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Republic of the Philippines

SUPREME COURT
Manila

EN BANC

G.R. No. 176278               June 25, 2010

ALAN F. PAGUIA, Petitioner, 
vs.
OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT, SECRETARY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS, and HON. HILARIO
DAVIDE, JR. in his capacity as Permanent Representative of the Philippines to the United
Nations, Respondents.

RESOLUTION

CARPIO, J.:

At issue is the power of Congress to limit the President’s prerogative to nominate ambassadors by
legislating age qualifications despite the constitutional rule limiting Congress’ role in the appointment
of ambassadors to the Commission on Appointments’ confirmation of nominees. 1 However, for lack
of a case or controversy grounded on petitioner’s lack of capacity to sue and mootness, 2 we dismiss
the petition without reaching the merits, deferring for another day the resolution of the question
raised, novel and fundamental it may be.

Petitioner Alan F. Paguia (petitioner), as citizen and taxpayer, filed this original action for the writ of
certiorari to invalidate President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s nomination of respondent former Chief
Justice Hilario G. Davide, Jr. (respondent Davide) as Permanent Representative to the United
Nations (UN) for violation of Section 23 of Republic Act No. 7157 (RA 7157), the Philippine Foreign
Service Act of 1991. Petitioner argues that respondent Davide’s age at that time of his nomination in
March 2006, 70, disqualifies him from holding his post. Petitioner grounds his argument on Section
23 of RA 7157 pegging the mandatory retirement age of all officers and employees of the
Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) at 65.3 Petitioner theorizes that Section 23 imposes an absolute
rule for all DFA employees, career or non-career; thus, respondent Davide’s entry into the DFA
ranks discriminates against the rest of the DFA officials and employees.

In their separate Comments, respondent Davide, the Office of the President, and the Secretary of
Foreign Affairs (respondents) raise threshold issues against the petition. First, they question
petitioner’s standing to bring this suit because of his indefinite suspension from the practice of
law.4 Second, the Office of the President and the Secretary of Foreign Affairs (public respondents)
argue that neither petitioner’s citizenship nor his taxpayer status vests him with standing to question
respondent Davide’s appointment because petitioner remains without personal and substantial
interest in the outcome of a suit which does not involve the taxing power of the state or the illegal
disbursement of public funds. Third, public respondents question the propriety of this petition,
contending that this suit is in truth a petition for quo warranto which can only be filed by a contender
for the office in question.

On the eligibility of respondent Davide, respondents counter that Section 23’s mandated retirement
age applies only to career diplomats, excluding from its ambit non-career appointees such as
respondent Davide.
The petition presents no case or controversy for petitioner’s lack of capacity to sue and mootness.

First. Petitioner’s citizenship and taxpayer status do not clothe him with standing to bring this suit.
We have granted access to citizen’s suits on the narrowest of ground: when they raise issues of
"transcendental" importance calling for urgent resolution. 5 Three factors are relevant in our
determination to allow third party suits so we can reach and resolve the merits of the crucial issues
raised – the character of funds or assets involved in the controversy, a clear disregard of
constitutional or statutory prohibition, and the lack of any other party with a more direct and specific
interest to bring the suit.6 None of petitioner’s allegations comes close to any of these parameters.
Indeed, implicit in a petition seeking a judicial interpretation of a statutory provision on the retirement
of government personnel occasioned by its seemingly ambiguous crafting is the admission that a
"clear disregard of constitutional or statutory prohibition" is absent. Further, the DFA is not devoid of
personnel with "more direct and specific interest to bring the suit." Career ambassadors forced to
leave the service at the mandated retirement age unquestionably hold interest far more substantial
and personal than petitioner’s generalized interest as a citizen in ensuring enforcement of the law. 1avvphi1

The same conclusion holds true for petitioner’s invocation of his taxpayer status. Taxpayers’
contributions to the state’s coffers entitle them to question appropriations for expenditures which are
claimed to be unconstitutional or illegal.7 However, the salaries and benefits respondent Davide
received commensurate to his diplomatic rank are fixed by law and other executive issuances, the
funding for which was included in the appropriations for the DFA’s total expenditures contained in
the annual budgets Congress passed since respondent Davide’s nomination. Having assumed office
under color of authority (appointment), respondent Davide is at least a de facto officer entitled to
draw salary,8 negating petitioner’s claim of "illegal expenditure of scarce public funds." 9

Second. An incapacity to bring legal actions peculiar to petitioner also obtains. Petitioner’s
suspension from the practice of law bars him from performing "any activity, in or out of court, which
requires the application of law, legal procedure, knowledge, training and experience." 10 Certainly,
preparing a petition raising carefully crafted arguments on equal protection grounds and employing
highly legalistic rules of statutory construction to parse Section 23 of RA 7157 falls within the
proscribed conduct.

Third. A supervening event has rendered this case academic and the relief prayed for moot.
Respondent Davide resigned his post at the UN on 1 April 2010.

WHEREFORE, we DISMISS the petition.

SO ORDERED.
Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila

EN BANC

Bar Matter No. 553 June 17, 1993

MAURICIO C. ULEP, petitioner, 
vs.
THE LEGAL CLINIC, INC., respondent.

R E SO L U T I O N

REGALADO, J.:

Petitioner prays this Court "to order the respondent to cease and desist from issuing advertisements
similar to or of the same tenor as that of annexes "A" and "B" (of said petition) and to perpetually
prohibit persons or entities from making advertisements pertaining to the exercise of the law
profession other than those allowed by law."

The advertisements complained of by herein petitioner are as follows:

Annex A

SECRET MARRIAGE?
P560.00 for a valid marriage.
Info on DIVORCE. ABSENCE.
ANNULMENT. VISA.

THE Please call: 521-0767 LEGAL 5217232, 5222041 CLINIC, INC. 8:30 am— 6:00
pm 7-Flr. Victoria Bldg., UN Ave., Mla.

Annex B

GUAM DIVORCE.

DON PARKINSON

an Attorney in Guam, is giving FREE BOOKS on Guam Divorce through The Legal
Clinic beginning Monday to Friday during office hours.

Guam divorce. Annulment of Marriage. Immigration Problems, Visa Ext. Quota/Non-


quota Res. & Special Retiree's Visa. Declaration of Absence. Remarriage to Filipina
Fiancees. Adoption. Investment in the Phil. US/Foreign Visa for Filipina
Spouse/Children. Call Marivic.
THE 7F Victoria Bldg. 429 UN Ave., LEGAL Ermita, Manila nr. US Embassy CLINIC,
INC. Tel. 521-7232; 521-7251; 522-2041; 521-0767
1

It is the submission of petitioner that the advertisements above reproduced are champterous,
unethical, demeaning of the law profession, and destructive of the confidence of the community in
the integrity of the members of the bar and that, as a member of the legal profession, he is ashamed
and offended by the said advertisements, hence the reliefs sought in his petition as hereinbefore
quoted.

In its answer to the petition, respondent admits the fact of publication of said advertisement at its
instance, but claims that it is not engaged in the practice of law but in the rendering of "legal support
services" through paralegals with the use of modern computers and electronic machines.
Respondent further argues that assuming that the services advertised are legal services, the act of
advertising these services should be allowed supposedly 
in the light of the case of John R. Bates and Van O'Steen vs. State Bar of Arizona,  reportedly
2

decided by the United States Supreme Court on June 7, 1977.

Considering the critical implications on the legal profession of the issues raised herein, we required
the (1) Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP), (2) Philippine Bar Association (PBA), (3) Philippine
Lawyers' Association (PLA), (4) U.P. Womens Lawyers' Circle (WILOCI), (5) Women Lawyers
Association of the Philippines (WLAP), and (6) Federacion International de Abogadas (FIDA) to
submit their respective position papers on the controversy and, thereafter, their memoranda.   The
3

said bar associations readily responded and extended their valuable services and cooperation of
which this Court takes note with appreciation and gratitude.

The main issues posed for resolution before the Court are whether or not the services offered by
respondent, The Legal Clinic, Inc., as advertised by it constitutes practice of law and, in either case,
whether the same can properly be the subject of the advertisements herein complained of.

Before proceeding with an in-depth analysis of the merits of this case, we deem it proper and
enlightening to present hereunder excerpts from the respective position papers adopted by the
aforementioned bar associations and the memoranda submitted by them on the issues involved in
this bar matter.

1. Integrated Bar of the Philippines:

xxx xxx xxx

Notwithstanding the subtle manner by which respondent endeavored to distinguish


the two terms, i.e., "legal support services" vis-a-vis "legal services", common sense
would readily dictate that the same are essentially without substantial distinction. For
who could deny that document search, evidence gathering, assistance to layman in
need of basic institutional services from government or non-government agencies
like birth, marriage, property, or business registration, obtaining documents like
clearance, passports, local or foreign visas, constitutes practice of law?

xxx xxx xxx

The Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) does not wish to make issue with
respondent's foreign citations. Suffice it to state that the IBP has made its position
manifest, to wit, that it strongly opposes the view espoused by respondent (to the
effect that today it is alright to advertise one's legal services).

The IBP accordingly declares in no uncertain terms its opposition to respondent's act
of establishing a "legal clinic" and of concomitantly advertising the same through
newspaper publications.

The IBP would therefore invoke the administrative supervision of this Honorable
Court to perpetually restrain respondent from undertaking highly unethical activities
in the field of law practice as aforedescribed.
4

xxx xxx xxx

A. The use of the name "The Legal Clinic, Inc." gives the impression that respondent
corporation is being operated by lawyers and that it renders legal services.

While the respondent repeatedly denies that it offers legal services to the public, the
advertisements in question give the impression that respondent is offering legal
services. The Petition in fact simply assumes this to be so, as earlier mentioned,
apparently because this (is) the effect that the advertisements have on the reading
public.

The impression created by the advertisements in question can be traced, first of all,
to the very name being used by respondent — "The Legal Clinic, Inc." Such a name,
it is respectfully submitted connotes the rendering of legal services for legal
problems, just like a medical clinic connotes medical services for medical problems.
More importantly, the term "Legal Clinic" connotes lawyers, as the term medical clinic
connotes doctors.

Furthermore, the respondent's name, as published in the advertisements subject of


the present case, appears with (the) scale(s) of justice, which all the more reinforces
the impression that it is being operated by members of the bar and that it offers legal
services. In addition, the advertisements in question appear with a picture and name
of a person being represented as a lawyer from Guam, and this practically removes
whatever doubt may still remain as to the nature of the service or services being
offered.

It thus becomes irrelevant whether respondent is merely offering "legal support


services" as claimed by it, or whether it offers legal services as any lawyer actively
engaged in law practice does. And it becomes unnecessary to make a distinction
between "legal services" and "legal support services," as the respondent would have
it. The advertisements in question leave no room for doubt in the minds of the
reading public that legal services are being offered by lawyers, whether true or not.

B. The advertisements in question are meant to induce the performance of acts


contrary to law, morals, public order and public policy.

It may be conceded that, as the respondent claims, the advertisements in question


are only meant to inform the general public of the services being offered by it. Said
advertisements, however, emphasize to Guam divorce, and any law student ought to
know that under the Family Code, there is only one instance when a foreign divorce
is recognized, and that is:

Article 26. . . .

Where a marriage between a Filipino citizen and a foreigner is validly


celebrated and a divorce is thereafter validly obtained abroad by the
alien spouse capacitating him or her to remarry, the Filipino spouse
shall have capacity to remarry under Philippine Law.

It must not be forgotten, too, that the Family Code (defines) a marriage as follows:

Article 1. Marriage is special contract of permanent union between a


man and woman entered into accordance with law for the
establishment of conjugal and family life. It is the foundation of the
family and an inviolable social institution whose nature,
consequences, and incidents are governed by law and not subject to
stipulation, except that marriage settlements may fix the property
relation during the marriage within the limits provided by this Code.

By simply reading the questioned advertisements, it is obvious that the message


being conveyed is that Filipinos can avoid the legal consequences of a marriage
celebrated in accordance with our law, by simply going to Guam for a divorce. This is
not only misleading, but encourages, or serves to induce, violation of Philippine law.
At the very least, this can be considered "the dark side" of legal practice, where
certain defects in Philippine laws are exploited for the sake of profit. At worst, this is
outright malpractice.

Rule 1.02. — A lawyer shall not counsel or abet activities aimed at


defiance of the law or at lessening confidence in the legal system.

In addition, it may also be relevant to point out that advertisements such as that
shown in Annex "A" of the Petition, which contains a cartoon of a motor vehicle with
the words "Just Married" on its bumper and seems to address those planning a
"secret marriage," if not suggesting a "secret marriage," makes light of the "special
contract of permanent union," the inviolable social institution," which is how the
Family Code describes marriage, obviously to emphasize its sanctity and inviolability.
Worse, this particular advertisement appears to encourage marriages celebrated in
secrecy, which is suggestive of immoral publication of applications for a marriage
license.

If the article "Rx for Legal Problems" is to be reviewed, it can readily be concluded
that the above impressions one may gather from the advertisements in question are
accurate. The Sharon Cuneta-Gabby Concepcion example alone confirms what the
advertisements suggest. Here it can be seen that criminal acts are being encouraged
or committed 
(a bigamous marriage in Hong Kong or Las Vegas) with impunity simply because the
jurisdiction of Philippine courts does not extend to the place where the crime is
committed.

Even if it be assumed, arguendo, (that) the "legal support services" respondent offers


do not constitute legal services as commonly understood, the advertisements in
question give the impression that respondent corporation is being operated by
lawyers and that it offers legal services, as earlier discussed. Thus, the only logical
consequence is that, in the eyes of an ordinary newspaper reader, members of the
bar themselves are encouraging or inducing the performance of acts which are
contrary to law, morals, good customs and the public good, thereby destroying and
demeaning the integrity of the Bar.

xxx xxx xxx

It is respectfully submitted that respondent should be enjoined from causing the


publication of the advertisements in question, or any other advertisements similar
thereto. It is also submitted that respondent should be prohibited from further
performing or offering some of the services it presently offers, or, at the very least,
from offering such services to the public in general.

The IBP is aware of the fact that providing computerized legal research, electronic
data gathering, storage and retrieval, standardized legal forms, investigators for
gathering of evidence, and like services will greatly benefit the legal profession and
should not be stifled but instead encouraged. However, when the conduct of such
business by non-members of the Bar encroaches upon the practice of law, there can
be no choice but to prohibit such business.

Admittedly, many of the services involved in the case at bar can be better performed
by specialists in other fields, such as computer experts, who by reason of their
having devoted time and effort exclusively to such field cannot fulfill the exacting
requirements for admission to the Bar. To prohibit them from "encroaching" upon the
legal profession will deny the profession of the great benefits and advantages of
modern technology. Indeed, a lawyer using a computer will be doing better than a
lawyer using a typewriter, even if both are (equal) in skill.

Both the Bench and the Bar, however, should be careful not to allow or tolerate the
illegal practice of law in any form, not only for the protection of members of the Bar
but also, and more importantly, for the protection of the public. Technological
development in the profession may be encouraged without tolerating, but instead
ensuring prevention of illegal practice.

There might be nothing objectionable if respondent is allowed to perform all of its


services, but only if such services are made available exclusively to members of the
Bench and Bar. Respondent would then be offering technical assistance, not legal
services. Alternatively, the more difficult task of carefully distinguishing between
which service may be offered to the public in general and which should be made
available exclusively to members of the Bar may be undertaken. This, however, may
require further proceedings because of the factual considerations involved.

It must be emphasized, however, that some of respondent's services ought to be


prohibited outright, such as acts which tend to suggest or induce celebration abroad
of marriages which are bigamous or otherwise illegal and void under Philippine law.
While respondent may not be prohibited from simply disseminating information
regarding such matters, it must be required to include, in the information given, a
disclaimer that it is not authorized to practice law, that certain course of action may
be illegal under Philippine law, that it is not authorized or capable of rendering a legal
opinion, that a lawyer should be consulted before deciding on which course of action
to take, and that it cannot recommend any particular lawyer without subjecting itself
to possible sanctions for illegal practice of law.

If respondent is allowed to advertise, advertising should be directed exclusively at


members of the Bar, with a clear and unmistakable disclaimer that it is not authorized
to practice law or perform legal services.

The benefits of being assisted by paralegals cannot be ignored. But nobody should
be allowed to represent himself as a "paralegal" for profit, without such term being
clearly defined by rule or regulation, and without any adequate and effective means
of regulating his activities. Also, law practice in a corporate form may prove to be
advantageous to the legal profession, but before allowance of such practice may be
considered, the corporation's Article of Incorporation and By-laws must conform to
each and every provision of the Code of Professional Responsibility and the Rules of
Court.5

2. Philippine Bar Association:

xxx xxx xxx.

