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asked what it was about and they told him that they were just made to sign a

document without their understanding it. They added, they did not have any
complaint against their employer. Despite such withdrawal, respondent still
called Lim threatening the latter that he would pursue the case, have his
establishment closed and he would be jailed if he did not come up
with P20,000.00 as settlement. In the evening of August 14, 2000, respondent
reiterated his demand for P20,000.00, again with the threat of closure of the
billiard center and putting Lim in jail.

[A.C. No. 5438. March 10, 2004]

DAN JOEL V. LIM* and RICHARD C. TAN, complainants, vs. ATTY. EDILBERTO
BARCELONA, respondent.

Complainant Lim said that after his meeting with respondent, he agreed to
give the amount but did not fix any date when payment would be made,
whereupon, respondent gave notice that he would drop in at around 7:00 in the
evening, on August 16, 2000, to pick up the money.

RESOLUTION
PER CURIAM:

Aurora Cruz y Libunao, owner of the carinderia adjacent to Top Gun


Billiards, stated in her sworn statement as well as court testimony that she met
respondent when he ate in her carinderia. She recalled that the respondent told
her that he would shut down the billiard business if the owner would not talk to
him. She also recounted that on August 14, 2000, at around 8:30 p.m., she saw
on the second floor of the pool house, the respondent and Lim talking. After a
while, the respondent came down and passed by her carinderia. The respondent
then informed her that he and Lim talked about the P20,000.00 which
respondent would give to his alleged boss in Malacaang. During the hearing,
she also recalled seeing Lim hand money to respondent who in turn put the cash
in his attach case and immediately thereafter, she saw three men arrest
respondent.[3]

On May 9, 2001, Dan Joel V. Lim and Richard C. Tan, [1] both businessmen,
filed a complaint for alleged robbery or extortion and violation of the Anti-Graft
and Corrupt Practices Act against Atty. Edilberto Barcelona, a lawyer formerly
employed with the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC). The complaint
was simultaneously filed with this Court and the Integrated Bar of
thePhilippines.[2]
Complainant Lim alleged that on the first week of August 2000, respondent
phoned him and introduced himself as a lawyer and chief of
the Public Assistance Center, NLRC. Respondent informed him that his
employees filed a labor complaint against him in his office and it was necessary
for him to see and talk with respondent. From then on respondent would often
call him. Respondent visited him in his office and told him to settle the case or
else his business, Top Gun Billiards, would be shut down. Lim recalled that
on August 14, 2000, at around 7:30 p.m., respondent again visited his
establishment and told him to settle the case for P20,000.00.

Notably, almost nine months before the filing of his complaint, or on August
14, 2000, complainant Lim personally submitted a letter to the NBI requesting
the NBI to investigate respondent Atty. Edilberto Barcelona.[4] According to the
NBI report, after due investigation, it decided to conduct an entrapment
operation. On August 15, 2000, Special Investigator Marvin de Jemil, sent nine
five hundred peso bills and five one hundred peso bills for fluorescent powder
dusting to the NBI Forensic Chemistry Division. Further, the NBI reported that
thru the NBI Identification and Records Division, it found no record of such
person named Edilberto Barcelona.

In support of his allegations, Lim submitted a written complaint of Arnel E.


Ditan and Pilipino Ubante; an endorsement letter dated August 2, 2000 of Atty.
Jonathan F. Baligod of the Presidential Action Center; handwritten calling cards
of the respondent; and an affidavit of desistance executed by Ditan and Ubante.
In their joint affidavit, Ditan and Ubante confirmed the filing of their
complaint against their employer, Lim, and that after some dialogue, the
aforenamed employees executed an affidavit datedAugust 8, 2000 withdrawing
their complaint. According to Ditan and Ubante, they met the respondent in Top
Gun Billiards where the latter often played billiards. One day, respondent gave
them a letter and asked them to sign it. Since they were busy at that time, they
signed it without reading and understanding its contents. Their employer, Lim,

The NBI report also stated that on August 16, 2000, Lim informed the NBI
operatives that at around 7:00 p.m. respondent would drop by his pool house to
collect the money. At around 6:30 p.m., the operatives went to the pool house
and strategically positioned themselves and posed as pool players. At about 7:20
p.m., respondent arrived, sat on a plastic chair and talked to complainant Lim. At
around 7:30 p.m., Lim handed the marked money to the respondent who, in turn,

received it. While respondent was counting the money and about to place it
inside his bag, he was immediately arrested. The respondent initially resisted and
tried to create scandal but was later pacified.

of billiards. Tan said he did not consent to the employees playing because they
had work. On July 31, 2000, respondent went to him a third time and asked for an
additional P10,000.00 allegedly for his employee, Tellen, since the P15,000.00
Tan gave earlier was for respondent only. After a few more visits by respondent,
Tan finally told the respondent to show him the formal complaint and he would
just get himself a lawyer.[6]

The NBI averred that the respondent was informed of his constitutional
rights and was brought to the NBI office where he was booked and
fingerprinted. In his fingerprint chart, the respondent indicated that he was a
government
lawyer
and
assigned
at
the
office
of
the
Chief, Public Assistance Center, NLRC, Banawe, Quezon City. He showed his
identification card. Later he was brought to the Forensic Chemistry Division for
ultraviolet examination. The certification issued by Forensic Chemist Loren G.
Janobas stated that there were yellow fluorescent specks and smudges on the
back and palm of the left and right hand of the respondent. On August 17, 2000,
the NBI turned over respondent to the City Prosecutor of Manila who eventually
indicted him for robbery/extortion.[5]

The Joint Affidavit of Arrest, signed on August 17, 2000 by Agent Don R.
Hernandez, SI Felix O. Senora and SI Marvin de Jemil, cited complainant Tans
allegations.[7]
Respondent Atty. Barcelona filed his Comment[8] on December 10, 2001,
praying for the dismissal of the complaint against him. Respondent, in his
defense, alleges that he normally played billiards at the Top Gun Billiard Center
where he would drop by from his office before going to his residence; that when
certain employees of the billiard center learned that he was a lawyer and Chief of
the Public Assistance Center of the NLRC, they confided in him their grievance
against their employer, Lim, for alleged violation of labor laws, there respondent
gave them assistance; that with the proper complaint and required
documentation accomplished, respondents office scheduled the case for a
dialogue-conference between the complaining workers and their employer; that
on instigation and coercion of complainant Lim, respondent became a victim of
theft, billiard hustling, swindling and syndicated gambling on August 9, 2000;
that on or about August 9, 2000, respondent filed a complaint for theft of
cellphone and pack of cigarettes, billiard hustling, syndicated gambling, and
swindling against Lim and his three workers, eventually docketed as I.S. No.
38251 to 53.[9]

