court's order of suspension. According to
the Office of the Bar Confidant, the Commission on Human
Rights had no power to "[alter, modify, or set aside any of this
court's resolutions] which [have] become final and executory.
"22
Thus, with respect to Atty. Baliga, the Office of the Bar
Confidant recommended that this court require him to submit
a certification from the Commission on Human Rights stating
that he desisted from performing his functions as Regional
Director while he was suspended from the practice of law.23
The Office of the Bar Confidant further recommended that
Atty. Baliga and the Commission .on Human Rights be
required to comment on complainant Lingan's allegation that
Atty. Baliga continued to perform his functions as Regional
Director while he was suspended from the practice of law.
On July 17, 2009, Atty. Baliga filed a manifestation,24 arguing
that his suspension from the practice of law did not include his
suspension from public office. Atty. Baliga said, "[t]o stretch
the coverage of [his suspension from the practice of law] to
[his] public office would be tantamount to [violating] his
constitutional rights [sic] to due process and to the statutory
principle in law that what is not included is deemed
excluded."25
In the resolution26 dated September 23, 2009, this court
required respondents to file their respective motions to lift
order of suspension considering the lapse of the period of
suspension. This court further ordered Atty. Baliga and the
Commission on Human Rights to comment on complainant
Lingari's allegation that Atty. Baliga continued performing his
functions as Regional Director while he was suspended from
the practice of law. The resolution dated September 23, 2009
provides:
Considering that the period of suspension from the practice of
law and disqualification from being commissioned as notary
public imposed on respondents have [sic] already elapsed,
this Court resolves:
(1) to require both respondents, within ten (10) days
from notice, to FILE their respective motions to lift
relative to their suspension and disqualification from
being commissioned as notary public and SUBMIT
certifications from the Integrated Bar of the
Philippines and Executive Judge of the Court where
they may appear as counsel, stating that
respondents have actually ceased and desisted from
the practice of law during the entire period of their
suspension and disqualification, unless already
complied with in the meantime;
(2) to require Atty. Jimmy P. Baliga to SUBMIT a
certification from the Commission on Human Rights
[CHR] stating that he has been suspended from office
and has stopped from the performance of his
functions for the period stated in the order of
suspension and disqualification, within ten (10) days
from notice hereof;
(3) to require respondent Atty. Baliga and the CHR to
COMMENT on the allegations of complainant against
them, both within ten (10) days from receipt of notice
hereof; ...27 (Emphasis in the original)

In compliance with this court's order, Attys. Calubaquib and


Baliga filed their respective motions to lift order of
suspension.28 Atty. Baliga also filed his comment on
complainant Lingan's allegation that he continued performing
his functions as Regional Director during his suspension from
the practice of law.
In his comment29 dated November 13, 2009, Atty. Baliga
alleged that as Regional Director, he "perform[ed], generally,
managerial functions,"30 which did not require the practice of
law. These managerial functions allegedly
included ."[supervising] ... the day to day operations of the
regional office and its personnel";31 "monitoring progress of
investigations conducted by the [Commission on Human
Rights] Investigation Unit";32 "monitoring the implementation
of all other services and assistance programs of the
[Commission on Human Rights] by the different units at the
regional level";33 and "[supervising] . . . the budgetary
requirement preparation and disbursement of funds and
expenditure of the [Regional Office]." 34 The Commission
allegedly has its own "legal services unit which takes care of
the legal services matters of the [Commission]." 35
Stating that his functions as Regional Director did not require
the practice of law, Atty. Baliga claimed thaf he "faithful[ly]
[complied] with [this court's resolution suspending him from
the practice of law]."36
The Commission on Human Rights filed its comment37 dated
November 27, 2009. It argued that "the penalty imposed upon
Atty. Baliga as a member of the bar is separate and distinct
from any penalty that may be imposed upon him as a public
official for the same acts."38 According to the Commission,
Atty. Baliga's suspension from the practice of law is a "bar
matter"39 while the imposition of penalty upon a Commission
on Human Rights official "is an entirely different thing, falling
as it does within the exclusive authority of the [Commission
as] disciplining body."40
Nevertheless, the Commission manifested that it would defer
to this court's resolution of the issue and would "abide by
whatever ruling or decision [this court] arrives at on [the]
matter. "41 In reply42 to Atty. Baliga's comment, complainant
Lingan argued that Atty. Baliga again disobeyed this. court.
Atty. Baliga failed to submit a certification from the
Commission on Human Rights stating that he was suspended
from office and desisted from performing his functions as
Regional Director.
As to Atty. Baliga's claim that he did not practice law while he
held his position as Regional Director and only performed
generally managerial functions, complainant Lingan countered
that Atty. Baliga admitted to defying the order of suspension.
Atty. Baliga admitted to performing the functions of a "lawyermanager,"43 which under the landmark case of Cayetano v.
Monsod44 constituted practice of law. Complainant Lingan
reiterated that the position of Regional Director/ Attorney VI
requires the officer "to be a lawyer [in] good
standing."45 Moreover, as admitted by Atty. Baliga, he had
supervision and control over Attorneys III, IV, and V. Being a
"lawyer-manager," Atty. Baliga practiced law while he held his
position as Regional Director.
With respect to Atty. Baliga's claim that he was in good faith in
reassuming his position as Regional Director, complainant
Lingan countered that if Atty. Baliga were really in good faith,
he should have followed the initial resolution of the
Commission on Human Rights suspending him from office.
Atty. Baliga did not even furnish this court a copy of his
motion for reconsideration of the Commission on Human
Right's resolution suspending him from office. By "playing
ignorant on what is 'practice of law', twisting facts and
philosophizing,"46 complainant Lingan argued that Atty. Baliga
"[no longer has that] moral vitality imperative to the title of an
attorney."47Compfainant Lingan prayed that Atty. Baliga be
disbarred.

On February 17, 2010, this court lifted the order of suspension


of Atty. Calubaquib.48 He was allowed to resume his practice of
law and perform notarial acts subject to compliance with the
requirements for issuance of a notarial commission.
On the other hand, this court referred to the Office of the Bar
Confidant for evaluation, report, and recommendation Atty.
Baliga's motion to lift one-year suspension and the respective
comments of Atty. Baliga and the Commission on Human
Rights.49
In its report and recommendation50 dated October 18, 2010,
the Office of the Bar Confidant stated that Atty. Baliga "should
not [have been] allowed to perform his functions, duties, and
responsibilities [as Regional Director] which [required acts
constituting] practice .of law."51 Considering that Atty. Baliga
claimed that he did not perform his functions as Regional
Director which required the practice of law, the Office of the
Bar Confidant recommended that the Commission on Human
Rights be required to comment on this claim. The Office of the
Bar Confidant also recommended holding in abeyance the
resolution of Atty. Baliga's motion to lift suspension "pending
[the Commission on Human Right's filing of comment]." 52
In the resolution53 dated January 12, 2011, this court held in
abeyance the resolution of Atty. Baliga's motion to lift oneyear suspension. The Commission on Human Rights was
ordered to comment on Atty. Baliga's claim that he did not
practice law while he held his position as Regional Director.
In its comment54 dated April 6, 2011, the Commission on
Human Rights reiterated that the penalty imposed on Atty.
Baliga as a member of the bar is separate from the penalty
that might be imposed on him as Regional Director. The
Commission added that it is "of honest belief that the position
of [Regional Director] is managerial and does not [require the
practice of law]."55 It again manifested that it will "abide by
whatever ruling or decision [this court] arrives on [the]
matter."56
The issue for our resolution is whether Atty. Baliga's motion to
lift order of suspension should be granted.
We find that Atty. Baliga violated this court's order of
suspension. We, therefore, suspend him further from the
practice of law for six months.
Practice of law is "any activity, in or out of court, which
requires the application of law, legal procedure, knowledge,
training and experience."57 It includes "[performing] acts
which are characteristics of the [legal] profession" 58 or
"[rendering any kind of] service [which] requires the use in
any degree of legal knowledge or skill."59
Work in government that requires the use of legal knowledge
is considered practice. of law. In Cayetano v. Monsod,60 this
court cited the deliberations of the 1986 Constitutional
Commission and agreed that work rendered by lawyers in the
Commission on Audit requiring "[the use of] legal knowledge
or legal talent"61 is practice of law.
The Commission on Human Rights is an independent office
created under the Constitution with power to investigate "all
forms of human rights violations involving civil and political
rights[.]"62 It is divided into regional offices with each office
having primary responsibility to investigate human rights
violations in its territorial jurisdiction.63 Each regional office is
headed by the Regional Director who is given the position of
Attorney VI.
Under the Guidelines and Procedures in the Investigation and
Monitoring of Human Rights Violations and Abuses, and the
Provision of CHR Assistance,64 the Regional Director has the
following powers and functions:
a. To administer oaths or affirmations with respect to
"[Commission on Human Rights] matters;"65

b. To issue mission orders in their respective regional


offices;66
c. To conduct preliminary evaluation or initial
investigation of human rights complaints in the
absence of the legal officer or investigator;67
d. To conduct dialogues or preliminary conferences
among parties and discuss "immediate courses of
action and protection remedies and/or possible
submission of the matter to an alternative dispute
resolution";68
e. To issue Commission on Human Rights processes,
including notices, letter-invitations, orders, or
subpoenas within the territorial jurisdiction of the
regional office;69 and
f. To review and approve draft resolutions of human
rights cases prepared by the legal officer.70
These powers and functions are characteristics of the legal
profession. Oaths and affirmations are usually performed by
members of the judiciary and notaries public71 - officers who
are necessarily members of the bar.72Investigating human
rights complaints are performed primarily by the
Commission's legal officer.73 Discussing immediate courses of
action and protection remedies and reviewing and approving
draft resolutions of human rights cases prepared by the legal
officer require the use of extensive legal knowledge.
The exercise of the powers and functions of a Commission on
Human Rights Regional Director constitutes practice of law.
Thus, the Regional Director must be an attorney - a member
of the bar in good standing and authorized to practice
law.74 When the Regional Director loses this authority, such as
when he or she is disbarred or suspended from the practice of
law, the Regional Director loses a necessary qualification to
the position he or she is holding. The disbarred or suspended
lawyer must desist from holding the position of Regional
Director.
This court suspended Atty. Baliga from the practice of law for
one year on June 15, 2006, "effective immediately." 75 From the
time Atty. Baliga received the court's order of suspension on
July 5, 2006,76 he has been without authority to practice law.
He lacked a necessary qualification to his position as
Commission on Human Rights Regional Director/ Attorney VI.
As the Commission on Human Rights correctly resolved in its
resolution dated January 16, 2007:
WHEREAS, this suspension under ethical standards, in effect,
prevents Atty. Baliga from assuming his post, for want of
eligibility in the meantime that his authority to practice law is
suspended. This is without prejudice to the investigation to be
conducted to the practice of law of Atty. Baliga, which in the
case of all Regional Human Rights Directors is not generally
allowed by the Commission;
WHEREFORE, in the light of the foregoing, the Commission on
Human Rights of the Philippines resolved to put into effect
and implement the legal implications of the SC decision by
decreeing the suspension of Atty. Jimmy P. Baliga in the
discharge of his functions and responsibilities as
Director/Attorney VI of CHRP-Region II in Tuguegarao City for
the period for which the Supreme Court Resolution is in
effect.77 (Emphasis in the original)
In ordering Atty. Baliga suspended from office as Regional
Director, the Commission on Human Rights did not violate
Atty. Baliga's right to due process. First, he was only
suspended after: investigation by the Commission on Human
Rights Legal and Investigation Office.78 Second, the
Commission gave Atty. Baliga an opportunity to be heard
when he filed his motion for reconsideration.