Respondent asserts that it "is not engaged in the practice of law but engaged in
giving legal support services to lawyers and laymen, through experienced paralegals,
with the use of modern computers and electronic machines" (pars. 2 and 3,
Comment). This is absurd. Unquestionably, respondent's acts of holding out itself to
the public under the trade name "The Legal Clinic, Inc.," and soliciting employment
for its enumerated services fall within the realm of a practice which thus yields itself
to the regulatory powers of the Supreme Court. For respondent to say that it is
merely engaged in paralegal work is to stretch credulity. Respondent's own
commercial advertisement which announces a certain Atty. Don Parkinson to be
handling the fields of law belies its pretense. From all indications, respondent "The
Legal Clinic, Inc." is offering and rendering legal services through its reserve of
lawyers. It has been held that the practice of law is not limited to the conduct of
cases in court, but includes drawing of deeds, incorporation, rendering opinions, and
advising clients as to their legal right and then take them to an attorney and ask the
latter to look after their case in court See Martin, Legal and Judicial Ethics, 1984 ed.,
p. 39).

It is apt to recall that only natural persons can engage in the practice of law, and
such limitation cannot be evaded by a corporation employing competent lawyers to
practice for it. Obviously, this is the scheme or device by which respondent "The
Legal Clinic, Inc." holds out itself to the public and solicits employment of its legal
services. It is an odious vehicle for deception, especially so when the public cannot
ventilate any grievance for malpractice against the business conduit. Precisely, the
limitation of practice of law to persons who have been duly admitted as members of
the Bar (Sec. 1, Rule 138, Revised Rules of Court) is to subject the members to
the discipline of the Supreme Court. Although respondent uses its business name,
the persons and the lawyers who act for it are subject to court discipline. The practice
of law is not a profession open to all who wish to engage in it nor can it be assigned
to another (See 5 Am. Jur. 270). It is a personal right limited to persons who have
qualified themselves under the law. It follows that not only respondent but also all the
persons who are acting for respondent are the persons engaged in unethical law
practice. 6
3. Philippine Lawyers' Association:

The Philippine Lawyers' Association's position, in answer to the issues stated herein,
are wit:

1. The Legal Clinic is engaged in the practice of law;

2. Such practice is unauthorized;

3. The advertisements complained of are not only unethical, but also misleading and
patently immoral; and

4. The Honorable Supreme Court has the power to supress and punish the Legal
Clinic and its corporate officers for its unauthorized practice of law and for its
unethical, misleading and immoral advertising.

xxx xxx xxx

Respondent posits that is it not engaged in the practice of law. It claims that it merely
renders "legal support services" to answers, litigants and the general public as
enunciated in the Primary Purpose Clause of its Article(s) of Incorporation. (See
pages 2 to 5 of Respondent's Comment). But its advertised services, as enumerated
above, clearly and convincingly show that it is indeed engaged in law practice, albeit
outside of court.

As advertised, it offers the general public its advisory services on Persons and
Family Relations Law, particularly regarding foreign divorces, annulment of
marriages, secret marriages, absence and adoption; Immigration Laws, particularly
on visa related problems, immigration problems; the Investments Law of the
Philippines and such other related laws.

Its advertised services unmistakably require the application of the aforesaid law, the
legal principles and procedures related thereto, the legal advices based thereon and
which activities call for legal training, knowledge and experience.

Applying the test laid down by the Court in the aforecited Agrava Case, the activities
of respondent fall squarely and are embraced in what lawyers and laymen equally
term as "the practice of law."7

4. U.P. Women Lawyers' Circle:

In resolving, the issues before this Honorable Court, paramount consideration should
be given to the protection of the general public from the danger of being exploited by
unqualified persons or entities who may be engaged in the practice of law.

At present, becoming a lawyer requires one to take a rigorous four-year course of


study on top of a four-year bachelor of arts or sciences course and then to take and
pass the bar examinations. Only then, is a lawyer qualified to practice law.

While the use of a paralegal is sanctioned in many jurisdiction as an aid to the


administration of justice, there are in those jurisdictions, courses of study and/or
standards which would qualify these paralegals to deal with the general public as
such. While it may now be the opportune time to establish these courses of study
and/or standards, the fact remains that at present, these do not exist in the
Philippines. In the meantime, this Honorable Court may decide to make measures to
protect the general public from being exploited by those who may be dealing with the
general public in the guise of being "paralegals" without being qualified to do so.

In the same manner, the general public should also be protected from the dangers
which may be brought about by advertising of legal services. While it appears that
lawyers are prohibited under the present Code of Professional Responsibility from
advertising, it appears in the instant case that legal services are being advertised not
by lawyers but by an entity staffed by "paralegals." Clearly, measures should be
taken to protect the general public from falling prey to those who advertise legal
services without being qualified to offer such services. 8

A perusal of the questioned advertisements of Respondent, however, seems to give


the impression that information regarding validity of marriages, divorce, annulment of
marriage, immigration, visa extensions, declaration of absence, adoption and foreign
investment, which are in essence, legal matters , will be given to them if they avail of
its services. The Respondent's name — The Legal Clinic, Inc. — does not help
matters. It gives the impression again that Respondent will or can cure the legal
problems brought to them. Assuming that Respondent is, as claimed, staffed purely
by paralegals, it also gives the misleading impression that there are lawyers involved
in The Legal Clinic, Inc., as there are doctors in any medical clinic, when only
"paralegals" are involved in The Legal Clinic, Inc.

Respondent's allegations are further belied by the very admissions of its President
and majority stockholder, Atty. Nogales, who gave an insight on the structure and
main purpose of Respondent corporation in the aforementioned "Starweek" article." 9

5. Women Lawyer's Association of the Philippines:

Annexes "A" and "B" of the petition are clearly advertisements to solicit cases for the
purpose of gain which, as provided for under the above cited law, (are) illegal and
against the Code of Professional Responsibility of lawyers in this country.

Annex "A" of the petition is not only illegal in that it is an advertisement to solicit
cases, but it is illegal in that in bold letters it announces that the Legal Clinic, Inc.,
could work out/cause the celebration of a secret marriage which is not only illegal but
immoral in this country. While it is advertised that one has to go to said agency and
pay P560 for a valid marriage it is certainly fooling the public for valid marriages in
the Philippines are solemnized only by officers authorized to do so under the law.
And to employ an agency for said purpose of contracting marriage is not necessary.

No amount of reasoning that in the USA, Canada and other countries the trend is
towards allowing lawyers to advertise their special skills to enable people to obtain
from qualified practitioners legal services for their particular needs can justify the use
of advertisements such as are the subject matter of the petition, for one (cannot)
justify an illegal act even by whatever merit the illegal act may serve. The law has yet
to be amended so that such act could become justifiable.
We submit further that these advertisements that seem to project that secret
marriages and divorce are possible in this country for a fee, when in fact it is not so,
are highly reprehensible.

It would encourage people to consult this clinic about how they could go about
having a secret marriage here, when it cannot nor should ever be attempted, and
seek advice on divorce, where in this country there is none, except under the Code
of Muslim Personal Laws in the Philippines. It is also against good morals and is
deceitful because it falsely represents to the public to be able to do that which by our
laws cannot be done (and) by our Code of Morals should not be done.

In the case (of) In re Taguda, 53 Phil. 37, the Supreme Court held that solicitation for
clients by an attorney by circulars of advertisements, is unprofessional, and offenses
of this character justify permanent elimination from the Bar.  10

6. Federacion Internacional de Abogados:

xxx xxx xxx

1.7 That entities admittedly not engaged in the practice of law, such as management
consultancy firms or travel agencies, whether run by lawyers or not, perform the
services rendered by Respondent does not necessarily lead to the conclusion that
Respondent is not unlawfully practicing law. In the same vein, however, the fact that
the business of respondent (assuming it can be engaged in independently of the
practice of law) involves knowledge of the law does not necessarily make respondent
guilty of unlawful practice of law.

. . . . Of necessity, no one . . . . acting as a consultant can render


effective service unless he is familiar with such statutes and
regulations. He must be careful not to suggest a course of conduct
which the law forbids. It seems . . . .clear that (the consultant's)
knowledge of the law, and his use of that knowledge as a factor in
determining what measures he shall recommend, do not constitute
the practice of law . . . . It is not only presumed that all men know the
law, but it is a fact that most men have considerable acquaintance
with broad features of the law . . . . Our knowledge of the law —
accurate or inaccurate — moulds our conduct not only when we are
acting for ourselves, but when we are serving others. Bankers, liquor
dealers and laymen generally possess rather precise knowledge of
the laws touching their particular business or profession. A good
example is the architect, who must be familiar with zoning, building
and fire prevention codes, factory and tenement house statutes, and
who draws plans and specification in harmony with the law. This is
not practicing law.

But suppose the architect, asked by his client to omit a fire tower,
replies that it is required by the statute. Or the industrial relations
expert cites, in support of some measure that he recommends, a
decision of the National Labor Relations Board. Are they practicing
law? In my opinion, they are not, provided no separate fee is charged
for the legal advice or information, and the legal question is
subordinate and incidental to a major non-legal problem.
It is largely a matter of degree and of custom.

If it were usual for one intending to erect a building on his land to


engage a lawyer to advise him and the architect in respect to the
building code and the like, then an architect who performed this
function would probably be considered to be trespassing on territory
reserved for licensed attorneys. Likewise, if the industrial relations
field had been pre-empted by lawyers, or custom placed a lawyer
always at the elbow of the lay personnel man. But this is not the case.
The most important body of the industrial relations experts are the
officers and business agents of the labor unions and few of them are
lawyers. Among the larger corporate employers, it has been the
practice for some years to delegate special responsibility in employee
matters to a management group chosen for their practical knowledge
and skill in such matter, and without regard to legal thinking or lack of
it. More recently, consultants like the defendants have the same
service that the larger employers get from their own specialized staff.

The handling of industrial relations is growing into a recognized


profession for which appropriate courses are offered by our leading
universities. The court should be very cautious about declaring [that]
a widespread, well-established method of conducting business is
unlawful, or that the considerable class of men who customarily
perform a certain function have no right to do so, or that the technical
education given by our schools cannot be used by the graduates in
their business.

In determining whether a man is practicing law, we should consider


his work for any particular client or customer, as a whole. I can
imagine defendant being engaged primarily to advise as to the law
defining his client's obligations to his employees, to guide his client's
obligations to his employees, to guide his client along the path
charted by law. This, of course, would be the practice of the law. But
such is not the fact in the case before me. Defendant's primarily
efforts are along economic and psychological lines. The law only
provides the frame within which he must work, just as the zoning
code limits the kind of building the limits the kind of building the
architect may plan. The incidental legal advice or information
defendant may give, does not transform his activities into the practice
of law. Let me add that if, even as a minor feature of his work, he
performed services which are customarily reserved to members of
the bar, he would be practicing law. For instance, if as part of a
welfare program, he drew employees' wills.

Another branch of defendant's work is the representations of the


employer in the adjustment of grievances and in collective
bargaining, with or without a mediator. This is not per se the practice
of law. Anyone may use an agent for negotiations and may select an
agent particularly skilled in the subject under discussion, and the
person appointed is free to accept the employment whether or not he
is a member of the bar. Here, however, there may be an exception
where the business turns on a question of law. Most real estate sales
are negotiated by brokers who are not lawyers. But if the value of the
land depends on a disputed right-of-way and the principal role of the
negotiator is to assess the probable outcome of the dispute and
persuade the opposite party to the same opinion, then it may be that
only a lawyer can accept the assignment. Or if a controversy between
an employer and his men grows from differing interpretations of a
contract, or of a statute, it is quite likely that defendant should not
handle it. But I need not reach a definite conclusion here, since the
situation is not presented by the proofs.

Defendant also appears to represent the employer before


administrative agencies of the federal government, especially before
trial examiners of the National Labor Relations Board. An agency of
the federal government, acting by virtue of an authority granted by
the Congress, may regulate the representation of parties before such
agency. The State of New Jersey is without power to interfere with
such determination or to forbid representation before the agency by
one whom the agency admits. The rules of the National Labor
Relations Board give to a party the right to appear in person, or by
counsel, or by other representative. Rules and Regulations,
September 11th, 1946, S. 203.31. 'Counsel' here means a licensed
attorney, and ther representative' one not a lawyer. In this phase of
his work, defendant may lawfully do whatever the Labor Board
allows, even arguing questions purely legal. (Auerbacher v. Wood, 53
A. 2d 800, cited in Statsky, Introduction to Paralegalism [1974], at pp.
154-156.).

1.8 From the foregoing, it can be said that a person engaged in a lawful calling
(which may involve knowledge of the law) is not engaged in the practice of law
provided that:

(a) The legal question is subordinate and incidental to a major non-legal problem;.

(b) The services performed are not customarily reserved to members of the bar; .

(c) No separate fee is charged for the legal advice or information.

All these must be considered in relation to the work for any particular client as a
whole.

1.9. If the person involved is both lawyer and non-lawyer, the Code of Professional
Responsibility succintly states the rule of conduct:

Rule 15.08 — A lawyer who is engaged in another profession or occupation


concurrently with the practice of law shall make clear to his client whether he is
acting as a lawyer or in another capacity.

1.10. In the present case. the Legal Clinic appears to render wedding services (See
Annex "A" Petition). Services on routine, straightforward marriages, like securing a
marriage license, and making arrangements with a priest or a judge, may not
constitute practice of law. However, if the problem is as complicated as that
described in "Rx for Legal Problems" on the Sharon Cuneta-Gabby Concepcion-
Richard Gomez case, then what may be involved is actually the practice of law. If a
non-lawyer, such as the Legal Clinic, renders such services then it is engaged in the
unauthorized practice of law.

1.11. The Legal Clinic also appears to give information on divorce, absence,
annulment of marriage and visas (See Annexes "A" and "B" Petition). Purely giving
informational materials may not constitute of law. The business is similar to that of a
bookstore where the customer buys materials on the subject and determines on the
subject and determines by himself what courses of action to take.

It is not entirely improbable, however, that aside from purely giving information, the
Legal Clinic's paralegals may apply the law to the particular problem of the client,
and give legal advice. Such would constitute unauthorized practice of law.

It cannot be claimed that the publication of a legal text which


publication of a legal text which purports to say what the law is
amount to legal practice. And the mere fact that the principles or rules
stated in the text may be accepted by a particular reader as a
solution to his problem does not affect this. . . . . Apparently it is urged
that the conjoining of these two, that is, the text and the forms, with
advice as to how the forms should be filled out, constitutes the
unlawful practice of law. But that is the situation with many approved
and accepted texts. Dacey's book is sold to the public at large. There
is no personal contact or relationship with a particular individual. Nor
does there exist that relation of confidence and trust so necessary to
the status of attorney and client. THIS IS THE ESSENTIAL OF
LEGAL PRACTICE — THE REPRESENTATION AND ADVISING OF
A PARTICULAR PERSON IN A PARTICULAR SITUATION. At most
the book assumes to offer general advice on common problems, and
does not purport to give personal advice on a specific problem
peculiar to a designated or readily identified person. Similarly the
defendant's publication does not purport to give personal advice on a
specific problem peculiar to a designated or readily identified person
in a particular situation — in their publication and sale of the kits,
such publication and sale did not constitutes the unlawful practice of
law . . . . There being no legal impediment under the statute to the
sale of the kit, there was no proper basis for the injunction against
defendant maintaining an office for the purpose of selling to persons
seeking a divorce, separation, annulment or separation agreement
any printed material or writings relating to matrimonial law or the
prohibition in the memorandum of modification of the judgment
against defendant having an interest in any publishing house
publishing his manuscript on divorce and against his having any
personal contact with any prospective purchaser. The record does
fully support, however, the finding that for the change of $75 or $100
for the kit, the defendant gave legal advice in the course of personal
contacts concerning particular problems which might arise in the
preparation and presentation of the purchaser's asserted matrimonial
cause of action or pursuit of other legal remedies and assistance in
the preparation of necessary documents (The injunction therefore
sought to) enjoin conduct constituting the practice of law, particularly
with reference to the giving of advice and counsel by the defendant
relating to specific problems of particular individuals in connection
with a divorce, separation, annulment of separation agreement
sought and should be affirmed. (State v. Winder, 348, NYS 2D 270
[1973], cited in Statsky, supra at p. 101.).

1.12. Respondent, of course, states that its services are "strictly non-diagnostic, non-
advisory. "It is not controverted, however, that if the services "involve giving legal
advice or counselling," such would constitute practice of law (Comment, par. 6.2). It
is in this light that FIDA submits that a factual inquiry may be necessary for the
judicious disposition of this case.

xxx xxx xxx

2.10. Annex "A" may be ethically objectionable in that it can give the impression (or
perpetuate the wrong notion) that there is a secret marriage. With all the solemnities,
formalities and other requisites of marriages (See Articles 2, et seq., Family Code),
no Philippine marriage can be secret.

2.11. Annex "B" may likewise be ethically objectionable. The second paragraph
thereof (which is not necessarily related to the first paragraph) fails to state the
limitation that only "paralegal services?" or "legal support services", and not legal
services, are available." 
11

A prefatory discussion on the meaning of the phrase "practice of law" becomes exigent for the
proper determination of the issues raised by the petition at bar. On this score, we note that the
clause "practice of law" has long been the subject of judicial construction and interpretation. The
courts have laid down general principles and doctrines explaining the meaning and scope of the
term, some of which we now take into account.