Complainant Richard Tan, owner of Tai Hing Glass Supply, a co-signee in the
herein complaint, executed a sworn statement dated August 16, 2000. In it he
alleged that he went to the Criminal Intelligence Division, Intelligence Service of
the NBI to complain about respondent Barcelona. He said that sometime during
the last week of July, respondent called him, introduced himself and informed
him that one of his employees filed an illegal dismissal case against him. He
remembered that before respondents call, he had suspended an employee,
Bryan Tellen, for leaving his workplace without permission. Tellen received
several warning letters from him regarding his misdemeanors. Tan remembered
that Tellen once hinted that he knew someone in the Department of Labor, who
turned out to be herein respondent, Atty. Barcelona. Before Tan sent his
accountant, Ditas Guitierrez, to respondents office to represent him, he told her
to bring a copy of Tellens suspension letter and to inform respondent that Tellen
had not been dismissed. When Guitierrez returned, she told him that respondent
wanted him to pay his employee. She added that respondent did not give her any
copy of a formal complaint on the alleged illegal dismissal. After two days,
according to Tan, respondent went to his office, showed him an identification
card and gave him a handwritten calling card. Respondent told him to pay his
employee P20,000.00 to P30,000.00, otherwise respondent would go on
with the filing of the illegal dismissal case. When he said he did not have that
kind of money, respondent lowered the amount to P15,000.00. Complainant Tan
added that when he gave respondent the money, the latter promised to take
care of the illegal dismissal complaint. On July 29, 2000, according to Tan,
respondent came to see him again. Respondent appeared drunk and told Tan to
go to the respondents office because a problem regarding the case arose. Tan
stated that before respondent left, respondent invited his employees to a game

Respondents Comment narrated his version on how the money allegedly


was given to him. According to the respondent, on August 16, 2000, at about 3
p.m., he received a phone call from complainant Lim informing him that Ian
Gonvan,[10] one of the accused in I.S. No. 38251, admitted taking his cellphone and
was willing and ready to return it at around 7 p.m., at the Top Gun Billiard
Center. It was the birthday of his daughter that was why he took the day off
from office. At about 7:30 p.m., he arrived at the billiard hall and there found Lim
with one of his complaining workers, fixing the lamp of one of the billiard tables.
He did not see Gonvan within the premises so he sat and watched the billiard
games going on while he waited. After about 15 minutes Lim sat beside him and
told him that Gonvan could no longer return the cellphone and instead Gonvan
entrusted Lim with the equivalent value in cash. According to respondent, Lim
persistently whispered to him to accept and count the wad of paper money Lim
pulled out. According to respondent, he consistently refused to touch the
money and he insisted, Gusto ko munang makaharap ang sinasabi mong si

Gumban,[11] continuously refusing to accept, much less count, the offered wad
of money. Respondent added that when Lim realized that he could not be
prevailed upon to accept it, he placed and inserted the wad of money in the open
side pocket of respondents shoulder bag that respondent normally carried,
again pleading to respondent that he should count the money. Respondent
added that Lims behavior was rude and intimidating so much so that respondent
protested such rudeness. But respondent said while he was trying to retrieve
the wad of money to throw it back to Lim, about five or seven burly men
accosted respondent and handcuffed him over his vehement protestations. [12]

appears to be no strong reason for Lim to resort to a counter-charge for


extortion against respondent.
The Commission on Bar Discipline of the IBP concluded that it is highly
improbable that the NBI could be misled by complainant Lim into conducting an
entrapment operation against respondent, if there was no merit to his complaint
against respondent. From a reading of the NBI Report as well as the documents
attached to said report, it is evident that the NBI considered the merits of Lims
complaint of extortion against respondent. Finding it worth pursuing, the NBI
conducted an entrapment operation against respondent. On the basis of the
entrapment operation conducted by the NBI, respondent was caught in the act,
so to speak, of attempted extortion. Respondent was brought to the City
Prosecutor of Manila for inquest and the appropriate complaint for
Robbery/Extortion was filed against respondent.[15]

On Tans complaint, respondent declared that he never demanded nor


received money from Tan, and Tans accusations are but a product of the
formers fertile imagination as leverage because he actively assisted a
complaining worker of Tan.[13] Respondent added that a formal labor complaint
has been filed against Tan.[14]

Based on its own evaluation and the NBI Report, the Investigating
Commissioner of the Commission on Bar Discipline recommended the
suspension of respondent from the practice of law for a period of two years.[16]

Eventually, we referred the complaint against Atty. Barcelona to the


Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) for investigation, report and
recommendation. Its report with recommendation is now before us. We shall
now proceed to the merits of the complaint.

In the final resolution dated September 27, 2003, the Board of Governors of
the IBP imposed the penalty of disbarment for the reason that respondent in fact
attempted to extort money as Chief of the Public Assistance Center of the NLRC
to threaten/coerce Lim and that no less than the NBI caught him in the act of
receiving and counting the money extorted from Lim.[17]

Respondents version seeks to discredit the NBI report to the effect that
respondent accepted the marked money which Lim handed to him. His version,
however, fails to explain why he was found positive for yellow fluorescent
specks and smudges in his dorsal and palmar aspects of the left and right hands
by the Forensic Department of the NBI.

The grounds for disbarment or suspension of an attorney are: (1) deceit; (2)
malpractice or other gross misconduct in office; (3) grossly immoral conduct; (4)
conviction of a crime involving moral turpitude; (5) violation of the lawyers oath;
(6) willful disobedience of any lawful order of a superior court; and (7) willfully
appearing as an attorney for a party without authority.[18]

Respondent claims that he continuously refused to accept, much less count,


the offered wad of money. Because of such refusal, according to respondent,
Lim inserted the wad of money in respondents shoulder bags open pocket
while complainant Lim was still pleading to count the wad of money.

The NBI found that respondents hands had yellow fluorescent specks and
smudges with which the money used for the entrapment of the respondent had
been powdered. We find no reason to doubt the NBI report. Also, we see no
basis to overturn the presumption that the NBI had done its duty regularly.

Respondent alleges that the alleged bribery or extortion is a mere


concoction of complainant and as leverage for the cases against Lim and Tan.
Based on the NBI report, this case appears to be an entrapment
operation. Notably, Atty. Don Hernandez and his team of arresting officers
confirm the entrapment operation against respondent on the basis of
complainant Lims call for NBI assistance.

Respondent would make us believe that the specks and smudges of yellow
fluorescent were in his hands because Lim offered him what was allegedly the
payment for the stolen cellphone by a certain Gonvan. Regrettably, there is no
corroboration from Gonvan nor anyone else on this matter. Thus, respondents
story appears to us entirely self-serving.

