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G.R. No. 178941


Commissioner Navarro summoned the parties to a mandatory

conference and required them afterwards to submit their position papers.
Based on these, Navarro submitted her Report and Recommendation to
the IBP Board for its approval. Commissioner Navarro was herself a
member of the IBP Board. After deliberation, the IBP Board adopted
Commissioner Navarros findings but increased the recommended penalty
of six months suspension from the practice of law to disbarment. The IBP
Board then transmitted their report to this Court.



On September 29, 2004, however, the Court remanded the case to

the IBP Board for further proceedings in order to give the parties the
chance to fully present their case.[2] The Court said the investigating
commissioner should have subpoenaed and examined the witnesses of the
parties considering the gravity of the charge against Atty. Gacott. Navarro
rendered her report based solely on the position papers and affidavits of
the witnesses.






Tabang against respondent Atty. Glenn C. Gacott for gross misconduct,

deceit, and gross dishonesty. The IBP Board designated petitioner Lydia A.
Navarro (Navarro) as Commissioner to investigate the case.

April 27, 2011

x ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- x
Can the members of the Board of Governors of the Integrated Bar
of the Philippines be held liable in damages for prematurely recommending
disbarment of a lawyer based on the position papers and affidavits of
witnesses of the parties?
The Facts and the Case
On February 23, 2003 the Integrated Bar of the Philippines Board of
Governors, then composed of petitioners Jose Anselmo I. Cadiz, Leonard
S. De Vera, Romulo A. Rivera, Dante G. Ilaya, Pura Angelica Y. Santiago,
Rosario T. Setias-Reyes, Jose Vicente B. Salazar, Manuel M. Monzon,
Immanuel L. Sodusta, and Carlos L. Valdez, Jr. (the IBP Board), received
an administrative complaint[1] filed by Lilia T. Ventura and Concepcion

While the IBP Board was complying with the Courts directive, Atty.
Gacott filed a complaint for damages against the boards sitting members
before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Puerto Princesa City, Palawan.[3]
Answering the complaint, the IBP Board raised the affirmative defense of
failure of the complaint to state a cause of action and filed a motion to
dismiss the case on that ground. On March 9, 2006 the trial court denied
the motion,[4] prompting the IBP Board to elevate the case to the Court of
Appeals (CA) on special civil action for certiorari.[5]
On December 29, 2006 the CA denied the petition, pointing out that
the RTC did not commit grave abuse of discretion. The IBP Board had
other plain and speedy remedy, like proceeding to trial in the case and
appealing in the event of failure of the RTC to dismiss the action. The CA
denied in its Resolution dated July 12, 2007 the IBP Boards motion for
reconsideration, thus causing them to file the present petition.
The Issue Presented
The key issue in this case is whether or not the CA erred in failing
to rule that the Supreme Courts remand of the disbarment case to the IBP
Board for examination of the witnesses, considering the gravity of the
charge against Atty. Gacott, cannot serve as basis for the latters
complaint for damages against the members of that board.
Ruling of the Court
Atty. Gacott states in his complaint for damages before the RTC that
Supreme Courts remand of his case to the IBP Board is an affirmation of
the latters arbitrary abuse of its investigatory power. The IBP Board

recommended his disbarment based on the Commissioners report

rendered to it without the benefit of exhaustive hearing. This made its
members personally liable for actual, moral, and corrective damages.
Essentially, therefore, Atty. Gacott anchored his complaint for damages on
the result of the Courts assessment of the IBP Boards report and
recommendation and its remand of the case against him for further
The petitioner IBP Board members are correct in claiming that Atty.
Gacotts complaint states no cause of action. The IBP Commissioner and
Board of Governors in this case merely exercised delegated powers to
investigate the complaint against Atty. Gacott and submit their report and
recommendation to the Court. They cannot be charged for honest errors
committed in the performance of their quasi-judicial function. And that
was what it was in the absence of any allegation of specific factual
circumstances indicating that they acted maliciously or upon illicit
consideration. If the rule were otherwise, a great number of lower court
justices and judges whose acts the appellate courts have annulled on
ground of grave abuse of discretion would be open targets for damage
Parenthetically, Atty. Gacott submitted the disbarment case against
him for resolution based on the position papers that he and the
complainants presented, without reservation, to the IBP along with the
affidavits of their witnesses. The IBP Board prepared its report and
recommendation to the Court based on these papers and documents.
WHEREFORE, the Court GRANTS the petition, SETS ASIDE the
decision dated December 29, 2006 and resolution dated July 12, 2007 of
the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP 94692, and ORDERS the complaint for
damages filed by respondent Glenn C. Gacott against petitioners Jose
Anselmo I. Cadiz, Leonard S. De Vera, Romulo A. Rivera, Dante G. Ilaya,
Pura Angelica Y. Santiago, Rosario T. Setias-Reyes, Jose Vicente B. Salazar,
Manuel M. Monzon, Immanuel L. Sodusta, Carlos L. Valdez, Jr., and Lydia
A. Navarro in Civil Case 4095 of the Regional Trial Court of Puerto Princesa
City, Palawan, DISMISSED for failure to state a cause of action.