Practice of law means any activity, in or out of court, which requires the application of law, legal
procedures, knowledge, training and experience. To engage in the practice of law is to perform
those acts which are characteristic of the profession. Generally, to practice law is to give advice or
render any kind of service that involves legal knowledge or skill.  12

The practice of law is not limited to the conduct of cases in court. It includes legal advice and
counsel, and the preparation of legal instruments and contract by which legal rights are secured,
although such matter may or may not be pending in a court.  13

In the practice of his profession, a licensed attorney at law generally engages in three principal types
of professional activity: legal advice and instructions to clients to inform them of their rights and
obligations, preparation for clients of documents requiring knowledge of legal principles not
possessed by ordinary layman, and appearance for clients before public tribunals which possess
power and authority to determine rights of life, liberty, and property according to law, in order to
assist in proper interpretation and enforcement of law.  14

When a person participates in the a trial and advertises himself as a lawyer, he is in the practice of
law.   One who confers with clients, advises them as to their legal rights and then takes the business
15

to an attorney and asks the latter to look after the case in court, is also practicing law.   Giving
16

advice for compensation regarding the legal status and rights of another and the conduct with
respect thereto constitutes a practice of law.   One who renders an opinion as to the proper
17

interpretation of a statute, and receives pay for it, is, to that extent, practicing law. 
18
In the recent case of Cayetano vs. Monsod,   after citing the doctrines in several cases, we laid
19

down the test to determine whether certain acts constitute "practice of law," thus:

Black defines "practice of law" as:

The rendition of services requiring the knowledge and the application of legal
principles and technique to serve the interest of another with his consent. It is not
limited to appearing in court, or advising and assisting in the conduct of litigation, but
embraces the preparation of pleadings, and other papers incident to actions and
special proceedings, conveyancing, the preparation of legal instruments of all kinds,
and the giving of all legal advice to clients. It embraces all advice to clients and all
actions taken for them in matters connected with the law.

The practice of law is not limited to the conduct of cases on court.(Land Title Abstract and Trust Co.
v. Dworken , 129 Ohio St. 23, 193N. E. 650). A person is also considered to be in the practice of law
when he:

. . . . for valuable consideration engages in the business of advising person, firms,


associations or corporations as to their right under the law, or appears in a
representative capacity as an advocate in proceedings, pending or prospective,
before any court, commissioner, referee, board, body, committee, or commission
constituted by law or authorized to settle controversies and there, in such
representative capacity, performs any act or acts for the purpose of obtaining or
defending the rights of their clients under the law. Otherwise stated, one who, in a
representative capacity, engages in the business of advising clients as to their rights
under the law, or while so engaged performs any act or acts either in court or outside
of court for that purpose, is engaged in the practice of law. (State ex. rel. Mckittrick v.
C.S. Dudley and Co., 102 S. W. 2d 895, 340 Mo. 852).

This Court, in the case of Philippines Lawyers Association v. Agrava (105 Phil. 173, 176-177),stated:

The practice of law is not limited to the conduct of cases or litigation in court; it
embraces the preparation of pleadings and 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, all advice to
clients, and all action taken for them in matters connected with the law incorporation
services, assessment and condemnation services contemplating an appearance
before a judicial body, the foreclosure of a mortgage, enforcement of a creditor's
claim in bankruptcy and insolvency proceedings, and conducting proceedings in
attachment, and in matters or estate and guardianship have been held to constitute
law practice, as do the preparation and drafting of legal instruments, where the work
done involves the determination by the trained legal mind of the legal effect of facts
and conditions. (5 Am. Jr. p. 262, 263).

Practice of law under modern conditions consists in no small part of work performed
outside of any court and having no immediate relation to proceedings in court. It
embraces conveyancing, the giving of legal advice on a large variety of subjects and
the preparation and execution of legal instruments covering an extensive field of
business and trust relations and other affairs. Although these transactions may have
no direct connection with court proceedings, they are always subject to become
involved in litigation. They require in many aspects a high degree of legal skill, a wide
experience with men and affairs, and great capacity for adaptation to difficult and
complex situations. These customary functions of an attorney or counselor at law
bear an intimate relation to the administration of justice by the courts. No valid
distinction, so far as concerns the question set forth in the order, can be drawn
between that part of the work of the lawyer which involves appearance in court and
that part which involves advice and drafting of instruments in his office. It is of
importance to the welfare of the public that these manifold customary functions be
performed by persons possessed of adequate learning and skill, of sound moral
character, and acting at all times under the heavy trust obligations to clients which
rests upon all attorneys. (Moran, Comments on the Rules o Court, Vol. 3 [1973 ed.],
pp. 665-666, citing In Re Opinion of the Justices [Mass], 194 N. E. 313, quoted in
Rhode Is. Bar Assoc. v. Automobile Service Assoc. [R.I.] 197 A. 139, 144).

The practice of law, therefore, covers a wide range of activities in and out of court. Applying the
aforementioned criteria to the case at bar, we agree with the perceptive findings and observations of
the aforestated bar associations that the activities of respondent, as advertised, constitute "practice
of law."

The contention of respondent that it merely offers legal support services can neither be seriously
considered nor sustained. Said proposition is belied by respondent's own description of the services
it has been offering, to wit:

Legal support services basically consists of giving ready information by trained


paralegals to laymen and lawyers, which are strictly non-diagnostic, non-advisory,
through the extensive use of computers and modern information technology in the
gathering, processing, storage, transmission and reproduction of information and
communication, such as computerized legal research; encoding and reproduction of
documents and pleadings prepared by laymen or lawyers; document search;
evidence gathering; locating parties or witnesses to a case; fact finding
investigations; and assistance to laymen in need of basic institutional services from
government or non-government agencies, like birth, marriage, property, or business
registrations; educational or employment records or certifications, obtaining
documentation like clearances, passports, local or foreign visas; giving information
about laws of other countries that they may find useful, like foreign divorce, marriage
or adoption laws that they can avail of preparatory to emigration to the foreign
country, and other matters that do not involve representation of clients in court;
designing and installing computer systems, programs, or software for the efficient
management of law offices, corporate legal departments, courts and other entities
engaged in dispensing or administering legal services.  20

While some of the services being offered by respondent corporation merely involve mechanical and
technical knowhow, such as the installation of computer systems and programs for the efficient
management of law offices, or the computerization of research aids and materials, these will not
suffice to justify an exception to the general rule.

What is palpably clear is that respondent corporation gives out legal information to laymen and
lawyers. Its contention that such function is non-advisory and non-diagnostic is more apparent than
real. In providing information, for example, about foreign laws on marriage, divorce and adoption, it
strains the credulity of this Court that all the respondent corporation will simply do is look for the law,
furnish a copy thereof to the client, and stop there as if it were merely a bookstore. With its attorneys
and so called paralegals, it will necessarily have to explain to the client the intricacies of the law and
advise him or her on the proper course of action to be taken as may be provided for by said law.
That is what its advertisements represent and for the which services it will consequently charge and
be paid. That activity falls squarely within the jurisprudential definition of "practice of law." Such a
conclusion will not be altered by the fact that respondent corporation does not represent clients in
court since law practice, as the weight of authority holds, is not limited merely giving legal advice,
contract drafting and so forth.

The aforesaid conclusion is further strengthened by an article published in the January 13, 1991
issue of the Starweek/The Sunday Magazine of the Philippines Star, entitled "Rx for Legal
Problems," where an insight into the structure, main purpose and operations of respondent
corporation was given by its own "proprietor," Atty. Rogelio P. Nogales:

This is the kind of business that is transacted everyday at The Legal Clinic, with
offices on the seventh floor of the Victoria Building along U. N. Avenue in Manila. No
matter what the client's problem, and even if it is as complicated as the Cuneta-
Concepcion domestic situation, Atty. Nogales and his staff of lawyers, who, like
doctors are "specialists" in various fields can take care of it. The Legal Clinic, Inc.
has specialists in taxation and criminal law, medico-legal problems, labor, litigation,
and family law. These specialist are backed up by a battery of paralegals,
counsellors and attorneys.

Atty. Nogales set up The Legal Clinic in 1984. Inspired by the trend in the medical
field toward specialization, it caters to clients who cannot afford the services of the
big law firms.

The Legal Clinic has regular and walk-in clients. "when they come, we start by
analyzing the problem. That's what doctors do also. They ask you how you
contracted what's bothering you, they take your temperature, they observe you for
the symptoms and so on. That's how we operate, too. And once the problem has
been categorized, then it's referred to one of our specialists.

There are cases which do not, in medical terms, require surgery or follow-up
treatment. These The Legal Clinic disposes of in a matter of minutes. "Things like
preparing a simple deed of sale or an affidavit of loss can be taken care of by our
staff or, if this were a hospital the residents or the interns. We can take care of these
matters on a while you wait basis. Again, kung baga sa hospital, out-patient, hindi
kailangang ma-confine. It's just like a common cold or diarrhea," explains Atty.
Nogales.

Those cases which requires more extensive "treatment" are dealt with accordingly. "If
you had a rich relative who died and named you her sole heir, and you stand to
inherit millions of pesos of property, we would refer you to a specialist in taxation.
There would be real estate taxes and arrears which would need to be put in order,
and your relative is even taxed by the state for the right to transfer her property, and
only a specialist in taxation would be properly trained to deal with the problem. Now,
if there were other heirs contesting your rich relatives will, then you would need a
litigator, who knows how to arrange the problem for presentation in court, and gather
evidence to support the case.  21

That fact that the corporation employs paralegals to carry out its services is not controlling. What is
important is that it is engaged in the practice of law by virtue of the nature of the services it renders
which thereby brings it within the ambit of the statutory prohibitions against the advertisements which
it has caused to be published and are now assailed in this proceeding.
Further, as correctly and appropriately pointed out by the U.P. WILOCI, said reported facts
sufficiently establish that the main purpose of respondent is to serve as a one-stop-shop of sorts for
various legal problems wherein a client may avail of legal services from simple documentation to
complex litigation and corporate undertakings. Most of these services are undoubtedly beyond the
domain of paralegals, but rather, are exclusive functions of lawyers engaged in the practice of law.  22

It should be noted that in our jurisdiction the services being offered by private respondent which
constitute practice of law cannot be performed by paralegals. Only a person duly admitted as a
member of the bar, or hereafter admitted as such in accordance with the provisions of the Rules of
Court, and who is in good and regular standing, is entitled to practice law.  23

Public policy requires that the practice of law be limited to those individuals found duly qualified in
education and character. The permissive right conferred on the lawyers is an individual and limited
privilege subject to withdrawal if he fails to maintain proper standards of moral and professional
conduct. The purpose is to protect the public, the court, the client and the bar from the incompetence
or dishonesty of those unlicensed to practice law and not subject to the disciplinary control of the
court. 
24

The same rule is observed in the american jurisdiction wherefrom respondent would wish to draw
support for his thesis. The doctrines there also stress that the practice of law is limited to those who
meet the requirements for, and have been admitted to, the bar, and various statutes or rules
specifically so provide.   The practice of law is not a lawful business except for members of the bar
25

who have complied with all the conditions required by statute and the rules of court. Only those
persons are allowed to practice law who, by reason of attainments previously acquired through
education and study, have been recognized by the courts as possessing profound knowledge of
legal science entitling them to advise, counsel with, protect, or defend the rights claims, or liabilities
of their clients, with respect to the construction, interpretation, operation and effect of law.   The
26

justification for excluding from the practice of law those not admitted to the bar is found, not in the
protection of the bar from competition, but in the protection of the public from being advised and
represented in legal matters by incompetent and unreliable persons over whom the judicial
department can exercise little control. 27

We have to necessarily and definitely reject respondent's position that the concept in the United
States of paralegals as an occupation separate from the law profession be adopted in this
jurisdiction. Whatever may be its merits, respondent cannot but be aware that this should first be a
matter for judicial rules or legislative action, and not of unilateral adoption as it has done.

Paralegals in the United States are trained professionals. As admitted by respondent, there are
schools and universities there which offer studies and degrees in paralegal education, while there
are none in the Philippines.  As the concept of the "paralegals" or "legal assistant" evolved in the
28

United States, standards and guidelines also evolved to protect the general public. One of the major
standards or guidelines was developed by the American Bar Association which set up Guidelines for
the Approval of Legal Assistant Education Programs (1973). Legislation has even been proposed to
certify legal assistants. There are also associations of paralegals in the United States with their own
code of professional ethics, such as the National Association of Legal Assistants, Inc. and the
American Paralegal Association.  29

In the Philippines, we still have a restricted concept and limited acceptance of what may be
considered as paralegal service. As pointed out by FIDA, some persons not duly licensed to practice
law are or have been allowed limited representation in behalf of another or to render legal services,
but such allowable services are limited in scope and extent by the law, rules or regulations granting
permission therefor.  30
Accordingly, we have adopted the American judicial policy that, in the absence of constitutional or
statutory authority, a person who has not been admitted as an attorney cannot practice law for the
proper administration of justice cannot be hindered by the unwarranted intrusion of an unauthorized
and unskilled person into the practice of law.   That policy should continue to be one of encouraging
31

persons who are unsure of their legal rights and remedies to seek legal assistance only from
persons licensed to practice law in the state. 32

Anent the issue on the validity of the questioned advertisements, the Code of Professional
Responsibility provides that a lawyer in making known his legal services shall use only true, honest,
fair, dignified and objective information or statement of facts.   He is not supposed to use or permit
33

the use of any false, fraudulent, misleading, deceptive, undignified, self-laudatory or unfair statement
or claim regarding his qualifications or legal services.   Nor shall he pay or give something of value
34

to representatives of the mass media in anticipation of, or in return for, publicity to attract legal
business.   Prior to the adoption of the code of Professional Responsibility, the Canons of
35

Professional Ethics had also warned that lawyers should not resort to indirect advertisements for
professional employment, such as furnishing or inspiring newspaper comments, or procuring his
photograph to be published in connection with causes in which the lawyer has been or is engaged or
concerning the manner of their conduct, the magnitude of the interest involved, the importance of the
lawyer's position, and all other like self-laudation.  36

The standards of the legal profession condemn the lawyer's advertisement of his talents. A lawyer
cannot, without violating the ethics of his profession. advertise his talents or skill as in a manner
similar to a merchant advertising his goods.   The prescription against advertising of legal services
37

or solicitation of legal business rests on the fundamental postulate that the that the practice of law is
a profession. Thus, in the case of The Director of Religious Affairs. vs. Estanislao R. Bayot   an
38

advertisement, similar to those of respondent which are involved in the present proceeding,   was
39

held to constitute improper advertising or solicitation.

The pertinent part of the decision therein reads:

It is undeniable that the advertisement in question was a flagrant violation by the


respondent of the ethics of his profession, it being a brazen solicitation of business
from the public. Section 25 of Rule 127 expressly provides among other things that
"the practice of soliciting cases at law for the purpose of gain, either personally or
thru paid agents or brokers, constitutes malpractice." It is highly unethical for an
attorney to advertise his talents or skill as a merchant advertises his wares. Law is a
profession and not a trade. The lawyer degrades himself and his profession who
stoops to and adopts the practices of mercantilism by advertising his services or
offering them to the public. As a member of the bar, he defiles the temple of justice
with mercenary activities as the money-changers of old defiled the temple of
Jehovah. "The most worthy and effective advertisement possible, even for a young
lawyer, . . . . is the establishment of a well-merited reputation for professional
capacity and fidelity to trust. This cannot be forced but must be the outcome of
character and conduct." (Canon 27, Code of Ethics.).

We repeat, the canon of the profession tell us that the best advertising possible for a lawyer is a
well-merited reputation for professional capacity and fidelity to trust, which must be earned as the
outcome of character and conduct. Good and efficient service to a client as well as to the community
has a way of publicizing itself and catching public attention. That publicity is a normal by-product of
effective service which is right and proper. A good and reputable lawyer needs no artificial stimulus
to generate it and to magnify his success. He easily sees the difference between a normal by-
product of able service and the unwholesome result of propaganda.  40
Of course, not all types of advertising or solicitation are prohibited. The canons of the profession
enumerate exceptions to the rule against advertising or solicitation and define the extent to which
they may be undertaken. The exceptions are of two broad categories, namely, those which are
expressly allowed and those which are necessarily implied from the restrictions.  41

The first of such exceptions is the publication in reputable law lists, in a manner consistent with the
standards of conduct imposed by the canons, of brief biographical and informative data. "Such data
must not be misleading and may include only a statement of the lawyer's name and the names of his
professional associates; addresses, telephone numbers, cable addresses; branches of law
practiced; date and place of birth and admission to the bar; schools attended with dates of
graduation, degrees and other educational distinction; public or quasi-public offices; posts of honor;
legal authorships; legal teaching positions; membership and offices in bar associations and
committees thereof, in legal and scientific societies and legal fraternities; the fact of listings in other
reputable law lists; the names and addresses of references; and, with their written consent, the
names of clients regularly represented."  42

The law list must be a reputable law list published primarily for that purpose; it cannot be a mere
supplemental feature of a paper, magazine, trade journal or periodical which is published principally
for other purposes. For that reason, a lawyer may not properly publish his brief biographical and
informative data in a daily paper, magazine, trade journal or society program. Nor may a lawyer
permit his name to be published in a law list the conduct, management or contents of which are
calculated or likely to deceive or injure the public or the bar, or to lower the dignity or standing of the
profession. 43

The use of an ordinary simple professional card is also permitted. The card may contain only a
statement of his name, the name of the law firm which he is connected with, address, telephone
number and special branch of law practiced. The publication of a simple announcement of the
opening of a law firm or of changes in the partnership, associates, firm name or office address, being
for the convenience of the profession, is not objectionable. He may likewise have his name listed in
a telephone directory but not under a designation of special branch of law.  44

Verily, taking into consideration the nature and contents of the advertisements for which respondent
is being taken to task, which even includes a quotation of the fees charged by said respondent
corporation for services rendered, we find and so hold that the same definitely do not and
conclusively cannot fall under any of the above-mentioned exceptions.