While respondent alleges that complainant Lim merely concocted a charge


of extortion against him in retaliation to a complaint for theft which he had filed,
it may be noted that the complaint for theft was not directed against Lim but
only against his workers who were accused by respondent. Hence, there

We had held previously that if a lawyers misconduct in the discharge of his


official duties as government official is of such a character as to affect his

discharging the trust reposed in them as members of the bar.[23] These


pronouncements gain practical significance in this case, considering that
respondent is a senior lawyer of the NLRC. It bears stressing also that
government lawyers who are public servants owe fidelity to the public service, a
public trust. As such, government lawyers should be more sensitive to their
professional obligations as their disreputable conduct is more likely to be
magnified in the public eye.[24]

qualification as a lawyer or to show moral delinquency, he may be disciplined as a


member of the Bar on such ground.[19] More significantly, lawyers in government
service in the discharge of their official tasks have more restrictions than lawyers
in private practice. Want of moral integrity is to be more severely condemned in
a lawyer who holds a responsible public office. [20] Rule 1.02 of the Code of
Professional Responsibility provides that a lawyer shall not counsel or abet
activities aimed at defiance of the law or at lessening confidence in the legal
system. Extortion by a government lawyer, an outright violation of the law, calls
for the corresponding grave sanctions. With the aforesaid rule a high standard
of integrity is demanded of a government lawyer as compared to a private
practitioner because the delinquency of a government lawyer erodes the
peoples trust and confidence in the government.

As a lawyer, who was also a public officer, respondent miserably failed to


cope with the strict demands and high standards of the legal profession.
In Montano v. IBP,[25] this Court said that only in a clear case of misconduct
that seriously affects the standing and character of the lawyer may disbarment
be imposed as a penalty. In the instant case, the Court is convinced that the
evidence against respondent is clear and convincing. He is administratively liable
for corrupt activity, deceit, and gross misconduct. As correctly held by the Board
of Governors of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, he should not only be
suspended from the practice of law but disbarred.

Needless to say, lawyers owe it to the court and to society not to stir up
litigations. Employees of the billiards hall, Ditan and Ubante, swore that
respondent public officer encouraged complainant Lims workers to file a case
against the latter. Rule 1.03 of the same Code states that a lawyer shall not, for
any corrupt motive or interest, encourage any suit or proceeding or delay any
mans cause.

WHEREFORE, respondent Atty. Edilberto Barcelona is found


administratively guilty of corrupt activity, deceit, and gross misconduct and is
hereby ordered DISBARRED. Let his name be stricken from the Roll of Attorneys
effective immediately, and this resolution spread in his record in this Court and
circulated to all courts in the Philippines.

Noteworthy, as an Attorney IV and Chief of the Public Assistance Center of


the NLRC, respondent failed to observe prudence by hanging out and playing in
the billiard hall. By so doing, he exposed himself unnecessarily to certain
elements and situations which could compromise his official position and his
status as a lawyer.

SECOND DIVISION

Time and again, we have declared that the practice of law is a noble
profession. It is a special privilege bestowed only upon those who are
competent intellectually, academically and morally. A lawyer must at all times
conduct himself, especially in his dealings with his clients and the public at large,
with honesty and integrity in a manner beyond reproach. He must faithfully
perform his duties to society, to the bar, to the courts and to his clients. A
violation of the high standards of the legal profession subjects the lawyer to
administrative sanctions which includes suspension and disbarment.[21] More
importantly, possession of good moral character must be continuous as a
requirement to the enjoyment of the privilege of law practice; otherwise, the
loss thereof is a ground for the revocation of such privilege.[22]
Indeed, the primary objective of administrative cases against lawyers is not
only to punish and discipline the erring individual lawyers, but also to safeguard
the administration of justice by protecting the courts and the public from the
misconduct of lawyers and to remove from the legal profession persons whose
utter disregard of the lawyers oath has proven them unfit to continue

LYDIA CASTRO-JUSTO,
Complainant,

A.C. No. 6174


On 10 July 2003, complainant filed a criminal complaint against Ms. Koa for

Present:

estafa and violation of Batas Pambansa Blg. 22 before the Office of the City

CARPIO,
Chairperson,
BRION,
PEREZ,
SERENO, and
REYES, JJ.

- versus -

ATTY. RODOLFO T. GALING,


Respondent.

Prosecutor of Manila.[4]
On 27 July 2003, she received a copy of a Motion for Consolidation [5] filed by
respondent for and on behalf of Ms. Koa, the accused in the criminal cases, and
the latters daughter Karen Torralba (Ms. Torralba). Further, on 8 August 2003,

Promulgated:

respondent appeared as counsel for Ms. Koa before the prosecutor of Manila.

November 16, 2011

Complainant submits that by representing conflicting interests, respondent


violated the Code of Professional Responsibility.
x- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -x
In his Comment,[6] respondent denied the allegations against him. He

DECISION

admitted that he drafted a demand letter for complainant but argued that it was

PEREZ, J.:

made only in deference to their long standing friendship and not by reason of a
professional engagement as professed by complainant. He denied receiving any
[1]

Before us for consideration is Resolution No. XVIII-2007-196 of the Board

professional fee for the services he rendered. It was allegedly their

of Governors, Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP), relative to the

understanding that complainant would have to retain the services of another

[2]

complaint for disbarment filed by Lydia Castro-Justo against Atty. Rodolfo T.

lawyer. He alleged that complainant, based on that agreement, engaged the

Galing.

services of Atty. Manuel A. Ao.

Complainant Justo alleged that sometime in April 2003, she engaged the

To bolster this claim, respondent pointed out that the complaint filed by

services of respondent Atty. Galing in connection with dishonored checks issued

complainant against Ms. Koa for estafa and violation of B.P. Blg. 22 was based

by Manila City Councilor Arlene W. Koa (Ms. Koa). After she paid his professional

not on the demand letter he drafted but on the demand letter prepared by Atty.

fees, the respondent drafted and sent a letter to Ms. Koa demanding payment of

Manuel A. Ao.

the checks.[3] Respondent advised complainant to wait for the lapse of the
period indicated in the demand letter before filing her complaint.

Respondent contended that he is a close friend of the opposing parties in

for his daring audacity and for the pronounced malignancy of his act. It was

the criminal cases. He further contended that complainant Justo and Ms. Koa

recommended that he be suspended from the practice of law for one (1) year

are likewise long time friends, as in fact, they are comares for more than 30

with a warning that a repetition of the same or similar acts will be dealt with

years since complainant is the godmother of Ms. Torralba.[7] Respondent

more severely.[8]

claimed that it is in this light that he accommodated Ms. Koa and her daughters
request that they be represented by him in the cases filed against them by

We agree with the Report and Recommendation of the Investigating


Commissioner,[9] as adopted by the Board of Governors of the IBP.

complainant and complainants daughter. He maintained that the filing of the


Motion for Consolidation which is a non-adversarial pleading does not evidence
the existence of a lawyer-client relationship between him and Ms. Koa and Ms.

