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Navarro

 vs  Solidum  
 
A.C.  No.  9872  –  Legal  Ethics  –  Duty  of  Lawyer  to  Account  for  Client’s  Money  
Canon  16  applies  sans  lawyer-­‐client  relationship  
In  April  2006,  Hilda  Presbitero  engaged  the  services  of  Atty.  Ivan  Solidum,  Jr.  to  help  her  
in  the  quieting  of  her  title  over  a  parcel  of  land.  Presbitero  paid  Solidum  P50,000.00  as  
acceptance  fee.  
In   May   2006,   Ma.   Theresa   Yulo,   daughter   of   Presbitero   also   engaged   the   services   of  
Solidum   for   the   registration   of   a   parcel   of   land.   Yulo   however   asked   the   help   of   her  
sister,   Natividad   Navarro,   to   finance   the   case.   Hence,   Navarro   gave   Solidum  
Php200,000.00  for  the  registration  expenses.  
Meanwhile,   Solidum   in   May   and   June   2006,   obtained   a   total   of   Php2   million   from  
Navarro.  The  loan  was  covered  by  two  Memorandum  of  Agreement  (MOAs).  The  MOA  
was  prepared  by  Solidum.  The  MOA  stated  that  the  monthly  interest  shall  be  10%.  
Solidum  also  borrowed  Php  1  million  from  Presbitero  during  the  same  period.  He  again  
drafted  a  MOA  containing  the  same  terms  and  conditions  as  with  Navarro.  As  additional  
security  for  the  loan,  Solidum  mortgaged  his  263-­‐hectare  land  for  P1  million  in  favor  of  
Presbitero.  
Nothing   happened   in   the   quieting   of   title   case   field   by   Presbitero   since   Solidum   did  
nothing  after  receiving  the  acceptance  fee.  
In  the  land  registration  case  of  Yulo  financed  by  Navarro,  Navarro  later  found  out  that  
the   land   was   already   registered   to   someone   else.   Navarro   claims   that   she   should   not  
have  financed  the  case  if  only  Solidum  advised  her  of  the  status  of  the  land.  
Anent   the   loans,   Solidum   failed   to   pay   them.   Instead,   he   questioned   the   terms   of   the  
loans  as  he  claimed  that  the  interest  rate  of  said  loans  at  10%  is  unconscionable.  
Navarro  and  Presbitero  later  filed  an  administrative  case  against  Solidum.  
ISSUE:  Whether  or  not  Atty.  Ivan  Solidum,  Jr.  should  be  disbarred.  
HELD:  Yes.  
Although   Solidum   acted   in   his   private   capacity   when   he   obtained   a   total   of   Php3   million  
from   Navarro   and   Presbitero,   he  may   still   be   disciplined   for   misconduct   committed  
either  in  his  private  capacity.  The  test  is  whether  his  conduct  shows  him  to  be  wanting  
in   moral   character,   honesty,   probity,   and   good   demeanor,   or   whether   it   renders   him  
unworthy   to   continue   as   an   officer   of   the   court.   In   this   case,   such   act   displayed   by  
Solidum  merited  his  disbarment.  
Solidum  is  guilty  of  engaging  in  dishonest  and  deceitful  conduct,  both  in  his  professional  
capacity  with  respect  to  his  client,  Presbitero,  and  in  his  private  capacity  with  respect  to  
Navarro.   Both   Presbitero   and   Navarro   allowed   Splidum  to   draft   the   terms   of   the   loan  
agreements.  Solidum  drafted  the  MOAs  knowing  that  the  interest  rates  were  exorbitant.  
Later,   using   his   knowledge   of   the   law,   he   assailed   the   validity   of   the   same   MOAs   he  
prepared.  
In  the  case  of  Navarro,  who  financed  the  Yulo  case,  Solidum  also  violated  Canon  16  of  
the  Code  of  Professional  Responsibility  which  provides  that  a  lawyer  shall  hold  in  trust  
all   moneys   and   properties   of   his   client   that   may   come   into   his   possession.   This   is  
notwithstanding  the  fact  that  Navarro  is  not  actually  his  client  in  the  Yulo  case  but  was  
only  the  financier  of  the  Yulo  case.  
In  Presbitero’s  case,  since  Presbitero  is  his  client,  Solidum  also  violated  Rule  16.04  of  the  
Code   of   Professional   Responsibility   which   provides   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.   Even   though   Solidum   secured   the   loan   with   a  
mortgage  and  a  MOA,  Presbitero’s  interest  was  not  fully  protected  because  the  property  
Solidum  mortgaged  was  overvalued.  He  claimed  that  his  263-­‐hectare  land  was  worth  P1  
million   but   in   fact   Solidum   sold   it   later   for   only   P150,000.00.   Clearly,   Presbitero   was  
disadvantaged   by   Solidum’s   ability  to   use   all   the   legal   maneuverings   to   renege   on   his  
obligation.   He  took   advantage   of   his   knowledge   of   the   law   as   well   as   the   trust   and  
confidence  reposed  in  him  by  his  client.  
Solidum  was  disbarred  by  the  Supreme  Court.  
 
Jimenez  vs  Verano  
 
Lawyer   Is   Duty-­‐Bound   To   Actively   Avoid   Any   Act   That   Tends   To   Influence,   Or   May   Be  
Seen   To   Influence,   The   Outcome   Of   An   Ongoing   Case,   Lest   The   People’s   Faith   In   The  
Judicial  Process  Is  Diluted…  
MARCH  22,  2015  BY  THE  LAWYER'S  POST  
Facts:  
As   an   offshoot   of   the   arrest   of   the   Alabang   Boys   where   the   accused   were   released   after  
the  inquest  proceedings,  and  where  one  prosecutor  was  taken  to  task  for  failure  to  ask  
clarificatory   hearings   during   the   inquest   proceedings,   the   House   Committee   on   Illegal  
Drugs   conducted   its   own   congressional   hearings.   In   one   such   hearing,   the   matter   of  
Atty.  Felisberto  Verano,  lawyer  for  three  of  the  respondent  Alabang  Boys,  preparing  the  
release  order  of  his  three  clients  using  the  letterhead  of  the  Department  of  Justice  and  
the   stationery   of   then   Secretary,   Raul   Gonzales,   came   out.   Because   of   this   revelation,  
Dante   and   Lauro,   founders   of   the   Volunteers   Against   Crime   and   Corruption,   sent   a  
letter-­‐   complaint   to   the   then   Chief   Justice   against   Atty.   Felisberto   for   conduct  
unbecoming  of  a  member  of  the  bar,  arguing  that  Felisberto  had  no  authority  to  use  the  
DOJ  letter  heard  and  the  stationery.    
On  the  other  hand,  Atty.  Oliver  Lozano  also  filed  a  complaint  against  Atty.  Felisberto,  for  
alleged  violation  of  Canon  1  of  the  Code  of  Professional  Responsibility.  In  his  comment,  
Atty.   Felisberto   averred   that   the   Inquest   Resolution   of   the   DOJ   ordered   the   release   of  
his  clients,  but  their  hopes  were  dashed  when  the  PDEA  refused  to  release  them,  hence,  
it   was   out   of   sheer   belief   in   the   innocence   of   their   clients   and   zealousness   to   secure  
their  release  that  prompted  him  to  prepare  the  release  order  with  the  DOJ  letterhead  
and   stationery,   since   he   believes   that   their   release   will   be   expedited   by   the   same.  
However,  the  release  orders  drafted  were  not  signed  or  used  at  all,  hence  mere  scraps  
of  paper.  The  IBP  found  that  the  allegations  of  Dante  and  Lauro  were  unsubstantiated  
but  the  admissions  of  Attty.  Feliberto  in  his  comment  constitute  conduct  unbecoming  a  
member  of  the  bar  and  tends  to  influence  a  public  official,  and  recommended  that  he  be  
issued  a  warning  not  to  repeat  the  same  or  similar  action.  
Issue:  
May   Atty.   Felisberto   be   held   administratively   liable   for   the   preparation   of   the   draft  
release  order  with  stationery  in  order  to  expedite  the  relase  of  his  clients?  
 
Ruling:  
We   emphasize   at   the   outset   that   the   Court   may   conduct   its   own   investigation   into  
charges   against   members   of   the   bar,   irrespective   of   the   form   of   initiatory   complaints  
brought  before  it.  Thus,  a  complainant  in  a  disbarment  case  is  not  a  direct  party  to  the  
case,  but  a  witness  who  brought  the  matter  to  the  attention  of  the  Court.By  now,  it  is  
basic  that  there  is  neither  a  plaintiff  nor  a  prosecutor  in  disciplinary  proceedings  against  
lawyers.   The   real   question   for   determination  in   these   proceedings   is   whether   or   not   the  
attorney  is  still  a  fit  person  to  be  allowed  the  privileges  of  a  member  of  the  bar.  
 
As   to   Atty.   Lozano’s   withdrawal   of   his   verified   Complaint,   we   reiterate   our   ruling   in  
Rayos-­‐Ombac  v.  Rayos:  
The   affidavit   of   withdrawal   of   the   disbarment   case   allegedly   executed   by   complainant  
does   not,   in   any   way,   exonerate   the   respondent.   A   case   of   suspension   or   disbarment  
may   proceed   regardless   of   interest   or   lack   of   interest   of   the   complainant.   What   matters  
is  whether,  on  the  basis  of  the  facts  borne  out  by  the  record,  the  charge  of  deceit  and  
grossly  immoral  conduct  has  been  duly  proven  x  x  x.  The  complainant  or  the  person  who  
called   the   attention   of   the   court   to   the   attorney’s   alleged   misconduct   is   in   no   sense   a  
party,  and  has  generally  no  interest  in  the  outcome  except  as  all  good  citizens  may  have  
in  the  proper  administration  of  justice.  Hence,  if  the  evidence  on  record  warrants,  the  
respondent  may  be  suspended  or  disbarred  despite  the  desistance  of  complainant  or  his  
withdrawal  of  the  charges.  
 
After   a   careful   review   of   the   records,   we   agree   with   the   IBP   in   finding   reasonable  
grounds  to  hold  respondent  administratively  liable.  Canon  13,  the  provision  applied  by  
the   Investigating   Commissioner,   states   that   “a   lawyer   shall   rely   upon   the   merits   of   his  
cause   and   refrain   from   any   impropriety   which   tends   to   influence,   or   gives   the  
appearance   of   influencing   the   court.”   We   believe   that   other   provisions   in   the   Code   of  
Professional  Responsibility  likewise  prohibit  acts  of  influence-­‐peddling  not  limited  to  the  
regular  courts,  but  even  in  all  other  venues  in  the  justice  sector,  where  respect  for  the  
rule  of  law  is  at  all  times  demanded  from  a  member  of  the  bar.  
 