The ruling in the case of Bates, et al. vs. State Bar of Arizona,   which is repeatedly invoked and
45

constitutes the justification relied upon by respondent, is obviously not applicable to the case at bar.
Foremost is the fact that the disciplinary rule involved in said case explicitly allows a lawyer, as an
exception to the prohibition against advertisements by lawyers, to publish a statement of legal fees
for an initial consultation or the availability upon request of a written schedule of fees or an estimate
of the fee to be charged for the specific services. No such exception is provided for, expressly or
impliedly, whether in our former Canons of Professional Ethics or the present Code of Professional
Responsibility. Besides, even the disciplinary rule in the Bates case contains a proviso that the
exceptions stated therein are "not applicable in any state unless and until it is implemented by such
authority in that state."   This goes to show that an exception to the general rule, such as that being
46

invoked by herein respondent, can be made only if and when the canons expressly provide for such
an exception. Otherwise, the prohibition stands, as in the case at bar.

It bears mention that in a survey conducted by the American Bar Association after the decision in
Bates, on the attitude of the public about lawyers after viewing television commercials, it was found
that public opinion dropped significantly   with respect to these characteristics of lawyers:
47
Trustworthy from 71% to 14%
Professional from 71% to 14%
Honest from 65% to 14%
Dignified from 45% to 14%

Secondly, it is our firm belief that with the present situation of our legal and judicial systems, to allow
the publication of advertisements of the kind used by respondent would only serve to aggravate what
is already a deteriorating public opinion of the legal profession whose integrity has consistently been
under attack lately by media and the community in general. At this point in time, it is of utmost
importance in the face of such negative, even if unfair, criticisms at times, to adopt and maintain that
level of professional conduct which is beyond reproach, and to exert all efforts to regain the high
esteem formerly accorded to the legal profession.

In sum, it is undoubtedly a misbehavior on the part of the lawyer, subject to disciplinary action, to
advertise his services except in allowable instances   or to aid a layman in the unauthorized practice
48

of law.   Considering that Atty. Rogelio P. Nogales, who is the prime incorporator, major stockholder
49

and proprietor of The Legal Clinic, Inc. is a member of the Philippine Bar, he is hereby reprimanded,
with a warning that a repetition of the same or similar acts which are involved in this proceeding will
be dealt with more severely.

While we deem it necessary that the question as to the legality or illegality of the purpose/s for which
the Legal Clinic, Inc. was created should be passed upon and determined, we are constrained to
refrain from lapsing into an obiter on that aspect since it is clearly not within the adjudicative
parameters of the present proceeding which is merely administrative in nature. It is, of course,
imperative that this matter be promptly determined, albeit in a different proceeding and forum, since,
under the present state of our law and jurisprudence, a corporation cannot be organized for or
engage in the practice of law in this country. This interdiction, just like the rule against unethical
advertising, cannot be subverted by employing some so-called paralegals supposedly rendering the
alleged support services.

The remedy for the apparent breach of this prohibition by respondent is the concern and province of
the Solicitor General who can institute the corresponding quo warranto action,   after due
50

ascertainment of the factual background and basis for the grant of respondent's corporate charter, in
light of the putative misuse thereof. That spin-off from the instant bar matter is referred to the
Solicitor General for such action as may be necessary under the circumstances.

ACCORDINGLY, the Court Resolved to RESTRAIN and ENJOIN herein respondent, The Legal
Clinic, Inc., from issuing or causing the publication or dissemination of any advertisement in any form
which is of the same or similar tenor and purpose as Annexes "A" and "B" of this petition, and from
conducting, directly or indirectly, any activity, operation or transaction proscribed by law or the Code
of Professional Ethics as indicated herein. Let copies of this resolution be furnished the Integrated
Bar of the Philippines, the Office of the Bar Confidant and the Office of the Solicitor General for
appropriate action in accordance herewith.

Narvasa, C.J., Cruz, Feliciano, Padilla, Bidin, Griño-Aquino, Davide, Jr., Romero, Nocon, Bellosillo,
Melo and Quiason, JJ., concur
EN BANC

[A.C. No. 2797. October 4, 2002]

ROSAURA P. CORDON, complainant, vs. JESUS


BALICANTA, respondent.

RESOLUTION
PER CURIAM:

On August 21, 1985, herein complainant Rosaura Cordon filed with this
Court a complaint for disbarment, docketed as Administrative Case No. 2797,
against Atty. Jesus Balicanta.After respondents comment to the complaint and
complainants reply thereto, this Court, on March 29, 1995 referred the matter
to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP, for brevity) for investigation,
report and recommendation within 90 days from notice. Commissioner
George Briones of the IBP Commission on Bar Discipline was initially tasked
to investigate the case.Commissioner Briones was later on replaced by
Commissioner Renato Cunanan. Complainant filed a supplemental complaint
which was duly admitted and, as agreed upon, the parties filed their
respective position papers.
Based on her complaint, supplemental complaint, reply and position
paper, the complainant alleged the following facts:
When her husband Felixberto C. Jaldon died, herein complainant Rosaura
Cordon and her daughter Rosemarie inherited the properties left by the said
decedent. All in all, complainant and her daughter inherited 21 parcels of land
located in Zamboanga City. The lawyer who helped her settle the estate of her
late husband was respondent Jesus Balicanta.
Sometime in the early part of 1981, respondent enticed complainant and
her daughter to organize a corporation that would develop the said real
properties into a high-scale commercial complex with a beautiful penthouse
for complainant. Relying on these apparently sincere proposals, complainant
and her daughter assigned 19 parcels of land to Rosaura Enterprises,
Incorporated, a newly-formed and duly registered corporation in which they
assumed majority ownership. The subject parcels of land were then registered
in the name of the corporation.
Thereafter, respondent single-handedly ran the affairs of the corporation in
his capacity as Chairman of the Board, President, General Manager and
Treasurer. The respondent also made complainant sign a document which
turned out to be a voting trust agreement. Respondent likewise succeeded in
making complainant sign a special power of attorney to sell and mortgage
some of the parcels of land she inherited from her deceased husband. She
later discovered that respondent transferred the titles of the properties to a
certain Tion Suy Ong who became the new registered owner thereof.
Respondent never accounted for the proceeds of said transfers.
In 1981, respondent, using a spurious board resolution, contracted a loan
from the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP, for brevity) in the amount of Two
Million Two Hundred Twenty Pesos (P2,220,000) using as collateral 9 of the
real properties that the complainant and her daughter contributed to the
corporation. The respondent ostensibly intended to use the money to
construct the Baliwasan Commercial Center (BCC, for brevity). Complainant
later on found out that the structure was made of poor materials such
as sawali, coco lumber and bamboo which could not have cost the
corporation anything close to the amount of the loan secured.
For four years from the time the debt was contracted, respondent failed to
pay even a single installment. As a result, the LBP, in a letter dated May 22,
1985, informed respondent that the past due amortizations and interest had
already accumulated to Seven Hundred Twenty-nine Thousand Five Hundred
Three Pesos and Twenty-five Centavos (P729,503.25). The LBP made a
demand on respondent for payment for the tenth time. Meanwhile, when the
BCC commenced its operations, respondent started to earn revenues from
the rentals of BCCs tenants.On October 28, 1987, the LBP foreclosed on the
9 mortgaged properties due to non-payment of the loan.
Respondent did not exert any effort to redeem the foreclosed
properties. Worse, he sold the corporations right to redeem the mortgaged
properties to a certain Hadji Mahmud Jammang through a fake board
resolution dated January 14, 1989 which clothed himself with the authority to
do so. Complainant and her daughter, the majority stockholders, were never
informed of the alleged meeting held on that date. Again, respondent never
accounted for the proceeds of the sale of the right to redeem. Respondent
also sold to Jammang a parcel of land belonging to complainant and her
daughter which was contiguous to the foreclosed properties and evidenced by
Transfer Certificate of Title No. 62807. He never accounted for the proceeds
of the sale.
Sometime in 1983, complainants daughter, Rosemarie, discovered that
their ancestral home had been demolished and that her mother, herein
complainant, was being detained in a small nipa shack in a place called
Culianan. Through the help of Atty. Linda Lim, Rosemarie was able to locate
her mother. Rosemarie later learned that respondent took complainant away
from her house on the pretext that said ancestral home was going to be
remodeled and painted. But respondent demolished the ancestral home and
sold the lot to Tion Suy Ong, using another spurious board resolution
designated as Board Resolution No. 1, series of 1992. The resolution
contained the minutes of an alleged organizational meeting of the directors of
the corporation and was signed by Alexander Wee, Angel Fernando, Erwin
Fernando and Gabriel Solivar. Complainant and her daughter did not know
how these persons became stockholders and directors of the
corporation. Respondent again did not account for the proceeds of the sale.
Complainant and her daughter made several demands on respondent for
the delivery of the real properties they allegedly assigned to the corporation,
for an accounting of the proceeds of the LBP loan and as well as the
properties sold, and for the rentals earned by BCC. But the demands
remained unheeded. Hence, complainant and her daughter, in a letter dated
June 4, 1985, terminated the services of respondent as their lawyer and
repeated their demands for accounting and turn-over of the corporate funds,
and the return of the 19 titles that respondent transferred to the
corporation. They also threatened him with legal action in a letter dated
August 3, 1985.
Soon after, complainant found out from the Securities and Exchange
Commission (SEC, for brevity) that Rosaura Enterprises, Inc., due to
respondents refusal and neglect, failed to submit the corporations annual
financial statements for 1981, 1982 and 1983; SEC General Information
Sheets for 1982, 1983 and 1984; Minutes of Annual Meetings for 1982, 1983
and 1984; and Minutes of Annual Meetings of Directors for 1982, 1983 and
1984.
Complainant also discovered that respondent collected rental payments
from the tenants of BCC and issued handwritten receipts which he signed, not
as an officer of the corporation but as the attorney-at-law of
complainant. Respondent also used the tennis court of BCC to dry his palay
and did not keep the buildings in a satisfactory state, so much so that the
divisions were losing plywood and other materials to thieves.
Complainant likewise accused respondent of circulating rumors among her
friends and relatives that she had become insane to prevent them from
believing whatever complainant said.According to complainant, respondent
proposed that she legally separate from her present husband so that the latter
would not inherit from her and that respondent be adopted as her son.
For his defense, respondent, in his comment and position paper, denied
employing deceit and machination in convincing complainant and her
daughter to assign their real properties to the corporation; that they freely and
voluntary executed the deeds of assignment and the voting trust agreement
that they signed; that he did not single-handedly manage the corporation as
evidenced by certifications of the officers and directors of the corporation; that
he did not use spurious board resolutions authorizing him to contract a loan or
sell the properties assigned by the complainant and her daughter; that
complainant and her daughter should be the ones who should render an
accounting of the records and revenues inasmuch as, since 1984 up to the
present, the part-time corporate book-keeper, with the connivance of the
complainant and her daughter, had custody of the corporate records; that
complainant and her daughter sabotaged the operation of BCC when they
illegally took control of it in 1986; that he never pocketed any of the proceeds
of the properties contributed by the complainant and her daughter; that the
demolition of the ancestral home followed legal procedures; that complainant
was never detained in Culianan but she freely and voluntarily lived with the
family of P03 Joel Constantino as evidenced by complainants own letter
denying she was kidnapped; and that the instant disbarment case should be
dismissed for being premature, considering the pendency of cases before the
SEC and the Regional Trial Court of Zamboanga involving him and
complainant.
Based on the pleadings and position papers submitted by the parties,
Commissioner Renato Cunanan, in his report  dated July 1, 1999,
[1]

recommended respondents disbarment based on the following findings:

A. The complainant, Rosaura Jaldon-Cordon and her daughter, Rosemarie were


stockholders of a corporation, together with respondent, named Rosaura Enterprises,
Inc.

Per the Articles of Incorporation marked as Annex A of Complainants Position Paper,


complainants subscription consists of 55% of the outstanding capital stock while her
daughters consists of 18%, giving them a total of 73%. Respondents holdings consist
of 24% while three other incorporators, Rosauro L. Alvarez, Vicente T. Maalac and
Darhan S. Graciano each held 1% of the capital stock of the corporation.
B. On April 5, 1981, complainant and her daughter Rosemarie Jaldon executed two
Deeds of Transfer and Assignment conveying and transferring to the corporation 19
parcels of land in exchange for shares of stock in the corporation.

xxx xxx xxx

C. Both Deeds of Assignment particularly page 3 thereof indicate that respondent


accepted said assignment of properties and titles in behalf of the corporation as
Treasurer. The deeds were signed on April 5, 1981.

xxx xxx xxx

Together, therefore, complainant and her daughter owned 1,711 shares of the 1,750
shares comprising the authorized capital stock of the corporation of 97% thereof.

No increase in capitalization was applied for by the corporation.

F. Respondent claims in his Comment, his Answer and his Position Paper that on
April 4, 1981 he was elected as Chairman and Director and on April 5, 1981 he was
elected President of the corporation.Respondents own Annexes marked as G and G-1
of his Comment show that on April 4, 1981 he was not only elected as Chairman and
Director as he claims but as Director, Board Chairman and President. The purported
minutes was only signed by respondent and an acting Secretary by the name of
Vicente Maalac.

Said Annex does not show who was elected Treasurer.

Respondents Annex H and H-1 shows that in the alleged organizational meeting of the
directors on April 5, 1981 a certain Farnacio Bucoy was elected Treasurer. Bucoys
name does not appear as an incorporator nor a stockholder anywhere in the documents
submitted.

The purported minutes of the organizational meeting of the directors was signed only
by respondent Balicanta and a Secretary named Verisimo Martin.

G. Since respondent was elected as Director, Chairman and President on April 4, 1981
as respondents own Annexes G to G-1 would show, then complainants claim that
respondent was likewise acting as Treasurer of two corporations bear truth and
credence as respondent signed and accepted the titles to 19 parcels of land ceded by
the complainant and her daughter, as Treasurer on April 5, 1981 after he was already
purportedly elected as Chairman, President and Director.
H. Respondent misleads the Commission into believing that all the directors signed
the minutes marked as Exhibit H to H-1 by stating that the same was duly signed by
all the Board of Directors when the document itself shows that only he and one
Verisimo Martin signed the same.

He also claims that all the stockholders signed the minutes of organizational meeting
marked as Annexes G and G-1 of his Comment yet the same shows that only the
acting Chairman and acting Secretary signed.

I. Respondent claims that the Board or its representative was authorized by the
stockholders comprising 2/3 of the outstanding capital stock, as required by law, to
mortgage the parcels of land belonging to the corporation, which were all assigned to
the corporation by complainant and her daughter, by virtue of Annex I and I-1:
attached to his Comment.

The subject attachment however reveals that only the following persons signed their
conformity to the said resolution: respondent Balicanta who owned 109 shares,
Vicente Maalac (1 share), Daihan Graciano (1 share).

Complainants who collectively held a total of 1,711 shares out of


the 1,750 outstanding capital stock of the corporation were not represented in the
purported stockholders meeting authorizing the mortgage of the subject properties.

The 2/3 vote required by law was therefore not complied with yet respondent
proceeded to mortgage the subject 9 parcels of land by the corporation.

J. Respondent further relies on Annex J of his Comment, purportedly the minutes of a


special meeting of the Board of Directors authorizing him to obtain a loan and
mortgage the properties of the corporation dated August 29, 1981. This claim is
baseless. The required ratification of 2/3 by the stockholders of records was not
met. Again, respondent attempts to mislead the Commission and Court.

K. Further, the constitution of the Board is dubious. The alleged minutes of the


organizational meeting of the stockholders electing the members of the Board, have
not been duly signed by the stockholders as shown in respondents annex G which was
purportedly the organizational meeting of the stockholders.

L. Also, Annex J of respondents Comment which purportedly authorized him to


obtain a loan and to mortgage the 9 parcels of land was only signed by himself and a
secretary.
M. In said Annex 'J' of respondents Comment he stated that complainant Rosaura
Cordon was on leave by virtue of a voting trust agreement allegedly executed by
complainant in his favor covering all her shares of stock. The claim is baseless. The
voting trust referred to by respondent (annex D of his Comment), even if it were
assumed to be valid, covered only 266 shares of complainants yet she owned a total of
1,039 shares after she and her daughter ceded in favor of the corporation 19 parcels of
land.

Being a former lawyer to complainant, respondent should have ensured that her
interest was safeguarded. Yet, complainant was apparently and deliberately left our
(sic) on the pretext that, she had executed a voting trust agreement in favor of
respondent.

It is suspicious that complainant was made to sign a voting trust agreement on 21


August 1981 and immediately thereafter, the resolutions authorizing respondent to
obtain a loan and to mortgage the 9 parcels of land were passed and approved.

