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HEINZ R. HECK, complainant, vs. JUDGE ANTHONY E.

SANTOS,
REGIONAL TRIAL COURT, BRANCH 19, CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY,
respondent.
FACTS

disbarred for any misconduct, even if it pertains to his private activities, as


long as it shows him to be wanting in moral character, honesty, probity or
good demeanor. Possession of good moral character is not only a
prerequisite to admission to the bar but also a continuing requirement to
the practice of law.

May a retired judge charged with notarizing documents without the


requisite notary commission more than twenty years ago be disciplined
therefor?

Furthermore, administrative cases against lawyers belong to a class of


their own, distinct from and may proceed independently of civil and
criminal cases. As we held in the leading case of In re Almacen:

Judge Santos was not duly commissioned as notary public until January 9,
1984 but still subscribed and forwarded (on a nonregular basis) notarized
documents to the Clerk of Court VI starting January 1980 uncommissioned
until the 9th of January 1984.

[D]isciplinary proceedings against lawyers are sui generis. Neither purely


civil nor purely criminal, they do not involve a trial of an action or a suit,
but are rather investigations by the Court into the conduct of one of its
officers. Not being intended to inflict punishment, [they are] in no sense a
criminal prosecution. Accordingly, there is neither a plaintiff nor a
prosecutor therein. [They] may be initiated by the Court motu proprio.
Public interest is [their] primary objective, and the real question for
determination is whether or not the attorney is still a fit person to be
allowed the privileges as such. Hence, in the exercise of its disciplinary
powers, the Court merely calls upon a member of the Bar to account for his
actuations as an officer of the Court with the end in view of preserving the
purity of the legal profession and the proper and honest administration of
justice by purging the profession of members who by their misconduct
have prove[n] themselves no longer worthy to be entrusted with the duties
and responsibilities pertaining to the office of an attorney. ....

That the complainant has never been privy to the documents notarized
and submitted by the respondent before the Office of the Clerk of Court of
the Regional Trial Court of Misamis Oriental, nor his rights prejudiced on
account of the said notarized documents and therefore not the proper
party to raise the said issues
It is noteworthy that in his answer, respondent did not claim that he was
commissioned as notary public for the years 1980 to 1983 nor deny the
accuracy of the first certification. He merely alleged that there was no
proper recording of the commissioned lawyers in the City of Cagayan de
Oro nor of the submitted Notarized Documents/Notarial Register. And, as
already observed, he presented no evidence, particularly on his
appointment as notary public for 1980 to 1983 (assuming he was so
commissioned) and submission of notarial reports and notarial register.
Although the respondent has already retired from the judiciary, he is still
considered as a member of the bar and as such, is not immune to the
disciplining arm of the Supreme Court, pursuant to Article VIII, Section 6 of
the 1987 Constitution. Furthermore, at the time of the filing of the
complaint, the respondent was still the presiding judge of the Regional Trial
Court, Branch 19, Cagayan de Oro City.
RULING
YES
The qualification of good moral character is a requirement which is not
dispensed with upon admission to membership of the bar. This qualification
is not only a condition precedent to admission to the legal profession, but
its continued possession is essential to maintain ones good standing in the
profession. It is a continuing requirement to the practice of law and
therefore does not preclude a subsequent judicial inquiry, upon proper
complaint, into any question concerning ones mental or moral fitness
before he became a lawyer. This is because his admission to practice
merely creates a rebuttable presumption that he has all the qualifications
to become a lawyer. The rule is settled that a lawyer may be suspended or

Pursuant to the foregoing, there can be no other conclusion than that an


administrative complaint against an erring lawyer who was thereafter
appointed as a judge, albeit filed only after twenty four years after the
offending act was committed, is not barred by prescription. If the rule were
otherwise, members of the bar would be emboldened to disregard the very
oath they took as lawyers, prescinding from the fact that as long as no
private complainant would immediately come forward, they stand a chance
of being completely exonerated from whatever administrative liability they
ought to answer for. It is the duty of this Court to protect the integrity of
the practice of law as well as the administration of justice. No matter how
much time has elapsed from the time of the commission of the act
complained of and the time of the institution of the complaint, erring
members of the bench and bar cannot escape the disciplining arm of the
Court. This categorical pronouncement is aimed at unscrupulous members
of the bench and bar, to deter them from committing acts which violate
the Code of Professional Responsibility, the Code of Judicial Conduct, or the
Lawyers Oath. This should particularly apply in this case, considering the
seriousness of the matter involved the respondents dishonesty and the
sanctity of notarial documents.
Thus, even the lapse of considerable time, from the commission of the
offending act to the institution of the administrative complaint, will not
erase the administrative culpability of a lawyer who notarizes documents
without the requisite authority therefor.

