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SECOND DIVISION

[A. C. No. 5305. March 17, 2003]

MARCIANO P. BRION, JR., petitioner, vs. FRANCISCO F. BRILLANTES, JR., respondent.

DECISION
QUISUMBING, J.:

In this petition for disbarment, complainant Marciano Brion, Jr., charges the respondent, Atty.
Francisco Brillantes, Jr., of having willfully violated a lawful order of this Court in A.M. No. MTJ-
92-706, entitled Lupo Almodiel Atienza v. Judge Francisco F. Brillantes, Jr.[1] The decretal portion
of our resolution in Atienza reads:

WHEREFORE, respondent is DISMISSED from the service with forfeiture of all leave and
retirement benefits and with prejudice to reappointment in any branch, instrumentality or agency
of the government, including government-owned and controlled corporations. This decision is
immediately executory.

SO ORDERED.[2]

Respondents dismissal in the aforesaid case was ordered after he was found guilty of Gross
Immorality and Appearance of Impropriety during his incumbency as presiding judge of the
Metropolitan Trial Court, Branch 20, Manila.
Petitioner now avers that respondent violated our decree of perpetual disqualification
imposed upon him from assuming any post in government service, including any posts in
government-owned and controlled corporations, when he accepted a legal consultancy post at
the Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA), from 1998 to 2000. Said consultancy included
an appointment by LWUA as 6th member of the Board of Directors of the Urdaneta (Pangasinan)
Water District. Upon expiration of the legal consultancy agreement, this was subsequently
renewed as a Special Consultancy Agreement.
Petitioner contends that while both consultancy agreements contained a proviso to the effect
that nothing therein should be construed as establishing an employer-employee relationship
between LWUA and respondent, the inclusion of this proviso was only a ploy to circumvent our
order barring respondent from appointment to a government agency. Petitioner points out in
reality, respondent enjoys the same rights and privileges as a regular employee, to wit:[3]
1. Issuance of LWUA properties such as a cellular phone with accessories, as evidenced by
the covering Property Issue Slips with respondent signing as Accountable Employee;[4]
2. Official travel to various places in the country as shown by Reports of Authorized Travel
kept by LWUAs General Services Division[5] and Report of Travel accomplished by respondent
himself;[6]
3. Designation as supervising officer over other LWUA employees as brought to light by
written instructions personally signed by respondent;[7]
4. Attendance in water district conventions and meetings held in various provinces;[8]
5. Membership in several sensitive LWUA committees such as the Prequalification, Bids, and
Awards Committee (PBAC), Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) Committee, among others, with
receipt of corresponding honoraria as borne out by various Disbursement Vouchers;[9]
6. Sitting at meetings of the LWUA Board of Trustees as evidenced by the minutes of such
meetings;[10] and
7. Receipt of Productivity Incentive Bonus in 1999.
Petitioner submits that all of the foregoing constitute deceitful conduct, gross misconduct,
and willful disobedience to a decree of this Court, and show that respondent is unfit to be a
member of the Bar.
In his comment,[11] respondent admits the existence of the Legal Consultancy Contract as
well as the Special Consultancy Contract. However, he raises the affirmative defense that under
Civil Service Commission (CSC) Memorandum Circular No. 27, Series of 1993, services rendered
pursuant to a consultancy contract shall not be considered government services, and therefore,
are not covered by Civil Service Law, rules and regulations.
Further, says respondent, according to the same Memorandum Circular issued by the
Commission, consultancy contracts do not have to be submitted to the Commission for
approval.With respect to his designation as the 6th Member of the Board of Directors of the
Urdaneta Water District, respondent reasons out that the same is not a reappointment, which is
prohibited by our ruling in Atienza, as said designation is not an organic appointment to a LWUA
plantilla position. Hence, according to respondent, the CSC need not pass approval upon his
temporary designation.
Respondent also argues that all the members of the Urdaneta Water District Board,
especially the 6th Member, who comes from the LWUA, assumed such functions merely by virtue
of a designation and only in addition to their regular duties. In any event, says respondent, his
designation as 6th Member was revoked in April 2000 and the Special Consultancy Contract was
pre-terminated on April 30, 2000. It has never been renewed since then. With respect to his use
of LWUA properties, respondent admits receiving the cellular phone unit but insists that he merely
borrowed it from one Solomon Badoy, a former LWUA Board of Trustees Member.
In our Resolution of February 19, 2001, we referred this case to the Integrated Bar of the
Philippines (IBP) for investigation, report and recommendation. The IBP Commission on Bar
Discipline found that respondent willfully violated a lawful order of this Court and recommended
that respondent be suspended from the practice of law for one (1) year and fined ten thousand
(P10,000) pesos.
There is no question that the LWUA is a government-owned and controlled corporation,
created by virtue of Presidential Decree No. 198.[12] As such, our ruling in the Atienza case, A.M.
No. MTJ-92-706, which categorically prohibits respondents appointment to any position in any
government-owned and controlled corporation, clearly encompasses and extends to LWUA
positions.
In the instant case the respondent does not deny the petitioners allegations.[13] Instead, he
offers the existence of Memorandum Circular No. 27, Series of 1993 (MC No. 27, s. 1993) to
exculpate himself from the charge against him. However, it does not escape our attention that the
very Memorandum Circular that respondent cites before this Court provides that the duties
enumerated in the consultancy contract are mainly advisory in nature.[14]
Without belaboring the definition of advisory,[15] it appears obvious to us that the tasks and
duties that respondent performed pursuant to the consultancy contract cannot, by any stretch of
imagination, be deemed merely advisory in nature.
An adviser does not exercise supervisory powers over LWUA employees nor does he issue
written instructions to them. An adviser is not entitled to a seat in such vital LWUA committees
like PBAC and the BOT Committee. Also, respondents continuous receipt of honoraria for sitting
as a member of certain LWUA Committees, particularly the BOT Committee, belies his claim that
he is a mere consultant for the LWUA. The evidence on record clearly shows that the LWUA
Office Order implementing National Compensation Circular No. 75-95[16]refers to payments of
honoraria to officials/employees in consideration of services rendered.
Most telling, in our view, is respondents acceptance of his 1998 Productivity Incentive Bonus
(PIB). The Board of Trustees Resolution No. 26, Series of 1999, of the LWUA,[17] which governed
the release of the PIB, limited the entitlement to said bonus only to officials and employees
(permanent, temporary, casual, or contractual) of LWUA.
In sum, we find that for all intents and purposes, respondent performed duties and functions
of a non-advisory nature, which pertain to a contractual employee of LWUA. As stated
bypetitioner in his reply, [18] there is a difference between a consultant hired on a contractual
basis (which is governed by CSC M.C. No. 27, s. 1993) and a contractual employee (whose
appointment is governed, among others, by the CSC Omnibus Rules on Appointment and other
Personnel Actions). By performing duties and functions, which clearly pertain to a contractual
employee, albeit in the guise of an advisor or consultant, respondent has transgressed both letter
and spirit of this Courts decree in Atienza.
The lawyers primary duty as enunciated in the Attorneys Oath is to uphold the Constitution,
obey the laws of the land, and promote respect for law and legal processes.[19] That duty in its
irreducible minimum entails obedience to the legal orders of the courts. Respondents
disobedience to this Courts order prohibiting his reappointment to any branch, instrumentality, or
agency of government, including government owned and controlled corporations, cannot be
camouflaged by a legal consultancy or a special consultancy contract. By performing duties and
functions of a contractual employee of LWUA, by way of a consultancy, and receiving
compensation and perquisites as such, he displayed acts of open defiance of the Courts
authority, and a deliberate rejection of his oath as an officer of the court. It is also destructive of
the harmonious relations that should prevail between Bench and Bar, a harmony necessary for
the proper administration of justice. Such defiance not only erodes respect for the Court but also
corrodes public confidence in the rule of law.
What aggravates respondents offense is the fact that respondent is no ordinary
lawyer. Having served in the judiciary for eight (8) years, he is very well aware of the standards
of moral fitness for membership in the legal profession. His propensity to try to get away with an
indiscretion becomes apparent and inexcusable when he entered into a legal consultancy contract
with the LWUA. Perhaps realizing its own mistake, LWUA terminated said contract with
respondent, but then proceeded to give him a special consultancy. This travesty could not be long
hidden from public awareness, hence the instant complaint for disbarment filed by
petitioner. Given the factual circumstances found by Commission on Bar Discipline, we have no
hesitance in accepting the recommendation of the Board of Governors, Integrated Bar of the
Philippines, that respondent be fined and suspended from the practice of law. The Code of
Professional Responsibility, Rule 1.01, provides that a lawyer shall not engage in unlawful,
dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct. For violating the Code as well as transgressing his oath
as an officer of the court, his suspension for one (1) year and a fine of ten thousand (P10,000)
pesos are in order.
WHEREFORE, respondent Atty. Francisco Brillantes, Jr., is found liable for having
willfully violated a lawful order of this Court in our decision of March 29, 1995 rendered in
A.M. No. MTJ-92-706, entitled Lupo Almodiel Atienza vs. Judge Francisco F. Brillantes, Jr. He is
hereby SUSPENDED from the practice of law for one (1) year and ordered to pay a FINE of Ten
Thousand (P10,000.00) Pesos, with a STERN WARNING that a repetition of the same or similar
conduct shall be dealt with more severely. Let a copy of this Decision be furnished to the Bar
Confidant and the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and spread on the personal records of
respondent as well as circulated to all courts in the Philippines. This decision is immediately
executory.
SO ORDERED.
Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila

EN BANC

A.M. No. 1625 February 12, 1990

ANGEL L. BAUTISTA, complainant,


vs.
ATTY. RAMON A. GONZALES, respondent.

RESOLUTION

PER CURIAM:

In a verified complaint filed by Angel L. Bautista on May 19, 1976, respondent Ramon A.
Gonzales was charged with malpractice, deceit, gross misconduct and violation of lawyer's oath.
Required by this Court to answer the charges against him, respondent filed on June 19, 1976 a
motion for a bill of particulars asking this Court to order complainant to amend his complaint by
making his charges more definite. In a resolution dated June 28, 1976, the Court granted
respondent's motion and required complainant to file an amended complaint. On July 15, 1976,
complainant submitted an amended complaint for disbarment, alleging that respondent
committed the following acts:

1. Accepting a case wherein he agreed with his clients, namely,


Alfaro Fortunado, Nestor Fortunado and Editha Fortunado
[hereinafter referred to as the Fortunados] to pay all expenses,
including court fees, for a contingent fee of fifty percent (50%) of
the value of the property in litigation.

2. Acting as counsel for the Fortunados in Civil Case No. Q-


15143, wherein Eusebio Lopez, Jr. is one of the defendants and,
without said case being terminated, acting as counsel for Eusebio
Lopez, Jr. in Civil Case No. Q-15490;

3. Transferring to himself one-half of the properties of the


Fortunados, which properties are the subject of the litigation in
Civil Case No. Q-15143, while the case was still pending;

4. Inducing complainant, who was his former client, to enter into a


contract with him on August 30, 1971 for the development into a
residential subdivision of the land involved in Civil Case No. Q-
15143, covered by TCT No. T-1929, claiming that he acquired fifty
percent (50%) interest thereof as attorney's fees from the
Fortunados, while knowing fully well that the said property was
already sold at a public auction on June 30, 1971, by the
Provincial Sheriff of Lanao del Norte and registered with the
Register of Deeds of Iligan City;

5. Submitting to the Court of First Instance of Quezon City falsified


documents purporting to be true copies of "Addendum to the Land
Development Agreement dated August 30, 1971" and submitting
the same document to the Fiscal's Office of Quezon City, in
connection with the complaint for estafa filed by respondent
against complainant designated as I.S. No. 7512936;

6. Committing acts of treachery and disloyalty to complainant who


was his client;

7. Harassing the complainant by filing several complaints without


legal basis before the Court of First Instance and the Fiscal's
Office of Quezon City;

8. Deliberately misleading the Court of First Instance and the


Fiscal's Office by making false assertion of facts in his pleadings;

9. Filing petitions "cleverly prepared (so) that while he does not


intentionally tell a he, he does not tell the truth either."

Respondent filed an answer on September 29, 1976 and an amended answer on November 18,
1976, denying the accusations against him. Complainant filed a reply to respondent's answer on
December 29, 1976 and on March 24, 1977 respondent filed a rejoinder.

In a resolution dated March 16, 1983, the Court referred the case to the Office of the Solicitor
General for investigation, report and recommendation. In the investigation conducted by the
Solicitor General, complainant presented himself as a witness and submitted Exhibits "A" to
"PP", while respondent appeared both as witness and counsel and submitted Exhibits "1" to
"11". The parties were required to submit their respective memoranda.

On May 16, 1988 respondent filed a motion to dismiss the complaint against him, claiming that
the long delay in the resolution of the complaint against him constitutes a violation of his
constitutional right to due process and speedy disposition of cases. Upon order of the Court, the
Solicitor General filed a comment to the motion to dismiss on August 8, 1988, explaining that
the delay in the investigation of the case was due to the numerous requests for postponement
of scheduled hearings filed by both parties and the motions for extension of time to file their
respective memoranda." [Comment of the Solicitor General, p. 2; Record, p. 365]. Respondent
filed a reply to the Solicitor General's comment on October 26, 1988. In a resolution dated
January 16, 1989 the Court required the Solicitor General to submit his report and
recommendation within thirty (30) days from notice.

On April 11, 1989, the Solicitor General submitted his report with the recommendation that Atty.
Ramon A. Gonzales be suspended for six (6) months. The Solicitor General found that
respondent committed the following acts of misconduct:
a. transferring to himself one-half of the properties of his clients during the
pendency of the case where the properties were involved;

b. concealing from complainant the fact that the property subject of their land
development agreement had already been sold at a public auction prior to the
execution of said agreement; and

c. misleading the court by submitting alleged true copies of a document where


two signatories who had not signed the original (or even the xerox copy) were
made to appear as having fixed their signatures [Report and Recommendation of
the Solicitor General, pp. 17-18; Rollo, pp. 403-404].

Respondent then filed on April 14, 1989 a motion to refer the case to the Integrated Bar of the
Philippines (IBP) for investigation and disposition pursuant to Rule 139-B of the Revised Rules
of Court. Respondent manifested that he intends to submit more evidence before the IBP.
Finally, on November 27, 1989, respondent filed a supplemental motion to refer this case to the
IBP, containing additional arguments to bolster his contentions in his previous pleadings.

I.

Preliminarily, the Court will dispose of the procedural issue raised by respondent. It is
respondent's contention that the preliminary investigation conducted by the Solicitor General
was limited to the determination of whether or not there is sufficient ground to proceed with the
case and that under Rule 139 the Solicitor General still has to file an administrative complaint
against him. Respondent claims that the case should be referred to the IBP since Section 20 of
Rule 139-B provides that:

This Rule shall take effect on June 1, 1988 and shall supersede the present Rule
139 entitled DISBARMENT OR SUSPENSION OF ATTORNEYS. All cases
pending investigation by the Office of the Solicitor General shall be transferred to
the Integrated Bar of the Philippines Board of Governors for investigation and
disposition as provided in this Rule except those cases where the investigation
has been substantially completed.

The above contention of respondent is untenable. In the first place, contrary to respondent's
claim, reference to the IBP of complaints against lawyers is not mandatory upon the Court
[Zaldivar v. Sandiganbayan, G.R. Nos. 79690-707; Zaldivar v. Gonzales, G.R. No. 80578,
October 7, 1988]. Reference of complaints to the IBP is not an exclusive procedure under the
terms of Rule 139-B of the Revised Rules of Court [Ibid]. Under Sections 13 and 14 of Rule 139-
B, the Supreme Court may conduct disciplinary proceedings without the intervention of the IBP
by referring cases for investigation to the Solicitor General or to any officer of the Supreme
Court or judge of a lower court. In such a case, the report and recommendation of the
investigating official shall be reviewed directly by the Supreme Court. The Court shall base its
final action on the case on the report and recommendation submitted by the investigating official
and the evidence presented by the parties during the investigation.

Secondly, there is no need to refer the case to the IBP since at the time of the effectivity of Rule
139-B [June 1, 1988] the investigation conducted by the Office of the Solicitor General had been
substantially completed. Section 20 of Rule 139-B provides that only pending cases, the
investigation of which has not been substantially completed by the Office of the Solicitor
General, shall be transferred to the IBP. In this case the investigation by the Solicitor General
was terminated even before the effectivity of Rule 139-B. Respondent himself admitted in his
motion to dismiss that the Solicitor General terminated the investigation on November 26, 1986,
the date when respondent submitted his reply memorandum [Motion to Dismiss, p. 1; Record, p.
353].

Thirdly, there is no need for further investigation since the Office of the Solicitor General already
made a thorough and comprehensive investigation of the case. To refer the case to the IBP, as
prayed for by the respondent, will result not only in duplication of the proceedings conducted by
the Solicitor General but also to further delay in the disposition of the present case which has
lasted for more than thirteen (13) years.

Respondent's assertion that he still has some evidence to present does not warrant the referral
of the case to the IBP. Considering that in the investigation conducted by the Solicitor General
respondent was given ample opportunity to present evidence, his failure to adduce additional
evidence is entirely his own fault. There was therefore no denial of procedural due process. The
record shows that respondent appeared as witness for himself and presented no less than
eleven (11) documents to support his contentions. He was also allowed to cross-examine the
complainant who appeared as a witness against him.

II.

The Court will now address the substantive issue of whether or not respondent committed the
acts of misconduct alleged by complainant Bautista.

After a careful review of the record of the case and the report and recommendation of the
Solicitor General, the Court finds that respondent committed acts of misconduct which warrant
the exercise by this Court of its disciplinary power.

The record shows that respondent prepared a document entitled "Transfer of Rights" which was
signed by the Fortunados on August 31, 1971. The document assigned to respondent one-half
(1/2) of the properties of the Fortunados covered by TCT No. T-1929, with an area of 239.650
sq. mm., and TCT No. T-3041, with an area of 72.907 sq. m., for and in consideration of his
legal services to the latter. At the time the document was executed, respondent knew that the
abovementioned properties were the subject of a civil case [Civil Case No. Q-15143] pending
before the Court of First Instance of Quezon City since he was acting as counsel for the
Fortunados in said case [See Annex "B" of Original Complaint, p. 12; Rollo, p. 16]. In executing
the document transferring one-half (1/2) of the subject properties to himself, respondent violated
the law expressly prohibiting a lawyer from acquiring his client's property or interest involved in
any litigation in which he may take part by virtue of his profession [Article 1491, New Civil
Code]. This Court has held that the purchase by a lawyer of his client's property or interest in
litigation is a breach of professional ethics and constitutes malpractice [Hernandez v.
Villanueva, 40 Phil. 774 (1920); Go Beltran v. Fernandez, 70 Phil. 248 (1940)].

However, respondent notes that Canon 10 of the old Canons of Professional Ethics, which
states that "[t]he lawyer should not purchase any interests in the subject matter of the litigation
which he is conducting," does not appear anymore in the new Code of Professional
Responsibility. He therefore concludes that while a purchase by a lawyer of property in litigation
is void under Art. 1491 of the Civil Code, such purchase is no longer a ground for disciplinary
action under the new Code of Professional Responsibility.
This contention is without merit. The very first Canon of the new Code states that "a lawyer shall
uphold the Constitution, obey the laws of the land and promote respect for law and legal
process" (Emphasis supplied), Moreover, Rule 138, Sec. 3 of the Revised Rules of Court
requires every lawyer to take an oath to 44 obey the laws [of the Republic of the Philippines] as
well as the legal orders of the duly constituted authorities therein." And for any violation of this
oath, a lawyer may be suspended or disbarred by the Supreme Court [Rule 138, Sec. 27,
Revised Rules of Court]. All of these underscore the role of the lawyer as the vanguard of our
legal system. The transgression of any provision of law by a lawyer is a repulsive and
reprehensible act which the Court will not countenance. In the instant case, respondent, having
violated Art. 1491 of the Civil Code, must be held accountable both to his client and to society.

Parenthetically, it should be noted that the persons mentioned in Art. 1491 of the Civil Code are
prohibited from purchasing the property mentioned therein because of their existing trust
relationship with the latter. A lawyer is disqualified from acquiring by purchase the property and
rights in litigation because of his fiduciary relationship with such property and rights, as well as
with the client. And it cannot be claimed that the new Code of Professional Responsibility has
failed to emphasize the nature and consequences of such relationship. Canon 17 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." On the other hand, Canon 16 provides that "a lawyer shall hold in trust all
moneys and properties of his client that may come into his possession." Hence, notwithstanding
the absence of a specific provision on the matter in the new Code, the Court, considering the
abovequoted provisions of the new Code in relation to Art. 1491 of the Civil Code, as well as the
prevailing jurisprudence, holds that the purchase by a lawyer of his client's property in litigation
constitutes a breach of professional ethics for which a disciplinary action may be brought
against him.

Respondent's next contention that the transfer of the properties was not really implemented,
because the land development agreement on which the transfer depended was later rescinded,
is untenable. Nowhere is it provided in the Transfer of Rights that the assignment of the
properties of the Fortunados to respondent was subject to the implementation of the land
development agreement. The last paragraph of the Transfer of Rights provides that:

... for and in consideration of the legal services of ATTY. RAMON A.


GONZALES, Filipino, married to Lilia Yusay, and a resident of 23 Sunrise Hill,
New Manila, Quezon City, rendered to our entire satisfaction, we hereby, by
these presents, do transfer and convey to the said ATTY. RAMON A.
GONZALES, his heirs, successor, and assigns, one-half (1/2) of our rights and
interests in the abovedescribed property, together with all the improvements
found therein [Annex D of the Complaint, Record, p. 28; Emphasis supplied].

It is clear from the foregoing that the parties intended the transfer of the properties to
respondent to be absolute and unconditional, and irrespective of whether or not the land
development agreement was implemented.

Another misconduct committed by respondent was his failure to disclose to complainant, at the
time the land development agreement was entered into, that the land covered by TCT No. T-
1929 had already been sold at a public auction. The land development agreement was
executed on August 31, 1977 while the public auction was held on June 30, 1971.
Respondent denies that complainant was his former client, claiming that his appearance for the
complainant in an anti-graft case filed by the latter against a certain Gilbert Teodoro was upon
the request of complainant and was understood to be only provisional. Respondent claims that
since complainant was not his client, he had no duty to warn complainant of the fact that the
land involved in their land development agreement had been sold at a public auction. Moreover,
the sale was duly annotated at the back of TCT No. T-1929 and this, respondent argues, serves
as constructive notice to complainant so that there was no concealment on his part.

The above contentions are unmeritorious. Even assuming that the certificate of sale was
annotated at the back of TCT No. T-1929, the fact remains that respondent failed to inform the
complainant of the sale of the land to Samauna during the negotiations for the land
development agreement. In so doing, respondent failed to live up to the rigorous standards of
ethics of the law profession which place a premium on honesty and condemn duplicitous
conduct. The fact that complainant was not a former client of respondent does not exempt
respondent from his duty to inform complainant of an important fact pertaining to the land which
is subject of their negotiation. Since he was a party to the land development agreement,
respondent should have warned the complainant of the sale of the land at a public auction so
that the latter could make a proper assessment of the viability of the project they were jointly
undertaking. This Court has held that a lawyer should observe honesty and fairness even in his
private dealings and failure to do so is a ground for disciplinary action against him [Custodio v.
Esto, Adm. Case No. 1113, February 22, 1978, 81 SCRA 517].

Complainant also charges respondent with submitting to the court falsified documents
purporting to be true copies of an addendum to the land development agreement.

Based on evidence submitted by the parties, the Solicitor General found that in the document
filed by respondent with the Court of First Instance of Quezon City, the signatories to the
addendum to the land development agreement namely, Ramon A. Gonzales, Alfaro T.
Fortunado, Editha T. Fortunado, Nestor T. Fortunado, and Angel L. Bautistawere made to
appear as having signed the original document on December 9, 1972, as indicated by the letters
(SGD.) before each of their names. However, it was only respondent Alfaro Fortunado and
complainant who signed the original and duplicate original (Exh. 2) and the two other parties,
Edith Fortunado and Nestor Fortunado, never did. Even respondent himself admitted that Edith
and Nestor Fortunado only signed the xerox copy (Exh. 2-A) after respondent wrote them on
May 24, 1973, asking them to sign the said xerox copy attached to the letter and to send it back
to him after signing [Rejoinder to Complainant's Reply, pp. 4-6; Rollo, pp. 327-329]. Moreover,
respondent acknowledged that Edith and Nestor Fortunado had merely agreed by phone to
sign, but had not actually signed, the alleged true copy of the addendum as of May 23, 1973
[Respondent's Supplemental Motion to Refer this Case to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines,
p. 16]. Thus, when respondent submitted the alleged true copy of the addendum on May 23,
1973 as Annex "A" of his Manifestation filed with the Court of First Instance of Quezon City, he
knowingly misled the Court into believing that the original addendum was signed by Edith
Fortunado and Nestor Fortunado. Such conduct constitutes willful disregard of his solemn duty
as a lawyer to act at all times in a manner consistent with the truth. A lawyer should never seek
to mislead the court by an artifice or false statement of fact or law [Section 20 (d), Rule 138,
Revised Rules of Court; Canon 22, Canons of Professional Ethics; Canon 10, Rule 10.01, Code
of Professional Responsibility].