Atty. Baliga's performance of generally managerial functions


was not supported by the record. It was also
immaterial.1wphi1 He held the position of Commission on
Human Rights Regional Director because of his authority to
practice law. Without this authority, Atty. Baliga was
disqualified to hold that position.
All told, performing the functions of a Commission on Human
Rights Regional Director constituted practice of law. Atty.
Baliga should have desisted from holding his position as
Regional Director.
Under Section 27, Rule 138 of the Rules of Court, willful
disobedience to any lawful order of a superior court is a
ground for disbarment or suspension from the practice of law:
SEC. 27. Disbarment or suspension of attorneys by Supreme
Court; grounds therefor. - A member of the bar may be
disbarred or suspended from his office as attorney by the
Supreme Court for any deceit, malpractice, or other gross
misconduct in such office, grossly immoral conduct, or by
reason of his conviction of a crime involving moral turpitude,
or for any violation of the oath which he is required to take
before admission to practice, or for a willful disobedience of
any lawful order of a superior court, or for corruptly or willfully
appearing as an attorney for a party to a case without
authority so to do. The practice of soliciting cases at law for
the purpose of gain, either personally or through paid agents
or brokers, constitutes malpractice.
In Molina v. Atty. Magat,79 this court suspended further Atty.
Ceferino R. Magat from the practice of law for six months for
practicing his profession despite this court's previous order of
suspension.
We impose the same penalty on Atty. Baliga for holding his
position as Regional Director despite lack.of authority to
practice law.
We note that the Commission on Human Rights En Banc
issued the resolution dated April 13, 2007, reconsidering its
first resolution suspending Atty. Baliga as Regional Director/
Attorney VI. Instead, the Commission admonished Atty. Baliga
and sternly warned him that repeating the same offense will
cause his dismissal from the service. The resolution with CHR
(III) No. A2007-045 dated April 13, 2007 reads:
In his Motion for Reconsideration dated March 15, 2007,
respondent Atty. Jimmy P. Baliga prays before the Honorable
Commission to recall and annul his suspension as Regional
Director/ Attorney VI of the Commission on Human Rights Regional Office No. II, per 16 January 2007 Commission en
Banc Resolution CHR (III) No. A2007-013.
The grounds relied upon the motion are not sufficient to
convince the Commission that Atty. Jimmy P. Baliga is totally
blameless and should not suffer the appropriate penalty for
breach of the Code of Professional Responsibility and his
Lawyer's oath.
The Commission, in the exercise of its authority to discipline,
is concerned with the transgression by Atty. Baliga of his oath
of office as government employee. As records have it, the
Commission granted Atty. Baliga authority to secure a
commission as a notary public. With this, he is mandated to
act as a notary public in accordance with the rules and
regulations, to include the conditions expressly set forth by
the Commission.
With the findings clearly enunciated in the Supreme Court
resolution in SC Administrative Case No. 5277 dated 15 June
2006, the Commission cannot close its eyes to the act of Atty.
Baliga that is clearly repugnant to the conduct of an officer
reposed with public trust.
This is enough just cause to have this piece of word, short of
being enraged, and censure Atty. Baliga for having

contravened the conditions of his commission as a notary


public. What was granted to Atty. Baliga is merely a privilege,
the exercise of which requires such high esteem to be in equal
footing with the constitutional mandate of the Commission.
Clearly, Atty. Baliga should keep in mind that the Commission
exacts commensurate solicitude from whatever privilege the
Commission grants of every official and employee.
The Commission notes that by now Atty. Baliga is serving the
one year suspension imposed on him pursuant to the
Supreme Court resolution. The Commission believes that the
further suspension of Atty. Baliga from the office may be too
harsh in the meantime that the Supreme Court penalty is
being served. This Commission is prevailed upon that the
admonition of Atty. Baliga as above expressed is sufficient to
complete the cycle of penalizing an erring public officer.
WHEREFORE, the Commission hereby modifies its ruling in
Resolution CHR (III) No. A2007-013 and imposes the penalty of
admonition with a stem warning that a repetition of the same
will merit a penalty of dismissal from the service. 80 (Emphasis
in the original)
The Commission on Human Rights erred in issuing the
resolution dated April 13, 2007. This resolution caused Atty.
Baliga to reassume his position as Regional Director/ Attorney
VI despite lack of authority to practice law.
We remind the Commission on Human Rights that we have
the exclusive jurisdiction to regulate the practice of law.81 The
Commission cannot, by mere resolutions and .other issuances,
modify or defy this court's orders of suspension from the
practice of law. Although the Commission on Human Rights
has the power to appoint its officers and employees,82 it can
only retain those with the necessary qualifications in the
positions they are holding.
As for Atty. Baliga, we remind him that the practice of law is a
"privilege burdened with conditions."83 To enjoy the privileges
of practicing law, lawyers must "[adhere] to the rigid
standards of mental fitness, [maintain] the highest degree of
morality[,] and [faithfully comply] with the rules of [the] legal
profession."84
WHEREFORE, we further SUSPEND Atty. Jimmy P. Baliga from
the practice of law for six ( 6) months. Atty. Baliga shall serve
a total of one (1) year and six (6) months of suspension from
the practice of law, effective upon service on Atty. Baliga of a
copy of this resolution.
SERVE copies of this resolution to the Integrated Bar of the
Philippines, the Office of the Bar Confidant, and the
Commission on Human Rights.
SO ORDERED.
Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila
FIRST DIVISION
A.C. No. 5688

June 4, 2009

FELIPE E. ABELLA, Complainant,


vs.
ATTY. ASTERIA E. CRUZABRA, Respondent.
RESOLUTION
CARPIO, J.:
Felipe E. Abella (complainant) filed a complaint for violation of
Canon 1 of the Code of Professional Responsibility and Section
7(b)(2) of Republic Act No. 67131 (RA 6713) or the Code of

Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and


Employees against Atty. Asteria E. Cruzabra (respondent). In
his affidavit-complaint2 dated 8 May 2002, complainant
charged respondent with engaging in private practice while
employed in the government service.

In her Report and Recommendation (Report) dated 25 January


2005, Investigating Commissioner Lydia A. Navarro
recommended to the IBP Board of Governors the dismissal of
the complaint against respondent for lack of merit. The Report
reads in part:

Complainant alleged that respondent was admitted to the


Philippine Bar on 30 May 1986 and was appointed as Deputy
Register of Deeds of General Santos City on 11 August
1987.3 Complainant asserted that as Deputy Register of
Deeds, respondent filed a petition for commission as a notary
public and was commissioned on 29 February 1988 without
obtaining prior authority from the Secretary of the
Department of Justice (DOJ).4Complainant claimed that
respondent has notarized some 3,000
documents.5 Complainant pointed out that respondent only
stopped notarizing documents when she was reprimanded by
the Chief of the Investigation Division of the Land Registration
Authority.6

However, the fact that she applied for commission as Notary


Public without securing the approval of the proper authority
although she was allowed to do so by her superior officer, was
not her own undoing for having relied on the ample authority
of her superior officer, respondent being a neophyte in the law
profession for having newly passed the bar a year after at that
time.

Complainant contended that respondent could not justify her


act by pretending to be in good faith because even nonlawyers are not excused from ignorance of the law.
Complainant branded as incredible respondents claim that
she was merely motivated by public service in notarizing
3,000 documents. Complainant pointed out that respondent
spent money to buy the Notarial Register Books and spent
hours going over the documents subscribed before her,
thereby prejudicing her efficiency and performance as Deputy
Register of Deeds. Complainant believed that even if
respondent had obtained authority from the DOJ, respondent
would still be guilty of violating Section 7(b)(2) of RA 6713
because her practice as a notary public conflicts with her
official functions.7
In her Comment, respondent admitted that she was a notary
public from 29 February 1988 to 31 December
1989.8 Respondent stated that she was authorized by her
superior, the Register of Deeds, to act as a notary public.
Respondent pointed out that the Register of Deeds, Atty.
Pelagio T. Tolosa, also subscribed petitions and documents
that were required to be registered.9 Respondent explained
that the Register of Deeds imposed the following conditions
for her application as a notary public:

Records further showed that after having been reprimanded


by Atty. Flestado for said mistake which was done in good
faith respondent ceased and desisted to perform notarial work
since then up to the present as could be gleaned from the
Certification issued by Clerk of Court VI Atty. Elmer D.
Lastimosa of the 11th Judicial Region General Santos City;
dated December 23, 2004 that 135 documents have been
notarized by the respondent from February 29, 1988 to
December 31 1989 and there was no record of any notarized
documents from January 19, 1990 to December 21, 1991.16
In a Resolution dated 12 March 2005, the IBP Board of
Governors, in adopting and approving the Report, dismissed
the case for lack of merit.
Complainant claims that in dismissing the complaint for "lack
of merit" despite respondents admission that she acted as a
notary public for two years, the IBP Board of Governors
committed a serious error amounting to lack of jurisdiction or
authority.17
Section 7(b)(2) of RA 6713 provides:
Section 7. Prohibited Acts and Transactions. - In addition to
acts and omissions of public officials and employees now
prescribed in the Constitution and existing laws, the following
shall constitute prohibited acts and transactions of any public
official and employee and are hereby declared to be unlawful:
xxx

xxx
4. That the application for commission was on the condition
that respondent cannot charge fees for documents required
by the Office to be presented and under oath. 10

(b) Outside employment and other activities related thereto. Public officials and employees during their incumbency shall
not:
xxx

Respondent contended that when she filed her petition for


commission as a notary public, the requirement of approval
from the DOJ Secretary was still the subject of a pending
query by one of the Registrars and this fact was not known to
respondent.11 Respondent maintained that she had no
intention to violate any rule of law. Respondent, as a new
lawyer relying on the competence of her superior, admitted
that an honest mistake may have been committed but such
mistake was committed without willfulness, malice or
corruption.12
Respondent argued that she was not engaged in illegal
practice as a notary public because she was duly
commissioned by the court.13 Respondent denied that she
violated Section 7(b)(2) of RA 6713 because she was
authorized by her superior to act as a notary public.
Respondent reasoned that her being a notary public
complemented her functions as Deputy Register of Deeds
because respondent could immediately have documents
notarized instead of the registrants going out of the office to
look for a notary public. Respondent added that she did not
charge fees for the documents required by the office to be
presented under oath.14lawphi1
Respondent insisted that contrary to complainants claims,
she only notarized 135 documents as certified by the Clerk of
Court of the 11th Judicial Region, General Santos City. 15

(2) Engage in the private practice of their profession unless


authorized by the Constitution or law, provided, that such
practice will not conflict or tend to conflict with their official
functions; or
xxx
Memorandum Circular No. 1718 of the Executive Department
allows government employees to engage directly in the
private practice of their profession provided there is a written
permission from the Department head. It provides:
The authority to grant permission to any official or employee
shall be granted by the head of the ministry or agency in
accordance with Section 12, Rule XVIII of the Revised Civil
Service Rules, which provides:
"Sec. 12. No officer or employee shall engage directly in any
private business, vocation, or profession or be connected with
any commercial, credit, agricultural, or industrial undertaking
without a written permission from the head of
Department; Provided, That this prohibition will be absolute
in the case of those officers and employees whose duties and
responsibilities require that their entire time be at the disposal
of the Government: Provided, further, That if an employee is

granted permission to engage in outside activities, the time so


devoted outside of office hours should be fixed by the chief of
the agency to the end that it will not impair in any way the
efficiency of the other officer or employee: And provided,
finally, That no permission is necessary in the case of
investments, made by an officer or employee, which do not
involve any real or apparent conflict between his private
interests and public duties, or in any way influence him in the
discharge of his duties, and he shall not take part in the
management of the enterprise or become an officer or
member of the board of directors",
Subject to any additional conditions which the head of the
office deems necessary in each particular case in the interest
of the service, as expressed in the various issuances of the
Civil Service Commission. (Boldfacing supplied)
It is clear that when respondent filed her petition for
commission as a notary public, she did not obtain a written
permission from the Secretary of the DOJ. Respondents
superior, the Register of Deeds, cannot issue any
authorization because he is not the head of the Department.
And even assuming that the Register of Deeds authorized her,
respondent failed to present any proof of that written
permission. Respondent cannot feign ignorance or good faith
because respondent filed her petition for commission as a
notary public after Memorandum Circular No. 17 was issued in
1986.1avvphi1