During   the   mandatory   hearing   conducted   by   the   Committee   on   Bar   Discipline,  
respondent  stated  that  the  PDEA  refused  to  release  his  clients  unless  it  received  a  direct  
order   from   the   DOJ   Secretary.   This   refusal   purportedly   impelled   him   to   take   more  
serious  action,  viz.:  
ATTY  VERANO:  x  x  x  By  Monday  December  22  I  think  my  only  recourse  was  to  see  the  
Secretary  himself  personally.  The  Secretary  is  the  type  of  a  person  who  opens  his  [sic]  
kasi  he  is  very  political  also  so  he  opens  his  office.  If  I’m  not  mistaken  that  day  because  
of   the   timing   we   will   afraid   [sic]   that   Christmas   time   is   coming   and   that   baka   nga   sila  
maipit  sa  loob  ng  Christmas  time.  So  the  family  was  very  sad  x  x  x  kung  pwede  ko  raw  
gawan   ng   paraan   na   total   na-­‐dismissed   na   ang   kaso.   So,   what   I   did   was   thinking   as   a  
lawyer   now…I   prepared   the   staff   to   make   it   easy,   to   make   it   convenient   for   signing  
authority  that  if  he  agrees  with  our  appeal  he  will  just  sign  it  and  send  it  over  to  PDEA.  
So   hinanda   ko   ho   yon.   And   then   I   sent   it   first   to   the   Office   of   the   other   Secretary   si  
Blancaflor.  
x  x  x  x  
So  I  think  it’s  a  Tuesday  I  had  to  do  something  and  I  said  I  will  see  the  Secretary  first  with  
the   parents   of   Rodette,   yong   nanay   at   saka   tatay,   so   we   went   to   see   him   after   1:00  
o’clock  or  1:30  in  the  afternoon.  By  then,  that  draft  was  still  with  Blancaflor.  Andon  ho  
ang   Secretary   tinanggap   naman   kami,   so   we   sat   down   with   him   x   x   x   Pinaliwanag   ho  
namin  in-­‐explain  x  x  x  Anyway,  sabi  niya  what  can  I  do  if  I  move  on  this,  they  will  think  
that  kasama  rin  ako  dyan  sa  Fifty  Million  na  yan.  Sabi  ko,  Your  Honor,  wala  akong  Fifty  
Million,  hindi  naman  ho  milyonaryo  ang  mga  pamilyang  ito.  So,  sabi  ko  pwede  ho  bang  
maki-­‐usap…sabi   niya   okay   I   will   see   what   I   can   do.   I   will   study   the   matter,   those  
particular  words,  I  will  study  the  matter.  Tumuloy  pa  ho  ang  kwentuhan,  as  a  matter  of  
fact,  2  oras  ho  kami  ron  eh.  They  were  not  pushing  us  away,  he  was  entertaining  us,  and  
we  were  discussing  the  case.  
 
Respondent   likewise   stated   that   his   “experience   with   Secretary   Gonzales   is,   he   is   very  
open;”  and  that  “because  of  my  practice  and  well,  candidly  I  belong  also  to  a  political  
family,   my   father   was   a   Congressman.   So,   he   (Gonzalez)   knows   of   the   family   and   he  
knows   my   sister   was   a   Congresswoman   of   Pasay   and   they   were   together   in   Congress.   In  
other  words,  I  am  not  a  complete  stranger  to  him.”Upon  questioning  by  Commissioner  
Rico   A.   Limpingco,   respondent   admitted   that   he   was   personally   acquainted   with   the  
Secretary;  however,  they  were  not  that  close.  
 
These  statements  and  others  made  during  the  hearing  establish  respondent’s  admission  
that  1)  he  personally  approached  the  DOJ  Secretary  despite  the  fact  that  the  case  was  
still   pending   before   the   latter;   and   2)   respondent   caused   the   preparation   of   the   draft  
release   order   on   official   DOJ   stationery   despite   being   unauthorized   to   do   so,   with   the  
end  in  view  of  “expediting  the  case.”  
 
The   way   respondent   conducted   himself   manifested   a   clear   intent   to   gain   special  
treatment   and   consideration   from   a   government   agency.   This   is   precisely   the   type   of  
improper   behavior   sought   to   be   regulated   by   the   codified   norms   for   the   bar.  
Respondent  is  duty-­‐bound  to  actively  avoid  any  act  that  tends  to  influence,  or  may  be  
seen   to   influence,   the   outcome   of   an   ongoing   case,   lest   the   people’s   faith   in   the   judicial  
process  is  diluted.  
 
The  primary  duty  of  lawyers  is  not  to  their  clients  but  to  the  administration  of  justice.  To  
that  end,  their  clients’  success  is  wholly  subordinate.  The  conduct  of  a  member  of  the  
bar   ought   to   and   must   always   be   scrupulously   observant   of   the   law   and   ethics.   Any  
means,  not  honorable,  fair  and  honest  which  is  resorted  to  by  the  lawyer,  even  in  the  
pursuit  of  his  devotion  to  his  client’s  cause,  is  condemnable  and  unethical.  
Rule  1.02  states:  “A  lawyer  shall  not  counsel  or  abet  activities  aimed  at  defiance  of  the  
law   or   at   lessening   confidence   in   the   legal   system.”   Further,   according   to   Rule   15.06,   “a  
lawyer   shall   not   state   or   imply   that   he   is   able   to   influence   any   public   official,   tribunal   or  
legislative  body.”  The  succeeding  rule,  Rule  15.07,  mandates  a  lawyer  “to  impress  upon  
his  client  compliance  with  the  laws  and  the  principles  of  fairness.”  
 
Zeal  and  persistence  in  advancing  a  client’s  cause  must  always  be  within  the  bounds  of  
the  law.  A  self-­‐respecting  independence  in  the  exercise  of  the  profession  is  expected  if  
an   attorney   is   to   remain   a   member   of   the   bar.   In   the   present   case,   we   find   that  
respondent   fell   short   of   these   exacting   standards.   Given   the   import   of   the   case,   a  
warning  is  a  mere  slap  on  the  wrist  that  would  not  serve  as  commensurate  penalty  for  
the  offense.  
 
In  Sylvia  Santos  vs.  Judge  Evelyn  S.  Arcaya-­‐Chua,  the  Court  saw  fit  to  impose  a  six-­‐month  
suspension  against  a  judge  who  likewise  committed  acts  of  influence  peddling  when  she  
solicited  P100,000.00  from  complainant  Santos  when  the  latter  asked  for  her  help  in  the  
case   of   her   friend   Emerita   Muñoz,   who   had   a   pending   case   with   the   Supreme   Court,  
because  respondent  judge  was  a  former  court  attorney  of  the  high  court.  We  find  that  
the  same  penalty  is  appropriate  in  the  present  case.  
 
WHEREFORE,  in  view  of  the  foregoing,  Atty.  Felisberto  L.  Verano,  Jr.  is  found  GUILTY  of  
violating   Rules   1.02   and   15.07,   in   relation   to   Canon   13   of   the   Code   of   Professional  
Responsibility,   for   which   he   is   SUSPENDED   from   the   practice   of   law   for   six   (6)   months  
effective  immediately.  This  also  serves  as  an  emphatic  WARNING  that  repetition  of  any  
similar  offense  shall  be  dealt  with  more  severely.  
Let   copies   of   this   Decision   be   appended   to   the   respondent’s   bar   records.   The   Court  
Administrator  is  hereby  directed  to  inform  the  different  courts  of  this  suspension.  
SO  ORDERED.  
 
Huyssen  vs.  Gutierrez  
A.C.   No.   6707,   March   24,   2006  
 
(Legal   Ethics)  
 
FACTS  
 
Respondent  Atty.  Gutierrez,  a  Bureau  of  Immigration  and  Deportation  officer,  received  
US$20,000   from   complainant   Huyssen.   Accused   of   falsely   representing   that   it   was  
needed  in  complainant’s  application  for  visa  and  failing  to  return  the  same,  respondent  
denied   misappropriating   the   said   amount,   claiming   that   he   gave   it   to   a   certain   Atty.  
Mendoza  who  assisted  complainant  and  children  in  their  application  for  visa.  He  failed  
however   to   substantiate   such   denial.  
 
Atty.  Gutierrez  had  many  alibis  on  why  the  money  could  not  immediately  be  returned  to  
the   complainant,   and   promised   her   several   times   that   he   would   repay   her   out   of   his  
personal   funds.   He   even   issued   personal   post-­‐dated   checks   on   this,   but   which   later  
bounced.  
 
ISSUE  
 
Whether   or   not   respondent’s   conduct   violated   the   Code   of   Professional   Responsibility  
and   merits   the   penalty   of   disbarment?  
 
RULING  
 
Yes,   the   respondent   should   be   disbarred.  
 
The  defense  of  denial  proferred  by  respondent  is  not  convincing.  It  is  settled  that  denial,  
which   is   inherently   a   weak   defense,   to   be   believed   must   be   buttressed   by   a   strong  
evidence   of   non-­‐culpability.   The   evidence,   respondent’s   letters   to   the   complainant,  
shows   that   he   made   it   appear   that   the   US$20,000   was   officially   deposited   with   the  
Bureau   of   Immigration   and   Deportation.   If   this   is   true,   how   come   only   Petty   Cash  
Vouchers  were  issued  by  respondent  to  complainant  to  prove  his  receipt  of  the  said  sum  
and  official  receipts  therefore  were  never  issued  by  the  said  Bureau?  Also,  why  would  
respondent  issue  his  personal  checks  to  cover  the  return  of  the  money  to  complainant  if  
said   amount   was   really   officially   deposited   with   the   Bureau   of   Immigration?   All   these  
actions   of   respondent   point   to   the   inescapable   conclusion   that   respondent   received   the  
money   from   complainant   and   appropriated   the   same   for   his   personal   use.  
 
Lawyers   in   government   service   in   the   discharge   of   their   official   task   have   more  
restrictions   than   lawyers   in   private   practice.   Want   of   moral   integrity   is   to   be   more  
severely   condemned   in   a   lawyer   who   holds   a   responsible   public   office.  
 
Considering  that  respondent  was  able  to  perpetrate  the  fraud  by  taking  advantage  of  his  
position   with   the   Board   of   Special   Inquiry   of   the   Bureau   of   Immigration   and  
Deportation,   makes   it   more   reprehensible   as   it   has   caused   damage   to   the   reputation  
and   integrity   of   said   office.   It   is   submitted   that   respondent   has   violated   Rule   6.02   of  
Canon   6   of   the   Code   of   Professional   Responsibility   which   reads:  
 
"A   lawyer   in   the   government   service   shall   not   use   his   public   position   to   promote   or  
advance   his   private   interests,   nor   allow   the   latter   to   interfere   with   his   public   duties."  
 
Also,  the  act  of  issuing  a  bouncing  check  shows  moral  turpitude.  Respondent's  acts  are  
more  despicable,  for  not  only  did  he  misappropriate  the  money  of  complainant;  worse,  
he  had  the  gall  to  prepare  receipts  with  the  letterhead  of  the  BID  and  issued  checks  to  
cover   up   his   misdeeds.  
 
Time  and  again,  we  have  declared  that  the  practice  of  law  is  a  noble  profession.  It  is  a  
special   privilege   bestowed   only   upon   those   who   are   competent   intellectually,  
academically   and   morally.  
 
A  lawyer  must  at  all  times  conduct  himself,  especially  in  his  dealings  with  his  clients  and  
the   public   at   large,   with   honesty   and   integrity   in   a   manner   beyond   reproach.   More  
importantly,  possession  of  good  moral  character  must  be  continuous  as  a  requirement  
to  the  enjoyment  of  the  privilege  of  law  practice;  otherwise,  the  loss  thereof  is  a  ground  
for   the   revocation   of   such   privilege.  
 
As   a   lawyer,   who   was   also   a   public   officer,   respondent   miserably   failed   to   cope   with   the  
strict   demands   and   high   standards   of   the   legal   profession.   Section   27   Rule   138   of   the  
Revised   Rules   of   Court   mandates   that   a   lawyer   may   be   disbarred   or   suspended   for,  
among   other   acts,   gross   misconduct   in   office.  
 
WHEREFORE,  Atty.  Gutierrez  is  hereby  DISBARRED  from  the  practice  of  law  and  ordered  
to   return   the   amount   he   received   from   the   complainant   with   legal   interest   from   his  
receipt   of   the   money   until   payment.   The   case   shall   be   referred   to   the   Office   of   the  
Ombudsman   for   criminal   prosecution   for   violation   of   Anti-­‐Graft   and   Corrupt   Practices  
Acts  and  to  the  Department  of  Justice  for  appropriate  administrative  action.  
 
[  A.C.  No.  10179  (Formerly  CBD  11-­‐2985),  March  04,  2014  ]  
BENJAMIN  Q.  ONG,  COMPLAINANT,    
VS.  
ATTY.  WILLIAM  F.  DELOS  SANTOS,  RESPONDENT.  
 