Anent the first charge of complainant, the Solicitor General found that no impropriety was
committed by respondent in entering into a contingent fee contract with the Fortunados [Report
and Recommendation, p. 8; Record, p. 394]. The Court, however, finds that the agreement
between the respondent and the Fortunados, which provides in part that:

We the [Fortunados] agree on the 50% contingent fee, provided, you [respondent
Ramon Gonzales] defray all expenses, for the suit, including court fees.

Alfaro T. Fortunado [signed]


Editha T. Fortunado [signed]
Nestor T. Fortunado [signed

CONFORME

Ramon A. Gonzales [signed]

[Annex A to the Complaint, Record, p. 4].

is contrary to Canon 42 of the Canons of Professional Ethics which provides that a lawyer may
not properly agree with a client to pay or bear the expenses of litigation. [See also Rule 16.04,
Code of Professional Responsibility]. Although a lawyer may in good faith, advance the
expenses of litigation, the same should be subject to reimbursement. The agreement between
respondent and the Fortunados, however, does not provide for reimbursement to respondent of
litigation expenses paid by him. An agreement whereby an attorney agrees to pay expenses of
proceedings to enforce the client's rights is champertous [JBP Holding Corp. v. U.S. 166 F.
Supp. 324 (1958)]. Such agreements are against public policy especially where, as in this case,
the attorney has agreed to carry on the action at his own expense in consideration of some
bargain to have part of the thing in dispute [See Sampliner v. Motion Pictures Patents Co., et al.,
255 F. 242 (1918)]. The execution of these contracts violates the fiduciary relationship between
the lawyer and his client, for which the former must incur administrative sanctions.

The Solicitor General next concludes that respondent cannot be held liable for acting as counsel
for Eusebio Lopez, Jr. in Civil Case No. Q-15490 while acting as counsel for the Fortunados
against the same Eusebio Lopez, Jr. in Civil Case No. Q-15143. The Court, after considering
the record, agrees with the Solicitor General's findings on the matter. The evidence presented
by respondent shows that his acceptance of Civil Case No. Q-15490 was with the knowledge
and consent of the Fortunados. The affidavit executed by the Fortunados on June 23, 1976
clearly states that they gave their consent when respondent accepted the case of Eusebio
Lopez, Jr. [Affidavit of Fortunados, dated June 23, 1976; Rollo, p. 198]. One of the recognized
exceptions to the rule against representation of conflicting interests is where the clients
knowingly consent to the dual representation after full disclosure of the facts by counsel [Canon
6, Canons of Professional Ethics; Canon 15, Rule 15.03, Code of Professional Responsibility].

Complainant also claims that respondent filed several complaints against him before the Court
of First Instance and the Fiscal's Office of Quezon City for the sole purpose of harassing him.

The record shows that at the time of the Solicitor General's investigation of this case, Civil Case
No. Q-18060 was still pending before the Court of First Instance of Quezon City, while the
complaints for libel (I.S. No. 76-5912) and perjury (I.S. No. 5913) were already dismissed by the
City Fiscal for insufficiency of evidence and lack of interest, respectively [Report and
Recommendation, pp. 16-17; Rollo, pp. 402-403]. The Solicitor General found no basis for
holding that the complaints for libel and perjury were used by respondent to harass complainant.
As to Civil Case No. Q-18060, considering that it was still pending resolution, the Solicitor
General made no finding on complainants claim that it was a mere ploy by respondent to harass
him. The determination of the validity of the complaint in Civil Case No. Q-18060 was left to the
Court of First Instance of Quezon City where the case was pending resolution.

The Court agrees with the above findings of the Solicitor General, and accordingly holds that
there is no basis for holding that the respondent's sole purpose in filing the aforementioned
cases was to harass complainant.

Grounds 6, 8 and 9 alleged in the complaint need not be discussed separately since the above
discussion on the other grounds sufficiently cover these remaining grounds.

The Court finds clearly established in this case that on four counts the respondent violated the
law and the rules governing the conduct of a member of the legal profession. Sworn to assist in
the administration of justice and to uphold the rule of law, he has "miserably failed to live up to
the standards expected of a member of the Bar." [Artiaga v. Villanueva, Adm. Matter No. 1892,
July 29, 1988, 163 SCRA 638, 647]. The Court agrees with the Solicitor General that,
considering the nature of the offenses committed by respondent and the facts and
circumstances of the case, respondent lawyer should be suspended from the practice of law for
a period of six (6) months.

WHEREFORE, finding that respondent Attorney Ramon A. Gonzales committed serious


misconduct, the Court Resolved to SUSPEND respondent from the practice of law for SIX (6)
months effective from the date of his receipt of this Resolution. Let copies of this Resolution be
circulated to all courts of the country for their information and guidance, and spread in the
personal record of Atty. Gonzales.

SO ORDERED.
EN BANC

CARMELITA I. ZAGUIRRE, A.C. No. 4921


Complainant,
Present:

DAVIDE, JR., C.J.,


PUNO,
PANGANIBAN,
QUISUMBING,
YNARES-SANTIAGO,
SANDOVAL-GUTIERREZ,
- versus - CARPIO,
AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ,
CORONA,
CARPIO-MORALES,
CALLEJO, SR.,
AZCUNA,
TINGA,
CHICO-NAZARIO, and
GARCIA, JJ.

Promulgated:
ATTY. ALFREDO CASTILLO,
Respondent. August 3, 2005

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

RESOLUTION

PER CURIAM:

In the Decision dated March 6, 2003, the Court found respondent Atty. Alfredo Castillo
guilty of Gross Immoral Conduct and imposed upon him the penalty of Indefinite
Suspension.[1] Respondent, who was already married with three children, had an affair with
complainant between 1996 to 1997, while he was reviewing for the bar until before the release of
the results thereof. Complainant got pregnant and respondent, who was then already a lawyer,
executed a notarized affidavit acknowledging the child as his with a promise to support said child.
Upon the birth of the child, however, respondent started to refuse recognizing the child and from
giving her any form of support.

On April 11, 2003, respondent filed a motion for reconsideration seeking compassion and
forgiveness from this Court. He submitted certificates from government and civic organizations
appreciating his services as a lawyer, certificates of attendance from religious groups, and
certificates of good moral character from judges and lawyers in Occidental Mindoro.[2]

On July 8, 2003, the Court required complainant and the IBP to file comment thereon.[3]
On August 11, 2003, the IBP Occidental Mindoro Chapter issued a Resolution (No. 01-
2003) recommending the exoneration of respondent from administrative liability. It stated that the
suspension of respondent, who has served as Clerk of Court, Public Attorney and 3rd Assistant
Provincial Prosecutor, would cause a great loss to the community; that respondent has shown
integrity and moral uprightness in the performance of his official functions; that the acts imputed
to him may be attributed to his youthful indiscretion period; and that respondent has mended his
ways after taking his oath as member of the bar.[4]

The IBP, through Director for Bar Discipline, Rogelio Vinluan, gave its Comment dated
August 15, 2003, stating that the motion for reconsideration should be denied until respondent
admits the paternity of the child and agrees to support her.[5]

On August 17, 2003, complainant submitted her Comment stating that respondents motion
for reconsideration should be denied since respondent has not truly repented as he is still not
supporting his child.[6]
On August 25, 2003, respondents wife, Livelyn Castillo, submitted a handwritten letter
stating that respondent is loving and maasikaso and while it is true that respondent had an affair
with complainant, such was only
because of human frailty. She claims that complainant threatened to file the present case after
respondent ended their illicit affair. Complainant also used threat to compel respondent to sign
the affidavit of acknowledgement and support. Livelyn further avers that respondent is the sole
breadwinner of the family and that their family will be gravely affected by his suspension.[7]

On August 28, 2003, respondent filed a Reply to the Comment of the IBP stating that if
the acts acknowledging and giving support to the child of the complainant are the proofs of his
remorse, then he shall comply unconditionally.[8]

On September 23, 2003, the Court required complainant to file comment on Livelyns
[9]
letter.

On January 13, 2004, complainants counsel said that while he sympathizes with Livelyn
and her children, respondent has not taken any move to support complainant and her child to
repair the damage done to them.[10]

On March 3, 2005, respondent, in his Reply to complainants Comment, reiterated his


willingness to support the child if only to show his
remorse. He attached a photocopy of post dated checks addressed to complainant for the months
of March to December 2005 in the amount of P2,000.00 each.[11]

On March 4, 2005, Livelyn Castillo, sent another handwritten letter expressing that it is
unfair for her and her three children that respondent had to support complainants daughter when
it is not clear who the childs father is. Livelyn argues that complainant should have filed a case
for support where the paternity of the child could be determined and not use the present
administrative case to get support from respondent.[12]

On April 11, 2005, Atty. Luzviminda Puno sent a letter to the Office of the Provincial
Prosecutor of Occidental Mindoro, asking whether or not respondent is still connected with said
office despite having been indefinitely suspended by this Court. It replied on May 10, 2005 that
respondent is still connected with their office; that he has been regularly receiving his salary and
benefits; and that this was the first time that they received communication concerning respondents
administrative case.[13]
Respondent gave his Comment dated May 9, 2005 stating that he continued to discharge
his duties and received salary and benefits in connection therewith since he filed a timely motion
for reconsideration thus the case has not yet attained finality.[14]

In view of respondents show of repentance and active service to the community, the Court
deems it just and reasonable to convert the penalty of indefinite suspension to a definite period
of two years suspension.

WHEREFORE, respondents motion for reconsideration is GRANTED. The indefinite


suspension imposed on him by the Court in its Decision dated March 6, 2003
isREDUCED to TWO YEARS suspension effective from date of receipt of herein Resolution.

Complainants further claim for support of her child should be addressed to the proper court
in a proper case.

Let a copy of this Resolution be attached to Atty. Castillos record in the Office of the Bar
Confidant and a copy thereof be furnished the IBP, all courts throughout the country and the
Department of Justice including the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor of Occidental Mindoro.

SO ORDERED.
Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila

EN BANC

A.M. No. 3249 November 29, 1989

SALVACION DELIZO CORDOVA, complainant,


vs.
ATTY. LAURENCE D. CORDOVA, respondent.

RESOLUTION

PER CURIAM:

In an unsworn letter-complaint dated 14 April 1988 addressed to then Mr. Chief Justice Claudio
Teehankee, complainant Salvacion Delizo charged her husband, Atty. Laurence D. Cordova,
with immorality and acts unbecoming a member of the Bar. The letter-complaint was forwarded
by the Court to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, Commission on Bar Discipline
("Commission"), for investigation, report and recommendation.

The Commission, before acting on the complaint, required complainant to submit a verified
complaint within ten (10) days from notice. Complainant complied and submitted to the
Commission on 27 September 1988 a revised and verified version of her long and detailed
complaint against her husband charging him with immorality and acts unbecoming a member of
the Bar.

In an Order of the Commission dated 1 December 1988, respondent was declared in default for
failure to file an answer to the complaint within fifteen (15) days from notice. The same Order
required complainant to submit before the Commission her evidence ex parte, on 16 December
1988. Upon the telegraphic request of complainant for the resetting of the 16 December 1988
hearing, the Commission scheduled another hearing on 25 January 1989. The hearing
scheduled for 25 January 1989 was rescheduled two (2) more times-first, for 25 February 1989
and second, for 10 and 11 April 1989. The hearings never took place as complainant failed to
appear. Respondent Cordova never moved to set aside the order of default, even though
notices of the hearings scheduled were sent to him.

In a telegraphic message dated 6 April 1989, complainant informed the Commission that she
and her husband had already "reconciled". In an order dated 17 April 1989, the Commission
required the parties (respondent and complainant) to appear before it for confirmation and
explanation of the telegraphic message and required them to file a formal motion to dismiss the
complaint within fifteen (15) days from notice. Neither party responded and nothing was heard
from either party since then.
Complainant having failed to submit her evidence ex parte before the Commission, the IBP
Board of Governors submitted to this Court its report reprimanding respondent for his acts,
admonishing him that any further acts of immorality in the future will be dealt with more
severely, and ordering him to support his legitimate family as a responsible parent should.

The findings of the IBP Board of Governors may be summed up as follows:

Complainant and respondent Cordova were married on 6 June 1976 and out of this marriage,
two (2) children were born. In 1985, the couple lived somewhere in Quirino Province. In that
year, respondent Cordova left his family as well as his job as Branch Clerk of Court of the
Regional Trial Court, Cabarroguis, Quirino Province, and went to Mangagoy, Bislig, Surigao del
Sur with one Fely G. Holgado. Fely G. Holgado was herself married and left her own husband
and children to stay with respondent. Respondent Cordova and Fely G. Holgado lived together
in Bislig as husband and wife, with respondent Cordova introducing Fely to the public as his
wife, and Fely Holgado using the name Fely Cordova. Respondent Cordova gave Fely Holgado
funds with which to establish a sari-sari store in the public market at Bislig, while at the same
time failing to support his legitimate family.

On 6 April 1986, respondent Cordova and his complainant wife had an apparent reconciliation.
Respondent promised that he would separate from Fely Holgado and brought his legitimate
family to Bislig, Surigao del Sur. Respondent would, however, frequently come home from
beerhouses or cabarets, drunk, and continued to neglect the support of his legitimate family. In
February 1987, complainant found, upon returning from a trip to Manila necessitated by
hospitalization of her daughter Loraine, that respondent Cordova was no longer living with her
(complainant's) children in their conjugal home; that respondent Cordova was living with another
mistress, one Luisita Magallanes, and had taken his younger daughter Melanie along with him.
Respondent and his new mistress hid Melanie from the complinant, compelling complainant to
go to court and to take back her daughter by habeas corpus. The Regional Trial Court, Bislig,
gave her custody of their children.

Notwithstanding respondent's promises to reform, he continued to live with Luisita Magallanes


as her husband and continued to fail to give support to his legitimate family.

Finally the Commission received a telegram message apparently from complainant, stating that
complainant and respondent had been reconciled with each other.

After a review of the record, we agree with the findings of fact of the IBP Board. We also agree
that the most recent reconciliation between complainant and respondent, assuming the same to
be real, does not excuse and wipe away the misconduct and immoral behavior of the
respondent carried out in public, and necessarily adversely reflecting upon him as a member of
the Bar and upon the Philippine Bar itself. An applicant for admission to membership in the bar
is required to show that he is possessed of good moral character. That requirement is not
exhausted and dispensed with upon admission to membership of the bar. On the contrary, that
requirement persists as a continuing condition for membership in the Bar in good standing.

In Mortel v. Aspiras, 1 this Court, following the rule in the United States, held that "the continued
possession ... of a good moral character is a requisite condition for the rightful continuance in
the practice of the law ... and its loss requires suspension or disbarment, even though the
statutes do not specify that as a ground for disbarment. " 2 It is important to note that the lack of
moral character that we here refer to as essential is not limited to good moral character relating
to the discharge of the duties and responsibilities of an attorney at law. The moral delinquency
that affects the fitness of a member of the bar to continue as such includes conduct that
outrages the generally accepted moral standards of the community, conduct for instance, which
makes "a mockery of the inviolable social institution or marriage." 3 In Mortel, the respondent
being already married, wooed and won the heart of a single, 21-year old teacher who
subsequently cohabited with him and bore him a son. Because respondent's conduct
in Mortel was particularly morally repulsive, involving the marrying of his mistress to his own son
and thereafter cohabiting with the wife of his own son after the marriage he had himself
arranged, respondent was disbarred.

In Royong v. Oblena, 4 the respondent was declared unfit to continue as a member of the bar by
reason of his immoral conduct and accordingly disbarred. He was found to have engaged in
sexual relations with the complainant who consequently bore him a son; and to have maintained
for a number of years an adulterous relationship with another woman.

In the instant case, respondent Cordova maintained for about two (2) years an adulterous
relationship with a married woman not his wife, in full view of the general public, to the
humiliation and detriment of his legitimate family which he, rubbing salt on the wound, failed or
refused to support. After a brief period of "reform" respondent took up again with another
woman not his wife, cohabiting with her and bringing along his young daughter to live with them.
Clearly, respondent flaunted his disregard of the fundamental institution of marriage and its
elementary obligations before his own daughter and the community at large.

WHEREFORE, the Court Resolved to SUSPEND respondent from the practice of law
indefinitely and until farther orders from this Court. The Court will consider lifting his suspension
when respondent Cordova submits proof satisfactory to the Commission and this Court that he
has and continues to provide for the support of his legitimate family and that he has given up the
immoral course of conduct that he has clung to.

Fernan, C.J., Narvasa, Gutierrez, Jr., Cruz, Paras, Feliciano, Gancayco, Padilla, Bidin,
Sarmiento, Cortes, Grio-Aquino, Medialdea and Regalado, JJ., concur.

Melencio-Herrera, J., is on leave.


Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila

EN BANC

December 7, 1920

In re CARLOS S. BASA

Pedro Guevara for respondent.


Attorney-General Feria for the Government.

MALCOLM, J.:

The Attorney-General asks that an order issue for the disbarment of Attorney Carlos S. Basa.

Carlos S. Basa is a young man about 29 years of age, admitted to the bars of California and the
Philippine Islands. Recently he was charged in the Court of Fist Instance of the city of Manila
with the crime of abduction with consent, was found guilt in a decision rendered by the
Honorable M.V. del Rosario, Judge of First Instance, and was sentenced to be imprisoned for a
period of two years, eleven months and eleven days of prision correccional. On appeal, this
decision was affirmed in a judgment handed down by the second division of the Supreme
Court. 1

The Code of Civil Procedure, section 21, provides that "A member of the bar may be removed
or suspended from his office of lawyer by the Supreme Court by reason of his conviction of a
crime involving moral turpitude . . ." The sole question presented, therefore, is whether the crime
of abduction with consent, as punished by article 446 of the Penal Code, involves moral
turpitude.

"Moral turpitude," it has been said, "includes everything which is done contrary to justice,
honesty, modesty, or good morals." (Bouvier's Law Dictionary, cited by numerous courts.)
Although no decision can be found which has decided the exact question, it cannot admit of
doubt that crimes of this character involve moral turpitude. The inherent nature of the act is such
that it is against good morals and the accepted rule of right conduct. (In re Hopkins [1909], 54
Wash., 569; Pollard vs. Lyon [1875], 91 U.S., 225; 5 Ops. Atty.-Gen. P. I., 46, 185; decisions of
the Supreme Court of Spain of November 30, 1876 and June 15, 1895.)

When we come next, as we must, to determine the exact action which should be taken by the
court, we do so regretfully and reluctantly. On the one hand, the violation of the criminal law by
the respondent attorney cannot be lightly passed over. On the other hand, we are willing to
strain the limits of our compassion to the uttermost in order that so promising a career may not
be utterly ruined.

It is the order of the court that beginning with the day when Carlos S. Basa shall be discharged
from prison, he be suspended from his office of lawyer for one year. So ordered.
Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila

EN BANC

A.M. No. 1048 July 14, 1995

WELLINGTON REYES, complainant,


vs.
ATTY. SALVADOR M. GAA, respondent.

PER CURIAM:

This administrative complaint for disbarment charges respondent, a former Assistant City Fiscal
of manila, with malpractice and willful violation of his oath as an attorney.

On March 30, 1971, at around 9:00 A.M. complainant reported to the National Bureau of
Investigation (NBI) that he had been the victim of extortion by respondent, an Assistant City
Fiscal of Manila, who was investigating a complaint for estafa filed by complainant's business
rival. According to complainant, he had given respondent P500.00 on March 1, 1971 and a total
of P500.00 on three other occasions. He said that another "payoff" was scheduled at 11:00 A.M.
that day in respondent's office at the City Hall.

An entrapment was set up by the NBI.

Complainant furnished the NBI agents several peso bills totalling P150.00 for marking. The
paper bills were sent to the Forensic and Chemistry Division of the NBI and subsequently
returned to complainant for the use in the entrapment.

When complainant went to respondent's office, he was told that the latter would not return until
around 2:30 P.M. So complainant and the NBI agents went back at around 2:30 P.M. As there
were other persons doing business with respondent, complainant had to wait for thirty minutes.
When finally complainant was able to see respondent, the latter greeted him in Tagalog "Ano ba
ang sa iyo?" Complainant answered "Hindi tayo nagkita kaninang umaga." To which respondent
replied "Oo, kanina pa kita hinihintay." Complainant then handed to respondent the marked
money which he placed inside his right pocket. The NBI agents then apprehended respondent
and brought him to the NBI Forensic and Chemistry Division for examination. Respondent's
hands were found positive of the yellow florescent powder applied earlier to the marked money.
Respondent was thereafter taken to the Office of the Anti-Organized Crime Division of the NBI
where he was photographed, fingerprinted and record checked. Respondent declined to give a
sworn statement to explain his side of the case, invoking his right against self-incrimination.
On the same date, the NBI recommended the prosecution of respondent for violation of Section
3(b) of R.A. No. 3019.

On April 13, 1971, the NBI recommended to the Secretary of Justice the filing of administrative
charges and the institution of disbarment proceedings against him.

On April 21, 1971, President Marcos suspended respondent from office pending investigation
and disposition of his administrative case (Case No. 74).

Aside from the criminal complaint and Administrative Case No. 74, two other cases were earlier
filed against respondent: namely, Administrative Case No. 10 for Grave Misconduct filed by one
Angel Alora on October 13, 1969, wherein respondent was found guilty as charged and was
recommended for suspension; and Administrative Case No. 10-A. for partiality filed by Fabiola
Fajardo on April 26, 1970, which was pending resolution.

In his answer to the complaint for disbarment, respondent asserted that complainant
surreptitiously planted the marked money in his pocket without his knowledge and consent.

He further said that the criminal case (IS No. 71-6558) filed against him by the NBI at the
instance of complainant was still pending preliminary investigation by the City Fiscal of Manila.
In connection with the incident of March 30, 1971, he said that he had filed a criminal complaint
for incriminatory machination, perjury and attempted corruption of a public official against
complainant with the City Fiscal of Manila.

In reply to the answer, complainant denied that the several cases against respondent were
motivated by revenge, malice or personal ill will. He said that the investigating fiscal had
recommended the dismissal of the charges filed by respondent against him.

In a resolution dated December 23, 1971, this Court resolved to refer the disbarment case to the
Solicitor General for investigation, report and recommendation. However, upon the adoption of
Rule 139-B of the Revised Rules of Court., the case was transferred to the IBP Board of
Governors for investigation and disposition.

On March 15, 1993, Commissioner Vicente Q. Roxas of the Commission on Bar Discipline of
the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) recommended that respondent be disbarred. Said
recommendation was approved by the IBP Board of Governors in its resolution dated March 26,
1994.

II

We agree with the recommendation of the IBP Board of Governors.

In the case at bench, respondent was caught in flagrante delicto in the act of receiving the
marked money from complainant during the entrapment conducted by the NBI agents, which
resulted in his arrest and the subsequent filing of administrative and criminal cases against him.
In his defense, respondent merely denied the charge of extortion and retorted that the marked
money was planted by complainant.
It is settled that affirmative testimony is given greater weight than negative testimony (Delos
Reyes v. Aznar, 179 SCRA 653 [1989]). When the integrity of a member of the bar is
challenged, it is not enough that he denies the charges against him; he must meet the issue and
overcome the evidence against him (Malcolm, Legal and Judicial Ethics 93 [1949]). He must
show proof that he still maintains that degree of morality and integrity which at all times is
expected of him (Bayasen v. Court of Appeals, 103 SCRA 197 [1981]; Vda. de Ramos v. Court
of Appeals, 81 SCRA 393 [1978]).

Where the misconduct of a lawyer as a government official is of such a character as to affect his
qualification as a lawyer or to show moral delinquency, then he may be disciplined as a member
of the bar on such grounds (Gonzales-Austria v. Abaya, 176 SCRA 634 [1989]).

The extortion committed by respondent constitutes misconduct as a public official, which also
constitutes a violation of his oath as a lawyer. The lawyer's oath (Revised Rules of Court, Rule
138, Section 18; People v. De Luna, 102 Phil. 968 [1958]), imposes upon every lawyer the duty
to delay no man for money or malice. The lawyer's oath is a source of his obligations and its
violation is a ground for his suspension, disbarment or other disciplinary action (Agpalo, Legal
Ethics 66-67 [1983]).

WHEREFORE, respondent is DISBARRED and his name is ordered STRICKEN OFF from the
Roll of Attorneys. Let a copy of this resolution be furnished the Bar Confidant and the Integrated
Bar of the Philippines and spread on the personal records of respondent.

SO ORDERED.
Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila

THIRD DIVISION

A.C. No. 6057 June 27, 2006

PETER T. DONTON, Complainant,


vs.
ATTY. EMMANUEL O. TANSINGCO, Respondent.

DECISION

CARPIO, J.:

The Case

This is a disbarment complaint against respondent Atty. Emmanuel O. Tansingco ("respondent")


for serious misconduct and deliberate violation of Canon 1,1 Rules 1.012 and 1.023 of the Code
of Professional Responsibility ("Code").

