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REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES

Integrated Bar of the Philippines


Office of the Bar Confidant
Dona Julia Vargas Avenue, Ortigas Center,
Pasig City, Metro Manila

Rural Bank of Capiz


Thru: Atty. Picolo Pascual, as counsel,
Complainant,

-versus- ADM. Case No. 1234


For: Disbarment
Atty. Coco Martin,
Respondents.
x--------------------------------x

VERIFIED DISBARMENT COMPLAINT/LETTER-AFFIDAVIT

Your Honor,
I, the undersigned petitioner, Atty. Picolo Pascual, under oath, as complainant in this
case, most respectfully depose and say, that:

I. Aces Corporation is the former owner of Ace Academy. It appeared that Aces
Corporation suffered financial reversals due to mismanagement, so it has to mortgage its
assets (including Lot 1234) to Rural Bank of Capiz (RBC for brevity), and upon non-
payment of the debt, the property was acquired by RBC thru public auction. Despite the
fact that Lot 1234 was auctioned in favour of RBC, Ace Academy and the office of Ace
Corporation is still standing on the said lot.

II. The members of the Board of the RBC met and decided that Lot 1234 will be used as a
site for its main branch; hence, the occupants must vacate the property. Aces
Corporation and Aces Academy refused to vacate Lot 1234 despite several demands.
RBC filed and won in an ejectment case relative to Lot 1234 and said decision was
affirmed by the RTC and the CA. A writ of execution was issued by the Court for the Ace
Academy and Aces Corporation to vacate the property.

III. While on process of consolidating its title over Lot 1234, Atty. Coco Martin, a counsel of
record of Ace Academy, offered to buy the property (Lot 1234) for P20 million from RBC
thru a Corporation known as COCOMART, INC. RBC agreed and a contract to sell as
signed by Atty. Coco as the President of COCOMART, INC. with the payment of 20% of
the contract price upon the execution of Contract to Sell and to pay the balance on
installment basis, the first payment of which is P3 million pesos. It is further stated in the
contract that the parties submit to the jurisdiction of the court which rendered the
decision in the ejectment case.
IV. Atty. Coco however failed to pay his first and subsequent amortization and failed to heed
the demand letters sent by RBC. Thereafter a Notice of Cancellation and Demand for
Rescission was sent to Atty. Coco by RBC. RBC further filed a Motion for the issuance of
Alias Writ of Execution with MTC Roxas City.
V. Atty. Coco opposed the Motion for issuance of Alias Writ of Execution on grounds of lack
of jurisdiction, upon my investigation, as RBC’s counsel, it was found out that
COCOMART, INC.’s incorporators are the two (2) daughters and the wife of Atty. Coco.
Furthermore, the son-in-law of Atty. Coco is a member of the Board of Ace Academy.
VI. The personnel of COCOMART, INC., entered the premises of Lot 1234 and insisted that
they are taking over the management of Ace Academy.

THE ACCUSATION/CHARGES

With Legal Argument and Memorandum of Law/Authorities


With due respect-

Undersigned complainant charges/accuses respondents with---

I. Malpractice of Law in connection with violation of Canon 1 of the Code of


Professional Responsibility.

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

The Respondent, Atty. Coco, purchased Lot 1234 from Rural Bank of Capiz, that was formerly
owned by Aces Corporation and Ace Academy, which he was happened to be the counsel on
record during the ejectment case (Annex A- judgment of the ejectment case against Ace
Corporation and Ace Academy). RBC was still on the process of consolidating the title of the
property when Atty. Coco purchased it. Article 1491 of the New Civil Code, specifically prohibits
lawyers or counsels to purchase any property and rights which may be the object of any
litigation in which they may take part by virtue of their profession.

To wit:

ART. 1491. The following persons cannot acquire by purchase, even at a public or judicial
auction, either in person or through the mediation of another:

xxx xxx xxx

5. Justices, judges, prosecuting attorneys, clerks of superior and inferior courts, and
other officers and employees connected with the administration of justice, the property
and rights in litigation or levied upon an execution before the court within whose
jurisdiction or territory they exercise their respective functions; this prohibition includes
the act of acquiring by assignment and shall apply to lawyers, with respect to the
property and rights which may be the object of any litigation in which they may take part
by virtue of their profession.