N. It is also highly irregular for respondent who is a lawyer, to allow a situation to


happen where, with the exclusion of complainant as director the result was that there
remained only 4 members of the Board,.

O. Respondents own pleadings submitted to the Commission contradict each


other.

1. For instance, while in his Comment respondent DENIES that he employed deceit
and machination in convincing the complainant and her daughter to sign the articles of
incorporation of Rosaura Enterprises and in ceding to the corporation 19 parcels of
land in Zamboanga City, because they freely, intelligently and voluntarily signed the
same, yet, in his Position Paper, respondent took another stance.

In paragraphs 1.1 and 1.2 of his Position Paper which was submitted 12 years later,
respondent claimed that it was actually the idea of Atty. Rosaura L. Alvarez that a
corporation be put up to incorporate the estate of the late Felixberto D. Jaldon.

2. Likewise, respondent claimed that complainant and her daughter were not directors,
hence they were not notified of meetings, in paragraph 2-6 (c) of his Comment he
blamed the other stockholders and directors for the corporations inability to comply
with the Land Banks demands saying that they have consistently failed since 1982 to
convene (1.) for the annual stockholders meetings and (i.i) for the monthly board
meeting.
His own pleadings claim that he had been the Chairman/President since 1981 to the
present. If (sic) so, it was his duty to convene the stockholders and the directors for
meetings.

Respondent appeared able to convene the stockholders and directors when he needed
to make a loan of p2.2 million; when he sold the corporations right of redemption over
the foreclosed properties of the corporation to Jammang, when he sold one parcel of
land covered by TCT 62,807 to Jammang in addition to the 9 parcels of land which
were foreclosed, and when he sold the complainants ancestral home covered by TCT
No. 72,004.

It is thus strange why respondent claims that the corporation could not do anything to
save the corporations properties from being foreclosed because the stockholders and
directors did not convene.

This assertion of respondent is clearly evident of dishonest, deceitful and immoral


conduct especially because, in all his acts constituting conveyances of corporate
property, respondent used minutes of stockholders and directors meetings signed only
by him and a secretary or signed by him and persons who were not incorporators
much less stockholders.

It is worthy of note that in respondents Exhibits 15, 16, 17 and 18 of his position
paper, there were 7 new stockholders and complainant appeared to have only 266
shares to her name while her daughter Rosemarie had no shares at all. Respondent did
not present any proof of conveyance of shares by complainant and her daughter.

It is further worth noting that complainants voting trust (annex D of respondents


Comment) where she allegedly entrusted 266 shares to respondent on August 21,
1981 had only a validity of 5 years. Thus, she should have had her entire holdings of
1,283 shares back in her name in August 1986.

Respondents purported minutes of stockholders meeting (Exhs. 15 and 17) do not


reflect this.

There was no explanation whatsoever from respondent on how complainant and her
daughter lost their 97% control holding in the corporation.

3. As a further contradiction in respondents pleadings, we note that in paragraph 2.7.C


of his Comment he said that only recently, this year, 1985, the complainant and her
aforenamed daughter examined said voluminous supporting receipts/documents which
had previously been examined by the Land Bank for loan releases, during which
occasion respondent suggested to them that the corporation will have to hire a full-
time book-keeper to put in order said voluminous supporting receipts/documents, to
which they adversely reacted due to lack of corporate money to pay for said book-
keeper. But in respondents Position Paper par. 6.3 he stated that:

Anyway, it is not the respondent but rather the complainant who should render a
detailed accounting to the corporation of the corporate records as well as
corporate revenues/income precisely because since 1994 to the present:

(a). The corporate part-time book-keeper Edilberto Benedicto, with the


indispensable connivance and instigation of the complainant and her daughter,
among others, has custody of the corporate records, xxx

4. In other contradictory stance, respondent claims in par. 7.3 of his position paper
that complainant and her daughter sabotaged the BCC operations of the corporation
by illegally taking over actual control and supervision thereof sometime in 1986, xxx

Yet respondents own exhibits in his position paper particularly Exhibit 15 and 16
where the subject of the foreclosed properties of the corporation comprising the
Baliwasan Commercial Center (BCC) was taken up, complainant and her daughter
were not even present nor were they the subject of the discussion, belying respondents
claim that the complainant and her daughter illegally took actual control of BCC.

5. On the matter of the receipts issued by respondent evidencing payment to him of


rentals by lessees of the corporation, attached to the complaint as Annexes H to H-17,
respondent claims that the receipts are temporary in nature and that subsequently
regular corporate receipts were issued. On their face however the receipts clearly
appear to be official receipts, printed and numbered duly signed by the respondent
bearing his printed name.

It is difficult to believe that a lawyer of respondent stature would issue official


receipts to lessees if he only meant to issue temporary ones.

6. With regard to respondents claim that the complainant consented to the sale of her
ancestral home, covered by TCT No. T-72,004 to one Tion Suy Ong for which he
attached as Exhibit 22 to his Position Paper the minutes of an annual meeting of the
stockholders, it behooves this Commission why complainants signature had to be
accompanied by her thumb mark. Furthermore, complainants signature appears
unstable and shaky. This Office is thus persuaded to believe complainants allegation
in paragraph 3b of her position paper that since September 1992 up to March 1993
she was being detained by one PO# (sic) Joel Constantino and his wife under
instructions from respondent Balicanta.
This conclusion is supported by a letter from respondent dated March 1993, Annex H
of complainants position paper, where respondent ordered Police Officer Constantino
to allow Atty. Linda Lim and Rosemarie Jaldon to talk to Tita Rosing.

The complainants thumb mark together with her visibly unstable shaky signature
lends credence to her claim that she was detained in the far flung barrio of Culianan
under instructions of respondent while her ancestral home was demolished and the lot
sold to one Tion Suy Ong.

It appears that respondent felt compelled to over-ensure complainants consent by


getting her to affix her thumb mark in addition to her signature.

7. Respondent likewise denies that he also acted as Corporate Secretary in addition to


being the Chairman, President and Treasurer of the corporation. Yet, respondent
submitted to this commission documents which are supported to be in the possession
of the Corporate Secretary such as the stock and transfer book and minutes of
meetings.

The foregoing findings of this Commission are virtual smoking guns that prove on no
uncertain terms that respondent, who was the legal counsel of complainant in the latter
part of the settlement of the estate of her deceased husband, committed unlawful,
immoral and deceitful conduct proscribed by Rule 1.01 of the code of professional
responsibility.

Likewise, respondent clearly committed a violation of Canon 15 of the same code


which provides that A lawyer should observe candor fairness and loyalty in all his
dealings and transactions with his client.

Respondents acts gravely diminish the publics respect for the integrity of the
profession of law for which this Commission recommends that he be meted the
penalty of disbarment.

The pendency of the cases at the SEC and the Regional Trial Court of Zamboanga
filed by complainant against respondent does not preclude a determination of
respondents culpability as a lawyer.

This Commission cannot further delay the resolution of this complaint filed in 1985
by complainant, and old widow who deserves to find hope and recover her confidence
in the judicial system.

The findings of this office, predominantly based on documents adduced by both


parties lead to only one rather unpalatable conclusion. That respondent Atty. Jesus F.
Balicanta, in his professional relations with herein complainant did in fact employ
unlawful, dishonest, and immoral conduct proscribed in no uncertain terms by Rule
1.01 of the Code of Professional Responsibility. In addition, respondents actions
clearly violated Canon 15 to 16 of the same Code.

It is therefore our unpleasant duty to recommend that respondent, having committed


acts in violation of the Canons of Professional Responsibility, thereby causing a great
disservice to the profession, be meted the ultimate sanction of disbarment.[2]

On September 30, 1999, while Commissioner Cunanans recommendation


for respondents disbarment was pending review before Executive Vice-
President and Northern Luzon Governor Teofilo Pilando, respondent filed a
motion requesting for a full-blown investigation and for invalidation of the
entire proceedings and/or remedial action under Section 11, Rule 139-B,
Revised Rules of Court, alleging that he had evidence that Commissioner
Cunanans report was drafted by the lawyers of complainant, Attys. Antonio
Cope and Rita Linda Jimeno. He presented two unsigned anonymous letters
allegedly coming from a disgruntled employee of Attys. Cope and Jimeno. He
claimed to have received these letters in his mailbox. [3]

Respondents motion alleging that Attys. Antonio Cope and Rita Linda
Jimeno drafted Commissioner Cunanans report was accompanied by a
complaint praying for the disbarment of said lawyers including Commissioner
Cunanan. The complaint was docketed as CBD Case No. 99-658. After Attys.
Cope and Jimeno and Commissioner Cunanan filed their answers, a hearing
was conducted by the Investigating Committee of the IBP Board of Governors.
On May 26, 2001, the IBP Board of Governors issued a
resolution  dismissing for lack of merit the complaint for disbarment against
[4]

Attys. Cope and Jimeno and Commissioner Cunanan. And in Adm. Case No.
2797, the Board adopted and approved the report and recommendation of
Commissioner Cunanan, and meted against herein respondent Balicanta the
penalty of suspension from the practice of law for 5 years for commission of
acts of misconduct and disloyalty by taking undue and unfair advantage of his
legal knowledge as a lawyer to gain material benefit for himself at the expense
of complainant Rosaura P. Jaldon-Cordon and caused serious damage to the
complainant. [5]

To support its decision, the Board uncovered respondents fraudulent acts


in the very same documents he presented to exonerate himself. It also took
note of respondents contradictory and irreconcilable statements in the
pleadings and position papers he submitted. However, it regarded the penalty
of disbarment as too severe for respondents misdeeds, considering that the
same were his first offense.[6]

Pursuant to Section 12 (b), Rule 139-B of the Rules of Court,  the said
[7]

resolution in Administrative Case No. 2797 imposing the penalty of


suspension for 5 years on respondent was automatically elevated to this Court
for final action. On the other hand, the dismissal of the complaint for
disbarment against Attys. Cope and Jimeno and Commissioner Cunanan,
docketed as CBD Case No. 99-658, became final in the absence of any
petition for review.
This Court confirms the duly supported findings of the IBP Board that
respondent committed condemnable acts of deceit against his client. The
fraudulent acts he carried out against his client followed a well thought of plan
to misappropriate the corporate properties and funds entrusted to him. At the
very outset, he embarked on his devious scheme by making himself the
President, Chairman of the Board, Director and Treasurer of the corporation,
although he knew he was prohibited from assuming the position of President
and Treasurer at the same time. As Treasurer, he accepted in behalf of the
[8]

corporation the 19 titles that complainant and her daughter co-owned. The


other treasurer appointed, Farnacio Bucoy, did not appear to be a stockholder
or director in the corporate records. The minutes of the meetings supposedly
electing him and Bucoy as officers of the corporation actually bore the
signatures of respondent and the secretary only, contrary to his claim that
they were signed by the directors and stockholders.
He likewise misled the IBP investigating commission in claiming that the
mortgage of 9 of the properties of the corporation previously belonging to
complainant and her daughter was ratified by the stockholders owning two-
thirds or 67% of the outstanding capital stock when in fact only three
stockholders owning 111 out of 1,750 outstanding shares or 6.3% assented
thereto. The alleged authorization granting him the power to contract the LBP
loan for Two Million Two Hundred Twenty Pesos (P2,220,000) was also not
approved by the required minimum of two-thirds of the outstanding capital
stock despite respondents claim to the contrary. In all these transactions,
complainant and her daughter who both owned 1,711 out of the 1,750
outstanding shares of the corporation or 97.7% never had any participation.
Neither were they informed thereof.
Clearly, there was no quorum for a valid meeting for the discussion and
approval of these transactions.
Respondent cannot take refuge in the contested voting trust agreement
supposedly executed by complainant and her daughter for the reason that it
authorized respondent to represent complainant for only 266 shares.
Aside from the dishonest transactions he entered into under the cloak of
sham resolutions, he failed to explain several discrepancies in his version of
the facts. We hereby reiterate some of these statements noted by
Commissioner Cunanan in his findings.
First, respondent blamed the directors and the stockholders who failed to
convene for the required annual meetings since 1982. However, respondent
appeared able to convene the stockholders and directors when he contracted
the LBP debt, when he sold to Jammang the corporations right of redemption
over the foreclosed properties of the corporation, when he sold one parcel of
land covered by TCT No. 62807 to Jammang, when he mortgaged the 9
parcels of land to LBP which later foreclosed on said mortgage, and when he
sold the complainants ancestral home covered by TCT No. 72004.
Second, the factual findings of the investigating commission, affirmed by
the IBP Board, disclosed that complainant and her daughter own 1,711 out of
1,750 shares of the outstanding capital stock of the corporation, based on the
Articles of Incorporation and deeds of transfer of the properties. But
respondents evidence showed that complainant had only 266 shares of stock
in the corporation while her daughter had none, notwithstanding the fact that
there was nothing to indicate that complainant and her daughter ever
conveyed their shares to others.
Respondent likewise did not explain why he did not return the certificates
representing the 266 shares after the lapse of 5 years from the time the voting
trust certificate was executed in 1981.
[9]

The records show that up to now, the complainant and her daughter own
97% of the outstanding shares but respondent never bothered to explain why
they were never asked to participate in or why they were never informed of
important corporate decisions.
Third, respondent, in his comment, alleged that due to the objection of
complainant and her daughter to his proposal to hire an accountant, the
corporation had no formal accounting of its revenues and income. However,
respondents position paper maintained that there was no accounting because
the part-time bookkeeper of the corporation connived with complainant and
her daughter in keeping the corporate records.
Fourth, respondents claim that complainant and her daughter took control
of the operations of the corporation in 1986 is belied by the fact that
complainant and her daughter were not even present in the alleged meeting of
the board (which took place after 1986) to discuss the foreclosure of the
mortgaged properties. The truth is that he never informed them of such
meeting and he never gave control of the corporation to them.
Fifth, Commissioner Cunanan found that:

5. on the matter of the receipts issued by respondent evidencing payment to him of


rentals by lessees of the corporation, attached to the complaint as Annexes H to H-17,
respondent claims that the receipts are temporary in nature and that subsequently
regular corporate receipts were issued. On their face however the receipts clearly
appear to be official receipts, printed and numbered duly signed by the respondent
bearing his printed name.

It is difficult to believe that a lawyer of respondents stature would issue official


receipts to lessees if he only meant to issue temporary ones. [10]

Sixth, respondent denies that he acted as Corporate Secretary aside from


being the Chairman, President and Treasurer of the corporation. Yet
respondent submitted to the investigating commission documents which were
supposed to be in the official possession of the Corporate Secretary alone
such as the stock and transfer book and minutes of meetings.
Seventh, he alleged in his comment that he was the one who proposed
the establishment of the corporation that would invest the properties of the
complainant but, in his position paper, he said that it was a certain Atty.
Rosauro Alvarez who made the proposal to put up the corporation.
After a thorough review of the records, we find that respondent committed
grave and serious misconduct that casts dishonor on the legal profession. His
misdemeanors reveal a deceitful scheme to use the corporation as a means
to convert for his own personal benefit properties left to him in trust by
complainant and her daughter.
Not even his deviousness could cover up the wrongdoings he
committed. The documents he thought could exculpate him were the very
same documents that revealed his immoral and shameless ways. These
documents were extremely revealing in that they unmasked a man who knew
the law and abused it for his personal gain without any qualms of conscience.
They painted an intricate web of lies, deceit and opportunism beneath a
carefully crafted smokescreen of corporate maneuvers.
The Code of Professional Responsibility mandates upon each lawyer, as
his duty to society, the obligation to obey the laws of the land and promote
respect for law and legal processes. Specifically, he is forbidden to engage in
unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct.  If the practice of law is to
[11]

remain an honorable profession and attain its basic ideal, those enrolled in its
ranks should not only master its tenets and principles but should also, in their
lives, accord continuing fidelity to them.  Thus, the requirement of good moral
[12]

character is of much greater import, as far as the general public is concerned,


than the possession of legal learning.  Lawyers are expected to abide by the
[13]

tenets of morality, not only upon admission to the Bar but also throughout their
legal career, in order to maintain ones good standing in that exclusive and
honored fraternity.  Good moral character is more than just the absence of
[14]

bad character. Such character expresses itself in the will to do the unpleasant
thing if it is right and the resolve not to do the pleasant thing if it is wrong.
 This must be so because vast interests are committed to his care; he is the
[15]

recipient of unbounded trust and confidence; he deals with his clients


property, reputation, his life, his all.
[16]

Indeed, the words of former Presiding Justice of the Court of Appeals


Pompeyo Diaz cannot find a more relevant application than in this case:

There are men in any society who are so self-serving that they try to make law serve
their selfish ends. In this group of men, the most dangerous is the man of the law who
has no conscience. He has, in the arsenal of his knowledge, the very tools by which he
can poison and disrupt society and bring it to an ignoble end. [17]

Good moral standing is manifested in the duty of the lawyer to hold in trust
all moneys and properties of his client that may come into his possession.
 He is bound to account for all money or property collected or received for or
[18]

from the client.  The relation between an attorney and his client is highly
[19]

fiduciary in nature. Thus, lawyers are bound to promptly account for money or


property received by them on behalf of their clients and failure to do so
constitutes professional misconduct. [20]

This Court holds that respondent cannot invoke the separate personality of
the corporation to absolve him from exercising these duties over the
properties turned over to him by complainant. He blatantly used the corporate
veil to defeat his fiduciary obligation to his client, the complainant. Toleration
of such fraudulent conduct was never the reason for the creation of said
corporate fiction.
The massive fraud perpetrated by respondent on the complainant leaves
us no choice but to set aside the veil of corporate entity. For purposes of this
action therefore, the properties registered in the name of the corporation
should still be considered as properties of complainant and her daughter. The
respondent merely held them in trust for complainant (now an ailing 83-year-
old) and her daughter. The properties conveyed fraudulently and/or without
the requisite authority should be deemed as never to have been transferred,
sold or mortgaged at all.Respondent shall be liable, in his personal capacity,
to third parties who may have contracted with him in good faith.
Based on the aforementioned findings, this Court believes that the gravity
of respondents offenses cannot be adequately matched by mere suspension
as recommended by the IBP.Instead, his wrongdoings deserve the severe
penalty of disbarment, without prejudice to his criminal and civil liabilities for
his dishonest acts.
WHEREFORE, respondent Attorney Jesus T. Balicanta is hereby
DISBARRED. The Clerk of Court is directed to strike out his name from the
Roll of Attorneys.
SO ORDERED.
Bellosillo, Puno, Vitug, Panganiban, Quisumbing, Ynares-Santiago,
Carpio, Austria-Martinez, Corona, Carpio-Morales, and Callejo, Sr.,
JJ., concur.
Davide, Jr., C.J., Mendoza, and Sandoval-Gutierrez, JJ., on leave.
EN BANC
 
 
 
ARELLANO UNIVERSITY, INC., A.C. No. 8380
Complainant,
Present:
Puno, C.J.,
Carpio,
Corona,*
Carpio Morales,
- versus - Chico-Nazario,
Velasco, Jr.,*
Nachura,
Leonardo-De Castro,
Brion,
Peralta,*
Bersamin,
Del Castillo,
Abad, and
Villarama, Jr., JJ.
ATTY. LEOVIGILDO H. MIJARES III,
Respondent. Promulgated:
November 20, 2009
x ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- x
 
 
DECISION
 
 
PER CURIAM:
 
 
This disbarment case is about the need for a lawyer to account for funds entrusted
to him by his client.
 