Wherefore, we find Atty. Asteria E. Cruzabra guilty of


engaging in notarial practice without the written authority
from the Secretary of the Department of Justice, and
accordingly we REPRIMAND her. She is warned that a
repetition of the same or similar act in the future shall merit a
more severe sanction.
SO ORDERED.
EN BANC
QUERY OF ATTY. KAREN
A.M. No. 08-6-352-RTC
M.
SILVERIO-BUFFE,
FORMER Clerk of Court
Present:
BRANCH 81, ROMBLON,
ROMBLON
ON
THE Promulgated:
PROHIBITION
FROM August 19, 2009
ENGAGING
IN
THE
PRIVATE PRACTICE OF
LAW.
x-------------------------------------------------------------- x
DECISION
BRION, J.:
This administrative matter started as a letter-query
dated March 4, 2008 of Atty. Karen M. Silverio-Buffe (Atty.
Buffe) addressed to the Office of the Court Administrator,

In Yumol, Jr. v. Ferrer Sr.,19 we suspended a lawyer employed


in the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) for failing to obtain
a written authority and approval with a duly approved leave of
absence from the CHR. We explained:
Crystal clear from the foregoing is the fact that private
practice of law by CHR lawyers is not a matter of right.
Although the Commission allows CHR lawyers to engage in
private practice, a written request and approval thereof, with
a duly approved leave of absence for that matter are
indispensable. In the case at bar, the record is bereft of any
such written request or duly approved leave of absence. No
written authority nor approval of the practice and approved
leave of absence by the CHR was ever presented by
respondent. Thus, he cannot engage in private practice.

which

query

the

latter

referred

to

the

Court

for

consideration. In the course of its action on the matter, the


Court discovered that the query was beyond pure policy
interpretation and referred to the actual situation of Atty.
Buffe, and, hence, was a matter that required concrete action
on the factual situation presented.

The query, as originally framed, related to Section


7(b)(2) of Republic Act (R.A.) No. 6713, as amended (or the
Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and
Employees). This provision places a limitation on public

As to respondents act of notarizing documents, records show


that he applied for commission as notary public on 14
November 2000, before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of San
Fernando, Pampanga, Branch 42. This was granted by RTC
Executive Judge Pedro M. Sunga, Jr., on 01 December 2000.
However, the CHR authorized respondent to act as notary
public only on 29 October 2001. Considering the acts of
notarization are within the ambit of the term "practice of law,"
for which a prior written request and approval by the CHR to
engage into it are required, the crucial period to be
considered is the approval of the CHR on 29 October 2001 and
not the approval of the RTC on 04 December 2000. 20
In Muring, Jr. v. Gatcho,21 we suspended a lawyer for having
filed petitions for commission as a notary public while
employed as a court attorney. We held:

officials and employees during their incumbency, and


those

already separated

from

government

employment for a period of one (1) year after separation, in


engaging in the private practice of their profession. Section
7(b)(2) of R.A. No. 6713 provides:
SECTION 7. Prohibited Acts and
Transactions. In addition to acts and
omissions of public officials and employees
now prescribed in the Constitution and
existing laws, the following shall constitute
prohibited acts and transactions of any
public official and employee and are hereby
declared to be unlawful:
xxx

Atty. Gatcho should have known that as a government lawyer,


he was prohibited from engaging in notarial practice, or in any
form of private legal practice for that matter. Atty. Gatcho
cannot now feign ignorance or good faith, as he did not seek
to exculpate himself by providing an explanation for his error.
Atty. Gatchos filing of the petition for commission, while not
an actual engagement in the practice of law, appears as a
furtive attempt to evade the prohibition.22
Under the Uniform Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil
Service, engaging in the private practice of profession, when
unauthorized, is classified as a light offense punishable by
reprimand.23

(b) Outside employment and other


activities related thereto. Public officials and
employees during their incumbency shall
not:
xxx
(2) Engage
in
the
private
practice of their profession unless
authorized by the Constitution or law,
provided, that such practice will not
conflict or tend to conflict with their
official functions; or
xxx
These prohibitions shall continue to
apply for a period of one (1) year after
resignation, retirement, or separation from

public office, except in the case of


subparagraph (b) (2) above, but the
professional concerned cannot practice his
profession in connection with any matter
before the office he used to be with, in
which case the one-year prohibition shall
likewise apply.
In

her

letter-query,

Atty.

Buffe

posed

the norms of conduct of public officials and


employees, among others: (a) commitment
to public interest; (b) professionalism; and
(c) justness and sincerity. Of particular
significance
is
the
statement
under
professionalism that [t]hey [public officials
and
employees]
shall
endeavor
to
discourage wrong perceptions of their roles
as dispensers or peddlers of undue
patronage.

these

questions: Why may an incumbent engage in private practice

Thus, it may be well to say that the


prohibition was intended to avoid any
impropriety
or
the
appearance
of
impropriety which may occur in any
transaction between the retired government
employee and his former colleagues,
subordinates or superiors brought about by
familiarity, moral ascendancy or undue
influence, as the case may be.[2]

under (b)(2), assuming the same does not conflict or tend to


conflict with his official duties, but a non-incumbent like
myself cannot, as is apparently prohibited by the last
paragraph of Sec. 7? Why is the former allowed, who is still
occupying the very public position that he is liable to exploit,
but a non-incumbent like myself who is no longer in a position
of possible abuse/exploitation cannot?[1]

Subsequently, in a Minute Resolution dated July 15,


2008, we resolved to refer this case to the Office of the Chief

The query arose because Atty. Buffe previously


worked as Clerk of Court VI of the Regional Trial Court (RTC),

Attorney (OCAT) for evaluation, report and recommendation.


[3]

The OCAT took the view that:

Branch 81 of Romblon; she resigned from her position


effective February 1, 2008. Thereafter (and within the oneyear period of prohibition mentioned in the above-quoted
provision), she engaged in the private practice of law by
appearing as private counsel in several cases before RTCBranch 81 of Romblon.

Atty. Buffe alleged that Section 7(b)(2) of R.A. No. 6713 gives
preferential treatment to an incumbent public employee, who
may engage in the private practice of his profession so long
as this practice does not conflict or tend to conflict with his
official functions. In contrast, a public official or employee who
has retired, resigned, or has been separated from government
service like her, is prohibited from engaging in private

The premise of the query is erroneous. She


interprets Section 7 (b) (2) as a blanket
authority for an incumbent clerk of court to
practice law. Clearly, there is a misreading
of that provision of law.[4]
and further observed:
The confusion apparently lies in the use of
the term such practice after the phrase
provided
that.
It
may
indeed
be
misinterpreted as modifying the phrase
engage in the private practice of their
profession should be prefatory sentence
that public officials during their incumbency
shall not be disregarded. However, read in
its entirety, such practice may only refer to
practice authorized by the Constitution or
law or the exception to the prohibition
against the practice of profession. The term
law was intended by the legislature to
include a memorandum or a circular or an
administrative order issued pursuant to the
authority of law.

practice on any matter before the office where she used to

xxx

work, for a period of one (1) year from the date of her

above prohibition is to remove the exercise of clout, influence

The interpretation that Section 7


(b) (2) generally prohibits incumbent public
officials and employees from engaging in
the practice of law, which is declared therein
a prohibited and unlawful act, accords with
the constitutional policy on accountability of
public officers stated in Article XI of the
Constitution

or privity to insider information, which the incumbent public

xxx

separation from government employment.

Atty. Buffe further alleged that the intention of the

employee may use in the private practice of his profession.


However, this situation did not obtain in her case, since she
had already resigned as Clerk of Court of RTC-Branch 18 of
Romblon. She advanced the view that she could engage in the

The policy thus requires public officials and


employees to devote full time public service
so that in case of conflict between personal
and public interest, the latter should take
precedence over the former.[5][Footnotes
omitted]

private practice of law before RTC-Branch 81 of Romblon, so


long as her appearance as legal counsel shall not conflict or
tend to conflict with her former duties as former Clerk of Court

With respect to lawyers in the judiciary, the OCAT pointed to


Section 5, Canon 3 of the Code of Conduct for Court Personnel

of that Branch.

the rule that deals with outside employment by an incumbent


Then

Deputy

Court

Administrator

(now

Court

Administrator) Jose P. Perez made the following observations


when the matter was referred to him:

judicial employee and which limits such outside employment


to one that does not require the practice of law. [6] The
prohibition to practice law with respect to any matter where
they have intervened while in the government service is

The general intent of the law, as


defined in its title is to uphold the timehonored principle of public office being a
public trust. Section 4 thereof provides for

reiterated in Rule 6.03, Canon 6 of the Code of Professional

Responsibility, which governs the conduct of lawyers in the


government service.

[7]

and

last

par.

thereof,

apparently

contains

an

express

prohibition (valid or invalid) on the private practice of


undersigneds law profession, before Branch 81, while on the

In view of the OCAT findings and recommendations,


we

issued

an En Banc Resolution

dated November

11,

2008 directing the Court Administrator to draft and submit to


the Court a circular on the practice of profession during

other hand not containing a similar, express prohibition in


regard to undersigneds practice of profession, before the
same court, as a public prosecutor within the supposedly
restricted 1-year period?

employment and within one year from resignation, retirement


from or cessation of employment in the Judiciary. We likewise

OUR ACTION AND RULING

required the Executive Judge of the RTC of Romblon to (i)


verify if Atty. Buffe had appeared as counsel during her

Preliminary Considerations

incumbency as clerk of court and after her resignation in


February 2008, and (ii) submit to the Court a report on his
verification.[8]

As we stated at the outset, this administrative matter


confronts us, not merely with the task of determining how the

In compliance with this our Resolution, Executive


Judge Ramiro R. Geronimo of RTC-Branch 81 of Romblon
reported the following appearances made by Atty. Buffe:
(1) Civil Case No. V-1564, entitled
Oscar Madrigal Moreno, Jr. et al. versus
Leonardo M. Macalam, et al. on February 19,
2008, March 4, 2008, April 10, 2008 and July
9, 2008 as counsel for the plaintiffs;
(2) Civil Case No. V-1620, entitled
Melchor M. Manal versus Zosimo Malasa, et
al., on (sic) February, 2008, as counsel for
the plaintiff;
(3) Civil Case No. V-1396, entitled
Solomon Y. Mayor versus Jose J. Mayor,
on February 21, 2008, as counsel for the
plaintiff; and
(4) Civil Case No. V-1639, entitled
Philippine National Bank versus Sps. Mariano
and Olivia Silverio, on April 11, 2008 and July
9, 2008, as counsel for the defendants.

Court will respond to the query, both with respect to the


substance and form (as the Court does not give interpretative
opinions[9] but can issue circulars and regulations relating to
pleading, practice and procedure in all courts[10] and in the
exercise of its administrative supervision over all courts and
personnel thereof[11]), but also with the task of responding to
admitted violations of Section 7 (b)(2) of R.A. No. 6713 and to
multiple recourses on the same subject.

After our directive to the Office of the Court


Administrator to issue a circular on the subject of the query
for the guidance of all personnel in the Judiciary, we consider
this aspect of the present administrative matter a finished
task, subject only to confirmatory closure when the OCA
reports the completion of the undertaking to us.

