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July 11, 2016

A.C. No. 9492

PLUTARCO E. VAZQUEZ, Complainants


vs.
ATTY. DAVID LIM QUECO KHO, Respondent

DECISION

SERENO, CJ.:

This case for disbarment was filed by complainant Plutarco E. Vazquez (Vazquez) against respondent Atty. David
Lim Queco Kho (Atty. Kho). In his verified Complaint1 filed with this Court on 11 July 2012, Vazquez alleges that
Atty. Kho violated the lawyer's oath that he "will do no falsehood.2" He further claims that respondent
transgressed Rule 1.01 of the Code of Professional Responsibility. 3

FACTS

Vazquez and Atty. Kho were both members of the Coalition of Associations of Senior Citizens in the Philippines
(Coalition), an accredited party-list group that participated in the national elections of 10 May 2010. The Complaint
arose from an allegedly false statement made in respondent's Certificate of Acceptance of Nomination for the
Coalition. Complainant contested the truth of the statement made under oath that Atty. Kho was a natural-born
Filipino citizen.4

In his Complaint, Vasquez asserted that respondent was a Chinese national. He reasoned that when Atty. Kho
was born on 29 April 1947 to a Chinese father (William Kho) and a Filipina mother (Juana Lim Queco),
respondents citizenship followed that of his Chinese father pursuant to the 1935 Constitution. Moreover, Vasquez
argued that since respondent has elected Filipino citizenship, the act presupposed that the person electing was
either an alien, of doubtful status, or a national of two countries. 5

Upon receipt of the Complaint, the Court through its First Division issued a Resolution6 dated 26 November 2012
requiring Atty. Kho to file his comment on the Complaint within 10 days from receipt of the Notice. Alleging he
received the Courts Resolution on 18 February 2013, he filed his Comment 7 on 27 February 2013. As to the
alleged falsity of his statement, Atty. Kho countered that when he was born on 29 April 1947, his Filipina mother
was not yet married to his Chinese father, and that his parents only got married on 8 February 1977 or some 30
years after his birth. He then averred that according to the 1935 Constitution, his citizenship followed that of his
Filipina mother, and thus he was a natural-born Filipino citizen.8

On the matter of his electing Filipino citizenship, respondent explained that since he was already a natural-born
Filipino, his subsequent election of Philippine citizenship on 25 February 1970 was superfluous and had no effect
on his citizenship. Having established his natural-born status, he concluded that he had not committed any
falsehood in his Certificate of Acceptance of Nomination, and that complainant had no cause of action to have
him disbarred.9

Apart from defending his natural-born status, Atty. Kho also moved to dismiss the Complaint on the ground of
forum shopping. He claimed that Vazquez had filed three (3) cases in which the latter raised the issue of
respondent's citizenship: (1) the present disbannent case; (2) a quo warranto proceeding with the House of
Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET); and (3) a criminal complaint for perjury lodged with the City
Prosecutor of Quezon City. Atty. Kho alleged that both the quo warranto and the perjury cases had already been
dismissed by the HRET10 and the City Prosecutor respectively.11 Finally, he raised jurisdictional questions,
arguing that the proper remedy to attack his citizenship was not a disbarment case, but rather quo warranto.12

In answer to respondent's Comment, Vazquez filed with the Court a Reply to Comment 13 on 11 March 2013. He
claimed therein that at the time of election of Philippine citizenship by respondent on 25 February 1970, the
latter's mother was already a Chinese national by virtue of her marriage to respondent's father who was Chinese.
Complainant also opposed respondent's assertion that the latter's parents were not yet married when he was born
on 29 April 1947.14 Complainant further cited respondent's Certificate of Live Birth, which stated that the latter's
parents were married at the time he was born.15

That being so, complainant averred that at the time Atty. Kho was born, his mother was already a Chinese
national. Thus, complainant concluded that respondent's election of Filipino citizenship was fatally defective, since
the latter's parents were both Chinese at the time of his election. 16 Furthermore, complainant alleged that the
marriage of respondent's parents on 8 February 1977 was just a ploy to put a semblance of legitimacy to his prior
election of Filipino citizenship. Lastly, complainant denied the forum shopping charge, saying the three cases he
had filed against respondent had different causes of action and were based on different grounds. 17

On 8 April 2013, the Court issued a Resolution referring the administrative case to the Integrated Bar of the
Philippines (IBP) for investigation, report, and recommendation or decision. 18 At the IBP Commission on Bar
Discipline (IBP-CBD), the case was docketed as CBD Case No. 13-3885. Commissioner Victor Pablo C. Trinidad
(Commissioner Trinidad) was designated as investigating commissioner. In a Notice dated 14 August 2013, he
set the case for mandatory conference/hearing oh 19 September 2013 and ordered the parties to submit their
mandatory conference briefs.19

With both parties present at the scheduled mandatory conference/hearing, Commissioner Trinidad ordered them
to submit their respective position papers within ten (10) days, after which the case would be deemed submitted
for report and recommendation.20 Only the respondent submitted a conference brief 21 and position paper.22

IBP's REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

On 3 November 2013, Commissioner Trinidad promulgated his Report and Recommendation (Report) 23 finding
Atty. Kho "innocent of the charges" and recommended that the case be dismissed for utter lack of merit. Upon
weighing the evidence presented by both parties, Commissioner Trinidad found no merit to the allegation that
respondent had committed dishonesty and deceitfulness when he indicated in his verified Certificate of
Acceptance of Nomination that he was a natural-born citizen.24

Commissioner Trinidad said that respondent Atty. Kho, as a natural-born Filipino citizen, fell under the category of
someone who was born of a Filipino mother before 17 January 1973, and who elected Philippine citizenship upon
reaching the age of majority.25 On the matter of jurisdiction, the IBP-CBD said that it had jurisdiction to hear the
matter, since the issue was whether respondent violated his lawyer's oath and the relevant provisions of the Code
of Professional Responsibility. Although it acknowledged that citizenship cannot be attacked collaterally, it ruled
that it had to make a finding thereon, since the alleged dishonesty hinged on that very matter. The IBP-CBD
clarified though, that its ruling was limited and "cannot strip or sustain the respondent of his citizenship." 26

Lastly, the IBP-CBD found Vazquez guilty of forum shopping since in all the three cases he had filed, he was
questioning whether or not lespondent was a natural-born citizen. It said that the actions filed by complainant
involved the same transactions, the same essential facts and circumstances, as well as identical subject matter
and issues.27

On 10 August 2014, the IBP Board of Governors passed Resolution No. XXI-2014-519, which adopted and
approved the Report and Recommendation of the Investigating Commissioner dismissing the case against Atty.
Kho.

THE RULING OF THE COURT

We adopt and approve the IBP Report and Recommendation and dismiss the instant administrative case
against respondent for lack of merit.

This disbarment case centers on whether Atty. Kho violated his lawyer's oath that he shall do no falsehood and
that he shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest, immoral, or deceitful conduct. According to complainant, a
violation occurred when respondent declared in his verified Certificate of Acceptance of Nomination that he was a
natural-born Filipino citizen. Although the question of one's citizenship is not open to collateral attack,28 the Court
acknowledges the IBP-CBD's pronouncement that it had to make a limited finding thereon, since the alleged
dishonesty hinged on this issue.

We have constantly ruled that an attack on a person's citizenship may only be done through a direct action for its
nullity.29 A disbarment case is definitely not the proper venue to attack someone's citizenship. For the lack of any
ruling from a competent court on respondent's citizenship, this disbarment case loses its only leg to stand on and,
hence, must be dismissed.

WHEREFORE, the instant Administrative Complaint for violation of the lawyer's oath and the Code of
Professional Responsibility filed against Atty. David Lim Queco Kho is hereby DISMISSED.

SO ORDERED.
July 12, 2016

A.C. No. 10944

NORMA M. GUTIERREZ, Complainant


vs.
ATTY. ELEANOR A. MARAVILLA-ONA, Respondent

RESOLUTION

PER CURIAM:

We review resolution No. XXI-2014-798 of the Board of Governors of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) in CBD Case
No. 12-3444, which imposed on Atty. Eleonor A. Maravilla-Ona (Atty. Maravilla-Ona) the penalty of five-year suspension from
the practice of law and ordered her to return the remaining Sixty-Five Thousand Pesos (P65,000.00) to complainant Norma M.
Gutierrez (Norma).

On December 12, 2011, Norma secured Atty. Maravilla-Ona's services to send a demand letter to a third person for which she
paid her Eight Hundred Pesos (P800.00). When Norma decided to pursue the case in court, she paid Atty. Maravilla-Ona an
additional Eighty Thousand Pesos (P80,000.00) to file the case. The latter, however, failed to file the case, prompting Norma
to withdraw from the engagement and to demand the refund of the amounts she had paid. Atty. Maravilla-Ona failed to refund
the entire amount despite several demands.

On March 15, 2012, Atty. Maravilla-Ona returned Fifteen Thousand Pesos (Pl 5,000.00) to Norma and executed a promissory
note to pay the remaining Sixty-Five Thousand Pesos (P65,000.00) on March 22, 2012. Atty. Maravilla-Ona reneged on her
promise.

Norma filed a complaint for disbarment against Atty. Maravilla-Ona for grave misconduct, gross negligence, and
incompetence. She also prayed for the refund of the remainder of the money she had paid.

Atty. Maravilla-Ona failed to file any pleading nor appear in the mandatory conference called on Norma's complaint; thus, she
could not refute the allegations against her.

IBP's Recommendation

The investigating commissioner concluded that Atty. Maravilla-Ona's refusal to return her client's money is a clear violation of
Canon 16, Rule 16.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility (Code).

Canon 16 of the Code provides that a lawyer shall hold in trust all of the client's money or property; Rule 16.03 obligates a
lawyer to deliver the client's funds and property when due or upon demand.

In the present case, Atty. Maravilla-Ona violated the Code when she failed to return Norma's money upon demand. Her act
constitutes gross misconduct punishable by suspension from the practice of law. Pursuant to prevailing jurisprudence, the
investigating commissioner recommended her suspension from the practice of law for two (2) years.

The Board of Governors adopted and approved the investigating commissioner's report but modified the recommended
penalty of suspension from two (2) years to five (5) years. 1 The board noted that Atty. Maravilla-Ona's violation of Canon 16,
Rule 16.03 of the Code is aggravated by her pending cases and the previous sanctions imposed upon her.

THE COURT'S RULING

The Court concurs with the IBP Board of Governor's finding of administrative liability, but modifies the penalty of suspension
from the practice of law from five years to three (3) years.

In line with the highly fiduciary nature of an attorney-client relationship,2 Canon 16 of the Code requires a lawyer to hold in
trust all moneys and properties of his client that may come into his possession. Rule 16.03 of the Code obligates a lawyer to
deliver the client's funds and property when due or upon demand.

Where a client gives money to his lawyer for a specific purpose, such as: to file an action, to appeal an adverse judgment, to
consummate a settlement, or to pay a purchase price for a parcel of land, the lawyer, upon failure to spend the money
entrusted to him or her for the purpose, must immediately return the said money entrusted by the client. 3 The Court's
statement in Del Mundo v. Atty. Capistrano on this point, is instructive:

Moreover, a lawyer is obliged to hold in trust money of his client that may come to his possession. As trustee of such funds, he
is bound to keep them separate and apart from his own. Money entrusted to a lawyer for a specific purpose such as for the
filing and processing of a case if not utilized, must be returned immediately upon demand. Failure to return gives rise to a
presumption that he has misappropriated it in violation of the trust reposed on him. And the conversion of funds entrusted to
him constitutes gross violation of professional ethics and betrayal of public confidence in the legal profession. 4

Simply put, money entrusted to a lawyer for a specific purpose, but not used for the given purpose, must immediately be
returned to the client on demand.1wphi1

In the present case, Atty. Maravilla-Ona received money from her client for the filing of a case in court. Not only did she fail to
file the case but she also failed to return her client's money. These acts constitute violations of Atty. Maravilla-Ona's
professional obligations under Canon 16.
The practice of law is a privilege bestowed only to those who possess and continue to possess the legal qualifications for the
profession.5As such, lawyers are duty-bound to maintain at all times a high standard of legal proficiency, morality, honesty,
integrity, and fair dealing,6 If the lawyer falls short of this standard, the Court will not hesitate to discipline the lawyer by
imposing an appropriate penalty based on the exercise of sound judicial discretion.7

In several cases, the penalty imposed on lawyers for violating Canon 16 of the Code has ranged from suspension for six
months, one year, two years, even up to disbarment, depending on the circumstances of each case. 8

In Jinan v. Jiz,9the lawyer failed to facilitate the transfer of land to his client's name and failed to return the money he received
from the client despite demand. We suspended the lawyer from the practice of law for two years.

In Agot v. Rivera,10 the lawyer neglected his obligation to secure his client's visa and failed to return his client's money despite
demand. We also suspended him from the practice of law for two years.

In Luna v. Galarrita,11 the lawyer failed to promptly inform his client of his receipt of the proceeds of a settlement for the client,
and further refused to tum over the amount received. As in the above cases, we suspended him from the practice of law for
two years.

We agree with the board's recommendation to impose a more severe penalty on Atty. Maravilla-Ona since her misconduct in
the present case is not her first violation of her professional obligations under the Code. We point out that the Court had
already suspended Atty. Maravilla-Ona from the practice of law for one year in 2014 due to serious misconduct and for
violating Canon 1, Rule 1.01 of the Code.12 The Court's minute resolution, however, did not indicate the specific act she had
committed.

As earlier stated, Atty. Maravilla-Ona received money from her client for the filing of a case in court, but failed to do so. She
also did not return a substantial portion of the attorney's fees paid to her by her client. Under these circumstances, her
unjustified withholding of her client's funds warrants disciplinary action and the imposition of sanctions. 13

We note, too, that Atty. Maravilla-Ona's misconduct is aggravated by her failure to file an answer to the complaint and to
appear at the mandatory conference. These omissions displayed her lack of respect for the IBP and its proceedings. 14 While
the board was correct that the penalty for the respondenfs acts merit a higher penalty than the two-year suspension imposed
by the investigating commissioner, we do not fully agree with the board's justification for the imposition of a graver
penalty, i.e., "her pending cases and previous sanctions."

The Court has consistently held that a lawyer enjoys the legal presumption that he or she is innocent of the administrative
charges filed against him or her until the contrary is proved.15 As an officer of the court, a lawyer is presumed to have
performed his or her duties pursuant to the lawyer's oath. 16 Accordingly, the fact that other cases have also been filed against
Atty. Maravilla-Ona and are pending resolution before the IBP or this Court should not be taken against her. Until these cases
are resolved, such should not influence this Court's determination of the proper penalty to impose upon her in this instance.
Notably, only the Court's September 15, 2014 resolution in Administrative Case No. 10107 (where we suspended Atty.
Maravilla-Ona from the practice of law for one year) has attained finality at the time the board issued Resolution No. XXI-2014-
798.

The appropriate penalty on an errant lawyer requires sound judicial discretion based on the surrounding facts. Considering the
totality of the circumstances in the present case, we find a three-year suspension from the practice of law appropriate as
penalty for Atty. Maravilla-Ona's misconduct. We emphasize, to the point of repetition, that her failure to discharge her duty
properly constitutes an infringement of ethical standards and of her oath. Such failure makes her answerable not just to her
client, but also to this Court, to the legal profession, and to the general public.

Since disciplinary proceedings involve the determination of administrative liability, including those intrinsically linked to the
lawyer's professional engagement, such as the payment of the money she received and failed to earn by delivering her
promised professional services,17 we aptly direct her to return the P65,000.00 to Norma.

WHEREFORE, premises considered, respondent ATTY. ELEONOR A. MARAVILLA-ONA is SUSPENDED from the practice
of law for three (3) years. She is WARNED that a repetition of the same or similar offense shall be dealt with more severely.

Atty. Maravilla-Ona is also ORDERED to return to complainant Norma Gutierrez the full amount of P65,000.00 within ninety
(90) days from the finality of this Resolution. Failure to comply with this directive will merit the imposition of the more severe
penalty of disbarqient from the practice of law, which this Court shall impose based on the complainant's motion with notice
duly furnished to Atty. Maravilla-Ona. This penalty shall be in lieu of the penalty of suspension hereinabove imposed.

Let copies of this Resolution be furnished the Office of the Bar Confidant to be entered into the respondent's personal record.
Copies shall likewise be furnished the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and the Office of the Court Administrator for circulation
to all courts concerned.