 
The Facts and the Case
 
The facts are taken from the record of the case and the report and recommendation
of the Commission on Bar Discipline of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines
(IBP).
 
Sometime in January 2004, complainant Arellano University, Inc. (the University)
engaged the services of respondent Leovigildo H. Mijares III, a member of the Bar,
for securing a certificate of title covering a dried up portion of the Estero de San
Miguel that the University had been occupying. The property was the subject of a
Deed of Exchange dated October 1, 1958 between the City of Manila and the
University.
 
In its complaint for disbarment against Mijares, the University alleged that it gave
him all the documents he needed to accomplish his work. Later, Mijares asked the
University for and was given P500,000.00 on top of his attorneys fees, supposedly
to cover the expenses for facilitation and processing. He in turn promised to give
the money back in case he was unable to get the work done.
 
On July 5, 2004 Mijares informed the University that he already completed
Phase I of the titling of the property, meaning that he succeeded in getting the
Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) to approve it and that the
documents had already been sent to the Department of Environment and Natural
Resources (DENR). The University requested Mijares for copies of the MMDA
approval but he unjustifiably failed to comply despite his clients repeated
demands. Then he made himself scarce, prompting the University to withdraw all
the cases it had entrusted to him and demand the return of the P500,000.00 it gave
him.
 
On November 23, 2005 the University wrote Mijares by registered letter, formally
terminating his services in the titling matter and demanding the return of
the P500,000.00. But the letter could not be served because he changed office
address without telling the University. Eventually, the University found his new
address and served him its letter on January 2, 2006. Mijares personally received it
yet he did not return the money asked of him.
 
In his answer to the complaint, Mijares alleged that he and the University agreed
on a number of courses of action relating to the project assigned to him: first, get
the Universitys application for a survey plan which the DENR-NCR approved for a
facilitation cost of P500,000.00; second, get a favorable MMDA endorsement for a
facilitation cost of another P500,000.00; and, third, the titling of the property by
the Land Registration Authority for a facilitation cost of still another P500,000.00.
 
Mijares also alleged that the DENR-NCR Assistant Regional Director told him that
he needed to get a favorable endorsement from MMDA and that the person to talk
to about it was Undersecretary Cesar Lacuna. Mijares later met the latter through a
common friend. At their meeting, Mijares and Lacuna allegedly agreed on what the
latter would get for recommending approval of the application. Later, Mijares said,
he gave the P500,000.00 to Lacuna through their common friend on Lacunas
instruction.
 
Mijares next alleged that, after he received the money, Lacuna told him that the
University filed an identical application earlier on March 15, 2002. Mijares
claimed that the University deliberately withheld this fact from him. Lacuna said
that, because of the denial of that prior application, he would have difficulty
recommending approval of the present application. It appeared that Lacuna
endorsed the previous application to the Mayor of Manila on July 23, 2003 but the
latter did not act on it.
 
Mijares finally alleged that he and Lacuna wanted to bypass the Mayor of Manila
in the paper work but they were unable to arrive at a concrete plan. Mijares
claimed that the University gave him only P45,000.00 as his fees and that it was
with the Universitys conformity that he gave the P500,000.00 to Lacuna.
 
The IBP designated Atty. Dennis B. Funa as Commissioner to conduct a formal
investigation of the complaint. Despite numerous settings, however, Mijares failed
to appear before the Commissioner and adduce evidence in his defense.
 
On October 17, 2008 Commissioner Funa submitted his Report and
Recommendation[1] in the case to the Integrated Bar of the Phillippines Board of
Governors. The Report said that the University did not authorize Mijares to
give P500,000.00 to the then MMDA Deputy Chairman Cesar Lacuna; that Mijares
had been unable to account for and return that money despite repeated demands;
and that he admitted under oath having bribed a government official.
 
Commissioner Funa recommended a) that Mijares be held guilty of violating
Rules 1.01 and 1.02, Canon 15, Rule 15.05, Canon 16, Rules 16.01 and 16.03, and
Canon 18, Rule 18.04 of the Code of Professional Responsibility and meted out the
penalty of disbarment; b) that he be ordered to return the P500,000.00 and all the
pertinent documents to the University; and c) that Mijares sworn statement that
formed part of his Answer be endorsed to the Office of the Ombudsman for
investigation and, if warranted, for prosecution with respect to his shady dealing
with Deputy Chairman Lacuna.
On December 11, 2008 the IBP Board of Governors passed Resolution XVIII-
2008-631, adopting and approving the Investigating Commissioners
recommendation but modifying the penalty from disbarment to indefinite
suspension from the practice of law and ordering Mijares to return the P500,000.00
and all pertinent documents to the University within six months from receipt of the
Courts decision.[2]
 
The Question Presented
 
The only question presented in this case is whether or not respondent Mijares is
guilty of misappropriating the P500,000.00 that his client, the University, entrusted
to him for use in facilitating and processing the titling of a property that it claimed.
 
The Courts Ruling
 
Section 27, Rule 138 of the Revised Rules of Court provides for the disbarment or
suspension of a lawyer for the following: (1) deceit; (2) malpractice; (3) gross
misconduct in office; (4) grossly immoral conduct; (5) conviction of a crime
involving moral turpitude; (6) violation of the lawyers oath; (7) willful
disobedience of any lawful order of a superior court; and (8) willfully appearing as
an attorney for a party without authority to do so.[3]
 
Every lawyer has the responsibility to protect and advance the interests of his client
such that he must promptly account for whatever money or property his client may
have entrusted to him. As a mere trustee of said money or property, he must hold
them separate from that of his own and make sure that they are used for their
intended purpose. If not used, he must return the money or property immediately to
his client upon demand, otherwise the lawyer shall be presumed to have
misappropriated the same in violation of the trust reposed on him. [4] A lawyers
conversion of funds entrusted to him is a gross violation of professional ethics.[5]
 
Here, respondent Mijares chose not to be heard on his evidence. Technically, the
only evidence on record that the Court can consider is the Universitys evidence
that he got P500,000.00 from complainant for expenses in facilitating and
processing its title application; that he undertook to return the money if he did not
succeed in his purpose; that he falsely claimed having obtained the MMDA
approval of the application; and that he nonetheless refused to return the money
despite repeated demands. Unopposed, this evidence supports the finding of guilt
of the Investigating Commissioner and the IBP Board of Governors.
 
Besides, even if the Court were to consider the defense that Mijares laid out
in his answer, the same does not rouse sympathy. He claims that he gave
the P500,000.00 to Undersecretary Lacuna, with the Universitys conformity, for a
favorable MMDA endorsement to the Mayor of Manila. He also claims that, in a
complete turnaround, Lacuna later said that he could not provide the endorsement
because, as it turned out, the MMDA had previously given such endorsement of
the Universitys earlier application and the Mayor of Manila did not act on that
endorsement.
 
But, if this were so, there was no reason for Mijares not to face the
University and make it see that it had no cause for complaint, having given him
clearance to pass on the P500,000.00 to Lacuna. Instead, Mijares kept silent. He
did not deny that the University went all over town looking for him after he could
not return the money. Nor did he take any action to compel Lacuna to hand back
the money that the University gave him. More, his not showing up to testify on his
behalf at the investigation of the case is a dead giveaway of the lack of merit of his
defense. No evidence exists to temper the doom that he faces.
 
Even more unfortunate for Mijares, he admitted under oath having bribed a
government official to act favorably on his clients application to acquire title to a
dried-up creek. That is quite dishonest. The Court is not, therefore, inclined to let
him off with the penalty of indefinite suspension which is another way of saying he
can resume his practice after a time if he returns the money and makes a promise to
shape up.
 
The Court is also not inclined to go along with the IBPs recommendation that the
Court include in its decision an order directing Mijares to return the P500,000.00
that the University entrusted to him. The University knowingly gave him that
money to spend for facilitation and processing. It is not nave. There is no
legitimate expense called facilitation fee. This term is a deodorized word for bribe
money. The Court will not permit the conversion of a disbarment proceeding into a
remedy for recovering bribe money lost in a bad deal.
 
WHEREFORE, the Court finds respondent Leovigildo H. Mijares III, a member
of the Bar, GUILTY of violation of Rules 1.01 and 1.02, Canon 15, Rule 15.05,
Canon 16, Rules 16.01 and 16.03, and Canon 18, Rule 18.04 of the Code of
Professional Responsibility and imposes on him the penalty
of DISBARMENT. He is, in addition, directed to return to complainant Arellano
University, Inc. all the documents in his possession covering the titling matter that
it referred to him.
 
Let the sworn statement of respondent Mijares, forming his Answer, be forwarded
to the Office of the Ombudsman for whatever action it deems proper under the
circumstances.
 
SO ORDERED.
SECOND DIVISION

[G.R. No. 109149. December 21, 1999]

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, plaintiff-appellee, vs. LEONCIO


SANTOCILDES, JR. y SIGA-AN, accused-appellant.

DECISION
QUISUMBING, J.:

Where an accused was not duly represented by a member of the Philippine Bar
during trial, the judgment should be set aside and the case remanded to the trial court
for a new trial. A person who misrepresents himself as a lawyer shall be held liable
for indirect contempt of court.
Subject of the present appeal is the decision dated October 29, 1992, of the
Regional Trial Court of Iloilo City, Branch 33, convicting accused-appellant of the
crime of rape, sentencing him to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua, and
ordering him to pay the offended party the amount of P50,000.00 and to pay the costs.
The antecedent facts of the case are as follows:
On February 17, 1992, appellant was charged with the crime of rape [1] of a girl less
than nine (9) years old, committed on December 28, 1991, in the town of Barangay
San Luis, San Joaquin, Iloilo.
Upon arraignment, appellant entered a plea of not guilty. Trial ensued and the
prosecution presented as its witnesses the victim, her mother, her six (6) year-old
playmate, and the medico-legal officer who examined the victim.
For the defense, appellant presented one German Toriales and himself. Appellant
denied committing the rape and claimed that he merely tried to stop the two girls, the
victim and her playmate, from quarreling.
On October 29, 1992, the trial court rendered a decision [2] finding appellant guilty as
charged. The dispositive portion of the decision states:

WHEREFORE, the Court finds the accused guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the
crime of rape and sentences him to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua together its
accessory penalty. The accused is ordered to pay the amount of P50,000.00 to the
complainant and another amount for costs, without subsidiary penalty in case of
failure to pay the civil liability and the cost.

If qualified under Art. 29 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended by R.A. 6127, as
amended, and he has agreed in writing to abide by the same rules imposed upon
convicted prisoners, he shall be credited with the full duration of his preventive
imprisonment; otherwise, he shall only be credited with 4/5 of the same.

SO ORDERED.

Hence, appellant duly filed a Notice of Appeal. [3] In his brief,[4] appellant made the following
assignment of errors:

I. THE HONORABLE TRIAL COURT COMMITTED REVERSIBLE ERROR IN


FINDING THAT THE ACCUSED IS GUILTY OF RAPE INSPITE OF
CONFLICTING TESTIMONIES OF THE PRIVATE COMPLAINANT AND HER
WITNESSES ON MATERIAL POINTS.

II. THAT THE ACCUSED-APPELLANT WAS DEPRIVED THOUGH NO FAULT


OF HIS OWN TO BE DEFENDED BY A PERSON AUTHORIZED TO PRACTICE
LAW AMOUNTING TO DENIAL OF DUE PROCESS.

Considering the importance of the constitutional right to counsel, we shall now


first resolve the issue of proper representation by a member of the bar raised by
appellant.
Appellant contends that he was represented during trial by a person named
Gualberto C. Ompong, who for all intents and purposes acted as his counsel and even
conducted the direct examination and cross-examinations of the witnesses. On appeal,
however, appellant secured the services of a new lawyer, Atty. Igmedio S. Prado, Jr.,
who discovered that Gualberto C. Ompong is actually not a member of the
bar. Further verification with the Office of the Bar Confidant confirmed this fact.
[5]
 Appellant therefore argues that his deprivation of the right to counsel should
necessarily result in his acquittal of the crime charged.
The Office of the Solicitor General, on the other hand, maintains that
notwithstanding the fact that appellants counsel during trial was not a member of the
bar, appellant was afforded due process since he has been given an opportunity to be
heard and the records reveal that said person presented the evidence for the defense
with the ability of a seasoned lawyer and in general handled the case of appellant in a
professional and skillful manner. However, the right of the accused to be heard by
himself and his counsel, in our view, goes much deeper than the question of ability or
skill. It lies at the heart of our adversarial system of justice. Where the interplay of
basic rights of the individual may collide with the awesome forces of the state, we
need a professional learned in the law as well as ethically committed to defend the
accused by all means fair and reasonable.
On the matter of proper representation by a member of the bar, we had occasion to
resolve a similar issue in the case of Delgado v. Court of Appeals.[6] In Delgado,
petitioner and two others were convicted by the trial court of the crime of estafa thru
falsification of public and/or official documents. One accused did not
appeal. Petitioner Delgado and her remaining co-accused appealed to the Court of
Appeals, which affirmed petitioners conviction but acquitted her co-accused. After
entry of judgment, petitioner discovered that her lawyer was not a member of the bar
and moved to set aside the entry of judgment. The Court of Appeals denied petitioners
motion, hence, she filed a petition for certiorari with this Court. The Court set aside
the assailed judgment and remanded the case to the trial court for a new trial,
explaining that -

This is so because an accused person is entitled to be represented by a member of the


bar in a criminal case filed against her before the Regional Trial Court. Unless she is
represented by a lawyer, there is great danger that any defense presented in her behalf
will be inadequate considering the legal perquisites and skills needed in the court
proceedings. This would certainly be a denial of due process. [7]

Indeed, the right to counsel is of such primordial importance that even if an


accused was represented by three successive counsels from the Public Attorneys
Office, the Court has ordered the remand of a rape case when it found that accused
was given mere perfunctory representation by aforesaid counsels such that appellant
was not properly and effectively accorded the right to counsel. In the recent en
banc case of People v. Bermas, G.R. No. 120420, April 21, 1999, the Court, speaking
through Justice Vitug, admonished three (3) PAO lawyers for failing to genuinely
protect the interests of the accused and for having fallen much too short of their
responsibility as officers of the court and as members of the Bar. Verily, we can do no
less where the accused was not even duly represented by a certified member of the
Philippine Bar, no matter how zealous his representation might have been.
The presence and participation of counsel in criminal proceedings should never be
taken lightly.[8] Even the most intelligent or educated man may have no skill in the science of the law,
particularly in the rules of procedure, and, without counsel, he may be convicted not because he is guilty but because
he does not know how to establish his innocence. [9] The right of an accused to counsel is guaranteed to minimize the
imbalance in the adversarial system where the accused is pitted against the awesome prosecutory machinery of the
State.[10] Such a right proceeds from the fundamental principle of due process which basically means that a person
must be heard before being condemned. The due process requirement is a part of a persons basic rights; it is not a
mere formality that may be dispensed with or performed perfunctorily.[11]

The right to counsel of an accused is enshrined in no less than Article III, Sections
12 and 14 (2) of the 1987 Constitution. This constitutional mandate is reflected in
Section 1 of Rule 115 of the 1985 Rules of Criminal Procedure which declares the
right of the accused at the trial to be present in person and by counsel at every stage of
the proceedings from the arraignment to the promulgation of judgment.In turn,
Section 5 of Article VIII of the 1987 Constitution vests the power to promulgate rules
concerning the admission to the practice of law to the Supreme Court. Section 1 of
Rule 138 of the Rules of Court explicitly states who are entitled to practice law in the
Philippines, and Section 2 thereof clearly provides for the requirements for all
applicants for admission to the bar. Jurisprudence has also held that the right to
practice law is not a natural or constitutional right but is in the nature of a privilege or
franchise. It is limited to persons of good moral character with special qualifications
duly ascertained and certified. The right does not only presuppose in its possessor
integrity, legal standing and attainment, but also the exercise of a special privilege,
highly personal and partaking of the nature of a public trust. [12]Indeed, so strict is the
regulation of the practice of law that in Beltran, Jr. v. Abad,[13] a Bar candidate who
has already successfully hurdled the Bar examinations but has not yet taken his oath
and signed the roll of attorneys, and who was caught in the unauthorized practice of
law was held in contempt of court. Under Section 3 (e) of Rule 71 of the Rules of
Court, a person who undertakes the unauthorized practice of law is liable for indirect
contempt of court for assuming to be an attorney and acting as such without authority.
WHEREFORE, the assailed judgment is SET ASIDE, and the case is hereby
REMANDED to the trial court for new trial.
With respect to the unauthorized practice of law by the person named Gualberto
C. Ompong in connection with this case, the local Chapter of the Integrated Bar of the
Philippines of Iloilo City is DIRECTED to conduct a prompt and thorough
investigation regarding this matter and to report its recommendations to the Court
within ninety (90) days from notice of this order. Let all concerned parties, including
the Office of the Bar Confidant, be each furnished a copy of this Decision for their
appropriate action.
No pronouncement as to costs.
SO ORDERED.
Bellosillo, (Chairman), Mendoza, Buena, and De Leon, Jr., JJ., concur.
Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila

EN BANC

A.C. No. 3056               August 16, 1991

FERNANDO T. COLLANTES, complainant, 
vs.
ATTY. VICENTE C. RENOMERON respondent.