Rule 7.01
888 MELING 888
Republic of the Philippines

BAR MATTER No. 914 October 1, 1999

VICENTE D. CHING, applicant.

Can a legitimate child born under the 1935 Constitution of a Filipino
mother and an alien father validly elect Philippine citizenship fourteen (14)
years after he has reached the age of majority? This is the question sought
to be resolved in the present case involving the application for admission
to the Philippine Bar of Vicente D. Ching.
The facts of this case are as follows:
Vicente D. Ching, the legitimate son of the spouses Tat Ching, a Chinese
citizen, and Prescila A. Dulay, a Filipino, was born in Francia West, Tubao,
La Union on 11 April 1964. Since his birth, Ching has resided in the
On 17 July 1998, Ching, after having completed a Bachelor of Laws course
at the St. Louis University in Baguio City, filed an application to take the
1998 Bar Examinations. In a Resolution of this Court, dated 1 September

1998, he was allowed to take the Bar Examinations, subject to the

condition that he must submit to the Court proof of his Philippine
In compliance with the above resolution, Ching submitted on 18 November
1998, the following documents:
1. Certification, dated 9 June 1986, issued by the Board of
Accountancy of the Professional Regulations Commission
showing that Ching is a certified public accountant;
2. Voter Certification, dated 14 June 1997, issued by
Elizabeth B. Cerezo, Election Officer of the Commission on
Elections (COMELEC) in Tubao La Union showing that Ching
is a registered voter of the said place; and
3. Certification, dated 12 October 1998, also issued by
Elizabeth B. Cerezo, showing that Ching was elected as a
member of the Sangguniang Bayan of Tubao, La Union
during the 12 May 1992 synchronized elections.
On 5 April 1999, the results of the 1998 Bar Examinations were released
and Ching was one of the successful Bar examinees. The oath-taking of
the successful Bar examinees was scheduled on 5 May 1999. However,
because of the questionable status of Ching's citizenship, he was not
allowed to take his oath. Pursuant to the resolution of this Court, dated 20
April 1999, he was required to submit further proof of his citizenship. In
the same resolution, the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) was required
to file a comment on Ching's petition for admission to the bar and on the
documents evidencing his Philippine citizenship.

citizenship may be effective, namely: (a) the mother of the person making
the election must be a citizen of the Philippines; and (b) said election must
be made upon reaching the age of majority." 3 The OSG then explains the
meaning of the phrase "upon reaching the age of majority:"
The clause "upon reaching the age of majority" has been
construed to mean a reasonable time after reaching the
age of majority which had been interpreted by the
Secretary of Justice to be three (3) years (VELAYO, supra
at p. 51 citing Op., Sec. of Justice No. 70, s. 1940, Feb.
27, 1940). Said period may be extended under certain
circumstances, as when a (sic) person concerned has
always considered himself a Filipino (ibid., citing Op. Nos.
355 and 422, s. 1955; 3, 12, 46, 86 and 97, s. 1953). But
in Cuenco, it was held that an election done after over
seven (7) years was not made within a reasonable time.
In conclusion, the OSG points out that Ching has not formally elected
Philippine citizenship and, if ever he does, it would already be beyond the
"reasonable time" allowed by present jurisprudence. However, due to the
peculiar circumstances surrounding Ching's case, the OSG recommends
the relaxation of the standing rule on the construction of the phrase
"reasonable period" and the allowance of Ching to elect Philippine
citizenship in accordance with C.A. No. 625 prior to taking his oath as a
member of the Philippine Bar.
On 27 July 1999, Ching filed a Manifestation, attaching therewith his
Affidavit of Election of Philippine Citizenship and his Oath of Allegiance,
both dated 15 July 1999. In his Manifestation, Ching states:
1. I have always considered myself as a Filipino;

The OSG filed its comment on 8 July 1999, stating that Ching, being the
"legitimate child of a Chinese father and a Filipino mother born under the
1935 Constitution was a Chinese citizen and continued to be so, unless
upon reaching the age of majority he elected Philippine citizenship" 1 in
strict compliance with the provisions of Commonwealth Act No. 625
entitled "An Act Providing for the Manner in which the Option to Elect
Philippine Citizenship shall be Declared by a Person Whose Mother is a
Filipino Citizen." The OSG adds that "(w)hat he acquired at best was only
an inchoate Philippine citizenship which he could perfect by election upon
reaching the age of majority." 2 In this regard, the OSG clarifies that "two
(2) conditions must concur in order that the election of Philippine

2. I was registered as a Filipino and consistently declared

myself as one in my school records and other official
3. I am practicing a profession (Certified Public
Accountant) reserved for Filipino citizens;
4. I participated in electoral process[es] since the time I
was eligible to vote;

