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THIRD DIVISION

[A.C. No. 4346. April 3, 2002]


ERLINDA ABRAGAN, MILA GINA JAVIER, REYNALDO MERCADO, PATERNO TORRES, BENIGNA ANTIBO,
ELEISER SALVADOR, EDNA SAPON, JULIANA CUENCA, ESPERANZA BUENAFE, VICENTE BARNAGA,
MARTHA SAPON, JOSEFINA OPEA, PUREZA WABE, RONULFO LOPEZ, DOMINADOR HERNANDEZ,
FELIPA EMBATE, ROQUE CATIIL, JERRY SAPON, CONCEPCION MATANOG, and PABLO
SALOMON, complainants, vs. Atty. MAXIMO G. RODRIGUEZ, respondent.
D E C I S I O N
PANGANIBAN, J.:
Lawyers violate their oath of office when they represent conflicting interests. They taint not only their own
professional practice, but the entire legal profession itself.
The Case and the Facts
Before us is a verified Petition
[1]
praying for the disbarment of Atty. Maximo G. Rodriguez because of alleged
illegal and unethical acts. The Petition relevantly reads as follows:
2. That sometime in 1986, the petitioners hired the services of the respondent and the latter, represented
the former in the case entitled PABLO SALOMON et al vs. RICARDO DACALUZ et al., before the Municipal Trial
Court in Cities, Cagayan de Oro City, Branch 3 docketed as Civil Case No. 11204, for Forcible Entry with Petition for
a Writ of Preliminary Injunction and Damages, [and] a Certified True and Correct Copy of the COMPLAINT by Clerk
of Court III Gerardo B. Ucat of the said Court, is herewith attached to the original of this PETITION, while
photocopies of the same are also attached to the duplicate copies of this same Petition and marked as Annex A
hereof;
3. That after the Case No. 11204 was finally won, and a Writ of Execution was issued by the Honorable
Municipal Trial Court in Cities of Cagayan de Oro City, Branch 3, the same respondent lawyer represented the
petitioners herein;
4. That when respondent counsel disturbed the association (Cagayan de Oro Landless Residents Association,
Inc.), to which all the complainants belong, by surreptitiously selling some rights to other persons without the
consent of the petitioners herein, they decided to sever their client-lawyer relationship;
5. That in fact, the National Bureau of Investigation of Cagayan de Oro City, is presently undertaking an
investigation on the illegal activities of Atty. Maximo Rodriguez pertaining to his express involvement in the illegal
and unauthorized apportionment, assignment and sale of parcels of land subject to the Case No. 11204, where he
represented the poor landless claimants of Cagayan de Oro City, which include your petitioners in this case;
6. That petitioners herein later filed an indirect contempt charge under Civil Case No. 11204 against Sheriff
Fernando Loncion et al., on August 2, 1991 engaging the services of Atty. LORETO O. SALVA, SR., an alleged former
student of law of Atty. Maximo Rodriguez, [and a] certified true and correct copy of the complaint thereat
consisting of four (4) pages is herewith attached and photocopies of which are also attached to the duplicates
hereof, and correspondingly marked as their Annex B;
7. That respondent lawyer, Atty. Maximo Rodriguez, (in the Indirect Contempt Case under the same Civil
Case No. 11204,) REPRESENTED and actively took up the defense of FERNANDO LONCION et al. much to the
dismay, damage and prejudice of the herein petitioners, [and] a copy of Atty. Rodriguezs Answer, which is also
certified true and correct by Clerk of Court III Gerardo Ucat of Branch 3 of MTCC Cagayan de Oro City, consisting
of three (3) pages, is attached to the original of this Petition, while photocopies of the same are attached to the
other copies hereof and accordingly marked as Annex C;
8. That the records will bear the petitioners out that their counsel, Atty. SALVA SR. later on withdrew the
case of Indirect Contempt upon the suggestion of Atty. Maximo Rodriguez; and instead, filed the Motion for the
Issuance of an Alias Writ of Execution;
9. That on January 12, 1993, the herein respondent, without consulting the herein Petitioners who are all
poor and ignorant of court procedures and the law, filed in behalf of the plaintiffs (which include the herein
Petitioners) in Civil Case No. 11204, a Motion to Withdraw Plaintiffs Exhibits, [and] a certified true and correct
copy of said Motion by Mr. Gerardo Ucat of MTCC Branch 3, Cagayan de Oro City is herewith attached to the
original of this Petition, while photocopies of the same are also attached to the rest of the copies of this same
Petition, and are correspondingly marked as their Annex D.
10. That the illegal and unethical actions of Atty. Maximo Rodriguez are most obnoxious, condemnable, and
highly immoral, to say the least, more so if we consider his social standing and ascendancy in the community of
Cagayan de Oro City;
11. That the records of Civil Case No. 11204 which are voluminous will bear the petitioners allegations
against the herein respondent, who, after representing them initially, then transferring allegiance and services to
the adverse parties (Lonchion, Palacio and NHA Manager), came back to represent the herein petitioners without
any regard [for] the rules of law and the Canons of Professional Ethics, which is highly contemptible and a clear
violation of his oath as a lawyer and an officer of the courts of law;
12. That these acts are only those that records will bear, because outside of the court records, respondent,
without regard [for] delicadeza, fair play and the rule of law, has assigned, apportioned and sold parcels of land[,]
subject matter in Civil Case No. 11204 which legally have been pronounced and decided to be in the possession of
the plaintiffs in Civil Case No. 11204, who are partly the petitioners herein. Thus, they cannot yet enjoy the fruits
of the tedious and protracted legal battle because of respondents illegal acts, which have instilled fear among the
plaintiffs and the petitioners herein;
13. That respondent lawyer even represented ERLINDA ABRAGAN, one of the herein petitioners, in a later
proceedings in Civil Case No. 11204 wherein the apportionment of parcels of land was erroneously,
unprocedurally and illegally submitted to a commissioner, and that ERLINDA ABRAGAN, after winning in the said
Civil Case was later on dispossessed of her rights by respondent counsels maneuver, after the decision (in Civil
Case No. 11208) became final executory;
14. That to make matters worse, respondent Atty. Rodriguez eventually fenced an area consisting of about
10, 200 square meters within Lot No. 1982[,] the subject matter in Civil Case No. 11204 without the consent of the
herein petitioners. He even openly and publicly proclaimed his possession and ownership thereof, which fact is
again and also under NBI investigation;
15. That all the foregoing acts of respondent lawyer plus his continuing and ongoing illegal and unethical
maneuvers have deprived the herein petitioners of their vested rights to possess and eventually own the land they
have for decades possessed, and declared as such by final judgment in Civil Case No. 11204.
In his Comment,
[2]
respondent flatly denied the accusations of petitioners. He explained that the withdrawal of
the exhibits, having been approved by the trial court, was not illegal, obnoxious, undesirable and highly immoral.
He added that he took over the 8,000 square meters of land only after it had been given to him as attorneys
fees. In his words:
14. Respondent ADMITS that he fenced an area of about 8,000 sq. [m]. after the association had awarded the
same as attorneys fees in Civil Case Number 11204, the dismissal of the appeal by the NHA, the successful handling
of three (3) cases in the SUPREME COURT, the pending case of QUIETING OF TITLE filed by the NHA, and for the
pending reconveyance case, Civil Case No. 93-573, supra. These area of 8,000 sq. [m]., was awarded as attorneys
fees, which [were] supposed to be ten percent of the 22 hectares, Lot No. 1982, the subject matter of Civil Case No.
11204, but the association and its members were able to take actual possession by judgment of the courts only o[f]
the twelve (12) hectares. [This] area consisting of 8,000 sq. [m]., and consisting of two (2) lots [was] fenced by the
respondent to prevent squatters from entering the area. The rights of possession and ownership o[f] this area by
the respondent depends upon the outcome of Civil Case No. 93-573, supra, for reconveyance of title by the
association and its members versus the NHA, et. al. If it is true that this is under investigation by the NBI, then why,
not wait and submit the investigation of the NHA, instead of filing this unwarranted, false and fabricated charge
based on preposterous and ridiculous charges without any proof whatsoever, except the vile [language] of an
irresponsible lawyer.
[3]