In the case of Hernandez vs. Villanueza, 40 Phil., 775; In re Calderon, 7 Phil. 427, the property
being thus in suit, which the respondent was waging on behalf of his clients, his acquisition
thereof by the deed of sale, constitutes malpractice. In Gatingco vs. Pabinguit, 35 Phil 81, a
thing is said to be in litigation not only if there is some contest or litigation over it in court but
also from the moment it becomes subject to the judicial action of the judge.

In support of Article 1491, Canon 10 of the Code of Professional Ethics prohibits the lawyer to
purchase any interest in the subject matter of litigation which he is conducting. Atty. Coco was
the counsel on record of Ace Academy when the ejectment case was filed. Since the property
he purchased was the subject matter of the litigation and he was the counsel on record, by
operation of law, he is barred to purchase such property.

Canon 11 of the Code of Professional Ethics further support the prohibition of a lawyer to
purchase a property or right which is a subject of the litigation, which provides, the lawyer
should refrain from any action whereby for his personal benefit or gain he abuses or takes
advantage of the confidence reposed in him by his client.

II. Violation of Rule 1.01, Canon 1 of the Code of Professional Responsibility

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

The Respondent, Atty. Coco Martin, entered into a Contract to Sell (Annex B- Contract to Sell)
with Rural Bank of Capiz for the sale of Lot 1234 (10 hectares land where Ace Corporation and
Ace Academy is erected) for the amount of P20 million from RBC thru a Corporation known as
COCOMART, INC and signed by Atty. Coco as the President of COCOMART, INC. with the
payment of 20% of the contract price and to pay the balance on installment basis, the first
payment of which is P3 million pesos. It is further stated in the contract that the parties submit
to the jurisdiction of the court which rendered the decision in the ejectment case.

Atty. Coco however failed to pay his first and subsequent amortization and failed to heed the
demand letters (Annex C- Demand Letters) sent by RBC. Thereafter a Notice of Cancellation and
Demand for Recission (Annex D- Notice of Cancellation and Demand for Recission) was sent to
Atty. Coco by RBC.

In Lao vs. Medel, the Supreme Court ruled that “lawyers must at all times faithfully perform
their duties to society, to the bar, to the courts and to their clients. As part of those duties, they
must promptly pay their financial obligations. Their conduct must always reflect the values and
norms of the legal profession as embodied in the Code of Professional Responsibility. On these
considerations, the Court may disbar or suspend lawyers for any professional or private
misconduct showing them to be wanting in moral character, honesty, probity and good
demeanor -- or to be unworthy to continue as officers of the Court.”

While it is true that Atty. Coco executed the contract to sell in his private capacity, however, he
must still pay his financial obligations for the want of moral character, honesty, probity and good
demeanor. Failure to pay was proven by RBC sending him several demand letters to satisfy the
remaining financial obligation for the purchase of Lot 1234 and such failure was further
supported by the Notice of Cancellation and Demand for Rescission. The failure of Atty. Coco to
pay RBC the remaining balance constitutes an unlawful act and dishonesty.

III. Violation of Canon 17 of the Code of Professional Responsibility

Canon 17- A lawyer owes fidelity to the cause of his client and he shall be mindful of the trust
and confidence reposed in him.

The very first Canon of the new Code states that "a lawyer shall uphold the Constitution, obey
the laws of the land and promote respect for law and legal process.” Moreover, Rule 138, Sec. 3
of the Revised Rules of Court requires every lawyer to take an oath to obey the laws [of the
Republic of the Philippines] as well as the legal orders of the duly constituted authorities
therein." And for any violation of this oath, a lawyer may be suspended or disbarred by the
Supreme Court [Rule 138, Sec. 27, Revised Rules of Court]. All of these underscore the role of
the lawyer as the vanguard of our legal system. The transgression of any provision of law by a
lawyer is a repulsive and reprehensible act which the Court will not countenance. In the instant
case, respondent, having violated Art. 1491 of the Civil Code, must be held accountable both to
his client and to society.