It was established that in April 2003, respondent was approached by

Torralba. Likewise, his appearance in the joint proceedings should only be

complainant regarding the dishonored checks issued by Manila City Councilor

construed as an effort on his part to assume the role of a moderator or arbiter of

Koa.

the parties.
It was also established that on 25 July 2003, a Motion for Consolidation was
He insisted that his actions were merely motivated by an intention to help

filed by respondent in I.S. No. 03G-19484-86 entitled Lydia Justo vs. Arlene Koa

the parties achieve an out of court settlement and possible reconciliation. He

and

I.S.

No.

03G-19582-84

entitled

Lani

C.

Justo

vs.

Karen

reported that his efforts proved fruitful insofar as he had caused Ms. Koa to pay

Torralba. Respondent stated that the movants in these cases are mother and

complainant the amount of P50,000.00 in settlement of one of the two checks

daughter while complainants are likewise mother and daughter and that these

subject of I.S. No. 03G-19484-86.

cases arose out from the same transaction. Thus, movants and complainants will
be adducing the same sets of evidence and witnesses.

Respondent averred that the failure of Ms. Koa and Ms. Torralba to make
good the other checks caused a lot of consternation on the part of complainant.

Respondent argued that no lawyer-client relationship existed between him

This allegedly led her to vent her ire on respondent and file the instant

and complainant because there was no professional fee paid for the services he

administrative case for conflict of interest.

rendered. Moreover, he argued that he drafted the demand letter only as a


personal favor to complainant who is a close friend.

In a resolution dated 19 October 2007, the Board of Governors of the IBP


adopted and approved with modification the findings of its Investigating

We

are

not

persuaded. A

lawyer-client

relationship

can

exist

Commissioner. They found respondent guilty of violating Canon 15, Rule 15.03 of

notwithstanding the close friendship between complainant and respondent. The

the Code of Professional Responsibility by representing conflicting interests and

relationship was established the moment complainant sought legal advice from

respondent regarding the dishonored checks. By drafting the demand letter

relationship, the lawyer learns of the facts connected with the clients case,

respondent further affirmed such relationship. The fact that the demand letter

including the weak and strong points of the case. The nature of the relationship

was not utilized in the criminal complaint filed and that respondent was not

is, therefore, one of trust and confidence of the highest degree. [15]

eventually engaged by complainant to represent her in the criminal cases is of no


moment. As observed by the Investigating Commissioner, by referring to

It behooves lawyers not only to keep inviolate the clients confidence, but

complainant Justo as my client in the demand letter sent to the defaulting

also to avoid the appearance of treachery and double-dealing for only then can

[10]

debtor

respondent

admitted

the

existence

of

the

lawyer-client

litigants be encouraged to entrust their secrets to their lawyers, which is of


paramount importance in the administration of justice.[16]

relationship. Such admission effectively estopped him from claiming otherwise.

The case of Hornilla v. Atty. Salunat[17] is instructive on this concept, thus:

Likewise, the non-payment of professional fee will not exculpate


respondent from liability. Absence of monetary consideration does not exempt

There is conflict of interest when a lawyer represents


inconsistent interests of two or more opposing parties. The test
is whether or not in behalf of one client, it is the lawyers duty
to fight for an issue or claim, but it is his duty to oppose it for
the other client. In brief, if he argues for one client, this
argument will be opposed by him when he argues for the other
client.[18] This rule covers not only cases in which confidential
communications have been confided, but also those in which no
confidence has been bestowed or will be used.[19] Also, there is
conflict of interests if the acceptance of the new retainer will
require the attorney to perform an act which will injuriously
affect his first client in any matter in which he represents him
and also whether he will be called upon in his new relation to
use against his first client any knowledge acquired through their
connection.[20] Another test of the inconsistency of interests is
whether the acceptance of a new relation will prevent an
attorney from the full discharge of his duty of undivided fidelity
and loyalty to his client or invite suspicion of unfaithfulness or
double dealing in the performance thereof.[21]

lawyers from complying with the prohibition against pursuing cases with
conflicting interests. The prohibition attaches from the moment the attorneyclient relationship is established and extends beyond the duration of the
professional relationship.[11] We held in Burbe v. Atty. Magulta[12] that it is not
necessary that any retainer be paid, promised or charged; neither is it material
that the attorney consulted did not afterward handle the case for which his
service had been sought.[13]

Under Rule 15.03, Canon 15 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, [a]


lawyer shall not represent conflicting interests except by written consent of all
concerned given after a full disclosure of the facts. Respondent was therefore
bound to refrain from representing parties with conflicting interests in a
controversy. By doing so, without showing any proof that he had obtained the
written consent of the conflicting parties, respondent should be sanctioned.

The excuse proffered by respondent that it was not him but Atty. Ao who
The prohibition against representing conflicting interest is founded on
principles of public policy and good taste.

[14]

was eventually engaged by complainant will not exonerate him from the clear

In the course of the lawyer-client

violation of Rule 15.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility. The take- over

Complainant,

of a clients cause of action by another lawyer does not give the former lawyer
the right to represent the opposing party. It is not only malpractice but also

Present:

constitutes a violation of the confidence resulting from the attorney-client


relationship.
CARPIO, J.,
Considering that this is respondents first infraction, the disbarment sought

Chairperson,

in the complaint is deemed to be too severe. As recommended by the Board of

- versus -

BRION,

Governors of the IBP, the suspension from the practice of law for one (1) year is
PEREZ,

warranted.

SERENO, and
Accordingly, the Court resolved to SUSPEND Atty. Rodolfo T. Galing from

REYES, JJ.

the practice of law for one (1) year, with a WARNING that a repetition of the
same or similar offense will warrant a more severe penalty. Let copies of this
Decision be furnished all courts, the Office of the Bar Confidant and the

ATTYS. GEMMO G. GUILLERMO and ERME S. LABAYOG,

Integrated Bar of the Philippines for their information and guidance. The Office

Promulgated:

Respondents.

of the Bar Confidant is directed to append a copy of this Decision to


November 16, 2011

respondents record as member of the Bar.

SO ORDERED.

x------------------------------------------------------------------------------------x
Republic of the Philippines
Supreme Court
Manila
DECISION
SECOND DIVISION
BRION, J.:

ROGELIO F. ESTAVILLO,

A.C. No. 6899

In particular, the complainant charged the respondents for their failure


to file an answer in the civil case within the period fixed by the Rules of Court, as
required by the summons dated March 18, 2005[5] which commanded:

You are hereby required to enter your appearance in


the above-entitled case within ten (10) days after the service of
the summons upon you, exclusive of the day of such service,
and to answer the complaint served upon you within the period
fixed by the Rules of Court. If you fail to appear within the
aforesaid period, the plaintiff will take judgment against you by
default and demand from this Court the relief prayed for in said
complaint.