SO ORDERED.
A.C. No. 11316 July 12, 2016

PATRICK A. CARONAN, Complainant


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

DECISION

PER CURIAM:

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

The Facts

Complainant and respondent are siblings born to Porferio2 R. Caronan, Jr. and Norma A. Caronan. Respondent is
the older of the two, having been born on February 7, 1975, while complainant was born on August 5, 1976. 3 Both
of them completed their secondary education at the Makati High School where complainant graduated in
19934 and respondent in 1991.5 Upon his graduation, complainant enrolled at the University of Makati where he
obtained a degree in Business Administration in 1997.6 He started working thereafter as a Sales Associate for
Philippine Seven Corporation (PSC), the operator of 7-11 Convenience Stores.7 In 2001, he married Myrna G.
Tagpis with whom he has two (2) daughters.8 Through the years, complainant rose from the ranks until, in 2009,
he was promoted as a Store Manager of the 7-11 Store in Muntinlupa.9

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

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

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

In 2006, complainant was able to confirm respondent's use of his name and identity when he saw the name
"Patrick A. Caronan" on the Certificate of Admission to the Bar displayed at the latter's office in Taguig
City.16 Nevertheless, complainant did not confront respondent about it since he was pre-occupied with his job and
had a family to support.17

Sometime in May 2009, however, after his promotion as Store Manager, complainant was ordered to report to the
head office of PSC in Mandaluyong City where, upon arrival, he was informed that the National Bureau of
Investigation (NBI) was requesting his presence at its office in Taft Avenue, Manila, in relation to an investigation
involving respondent who, at that point, was using the name "Atty. Patrick A. Caronan."18 Accordingly, on May 18,
2009, complainant appeared before the Anti-Fraud and Computer Crimes Division of the NBI where he was
interviewed and asked to identify documents including: (1) his and respondent's high school records; (2) his
transcript of records from the University of Makati; (3) Land Transportation Office's records showing his and
respondent's driver's licenses; (4) records from St. Mary's University showing that complainant's transcript of
records from the University of Makati and his Birth Certificate were submitted to St. Mary's University's College of
Law; and (5) Alumni Book of St. Mary's University showing respondent's photograph under the name "Patrick A.
Caronan."19 Complainant later learned that the reason why he was invited by the NBI was because of
respondent's involvement in a case for qualified theft and estafa filed by Mr. Joseph G. Agtarap (Agtarap), who
was one of the principal sponsors at respondent's wedding.20

Realizing that respondent had been using his name to perpetrate crimes and commit unlawful activities,
complainant took it upon himself to inform other people that he is the real "Patrick A. Caronan" and that
respondent's real name is Richard A. Caronan.21 However, problems relating to respondent's use of the name
"Atty. Patrick A. Caronan" continued to hound him. In July 2013, PSC received a letter from Quasha Ancheta
Pea & Nolasco Law Offices requesting that they be furnished with complainant's contact details or, in the
alternative, schedule a meeting with him to discuss certain matters concerning respondent. 22 On the other hand, a
fellow church-member had also told him that respondent who, using the name "Atty. Patrick A. Caronan," almost
victimized his (church-member's) relatives.23 Complainant also received a phone call from a certain Mrs. Loyda L.
Reyes (Reyes), who narrated how respondent tricked her into believing that he was authorized to sell a parcel of
land in Taguig City when in fact, he was not.24 Further, he learned that respondent was arrested for gun-running
activities, illegal possession of explosives, and violation of Batas Pambansa Bilang (BP) 22.25
Due to the controversies involving respondent's use of the name "Patrick A. Caronan," complainant developed a
fear for his own safety and security.26 He also became the subject of conversations among his colleagues, which
eventually forced him to resign from his job at PSC. 27 Hence, complainant filed the present Complaint-Affidavit to
stop respondent's alleged use of the former's name and identity, and illegal practice of law. 28

In his Answer,29 respondent denied all the allegations against him and invoked res judicata as a defense. He
maintained that his identity can no longer be raised as an issue as it had already been resolved in CBD Case No.
09-2362 where the IBP Board of Governors dismissed30 the administrative case31 filed by Agtarap against him,
and which case had already been declared closed and terminated by this Court in A.C. No. 10074. 32 Moreover,
according to him, complainant is being used by Reyes and her spouse, Brigadier General Joselito M. Reyes, to
humiliate, disgrace, malign, discredit, and harass him because he filed several administrative and criminal
complaints against them before the Ombudsman.33

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

The IBP's Report and Recommendation

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

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

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

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

The Issues Before the Court

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

The Court's Ruling

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

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

As pointed out by the IBP, respondent admitted that he and complainant are siblings when he disclosed upon his
arrest on August 31, 2012 that his parents are Porferio Ramos Caronan and Norma Atillo. 49 Respondent himself
also stated that he is married to Rosana Halili-Caronan.50 This diverges from the official NSO records showing
that "Patrick A. Caronan" is married to Myrna G. Tagpis, not to Rosana Halili-Caronan.51 Moreover, the
photograph taken of respondent when he was arrested as "Richard A. Caronan" on August 16, 2012 shows the
same person as the one in the photograph in the IBP records of "Atty. Patrick A. Caronan."52 Meanwhile,
complainant submitted numerous documents showing that he is the real "Patrick A. Caronan," among which
are: (a) his transcript of records from the University of Makati bearing his photograph;53 (b) a copy of his high
school yearbook with his photograph and the name "Patrick A. Caronan" under it;54 and (c) NBI clearances
obtained in 2010 and 2013.55
To the Court's mind, the foregoing indubitably confirm that respondent falsely used complainant's name, identity,
and school records to gain admission to the Bar. Since complainant - the real "Patrick A. Caronan" - never took
the Bar Examinations, the IBP correctly recommended that the name "Patrick A. Caronan" be stricken off the Roll
of Attorneys.

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

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

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

The Court does not discount the possibility that respondent may later on complete his college education and earn
a law degree under his real name.1wphi1 However, his false assumption of his brother's name, identity, and
educational records renders him unfit for admission to the Bar. The practice of law, after all, is not a natural,
absolute or constitutional right to be granted to everyone who demands it.57 Rather, it is a privilege limited to
citizens of good moral character.58 In In the Matter of the Disqualification of Bar Examinee Haron S. Meling in
the 2002 Bar Examinations and for Disciplinary Action as Member of the Philippine Shari 'a Bar, Atty. Froilan R.
Melendrez,59the Court explained the essence of good moral character:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SO ORDERED.
July 12, 2016

A.C. No. 5951

JUTTA KRURSEL, Complainant


vs.
ATTY. LORENZA A. ABION, Respondent

RESOLUTION

PERCURIAM.:

In a verified Complaint,1 filed on January 23, 2003, complainant Jutta Krursel, a German national, charges
respondent Atty. Lorenza A. Abion with forgery, swindling, and falsification of a public document. She asks that
respondent be disbarred.2

Complainant alleges that she engaged the services of respondent to assist her in filing a case against Robinsons
Savings Bank - Ermita Branch and its officers, in relation to the bank's illegal withholding/blocking of her account. 3

In March 2002, respondent filed, on complainant's behalf, a complaint against Robinsons Savings Bank and its
officers before the Monetary Board of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas for "Conducting Business in an Unsafe and
Unsound Manner in violation of Republic Act No. 8791 [.]"4

Without complainant's knowledge, respondent withdrew the complaint with prejudice through a letter5 dated April
15, 2002 addressed to the Monetary Board. Complainant claims that respondent forged her signature and that of
a certain William Randell Coleman (Coleman) in the letter.6 She adds that she never authorized nor acceded to
respondent's withdrawal ofthe complaint.7

Complainant was further surprised to discover two (2) Special Powers of Attorney dated March 7, 2002 8 and
March 24, 2002,9 which appear to have her and Coleman's signature as principals. The documents constituted
respondent as

their attorney-in-fact to represent, to receive, sign in their behalf, all papers, checks, accounts receivables, wired
remittances, in their legal and extra legal effort:s to retrieve and unblock the peso and dollar savings accounts
opened up with the Robinsons Savings Bank at its branch office at Ermita, Manila, in order for her to withdraw
and to encash all their accounts, receivables, checks, savings, remittances. 10

Again, complainant claims that the signatures were forged.11 She denies ever having executed a special power of
attorney for respondent.12

Complainant further alleges that on March 24, 2002, respondent filed before this Court a Complaint for "Writ of
Preliminary Prohibitive and Mandatory Injunction with Damages[.]"13 For such services, respondent demanded
and received the following amounts on May 7, 2002:

Php 225,000.00 - For filing fee to the Supreme Court

Php 55,000.00 - For Sheriff's Service Fee

Php 50,000.00 - For Atty. Soriano, Clerk of Court, to expedite matters

Php 330,000.00 - Total14 (Emphasis in the original)

Respondent failed to account for these amounts despite complainant's demands for a receipt. 15 Complainant's
demand letter16 dated June 24, 2002 for accounting and receipts was attached to the Complaint as Annex E.

Instead of providing a receipt for the amounts received, respondent allegedly presented complainant a document
purporting to be an Order17 dated May 10, 2002 from this Court's First Division, resolving the case in
complainant's favor. The Order was purportedly signed by Atty. Virginia R. Soriano, "Division Clerk of the First
Division of the Supreme Court."18 Complainant sought the advice of Atty. Abelardo L. Aportadera, Jr., who, in turn,
wrote to Atty. Virginia Ancheta-Soriano (Atty. Soriano) on July 30, 200219 inquiring about the supposed
Order.20 Atty. Soriano replied21 denying the signature as hers. She stated that the Order did not even follow this
Court's format, and that, on the contrary, the case had been dismissed. 22

Finally, complainant alleges that in April 2002, while she was sick and in the hospital, respondent asked for
complainant's German passport to secure its renewal from the German Embassy. 23 For this service, respondent
asked for the total amount of 440,000.00 to cover the following expenses:

May 20, 2002 - Php 40,000.00 -For Processing of Travel Papers

May 27, 2002 - Php 50,000.00 -For Additional Fee for the Travel Papers
June 3, 2002 - Php 350,000.00 - For the release of Travel Papers as required by Atty. O. Dizon, BID

Php 450,000.00 [sic ]24(Emphasis in the original)

These sums were allegedly not properly accounted for despite complainant's demand.25 Respondent eventually
presented a purportedly renewed German passport, which complainant rejected because it was obviously
fake.26Complainant later found out that her original German passport was in the possession of Robinsons Savings
Bank.27

Complainant avers that respondent's malicious acts warrant her removal from the roster of lawyers. 28 She adds
that she and Coleman filed before the Office of the City Prosecutor of Quezon City a criminal Complaint 29 against
respondent for the unlawful acts committed against them.30

In the Resoluiion31 dated February 24, 2003, this Court required respondent to file her comment.

Copies of the February 24, 2003 Resolution were subsequently served on respondent's various addresses.
However, these were returned unserved with the notations "Unclaimed " "Party Moved Out " "Moved Out " and
"Party in Manila."32 This Court requested the assistance of the National Bureau of Investigation, but respondent
could still not be found.33

In the Resolution34 dated October 10, 2011, this Court referred the case to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines
for investigation, report, and recommendation.

On March 14, 2012, the Commission on Bar Discipline of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines directed both
parties to appear for mandatory conference.35 However, copies of the Notice of Mandatory Conference were
returned unserved as both parties were stated to have "moved out."36

Hence, in the Order37 dated April 24, 2012, the Commission on Bar Discipline deemed the case submitted for
resolution on the basis of the Complaint (with attachments) filed before this Court.

In his Report and Recommendation38 dated July 6, 2013, Investigating Commissioner Peter Irving C. Corvera
recommended that respondent be disbarred for fabricating and forging Special Powers of Attorney and an order
from this Court, coupled with her exaction of money from complainant without receipt or accounting despite
demands.39 These acts are in culpable violation of Canon l;Rule 1.01; Canon 16, Rule 16.01; and Canon 17 of the
Code of Professional Responsibility.40

In the Resolution41 dated October 10, 2014, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines Board of Governors adopted and
approved the findings and recommendations of the Investigating Commissioner. Respondent did not file a motion
for reconsideration or any other subsequent pleading.

On October 13, 2015, the Board of Governors transmitted its Resolution to this Court for final action under Rule
139-B of the Rules of Court.42

The issue for resolution is whether respondent should be disbarred for committing forgery, falsification, and
swindling.

At the outset, we cannot ignore this Court's several attempts to serve a copy of the February 24, 2003 Resolution
(requiring respondent to file a comment on the Complaint for disbarment) on respondent at her address on record
and at the different addresses provided by complainant and the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, only to be
returned unserved. On June 1, 2011, this Court requested the assistance of the National Bureau of Investigation
to locate respondent, but to no avail.43 All these circumstances reveal that either respondent was disinterested in
contesting the charges against her or she was deliberately eluding the service of this Court's Resolutions to evade
the consequences of her actions.

Respondent's willful behavior has effectively hindered this Court's process service and unduly prolonged this
case. This evasive attitude is unbecoming of a lawyer, an officer of the court who swore to "obey the laws as well
as the legal orders of the duly constituted authorities."44

In Stemmerick v. Mas,45this Court held that proper notice of the disbarment proceedings was given to the
respondent lawyer who abandoned his law office after committing the embezzlement against his client. Thus:

Respondent should not be allowed to benefit from his disappearing act. He can neither defeat this Court's
jurisdiction over him as a member of the bar nor evade administrative liability by the mere ruse of concealing his
whereabouts. Thus, service of the complaint and other orders and processes on respondent's office was sufficient
notice to him.

Indeed, since he himself rendered the service of notice on him impossible, the notice requirement cannot apply to
him and he is thus considered to hav.e waived it. The law does not require that the impossible be done. Nemo
tenetur ad impossibile. The law obliges no one to perform an impossibility. Laws and rules must be interpreted in
a way that they are in accordance with logic, common sense, reason and practicality.

In this connection, lawyers must update their records with the IBP by informing the IBP National Office or their
respective chapters of any change in office or residential address and other contact details. In case such change
is not duly updated, service of notice on the office or residential address appearing in the records of the IBP
National Office shall constitute sufficient notice to a lawyer for purposes of administrative proceedings against
him.46 (Citations omitted)

Here, respondent's apparent disregard of the judicial process cannot be tolerated. Under the circumstances,
respondent is deemed to have waived her right to present her evidence for she cannot use her disappearance as
a shield against any liability she may have incurred.

Respondent's evasive attitude is tantamount to "a willful disobedience of any lawful order of a superior
court,"47which alone is a ground for disbarment or suspension.

We proceed to address the charges raised in the Complaint.

II

Complainant claims that respondent forged her and Coleman's signatures in two (2) documents: first, in the
Special Powers of Attorney dated March 7, 200248 and March 24, 2002;49 and second, in respondent's April 15,
2002 letter50withdrawing her complaint against Robinsons Savings Bank before the Monetary Board of the
Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas.

A comparison of the signature of complainant Jutta Krursel in her Complaint and Verification and Certification, on
one hand, and her contested signature in the Special Power of Attorney dated March 7, 2002, on the other, visibly
shows significant differences in the stroke, form, and general appearance of the two (2) signatures. The inevitable
conclusion is that the two (2) signatures were not penned by one person. Similarly, complainant's contested
signature under the Conforme portion in the April 15, 2002 letter of respondent clearly appears to have been
forged.

Nonetheless, with respect to complainant's forged signature in the Special Power of Attorney, we find no other
evidence pointing to respondent as the author of the forgery. Jurisprudence51 creates a presumption that a person
who was in possession of, or made use of, or benefitted from the forged or falsified documents is the forger.
However, in this case, the facts are insufficient for us to presume that respondent forged complainant's signature.

Although the Special Power of Attorney may have been executed in respondent's favor-as it authorized her to
represent, receive, and sign papers, checks, remittances, accounts, and receivables on behalf of complainant-her
appointment as attorney-in-fact was only in relation to complainant's "legal and extra[-]legal efforts to retrieve and
unblock [complainant's] peso and dollar savings accounts with Robinsons Savings Bank, Ermita."52

The authority given was only in furtherance of complainant's employment of respondent's legal services. There
was no allegation or proof that respondent benefitted from or used the falsified document. 53 Moreover,
complainant had possession of the Special Power of Attorney, a copy of which was attached to her Complaint. In
all likelihood, the Special Power of Attorney may not only have been known to complainant; she may have
conformed to its preparation all along.

However, the same conclusion cannot be made with regard to complainant's forged signature in the April 15,
2002 letter. In the Verification54 attached to the letter, respondent declared under oath that she caused the
preparation of the letter of withdrawal of the complaint with prejudice. She declared under oath that she also
caused the conforme of her clients after informing them of the facts, both as counsel and attorney-in-fact.

Thus, respondent committed serious acts of deceit in: (l) withdrawing the complaint with prejudice, without the
knowledge and consent of complainant; and (2) forging complainant's signature or causing her signature to be
forged in the April 15, 2002 letter, thus making it appear that complainant conformed to the withdrawal of the
complaint.

In Sebastian v. Calis:55

Deception and other fraudulent acts by a lawyer are disgraceful and dishonorable. They reveal moral flaws in a
lawyer.1wphi1 They are unacceptable practices. A lawyer's relationship with others should be characterized by
the highest degree of good faith, fairness and candor. This is the essence of the lawyer's oath. The lawyer's oath
is not mere facile words, drift and hollow, but a sacred trust that must be upheld and keep inviolable. The nature
of the office of an attorney requires that he should be a person of good moral character. This requisite is not only
a condition precedent to admission to the practice of law, its continued possession is also essential for remaining
in the practice of law. We have sternly warned that any gross misconduct of a lawyer, whether in his professional
or private capacity, puts his moral character in serious doubt as a member of the Bar, and renders him unfit to
continue in the practice of law.56 (Citations omitted)
Respondent's deception constitutes a gross violation of professional ethics and a breach of her fiduciary duty to
her client, subjecting her to disciplinary action.57

III

Furthermore, we agree with the Committee on Bar Discipline's finding that complainant has sufficiently proven her
allegations regarding the falsified order.

The appearance of the purported May 10, 2002 Order 58 in G.R. No. 152946 is markedly different from the orders
and resolutions of this Court. Indeed, it was later confirmed through the letter 59 issued by Atty. Soriano, Clerk of
Court of the First Division, that there was no such order issued, that the signature there was not hers, and that the
format did not follow this Court's format.

Complainant avers that she paid substantial amounts of money to respondent in relation to the filing of the
complaint for injunction in G.R. No. 152946, though respondent did not issue any receipt or accounting despite
her demands. Instead, respondent allegedly furnished complainant with the fabricated May 10, 2002 Order
purportedly ruling in her favor. Complainant later found out that no such order existed. The case was already
dismissed.

Respondent's acts amount to deceit, malpractice, or gross misconduct in office as an attorney. 60 She violated her
oath to "do no falsehood"61 and to "conduct [her]self as a lawyer ... with all good fidelity as well to the courts as to
[her] clients."62 She also violated the following provisions of the Code of Professional Responsibility:

Rule 1. 01 - A lawyer shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct.

....

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

....

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

....

CANON 15. A LAWYER SHALL OBSERVE CANDOR, FAIRNESS AND LOYALTY IN ALL HIS DEALINGS AND
TRANSACTIONS WITH HIS CLIENT.

....

CANON 17. A LAWYER OWES FIDELITY TO THE CAUSE OF HIS CLIENT AND HE SHALL BE MINDFUL OF
THE TRUST AND CONFIDENCE REPOSED IN HIM.

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

....

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

Respondent's transgressions are grave and serious. She abused her legal knowledge and training. She took
undue advantage of the trust reposed on her by her client. Her misconduct exhibits a brazen disregard of her
duties as a lawyer. The advocate for justice became the perpetrator of injustice.

Aside from defrauding her client, respondent recklessly put Atty. Soriano's career in jeopardy by fabricating an
order, thus making a mockery of the judicial system. That a lawyer is not merely a professional but also an officer
of the court cannot be overemphasized. She owes the courts of justice and its judicial officers utmost
respect.63 Her conduct degrades the administration of justice and weakens the people faith in the judicial system.
She inexorably besmirched the entire legal profession.

In Embido v. Pe, Jr.,64Assistant Provincial Prosecutor Salvador Pe, Jr. was found guilty of violating Canon 7, Rule
7.03 and was meted the penalty of disbarment for falsifying a court decision "in a non-existent court
proceeding."65Thus:

Gross immorality, conviction of a crime involving moral turpitude, or fraudulent transactions can justify a lawyer's
disbarment or suspension from the practice of law. Specifically, the deliberate falsification of the court decision by
the respondent was an act that reflected a high degree of moral turpitude on his part. Worse, the act made a
mockery of the administration of justice in this country, given the purpose of the falsification, which was to mislead
a foreign tribunal on the personal status of a person. He thereby became unworthy of continuing as a member of
the Bar.66 (Citations omitted)

Respondent's unethical and unscrupulous conduct proves her unworthy of the public's trust and confidence. She
shamelessly transgressed all the things she swore to uphold, which makes her unfit to continue as a member of
the bar. Hence, we find no hesitation in removing respondent from the Roll of Attorneys.

However, we find a dearth of evidence to support complainant's claim as to the amounts demanded and received
by respondent, that is: (1) a total of 330,000.00 in relation to G.R. No. 152946; and (2) a total of 440,000.00 for
the renewal of complainant's passport. The demand letter dated June 24, 2002, attached to the Complaint as
Annex E, is not competent proof of the actual amounts paid to and received by respondent. The demand letter
does not contain the date when the addressee received the letter; this produces doubt as to whether the demand
letter was actually sent/delivered to respondent.