The Facts

In his Complaint dated 20 May 2003, Peter T. Donton ("complainant") stated that he filed a
criminal complaint for estafa thru falsification of a public document4 against Duane O. Stier
("Stier"), Emelyn A. Maggay ("Maggay") and respondent, as the notary public who notarized the
Occupancy Agreement.

The disbarment complaint arose when respondent filed a counter-charge for perjury5 against
complainant. Respondent, in his affidavit-complaint, stated that:

5. The OCCUPANCY AGREEMENT dated September 11, 1995 was prepared and notarized
by me under the following circumstances:

A. Mr. Duane O. Stier is the owner and long-time resident of a real property located at
No. 33 Don Jose Street, Bgy. San Roque, Murphy, Cubao, Quezon City.

B. Sometime in September 1995, Mr. Stier a U.S. citizen and thereby disqualified
to own real property in his name agreed that the property be transferred in the name
of Mr. Donton, a Filipino.

C. Mr. Stier, in the presence of Mr. Donton, requested me to prepare several documents
that would guarantee recognition of him being the actual owner of the property despite
the transfer of title in the name of Mr. Donton.

D. For this purpose, I prepared, among others, the OCCUPANCY AGREEMENT,


recognizing Mr. Stiers free and undisturbed use of the property for his residence and
business operations. The OCCUPANCY AGREEMENT was tied up with a loan which
Mr. Stier had extended to Mr. Donton.6

Complainant averred that respondents act of preparing the Occupancy Agreement, despite
knowledge that Stier, being a foreign national, is disqualified to own real property in his name,
constitutes serious misconduct and is a deliberate violation of the Code. Complainant prayed
that respondent be disbarred for advising Stier to do something in violation of law and assisting
Stier in carrying out a dishonest scheme.

In his Comment dated 19 August 2003, respondent claimed that complainant filed the
disbarment case against him upon the instigation of complainants counsel, Atty. Bonifacio A.
Alentajan,7 because respondent refused to act as complainants witness in the criminal case
against Stier and Maggay. Respondent admitted that he "prepared and notarized" the
Occupancy Agreement and asserted its genuineness and due execution.

In a Resolution dated 1 October 2003, the Court referred the matter to the Integrated Bar of the
Philippines (IBP) for investigation, report and recommendation.

The IBPs Report and Recommendation

In her Report dated 26 February 2004 ("Report"), Commissioner Milagros V. San Juan
("Commissioner San Juan") of the IBP Commission on Bar Discipline found respondent liable
for taking part in a "scheme to circumvent the constitutional prohibition against foreign
ownership of land in the Philippines." Commissioner San Juan recommended respondents
suspension from the practice of law for two years and the cancellation of his commission as
Notary Public.

In Resolution No. XVI-2004-222 dated 16 April 2004, the IBP Board of Governors adopted, with
modification, the Report and recommended respondents suspension from the practice of law
for six months.

On 28 June 2004, the IBP Board of Governors forwarded the Report to the Court as provided
under Section 12(b), Rule 139-B8 of the Rules of Court.

On 28 July 2004, respondent filed a motion for reconsideration before the IBP. Respondent
stated that he was already 76 years old and would already retire by 2005 after the termination of
his pending cases. He also said that his practice of law is his only means of support for his
family and his six minor children.

In a Resolution dated 7 October 2004, the IBP denied the motion for reconsideration because
the IBP had no more jurisdiction on the case as the matter had already been referred to the
Court.

The Ruling of the Court

The Court finds respondent liable for violation of Canon 1 and Rule 1.02 of the Code.

A lawyer should not render any service or give advice to any client which will involve defiance of
the laws which he is bound to uphold and obey.9 A lawyer who assists a client in a dishonest
scheme or who connives in violating the law commits an act which justifies disciplinary action
against the lawyer.10

By his own admission, respondent admitted that Stier, a U.S. citizen, was disqualified from
owning real property.11Yet, in his motion for reconsideration,12 respondent admitted that he
caused the transfer of ownership to the parcel of land to Stier. Respondent, however, aware of
the prohibition, quickly rectified his act and transferred the title in complainants name. But
respondent provided "some safeguards" by preparing several documents,13 including the
Occupancy Agreement, that would guarantee Stiers recognition as the actual owner of the
property despite its transfer in complainants name. In effect, respondent advised and aided
Stier in circumventing the constitutional prohibition against foreign ownership of lands14 by
preparing said documents.

Respondent had sworn to uphold the Constitution. Thus, he violated his oath and the Code
when he prepared and notarized the Occupancy Agreement to evade the law against foreign
ownership of lands. Respondent used his knowledge of the law to achieve an unlawful end.
Such an act amounts to malpractice in his office, for which he may be suspended.15

In Balinon v. De Leon,16 respondent Atty. De Leon was suspended from the practice of law for
three years for preparing an affidavit that virtually permitted him to commit concubinage. In In
re: Santiago,17 respondent Atty. Santiago was suspended from the practice of law for one year
for preparing a contract which declared the spouses to be single again after nine years of
separation and allowed them to contract separately subsequent marriages.

WHEREFORE, we find respondent Atty. Emmanuel O. Tansingco GUILTY of violation of Canon


1 and Rule 1.02 of the Code of Professional Responsibility. Accordingly,
we SUSPEND respondent Atty. Emmanuel O. Tansingco from the practice of law for SIX
MONTHS effective upon finality of this Decision.

Let copies of this Decision be furnished the Office of the Bar Confidant to be appended to
respondents personal record as an attorney, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, the
Department of Justice, and all courts in the country for their information and guidance.

SO ORDERED.

ANTONIO T. CARPIO
Associate Justice
Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila

FIRST DIVISION

G.R. No. L-28546 July 30, 1975

VENANCIO CASTANEDA and NICETAS HENSON, petitioners,


vs.
PASTOR D. AGO, LOURDES YU AGO and THE COURT OF APPEALS, respondents.

Quijano and Arroyo for petitioners.

Jose M. Luison for respondents.

CASTRO, J.:

The parties in this case, except Lourdes Yu Ago, have been commuting to this Court for more
than a decade.

In 1955 the petitioners Venancio Castaeda and Nicetas Henson filed a replevin suit against
Pastor Ago in the Court of First Instance of Manila to recover certain machineries (civil case
27251). In 1957 judgment was rendered in favor of the plaintiffs, ordering Ago to return the
machineries or pay definite sums of money. Ago appealed, and on June 30, 1961 this Court,
in Ago vs. Castaeda, L-14066, affirmed the judgment. After remand, the trial court issued on
August 25, 1961 a writ of execution for the sum of P172,923.87. Ago moved for a stay of
execution but his motion was denied, and levy was made on Ago's house and lots located in
Quezon City. The sheriff then advertised them for auction sale on October 25, 1961. Ago moved
to stop the auction sale, failing in which he filed a petition for certiorari with the Court of Appeals.
The appellate court dismissed the petition and Ago appealed. On January 31,1966 this Court,
in Ago vs. Court of Appeals, et al., L-19718, affirmed the dismissal. Ago thrice attempted to
obtain a writ of preliminary injunction to restrain the sheriff from enforcing the writ of execution
"to save his family house and lot;" his motions were denied, and the sheriff sold the house and
lots on March 9, 1963 to the highest bidders, the petitioners Castaeda and Henson. Ago failed
to redeem, and on April 17, 1964 the sheriff executed the final deed of sale in favor of the
vendees Castaeda and Henson. Upon their petition, the Court of First Instance ofManila issued
a writ of possession to the properties.

However, on May 2, 1964 Pastor Ago, now joined by his wife, Lourdes Yu Ago, as his co-
plaintiff, filed a complaint in the Court of First Instance of Quezon City (civil case Q-7986) to
annul the sheriff's sale on the ground that the obligation of Pastor Ago upon which judgment
was rendered against him in the replevin suit was his personal obligation, and that Lourdes Yu
Ago's one-half share in their conjugal residential house and lots which were levied upon and
sold by the sheriff could not legally be reached for the satisfaction of the judgment. They alleged
in their complaint that wife Lourdes was not a party in the replevin suit, that the judgment was
rendered and the writ of execution was issued only against husband Pastor, and that wife
Lourdes was not a party to her husband's venture in the logging business which failed and
resulted in the replevin suit and which did not benefit the conjugal partnership.

The Court of First Instance of Quezon City issued an ex parte writ of preliminary injunction
restraining the petitioners, the Register of Deeds and the sheriff of Quezon City, from registering
the latter's final deed of sale, from cancelling the respondents' certificates of title and issuing
new ones to the petitioners and from carrying out any writ of possession. A situation thus arose
where what the Manila court had ordered to be done, the Quezon City court countermanded. On
November 1, 1965, however, the latter court lifted the preliminary injunction it had previously
issued, and the Register of deeds of Quezon City cancelled the respondents' certificates of title
and issued new ones in favor of the petitioners. But enforcement of the writ of possession was
again thwarted as the Quezon City court again issued a temporary restraining order which it
later lifted but then re-restored. On May 3, 1967 the court finally, and for the third time, lifted the
restraining order.

While the battle on the matter of the lifting and restoring of the restraining order was being
fought in the Quezon City court, the Agos filed a petition for certiorari and prohibition with this
Court under date of May 26, 1966, docketed asL-26116, praying for a writ of preliminary
injunction to enjoin the sheriff from enforcing the writ of possession. This Court found no merit in
the petition and dismissed it in a minute resolution on June 3, 1966; reconsideration was denied
on July 18, 1966. The respondents then filed on August 2, 1966 a similar petition for certiorari
and prohibition with the Court of Appeals (CA-G.R. 37830-R), praying for the same preliminary
injunction. The Court of Appeals also dismissed the petition. The respondents then appealed to
this Court (L-27140).1wph1.t We dismissed the petition in a minute resolution on February
8, 1967.

The Ago spouses repaired once more to the Court of Appeals where they filed another petition
for certiorari and prohibition with preliminary injunction (CA-G.R. 39438-R). The said court gave
due course to the petition and granted preliminary injunction. After hearing, it rendered decision,
the dispositive portion of which reads:

WHEREFORE, writ of preliminary injunction from enforcement of the writ of


possession on and ejectment from the one-half share in the properties involved
belonging to Lourdes Yu Ago dated June 15, 1967 is made permanent pending
decision on the merits in Civil Case No. Q-7986 and ordering respondent Court
to proceed with the trial of Civil Case No. Q-7986 on the merits without
unnecessary delay. No pronouncement as to costs.

Failing to obtain reconsideration, the petitioners Castaeda and Henson filed the present
petition for review of the aforesaid decision.

1. We do not see how the doctrine that a court may not interfere with the orders of a co-equal
court can apply in the case at bar. The Court of First Instance of Manila, which issued the writ of
possession, ultimately was not interfered with by its co-equal court, the Court of First Instance of
Quezon City as the latter lifted the restraining order it had previously issued against the
enforcement of the Manila court's writ of possession; it is the Court of Appeals that enjoined, in
part, the enforcement of the writ.
2. Invoking Comilang vs. Buendia, et al., 1 where the wife was a party in one case and the
husband was a party in another case and a levy on their conjugal properties was upheld, the
petitioners would have Lourdes Yu Ago similarly bound by the replevin judgment against her
husband for which their conjugal properties would be answerable. The case invoked is not at
par with the present case. In Comilang the actions were admittedly instituted for the protection
of the common interest of the spouses; in the present case, the Agos deny that their conjugal
partnership benefited from the husband's business venture.

3. Relying upon Omnas vs. Rivera, 67 Phil. 419, the Court of Appeals held that a writ of
possession may not issue until the claim of a third person to half-interest in the property is
adversely determined, the said appellate court assuming that Lourdes Yu Ago was a "stranger"
or a "third-party" to her husband. The assumption is of course obviously wrong, for, besides
living with her husband Pastor, she does not claim ignorance of his business that failed, of the
relevant cases in which he got embroiled, and of the auction sale made by the sheriff of their
conjugal properties. Even then, the ruling in Omnas is not that a writ of possession may not
issue until the claim of a third person is adversely determined, but that the writ of possession
being a complement of the writ of execution, a judge with jurisdiction to issue the latter also has
jurisdiction to issue the former, unless in the interval between the judicial sale and the issuance
of the writ of possession, the rights of third parties to the property sold have supervened. The
ruling in Omnas is clearly inapplicable in the present case, for, here, there has been no change
in the ownership of the properties or of any interest therein from the time the writ of execution
was issued up to the time writ of possession was issued, and even up to the present.

4. We agree with the trial court (then presided by Judge Lourdes P. San Diego) that it is much
too late in the day for the respondents Agos to raise the question that part of the property is
unleviable because it belongs to Lourdes Yu Ago, considering that (1) a wife is normally privy to
her husband's activities; (2) the levy was made and the properties advertised for auction sale in
1961; (3) she lives in the very properties in question; (4) her husband had moved to stop the
auction sale; (5) the properties were sold at auction in 1963; (6) her husband had thrice
attempted to obtain a preliminary injunction to restrain the sheriff from enforcing the writ of
execution; (7) the sheriff executed the deed of final sale on April 17, 1964 when Pastor failed to
redeem; (8) Pastor had impliedly admitted that the conjugal properties could be levied upon by
his pleas "to save his family house and lot" in his efforts to prevent execution; and (9) it was only
on May 2, 1964 when he and his wife filed the complaint for annulment of the sheriff's sale upon
the issue that the wife's share in the properties cannot be levied upon on the ground that she
was not a party to the logging business and not a party to the replevin suit. The spouses Ago
had every opportunity to raise the issue in the various proceedings hereinbefore discussed but
did not; laches now effectively bars them from raising it.

Laches, in a general sense, is failure or neglect, for an unreasonable and


unexplained length of time, to do that which, by exercising due diligence, could or
should have been done earlier; it is negligence or omission to assert a right
within a reasonable time, warranting a presumption that the party entitled to
assert it either has abandoned it or declined to assert it. 2

5. The decision of the appellate court under review suffers from two fatal infirmities.

(a) It enjoined the enforcement of the writ of possession to and ejectment from the one-half
share in the properties involved belonging to Lourdes Yu Ago. This half-share is not in esse, but
is merely an inchoate interest, a mere expectancy, constituting neither legal nor equitable
estate, and will ripen into title when only upon liquidation and settlement there appears to be
assets of the community. 3 The decision sets at naught the well-settled rule that injunction does
not issue to protect a right not in esse and which may never arise. 4

(b) The decision did not foresee the absurdity, or even the impossibility, of its enforcement. The
Ago spouses admittedly live together in the same house 5 which is conjugal property. By the
Manila court's writ of possession Pastor could be ousted from the house, but the decision under
review would prevent the ejectment of Lourdes. Now, which part of the house would be vacated
by Pastor and which part would Lourdes continue to stay in? The absurdity does not stop here;
the decision would actually separate husband and wife, prevent them from living together, and
in effect divide their conjugal properties during coverture and before the dissolution of the
conjugal union.

6. Despite the pendency in the trial court of the complaint for the annulment of the sheriff's sale
(civil case Q-7986), elementary justice demands that the petitioners, long denied the fruits of
their victory in the replevin suit, must now enjoy them, for, the respondents Agos, abetted by
their lawyer Jose M. Luison, have misused legal remedies and prostituted the judicial process to
thwart the satisfaction of the judgment, to the extended prejudice of the petitioners. The
respondents, with the assistance of counsel, maneuvered for fourteen (14) years to doggedly
resist execution of the judgment thru manifold tactics in and from one court to another (5 times
in the Supreme Court).

We condemn the attitude of the respondents and their counsel who,

far from viewing courts as sanctuaries for those who seek justice, have tried to
use them to subvert the very ends of justice. 6

Forgetting his sacred mission as a sworn public servant and his exalted position as an officer of
the court, Atty. Luison has allowed himself to become an instigator of controversy and a
predator of conflict instead of a mediator for concord and a conciliator for compromise, a
virtuoso of technicality in the conduct of litigation instead of a true exponent of the primacy of
truth and moral justice.

A counsel's assertiveness in espousing with candour and honesty his client's


cause must be encouraged and is to be commended; what we do not and cannot
countenance is a lawyer's insistence despite the patent futility of his client's
position, as in the case at bar.

It is the duty of a counsel to advise his client, ordinarily a layman to the intricacies
and vagaries of the law, on the merit or lack of merit of his case. If he finds that
his client's cause is defenseless, then it is his bounden duty to advise the latter to
acquiesce and submit, rather than traverse the incontrovertible. A lawyer must
resist the whims and caprices of his client, and temper his clients propensity to
litigate. A lawyer's oath to uphold the cause of justice is superior to his duty to his
client; its primacy is indisputable. 7

7. In view of the private respondents' propensity to use the courts for purposes other than to
seek justice, and in order to obviate further delay in the disposition of the case below which
might again come up to the appellate courts but only to fail in the end, we have motu
proprio examined the record of civil case Q-7986 (the mother case of the present case). We find
that

(a) the complaint was filed on May 2, 1964 (more than 11 years ago) but trial on the merits has
not even started;

(b) after the defendants Castaedas had filed their answer with a counterclaim, the plaintiffs
Agos filed a supplemental complaint where they impleaded new parties-defendants;

(c) after the admission of the supplemental complaint, the Agos filed a motion to admit an
amended supplemental complaint, which impleads an additional new party-defendant (no action
has yet been taken on this motion);

(d) the defendants have not filed an answer to the admitted supplemental complaint; and

(e) the last order of the Court of First Instance, dated April 20, 1974, grants an extension to the
suspension of time to file answer. (Expediente, p. 815)

We also find that the alleged causes of action in the complaint, supplemental complaint and
amended supplemental complaint are all untenable, for the reasons hereunder stated. The
Complaint

Upon the first cause of action, it is alleged that the sheriff levied upon conjugal properties of the
spouses Ago despite the fact that the judgment to be satisfied was personal only to Pastor Ago,
and the business venture that he entered into, which resulted in the replevin suit, did not
redound to the benefit of the conjugal partnership. The issue here, which is whether or not the
wife's inchoate share in the conjugal property is leviable, is the same issue that we have already
resolved, as barred by laches, in striking down the decision of the Court of Appeals granting
preliminary injunction, the dispositive portion of which was herein-before quoted. This ruling
applies as well to the first cause of action of the complaint.

Upon the second cause of action, the Agos allege that on January 5, 1959 the Castaedas and
the sheriff, pursuant to an alias writ of seizure, seized and took possession of certain
machineries, depriving the Agos of the use thereof, to their damage in the sum of P256,000 up
to May 5, 1964. This second cause of action fails to state a valid cause of action for it fails to
allege that the order of seizure is invalid or illegal.

It is averred as a third cause of action that the sheriff's sale of the conjugal properties was
irregular, illegal and unlawful because the sheriff did not require the Castaeda spouses to pay
or liquidate the sum of P141,750 (the amount for which they bought the properties at the auction
sale) despite the fact that there was annotated at the back of the certificates of title a mortgage
of P75,000 in favor of the Philippine National Bank; moreover, the sheriff sold the properties for
P141,750 despite the pendency of L-19718 where Pastor Ago contested the amount of
P99,877.08 out of the judgment value of P172,923.37 in civil case 27251; and because of said
acts, the Agos suffered P174,877.08 in damages.

Anent this third cause of action, the sheriff was under no obligation to require payment of the
purchase price in the auction sale because "when the purchaser is the judgment creditor, and
no third-party claim has been filed, he need not pay the amount of the bid if it does not exceed
the amount of his judgment." (Sec. 23, Rule 39, Rules of Court)
The annotated mortgage in favor of the PNB is the concern of the vendees Castaedas but did
not affect the sheriff's sale; the cancellation of the annotation is of no moment to the Agoo.

Case L-19718 where Pastor Ago contested the sum of P99,877.08 out of the amount of the
judgment was dismissed by this Court on January 31, 1966.

This third cause of action, therefore, actually states no valid cause of action and is moreover
barred by prior judgment.

The fourth cause of action pertains to moral damages allegedly suffered by the Agos on account
of the acts complained of in the preceding causes of action. As the fourth cause of action
derives its life from the preceding causes of action, which, as shown, are baseless, the said
fourth cause of action must necessarily fail.

The Counterclaim

As a counterclaim against the Agos, the Castaedas aver that the action was unfounded and as
a consequence of its filing they were compelled to retain the services of counsel for not less
than P7,500; that because the Agos obtained a preliminary injunction enjoining the transfer of
titles and possession of the properties to the Castaedas, they were unlawfully deprived of the
use of the properties from April 17, 1964, the value of such deprived use being 20% annually of
their actual value; and that the filing of the unfounded action besmirched their feelings, the
pecuniary worth of which is for the court to assess.

The Supplemental Complaint

Upon the first cause of action, it is alleged that after the filing of the complaint, the defendants,
taking advantage of the dissolution of the preliminary injunction, in conspiracy and with gross
bad faith and evident intent to cause damage to the plaintiffs, caused the registration of the
sheriff's final deed of sale; that, to cause more damage, the defendants sold to their lawyer and
his wife two of the parcels of land in question; that the purchasers acquired the properties in bad
faith; that the defendants mortgaged the two other parcels to the Rizal Commercial Banking
Corporation while the defendants' lawyer and his wife also mortgaged the parcels bought by
them to the Rizal Commercial Bank; and that the bank also acted in bad faith.

The second cause of action consists of an allegation of additional damages caused by the
defendants' bad faith in entering into the aforesaid agreements and transactions.

The Amended Supplemental Complaint

The amendment made pertains to the first cause of action of the supplemental complaint, which
is, the inclusion of a paragraph averring that, still to cause damage and prejudice to the
plaintiffs, Atty. & Mrs. Juan Quijano, in bad faith sold the two parcels of land they had previously
bought to Eloy Ocampo who acquired them also in bad faith, while Venancio Castaeda and
Nicetas Henson in bad faith sold the two other parcels to Juan Quijano (60%) and Eloy Ocampo
(40%) who acquired them in bad faith and with knowledge that the properties are the subject of
a pending litigation.
Discussion on The Causes of Action
of The Supplemental Complaint And
The Amended Supplemental Complaint

Assuming hypothetically as true the allegations in the first cause of action of the supplemental
complaint and the amended supplemental complaint, the validity of the cause of action would
depend upon the validity of the first cause of action of the original complaint, for, the Agos would
suffer no transgression upon their rights of ownership and possession of the properties by
reason of the agreements subsequently entered into by the Castaedas and their lawyer if the
sheriff's levy and sale are valid. The reverse is also true: if the sheriff's levy and sale are invalid
on the ground that the conjugal properties could not be levied upon, then the transactions would
perhaps prejudice the Agos, but, we have already indicated that the issue in the first cause of
action of the original complaint is barred by laches, and it must therefore follow that the first
cause of action of the supplemental complaint and the amended supplemental complaint is also
barred.

For the same reason, the same holding applies to the remaining cause of action in the
supplemental complaint and the amended supplemental complaint.

ACCORDINGLY, the decision of the Court of Appeals under review is set aside. Civil case Q-
7986 of the Court of First Instance of Rizal is ordered dismissed, without prejudice to the re-
filing of the petitioners' counterclaim in a new and independent action. Treble costs are
assessed against the spouses Pastor Ago and Lourdes Yu Ago, which shall be paid by their
lawyer, Atty. Jose M. Luison. Let a copy of this decision be made a part of the personal file of
Atty. Luison in the custody of the Clerk of Court.

Makasiar, Esguerra, Muoz Palma and Martin, JJ., concur.

Teehankee, J., is on leave.


Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila

SECOND DIVISION

G.R. No. 104599 March 11, 1994

JON DE YSASI III, petitioner,


vs.
NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS COMMISSION (FOURTH DIVISION), CEBU CITY, and JON
DE YSASI,respondents.

F.B. Santiago, Nalus & Associates for petitioner.

Ismael A. Serfino for private respondent.

REGALADO, J.:

The adage that blood is thicker than water obviously stood for naught in this case,
notwithstanding the vinculum of paternity and filiation between the parties. It would indeed have
been the better part of reason if herein petitioner and private respondent had reconciled their
differences in an extrajudicial atmosphere of familial amity and with the grace of reciprocal
concessions. Father and son opted instead for judicial intervention despite the inevitable
acrimony and negative publicity. Albeit with distaste, the Court cannot proceed elsewise but to
resolve their dispute with the same reasoned detachment accorded any judicial proceeding
before it.

The records of this case reveal that petitioner was employed by his father, herein private
respondent, as farm administrator of Hacienda Manucao in Hinigaran, Negros Occidental
sometime in April, 1980. Prior thereto, he was successively employed as sales manager of
Triumph International (Phil.), Inc. and later as operations manager of Top Form Manufacturing
(Phil.), Inc. His employment as farm administrator was on a fixed salary, with other allowances
covering housing, food, light, power, telephone, gasoline, medical and dental expenses.

As farm administrator, petitioner was responsible for the supervision of daily activities and
operations of the sugarcane farm such as land preparation, planting, weeding, fertilizing,
harvesting, dealing with third persons in all matters relating to the hacienda and attending to
such other tasks as may be assigned to him by private respondent. For this purpose, he lived on
the farm, occupying the upper floor of the house there.