We review Resolution No. XIX-2011-503,[1] passed on June 26, 2011 by the


Board of Governors of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP), granting the
motion for reconsideration of Attys. Gemmo G. Guillermo and Erme S. Labayog
(respondents), thereby lowering the penalty of suspension from the practice of
law for three (3) months against the two lawyers (imposed in Resolution No.
XVIII-2009-07[2]) to REPRIMAND. The respondents were penalized for violation
of Rule 18.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility.

The MTCC noted that the summons was served on the Estavillos

The Case

on March 18, 2005, leaving them until March 28, 2005 within which to file their
answer to the complaint. The respondents filed the answer only on April 4, 2005,
or seven (7) days beyond the ten (10)-day period under the Rules. For this

On September 6, 2005, Rogelio F. Estavillo (complainant) filed an affidavit-

reason, the court, upon Guerreros motion, issued an order striking the answer

complaint[3] with the Office of the Bar Confidant, charging the respondents

from the records.[6]

with gross negligence. The complainant and his son, Dexter, engaged the
services of the respondents in Civil Case No. 3183[4] for Forcible Entry and
Damages, filed against them by Teresita A. Guerrero with the Municipal Trial

The complainant further claimed that the respondents did not inform

Court in Cities (MTCC), Laoag City.

him or his son of scheduled hearings and incidents related to the civil case,
notably the following:

1)

the April 15, 2005 hearing on Guerreros motion to strike out

Guillermo finally arrived; they told the lawyer about their discovery of the May 31,

the pleading (answer) filed by the respondents, as well as the

2005 order; when they asked him why they were not advised of the judgment,

motion to cite them for indirect contempt;

Atty. Guillermo just answered, We have plenty of work.[10] Taken aback by


Atty. Guillermos response and attitude, they left the law office enraged and
confused. The same indifferent treatment was shown to them by Atty. Labayog

2)

the Order dated March 28, 2005[7] with a writ of preliminary

who undertook to show them the draft of the notice of appeal of the May 31,

prohibitory and mandatory injunction, ordering them; to

2005 order. Instead of Atty. Labayog, a new member of the law firm, a certain

demolish the fence they built on the disputed property; to

Atty. Janapin, came and could only say that she was sorry for what had

refrain from demolishing or continuing with the demolition of

happened.

Guerreros house; and to refrain from continuing with the


construction of the fence on the property in dispute;
As required by the Court,[11] the respondents submitted their Comment to
the complaint[12] where they vehemently denied the complainants allegations
3)

the Motion to Allow Plaintiff to Adduce Evidence in Support of

that they had been grossly negligent. They alleged that the complainant

her Prayer for Damages, with notice of hearing on May 20,

conferred with Atty. Guillermo regarding the civil case. They learned that

2005;[8] the hearing was held without the appearance of either

Guerrero, the plaintiff, is the former owner of the property in dispute and is

of the respondents; and

residing at a house built on the property. The Estavillos acquired the property
and they wanted to get rid of Guerrero. One way of doing it, they thought, was
to build a fence on the lot, thereby substantially reducing Guerreros passageway

4)

and destroying Guerreros house. Thus, Guerrero prayed for a temporary

the Order dated May 31, 2005,[9] directing the complainant

restraining order and a writ of preliminary and/or prohibitory injunction.

and his son to solidarily pay Guerrero P20,000.00 as actual


damages, P50,000.00
exemplary

as

moral

damages, P30,000.00

damages,P20,000.00
as

attorneys

as
fee,
To

and P3,060.00 as cost of suit.

the

respondents

mind,

Guerreros

case

was

actually

for possession despite its title for Forcible Entry based on the allegations of
the complainant. They, therefore, waited for the order of the court, before they
Still further, the complainant bewailed that at 5:00 p.m. on June 24,

filed the answer to the complaint. They relied on Section 4, par. 2 of the 1991

2005, as he and his son were waiting at the respondents law office, Atty.

Revised Rule on Summary Procedure which provides that if no ground for

10

dismissal is found by the court, it shall forthwith issue summons stating that the
summary procedure under the Rule shall apply. Unfortunately, the court did not
issue any order so they presumed that the regular rules apply and that the time
to file an answer is fifteen (15) days. This notwithstanding, they vehemently
opposed Guerreros motion to strike out the answer, but the court ruled in
Guerreros favor and struck out the answer they filed in behalf of the Estavillos.

The respondents further maintained that contrary to the complainants


allegations, they represented the complainant and his son in all stages of the
proceedings, except at one hearing when Guillermo had an emergency meeting
in connection with a different case. They also denied that they were not
providing updates on the case; the complainants son, Dexter, had been regularly
going to the law office to get feedbacks on the progress of the case.

The respondents took exception to the complainants claim that Atty.


Guillermo said We have plenty of work[13] in justifying the loss of the civil case,
for what he told the complainant on one occasion was not all cases are won,
and our only remedy left is appeal.[14] They indeed filed the appeal which
adequately and exhaustively discussed the complainants position in the case. It
just so happened that the court decided in Guerreros favor.

11

answer the complaint served upon you within the period fixed
by the Rules of Court. (Exh. 3)

The IBP Proceedings

On February 22, 2006,[15] the Court referred the complaint to the IBP for

The complaint docketed as Civil Case No. 3183 is for:


Forcible Entry and damages with prayer of the issuance of a
temporary restraining order and writ of preliminary mandatory
and/or prohibitory injunction.

investigation, report and recommendation.

In
2008,

[16]

Report

and

Recommendation

dated November

11,
It behooves or is incumbent upon respondent[s] to be
knowledgeable of the periods within which to file a pleading. In
this particular [instance], Rule 70, governing forcible entry and
unlawful detainer cases which is incorporated in the 1997 Rules
of Civil Procedure[,] has been in effect for almost eight (8) years
when this complaint was instituted by plaintiff Guerrero against
respondents clients. It is the bounden duty of counsel in the
active practice to keep abreast of decisions of the Supreme
Court and changes in the law (De Roy v. Court of Appeals, 157
SCRA 757).

Commissioner Pedro A. Magpayo, Jr. of the IBP Commission on Bar

Discipline recommended that the respondents be suspended from the practice


of law for three (3) months for violation of Rule 18.03 of the Code of Professional
Responsibility.

The relevant portions of Commissioner Magpayos report state:

After a judicious study of the records, it appears to the


undersigned that the respondents composing the law office of
Guillermo & Labayog did not meet the standard of diligence
required by the situation relative to the civil complaint and the
summons received by their client. When they accepted the
complainants case, the clients presented to them the copy of
the summons issued by the Clerk of Court.

It was the finding of the MTCC that as appearing in the


record, the defendants filed their Answer only on April 4, 2005
or 7 days beyond the ten (10) day period given (order dated
April 28, 2005).