In administrative cases, it is the complainant who has the burden to prove, by substantial evidence, 67 the
allegations in the complaint.68

WHEREFORE, this Court finds respondent Atty. Lorenza A. Abion GUILTY of gross misconduct in violation of the
Lawyer's Oath and the Code of Professional Responsibility. She is hereby DISBARRED from the practice of law.
The Office of the Bar Confidant is DIRECTED to remove the name of Lorenza A. Abion from the Roll of Attorneys.

This Resolution is without prejudice to any pending or contemplated proceedings to be initiated against
respondent.

The Legal Office of the Office of the Court Administrator is DIRECTED to file the appropriate criminal charges
against respondent for falsifying an order of this Court.

Let copies of this Resolution be furnished to the Bar Confidant, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, and the
Office of the Court Administrator for dissemination to all courts in the country.

This Resolution takes effect immediately.

SO ORDERED.
July 12, 2016

A.C. No. 10541


(Formerly CBD Case No. 11-3046)

AURORA AGUILAR-DYQUIANGCO, Complainant


vs.
ATTY. DIANA LYNN M. ARELLANO, Respondent

DECISION

CAGUIOA, J.:

A lawyer, once he takes up the cause of his client, has the duty to serve such client with competence, and to attend to his
client's cause with diligence, care and devotion, whether he accepts the engagement for free or for a fee. 1Moreover, lawyers
should refrain from obtaining loans from their clients, in order to avoid the perils of abusing the trust and confidence reposed
upon him by such client.2

The facts established in the proceedings before the Integrated Bar of the Philippines ("IBP"), which we adopt in tum, are as
follows:

Complainant Aurora Aguilar-Dyquiangco ("Complainant") and Respondent Atty. Diana Lynn M. Arellano ("Respondent") first
met in 2004 at the Don Mariano Marcos Memorial State University, College of Law when the latter became Complainant's
professor.3

Sometime in 2006, Complainant engaged Respondent's services for the purpose of filing a case for collection of sum of money
against a certain Delia Antigua ("Antigua"), advancing l0,000.00 for filing fees and 2,000.00 as part of the attorney's fees
out of the agreed amount of 20,000.00.4 Three years later, Complainant, upon inquiry with the Regional Trial
Court ("RTC") of San Fernando, La Union, discovered that Respondent failed to file her case against Antigua.5 Consequently,
Complainant sent a letter to Respondent terminating Respondent's services and demanding the return of the said money and
documents she entrusted to Respondent,6 who, in turn, refused to return Complainant's documents alleging that she was
enforcing her retainer's lien.7

During the existence of a lawyer-client relationship between them, Respondent frequently borrowed money from Complainant
and her husband, Antonio Dyquiangco ("Antonio"),8 for which Respondent issued postdated checks in July 2008 ("checks
issued in July 2008") as security.9 Complainant and Antonio later stopped lending money to Respondent when they
discovered that she was engaged in "kiting", that is, using the newer loans to pay off the previous loans she had obtained.10

These accumulated loans totaled 360,8l8.20 as of September 2008, covered by ten (10) checks. 11 Upon presentment by
Complainant, all of the said checks were dishonored due to insufficiency of funds and closure of accounts. Hence,
Complainant filed complaints for violation of Batas Pambansa Blg. 22 ("BP Blg. 22") against Respondent.12 These cases are
currently pending with the Municipal Trial Court in Cities of San F emando, La Union, Branch 2.13

Sometime in June 2008, in a separate transaction from the previous loans, Respondent purchased magnetic bracelets in the
amount of 282,110.00 from Complainant's Good Faith Network Marketing business in order to resell the same. 14 In addition,
since Complainant's business uses "networking" as a marketing scheme, Respondent also bought an "up-line"15 slot in the
amount of 126,160.00 to maximize her earnings.16

Respondent then borrowed 360,000.00 from Complainant. 17 A part of the loan proceeds were used by Respondent to pay for
the magnetic bracelets by issuing postdated checks for the purpose. Respondent purchased seventy five (75) bracelets, which
were kept at Complainant's business center, and withdrawn by Respondent whenever she had buyers. 18 However,
Respondent's total withdrawals exceeded the number of bracelets actually purchased from Complainant. 19 Moreover,
Respondent failed to pay the price for the magnetic bracelets. 20

Respondent similarly acquired from Complainant other products (i.e., soaps, slimming products, coffee, etc.) for reselling in the
amount of 15,770.00 which Respondent failed to pay up to this day. 21

On June 24, 2008, Complainant and Respondent opened a joint checking account with East West Bank in connection with
their Good Faith Magnetic Bracelets business transactions, with an initial balance of 130,000.00.22Respondent issued a
check from this joint account in the amount of 126,160.00 to pay for the "up-line" slot she purchased from
Complainant.23 Subsequent deposits by Complainant were used by Respondent when the latter issued checks in the amounts
of 136,000.00 and 75,000.00.24

On June 17, 2009, Respondent obtained another loan from Complainant in the amount of 30,000.00, which the Respondent
used to pay off her obligation to Complainant's husband. 25

Complainant and her husband sent a demand letter dated August 26, 2009 26 to Respondent for the payment of the dishonored
checks issued in July 2008. The Respondent's failure to pay despite demand resulted in letter exchanges between the parties
dated September 28, 200927 and October 7, 2009.28 The October 7, 2009 demand letter by Complainant was also sent to
Respondent's mother, Florescita M. ArellaNo. 29 This exchange of letters, which the Respondent believed to be libelous, led to
the filing of two (2) complaints for Libel against Complainant with the Office of the City Prosecutor of Manila and the Office of
the Provincial Prosecutor of La Union, both of which were eventually dismissed for lack of probable cause. 30

On May 27, 2011, based on the foregoing transactions and incidents between the parties, the Complainant filed against the
Respondent the instant administrative case for suspension and disbarment with the Integrated Bar of the Philippines
("IBP"),31 listing seven causes of action based on the Respondent's acts of:
1. Failing to file a collection case on behalf of the Complainant, for which the Respondent received 10,000.00 for
filing fees ("First Cause of Action");

2. Obtaining several loans from the Complainant, which remain unpaid ("Second Cause of Action");

3. Taking out merchandise (i.e. magnetic bracelets) in excess of what she purchased from the Complainant ("Third
Cause of Action");

4. Acquiring other merchandise from the Complainant without paying for the same ("Fourth Cause of Action");

5. Inducing the Complainant to open joint bank accounts, out of which the Respondent made several
withdrawals ("Fifth Cause of Action");

6. Obtaining a 30,000.00 loan that remains unpaid ("Sixth Cause of Action");

7. Filing libel cases against the Complainant based on incidents related the transactions that gave rise to the second,
third, fourth, fifth and sixth causes of action ("Seventh Cause of Action").1wphi1

Proceedings with the IBP

The instant case was initially set for mandatory conference on March 23, 2012, 32 but the same was reset to June 29, 2012
upon motion of Respondent.33 After due proceedings, the mandatory conference was terminated and both parties were
required by the investigating commissioner, Commissioner Oliver A. Cachapero, to file their respective position papers. 34 Both
parties filed their respective position papers on July 26, 201235 and September 7, 2012.36

The Findings of the IBP

On September 28, 2012, Commissioner Cachapero rendered a Report and Recommendation 37 finding Respondent guilty of
violation of Rules 16.04, 16.02, and 18.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility ("CPR''). The dispositive portion reads:

Foregoing premises considered, the undersigned believes and so hold that the instant complaint is with merit. Accordingly, he
recommends that the Respondent be meted with the penalty of SUSPENSION for a period of one (1) year.38

In a Resolution dated March 21, 2013, the IBP Board of Governors resolved to adopt and approve with modification the Report
and Recommendation of the Investigating Commissioner dated September 28, 2012 which states:

RESOLVED to ADOPT and APPROVE, as it is hereby unanimously ADOPTED and APPROVED, with modification, the
Report and Recommendation of the Investigating Commissioner in the above-entitled case, herein made part of this
Resolution as Annex "A", and finding the recommendation fully supported by the evidence on record and the applicable laws
and rules, and considering that Respondent violated Canon 16, Rule 16.02 and Canon 18, Rule 18.03 of the Code of
Professional Responsibility, Atty. Diana Lynn M. Arellano is hereby SUSPENDED from the practice of law for five (5)
years.39

Respondent filed a Motion for Reconsideration dated July 16, 2013, 40 which was subsequently denied through a Resolution
dated March 21, 2014.41 In view of the penalty recommended by the IBP Board of Governors, the case was referred to this
Court En Banc.

The Court's Ruling

After a judicious examination of the records and submission of the parties, we find no cogent reason not to adopt the factual
findings of the Investigating Commissioner as approved by the IBP Board of Governors. However, we reduce the penalty for
the reasons to be discussed below.

First Cause of Action

Respondent violated Canon 18 when she failed to file the collection case in court. In this regard, Canon 18 of the CPR
mandates, thus:

A lawyer shall serve his client with competence and diligence.

Rule 18.03 thereof emphasizes that:

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

In Reyes v. Vi tan,42 this Court held that the failure of a lawyer to file a complaint with the court in behalf of his client, despite
receiving the necessary fees from the latter, is a violation of the said canon and rule:

The act of receiving money as acceptance fee for legal services in handling complainant's case and subsequently failing to
render such services is a clear violation of Canon 18 of the Code of Professional Responsibility which provides that a lawyer
shall serve his client with competence and diligence. More specifically, Rule 18.03 states:

"Rule 18.03. A lawyer shall not neglect a legal matter entrusted to him, and his negligence in connection therewith shall render
him liable."
A member of the legal profession owes his client entire devotion to his genuine interest, warm zeal in the maintenance and
defense of his rights. An attorney is expected to exert his best efforts and ability to preserve his client's cause, for the
unwavering loyalty displayed to his client likewise serves the ends of justice. Verily, the entrusted privilege to practice law
carries with it the corresponding duties, not only to the client, but also to the court, to the bar and to the public. 43

Further, as this Court ruled in Parinas v. Paguinto,44it is of no moment that there is only partial payment of the acceptance fee,
to wit:

Rule 16.01 of the Code of Professional Responsibility ("the Code") provides that a lawyer shall account for all money or
property collected for or from the client. Acceptance of money from a client establishes an attorney-client relationship and
gives rise to the duty of fidelity to the client's cause. Money entrusted to a lawyer for a specific purpose, such as for filing
fee, but not used for failure to file the case must immediately be returned to the client on demand. Paguinto returned
the money only after Parinas filed this administrative case for disbarment.45

In the case before us, it is undisputed that after Complainant paid the filing fees and also part of the acceptance fees,
Respondent did not bother to file any complaint before the court. Worse, Respondent knew for a long time that she required
additional documents from Complainant before filing the complaint, yet Respondent did not appear to exert any effort to
contact Complainant in order to obtain the said documents and finally file the said case. 46 In fact, in the occasions Respondent
met with Complainant in order to obtain a loan or discuss the magnetic bracelet business, Respondent never brought up the
needed documents for the case to Complainant. As correctly held by Commissioner Cachapero, Respondent displayed a lack
of zeal in handling the case of Complainant in neglecting to remind the latter of the needed documents in order to file the
complaint in court.47

Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Causes of Action

Respondent violated Canon 16 when she obtained loans from a client. Pertinently, Canon 16 of the CPR states:

A lawyer shall hold in trust all moneys and properties of his client that may come into his possession.

Moreover, Rule 16.02 provides that:

A lawyer shall keep the funds of each client separate and apart from his own and those of others kept by him.

Finally, Rule 16.04 thereof commands that:

A lawyer shall not borrow money from his client unless the client's 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.

In the instant case, there is no dispute that Respondent obtained several loans from Complainant beginning in 2008 or two (2)
years after they established a lawyer-client relationship in 2006, and before they terminated the same in 2009, in violation of
Rule 16.04 of the CPR.48

We have previously emphasized that it is unethical for a lawyer to obtain loans from Complainant during the existence of a
lawyer-client relationship between them as we held in Paulina T Yu v. Atty. Berlin R. Dela Cruz49:

This act alone shows respondent lawyer's blatant disregard of Rule 16.04. Complainant's acquiescence to the "pawning" of
her jewelry becomes immaterial considering that the CPR is clear in that lawyers are proscribed from borrowing money or
property from clients, unless the latter's interests are fully protected by the nature of the case or by independent advice. Here,
respondent lawyer's act of borrowing does not constitute an exception. Respondent lawyer used his client's jewelry in order to
obtain, and then appropriate for himself, the proceeds from the pledge. In so doing, he had abused the trust and confidence
reposed upon him by his client. That he might have intended to subsequently pay his client the value of the jewelry is
inconsequential. What deserves detestation was the very act of his exercising influence and persuasion over his client in order
to gain undue benefits from the latter's property. The Court has repeatedly emphasized that the relationship between a lawyer
and his client is one imbued with trust and confidence. And as true as any natural tendency goes, this "trust and confidence" is
prone to abuse. The rule against borrowing of money by a lawyer from his client is intended to prevent the lawyer from
taking advantage of his influence over his client. The rule presumes that the client is disadvantaged by the lawyer's ability
to use all the legal maneuverings to renege on his obligation. Suffice it to say, the borrowing of money or property from a
client outside the limits laid down in the CPR is an unethical act that warrants sanction.

xxxx

Given the circumstances, the Court does not harbor any doubt in favor of respondent lawyer. Obviously, his unfulfilled promise
to facilitate the redemption of the jewelry and his act of issuing a worthless check constitute grave violations of the CPR and
the lawyer's oath. These shortcomings on his part have seriously breached the highly fiduciary relationship between lawyers
and clients. Specifically, his act of issuing worthless checks patently violated Rule 1.01 of Canon 1 of the CPR which requires
that "[a] lawyer shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct." This indicates a lawyer's unfitness
for the trust and confidence reposed on him, shows such lack of personal honesty and good moral character as to
render him unworthy of public confidence, and constitutes a ground for disciplinary action, and thus seriously and
irreparably tarnishes the image of the profession. Such conduct, while already off-putting when attributed to an ordinary
person, is much more abhorrent when exhibited by a member of the Bar. In this case, respondent lawyer turned his back from
the promise that he once made upon admission to the Bar. As "vanguards of the law and the legal system, lawyers must at all
times conduct themselves, especially in their dealings with their clients and the public at large, with honesty and integrity in a
manner beyond reproach."50
Respondent even exacerbated her infractions when she issued worthless checks to pay for her debts, 51 the existence of which
was admitted by Respondent. Both the Yu case quoted above and the case of Wong v. Moya II52citing Lao v. Medel53are in
point:

Canon 1 of the Code of Professional Responsibility mandates all members of the Bar to obey the laws of the land and promote
respect for law. Rule 1.01 of the Code specifically provides that "[a] lawyer shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or
deceitful conduct." In Co v. Bernardino, [A.C. No. 3919, January 28, 1998, 285 SCRA 102] the Court considered the issuance
of worthless checks as violation of this Rule and an act constituting gross misconduct.

Moreover, in Cuizon v. Macalino, we also ruled that the issuance of checks which were later dishonored for having been
drawn against a closed account indicates a lawyer's unfitness for the trust and confidence reposed on him, shows
such lack of personal honesty and good moral character as to render him unworthy of public confidence, and
constitutes a ground for disciplinary action. Similarly, Sanchez v. Somoso held that the persistent refusal to settle due
obligations despite demand manifests a lawyer's low regard to his commitment to the oath he has taken when he
joined his peers, seriously and irreparably tarnishing the image of the profession he should, instead, hold in high
esteem. This conduct deserves nothing less than a severe disciplinary action.

Clearly, therefore, the act of a lawyer in issuing a check without sufficient funds to cover the same constitutes such willful
dishonesty and immoral conduct as to undermine the public confidence in the legal profession. He cannot justify his act of
issuing worthless checks by his dire financial condition. Respondent should not have contracted debts which are beyond his
financial capacity to pay. If he suffered a reversal of fortune, he should have explained with particularity the circumstances
which caused his failure to meet his obligations. His generalized and unsubstantiated allegations as to why he reneged in the
payment of his debts promptly despite repeated demands and sufficient time afforded him cannot withstand scrutiny. 54

Regarding the issue of commingling of funds, the Court ruled in the case of Velez v. De Vera,55 citing Espiritu v. Ulep,56that
using a client's funds for the lawyer's personal use and depositing the same in his personal account is prohibited, to wit:

[A] lawyer's failure to return upon demand the funds or property held by him on behalf of his client gives rise to the
presumption that he has appropriated the same for his own use to the prejudice of, and in violation of the trust
reposed in him by, his client. It is a gross violation of general morality as well as of professional ethics; it impairs the public
confidence in the legal profession and deserves punishment.

Lawyers who misappropriate the funds entrusted to them are in gross violation of professional ethics and are guilty of betrayal
of public confidence in the legal profession. Those who are guilty of such infraction may be disbarred or suspended indefinitely
from the practice of law. (Emphases supplied.)

xxxx

In the instant case, the act of Atty. de Vera in holding on to his client's money without the latter's acquiescence is conduct
indicative of lack of integrity and propriety.1wphi1 It is clear that Atty. de Vera, by depositing the check in his own account
and using the same for his own benefit is guilty of deceit, malpractice, gross misconduct and unethical behavior. He
caused dishonor, not only to himself but to the noble profession to which he belongs. For, it cannot be denied that the respect
of litigants to the profession is inexorably diminished whenever a member of the profession betrays their trust and confidence.
Respondent violated his oath to conduct himself with all good fidelity to his client. 58

Further, in Barcenas v. Alvero,59 the Court held that the failure of a lawyer to render an account of any money received from a
client and deliver the same to such client when due or upon demand, is a breach of the said rule; and, that a lawyer is liable for
gross misconduct for his failure to return or repay money due to another person upon demand, even in the absence of an
attorney-client relationship between them.

In this case, Respondent admitted that she commingled her money and those of the Complainant for the bracelet business by
opening an East West Bank joint account for the said purpose. 60 To be sure, Commissioner Cachapero noted that Respondent
has not shown that she had made any effort to separate her funds from Complainant's money and properly account for the
same, including any withdrawals Respondent made therefrom. 61

Seventh Cause of Action

The Court notes, in addition, that the Investigating Commissioner failed to consider Respondent's act of filing two (2) baseless
complaints for libel against Complainant in two (2) different venues (Manila62 and San Fernando City, La Union63) for the same
alleged act. The fact that the handling prosecutors in both cases are in agreement that there was nothing in the demand letter
subject of the said cases that could be considered libelous, 64 and that the City Prosecutor of Manila made mention of the
aforementioned criminal complaint filed with, and previously dismissed by, the Provincial Prosecutor of La Union, 65 make the
aforementioned filing of criminal complaints by Respondent a clear violation of the Lawyer's Oath - which states that a lawyer
shall "not wittingly or willingly promote or sue any groundless, false or unlawful suit, nor give aid or consent to the
same."67 This is enunciated by this Court in Vaflor-Fabroa v. Paguinto:68

When respondent caused the filing of baseless criminal complaints against complainant, he violated the Lawyer's Oath that a
lawyer shall "not wittingly or willingly promote or sue any groundless, false or unlawful suit, nor give aid or consent to the
same."