5. I had served the people of Tubao, La Union as a

member of the Sangguniang Bayan from 1992 to 1995;
6. I elected Philippine citizenship on July 15, 1999 in
accordance with Commonwealth Act No. 625;
7. My election was expressed in a statement signed and
sworn to by me before a notary public;
8. I accompanied my election of Philippine citizenship with
the oath of allegiance to the Constitution and the
Government of the Philippines;
9. I filed my election of Philippine citizenship and my oath
of allegiance to (sic) the Civil Registrar of Tubao La Union,
10. I paid the amount of TEN PESOS (Ps. 10.00) as filing
Since Ching has already elected Philippine citizenship on 15 July 1999, the
question raised is whether he has elected Philippine citizenship within a
"reasonable time." In the affirmative, whether his citizenship by election
retroacted to the time he took the bar examination.
When Ching was born in 1964, the governing charter was the 1935
Constitution. Under Article IV, Section 1(3) of the 1935 Constitution, the
citizenship of a legitimate child born of a Filipino mother and an alien
father followed the citizenship of the father, unless, upon reaching the age
of majority, the child elected Philippine citizenship. 4 This right to elect
Philippine citizenship was recognized in the 1973 Constitution when it
provided that "(t)hose who elect Philippine citizenship pursuant to the
provisions of the Constitution of nineteen hundred and thirty-five" are
citizens of the Philippines. 5 Likewise, this recognition by the 1973
Constitution was carried over to the 1987 Constitution which states that
"(t)hose born before January 17, 1973 of Filipino mothers, who elect
Philippine citizenship upon reaching the age of majority" are Philippine
citizens. 6 It should be noted, however, that the 1973 and 1987
Constitutional provisions on the election of Philippine citizenship should not
be understood as having a curative effect on any irregularity in the
acquisition of citizenship for those covered by the 1935 Constitution. 7 If
the citizenship of a person was subject to challenge under the old charter,

it remains subject to challenge under the new charter even if the judicial
challenge had not been commenced before the effectivity of the new
Constitution. 8
C.A. No. 625 which was enacted pursuant to Section 1(3), Article IV of the
1935 Constitution, prescribes the procedure that should be followed in
order to make a valid election of Philippine citizenship. Under Section 1
thereof, legitimate children born of Filipino mothers may elect Philippine
citizenship by expressing such intention "in a statement to be signed and
sworn to by the party concerned before any officer authorized to
administer oaths, and shall be filed with the nearest civil registry. The said
party shall accompany the aforesaid statement with the oath of allegiance
to the Constitution and the Government of the Philippines."
However, the 1935 Constitution and C.A. No. 625 did not prescribe a time
period within which the election of Philippine citizenship should be made.
The 1935 Charter only provides that the election should be made "upon
reaching the age of majority." The age of majority then commenced upon
reaching twenty-one (21) years. 9 In the opinions of the Secretary of
Justice on cases involving the validity of election of Philippine citizenship,
this dilemma was resolved by basing the time period on the decisions of
this Court prior to the effectivity of the 1935 Constitution. In these
decisions, the proper period for electing Philippine citizenship was, in turn,
based on the pronouncements of the Department of State of the United
States Government to the effect that the election should be made within a
"reasonable time" after attaining the age of majority. 10 The phrase
"reasonable time" has been interpreted to mean that the election should
be made within three (3) years from reaching the age of
majority. 11 However, we held in Cuenco vs. Secretary of Justice, 12 that the
three (3) year period is not an inflexible rule. We said:
It is true that this clause has been construed to mean a
reasonable period after reaching the age of majority, and
that the Secretary of Justice has ruled that three (3) years
is the reasonable time to elect Philippine citizenship under
the constitutional provision adverted to above, which
period may be extended under certain circumstances, as
when the person concerned has always considered himself
a Filipino. 13
However, we cautioned in Cuenco that the extension of the option to elect
Philippine citizenship is not indefinite:

Regardless of the foregoing, petitioner was born on

February 16, 1923. He became of age on February 16,
1944. His election of citizenship was made on May 15,
1951, when he was over twenty-eight (28) years of age, or
over seven (7) years after he had reached the age of
majority. It is clear that said election has not been made
"upon reaching the age of majority." 14
In the present case, Ching, having been born on 11 April 1964, was
already thirty-five (35) years old when he complied with the requirements
of C.A. No. 625 on 15 June 1999, or over fourteen (14) years after he had
reached the age of majority. Based on the interpretation of the phrase
"upon reaching the age of majority," Ching's election was clearly beyond,
by any reasonable yardstick, the allowable period within which to exercise
the privilege. It should be stated, in this connection, that the special
circumstances invoked by Ching, i.e., his continuous and uninterrupted
stay in the Philippines and his being a certified public accountant, a
registered voter and a former elected public official, cannot vest in him
Philippine citizenship as the law specifically lays down the requirements for
acquisition of Philippine citizenship by election.
Definitely, the so-called special circumstances cannot constitute what
Ching erroneously labels as informal election of citizenship. Ching cannot
find a refuge in the case of In re: Florencio Mallare, 15 the pertinent portion
of which reads:
And even assuming arguendo that Ana Mallare were (sic)
legally married to an alien, Esteban's exercise of the right
of suffrage when he came of age, constitutes a positive act
of election of Philippine citizenship. It has been established
that Esteban Mallare was a registered voter as of April 14,
1928, and that as early as 1925 (when he was about 22
years old), Esteban was already participating in the
elections and campaigning for certain candidate[s]. These
acts are sufficient to show his preference for Philippine
citizenship. 16
Ching's reliance on Mallare is misplaced. The facts and circumstances
obtaining therein are very different from those in the present case, thus,
negating its applicability. First, Esteban Mallare was born before the
effectivity of the 1935 Constitution and the enactment of C.A. No. 625.
Hence, the requirements and procedures prescribed under the 1935