Following his marriage on June 6, 1982, petitioner moved to Bacolod City with his wife and
commuted to work daily. He suffered various ailments and was hospitalized on two separate
occasions in June and August, 1982. In November, 1982, he underwent fistulectomy, or the
surgical removal of the fistula, a deep sinuous ulcer. During his recuperation which lasted over
four months, he was under the care of Dr. Patricio Tan. In June, 1983, he was confined for
acute gastroenteritis and, thereafter, for infectious hepatitis from December, 1983 to January,
1984.

During the entire periods of petitioner's illnesses, private respondent took care of his medical
expenses and petitioner continued to receive compensation. However, in April, 1984, without
due notice, private respondent ceased to pay the latter's salary. Petitioner made oral and written
demands for an explanation for the sudden withholding of his salary from Atty. Apolonio
Sumbingco, private respondent's auditor and legal adviser, as well as for the remittance of his
salary. Both demands, however, were not acted upon.

Petitioner then filed an action with the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC, for brevity),
Regional Arbitration Branch No. VI, Bacolod City, on October 17, 1984, docketed therein as
RAB Case No. 0452-84, against private respondent for illegal dismissal with prayer for
reinstatement without loss of seniority rights and payment of full back wages, thirteenth month
pay for 1983, consequential, moral and exemplary damages, as well as attorney's fees.

On July 31, 1991, said complaint for illegal dismissal was dismissed by the NLRC, 1 holding that
petitioner abandoned his work and that the termination of his employment was for a valid cause,
but ordering private respondent to pay petitioner the amount of P5,000.00 as penalty for his
failure to serve notice of said termination of employment to the Department of Labor and
Employment as required by Batas Pambansa Blg. 130 and consonant with this Court's ruling
in Wenphil Corporation vs. National Labor Relations Commission, et al. 2 On appeal to the
Fourth Division of the NLRC, Cebu City, said decision was affirmed in toto. 3

His motion for reconsideration 4 of said decision having been denied for lack of merit, 5 petitioner
filed this petition presenting the following issues for resolution: (1) whether or not the petitioner
was illegally dismissed; (2) whether or not he is entitled to reinstatement, payment of back
wages, thirteenth month pay and other benefits; and (3) whether or not he is entitled to payment
of moral and exemplary damages and attorney's fees because of illegal dismissal. The
discussion of these issues will necessarily subsume the corollary questions presented by private
respondent, such as the exact date when petitioner ceased to function as farm administrator,
the character of the pecuniary amounts received by petitioner from private respondent, that is,
whether the same are in the nature of salaries or pensions, and whether or not there was
abandonment by petitioner of his functions as farm administrator.

In his manifestation dated September 14, 1992, the Solicitor General recommended a
modification of the decision of herein public respondent sustaining the findings and conclusions
of the Executive Labor Arbiter in RAB Case No. 0452-84, 6 for which reason the NLRC was
required to submit its own comment on the petition. In compliance with the Court's resolution of
November 16, 1992, 7 NLRC filed its comment on February 12, 1992 largely reiterating its earlier
position in support of the findings of the Executive Labor Arbiter. 8

Before proceeding with a discussion of the issues, the observation of the labor arbiter is worth
noting:

This case is truly unique. What makes this case unique is the fact that because
of the special relationship of the parties and the nature of the action involved, this
case could very well go down (in) the annals of the Commission as perhaps the
first of its kind. For this case is an action filed by an only son, his father's
namesake, the only child and therefore the only heir against his own father. 9

Additionally, the Solicitor General remarked:

. . . After an exhaustive reading of the records, two (2) observations were noted
that may justify why this labor case deserves special considerations. First, most
of the complaints that petitioner and private respondent had with each other,
were personal matters affecting father and son relationship. And secondly, if any
of the complaints pertain to their work, they allow their personal relationship to
come in the way. 10

I. Petitioner maintains that his dismissal from employment was illegal because of want of just
cause therefor and non-observance of the requirements of due process. He also charges the
NLRC with grave abuse of discretion in relying upon the findings of the executive labor arbiter
who decided the case but did not conduct the hearings thereof.

Private respondent, in refutation, avers that there was abandonment by petitioner of his
functions as farm administrator, thereby arming private respondent with a ground to terminate
his employment at Hacienda Manucao. It is also contended that it is wrong for petitioner to
question the factual findings of the executive labor arbiter and the NLRC as only questions of
law may be appealed for resolution by this Court. Furthermore, in seeking the dismissal of the
instant petition, private respondent faults herein petitioner for failure to refer to the
corresponding pages of the transcripts of stenographic notes, erroneously citing Sections 15(d)
and 16(d), Rule 44 (should be Section 16[c] and [d],
Rule 46 and Section 1[g], Rule 50) of the Rules of Court, which provide that want of page
references to the records is a ground for dismissal of an appeal.

Prefatorily, we take advertence of the provisions of Article 221 of the Labor Code that technical
rules of evidence prevailing in courts of law and equity shall not be controlling, and that every
and all reasonable means to speedily and objectively ascertain the facts in each case shall be
availed of, without regard to technicalities of law or procedure in the interest of due process.

It is settled that it is not procedurally objectionable for the decision in a case to be rendered by a
judge, or a labor arbiter for that matter, other than the one who conducted the hearing. The fact
that the judge who heard the case was not the judge who penned the decision does not impair
the validity of the judgment, 11 provided that he draws up his decision and resolution with due
care and makes certain that they truly and accurately reflect conclusions and final dispositions
on the bases of the facts of and evidence submitted in the case. 12

Thus, the mere fact that the case was initially assigned to Labor Arbiter Ricardo T. Octavio, who
conducted the hearings therein from December 5, 1984 to July 11, 1985, and was later
transferred to Executive Labor Arbiter Oscar S. Uy, who eventually decided the case, presents
no procedural infirmity, especially considering that there is a presumption of regularity in the
performance of a public officer's functions, 13 which petitioner has not successfully rebutted.

We are constrained to heed the underlying policy in the Labor Code relaxing the application of
technical rules of procedure in labor cases in the interest of due process, ever mindful of the
long-standing legal precept that rules of procedure must be interpreted to help secure, not
defeat, justice. For this reason, we cannot indulge private respondent in his tendency to nitpick
on trivial technicalities to boost his arguments. The strength of one's position cannot be hinged
on mere procedural niceties but on solid bases in law and jurisprudence.

The fundamental guarantees of security of tenure and due process dictate that no worker shall
be dismissed except for just and authorized cause provided by law and after due
process. 14 Article 282 of the Labor Code enumerates the causes for which an employer may
validly terminate an employment, to wit:
(a) serious misconduct or willful disobedience by the employee of the lawful orders of his
employer or representative in connection with his work; (b) gross and habitual neglect by the
employee of his duties; (c) fraud or willful breach by the employee of the trust reposed in him by
his employer or duly authorized representative; (d) commission of a crime or offense by the
employee against the person of his employer or any immediate member of his family or his duly
authorized representative; and (e) other causes analogous to the foregoing.

The employer may also terminate the services of any employee due to the installation of labor
saving devices, redundancy, retrenchment to prevent losses or the closing or cessation of
operation of the establishment or undertaking, unless the closing is for the purpose of
circumventing the pertinent provisions of the Labor Code, by serving a written notice on the
workers and the Department of Labor and Employment at least one (1) month before the
intended date thereof, with due entitlement to the corresponding separation pay rates provided
by law. 15Suffering from a disease by reason whereof the continued employment of the
employee is prohibited by law or is prejudicial to his and his co-employee's health, is also a
ground for termination of his services provided he receives the prescribed separation pay. 16 On
the other hand, it is well-settled that abandonment by an employee of his work authorizes the
employer to effect the former's dismissal from employment. 17

After a careful review of the records of this case, we find that public respondent gravely erred in
affirming the decision of the executive labor arbiter holding that petitioner abandoned his
employment and was not illegally dismissed from such employment. For want of substantial
bases, in fact or
in law, we cannot give the stamp of finality and conclusiveness normally accorded to the factual
findings of an administrative agency, such as herein public respondent NLRC, 18 as even
decisions of administrative agencies which are declared "final" by law are not exempt from
judicial review when so warranted. 19

The following perceptive disquisitions of the Solicitor General on this point deserve acceptance:

It is submitted that the absences of petitioner in his work from October 1982 to
December 1982, cannot be construed as abandonment of work because he has
a justifiable excuse. Petitioner was suffering from perennial abscess in the peri-
anal around the anus and fistula under the medical attention of Dr. Patricio Tan
of Riverside Medical Center, Inc., Bacolod City (Tsn, Vol. III, Dr. Tan, February
19, 1986 at 20-44).

This fact (was) duly communicated to private respondent by medical bills sent to
Hacienda Manucao (Tsn, Vol. III, Dr. Tan, January 22, 1987 at 49-50).

During the period of his illness and recovery, petitioner stayed in Bacolod City
upon the instruction(s) of private respondent to recuperate thereat and to handle
only administrative matters of the hacienda in that city. As a manager, petitioner
is not really obliged to live and stay 24 hours a day inside Hacienda Manucao.

xxx xxx xxx

After evaluating the evidence within the context of the special circumstances
involved and basic human experience, petitioner's illness and strained family
relation with respondent Jon de Ysasi II may be considered as justifiable reason
for petitioner Jon de Ysasi III's absence from work during the period of October
1982 to December 1982. In any event, such absence does not warrant outright
dismissal without notice and hearing.

xxx xxx xxx

The elements of abandonment as a ground for dismissal of an employee are as


follows:

(1) failure to report for work or absence without valid or justifiable


reason; and (2) clear intention to sever the employer-employee tie
(Samson Alcantara, Reviewer in Labor and Social Legislation,
1989 edition, p. 133).

This Honorable Court, in several cases, illustrates what constitute abandonment.


In Dagupan Bus Company v. NLRC (191 SCRA 328), the Court rules that for
abandonment to arise, there must be a concurrence of the intention to abandon
and some overt act from which it may be inferred that the employee has no more
interest to work. Similarly, in Nueva Ecija I Electric Cooperative,
Inc. v. NLRC(184 SCRA 25), for abandonment to constitute a valid cause for
termination of employment, there must be a deliberate, unjustified refusal of the
employee to resume his employment. . . Mere absence is not sufficient; it must
be accompanied by overt acts unerringly pointing to the fact that the employee
simply does not want to work anymore.

There are significant indications in this case, that there is no abandonment. First,
petitioner's absence and his decision to leave his residence inside Hacienda
Manucao, is justified by his illness and strained family relations. Second he has
some medical certificates to show his frail health. Third, once able to work,
petitioner wrote a letter (Annex "J") informing private respondent of his intention
to assume again his employment. Last, but not the least, he at once instituted a
complaint for illegal dismissal when he realized he was unjustly dismissed. All
these are indications that petitioner had no intention to abandon his
employment. 20

The records show that the parties herein do not dispute the fact of petitioner's confinement in
the hospital for his various afflictions which required medical treatment. Neither can it be denied
that private respondent was well aware of petitioner's state of health as the former admittedly
shouldered part of the medical and hospital bills and even advised the latter to stay in Bacolod
City until he was fit to work again. The disagreement as to whether or not petitioner's ailments
were so serious as to necessitate hospitalization and corresponding periods for recuperation is
beside the point. The fact remains that on account of said illnesses, the details of which were
amply substantiated by the attending physician, 21 and as the records are bereft of any
suggestion of malingering on the part of petitioner, there was justifiable cause for petitioner's
absence from work. We repeat, it is clear, deliberate and unjustified refusal to resume
employment and not mere absence that is required to constitute abandonment as a valid ground
for termination of employment. 22

With his position as farm administrator of Hacienda Manucao, petitioner unmistakably may be
classified as a managerial employee 23 to whom the law grants an amount of discretion in the
discharge of his duties. This is why when petitioner stated that "I assigned myself where I want
to go," 24 he was simply being candid about what he could do within the sphere of his authority.
His duties as farm administrator did not strictly require him to keep regular hours or to be at the
office premises at all times, or to be subjected to specific control from his employer in every
aspect of his work. What is essential only is that he runs the farm as efficiently and effectively as
possible and, while petitioner may definitely not qualify as a model employee, in this regard he
proved to be quite successful, as there was at least a showing of increased production during
the time that petitioner was in charge of farm operations.

If, as private respondent contends, he had no control over petitioner during the years 1983 to
1984, this is because that was the period when petitioner was recuperating from illness and on
account of which his attendance and direct involvement in farm operations were irregular and
minimal, hence the supervision and control exercisable by private respondent as employer was
necessarily limited. It goes without saying that the control contemplated refers only to matters
relating to his functions as farm administrator and could not extend to petitioner's personal
affairs and activities.

While it was taken for granted that for purposes of discharging his duties as farm administrator,
petitioner would be staying at the house in the farm, there really was no explicit contractual
stipulation (as there was no formal employment contract to begin with) requiring him to stay
therein for the duration of his employment or that any transfer of residence would justify the
termination of his employment. That petitioner changed his residence should not be taken
against him, as this is undeniably among his basic rights, nor can such fact of transfer of
residence per se be a valid ground to terminate an employer-employee relationship.

Private respondent, in his pleadings, asserted that as he was yet uncertain of his son's intention
of returning to work after his confinement in the hospital, he kept petitioner on the payroll,
reported him as an employee of the haciendafor social security purposes, and paid his salaries
and benefits with the mandated deductions therefrom until the end of December, 1982. It was
only in January, 1983 when he became convinced that petitioner would no longer return to work
that he considered the latter to have abandoned his work and, for this reason, no longer listed
him as an employee. According to private respondent, whatever amount of money was given to
petitioner from that time until
April, 1984 was in the nature of a pension or an allowance or mere gratuitous doles from a
father to a son, and not salaries as, in fact, none of the usual deductions were made therefrom.
It was only in April, 1984 that private respondent completely stopped giving said pension or
allowance when he was angered by what he heard petitioner had been saying about sending
him to jail.

Private respondent capitalizes on the testimony of one Manolo Gomez taken on oral deposition
regarding petitioner's alleged statement to him, "(h)e quemado los (p)ue(n)tes de Manucao" ("I
have burned my bridges with Manucao") as expressive of petitioner's intention to abandon his
job. In addition to insinuations of sinister motives on the part of petitioner in working at the farm
and thereafter abandoning the job upon accomplishment of his objectives, private respondent
takes the novel position that the agreement to support his son after the latter abandoned the
administration of the farm legally converts the initial abandonment to implied voluntary
resignation.25

As earlier mentioned, petitioner ripostes that private respondent undoubtedly knew about
petitioner's illness and even paid for his hospital and other medical bills. The assertion regarding
abandonment of work, petitioner argues, is further belied by his continued performance of
various services related to the operations of the farm from May to the last quarter of 1983, his
persistent inquiries from his father's accountant and legal adviser about the reason why his
pension or allowance was discontinued since April, 1984, and his indication of having recovered
and his willingness and capability to resume his work at the farm as expressed in a letter dated
September 14, 1984. 26 With these, petitioner contends that it is immaterial how the monthly
pecuniary amounts are designated, whether as salary, pension or allowance, with or without
deductions, as he was entitled thereto in view of his continued service as farm administrator. 27

To stress what was earlier mentioned, in order that a finding of abandonment may justly be
made there must be a concurrence of two elements, viz.: (1) the failure to report for work or
absence without valid or justifiable reason, and (2) a clear intention to sever the employer-
employee relationship, with the second element as the more determinative factor and being
manifested by some overt acts. Such intent we find dismally wanting in this case.

It will be recalled that private respondent himself admitted being unsure of his son's plans of
returning to work. The absence of petitioner from work since mid-1982, prolonged though it may
have been, was not without valid causes of which private respondent had full knowledge. As to
what convinced or led him to believe that petitioner was no longer returning to work, private
respondent neither explains nor substantiates by any reasonable basis how he arrived at such a
conclusion.

Moreover, private respondent's claim of abandonment cannot be given credence as even after
January, 1983, when private respondent supposedly "became convinced" that petitioner would
no longer work at the farm, the latter continued to perform services directly required by his
position as farm administrator. These are duly and correspondingly evidenced by such acts as
picking up some farm machinery/equipment from G.A. Machineries, Inc.,28 claiming and paying
for additional farm equipment and machinery shipped by said firm from Manila to Bacolod
through Zip Forwarders, 29 getting the payment of the additional cash advances for molasses for
crop year 1983-1984 from Agrotex Commodities, Inc., 30 and remitting to private respondent
through
Atty. Sumbingco the sums collected along with receipts for medicine and oil. 31

It will be observed that all of these chores, which petitioner took care of, relate to the normal
activities and operations of the farm. True, it is a father's prerogative to request or even
command his child to run errands for him. In the present case, however, considering the nature
of these transactions, as well as the property values and monetary sums involved, it is unlikely
that private respondent would leave the matter to just anyone. Prudence dictates that these
matters be handled by someone who can be trusted or at least be held accountable therefor,
and who is familiar with the terms, specifications and other details relative thereto, such as an
employee. If indeed petitioner had abandoned his job or was considered to have done so by
private respondent, it would be awkward, or even out of place, to expect or to oblige petitioner to
concern himself with matters relating to or expected of him with respect to what would then be
his past and terminated employment. It is hard to imagine what further authority an employer
can have over a dismissed employee so as to compel him to continue to perform work-related
tasks:

It is also significant that the special power of attorney 32 executed


by private respondent on June 26, 1980 in favor of petitioner, specifically stating

xxx xxx xxx

That I, JON de YSASI, Filipino, of legal age, married, and a resident of Hda.
Manucao, hereinafter called and referred to as PRINCIPAL, am a sugarcane
planter, BISCOM Mill District, and a duly accredited planter-member of the
BINALBAGAN-ISABELA PLANTERS' ASSOCIATION, INC.;

That as such planter-member of BIPA, I have check/checks with BIPA


representing payment for all checks and papers to which I am entitled to (sic) as
such planter-member;

That I have named, appointed and constituted as by these presents


I HEREBY NAME, APPOINT AND CONSTITUTE as my true and lawful
ATTORNEY-IN-FACT

JON de YSASI III

whose specimen signature is hereunder affixed, TO GET FOR ME and in my


name, place and stead, my check/checks aforementioned, said ATTORNEY-IN-
FACT being herein given the power and authority to sign for me and in my name,
place and stead, the receipt or receipts or payroll for the said check/checks.
PROVIDED, HOWEVER, that my said ATTORNEY-IN-FACT cannot cash the
said check/checks, but to turn the same over to me for my proper disposition.

That I HEREBY RATIFY AND CONFIRM the acts of my


Attorney-in-Fact in getting the said check/checks and signing the receipts
therefor.

That I further request that my said check/checks be made a "CROSSED


CHECK".

xxx xxx xxx

remained in force even after petitioner's employment was supposed to have been terminated by
reason of abandonment. Furthermore, petitioner's numerous requests for an explanation
regarding the stoppage of his salaries and benefits, 33 the issuance of withholding tax
reports, 34 as well as correspondence reporting his full recovery and readiness to go back to
work, 35 and, specifically, his filing of the complaint for illegal dismissal are hardly the acts of one
who has abandoned his work.
We are likewise not impressed by the deposition of Manolo Gomez, as witness for private
respondent, ascribing statements to petitioner supposedly indicative of the latter's intention to
abandon his work. We perceive the irregularity in the taking of such deposition without the
presence of petitioner's counsel, and the failure of private respondent to serve reasonably
advance notice of its taking to said counsel, thereby foreclosing his opportunity to
cross-examine the deponent. Private respondent also failed to serve notice thereof on the
Regional Arbitration Branch No. VI of the NLRC, as certified to by Administrative Assistant
Celestina G. Ovejera of said office. 36 Fair play dictates that at such an important stage of the
proceedings, which involves the taking of testimony, both parties must be afforded equal
opportunity to examine and cross-examine a witness.

As to the monthly monetary amounts given to petitioner, whether denominated as salary,


pension, allowance or ex gratia handout, there is no question as to petitioner's entitlement
thereto inasmuch as he continued to perform services in his capacity as farm administrator. The
change in description of said amounts contained in the pay slips or in the receipts prepared by
private respondent cannot be deemed to be determinative of petitioner's employment status in
view of the peculiar circumstances above set out. Besides, if such amounts were truly in the
nature of allowances given by a parent out of concern for his child's welfare, it is rather unusual
that receipts therefor 37 should be necessary and required as if they were ordinary business
expenditures.

Neither can we subscribe to private respondent's theory that petitioner's alleged abandonment
was converted into an implied voluntary resignation on account of the father's agreement to
support his son after the latter abandoned his work. As we have determined that no
abandonment took place in this case, the monthly sums received by petitioner, regardless of
designation, were in consideration for services rendered emanating from an employer-employee
relationship and were not of a character that can qualify them as mere civil support given out of
parental duty and solicitude. We are also hard put to imagine how abandonment can be
impliedly converted into a voluntary resignation without any positive act on the part of the
employee conveying a desire to terminate his employment. The very concept of resignation as a
ground for termination by the employee of his employment 38 does not square with the elements
constitutive of abandonment.

On procedural considerations, petitioner posits that there was a violation by private respondent
of the due process requirements under the Labor Code for want of notice and hearing. 39 Private
respondent, in opposition, argues that Section 2, Rule XIV, Book V of the Omnibus Rules
Implementing the Labor Code applies only to cases where the employer seeks to terminate the
services of an employee on any of the grounds enumerated under Article 282 of the Labor
Code, but not to the situation obtaining in this case where private respondent did not dismiss
petitioner on any ground since it was petitioner who allegedly abandoned his employment. 40

The due process requirements of notice and hearing applicable to labor cases are set out in
Rule XIV, Book V of the Omnibus Rules Implementing the Labor Code in this wise:

Sec. 2. Notice of Dismissal. Any employer who seeks to dismiss a worker


shall furnish him a written notice stating the particular acts or omission(s)
constituting the grounds for his dismissal. In cases of abandonment of work,
notice shall be served at the worker's last known address.

xxx xxx xxx


Sec. 5. Answer and hearing. The worker may answer the allegations as stated
against him in the notice of dismissal within a reasonable period from receipt of
such notice. The employer shall afford the worker ample opportunity to be heard
and to defend himself with the assistance of his representative, if he so desires.

Sec. 6. Decision to dismiss. The employer shall immediately notify a worker in


writing of a decision to dismiss him stating clearly the reasons therefor.

Sec. 7. Right to contest dismissal. Any decision taken by the employer shall
be without prejudice to the right of the worker to contest the validity or legality of
his dismissal by filing a complaint with the Regional Branch of the Commission.

xxx xxx xxx

Sec. 11. Report of dismissal. The employer shall submit a monthly report to
the Regional Office having jurisdiction over the place of work at all dismissals
effected by him during the month, specifying therein the names of the dismissed
workers, the reasons for their dismissal, the dates of commencement and
termination of employment, the positions last held by them and such other
information as may be required by the Ministry for policy guidance and statistical
purposes.

Private respondent's argument is without merit as there can be no question that petitioner was
denied his right to due process since he was never given any notice about his impending
dismissal and the grounds therefor, much less a chance to be heard. Even as private
respondent controverts the applicability of the mandatory twin requirements of procedural due
process in this particular case, he in effect admits that no notice was served by him on
petitioner. This fact is corroborated by the certification issued on September 5, 1984 by the
Regional Director for Region VI of the Department of Labor that no notice of termination of the
employment of petitioner was submitted thereto. 41

Granting arguendo that there was abandonment in this case, it nonetheless cannot be denied
that notice still had to be served upon the employee sought to be dismissed, as the second
sentence of Section 2 of the pertinent implementing rules explicitly requires service thereof at
the employee's last known address, by way of substantial compliance. While it is conceded that
it is the employer's prerogative to terminate an employee, especially when there is just cause
therefor, the requirements of due process cannot be lightly taken. The law does not
countenance the arbitrary exercise of such a power or prerogative when it has the effect of
undermining the fundamental guarantee of security of tenure in favor of the employee. 42

On the executive labor arbiter's misplaced reliance on the Wenphil case, the Solicitor General
rejoins as follows:

The Labor Arbiter held thus:

While we are in full agreement with the respondent as to his


defense of implied resignation and/or abandonment, records
somehow showed that he failed to notify the Department of
Labor and Employment for his sons' (sic)/complainants' (sic)
aba(n)donment as required by BP 130. And for this failure, the
other requisite for a valid termination by an employer was not
complied with. This however, would not work to invalidate the
otherwise (sic) existence of a valid cause for dismissal. The
validity of the cause of dismissal must be upheld at all times
provided however that sanctions must be imposed on the
respondent for his failure to observe the notice on due process
requirement. (Wenphil Corp. v. NLRC, G.R. No. 80587). (Decision
Labor Arbiter, at 11-12, Annex "C" Petition), . . .

