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Cayetano v.

Monsod (Dim)
September 3, 1991 | Justice Paras | Meaning of “Practice of Law” 4. Atty. Monsod, after graduating from the UP College of Law, worked in his
As a lawyer in the law office of his father (1960-1963), As an operations
PETITIONER: Renato Cayetano officer with the World Bank Group at Panama and Costa Rica(1963-1970),
RESPONDENTS: Christian Monsod, Hon. Jovito Salonga, Commision on As a Chief Executive Officer of an investment bank (1970-1986), As a legal
Appointment, and Hon. Guillermo Carague, in his capacity as Secretary of Budget or economic consultant on various companies (1 986), As Secretary General
and Management of NAMFREL (1986), As a member of Constitutional Commission (1986-
1987) As National Chairman of NAMFREL (1987); and as a member of
SUMMARY: Christian Monsod was nominated by President Corazon C. Aquino to the quasi-judicial Davide Commission (1990).
the position of chairman of the COMELEC. Renato Cayetano opposed the
nomination because allegedly Monsod does not possess required qualification of 5. The 1987 Constitution provides in Section 1 (1), Article IX-C:
having been engaged in the practice of law for at least ten years. The 1987
There shall be a Commission on Elections composed of a
constitution provides that a majority of the Commissioners, including the Chairman,
Chairman and six Commissioners who shall be natural-born
shall be members of the Philippine Bar who have been engaged in the practice of
citizens of the Philippines and, at the time of their appointment, at
law for at least ten years. The Supreme Court dismissed the petition of Cayetano and
least thirty-five years of age, holders of a college degree, and must
held that the Commission on Appointments did not exercise grave abuse of
not have been candidates for any elective position in the
discretion in confirming the appointment of Monsod as COMELEC Chairman.
immediately preceding -elections. However, a majority thereof,
Practice of law means any activity, in or out court, which requires the application of
including the Chairman, shall be members of the Philippine
law, legal procedure, knowledge, training and experience. Monsod’s past work
Bar who have been engaged in the practice of law for at least
experience as a lawyer-economist, a lawyer-manager, a lawyer-entrepreneur of
ten years.
industry, a lawyer-negotiator of contracts, and a lawyer-legislator of both rich and
the poor – verily more than satisfy the constitutional requirement for the position of
COMELEC Chairman. ISSUES:
(1) WoN Christian Monsod has satisfied the constitutional qualification of
DOCTRINE: To engage in the practice of law is to perform those acts which are having been engaged in the practice of law for at least 10 years? - YES.
characteristics of the profession. Generally, to practice law is to give notice or render (2) WoN the CoA committed grave abuse of discretion in confirming Atty.
any kind of service, which device or service requires the use in any degree of legal Monsod's appointment – NO.
knowledge or skill. In general, a practice of law requires a lawyer and client
relationship, it is whether in or out of court. RULING: WHEREFORE, the petition is DISMISSED.

FACTS: RATIO:
1. On April of 1991, Atty. Christian Monsod was nominated, by then President On the credentials of Atty. Monsod
Corazon Aquino, to the position of COMELEC Chairman in a letter 1. The contention that Atty. Monsod does not posses the required qualification
received by the Commission on Appointments (CoA). This nomination of having engaged in the practice of law for at least ten years is incorrect
was contested by Atty. Renato Cayetano on the ground that Atty. since Atty. Monsod’s past work experience as a lawyer-economist, a
Monsod did not possess the required qualification of having been lawyer-manager, a lawyer-entrepreneur of industry, a lawyer-
engaged in the “practice of law” for at least ten years. negotiator of contracts, and a lawyer-legislator of both rich and the
poor – verily more than satisfy the constitutional requirement for the
2. The CoA confirmed the appointment, which allowed Atty. Monsod to position of COMELEC Chairman, therefore Christian Monsod has been
assume the office of the chairman. engaged in the practice of law for at least ten years.