Atty. Buffes admitted appearance, before the very

Atty. Buffe herself was furnished a copy of our November 11,


2008 En Banc Resolution

and

she

filed

Manifestation

same

branch

she

served

and

immediately

after

her

(received by the Court on February 2, 2009) acknowledging

resignation, is a violation that we cannot close our eyes to and

receipt of our November 11, 2008 Resolution. She likewise

that she cannot run away from under the cover of the letter-

stated that her appearances are part of Branch 81 records. As

query she filed and her petition for declaratory relief, whose

well, she informed the Court that she had previously taken the

dismissal she manifested she would pursue up to our

following judicial remedies in regard to the above query:

level. We note that at the time she filed her letter-query


(on March 4, 2008), Atty. Buffe had already appeared before

1.
SCA No. 089119028
(Annex C), filed with Branch 54 of the RTC
Manila, which had been dismissed without
prejudice on July 23, 2008 (Annex D) a
recourse taken when undersigned was
still a private practitioner;
2.
SCA
No.
08120423
(Annex A), filed with Branch 17 of the RTC of
Manila, which had been also dismissed (with
or without prejudice) on December 4, 2008
(Annex
B) a
recourse
taken
when
undersigned was already a public
prosecutor appearing before the same
Branch 81, after she took her oath of office
as such on August 15, 2008.[Emphasis
supplied]

Branch 81 in at least three (3) cases. The terms of Section 7


(b)(2) of R.A. No. 6713 did not deter her in any way and her
misgivings about the fairness of the law cannot excuse any
resulting violation she committed. In other words, she took
the risk of appearing before her own Branch and should suffer
the consequences of the risk she took.

Nor can she hide behind the two declaratory relief


petitions she filed, both of which were dismissed, and her
intent

to

elevate

the

dismissal

to

this

Court

for

resolution. The first, filed before the RTC, Branch 54, Manila,
She also made known her intent to elevate the dismissal of

was dismissed on July 23, 2008 because the court declined to

the above cases so that eventually, the Honorable Supreme

exercise the power to declare rights as prayed for in the

Court may put to rest the legal issue/s presented in the above

petition, as any decision that may be rendered will be inutile

petitions which is, why is it that R.A. No. 6713, Sec. 7 (b)(2)

and

will

not

generally

terminate

the

uncertainty

or

controversy.[12] The second,

filed

with

the

RTC,

Branch

17, Manila, was dismissed for being an inappropriate remedy

before the office the public officer or employee used to work


with.

after the dismissal ordered by the RTC, Branch 54, Manila,


on December 4, 2008.[13] Under these circumstances, we see

The Section 7 prohibitions are predicated on the

nothing to deter us from ruling on Atty. Buffes actions, as no

principle that public office is a public trust; and serve to

actual court case other than the present administrative case,

remove any impropriety, real or imagined, which may occur in

is now actually pending on the issue she raised. On the

government transactions between a former government

contrary, we see from Atty. Buffes recourse to this Court and

official or employee and his or her former colleagues,

the filing of the two declaratory petitions the intent to shop for

subordinates or superiors. The prohibitions also promote the

a favorable answer to her query. We shall duly consider this

observance and the efficient use of every moment of the

circumstance in our action on the case.

prescribed office hours to serve the public. [15]

A last matter to consider before we proceed to the

Parenthetically,

in

the

case

of

court

merits of Atty. Buffes actions relates to possible objections on

employees, Section 7(b)(2) of R.A. No. 6713 is not the only

procedural due process grounds, as we have not made

prohibition to contend with; Section 5, Canon 3 of the Code of

any formal directive to Atty. Buffe to explain why she should

Conduct for Court Personnel also applies.The latter provision

not be penalized for her appearance before Branch 81 soon

provides the definitive rule on the outside employment that

after her resignation from that Branch. The essence of due

an incumbent court official or court employee may undertake

process is the grant of the opportunity to be heard; what it

in addition to his official duties:


Outside employment may be
allowed by the head of office provided it
complies
with
all
of
the
following
requirements:

abhors is the lack of the opportunity to be heard. [14] The


records of this case show that Atty. Buffe has been amply
heard with respect to her actions. She was notified, and she

(a)

even responded to our November 11, 2008 directive for the


Executive Judge of the RTC of Romblon to report on Atty.
Buffes

appearances

before

Branch

81;

she

expressly

The outside employment is


not with a person or entity that
practices law before the courts
or conducts business with the
Judiciary;

query, and subsequently, in her Manifestation. Thus, no due

(b) The outside employment can


be
performed
outside
of
normal working hours and is
not incompatible with the
performance of the court
personnels
duties
and
responsibilities;

process consideration needs to deter us from considering the

(c)

manifested that these appearances were part of the Branch


records. Her legal positions on these appearances have also
been expressed before this Court; first, in her original letter-

legal consequences of her appearances in her previous


Branch within a year from her resignation.

The Governing Law: Section 7 of R.A. No. 6713

Section 7 of R.A. No. 6713 generally provides for the


prohibited acts and transactions of public officials and
employees. Subsection (b)(2) prohibits them from engaging in
the

private

practice

of

their

profession

during

their

incumbency. As an exception, a public official or employee can


engage in the practice of his or her profession under the
following conditions: first, the private practice is authorized by

That outside employment


does
not
require
the
practice of law; Provided,
however, that court personnel
may
render
services
as
professor, lecturer, or resource
person in law schools, review
or
continuing
education
centers or similar institutions;

(d) The outside employment does


not require or induce the court
personnel
to
disclose
confidential
information
acquired
while
performing
officials duties;
(e)

The outside employment shall


not be with the legislative or
executive
branch
of
government,
unless
specifically authorized by the
Supreme Court.

the Constitution or by the law; and second, the practice will


not conflict, or tend to conflict, with his or her official
functions.

The Section 7 prohibitions continue to apply for a

Where a conflict of interest exists,


may reasonably appear to exist, or where
the outside employment reflects adversely
on the integrity of the Judiciary, the court
personnel
shall
not
accept
outside
employment. [Emphasis supplied]

period of one year after the public official or employees


resignation, retirement, or separation from public office,

In both the above discussed aspect of R.A. No. 6713

except for the private practice of profession under subsection

and the quoted Canon 3, the practice of law is covered; the

(b)(2), which can already be undertaken even within the one-

practice of law is a practice of profession, while Canon 3

year prohibition period. As an exception to this exception, the

specifically mentions any outside employment requiring the

one-year prohibited period applies with respect to any matter

practice of law. In Cayetano v. Monsod,[16] we defined the

practice of law as any activity, in and out of court, that


requires the application of law, legal procedure, knowledge,

As we discussed above, a clerk of court can already

training and experience. Moreover, we ruled that to engage in

engage in the practice of law immediately after her separation

the practice of law is to perform those acts which are

from the service and without any period limitation that applies

characteristics of the profession; to practice law is to give

to other prohibitions under Section 7 of R.A. No. 6713. The

notice or render any kind of service, which device or service

clerk of courts limitation is that she cannot practice her

requires the use in any degree of legal knowledge or skill.

profession within one year before the office where he or she

[17]

Under both provisions, a common objective is to avoid any

used to work with. In a comparison between a resigned,

conflict of interest on the part of the employee who may

retired or separated official or employee, on the one hand,

wittingly or unwittingly use confidential information acquired

and an incumbent official or employee, on the other, the

from his employment, or use his or her familiarity with court

former has the advantage because the limitation is only with

personnel still with the previous office.

respect to the office he or she used to work with and only for

After separation from the service, Section 5, Canon 3

a period of one year. The incumbent cannot practice at all,

of the Code of Conduct for Court Personnel ceases to apply as

save only where specifically allowed by the Constitution and

it applies specifically to incumbents, but Section 7 and its

the law and only in areas where no conflict of interests

subsection (b)(2) of R.A. No. 6713 continue to apply to the

exists. This

extent discussed above. Atty. Buffes situation falls under

premises.

analysis

again

disproves

Atty.

Buffes

basic

Section 7.
A worrisome aspect of Atty. Buffes approach to
Section 7 (b)(2) is her awareness of the law and her readiness

Atty. Buffes Situation

to risk its violation because of the unfairness she perceives in


A distinctive feature of this administrative matter is
Atty. Buffes admission that she immediately engaged in
private practice of law within

the one-year

period

of

prohibition stated in Section 7(b)(2) of R.A. No. 6713. We find


it noteworthy, too, that she is aware of this provision and only
objects to its application to her situation; she perceives it to
be unfair that she cannot practice before her old office Branch
81 for a year immediately after resignation, as she believes
that her only limitation is in matters where a conflict of
interest exists between her appearance as counsel and her

the law. We find it disturbing that she first violated the law
before making any inquiry. She also justifies her position by
referring to the practice of other government lawyers known
to her who, after separation from their judicial employment,
immediately engaged in the private practice of law and
appeared as private counsels before the RTC branches where
they were previously employed. Again we find this a cavalier
attitude

on

Atty.

Buffes

part

and,

to

our

mind,

only

emphasizes her own willful or intentional disregard of Section


7 (b)(2) of R.A. No. 6713.

former duties as Clerk of Court. She believes that Section 7 (b)


By acting in a manner that R.A. No. 6713 brands

(2) gives preferential treatment to incumbent public officials


and employees as against those already separated from
government employment.

as unlawful, Atty. Buffe contravened Rule 1.01 of Canon 1 of


the Code of Professional Responsibility, which provides:

CANON 1 A LAWYER SHALL UPHOLD THE


CONSTITUTION, OBEY THE LAWS OF THE
LAND AND PROMOTE RESPECT FOR
LAW AND FOR LEGAL PROCESSES

Atty. Buffe apparently misreads the law. As the OCAT


aptly stated, she interprets Section 7 (b)(2) as a blanket
authority for an incumbent clerk of court to practice law. We

xxx

reiterate what we have explained above, that the general rule

Rule 1.01 A lawyer shall not engage


in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful
conduct.

under Section 7 (b)(2) is to bar public officials and employees


from the practice of their professions; it is unlawful under this
general rule for clerks of court to practice their profession. By
way of exception, they can practice their profession if the
Constitution or the law allows them, but no conflict of interest
must exist between their current duties and the practice of
their profession. As we also mentioned above, no chance
exists for lawyers in the Judiciary to practice their profession,
as they are in fact expressly prohibited by Section 5, Canon 3
of the Code of Conduct for Court Personnel from doing
so. Under both the general rule and the exceptions, therefore,
Atty. Buffes basic premise is misplaced.

As indicated by the use of the mandatory word shall, this


provision must be strictly complied with. Atty. Buffe failed to
do this, perhaps not with an evil intent, considering the
misgivings

she

had

about

Section

(b)(2)s

unfairness. Unlawful conduct under Rule 1.01 of Canon 1,


however, does

not necessarily require the element of

criminality, although the Rule is broad enough to include it.


[18]

Likewise, the presence of evil intent on the part of the

lawyer is not essential to bring his or her act or omission


within the terms of Rule 1.01, when it specifically prohibits

lawyers from engaging in unlawful conduct.[19] Thus, we find


Atty. Buffe liable under this quoted Rule.

Also

on

the basis
[27]

in Richards v. Asoy,

of this

principle, we

ruled

that no evidentiary hearing is required

We also find that Atty. Buffe also failed to live up to her

before the respondent may be disciplined for professional

lawyers oath and thereby violated Canon 7 of the Code of

misconduct already established by the facts on record.