This is thus a very different case from Wenphil Corporation v. NLRC, 170 SCRA
69. In Wenphil, the rule applied to the facts is: once an employee is dismissed for
just cause, he must not be rewarded
re-employment and backwages for failure of his employer to observe procedural
due process. The public policy behind this is that, it may encourage the
employee to do even worse and render a mockery of the rules of discipline
required to be observed. However, the employer must be penalized for his
infraction of due process. In the present case, however, not only was petitioner
dismissed without due process, but his dismissal is without just cause. Petitioner
did not abandon his employment because he has a justifiable excuse. 43

II. Petitioner avers that the executive labor arbiter erred in disregarding the mandatory
provisions of Article 279 of the Labor Code which entitles an illegally dismissed employee to
reinstatement and back wages and, instead, affirmed the imposition of the penalty of P5,000.00
on private respondent for violation of the due process requirements. Private respondent, for his
part, maintains that there was error in imposing the fine because that penalty contemplates the
failure to submit the employer's report on dismissed employees to the DOLE regional office, as
required under Section 5 (now, Section 11), Rule XIV of the implementing rules, and not the
failure to serve notice upon the employee sought to be dismissed by the employer.

Both the Constitution and the Labor Code enunciate in no uncertain terms the right of every
worker to security of tenure. 44 To give teeth to this constitutional and statutory mandates, the
Labor Code spells out the relief available to an employee in case of its denial:

Art. 279. Security of Tenure. In cases of regular employment, the employer


shall not terminate the services of an employee except for a just cause or when
authorized by this Title. An employee who is unjustly dismissed from work shall
be entitled to reinstatement without loss of seniority rights and other privileges
and to his full backwages, inclusive of allowances, and to his other benefits of
their monetary equivalent computed from the time his compensation was
withheld from him up to the time of actual reinstatement.

Clearly, therefore, an employee is entitled to reinstatement with full back wages in the absence
of just cause for dismissal. 45 The Court, however, on numerous occasions has tempered the
rigid application of said provision of the Labor Code, recognizing that in some cases certain
events may have transpired as would militate against the practicability of granting the relief
thereunder provided, and declares that where there are strained relations between the employer
and the employee, payment of back wages and severance pay may be awarded instead of
reinstatement, 46 and more particularly when managerial employees are concerned. 47 Thus,
where reinstatement is no longer possible, it is therefore appropriate that the dismissed
employee be given his fair and just share of what the law accords him. 48
We note with favor and give our imprimatur to the Solicitor General's ratiocination, to wit:

As a general rule, an employee who is unjustly dismissed from work shall be


entitled to reinstatement without loss of seniority rights and to his backwages
computed from the time his compensation was withheld up to the time of his
reinstatement. (Morales vs. NLRC, 188 SCRA 295). But in Pacific Cement
Company, Inc. vs. NLRC, 173 SCRA 192, this Honorable Court held that when it
comes to reinstatement, differences should be made between managers and the
ordinary workingmen. The Court concluded that a company which no longer
trusts its managers cannot operate freely in a competitive and profitable manner.
The NLRC should know the difference between managers and ordinary
workingmen. It cannot imprudently order the reinstatement of managers with the
same ease and liberality as that of rank and file workers who had been
terminated. Similarly, a reinstatement may not be appropriate or feasible in case
of antipathy or antagonism between the parties (Morales, vs. NLRC, 188 SCRA
295).

In the present case, it is submitted that petitioner should not be reinstated as


farm administrator of Hacienda Manucao. The present relationship of petitioner
and private respondent (is) so strained that a harmonious and peaceful
employee-employer relationship is hardly possible. 49

III. Finally, petitioner insists on an award of moral damages, arguing that his dismissal from
employment was attended by bad faith or fraud, or constituted oppression, or was contrary to
morals, good customs or public policy. He further prays for exemplary damages to serve as a
deterrent against similar acts of unjust dismissal by other employers.

Moral damages, under Article 2217 of the Civil Code, may be awarded to compensate one for
diverse injuries such as mental anguish, besmirched reputation, wounded feelings, and social
humiliation, provided that such injuries spring from a wrongful act or omission of the defendant
which was the proximate cause thereof. 50 Exemplary damages, under Article 2229, are
imposed by way of example or correction for the public good, in addition to moral, temperate,
liquidated or compensatory damages. They are not recoverable as a matter of right, it being left
to the court to decide whether or not they should be adjudicated. 51

We are well aware of the Court's rulings in a number of cases in the past allowing recovery of
moral damages where the dismissal of the employee was attended by bad faith or fraud, or
constituted an act oppressive to labor, or was done in a manner contrary to morals, good
customs or public policy, 52 and of exemplary damages if the dismissal was effected in a wanton,
oppressive or malevolent manner. 53 We do not feel, however, that an award of the damages
prayed for in this petition would be proper even if, seemingly, the facts of the case justify their
allowance. In the aforestated cases of illegal dismissal where moral and exemplary damages
were awarded, the dismissed employees were genuinely without fault and were undoubtedly
victims of the erring employers' capricious exercise of power.

In the present case, we find that both petitioner and private respondent can equally be faulted
for fanning the flames which gave rise to and ultimately aggravated this controversy, instead of
sincerely negotiating a peaceful settlement of their disparate claims. The records reveal how
their actuations seethed with mutual antagonism and the undeniable enmity between them
negates the likelihood that either of them acted in good faith. It is apparent that each one has a
cause for damages against the other. For this reason, we hold that no moral or exemplary
damages can rightfully be awarded to petitioner.

On this score, we are once again persuaded by the validity of the following recommendation of
the Solicitor General:

The Labor Arbiter's decision in RAB Case No. 0452-84 should be modified.
There was no voluntary abandonment in this case because petitioner has a
justifiable excuse for his absence, or such absence does not warrant outright
dismissal without notice and hearing. Private respondent, therefore, is guilty of
illegal dismissal. He should be ordered to pay backwages for a period not
exceeding three years from date of dismissal. And in lieu of reinstatement,
petitioner may be paid separation pay equivalent to one (1) month('s) salary for
every year of service, a fraction of six months being considered as one (1) year
in accordance with recent jurisprudence (Tan, Jr. vs. NLRC, 183 SCRA 651). But
all claims for damages should be dismissed, for both parties are equally at
fault. 54

The conduct of the respective counsel of the parties, as revealed by the records, sorely
disappoints the Court and invites reproof. Both counsel may well be reminded that their ethical
duty as lawyers to represent their clients with
zeal 55 goes beyond merely presenting their clients' respective causes in court. It is just as much
their responsibility, if not more importantly, to exert all reasonable efforts to smooth over legal
conflicts, preferably out of court and especially in consideration of the direct and immediate
consanguineous ties between their clients. Once again, we reiterate that the useful function of a
lawyer is not only to conduct litigation but to avoid it whenever possible by advising settlement
or withholding suit. He is often called upon less for dramatic forensic exploits than for wise
counsel in every phase of life. He should be a mediator for concord and a conciliator for
compromise, rather than a virtuoso of technicality in the conduct of litigation. 56

Rule 1.04 of the Code of Professional Responsibility explicitly provides that "(a) lawyer shall
encourage his client to avoid, end or settle the controversy if it will admit of a fair settlement." On
this point, we find that both counsel herein fell short of what was expected of them, despite their
avowed duties as officers of the court. The records do not show that they took pains to initiate
steps geared toward effecting a rapprochement between their clients. On the contrary, their
acerbic and protracted exchanges could not but have exacerbated the situation even as they
may have found favor in the equally hostile eyes of their respective clients.

In the same manner, we find that the labor arbiter who handled this regrettable case has been
less than faithful to the letter and spirit of the Labor Code mandating that a labor arbiter "shall
exert all efforts towards the amicable settlement of a labor dispute within his jurisdiction." 57 If he
ever did so, or at least entertained the thought, the copious records of the proceedings in this
controversy are barren of any reflection of the same.

One final word. This is one decision we do not particularly relish having been obliged to make.
The task of resolving cases involving disputes among members of a family leaves a bad taste in
the mouth and an aversion in the mind, for no truly meaningful and enduring resolution is really
achieved in such situations. While we are convinced that we have adjudicated the legal issues
herein squarely on the bases of law and jurisprudence, sans sentimentality, we are saddened
by the thought that we may have failed to bring about the reconciliation of the father and son
who figured as parties to this dispute, and that our adherence here to law and duty may
unwittingly contribute to the breaking, instead of the strengthening, of familial bonds. In fine,
neither of the parties herein actually emerges victorious. It is the Court's earnest hope,
therefore, that with the impartial exposition and extended explanation of their respective rights in
this decision, the parties may eventually see their way clear to an ultimate resolution of their
differences on more convivial terms.

WHEREFORE, the decision of respondent National Labor Relations Commission is hereby SET
ASIDE. Private respondent is ORDERED to pay petitioner back wages for a period not
exceeding three (3) years, without qualification or deduction, 58 and, in lieu of reinstatement,
separation pay equivalent to one (1) month for every year of service, a fraction of six (6) months
being considered as one (1) whole year.

SO ORDERED.
Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila

SECOND DIVISION

G.R. No. L-23815 June 28, 1974

ADELINO H. LEDESMA, petitioner,


vs.
HON. RAFAEL C. CLIMACO, Presiding Judge of the Court of First Instance of Negros
Occidental, Branch I, Silay City, respondent

FERNANDO, J.:p

What is assailed in this certiorari proceeding is an order of respondent Judge denying a motion
filed by petitioner to be allowed to withdraw as counsel de oficio. 1 One of the grounds for such a
motion was his allegation that with his appointment as Election Registrar by the Commission on
Elections, he was not in a position to devote full time to the defense of the two accused. The
denial by respondent Judge of such a plea, notwithstanding the conformity of the defendants,
was due "its principal effect [being] to delay this case." 2 It was likewise noted that the
prosecution had already rested and that petitioner was previously counsel de parte, his
designation in the former category being precisely to protect him in his new position without
prejudicing the accused. It cannot be plausibly asserted that such failure to allow withdrawal
of de oficiocounsel could ordinarily be characterized as a grave abuse of discretion correctible
by certiorari. There is, however, the overriding concern for the right to counsel of the accused
that must be taken seriously into consideration. In appropriate cases, it should tilt the balance.
This is not one of them. What is easily discernible was the obvious reluctance of petitioner to
comply with the responsibilities incumbent on the counsel de oficio. Then, too, even on the
assumption that he continues in his position, his volume of work is likely to be very much less at
present. There is not now the slightest pretext for him to shirk an obligation a member of the
bar, who expects to remain in good standing, should fulfill. The petition is clearly without merit.

According to the undisputed facts, petitioner, on October 13, 1964, was appointed Election
Registrar for the Municipality of Cadiz, Province of Negros Occidental. Then and there, he
commenced to discharge its duties. As he was counsel de parte for one of the accused in a
case pending in the sala of respondent Judge, he filed a motion to withdraw as such. Not only
did respondent Judge deny such motion, but he also appointed him counsel de oficio for the two
defendants. Subsequently, on November 3, 1964, petitioner filed an urgent motion to be allowed
to withdraw as counsel de oficio, premised on the policy of the Commission on Elections to
require full time service as well as on the volume or pressure of work of petitioner, which could
prevent him from handling adequately the defense. Respondent Judge, in the challenged order
of November 6, 1964, denied said motion. A motion for reconsideration having proved futile, he
instituted this certiorari proceeding. 3

As noted at the outset, the petition must fail.


1. The assailed order of November 6, 1964 denying the urgent motion of petitioner to withdraw
as counsel de oficiospeaks for itself. It began with a reminder that a crime was allegedly
committed on February 17, 1962, with the proceedings having started in the municipal court of
Cadiz on July 11, 1962. Then respondent Judge spoke of his order of October 16, 1964 which
reads thus: "In view of the objection of the prosecution to the motion for postponement of
October 15, 1964 (alleging that counsel for the accused cannot continue appearing in this case
without the express authority of the Commission on Elections); and since according to the
prosecution there are two witnesses who are ready to take the stand, after which the
government would rest, the motion for postponement is denied. When counsel for the accused
assumed office as Election Registrar on October 13, 1964, he knew since October 2, 1964 that
the trial would be resumed today. Nevertheless, in order not to prejudice the civil service status
of counsel for the accused, he is hereby designated counsel de oficio for the accused. The
defense obtained postponements on May 17, 1963, June 13, 1963, June 14, 1963, October 28,
1963, November 27, 1963, February 11, 1964, March 9, 1964, June 8, 1964 July 26, 1964, and
September 7, 1964." 4 Reference was then made to another order of February 11, 1964: "Upon
petition of Atty. Adelino H. Ledesma, alleging indisposition, the continuation of the trial of this
case is hereby transferred to March 9, 1964 at 8:30 in the morning. The defense is reminded
that at its instance, this case has been postponed at least eight (8) times, and that the
government witnesses have to come all the way from Manapala." 5 After which, it was noted in
such order that there was no incompatibility between the duty of petitioner to the accused and to
the court and the performance of his task as an election registrar of the Commission on
Elections and that the ends of justice "would be served by allowing and requiring Mr. Ledesma
to continue as counsel de oficio, since the prosecution has already rested its case." 6

2. What is readily apparent therefore, is that petitioner was less than duly mindful of his
obligation as counsel de oficio. He ought to have known that membership in the bar is a
privilege burdened with conditions. It could be that for some lawyers, especially the neophytes
in the profession, being appointed counsel de oficio is an irksome chore. For those holding such
belief, it may come as a surprise that counsel of repute and of eminence welcome such an
opportunity. It makes even more manifest that law is indeed a profession dedicated to the ideal
of service and not a mere trade. It is understandable then why a high degree of fidelity to duty is
required of one so designated. A recent statement of the doctrine is found in People v.
Daban: 7 "There is need anew in this disciplinary proceeding to lay stress on the fundamental
postulate that membership in the bar carries with it a responsibility to live up to its exacting
standard. The law is a profession, not a trade or a craft. Those enrolled in its ranks are called
upon to aid in the performance of one of the basic purposes of the State, the administration of
justice. To avoid any frustration thereof, especially in the case of an indigent defendant, a
lawyer may be required to act as counsel de oficio. The fact that his services are rendered
without remuneration should not occasion a diminution in his zeal. Rather the contrary. This is
not, of course, to ignore that other pressing matters do compete for his attention. After all, he
has his practice to attend to. That circumstance possesses a high degree of relevance since a
lawyer has to live; certainly he cannot afford either to neglect his paying cases. Nonetheless,
what is incumbent upon him as counsel de oficio must be fulfilled." 8

So it has been from the 1905 decision of In re Robles Lahesa, 9 where respondent was de
oficio counsel, the opinion penned by Justice Carson making clear: "This Court should exact
from its officers and subordinates the most scrupulous performance of their official duties,
especially when negligence in the performance of those duties necessarily results in delays in
the prosecution of criminal cases ...." 10 Justice Sanchez in People v. Estebia 11 reiterated such a
view in these words: "It is true that he is a court-appointed counsel. But we do say that as such
counsel de oficio, he has as high a duty to the accused as one employed and paid by defendant
himself. Because, as in the case of the latter, he must exercise his best efforts and professional
ability in behalf of the person assigned to his care. He is to render effective assistance. The
accused-defendant expects of him due diligence, not mere perfunctory representation. For,
indeed a lawyer who is a vanguard in the bastion of justice is expected to have a bigger dose of
social conscience and a little less of self-interest." 12

The weakness of the petition is thus quite evident.

3. If respondent Judge were required to answer the petition, it was only due to the apprehension
that considering the frame of mind of a counsel loath and reluctant to fulfill his obligation, the
welfare of the accused could be prejudiced. His right to counsel could in effect be rendered
nugatory. Its importance was rightfully stressed by Chief Justice Moran in People v. Holgado in
these words: "In criminal cases there can be no fair hearing unless the accused be given an
opportunity to be heard by counsel. The right to be heard would be of little avail if it does not
include the right to be heard by counsel. Even the most intelligent or educated man may have
no skill in the science of law, particularly in the rules of procedure, and; without counsel, he may
be convicted not because he is guilty but because he does not know how to establish his
innocence. And this can happen more easily to persons who are ignorant or uneducated. It is for
this reason that the right to be assisted by counsel is deemed so important that it has become a
constitutional right and it is so implemented that under rules of procedure it is not enough for the
Court to apprise an accused of his right to have an attorney, it is not enough to ask him whether
he desires the aid of an attorney, but it is essential that the court should assign one de oficio for
him if he so desires and he is poor or grant him a reasonable time to procure an attorney of his
own." 13 So it was under the previous Organic Acts. 14 The present Constitution is even more
emphatic. For, in addition to reiterating that the accused "shall enjoy the right to be heard by
himself and counsel," 15 there is this new provision: "Any person under investigation for the
commission of an offense shall have the right to remain silent and to counsel, and to be
informed of such right. No force, violence, threat, intimidation, or any other means which vitiates
the free will shall be used against him. Any confession obtained in violation of this section shall
be inadmissible in evidence." 16

Thus is made manifest the indispensable role of a member of the Bar in the defense of an
accused. Such a consideration could have sufficed for petitioner not being allowed to withdraw
as counsel de oficio. For he did betray by his moves his lack of enthusiasm for the task
entrusted to him, to put matters mildly. He did point though to his responsibility as an election
registrar. Assuming his good faith, no such excuse could be availed now. There is not likely at
present, and in the immediate future, an exorbitant demand on his time. It may likewise be
assumed, considering what has been set forth above, that petitioner would exert himself
sufficiently to perform his task as defense counsel with competence, if not with zeal, if only to
erase doubts as to his fitness to remain a member of the profession in good standing. The
admonition is ever timely for those enrolled in the ranks of legal practitioners that there are
times, and this is one of them, when duty to court and to client takes precedence over the
promptings of self-interest.

WHEREFORE, the petition for certiorari is dismissed. Costs against petitioner.

Zaldivar (Chairman), Antonio, Fernandez and Aquino, JJ., concur.

Barredo, J., took no part.


Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila

EN BANC

March 23, 1929

In re LUIS B. TAGORDA,

Duran & Lim for respondent.


Attorney-General Jaranilla and Provincial Fiscal Jose for the Government.

MALCOLM, J.:

The respondent, Luis B. Tagorda, a practising attorney and a member of the provincial board of
Isabela, admits that previous to the last general elections he made use of a card written in
Spanish and Ilocano, which, in translation, reads as follows:

LUIS B. TAGORDA
Attorney
Notary Public
CANDIDATE FOR THIRD MEMBER
Province of Isabela

(NOTE. As notary public, he can execute for you a deed of sale for the purchase of
land as required by the cadastral office; can renew lost documents of your animals; can
make your application and final requisites for your homestead; and can execute any kind
of affidavit. As a lawyer, he can help you collect your loans although long overdue, as
well as any complaint for or against you. Come or write to him in his town, Echague,
Isabela. He offers free consultation, and is willing to help and serve the poor.)

The respondent further admits that he is the author of a letter addressed to a lieutenant of barrio
in his home municipality written in Ilocano, which letter, in translation, reads as follows:

ECHAGUE, ISABELA, September 18, 1928

MY DEAR LIEUTENANT: I would like to inform you of the approaching date for our
induction into office as member of the Provincial Board, that is on the 16th of next
month. Before my induction into office I should be very glad to hear your suggestions or
recommendations for the good of the province in general and for your barrio in particular.
You can come to my house at any time here in Echague, to submit to me any kind of
suggestion or recommendation as you may desire.

I also inform you that despite my membership in the Board I will have my residence here
in Echague. I will attend the session of the Board of Ilagan, but will come back home on
the following day here in Echague to live and serve with you as a lawyer and notary
public. Despite my election as member of the Provincial Board, I will exercise my legal
profession as a lawyer and notary public. In case you cannot see me at home on any
week day, I assure you that you can always find me there on every Sunday. I also inform
you that I will receive any work regarding preparations of documents of contract of sales
and affidavits to be sworn to before me as notary public even on Sundays.

I would like you all to be informed of this matter for the reason that some people are in
the belief that my residence as member of the Board will be in Ilagan and that I would
then be disqualified to exercise my profession as lawyer and as notary public. Such is
not the case and I would make it clear that I am free to exercise my profession as
formerly and that I will have my residence here in Echague.

I would request you kind favor to transmit this information to your barrio people in any of
your meetings or social gatherings so that they may be informed of my desire to live and
to serve with you in my capacity as lawyer and notary public. If the people in your locality
have not as yet contracted the services of other lawyers in connection with the
registration of their land titles, I would be willing to handle the work in court and would
charge only three pesos for every registration.

Yours respectfully,

(Sgd.) LUIS TAGORDA


Attorney
Notary Public.

The facts being conceded, it is next in order to write down the applicable legal provisions.
Section 21 of the Code of Civil Procedure as originally conceived related to disbarments of
members of the bar. In 1919 at the instigation of the Philippine Bar Association, said codal
section was amended by Act No. 2828 by adding at the end thereof the following: "The practice
of soliciting cases at law for the purpose of gain, either personally or through paid agents or
brokers, constitutes malpractice."

The statute as amended conforms in principle to the Canons of Professionals Ethics adopted by
the American Bar Association in 1908 and by the Philippine Bar Association in 1917. Canons 27
and 28 of the Code of Ethics provide:

27. ADVERTISING, DIRECT OR INDIRECT. The most worthy and effective


advertisement possible, even for a young lawyer, and especially with his brother
lawyers, is the establishment of a well-merited reputation for professional capacity and
fidelity to trust. This cannot be forced, but must be the outcome of character and
conduct. The publication or circulation of ordinary simple business cards, being a matter
of personal taste or local custom, and sometimes of convenience, is not per se improper.
But solicitation of business by circulars or advertisements, or by personal
communications or interview not warranted by personal relations, is unprofessional. It is
equally unprofessional to procure business by indirection through touters of any kind,
whether allied real estate firms or trust companies advertising to secure the drawing of
deeds or wills or offering retainers in exchange for executorships or trusteeships to be
influenced by the lawyer. Indirect advertisement for business by furnishing or inspiring
newspaper comments concerning the manner of their conduct, the magnitude of the
interest involved, the importance of the lawyer's position, and all other like self-laudation,
defy the traditions and lower the tone of our high calling, and are intolerable.
28. STIRRING UP LITIGATION, DIRECTLY OR THROUGH AGENTS. It is
unprofessional for a lawyer to volunteer advice to bring a lawsuit, except in rare cases
where ties of blood, relationship or trust make it his duty to do so. Stirring up strife and
litigation is not only unprofessional, but it is indictable at common law. It is disreputable
to hunt up defects in titles or other causes of action and inform thereof in order to the
employed to bring suit, or to breed litigation by seeking out those with claims for
personal injuries or those having any other grounds of action in order to secure them as
clients, or to employ agents or runners for like purposes, or to pay or reward directly or
indirectly, those who bring or influence the bringing of such cases to his office, or to
remunerate policemen, court or prison officials, physicians, hospital attaches or others
who may succeed, under the guise of giving disinterested friendly advice, in influencing
the criminal, the sick and the injured, the ignorant or others, to seek his professional
services. A duty to the public and to the profession devolves upon every member of the
bar having knowledge of such practices upon the part of any practitioner immediately to
inform thereof to the end that the offender may be disbarred.

Common barratry consisting of frequently stirring up suits and quarrels between individuals was
a crime at the common law, and one of the penalties for this offense when committed by an
attorney was disbarment. Statutes intended to reach the same evil have been provided in a
number of jurisdictions usually at the instance of the bar itself, and have been upheld as
constitutional. The reason behind statutes of this type is not difficult to discover. The law is a
profession and not a business. The lawyer may not seek or obtain employment by himself or
through others for to do so would be unprofessional. (State vs. Rossman [1909], 53 Wash., 1;
17 Ann. Cas., 625; People vs. Mac Cabe [1893], 19 L. R. A., 231; 2 R. C. L., 1097.)

It becomes our duty to condemn in no uncertain terms the ugly practice of solicitation of cases
by lawyers. It is destructive of the honor of a great profession. It lowers the standards of that
profession. It works against the confidence of the community in the integrity of the members of
the bar. It results in needless litigation and in incenting to strife otherwise peacefully inclined
citizens.

The solicitation of employment by an attorney is a ground for disbarment or suspension. That


should be distinctly understood.

Giving application of the law and the Canons of Ethics to the admitted facts, the respondent
stands convicted of having solicited cases in defiance of the law and those canons. Accordingly,
the only remaining duty of the court is to fix upon the action which should here be taken. The
provincial fiscal of Isabela, with whom joined the representative of the Attorney-General in the
oral presentation of the case, suggests that the respondent be only reprimanded. We think that
our action should go further than this if only to reflect our attitude toward cases of this character
of which unfortunately the respondent's is only one. The commission of offenses of this nature
would amply justify permanent elimination from the bar. But as mitigating, circumstances
working in favor of the respondent there are, first, his intimation that he was unaware of the
impropriety of his acts, second, his youth and inexperience at the bar, and, third, his promise not
to commit a similar mistake in the future. A modest period of suspension would seem to fit the
case of the erring attorney. But it should be distinctly understood that this result is reached in
view of the considerations which have influenced the court to the relatively lenient in this
particular instance and should, therefore, not be taken as indicating that future convictions of
practice of this kind will not be dealt with by disbarment.
In view of all the circumstances of this case, the judgment of the court is that the respondent
Luis B. Tagorda be and is hereby suspended from the practice as an attorney-at-law for the
period of one month from April 1, 1929,

Street, Johns, Romualdez, and Villa-Real, JJ., concur.