The filing of baseless criminal complaints, even merely threatening to do so, also violates Canon 19 and Rule 19.01 of the
CPR, as explained in Pena v. Aparicio,69 thus:

Canon 19 of the Code of Professional Responsibility states that "a lawyer shall represent his client with zeal within the bounds
of the law," reminding legal practitioners that a lawyer's duty is not to his client but to the administration of justice; to that end,
his client's success is wholly subordinate; and his conduct ought to and must always be scrupulously observant of law and
ethics. In particular, Rule 19.01 commands that a "lawyer shall employ only fair and honest means to attain the lawful
objectives of his client and shall not present, participate in presenting or threaten to present unfounded criminal charges to
obtain an improper advantage in any case or proceeding." Under this Rule, a lawyer should not file or threaten to file any
unfounded or baseless criminal case or cases against the adversaries of his client designed to secure a leverage to compel
the adversaries to yield or withdraw their own cases against the lawyer's client.70

As to the imposable penalty, and after due consideration of the totality of the circumstances attendant to this case, the nature
of the offenses committed, we find the recommended penalty of the IBP to be too harsh, especially in light of the fact that this
is Respondent's first administrative case.71

In Parinas v. Paguinto,72 cited above, this Court suspended Atty. Paguinto from the practice of law for six (6) months for failing
to file the complaint on behalf of his client despite having been paid a part of his acceptance fee.

In Orbe v. Adaza,71this Court suspended Atty. Adaza for one (1) year for issuing two (2) worthless checks, in spite of the
pendency of the BP Blg. 22 cases filed against him.

In Velez v. De Vera,72 a two (2)-year suspension was given to Atty. de Vera for using his client's funds for his personal use and
depositing the same in his personal account.

Finally, in Olivares v. Villalon, Jr.,73the Court would have imposed a penalty of six (6) months suspension against the late Atty.
Villalon had he not died prior to the resolution of the said case for violating the rule on forum-shopping by filing a second
complaint for the same cause of action, despite the finality of the decision in the first case.

In view of the foregoing jurisprudence, and taking into consideration that this is Respondent's first administrative case, and that
she fully participated in the proceedings before the IBP, we deem it more appropriate to reduce the period of suspension from
five (5) years, as recommended, to only three (3) years.

One final note: It also bears mentioning that there is nothing in the records to show that the l0,000.00 filing fee advanced by
the Complainant has been returned to her by Respondent after failing to file the said complaint against Antigua. This Court
has, in numerous administrative cases, ordered lawyers to return any acceptance, filing, or other legal fees advanced to them
by their clients.74 Hence, the return of the said amount to Complainant is proper. Furthermore, the 2,000.00 Respondent
received as attorney's fees should likewise be returned.

As we conclude, we remind lawyers that it is not only important to serve their clients with utmost zeal and competence. It is
also an equally important responsibility for them to properly separate and account for any money given to them by their clients,
and to resist the temptation to borrow money from their clients, in order to preserve the trust and confidence reposed upon
lawyers by every person requiring their legal advice and services.

WHEREFORE, we find Respondent Atty. Diana Lynn M. Arellano GUILTY of Violation of Rules 16.02, 16.04, and 18.03 of the
Code of Professional Responsibility, and the Lawyer's Oath. We SUSPEND Respondent from the practice of law for a period
of THREE (3) YEARS. We also ORDER Respondent to return to Aurora Aguilar-Dyquiangco the full amount of TWELVE
THOUSAND PESOS (12,000.00) within 30 days from notice hereof and DIRECT her to submit to this Court proof of such
payment. We STERNLY WARN Respondent that a repetition of the same or similar act will be dealt with more severely.

We also DIRECT Respondent to inform this Court of the date of her receipt of this Decision to determine the reckoning point of
the effectivity of her suspension.

Let a copy of this Decision be made part of Respondent's records in the Office of the Bar Confidant, and copies be furnished
the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and the Office of the Court Administrator for circulation to all courts.

SO ORDERED.
July 12, 2016

A.C. No. 10944

NORMA M. GUTIERREZ, Complainant


vs.
ATTY. ELEANOR A. MARAVILLA-ONA, Respondent

RESOLUTION

PER CURIAM:

We review resolution No. XXI-2014-798 of the Board of Governors of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) in CBD Case
No. 12-3444, which imposed on Atty. Eleonor A. Maravilla-Ona (Atty. Maravilla-Ona) the penalty of five-year suspension from
the practice of law and ordered her to return the remaining Sixty-Five Thousand Pesos (P65,000.00) to complainant Norma M.
Gutierrez (Norma).

On December 12, 2011, Norma secured Atty. Maravilla-Ona's services to send a demand letter to a third person for which she
paid her Eight Hundred Pesos (P800.00). When Norma decided to pursue the case in court, she paid Atty. Maravilla-Ona an
additional Eighty Thousand Pesos (P80,000.00) to file the case. The latter, however, failed to file the case, prompting Norma
to withdraw from the engagement and to demand the refund of the amounts she had paid. Atty. Maravilla-Ona failed to refund
the entire amount despite several demands.

On March 15, 2012, Atty. Maravilla-Ona returned Fifteen Thousand Pesos (Pl 5,000.00) to Norma and executed a promissory
note to pay the remaining Sixty-Five Thousand Pesos (P65,000.00) on March 22, 2012. Atty. Maravilla-Ona reneged on her
promise.

Norma filed a complaint for disbarment against Atty. Maravilla-Ona for grave misconduct, gross negligence, and
incompetence. She also prayed for the refund of the remainder of the money she had paid.

Atty. Maravilla-Ona failed to file any pleading nor appear in the mandatory conference called on Norma's complaint; thus, she
could not refute the allegations against her.

IBP's Recommendation

The investigating commissioner concluded that Atty. Maravilla-Ona's refusal to return her client's money is a clear violation of
Canon 16, Rule 16.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility (Code).

Canon 16 of the Code provides that a lawyer shall hold in trust all of the client's money or property; Rule 16.03 obligates a
lawyer to deliver the client's funds and property when due or upon demand.

In the present case, Atty. Maravilla-Ona violated the Code when she failed to return Norma's money upon demand. Her act
constitutes gross misconduct punishable by suspension from the practice of law. Pursuant to prevailing jurisprudence, the
investigating commissioner recommended her suspension from the practice of law for two (2) years.

The Board of Governors adopted and approved the investigating commissioner's report but modified the recommended
penalty of suspension from two (2) years to five (5) years. 1 The board noted that Atty. Maravilla-Ona's violation of Canon 16,
Rule 16.03 of the Code is aggravated by her pending cases and the previous sanctions imposed upon her.

THE COURT'S RULING

The Court concurs with the IBP Board of Governor's finding of administrative liability, but modifies the penalty of suspension
from the practice of law from five years to three (3) years.

In line with the highly fiduciary nature of an attorney-client relationship,2 Canon 16 of the Code requires a lawyer to hold in
trust all moneys and properties of his client that may come into his possession. Rule 16.03 of the Code obligates a lawyer to
deliver the client's funds and property when due or upon demand.

Where a client gives money to his lawyer for a specific purpose, such as: to file an action, to appeal an adverse judgment, to
consummate a settlement, or to pay a purchase price for a parcel of land, the lawyer, upon failure to spend the money
entrusted to him or her for the purpose, must immediately return the said money entrusted by the client.3 The Court's
statement in Del Mundo v. Atty. Capistrano on this point, is instructive:

Moreover, a lawyer is obliged to hold in trust money of his client that may come to his possession. As trustee of such funds, he
is bound to keep them separate and apart from his own. Money entrusted to a lawyer for a specific purpose such as for the
filing and processing of a case if not utilized, must be returned immediately upon demand. Failure to return gives rise to a
presumption that he has misappropriated it in violation of the trust reposed on him. And the conversion of funds entrusted to
him constitutes gross violation of professional ethics and betrayal of public confidence in the legal profession. 4

Simply put, money entrusted to a lawyer for a specific purpose, but not used for the given purpose, must immediately be
returned to the client on demand.1wphi1
In the present case, Atty. Maravilla-Ona received money from her client for the filing of a case in court. Not only did she fail to
file the case but she also failed to return her client's money. These acts constitute violations of Atty. Maravilla-Ona's
professional obligations under Canon 16.

The practice of law is a privilege bestowed only to those who possess and continue to possess the legal qualifications for the
profession.5As such, lawyers are duty-bound to maintain at all times a high standard of legal proficiency, morality, honesty,
integrity, and fair dealing,6 If the lawyer falls short of this standard, the Court will not hesitate to discipline the lawyer by
imposing an appropriate penalty based on the exercise of sound judicial discretion.7

In several cases, the penalty imposed on lawyers for violating Canon 16 of the Code has ranged from suspension for six
months, one year, two years, even up to disbarment, depending on the circumstances of each case. 8

In Jinan v. Jiz,9the lawyer failed to facilitate the transfer of land to his client's name and failed to return the money he received
from the client despite demand. We suspended the lawyer from the practice of law for two years.

In Agot v. Rivera,10 the lawyer neglected his obligation to secure his client's visa and failed to return his client's money despite
demand. We also suspended him from the practice of law for two years.

In Luna v. Galarrita,11 the lawyer failed to promptly inform his client of his receipt of the proceeds of a settlement for the client,
and further refused to tum over the amount received. As in the above cases, we suspended him from the practice of law for
two years.

We agree with the board's recommendation to impose a more severe penalty on Atty. Maravilla-Ona since her misconduct in
the present case is not her first violation of her professional obligations under the Code. We point out that the Court had
already suspended Atty. Maravilla-Ona from the practice of law for one year in 2014 due to serious misconduct and for
violating Canon 1, Rule 1.01 of the Code.12 The Court's minute resolution, however, did not indicate the specific act she had
committed.

As earlier stated, Atty. Maravilla-Ona received money from her client for the filing of a case in court, but failed to do so. She
also did not return a substantial portion of the attorney's fees paid to her by her client. Under these circumstances, her
unjustified withholding of her client's funds warrants disciplinary action and the imposition of sanctions. 13

We note, too, that Atty. Maravilla-Ona's misconduct is aggravated by her failure to file an answer to the complaint and to
appear at the mandatory conference. These omissions displayed her lack of respect for the IBP and its proceedings. 14 While
the board was correct that the penalty for the respondenfs acts merit a higher penalty than the two-year suspension imposed
by the investigating commissioner, we do not fully agree with the board's justification for the imposition of a graver
penalty, i.e., "her pending cases and previous sanctions."

The Court has consistently held that a lawyer enjoys the legal presumption that he or she is innocent of the administrative
charges filed against him or her until the contrary is proved. 15 As an officer of the court, a lawyer is presumed to have
performed his or her duties pursuant to the lawyer's oath. 16 Accordingly, the fact that other cases have also been filed against
Atty. Maravilla-Ona and are pending resolution before the IBP or this Court should not be taken against her. Until these cases
are resolved, such should not influence this Court's determination of the proper penalty to impose upon her in this instance.
Notably, only the Court's September 15, 2014 resolution in Administrative Case No. 10107 (where we suspended Atty.
Maravilla-Ona from the practice of law for one year) has attained finality at the time the board issued Resolution No. XXI-2014-
798.

The appropriate penalty on an errant lawyer requires sound judicial discretion based on the surrounding facts. Considering the
totality of the circumstances in the present case, we find a three-year suspension from the practice of law appropriate as
penalty for Atty. Maravilla-Ona's misconduct. We emphasize, to the point of repetition, that her failure to discharge her duty
properly constitutes an infringement of ethical standards and of her oath. Such failure makes her answerable not just to her
client, but also to this Court, to the legal profession, and to the general public.

Since disciplinary proceedings involve the determination of administrative liability, including those intrinsically linked to the
lawyer's professional engagement, such as the payment of the money she received and failed to earn by delivering her
promised professional services,17 we aptly direct her to return the P65,000.00 to Norma.

WHEREFORE, premises considered, respondent ATTY. ELEONOR A. MARAVILLA-ONA is SUSPENDED from the practice
of law for three (3) years. She is WARNED that a repetition of the same or similar offense shall be dealt with more severely.

Atty. Maravilla-Ona is also ORDERED to return to complainant Norma Gutierrez the full amount of P65,000.00 within ninety
(90) days from the finality of this Resolution. Failure to comply with this directive will merit the imposition of the more severe
penalty of disbarqient from the practice of law, which this Court shall impose based on the complainant's motion with notice
duly furnished to Atty. Maravilla-Ona. This penalty shall be in lieu of the penalty of suspension hereinabove imposed.

Let copies of this Resolution be furnished the Office of the Bar Confidant to be entered into the respondent's personal record.
Copies shall likewise be furnished the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and the Office of the Court Administrator for
circulation to all courts concerned.

SO ORDERED.
July 19, 2016

A.C. No. 11078

VERLITA V. MERCULLO and RAYMOND VEDANO, Complainants,


vs.
ATTY. MARIE FRANCESE RAMON, Respondent.

DECISION

BERSAMIN, J.:

This case concerns the complaint for the disbarment of Atty. Marie Frances E. Ramon for violating Rule 1.01, Canon 1 of the Code of
Professional Responsibility and the Lawyer's Oath for deceiving the complainants in order to obtain the substantial amount of P350,000.00 on
the pretext of having the foreclosed asset of the latter's mother redeemed.

Antecedents

In the period from 2002 to 2011, the National Home Mortgage Finance Corporation (NHMFC) sent several demand letters to Carmelita T.
Vedao1 regarding her unpaid obligations secured by the mortgage covering her residential property in Novaliches, Caloocan City. 2 To avoid
the foreclosure of the mortgage, Carmelita authorized her children, Verlita Mercullo and Raymond Vedao (complainants herein), to inquire
from the NHMFC about the status of the obligations. Verlita and Raymond learned that their mother's arrears had amounted to P350,000.00,
and that the matter of the mortgage was under the charge of respondent Atty. Ramon, but who was not around at that time.

On June 20, 2012, Carmelita received a letter from the sheriff of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Caloocan City, stating that her property
would be put up for auction in July 2013. Verlita and Raymond thus went to the NHMFC to see the respondent, who advised them about their
right to redeem the property within one year from the foreclosure.3

In August 2013, Verlita and Raymond called up the respondent, and expressed their intention to redeem the property by paying the
redemption price. The latter agreed and scheduled an appointment with them on August 30,2013.

On August 30, 2013, the respondent arrived at the designated meeting place at around 1:30 p.m., carrying the folder that Verlita and Raymond
had seen at the NHFMC when they inquired on the status of their mother's property. After the respondent had oriented them on the procedure
for redemption, the complainants handed P350,000.00 to the respondent, who signed an acknowledgment receipt. 4 The respondent issued
two acknowledgment receipts for the redemption price and for litigation expenses, 5 presenting to the complainants her NHMFC identification
card. Before leaving them, she promised to inform them as soon as the documents for redemption were ready for their mother's signature.6

On September 4, 2013, the respondent met with Verlita and handed a letter7 that she had signed, along with the special power of attorney
(SPA) for Carmelita's signature.8 The letter reads:

Office of the Clerk of Court and Ex Officio Sheriff


Regional Trial Court
Caloocan City

Re: Redemption of the property covered by EJF No. 7484-2013

Dear Atty. Dabalos,

Please assist Ms. Carmelita Vedano, through her Attorney-in-Fact in redeeming the property covered by EJF No. 7484-2013. Please provide
the necessary computation as to the full redemption amount in order for Ms. Vedano to redeem the same.

Thank you.

Truly yours,

(Sgd.) rances E. Ramon

Verlita and Raymond went to the NHMFC on September 9, 2013 to follow up on the redemption, but discovered that the respondent had
already ceased to be connected with the NHMFC. On September 20, 2013, they met with her at Branch 145 of the Regional Trial Court in
Makati City where she was attending a hearing. She informed them that the redemption was under process, and that the certificate of
redemption would be issued in two to three weeks time.9

After communicating through text messages with the respondent, Verlita and Raymond finally went to see the Clerk of Court of the Regional
Trial Court in Caloocan City On November 27, 2013 to inquire on the status of the redemption. There, they discovered that the respondent had
not deposited the redemption price and had not filed the letter of intent for redeeming the property. 10

On December 5, 2013, Verlita and Raymond again went to Branch 145 of the Regional Trial Court in Makati City where the respondent had a
hearing, and handed to her their demand letter requiring her to return the amount she had received for the redemption. 11 She acknowledged
the letter and promised to return the money on December 16, 2013 by depositing the amount in Verlita's bank account. However, she did not
fulfill her promise and did not show up for her subsequent scheduled hearings in Branch 145. 12

With their attempts to reach the respondent being in vain, V erlita and Raymond brought their disbarment complaint in the Integrated Bar of
the Philippines (IBP).1wphi1

Findings and Recommendation of the IBP

The respondent did not submit her answer when required to do so. She also did not attend the mandatory conference set by the IBP despite
notice. Hence, the investigation proceeded ex parte.13
IBP Commissioner Arsenio P. Adriano submitted his Report and Recommendation, 14 whereby he found the respondent to have violated Rule
1.01 of the Code of Professional Responsibility for engaging in deceitful conduct, and recommended her suspension from the practice of law
for two years, and her return to the complainants of P350,000.00. with legal interest from December 2, 2013.

The IBP Board of Governors adopted Commissioner Adriano's recommendation as stated in its Resolution No. XXI-2014-929,15 viz.:

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 as Annex "A", and finding the recommendation to be fully
supported by the evidence on record and applicable laws, and for violation of Rule 1.01 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, Atty. Marie
Frances E. Ramon is hereby SUSPENDED from the practice of law for two (2) years and Ordered to Return the amount of Three
Hundred Fifty Thousand (P350,000.00) Pesos to Complainant.

Ruling of the Court

The Court declares the respondent guilty of dishonesty and deceit.

The Lawyer's Oath is a source of the obligations and duties of every lawyer. Any violation of the oath may be punished with either disbarment,
or suspension from the practice of law, or other commensurate disciplinary action. 16 Every lawyer must at no time be wanting in probity and
moral fiber which are not only conditions precedent to his admission to the Bar, but are also essential for his continued membership in the Law
Profession.17 Any conduct unbecoming of a lawyer constitutes a violation of his oath.