Thus, it is plain that respondents who argued that the


reglementary period is fifteen days, and not ten days, were still
late in submitting the defendants answer within fifteen days.[17]

The summons dated 18 March 2005 specifically states:


You are hereby required to enter your appearance in the
above-entitled case within ten (10) days after the service of the
summons upon you, exclusive of the day of such service, and to

12

Commissioner Magpayo, however, found no solid evidence to support the


complainants other accusations. He cited as a case in point the hearing of May
20, 2005permitting Guerrero, the plaintiff, to present ex-parte evidence. As the
term of the courts directive implies, the hearing was supposed to be attended
by the plaintiff alone, without the defendants presence, for the purpose of
adducing evidence to prove damages. The absence of an answer (the Estavillos
answer having been stricken off the record) facilitated the allowance of the exparte evidence of Guerrero.

Commissioner Magpayo opined that to the credit of the respondents, they


put up a fight, however futile, in defense of the complainants case, as shown in
the
2005.

TSN
[20]

of

the

hearings

of

March

22,[18] April

15[19] and May

6,

Unfortunately, it was really a losing case because the answer to the

complaint was filed late or beyond the reglementary period of 10 days prescribed
under the Rules of Court.[21]

13

The IBP Board of Governors Ruling and Related Incidents

On June 26, 2011, the IBP Board of Governors passed the Resolution under
review, Resolution No. XIX-2011-503.[24] To reiterate, it modified its Resolution No.
XVIII-2009-07 dated February 19, 2009, lowering the recommended penalty of

On February

19,

Resolution[22] adopting

2009,
and

the

IBP

Board

approving

of

Governors

Commissioner

passed

suspension for three (3) months against the respondents to REPRIMAND.

Magpayos

recommendation.
The Courts Ruling

On July 9, 2009, the respondents moved for reconsideration of the IBP


resolution, insisting that they were not liable for gross negligence. They argued

The original sanction recommended by Commissioner Magpayo against the

that they filed all the required pleadings for the Estavillos the answer,

respondents, principally for their failure to file an answer for the Estavillos in the

oppositions, appeals and memoranda. Except for one oral argument where Atty.

civil case, was a three-month suspension from the practice of law. The

Guillermo had a previous commitment elsewhere (which happened to be the

recommendation already took into account the presence of mitigating

time of the plaintiffs ex-parte presentation of evidence), they religiously

circumstances, although Commissioner Magpayo failed to elaborate on what

attended to all the hearings. They maintained that if there had been negligence

these mitigating circumstances were.

at all, it was not gross as it was brought about by the difficult appreciation of the
Rules. They further argued that the penalty of suspension for their negligence, if
any, is not in accord with jurisprudence.

In asking for a penalty lighter than the three-month suspension


imposed, the respondents contend that they did everything required by their
clients defense, except for the answer to the complaint which was

On August 26, 2009, Guerrero filed a comment on the motion for

filed beyond the reglementary period. Nonetheless, they submit that if there

reconsideration, asking for its denial, contending that [t]he hackneyed

had been any negligence at all, it was not gross as it was due to a difficult

reasoning of respondents that the trial court should have issued an order fixing

appreciation of the Rules. In any event, they submit that their clients really had a

the period to file an answer is a subterfuge, if not a lame excuse, for their gross

losing case and there was nothing they could do about it. They further argue that

negligence and lack of fidelity in handling their clients case.[23]

the recommended penalty is not in accord with jurisprudence.

14

Under Canon 18 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, A LAWYER

We do not find the respondents stance acceptable as it betrays a lack of

SHALL SERVE HIS CLIENT WITH COMPETENCE AND DILIGENCE. Pursuant to

the necessary competence and diligence required by the Code of Professional

Rule 18.03 cited by the complainant, A lawyer shall not neglect a legal matter

Responsibility in responding to the courts summons for the Estavillos to make

entrusted to him, and his negligence in connection therewith shall render him

an appearance in the case and to file an answer to the complaint. The

liable.

respondents, especially Atty. Guillermo who was supposed to be the lead


counsel for the Estavillos, misappreciated the urgency and the importance of the
courts summons. They mistakenly assumed that the court would issue an order

After a review of the facts, we find no reason to reduce the originally

of dismissal. They waited and when no order issued from the court, they again

recommended penalty of suspension for three months against the respondents

incorrectly assumed that the regular rules apply without seeking a clarification

for their mishandling of the Estavillos civil case. Although they filed the answer,

from the court or ascertaining exactly when the answer should be filed. With this

it could no longer serve its purpose as it was filed late (i.e., seven days beyond

rationalization, they then shifted the blame for their failure to file the answer on

the required ten [10]-day period), as found by the court.[25] As a consequence,

time to the court. We cannot allow this kind of response in the handling of cases

the answer was stricken off the record[26] to the detriment of the complainant

as the terms of the Rules of Court are sufficiently clear in their requirements to

and his son.

the average lawyer. The terms of the summons were also clear; as the court aptly
stated:

The respondents attempted to justify the late filing of the answer by


In the summons issued, specific instruction was given to
the defendants that within ten (10) days after service, they are
required to enter their appearance and to answer the complaint
within the period fixed by the Rules of Court. The period fixed
by the Rules of Court is ten (10) days and not fifteen (15) days as
averred by the defendants. The defendants, however, failed.[27]

claiming that, to their mind, the civil case was actually for possession,
notwithstanding that its title is forforcible entry. They thus waited for an order
from the court pursuant to Section 4 of the 1991 Revised Rule on Summary
Procedure which provides that If no ground for dismissal is found it shall
forthwith issue summons which shall state that the summary procedure under
this Rule shall apply. They did not receive a court order so they presumed that
the regular rules apply, under which, the answer shall be filed within fifteen (15)
days.

Thus, the respondents had in fact been negligent, or worse, had failed to
exercise the required competence and diligence in filing the Estavillos answer to
the complaint.

15

FIRST DIVISION

[A.M. No. RTJ-05-1900. January 28, 2005]

Under the circumstances of the case, the respondents penalty cannot be


further mitigated without committing an unfairness against the complainant and
his son. We remind the respondents and the IBP Board of Governors of what we

SHIRLEY LORIA TOLEDO and ROSIE LORIA DAJAC, complainants, vs. JUDGE
ALFREDO E. KALLOS, respondent.

said in Fil-Garcia, Inc. v. Hernandez:[28]

RESOLUTION
DAVIDE, JR., C.J.:

Rule 18.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility


enjoins a lawyer not to neglect a legal matter entrusted to
him, and his negligence in connection therewith shall render
him
liable. Every
case
a
lawyer
accepts deserves his full attention, skill and competence,
regardless of its importance and whether he accepts it for a fee
or for free. He must constantly keep in mind that his actions or
omissions or nonfeasance would be binding upon his client.
Thus, he is expected to be acquainted with the rudiments of
law and legal procedure, and a client who deals with him has
the right to expect not just a good amount of professional
learning and competence but also a whole-hearted fealty to the
clients cause.