Johnson, J., reserves his vote.
NICOMEDES TOLENTINO
LAW OFFFICE
CONSULTANCY & MARITIME SERVICES
W/ FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE

Back
SERVICES OFFERED:
CONSULTATION AND ASSISTANCE
TO OVERSEAS SEAMEN
REPATRIATED DUE TO ACCIDENT,
INJURY, ILLNESS, SICKNESS, DEATH
AND INSURANCE BENEFIT CLAIMS
ABROAD.

(emphasis supplied)
Hence, this complaint.
Respondent, in his defense, denied knowing Labiano and authorizing the printing and circulation
of the said calling card.[7]
The complaint was referred to the Commission on Bar Discipline (CBD) of the Integrated Bar of
the Philippines (IBP) for investigation, report and recommendation.[8]
Based on testimonial and documentary evidence, the CBD, in its report and
recommendation,[9] found that respondent had encroached on the professional practice of
complainant, violating Rule 8.02[10] and other canons[11] of the Code of Professional Responsibility
(CPR). Moreover, he contravened the rule against soliciting cases for gain, personally or through
paid agents or brokers as stated in Section 27, Rule 138[12] of the Rules of Court. Hence, the CBD
recommended that respondent be reprimanded with a stern warning that any repetition would
merit a heavier penalty.
We adopt the findings of the IBP on the unethical conduct of respondent but we modify the
recommended penalty.
The complaint before us is rooted on the alleged intrusion by respondent into complainants
professional practice in violation of Rule 8.02 of the CPR. And the means employed by
respondent in furtherance of the said misconduct themselves constituted distinct violations of
ethical rules.
Canons of the CPR are rules of conduct all lawyers must adhere to, including the manner by
which a lawyers services are to be made known. Thus, Canon 3 of the CPR provides:

CANON 3 - A LAWYER IN MAKING KNOWN HIS LEGAL SERVICES SHALL USE


ONLY TRUE, HONEST, FAIR, DIGNIFIED AND OBJECTIVE INFORMATION OR
STATEMENT OF FACTS.
Time and time again, lawyers are reminded that the practice of law is a profession and not a
business; lawyers should not advertise their talents as merchants advertise their wares. [13] To
allow a lawyer to advertise his talent or skill is to commercialize the practice of law, degrade the
profession in the publics estimation and impair its ability to efficiently render that high character
of service to which every member of the bar is called.[14]

Rule 2.03 of the CPR provides:

RULE 2.03. A LAWYER SHALL NOT DO OR PERMIT TO BE DONE ANY ACT


DESIGNED PRIMARILY TO SOLICIT LEGAL BUSINESS.
Hence, lawyers are prohibited from soliciting cases for the purpose of gain, either personally or
through paid agents or brokers.[15] Such actuation constitutes malpractice, a ground for
disbarment.[16]

Rule 2.03 should be read in connection with Rule 1.03 of the CPR which provides:

RULE 1.03. A LAWYER SHALL NOT, FOR ANY CORRUPT MOTIVE OR


INTEREST, ENCOURAGE ANY SUIT OR PROCEEDING OR DELAY ANY MANS
CAUSE.

This rule proscribes ambulance chasing (the solicitation of almost any kind of legal business by
an attorney, personally or through an agent in order to gain employment)[17] as a measure to
protect the community from barratry and champerty.[18]
Complainant presented substantial evidence[19] (consisting of the sworn statements of the very
same persons coaxed by Labiano and referred to respondents office) to prove that respondent
indeed solicited legal business as well as profited from referrals suits.

Although respondent initially denied knowing Labiano in his answer, he later admitted it
during the mandatory hearing.

Through Labianos actions, respondents law practice was benefited. Hapless seamen
were enticed to transfer representation on the strength of Labianos word that respondent could
produce a more favorable result.
Based on the foregoing, respondent clearly solicited employment violating Rule 2.03, and Rule
1.03 and Canon 3 of the CPR and Section 27, Rule 138 of the Rules of Court.
With regard to respondents violation of Rule 8.02 of the CPR, settled is the rule that a lawyer
should not steal another lawyers client nor induce the latter to retain him by a promise of better
service, good result or reduced fees for his services.[20] Again the Court notes that respondent
never denied having these seafarers in his client list nor receiving benefits from Labianos
referrals. Furthermore, he never denied Labianos connection to his office. [21] Respondent
committed an unethical, predatory overstep into anothers legal practice. He cannot escape liability
under Rule 8.02 of the CPR.
Moreover, by engaging in a money-lending venture with his clients as borrowers, respondent
violated Rule 16.04:

Rule 16.04 A lawyer shall not borrow money from his client unless the clients interests are
fully protected by the nature of the case or by independent advice. Neither shall a
lawyer lend money to a client except, when in the interest of justice, he has to
advance necessary expenses in a legal matter he is handling for the client.
The rule is that a lawyer shall not lend money to his client. The only exception is, when in
the interest of justice, he has to advance necessary expenses (such as filing fees, stenographers
fees for transcript of stenographic notes, cash bond or premium for surety bond, etc.) for a matter
that he is handling for the client.

The rule is intended to safeguard the lawyers independence of mind so that the free
exercise of his judgment may not be adversely affected.[22] It seeks to ensure his undivided
attention to the case he is handling as well as his entire devotion and fidelity to the clients cause. If
the lawyer lends money to the client in connection with the clients case, the lawyer in effect
acquires an interest in the subject matter of the case or an additional stake in its outcome.[23] Either
of these circumstances may lead the lawyer to consider his own recovery rather than that of his
client, or to accept a settlement which may take care of his interest in the verdict to the prejudice
of the client in violation of his duty of undivided fidelity to the clients cause.[24]
As previously mentioned, any act of solicitation constitutes malpractice[25] which calls for the
exercise of the Courts disciplinary powers. Violation of anti-solicitation statutes warrants serious
sanctions for initiating contact with a prospective client for the purpose of obtaining
employment.[26] Thus, in this jurisdiction, we adhere to the rule to protect the public from the
Machiavellian machinations of unscrupulous lawyers and to uphold the nobility of the legal
profession.

Considering the myriad infractions of respondent (including violation of the prohibition on


lending money to clients), the sanction recommended by the IBP, a mere reprimand, is a wimpy
slap on the wrist. The proposed penalty is grossly incommensurate to its findings.

A final word regarding the calling card presented in evidence by petitioner. A lawyers best
advertisement is a well-merited reputation for professional capacity and fidelity to trust based on
his character and conduct.[27] For this reason, lawyers are only allowed to announce their services
by publication in reputable law lists or use of simple professional cards.
Professional calling cards may only contain the following details:

(a) lawyers name;


(b) name of the law firm with which he is connected;
(c) address;
(d) telephone number and
(e) special branch of law practiced.[28]

Labianos calling card contained the phrase with financial assistance. The phrase was
clearly used to entice clients (who already had representation) to change counsels with a promise
of loans to finance their legal actions. Money was dangled to lure clients away from their original
lawyers, thereby taking advantage of their financial distress and emotional vulnerability. This
crass commercialism degraded the integrity of the bar and deserved no place in the legal
profession. However, in the absence of substantial evidence to prove his culpability, the Court is
not prepared to rule that respondent was personally and directly responsible for the printing and
distribution of Labianos calling cards.

WHEREFORE, respondent Atty. Nicomedes Tolentino for violating Rules 1.03, 2.03, 8.02 and
16.04 and Canon 3 of the Code of Professional Responsibility and Section 27, Rule 138 of the
Rules of Court is hereby SUSPENDED from the practice of law for a period of one
year effective immediately from receipt of this resolution. He is STERNLY WARNED that a
repetition of the same or similar acts in the future shall be dealt with more severely.

Let a copy of this Resolution be made part of his records in the Office of the Bar Confidant,
Supreme Court of the Philippines, and be furnished to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and
the Office of the Court Administrator to be circulated to all courts.

SO ORDERED.
SECOND DIVISION

[A.C No. 4749. January 20, 2000]

SOLIMAN M. SANTOS, JR., complainant, vs. ATTY. FRANCISCO R. LLAMAS, respondent.

DECISION

MENDOZA, J.:

This is a complaint for misrepresentation and non-payment of bar membership dues filed
against respondent Atty. Francisco R. Llamas.

In a letter-complaint to this Court dated February 8, 1997, complainant Soliman M. Santos, Jr.,
himself a member of the bar, alleged that:

On my oath as an attorney, I wish to bring to your attention and appropriate


sanction the matter of Atty. Francisco R. Llamas who, for a number of years now,
has not indicated the proper PTR and IBP O.R. Nos. and data (date & place of
issuance) in his pleadings. If at all, he only indicates "IBP Rizal 259060" but he
has been using this for at least three years already, as shown by the following
attached sample pleadings in various courts in 1995, 1996 and 1997: (originals
available)

Annex "Ex-Parte Manifestation and Submission" dated


A.......- December 1, 1995 in Civil Case No. Q-95-25253, RTC,
Br. 224, QC

Annex "Urgent Ex-Parte Manifestation Motion" dated November


B.......- 13, 1996 in Sp. Proc. No. 95-030, RTC Br. 259 (not 257),
Paraaque, MM

Annex "An Urgent and Respectful Plea for extension of Time to


C.......- File Required Comment and Opposition" dated January
17, 1997 in CA-G.R. SP (not Civil Case) No. 42286, CA
6th Div.

This matter is being brought in the context of Rule 138, Section 1 which qualifies
that only a duly admitted member of the bar "who is in good and regular standing,
is entitled to practice law". There is also Rule 139-A, Section 10 which provides
that "default in the payment of annual dues for six months shall warrant
suspension of membership in the Integrated Bar, and default in such payment for
one year shall be a ground for the removal of the name of the delinquent member
from the Roll of Attorneys."

Among others, I seek clarification (e.g. a certification) and appropriate action on


the bar standing of Atty. Francisco R. Llamas both with the Bar Confidant and
with the IBP, especially its Rizal Chapter of which Atty. Llamas purports to be a
member. Jksm
Please note that while Atty. Llamas indicates "IBP Rizal 259060" sometimes, he
does not indicate any PTR for payment of professional tax.

Under the Rules, particularly Rule 138, Sections 27 and 28, suspension of an
attorney may be done not only by the Supreme Court but also by the Court of
Appeals or a Regional Trial Court (thus, we are also copy furnishing some of
these courts).

Finally, it is relevant to note the track record of Atty. Francisco R. Llamas, as


shown by:

1........his dismissal as Pasay City Judge per Supreme Court Admin. Matter No.
1037-CJ En Banc Decision on October 28, 1981 ( in SCRA )

2........his conviction for estafa per Decision dated June 30, 1994 in Crim. Case
No. 11787, RTC Br. 66, Makati, MM (see attached copy of the Order dated
February 14, 1995 denying the motion for reconsideration of the conviction which
is purportedly on appeal in the Court of Appeals).

Attached to the letter-complaint were the pleadings dated December 1, 1995, November 13,
1996, and January 17, 1997 referred to by complainant, bearing, at the end thereof, what
appears to be respondents signature above his name, address and the receipt number "IBP
Rizal 259060."[1] Also attached was a copy of the order,[2] dated February 14, 1995, issued by
Judge Eriberto U. Rosario, Jr. of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 66, Makati, denying
respondents motion for reconsideration of his conviction, in Criminal Case No. 11787, for
violation of Art. 316, par. 2 of the Revised Penal Code.

On April 18, 1997, complainant filed a certification[3] dated March 18, 1997, by the then
president of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, Atty. Ida R. Macalinao-Javier, that
respondents "last payment of his IBP dues was in 1991. Since then he has not paid or remitted
any amount to cover his membership fees up to the present."

On July 7, 1997, respondent was required to comment on the complaint within ten days from
receipt of notice, after which the case was referred to the IBP for investigation, report and
recommendation. In his comment-memorandum,[4] dated June 3, 1998, respondent alleged:[5]

3. That with respect to the complainants absurd claim that for using in 1995,
1996 and 1997 the same O.R. No. 259060 of the Rizal IBP, respondent is
automatically no longer a member in good standing.

Precisely, as cited under the context of Rule 138, only an admitted member of
the bar who is in good standing is entitled to practice law.

The complainants basis in claiming that the undersigned was no longer in good
standing, were as above cited, the October 28, 1981 Supreme Court decision of
dismissal and the February 14, 1995 conviction for Violation of Article 316 RPC,
concealment of encumbrances. Chief
As above pointed out also, the Supreme Court dismissal decision was set aside
and reversed and respondent was even promoted from City Judge of Pasay City
to Regional Trial Court Judge of Makati, Br. 150.

Also as pointed out, the February 14, 1995 decision in Crim. Case No. 11787
was appealed to the Court of Appeals and is still pending.

Complainant need not even file this complaint if indeed the decision of dismissal
as a Judge was never set aside and reversed, and also had the decision of
conviction for a light felony, been affirmed by the Court of Appeals. Undersigned
himself would surrender his right or privilege to practice law.

4. That complainant capitalizes on the fact that respondent had been delinquent
in his dues.

Undersigned since 1992 have publicly made it clear per his Income Tax Return,
up to the present, that he had only a limited practice of law. In fact, in his Income
Tax Return, his principal occupation is a farmer of which he is. His 30 hectares
orchard and pineapple farm is located at Calauan, Laguna.

Moreover, and more than anything else, respondent being a Senior Citizen since
1992, is legally exempt under Section 4 of Rep. Act 7432 which took effect in
1992, in the payment of taxes, income taxes as an example. Being thus exempt,
he honestly believe in view of his detachment from a total practice of law, but
only in a limited practice, the subsequent payment by him of dues with the
Integrated Bar is covered by such exemption. In fact, he never exercised his
rights as an IBP member to vote and be voted upon.

Nonetheless, if despite such honest belief of being covered by the exemption and
if only to show that he never in any manner wilfully and deliberately failed and
refused compliance with such dues, he is willing at any time to fulfill and pay all
past dues even with interests, charges and surcharges and penalties. He is
ready to tender such fulfillment or payment, not for allegedly saving his skin as
again irrelevantly and frustratingly insinuated for vindictive purposes by the
complainant, but as an honest act of accepting reality if indeed it is reality for him
to pay such dues despite his candor and honest belief in all food faith, to the
contrary. Esmsc

On December 4, 1998, the IBP Board of Governors passed a resolution[6] adopting and
approving the report and recommendation of the Investigating Commissioner which found
respondent guilty, and recommended his suspension from the practice of law for three months
and until he pays his IBP dues. Respondent moved for a reconsideration of the decision, but
this was denied by the IBP in a resolution,[7] dated April 22, 1999. Hence, pursuant to Rule 139-
B, 12(b) of the Rules of Court, this case is here for final action on the decision of the IBP
ordering respondents suspension for three months.

The findings of IBP Commissioner Alfredo Sanz are as follows:

On the first issue, Complainant has shown "respondents non-indication of the


proper IBP O.R. and PTR numbers in his pleadings (Annexes "A", "B" and "C" of
the letter complaint, more particularly his use of "IBP Rizal 259060 for at least
three years."

The records also show a "Certification dated March 24, 1997 from IBP Rizal
Chapter President Ida R. Makahinud Javier that respondents last payment of his
IBP dues was in 1991."

While these allegations are neither denied nor categorically admitted by


respondent, he has invoked and cited that "being a Senior Citizen since 1992, he
is legally exempt under Section 4 of Republic Act No. 7432 which took effect in
1992 in the payment of taxes, income taxes as an example."

....

The above cited provision of law is not applicable in the present case. In fact,
respondent admitted that he is still in the practice of law when he alleged that the
"undersigned since 1992 have publicly made it clear per his Income tax Return
up to the present time that he had only a limited practice of law." (par. 4 of
Respondents Memorandum).

Therefore respondent is not exempt from paying his yearly dues to the Integrated
Bar of the Philippines. Esmmis

On the second issue, complainant claims that respondent has misled the court
about his standing in the IBP by using the same IBP O.R. number in his
pleadings of at least six years and therefore liable for his actions. Respondent in
his memorandum did not discuss this issue.

First. Indeed, respondent admits that since 1992, he has engaged in law practice without having
paid his IBP dues. He likewise admits that, as appearing in the pleadings submitted by
complainant to this Court, he indicated "IBP-Rizal 259060" in the pleadings he filed in court, at
least for the years 1995, 1996, and 1997, thus misrepresenting that such was his IBP chapter
membership and receipt number for the years in which those pleadings were filed. He claims,
however, that he is only engaged in a "limited" practice and that he believes in good faith that he
is exempt from the payment of taxes, such as income tax, under R.A. No. 7432, 4 as a senior
citizen since 1992.

Rule 139-A provides:

Sec. 9. Membership dues. - Every member of the Integrated Bar shall pay such
annual dues as the Board of Governors shall determine with the approval of the
Supreme Court. A fixed sum equivalent to ten percent (10%) of the collections
from each Chapter shall be set aside as a Welfare Fund for disabled members of
the Chapter and the compulsory heirs of deceased members thereof.

Sec. 10. Effect of non-payment of dues. - Subject to the provisions of Section 12


of this Rule, default in the payment of annual dues for six months shall warrant
suspension of membership in the Integrated Bar, and default in such payment for
one year shall be a ground for the removal of the name of the delinquent member
from the Roll of Attorneys.
In accordance with these provisions, respondent can engage in the practice of law only by
paying his dues, and it does not matter that his practice is "limited." While it is true that R.A. No.
7432, 4 grants senior citizens "exemption from the payment of individual income taxes:
provided, that their annual taxable income does not exceed the poverty level as determined by
the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) for that year," the exemption does
not include payment of membership or association dues.

Second. By indicating "IBP-Rizal 259060" in his pleadings and thereby misrepresenting to the
public and the courts that he had paid his IBP dues to the Rizal Chapter, respondent is guilty of
violating the Code of Professional Responsibility which provides:

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

CANON 7 - A LAWYER SHALL AT ALL TIMES UPHOLD THE INTEGRITY AND


DIGNITY OF THE LEGAL PROFESSION, AND SUPPORT THE ACTIVITIES OF
THE INTEGRATED BAR. Esmso

CANON 10 - A LAWYER OWES CANDOR, FAIRNESS AND GOOD FAITH TO


THE COURT.

Rule 10.01 - A lawyer shall not do any falsehood, nor consent to the doing of any
court; nor shall he mislead or allow the court to be misled by any artifice.

Respondents failure to pay his IBP dues and his misrepresentation in the pleadings he filed in
court indeed merit the most severe penalty. However, in view of respondents advanced age, his
express willingness to pay his dues and plea for a more temperate application of the law,[8] we
believe the penalty of one year suspension from the practice of law or until he has paid his IBP
dues, whichever is later, is appropriate.

WHEREFORE, respondent Atty. Francisco R. Llamas is SUSPENDED from the practice of law
for ONE (1) YEAR, or until he has paid his IBP dues, whichever is later. Let a copy of this
decision be attached to Atty. Llamas personal record in the Office of the Bar Confidant and
copies be furnished to all chapters of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and to all courts in the
land.

SO ORDERED.
Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila

EN BANC

A.C. No. 2505 February 21, 1992

EVANGELINE LEDA, complainant,


vs.
ATTY. TREBONIAN TABANG, respondent.

PER CURIAM:

Complainant, Evangeline Leda, squarely puts in issue respondent Atty. Trebonian Tabang's
good moral character, in two Complaints she had filed against him, one docketed as Bar Matter
No. 78 instituted on 6 January 1982, and the present Administrative Case No. 2505, which is a
Petition for Disbarment, filed on 14 February 1983.

It appears that on 3 October 1976, Respondent and Complainant contracted marriage at


Tigbauan, Iloilo. The marriage, solemnized by Judge Jose T. Tavarro of Tigbauan, was
performed under Article 76 of the Civil
Code 1 as one of exceptional character (Annex "A", Petition).

The parties agreed to keep the fact of marriage a secret until after Respondent had finished his
law studies (began in l977), and had taken the Bar examinations (in 1981), allegedly to ensure a
stable future for them. Complainantadmits, though, that they had not lived together as husband
and wife (Letter-Complaint, 6 January 1982).

Respondent finished his law studies in 1981 and thereafter applied to take the Bar. In his
application, he declared that he was "single." He then passed the examinations but Complainant
blocked him from taking his Oath by instituting Bar Matter No. 78, claiming
that Respondent had acted fraudulently in filling out his application and, thus, was unworthy to
take the lawyer's Oath for lack of good moral character. Complainant also alleged that after
Respondent's law studies, he became aloof and "abandoned" her (Petition, par. 5).

The Court deferred Respondent's Oath-taking and required him to answer the Complaint.

Respondent filed his "Explanation," dated 26 May 1982 which was received on 7 June
1982. Said "Explanation" carries Complainant's conformity (Records, p. 6). Therein, he admitted
that he was "legally married" to Complainant on 3 October 1976 but that the marriage "was not
as yet made and declared public" so that he could proceed with his law studies and until after
he could take the Bar examinations "in order to keep stable our future." He also admitted having
indicated that he was "single" in his application to take the Bar "for reason that to my honest
belief, I have still to declare my status as single since my marriage with the complainant was not
as yet made and declared public." He further averred that he and Complainant had reconciled
as shown by her conformity to the "Explanation," for which reason he prayed that the Complaint
be dismissed.

Respondent also filed a Motion to Dismiss, dated 2 June 1982. Attached to it was Complainant's
Affidavit of Desistance, which stated that Bar Matter No. 78 arose out of a misunderstanding
and communication gap and that she was refraining from pursuing her Complaint against
Respondent.

Acting on the aforesaid Motion and Comment, the Court dismissed Bar Matter No. 78 and
allowed Respondent to take his Oath in a Resolution dated 20 August 1982.

On 14 February 1983, however, Complainant filed this Administrative Case, this time praying for
Respondent's disbarment based on the following grounds:

a. For having made use of his legal knowledge to contract an invalid marriage
with me assuming that our marriage is not valid, and making a mockery of our
marriage institution.

b. For having misrepresented himself as single when in truth he is already


married in his application to take the bar exam.

c. For being not of good moral character contrary to the certification he submitted
to the Supreme Court;

d. For (sic) guilty of deception for the reason that he deceived me into signing
of the affidavit ofdesistance and the conformity to his explanation and later on the
comment to his motion to dismiss, when in truth and in fact he is not sincere, for
he only befriended me to resume our marriage and introduced me to his family,
friends and relatives as his wife, for a bad motive that is he wanted me to
withdraw my complaint against him with the Supreme Court.

Attached to Complainant's Petition for Disbarment, as Annex "F," is an undated and unsigned
letter addressed to Complainant, allegedly written by Respondent after he had already taken his
Oath stating, among others, that while he was grateful for Complainant's help, he "could not
force myself to be yours," did not love her anymore and considered her only a friend. Their
marriage contract was actually void for failure to comply with the requisites of Article 76 of the
Civil Code, among them the minimum cohabitation for five (5) years before the celebration of
the marriage, an affidavit to that effect by the solemnizing officer, and that the parties must be at
least twenty-one (21) years of age, which they were not as they were both only twenty years old
at the time. He advised Complainant not to do anything more so as not to put her family name
"in shame." As for him, he had "attain(ed) my goal as a full-pledge (sic) professional and there is
nothing you can do for it to take away from me even (sic) you go to any court."According to
Complainant, although the letter was unsigned, Respondent's initials appear on the upper left-
hand corner of the airmail envelope (Exh. "8-A-1").

Respondent denied emphatically that he had sent such a letter contending that it is Complainant
who has been indulging in fantasy and fabrications.
In his Comment in the present case, Respondent avers that he and Complainant had
covenanted not to disclose the marriage not because he wanted to finish his studies and take
the Bar first but for the reason that said marriage was void from the beginning in the absence of
the requisites of Article 76 of the Civil Code that the contracting parties shall have lived together
as husband and wife for at least five (5) years before the date of the marriage and that said
parties shall state the same in an affidavit before any person authorized by law to administer
oaths. He could not have abandoned Complainant because they had never lived together as
husband and wife. When he applied for the 1981 Bar examinations, he honestly believed that in
the eyes of the law, he was single.

On 7 May 1984, the Court referred the Complaint to the Solicitor General for investigation,
report and recommendation. On 5 March 1990, the Solicitor General submitted his Report, with
the recommendation that Respondent be exonerated from the charges against him since
Complainant failed to attend the hearings and to substantiate her charges but that he be
reprimanded for making inconsistent and conflicting statements in the various pleadings he had
filed before this Court.

On 26 March 1990, the Court referred the Solicitor General's Report to the Bar Confidant for
evaluation, report and recommendation. In an undated Report, the latter recommended the
indefinite suspension of Respondent until the status of his marriage is settled.

Upon the facts on Record even without testimonial evidence from Complainant, we find
Respondent's lack of good moral character sufficiently established.

Firstly, his declaration in his application for Admission to the 1981 Bar Examinations that he
was "single" was a gross misrepresentation of a material fact made in utter bad faith, for which
he should be made answerable. Rule 7.01, Canon 7, Chapter II of the Code of Professional
Responsibility explicitly provides: "A lawyer shall be answerable for knowingly making a false
statement or suppression of a material fact in connection with his application for admission to
the bar." That false statement, if it had been known, would have disqualified him outrightfrom
taking the Bar Examinations as it indubitably exhibits lack of good moral character.