Professional Responsibility when she blatantly and unlawfully


practised law within the prohibited period by appearing before

We applied the principle of res ipsa loquitur once


more in In re: Wenceslao Laureta[28] where we punished a

the RTC Branch she had just left. Canon 7 states:


CANON 7. A LAWYER SHALL AT ALL TIMES
UPHOLD THE INTEGRITY AND THE DIGNITY
OF THE LEGAL PROFESSION AND SUPPORT
THE ACTIVITIES OF THE INTEGRATED BAR.
[Emphasis supplied]

lawyer for grave professional misconduct solely based on his


answer to a show-cause order for contempt and without going
into a trial-type hearing. We ruled then that due process is
satisfied as long as the opportunity to be heard is given to the

By her open disregard of R.A. No. 6713, she thereby

person to be disciplined.[29]

followed the footsteps of the models she cited and wanted to


Likewise

into practice in the very same court they came from. She, like

disciplined and punished for contempt for his slurs regarding

they, disgraced the dignity of the legal profession by openly

the Courts alleged partiality, incompetence and lack of

disobeying and disrespecting the law.[20] By her irresponsible

integrity on the basis of his answer in a show-cause order for

conduct, she also eroded public confidence in the law and in

contempt. The Court took note that the respondent did not

lawyers.[21] Her offense is not in any way mitigated by her

deny making the negative imputations against the Court

transparent attempt to cover up her transgressions by writing

through the media and even acknowledged the correctness of

the Court a letter-query, which

with

his degrading statements. Through a per curiam decision, we

unmeritorious petitions for declaratory relief, all of them

justified imposing upon him the penalty of suspension in the

dealing with the same Section 7 (b)(2) issue, in the hope

following tenor:

she followed

up

perhaps that at some point she would find a ruling favorable


to her cause. These are acts whose implications do not
promote public confidence in the integrity of the legal
profession.[22]

Considering Atty. Buffes ready admission of violating


Section

7(b)(2),

the

principle

of res

ipsa

loquitur finds

application, making her administratively liable for violation of


Rule 1.01 of Canon 1 and Canon 7 of the Code of Professional
Responsibility.[23] In several cases, the Court has disciplined
lawyers without further inquiry or resort to any formal

in Zaldivar

v.

Gonzales,[30] the respondent

replicate the former court officials who immediately waded

was

The power to punish for contempt of court


does not exhaust the scope of disciplinary
authority of the Court over lawyers. The
disciplinary authority of the Court over
members of the Bar is but corollary to the
Court's exclusive power of admission to the
Bar. A lawyer is not merely a professional
but also an officer of the court and as such,
he is called upon to share in the task and
responsibility of dispensing justice and
resolving disputes in society. Any act on his
part which visibly tends to obstruct, pervert,
or impede and degrade the administration
of justice constitutes both professional
misconduct calling for the exercise of
disciplinary action against him, and
contumacious
conduct
warranting
application of the contempt power.[31]

investigation where the facts on record sufficiently provided


the basis for the determination of their administrative liability.

These cases clearly show that the absence of any formal


charge against and/or formal investigation of an errant lawyer

In Prudential Bank v. Castro,[24] 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

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.

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.[25] 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.
[26]

A member of the bar may be penalized, even


disbarred or suspended from his office as an attorney, for
violation of the lawyers oath and/or for breach of the ethics of
the legal profession as embodied in the Code of Professional
Responsibility.[32] The appropriate penalty on an errant lawyer
depends on the exercise of sound judicial discretion based on
the surrounding facts.[33]

Republic of the Philippines


SUPREME COURT
Manila

In this case, we cannot discern any mitigating factors


we can apply, save OCATs observation that Atty Buffes letterquery may really reflect a misapprehension of the parameters

FIRST DIVISION

of the prohibition on the practice of the law profession under


Section 7 (b) (2) of R.A. No. 6713. Ignorance of the law,
however, is no excuse, particularly on a matter as sensitive as
practice of the legal profession soon after ones separation
from the service. If Atty. Buffe is correct in the examples she

A.C. No. 10031

July 23, 2014

RAUL M. FRANCIA, Complainant,


vs.
ATTY. REYNALDO V. ABDON, Respondent.

cited, it is time to ring the bell and to blow the whistle

DECISION

signaling that we cannot allow this practice to continue.


REYES, J.:
As we observed earlier,[34] Atty. Buffe had no qualms
about the simultaneous use of various fora in expressing her
misgivings about the perceived unfairness of Section 7 of R.A.
6713. She formally lodged a query with the Office of the Court
Administrator, and soon after filed her successive petitions for

In a verified complaint1 dated December 4, 2007 filed before


the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, Committee on Bar
Discipline (IBP-CBD), Raul M. Francia (complainant) prayed for
the disbarment and imposition of other disciplinary sanctions
on Labor Arbiter (LA) Reynaldo V. Abdon (respondent) for
violation of the lawyer's oath and the Code of Professional
Responsibility.

declaratory relief. Effectively, she exposed these fora to the


possibility of embarrassment and confusion through their
possibly differing views on the issue she posed. Although this
is not strictly the forum-shopping that the Rules of Court
prohibit, what she has done is something that we cannot help
but consider with disfavor because of the potential damage
and embarrassment to the Judiciary that it could have
spawned. This is a point against Atty. Buffe that cancels out
the leniency we might have exercised because of the OCATs
observation about her ignorance of and misgivings on the
extent of the prohibition after separation from the service.

Under the circumstances, we find that her actions


merit a penalty of fine of P10,000.00, together with a stern
warning to deter her from repeating her transgression and
committing other acts of professional misconduct. [35] This
penalty reflects as well the Courts sentiments on how
seriously the retired, resigned or separated officers
and employees of the Judiciary should regard and
observe the prohibition against the practice of law
with the office that they used to work with.

WHEREFORE, premises considered, we find Atty.


Karen M. Silverio-Buffe GUILTY of professional misconduct for
violating Rule 1.01 of Canon 1 and Canon 7 of the Code of
Professional
amount

Responsibility.

of

Ten

She

Thousand

is

hereby FINED in
Pesos

the

(P10,000.00),

and STERNLY WARNED that a repetition of this violation and


the commission of other acts of professional misconduct shall
be dealt with more severely.

Let this Decision be noted in Atty. Buffes record as a


member of the Bar.
SO ORDERED.

On February 4, 2008, the respondent filed his


Answer2 vehemently denying the allegations in the complaint.
On August 13, 2008, both parties appeared at the mandatory
conference. Upon its termination, the parties were required to
submit their respective position papers afterwhich the case
was submitted for resolution.
In his position paper,3 the complainant alleged that in
November 2006, he had a meeting with the respondent at the
Makati Cinema Square to seek his assistance with respect to a
pending case in the Court of Appeals (CA) involving the labor
union of Nueva Ecija III Electric Cooperative (NEECO III). The
said case was docketed as CA-G.R. SP No. 96096 and raffled
to the 6th Division then chaired by Justice Rodrigo V. Cosico,
with Justices Edgardo Sundiam (Justice Sundiam) and Celia
Librea-Leagogo as members. The respondent, who is a LA at
the National Labor Relations Commission, San Fernando,
Pampanga, told the complainant that he can facilitate,
expedite and ensure the release of a favorable decision,
particularly the award of assets and management of NEECO III
to the union. To bolster his representation, he told him that
the same regional office where he was assigned had earlier
rendered a decision in favor of the labor union and against the
National Electrification Administration.4 With the respondents
assurance, the complainant yielded.
In December 2006, the complainant met the respondent to
discuss their plan and timetable in securing a favorable ruling
from the CA. The respondent told him that in order to facilitate
the release of such favorable decision, the union must
produce the amount of P1,000,000.00, a considerable portion
of which is intended for Justice Sundiam, the ponente of the
case and the two member justices of the division, while a
fraction thereof is allotted to his costs. 5
Shortly thereafter, the complainant met the respondent again
and handed him the amount of P350,000.00,which was raised
out of the individual contributions of the members of the
union, as partial payment for the agreed amount and
undertook to pay the balance as soon as the union is finally
allowed to manage and operate the electric cooperative. In
turn, the respondent assured him that a favorableruling will be
rendered by the CA in no time.6
A week before Christmas of the same year, the complainant
made several follow-ups with the respondent about the status
of the decision. In response to his inquiries, the
respondentwould tell him that: (1) the decision is being routed
for signature of the members of the three-man CA division; (2)
the lady justice was the only one left to sign; and (3) the lady
justice went to a Christmas party and was not able to sign the

decision. Ultimately, the promised favorable decision before


the end of that year was not issued by the CA, with no
explanation from the respondent.7
On January 4, 2007, the union was advised by their counsel
that the CA has already rendered a decision on their case and
the same was adverse to them. This infuriated the union
members who then turned to the complainant and demanded
for the return of the 350,000.00 that they raised as
respondents facilitation fee. The respondent promised to
return the money but asked for a few weeks to do so. After
two weeks, the respondent turned over the amount
of P100,000.00, representing the unspent portion of the
money given to him and promised to pay the balance
of P250,000.00 as soon as possible. The respondent, however,
reneged on his promise and would not even advise the
complainant of the reason for his failure to return the money.
Thus, the complainant was constrained to give his car to the
union to settle the remaining balance which the respondent
failed to return.8
To support his claims, the complainant submitted the following
pieces of evidence: (1) a transcript of the exchange of text
messages between him and the respondent;9 (2) affidavit of
Butch Pena (Pena),10 officer of the Association of Genuine
Labor Organization (AGLO); (3) a transcript of the text
message of a certain Paulino Manongsong, confirming the
respondents mobile number;11 (4) copy of the CA decision in
CA-G.R. SP No. 96096;12 and (5) affidavit of Shirley Demillo
(Demillo).13
For his part, the respondent denied that he made any
representation to the complainant; that he had the capacity to
facilitate the release of a favorable decision in the CA; and
that he received money in exchange therefor. He admitted
that he had a chance meeting with the complainant at the
Makati Cinema Square in December 2006. Since they have
not seen each other for a long time, they had a short
conversation over snacks upon the complainants invitation. In
the course of their conversation, the complainant asked if he
knew of the case involving the union of the NEECO III. He told
him that he was not familiar with the details but knew that the
same is already pending execution before the office of LA
Mariano Bactin. The complainant told him that the properties
of NEECO III were sold at public auction but the union
members were yet to obtain the proceeds because of a
temporary restraining order issued by the CA. He inquired if
he knew anyone from the CA who can help the union
members in their case as he was assisting them in following
up their case. The respondent answered in the negative but
told him that he can refer him to his former client, a certain
Jaime "Jimmy" Vistan (Vistan), who may be able to help him.
At that very moment, he called Vistan using his mobile phone
and relayed to him the complainants predicament. After
giving Vistan a brief background of the case, he handed the
mobile phone to the complainant, who expounded on the
details. After their conversation,the complainant told him that
he will be meeting Vistan on the following day and asked him
if he could accompany him. He politely declined and just gave
him Vistans mobile number so that they can
directlycommunicate with each other.14
Sometime thereafter, he received a call from Vistan who told
him that he was given P350,000.00 as facilitation fee. After
their conversation, he never heard from Vistan again.15
In January 2007, he received a text from the complainant,
asking him to call him through his landline. Over the phone,
the complainant told him about his arrangement with Vistan
insecuring a favorable decision for the union but the latter
failed to do his undertaking. The complainant blamed him for
the misfortune and even suspected that he was in connivance
with Vistan, which he denied. The complainant then asked for
his help to recover the money he gave to Vistan. 16
When their efforts to locate Vistan failed, the complainant
turned to him again and asked him to return the money
because the union threatened him with physical harm. The

respondent, however, maintained his lack of involvement in


their transaction. Still, the complainant insisted and even
threatened he would cause him miseryand pain should he not
return the money. Offended by the innuendoof collusion in the
complainants language, the respondent yelled at him and
told him, "Ano bang malaking kasalanan ko para takutin mo
ako ng ganyan?" before he hang up the phone. He never
heard from the complainant thereafter. Then, on December
18, 2007, he was surprised toreceive a copy of the complaint
for disbarment filed by the complainant against him.17
In the Report and Recommendation18 of the IBP-CBD dated
September 30, 2008, the Investigating Commissioner
recommended for the dismissal of the complaint, holding that
there is no proof that the respondent received money from the
complainant.19 The report reads, as follows:
The case is dismissible.
There is no proof that respondent Reynaldo Abdon received
any amount of money from complainant Raul Francia.
While it is true that respondentReynaldo Abdon admitted that
he introduced the complainant to Jaime Vistan, there is no
proof that the respondent received any money from the
complainant Raul Francia or from Jaime Vistan.
The attached Annex "A" of the complaint is of no moment. As
pointed out by the respondent it is easy to manipulate and
fabricate text messages. That complainant could have bought
the said SIM card bearing the said telephone number and
texted his other cellphone numbers to make it appear that
such text messages came from the cellphone of the
respondent. Those text messages are not reliable as evidence.
xxxx
WHEREFORE, premises considered, it is most respectfully
recommended that the instant complaint be dismissed for
lack of merit.20
Upon review of the case, the IBP Board of Governors issued
Resolution No. XVIII-2008-545,21 reversing the
recommendation of the Investigating Commissioner, disposing
thus:
RESOLVED TO REVERSE as it is hereby REVERSED, the Report
and Recommendation of the Investigating Commissioner, and
APPROVE the SUSPENSIONfrom the practice of law for one (1)
year of Atty. Reynaldo V. Abdon and to Return the Amount of
Two Hundred Fifty Thousand Pesos ([P]250,000.00) within
thirty (30) days from receipt of notice.22
On February 23, 2009, the respondent filed a Motion for
Reconsideration23 but the IBP Board of Governors denied the
same in its Resolution No. XX-2013-55,24 which reads:
RESOLVED to unanimously DENY Respondents Motion for
Reconsideration there being no cogent reason to reverse the
findings of the Commission and it being a mere reiteration of
the matters which had already been threshed out and taken
into consideration. Thus, Resolution No. XVIII-2008-545 dated
November 20, 2008 is hereby AFFIRMED.25
The case is now before thisCourt for confirmation.
"It is well to remember that in disbarment proceedings, the
burden of proof rests upon the complainant. For the Court to
exercise its disciplinary powers, the case against the
respondent must be established by convincing and
satisfactory proof."26
In Aba v. De Guzman, Jr.,27 the Court reiterated that a
preponderance of evidence is necessary before a lawyer
maybe held administratively liable, to wit:

Considering the serious consequences of the disbarment or


suspension of a member of the Bar, the Court has consistently
held that clearly preponderant evidence is necessary to justify
the imposition of administrative penalty on a member of the
Bar.
Preponderance of evidence means that the evidence adduced
by one side is, as a whole, superior to or has greater weight
than that of the other. It means evidence which is more
convincing to the court as worthy of belief than that which is
offered in opposition thereto. Under Section 1 of Rule 133, in
determining whether or not there is preponderance of
evidence, the court may consider the following: (a) all the
facts and circumstances of the case; (b) the witnesses
manner of testifying, their intelligence, their means and
opportunity of knowing the facts to which they are testifying,
the nature of the facts to which they testify, the probability or
improbability of their testimony; (c) the witnesses interest or
want of interest, and also their personal credibility so far as
the same may ultimately appear in the trial; and (d) the
number of witnesses, although it does not mean that
preponderance is necessarily with the greater
number.28 (Citations omitted)
In the absence of preponderant evidence, the presumption of
innocence of the lawyer subsists and the complaint against
him must be dismissed.29
After a careful review of the facts and circumstances of the
case, the Court finds that the evidence submitted by the
complainant fell short of the required quantum of proof. Aside
from bare allegations, no evidence was presented to
convincingly establish that the respondent engaged in
unlawful and dishonest conduct, particularly in extortion and
influence-peddling.
Firstly, the transcript of the alleged exchange of text
messages between the complainant and the respondent
cannot be admitted in evidence since the same was not
authenticatedin accordance with A.M. No. 01-7-01-SC,
pertaining to the Rules on Electronic Evidence. Without proper
authentication, the text messages presented by the
complainant have no evidentiary value.
The Court cannot also give credence to the affidavits of Pena
and Demillo which, on close examination, do not prove
anything about the alleged transaction between the
complainant and the respondent. In his affidavit, Pena, an
officer of AGLO, the organization assisting the union members
of NEECO III, alleged:
THAT, sometime in the first weekof November 2006, the
former workers and employees of NEECO III informed me of
their desire to engage the services of a third party to help
facilitate the expeditious release of a favorable decision from
the Court of Appeals in CA-GR SP No. 96096, and that they
already contacted a friend of mine, Mr. Raul Francia, who
knows somebody who can help us work on the CA case;
THAT, in succeeding separate meetings with Mr. Francia, he
intimated to me on various occasions that he had contracted
a certain Atty. Reynaldo V. Abdon, a labor arbiter based in San
Fernando, Pampanga to facilitate the expeditious release of a
favorable decision from the Court of Appeals;
THAT, I gathered from Mr. Francia and based on the
information given to me by the former workers and employees
of NEECO III, Labor Arbiter Abdon asked for [P]1 [M]illion to
cover the amount to be given to the justices of the Court of
Appeals handling the case and facilitation and mobilization
fees;
THAT, sometime towards the end of the first week of
December, the former workers and employees of NEECO III
met with Mr. Francia at our office. They handed to him
[P]350,000[.00] as downpayment for the []1 [M]illion being

demanded by Mr. Abdon, the balance of which would have


been payable on a later agreed period;
THAT, the [P]350,000[.00] was sourced by the former workers
and employees of NEECO III from their personal contributions;
and
THAT, soon after the meeting with the former workers and
employees of NEECO III, Mr. Francia left to meet with Labor
Arbiter Abdon to deliver the money[.]30
It is clear from the foregoing thatPena never had the
opportunity to meet the respondent. He never knew the
respondent and did not actually see him receiving the money
that the union members raised as facilitation fee. His
statement does not prove at all thatthe alleged illegal deal
transpired between the complainant and the respondent.If at
all, it only proved that the union members made contributions
to raise the amount of money required as facilitation fee and
that they gave it to the complainant for supposed delivery to
the respondent. However, whether the money was actually
delivered to the respondent was not known to Pena.
The same observation holds true with respect to the affidavit
of Demillo, an acquaintance of the complainant, who claims to
have witnessed the transaction between the parties at the
Makati Cinema Square. She alleged that she saw the
complainant handing a bulging brown supotto an unidentified
man while the two were at the open dining space of a caf.
Upon seeing the complainant again, she learned that the
person he was talking to at the caf was the respondent LA. 31
Demillos affidavit, however, does not prove any relevant fact
that will establish the respondents culpability.1wphi1 To
begin with, it was not established with certainty that the
person whom she saw talking with the complainant was the
respondent. Even assuming that respondents identity was
established, Demillo could not have known about the
complainant and respondents business by simply glancing at
them while she was on her way to the supermarket to run
some errands. That she allegedly saw the complainant
handing the respondent a bulging brown supothardly proves
any illegal transaction especially that she does not have
knowledge about what may have been contained in the said
bag.
The complainant miserably failed tosubstantiate his claims
with preponderant evidence. Surely, he cannot prove the
respondents culpability by merely presenting equivocal
statementsof some individuals or relying on plain gestures
that are capable of stirring the imagination. Considering the
lasting effect of the imposition of the penalty of suspension or
disbarment on a lawyers professional standing, this Court
cannot allow that the respondent be held liable for misconduct
on the basis of surmises and imagined possibilities. A mere
suspicion cannot substitute for the convincing and satisfactory
proof required to justify the suspension or disbarment of a
lawyer.
In Alitagtag v. Atty. Garcia,32 the Court emphasized, thus:
Indeed, the power to disbar must be exercised with great
caution, and may be imposed only in a clear case of
misconduct that seriously affects the standing and the
character ofthe lawyer as an officer of the Court and as a
member of the bar. Disbarment should never be decreed
where any lesser penalty could accomplish the end desired.
Without doubt, a violation of the high moral standards of the
legal profession justifies the imposition of the appropriate
penalty, including suspension and disbarment. However, the
said penalties are imposed with great caution, because they
are the most severe forms of disciplinary action and their
consequences are beyond repair.33 (Citations omitted)
The respondent, however, is not entirely faultless. He has,
nonetheless, engendered the suspicion that he is engaged in
an illegal deal when he introduced the complainant to Vistan,

who was the one who allegedly demanded P1,000,000.00


infacilitation fee from the union members. The records
bearout that the complainant, at the outset, made clear his
intention to seek the respondents assistance in following up
the unions case in the CA. The respondent, however, instead
of promptly declining the favor sought in order to avoid any
appearance of impropriety, even volunteered to introduce the
complainant to Vistan, a former client who allegedly won a
case in the CA in August 2006. It later turned out that Vistan
represented to the complainant that he has the capacity to
facilitate the favorable resolution of cases and does this for a
fee. This fact was made known to him by Vistan himself
duringa telephone conversation when the latter told him he
was given P350,000.00 as facilitation fee.34His connection with
Vistan was the reason why the complainant had suspected
that he was in connivance with him and that he got a portion
of the loot. His gesture of introducing the complainant to
Vistan precipitated the idea that what the latter asked of him
was with his approval. It registered a mistaken impression on
the complainant that his case can be expeditiously resolved
by resorting to extraneous means or channels. Thus, while the
respondent may not have received money from the
complainant, the fact is that he has made himself
instrumental to Vistans illegal activity. In doing so, he has
exposed the legal profession to undeserved condemnation
and invited suspicion on the integrity of the judiciary for which
he must be imposed with a disciplinary sanction.

private fails this scrutiny would have to bedisciplined and,


after appropriate proceedings, penalized accordingly. 38

Canon 7 of the Code of Professional Responsibility mandates


that a "lawyer shall at all times uphold the integrity and
dignity of the legal profession." For, the strength of the legal
profession lies in the dignity and integrity of its members.35 It
is every lawyers duty to maintain the high regard to the
profession by staying trueto his oath and keeping his actions
beyond reproach.

ROLANDO E. CAWALING, PEDRO L. LABAYO,


WENCESLAO Q. ARROYO, JR., CLEMENTE B. BUEN,
RAMON D. DERIT, DWIGHT B. DURAN, FELIZARDO R.
FRANCISCO, JR., SUSANA G. HABOC, ARNOLD C. PEREZ,
VERLAND E. VERGARA, AMELIA L. ESPINOSA, NOEL P.
BOLA, VENERANDO A. PADUA, JR., LAURENCE ALBERT
D. AYO, WILLY B. AQUINO, EDUARDO A. REMPIS, JIMMY
A. BUTAC, EDUARDO D. DOCTAMA, and ANTONIO T.
REODIQUE, Complainants,
vs.
NAPOLEON M. MENESE (Retired Commissioner, NLRCSecond Division), RAUL T. AQUINO (Presiding
Commissioner, NLRC-Second Division) and TERESITA D.
CASTILLON-LORA (Commissioner, NLRC-Second
Division), Respondents.