Parenthetically, it should be noted that the persons mentioned in Art. 1491 of the Civil Code are
prohibited from purchasing the property mentioned therein because of their existing trust
relationship with the latter. A lawyer is disqualified from acquiring by purchase the property and
rights in litigation because of his fiduciary relationship with such property and rights, as well as
with the client. And it cannot be claimed that the new Code of Professional Responsibility has
failed to emphasize the nature and consequences of such relationship. Canon 17 states that "a
lawyer owes fidelity to the cause of his client and he shall be mindful of the trust and
confidence reposed in him." On the other hand, Canon 16 provides that "a lawyer shall hold in
trust all moneys and properties of his client that may come into his possession." Hence,
notwithstanding the absence of a specific provision on the matter in the new Code, the Court,
considering the abovequoted provisions of the new Code in relation to Art. 1491 of the Civil
Code, as well as the prevailing jurisprudence, holds that the purchase by a lawyer of his client's
property in litigation constitutes a breach of professional ethics for which a disciplinary action
may be brought against him. (Bautista v. Gonzales, AM No. 1625, Feb.12,1990)

Respondent, Atty. Coco, even knowing that the property is the subject matter of litigation in an
ejecment case on which he happened to be the counsel, still proceeded with the sale, which he
as lawyer, should have known that he is barred from purchasing any property or right which is a
subject of the litigation. The transgression of any provision of law by a lawyer is a repulsive and
reprehensible act which the Court will not countenance. Atty. Coco, having violated Art. 1491 of the New
Civil Code, must be held accountable both to his client and to society.

IV. Violation of the Lawyer’s oath

I, do solemnly swear that I will maintain allegiance to the Republic of the Philippines, I will
support the Constitution and obey the laws as well as the legal orders of the duly constituted
authorities therein; I will do no falsehood, nor consent to the doing of any in court; I will not
wittingly or willingly promote or sue any groundless, false or unlawful suit, or give aid nor
consent to the same; I will delay no man for money or malice, and will conduct myself as a
lawyer according to the best of my knowledge and discretion, with all good fidelity as well to the
courts as to my clients; and I impose upon myself these voluntary obligations without any
mental reservation or purpose of evasion. So help me God.

The Respondent, Atty. Coco has violated the Lawyer’s oath on the failure to obey the law for
violating Article 1491 of the New Civil Code, where lawyers are barred or prohibited to purchase
any property or right which is the subject matter of the litigation. Atty. Coco also failed to
observe good fidelity to his client. He has took for granted the trust reposed to him by his client,
Ace Corporation and Ace Academy, when he him purchased the property where the office of his
client is erected.

The legal profession dictates that it is not a mere duty, but an obligation, of a lawyer to accord
the highest degree of fidelity, zeal and fervor in the protection of the client’s interest. (Penilla v.
Alcid, AC No. 9149, Sept. 4, 2013) The transgression of any provision of law by a lawyer is a repulsive
and reprehensible act which the Court will not countenance. Atty. Coco, having violated Art. 1491 of the
Civil Code, must be held accountable both to his client and to society.

RELIEF

IN THE LIGHT OF THE FOREGOING, it is respectfully prayed that the instant VERIFIED
DISBARMENT COMPLAINT/LETTER-AFFIDAVIT against respondents, Atty. Coco Martin, be duly
NOTED, ADMITTED, GIVEN DUE COURSE and GRANTED.

Further, it is respectfully prayed, that- after filing of respondent’s ANSWER, and after due
notice, hearing, and report of the Commissioner/Investigator, - judgment be rendered declaring
him GUILTY of all the charges and that supreme penalty of DISBARMENT be imposed upon him,
ordering that his name be stricken from the Roll of Attorneys, and punished accordingly under
Rule 139-B, Revised Rules of Court, inter alia.

Special Prayer:
Furthermore, petitioner most respectfully petitions this Court – to SUSPEND Atty. Coco
Martin, pendente lite, from the practice of law, indefinitely and until further orders from this
Honorable Court, and that the suspension should take effect immediately.

Other relief and remedies are likewise prayed for.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I signed this pleading – letter-affidavit-complaint, this First


Monday, 4th day of October, 2019 at Iloilo City.

ATTY. LARRY PESTANO


Counsel for thePetitioner
Roll No. 181296
IBP No. 0606199, 1/19/2020, Iloilo City
MCLE Compliance No. V-00001203
January 12, 2020, Pasig City