Thereafter, petitioners filed a Reply
[4]
in which they reiterated their allegations against respondent and added
that the latter likewise violated Rule 15.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility. The Court referred the case
to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) for investigation, report and/or decision.
[5]

Report of the Investigating Commissioner
In her Report and Recommendation dated January 23, 2001, Investigating IBP Commissioner Lydia A. Navarro
recommended that respondent be suspended from the practice of law for six (6) months for violation of Rule 15.03
of Canon 15 of the Code of Professional Responsibility. Her report reads in part as follows:
From the facts obtaining, it is apparent that respondent represented conflicting interest considering that the
complainants were the same plaintiffs in both cases and were duly specified in the pleadings particularly in the
caption of the cases. Under the said predicament even if complainants were excluded as members of the
Association represented by the respondent; the latter should have first secured complainants written consent
before representing defendants in the Indirect Contempt case particularly Macario Palacio, president of the
Association, or inhibited himself.
It is very unfortunate that in his desire to render service to his client, respondent overlooked the fact that he
already violated Rule 15.03 of [C]anon 15 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, to wit:
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.
We have no alternative but to abide by the rules.
[6]

IBP Board of Governors Resolution
Upholding the above-quoted Report, the Board of Governors of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines
recommended via its May 26, 2001 Resolution that respondent be suspended from the practice of law for two (2)
months for violation of Rule 15.03 of Canon 15 of the Code of Professional Responsibility.
This Courts Ruling
We agree with the findings and the recommendation of the IBP Board of Governors, but hold that the penalty
should be six-month suspension as recommended by the investigating commissioner.
Administrative Liability of Respondent
At the outset, we agree with Commissioner Navarros conclusion that apart from their allegations in their
various pleadings, petitioners did not proffer any proof tending to show that respondent had sold to other persons
several rights over the land in question; and that he had induced the former counsel for petitioners, Atty. Salva Jr.,
to withdraw the indirect contempt case that they had filed. Neither did the IBP find anything wrong as regards the
8,000 square meters awarded to respondent as payment for his legal services. Petitioners bare assertions,
without any proof to back them up, would not justify the imposition of a penalty on respondent.
Having said that, we find, however, that respondent falls short of the integrity and good moral character
required from all lawyers. They are expected to uphold the dignity of the legal profession at all times. The trust and
confidence clients repose in them require a high standard and appreciation of the latters duty to the former, the
legal profession, the courts and the public. Indeed, the bar must maintain a high standard of legal proficiency as
well as of honesty and fair dealings. To this end, lawyers should refrain from doing anything that might tend to
lessen the confidence of the public in the fidelity, honesty and integrity of their profession.
[7]

In the present case, respondent clearly violated Rule 15.03 of Canon 15 of the Code of
Professional Responsibility, which provides that a lawyer shall not represent conflicting interests except by
written consent of all concerned given after full disclosure of the facts.
The Court explained in Buted v. Hernando:
[8]