Facts:  
In  January  2008,  complainant  Benjamin  Ong  was  introduced  to  respondent  Atty.  William  
F.  Delos  Santos  by  Sheriff  Fernando  Mercado  of  the  Metropolitan  Trial  Court  of  Manila.  
After  several  calls  and  personal  interactions  between  them,  Ong  and  Atty.  Delos  Santos  
became  friends.  
In  time,  according  to  Ong,  Atty.  Delos  Santos  asked  him  to  encash  his  postdated  check  
inasmuch   as   he   was   in   dire   need   of   cash.   To   reassure   Ong   that   the   check   would   be  
funded   upon   maturity,   Atty.   Delos   Santos   bragged   about   his   lucrative   practice   and   his  
good  paying  clients.  Convinced  of  Atty.  Delos  Santos’  financial  stability,  Ong  handed  to  
Atty.  Delos  Santos  on  January  29,  2008  the  amount  of  P100,000.00  in  exchange  for  the  
latter’s  Metrobank  Check  No.  0110268  postdated  February  29,  2008.  
 However,  the  check  was  dishonored  upon  presentment  for  the  reason  that  the  account  
was   closed.  Ong   relayed   the   matter   of   the   dishonor   to   Atty.   Delos   Santos,   and  
demanded  immediate  payment,  but  the  latter  just  ignored  him.  When  efforts  to  collect  
remained  futile,  Ong  brought  a  criminal  complaint  for  estafa  and  for  violation  of  Batas  
Pambansa   Blg.   22   against   Atty.   Delos   Santos.  Ong   also   brought   this   disbarment  
complaint  against  Atty.  Delos  Santos  in  the  Integrated  Bar  of  the  Philippines  (IBP),  which  
docketed  the  complaint  as  CBD  Case  No.  11-­‐2985.  
 
 
Issue:  
 By   issuing   the   worthless   check,   did   Atty.   Delos   Santos   violate   Canon   1,   Rule   1.01   and  
Canon  7,  Rule  7.03  of  the  Code  of  Professional  Responsibility?  
 
Ruling:  
 
Every  lawyer  is  an  officer  of  the  Court.  He  has  the  duty  and  responsibility  to  maintain  his  
good   moral   character.   In   this   regard,   good   moral   character   is   not   only   a   condition  
precedent   relating   to   his   admission   into   the   practice   of   law,   but   is   a   continuing  
imposition   in   order   for   him   to   maintain   his   membership   in   the   Philippine   Bar.  The   Court  
unwaveringly  demands  of  him  to  remain  a  competent,  honorable,  and  reliable  individual  
in   whom   the   public   may   repose   confidence.  Any   gross   misconduct   that   puts   his   moral  
character  in  serious  doubt  renders  him  unfit  to  continue  in  the  practice  of  law.  
 
 
The  effects  of  the  issuance  of  a  worthless  check  transcends  the  private  interests  of  the  
parties  directly  involved  in  the  transaction  and  touches  the  interests  of  the  community  
at  large.  The  mischief  it  creates  is  not  only  a  wrong  to  the  payee  or  holder,  but  also  an  
injury   to   the   public.   The   harmful   practice   of   putting   valueless   commercial   papers   in  
circulation,   multiplied   a   thousandfold,   can   very   well   pollute   the   channels   of   trade   and  
commerce,  injure  the  banking  system  and  eventually  hurt  the  welfare  of  society  and  the  
public  interest.    
 
 
lawyers   may   be   disciplined   for   any   conduct,   whether   in   their   professional   or   in   their  
private   capacity,   if   such   conduct   renders   them   unfit   to   continue   to   be   officers   of   the  
court.  
 
 
That   his   act   involved   a   private   dealing   with   Ong   did   not   matter.   His   being   a   lawyer  
invested  him  –  whether  he  was  acting  as  such  or  in  a  non-­‐professional  capacity  –  with  
the  obligation  to  exhibit  good  faith,  fairness  and  candor  in  his  relationship  with  others.  
There  is  no  question  that  a  lawyer  could  be  disciplined  not  only  for  a  malpractice  in  his  
profession,   but   also   for   any   misconduct   committed   outside   of   his   professional  
capacity.  His   being   a   lawyer   demanded   that   he   conduct   himself   as   a   person   of   the  
highest  moral  and  professional  integrity  and  probity  in  his  dealings  with  others.  
 
 
JOY  A.  GIMENO,  Complainant,  v.  ATTY.  PAUL  CENTILLAS  ZAIDE,  Respondent.  
D  E  C  I  S  I  O  N  
BRION,  J.:  
We  review  Resolution  No.  XX-­‐2011-­‐2641  of  the  Board  of  Governors  of  the  Integrated  Bar  
of  the  Philippines  (IBP)  in  CBD  Case  No.  07-­‐2069,  which  imposed  on  Atty.  Paul  Centillas  
Zaide   (Atty.   Zaide)   the   penalty   of   one-­‐year   suspension   from   the   practice   of   law,  
revocation   of   notarial   commission,   if   existing,   and   two   years   suspension   from   being  
commissioned   as   a   notary   public,   for   violation   of   the   2004   Rules   on   Notarial   Practice  
(Notarial  Practice  Rules).2  
The  Case  
 
On   August   8,   2007,   complainant   Joy   A.   Gimeno   (Gimeno)   filed   a   complaint3  with   the  
IBP's   Commission   on   Bar   Discipline,   charging   Atty.   Zaide   with:   (1)   usurpation   of   a   notary  
public's  office;  (2)  falsification;  (3)  use  of  intemperate,  offensive  and  abusive  language;  
and   (4)   violation   of   lawyer-­‐client   trust.  
 
In   her   complaint,   Gimeno   alleged   that   even   before   Atty.   Zaide's   admission4  to   the   Bar  
and  receipt5  of  his  notarial  commission,  he  had  notarized  a  partial  extrajudicial  partition  
with  deed  of  absolute  sale  on  March  29,  2002.6  She  also  accused  Atty.  Zaide  of  making  
false   and   irregular   entries   in   his   notarial   registers.7  
 
Gimeno   further   submitted   that   she   was   Atty.   Zaide's   former   client.   She   engaged   the  
services   of   his   law   firm   Zaragoza-­‐Makabangkit-­‐Zaide   Law   Offices   (ZMZ)   in   an   annulment  
of   title   case   that   involved   her   husband   and   her   parents-­‐in-­‐law.  
 
Despite  their  previous  lawyer-­‐client  relationship,  Atty.  Zaide  still  appeared  against  her  in  
the   complaint   for  estafa  and   violation   of   RA   30198  that   one   Priscilla   Somontan  
(Somontan)  filed  against  her  with  the  Ombudsman.  Gimeno  posited  that  by  appearing  
against  a  former  client,  Atty.  Zaide  violated  the  prohibition  against  the  representation  of  
conflicting   clients'   interests.9  
 
Lastly,   Gimeno   contended   that   Atty.   Zaide   called   her   a   "notorious   extortionist"   in   the  
same   administrative   complaint   that   Somontan   filed   against   her.10  In   another   civil   case  
where  she  was  not  a  party,  Gimeno  observed  that  Atty.  Zaide  referred  to  his  opposing  
counsel   as   someone   suffering   from   "serious   mental   incompetence"   in   one   of   his  
pleadings.11  According   to   Gimeno,   these   statements   constitute   intemperate,   offensive  
and   abusive   language,   which   a   lawyer   is   proscribed   from   using   in   his   dealings.  
 
In  his  answer12  dated  September  13,  2007,  Atty.  Zaide  argued  that  he  did  not  notarize  
the  March  29,  2002  partial  extrajudicial  partition.  As  it  appeared  on  the  notarial  page  of  
this   document,   his   notarial   stamp   and   falsified   signature   were   superimposed   over   the  
typewritten   name   of   Atty.   Elpedio   Cabasan,   the   lawyer   who   actually   notarized   this  
document.13  Atty.   Zaide   claimed   that   Gimeno   falsified   his   signature   to   make   it   appear  
that   he   notarized   it   before   his   admission   to   the   Bar.  
 
On   the   alleged   falsification   of   his   notarial   entries,   Atty.   Zaide   contended   that   he   needed  
to  simultaneously  use  several  notarial  registers  in  his  separate  satellite  offices  in  order  
to   better   cater   to   the   needs   of   his   clients   and   accommodate   their   growing  
number.14  This  explains  the  irregular  and  non-­‐sequential  entries  in  his  notarial  registers.  
 
Further,  Atty.  Zaide  argued  that  Gimeno  was  never  his  client  since  she  did  not  personally  
hire   him   as   her   counsel.   Gimeno   engaged   the   services   of   ZMZ   where   he   previously  
worked  as  an  associate.  The  real  counsel  of  Gimeno  and  her  relatives  in  their  annulment  
of  title  case  was  Atty.  Leo  Montalban  Zaragoza,  one  of  ZMZ's  partners.15  On  this  basis,  
the   respondent   should   not   be   held   liable   for   representing   conflicting   clients'   interests.  
 
Finally,  he  denied  that  he  used  any  intemperate,  offensive,  and  abusive  language  in  his  
pleadings.16  
The  IBP  Proceedings  
 
On   October   4,   2007,   the   IBP   CBD   issued   an   order   setting   the   case   for   mandatory  
conference.17  After   this,   both   parties   were   required   to   submit   their   position   papers.  
 
In   his   report   and   recommendation18  dated   May   18,   2010,   Commissioner   Pedro   A.  
Magpayo,   Jr.   (Commissioner   Magpayo)   found   Atty.   Zaide   administratively   liable   for  
violating   the   Notarial   Practice   Rules,   representing   conflicting   interests,   and   using  
abusive   and   insulting   language   in   his   pleadings.  
 
He  noted  that  Atty.  Zaide  violated  Section  1  (a)  and  1  (b),  Rule  VI  of  the  Notarial  Practice  
Rules   when   he   maintained   several   active   notarial   registers   in   different   offices.   These  
provisions  respectively  require  a  notary  public  to  "keep,  maintain,  protect  and  provide  
for   lawful   inspection,   a   chronological   official   register   of   notarial   acts   consisting   of   a  
permanently  bound  book  with  numbered  papers"  and  to  "keep  only  one  active  notarial  
register   at   any   given   time."19  
 
However,   Commissioner   Magpayo   opined   that   Atty.   Zaide   should   not   be   held  
administratively   liable   for   usurping   a   notary   public's   office.   The   investigating  
commissioner  noted  that  the  evidence  presented  on  this  issue  is  not  enough  to  prove  
that  Atty.  Zaide  signed  and  notarized  the  March  29,  2002  partial  extrajudicial  partition  
even   after   his   admission   to   the   Bar   and   receipt   of   his   notarial   commission.20  
 
Commissioner   Magpayo   also   found   that   the   evidence   presented   proved   that   Gimeno  
was   indeed   Atty.   Zaide's   former   client.   He   disagreed   with   Atty.   Zaide's   defense   that  
Gimeno   only   hired   ZMZ   but   did   not   personally   hire   him   to   defend   them   in   their  
annulment  of  title  case.  The  retainer  of  a  law  firm  is  equivalent  to  the  retainer  of  all  its  
lawyers.21  But   despite   this   previous   attorney-­‐client   relationship,   the   investigating  
commissioner   noted   that   Atty.   Zaide   should   not   be   held   liable   for   representing  
conflicting   interests   since   the   annulment   of   title   case   is   totally   unrelated   to   the  
Ombudsman   complaint   that   Somontan   filed   against   Gimeno   through   Atty.   Zaide.  
 
Finally,   the   investigating   commissioner   noted   that   Atty.   Zaide   used   intemperate,  
offensive,   and   abusive   language   when   he   called   Gimeno   a   "notorious   extortionist"   in  
one   of   his   pleadings.22  
 
For   violating   the   Notarial   Practice   Rules,   Commissioner   Magpayo   recommended   that  
Atty.  Zaide  be  suspended  for  three  months,  and  for  another  six  months  for  employing  
abusive  and  insulting  language.23  
The  IBP  Board  of  Governors'  Findings  
 
In  its  November  19,  2011  resolution,  the  IBP  Board  of  Governors  (Board)  opined  that  the  
evidence   on   record   fully   supports   the   findings   of   the   investigating   commissioner.  
However,   the   Board   modified   the   recommended   penalty   and   imposed   instead   the  
penalty   of   one   year   suspension   from   the   practice   of   law,   revocation   of   notarial  
commission,   if   existing,   and   two   years   suspension   from   being   commissioned   as   a   notary  
public.24  
 
Atty.   Zaide   sought   for   the   reconsideration25  of   the   Board's   November   19,   2011  
resolution  but  this  was  also  denied  in  its  subsequent  June  21,  2013  resolution.26  
The  Court's  Ruling  
 
The  Court  agrees  with  the  IBP  Board  of  Governors'  findings  and  recommended  penalty,  
and   accordingly   confirms   them.  
 