Constitution and C.A. No. 625 for electing Philippine citizenship would not
be applicable to him. Second, the ruling in Mallare was an obiter since, as
correctly pointed out by the OSG, it was not necessary for Esteban Mallare
to elect Philippine citizenship because he was already a Filipino, he being a
natural child of a Filipino mother. In this regard, the Court stated:
Esteban Mallare, natural child of Ana Mallare, a Filipina, is
therefore himself a Filipino, and no other act would be
necessary to confer on him all the rights and privileges
attached to Philippine citizenship (U.S. vs. Ong Tianse, 29
Phil. 332; Santos Co vs. Government of the Philippine
Islands, 42 Phil. 543, Serra vs. Republic, L-4223, May 12,
1952, Sy Quimsuan vs. Republic, L-4693, Feb. 16, 1953;
Pitallano vs. Republic, L-5111, June 28, 1954). Neither
could any act be taken on the erroneous belief that he is a
non-filipino divest him of the citizenship privileges to which
he is rightfully entitled. 17
The ruling in Mallare was reiterated and further elaborated in Co vs.
Electoral Tribunal of the House of Representatives, 18 where we held:
We have jurisprudence that defines "election" as both a
formal and an informal process.
In the case of In re: Florencio Mallare (59 SCRA 45
[1974]), the Court held that the exercise of the right of
suffrage and the participation in election exercises
constitute a positive act of election of Philippine citizenship.
In the exact pronouncement of the Court, we held:
Esteban's exercise of the right of suffrage
when he came of age constitutes a positive
act of Philippine citizenship. (p. 52:
emphasis supplied)
The private respondent did more than merely exercise his right of suffrage.
He has established his life here in the Philippines.
For those in the peculiar situation of the respondent who
cannot be excepted to have elected Philippine citizenship
as they were already citizens, we apply the In Re Mallare

xxx xxx xxx

The filing of sworn statement or formal declaration is a
requirement for those who still have to elect citizenship.
For those already Filipinos when the time to elect came up,
there are acts of deliberate choice which cannot be less
binding. Entering a profession open only to Filipinos,
serving in public office where citizenship is a qualification,
voting during election time, running for public office, and
other categorical acts of similar nature are themselves
formal manifestations for these persons.
An election of Philippine citizenship presupposes that the
person electing is an alien. Or his status is doubtful
because he is a national of two countries. There is no
doubt in this case about Mr. Ong's being a Filipino when he
turned twenty-one (21).

privileged to elect Philippine citizenship has only an inchoate right to such

citizenship. As such, he should avail of the right with fervor, enthusiasm
and promptitude. Sadly, in this case, Ching slept on his opportunity to
elect Philippine citizenship and, as a result. this golden privilege slipped
away from his grasp.
IN VIEW OF THE FOREGOING, the Court Resolves to DENY Vicente D.
Ching's application for admission to the Philippine Bar.
Davide, Jr., C.J., Bellosillo, Melo, Puno, Vitug, Mendoza, Panganiban,
Quisumbing, Purisima, Pardo, Buena, Gonzaga-Reyes and YnaresSantiago, JJ., concur.

We repeat that any election of Philippine citizenship on the

part of the private respondent would not only have been
superfluous but it would also have resulted in an absurdity.
How can a Filipino citizen elect Philippine citizenship? 19
The Court, like the OSG, is sympathetic with the plight of Ching. However,
even if we consider the special circumstances in the life of Ching like his
having lived in the Philippines all his life and his consistent belief that he is
a Filipino, controlling statutes and jurisprudence constrain us to disagree
with the recommendation of the OSG. Consequently, we hold that Ching
failed to validly elect Philippine citizenship. The span of fourteen (14) years
that lapsed from the time he reached the age of majority until he finally
expressed his intention to elect Philippine citizenship is clearly way beyond
the contemplation of the requirement of electing "upon reaching the age of
majority." Moreover, Ching has offered no reason why he delayed his
election of Philippine citizenship. The prescribed procedure in electing
Philippine citizenship is certainly not a tedious and painstaking process. All
that is required of the elector is to execute an affidavit of election of
Philippine citizenship and, thereafter, file the same with the nearest civil
registry. Ching's unreasonable and unexplained delay in making his
election cannot be simply glossed over.
Philippine citizenship can never be treated like a commodity that can be
claimed when needed and suppressed when convenient. 20 One who is

Republic of the Philippines
A.C. No. 244

March 29, 1963




University in April, 1949, he says he was erroneously certified, due to

confusion, as a graduate of Quisumbing College, in his school records.