[A] lawyer represents conflicting interests when, in behalf of one client, it is his duty to contend for that which duty to
another client requires him to oppose.
The obligation to represent the client with undivided fidelity and not to divulge his secrets or confidence forbids
also the subsequent acceptance of retainers or employment from others in matters adversely affecting any interest of
the client with respect to which confidence has been reposed.
[9]
(Italics in the original)
In the case at bar, petitioners were the same complainants in the indirect contempt case and in the Complaint
for forcible entry in Civil Case No. 11204.
[10]
Respondent should have evaluated the situation first before agreeing
to be counsel for the defendants in the indirect contempt proceedings. Attorneys owe undivided allegiance to their
clients, and should at all times weigh their actions, especially in their dealings with the latter and the public at
large. They must conduct themselves beyond reproach at all times.
The Court will not tolerate any departure from the straight and narrow path demanded by the ethics of the
legal profession.
In Hilado v. David,
[11]
which we quote below, the Court advised lawyers to be like Caesars wife to be
pure and to appear to be so.
This stern rule is designed not alone to prevent the dishonest practitioner from fraudulent conduct, but as well as
to protect the honest lawyer from unfounded suspicion of unprofessional practice. It is founded on principles of
public policy, on good taste. As has been said in another case, the question is not necessarily one of the rights of the
parties, but as to whether the attorney has adhered to proper professional standard. With these thoughts in mind,
it behooves attorneys, like Caesars wife, not only to keep inviolate the clients confidence, but also to avoid the
appearance of treachery and double-dealing. Only thus can litigants be encouraged to entrust their secrets to their
attorneys which is of paramount importance in the administration of justice.
Because of his divided allegiance, respondent has eroded, rather than enhanced, the public perception of the
legal profession. His divided loyalty constitutes malpractice for which he may be suspended, following Section 27,
Rule 138 of the Rules of Court, which provides:
SEC. 27. Disbarment or suspension of Attorneys by Supreme Court, grounds therefor. Any member of the bar may
be disbarred or suspended from his office as attorney by the Supreme Court for any deceit, malpractice, or other
gross misconduct in such office, grossly immoral conduct, or by reason of his conviction of a crime involving moral
turpitude, or for any violation of the oath which he is required to take before admission to practice, or for a wilful
disobedience appearing as an attorney for a party to a case without authority so to do. x x x.
Complainants ask that respondent be disbarred. We find however that suspension of six (6) months from the
practice of law, as recommended by Commissioner Navarro, is sufficient to discipline respondent.
A survey of cases involving conflicting interests on the part of counsel reveals that the Court has imposed on
erring attorneys
[12]
either a reprimand, or a suspension from the practice of law from five (5) months
[13]
to as high
as two (2) years.
[14]

WHEREFORE, Maximo G. Rodriguez is found guilty of violating Rule 15.03 of Canon 15 of the Code of
Professional Responsibility and is hereby SUSPENDED for six (6) months from the practice of law, effective upon
his receipt of this Decision. He is warned that a repetition of the same or similar acts will be dealt with more
severely.
Let copies of this Decision be entered in the record of respondent as attorney and served on the IBP, as well as
on the Court Administrator who shall circulate it to all courts for their information and guidance.
SO ORDERED.
Melo, (Chairman), Sandoval-Gutierrez, and Carpio, JJ., concur.
Vitug, J., abroad on official business.





Republic of the Philippines
Supreme Court
Baguio City

SECOND DIVISION


JOSEFINA M. ANION,
Complainant,






- versus -






ATTY. CLEMENCIO SABITSANA, JR.,
Respondent.
A.C. No. 5098

Present:

BRION, J.,
Acting Chairperson,
PERALTA,
*

PEREZ,
SERENO, and
REYES, JJ.

Promulgated:


April 11, 2012

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


D E C I S I O N

BRION, J.:

We resolve this disbarment complaint against Atty. Clemencio Sabitsana, Jr. who is charged of: (1) violating
the lawyers duty to preserve confidential information received from his client;
[1]
and (2) violating the prohibition
on representing conflicting interests.
[2]

In her complaint, Josefina M. Anion (complainant) related that she previously engaged the legal services of
Atty. Sabitsana in the preparation and execution in her favor of a Deed of Sale over a parcel of land owned by her
late common-law husband, Brigido Caneja, Jr. Atty. Sabitsana allegedly violated her confidence when he
subsequently filed a civil case against her for the annulment of the Deed of Sale in behalf of Zenaida L. Caete, the
legal wife of Brigido Caneja, Jr. The complainant accused Atty. Sabitsana of using the confidential information he
obtained from her in filing the civil case.

Atty. Sabitsana admitted having advised the complainant in the preparation and execution of the Deed of Sale.
However, he denied having received any confidential information. Atty. Sabitsana asserted that the present
disbarment complaint was instigated by one Atty. Gabino Velasquez, Jr., the notary of the disbarment complaint
who lost a court case against him (Atty. Sabitsana) and had instigated the complaint for this reason.

The Findings of the IBP Investigating Commissioner

In our Resolution dated November 22, 1999, we referred the disbarment complaint to the Commission on Bar
Discipline of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) for investigation, report and recommendation. In his
Report and Recommendation dated November 28, 2003, IBP Commissioner Pedro A. Magpayo Jr. found Atty.
Sabitsana administratively liable for representing conflicting interests. The IBP Commissioner opined:

In Bautista vs. Barrios, it was held that a lawyer may not handle a case to nullify a contract which he
prepared and thereby take up inconsistent positions. Granting that Zenaida L. Caete, respondents
present client in Civil Case No. B-1060 did not initially learn about the sale executed by Bontes in
favor of complainant thru the confidences and information divulged by complainant to respondent
in the course of the preparation of the said deed of sale, respondent nonetheless has a duty to
decline his current employment as counsel of Zenaida Caete in view of the rule prohibiting
representation of conflicting interests.