3. Atty. Cayetano challenged the validity of the confirmation by the CoA of Meaning of the Practice of Law
Atty. Monsod's nomination, as a citizen and taxpayer, by filing a Petition for 2. The case of Philippine Lawyers Association v. Agrava stated that :
Certiorari and Prohibition praying that said confirmation and the consequent ◦ ”The practice of law is not limited to the conduct of cases
appointment of Atty. Monsod as Chairman of the Commission on Elections or litigation in court; it embraces the preparation of pleadings and
be declared null and void. other papers incident to actions and special proceedings, the
management of such actions and proceedings on behalf of clients
before judges and courts, and in addition, conveying. In general, 2. Therefore, a doctor of medicine who is employed and is habitually
all advice to clients, and all action taken for them in matters connected performing the tasks of a nursing aide, cannot be said to be in the "practice
with the law”......”where the work done involves the determination of medicine." A certified public accountant who works as a clerk, cannot be
by the trained legal mind of the legal effect of facts and said to practice his profession as an accountant. In the same way, a lawyer
conditions. “ who is employed as a business executive or a corporate manager, other
than as head or attorney of a Legal Department of a corporation or a
3. The records of the 1986 Constitutional Commission show that it has governmental agency, cannot be said to be in the practice of law.
adopted a liberal interpretation of the term “practice of law”:
◦ “....we would like to make the clarification that this provision on 3. Given the employment or job history of respondent Monsod as appears
qualifications regarding members of the Bar does not necessarily refer from the records, I am persuaded that if ever he did perform any of the
or involve actual practice of law outside the COA We have to tasks which constitute the practice of law, he did not do so
interpret this to mean that as long as the lawyers who are employed HABITUALLY for at least ten (10) years prior to his appointment as
in the COA are using their legal knowledge or legal talent in their COMELEC Chairman.
respective work within COA, then they are qualified to be
considered for appointment as members or commissioners, even Cruz, J., dissenting:
chairman, of the Commission on Audit.” (in this discussion, the CoA 1. I fear that the ponencia may have been too sweeping in its definition of
commissioner also used practice of law as one of the qualifications) the phrase "practice of law" as to render the qualification practically
toothless. From the numerous activities accepted as embraced in the term, I
4. Practice of law means any activity, in or out of court, which requires have the uncomfortable feeling that one does not even have to be a lawyer
the application of law, legal procedure, knowledge, training and to be engaged in the practice of law as long as his activities involve the
experience. "To engage in the practice of law is to perform those acts which application of some law.
are characteristics of the profession. Generally, to practice law is to give
notice or render any kind of service, which device or service requires 2. The respondent's credentials are impressive, to be sure, but they do not
the use in any degree of legal knowledge or skill." (111 ALR 23) persuade me that he has been engaged in the practice of law for ten years as
required by the Constitution. It is conceded that he has been engaged in
CoA did not exercise grave abuse of discretion business and finance, in which areas he has distinguished himself, but
5. The power of the CoA to give consent to the nomination of the COMELEC as an executive and economist and not as a practicing lawyer. The plain
Chairman by the president is mandated by the constitution. The power of fact is that he has occupied the various positions listed in his resume by
appointment is essentially within the the discretion of whom it is so vested virtue of his experience and prestige as a businessman and not as an
subject to the only condition that the appointee should possess the attorney-at-law whose principal attention is focused on the law. Even if it
qualification required by law. be argued that he was acting as a lawyer when he lobbied in Congress
for agrarian and urban reform, served in the NAMFREL and the
Separate Opinions: Constitutional Commission (together with non-lawyers like farmers
and priests) and was a member of the Davide Commission, he has not
Narvasa, J., concurring: proved that his activities in these capacities extended over the
1. No grave abuse of discretion can be seen from the CoA's confirmation of prescribed 10-year period of actual practice of the law. He is doubtless
Atty. Monsod's appointment as COMELEC Chairman. eminently qualified for many other positions worthy of his abundant talents
but not as Chairman of the Commission on Elections.
Padilla, J., dissenting:
1. What constitutes practice of law? As commonly understood, "practice" Gutierrez, Jr., dissenting:
refers to the actual performance or application of knowledge as 1. Engaging in the practice of law is a qualification not only for COMELEC
distinguished from mere possession of knowledge; it connotes chairman but also for appointment to the Supreme Court and all lower
an active, habitual,repeated or customary action. To "practice" law, or any courts. What kind of Judges or Justices will we have if there main
profession for that matter, means, to exercise or pursue an employment occupation is selling real estate, managing a business corporation, serving
or profession actively, habitually, repeatedly or customarily. in fact-finding committee, working in media, or operating a farm with no
active involvement in the law, whether in Government or private practice,
except that in one joyful moment in the distant past, they happened to pass
the bar examinations?

2. The Constitution uses the phrase "engaged in the practice of law for at
least ten years." The deliberate choice of words shows that the practice
envisioned is active and regular, not isolated, occasional, accidental,
intermittent, incidental, seasonal, or extemporaneous. To be "engaged"
in an activity for ten years requires committed participation in
something which is the result of one's decisive choice. It means that one
is occupied and involved in the enterprise; one is obliged or pledged to
carry it out with intent and attention during the ten-year period.

3. I regret that I cannot join in playing fast and loose with a term, which even
an ordinary layman accepts as having a familiar and customary well-defined
meaning. Every resident of this country who has reached the age of
discernment has to know, follow, or apply the law at various times in his
life. Legal knowledge is useful if not necessary for the business
executive, legislator, mayor, barangay captain, teacher, policeman,
farmer, fisherman, market vendor, and student to name only a few. And
yet, can these people honestly assert that as such, they are engaged in
the practice of law?

4. For one's actions to come within the purview of practice of law they
should not only be activities peculiar to the work of a lawyer, they
should also be performed, habitually, frequently or customarily.