Wherefore, the parties respectfully pray that the foregoing stipulation of

facts be admitted and approved by this Honorable Court, without prejudice
to the parties adducing other evidence to prove their case not covered by
this stipulation of facts. 1wph1.t

After successfully passing the corresponding examinations held in 1953,

Telesforo A. Diao was admitted to the Bar.
About two years later, Severino Martinez charged him with having falsely
represented in his application for such Bar examination, that he had the
requisite academic qualifications. The matter was in due course referred to
the Solicitor General who caused the charge to be investigated; and later
he submitted a report recommending that Diao's name be erased from the
roll of attorneys, because contrary to the allegations in his petition for
examination in this Court, he (Diao) had not completed, before taking up
law subjects, the required pre-legal education prescribed by the
Department of Private Education, specially, in the following particulars:
(a) Diao did not complete his high school training; and
(b) Diao never attended Quisumbing College, and never obtained
his A.A. diploma therefrom which contradicts the credentials he
had submitted in support of his application for examination, and of
his allegation therein of successful completion of the "required prelegal education".
Answering this official report and complaint, Telesforo A. Diao, practically
admits the first charge: but he claims that although he had left high school
in his third year, he entered the service of the U.S. Army, passed the
General Classification Test given therein, which (according to him) is
equivalent to a high school diploma, and upon his return to civilian life, the
educational authorities considered his army service as the equivalent of
3rd and 4th year high school.
We have serious doubts, about the validity of this claim, what with
respondent's failure to exhibit any certification to that effect (the
equivalence) by the proper school officials. However, it is unnecessary to
dwell on this, since the second charge is clearly meritorious. Diao never
obtained his A.A. from Quisumbing College; and yet his application for
examination represented him as an A.A. graduate (1940-1941) of such
college. Now, asserting he had obtained his A.A. title from the Arellano

This explanation is not acceptable, for the reason that the "error" or
"confusion" was obviously of his own making. Had his application disclosed
his having obtained A.A. from Arellano University, it would also have
disclosed that he got it in April, 1949, thereby showing that he began his
law studies (2nd semester of 1948-1949) six months before obtaining his
Associate in Arts degree. And then he would not have been permitted to
take the bar tests, because our Rules provide, and the applicant for the
Bar examination must affirm under oath, "That previous to the study of
law, he had successfully and satisfactorily completed the required pre-legal
education(A.A.) as prescribed by the Department of Private Education,"
(emphasis on "previous").
Plainly, therefore, Telesforo A. Diao was not qualified to take the bar
examinations; but due to his false representations, he was allowed to take
it, luckily passed it, and was thereafter admitted to the Bar. Such
admission having been obtained under false pretenses must be, and is
hereby revoked. The fact that he hurdled the Bar examinations is
immaterial. Passing such examinations is not the only qualification to
become an attorney-at-law; taking the prescribed courses of legal study in
the regular manner is equally essential..
The Clerk is, therefore, ordered to strike from the roll of attorneys, the
name of Telesforo A. Diao. And the latter is required to return his lawyer's
diploma within thirty days. So ordered.
Padilla, Bautista Angelo, Labrador, Concepcion, Reyes, J.B.L., Barrera,
Paredes, Dizon, Regala and Makalintal, JJ., concur.
Republic of the Philippines


B.M. No. 44 February 24, 1992

EUFROSINA Y. TAN, complainant,
SBC No. 609 February 24, 1992
MOISES B. BOQUIA, complainant,
SBC No. 616 February 24, 1992
HERVE DAGPIN, complainant,
Nelbert T. Paculan for respondent.
Moises B. Boquia for himself and Herve Dagpin.

On 29 November 1983, * this Court sustained the charge of unauthorized
practice of law filed against respondent Sabandal and accordingly denied
the latter's petition to be allowed to take the oath as member of the
Philippine Bar and to sign the Roll of Attorneys.
From 1984-1988, Sabandal filed Motions for Reconsideration of the
aforesaid Resolution, all of which were either denied or "Noted without
action." The Court, however, on 10 February 1989, after considering his
plea for mercy and forgiveness, his willingness to reform and the several