The respondent certainly transgressed the Lawyer's Oath by receiving money from the complainants after having made them believe that she
could assist them in ensuring the redemption in their mother's behalf. She was convincing about her ability to work on the redemption because
she had worked in the NHFMC. She did not inform them soon enough, however, that she had meanwhile ceased to be connected with the
agency. It was her duty to have so informed them. She further misled them about her ability to realize the redemption by falsely informing them
about having started the redemption process. She concealed from them the real story that she had not even initiated the redemption
proceedings that she had assured them she would do. Everything she did was dishonest and deceitful in order to have them part with the
substantial sum of P350,000.00. She took advantage of the complainants who had reposed their full trust and confidence in her ability to
perform the task by virtue of her being a lawyer. Surely, the totality of her actuations inevitably eroded public trust in the Legal Profession.

As a lawyer, the respondent was proscribed from engaging in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct in her dealings with others,
especially clients whom she should serve with competence and diligence. 18 Her duty required her to maintain fealty to them, binding her not to
neglect the legal matter entrusted to her. Thus, her neglect in connection therewith rendered her liable.19 Moreover, the unfulfilled promise of
returning the money and her refusal to communicate with the complainants on the matter of her engagement aggravated the neglect and
dishonesty attending her dealings with the complainants.

The respondent's conduct patently breached Rule 1.01, Canon 1 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, which provides:

CANON 1 - A lawyer shall uphold the constitution, obey the laws of the land and promote respect for law and for legal processes.1wphi1

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

Evil intent was not essential in order to bring the unlawful act or omission of the respondent within the coverage of Rule 1. 01 of the Code of
Professional Responsibility.20The Code exacted from her not only a firm respect for the law and legal processes but also the utmost degree of
fidelity and good faith in dealing with clients and the moneys entrusted by them pursuant to their fiduciary relationship. 21

Yet another dereliction of the respondent was her wanton disregard of the several notices sent to her by the IBP in this case. Such disregard
could only be wrong because it reflected her undisguised contempt of the proceedings of the IBP, a body that the Court has invested with the
authority to investigate the disbarment complaint against her. She thus exhibited her irresponsibility as well as her utter disrespect for the
Court and the rest of the Judiciary. It cannot be understated that a lawyer in her shoes should comply with the orders of the Court and of the
Court's duly constituted authorities, like the IBP, the office that the Court has particularly tasked to carry out the specific function of
investigating attorney misconduct.22

The respondent deserves severe chastisement and appropriate sanctions. In this regard, the IBP Board of Governors recommended her
suspension for two years from the practice of law, and her return of the amount of P350,000.00 to the complainants. The recommended
penalty is not commensurate to the gravity of the misconduct committed. She merited a heavier sanction of suspension from the practice of
law for five years. Her professional misconduct warranted a longer suspension from the practice of law because she had caused material
prejudice to the clients' interest.23 She should somehow be taught to be more ethical and professional in dealing with trusting clients like the
complainants and their mother, who were innocently too willing to repose their utmost trust in her abilities as a lawyer and in her
trustworthiness as a legal professional. In this connection, we state that the usual mitigation of the recommended penalty by virtue of the
misconduct being her first offense cannot be carried out in her favor considering that she had disregarded the several notices sent to her by
the IBP in this case. As to the return of the P350,000.00 to the complainant, requiring her to restitute with legal interest is only fair and just
because she did not comply in the least with her ethical undertaking to work on the redemption of the property of the mother of the
complainants. In addition, she is sternly warned against a similar infraction in the future; otherwise, the Court will have her suffer a more
severe penalty.

WHEREFORE, the Court FINDS and HOLDS ATTY. MARIE FRANCES E. RAMON guilty of violating Canon 1, Rule 1.01 of the Code of
Professional Responsibility and the Lawyer's Oath; SUSPENDS HER FROM THE PRACTICE OF LAW FOR A PERIOD OF FIVE YEARS
EFFECTIVE FROM NOTICE, with the STERN WARNING that any similar infraction in the future will be dealt with more
severely; ORDERS her to return to the complainants the sum of P350,000.00 within 30 days from notice, plus legal interest of 6% per
annum reckoned from the finality of this decision until full payment; and DIRECTS her to promptly submit to this Court written proof of her
compliance within the same period of 30 days from notice of this decision.

Let copies of this decision be furnished to the Office of the Bar Confidant, to be appended to Atty. Marie Frances E. Ramon's personal record
as an attorney; to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines; and to the Office of the Court Administrator for dissemination to all courts throughout
the country for their information and guidance.

SO ORDERED.
July 19, 2016

A.C. No. 6387

GABINO V. TOLENTINO and FLORDELIZA C. TOLENTINO, Complainants


vs.
ATTY. HENRY B. SO and ATTY. FERDINAND L.ANCHETA, Respondents

RESOLUTION

PERCURIAM, J.:

This resolves a disbarment case against respondent Atty. Henry B. So for neglect in handling a case, and respondent Atty. Ferdinand L.
Ancheta for extorting 200,000.00 from a client.

Complainant Flordeliza C. Tolentino was the defendant in Civil Case No. SC-2267 entitled "Benjamin Caballes v. Flordeliza Caballes," a case
involving recovery of possession of a parcel of land.1 On June 24, 1991, Branch 26 of the Regional Trial Court of Sta. Cruz, Laguna, rendered
the Decision2 against complainant Flordeliza ordering her to vacate the land.

The case was appealed3 to the Court of Appeals through complainant Flordeliza's counsel, Atty. Edilberto U. Coronado (Atty. Coronado).
While the appeal was pending, Atty. Coronado was replaced by Atty. Henry B. So (Atty. So), a lawyer of the Bureau of Agrarian Legal
Assistance of the Department of Agrarian Reform. 4

Complainants Flordeliza and Gabino V. Tolentino, her husband, afterwards learned that the Court of Appeals affirmed 5 the Regional Trial
Court Decision against complainant Flordeliza. Complainants contend that Atty. So did not inform them nor take the necessary action to
elevate the case to this Court.6 Thus, they were compelled to secure the legal services of Atty. Ferdinand L. Ancheta (Atty. Ancheta), whom
they paid 30,000.00 as acceptance fee.7

Atty. Ancheta allegedly promised them that there was still a remedy against the adverse Court of Appeals Decision, and that he would file a
"motion to reopen appeal case."8 Atty. Ancheta also inveigled them to part with the amount of 200,000.00 purportedly to be used for making
arrangements with tlie Justices of the Court of Appeals before whom their case was pending. 9

Initially, complainants did not agree to Atty. Ancheta's proposal because they did not have the money and it was against the law.10 However,
they eventually acceded when Atty. Ancheta told them that it was the only recourse they had to obtain a favorable judgment. 11

Hence, in January 2003, they deposited 200,000.00 to Atty. Ancheta's Bank Account No. 1221275656 with the United Coconut Planters
Bank.12

Complainants were surprised to learn that no "motion to reopen case" had been filed, 13 and the Court of Appeals Decision had become final
and executory.14

Hence, complainants sought to recover the amount of 200,000.00 from Atty. Ancheta. Through a letter dated September 10, 2003 15 by their
new counsel, complainants demanded for the return of the 200,000.00. However, Atty. Ancheta did not heed their demand despite receipt of
the letter.

On May 17, 2004, complainants filed their Sinumpaang Sakdal16 praying for the disbarment of Atty. So for neglect in handling complainant
Flordeliza's case, and Atty. Ancheta for defrauding them of the amount of 200,000.00.

Atty. So counters that he was no longer connected with the Bureau of Agrarian Legal Assistance of the Department of Agrarian Reform when
the Court of Appeals Decision was promulgated on July 16, 2001. 17 He alleges that he worked at the Bureau from 1989 to 1997, and that he
resigned to prepare for the elections in his hometown in Western Samar. 18 It was a procedure in the Bureau that once a handling lawyer
resigns or retires, his or her cases are reassigned to other lawyers of the Bureau. 19

Atty. Ancheta did not file a comment despite due notice. Hence, in this Court's Resolution dated February 23, 2011, 20 he was deemed to have
waived his right to file a comment. This Court referred the case to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines for investigation, report, and
recommendation.21

On June 8, 2011, the Commission on Bar Discipline of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines directed the parties to appear for mandatory
conference at 10:00 a.m. on July 6, 2011.22 However, on July 6, 2011, only Atty. So appeared.23 Since there was no showing on record that
complainants and Atty. Ancheta were notified, the mandatory conference was reset to August 10, 2011 at 10:00 a.m. 24

In the August 10, 2011 mandatory conference, complainant Flordeliza was represented by her daughter, Arlyn Tolentino, together with
counsel, Atty. Restituto Mendoza.25 Arlyn Tolentino informed the Commission that complainant Gabino V. Tolentino had already
died.26 Respondents did not appear despite due notice.27

Hence, the mandatory conference was terminated, and the parties were directed to submit their respective verified position papers within a
non-extendible period of 10 days from notice. After, the case would be submitted for report and recommendation.28

On September 19, 2011, complainant Flordeliza filed as her position paper, a Motion for Adoption of the Pleadings and their Annexes in this
Case,29 including the relevant documents30 in Criminal Case No. SC-1191 (for estafa) against Atty. Ancheta, which she filed.

Atty. So filed his Position Paper31 on September 15, 2011. Atty. Ancheta did not file any position paper. 32

The Commission on Bar Discipline recommended33 that Atty. So be absolved of the charge against him for insufficiency of evidence.34 As to
Atty. Ancheta, the Commission found him guilty of serious misconduct and deceit and recommended his disbarment.35

In the Resolution36 dated December 14, 2014, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines Board of Governors adopted and approved the findings
and recommendations of the Investigating Commissioner.

On January 11, 2016, the Board of Governors transmitted its Resolution to this Court for final action, pursuant to Rule 139-B of the Rules of
Court.37
This Court accepts and adopts the findings of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines Board of Governors.

The Integrated Bar of the Philippines correctly absolved Atty. So of the charge of negligence in the performance of his duties as counsel of
complainant Flordeliza.

Complainants fault Atty. So for failing to inform them about the Court of Appeals Decision and for not taking the necessary steps to elevate
their case to this Court.38 However, it is undisputed that Atty. So was no longer employed at the Bureau of Agrarian Legal Assistance when the
Court of Appeals Decision was rendered on July 16, 2001. Atty. So had resigned in 1997, four (4) years before the Decision was
promulgated.39

Atty. So handled the appeal of complainant Flordeliza in his capacity as a government-employed legal officer of the Bureau of Agrarian Legal
Assistance of the Department of Agrarian Reform. In his Notice of Appearance 40 dated August 11, 1993 and Motion to Admit Additional
Evidence41 dated November 22, 1993 filed before the Court of Appeals, Atty. So affixed his signature under the representation of the Bureau
of Agrarian Legal Assistance.

Atty. So's appearance for complainant Flordeliza may be likened to that of a lawyer assigned to handle a case for a private law firm's client. If
the counsel resigns, _the firm is simply bound to provide a replacement. 42 Similarly, upon Atty. So's resignation, the Director of the Bureau
merely reassigned his case assignment to other lawyers in the Bureau even without complainants' consent.

It would have been prudent for Atty. So to have informed complainants about his resignation and the eventual reassignment of their case to
another lawyer, although this was not required. Still, Atty. So's omission is not of such gravity that would warrant his disbarment or suspension.
The serious consequences of disbarment or suspension should follow only where there is a clear preponderance of evidence of the
respondent's misconduct affecting his standing and moral character as an officer of the court and member of the bar. 43

On the other hand, complainants were not entirely blameless. Had complainants been indeed vigilant in protecting their rights, they should
have followed up on the status of their appeal; thus, they would have been informed of Atty. So's resignation. Atty. So resigned four (4) years
before the Court of Appeals Decision was promulgated. 44 Thus, complainants had ample time to engage the services of a new lawyer to
safeguard their interests if they chose to do so. A party cannot blame his or her counsel for negligence when he or she is guilty of neglect.45

II

The same conclusion cannot be made with regards Atty. Ancheta. We agree with the Integrated Bar of the Philippines' recommendation that
he should be disbarred.

Atty. Ancheta's repeated failure to comply with several of this Court's Resolutions requiring him to comment on the complaint lends credence
to complainants' allegations. It manifests his tacit admission. Hence, we resolve this case on the basis of complainants' Sinumpaang
Sakdal and its Annexes.

It was established by the evidence on record that (1) Atty. Ancheta received the acceptance fee of 30,000.00 on December 9, 2002; 46 and
(2) complainants deposited on January 17, 200347 the amount of 200,000.00 to Atty. Ancheta's bank account. Atty. Ancheta made false
promises to complainants that something could still be done with complainant Flordeliza's case despite the Court of Appeals Decision having
already attained finality on September 22, 2001.48 Worse, he proposed bribing the Justices of the Court of Appeals in order to solve their legal
dilemma.

Atty. Ancheta should have very well known that a decision that has attained finality is no longer open for reversal and should be respected.49 A
lawyer's duty to assist in the speedy administration of justice50 demands recognition that at a definite time, issues must be laid to rest and
litigation ended.51 As such, Ancheta should have advised complainants to accept the judgment of the Court of Appeals and accord respect to
the just claim of the opposite party. He should have tempered his clients' propensity to litigate and save them from additional expense in
pursuing their contemplated action. Instead, he gave them confident assurances that the case could still be reopened and even furnished
them a copy of his prepared "motion to reopen case." Despite his representation that he would file the motion, however, he did not do so. 52

Atty. Ancheta's deceit and evasion of duty is manifest. He accepted the case though he knew the futility of an appeal. Despite receipt of the
30,000.00 acceptance fee, he did not act on his client's case. Moreover, he prevailed upon complainants to give him 200,000.00
purportedly to be used to bribe the Justices of the Court of Appeals in order to secure a favorable ruling, palpably showing that he himself was
unconvinced of the merits of the case. "A lawyer shall not, for any corrupt motive or interest, encourage any suit or proceeding or delay any
man's cause."53Atty. Ancheta's misconduct betrays his lack of appreciation that the practice of law is a profession, not a money-making
trade.54

As a servant of the law, Atty. Ancheta's primary duty was to obey the laws and promote respect for the law and legal processes.55Corollary to
this duty is his obligation to abstain from dishonest or deceitful conduct, 56 as well as from "activities aimed at defiance of the law or at
lessening confidence in the legal system."57 Atty. Ancheta's advice involving corruption of judicial officers tramps the integrity and dignity of the
legal profession and the judicial system and adversely reflects on his fitness to practice law.

Complainants eventually found out about his duplicity and demanded for the return of their money. 58 Still, Atty. Ancheta did not return the
200,000.00 and the 30,000.00 despite his failure to render any legal service to his clients.. 59

Atty. Ancheta breached the following duties embodied in the Code of Professional Responsibility:

CANON 7 - A LA WYER SHALL AT ALL TIMES UPHOLD THE INTEGRITY AND DIGNITY OF THE LEGAL PROFESSION AND SUPPORT
THE ACTIVITIES OF THE INTEGRATED BAR.

....

CANON 15 -A LAWYER SHALL OBSERVE CANDOR, FAIRNESS AND LOYALTY IN ALL HIS DEALINGS AND TRANSACTIONS WITH HIS
CLIENTS.

....

Rule 15.05. - A lawyer, when advising his client, shall give a candid and honest opinion on the merits and probable results of the client's case,
neither overstating nor understating the prospects of the case.
Rule 15.06. - A lawyer shall not state or imply that he is able to influence any public official, tribunal or legislative body.

Rule 15.07. - A lawyer shall impress upon his client compliance with the laws and the principles of fairness.

....

CANON 16 -A LAWYER SHALL HOLD IN TRUST ALL MONEYS AND PROPERTIES OF HIS CLIENT THAT MAY COME INTO HIS
POSSESSION.

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

....

Rule 16.03. - A lawyer shall deliver the funds and property of his client when due or upon demand ....

....

CANON 17 - A LAWYER OWES FIDELITY TO THE CAUSE OF HIS CLIENT AND HE SHALL BE MINDFUL OF THE TRUST AND
CONFIDENCE REPOSED IN HIM.

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

....

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

A lawyer "must at no time be wanting in probity and moral fiber, which are not only conditions precedent to his entrance to the Bar but are
likewise essential demands for his continued membership therein."60 Atty. Ancheta's deceit in dealing with his clients constitutes gross
professional misconduct61 and violates his oath, thus justifying his disbarment under Rule 138, Section 2762 of the Rules of Court.

Furthermore, his failure to heed the following Resolutions of the Court despite notice aggravates his misconduct:

(1) Resolution63 dated June 21, 2004, requiring him to comment on the complaint;

(2) Resolution64 dated October 16, 2006, directing him to show cause why he should not be disciplinarily dealt with or held in
contempt for failure to comply with the June 21, 2004 Resolution;

(3) Resolution65 dated January 21, 2009, imposing upon him the penalty of l,000.00 for failure to comply with the June 21, 2004
and October 16, 2006 Resolutions;

(4) Resolution66 dated January 27, 2010, imposing an additional fine of 2,000.00 or a penalty of imprisonment of 10 days for failure
to comply with the January 21, 2009 Resolution; and

(5) Resolution67 dated January 12, 2011, ordering his arrest and directing the National Bureau of Investigation to arrest and detain
him for five (5) days and until he complied with the previous Resolutions.

Atty. Ancheta's cavalier attitude in repeatedly ignoring the orders of this Court constitutes utter disrespect of the judicial institution. His conduct
shows a high degree of irresponsibility and betrays a recalcitrant flaw in his character. Indeed, his continued indifference to this Court's orders
constitutes willful disobedience of the lawful orders of this Court, which, under Rule 138, Section 2768 of the Rules of Court, is in itself a
sufficient cause for suspension or disbarment.

The maintenance of a high standard of legal proficiency, honesty, and fair dealing69 is a prerequisite to making the bar an effective instrument
in the proper administration of justice.70 Any member, therefore, who fails to live up to the exacting standards of integrity and morality exposes
himself or herself to administrative liability.71

Atty. Ancheta's violations show that he is unfit to discharge the duties of a member of the legal profession.1wphi1 Hence, he should be
disbarred.72

WHEREFORE, the complaint against respondent Atty. Henry B. So is DISMISSED for insufficiency of evidence. On the other hand, this Court
finds respondent Atty. Ferdinand L. Ancheta GUILTY of gross misconduct in violation of the Lawyer's Oath and the Code of Professional
Responsibility and hereby DISBARS him from the practice of law. The Office of the Bar Confidant is DIRECTED to remove the name of
Ferdinand L. Ancheta from the Roll of Attorneys.

Respondent Ancheta is ORDERED to return to complainants Gabino V. Tolentino and Flordeliza C. Tolentino, within 30 days from receipt of
this Resolution, the total amount of 230,000.00, with legal interest at 12% per annum from the date of demand on September 10, 2003 to
June 30, 2013, and at 6% per annum from July 1, 2013 until full payment. Respondent Ancheta is further DIRECTED to submit to this Court
proof of payment of the amount within 10 days from payment.

Let copies of this Resolution be furnished to the Office of the Bar Confidant, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, and the Office of the Court
Administrator for dissemination to all courts in the country.

This Resolution takes effect immediately.