For our resolution is the verified complaint, written in the vernacular and
dated 21 August 2002, of siblings Shirley Loria Toledo and Rosie Loria Dajac
against respondent Judge Alfredo E. Kallos, Presiding Judge of the Regional Trial
Court (RTC) of Legazpi City, Branch 10, for violation of the Code of Judicial
Conduct, the Code of Professional Responsibility, and Article 1491 (5) of the Civil
Code.
Prior to his appointment as a judge in March 1995,[1] Judge Kallos was
complainants counsel of record in Civil Case No. 4879 filed with the RTC of
Legazpi City, Branch 4, involving the recovery of hereditary shares with
damages. On 25 March 1979, a judgment was rendered ordering the defendants
to, among other things, turn over to herein complainants, the plaintiffs therein,
the possession and ownership of the total area of 4,514 square meters of lot
2082 Albay Cadastre. On appeal, the decision was affirmed by the Court of
Appeals and became final and executory on 16 December 1985. [2]
Several years thereafter, or in February 2002, the respondent filed in the
same action, Civil Case No. 4879, before the RTC of Legazpi, Branch 4, an
Omnibus Motion[3] praying, inter alia, for the issuance an order constituting in his
favor an attorneys lien to the extent of one-third over the lot awarded in favor
of the complainants representing his attorneys fee. He based his motion on a
written contingency agreement on attorneys fees for professional services
rendered whereby he is entitled to one-third share of what would be awarded to
the complainants. He claimed that this agreement had already been
implemented when one of the three (3) lots levied upon by the sheriff to
answer for the award of damages was given to (him) as his one-third share while
the other two lots went to the plaintiffs as their two-third share [as]
evidenced by the Definite Deed of Sale and Transfer Certificate of Titles Nos. T-

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines


Board of Governors Resolution No. XIX-2011-503 of June 26, 2011 is SET ASIDE,
and its Resolution No. XVIII-2009-07 dated February 19, 2009 is REINSTATED.

SO ORDERED.

16

77728, T-77458 and T-77459. However, he misplaced a copy of said written


agreement.

execution to satisfy the judgment. He insists that he was never remiss in the
performance of his duties and responsibilities as complainants counsel.

In the meantime, or on 5 September 2002, the complainants filed before


this Court, through the Office of the Court Administrator, the subject verified
complaint. Here, complainants pray for three things. First, they pray for an order
directing the respondent to stop demanding his 1/3 share attorneys fees.
They assert that the respondent has no basis for his claim because he failed to
show in court proof of the alleged written contingency fee agreement. They also
belie respondents insistence in his Omnibus Motion that the said agreement had
already been implemented when, on execution, one of three lots levied upon by
the sheriff was given to him as his 1/3 share. They emphasize that all the lots
levied by the sheriff were given to them. However, the respondent forced
them to sign a Deed of Absolute Sale on 16 January 1990 involving a parcel of
land valued in the document at P10,000, but actually worth more than P500,000,
in payment of his attorneys fees. While they did not want to sign the document
because respondent appeared in their case only during execution, they were
constrained to do so for fear that something adverse might happen to their case,
as the respondent so warned them. The latter told them that they would not
have won the case were it not for his services.

The respondent further alleges that the existence of the agreement on


attorneys fees was admitted by complainant Shirley Loria Toledo as evidenced
by the order issued by the court on 01 March 2002, which states that Ms. Toledo
came to the court informally informing it that she had a copy of the contract on
attorneys fees.[4]
As regards the Deed of Absolute Sale, respondent admits that he was still
complainants lawyer when the lot was transferred in his name. The lot was given
to him by the complainants and their mother, pursuant to their written
contingency agreement, as his 1/3 share in the three parcels of land levied upon
by the sheriff to settle the accrued rentals awarded in the second paragraph of
the dispositive portion of the decision. He did not pay for it. The figure
appearing on the document was written only to facilitate the transaction. He
never compelled the complainants and their mother to sell to him the parcel of
land. Neither did he tell them that nothing would happen to their case without
him.
Finally, the respondent asserts that his claim for attorneys fees is still being
litigated in Civil Case No. 4879. Thus, the instant complaint is premature.

The complainants thus seek, as their second prayer, the recovery of the
property involved in said Deed of Absolute Sale. They argue that pursuant to
Article 1491(5) of the Civil Code, lawyers are prohibited from buying their clients
properties when the same are still the object of litigation. To prove that the
respondent was still their counsel when the sale took place, the complainants
attached to their complaint the Motion to Terminate Services dated 23 June
1994, which was based on respondents being remiss in his duties and
responsibilities as their lawyer, and the Order of the court dated 29 June 1994,
approving the termination.

In their Rejoinder dated 7 January 2003, the complainants insist that there is
no basis for respondents claim for attorneys fees for the following reasons: (1)
the respondent failed to present the agreement on attorneys fees; (2)
attorneys fees were not awarded by the RTC or the Court of Appeals; and (3)
Civil Case No. 4879 is in its execution stage.
After evaluating the pleadings submitted by the parties, the Court
Administrator found[5] that respondent was, indeed, complainants counsel in
Civil Case No. 4879, and he should therefore be compensated for his services.
The act of demanding payment for his attorneys fees is not a ground for
administrative liability. However, he can be allowed only fair and reasonable
attorneys fees under Canon 20 of the Code of Professional Responsibility. As to
this, the Court Administrator stated:

Third, the complainants pray for the removal of the respondent from his
position as RTC judge for his alleged abusive conduct unbecoming a judge.
In his Comment dated 25 November 2002, the respondent denies the
allegations against him and asserts that he is only claiming what is due him. He
vehemently denies that he appeared in the case only during the execution stage,
pointing to the Minutes of Hearing and the Order, both dated 05 October 1973,
which show that he entered his appearance as counsel for the complainants as
early as 5 October 1973, or two months after the complaint was filed. He
continuously handled the case from then on, as shown by copies of the minutes
of the hearings and orders issued by the RTC, until a favorable judgment was
rendered on 25 March 1979 and the subject properties were levied upon on

On the question of whether respondent violated Article 1491(5) of the Civil


Code, the Court Administrator found that this may be fairly resolved in an
investigation, there being a factual dispute, and recommended that the
complaint be referred to an Associate Justice of the Court of Appeals pursuant to
Section 3, Rule 140 of the Rules of Court. On the basis of this recommendation,
we referred the matter to Associate Justice Jose Mendoza of the Court of
Appeals for investigation, report, and recommendation.