testimonials attesting to his good moral character and civic consciousness,

reconsidered its earlier Resolution and finally allowed him to take the
lawyer's oath "with the Court binding him to his assurance that he shall
strictly abide by and adhere to the language, meaning and spirit of the
Lawyer's Oath and the highest standards of the legal profession" (Yap Tan
v. Sabandal, 10 February 1989, 170 SCRA 211).
However, before a date could be set for Sabandal's oath-taking,
complainants Tan, Dagpin and Boquia each filed separate motions for
reconsideration of the Resolution of 10 February 1989. These were acted
upon in the Resolution of 4 July 1989 hereunder quoted, in part, for ready
On 7 April 1989, Complainant Herve Dagpin in SBC No.
616, and Complainant Moises Boquia in SBC No. 609 also
filed a Motion for Reconsideration of our Resolution
allowing respondent to take his oath. They alleged that
respondent had deliberately and maliciously excluded them
in his Petition of 28 June 1988. That, of course, is without
merit considering that in his Petition of 28 June 1988,
respondent had discussed said cases quite lengthily.
On 27 April 1989, Complainant Tan also manifested that
Complainant Benjamin Cabigon in BM No. 59 and
Complainant Cornelio Agnis in SBC No. 624, had passed
away so that they are in no position to submit their
respective Comments.
One of the considerations we had taken into account in
allowing respondent to take his oath, was a testimonial
from the IBP Zamboanga del Norte Chapter, dated 29
December 1986, certifying that respondent was "acting
with morality and has been careful in his actuations in the
Complainant Tan maintains that said IBP testimonial was
signed only by the then President of the IBP, Zamboanga
del Norte Chapter, Atty. Senen O. Angeles, without
authorization from the Board of Officers of said Chapter;
and that Atty. Angeles was respondent's own counsel as
well as the lawyer of respondent's parents-in-law in CAR
Case No. 347, Ozamiz City. Attached to Complainant's

Motion for Reconsideration was a Certification, dated 24

February 1989, signed by the IBP Zamboanga del Norte
Chapter President, Atty. Norberto L. Nuevas, stating that
"the present Board of Officers with the undersigned as
President had not issued any testimonial attesting to the
good moral character and civic consciousness of Mr. Nicolas
In his Comment, received by the Court on 27 March 1989,
respondent states that the IBP testimonial referred to by
Complainant Tan must have been that signed by the
former IBP Zamboanga del Norte Chapter President, Atty.
Senen O. Angeles, addressed to the Chief Justice, dated 29
December 1986, and that he himself had not submitted to
the Court any certification from the IBP Zamboanga del
Norte Chapter Board of Officers of 1988-1989.
Under the circumstances, the Court has deemed it best to
require the present Board of Officers of the IBP,
Zamboanga del Norte Chapter, to MANIFEST whether or
not it is willing to give a testimonial certifying to
respondent's good moral character as to entitle him to take
the lawyer's oath, and if not, the reason therefor. The
Executive Judge of the Regional Trial Court of Zamboanga
del Norte is likewise required to submit a COMMENT on
respondent's moral fitness to be a member of the Bar.
Compliance herewith is required within ten (10) days from
Pursuant to the aforesaid Resolution, Judge Pelagio R. Lachica, Executive
Judge of the Regional Trial Court of Zamboanga del Norte, filed his
Comment, dated 4 August 1989, and received on 25 August 1989,
pertinently reading:
The undersigned, who is not well acquainted personally
with the respondent, is not aware of any acts committed
by him as would disqualify him from admission to the Bar.
It might be relevant to mention, however, that there is
Civil Case No. 3747 entitled Republic of the Philippines,
Represented by the Director of Lands, Plaintiff, versus
Nicolas Sabandal, Register of Deeds of Zamboanga del

Norte and Rural Bank of Pinan, (Zamboanga del Norte),

Inc., for Cancellation of Title and/or Reversion pending in
this Court in which said respondent, per complaint filed by
the Office of the Solicitor General, is alleged to have
secured a free patent and later a certificate of title to a
parcel of land which, upon investigation, turned out to be
a swampland and not susceptible of acquisition under a
free patent, and which he later mortgaged to the Rural
Bank of Pinan (ZN) Inc. The mortgage was later foreclosed
and the land sold at public auction and respondent has not
redeemed the land until the present. (Emphasis Supplied)
The IBP Zamboanga del Norte Chapter also submitted a Certification,
dated 2 February 1990, signed by its Secretary Peter Y. Co and attested to
by its President Gil L. Batula, to wit:
This is to certify that based on the certifications issued by
the Office of the Clerk of CourtMunicipal Trial Court in the
City of Dipolog; Regional Trial Court of Zamboanga del
Norte and the Office of the Provincial and City Prosecutors,
Mr. Nicolas E. Sabandal has not been convicted of any
crime, nor is there any pending derogatory criminal case
against him. Based on the above findings, the Board does
not find any acts committed by the petitioner to disqualify
him from admission to the Philippine Bar.
We required the complainants to comment on the aforesaid IBP
Certification and to reply to Executive Judge Pelagio Lachica's comment in
our Resolution of 15 February 1990.
On 17 April 1990, after taking note of the unrelenting vehement objections
of complainants Tan (in BM 44) and Boquia (in SBC 616) and the
Certification by Executive Judge Lachica, dated 4 August 1989, that there
is a pending case before his Court involving respondent Sabandal, this
Court resolved to DEFER the setting of a date for the oath-taking of
respondent Sabandal and required Judge Lachica to inform this Court of
the outcome of the case entitled Republic v. Sabandal, (Civil Case 3747),
pending before his "Sala" as soon as resolved.
In the meantime, on 18 April 1990, the Court received another Comment,
dated 13 March 1990, by complainant Herve Dagpin in SBC 609,
vehemently objecting to the oath-taking of respondent Sabandal and