SO ORDERED.
July 25, 2016

A.C. No. 10117

IN RE: RESOLUTION DATED AUGUST 14, 2013 OF THE COURT OF APPEALS IN CA-G.R. CV No. 94656,
vs.
ATTY. GIDEON D.V. MORTEL, Respondent

RESOLUTION

LEONEN, J.:

This resolves an administrative complaint charging respondent Atty. Gideon D.V. Mortel (Atty. Mortel) with disobedience or defiance of lawful
court orders, amounting to gross misconduct and insubordination or disrespect. 1The complaint arose from the proceedings before the Court of
Appeals in Bank of the Philippine Islands v. Angelita De Jesus, through her Attorney-in-Fact Jim Dulay,2which Atty. Mortel handles.3

On July 20, 2010, the Court of Appeals issued a Notice4 for Atty. Mortel to file an appellants brief on behalf of his client, Angelita De
Jesus,5 within the reglementary period of 45 days from notice.6

Atty. Mortel recently moved out of his office at Herrera Tower, Makati City due to the high cost of maintenance. 7Looking for a new office,8 he
requested to use the address of his friends law firm as his address on record for Bank of the Philippine Islands.9 Atty. Marcelino Ferdinand V.
Jose (Atty. Jose), Managing Partner of MFV Jose Law Office, granted this request sometime in August 2010. 10 Atty. Mortels address on
record was then listed at Unit 2106, Philippine AXA Life Center, 1286 Sen. Gil Puyat Ave., Makati City, 11 the same address as MFV Jose Law
Office.12

All communication, court orders, resolutions, notices, or other court processes addressed to MFV Jose Law Office were received by the law
firms staff.13 The staff would pass these to the desk of Atty. Jose for monitoring and checking. Atty. Jose would then forward these to the
handling lawyer in the office.14 The law firms messenger, Randy G. Lucero (Lucero), was tasked with informing Atty. Mortel whenever there
was a resolution or order pertinent to Bank of Philippine Islands.15

Bank of Philippine Islands was not included in MFV Jose Law Offices list or inventory of cases.16 Thus, Atty. Jose "simply attached a piece of
paper with notation and instructions on the same, advising [Lucero] . . . to forward it to Atty. Mortel."17

Initially, Randy De Leon (De Leon), Atty. Mortels messenger, went to MFV Law Office to inquire if it had received notices for Atty.
Mortel.18 None came at that time.19 Thus, De Leon left his number with Lucero, and the two messengers agreed that Lucero would text De
Leon should any court notice or order for Atty. Mortel arrive. 20

On August 16, 2010, instead of heeding the Court of Appeals Notice to file the appellants brief, Atty. Mortel moved to withdraw Angelita De
Jesus appeal21 in light of an amicable settlement on the disputed property.22 After the Motion to Withdraw Appeal was filed, he stopped
communicating with MFV Law Office and instructed De Leon to do the same. 23

In the Resolution dated September 20, 2010, the Court of Appeals directed Atty. Mortel to secure and submit Angelita De Jesus written
conformity to the Motion to Withdraw Appeal within five (5) days from notice.24 Atty. Mortel did not comply.25

In the Resolution dated November 11, 2010, the Court of Appeals again directed Atty. Mortel to comply with the September 20, 2010
Resolution and warned him of disciplinary action should he fail to secure and submit Angelita De Jesus written conformity to the Motion within
the reglementary period.26 Atty. Mortel did not comply.27

Thus, on February 23, 2011, the Court of Appeals resolved to "den[y] the motion to withdraw appeal; . . . reiterat[e] the notice dated July 20,
2010, directing [Angelita De Jesus] to file appellants brief within . . . [45] days from notice; and . . . direc[t] Atty. Mortel to show cause why he
should not be cited in contempt for non-compliance with [the Court of Appeals] order."28

The February 23, 2011 Resolution was sent to Angelita De Jesus address on record, but it was returned with the notation "moved out" on the
envelope.29

On March 28, 2011, the Court of Appeals resolved to direct Atty. Mortel to furnish it with Angelita De Jesus present and complete address
within 10 days from notice. Atty. Mortel did not comply. 30

In the Resolution dated July 5, 2011, the Court of Appeals again ordered Atty. Mortel to inform it of Angelita De Jesus address within 10 days
from notice.31 Atty. Mortel did not comply.32

In the Resolution dated October 13, 2011, the Court of Appeals directed Atty. Mortel, for the last time, to inform it of Angelita De Jesus
address within 10 days from notice.33 Still, Atty. Mortel did not comply.34

In the Resolution dated January 10, 2012, the Court of Appeals ordered Atty. Mortel to show cause, within 15 days, why he should not be held
in contempt for non-compliance with the Court of Appeals Resolutions.35 Atty. Mortel ignored this.36

In the Resolution dated May 16, 2012, the Court of Appeals found Atty. Mortel liable for indirect contempt. 37 It ordered him to pay 10,000.00
as fine.38 Atty. Mortel did not pay.39

On August 13, 2012, the Court of Appeals resolved to (1) again order Atty. Mortel to pay, within 10 days from notice, the fine of 10,000.00
imposed upon him under the May 16, 2012 Resolution;40 (2) require Atty. Mortel to follow the July 5, 2011 and October 13, 2011 Resolutions
that sought information from him as to his clients present address; 41and (3) warn him that failure to comply with the Resolutions within the
reglementary period will constrain the Court of Appeals "to impose a more severe sanction against him." 42 Atty. Mortel snubbed the
directives.43

According to the Court of Appeals, the Cashier Division reported that Atty. Mortel still did not pay the fine imposed despite his receipt of the
May 16, 2012, August 13, 2012, and October 17, 2012 Resolutions. 44
In the Resolution dated April 26, 2013, the Court of Appeals directed Atty. Mortel to show cause why it should not suspend him from legal
practice for ignoring its May 16, 2012 Resolution (which fined him for 10,000.00). 45 The April 26, 2013 Resolution was sent to his address on
record at Unit 2106, Philippine AXA Life Center, 1286 Sen. Gil Puyat Ave., Makati City, 46 as shown in the registry return card.47

Despite having ignored 11 Court of Appeals Resolutions,48 Atty. Mortel did not show cause for him not to be suspended. 49 The Court of
Appeals found that his "failure or obstinate refusal without justification or valid reason to comply with the [Court of Appeals] directives
constitutes disobedience or defiance of the lawful orders of [the Court of Appeals], amounting to gross misconduct and insubordination or
disrespect."50

In the Resolution dated August 14, 2013, the Court of Appeals suspended Atty. Mortel from legal practice for six (6) months and gave him a
stern warning against repeating his actions.51 Atty. Mortel was also directed to comply with the previous Resolutions of the Court of Appeals.
The dispositive portion of the Resolution reads:

WHEREFORE, Atty. Gideon D.V. Mortel, counsel for respondent-oppositor-appellant, is hereby SUSPENDED from the practice of law for a
period of six (6) months effective from notice, with a STERN WARNING that a repetition of the same or similar acts will be dealt with more
severely.

Further, Atty. Mortel is DIRECTED to comply with the May 16, 2012 Resolution and other related Resolutions issued by this Court within ten
(10) days from notice hereof.

Let copies of this Resolution be furnished the Supreme Court for its information and appropriate action.

SO ORDERED.52 (Emphasis in the original)

On October 2, 2013, pursuant to Rule 138, Section 2953 of the Rules of Court, the Court of Appeals submitted before this Court a certified true
copy of the August 14, 2013 Resolution, which suspended Atty. Mortel from legal practice, together with a statement of facts from which the
suspension order was based.54

On October 23, 2013, the Office of the Bar Confidant issued a Report stating that it docketed the Court of Appeals August 14, 2013
Resolution as a regular administrative case against Atty. Mortel. 55

In the Resolution dated January 20, 2014, this Court noted and approved the administrative case, furnished Atty. Mortel a copy of the August
14, 2013 Resolution, and required him to comment within 10 days from notice. 56 This Court forwarded it to his address on record.57

On February 25, 2014, Atty. Jose read this Courts January 20, 201458 Resolution meant for Atty. Mortel,59 and saw that Atty. Mortel had been
suspended by the Court of Appeals.60 He "immediately tried looking for Atty. Mortels mobile number" to inform him of this development.61 On
the following day, he was able to reach Atty. Mortel through a mutual friend. 62

Four (4) years passed since the Court of Appeals first sent a Resolution63 to Atty. Mortel, through MFV Jose Law Office, in 2010. Atty. Jose
asked Lucero, his messenger, why these Resolutions were not forwarded to Atty. Mortel. 64

Lucero stated that he would usually text De Leon, Atty. Mortels messenger, whenever there was an order or resolution pertinent to the
case.65 However, after a few messages, De Leon no longer texted back.66 Lucero added that he "had no other way of finding [De Leon]" and
knew nothing of De Leons whereabouts.67 He hoped that either Atty. Mortel or De Leon would pick up the mails sent by the Court of Appeals
for Atty. Mortel.68 Not knowing how to contact Atty. Mortels messenger, Lucero simply kept the copies in the office racks or on his table. 69

On March 5, 2014, Atty. Mortel filed before the Court of Appeals an Omnibus Motion and Manifestation with Profuse Apologies. 70 He informed
the Court of Appeals of his present address at No. 2806 Tower 2, Pioneer Highlands, Mandaluyong City. 71 He also prayed for (1) the
reinstatement of the Motion to Withdraw Appeal, (2) the acceptance of his compliance with the September 20, 2010 and November 11, 2010
Resolutions of the Court of Appeals (which sought for his clients conformity to the Motion), (3) the grant of his Motion, and (4) the recall of all
previous orders or resolutions of the Court of Appeals.72

In his Comment73 dated March 7, 2014, Atty. Mortel argues that he honestly believed that the case was already closed and terminated in light
of his Motion to Withdraw Appeal.74 Atty. Mortel avers that "[h]e did not expect that a requirement of conformity of the client would be needed
in as much as the act of counsel binds the client[.]" 75According to him, the filing of a motion to withdraw appeal is a matter of right, which did
not need his clients conformity.76 Thus, he did not bother to visit MFV Jose Law Office again or send his messenger to check with the law firm
if there were resolutions or orders for him.77

According to Atty. Mortel, the Court of Appeals Resolutions never reached him.78 He interposes the defense of "sheer lack of or absence of
knowledge . . . as all Resolutions of the Court [of Appeals] were received by the messenger of MFV Jose Law Office but not forwarded to
him."79 Finally, he claims that he had no reason to refuse to comply, had he known of the orders or resolutions.80

In the Resolution81 dated February 9, 2015, this Court noted Atty. Mortels Comment and required the Sixth Division of the Court of Appeals
Manila to file a reply within 10 days from notice.

In the Resolution82 dated May 30, 2016, this Court dispensed with the filing of the reply.

For resolution are the following issues:

First, whether there are grounds for this Court to probe into Atty. Marcelino Ferdinand V. Joses possible administrative liability; and

Second, whether respondent Atty. Gideon D.V. Mortel should be imposed a disciplinary sanction.

This Court has the authority to discipline an errant member of the bar. 83 Rule 139-B, Section 1 of the Rules of Court provides that
"[p]roceedings for the disbarment, suspension, or discipline of attorneys may be taken by the Supreme Court motu proprio[.]"84 However, the
lawyer must have the "full opportunity upon reasonable notice to answer the charges against him [or her,] among others." 85 Thus:

RULE 138
ATTORNEYS AND ADMISSION TO BAR
....

SEC. 30. Attorney to be heard before removal or suspension. No attorney shall be removed or suspended from the practice of his
profession, until he has had full opportunity upon reasonable notice to answer the charges against him, to produce witnesses in his own
behalf, and to be heard by himself or counsel. But if upon reasonable notice he fails to appear and answer the accusation, the court may
proceed to determine the matter ex parte.

Implicit in Atty. Jose and respondents arrangement is that Atty. Jose would update respondent should there be any communication sent to
respondent through his law firm, and that respondent would regularly check with the law firm if any court-delivered mail arrives for him.86

Yet, Atty. Jose failed to measure up to his part of the deal. He delegated everything to his messenger without adequately supervising him. All
communication, court orders, resolutions, notices, or other court processes addressed to MFV Jose Law Office go through Atty. Joses desk
for monitoring and checking.87

Having monitored and checked at least 12 envelopes88 from the Court of Appeals meant for respondent, Atty. Jose could have followed up
with Lucero if respondent was actually receiving the Court of Appeals orders or resolutions. This is a fairly simple task requiring a quick yes or
no, accomplishable in a few seconds. As Managing Partner of his firm, Atty. Jose can be expected to have supervisory duties over his firms
associates and support staff, among others.

Alternatively, Atty. Jose could have contacted respondent himself. That he did not know respondents number 89 does not suffice. It bears
stressing that Atty. Jose and respondent are acquaintances and have common connections. 90

In the first place, Atty. Jose showed that he could easily get respondents new number through a mutual friend. Yet, he only did so four (4)
years later.91 In todays age of email, social media, web messaging applications, and a whole gamut of digital technology easing peoples
connectivity whenever and wherever they are, it is fairly easy to get connected with someone without even leaving ones location.

Atty. Jose is fully aware of the importance of following court orders and processes. It is reasonable to expect him to extend assistance to the
lawyer to whom he lent his office addressand in doing so, to the Court of Appealsin the speedy and efficient administration of justice
in Bank of the Philippine Islands.

Atty. Joses reading of this Courts January 20, 2014 Resolution92 is also highly questionable. While the Resolution was sent to his law firm, 93 it
was addressed to respondent, a lawyer not under his employ.94

Canon 21, Rule 21.0495 of the Code of Professional Responsibility generally allows disclosure of a clients affairs only to partners or
associates of the law firm, unless the client prohibits it. Respondent is not a partner or associate of MFV Jose Law Office. 96

Even assuming that this Courts January 20, 2014 Resolution is independent of Bank of Philippine Islands, the present case being
administrative in nature, Atty. Joses action still invites suspicion.

Article III, Section 3(1) of the 1987 Constitution guarantees that:

ARTICLE III
Bill of Rights

....

SECTION 3. (1) The privacy of communication and correspondence shall be inviolable except upon lawful order of the court, or when public
safety or order requires otherwise as prescribed by law.

Under Article 32 of the Civil Code:

ARTICLE 32. Any public officer or employee, or any private individual, who directly or indirectly obstructs, defeats, violates or in any manner
impedes or impairs any of the following rights and liberties of another person shall be liable to the latter for damages:

....

(11) The privacy of communication and correspondence[.]

Atty. Jose took hold of this Courts correspondence meant for respondent and read it. 97 On February 25, 2014, he "look[ed] into the said case
[and] noticed that the Resolution . . . was already in the pink form issued by the Supreme Court. [He] saw the word suspended and, upon
perusal, saw that [respondent] was now subjected to an administrative case[.]" 98

Atty. Jose may claim that he did so out of concern. However, if he were truly concerned, his proper recourse would have been to inform
respondent about receiving mail from this Court, not to read it. Moreover, he would have informed respondent, as early as 2010, that his law
firm received several Court of Appeals correspondences, and that these letters kept arriving for respondent until 2013. 99

Therefore, under Rule 138, Section 30100 of the Rules of Court, this Court directs Atty. Jose to show cause, within 10 days from receipt of a
copy of this Resolution, why he should not be administratively sanctioned for failing to ensure respondents prompt receipt of the Court of
Appeals Resolutions, and for reading this Courts Resolution addressed to respondent.

II

Atty. Jose stated under oath that respondent requested to use MFV Jose Law Offices address as his mailing address only in August
2010,101 after respondent had already filed his appeal.102 The exact day in August is unknown.

Assuming respondents request was granted as early as August 1, 2010, this does not help him in any way. The Court of Appeals Notice for
respondent to file an appellants brief was issued one (1) month earlier, on July 20, 2010, when respondent still presumably used his old
address on record at Herrera Tower, Rufino St., corner Valero St., Makati City. 103
Thus, respondents sending De Leon, his messenger, to the new forwarding address at MFV Jose Law Office to get updates anytime between
August 1, 2010104 and August 16, 2010 (when he filed the Motion) would certainly have yielded no result. In this hypothetical scenario, the
Court of Appeals would have sent the Notice to his old address on record. That he allegedly did not receive the July 20, 2010 Notice from the
Court of Appeals was, therefore, his own lookout.

Assuming MFV Law Office accommodated respondents request after August 16, 2010, there could have been no instance where respondent
sent De Leon to MFV Law Office, if this Court were to believe his statement that he stopped contacting MFV Law Office after he filed the
Motion.105

In either case, respondent had been remiss in his duty to keep himself informed on the status of the case.

Respondent presents a different version of the facts. According to him, he requested to use MFV Law Offices address "as his mailing address
for the [purpose of] filing of the appeal[.]"106 This hints that he made his request before he even elevated Bank of the Philippine Islands to the
Court of Appeals, and precisely for that purpose.

While the records do not show when respondent filed the appeal, it certainly happened before July 20, 2010, the date when the Court of
Appeals issued the Notice107 for respondent to file an appellants brief. Under the Internal Rules of the Court of Appeals, issuing a notice to file
appellants brief means that it has already received the appeal. 108 Thus, insofar as respondent is concerned, the July 20, 2010 Notice reached
MFV Law Office,109 not his old address on record.

Respondent further claims:

[O]n the account of the Honorable Court [of Appeals] in its Resolution dated 14 August 2013 the Court [of Appeals] issued already a "Notice"
to file appellants brief on July 20, 2010 signifying that there was already a notice received by the staff of M V F [sic] Jose Law Office but was
not forwarded to the undersigned counsel. This demonstrated that the very first Order issued by the Court [of Appeals] was received by the
aforesaid law office but was not forwarded to the undersigned counsel and the same was true to all subsequent Orders or Resolutions issued
by the Court of Appeals[.]110 (Emphasis supplied)

Respondent dates back his request to use MFV Law Offices address before July 20 2010, while Atty. Jose avows that it happened in August
2010.111 The inconsistent narration of facts shows that one of them did not give a truthful account on the matter.

In any of the scenarios presented, respondents gross negligence and lack of foresight is apparent. Respondent did not make it easy for MFV
Law Office to reach him personally or through his messenger.

First, respondent personally stopped visiting and communicating with the law firm after August 16, 2010. 112 A total of 12 Court of Appeals
Resolutions arrived at MFV Law Office after that date.

Second, respondent asked De Leon to stop going to the law firm after August 16, 2010. 113 This may explain why De Leon no longer replied to
Lucero, Atty. Joses messenger, after a few text exchanges. 114 Lucero states that he had no idea how to find De Leon, and had not seen
respondent for years.115

Third, Atty. Mortel did not update MFV Law Office of his or De Leons present work or phone number(s). 116 Atty. Jose had to look for
respondents mobile number four (4) years later117 just so he could inform respondent about this Courts Resolution. 118 Meanwhile, Lucero
assumed that De Leon changed his number as De Leon could no longer be reached.119

Fourth, there is no allegation that respondent left other contact details to MFV Law Office, such as his home address, as a safety net.