For  an  orderly  disposition  of  the  case,  we  shall  discuss  each  of  the  main  issues  that  the  
parties   identified.  
 
Violation   of   the   Notarial   Practice   Rules  
 
a.   Usurpation   of   a   notarial   office  
 
As   the   investigating   commissioner   found,   Gimeno   did   not   present   any   concrete  
evidence   to   show   that   Atty.   Zaide   notarized   the   March   29,   2002   partial   extrajudicial  
partition   prior   to   his   admission   to   the   Bar   and   receipt   of   his   notarial   commission.  
 
It  appears  that  this  document  originally  carried  the  name  of  one  Atty.  Elpedio  Cabasan,  
as   notary   public.   Atty.   Zaide's   signature   and   notarial   stamp   that   bears   his   name,   roll  
number,,  PTR  number,  IBP  number,  and  the  expiration  date  of  his  notarial  commission,  
were   merely   superimposed   over   Atty.   Cabasan's   typewritten   name.  
 
Notably,   Atty.   Zaide   admitted   that   the   details   stamped   on   the   document   are   his   true  
information.   However,   he   denied   that   he   personally   stamped   and   signed   the  
document.  In   fact,   this   document   never   appeared   in   his   notarial   register   and   was  
never   included   in   his   notarial   report   for   the   year   2002.  He   contended   that   Gimeno  
falsified  his  signature  and  used  his  notarial  stamp  to  make  it  appear  that  he  was  the  one  
who   notarized   it.  
 
This  Court  notes  that  at  the  time  the  document  was  purportedly  notarized,  Atty.   Zaide's  
details  as  a  lawyer  and  as  a  notary  public  had  not  yet  existed.  He  was  admitted  to  the  
Bar   only   on   May   2,   2002;  thus,  he  could  not  have  obtained  and  used  the  exact  figures  
pertaining  to  his  roll  number,  PTR  number,  IBP  number  and  the  expiration  date  of  his  
notarial   commission,   prior   to   this   date,   particularly   on   March   29,   2002.  
 
This  circumstance,  coupled  with  the  absence  of  any  evidence  supporting  Gimeno's  claim  
such   as   a   witness   to   the   alleged   fictitious   notarization,   leads   us   to   the   conclusion  
that  Atty.  Zaide  could  not  have  notarized  the  document  before  his  Bar  admission  and  
receipt   of   his   notarial   commission.  
 
We  can  only  conclude  that  his  professional  details,  which  were  only  generated  after  his  
Bar  admission,  were  stamped  on  the  March  29,  2002  document.  How  this  happened  is  
not   clear   from   the   evidence   before   us.  
 
b.   Maintaining   different   notarial   registers   in   separate   notarial   offices  
 
We   find   that   Atty.   Zaide   violated   the   Notarial   Practice   Rules   by   maintaining   different  
notarial   registers   in   several   offices.   Because   of   this   practice,   the   following   notarized  
documents  had  been  irregularly  numbered  and  entered:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary  
Document27   Date   Doc.  No.   Page   Book   Year  
Special   Power   of  
6/20/05   273   55   18   2005  
Attorney  
Secretary's  Certificate   10/28/05   226   46   18   2005  
Affidavit  of  Quitclaim   10/31/05   272   55   18   2005  
Affidavit  of  Loss   4/17/06   54   11   25   2006  
Affidavit   of   Two  
4/17/06   310   61   25   2006  
Disinterested  Persons  
Petition   for   Issuance   of  
4/17/06   72   15   25   2006  
Owner's  Duplicate  copy  
Affidavit   of   Parental  
4/19/06   461   93   23   2006  
Consent  
Confirmation  of  Sale   4/21/06   283   56   25   2006  
Deed  of  Absolute  Sale   4/27/06   304   60   25   2006  
Section   l(a),   Rule   VI   of   the   Notarial   Practice   Rules   provides   that   "a   notary   public   shall  
keep,   maintain,   protect   and   provide   for   lawful   inspection   as   provided   in   these  
Rules,  a  chronological  official   notarial   register   of   notarial   acts  consisting   of   a  
permanently   bound   book   with   numbered   pages."   The   same   section   further   provides  
that   "a   notary   public   shall   keep  only   one   active   notarial   register   at   any   given  
time."28  On  this  basis,  Atty.  Zaide's  act  of  simultaneously  keeping  several  active  notarial  
registers   is   a   blatant   violation   of   Section   1,   Rule   VI.  
 
The  Notarial  Practice  Rules  strictly  requires  a  notary  public  to  maintain  only  one  active  
notarial   register   and   ensure   that   the   entries   in   it   are   chronologically   arranged.   The   "one  
active  notarial  register"  rule  is  in  place  to  deter  a  notary  public  from  assigning  several  
notarial   registers   to   different   offices   manned   by   assistants   who   perform   notarial  
services   on   his   behalf.  
 
Since   a   notarial   commission   is   personal   to   each   lawyer,   the   notary   public   must   also  
personally   administer   the   notarial   acts29  that   the   law   authorizes   him   to   execute.   This  
important   duty   is   vested   with   public   interest.   Thus,   no   other   person,   other   than   the  
notary   public,   should   perform   it.  
 
On  the  other  hand,  entries  in  a  notarial  register  need  to  be  in  chronological  sequence  in  
order   to   address   and   prevent   the   rampant   practice   of   leaving   blank   spaces   in   the  
notarial   register   to   allow   the   antedating   of   notarizations.  
 
In  these  lights,  we  cannot  accept  Atty.  Zaide's  explanation  that  he  needed  to  maintain  
several   active   notarial   registers   in   separate   offices   so   he   could   accommodate   the  
increasing   number   of   his   clients   requiring   his   notarial   services.  
 
This  Court  stresses  that  a  notary  public  should  not  trivialize  his  functions  as  his  powers  
and  duties  are  impressed  with  public  interest.30  A  notary  public's  office  is  not  merely  an  
income-­‐generating   venture.   It   is   a   public   duty   that   each   lawyer   who   has   been   privileged  
to   receive   a   notarial   commission   must   faithfully   and   conscientiously   perform.  
 
Atty.   Zaide   should   have   been   acutely   aware   of   the   requirements   of   his   notarial  
commission.  His  flagrant  violation  of  Section  1,  Rule  VI  of  the  Notarial  Practice  Rules  is  
not  merely  a  simple  and  excusable  negligence.  It  amounts  to  a  clear  violation  of  Canon  1  
of   the   Code   of   Professional   Responsibility,   which   provides   that   "a   lawyer   [should]  
uphold  the  constitution,  obey   the   laws   of   the   land   and   promote   respect   for   law   and  
legal   processes."  
 
Representing   conflicting   interests  
 
The  investigating  commissioner  properly  noted  that  Atty.  Zaide  should  not  be  held  liable  
for   representing   conflicting   clients'   interests.  
 
Rule   15.03,   Canon   15   of   the   Code   of   Professional   Responsibility  
provides:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary  
Rule   15.03   -­‐   A   lawyer   shall   not   represent   conflicting   interests   except   by   written   consent  
of  all  concerned  given  after  a  full  disclosure  of  the  facts.  
In  Aninon  v.  Sabitsana,31  the  Court  laid  down  the  tests  to  determine  if  a  lawyer  is  guilty  
of   representing   conflicting   interests   between   and   among   his   clients.  
 
One   of   these   tests   is  whether  the  acceptance  of  a  new  relation  would  prevent  the  full  
discharge   of   a   lawyer's   duty   of   undivided   fidelity   and   loyalty   to   the   client   or   invite  
suspicion   of   unfaithfulness   or   double-­‐dealing   in   the   performance   of   that   duty.32  
 
Another   test   is   whether   a   lawyer   would   be   called   upon   in   the   new   relation   to  use  
against  a  former  client  any  confidential  information  acquired  through  their  connection  
or   previous   employment.33  
 
Applying  these  tests,  we  find  no  conflict  of  interest  when  Atty.  Zaide  appeared  against  
Gimeno,   his   former   law   firm's   client.  
 
The  lawyer-­‐client  relationship  between  Atty.  Zaide  and  Gimeno  ceased  when  Atty.  Zaide  
left   ZMZ.   Moreover,   the   case   where   Gimeno   engaged   ZMZ's   services   is   an   entirely  
different   subject   matter   and   is   not   in   any   way   connected   to   the   complaint   that  
Somontan   filed   against   Gimeno   with   the   Ombudsman.  
 
The  prior  case  where  Gimeno  hired  ZMZ  and  where  Atty.  Zaide  represented  her  family  
pertained   to   the   annulment   of   a   land   title.   Somontan   was   never   a   party   to   this   case  
since   this   only   involved   Gimeno's   relatives.   On   the   other   hand,   the   case   where   Atty.  
Zaide   appeared   against   Gimeno   involved   Somontan's   Ombudsman   complaint   against  
Gimeno  for  her  alleged  mishandling  of  the  funds  that  Somontan  entrusted  to  her,  and  
for   Gimeno's   alleged   corruption   as   an   examiner   in   the   Register   of   Deeds   of   Iligan  
City.  Clearly,   the   annulment   of   title   case   and   the   Ombudsman   case   are   totally  
unrelated.  
 
There   was   also   no   double-­‐dealing   on   the   part   of   Atty.   Zaide   because   at   the   time  
Somontan  engaged  his  services,  he  had  already  left  ZMZ.  More  importantly,  nothing  in  
the   record   shows   that   Atty.   Zaide   used   against   Gimeno   any   confidential   information  
which   he   acquired   while   he   was   still   their   counsel   in   the   annulment   of   title   case.  
 
Under   these   circumstances,   Atty.   Zaide   should   not   be   held   liable   for   violating   the  
prohibition   against   the   representation   of   conflicting   interests.  
 
Use   of   intemperate,   offensive   and   abusive   language   in   professional   dealings  
 
The   prohibition   on   the   use   of   intemperate,   offensive   and   abusive   language   in   a   lawyer's  
professional  dealings,  whether  with  the  courts,  his  clients,  or  any  other  person,  is  based  
on   the   following   canons   and   rules   of   the   Code   of   Professional  
Responsibility:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary  
Canon  8  -­‐  A  lawyer  shall  conduct  himself  with  courtesy,  fairness  and  candor  toward  his  
professional   colleagues,   and   shall   avoid   harassing   tactics   against   opposing   counsel.  
 
Rule   8.01   -­‐   A   lawyer  shall   not,   in   his   professional   dealings,   use   language   which   is  
abusive,   offensive   or   otherwise   improper.  
 
Canon   11   -­‐   A   lawyer   shall   observe   and   maintain   the   respect   due   to   the   courts   and   to  
judicial   officers   and   should   insist   on   similar   conduct   by   others.  
 
Rule  11.03  -­‐  A  lawyer  shall  abstain  from  scandalous,  offensive  or  menacing  language  or  
behavior  before  the  Courts.  (emphasis  supplied)  
As  shown  in  the  record,  Atty.  Zaide,  in  the  reply  that  he  drafted  in  the  Ombudsman  case,  
called  Gimeno  a  "notorious  extortionist."34  And  in  another  case,  Gimeno  observed  that  
Atty.   Zaide   used   the   following   demeaning   and   immoderate   language   in   presenting   his  
comment  against  his  opposing  counsel:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary  
Her   declaration   in   Public   put   a  shame,  DISGRACE,  INDIGNITY  AND  HUMILIATION  in   the  
whole  Justice  System,  and  the  Department  of  Justice  in  particular,  where  the  taxpayers  
paid   for   her   salary   over   her   incompetence   and   poor   performance   as   a  
prosecutor...  This   is   a   clear   manifestation   that   the  Public   prosecutor   suffers   serious  
mental   incompetence  as   regard   her   mandate   as   an   Assistant   City  
Prosecutor.35(emphasis  supplied)  
This  clearly  confirms  Atty.  Zaide's  lack  of  restraint  in  the  use  and  choice  of  his  words  —  a  
conduct   unbecoming   of   an   officer   of   the   court.  
 