In re De la Rosa clearly suggests that a lawyer may not represent conflicting interests in the
absence of the written consent of all parties concerned given after a full disclosure of the facts. In
the present case, no such written consent was secured by respondent before accepting employment
as Mrs. Caetes counsel-of-record. x x x

x x x

Complainant and respondents present client, being contending claimants to the same
property, the conflict of interest is obviously present. There is said to be inconsistency of interest
when on behalf of one client, it is the attorneys duty to contend for that which his duty to another
client requires him to oppose. In brief, if he argues for one client this argument will be opposed by
him when he argues for the other client. Such is the case with which we are now confronted,
respondent being asked by one client to nullify what he had formerly notarized as a true and valid
sale between Bontes and the complainant. (footnotes omitted)
[3]



The IBP Commissioner recommended that Atty. Sabitsana be suspended from the practice of law for a period
of one (1) year.
[4]


The Findings of the IBP Board of Governors

In a resolution dated February 27, 2004, the IBP Board of Governors resolved to adopt and approve the
Report and Recommendation of the IBP Commissioner after finding it to be fully supported by the evidence on
record, the applicable laws and rules.
[5]
The IBP Board of Governors agreed with the IBP Commissioners
recommended penalty.

Atty. Sabitsana moved to reconsider the above resolution, but the IBP Board of Governors denied his motion
in a resolution dated July 30, 2004.

The Issue

The issue in this case is whether Atty. Sabitsana is guilty of misconduct for representing conflicting interests.
The Courts Ruling

After a careful study of the records, we agree with the findings and recommendations of the IBP
Commissioner and the IBP Board of Governors.

The relationship between a lawyer and his/her client should ideally be imbued with the highest level of
trust and confidence. This is the standard of confidentiality that must prevail to promote a full disclosure of the
clients most confidential information to his/her lawyer for an unhampered exchange of information between
them. Needless to state, a client can only entrust confidential information to his/her lawyer based on an
expectation from the lawyer of utmost secrecy and discretion; the lawyer, for his part, is duty-bound to observe
candor, fairness and loyalty in all dealings and transactions with the client.
[6]
Part of the lawyers duty in this
regard is to avoid representing conflicting interests, a matter covered by Rule 15.03, Canon 15 of the Code of
Professional Responsibility quoted below:

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.


The proscription against representation of conflicting interests applies to a situation where the opposing
parties are present clients in the same action or in an unrelated action.
[7]
The prohibition also applies even if the
lawyer would not be called upon to contend for one client that which the lawyer has to oppose for the other client,
or that there would be no occasion to use the confidential information acquired from one to the disadvantage of the
other as the two actions are wholly unrelated.
[8]
To be held accountable under this rule, it is enough that the
opposing parties in one case, one of whom would lose the suit, are present clients and the nature or conditions of
the lawyers respective retainers with each of them would affect the performance of the duty of undivided fidelity
to both clients.
[9]


Jurisprudence has provided three tests in determining whether a violation of the above rule is present in a
given case.

One test is whether a lawyer is duty-bound to fight for an issue or claim in behalf of one
client and, at the same time, to oppose that claim for the other client. Thus, if a lawyers argument
for one client has to be opposed by that same lawyer in arguing for the other client, there is a
violation of the rule.

Another test of inconsistency of interests is whether the acceptance of a new relation
would prevent the full discharge of the lawyers duty of undivided fidelity and loyalty to the
client or invite suspicion of unfaithfulness or double-dealing in the performance of that
duty. Still another test is whether the 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.
[10]
[emphasis ours]


On the basis of the attendant facts of the case, we find substantial evidence to support Atty. Sabitsanas
violation of the above rule, as established by the following circumstances on record:

One, his legal services were initially engaged by the complainant to protect her interest over a certain
property. The records show that upon the legal advice of Atty. Sabitsana, the Deed of Sale over the property was
prepared and executed in the complainants favor.

Two, Atty. Sabitsana met with Zenaida Caete to discuss the latters legal interest over the property subject
of the Deed of Sale. At that point, Atty. Sabitsana already had knowledge that Zenaida Caetes interest clashed with
the complainants interests.

Three, despite the knowledge of the clashing interests between his two clients, Atty. Sabitsana accepted
the engagement from Zenaida Caete.

Four, Atty. Sabitsanas actual knowledge of the conflicting interests between his two clients was
demonstrated by his own actions: first, he filed a case against the complainant in behalf of Zenaida Caete; second,
he impleaded the complainant as the defendant in the case; and third, the case he filed was for the annulment of the
Deed of Sale that he had previously prepared and executed for the complainant.

By his acts, not only did Atty. Sabitsana agree to represent one client against another client in the same
action; he also accepted a new engagement that entailed him to contend and oppose the interest of his other client
in a property in which his legal services had been previously retained.