What follows from all these is that respondent failed to adopt an "efficient and orderly system of receiving and attending promptly to all judicial
notices."120 The fault was his to bear.

In Gonzales v. Court of Appeals:121

We hold that an attorney owes it to himself and to his clients to adopt an efficient and orderly system of receiving and attending promptly to all
judicial notices. He and his client must suffer the consequences of his failure to do so particularly where such negligence is not excusable as
in the case at bar. . . .

Aside from his failure to adopt an organized and efficient system of managing his files and court notices, we also note that petitioners counsel,
Atty. Almadro, allowed one year to lapse before he again acted on the appeal of his client. . . . Subsequently, the notice to file the appellants
brief was received by the househelp of Atty. Almadro, petitioners counsel, on February 21, 1996. It was only on July 11, 1996 that Atty.
Almadro claims to have discovered the notice. . . . Atty. Almadro apparently never bothered to check why he had not received any notice for
the filing of his clients (appellants) brief.122

Similarly, in this case, respondent did not adequately inquire why he had not received any notice for the filing of Angelita De Jesus appellants
brief."123 He should have assumed that the Court of Appeals would send him a notice regarding his appeal. Yet, he instructed De Leon to go to
MFV Law Office only initially,124 and cut contact with the law firm after August 16, 2010.125

According to respondent, he was "completely unaware of the existence of the Court [of Appeals] Orders or Resolutions." 126 He claims that his
failure to comply was made in good faith and was not done intentionally. 127

We are not convinced.

Respondents disobedience of court orders, while it may not have been malicious, was certainly willful. He knew of the consequences of
disregarding court orders, yet he did not take steps to prevent it from happening. He used Atty. Joses office address for Bank of the Philippine
Islands, but did not ensure that he could actually receive the Court of Appeals Notices and Resolutions.

That respondent was able to receive this Courts Resolution through MFV Law Office in 2014 shows that it was also possible for him to have
received the Court of Appeals Notice and Resolutions from 2010 to 2013, had he only cared to do so.

III
Respondent attempts to escape liability by invoking Rule 50, Section 3 128 of the Rules of Court, which states that withdrawal of appeal is a
matter of right before the filing of the appellees brief. He claims to have honestly believed that the filing of the motion had the effect of
withdrawal of appeal.129 Thinking that the case had been closed and terminated, he forgot all about it. 130

Respondent prides himself in wanting to become a judge, joining the 30th Prejudicature program, and taking the "masterate [sic] and doctoral
degree[s] in law[.]"131 In terms of legal knowledge and conduct, more is expected of him.

Filing a motion to withdraw appeal does not result in automatic withdrawal of the appeal. The next-level court, before which a motion to
withdraw appeal is filed, still needs to resolve this motion. A motion prays for a relief other than by a pleading.132 As the court may either grant
or deny a motion, or otherwise defer action on it until certain conditions are met, lawyers have the obligation to apprise themselves of the
courts resolution, and not to simply second-guess it.

In this case, before the Court of Appeals acted on respondents Motion, it first required proof 133 of the clients conformity.134 It is not unlikely
that the Court of Appeals wanted to ensure that Angelita De Jesus voluntarily agreed to the withdrawal of the appealthat is, without force,
intimidation, or coercionand that, despite losing the case before the lower court, she was fully informed of the legal consequences of the
contemplated action.

Thus, respondent cannot excuse himself from complying with the Court of Appeals July 20, 2010 Notice simply because he "belie[ved] that
the case has long been closed and terminated" when he filed the Motion to Withdraw Appeal. 135 Ignorance of the law excuses no one from
compliance.136 Respondent could not safely assume that the case had already been closed and terminated until he received the Court of
Appeals resolution on the matter.

IV

Both respondent137 and Atty. Jose138 point a finger at Lucero, Atty. Joses messenger, while Lucero points a finger at De Leon, respondents
messenger.139

According to respondent, Lucero simply left the Resolutions in MFV Law Offices racks or in Luceros table[.]" 140Lucero states that he did not
know the relevance of the Court of Appeals Resolutions or the importance of these to respondent. 141 For a law firm messenger to have no clue
about the importance of a court issuance is doubtful. What is more plausible is that the messenger, being outside this Courts disciplinary arm,
is serving as a convenient scapegoat.

Even assuming that only the messengers are at fault, neither counsel can blame anyone but themselves for assigning an important matter to
"incompetent or irresponsible person[s]."142 In Gonzales, "[i]f petitioners counsel was not informed by his house-help of the notice which
eventually got misplaced in his office files, said counsel has only himself to blame for entrusting the matter to an incompetent or irresponsible
person[.]"143

Respondent gave the MFV Law Offices address to the Court of Appeals. Thus, this is presumably where he wanted the orders of the Court of
Appeals sent. He cannot later excuse himself from complying with the court orders by stating that he did not actually receive these orders for
three (3) years. Respondent is estopped from raising it as a defense. As far as courts are concerned, orders and resolutions are received by
counsel through the address on record they have given.

It is well-noted that respondent informed the Court of Appeals of his present address (No. 2806 Tower 2, Pioneer Highlands, Mandaluyong
City) only on March 3, 2014.144

Respondents defiance of the Court of Appeals Notice and Resolutions shows a blatant disregard of the system he has vowed to
support."145 When he took his oath as attorney, he has sworn to do as follows:

I, do solemnly swear that . . . I will support the Constitution and obey the laws as well as the legal orders of the duly constituted authorities
therein . . . and will conduct myself as a lawyer according to the best of my knowledge and discretion, with all good fidelity as well to the courts
as to my clients; and I impose upon myself these voluntary obligations without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion. So help me God.
(Emphasis supplied)

An oath is not an empty promise, but a solemn duty. Owing good fidelity to the court, lawyers must afford due respect to "judicial officers and
other duly constituted authorities[.]"146 Under the Code of Professional Responsibility:

CANON 7 - A LAWYER SHALL AT ALL TIMES UPHOLD THE INTEGRITY AND DIGNITY OF THE LEGAL PROFESSION. . . .

....

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

CANON 11 - A LAWYER SHALL OBSERVE AND MAINTAIN THE RESPECT DUE TO THE COURTS AND TO JUDICIAL OFFICERS AND
SHOULD INSIST ON SIMILAR CONDUCT BY OTHERS.

CANON 12 - A LAWYER SHALL EXERT EVERY EFFORT AND CONSIDER IT HIS DUTY TO ASSIST IN THE SPEEDY AND EFFICIENT
ADMINISTRATION OF JUSTICE.

In Bantolo v. Atty. Castillon Jr.:147

Lawyers are particularly called upon to obey court orders and processes, and this deference is underscored by the fact that willful disregard
thereof may subject the lawyer not only to punishment for contempt but to disciplinary sanctions as well. Such is the situation in the instant
case. We need not delve into the factual findings of the trial court and the Court of Appeals on the contempt case against respondents. Suffice
it to say that respondent lawyers commission of the contumacious acts have been shown and proven, and eventually punished by the lower
courts.148 (Emphasis supplied)

In its May 16, 2012 Resolution, the Court of Appeals found respondent guilty for indirect contempt of court.149 On top of respondents
punishment for contempt, his willful disobedience of a lawful order of the Court of Appeals is a ground for respondents removal or suspension.
Rule 138, Section 27 of the Rules of Court states:

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

In Sebastian v. Atty. Bajar,150 this Court ordered the lawyer to file a rejoinder within 10 days from notice, but she was able to file only after one
(1) year.151 The lawyer was also ordered to comment on the complainants manifestation, but instead of filing a comment, she submitted a
manifestation about four (4) months after.152 Suspending the lawyer for three (3) years, this Court stated that the lawyers "cavalier attitude in
repeatedly ignoring the orders of the Supreme Court constitutes utter disrespect to the judicial institution." 153

In this case, respondent utterly disrespected the lawful orders of the court by ignoring 12 Court of Appeals Resolutions. 154 In Ong v. Atty.
Grijaldo:155

[Respondents] conduct indicates a high degree of irresponsibility. A resolution of this Court is not to be construed as a mere request, nor
should it be complied with partially, inadequately or selectively. Respondents obstinate refusal to comply therewith not only betrays a
recalcitrant flaw in his character; it also underscores his disrespect of our lawful orders which is only too deserving of reproof.

Any departure from the path which a lawyer must follow as demanded by the virtues of his profession shall not be tolerated by this Court as
the disciplining authority. This is especially so, as in the instant case, where respondent even deliberately defied the lawful orders of the Court
for him to file his comment on the complaint, thereby transgressing Canon 11 of the Code of Professional Responsibility which requires a
lawyer to observe and maintain the respect due the courts.156 (Emphasis supplied, citations omitted)

In Richards v. Asoy,157 the lawyer failed to comply with this Courts Resolution requiring him to file a comment and show cause why he should
not be administratively sanctioned or cited in contempt.158 He was also asked to comply with this Courts other Resolution requiring him to
reimburse the complainant within 10 days from notice.159 This Court found that respondent "had gone into hiding and was evading service of
pleadings/orders/processes of this Court."160 For the lawyers grave misconduct, this Court indefinitely suspended him from legal
practice.161 When the lawyer later sought to be readmitted to the bar, this Court denied his Petition to be reinstated. 162 The lawyer was found to
have failed to justify the long delay of nine (9) years in complying with this Courts Resolutions to reimburse complainant:

Respondents justification for his 9-year belated "compliance" with the order for him to reimburse complainant glaringly speaks of his lack of
candor, of his dishonesty, if not defiance of Court orders, qualities that do not endear him to the esteemed brotherhood of lawyers. The solemn
oath which all lawyers take upon admission to the bar to dedicate their lives to the pursuit of justice is neither a mere formality nor hollow
words meant to be taken lightly, but a sacred trust that lawyers must uphold and keep inviolable at all times. The lack of any sufficient
justification or explanation for the nine-year delay in complying with the Courts July 9, 1987 and March 15, 1988 Resolutions to reimburse
complainant betrays a clear and contumacious disregard for the lawful orders of this Court. Such disrespect on the part of respondent
constitutes a clear violation of the lawyers Code of Professional Responsibility[.]

....

Respondent denigrates the dignity of his calling by displaying a lack of candor towards this Court. By taking his sweet time to effect
reimbursement . . . he sent out a strong message that the legal processes and orders of this Court could be treated with disdain or
impunity.163 (Citations omitted)

Here, respondent failed to justify the long delay of at least three (3) years 164 in complying with the Court of Appeals Resolutions requiring his
clients written conformity to the Motion (2010)165 and information on his clients current address (2011).166

Respondent also failed to justify the long delay in complying with other Court of Appeals Resolutions (a) requiring him to show cause why he
should not be cited in contempt, and to comply with the Court of Appeals earlier Resolutions;167 (b) citing him in indirect contempt and
ordering him to pay a fine of 10,00000;168 (c) reiterating the Resolutions that directed him to pay the fine and inform the Court of Appeals of
his clients address, and warning him of a more severe sanction should he fail to do so; 169 (d) requiring him to show cause why he should not
be suspended from the practice of law for his refusal to pay the fine; and (e) ordering him to again to comply with the Resolution that directed
him to pay the fine.170

Moreover, even after he found out about the developments of the case, 171 respondent still did not take immediate actions to observe all of the
Court of Appeals Resolutions. Nowhere in the records does it show that he complied with the May 16, 2012, August 13, 2012, and October 17,
2012 Resolutions directing him to pay 10,000.00 as fine for his non-compliance with the earlier Court of Appeals Resolutions.

Thus, despite respondents profuse apologies172 to the Court of Appeals, the "evidence of atonement for [his] misdeeds is sorely wanting." 173

In Cuizon v. Atty. Macalino,174 this Court disbarred a lawyer for his obstinate failure to comply with this Courts Resolutions requiring him to file
his comment and for issuing a bouncing check.175 Found liable for contempt of court, the lawyer was ordered imprisoned until he complied with
this Courts Resolution to pay a fine and submit his comment:

By his repeated cavalier conduct, the respondent exhibited an unpardonable lack of respect for the authority of the Court.

As an officer of the court, it is a lawyers duty to uphold the dignity and authority of the court.1wphi1 The highest form of respect for judicial
authority is shown by a lawyers obedience to court orders and processes. 176 (Citations omitted)

Respondents actions shatter the dignity of his profession. He exhibited disdain for court orders and processes, as well as a lack of fidelity to
the court. In "taking his sweet time to effect"177 compliance with the Court of Appeals Resolutions, he sends the message that he is above the
duly constituted judicial authorities of this land, and he looks down on them with condescension. This Court agrees with the Court of Appeals
that his acts constitute gross misconduct and insubordination or disrespect of court.

Gross misconduct is defined as an "inexcusable, shameful or flagrant unlawful conduct" 178 in administering justice, which prejudices the
parties rights or forecloses a just determination of the case. 179 As officers of the court, lawyers themselves should be at the forefront in
obeying court orders and processes. Respondent failed in this regard. His actions resulted in his clients prejudice.

VI
Respondent states that "[t]he ironical truth on this legal controversy is that the client-appellant represented by undersigned counsel was
satisfied, contented and has fully benefited from the legal services rendered by him." 180Presenting the affidavit181 of Jim Dulay (Dulay),
Angelita De Jesus Attorney-in-Fact, respondent brandishes his clients pleasure with his legal services.182 According to respondent, "[t]he
client-appellant in the same affidavit expressed that [Dulay] was not prejudiced in any manner." 183

This is not true.

Angelita De Jesus was prejudiced by respondents willful disobedience of the lawful orders of the Court of Appeals. Respondents failure to
comply with the September 20, 2010 Resolution (requiring his clients conformity to the Motion to Withdraw Appeal) and November 11, 2010
Resolution (reiterating the requirement of his clients conformity to the Motion) resulted in the denial of the Motion on February 23,
2011.184 The period within which to appeal the February 23, 2011 denial185 had clearly lapsed when respondent filed the Omnibus Motion
before the Court of Appeals on March 5, 2014.186

Dulay wanted to withdraw the appeal,187 but respondents negligence and lack of prudence resulted in an outcome opposite of what Angelita
De Jesus, through Dulay, sought his services for. Under the Code of Professional Responsibility:

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

....

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

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

In Ong, this Court found that the lawyer violated his duty to his client in failing to update the client on the status of the case.188 The lawyers
incompetence, neglect, and failure to update his client, in addition to his misappropriation of his clients money, led to his disbarment from the
practice of law.189

Here, respondent blindsided his client on the real status of Bank of Philippine Islands.1wphi1 He failed to diligently attend to the legal matter
entrusted to him. The case, instead of being closed and terminated, came back to life on appeal due to his neglect and lack of diligence. As
the Court of Appeals correctly found:

Failure of Atty. Mortel to comply with the Resolutions of [the Court of Appeals] has prejudiced the right of his client, herein respondent-
oppositor-appellant, to a just determination of her cause. His failure or obstinate refusal without justification or valid reason to comply with [the
Court of Appeals] directives constitutes disobedience or defiance of the lawful orders of [the Court of Appeals], amounting to gross
misconduct and insubordination or disrespect. The foregoing acts committed by Atty. Mortel are sufficient cause for his suspension pursuant to
Sec. 28, in relation to Section 27 of Rule 138 of the Rules of Court. 190

Respondents "negligence shows a glaring lack of the competence and diligence required of every lawyer."191

For his gross misconduct, insubordination, and disrespect of the Court of Appeals directives, and for his negligence of his clients case,
respondent must be suspended from the practice of law for one (1) year, with a stern warning that a repetition of the same or similar act shall
be dealt with more severely.

WHEREFORE, Atty. Marcelino Ferdinand V. Jose is DIRECTED to show cause, within ten (10) days from receipt of a copy of this Resolution,
why he should not be disciplined by this Court.

Respondent Atty. Gideon D.V. Mortel is SUSPENDED from the practice of law for (1) year for violating Canons 7, 10, 11, 12, and 18, Rules
18.03 and 18.04 of the Code of Professional Responsibility. He is STERNLY WARNED that repetition of the same or similar act shall be dealt
with more severely.

Let a copy of this Resolution be attached to respondent's personal records as attorney, and be furnished to the Integrated Bar of the
Philippines and all courts in the country through the Office of the Court Administrator.

SO ORDERED.
A.C. No. 7072 July 27, 2016

VIRGILIO D. MAGAWAY and CESARIO M. MAGAWAY, Complainants


vs.
ATTY. MARIANO A. AVECILLA, Respondent

DECISION

BERSAMIN, J.:

The complainants hereby seek the disbarment of the respondent for his violation of the Lawyer's Oath, the duties of attorneys under
Section 20, Rule 138 of the Rules of Court, the rules on notarial practice, and the Code of Professional Responsibility.

They aver in their affidavit-complaint dated January 2006 the following: 1

That the OCT P-2419 with a total land area of 10.5 hectares has been mortgaged (Sale with the right to repurchase) by the late
Gavino Magaoay to the late Elena Gongon in the amount of Three Thousand Nine hundred (3,900.00) pesos on July 10, 1959 and
the late Gavino Magaoay was not able to redeemed (sic) the land because he died on December 3, 1963 prior to the date of
redemption;

That we have the right of ownership by virtue of right of her[ e]ditary succession from the original patent holder, [the] late Gavino
Magaway who is the registered owner of OCT P[-]2419 which was fraudulently reconstituted and fraudulently sold by virtue of the
falsified deed bf sale fictitiously executed by [the] late Elena Gongon, falsified request for issuance of separate titles fictitiously
executed by the late Gavino Magaoay and falsified affidavit of non-tenancy fictitiously executed by the late Elena Gongon;

That OCT P-2419 whom Gavino Magaoay is the registered owner I and the mortgagor was never consolidated in the name of Elena
Gongon, the mortgagee;

That it was Attorney Mariano A. Avecilla who duly prepared, notarized and manipulated the Falsified Deed of Sale executed by Elena
Gongon dated December 7, 1993 with her fictitious Residence Certificate Nr.927294 which was issued on February 7, 1995 at Roxas,
Isabela and Affidavit of non-tenancy which was fictitiously executed by the late Elena Gongon in favor of Angeli to Ramiscal Sr et al
where Transfer Certificate Titles: T-238312, T-238313, T-238314 and T-238315 were derived therein and all tainted with irregularities;

That in consideration1 of the amount of Thirty Thousand (Php.30,000.00) pesos whom Attorney Mariano A. Avecilla and his wife
Loreta had accepted from Angelito Ramiscal Sr. as a package deal in the preparation of the Falsified Deed of Sale dated December
7, 1993 and other above mentioned documents that are instrumental in the anomalous transfer of land Title in favor of the Ramiscals'
(transcript of stenographic notes, RTC Branch 23, Roxas, Isabela dated June 11, 2003).