Respondent's protestations that he had acted in good faith in declaring his status as "single" not
only because of his pact with Complainant to keep the marriage under wraps but also because
that marriage to the Complainant was void from the beginning, are mere afterthoughts
absolutely wanting of merit. Respondent can not assume that his marriage to Complainant is
void. The presumption is that all the requisites and conditions of a marriage of an exceptional
character under Article 76 of the Civil Code have been met and that the Judge's official duty in
connection therewith has been regularly performed.

Secondly, Respondent's conduct in adopting conflicting positions in the various pleadings


submitted in Bar Matter No. 78 and in the case at bar is duplicitous and deplorable.

The records show that in Bar Matter No. 78, Respondent had submitted an "Explanation," in
paragraph 1, page 1 of which he admits having been "legally married" to Complainant. Yet,
during the hearings before the Solicitor General, he denied under oath that he had submitted
any such pleading (t.s.n., p. 21) contending instead that it is only the second page where his
signature appears that he meant to admit and not the averments on the first page which were
merely of Complainant's own making (ibid., pp. 59-60). However, in his Comment in this
Administrative Case, he admits and makes reference to such "Explanation" (pars. 3[f]) and
[g]; 4[b]).

Again, while in said "Explanation" he admitted having been "legally married" to Complainant
(par. 1), in this case, however, he denies the legality of the marriage and, instead, harps on its
being void ab initio. He even denies his signature in the marriage contract.

In Bar Matter No. 78, Respondent also averred that the fact of marriage was not to be made
public so as to allow him to finish his studies and take the Bar. In this case, however, he
contends that the reason it was kept a secret was because it was "not in order from the
beginning."

Thirdly, Respondent denies that he had sent the unsigned


letter (Annex "F," Petition) to Complainant. However, its very tenor coincides with the reasons
that he advances in his Comment why the marriage is void from the beginning, that is, for failure
to comply with the requisites of Article 76 of the Civil Code.

Fourthly, the factual scenario gathered from the records shows that Respondent had reconciled
with Complainant and admitted the marriage to put a quick finish to Bar Matter No. 78 to enable
him to take the lawyer's Oath, which otherwise he would have been unable to do. But after he
had done so and had become a "full-pledge (sic) lawyer," he again refused to honor his
marriage to Complainant.

Respondent's lack of good moral character is only too evident. He has resorted to conflicting
submissions before this Court to suit himself. He has also engaged in devious tactics with
Complainant in order to serve his purpose. Inso doing, he has violated Canon 10 of the Code of
Professional Responsibility, which provides that "a lawyer owes candor, fairness and good faith
to the court" as well as Rule 1001 thereof which states that "a lawyer should do no falsehood
nor consent to the doing of any in Court; nor shall he mislead, or allow the court to be misled by
any artifice." Courts are entitled to expect only complete candor and honesty from the lawyers
appearing and pleading before them (Chavez v. Viola, Adm. Case No. 2152, 19 April 1991, 196
SCRA 10). Respondent, through his actuations, has been lacking in the candor required of him
not only as a member of the Bar but also as an officer of the Court.

It cannot be overemphasized that the requirement of good moral character is not only a
condition precedent toadmission to the practice of law; its continued possession is also
essential for remaining in the practice of law(People v. Tuanda, Adm. Case No. 3360,
30 January 1990, 181 SCRA 692). As so aptly put by Mr. Justice GeorgeA. Malcolm: "As
good character is an essential qualification for admission of an attorney to practice, when the
attorney's character is bad in such respects as to show that he is unsafe and unfit to be
entrusted with the powers ofan attorney, the courts retain the power to discipline him (Piatt v.
Abordo, 58 Phil. 350 [1933]).

WHEREFORE, finding respondent Trebonian C. Tabang grossly unfit and unworthy to continue
to be entrusted with the duties and responsibilities belonging to the office of an attorney, he is
hereby SUSPENDED from the practice of law until further Orders, the suspension to take effect
immediately.
Copies of this Decision shall be entered in his personal record as an attorney and served on the
Integrated Bar of the Philippines and the Court Administrator who shall circulate the same to all
Courts in the country for their information and guidance.

SO ORDERED.
EN BANC

[A.C. No. 4148. July 30, 1998]

REMEDIOS RAMIREZ TAPUCAR, complainant, vs. ATTY. LAURO L.


TAPUCAR, respondent.

DECISION
PER CURIAM:

In a letter-complaint dated November 22, 1993, complainant Remedios Ramirez Tapucar


sought the disbarment of her husband, Atty. Lauro L. Tapucar, on the ground of continuing grossly
immoral conduct for cohabiting with a certain Elena (Helen) Pea under scandalous
circumstances.[1]
Prior to this complaint, respondent was already administratively charged four times for
conduct unbecoming an officer of the court. in Administrative Matter No. 1740, resolved on April
11, 1980, respondent, at that time the Judge of Butuan City, was meted the penalty of six months
suspension without pay,[2] while in Administrative Matter Nos. 1720, 1911 and 2300-CFI, which
were consolidated,[3] this Court on January 31, 1981 ordered the separation from service of
respondent.[4]
Now he faces disbarment.
The records reveal the following facts:
From the Report and Recommendation of the Commission on Bar Discipline, it appears that
complainant and respondent were married on October 29, 1953 at the Sacred Heart Roman
Catholic Church in Quezon City. They established their residence in Antipolo, Rizal, were eight of
their eleven children were born. In 1962 respondent relocated his family to Dadiangas, Cotabato
(Now General Santos City), where his last three children were born and where he practiced his
profession until his appointment as a CFI Judge in Butuan City on January 30, 1976.
In August, 1976, shortly after being appointed as CFI Judge, respondent began cohabiting
with a certain Elena (Helen) Pea, in Nasipit, Agusan Del Norte. On December 28, 1977 Elena
gave birth to their first child, named Ofelia Sembrano Pea.
In view of this cohabitation, a certain Atty. Tranquilino Calo filed an administrative complaint
against respondent for immorality. After investigation, the penalty of suspension from office for a
period of six months without pay was meted by this Court upon respondent.[5]
Despite this penalty, respondent still continued to cohabit with Elena, giving rise to another
charge of immorality and other administrative cases, such as conduct unbecoming an officer of
the court, and grossly immoral conduct. These cases were consolidated and after investigation,
this Court ordered his dismissal and separation from the service.[6]
But his dismissal as a judge did not impel respondent to mend his ways. He continued living
with Elena, which resulted in the birth on September 20, 1989, of their second child named Laella
Pea Tapucar. Moreover, he completely abandoned complainant and his children by her.
Respondent later moved from Nasipit, Agusan del Norte back to Antipolo, Rizal, bringing
along Elena and their two children. And on March 5, 1992, respondent contracted marriage with
Elena in a ceremony solemnized by Metropolitan Trial Court Judge Isagani A. Geronimo of
Antipolo, Rizal. This was done while the respondents marriage to complainant subsists, as
nothing on record shows the dissolution thereof.
Complainant, in the meanwhile, had migrated to United States of America upon her
retirement from the government service in 1990. However, her children, who remained in Antipolo,
kept her posted of the misery they allegedly suffered because of their fathers acts, including
deception and intrigues against them. Thus, despite having previously withdrawn a similar case
which she filed in 1976, complainant was forced to file the present petition for disbarment under
the compulsion of the material impulse to shield and protect her children from the despotic and
cruel acts of their own father. Complainant secured the assistance of her eldest daughter, Atty.
Ma. Susana Tapucar-Baua, to represent her in this case.
Consistent with Section 20, Rule 139-B of the Rules of Court, the matter was referred to the
Commission on Bar Discipline of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines for investigation, report and
recommendation. After conducting a thorough investigation, the Commission through
Commissioner Victor C. Fernandez recommended that respondent be disbarred, and his name
be stricken off the roll of attorneys. Mainly, this was premised on the ground that, notwithstanding
sanctions previously imposed upon him by the Honorable Supreme Court, respondent continued
the illicit liaison with Elena.[7]
In his report Commissioner Fernandez noted that, instead of contradicting the charges
against him, respondent displayed arrogance, and even made a mockery of the law and the Court,
as when he said:

I have been ordered suspended by Supreme Court for two months without pay in 1980 for
having a mistress, the same girl Ms. Elena (Helen) Pea, now my wife. Being ordered separated
in later administrative case constitute double jeopardy. If now disbarred for marrying Ms. Elena
Pea will constitute triple jeopardy. If thats the law so be it.[8]

Based on said report, the Board of Governors of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, passed
on May 17, 1997, a Resolution adopting the Commissioners recommendation, as follows:
RESOLUTION NO. XII-97-97
Adm. Case No. 4148
Remedios Ramirez Tapucar vs. Atty. Lauro L. Tapucar

RESOLVED to ADOPT and APPROVE, as it is hereby ADOPTED and APPROVED, the Report
and Recommendation of the Investigating Commissioner in the above-titled case, herein made
part of the Resolution/Decision as Annex A; and, finding the recommendation therein to be fully
supported by the evidence on record and the applicable laws and rules, Respondent Atty. Lauro
L. Tapucar is hereby DISBARRED and that his name be stricken off the roll of attorneys.

We find the Report and Recommendation of Commissioner Fernandez, as approved and


adopted by the Board of Governors of IBP, more than sufficient to justify and support the foregoing
Resolution, herein considered as the recommendation to this Court by said Board pursuant to
Rule 139-B, Sec. 12(b), of the Rules of Court.* We are in agreement that respondents actuations
merit the penalty of disbarment.
Well settled is the rule that good moral character is not only a condition precedent for
admission to the legal profession, but it must also remain intact in order to maintain ones good
standing in that exclusive and honored fraternity.[9] There is perhaps no profession after that of
the sacred ministry in which a high-toned morality is more imperative than that of law.[10] The Code
of Professional Responsibility mandates that:

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

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

As this Court often reminds members of the Bar, they must live up to the standards and norms
expected of the legal profession, by upholding the ideals and tenets embodied in the Code of
Professional Responsibility always. Lawyers must maintain a high standards of legal proficiency,
as well as morality including honesty, integrity and fair dealing. For they are at all times subject to
the scrutinizing eye of public opinion and community approbation. Needless to state, those whose
conduct both public and private fails this scrutiny would have to be disciplined and, after
appropriate proceedings, penalized accordingly.
Moreover, it should be recalled that respondent here was once a member of the judiciary, a
fact that aggravates this professional infractions. For having occupied that place of honor in the
Bench, he knew a judges actuations ought to be free from any appearance of impropriety. [11] For
a judge is the visible representation of the law, more importantly, of justice. Ordinary citizens
consider him as a source of strength that fortifies their will to obey the law. [12] Indeed, a judge
should avoid the slightest infraction of the law in all of his actuations, lest it be a demoralizing
example to others.[13] Surely, respondent could not have forgotten the Code of Judicial Conduct
entirely as to lose its moral imperatives.[14]
Like a judge who is held to a high standard of integrity and ethical conduct,[15] an attorney-at-
law is also invested with public trust. Judges and lawyers serve in the administration of
justice. Admittedly, as officers of the court, lawyers must ensure the faith and confidence of the
public that justice is administered with dignity and civility. A high degree or moral integrity is
expected of a lawyer in the community where he resides. He must maintain due regard for public
decency in an orderly society.
A lawyer is expected at all times to uphold the integrity and dignity of the legal profession by
faithfully performing his duties to society, to the bar, to the courts and to his clients. [16]Exacted
from him, as a member of the profession charged with the responsibility to stand as a shield in
the defense of what is right, are such positive qualities of decency, truthfulness and responsibility
that have been compendiously described as moral character. To achieve such end, every lawyer
needs to strive at all times to honor and maintain the dignity of his profession, and thus improve
not only the public regard for the Bar but also the administration of justice.
On these considerations, the Court may disbar or suspend a lawyer for misconduct, whether
in his professional or private capacity, which shows him to be wanting in moral character, in
honesty, probity, and good demeanor, thus proving unworthy to continue as an officer of the
court.[17]
The power to disbar, however, is one to be exercised with great caution, and only in a clear
case of misconduct which seriously affects the standing and character of the lawyer as an officer
of the Court of and member of the bar.[18] For disbarment proceedings are intended to afford the
parties thereto full opportunity to vindicate their cause before disciplinary action is taken, to assure
the general public that those who are tasked with the duty of administering justice are competent,
honorable, trustworthy men and women in whom the Courts and the clients may repose full
confidence.
In the case of Obusan vs. Obusan, Jr.,[19] a complaint for disbarment was filed against a
member of the bar by his wife. She was able to prove that he had abandoned his wife and their
son; and that he had adulterous relations with a married but separated woman. Respondent was
not able to overcome the evidence presented by his wife that he was guilty of grossly immoral
conduct. In another case,[20] a lawyer was disbarred when he abandoned his lawful wife and
cohabited with another woman who had borne him a child. The Court held that respondent failed
to maintain the highest degree of morality expected and required of a member of a bar.
In the present case, the record shows that despite previous sanctions imposed upon by this
Court, respondent continued his illicit liaison with a woman other than lawfully-wedded wife.The
report of the Commissioner assigned to investigate thoroughly the complaint found respondent
far from contrite; on the contrary, he exhibited a cavalier attitude, even arrogance; in the face of
charges against him. The IBP Board of Governors, tasked to determine whether he still merited
the privileges extended to a member of the legal profession, resolved the matter against him. For
indeed, evidence of grossly immoral conduct abounds against him and could not be explained
away. Keeping a mistress, entering into another marriage while a prior one still subsists, as well
as abandoning and/or mistreating complainant and their children, show his disregard of family
obligations, morality and decency, the law and the lawyers oath. Such gross misbehavior over a
long period of time clearly shows a serious flaw in respondents character, his moral indifference
to scandal in the community, and his outright defiance of established norms. All these could not
but put the legal profession in disrepute and place the integrity of the administration of justice in
peril, hence the need for strict but appropriate disciplinary action.
IN VIEW THEREOF, respondent Atty. Lauro L. Tapucar is hereby DISBARRED. The Clerk
of Court is directed to strike out his name from the Roll of Attorneys.
SO ORDERED.
THIRD DIVISION

[A.C. No. 4807. March 22, 2000]

MANUEL N. CAMACHO, complainant, vs. ATTYS. LUIS MEINRADO C. PANGULAYAN,


REGINA D. BALMORES, CATHERINE V. LAUREL and HUBERT JOAQUIN P. BUSTOS of
PANGULAYAN AND ASSOCIATES LAW OFFICES, respondents.

D E C I S IO N

VITUG, J.: JVITUG

Respondent lawyers stand indicted for a violation of the Code of Professional Ethics, specifically
Canon 9 thereof, viz:

"A lawyer should not in any way communicate upon the subject of controversy
with a party represented by counsel, much less should he undertake to negotiate
or compromise the matter with him, but should only deal with his counsel. It is
incumbent upon the lawyer most particularly to avoid everything that may tend to
mislead a party not represented by counsel and he should not undertake to
advise him as to law." barth

Atty. Manuel N. Camacho filed a complaint against the lawyers comprising the Pangulayan and
Associates Law Offices, namely, Attorneys Luis Meinrado C. Pangulayan, Regina D. Balmores,
Catherine V. Laurel, and Herbert Joaquin P. Bustos. Complainant, the hired counsel of some
expelled students from the AMA Computer College ("AMACC"), in an action for the Issuance of
a Writ of Preliminary Mandatory Injunction and for Damages, docketed Civil Case No. Q-97-
30549 of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 78, of Quezon City, charged that respondents, then
counsel for the defendants, procured and effected on separate occasions, without his
knowledge, compromise agreements ("Re-Admission Agreements") with four of his clients in the
aforementioned civil case which, in effect, required them to waive all kinds of claims they might
have had against AMACC, the principal defendant, and to terminate all civil, criminal and
administrative proceedings filed against it. Complainant averred that such an act of respondents
was unbecoming of any member of the legal profession warranting either disbarment or
suspension from the practice of law.

In his comment, Attorney Pangulayan acknowledged that not one of his co-respondents had
taken part in the negotiation, discussion, formulation, or execution of the various Re-Admission
Agreements complained of and were, in fact, no longer connected at the time with the
Pangulayan and Associates Law Offices. The Re-Admission Agreements, he claimed, had
nothing to do with the dismissal of Civil Case Q-97-30549 and were executed for the sole
purpose of effecting the settlement of an administrative case involving nine students of AMACC
who were expelled therefrom upon the recommendation of the Student Disciplinary Tribunal.
The students, namely, Ian Dexter Marquez, Almira O. Basalo, Neil Jason R. Salcedo, Melissa F.
Domondon, Melyda B. De Leon, Leila D. Joven, Signorelli A. Santiago, Michael Ejercito, and
Cleo B. Villareiz,, were all members of the Editorial Board of DATALINE, who apparently had
caused to be published some objectionable features or articles in the paper. The 3-member
Student Disciplinary Tribunal was immediately convened, and after a series of hearings, it found
the students guilty of the use of indecent language and unauthorized use of the student
publication funds. The body recommended the penalty of expulsion against the erring
students. Jksm

The denial of the appeal made by the students to Dr. Amable R. Aguiluz V, AMACC President,
gave rise to the commencement of Civil Case No. Q-97-30549 on 14th March 1997 before the
Regional Trial Court, Branch 78, of Quezon City. While the civil case was still pending, letters of
apology and Re-Admission Agreements were separately executed by and/or in behalf of some
of the expelled students, to wit: Letter of Apology, dated 27 May 1997, of Neil Jason Salcedo,
assisted by his mother, and Re-Admission Agreement of 22 June 1997 with the AMACC
President; letter of apology, dated 31 March 1997, of Mrs. Veronica B. De Leon for her daughter
Melyda B. De Leon and Re-Admission Agreement of 09 May 1997 with the AMACC President;
letter of apology, dated 22 May 1997, of Leila Joven, assisted by her mother, and Re-Admission
Agreement of 22 May 1997 with the AMACC President; letter of apology, dated 22 September
1997, of Cleo Villareiz and Re-Admission Agreement of 10 October 1997 with the AMACC
President; and letter of apology, dated 20 January 1997, of Michael Ejercito, assisted by his
parents, and Re-Admission Agreement of 23 January 1997 with the AMACC President.

Following the execution of the letters of apology and Re-Admission Agreements, a


Manifestation, dated 06 June 1997, was filed with the trial court where the civil case was
pending by Attorney Regina D. Balmores of the Pangulayan and Associates Law Offices for
defendant AMACC. A copy of the manifestation was furnished complainant. In his Resolution,
dated 14 June 1997, Judge Lopez of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court thereupon dismissed
Civil Case No. Q-97-30549.

On 19 June 1999, the Board of Governors of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines ("IBP")
passed Resolution No. XIII-99-163, thus:

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


APPROVED, the Report and Recommendation of the Investigating
Commissioner in the above-entitled case, herein made part of this
Resolution/Decision as Annex 'A,' and, finding the recommendation fully
supported by the evidence on record and the applicable laws and rules, with an
amendment Atty. Meinrado Pangulayan is suspended from the practice of law for
SIX (6) MONTHS for being remiss in his duty and DISMISSAL of the case
against the other Respondents for they did not take part in the negotiation of the
case." Chief

It would appear that when the individual letters of apology and Re-Admission Agreements were
formalized, complainant was by then already the retained counsel for plaintiff students in the
civil case. Respondent Pangulayan had full knowledge of this fact. Although aware that the
students were represented by counsel, respondent attorney proceeded, nonetheless, to
negotiate with them and their parents without at the very least communicating the matter to their
lawyer, herein complainant, who was counsel of record in Civil Case No. Q-97-30549. This
failure of respondent, whether by design or because of oversight, is an inexcusable violation of
the canons of professional ethics and in utter disregard of a duty owing to a colleague.
Respondent fell short of the demands required of him as a lawyer and as a member of the Bar.

The allegation that the context of the Re-Admission Agreements centers only on the
administrative aspect of the controversy is belied by the Manifestation[1] which, among other
things, explicitly contained the following stipulation; viz:
"1.......Among the nine (9) signatories to the complaint, four (4) of whom assisted
by their parents/guardian already executed a Re-Admission Agreement with
AMACC President, AMABLE R. AGUILUZ V acknowledging guilt for violating the
AMA COMPUTER COLLEGE MANUAL FOR DISCIPLINARY ACTIONS and
agreed among others to terminate all civil, criminal and administrative
proceedings which they may have against the AMACC arising from their previous
dismissal. Esm

"x x x......x x x......x x x

"3. Consequently, as soon as possible, an Urgent Motion to Withdraw from Civil


Case No. Q-97-30549 will by filed them."

The Court can only thus concur with the IBP Investigating Commission and the IBP Board of
Governors in their findings; nevertheless, the recommended six-month suspension would
appear to be somewhat too harsh a penalty given the circumstances and the explanation of
respondent.

WHEREFORE, respondent Atty. Luis Meinrado C. Pangulayan is ordered SUSPENDED from


the practice of law for a period of THREE (3) MONTHS effective immediately upon his receipt of
this decision. The case against the other respondents is DISMISSED for insufficiency of
evidence.

Let a copy of this decision be entered in the personal record of respondent as an attorney and
as a member of the Bar, and furnished the Bar Confidant, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines
and the Court Administrator for circulation to all courts in the country.

SO ORDERED.
REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES
SUPREME COURT
SECOND DIVISION
RODRIGO E. TAPA Y and
ANTHON~ J. RlJSTIA,
Complainants,
A.C. No. 9604
-versusPresent:

CARPIO, J, Chairperson,
BRION,
DEL CASTILLO,
PEREZ, and
PERLAS-BERNABE, JJ.
ATTY. CHARLIE L. BANCOLO and Promulgated:
ATTY. JANUS T. JARDER,
Respondents. MAR 1 0 20!3 \ik\m~clhn2Qct9 X------------------------------------------------ -{(rE'j<.
DECISION
CARPIO, J.:
."
The Case
This administrative case arose from a Complaint tiled by Rodrigo E.
Tapay (Tapay) and Anthony J. Rustia (Rustia), both employees of the Sugar
Regulatory Administration, against Atty. Charlie L. Ban colo (Atty. Bancolo)
and Atty. Janus T. larder (A tty larder) for violation of the Canons of Ethics
and Professionalism, Falsification of Public Document, Gross Dishonesty,
and Harassment.
, ... ' ._'>
Decision 2 A.C. No. 9604