To be sure, Rule 15.03, Canon 15 of the Code of Professional Responsibility provides an exception to the
above prohibition. However, we find no reason to apply the exception due to Atty. Sabitsanas failure to comply
with the requirements set forth under the rule. Atty. Sabitsana did not make a full disclosure of facts to the
complainant and to Zenaida Caete before he accepted the new engagement with Zenaida Caete. The records
likewise show that although Atty. Sabitsana wrote a letter to the complainant informing her of Zenaida Caetes
adverse claim to the property covered by the Deed of Sale and, urging her to settle the adverse claim; Atty.
Sabitsana however did not disclose to the complainant that he was also being engaged as counsel by Zenaida
Caete.
[11]
Moreover, the records show that Atty. Sabitsana failed to obtain the written consent of his two clients,
as required by Rule 15.03, Canon 15 of the Code of Professional Responsibility.

Accordingly, we find as the IBP Board of Governors did Atty. Sabitsana guilty of misconduct for
representing conflicting interests. We likewise agree with the penalty of suspension for one (1) year from the
practice of law recommended by the IBP Board of Governors. This penalty is consistent with existing jurisprudence
on the administrative offense of representing conflicting interests.
[12]


We note that Atty. Sabitsana takes exception to the IBP recommendation on the ground that the charge in
the complaint was only for his alleged disclosure of confidential information, not for representation of conflicting
interests. To Atty. Sabitsana, finding him liable for the latter offense is a violation of his due process rights since he
only answered the designated charge.

We find no violation of Atty. Sabitsanas due process rights. Although there was indeed a specific charge in
the complaint, we are not unmindful that the complaint itself contained allegations of acts sufficient to constitute a
violation of the rule on the prohibition against representing conflicting interests. As stated in paragraph 8 of the
complaint:

Atty. Sabitsana, Jr. accepted the commission as a Lawyer of ZENAIDA CANEJA, now Zenaida Caete,
to recover lands from Complainant, including this land where lawyer Atty. Sabitsana, Jr. has advised
his client [complainant] to execute the second sale[.]


Interestingly, Atty. Sabitsana even admitted these allegations in his answer.
[13]
He also averred in his
Answer that:
6b. Because the defendant-to-be in the complaint (Civil Case No. B-1060) that he would file
on behalf of Zenaida Caneja-Caete was his former client (herein complainant), respondent asked
[the] permission of Mrs. Caete (which she granted) that he would first write a letter (Annex 4) to
the complainant proposing to settle the case amicably between them but complainant ignored it.
Neither did she object to respondents handling the case in behalf of Mrs. Caete on the ground she
is now invoking in her instant complaint. So respondent felt free to file the complaint against her.
[14]


We have consistently held that the essence of due process is simply the opportunity to be informed of the
charge against oneself and to be heard or, as applied toadministrative proceedings, the opportunity to explain
ones side or the opportunity to seek a reconsideration of the action or ruling complained of.
[15]
These
opportunities were all afforded to Atty. Sabitsana, as shown by the above circumstances.

All told, disciplinary proceedings against lawyers are sui generis.
[16]
In the exercise of its disciplinary
powers, the Court merely calls upon a member of the Bar to account for his actuations as an officer of the Court
with the end in view of preserving the purity of the legal profession. We likewise aim to ensure the proper and
honest administration of justice by purging the profession of members who, by their misconduct, have proven
themselves no longer worthy to be entrusted with the duties and responsibilities of an attorney.
[17]
This is all that
we did in this case. Significantly, we did this to a degree very much lesser than what the powers of this Court allows
it to do in terms of the imposable penalty. In this sense, we have already been lenient towards respondent lawyer.

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Court resolves to ADOPT the findings and recommendations of
the Commission on Bar Discipline of the Integrated Bar of thePhilippines. Atty. Clemencio C. Sabitsana, Jr. is
found GUILTY of misconduct for representing conflicting interests in violation of Rule 15.03, Canon 15 of the Code
of Professional Responsibility. He is hereby SUSPENDED for one (1) year from the practice of law.

Atty. Sabitsana is DIRECTED to inform the Court of the date of his receipt of this Decision so that we can
determine the reckoning point when his suspension shall take effect.

SO ORDERED.









Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila
FIRST DIVISION
A.C. No. 9149 September 4, 2013
JULIAN PENILLA, COMPLAINANT,
vs.
ATTY. QUINTIN P. ALCID, JR., RESPONDENT.
D E C I S I O N
VILLARAMA, JR., J.:
Before this Court is an administrative complaint
1
filed against respondent Atty. Quintin P. Alcid, Jr. for violation of the Lawyers
Oath and the Code of Professional Responsibility, and for gross misconduct in the performance of his duty as a lawyer.
The antecedent facts follow:
Complainant Julian Penilla entered into an agreement with Spouses Rey and Evelyn Garin (the spouses) for the repair of his
Volkswagen automobile. Despite full payment, the spouses defaulted in their obligation. Thus, complainant decided to file a case
for breach of contract against the spouses where he engaged the services of respondent as counsel.
Respondent sent a demand letter to the spouses and asked for the refund of complainants payment. When the spouses failed to
return the payment, respondent advised complainant that he would file a criminal case for estafa against said spouses.
Respondent charged P30,000 as attorneys fees and P10,000 as filing fees. Complainant turned over the relevant documents to
respondent and paid the fees in tranches. Respondent then filed the complaint for estafa before Asst. City Prosecutor Jose C.
Fortuno of the Office of the City Prosecutor of Quezon City. Respondent attended the hearing with complainant but the spouses
did not appear. After the hearing, complainant paid another P1,000 to respondent as appearance fee. Henceforth, complainant
and respondent have conflicting narrations of the subsequent events and transactions that transpired.
Complainant alleges that when the case was submitted for resolution, respondent told him that they have to give a bottle of
Carlos Primero I to Asst. City Prosecutor Fortuno to expedite a favorable resolution of the case. Complainant claims that despite
initial reservations, he later acceded to respondents suggestion, bought a bottle of Carlos Primero I for P950 and delivered it to
respondents office.
Asst. City Prosecutor Fortuno later issued a resolution dismissing the estafa case against the spouses. Respondent allegedly told
complainant that a motion for reconsideration was "needed to have [the resolution] reversed."
2
Respondent then prepared the
motion and promised complainant that he would fix the problem. On February 18, 2002, the motion was denied for lack of
merit. Respondent then told complainant that he could not do anything about the adverse decision and presented the option of
filing a civil case for specific performance against the spouses for the refund of the money plus damages. Complainant paid an
additional P10,000 to respondent which he asked for the payment of filing fees. After complainant signed the complaint, he was
told by respondent to await further notice as to the status of the case. Complainant claims that respondent never gave him any
update thereafter.
Complainant asserts having made numerous and unsuccessful attempts to follow-up the status of the case and meet with
respondent at his office. He admits, however, that in one instance he was able to talk to respondent who told him that the case
was not progressing because the spouses could not be located. In the same meeting, respondent asked complainant to
determine the whereabouts of the spouses. Complainant returned to respondents office on January 24, 2005, but because
respondent was not around, complainant left with respondents secretary a letter regarding the possible location of the spouses.
Complainant claims not hearing from respondent again despite his several letters conveying his disappointment and requesting
for the return of the money and the documents in respondents possession. Complainant then sought the assistance of the radio
program "Ito ang Batas with Atty. Aga" to solve his predicament. Following the advice he gathered, complainant went to the
Office of the Clerk of Court of the Caloocan City Metropolitan Trial Court and Regional Trial Court (RTC). Complainant learned
that a civil case for Specific Performance and Damages was filed on June 6, 2002
3
but was dismissed on June 13, 2002. He also
found out that the filing fee was only P2,440 and notP10,000 as earlier stated by respondent. Atty. Aga of the same radio
program also sent respondent a letter calling his attention to complainants problem. The letter, like all of complainants
previous letters, was unheeded.
On January 9, 2006, complainant filed before the Integrated Bar of the Philippines-Commission on Bar Discipline (IBP-CBD) the
instant administrative case praying that respondent be found guilty of gross misconduct for violating the Lawyers Oath and the
Code of Professional Responsibility, and for appropriate administrative sanctions to be imposed.
Respondent harps a different tale.
In an Answer
4
filed on January 30, 2006, respondent prayed that the case be dismissed for lack of merit. He denied charging
complainant P10,000 as filing fees for the estafa case and claimed that he charged and received onlyP2,000. He also countered
that the payment of P30,000 made by the complainant was his acceptance fee for both the estafa case and civil case. Respondent
likewise denied the following other allegations of complainant: that he assured the success of the case before the prosecutor;
that he asked complainant to give a bottle of Carlos Primero I to the prosecutor; that he promised to fix the case; and that he
charged P10,000, as he only charged P5,000, as filing fee for the civil case.
Respondent explained that it was not a matter of indifference on his part when he failed to inform petitioner of the status of the
case. In fact, he was willing to return the money and the documents of complainant. What allegedly prevented him from
communicating with complainant was the fact that complainant would go to his office during days and times that he would be
attending his daily court hearings.
The IBP-CBD called for a mandatory conference on April 28, 2006. Only complainant and his counsel attended.
5
The conference
was reset and terminated on June 9, 2006. The parties were directed to file their verified position papers within 15 days,
6
to
which complainant and respondent complied.
7

On July 18, 2006, respondent filed a Reply
8
praying for the dismissal of the case for lack of factual and legal bases. He stated that
he had performed his duties as complainants counsel when he filed the criminal case before the Office of the City Prosecutor of
Quezon City and the civil case before the RTC of Caloocan City. He averred that he should not be blamed for the dismissal of
both cases as his job was to ensure that justice is served and not to win the case. It was unethical for him to guarantee the
success of the case and resort to unethical means to win such case for the client. He continued to deny that he asked
complainant to give the prosecutor a bottle of Carlos Primero I and that the filing fees he collected totalled P20,000. Respondent
argued that it is incredulous that the total sum of all the fees that he had allegedly collected exceeded P30,000 the amount
being claimed by complainant from the spouses.
In its Report and Recommendation
9
dated September 12, 2008, the IBP-CBD recommended the suspension of respondent from
the practice of law for six months "for negligence within the meaning of Canon 18 and transgression of Rule 18.04 of the Code of
Professional Responsibility," viz:
In the case under consideration, there are certain matters which keep sticking out like a sore thumb rendering them difficult to
escape notice.
One is the filing of a criminal complaint for estafa arising out of a violation of the contract for repair of the Volks Wagon (sic)
car. It is basic that when an act or omission emanates from a contract, oral or written, the consequent result is a breach of the
contract, hence, properly actionable in a civil suit for damages. As correctly pointed out by the Investigating Prosecutor, the
liability of the respondent is purely civil in nature because the complaint arose from a contract of services and the respondent
(spouses Garin) failed to perform their contractual obligation under the contract.
x x x x
Another one is the filing of a civil complaint for specific performance and damages (after the dismissal of the criminal complaint
for estafa) in the Regional Trial Court of Caloocan City where the actual damages claimed is P36,000.00.
It is also basic that the civil complaint for P36,000.00 should have been filed with the MTC [which] has jurisdiction over the
same. One of the "firsts" that a lawyer ascertains in filing an action is the proper forum or court with whom the suit or action
shall be filed. In June 2002 when the civil complaint was filed in court, the jurisdiction of the MTC has already expanded such
that the jurisdictional amount of the RTC is already P400,000.00.
x x x x
Another thing is the various follow-ups made by respondents client as evidenced by the letters marked as Exhibits "D", "E", "F",
"G" and "H" which were all received by complainants secretary, except for Exhibit "H" which was received by Atty. Asong, not to
mention Exhibit "M" which was sent by "Atty. Aga". These efforts of the complainant were not reciprocated by the respondent
with good faith. Respondent chose to ignore them and reasoned out that he is willing to meet with the complainant and return
the money and documents received by reason of the legal engagement, but omitted to communicate with him for the purpose of
fixing the time and place for the meeting. This failure suggests a clear disregard of the clients demand which was done in bad
faith on the part of respondent.
10