Also, the respondent, as a member of the legal profession, has


a further responsibility to safeguard the dignity of the courts
which the public perceives as the bastion of justice. Hemust at
all times keep its good name untarnished and not be
instrumental to its disrepute. In Berbano v. Atty.
Barcelona,36 the Court reiterated the bounden duty of lawyers
to keep the reputation of the courts unscathed, thus:
A lawyer is an officer of the courts; he is, "like the court itself,
an instrument or agency to advance the endsof justice.["] [x x
x] His duty is to uphold the dignity and authority of the courts
to which he owes fidelity, ["]not to promote distrust inthe
administration of justice." [x x x] Faith in the courts a lawyer
should seek to preserve. For, to undermine the judicial edifice
"is disastrous to the continuity of the government and to the
attainment of the liberties of the people." [x x x] Thus has it
been said of a lawyer that "[a]s an officer of the court, it is his
sworn and moral duty to help build and not destroy
unnecessarily that high esteem and regard towards the courts
so essential to the proper administration of justice." 37
A strong and independent judiciary is one of the key elements
in the orderly administration of justice. It holds a revered
status in the society as the public perceives it as the authority
of what is proper and just, and abides by its pronouncements.
Thus, it must keep its integrity inviolable and this entails that
the members of the judiciary be extremely circumspect in
their actions, whether in their public or personal dealings.
Nonetheless, the duty to safeguard the good name of the
judiciary is similarly required from all the members of the
legal profession. The respondent, however, compromised the
integrity of the judiciary by his association with a scoundrel
who earns a living by dishonoring the court and maliciously
imputing corrupt motives on its members.
The Court reiterates its directive tothe members of the Bar to
be mindful of the sheer responsibilities thatattach to their
profession. They must maintain high standards of legal
proficiency, aswell as morality including honesty, integrity and
fair dealing. For, they are at all times subject to the
scrutinizing eye of publicopinion and community approbation.
Needless to state, those whose conduct both public and

WHEREFORE, for having committed an act which


compromised the publics trust in the justice system, Atty.
Reynaldo V. Abdon is hereby SUSPENDEDfrom the practice of
law for a period of ONE (1) MONTH effective upon receipt of
this Decision, with a STERN WARNING that a repetition of the
same or similar act in the future shall be dealt with severely.
Let copies of this Decision be furnished the Integrated Bar of
the Philippines and the Office of the Court Administrator which
shall circulate the same in all courts in the country, and
attached to the personal records of Atty. Reynaldo V. Abdon in
the Office of the Bar Confidant.
SO ORDERED.
Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila
THIRD DIVISION
A.C. No. 9698

November 13, 2013

DECISION
PERALTA, J.:
Before us is a Petition for Disbarment/Disciplinary Action
dated November 26, 20121 filed against respondents
Napoleon M. Menese,2 Raul T. Aquino and Teresita D. CastillonLora, Commissioners of the Second Division of the NLRC, for
gross misconduct, gross ignorance of the law and procedure,
and violation of Canon 1 and Rule 1.01 of the Code of
Professional Responsibility.
Complainants were employees of Bacman Geothermal, Inc.
(Bacman), who were dismissed from their employment. They
filed a complaint for illegal dismissal against Bacman
Geothermal, Inc., Danilo G. Catigtig, Ernesto Espinosa and
Oscar M. Lopez.
On January 23, 2011, the Labor Arbiter rendered a decision 3 in
favor of the complainants and declared them to be illegally
dismissed. Bacman appealed and filed an Appeal
Memorandum4 on February 22, 2012. The appeal was raffled
to the Second Division of the NLRC where respondents were
sitting as Commissioners. There being a monetary award in
the decision, Bacman posted a supersedeas bond issued by
Intra Strata Assurance Corporation (Intra Strata) on February
23, 2012.
Meanwhile, Intra Strata filed a Manifestation 5 dated February
23, 2012 before the Regional Arbitration Branch No. V of the
NLRC. It stated therein that their certification of accreditation
and authority from the Supreme Court had expired on January
31, 2012, but their application for renewal is pending before
the Supreme Court.

Complainants, in their Reply/Opposition to Respondent's


Appeal, assailed the regularity of the surety bond. They
argued that considering that the certification of accreditation
and authority given to Intra Strata had already expired on
January 31, 2012 as admitted in their Manifestation, it no
longer has the authority to issue the surety bond.
Complainants further asserted that under Section 6,
paragraph 6 of Rule VI of the 2011 NLRC Rules of Procedure,
respondents were under obligation to verify if the bond is
regular and genuine, and shall cause the dismissal of the
appeal should the bond be irregular, to wit:
Section 6. BOND. x x x
xxxx
Upon verification by the Commission that the bond is irregular
or not genuine, the Commission shall cause the immediate
dismissal of the appeal, and censure the responsible parties
and their counsels, or subject them to reasonable fine or
penalty, and the bonding company may be blacklisted.
However, complainants lamented that instead of dismissing
the appeal pursuant to the above-mentioned provision,
respondents entertained the appeal of Bacman and even
reversed the decision of the Labor Arbiter in their Decision
dated April 2, 2012. Complainants moved for reconsideration
where they pointed out the irregularity in the bond and
claimed that the NLRC did not acquire jurisdiction over the
appeal. The NLRC, in its Resolution dated August 30, 2012,
denied the same.
Before the promulgation of the decision, respondent Menese
had retired from service. Complainants averred that the acts
of respondents in allowing the filing of appeal bond of Bacman
despite the expired accreditation of Intra Strata constitute
gross misconduct and gross ignorance of the law and
procedure. Complainants maintained that the dismissal of the
appeal where the bond is irregular is so elementary, thus,
respondents should be familiar with it.

the NLRC, Intra Strata was listed as accredited by the


Supreme Court for the period covering February 1, 2012 to
July 31, 2012.
Respondents surmised that complainants merely filed the
instant complaint against them as they failed to get a
favorable judgment from the Commission. Respondents, thus,
pray that the instant complaint be dismissed for lack of merit.
RULING
The pertinent portions of Sections 4 and 6, Rule VI of the
Revised Rules of Procedure of the NLRC read:
SECTION 4. REQUISITES FOR PERFECTION OF APPEAL a) The
appeal shall be: (1) filed within the reglementary period
provided in Section 1 of this Rule; (2) verified by the appellant
himself in accordance with Section 4, Rule 7 of the Rules of
Court, as amended; (3) in the form of a memorandum of
appeal which shall state the grounds relied upon and the
arguments in support thereof, the relief prayed for, and with a
statement of the date the appellant received the appealed
decision, resolution or order; (4) in three (3) legibly
typewritten or printed copies; and (5) accompanied by i) proof
of payment of the required appeal fee and legal research fee;
ii) posting of a cash or surety bond as provided in Section 6 of
this Rule; iii) a certificate of non-forum shopping; and iv) proof
of service upon the other parties.
SECTION 6. BOND. - In case the decision of the Labor Arbiter
or the Regional Director involves a monetary award, an appeal
by the employer may be perfected only upon the posting of a
cash or surety bond. The appeal bond shall either be in cash
or surety in an amount equivalent to the monetary award,
exclusive of damages and attorneys fees.
In case of surety bond, the same shall be issued by a
reputable bonding company duly accredited by the
Commission or the Supreme Court, and shall be accompanied
by:

Finally, complainants claimed that respondents, by


disregarding the rules of procedure of the NLRC, not only
violated Canon 1 and Rule 1.01 of the Code of Professional
Responsibility, but also caused injustice to them. Thus,
complainants pray that respondents be disbarred or be
imposed with the appropriate disciplinary sanctions.

(a) a joint declaration under oath by the employer,


his counsel, and the bonding company, attesting that
the bond posted is genuine, and shall be in effect
until final disposition of the case. (b) a copy of the
indemnity agreement between the employerappellant and bonding company; and

On January 21, 2013, the Court resolved to require


respondents to comment on the complaint against them for
gross misconduct, gross ignorance of the law and procedure,
and violation of Canon 1 and Rule 1.01 of the Code of
Professional Responsibility.

(c) a copy of security deposit or collateral securing


the bond.

In their Comment6 dated April 12, 2013, respondents denied


the charges and accusations against them. Respondents
explained that contrary to the claims of the complainants, the
appeal bond is existing and valid. They assert that while at
the time of the filing of the appeal, the surety company's
authority to issue judicial bonds had already expired, such fact
was never concealed by the surety company. They added that
Intra Strata's filing of Manifestation informing the Commission
of its undertaking to submit the certification as soon as the
certification is issued was a sign of good faith.
Respondents stressed that it is a normal occurrence that
accreditation of bonding companies takes weeks to process,
thus, the Commission allowed appeals secured by bonds
issued by surety companies with pending application for
renewal of their authority to issue judicial bonds. They
maintained that what is more important is that they were
informed of such fact and that the surety company committed
to submit the certificate as soon as issued.
Respondents further argued that as per Memorandum dated
May 16, 2012 issued by the Legal and Enforcement Division of

A certified true copy of the bond shall be furnished by the


appellant to the appellee who shall verify the regularity and
genuineness thereof and immediately report to the
Commission any irregularity.
Upon verification by the Commission that the bond is irregular
or not genuine, the Commission shall cause the immediate
dismissal of the appeal.
No motion to reduce bond shall be entertained except on
meritorious grounds and upon the posting of a bond in a
reasonable amount in relation to the monetary award.
The filing of the motion to reduce bond without compliance
with the requisites in the preceding paragraph shall not stop
the running of the period to perfect an appeal. 7
In a nutshell, the rules are explicit that the filing of a bond for
the perfection of an appeal is mandatory and jurisdictional.
The requirement that employers post a cash or surety bond to
perfect their appeal is apparently intended to assure workers
that if they prevail in the case, they will receive the money
judgment in their favor upon the dismissal of the formers
appeal. It was intended to discourage employers from using

an appeal to delay, or even evade, their obligations to satisfy


their employees' just and lawful claims. However, the whole
essence of requiring the filing of bond is defeated if the bond
issued turned out to be invalid due to the surety company's
expired accreditation.
In the instant case, at the time of the filing of the supersedeas
bond no. JCL (15)-HO-001522/509348 on behalf of Bacman in
the amount of Php5,790,543.06,9 Intra Strata was no longer
an accredited surety company as it admitted in their
Manifestation dated February 23, 2012. A perusal of Intra
Strata's certificate of accreditation and authority would show
that its accreditation was valid only until January 31, 2012.
Thus, beyond January 31, 2012, Intra Strata was no longer a
reputable surety company possessing the authority to
transact business relative to issuing judicial bonds.
Respondents argued that Intra Strata exhibited good faith in
informing them of their expired accreditation.1wphi1 We are,
however, unconvinced. The defense of good faith does not, in
any way, render the issued bond valid. The fact remains that
due to the expired accreditation of Intra Strata, it has no
authority to issue the subject bond. It was improper to honor
the appeal bond issued by a surety company which was no
longer accredited by this Court. Having no authority to issue
judicial bonds not only does Intra Strata cease to be a
reputable surety company the bond it likewise issued was
null and void.
Necessarily, after being informed of the expired accreditation
of Intra Strata, respondents should have refrained from
allowing Intra Strata to transact business or to post a bond in
favor of Bacman. It is not within respondents' discretion to
allow the filing of the appeal bond issued by a bonding
company with expired accreditation regardless of its pending
application for renewal of accreditation. Respondents cannot
extend Intra Strata's authority or accreditation. Neither can it
validate an invalid bond issued by a bonding company with
expired accreditation, or give a semblance of validity to it
pending this Court's approval of the application for renewal of
accreditation.
It must be the emphasized that it is only the Supreme Court,
through the Office of the Court Administrator,10 which can give
authority and accreditation to surety companies to be able to
transact business involving judicial bonds, to wit:
II. ACCREDIT TION OF SURETY COMPANIES: In order to
preclude spurious and delinquent surety companies from
transacting business with the courts, no surety company or its
authorized agents shall be allowed to transact business
involving surety bonds with the Supreme Court, Court of
Appeals, the Court of Tax Appeals, the Sandiganbayan,
Regional Trial Courts, Shari a District Courts, Metropolitan Trial
Courts, Municipal Trial Courts in Cities, Municipal Trial Courts,
Municipal Circuit Trial Courts, Shari a Circuit Courts and other
courts which may thereafter be created, unless accredited and
authorized by the Office of the Court Administrator.11
Thus, without the approval of this Court, the bond issued by
bonding companies produces no legal effect. Respondents, by
allowing the bonding company with expired accreditation to
post bonds, as a consequence, put the litigants at risk, in the
event the Court denies the application for accreditation. It
betrays the purpose of the required certification issued by this
Court which seeks to protect the litigants from spurious surety
companies.
Disbarment is the most severe form of disciplinary sanction
and, as such, the power to disbar must always be exercised
with great caution, only for the most imperative reasons and
in clear cases of misconduct affecting the standing and moral
character of the lawyer as an officer of the court and member
of the bar.12 This Court has consistently held that only a clear
preponderant evidence would warrant the imposition of such
a harsh penalty. It means that the record must disclose as free
from doubt a case that compels the exercise by the court of
its disciplinary powers. The dubious character of the act done,

as well as the motivation thereof, must be clearly


demonstrated.13 In disbarment proceedings, the burden of
proof is upon the complainant and this Court will exercise its
disciplinary power only if the complainant establishes his case
by clear, convincing and satisfactory evidence. 14 This
complainants failed to do.
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the complaint against
Napoleon M. Menese, Raul T. Aquino and Teresita D. CastillonLora is DISMISSED.
SO ORDERED.
Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila
SECOND DIVISION
A.C. No. 7732