PER CURIAM:p

This complaint for disbarment is related to the administrative case which complainant Attorney
Fernando T. Collantes, house counsel for V & G Better Homes Subdivision, Inc. (V & G for short),
filed against Attorney Vicente C. Renomeron, Register of Deeds of Tacloban City, for the latter's
irregular actuations with regard to the application of V & G for registration of 163 pro forma Deeds of
Absolute Sale with Assignment of lots in its subdivision. The present complaint charges the
respondent with the following offenses:

1. Neglecting or refusing inspite (sic) repeated requests and without sufficient justification, to
act within reasonable time (sic) the registration of 163 Deeds of Absolute Sale with
Assignment and the eventual issuance and transfer of the corresponding 163 transfer
certificates of titles to the GSIS, for the purpose of obtaining some pecuniary or material
benefit from the person or persons interested therein.

2. Conduct unbecoming of public official.

3. Dishonesty.

4. Extortion.

5. Directly receiving pecuniary or material benefit for himself in connection with pending
official transaction before him.

6. Causing undue injury to a party, the GSIS [or] Government through manifest partiality,
evident bad faith or gross inexcusable negligence.

7. Gross ignorance of the law and procedure. (p. 10, Rollo.)

As early as January 15, 1987, V & G had requested the respondent Register of Deeds to register
some 163 deeds of sale with assignment (in favor of the GSIS) of lots of the V & G mortgaged to
GSIS by the lot buyers. There was no action from the respondent.
Another request was made on February 16, 1987 for him to approve or deny registration of the
uniform deeds of absolute sale with assignment. Still no action except to require V & G to submit
proof of real estate tax payment and to clarify certain details about the transactions.

Although V & G complied with the desired requirements, respondent Renomeron suspended the
registration of the documents pending compliance by V & G with a certain "special arrangement"
between them, which was that V & G should provide him with a weekly round trip ticket from
Tacloban to Manila plus P2,000.00 as pocket money per trip, or, in lieu thereof, the sale of
respondent's Quezon City house and lot by V & G or GSIS representatives.

On May 19, 1987, respondent confided to the complainant that he would act favorably on the 163
registrable documents of V & G if the latter would execute clarificatory affidavits and send money for
a round trip plane ticket for him.

The plane fare amounting to P800 (without the pocket money of P2,000) was sent to respondent
through his niece.

Because of V & G's failure to give him pocket money in addition to plane fare, respondent imposed
additional registration requirements. Fed up with the respondent's extortionate tactics, the
complainant wrote him a letter on May 20, 1987 challenging him to act on all pending applications for
registration of V & G within twenty-four (24) hours.

On May 22, 1987, respondent formally denied registration of the transfer of 163 certificates of title to
the GSIS on the uniform ground that the deeds of absolute sale with assignment were ambiguous as
to parties and subject matter. On May 26, 1987, Attorney Collantes moved for a reconsideration of
said denial, stressing that:

... since the year 1973 continuously up to December 1986 for a period of nearly fifteen (15)
years or for a sum total of more than 2,000 same set of documents which have been
repeatedly and uniformly registered in the Office of the Register of Deeds of Tacloban City
under Attys. Modesto Garcia and Pablo Amascual Jr., it is only during the incumbency of
Atty. Vicente C. Renomeron, that the very same documents of the same tenor have been
refused or denied registration ... (p. 15, Rollo.)

On May 27, 1987, respondent elevated the matter en consulta to the Administrator, National Land
Titles and Deeds Registration Administration (NLTDRA) (now the Land Registration Authority [LRA]).
In a Resolution dated July 27,1987 (Consulta No. 1579), the NLTDRA ruled that the questioned
documents were registrable. Heedless of the NLTDRA's opinion, respondent continued to sit on V &
Gs 163 deeds of sale with assignment.

Exasperated by respondent's conduct, the complainant filed with the NLTDRA on June 4, 1987
administrative charges (docketed as Adm. Case No. 87-15), against respondent Register of Deeds.

Upon receipt of the charges, NLTDRA Administrator Teodoro G. Bonifacio directed respondent to
explain in writing why no administrative disciplinary action should be taken against him. Respondent
was further asked whether he would submit his case on the basis of his answer, or be heard in a
formal investigation.

In his answer dated July 9, 1987, respondent denied the charges of extortion and of directly
receiving pecuniary or material benefit for himself in connection with the official transactions awaiting
his action.
Although an investigator was appointed by NLTDRA Administrator Bonifacio to hear Attorney
Collantes' charges against him, Attorney Renomeron waived his right to a formal investigation. Both
parties submitted the case for resolution based on the pleadings.

The investigator, Attorney Leonardo Da Jose, recommended dropping the charges of: (1)
dishonesty; (2) causing undue injury to a party through manifest partiality, evident bad faith or gross
inexcusable negligence; and (3) gross ignorance of the law and procedure. He opined that the
charge of neglecting or refusing, in spite repeated requests and without sufficient justification, to act
within a reasonable time on the registration of the documents involved, in order to extort some
pecuniary or material benefit from the interested party, absorbed the charges of conduct
unbecoming of a public official, extortion, and directly receiving some pecuniary or material benefit
for himself in connection with pending official transactions before him.

Brushing aside the investigator's recommendation, NLTDRA Administrator Teodoro G. Bonifacio on


February 22, 1988, recommended to Secretary of Justice Sedfrey A. Ordoñez that the respondent:
(1) be found guilty of simple neglect of duty: (2) be reprimanded to act with dispatch on documents
presented to him for registration; and (3) be warned that a repetition of similar infraction will be dealt
with more severely.

After due investigation of the charges, Secretary Ordoñez found respondent guilty of grave
misconduct.

Our study and consideration of the records of the case indicate that ample evidence
supports the Investigating Officer's findings that the respondent committed grave
misconduct.

The respondent unreasonably delayed action on the documents presented to him for
registration and, notwithstanding representations by the parties interested for expeditious
action on the said documents, he continued with his inaction.

The records indicate that the respondent eventually formally denied the registration of the
documents involved; that he himself elevated the question on the registrability of the said
documents to Administrator Bonifacio after he formally denied the registration thereof, that
the Administrator then resolved in favor of the registrability of the said documents in
question; and that, such resolution of the Administrator notwithstanding, the respondent still
refused the registration thereof but demanded from the parties interested the submission of
additional requirements not adverted to in his previous denial.

x x x           x x x          x x x

In relation to the alleged 'special arrangement,' although the respondent claims that he
neither touched nor received the money sent to him, on record remains uncontroverted the
circumstance that his niece, Ms. de la Cruz, retrieved from him the amount of P800.00 earlier
sent to him as plane fare, not in the original denomination of P100.00 bills but in P50.00 bills.
The respondent had ample opportunity to clarify or to countervail this related incident in his
letter dated 5 September 1987 to Administrator Bonifacio but he never did so.

... We believe that, in this case, the respondent's being new in office cannot serve to mitigate
his liability. His being so should have motivated him to be more aware of applicable laws,
rules and regulations and should have prompted him to do his best in the discharge of his
duties. (pp. 17-18, Rollo.)
Secretary Ordoñez recommended to President Corazon C. Aquino that Renomeron be dismissed
from the service, with forfeiture of leave credits and retirement benefits, and with prejudice to re-
employment in the government service, effective immediately.

As recommended by the Secretary of Justice, the President of the Philippines, by Adm. Order No.
165 dated May 3, 1990, dismissed the respondent from the government service (pp. 1419, Rollo).

Less than two weeks after filing his complaint against Renomeron in the NLTDRA, Attorney
Collantes also filed in this Court on June 16, 1987, a disbarment complaint against said respondent.

The issue in this disbarment proceeding is whether the respondent register of deeds, as a lawyer,
may also be disciplined by this Court for his malfeasances as a public official. The answer is yes, for
his misconduct as a public official also constituted a violation of his oath as a lawyer.

The lawyer's oath (Rule 138, Section 17, Rules of Court; People vs. De Luna, 102 Phil. 968),
imposes upon every lawyer the duty to delay no man for money or malice. The lawyer's oath is a
source of his obligations and its violation is a ground for his suspension, disbarment or other
disciplinary action (Legal Ethics, Ruben E. Agpalo, 1983 Edition, pp. 66-67).

As the late Chief Justice Fred Ruiz Castro said:

A person takes an oath when he is admitted to the Bar which is designed to impress upon
him his responsibilities. He thereby becomes an "officer of the court" on whose shoulders
rests the grave responsibility of assisting the courts in the proper. fair, speedy, and efficient
administration of justice. As an officer of the court he is subject to a rigid discipline that
demands that in his every exertion the only criterion he that truth and justice triumph. This
discipline is what as given the law profession its nobility, its prestige, its exalted place. From
a lawyer, to paraphrase Justice Felix Frankfurter, are expected those qualities of truth-
speaking, a high sense of honor, full candor, intellectual honesty, and the strictest
observance of fiduciary responsibility— all of which, throughout the centuries, have been
compendiously described as moral character.

Membership in the Bar is in the category of a mandate to public service of the highest
order.  A lawyer is an oath-bound servant of society whose conduct is clearly circumscribed
1âwphi1

by inflexible norms of law and ethics, and whose primary duty is the advancement of the
quest of truth and justice, for which he has sworn to be a fearless crusader. (Apostacy in the
Legal Profession, 64 SCRA 784, 789- 790; emphasis supplied.)

The Code of Professional Responsibility applies to lawyers in government service in the discharge of
their official tasks (Canon 6). Just as the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials
requires public officials and employees to process documents and papers expeditiously (Sec. 5,
subpars. [c] and [d] and prohibits them from directly or indirectly having a financial or material
interest in any transaction requiring the approval of their office, and likewise bars them from soliciting
gifts or anything of monetary value in the course of any transaction which may be affected by the
functions of their office (See. 7, subpars. [a] and [d]), the Code of Professional Responsibility forbids
a lawyer to engage in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct (Rule 1.01, Code of
Professional Responsibility), or delay any man's cause "for any corrupt motive or interest" (Rule
103).

A lawyer shall not engage in conduct that adversely reflects on his fitness to practice
law, nor shall he, whether in public or private life, behave in a scandalous manner to the
discredit of the legal profession. (Rule 7.03, Code of Professional Responsibility.)
This Court has ordered that only those who are "competent, honorable, and reliable" may practice
the profession of law (Noriega vs. Sison, 125 SCRA 293) for every lawyer must pursue "only the
highest standards in the practice of his calling" (Court Administrator vs. Hermoso, 150 SCRA 269,
278).

The acts of dishonesty and oppression which Attorney Renomeron committed as a public official
have demonstrated his unfitness to practice the high and noble calling of the law (Bautista vs. Judge
Guevarra, 142 SCRA 632; Court Administrator vs. Rodolfo G. Hermoso, 150 SCRA 269). He should
therefore be disbarred.

WHEREFORE, it is hereby ordered that Attorney Vicente C. Renomeron be disbarred from the
practice of law in the Philippines, and that his name be stricken off the Roll of Attorneys

SO ORDERED.

Fernan, C.J., Narvasa, Melencio-Herrera, Gutierrez, Jr., Cruz, Paras, Feliciano, Gancayco, Padilla,
Bidin, Sarmiento, Griño-Aquino, Medialdea, Regalado and Davide, Jr., JJ., concur.
Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila

EN BANC

G.R. No. L-12592            March 8, 1918

THE UNITED STATES, plaintiff-appellee, 


vs.
FELIPE BUSTOS, ET AL., defendants-appellants.

Kincaid and Perkins for appellants.


Acting Attorney-General Paredes, for appellee.

MALCOLM, J.:

This appeal presents the specific question of whether or not the defendants and appellants are guilty
of a libel of Roman Punsalan, justice of the peace of Macabebe and Masantol, Province of
Pampanga. The appeal also submits the larger question of the attitude which the judiciary should
take interpreting and enforcing the Libel Law in connection with the basic prerogatives of freedom of
speech and press, and of assembly and petition. For a better understanding, the facts in the present
appeal are the first narrated in the order of their occurrence, then certain suggestive aspects relative
to the rights of freedom of speech and press and of assembly and petition are interpolated, then the
facts are tested by these principles, and, finally, judgment is rendered.

First, the facts. In the latter part of 1915, numerous citizens of the Province of Pampanga
assembled, and prepared and signed a petition to the Executive Secretary through the law office of
Crossfield and O'Brien, and five individuals signed affidavits, charging Roman Punsalan, justice of
the peace of Macabebe and Masantol, Pampanga, with malfeasance in office and asking for his
removal. Crossfield and O'Brien submitted this petition and these affidavits with a complaint to the
Executive Secretary. The petition transmitted by these attorneys was signed by thirty-four citizens
apparently of considerable standing, including councilors and property owners (now the defendants),
and contained the statements set out in the information as libelous. Briefly stated the specific
charges against the justice of the peace were.

1. That Francisca Polintan, desiring to make complaint against Mariano de los Reyes, visited the
justice of the peace, who first told her that he would draw up complaint for P5; afterwards he said he
would take P3 which she paid; also kept her in the house for four days as a servant and took from
her two chickens and twelve "gandus;"

2. That Valentin Sunga being interested in a case regarding land which was on trial before the
justice of the peace, went to see the justice of the peace to ascertain the result of the trial, and was
told by the justice of the peace that if he wished to win he must give him P50. Not having this
amount, Sunga gave the justice nothing, and a few days later was informed that he had lost the
case. Returning again to the office of the justice of the peace in order to appeal, the justice told him
that he could still win if he would pay P50;
3. That Leoncio Quiambao, having filed a complaint for assault against four persons, on the day of
the trial the justice called him over to his house, where he secretly gave him (Quiambao) P30; and
the complaint was thereupon shelved.

The Executive Secretary referred the papers to the judge of first instance for the Seventh Judicial
District requesting investigation, proper action, and report. The justice of the peace was notified and
denied the charges. The judge of first instance found the first count not proved and counts 2 and 3
established. In view of this result, the judge, the Honorable Percy M. Moir, was of the opinion "that it
must be, and it is hereby, recommended to the Governor-General that the respondent be removed
from his position as justice of the peace of Macabebe and Masantol, Province of Pampanga, and it is
ordered that the proceedings had in this case be transmitted to the Executive Secretary."

Later the justice of the peace filled a motion for a new trial; the judge of first instance granted the
motion and reopened the hearing; documents were introduced, including a letter sent by the
municipal president and six councilors of Masantol, Pampanga, asserting that the justice of the
peace was the victim of prosecution, and that one Agustin Jaime, the auxiliary justice of the peace,
had instituted the charges for personal reasons; and the judge of first instance ordered a
suppression of the charges against Punsalan and acquitted him the same. Attorneys for
complainants thereupon appealed to the Governor-General, but whether the papers were forwarded
to the Governor-General as requested the record does not disclose.