On December 11, 2008, the IBP Board of Governors issued Resolution No. XVIII-2008-646, adopting and approving the
recommendation of the IBP-CBD. The Resolution
11
reads:
RESOLVED to ADOPT and APPROVE, as it is hereby ADOPTED and APPROVED the Report and Recommendation of the
Investigating Commissioner of the above-entitled case, herein made part of this Resolution as Annex "A"; and, finding the
recommendation fully supported by the evidence on record and the applicable laws and rules, and considering Respondents
violation of Canon 18 and Rule 18.04 of the Code of Professional Responsibility for his negligence, Atty. Quintin P. Alcid, Jr. is
hereby SUSPENDED from the practice of law for six (6) months.
On April 24, 2009, respondent sought reconsideration
12
and asked that the penalty of suspension be reduced to warning or
reprimand. After three days, or on April 27, 2009, respondent filed a "Motion to Admit Amended Motion for Reconsideration
Upon Leave of Office."
13
Respondent asserted that the failure to inform complainant of the status of the cases should not be
attributed to him alone. He stressed that complainant had always been informed that he only had time to meet with his clients
in the afternoon at his office in Quezon City. Despite such notice, complainant kept going to his office in Tandang Sora. He
admitted that though he committed lapses which would amount to negligence in violation of Canon 18 and Rule 18.04, they
were done unknowingly and without malice or bad faith. He also stressed that this was his first infraction.
In its Resolution No. XIX-2011-473 dated June 26, 2011, the IBP Board of Governors denied respondents Motion for
Reconsideration for lack of merit.
14
On August 15, 2011, respondent filed a second Motion for Reconsideration
15
which was no
longer acted upon due to the transmittal of the records of the case to this Court by the IBP on August 16, 2011.
16

On September 14, 2011, the Court issued a Resolution
17
and noted the aforementioned Notices of Resolution dated December
11, 2008 and June 26, 2011. On December 14, 2011, it issued another Resolution
18
noting the Indorsement dated August 16,
2011 of Director Alicia A. Risos-Vidal and respondents second Motion for Reconsideration dated August 15, 2011.
We sustain the findings of the IBP that respondent committed professional negligence under Canon 18 and Rule 18.04 of the
Code of Professional Responsibility, with a modification that we also find respondent guilty of violating Canon 17 and Rule
18.03 of the Code and the Lawyers Oath.
A lawyer may be disbarred or suspended for any violation of his oath, a patent disregard of his duties, or an odious deportment
unbecoming an attorney. A lawyer must at no time be wanting in probity and moral fiber which are not only conditions
precedent to his entrance to the Bar but are likewise essential demands for his continued membership therein.
19

The Complaint before the IBP-CBD charged respondent with violation of his oath and the following provisions under the Code of
Professional Responsibility:
a)
Canon 15 A lawyer shall observe candor, fairness and loyalty in all his dealings and transactions with his client;
b)
Rule 15.[06, Canon 15 A lawyer shall not state or imply that he is able to influence any public official, tribunal or legislative
body;
c)
Rule 16.01[, Canon 16 A lawyer shall account for all money or property collected or received for or from his client;
d)
Canon 17 A lawyer owes fidelity to the cause of his client and he shall be mindful of the trust and confidence reposed in him;
e)
Canon 18 A lawyer shall serve his client with competence and diligence;
f)
Rule 18.03[, Canon 18 A lawyer shall not neglect a legal matter entrusted to him and his negligence in connection therewith
shall render him liable; and
g)
Rule 18.04[, Canon 18 A lawyer shall keep his client informed of the status of his case and shall respond within a reasonable
time to the clients request for information.
20

A review of the proceedings and the evidence in the case at bar shows that respondent violated Canon 18 and Rules 18.03 and
18.04 of the Code of Professional Responsibility. Complainant correctly alleged that respondent violated his oath under Canon
18 to "serve his client with competence and diligence" when respondent filed a criminal case for estafa when the facts of the
case would have warranted the filing of a civil case for breach of contract. To be sure, after the complaint for estafa was
dismissed, respondent committed another similar blunder by filing a civil case for specific performance and damages before the
RTC. The complaint, having an alternative prayer for the payment of damages, should have been filed with the Municipal Trial
Court which has jurisdiction over complainants claim which amounts to only P36,000. As correctly stated in the Report and
Recommendation of the IBP-CBD:
Batas Pambansa Blg. 129[,] as amended by R.A. No. 7691 which took effect on April 15, 1994[,] vests in the MTCs of Metro
Manila exclusive original jurisdiction of civil cases where the amount of demand does not exceedP200,000.00 exclusive of
interest, damages of whatever kind, attorneys fees, litigation expenses and costs (Sec. 33), and after five (5) years from the
effectivity of the Act, the same shall be adjusted to P400,000.00 (Sec. 34).
21