PETITION FOR AUTHORITY TO CONTINUE USE OF THE FIRM NAME


"SYCIP, SALAZAR, FELICIANO, HERNANDEZ & CASTILLO." LUCIANO
E. SALAZAR, FLORENTINO P. FELICIANO, BENILDO G. HERNANDEZ.
GREGORIO R. CASTILLO. ALBERTO P. SAN JUAN, JUAN C. REYES. JR.,
ANDRES G. GATMAITAN, JUSTINO H. CACANINDIN, NOEL A. LAMAN,
ETHELWOLDO E. FERNANDEZ, ANGELITO C. IMPERIO, EDUARDO R.
CENIZA, TRISTAN A. CATINDIG, ANCHETA K. TAN, and ALICE V.
PESIGAN, petitioners.
IN THE MATTER OF THE PETITION FOR AUTHORITY TO CONTINUE
USE OF THE FIRM NAME "OZAETA, ROMULO, DE LEON, MABANTA &
REYES." RICARDO J. ROMULO, BENJAMIN M. DE LEON, ROMAN
MABANTA, JR., JOSE MA, REYES, JESUS S. J. SAYOC, EDUARDO DE
LOS ANGELES, and JOSE F. BUENAVENTURA, petitioners.
FACTS
Two separate Petitions were filed before this Court 1) by the surviving
partners of Atty. Alexander Sycip, who died on May 5, 1975, and 2) by the
surviving partners of Atty. Herminio Ozaeta, who died on February 14,
1976, praying that they be allowed to continue using, in the names of their
firms, the names of partners who had passed away.
Petitioners base their petitions on the following arguments:
In regulating other professions, such as accountancy and engineering, the
legislature has authorized the adoption of firm names without any
restriction as to the use, in such firm name, of the name of a deceased
partner the legislative authorization given to those engaged in the
practice of accountancy a profession requiring the same degree of trust
and confidence in respect of clients as that implicit in the relationship of
attorney and client to acquire and use a trade name, strongly indicates
that there is no fundamental policy that is offended by the continued use
by a firm of professionals of a firm name which includes the name of a
deceased partner, at least where such firm name has acquired the
characteristics of a "trade name."
RULING
A partnership for the practice of law cannot be likened to partnerships
formed by other professionals or for business. For one thing, the law on
accountancy specifically allows the use of a trade name in connection with
the practice of accountancy.
A partnership for the practice of law is not a legal entity. It is a mere
relationship or association for a particular purpose. ... It is not a partnership
formed for the purpose of carrying on trade or business or of holding
property." Thus, it has been stated that "the use of a nom de plume,
assumed or trade name in law practice is improper.

The usual reason given for different standards of conduct being applicable
to the practice of law from those pertaining to business is that the law is a
profession.
Dean Pound, in his recently published contribution to the Survey of the
Legal Profession, (The Lawyer from Antiquity to Modern Times, p. 5)
defines a profession as "a group of men pursuing a learned art as a
common calling in the spirit of public service, no less a public service
because it may incidentally be a means of livelihood."
Primary characteristics which distinguish the legal profession from
business are:
1. A duty of public service, of which the emolument is a byproduct, and in
which one may attain the highest eminence without making much money.
2. A relation as an "officer of court" to the administration of justice
involving thorough sincerity, integrity, and reliability.
3. A relation to clients in the highest degree fiduciary.
4. A relation to colleagues at the bar characterized by candor, fairness, and
unwillingness to resort to current business methods of advertising and
encroachment on their practice, or dealing directly with their clients.
"The right to practice law is not a natural or constitutional right but is in
the nature of a privilege or franchise. It is limited to persons of good moral
character with special qualifications duly ascertained and certified. The
right does not only presuppose in its possessor integrity, legal standing
and attainment, but also the exercise of a special privilege, highly personal
and partaking of the nature of a public trust."
ADELIA V. QUIACHON, Complainant,
vs.
ATTY. JOSEPH ADORA. RAMOS, Respondent.
FACTS
This is a disbarment case filed by Adelia V. Quiachon (complainant),
against her lawyer, Atty. Joseph Ador A. Ramos (respondent). The latter
represented complainant, who was then the plaintiff in a labor case filed
before the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) and in a special
proceeding case filed before the Regional Trial Court. Complainant charges
respondent with gross negligence and deceit in violation of Canon Rules
18.03 and 18.04 of the Code of Professional Responsibility.
The Labor Arbiter (LA) granted complainant a favorable decision on 26
November 2007. Upon appeal, it was reversed and set aside by the NLRC
in its Decision dated 25 July 2008. On 24 October 2008, the NLRC also
denied the Motion for Reconsideration filed by respondent on
complainant's behalf. A Petition for Certiorari was filed before the Court of
Appeals (CA), but it affirmed the NLRC's reversal of the LA's Decision. The
Notice of the CA Decision was received by respondent on 23 November
2010.