17

In his Report,[6] Justice Mendoza found that the respondent indeed


represented the complainants in Civil Case No. 4879. Like the Court
Administrator, he expresses the view that the act of demanding attorneys fees
for services rendered is not a ground for administrative sanction. He finds that
when the respondent made the demand, he did so as a lawyer who obtained a
favorable judgment for his client, and not as a judge. As a lawyer, it is but just
that he be fairly compensated for his services. And his filing of a claim for
attorneys fees in Civil Case No. 4879 was an appropriate legal remedy.
Considering the pendency of such claim, Justice Mendoza recommends the
suspension of the determination of the instant administrative complaint until the
rendition of a final judicial ruling on the matter of respondents attorneys fees;
thus:

We agree with Justice Mendoza.


It is fundamental that a claim for attorneys fees may be asserted either in
the very action in which the services of a lawyer had been rendered or in a
separate action.[7] The respondent chose to file his claim for attorneys fees in
the same case in which he served as counsel for the complainants. As
mentioned, this is a proper remedy under our jurisdiction and is preferred to an
independent action as it avoids multiplicity of suits. Besides, the right to recover
attorneys fees is but an incident of the case in which the services of counsel
have been rendered. Moreover, the court trying the case is to a certain degree
already familiar with the nature and extent of the lawyers services [8] and is in a
better position to decide the question of fees.
Undisputably, respondents claim for attorneys fees is under litigation. We
find in the records an Order dated 7 January 2004 issued in Civil Case No. 4879
which granted respondents prayer for 1/3 share of attorneys fees in the
proceeds of litigation as claimed in his Omnibus Motion dated 14 February 2002.
This Order is the subject of a motion for reconsideration by the complainants, as
stated in respondents Manifestation dated 24 January 2004 [9] filed in the
investigation proceedings conducted by Justice Mendoza. Also part of the
records is respondents Affidavit dated 1 December 2003, filed in the same
investigation proceedings, alluding to the complainants filing of a Petition for
Certiorari and Mandamus in the Court of Appeals, docketed as CA-G.R. SP No.
80090, seeking to reverse the Order of the trial court denying complainants
Motion to Dismiss respondents Omnibus Motion.

As the said issue is still being litigated in the Regional Trial Court in Civil Case No.
4879, it is the view of the undersigned that the complaint is still premature .
In other words, the complaint is not yet ripe for administrative evaluation. The
hearing on the matter being conducted by the court below should be allowed to
run its course as that court is the appropriate forum for a ruling on the dispute.
To make a determination at this time on whether the respondent violated
Article 1491 (A) would be to preempt the lower court in its resolution of the
issue. Any recommendation by the undersigned in this administrative case and
subsequent resolution by the Honorable Supreme Court on the matter would
certainly affect or influence the thinking of the trial court before which the
matter is pending. In such a case, it will be unfair to either party. At any rate, the
party who would feel aggrieved might still elevate the decision to the higher
courts.

We, therefore, find no cogent reason for us to resolve complainants first


two issues raised in the verified complaint, for they are inextricably inherent in
the claim of the respondent in his Omnibus Motion, which is pending judicial
determination. Since respondents claim for attorneys fees in the main case has
not yet become final, the objection of prematurity obtains, as a contrary holding
may be preemptive of a final judicial determination of factual and evidentiary
matters inherent in the claim.[10] Clearly, the reliefs asked by the complainants are
judicial in nature.[11] And, if only for an orderly administration of justice, the
proceedings in Civil Case No. 4879 should be allowed to continue and take its
course, and the claim of the respondent judicially settled first.

This recommendation is not without precedent. In the case of Spouses De Leon


v. Hon. Bonifacio, Adm. Case No. 4467, October 10, 1997, the then Deputy Court
Administrator, Hon. Reynaldo Suarez, recommended the dismissal of the case for
being judicial in nature or, at least, premature.

But while we give deference to the wisdom of the trial court to initially
decide respondents claim for attorneys fees, we deem it appropriate to
reiterate certain principles governing the payment of attorneys fees and impart
our observations on the instant claim. Foremost of these principles is that the act
of demanding attorneys fees for services rendered is not a ground for an
administrative sanction. On the contrary, Canon 20 of the Code of Professional

In this case, the respondent is not being charged for his acts or decisions as a
judge. Rather, he has been charged for dealing with the property of his client
which is prohibited by law. Nevertheless, the principle is the same, in that, the
matter is still judicial in nature.

18

Responsibility allows lawyers to charge fair and reasonable fees. As long as a


lawyer honestly and in good faith serves and represents the interest of the client,
he should have a reasonable compensation for his service.[12]

allegedly committed by him. As such, and to that extent, there is no reason to


bind him by the strict standards of the Code of Judicial Conduct for acts
committed as counsel to a case prior to his appointment as a judge.

Lawyers are thus as much entitled to judicial protection against injustice on


the part of their clients as the clients are against abuses on the part of counsel.
The duty of the court is not only to see that lawyers act in a proper and lawful
manner, but also to see that lawyers are paid their just and lawful fees. [13] Thus,
in J.K. Mercado and Sons Agricultural Enterprises, Inc. v. De Vera,[14] citing Albano
v. Coloma,[15] we stressed:

WHEREFORE, the instant administrative complaint is DISMISSED for being


premature and for lack of merit.
SO ORDERED.
Quisumbing, Ynares-Santiago, Carpio, and Azcuna, JJ., concur.

While, indeed, the practice of law is not a business venture, a lawyer,


nevertheless, is entitled to be duly compensated for professional services
rendered. So, also, he must be protected against clients who wrongly refuse to
give him his just due. In Albano vs. Coloma, this Court has said:

[1]

Counsel, any counsel, who is worthy of his hire, is entitled to be fully


recompensed for his services. With his capital consisting solely of his brains and
with his skill, acquired at tremendous cost not only in money but in the
expenditure of time and energy, he is entitled to the protection of any judicial
tribunal against any attempt on the part of a client to escape payment of his
fees. It is indeed ironic if after putting forth the best that is in him to secure
justice for the party he represents, he himself would not get his due. Such an
eventuality this Court is determined to avoid. It views with disapproval any and
every effort of those benefited by counsels services to deprive him of his hardearned honorarium. Such an attitude deserves condemnation.
It should be stressed in this connection that the absence of a written
contract will not preclude the finding that there was a professional relationship
that justifies the collection of attorneys fees for professional services rendered.
Documentary formalism is not an essential element in the employment of an
attorney; the contract may be express or implied. To establish the relation, it is
sufficient that the advice and assistance of an attorney is sought and received in
any matter pertinent to his profession.[16] Hence, with or without a contingency
agreement between the complainants and the respondent, the trial court must
determine the propriety of respondents claim for attorneys fees and the
reasonable amount thereof.
The third issue raised in the verified complaint deserves a short shrift. No
evidence was presented to prove respondents alleged abusive conduct
unbecoming a judge. The complainants do not dispute the fact that the
respondent was not yet a judge when the assailed action or conduct was

19

Rollo, 278.