The errors committed by respondent with respect to the nature of the remedy adopted in the criminal complaint and the forum
selected in the civil complaint were so basic and could have been easily averted had he been more diligent and circumspect in
his role as counsel for complainant. What aggravates respondents offense is the fact that his previous mistake in filing the
estafa case did not motivate him to be more conscientious, diligent and vigilant in handling the case of complainant. The civil
case he subsequently filed for complainant was dismissed due to what later turned out to be a basic jurisdictional error.
That is not all. After the criminal and civil cases were dismissed, respondent was plainly negligent and did not apprise
complainant of the status and progress of both cases he filed for the latter. He paid no attention and showed no importance to
complainants cause despite repeated follow-ups. Clearly, respondent is not only guilty of incompetence in handling the cases.
His lack of professionalism in dealing with complainant is also gross and inexcusable. In what may seem to be a helpless
attempt to solve his predicament, complainant even had to resort to consulting a program in a radio station to recover his
money from respondent, or at the very least, get his attention.
Respondents negligence under Rules 18.03 and 18.04 is also beyond contention. A client pays his lawyer hard-earned money as
professional fees. In return, "[e]very case a lawyer accepts deserves his full attention, skill and competence, regardless of its
importance and whether he accepts it for a fee or for free. Rule 18.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility enjoins a lawyer
not to neglect a legal matter entrusted to him, and his negligence in connection therewith shall render him liable. He must
constantly keep in mind that his actions or omissions or nonfeasance would be binding upon his client. He is expected to be
acquainted with the rudiments of law and legal procedure, and a client who deals with him has the right to expect not just a
good amount of professional learning and competence but also a whole-hearted fealty to the clients cause."
22
Similarly, under
Rule 18.04, a lawyer has the duty to apprise his client of the status and developments of the case and all other information
relevant thereto. He must be consistently mindful of his obligation to respond promptly should there be queries or requests for
information from the client.
In the case at bar, respondent explained that he failed to update complainant of the status of the cases he filed because their
time did not always coincide. The excuse proffered by respondent is too lame and flimsy to be given credit. Respondent himself
admitted that he had notice that complainant had visited his office many times. Yet, despite the efforts exerted and the vigilance
exhibited by complainant, respondent neglected and failed to fulfill his obligation under Rules 18.03 and 18.04 to keep his client
informed of the status of his case and to respond within a reasonable time to the clients request for information.
Finally, respondent also violated Canon 17 of the Code which states that "[a] lawyer owes fidelity to the cause of his client and
he shall be mindful of the trust and confidence reposed in him." The legal profession dictates that it is not a mere duty, but an
obligation, of a lawyer to accord the highest degree of fidelity, zeal and fervor in the protection of the clients interest. The most
thorough groundwork and study must be undertaken in order to safeguard the interest of the client. The honor bestowed on his
person to carry the title of a lawyer does not end upon taking the Lawyers Oath and signing the Roll of Attorneys. Rather, such
honor attaches to him for the entire duration of his practice of law and carries with it the consequent responsibility of not only
satisfying the basic requirements but also going the extra mile in the protection of the interests of the client and the pursuit of
justice. Respondent has defied and failed to perform such duty and his omission is tantamount to a desecration of the Lawyers
Oath.
All said, in administrative cases for disbarment or suspension against lawyers, it is the complainant who has the burden to
prove by preponderance of evidence
23
the allegations in the complaint. In the instant case, complainant was only able to prove
respondents violation of Canons 17 and 18, and Rules 18.03 and 18.04 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, and the
Lawyers Oath. Complainant failed to substantiate his claim that respondent violated Canon 15 and Rule 15.06 of the Code of
Professional Responsibility when respondent allegedly instructed him to give a bottle of Carlos Primero I to Asst. City
Prosecutor Fortuno in order to get a favorable decision. Similarly, complainant was not able to present evidence that
respondent indeed violated Rule 16.01 of Canon 16 by allegedly collecting money from him in excess of the required filing fees.
As to respondents proven acts and omissions which violate Canons 17 and 18 and Rules 18.03 and 18.04 of the Code of
Professional Responsibility, and the Lawyers Oath, we find the same to constitute gross misconduct for which he may be
suspended under Section 27, Rule 138 of the Rules of Court, viz:
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 appearing as an attorney for a party
to a case without authority to do so. x x x.
WHEREFORE, the Resolution of the IBP Board of Governors adopting and approving the Decision of the Investigating
Commissioner is hereby AFFIRMED with a MODIFICATION that respondent Atty. Quintin P. Alcid, Jr. is hereby found GUILTY of
gross misconduct for violating Canons 17 and 18, and Rules 18.03 and 18.04 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, as well
as the Lawyers Oath. This Court hereby imposes upon respondent the penalty of SUSPENSION from the practice of law for a
period of SIX (6) MONTHS to commence immediately upon receipt of this Decision. Respondent is further ADMONISHED to be
more circumspect and diligent in handling the cases of his clients, and STERNLY WARNED that a commission of the same or
similar acts in the future shall be dealt with more severely.
Let copies of this Decision be furnished to the Office of the Court Administrator to be disseminated to all courts throughout the
country, to the Office of the Bar Confidant to be appended to Atty. Quintin P. Alcid, Jr.s personal records, and to the Integrated
Bar of the Philippines for its information and guidance.
SO ORDERED.
MARTIN S. VILLARAMA, JR.
Associate Justice