After the Petition was filed before the CA, complainant would always ask
respondent about the status of her case. The latter always told her that
there was no decision yet.
Sometime in August 2011, while complainant was in respondents office
waiting for him to arrive, she noticed a mailman delivering an envelope
with the title of her labor case printed thereon. Complainant asked the
secretary of respondent to open the envelope and was surprised to
discover that it contained the Entry of Judgment of the CAs Decision.
Thereafter, complainant tried repeatedly to contact respondent, but to no
avail. When she finally got to talk to him, respondent assured her that "it
was alright" as they still had six months to appeal the case to the Supreme
Court. After that final meeting, no updates on the labor case were ever
communicated to complainant.
With respect to the special proceeding case, the RTC of Roxas City
dismissed it for lack of jurisdiction. A Motion for Reconsideration was filed,
but it was also denied. Once again, respondent did nothing to reverse the
RTC Decision. Consequently, the Entry of Judgment was received on 28
October 2008.
On 28 November 2011, complainant filed the instant disbarment Complaint
against respondent.
During the pendency of the proceedings, specifically on 5 February 2013,
complainant filed a Motion to Withdraw
Complaint.
In his Report and Recommendation dated 23 April 2013, IBP Commissioner
Hector B. Almeyda (Almeyda) declared:
True enough, it seems clear that respondent had been remiss in failing to
update complainant in what had happened to the cases being handled by
respondent in behalf of complainant. There was a failure to inform
complainant (the client) of the status of the cases that thereafter
prevented the client from exercising her options. There was neglect in that
regard.
However, in spite of finding neglect on respondents part, he
recommended the dismissal of the case against him, stating that "with the
decision to withdraw the complaint, there does not appear basis to go
ahead with the proceedings since without the complaint, there will be no
basis to make any finding of liability."
ISSUE
Whether or not the disbarment case should be dismissed on the ground of
withdrawal of the complaint?
RULING

NO
This Court finds this to be an opportune time to remind the investigating
commissioners and the members of the Board of Governors of the IBP that
the withdrawal of a disbarment case against a lawyer does not terminate
or abate the jurisdiction of the IBP and of this Court to continue an
administrative proceeding against a lawyer respondent as a member of the
Philippine Bar.
The complainant in a disbarment case is not a direct party to the case, but
a witness who brought the matter to
the attention of the Court. There is neither a plaintiff nor a prosecutor in
disciplinary proceedings against lawyers. The real question for
determination in these proceedings is whether or not the attorney is still a
fit person to be allowed the privileges of a member of the bar. Public
interest is the primary objective. We explained why in Rayos-Ombac v.
Rayos, viz.:
The affidavit of withdrawal of the disbarment case allegedly executed by
complainant does not, in any way, exonerate the respondent. A case of
suspension or disbarment may proceed regardless of interest or lack of
interest of the complainant. What matters is whether, on the basis of the
facts borne out by the record, the charge of deceit and grossly immoral
conduct has been duly proven x x x. The complainant or the person who
called the attention of the court to the attorney's alleged misconduct is in
no sense a party, and has generally no interest in the outcome except as
all good citizens may have in the proper administration of justice. Hence, if
the evidence on record warrants, the respondent may be suspended or
disbarred despite the desistance of complainant or his withdrawal of the
charges x x x.
In this case, the IBP found that respondent violated Canon Rules 18.03 and
18.04 of the Code of Professional Responsibility. Thus, it should have
imposed the appropriate penalty despite the desistance of complainant or
the withdrawal of the charges.
The failure of respondent to file an appeal from the CA Decision without
any justifiable reason deserves sanction.
Lawyers who disagree with the pursuit of an appeal should properly
withdraw their appearance and allow their
client to retain another counsel.
In Abay v. Montesino, the respondent lawyer and his client disagreed on
the legal course to be taken regarding the appealed case. The lawyer
therein strongly advised the client to abandon the appeal and to consider
the other available remedies. The client, on the other hand, wanted to
pursue it. Without obtaining the assent of his client, the respondent lawyer
deemed it wise to abandon the appeal without informing the former. In
finding the respondent lawyer guilty of negligence, the Court explained:

Not filing an appellant's brief is prejudicial because, as happened in this


case, such failure could result in the dismissal of the appeal. The conduct
of respondent shows that he failed to exercise due diligence, and that he
had a cavalier attitude towards the cause of his client. The abandonment
by the former of the latter's cause made him unworthy of the trust that his
client reposed in him. Even if respondent was "honestly and sincerely"
protecting the interests of complainant, the former still had no right to
waive the appeal without the latter's knowledge and consent. If indeed
respondent felt unable or unwilling to continue his retainership, he should
have properly withdrawn his appearance and allowed the client to appoint
another lawyer.

In the present case, respondent failed not only to keep the client informed
of the status of the case, but also to avail of the proper legal remedy that
would promote the client's cause. It is clear that respondent neglected the
case entrusted to him.
All lawyers owe fidelity to their client's cause. Regardless of their personal
views, they must present every remedy or defense within the authority of
the law in support of that cause. Whenever lawyers take on their clients'
cause/s, they covenant that they will exercise due diligence in protecting
the client's rights their failure to exercise that degree of vigilance and
attention expected of a good father of a family makes them unworthy of
the trust reposed in them by their client/s and make them answerable to
the client, the courts and society.