describing his actuations in Civil Case 3747 as manipulative and

surreptitious. This comment was Noted in the Resolution of 22 May 1990.
In a letter, addressed to the Chief Justice, dated 15 August 1990,
complainant Tan in Bar Matter 44, informed the Court that her relationship
with Sabandal has "already been restored," as he had asked forgiveness
for what has been done to her and that she finds no necessity in pursuing
her case against him. Complainant Tan further stated that she sees no
further reason to oppose his admission to the Bar as he had shown sincere
repentance and reformation which she believes make him morally fit to
become a member of the Philippine Bar. "In view of this development," the
letter stated, "we highly recommend him for admission to the legal
profession and request this Honorable Court to schedule his oath-taking at
a time most convenient." This letter was Noted in the Resolution of 2
October 1990, which also required a comment on Tan's letter from
complainants Boquia and Dagpin.
Moises Boquia, for himself, and complainant Dagpin, in their comment,
dated 5 November 1990, stated thus:
Eufrosina Yap Tan's letter dated 15 August 1990 is a
private personal disposition which raises the question
whether personal forgiveness is enough basis to exculpate
and obliterate these cases. On our part, we believe and
maintain the importance and finality of the Honorable
Supreme Court's resolutions in these cases. . . .
It is not within the personal competence, jurisdiction and
discretion of any party to change or amend said final
resolutions which are already res judicata. Viewed in the
light of the foregoing final and executory resolutions, these
cases therefore should not in the least be considered as
anything which is subject and subservient to the changing
moods and dispositions of the parties, devoid of any
permanency or finality. Respondent's scheming change in
tactics and strategy could not improve his case.

optional retirement on 30 June 1990) submitted to this Court, on 17

December 1990, a copy of the "Judgment," dated 12 December 1990, in
Civil Case 3747, entitled "Republic of the Philippines v. Nicolas Sabandal et
al" for Cancellation of Title and/or Reversion, which, according to him, was
already considered closed and terminated.
Said judgment reveals that an amicable settlement, dated 24 October
1990, had been reached between the principal parties, approved by the
Trial Court, and conformed to by the counsel for defendant Rural Bank of
Briefly, the said amicable settlement cancelled the Original Certificate of
Title under Free Patent in Sabandal's name and the latter's mortgage
thereof in favor of the Rural Bank of Pinan; provided for the surrender of
the certificate of title to the Register of Deeds for proper annotation;
reverted to the mass of public domain the land covered by the aforesaid
Certificate of' Title with defendant Sabandal refraining from exercising acts
of possession or ownership over said land; caused the defendant Sabandal
to pay defendant Rural Bank of Pinan the sum of P35,000 for the loan and
interest; and the Rural Bank of Pinan to waive its cross-claims against
defendant Nicolas Sabandal.
Judge Pacifico Garcia's letter and the afore-mentioned Judgment were
NOTED in our Resolution of 29 January 1991. In the same Resolution,
complainants Tan, Boquia and Dagpin were required to comment on the
Upon request of Sabandal, a certification, dated 20 December 1990, was
sent by Executive judge Jesus Angeles of the RTC of Zamboanga del Norte,
certifying that Sabandal has no pending case with his Court and that he
has no cause to object to his admission to the Philippine Bar. This was
"Noted" in the Resolution of 26 February 1991.

The above was "Noted" in the Resolution of 29 November 1990.

Meanwhile, Sabandal reiterated his prayer to be allowed to take the

lawyer's oath in a Motion dated 8 June 1991. In our Resolution of 1 August
1991, we deferred action on the aforesaid Motion pending compliance by
the complainants with the Resolution of 29 January 1991 requiring them to
comment on the letter of Judge Pacifico M. Garcia.

In compliance with the Resolution of 2 October 1990, Judge Pacifico M.