That Elena Gongon coufd not have thumb marked the Deed of Sale and affidavit of non-tenancy dated December 7, 1993 which was
notarized by Atty. Mariano A. Avecilla because Elena Gongon had already died on May 11, 1966 and already dead for twenty seven
(27) years at the date of the instruments;

That Gavino Magaoay. could not have signed the request for issuance of separate titles datea April 3, 1995 and Public Land Survey
Plan PSD 02-053024 dated March 1, 1995 in favor of the Ramiscals because he was unschooled and he died on December 3, 1963
so that he was already dead for thirty (30) years at the date of the instruments which was also used in the falsification and unlawful
transfer of the aforementioned Transfer Certificate Titles which was manipulated by Attorney Avecilla and his wife Loreta in favor of
the Ramiscals;

That Attorney Mariano A. Avecilla of Roxas, Isabela has committed serious damages to us, because we are deprived of our rights for
hereditary succession over the property in question due his unprofessional, illegal, anomalous conduct and incompetence in the
practice of law particularly by circum[v]enting the laws in dealing with registered land through the preparation, notarization and signing
deed of sale where the parties were already dead for long time ago (sic);

That due to the unlawful manipulations of Attorney Mariano A. Avecilla, land titles tainted with irregularities were issued in favor of
Angelita Ramiscal Sr et al thus he should be prohibited to practice Law because he is incompetent and a liability in the justice system
of the Republic of the Philippines that are contributory to the loosing (sic) trust and confidence by the people among some (sic)
undesirable lawyers and in the administration of Justice in this country; 2

It appears that the notarization of the documents (specifically, the deed of sale by attorney-in-fact by Eleanor Gongon Flores
represented by her attorney-in-fact Efren Vera Cruz, Sr. on August 5, 1992 in favor of Angelito Ramiscal, Sr.; the deed of sale
executed by Elena Gongon on December 7, 1993 in favor of Angelito Ramiscal, Sr.; and the affidavit of non-tenancy executed by
Elena Gongon on December 7, 1993) had led to the filing of two criminal cases and a civil action. The first criminal case, for estafa
through falsification of a public document, was filed by the complainants against Angelito Ramiscal, Sr. and the respondent in the
Office of the Provincial Prosecutor of Isabela, but the case was ultimately dismissed on July 15, 1998. The second criminal case, also
for falsification of a public document, was initiated by Eleanor Gongon Flores against the Ramiscals, the respondent, and the latter's
wife, Loreta Avecilla. The case was also dismissed on October 5, 2000. The civil action seeking the declaration of nullity of
fraudulently reconstituted original certificafe of title and all the transfer certificates of title derived therefrom, and declaration of nullity
of instruments registered affecting them was brought on July 28, 1997 by the complainants as the heirs of the late Gavino Magaoay
against the Ramiscals (namely, Angelito, Sr. and his children Arlene, Ervin and Angelito, Jr.) and the respondent in the Regional Trial
Court (RTC) in Roxas, Isabela (Civil Case No. 23-551-97), which ultimately dismissed the complaint through a decision rendered on
June 14, 2004.3 On appeal, however, the Court of Appeals, through its decision promulgated on August 29, 2008, 4 reversed the
dismissal of the case by the RTC.

After the Court referred this administrative complaint to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) for investigation and
recommendation, the IBP Board of Governors called the parties for mandatory conferences on July 30, 2007 and September 10,
2007.

In due time, IBP Investigating Commissioner Manuel M. Maramba rendered his report and recommendation dated October 24,
2008,5 whereby he found in favor of the complainants after giving more weight and credence to their assertions than to the denial and
explanation of the respondent; and he recommended the respondent's suspension from the practice of law for one year, and the
indefinite revocation of the respondent's notarial commission.
In its Resolution No. XVIII-2009-21 dated February 19 2009,6 the IBP Board of Governors adopted and approved the report and
recommendation with modification of the recommended penalty to suspension from the practice of law for one year and
disqualification from being commissioned as notary public for two years.

The respondent sought reconsideration of the resolution,7 but the IBP Board of Governors rejected his motion. 8

In the comment he submitted to the Court,9 the respondent contended that his notarization of the three documents had riot prejudiced
anyone considering that the late Gavino Maga way, the predecessor in interest of the complainants, did not repurchase the property
by April 30, 1960, as stipulated between the late Gavino Magaway, as vendor a retro, and Eleanor Gongon Flores, as the vendee a
retro; that the complainants, assuming them to be the true legal heirs of the late Gavino Magaway, who had died without issue, had
nothing more to inherit; that the sale of the property had been first made on August 5, 1992 by Efren Vera Cruz, Sr. as the attorney-in-
fact of Eleanor Gongon Flores; that on the same date, Vera Cruz, Sr. had sold the portion of the property with an area of 8.479
hectares to Angelito Ramiscal, Sr. and his family for 400,000.00; that on December 7, 1993, a woman in her mid-30's, claiming
herself to be an employee of the Office of the Registry of Deeds of Isabela, had accompanied an elderly woman to the respondent's
law office to request him to notarize the ready-made deed of sale the elderly woman had brought with her; that he had notarized the
document out of pity and kindness for the elderly woman, who had affixed her thumbprint on the document; and that the elderly
woman turned out to be an impostor.

Ruling of the Court

The findings and recommendations of the IBP Board of Governors, being supported by the records, are adopted.

The function of a notary public is, among others, to guard against any illegal or immoral arrangements in the execution of public
documents.10 In this case, the respondent's affixing of his notarial seal on the documents and his signature on the notarial
acknowledgments transformed the deeds of sale from private into public documents,11 and rendered them admissible in court without
further proof of their authenticity because the certificate of acknowledgment constituted them the prima facie evidence of their
execution.12 In doing so, he proclaimed to the world that all the parties executing the same had personally appeared before him; that
they were all personally known to him; that they were the same persons who had executed the instruments; that he had inquired into
the voluntariness of execution of the instrument; and that they had acknowledged personally before him that they had voluntarily and
freely executed the same.13

As a lawyer commissioned to be a notary public, the respondent was mandated to discharge his sacred duties with faithful
observance and utmost respect for the legal solemnity of an oath in an acknowledgment or jurat.14 Indeed, such responsibility was
incumbent upon him by virtue of his solemn Lawyer's Oath to do no falsehood or consent to the doing of any, and by virtue of his
undertaking, pursuant to the Code of Professional Responsibility, not to engage in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct
and to uphold at all times the integrity and dignity of the legal profession. 15 His failure to ascertain the identity of the person executing
the same constituted gross negligence in the performance of his duties as a notary public. 16 As such, it is now unavoidable for him to
accept the commensurate consequences of his indiscretion.17

The respondent's rather convenient assertion that an impostor had appeared before him and affixed her thumbprint on the ready-
made deed of sale and affidavit of non-tenancy does not sway the Court. He should have demanded that such person first prove her
identity before acting on the documents she had brought for his notarization. The objective of the requirement, which was to enable
him as the notary public to verify the genuineness of the signature of the acknowledging party and to ascertain that the deed of sale
and affidavit of non-tenancy were the party's free act and deed, 18 was not to be served as casually as he did. By not ensuring that the
person then appearing before him as the executor of the documents was really Elena Gongon, not the impostor, he clearly did not
exercise the precautions and observe the protocols that would have easily insulated the performance of his notarial duties from
forgery and falsification.

By his neglect, the respondent undermined the confidence of the public on the worth of notarized documents. He thus breached
Canon I of the Code of Professional Responsibility, by which he as an attorney commissioned to serve as a notary public was
required to uphold the Constitution, obey the laws of the land, and promote respect for the law and legal processes. 19

The respondent's argument that no person had been prejudiced by the execution of the documents was undeserving of
consideration.1wphi1 There was no denying that the notarization of the deed of sale and affidavit of non-tenancy adversely affected
the rights of the complainants and Eleanor Gongon Flores on their existing interest in the property involved in such instruments.

Time and again, the Court has reminded notaries public of the importance attached to the act of notarization. We must stress yet
again that notarization is not an empty, or perfunctory, or meaningless act, for it is invested with substantial public interest. Courts and
other public offices, and the public at large could rely upon the recitals of the acknowledgment executed by the notary public. 20 For
this reason, notaries public must observe with utmost care the basic requirements in the performance of their duties. Otherwise, the
confidence of the public in the integrity of this form of conveyance would be undermined. 21

In Lanuza v. Bangan22and Linea v. Lacebal,23we have ruled that the notarial commission of a notary public who fails to faithfully
discharge his duties as such should be revoked, and he should be further disqualified from being commissioned as such for a period
of two years. The notary public in such situation may further be suspended from the practice of law for one year. In this case, the
same penalties should be imposed on the respondent. Indeed, his acts manifested breach of the vow he took under his Lawyer's Oath
to do no falsehood, and to delay no man for money or with malice.

WHEREFORE, the Court REVOKES the notarial commission of respondent ATTY. MARIANO A. AVECILLA effective
immediately; DISQUALIFIES him from reappointment as Notary Public for a period of two years effective
immediately; SUSPENDS him from the practice of law for a period of one year effective immediately with the WARNING that the
repetition of the same or similar acts shall be dealt with more severely; and DIRECTS him to report the date of receipt of this decision
in order to determine when his suspension shall take effect.

Let copies of this decision be furnished to the Office of the Bar Confidant, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, and all courts
throughout the country. Let a copy of this decision be attached to the personal records of ATTY. MARIANO A. AVECILLA.

SO ORDERED.
July 27, 2016

A.C. No. 10631

ERNESTO B. BALBURIAS, Complainant


vs.
ATTY. AMOR MIA J. FRANCISCO, Respondent

RESOLUTION

CARPIO, J.:

The Case

This case stemmed from a complaint, docketed as CBD Case No. 11-2930, filed by Ernesto B. Balburias (Balburias) against Atty.
Amor Mia J. Francisco (Atty. Francisco) before the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP). The IBP Board of Governors dismissed the
complaint and denied Balburias's motion for reconsideration, prompting Balburias to file the present petition for review before this
Court.

The Antecedent Facts

Balburias alleged in his complaint that he filed a criminal case against his former employee, Rosalyn A. Azogue (Azogue ), before the
Regional Trial Court of Quezon City for stealing his company's funds. Azogue, in tum, filed a labor case against him. Azogue was
represented by Atty. Francisco in the labor case.

Balburias alleged that in one of the hearings of the labor case, Atty. Francisco approached him and contemptuously and boastfully
told him "kaya ka naming bayaran" in front of a lot of people. Balburias alleged that he was shocked by Atty. Franciscos
unprofessional behavior and he asked her, "kaya mo akong bayaran?" to which she replied "kaya kitang bayaran sa halaga ng
complaint mo." Balburias claimed that he was embarrassed by Atty. Franciscos treatment and he told her, "kahit isang pera lang ang
halaga ng buhay ko, hindi ako magpapabayad sa iyo." The incident prompted him to file the complaint against Atty. Francisco.

In her Comment, Atty. Francisco alleged that Balburias must be referring to the incident that happened after their mediation
conference.1wphi1 During that period, Atty. Francisco was accompanied by Atty. Arnold D. Naval (Atty. Naval). Atty. Naval
approached Balburias and his counsel, Atty. Antonio Abad (Atty. Abad) to open talks for a possible settlement. Atty. Naval asked
Balburias, "puwede ho ba nating ayusin ito?" Balburias answered "kaya nyo bang bayaran ang nawala sa akin?" and Atty. Naval
replied, "kaya naming bayaran." Atty. Francisco thought that Balburias was referring to the possible settlement and she was surprised
to hear him say in a high tone, "kaya nyo bang bayaran x x x kaya nyo bang bayaran x x x ang nawala sa akin? Di nyo mababayaran
ng kahit anong halaga ang nawala sa akin! Saksi ang Diyos." When Atty. Naval realized that Balburias might have misinterpreted him,
he tried to pacify him, saying "kaya naming bayaran ang halaga ng nasa complaint nyo." Atty. Francisco stated that after that, they
had a long cordial discussion at the hallway and later, at the cafeteria of the Bookman Building to straighten up the misunderstanding.
Atty. Francisco insisted that she had no intention to embarrass Balburias. She expressed surprise at the filing of the case almost two
years after the incident occurred.

Balburias, in his Reply, insisted that Atty. Francisco twisted what really happened at the time of the incident. He alleged that Atty.
Franciscos words conveyed that she could buy her opponents, or at least corrupt them. He further alleged that Atty. Naval was trying
to protect his wife by making it appear that he was the one who talked to him.

The Report and Recommendation


of the Investigating Commissioner

After the mandatory conference and hearing, Commissioner Felimon C. Abelita III (Commissioner Abelita) found that there was no
sufficient evidence to prove that Atty. Francisco violated the Code of Professional Responsibility. According to Commissioner Abelita,
Balburias viewed Atty. Franciscos words as threat and arrogance while Atty. Francisco viewed them as an effort to reach an amicable
settlement. Commissioner Abelita noted that Balburias did not explain why he filed the case two years after the incident. He also
noted that the parties even proceeded to the cafeteria after the incident. In addition, one of the witnesses for Balburias testified that
the parties were not quarreling during the incident. The sworn statement of Atty. Pastor Villanueva (Atty. Villanueva) also stated that
Atty. Franciscos words "kaya ka naming bayaran" were immediately followed by "sa halaga ng complaint mo," thus obviously
referring to the money subject of the complaint. Commissioner Abelita recommended the dismissal of the complaint.

In its Resolution No. XX-2013-2271 dated 20 March 2013, the IBP Board of Governors adopted and approved Commissioner Abelitas
Report and Recommendation and dismissed the case filed by Balburias.

Balburias filed a motion for reconsideration.1wphi1 In its Resolution No. XXI-2014-223 dated 2 May 2014,2 the IBP Board of
Governors denied the motion for reconsideration and affirmed its Resolution No. XX-2013-227.

Balburias filed the present petition for review before the Court.

The Issue

Whether the IBP Board of Governors committed a reversible error in adopting the Report and Recommendation of Commissioner
Abelita and in dismissing the complaint against Atty. Francisco.

The Ruling of this Court

The Court notes that Atty. Francisco did not personally appear during the mandatory conference/hearing and was only represented by
Atty. Naval. The report did not state the reason for Atty. Franciscos absence. A reading of the transcript showed that she had to
undergo a procedure but no medical certificate was submitted. In any case, Atty. Naval stated that Atty. Francisco would only confirm
what was taken up during the mandatory conference/hearing. The Court can rule based on the pleadings filed, the transcript of the
case, and the Report and Recommendation of the Investigating Commissioner.
The established fact from the records is that Atty. Francisco, not Atty. Naval, approached Balburias after a hearing in the labor case
and told him, "kaya ka naming bayaran," which she later followed with "kaya kitang bayaran sa halaga ng complaint mo." The
affidavits of the witnesses, Ana Maria Aquino (Aquino)3 and Analyn M. Delos Santos (Delos Santos),4 stated that Atty. Francisco
added the second statement after Balburias was offended. However, the affidavit of Atty. Villanueva 5 stated that Atty. Franciscos first
statement was immediately followed by the second statement. Balburias stated that Atty. Francisco uttered the statements arrogantly
while Atty. Naval, who said he was present when it happened, stated that they were uttered firmly but not arrogantly.6 It was also
established that Atty. Francisco was referring to the criminal case and not to the labor case.

In his petition, Balburias denied that there was a conference or discussion at the cafeteria after the incident. 7However, during his
testimony, Balburias stated:

COMM. LIMPINGCO;

Baka puwede nating pag-usapan ito?

MR. BALBURIAS:

Hindi ho at saka nakita nyo po natutuwa ako sa tao talaga eh, ang salita ng tao talagang nilalagay ng ano yan e. Ang problema iba
ang sinasabi mo dyan sa Affidavit mo sa sinasabi mo ngayon. Sabi mo kaya mong bayaran, ang sabi sa akin ni Atty. Amor, "kaya ka
naming bayaran," sabay ganon ako nagalit nong nagalit ako, ito hindi m[a]n tanggapin eh hanggang nagalit ako ang sabi nga, "kaya
ka naming bayaran sa halaga ng Complaint mo," yon ang pinakamaganda na sinabi yon nagkaliwanagan tayo, nagkakwentuhan tayo
pero yong dagdagan mo ulit ng hindi tama wag naman. 8

Obviously, they were able to talk after the incident. The Courts impression is that the case before us is a result of a misunderstanding
between Balburias and Atty. Francisco. The incident happened two years prior to the filing of this case but it was aggravated by
Balburiass dissatisfaction with the progress of the labor case. Balburias testified:

COMM. LIMPINGCO:

Hindi kung hal[i]mbawa nandyan si Atty. Francisco at mag-ano sa inyo nae-explain sa inyo.

MR. BALBURIAS:

Hindi naman ho sya ang sumagot nyan si Atty. Naval ho.

COMM. LIMPINGCO:

Hindi ho nagtatanong ho, hindi ho ako nakikipag-debate sa inyo. Tinatanong ko po kung halimbawa po andito si Atty. Francisco at
ee[k]splika sa inyo na hindi lang kay[o] nagkakaintindihan ano hong ano nyo sa ganong sitwasyon, hindi nyo hong makukuhang....

MR. BALBURIAS:

Alam ko ho ang sinasabi nyo matagal ko na hong pinatawad yan pero kailangan din ho nyang dapat harapin yan. Pinagdasal ko na
ho yan eh. Ako'y ... ng kaaway pero parang ako ang laging inaaway, matanda na ho ako magsi-62 years old na ho ako pero parang
hindi ho respetuhin dahil abogado ho siya, kahit abogado pa ho siya, una titingnan mo kung matanda yong tao.

COMM. LIMPINGCO:

Pero yon ho ang sinabi sa inyo wala na hong dagdag o di kaya'y minura, sinigawan.

MR. BALBURIAS:

Hindi man nya ako kayang murahin, hindi naman pwedeng mangyari yon. Pero yon sabihan mo akong kaya ka naming bayaran, ako
talagang mahirap ako pero hindi ako nagpapabayad kahit kaniNo. Parang ang sakit naman para sa akin non. Sino sya para magsalita
ng ganon sa akin.9

Atty. Francisco could have avoided the incident if she at least tried to talk to Balburias's counsel on the matter of amicable settlement
of the criminal case instead of talking to Balburias himself. Balburias misinterpreted the approach as an attempt to "buy her
opponents." We rule that Balburias failed to satisfactorily show that Atty. Francisco acted in bad faith. Delos Santos's affidavit showed
that Atty. Francisco immediately corrected herself when she realized that she might have offended Balburias by saying that she was
referring to the amount of the complaint. We gathered the same impression from the affidavits of Aquino and Atty. Villanueva.
Nevertheless, we deem it proper to admonish Atty. Francisco to be more careful in dealing with other litigants to avoid a repetition of a
similar incident in the future.

WHEREFORE, we DENY the petition. We DISMISS the complaint filed by Ernesto B. Balburias against Atty. Amor Mia J. Francisco.
We ADMONISH Atty. Francisco to be more circumspect in her actions and to be more courteous in dealing with litigants in the future.

SO ORDERED.