March 30, 2009

RODANTE D. MARCOLETA, Complainant


vs.
RESURRECCION Z. BORRA AND ROMEO A.
BRAWNER, Respondents.
DECISION
CARPIO MORALES, J.:
A Complaint1 for disbarment was filed by Atty. Rodante D.
Marcoleta (complainant) against respondents Commissioners
Resurreccion Z. Borra (Borra) and Romeo A. Brawner
(Brawner) of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) charging
them with violating Canons 1 (1.01, 1.02 and 1.03) and 3
(3.01, 3.02, 3.05 and 3.06) of the Code of Judicial
Conduct2 and Canons 4, 5, 6 and 17 of the Canons of Judicial
Ethics.3 Additionally, complainant charges respondents of
violating Republic Act No. 6713 or the Code of Conduct and
Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.4
During the 2007 National and Local Elections, the warring
factions of complainant and Diogenes S. Osabel (Osabel) each
filed a separate list5 of nominees for the party-list group
Alagad.1avvphi1
With Alagad winning a seat in the House of Representatives,
the two protagonists contested the right to represent the
party. By Omnibus Resolution6 of July 18, 2007, the dispute
was resolved by the Comelecs First Division in favor of
Osabel. Commissioner Borra wrote the ponencia while
Commissioner Brawner concurred.
The dispute was elevated to the Comelec En Banc which, by
Resolution7 of November 6, 2007, reversed the First Division
Resolution and reinstated the certificate of nomination of
complainants group. For failing to muster the required
majority voting,8 however, the Comelec ordered the rehearing of the controversy. Notwithstanding the conduct of a
re-hearing, the necessary majority vote could not still be
obtained.9 The Comelecs First Divisions Omnibus Resolution
was eventually affirmed.10 Hence, arose the present complaint
for disbarment, complainant alleging as follows:
8. x x x x respondents [Borra and Brawner] promulgated a
highly questionable and irregular Omnibus Resolution
[Annexes "F" and "F-1"], that was characterized
by manifest partiality, evident bad faith, and gross
inexcusable negligence as evidenced in
the TIMING and MANNER by which the case was eventually
disposed by herein respondents in their Division.
9. Respondents deliberately delayed the resolution of the case
(from 5 days as mandated under Sec. 8, Rule 18 of the
Comelec Rules of Procedure) to nearly 4 months after the
same was deemed submitted for decision on March 20,

2007. The delay was intentional because if the case was


resolved before May 14, 2007, [Osabel] will be left alone to
campaign for the Party and considering that he is relatively
unknown and without resources, certainly he cannot make the
Party win. x x x x. Hence, in first making sure that ALAGAD
wins a seat and, thereafter, resolved the case in favor of one
who neither campaigned nor spent for it, both respondents
subverted and/or frustrated the will of the 423,090 voters who
supported ALAGAD and who have always believed that it was
complainant who will represent them in the 14th Congress.
This is an extortionate act to say the least!
10. Even the manner with which the case was disposed is
fraught with gross deception and evident manipulation. First
of all, the respondents changed the sole and common issue
stipulated by the parties: from one that is central to the
complete and final resolution of the controversy, into one that
was beyond the Comelecs jurisdiction.
xxxx
11. Respondents were evidently in bad faith in muddling the
issue (which resulted in an erroneous ruling) x x x.
xxxx
13. The assailed 20-page Omnibus Resolution never cited a
single law (in violation of Sec. 14, Art. VIII of the Philippine
Constitution as well as Rule 18, Sec. 2, last par. of their own
Rules) in erroneously ruling that petitioners resignation
cannot be considered because it was not in written form x x x
x.
14. Both respondents lied in actually delving into the root of
the parties conflict despite their avowal to the contrary and in
giving "more credence to the Minutes submitted by [Osabel]"
(Annex "F-13.b") despite their declaration that said "minutes
partisan from the start x x x in a power struggle within the
organization, cannot be upheld as faithful depiction of
prevailing facts." They also lied in not relying on the Partys
Constitution and By-Laws (CBL), contrary to what they
declared to do, when compared to the En Banc ponencia
[Annex "J"] that reversed their Omnibus Resolution x x x x.
xxxx
16. Respondent Borras "dissenting opinion" (if it can be
qualified as such) was a mere marginal note, written above
his signature that reads: "In conscience and judiciousness, I
vote to affirm the 1st Div. Omnibus Resolution." x x x.
17. Respondent Borra knows only too well that all cases are
decided and affirmed on the basis of evidence, not on
conscience. For conscience is that instantaneous perception of
right or wrong that can only be summoned by the spirit being
a part of the Divine Wisdom. x x x.
18. It was clearly evasive for respondent Borra to use the
absurd excuse "in conscience and judiciousness" to free
himself from the mandatory submission of a separate
dissenting opinion x x x.
xxxx
20. Respondent Brawners Dissenting Opinion [Ref. Annex "I"],
on the other hand, only confirmed his leaning and partiality
towards [Osabel] as clearly shown by his shallow disquisition,
if not twisted, dissent. x x x.
21. Respondent Brawners irresponsible claim (on page 4) that
"all official records of ALAGADs proceedings point out to
Osabels continuing as ALAGADs President" and "the recent
decision in SPA No. 04-153 dated June 12, 2007 prove the
continuing stature of Osabel as ALAGAD President" is not
supported by facts. x x x x. Thus, it was reckless, if not
unthinkable, for Brawner to have ascribed "continuing stature"

upon petitioner based on a "position" appearing in the title


[Annex "O-1"] of a different and old case that was disposed
only recently. This ruse is gobbledygook, plain and simple!
[Padua v. Robles, 66 SCRA 488].
x x x x (Emphasis, underscoring and italics in the original)
Complainant filed a Supplemental Complaint11 on February 12,
2008, this time charging respondent Brawner of "tamper[ing]
the record of the proceedings in [SPA No. 07-020]" by falsely
alleging in an Order dated February 5, 2008 that there had
been a re-hearing; that both parties had agreed to
simultaneously file their memoranda during the re-hearing;
and that the parties filed their respective memoranda.
Respondent Brawner, in his Answer 12 dated April 2, 2008,
asserted in the main that "the remedy of complainant is not to
file a complaint for disbarment, but to file an appeal before
[the Supreme Court] via [p]etition for [c]ertiorari," and that
being members of a constitutional body enjoying presumption
of regularity in the performance of their functions, he and corespondent Borra "are supposed to be insulated from a
disbarment complaint for being impeachable officers."
In his Comment,13 respondent Borra contends that the Code of
Judicial Conduct and Canons of Judicial Ethics cannot be made
to apply to him and his co-respondent, they not being
members of the judiciary; and that since they perform quasijudicial functions as well as administrative duties, they are
bound by the Comelecs own set of internal rules and
procedure over and above a Code of Conduct that prescribes
the norms and standards of behavior to be observed by the
officials and employees of the Comelec, a constitutional body.
Respondent Borra further contends that the present complaint
is premature as "the validity and legality of the resolutions are
still subject to review;" and that the complaint is meant to
"harass [him] and punish him for exercising his judgment on
the case filed before him."
To respondents Answer and Comment, complainant filed
Replies,14 alleging that respondents cannot take refuge in their
being impeachable public officers to insulate them from any
disbarment complaint. To complainant, "the insulation from
disbarment complaint of impeachable public officers when
referring particularly to the members of the [Comelec] applies
only to the majority of its members who should all be
members of the Philippine bar," citing Section 1 (1) of Article
IX-C of the Constitution.15
Complainant goes on to charge respondent Borra of violating
Republic Act No. 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices
Act for collecting his retirement benefits "hurriedly despite
knowledge of the existence of criminal and administrative
charges against him." Additionally, he charges respondents of
culpable violation of the Constitution when they, together with
the other members of the Comelec, adjusted their
compensation scheme under Resolution No. 7685.16
The Court takes notice that respondent Borra retired from the
Comelec on February 2, 2008 while respondent Brawner
passed away on May 29, 2008.
As regards respondent Brawner then, the present case is
already moot.
At the outset, the Court, guided by its pronouncements in
Jarque v. Ombudsman,17 In Re: Raul M. Gonzales18and Cuenco
v. Fernan,19 has laid down the rule that an impeachable
officer20 who is a member of the Bar cannot be disbarred
without first being impeached. Complainants availment of
Section 1 (1) of Article IX-C of the Constitution to skirt this rule
is specious.
It bears emphasis that the provision that majority of Comelec
members should be lawyers pertains to the desired
composition of the Comelec. While the appointing authority

may follow such constitutional mandate, the appointment of a


full complement of lawyers in the Comelec membership is not
precluded.
At the time the present complaint was filed, respondents and
three other commissioners21 were all lawyers. As an
impeachable officer who is at the same time a member of the
Bar, respondent Borra must first be removed from office via
the constitutional route of impeachment before he may be
held to answer administratively for his supposed errant
resolutions and actions.
Respondent Borra having retired from the Comelec does not,
of course, necessarily call for the dismissal of the complaint.
At the heart, however, of the disbarment complaint is the
issuance of Omnibus Resolution of July 18, 2007 penned by
respondent Borra when he was still a member of the
Comelecs First Division.
The supposed failure of respondent Borra to resolve the
controversy between complainants faction and the other
faction of Alagad within the prescribed period does not render
the Omnibus Resolution null and void. Prescribed periods
partake of a directory requirement, given the Comelecs
numerous cases and logistical limitations.22
The Court thus finds respondent Borras contention that the
grounds-bases of the disbarment complaint, fastened on
supposed errors of judgment or grave abuse of discretion in
the appreciation of facts, are proper for an appeal, hence,
complainants remedy is judicial, not
administrative.lawphil.net
As for complainants invocation of Section 58 of Article VII of
the Omnibus Election Code23 reading:
The chairman and members of the Commission shall be
subject to the canons of judicial ethics in the discharge of
their functions.
x x x x (Emphasis and underscoring supplied),
the same relates to the quasi-judicial function of the Comelec,
which function rests on judgment or discretion, so that while it
is of judicial nature or character, it does not involve the
exercise of functions of a judge.24
The same provision thus directs that in the exercise of the
Comelecs quasi-judicial power, the chairman and members
should be guided by the canons of judicial ethics. It bears

emphasis that the New Code of Judicial Conduct for the


Philippine Judiciary25 applies only to courts of law, of which the
Comelec is not, hence, sanctions pertaining to violations
thereof are made exclusively applicable to judges and justices
in the judiciary, not to quasi-judicial officers like the Comelec
chairman and members, who have their own codes of conduct
to steer them.
Even if the Court were to gauge the assailed actions of
respondent Borra under the Code of Professional
Responsibility, no specific incidents and sufficient evidence
can be gathered to show that respondent did engage in
dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct in his capacity as a
lawyer. It bears reiteration that the acts particularized in the
complaint pertain to respondent Borras duties as a Comelec
commissioner.
As for the release of retirement benefits to respondent Borra,
there is nothing irregular therewith, the same being in line
with Memorandum Circular No. 10 (series of 1995) of the
Office of the Ombudsman reading:
x x x a person retiring from the government service, whether
optional or compulsory, needs only to present a certification
from this Office whether or not he has a pending criminal or
administrative case with it. In the event the certification
presented states that the prospective retiree has a pending
case, the responsibility of determining whether to release his
retirement benefits, as well as the imposition of necessary
safeguards to ensure restitution thereof in the event the
retiree is found guilty, rests upon and shall be left to the
sound discretion of the head of the department, office or
agency concerned. (Emphasis and underscoring in the
original)
Interestingly, while complainant singled out the participation
of respondents Borra and Brawner in the promulgation of the
questioned resolutions, he spared the other commissioners
who were also signatories to the resolutions.
WHEREFORE, the complaint for disbarment against now
deceased Comelec Commissioner Romeo Brawner is
DISMISSED for being moot. That against Commissioner
Resurreccion Borra is likewise DISMISSED for lack of merit.
SO ORDERED.