Criminal action against the petitioners, now become the defendants, was instituted on October 12,
1916, by virtue of the following information:

That on or about the month of December, 1915, in the municipality of Macabebe, Pampanga,
P. I., the said accused, voluntarily, illegally, and criminally and with malicious intent to
prejudice and defame Mr. Roman Punsalan Serrano who was at said time and place justice
of the peace of Macabebe and Masantol of this province, wrote, signed, and published a
writing which was false, scandalous, malicious, defamatory, and libelous against the justice
of the peace Mr. Roman Punsalan Serrano, in which writing appear among other things the
following:

That the justice of the peace, Mr. Roman Punsalan Serrano, of this town of Macabebe, on
account of the conduct observed by him heretofore, a conduct highly improper of the office
which he holds, is found to be a public functionary who is absolutely unfair, eminently
immoral and dangerous to the community, and consequently unworthy of the office.

That this assertion of the undersigned is evidenced in a clear and positive manner by facts
so certain, so serious, and so denigrating which appear in the affidavits attached hereto, and
by other facts no less serious, but which the undersigned refrain from citing herein for the
sake of brevity and in order not to bother too much the attention of your Honor and due to
lack of sufficient proof to substantiate them.

That should the higher authorities allow the said justice of the peace of this town to continue
in his office, the protection of the rights and interests of its inhabitants will be illusory and
utopic; rights and interest solemnly guaranteed by the Philippine Bill of Rights, and justice in
this town will not be administered in accordance with law.

That on account of the wrongful discharge of his office and of his bad conducts as such
justice of the peace, previous to this time, some respectable citizens of this town of
Macabebe were compelled to present an administrative case against the said Roman
Punsalan Serrano before the judge of first instance of Pampanga, in which case there were
made against him various charges which were true and certain and of different characters.

That after the said administrative case was over, the said justice of the peace, far from
charging his bad and despicable conduct, which has roused the indignation of this town of
Macabebe, subsequently performed the acts abovementioned, as stated in the affidavits
herewith attached, as if intending to mock at the people and to show his mistaken valor and
heroism.'

All of this has been written and published by the accused with deliberate purpose of
attacking the virtue, honor, and reputation of the justice of the peace, Mr. Roman Punsalan
Serrano, and thus exposing him to public hatred contempt, and ridicule. All contrary to law.

It should be noted that the information omits paragraphs of the petition mentioning the investigation
before the judge of first instance, the affidavits upon which based and concluding words, "To the
Executive Secretary, through the office of Crossfield and O'Brien."

The Honorable Percy M. Moir found all the defendants, with the exception of Felix Fernandez, Juan
S. Alfonso, Restituto Garcia, and Manuel Mallari, guilty and sentenced each of them to pay a fine of
P10 and one thirty-second part of the costs, or to suffer subsidiary imprisonment in case of
insolvency. New attorneys for the defense, coming into the case, after the handing down of the
decision, file on December 16, 1916, a motion for a new trial, the principal purpose of which was to
retire the objection interposed by the then counsel for the defendants to the admission of Exhibit A
consisting of the entire administrative proceedings. The trial court denied the motion. All the
defendants, except Melecio S. Sabado and Fortunato Macalino appealed making the following
assignments of error:

1. The court erred in overruling the motion of the convicted defendants for a new trial.

2. The court erred in refusing to permit the defendants to retire the objection in advertently
interposed by their counsel to the admission in evidence of the expediente administrativo out
of which the accusation in this case arose.

3. The court erred in sustaining the objection of the prosecution to the introduction in
evidence by the accused of the affidavits upon which the petition forming the basis of the
libelous charge was based.

4. The court erred in not holding that the alleged libelous statement was unqualifiedly
privileged.

5. The court erred in assuming and impliedly holding that the burden was on the defendants
to show that the alleged libelous statements were true and free from malice.

6. The court erred in not acquitting the defendants.

7. The evidence adduced fails to show the guilt of the defendants beyond a reasonable
doubt. This is especially true of all the defendants, except Felipe Bustos, Dionisio Mallari,
and Jose T. Reyes.

We have thus far taken it for granted that all the proceedings, administrative and judicial, were
properly before this court. As a matter of fact counsel for defendants in the lower court made an
improvident objection to the admission of the administrative proceedings on the ground that the
signatures were not identified and that the same was immaterial, which objection was partially
sustained by the trial court. Notwithstanding this curious situation by reason of which the attorney for
the defense attempted to destroy through his objection the very foundation for the justification of his
clients, we shall continue to consider all the proceedings as before us. Not indicating specifically the
reason for this action, let the following be stated: The administrative proceedings were repeatedly
mentioned during the trial. These proceedings were the basis of the accusation, the information, the
evidence, and the judgment rendered. The prosecution cannot be understood without knowledge of
anterior action. Nothing more unjust could be imagined than to pick out certain words which standing
by themselves and unexplained are libelous and then by shutting off all knowledge of facts which
would justify these words, to convict the accused. The records in question are attached to the rollo,
and either on the ground that the attorneys for the defense retired the objection to the introduction of
the administrative proceedings by the prosecution, or that a new trial should have been had because
under section 42 of the Code of Criminal Procedure "a case may be reopened on account of errors
at law committed at the trial," or because of the right of this court to call in such records as are
sufficiently incorporated into the complaint and are essential to a determination of the case, or finally,
because of our conceded right to take judicial notice of official action in administrative cases and of
judicial proceedings supplemental to the basis action, we examine the record as before us,
containing not alone the trial for libel, but the proceedings previous to that trial giving rise to it. To
this action, the Government can not explain for it was the prosecution which tried to incorporate
Exhibit A into the record.

With these facts pleading justification, before testing them by certain principles which make up the
law of libel and slander, we feel warranted in seizing the opportunity to intrude an introductory and
general discussion of freedom of speech and press and assembly and petition in the Philippine
Islands. We conceive that the time is ripe thus to clear up certain misapprehensions on the subject
and to place these basic rights in their proper light.

Turning to the pages of history, we state nothing new when we set down that freedom of speech as
cherished in democratic countries was unknown in the Philippine Islands before 1900. A prime
cause for revolt was consequently ready made. Jose Rizal in "Filipinas Despues de Cien Años" (The
Philippines a Century Hence, pages 62 et seq.) describing "the reforms sine quibus non," which the
Filipinos insist upon, said: "

The minister, . . . who wants his reforms to be reforms, must begin by declaring the press in
the Philippines free and by instituting Filipinos delegates.

The Filipino patriots in Spain, through the columns of "La Solidaridad" and by other means invariably
in exposing the wants of the Filipino people demanded "liberty of the press, of cults, and
associations." (See Mabini, La Revolucion Filipina.) The Malolos Constitution, the work of the
Revolutionary Congress, in its Bill of Rights, zealously guarded freedom of speech and press and
assembly and petition.

Mention is made of the foregoing data only to deduce the proposition that a reform so sacred to the
people of these Islands and won at so dear a cost, should now be protected and carried forward as
one would protect and preserve the covenant of liberty itself.

Next comes the period of American-Filipino cooperative effort. The Constitution of the United States
and the State constitutions guarantee to the right of freedom of speech and press and the right of
assembly and petition. We are therefore, not surprised to find President McKinley in that Magna
Charta of Philippine Liberty, the Instructions to the Second Philippine Commission, of April 7, 1900,
laying down the inviolable rule "That no law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech or of
the press or of the rights of the people to peaceably assemble and petition the Government for a
redress of grievances."

The Philippine Bill, the Act of Congress of July 1, 1902, and the Jones Law, the Act of Congress of
August 29, 1916, in the nature of organic acts for the Philippines, continued this guaranty. The words
quoted are not unfamiliar to students of Constitutional Law, for they are the counterpart of the first
amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which the American people demanded before
giving their approval to the Constitution.

We mention the foregoing facts only to deduce the position never to be forgotten for an instant that
the guaranties mentioned are part and parcel of the Organic Law — of the Constitution — of the
Philippine Islands.

These paragraphs found in the Philippine Bill of Rights are not threadbare verbiage. The language
carries with all the applicable jurisprudence of great English and American Constitutional cases.
(Kepner vs. U. S. [1904], 195 U. S., 100; Serra vs. Mortiga [1907], 204 U. S., 470.) And what are
these principles? Volumes would inadequately answer. But included are the following:

The interest of society and the maintenance of good government demand a full discussion of public
affairs. Completely liberty to comment on the conduct of public men is a scalpel in the case of free
speech. The sharp incision of its probe relieves the abscesses of officialdom. Men in public life may
suffer under a hostile and an unjust accusation; the wound can be assuaged with the balm of a clear
conscience. A public officer must not be too thin-skinned with reference to comment upon his official
acts. Only thus can the intelligence and the dignity of the individual be exalted. Of course, criticism
does not authorize defamation. Nevertheless, as the individual is less than the State, so must
expected criticism be born for the common good. Rising superior to any official or set of officials, to
the Chief of Executive, to the Legislature, to the Judiciary — to any or all the agencies of
Government — public opinion should be the constant source of liberty and democracy. (See the well
considered cases of Wason vs. Walter, 4 L. R. 4 Q. B., 73; Seymour vs. Butterworth, 3F. and F.,
372; The Queen vs. Sir R. Carden, 5 Q. B. D., 1)

The guaranties of a free speech and a free press include the right to criticize judicial conduct. The
administration of the law is a matter of vital public concern. Whether the law is wisely or badly
enforced is, therefore, a fit subject for proper comment. If the people cannot criticize a justice of the
peace or a judge the same as any other public officer, public opinion will be effectively muzzled.
Attempted terrorization of public opinion on the part of the judiciary would be tyranny of the basest
sort. The sword of Damocles in the hands of a judge does not hang suspended over the individual
who dares to assert his prerogative as a citizen and to stand up bravely before any official. On the
contrary, it is a duty which every one owes to society or to the State to assist in the investigation of
any alleged misconduct. It is further the duty of all who know of any official dereliction on the part of
a magistrate or the wrongful act of any public officer to bring the facts to the notice of those whose
duty it is to inquire into and punish them. In the words of Mr. Justice Gayner, who contributed so
largely to the law of libel. "The people are not obliged to speak of the conduct of their officials in
whispers or with bated breath in a free government, but only in a despotism." (Howarth vs. Barlow
[1906], 113 App. Div., N. Y., 510.)

The right to assemble and petition is the necessary consequence of republican institutions and the
complement of the part of free speech. Assembly means a right on the part of citizens to meet
peaceably for consultation in respect to public affairs. Petition means that any person or group of
persons can apply, without fear of penalty, to the appropriate branch or office of the government for
a redress of grievances. The persons assembling and petitioning must, of course, assume
responsibility for the charges made.
Public policy, the welfare of society, and the orderly administration of government have demanded
protection for public opinion. The inevitable and incontestable result has been the development and
adoption of the doctrine of privilege.

The doctrine of privileged communications rests upon public policy, 'which looks to the free
and unfettered administration of justice, though, as an incidental result, it may in some
instances afford an immunity to the evil-disposed and malignant slanderer.' (Abbott vs.
National Bank of Commerce, Tacoma [1899], 175 U. S., 409, 411.)

Privilege is classified as either absolute or qualified. With the first, we are not concerned. As to
qualified privilege, it is as the words suggest a prima facie privilege which may be lost by proof of
malice. The rule is thus stated by Lord Campbell, C. J.

A communication made bona fide upon any subject-matter in which the party communicating


has an interest, or in reference to which has a duty, is privileged, if made to a person having
a corresponding interest or duty, although it contained criminatory matter which without this
privilege would be slanderous and actionable. (Harrison vs. Bush, 5 E. and B., 344; 1 Jur.[N.
S.], 846; 25 L. J. Q. B., 25; 3 W. R., 474; 85 E. C. L., 344.)

A pertinent illustration of the application of qualified privilege is a complaint made in good faith and
without malice in regard to the character or conduct of a public official when addressed to an officer
or a board having some interest or duty in the matter. Even when the statements are found to be
false, if there is probable cause for belief in their truthfulness and the charge is made in good faith,
the mantle of privilege may still cover the mistake of the individual. But the statements must be made
under an honest sense of duty; a self-seeking motive is destructive. Personal injury is not necessary.
All persons have an interest in the pure and efficient administration of justice and of public affairs.
The duty under which a party is privileged is sufficient if it is social or moral in its nature and this
person in good faith believes he is acting in pursuance thereof although in fact he is mistaken. The
privilege is not defeated by the mere fact that the communication is made in intemperate terms. A
further element of the law of privilege concerns the person to whom the complaint should be made.
The rule is that if a party applies to the wrong person through some natural and honest mistake as to
the respective functions of various officials such unintentional error will not take the case out of the
privilege.

In the usual case malice can be presumed from defamatory words. Privilege destroy that
presumption. The onus of proving malice then lies on the plaintiff. The plaintiff must bring home to
the defendant the existence of malice as the true motive of his conduct. Falsehood and the absence
of probable cause will amount to proof of malice. (See White vs. Nicholls [1845], 3 How., 266.)

A privileged communication should not be subjected to microscopic examination to discover grounds


of malice or falsity. Such excessive scrutiny would defeat the protection which the law throws over
privileged communications. The ultimate test is that of bona fides. (See White vs. Nicholls [1845], 3
How., 266; Bradley vs. Heath [1831], 12 Pick. [Mass.], 163; Kent vs. Bongartz [1885], 15 R. I., 72;
Street Foundations of Legal Liability, vol. 1, pp. 308, 309; Newell, Slander and Libel, various
citations; 25 Cyc. pages 385 et seq.)

Having ascertained the attitude which should be assumed relative to the basic rights of freedom of
speech and press and of assembly and petition, having emphasized the point that our Libel Law as a
statute must be construed with reference to the guaranties of our Organic Law, and having sketched
the doctrine of privilege, we are in a position to test the facts of this case with these principles.
It is true that the particular words set out in the information, if said of a private person, might well be
considered libelous per se. The charges might also under certain conceivable conditions convict one
of a libel of a government official. As a general rule words imputing to a judge or a justice of the
peace dishonesty or corruption or incapacity or misconduct touching him in his office are actionable.
But as suggested in the beginning we do not have present a simple case of direct and vicious
accusations published in the press, but of charges predicated on affidavits made to the proper
official and thus qualifiedly privileged. Express malice has not been proved by the prosecution.
Further, although the charges are probably not true as to the justice of the peace, they were believed
to be true by the petitioners. Good faith surrounded their action. Probable cause for them to think
that malfeasance or misfeasance in office existed is apparent. The ends and the motives of these
citizens— to secure the removal from office of a person thought to be venal — were justifiable. In no
way did they abuse the privilege. These respectable citizens did not eagerly seize on a frivolous
matter but on instances which not only seemed to them of a grave character, but which were
sufficient in an investigation by a judge of first instance to convince him of their seriousness. No
undue publicity was given to the petition. The manner of commenting on the conduct of the justice of
the peace was proper. And finally the charges and the petition were submitted through reputable
attorneys to the proper functionary, the Executive Secretary. In this connection it is sufficient to note
that justices of the peace are appointed by the Governor-General, that they may be removed by the
Governor-General upon the recommendation of a Judge of First Instance, or on the Governor-
General's own motion, and that at the time this action took place the Executive Bureau was the office
through which the Governor-General acted in such matter. (See Administrative Code of 1917, secs.
203 and 229, in connection with the cases of U. S. vs. Galesa [1915], 31 Phil., 365, and of Harrison
vs. Bush, 5 E. and B., 344, holding that where defendant was subject to removal by the sovereign, a
communication to the Secretary of State was privileged.)

The present facts are further essentially different from those established in other cases in which
private individuals have been convicted of libels of public officials. Malice, traduction, falsehood,
calumny, against the man and not the officer, have been the causes of the verdict of guilty. (See U.
S. vs. Senado [1909], 14 Phil., 338, 339; U. S. vs. Contreras [1912], 23 Phil., 513; U. S. vs. Montalvo
[1915], 29 Phil., 595.)

The Attorney-General bases his recommendation for confirmation on the case of the United States
vs. Julio Bustos ([1909], 13 Phil., 690). The Julio Bustos case, the Attorney-General says, is identical
with the Felipe Bustos case, with the exception that there has been more publicity in the present
instance and that the person to whom the charge was made had less jurisdiction than had the
Secretary of Justice in the Julio Bustos case. Publicity is immaterial if the charge against Punsalan is
in fact a privileged communication. Moreover, in the Julio Bustos case we find wild statements, with
no basis in fact, made against reputable members of the judiciary, "to persons who could not furnish
protection." Malicious and untrue communications are not privileged. A later case and one more
directly in point to which we invite especial attention is United States vs. Galeza ([1915], 31 Phil.,
365). (Note alsoYancey vs. Commonwealth [1909], 122 So. W., 123.)

We find the defendants and appellants entitled to the protection of the rules concerning qualified
privilege, growing out of constitutional guaranties in our bill of rights. Instead of punishing citizens for
an honest endeavor to improve the public service, we should rather commend them for their good
citizenship. The defendants and appellants are acquitted with the costs de officio. So ordered.

Arellano, C.J., Johnson, Araullo, Street, and Fisher, JJ., concur.