While  a  lawyer  is  entitled  to  present  his  case  with  vigor  and  courage,  such  enthusiasm  
does   not   justify   the   use   of   offensive   and   abusive   language.   Language   abounds   with  
countless   possibilities   for   one   to   be   emphatic   but   respectful,   convincing   but   not  
derogatory,   and   illuminating   but   not   offensive.36  
 
On   many   occasions,   the   Court   has   reminded   the   members   of   the   Bar   to   abstain   from  
any   offensive   personality   and   to   refrain   from   any   act   prejudicial   to   the   honor   or  
reputation  of  a  party  or  a  witness.  In   keeping   with   the   dignity   of   the   legal   profession,   a  
lawyer's   language   even   in   his   pleadings,   must   be   dignified.37  
 
WHEREFORE,  premises   considered,   the   Court   resolves   to  ADOPT  the   recommended  
penalty   of   the   Board   of   Governors   of   the   Integrated   Bar   of   the   Philippines.   Atty.   Paul  
Centillas  Zaide  is  found  GUILTY  of  violating  the  2004  Rules  on  Notarial  Practice  and  for  
using   intemperate,   offensive   and,   abusive   language   in   violation   of   Rule   8.01,   Canon   8  
and   Rule   11.03,   Canon   11   of   the   Code   of   Professional   Responsibility.   His   notarial  
commission,   if   existing,   is   hereby  REVOKED,   and   he   is   declared  DISQUALIFIED  from  
being   commissioned   as   a   notary   public   for   a   period   of   two   (2)   years.   He   is  
also  SUSPENDED  for   one   (1)   year   from   the   practice   of   law.  
 
SO  ORDERED.chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary  
 
Vilatuya  vs  Tabalingcos  
 
FACTS:  
 
Complainant,   Manuel   G.   Villatuya   filed   a   Complaint   for   Disbarment   on   December   06,  
2004  against  respondent,  Atty.  Bede  S.  Tabalingcos.  In  a  resolution,  the  court  required  
the  respondent  to  file  a  comment,  which  the  respondent  did.  The  complaint  was  then  
referred  to  the  Integrated  Bar  of  the  Philippines  for  investigation.  
 
In   a   mandatory   conference   called   for   by   the   Commission   on   Bar   Discipline   of   the   IBP,  
complainant   and   his   counsel,   and   the   respondent   appeared   and   submitted   issues   for  
resolution.  The  commission  ordered  the  parties  to  submit  their  verified  position  papers.  
 
In  the  position  paper  submitted  by  the  complainant  on  August  1,  2005,  he  averred  that  
he  was  employed  by  the  respondent  as  financial  consultant  to  assist  the  respondent  in  a  
number   of   corporate   rehabilitation   cases.   Complainant   claimed   that   they   had   a   verbal  
agreement   whereby   he   would   be   entitled   to   ₱50,000   for   every   Stay   Order   issued   by   the  
court  in  the  cases  they  would  handle,  in  addition  to  ten  percent  (10%)  of  the  fees  paid  
by   their   clients.   Notwithstanding,   18   Stay   Orders   that   was   issued   by   the   courts   as   a  
result  of  his  work  and  the  respondent  being  able  to  rake  in  millions  from  the  cases  that  
they  were  working  on  together,  the  latter  did  not  pay  the  amount  due  to  him.  He  also  
alleged   that   respondent   engaged   in   unlawful   solicitation   of   cases   by   setting   up   two  
financial  consultancy  firms  as  fronts  for  his  legal  services.  On  the  third  charge  of  gross  
immorality,   complainant   accused   respondent   of   committing   two   counts   of   bigamy   for  
having  married  two  other  women  while  his  first  marriage  was  subsisting.  
 
In   his   defense,   respondent   denied   charges   against   him   and   asserted   that   the  
complainant   was   not   an   employee   of   his   law   firm   but   rather   an   employee   of   Jesi   and  
Jane   Management,   Inc.,   one   of   the   financial   consultancy   firms.   Respondent   alleged   that  
complainant  was  unprofessional  and  incompetent  in  performing  his  job  and  that  there  
was   no   verbal   agreement   between   them   regarding   the   payment   of   fees   and   the   sharing  
of   professional   fees   paid   by   his   clients.   He   proffered   documents   showing   that   the   salary  
of   complainant   had   been   paid.   Respondent   also   denied   committing   any   unlawful  
solicitation.   To   support   his   contention,   respondent   attached   a   Joint   Venture   Agreement  
and   an   affidavit   executed   by   the   Vice-­‐President   for   operations   of   Jesi   and   Jane  
Management,  Inc.  On  the  charge  of  gross  immorality,  respondent  assailed  the  Affidavit  
of   a   dismissed   messenger   of   Jesi   and   Jane   Management,   Inc.,   as   having   no   probative  
value,   since   it   had   been   retracted   by   the   affiant   himself.   Respondent   did   not   specifically  
address   the   allegations   regarding   his   alleged   bigamous   marriages   with   two   other  
women  
 
On  January  9,  2006,  complainant  filed  a  Motion  to  Admit  Copies  of  3  Marriage  Contracts  
of  respondent  wherein  he  attached  the  certified  true  copies  of  the  Marriage  Contracts  
referred   to   in   the   Certification   issued   by   the   NSO.  
 
On  January  16,  2006,  respondent  submitted  his  Opposition  to  the  Motion  to  Admit  filed  
by  complainant,  claiming  that  he  was  not  given  the  opportunity  to  controvert  them.  He  
disclosed   that   criminal   cases   for   bigamy   were   filed   against   him   by   the   complainant  
before   the   Office   of   the   City   Prosecutor   of   Manila.   He   also   informed   the   Commission  
that   he   filed   Petition   for   Declaration   of   Nullity   of   the   first   two   marriage   contracts.   In  
both   petitions,   he   claimed   that   he   had   recently   discovered   that   there   were   Marriage  
Contracts   in   the   records   of   the   NSO   bearing   his   name   and   allegedly   executed   with  
Rowena   Piñon   and   Pilar   Lozano   on   different   occasions.  
 
The   Commission   scheduled   a   clarificatory   hearing   on   20   November   2007.  Respondent  
moved   for   the   suspension   of   the   resolution   of   the   administrative   case   against   him,  
pending   outcome   of   petition   for   nullification   he   filed   with   RTC,   but   was   denied.   The  
Commission   resolved   that   the   administrative   case   against   him   be   submitted   for  
resolution.  
 
On   February   27,   2008,   the   Commission   promulgated   its   Report   and   Recommendation  
addressing  the  specific  charges  against  respondent.  The  first  charge,  for  dishonesty  for  
the   nonpayment   of   certain   shares   in   the   fees,   was   dismissed   for   lack   of   merit.   On   the  
second   charge,   the   Commission   found   respondent   to   have   violated   the   rule   on   the  
solicitation   of   client   for   having   advertised   his   legal   services   and   unlawfully   solicited  
cases.  It  recommended  that  he  be  reprimanded  for  the  violation.  As  for  the  third  charge,  
the   Commission   found   respondent   to   be   guilty   of   gross   immorality   for   violating   Rules  
1.01  and  7.03  of  the  Code  of  Professional  Responsibility  and  Section  27  of  Rule  138  of  
the   Rules   of   Court.   Due   to   the   gravity   of   the   acts   of   respondent,   the   Commission  
recommended   that   he   be   disbarred,   and   that   his   name   be   stricken   off   the   roll   of  
attorneys.  
 
On   April   15,   2008,   the   IBP   Board   of   Governors,   through   its   Resolution   No.   XVIII-­‐2008-­‐
154,   adopted   and   approved   the   Report   and   Recommendation   of   the   Investigating  
Commissioner.  
 
On   August   1,   2008,   respondent   filed   a   Motion   for   Reconsideration,   arguing   that   the  
recommendation   to   disbar   him   was   premature.  
 
On  June  26,  2011,  the  IBP  Board  of  Governors  denied  the  Motions  for  Reconsideration  
and   affirmed   their   Resolution   dated   April   15,   2008   recommending   respondent’s  
disbarment.  
 
ISSUES:  
 
1.   Whether   respondent   violated   the   Code   of   Professional   Responsibility   by   nonpayment  
of   fees   to   complainant;  
 
2.   Whether   respondent   violated   the   rule   against   unlawful   solicitation;   and  
 
3.   Whether   respondent   is   guilty   of   gross   immoral   conduct   for   having   married   thrice.  
 
RULING:  
 
First   charge:   Dishonesty   for   non-­‐payments   of   share   in   the   fees.  
 
Supreme  Court  affirmed  the  IBP’s  dismissal  of  the  first  charge  against  respondent,  but  
did  not  concur  with  the  rationale  behind  it.  The  first  charge,  if  proven  to  be  true  is  based  
on  an  agreement  that  is  violative  of  Rule  9.02  of  the  Code  of  Professional  Responsibility.  
A  lawyer  is  proscribed  by  the  Code  to  divide  or  agree  to  divide  the  fees  for  legal  services  
rende-­‐red   with   a   person   not   licensed   to   practice   law.   In   the   case   of   Tan   Tek   Beng   v.  
David,   Supreme   Court   held   that   an   agreement   between   a   lawyer   and   a   layperson   to  
share   the  fees   collected  from   clients   secured   by  the  layperson   is  null   and   void,  and   that  
the   lawyer   involved   may   be   disciplined   for   unethical   conduct.   Considering   that  
complainant’s  allegations  in  this  case  had  not  been  proven,  the  IBP  correctly  dismissed  
the   charge   against   respondent   on   this   matter.  
 
Second   charge:   Unlawful   solicitation   of   clients.  
 
In   its   Report,   the   IBP   established   the   truth   of   these   allegations   and   ruled   that  
respondent  had  violated  the  rule  on  the  solicitation  of  clients,  but  it  failed  to  point  out  
the  specific  provision  that  was  breached.  Based  on  the  facts  of  the  case,  he  violated  Rule  
2.03  of  the  Code,  which  prohibits  lawyers  from  soliciting  cases  for  the  purpose  of  profit.  
 
A   lawyer   is   not   prohibited   from   engaging   in   business   or   other   lawful   occupation.  
Impropriety   arises,   though,   when   the   business   is   of   such   a   nature   or   is   conducted   in  
such  a  manner  as  to  be  inconsistent  with  the  lawyer’s  duties  as  a  member  of  the  bar.  
This   inconsistency   arises   when   the   business   is   one   that   can   readily   lend   itself   to   the  
procurement   of   professional   employment   for   the   lawyer;   or   that   can   be   used   as   a   cloak  
for   indirect   solicitation   on   the   lawyer’s   behalf;   or   is   of   a   nature   that,   if   handled   by   a  
lawyer,   would   be   regarded   as   the   practice   of   law.  
 
It   is   clear   from   the   documentary   evidence   submitted   by   complainant   that   Jesi   &   Jane  
Management,  Inc.,  which  purports  to  be  a  financial  and  legal  consultant,  was  indeed  a  
vehicle   used   by   respondent   as   a   means   to  
procure   professional   employment;   specifically   for   corporate   rehabilitation   cases.  
 
Rule   15.08   of   the   Code   mandates   that   the   lawyer   is   mandated   to   inform   the   client  
whether  the  former  is  acting  as  a  lawyer  or  in  another  capacity.  This  duty  is  a  must  in  
those  occupations  related  to  the  practice  of  law.  In  this  case,  it  is  confusing  for  the  client  
if   it   is   not   clear   whether   respondent   is   offering   consultancy   or   legal   services.  
 