Garcia, Regional Trial Court Judge of Branch 8, Dipolog City (who
apparently succeeded Judge Pelagio Lachica, the latter having availed of

To date, only complainant Tan has complied with the said Resolution by
submitting a Comment, dated 29 August 1991, stating that the
termination of Civil Case No. 3747 is "proof of Sabandal's sincere

reformation, of his repentance with restitution of the rights of

complainants he violated," and that "there is no more reason to oppose his
admission to the Bar." This was "Noted" in the Resolution of 24 September
In a Manifestation, dated 6 December 1991, Sabandal reiterates his plea
to be allowed to take the Lawyer's Oath.
His plea must be DENIED.
In our Resolution of 10 February 1989, Sabandal was allowed to take the
oath, ten (10) years having elapsed from the time he took and passed the
1976 Bar examinations, after careful consideration of his show of contrition
and willingness to reform. Also taken cognizance of were the several
testimonials attesting to his good moral character and civic consciousness.
At that time, we had not received the objections from complainant Tan to
Sabandal's taking the oath nor were we aware of the gravity of the civil
case against him.
It turns out that Civil Case No. 3747 entitled "Republic of the Philippines v.
Nicolas Sabandal" was instituted by the Government in 1985 and was
brought about because of respondent's procurement of a certificate of free
patent over a parcel of land belonging to the public domain and its use as
security for a mortgage in order to obtain a loan. At that time, Sabandal
was an employee of the Bureau of Lands. He did not submit any defense
and was declared it default by order of the RTC dated 26 November 1986.
The controversy was eventually settled by mere compromise with
respondent surrendering the bogus certificate of title to the government
and paying-off the mortgagor, "to buy peace and forestall further expenses
of litigation incurred by defendants" (Rollo, Judgment in Civil Case No.
3747). The Office of the Solicitor General interposed no objection to the
approval of the said amicable settlement and prayed that judgment be
rendered in accordance therewith, "as the amicable settlement may
amount to a confession by the defendant" (Rollo, supra). It must also be
stressed that in 1985, at the time said case was instituted, Sabandal's
petition to take the lawyer's oath had already been denied on 29
November 1983 and he was then submitting to this Court motions for
reconsideration alleging his good moral character without, however,
mentioning the pendency of that civil case against him.

In view of the nature of that case and the circumstances attending its
termination, the Court now entertains second thoughts about respondent's
fitness to become a member of the Bar.
It should be recalled that Sabandal worked as Land Investigator at the
Bureau of Lands. Said employment facilitated his procurement of the free
patent title over property which he could not but have known was public
land. This was manipulative on his part and does not speak well of his
moral character. It is a manifestation of gross dishonesty while in the
public service, which can not be erased by the termination of the case filed
by the Republic against him where no determination of his guilt or
innocence was made because the suit had been compromised. Although as
the Solicitor General had pointed out, the amicable settlement was
tantamount to a confession on his part. What is more, he could not but
have known of the intrinsic invalidity of his title and yet he took advantage
of it by securing a bank loan, mortgaging it as collateral, and
notwithstanding the foreclosure of the mortgage and the sale of the land
at public auction, he did not lift a finger to redeem the same until the civil
case filed against him was eventually compromised. This is a sad reflection
on his sense of honor and fair dealing. His failure to reveal to this Court
the pendency of the civil case for Reversion filed against him during the
period that he was submitting several Motions for Reconsideration before
us also reveal his lack of candor and truthfulness.
There are testimonials attesting to his good moral character, yes. But
these were confined to lack of knowledge of the pendency of any criminal
case against him and were obviously made without awareness of the facts
and circumstances surrounding the case instituted by the Government
against him. Those testimonials can not, therefore, outweigh nor smother
his acts of dishonesty and lack of good moral character.
That the other complainants, namely, Moises Boquia (in SBC 606) and
Herve Dagpin (in SBC 619) have not submitted any opposition to his
motion to take the oath, is of no moment. They have already expressed
their objections in their earlier comments. That complainant Tan has
withdrawn her objection to his taking the oath can neither tilt the balance
in his favor, the basis of her complaint treating as it does of another
subject matter.
Time and again, it has been held that the practice of law is not a matter of
right. It is a privilege bestowed upon individuals who are not only learned
in the law but who are also known to possess good moral character:

The Supreme Court and the Philippine Bar have always

tried to maintain a high standard for the legal profession,
both in academic preparation and legal training as well as
in honesty and fair dealing. The Court and the licensed
lawyers themselves are vitally interested in keeping this
high standard; and one of the ways of achieving this end is
to admit to the practice of this noble profession only those
persons who are known to be honest and to possess good
moral character. . . . (In re Parazo, 82 Phil. 230).
Although the term "good moral character" admits of broad dimensions, it
has been defined as "including at least common honesty" (Royong v.
Oblena, Adm. Case No. 376, April 30, 1963, 7 SCRA 859; In re Del
Rosario, 52 Phil. 399 [1928]). It has also been held that no moral

qualification for bar membership is more important than truthfulness or

candor (Fellner v. Bar Association of Baltimore City, 131 A. 2d 729).
WHEREFORE, finding respondent Sabandal to be unfit to become a
member of the BAR, this Court's Resolution, dated 10 February 1989 is
RECALLED and his prayer to be allowed to take the lawyer's oath is hereby
Narvasa, C.J., Gutierrez, Jr., Cruz, Paras, Feliciano, Padilla, Bidin, GrioAquino, Medialdea, Regalado, Davide, Jr., Romero and Nocon, JJ., concur.