The Facts
Sometime in October 2004, Tapay and Rustia received an Order dated
14 October 2004 from the Office of the Ombudsman-Visayas requiring them
to file a counter-affidavit to a complaint for usurpation of authority,
falsification of public document, and graft and corrupt practices filed against
them by Nehimias Divinagracia, Jr. (Divinagracia), a co-employee in the
Sugar Regulatory Administration. The Complaint1
dated 31 August 2004
was allegedly signed on behalf of Divinagracia by one Atty. Charlie L.
Bancolo of the Jarder Bancolo Law Office based in Bacolod City, Negros
Occidental.
When Atty. Bancolo and Rustia accidentally chanced upon each other,
the latter informed Atty. Bancolo of the case filed against them before the
Office of the Ombudsman. Atty. Bancolo denied that he represented
Divinagracia since he had yet to meet Divinagracia in person. When Rustia
showed him the Complaint, Atty. Bancolo declared that the signature
appearing above his name as counsel for Divinagracia was not his. Thus,
Rustia convinced Atty. Bancolo to sign an affidavit to attest to such fact. On
9 December 2004, Atty. Bancolo signed an affidavit denying his supposed
signature appearing on the Complaint filed with the Office of the
Ombudsman and submitted six specimen signatures for comparison. Using
Atty. Bancolos affidavit and other documentary evidence, Tapay and Rustia
filed a counter-affidavit accusing Divinagracia of falsifying the signature of
his alleged counsel, Atty. Bancolo.
In a Resolution dated 28 March 2005, the Office of the Ombudsman
provisionally dismissed the Complaint since the falsification of the counsels
signature posed a prejudicial question to the Complaints validity. Also, the
Office of the Ombudsman ordered that separate cases for Falsification of
Public Document2
and Dishonesty3
be filed against Divinagracia, with Rustia
and Atty. Bancolo as complainants.
Thereafter, Divinagracia filed his Counter-Affidavit dated 1 August
2005 denying that he falsified the signature of his former lawyer, Atty.
Bancolo. Divinagracia presented as evidence an affidavit dated 1 August
2005 by Richard A. Cordero, the legal assistant of Atty. Bancolo, that the
Jarder Bancolo Law Office accepted Divinagracias case and that the
Complaint filed with the Office of the Ombudsman was signed by the office
secretary per Atty. Bancolos instructions. Divinagracia asked that the
Office of the Ombudsman dismiss the cases for falsification of public
document and dishonesty filed against him by Rustia and Atty. Bancolo and
1 Docketed as OMB-V-C-04-0445-I and OMB-V-A-04-0429-I. 2 Docketed as OMB-V-C-05-
0207-E. 3 Docketed as OMB-V-A-05-0219-E.
Decision 3 A.C. No. 9604

to revive the original Complaint for various offenses that he filed against
Tapay and Rustia.
In a Resolution dated 19 September 2005, the Office of the
Ombudsman dismissed the criminal case for falsification of public document
(OMB-V-C-05-0207-E) for insufficiency of evidence. The dispositive
portion states:
WHEREFORE, the instant case is hereby DISMISSED for
insufficiency of evidence, without prejudice to the re-filing by
Divinagracia, Jr. of a proper complaint for violation of RA 3019 and other
offenses against Rustia and Tapay.
SO ORDERED.4
The administrative case for dishonesty (OMB-V-A-05-0219-E) was
also dismissed for lack of substantial evidence in a Decision dated
19 September 2005.
On 29 November 2005, Tapay and Rustia filed with the Integrated
Bar of the Philippines (IBP) a complaint5
to disbar Atty. Bancolo and
Atty. Jarder, Atty. Bancolos law partner. The complainants alleged that
they were subjected to a harassment Complaint filed before the Office of the
Ombudsman with the forged signature of Atty. Bancolo. Complainants
stated further that the signature of Atty. Bancolo in the Complaint was not
the only one that was forged. Complainants attached a Report6
dated 1 July
2005 by the Philippine National Police Crime Laboratory 6 which examined
three other letter-complaints signed by Atty. Bancolo for other clients,
allegedly close friends of Atty. Jarder. The report concluded that the
questioned signatures in the letter-complaints and the submitted standard
signatures of Atty. Bancolo were not written by one and the same person.
Thus, complainants maintained that not only were respondents engaging in
unprofessional and unethical practices, they were also involved in
falsification of documents used to harass and persecute innocent people.
On 9 January 2006, complainants filed a Supplement to the
Disbarment Complaint Due to Additional Information. They alleged that a
certain Mary Jane Gentugao, the secretary of the Jarder Bancolo Law Office,
forged the signature of Atty. Bancolo.
In their Answer dated 26 January 2006 to the disbarment complaint,
respondents admitted that the criminal and administrative cases filed by
Divinagracia against complainants before the Office of the Ombudsman
4 IBP Records (Vol. I), p. 14. 5 Docketed as CBD Case No. 05-1612. 6 Sub-Office Report No.
0008-2005.
Decision 4 A.C. No. 9604

were accepted by the Jarder Bancolo Law Office. The cases were assigned
to Atty. Bancolo. Atty. Bancolo alleged that after being informed of the
assignment of the cases, he ordered his staff to prepare and draft all the
necessary pleadings and documents. However, due to some minor lapses,
Atty. Bancolo permitted that the pleadings and communications be signed in
his name by the secretary of the law office. Respondents added that
complainants filed the disbarment complaint to retaliate against them since
the cases filed before the Office of the Ombudsman were meritorious and
strongly supported by testimonial and documentary evidence. Respondents
also denied that Mary Jane Gentugao was employed as secretary of their law
office.
Tapay and Rustia filed a Reply to the Answer dated 2 March 2006.
Thereafter, the parties were directed by the Commission on Bar Discipline to
attend a mandatory conference scheduled on 5 May 2006. The conference
was reset to 10 August 2006. On the said date, complainants were present
but respondents failed to appear. The conference was reset to 25 September
2006 for the last time. Again, respondents failed to appear despite receiving
notice of the conference. Complainants manifested that they were
submitting their disbarment complaint based on the documents submitted to
the IBP. Respondents were also deemed to have waived their right to
participate in the mandatory conference. Further, both parties were directed
to submit their respective position papers. On 27 October 2006, the IBP
received complainants position paper dated 18 October 2006 and
respondents position paper dated 23 October 2006.
The IBPs Report and Recommendation
On 11 April 2007, Atty. Lolita A. Quisumbing, the Investigating
Commissioner of the Commission on Bar Discipline of the IBP, submitted
her Report. Atty. Quisumbing found that Atty. Bancolo violated Rule 9.01
of Canon 9 of the Code of Professional Responsibility while Atty. Jarder
violated Rule 1.01 of Canon 1 of the same Code. The Investigating
Commissioner recommended that Atty. Bancolo be suspended for two years
from the practice of law and Atty. Jarder be admonished for his failure to
exercise certain responsibilities in their law firm.
In her Report and Recommendation, the Investigating Commissioner
opined:
x x x. In his answer[,] respondent Atty. Charlie L. Bancolo
admitted that his signature appearing in the complaint filed against
complainants Rodrigo E. Tapay and Anthony J. Rustia with the
Ombudsman were signed by the secretary. He did not refute the findings
that his signatures appearing in the various documents released from his
Decision 5 A.C. No. 9604

office were found not to be his. Such pattern of malpratice by respondent


clearly breached his obligation under Rule 9.01 of Canon 9, for a lawyer
who allows a non-member to represent him is guilty of violating the
aforementioned Canon. The fact that respondent was busy cannot serve as
an excuse for him from signing personally. After all respondent is a
member of a law firm composed of not just one (1) lawyer. The Supreme
Court has ruled that this practice constitute negligence and undersigned
finds the act a sign of indolence and ineptitude. Moreover, respondents
ignored the notices sent by undersigned. That showed patent lack of
respect to the Integrated Bar of the Philippine[s] Commission on Bar
Discipline and its proceedings. It betrays lack of courtesy and
irresponsibility as lawyers.
On the other hand, Atty. Janus T. Jarder, a senior partner of the
law firm Jarder Bancolo and Associates Law Office, failed to exercise
certain responsibilities over matters under the charge of his law firm. As a
senior partner[,] he failed to abide to the principle of command
responsibility. x x x.
xxxx
Respondent Atty. Janus Jarder after all is a seasoned practitioner,
having passed the bar in 1995 and practicing law up to the present. He
holds himself out to the public as a law firm designated as Jarder Bancolo
and Associates Law Office. It behooves Atty. Janus T. Jarder to exert
ordinary diligence to find out what is going on in his law firm, to ensure
that all lawyers in his firm act in conformity to the Code of Professional
Responsibility. As a partner[,] it is his responsibility to provide
efficacious control of court pleadings and other documents that carry the
name of the law firm. Had he done that, he could have known the
unethical practice of his law partner Atty. Charlie L. Bancolo.
Respondent Atty. Janus T. Jarder failed to perform this task and is
administratively liable under Canon 1, Rule 1.01 of the Code of
Professional Responsibility.7
On 19 September 2007, in Resolution No. XVIII-2007-97, the Board
of Governors of the IBP approved with modification the Report and
Recommendation of the Investigating Commissioner. The Resolution states:
RESOLVED to ADOPT and APPROVE, as it is hereby
ADOPTED and APPROVED, with modification, the Report and
Recommendation of the Investigating Commissioner of the above-entitled
case, herein made part of this Resolution as Annex A; and, finding the
recommendation fully supported by the evidence on record and the
applicable laws and rules, and considering Respondent Atty. Bancolos
violation of Rule 9.01, Canon 9 of the Code of Professional
Responsibility, Atty. Charlie L. Bancolo is hereby SUSPENDED from the
practice of law for one (1) year.
7 IBP Records (Vol. III), pp. 4-6.
Decision 6 A.C. No. 9604

However, with regard to the charge against Atty. Janus T. Jarder,


the Board of Governors RESOLVED as it is hereby RESOLVED to
AMEND, as it is hereby AMENDED the Recommendation of the
Investigating Commissioner, and APPROVE the DISMISSAL of the case
for lack of merit.8
Tapay and Rustia filed a Motion for Reconsideration. Likewise, Atty.
Bancolo filed his Motion for Reconsideration dated 22 December 2007.
Thereafter, Atty. Jarder filed his separate Consolidated Comment/Reply to
Complainants Motion for Reconsideration and Comment Filed by
Complainants dated 29 January 2008.
In Resolution No. XX-2012-175 dated 9 June 2012, the IBP Board of
Governors denied both complainants and Atty. Bancolos motions for
reconsideration. The IBP Board found no cogent reason to reverse the
findings of the Investigating Commissioner and affirmed Resolution
No. XVIII-2007-97 dated 19 September 2007.
The Courts Ruling
After a careful review of the records of the case, we agree with the
findings and recommendation of the IBP Board and find reasonable grounds
to hold respondent Atty. Bancolo administratively liable.
Atty. Bancolo admitted that the Complaint he filed for a former client
before the Office of the Ombudsman was signed in his name by a secretary
of his law office. Clearly, this is a violation of Rule 9.01 of Canon 9 of the
Code of Professional Responsibility, which provides:
CANON 9
A LAWYER SHALL NOT, DIRECTLY OR INDIRECTLY, ASSIST IN
THE UNAUTHORIZED PRACTICE OF LAW.
Rule 9.01 - A lawyer shall not delegate to any unqualified person
the performance of any task which by law may only be performed by a
member of the Bar in good standing.
This rule was clearly explained in the case of Cambaliza v. CristalTenorio,
9
where we held:
The lawyers duty to prevent, or at the very least not to assist in,
the unauthorized practice of law is founded on public interest and policy.
Public policy requires that the practice of law be limited to those
8 Id. at 1. 9 478 Phil. 378, 389 (2004).
Decision 7 A.C. No. 9604

individuals found duly qualified in education and character. The


permissive right conferred on the lawyer is an individual and limited
privilege subject to withdrawal if he fails to maintain proper standards of
moral and professional conduct. The purpose is to protect the public, the
court, the client, and the bar from the incompetence or dishonesty of those
unlicensed to practice law and not subject to the disciplinary control of the
Court. It devolves upon a lawyer to see that this purpose is attained. Thus,
the canons and ethics of the profession enjoin him not to permit his
professional services or his name to be used in aid of, or to make possible
the unauthorized practice of law by, any agency, personal or corporate.
And, the law makes it a misbehavior on his part, subject to disciplinary
action, to aid a layman in the unauthorized practice of law.
In Republic v. Kenrick Development Corporation,
10 we held that the
preparation and signing of a pleading constitute legal work involving the
practice of law which is reserved exclusively for members of the legal
profession. Atty. Bancolos authority and duty to sign a pleading are
personal to him. Although he may delegate the signing of a pleading to
another lawyer, he may not delegate it to a non-lawyer. Further, under the
Rules of Court, counsels signature serves as a certification that (1) he has
read the pleading; (2) to the best of his knowledge, information and belief
there is good ground to support it; and (3) it is not interposed for delay.11
Thus, by affixing ones signature to a pleading, it is counsel alone who has
the responsibility to certify to these matters and give legal effect to the
document.
In his Motion for Reconsideration dated 22 December 2007, Atty.
Bancolo wants us to believe that he was a victim of circumstances or of
manipulated events because of his unconditional trust and confidence in his
former law partner, Atty. Jarder. However, Atty. Bancolo did not take any
steps to rectify the situation, save for the affidavit he gave to Rustia denying
his signature to the Complaint filed before the Office of the Ombudsman.
Atty. Bancolo had an opportunity to maintain his innocence when he filed
with the IBP his Joint Answer (with Atty. Jarder) dated 26 January 2006.
Atty. Bancolo, however, admitted that prior to the preparation of the Joint
Answer, Atty. Jarder threatened to file a disbarment case against him if he
did not cooperate. Thus, he was constrained to allow Atty. Jarder to prepare
the Joint Answer. Atty. Bancolo simply signed the verification without
seeing the contents of the Joint Answer.
In the Answer, Atty. Bancolo categorically stated that because of
some minor lapses, the communications and pleadings filed against Tapay
and Rustia were signed by his secretary, albeit with his tolerance.
Undoubtedly, Atty. Bancolo violated the Code of Professional
Responsibility by allowing a non-lawyer to affix his signature to a pleading.
10 529 Phil. 876 (2006). 11 RULES OF COURT, Rule 7, Section 3.
Decision 8 A.C. No. 9604
This violation Is an act of falsehood which IS a ground for disciplinary
action.
The complainants did not present any evidence that Atty. Jarder was
directly involved, had knowledge of, or even participated in the wrongful
practice of Atty. Bancolo in allowing or tolerating his secretary to sign
pleadings for him. Thus, we agree with the finding of the IBP Board that
Atty. Jarder is not administratively liable.
In sum, we find that the suspension of Atty. Bancolo from the practice
of law for one year is warranted. We also find proper the dismissal of the
case against Atty. larder.
WHEREFORE, we DISMISS the complaint against Atty. Janus T.
larder for lack of merit. ...
We find respondent Atty. Charlie L. Bancolo administratively liable
for violating Rule 9.01 of Canon 9 of the Code of Professional
Responsibility. He is hereby SUSPENDED from the practice of law for one
year effective upon finality of this Decision. He is warned that a repetition
of the same or similar acts in the future shall be dealt with more severely.
Let a copy of this Decision be attached to respondent Atty. Charlie L.
Bancolo's record in this Court as attorney. Further, let copies of this
Decision be furnished to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and the Office
of the Court Administrator, which is directed to circulate them to all the
courts in the country for their information and guidance.
SO ORDERED.

EN BANC

[A.C. No. 4431. June 19, 1997]

PRISCILLA CASTILLO VDA. DE MIJARES, complainant, vs. JUSTICE ONOFRE A.


VILLALUZ (Retired), respondent.

DECISION
REGALADO, J.:

Doubly distressing as the subject of administrative recourse to this Court is the present case
where the cause celebre is a star-crossed marriage, and the unlikely protagonists are in
incumbent and a retired member of the Judiciary.
In a sworn complaint for disbarment filed with this Court on June 6, 1995, complainant Judge
Priscilla Castillo Vda. de Mijares charged respondent Onofre A. Villaluz, a retired Justice of the
Court of Appeals, with gross immorality and grave misconduct.[1]
After an answer[2] and a reply[3] were respectively filed by respondent and complainant, the
Court, in its Resolution dated February 27, 1996, resolved to refer the administrative case to
Associate Justice Fidel P. Purisima of the Court of Appeals for investigation, report and
recommendation.
On March 4, 1997, Justice Purisima submitted his Report to this Court, with the following
recommendation:

WHEREFORE, in light of the foregoing and without prejudice to the outcome of the aforesaid
Criminal Case No. 142481 for Bigamy, it is respectfully recommended that the respondent,
former Justice Onofre A. Villaluz, be found guilty of gross misconduct, within the contemplation
of Rule 138 of the Revised Rules of Court on removal or suspension of attorneys, and
therefor(e), he be suspended from the practice of law for a period of two (2) years, commencing
from the finality of the Decision in this case, with a warning that a repetition of the same or any
other misconduct will be dealt with more severely.

On the bases of the evidence adduced by the parties, Justice Purisima summarized the
antecedent facts in his aforestated Report and which we feel should be reproduced hereunder so
that his disposition of this case may be duly appreciated:
Complainant is the Presiding Judge of Branch 108 of the Regional Trial Court, Pasay City, while
respondent former Justice Onofre A. Villaluz is a consultant at the Presidential Anti Crime
Commission (PACC) headed by Vice-President Joseph E. Estrada.

Widowed by the death of her first husband, Primitivo Mijares, complainant commenced Special
Proceeding No. 90-54650 and therein obtained a decree declaring the said Primitivo Mijares
presumptively dead, after an absence of sixteen (16) years.

Complainant narrated that on January 7, 1994, she got married to respondent in a civil wedding
before Judge Myrna Lim Verano, then Presiding Judge of the Municipal Circuit Trial Court of
Carmona, Cavite and now Judge of the Metropolitan Trial Court of Mandaluyong City. Their
marriage was the culmination of a long engagement. They met sometime in 1977, when
respondent, as Presiding Judge of the Criminal Circuit Court in Pasig, Metro Manila, was trying
a murder case involving the death of a son of Judge Mijares. Since then, respondent became a
close family friend of complainant ( TSN, p. 14; April 10, 1996 ). After the wedding, they
received their guests at a German restaurant in Makati. With the reception over, the
newlywed(s) resumed their usual work and activities. At 6:00 oclock in the afternoon of the
same day, respondent fetched complainant from her house in Project 8, Quezon City, and
reached the condominium unit of respondent two hours later at which time, she answered the
phone. At the other end of the line was a woman offending her with insulting
remarks. Consternated, complainant confronted respondent on the identity of such caller but
respondent simply remarked it would have been just a call at the wrong number. What followed
was a heated exchange of harsh words, one word led to another, to a point when respondent
called complainant a nagger, saying Ayaw ko nang ganyan! Ang gusto ko sa babae, yong
sumusunod sa bawat gusto ko. Get that marriage contract and have it burned. Such unbearable
utterances of respondent left complainant no choice but to leave in haste the place of their
would-be honeymoon. Since then, the complainant and respondent have been living separately
because as complainant rationalized, contrary to her expectation respondent never got in touch
with her and did not even bother to apologized for what happened ( TSN, p. 13, April 10, 1996 ).

Several months after that fateful encounter of January 7, 1994, in a Bible Study session, the
complainant learned from Manila RTC Judge Ramon Makasiar, a member of the Bible Group,
that he ( Judge Makasiar ) solemnized the marriage between former Justice Onofre A. Villaluz
and a certain Lydia Geraldez. Infuriated and impelled by the disheartening news, complainant
lost no time in gathering evidence against respondent, such that, on June 6, 1995 she filed the
instant Complaint for Disbarment against him ( Exh. A ).

On August 7, 1995, when she discovered another incriminatory document against respondent,
the complainant executed against respondent her Supplemental Complaint Affidavit for
Falsification ( Exhs. D and D-1 ).

Exhibit C, marriage contract of respondent and Lydia Geraldez, dated May 10, 1994, was
offered by complainant to prove that respondent immorally and bigamously entered into a
marriage, and to show that the respondent distorted the truth by stating his civil status as
SINGLE, when he married Lydia Geraldez. This, the respondent did, to lead an immoral and
indiscreet life. He resorted to falsification to distort the truth, complainant lamented. Also
presented for complainant were: Marriage Contract between her and respondent ( Exh. B );
Order declaring her first husband, Primitivo Mijares, presumptively dead ( Exh. E ); and Affidavit
of Judge Myrna Lim Verano, who solemnized the marriage between her (complainant) and
respondent (Exhs. F and F-1).
Respondent gave a different version. According to him, what he inked with the complainant on
January 7, 1994 was merely but a sham marriage. He explained that he agreed as, in fact, he
voluntarily signed the Marriage Contract marked Exh. B, in an effort to help Judge Mijares in the
administrative case for immorality filed against her by her Legal Researcher, Atty. Joseph
Gregorio Naval, Jr., sometime in 1993. Respondent theorized that when his marriage with
complainant took place before Judge Myrna Lim Verano, his marriage with Librada Pea, his first
wife, was subsisting because the Decision declaring the annulment of such marriage had not
yet become final and executory, for the reason that said Decision was not yet published as
required by the Rules, the service of summons upon Librada Pea having been made by
publication, and subject Decision was not yet published. To this effect was the Certification by
Mrs. Nelia B. Rosario, Acting Branch Clerk of Court of Branch 37 of the Regional Trial Court of
Manila ( Exh. 4 ).

After a thorough review of the records, the Court finds itself in full accord with the findings
and recommendation of Justice Purisima. Herein respondent is undeniably guilty of deceit and
grossly immoral conduct. He has made a mockery of marriage which is a sacred institution
demanding respect and dignity.[4] He himself asserts that at the time of his marriage to herein
complainant, the decision of the court annulling his marriage to his first wife, Librada Pea, had not
yet attained finality. Worse, four months after his marriage to petitioner, respondent married
another woman, Lydia Geraldez, in Cavite, after making a false statement in his application for
marriage license that his previous marriage had been annulled.
Respondents subterfuge that his marriage to petitioner was just a sham marriage will not
justify his actuations. Even if the said marriage was just a caper of levity in bad taste, a defense
which amazes and befuddles but does not convince, it does not speak well of respondents sense
of social propriety and moral values. This is aggravated by the fact that he is not a layman nor
even just an ordinary lawyer, but a former Judge of the Circuit Criminal Court and, thereafter, a
Justice of the Court of Appeals who cannot but have been fully aware of the consequence of a
marriage celebrated with all the necessary legal requisites.[5]
On this score, we rely once again on the perceptive findings and discussion of Investigating
Justice Purisima which we quote with approval:

That, on January 7, 1994 respondent knowingly and voluntarily entered into and signed a
Marriage Contract with complainant before Judge Myrna Lim Verano, then Presiding Judge of
the Municipal Circuit Trial Court of Carmona, Cavite, competent under the law to solemnized a
civil marriage, is beyond cavil. As stated under oath by respondent himself, he could not be
forced to do anything not of his liking (TSN, April 2, 1996, p. 15a).

That what complainant and respondent contracted was a valid marriage is borne out by law and
the evidence. To be sure, all the essential and formal requisites of a valid marriage under
Articles 2 and 3 of the Family Code, i.e., legal capacity of the contracting parties, who must be a
male and a female; consent freely given in the presence of the solemnizing officer; authority of
the solemnizing officer; a valid marriage license except in the cases provided for in Chapter 2 of
Title I on marriage, Family Code; and a marriage ceremony with the appearance of the
contracting parties before the solemnizing officer, and their personal declaration that they take
each other as husband and wife, in the presence of not less than two witnesses of legal age,
were satisfied and complied with.

The theory of respondent that what (was) solemnized with complainant was nothing but a sham
marriage is too incredible to deserve serious consideration. According to respondent, he
entered into subject marriage in an effort to save the complainant from the charge of immorality
against her. But, to repeat: regardless of the intention of respondent in saying I do with
complainant before a competent authority, all ingredients of a valid marriage were present. His
consent thereto was freely given. Judge Myrna Lim Verano was authorized by law to solemnize
the civil marriage, and both contracting parties had the legal capacity to contract such marriage.

Without in anyway pre-empting whatever the Regional Trial Court of Manila will find in the
criminal case for Bigamy against herein respondent, and even assuming for the sake of
argument that the judgment in Civil Case No. 93-67048 decreeing the annulment of the
marriage between respondent and Librada Pea had not attained complete finality due to non
publication of said judgment in a newspaper of general circulation; that circumstance, alone,
only made subject marriage voidable and did not necessarily render the marriage between
complainant and respondent void.

Besides, as stressed upon by complainant, respondent stated under oath that his marriage with
Librada Pea had been annulled by a decree of annulment, when he (respondent) took Lydia
Geraldez as his wife by third marriage, and therefore, he is precluded, by the principle of
estoppel, from claiming that when he took herein complainant as his wife by second marriage,
his first marriage with Librada Pea was subsisting and unannulled.

But, anyway, as it is not proper to make here a definitive finding as to whether or not respondent
can be adjudged guilty of bigamy under the attendant facts and circumstances, a crucial issue
pending determination in Criminal Case No. 142481 before Branch 12 of the Manila Regional
Trial Court, even assuming arguendo that what respondent contracted with complainant on
January 7, 1994 was a sham marriage, as he terms it, the ineluctible conclusion is that what
respondent perpetrated was a gross misconduct on his part as a member of the Philippine Bar
and as former appellate Justice, at that. Even granting that the immorality charge against herein
complainant in the administrative case instituted against her by Atty. Joseph Gregorio Naval, Jr.,
is unfounded, respondent was not justified in resorting to a sham marriage to protect her
(complainant) from said immorality charge. Being a lawyer, the respondent is surely conversant
with the legal maxim that a wrong cannot be righted by another wrong. If he never had any
immoral love affair with Judge Priscilla Castillo Vda. de Mijares and therefore, he felt duty bound
to help her in ventilating the whole truth and nothing but the truth, respondent could have
testified in her favor in said administrative case, to assure all and sundry that what Atty. Joseph
Gregorio Naval, Jr. complained of in said administrative case was without any factual and legal
basis.

In this only Christian country of the Far East, society cherishes and protects the sanctity of
marriage and the family as a social institution. Consequently, no one can make a mockery
thereof and perform a sham marriage with impunity. To make fun of and take lightly the
sacredness of marriage is to court the wrath of the Creator and mankind. Therefore, the defense
of respondent that what was entered into by him and complainant on January 7, 1994 was
nothing but a sham marriage is unavailing to shield or absolve him from liability for his gross
misconduct, nay sacrilege.

From the foregoing, it is evident that respondent dismally fails to meet the standard of moral
fitness for continued membership in the legal profession. The nature of the office of an attorney
at law requires that he shall be a person of good moral character. This qualification is not only a
condition precedent for admission to the practice of law; its continued possession is also essential
for remaining in the practice of law.[6] Under Rule 1.01 of the Code of Professional Responsibility,
a lawyer shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitfulconduct. The commission of
grossly immoral conduct and deceit are grounds for suspension or disbarment of lawyers.[7]
However, considering that respondent is in the declining years of his life; that his impulsive
conduct during some episodes of the investigation reveal a degree of aberrant reactive behavior
probably ascribable to advanced age; and the undeniable fact that he has rendered some years
of commendable service in the judiciary, the Court feels that disbarment would be too harsh a
penalty in this peculiar case. Hence, a suspension of two years, as recommended, would suffice
as a punitive but compassionate disciplinary measure.
WHEREFORE, finding herein respondent, former Justice Onofre A. Villaluz, GUILTY of
immoral conduct in violation of the Code of Professional Responsibility, he is hereby
SUSPENDED from the practice of law for a period of two (2) years effective upon notice hereof,
with the specific WARNING that a more severe penalty shall be imposed should he commit the
same or a similar offense hereafter.
SO ORDERED.