Considering,  however,  that  complainant  has  not  proven  the  degree  of  prevalence  of  this  
practice   by   respondent,   the   Supreme   Court   affirm   the   recommendation   to   reprimand  
the   latter   for   violating   Rules   2.03   and   15.08   of   the   Code.  
 
Third   charge:   Bigamy.  
 
The  Supreme  Court  have  consistently  held  that  a  disbarment  case  is  sui  generis.  Its  focus  
is  on  the  qualification  and  fitness  of  a  lawyer  to  continue  membership  in  the  bar  and  not  
the  procedural  technicalities  in  filing  the  case.  Thus,  in  Garrido  v.  Garrido:  
Laws   dealing   with   double   jeopardy   or   with   procedure   —   such   as   the   verification   of  
pleadings  and  prejudicial  questions,  or  in  this  case,  prescription  of  offenses  or  the  filing  
of  affidavits  of  desistance  by  the  complainant  —  do  not  apply  in  the  determination  of  a  
lawyer's  qualifications  and  fitness  for  membership  in  the  Bar.  We  have  so  ruled  in  the  
past   and   we   see   no   reason   to   depart   from   this   ruling.   First,   admission   to   the   practice   of  
law   is   a   component   of   the   administration   of   justice   and   is   a   matter   of   public   interest  
because   it   involves   service   to   the   public.   The   admission   qualifications   are   also  
qualifications  for  the  continued  enjoyment  of  the  privilege  to  practice  law.  Second,  lack  
of   qualifications   or   the   violation   of   the   standards   for   the   practice   of   law,   like   criminal  
cases,  is  a  matter  of  public  concern  that  the  State  may  inquire  into  through  this  Court.  
In   disbarment   proceedings,   the   burden   of   proof   rests   upon   the   complainant.   In   this  
case,   complainant   submitted   NSO-­‐certified   true   copies   to   prove   that   respondent  
entered   into   two   marriages   while   the   latter’s   first   marriage   was   still   subsisting.   While  
respondent   denied   entering   into   the   second   and   the   third   marriages,   he   resorted   to  
vague   assertions   tantamount   to   a   negative   pregnant.  
 
What   has   been   clearly   established   here   is   the   fact   that   respondent   entered   into  
marriage   twice   while   his   first   marriage   was   still   subsisting.   In   Bustamante-­‐Alejandro   v.  
Alejandro,  56  we  held  thus:  
[W]e  have  in  a  number  of  cases  disciplined  members  of  the  Bar  whom  we  found  guilty  
of   misconduct   which   demonstrated   a   lack   of   that   good   moral   character   required   of  
them  not  only  as  a  condition  precedent  for  their  admission  to  the  Bar  but,  likewise,  for  
their  continued  membership  therein.  No  distinction  has  been  made  as  to  whether  the  
misconduct   was   committed   in   the   lawyer’s   professional   capacity   or   in   his   private   life.  
This  is  because  a  lawyer  may  not  divide  his  personality  so  as  to  be  an  attorney  at  one  
time   and   a   mere   citizen   at   another.   He   is   expected   to   be   competent,   honorable   and  
reliable   at   all   times   since   he   who   cannot   apply   and   abide   by   the   laws   in   his   private  
affairs,   can   hardly   be   expected   to   do   so   in   his   professional   dealings   nor   lead   others   in  
doing  so.  Professional  honesty  and  honor  are  not  to  be  expected  as  the  accompaniment  
of  dishonesty  and  dishonor  in  other  relations.  The  administration  of  justice,  in  which  the  
lawyer  plays  an  important  role  being  an  officer  of  the  court,  demands  a  high  degree  of  
intellectual   and   moral   competency   on   his   part   so   that   the   courts   and   clients   may   rightly  
repose  confidence  in  him.  
 
Respondent  exhibited  a  deplorable  lack  of  that  degree  of  morality  required  of  him  as  a  
member   of   the   bar.   He   made   a   mockery   of   marriage,   a   sacred   institution   demanding  
respect  and  dignity.57  His  acts  of  committing  bigamy  twice  constituted  grossly  immoral  
conduct  and  are  grounds  for  disbarment  under  Section  27,  Rule  138  of  the  Revised  Rules  
of   Court.58  
 
The  Supreme  Court  adopted  the  recommendation  of  the  IBP  to  disbar  respondent  and  
ordered  that  his  name  be  stricken  from  the  Roll  of  Attorneys.  
 
Catalan  vs.  Silvosa  
A.C.  No.  7360  |  July  24,  2012  
 
Facts:  
Atty.   Catalan   filed   a   complaint   against   respondent   Atty.   Silvosa   alleging   that:   (a)  
respondent   appeared   as   counsel   for   the   accused   in   the   same   case   (Esperon   Case)   for  
which   he   previously   appeared   a   prosecutor;   (b)   the   respondent   bribed   Prosecutor  
Toribio   for   P30,000.00   to   reconsider   the   downgraded   charge   of   “less   serious   physical  
injuries”  back  to  the  charge  of  “frustrated  murder”  against  complainant’s  brother;  and  
(c)   the   Sandiganbayan   convicted   respondent   Silvosa   for   “direct   bribery.”   IBP  
Commissioner   Funa   found   that   respondent   is   only   guilty   of   the   first   charge   and  
recommended  for  a  reprimand.  As  to  the  second  charge,  Funa  said  that  there  can  be  no  
certainty   as   to   the   bribery   for   it   allegedly   occurred   seven   years   ago.   As   to   the   third  
charge,  Funa  upheld  respondent’s  view  that  Atty.  Catalan  has  no  personal  knowledge  of  
the   extortion   case   and   said   that   findings   in   criminal   proceedings   are   not   binding   in  
disbarment  proceedings.  
 
Issue:  
Are  findings  in  criminal  proceedings  binding  in  disbarment  proceedings?  Yes.  
 
Ruling:  
Yes.  First,  disbarment  proceedings  may  be  instituted  by  any  interested  person.  It  is  of  no  
moment  that  Atty.  Catalan  is  not  the  complainant  in  the  extortion  case  against  Silvosa.  
Second,  conviction  of  a  crime  involving  moral  turpitude  is  a  ground  for  disbarment.  In  
a   disbarment   case,   the   Court   will   no   longer   review   a   final   judgment   of   conviction.   Third,  
the  crime  for  direct  bribery  is  a  crime  involving  moral  turpitude.  
 
Silvosa’s   representation   of   conflicting   interest   and   his   failed   attempt   to   bribe   Pros.  
Toribio  merit  at  least  the  penalty  of  suspension.  Disbarment  follows  as  a  consequence  of  
Silvosa’s  conviction  of  the  crime.  His  excuse  that  his  conviction  was  not  in  his  capacity  as  
a   lawyer,   but   as   a   public   officer,   is   unacceptable   and   betrays   the   unmistakable   lack   of  
integrity  in  his  character.  
 
Hence,  Silvosa  was  disbarred.  
 
 
KHAN  V  SIMBILLO  
 
 
FACTS:  
§      An   advertisement   in   Philippine   Daily   Inquirer   came   out   which   reads:   “ANNULMENT  
OF  MARRIAGE  SPECIALIST  532-­‐4333/521-­‐2667.”  
§      SC  ordered  its  staff  to  call  the  number  and  ask  some  information.  
§      Espeleta  called  the  number  and  the  wife  of  Atty.  Rizalino  Simbillo  answered  who  said  
that   his   husband   was   an   expert   in   handling   annulment   cases   and   guarantees   a   court  
decree  within  4-­‐6  month.     The  services  of  Atty.  Simbillo  is  for  P48,000.  half  of  which  is  
payable  at  the  filing  of  the  case  and  the  balance  after  the  decision  has  been  rendered.  
§      Similar  advertisement  also  appeared  in  The  Philippine  Star  and  Manila  Bulletin.  
§      Khan,  Assist.  Court  Administrator,  filed  a  case  against  Simbillo  for  violating  the  Code  
of  Professional  Responsibility,  Rule  2.03  and  3.01.  
§      Simbillo   admitted   that   he   caused   the   advertisement   but   he   argued   that   solicitation  
and  advertisement  is  not  prohibited  per  se  and  that  it  is  about  time  to  change  our  views  
about   the   prohibition   on   advertising   and   solicitation.     He   also   said   that   the   interest   of  
the  public  is  not  served  by  the  prohibition  and  suggested  that  the  ban  be  lifted.  
§      IBP  recommended  that  Simbillo  be  suspended  for  1  year  and  that  repetition  of  similar  
act  will  be  dealt  with  more  severely.  
§      While   the   case   was   being   investigated   upon   by   the   court,   Simbillo   again   advertised  
his  legal  services,  for  2  times,  in  the  Buy  &  Sell  Free  Ads  Magazine.  
 
ISSUE:  
§      W/N  Simbillo  violated  the  Code  of  Professional  Responsibility  
 
HELD:  
§      YES!  
§      Rule   2.03   provides   a   lawyer   shall   not   do   or   permit   to   be   done   any   act   designed  
primarily   to   solicit   legal   business   while   Rule   3.01   states   that   a   lawyer   shall   not   use   or  
permit   the   use   of   any   false,   fraudulent,   misleading,   deceptive,   undignified,   self-­‐
laudatory  or  unfair  statement  or  claim  regarding  his  qualifications  or  legal  services.  
§        It   has   been   repeatedly   stressed   that   the   practice   of   law   is   not   a   business.     It   is   a  
profession   in   which   the   duty   to   public   service,   not   money,   is   the   primary  
consideration.    The  gaining  of  livelihood  should  be  a  secondary  consideration.  
§      Aside   from   advertising   himself   as   an   “Annulment   of   Marriage   Specialist,”   his  
assurance   of   his   clients   that   an   annulment   may   be   obtained   in   4-­‐6   months   from   the  
filing  of  the  case  encourages  people,  who  might  other  have  2nd  thought,  to  dissolve  their  
marriage.  
§      Solicitation   of   legal   business   is   not   proscribed.     However,   solicitation   must   be  
compatible  with  the  dignity  of  the  legal  profession.     The  use  of  simple  signs  stating  the  
name/s  of  the  lawyers,  the  office  and  residence  address  and  the  fields  of  expertise,  as  
well  as  advertisement  in  legal  periodicals  bearing  the  same  brief  data,  are  permissible.  
§      The  use  of  calling  cards  is  now  acceptable.  
 
 
 
 
WILFREDO  T.  GARCIA  vs.  ATTY.  BENIAMINO  A.  LOPEZ,  A.C.  No.  6422,    August  28,  2007  
 
Complainant  Atty.  Wilfredo  T.  Garcia  charged  respondent  Atty.  Beniamino  A.  Lopez  with  
violation   ofhis   oath   as   a   member   of   the   bar   and   officer   of   the   court,   and  
misrepresentation,  amounting  to  perjury  and  prayed  that  respondent  be  suspended  or  
disbarred.  
Complainant  was  the  counsel  of  Sarmiento,  the  original  applicant.  Upon  her  death,  the  
attorney-­‐client   relationship   was   terminated.   However,   complainant   was   retained   as  
counsel  by  Gina  Jarviña  and  Alfredo  Ku.  In  filing  an  entry  of  appearance  with  motion  of  
postponement  in  behalf  of  the  "compulsory  heirs  of  the  late  Angelita  Sarmiento"  when  
in  truth  he  was  merely  representing  some  of  the  heirs  but  not  all  of  them,  respondent  
were   guilty   of   misrepresentation   which   could   have   deceived   the   court.   He   had   no  
authorization   to   represent   all   the   heirs.   He   clearly   violated   his   lawyer's   oath   that   he   will  
"do  no  falsehood  nor  consent  to  the  doing  of  any  in  court."  
Respondent     failed       to     observe       the       foregoing     rules.       He     made       it       appear     that     he      
was      entering    his  appearance  as  counsel  for  all  the  heirs  of  Sarmiento  which  was  highly  
unfair  to  complainant  who  had  worked  on  the  case  from  the  very  beginning  (i.e.  since  
1996)   and   who   had   not   been   discharged   as   such.   It   is   true   that   without   the   formal  
withdrawal   of   complainant   as   counsel   of   record,   respondent   would   merely   be  
considered   as   collaborating   counsel.   Nevertheless,   by   being   less   than   candid   about  
whom   he   was   representing,   respondent   undeniably   encroached   upon   the   legal  
functions  of  complainant  as  the  counsel  of  record.  
   We  cannot  casually  brush  aside  what  respondent  did.  Even  assuming  that  it  was  not  a  
calculated  deception,  he  was  still  remiss  in  his  duty  to  his  fellow  lawyer  and  the  court.  
He   should   have   been   more   careful   about   his   actuation   since   the   court   was   relying   on  
him  in  its  task  of  ascertaining  the  truth.  
 
Wherefore,  respondent  Atty.  Beniamino  A.  Lopez  is  hereby  suspended  from  the  practice  
of  law  for  one  
(1)   month   for   violating   Canons   8   and   10,   Rules   8.02   and   10.01   of   the   Code   of  
Professional  Responsibility.  
He  is  warned  that  the  commission  of  the  same  or  similar  act  in  the  future  will  be  dealt  
with  more  severely  
 

JESSIE   T.   CAMPUGAN   AND   ROBERT   C.   TORRES,  Complainants,  v.  ATTY.   FEDERICO   S.  


TOLENTINO,   JR.,   ATTY.   RENATO   G.   CUNANAN,   ATTY.   DANIEL   F.   VICTORIO,   JR.,   AND   ATTY.  
ELBERT   T.   QUILALA,  Respondents.  
 
A.C.   No.   8725  
 
JESSIE   T.   CAMPUGAN   AND   ROBERT   C.   TORRES,  Complainants,  v.  ATTY.   CONSTANTE   P.   CALUYA,  
JR.,  AND  ATTY.  ELBERT  T.  QUILALA,  Respondent.  

D  E  C  I  S  I  O  N  
BERSAMIN,  J.:  

In  this  consolidated  administrative  case,  complainants  Jessie  T.  Campugan  and  Robert  C.  Torres  
seek  the  disbarment  of  respondents  Atty.  Federico  S.  Tolentino,  Jr.,  Atty.  Daniel  F.  Victorio,  Jr.,  
Atty.  Renato  G.  Cunanan,  Atty.  Elbert  T.  Quilala  and  Atty.  Constante  P.  Caluya,  Jr.  for  allegedly  
falsifying   a   court   order   that   became   the   basis   for   the   cancellation   of   their   annotation   of   the  
notice   of   adverse   claim   and   the   notice   of  lis   pendens  in   the   Registry   of   Deeds   in   Quezon  
City.chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary  

Antecedents  
 
Atty.   Victorio,   Jr.   had   replaced   Atty.   Edgardo   Abad   as   counsel   of   the   complainants   in   a   civil  
action   they   brought   to   seek   the   annulment   of   Transfer   Certificate   of   Title   (TCT)   No.   N-­‐290546   of  
the  Registry  of  Deeds  of  Quezon  City  in  the  first  week  of  January  2007  in  the  Regional  Trial  Court  
(RTC)   in   Quezon   City   (Civil   Case   No.   Q-­‐07-­‐59598).   They   impleaded   as   defendants   Ramon   and  
Josefina   Ricafort,   Juliet   Vargas   and   the   Register   of   Deeds   of   Quezon   City.   They   caused   to   be  
annotated   on   TCT   No.   N-­‐290546   their   affidavit   of   adverse   claim,   as   well   as   the   notice   of  lis  
pendens.1  Atty.   Tolentino,   Jr.   was   the   counsel   of   defendant   Ramon   and   Josefina   Ricafort.  
 
In   their   sworn   complaint   for   disbarment   dated   April   23,   2009   (later   docketed   as   A.C.   No.  
8261),2  the  complainants  narrated  that  as  the  surviving  children  of  the  late  Spouses  Antonio  and  
Nemesia  Torres,  they  inherited  upon  the  deaths  of  their  parents  a  residential  lot  located  at  No.  
251   Boni   Serrano   Street,   Murphy,   Cubao,   Quezon   City   registered   under   Transfer   Certificate   of  
Title   (TCT)   No.   RT-­‐64333(35652)   of   the   Register   of   Deeds   of   Quezon   City;3  that   on   August   24,  
2006,   they   discovered   that   TCT   No.   RT-­‐64333(35652)   had   been   unlawfully   cancelled   and  
replaced   by   TCT   No.   N-­‐290546   of   the   Register   of   Deeds   of   Quezon   City   under   the   names   of  
Ramon   and   Josefina   Ricafort;4  and   that,   accordingly,   they   immediately   caused   the   annotation   of  
their   affidavit   of   adverse   claim   on   TCT   No.   N-­‐290546.  
 
It   appears   that   the   parties   entered   into   an   amicable   settlement   during   the   pendency   of   Civil  
Case   No.   Q-­‐07-­‐59598   in   order   to   end   their   dispute,5  whereby   the   complainants   agreed   to   sell  
the  property  and  the  proceeds  thereof  would  be  equally  divided  between  the  parties,  and  the  
complaint   and   counterclaim   would   be   withdrawn   respectively   by   the   complainants   (as   the  
plaintiffs)  and  the  defendants.  Pursuant  to  the  terms  of  the  amicable  settlement,  Atty.  Victorio,  
Jr.  filed  a  Motion  to  Withdraw  Complaint  dated  February  26,  2008,6  which  the  RTC  granted  in  its  
order   dated   May   16,   2008   upon   noting   the   defendants'   lack   of   objection   thereto   and   the  
defendants'   willingness   to   similarly   withdraw   their   counterclaim.7  
 
The   complainants   alleged   that   from   the   time   of   the   issuance   by   the   RTC   of   the   order   dated   May  
16,   2008,   they   could   no   longer   locate   or   contact   Atty.   Victorio,   Jr.   despite   making   several   phone  
calls   and   visits   to   his   office;   that   they   found   out   upon   verification   at   the   Register   of   Deeds   of  
Quezon   City   that   new   annotations   were   made   on   TCT   No.   N-­‐290546,   specifically:   (1)   the  
annotation   of   the   letter-­‐request   appearing   to   be   filed   by   Atty.   Tolentino,   Jr.8  seeking   the  
cancellation  of  the  affidavit  of  adverse  claim  and  the  notice  of  lis  pendens  annotated  on  TCT  No.  
N-­‐290546;  and  (2)  the  arinotation  of  the  decision  dated  May  16,  2008  rendered  in  Civil  Case  No.  
Q-­‐07-­‐59598   by   the   RTC,   Branch   95,   in   Quezon   City,   granting   the   complainants'   Motion   to  
Withdraw   Complaint;9  and   that   a   copy   of   the   letter-­‐request   dated   June   30,   2008   addressed   to  
Atty.   Quilala,   Registrar   of   Deeds   of   Quezon   City,   disclosed   that   it   was   defendant   Ramon   Ricafort  
who   had   signed   the   letter.  
 
Feeling   aggrieved   by   their   discovery,   the   complainants   filed   an   appeal  en   consulta  with   the   Land  
Registration  Authority  (LRA),  docketed  as  Consulta  No.  4707,  assailing  the  unlawful  cancellation  
of   their   notice   of   adverse   claim   and   their   notice   of  lis   pendens  under   primary   entries   PE-­‐2742  
and   PE-­‐3828-­‐9,   respectively.   The   LRA   set   Consulta   No.   4707   for   hearing   on   March   30,   2009,   and  
directed  the  parties  to  submit  their  respective  memoranda  and/or  supporting  documents  on  or  
before   such   scheduled   hearing.10However,   the   records   do   not   disclose   whether   Consulta   No.  
4707   was   already   resolved,   or   remained   pending   at   the   LRA.  
 
Unable   to   receive   any   response   or   assistance   from   Atty.   Victorio,   Jr.   despite   their   having   paid  
him   for   his   professional   services,   the   complainants   felt   that   said   counsel   had   abandoned   their  
case.  They  submitted  that  the  cancellation  of  their  notice  of  adverse  claim  and  their  notice  of  lis  
pendens  without   a   court   order   specifically   allowing   such   cancellation   resulted   from   the  
connivance   and   conspiracy   between   Atty.   Victorio,   Jr.   and   Atty.   Tolentino,   Jr.,   and   from   the  
taking   advantage   of   their   positions   as   officials   in   the   Registry   of   Deeds   by   respondents   Atty.  
Quilala,   the   Chief   Registrar,   and   Atty.   Cunanan,   the   acting   Registrar   and   signatory   of   the   new  
annotations.   Thus,   they   claimed   to   be   thereby   prejudiced.  
 
On   July   6,   2009,   the   Court   required   the   respondents   to   comment   on   the   verified   complaint.11  
 
Atty.   Victorio,   Jr.   asserted   in   his   Comment   dated   August   17,   200912  that   complainant   Robert  
Torres   had   been   actively   involved   in   the   proceedings   in   Civil   Case   No.   Q-­‐07-­‐59598,   which  
included  the  mediation  process;  that  the  complainants,  after  having  aggressively  participated  in  
the  drafting  of  the  amicable  settlement,  could  not  now  claim  that  they  had  been  deceived  into  
entering  the  agreement  in  the  same  way  that  they  could  not  feign  ignorance  of  the  conditions  
contained  therein;  that  he  did  not  commit  any  abandonment  as  alleged,  but  had  performed  in  
good  faith  his  duties  as  the  counsel  for  the  complainants  in  Civil  Case  No.  Q-­‐07-­‐59598;  that  he  
should  not  be  held  responsible  for  their  representation  in  other  proceedings,  such  as  that  before  
the   LRA,   which   required   a   separate   engagement;   and   that   the   only   payment   he   had   received  
from   the   complainants   were   those   for   his   appearance   fees   of   P1,000.00   for   every   hearing   in   the  
RTC.  
 
In   his   Comment   dated   August   24,   2009,13  Atty.   Tolentino,   Jr.   refuted   the   charge   of   conspiracy,  
stressing   that   he   was   not   acquainted   with   the   other   respondents,   except   Atty.   Victorio,   Jr.  
whom   he   had   met   during   the   hearings   in   Civil   Case   No.   Q-­‐07-­‐59598;   that   although   he   had  
notarized   the   letter-­‐request   dated   June   30,   2008   of   Ramon   Ricafort   to   the   Register   of   Deeds,  he  
had  no  knowledge  about  how  said  letter-­‐request  had  been  disposed  of  by  the  Register  of  Deeds;  
and   that   the   present   complaint   was   the   second   disbarment   case   filed   by   the   complainants  
against   him   with   no   other   motive   except   to   harass   and   intimidate   him.  
 
Atty.   Quilala   stated   in   his   Comment   dated   September   1,   200914  that   it   was   Atty.   Caluya,   Jr.,  
another   Deputy   Register   of   Deeds,   who   was   the   actual   signing   authority   of   the   annotations   that  
resulted  in  the  cancellation  of  the  affidavit  of  adverse  claim  and  the  notice  of  lis  pendens  on  TCT  
No.  N-­‐290546;  that  the  cancellation  of  the  annotations  was  undertaken  in  the  regular  course  of  
official   duty   and   in   the   exercise   of   the   ministerial   duty   of   the   Register   of   Deeds;   that   no  
irregularity   occurred   or   was   performed   in   the   cancellation   of   the   annotations;   and   that   the  
Register  of  Deeds  was  impleaded  in  Civil  Case  No.  Q-­‐07-­‐59598  only  as  a  nominal  party,  thereby  
discounting   any   involvement   in   the   proceedings   in   the   case.  
 
Atty.   Cunanan   did   not   file   any   comment.15  
 
As  the  result  of  Atty.  Quilala's  allegation  in  his  Comment  in  A.C.  No.  8261  that  it  had  been  Atty.  
Caluya,  Jr.'s  signature  that  appeared  below  the  cancelled  entries,  the  complainants  filed  another  
sworn  disbarment  complaint  dated  August  26,  2010  alleging  that  Atty.  Caluya,  Jr.  had  forged  the  
signature   of   Atty.   Cunanan.16  This   disbarment   complaint   was   docketed   as   A.C.   No.   8725,   and  
was   later   on   consolidated   with   A.C.   No.   826117  because   the   complaints   involved   the   same  
parties   and   rested   on   similar   allegations   against   the   respondents.  
 
Atty.   Quilala   filed   his   Comment   in   A.C.   No.   8725   to   belie   the   allegation   of   forgery   and   to  
reiterate  the  arguments  he  had  made  in  A.C.  No.  8261.18  On  his  part,  Atty.  Caluya,  Jr.  manifested  
that  he  adopted  Atty.  Quilala's  Comment.19  

Ruling  
 
We   dismiss   the   complaints   for   disbarment   for   being   bereft   of   merit.  
 
Well  entrenched  in  this  jurisdiction  is  the  rule  that  a  lawyer  may  be  disciplined  for  misconduct  
committed  either  in  his  professional  or  private  capacity.  The  test  is  whether  his  conduct  shows  
him   to   be   wanting   in   moral   character,   honesty,   probity,   and   good   demeanor,   or   whether   his  
conduct   renders   him   unworthy   to   continue   as   an   officer   of   the   Court.20  Verily,   Canon   7   of  
the  Code   of   Professional   Responsibility  mandates   all   lawyers   to   uphold   at   all   times   the   dignity  
and   integrity   of   the   Legal   Profession.   Lawyers   are   similarly   required   under   Rule   1.01,   Canon   1   of  
the   same   Code   not   to   engage   in   any   unlawful,   dishonest   and   immoral   or   deceitful   conduct.  
Failure   to   observe   these   tenets   of   the   Code   of   Professional   Responsibility   exposes   the   lawyer   to  
disciplinary   sanctions   as   provided   in   Section   27,   Rule   138   of   the  Rules   of   Court,   as  
amended,  viz.:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary  
Section   27.  Disbarment   or   suspension   of   attorneys   by   Supreme   Court,   grounds   therefor.   —   A  
member  of  the  bar  may  be  disbarred  or  suspended  from  his  office  as  attorney  by  the  Supreme  
Court   for   any   deceit,   malpractice,   or   other   gross   misconduct   in   such   office,   grossly   immoral  
conduct,   or   by   reason   of   his   conviction   of   a   crime   involving   moral   turpitude,   or   for   any   violation  
of   the   oath   which   he   is   required   to   take   before   the   admission   to   practice,   or   for   a   wilful  
disobedience   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.  
The   complainants'   allegations   of   the   respondents'   acts   and   omissions   are   insufficient   to  
establish   any   censurable   conduct   against   them.  
 
Section   10   of   Presidential   Decree   No.   1529   (Property   Registration   Decree)   enumerates   the  
general  duties  of  the  Register  of  Deeds,  as  follows:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary  
Section   10.  General   functions   of   Registers   of   Deeds.   -­‐   x   x   x  
 
It  shall  be  the  duty  of  the  Register  of  Deeds  to  immediately   register  an  instrument  presented  for  
registration   dealing   with   real   or   personal   property   which   complies   with   all   the   requisites   for  
registration.   He   shall   see   to   it   that   said   instrument   bears   the   proper   documentary   science  
stamps   and   that   the   same   are   properly   canceled.   If   the   instrument   is   not   registrable,   he   shall  
forthwith   deny   registration   thereof   and   inform   the   presenter   of   such   denial   in   writing,   stating  
the   ground   or   reason   therefor,   and   advising   him   of   his   right   to   appeal   by  consulta  in   accordance  
with  Section  117  of  this  Decree.  (Emphasis  supplied)  
The  aforementioned  duty  of  the  Register  of  Deeds  is  ministerial  in  nature.21  A  purely  ministerial  
act  or  duty  is  one  that  an  officer  or  tribunal  performs  in  a  given  state  of  facts,  in  a  prescribed  
manner,  in  obedience  to  the  mandate  of  a  legal  authority,  without  regard  to  or  the  exercise  of  
his  own  judgment  upon  the  propriety  or  impropriety  of  the  act  done.  If  the  law  imposes  a  duty  
upon   a   public   officer   and   gives   him   the   right   to   decide   how   or   when   the   duty   shall   be  
performed,   such   duty   is   discretionary,   not   ministerial.   The   duty   is   ministerial   only   when   its  
discharge   requires   neither   the   exercise   of   official   discretion   nor   the   exercise   of   judgment.22  
 
In  Gabriel   v.   Register   of   Deeds   of   Rizal,23  the   Court   underscores   that   registration   is   a   merely  
ministerial  act  of  the  Register  of  Deeds,  explaining:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary  
xxx   [W]hether   the   document   is   invalid,   frivolous   or   intended   to   harass,   is   not   the   duty   of   a  
Register  of  Deeds  to  decide,  but  a  court  of  competent  jurisdiction,  and  that  it  is  his  concern  to  
see   whether   the   documents   sought   to   be   registered   conform   with   the   formal   and   legal  
requirements  for  such  documents.  
In   view   of   the   foregoing,   we   find   no   abuse   of   authority   or   irregularity   committed   by   Atty.  
Quilala,   Atty.   Cunanan,   and   Atty.   Caluya,   Jr.   with   respect   to   the   cancellation   of   the   notice   of  
adverse  claim  and  the  notice  of  lis  pendens  annotated  on  TCT  No.  N-­‐290546.  Whether  or  not  the  
RTC   order   dated   May   16,   2008   or   the   letter-­‐request   dated   June   30,   2008   had   been   falsified,  
fraudulent   or   invalid   was   not   for   them   to   determine   inasmuch   as   their   duty   to   examine  
documents   presented   for   registration   was   limited   only   to   what   appears   on   the   face   of   the  
documents.   If,   upon   their   evaluation   of   the   letter-­‐request   and   the   RTC   order,   they   found   the  
same   to   be   sufficient   in   law   and   t]o   be   in   conformity   with   existing   requirements,   it   became  
obligatory   for   them   to   perform   their   ministerial   duty   without   unnecessary   delay.24  
 
Should   they   be   aggrieved   by   said   respondents'   performance   of   duty,   complainants   were   not  
bereft   of   any   remedy   because   they   could   challenge   the   performance   of   duty   by   bringing   the  
matter  by  way  of  consultawith  the  LRA,  as  provided  by  Section  11725  of  Presidential  Decree  No.  
1529.   But,   as   enunciated   in  Gabriel   v.   Register   of   Deeds   of   Rizal,26  it   was   ultimately   within   the  
province   of   a   court   of   competent   jurisdiction   to   resolve   issues   concerning   the   validity   or  
invalidity   of   a   document   registered   by   the   Register   of   Deeds.  
 
The   complainants   charge   Atty.   Victorio,   Jr.   and   Atty.   Tolentino,   Jr.   with   having   conspired   with  
each  other  to  guarantee  that  the  parties  in  Civil  Case  No.  Q-­‐59598  would  enter  into  the  amicable  
settlement,  and  then  to  cause  the  cancellation  of  the  affidavit  of  adverse  claim  and  notice  of  lis  
pendens  annotated  on  TCT  No.  N-­‐290546.  The  complainants  further  fault  Atty.  Victorio,  Jr.  with  
having   abandoned   their   cause   since   the   issuance   of   the   RTC   of   its   order   dated   May   16,   2008.  
 
The   complainants'   charges   are   devoid   of   substance.  
 
Although   it   is   not   necessary   to   prove   a   formal   agreement   in   order   to   establish   conspiracy  
because  conspiracy  may  be  inferred  from  the  circumstances  attending  the  commission  of  an  act,  
it  is  nonetheless  essential  that  conspiracy  be  established  by  clear  and  convincing  evidence.27  The  
complainants   failed   in   this   regard.   Outside   of   their   bare   assertions   that   Atty.   Victorio,   Jr.   and  
Atty.   Tolentino,   Jr.   had   conspired   with   each   other   in   order   to   cause   the   dismissal   of   the  
complaint  and  then  discharge  of  the  annotations,  they  presented  no  evidence  to  support  their  
allegation  of  conspiracy.  On  the  contrary,  the  records  indicated  their  own  active  pjarticipation  in  
arriving   at   the   amicable   settlement   with   the   defendants   in   Civil   Case   No.   Q-­‐07-­‐59598.   Hence,  
they   could   not   now   turn   their   backs   on   the   amicable   settlement   that   they   had   themselves  
entered   into.  
 
Even   assuming   that   Atty.   Victorio,   Jr.   and   Atty.   Tolentino,   Jr.   initiated   ahd   participated   in   the  
settlement   of   the   case,   there   was   nothing   wrong   in   their   doing   so.   It   was   actually   their  
obligation   as   lawyers   to   do   so,   pursuant   to   Rule   1.04,   Canon   1   of   the  Code   of   Professional  
Responsibility,  viz.:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary  
RULE   1.04   -­‐   A   lawyer   shall   encourage   his   clients   to   avoid,   end   or   settle   a   controversy   if   it   will  
admit  of  a  fair  settlement.  
In  fine,  the  presumption  of  the  validity  of  the  amicable  settlement  of  the  complainants  and  the  
defendants   in   Civil   Case   No.   Q-­‐07-­‐59598   subsisted.28  
 
Anent  the  complainants'  charge  of  abandonment  against  Atty.  Victorio,  Jr.,  Rule  18.03  and  Rule  
18.04,   Canon   18   of   the  Code   of   Professional   Responsibility  are   applicable,   to  
wit:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary  
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  client's  request  for  information.  
There   is   no   issue   that   the   complainants   engaged   the   services   of   Atty.   Victorio,   Jr.   as   their  
counsel   in   Civil   Case   No.   Q-­‐07-­‐59598.   Atty.   Victorio,   Jr.   served   as   such   counsel.   With   Atty.  
Victorio,  Jr.  assistance,  the  complainants  obtained  a  fair  settlement  consisting  in  receiving  half  
of   the   proceeds   of   the   sale   of   the   property  in   litis,   without   any   portion   of   the   proceeds   accruing  
to  counsel  as  his  legal  fees.  The  complainants  did  not  competently  and  persuasively  show  any  
unfaithfulness   on   the   part   of   Atty.   Victorio,   Jr.   as   far   as   their   interest   in   the   litigation   was  
concerned.   Hence,   Atty.   Victorio,   Jr.   was   not   liable   for   abandonment.  
 
Atty.   Victorio,   Jr.   could   not   be   faulted   for   the   perceived   inattention   to   any   other   matters  
subsequent   to   the   termination   of   Civil   Case   No.   Q-­‐07-­‐59598.   Unless   otherwise   expressly  
stipulated  between  them  at  any  time  during  the  engagement,  the  complainants  had  no  right  to  
assume   that   Atty.   Victorio,   Jr.'s   legal   representation   was   indefinite   as   to   extend   to   his  
representation   of   them   in   the   LRA.   The   Law   Profession   did   not   burden   its   members   with   the  
responsibility   of   indefinite   service   to   the   clients;   hence,   the   rendition   of   professional   services  
depends   on   the   agreement   between   the   attorney   and   the   client.   Atty.   Victorio,   Jr.'s   alleged  
failure  to  respond  to  the  complainants'  calls  or  visits,  or  to  provide  them  with  his  whereabouts  
to  enable  them  to  have  access  to  him  despite  the  termination  of  his  engagement  in  Civil  Case  
No.   Q-­‐07-­‐59598   did   not   equate   to   abandonment   without   the   credible   showing   that   he  
continued  to  come  under  the  professional  obligation  towards  them  after  the  termination  of  Civil  
Case   No.   Q-­‐07-­‐59598.cralawred  
 
WHEREFORE,  the   Court  DISMISSES  the   baseless   disbarment   complaints   against   Atty.   Federico   S.  
Tolentino,   Jr.,   Atty.   Renato   G.   Cunanan,   Atty.   Daniel   F.   Victorio,   Jr.,   Atty.   Elbert   T.   Quilala   and  
Atty.   Constante   P.   Caluya,   Jr.  
 
SO  ORDERED.chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary