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LEGAL PROFESSION 2016

Republic of the Philippines


SUPREME COURT
Manila
SECOND DIVISION
A.C. No. 9395

November 12, 2014

DARIA O. DAGING, Complainant,


vs.
ATTY. RIZ TINGALON L. DAVIS, Respondent.
RESOLUTION
DEL CASTILLO, J.:
This administrative complaint for disbarment arose from an Affidavit Complaint filed by Daria O. Daging (complainant)
before the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP), Benguet Chapter, against Atty. Riz Tingalon L. Davis (respondent).
1

Antecedents
Complainant was the owner and operator of Nashville Country Music Lounge. She leased from Benjie Pinlac (Pinlac) a
building spaGe located at No. 22 Otek St., Baguio City where she operated the bar.
Meanwhile, complainant received a Retainer Proposal from Davis & Sabling Law Office signed by respondent and his
partner Atty. Amos Saganib Sabling (Atty. Sabling). This eventually resulted in the signing by the complainant, the
respondent and Atty. Sabling of a Retainer Agreement dated March 7, 2005.
3

Because complainant was delinquent in paying the monthly rentals, Pinlac terminated the lease. Together with Novie
Balageo (Balageo) and respondent, Pinlac went to complainant's music bar, inventoried all the equipment therein, and
informed her that Balageo would take over the operation of the bar. Complainant averred that subsequently respondent
acted as business partner of Balageo in operating the bar under her business name, which they later renamed Amarillo
Music Bar.
Complainant likewise alleged that she filed an ejectment case against Pinlac and Balageo before the Municipal Trial Court in
Cities (MTCC), Branch 1, Baguio City. At that time, Davis & Sabling Law Office was still her counsel as their Retainer
Agreement remained subsisting and in force. However, respondent appeared as counsel for Balageo in that ejectment case
and filed, on behalf of the latter, an Answer with Opposition to the Prayer for the Issuance of a Writ of Preliminary
Injunction.
5

In his Comment, respondent denied participation in the takeover or acting as a business partner of Balageo in the
operation of the bar. He asserted that Balageo is the sole proprietress of the establishment. He insisted that it was Atty.
Sabling, his partner, who initiated the proposal and was in fact the one who was able to convince complainant to accept the
law office as her retainer. Respondent maintained that he never obtained any knowledge or information regarding the
business of complainant who used to consult only Atty. Sabling. Respondent admitted though having represented Balageo
in the ejectment case, but denied that he took advantage of the Retainer Agreement between complainant and Davis and
Sabling Law Office. Thus:
6

3.a Prior to the engagement of the Complainant of the DAVIS and SABLING LAW OFFICE as her retainer, Novie
Balageo was already one of the Clients of Respondent in several cases;
3.b Sometime in the last week of the month of May 2005, while Respondent was in his office doing some legal
works, Novie Balageo called up Respondent informing the latter that his assistance is needed for purposes of
conducting an inventory of all items at the former Nashville Country Music Lounge;
3.c Respondent [asked] Novie Balageo [the purpose of] the inventory [to which] the latter x xx responded x xx
that she entered into a lease contract with the present administrator of the building, Benjie Pinlac;
3.d Respondent, to his disbelief requested Novie Balageo to go [to] the LAW OFFICE for further clarification of the
matter. Thereafter, Respondent was later informed that the business of Complainant was taken over and operated
by Mr. Benjie Pinlac for seven days. Furthermore, Mr. Benjie Pinlac offered the said place to Novie Balageo which
the latter readily accepted;

LEGAL PROFESSION 2016


3.e [Left] with no recourse, Respondent requested one of his staff to assist Novie Balageo in conducting an
inventory. Furthermore, Respondent never acted as partner of Novie Balageo in operating the former Nashville
Country Music Lounge;
3.f When Complainant filed the civil case for Ejectment against Novie Balageo and Benjie Pinlac, Respondent
represented the former thereof without taking advantage of the retainership contract between the DA VIS and
SABLING LAW OFFICE [and] Complainant as Respondent has no knowledge or information of any matters related
by complainant to Atty. Sabling regarding the former' s business;
3.g While the Complaint was pending, respondent was xx x informed by Novie Balageo and Benjie Pinlac of the
truth of all matters x x x which x x x Respondent [was unaware of];
3.h However, for the interest of justice and fair play, x x x Respondent [deemed it prudent] to xx x withdraw as
Counsel for Novie Balageo. Hence, Respondent filed his Motion to Withdraw As Counsel. x x x
3.i The civil case was subsequently dismissed for lack of jurisdiction over the [Complaint's] subject matter. x x x

On October 15, 2008, the Investigating Commissioner rendered a Report and Recommendation finding respondent guilty of
betrayal of his client's trust and for misuse of information obtained from his client to the disadvantage of the latter and to
the advantage of another person. He recommended that respondent be suspended from the practice oflaw for a period of
one year.
8

On December 11, 2008, the IBP Board of Governors adopted and approved the Report and Recommendation of the
Investigating Commissioner. Upon motion of the respondent, it reduced the penalty imposed to six months suspension
considering that there is no proof that respondent actually handled any previous legal matters involving complainant.
9

10

Our Ruling
It is undisputed that complainant entered into a Retainer Agreement dated March 7, 2005 with respondent's law firm. This
agreement was signed by the respondent and attached to the rollo of this case. And during the subsistence of said Retainer
Agreement, respondent represented and defended Balageo, who was impleaded as one of the defendants in the ejectment
case complainant filed before the MTCC of Baguio City. In fact, respondent filed on behalf of said Balageo an Answer with
Opposition to the Prayer for the Issuance of a Writ of Preliminary Injunction dated July 11, 2005. It was only on August 26,
2005 when respondent withdrew his appearance for Balageo.
Based on the established facts, it is indubitable that respondent transgressed Rule 15.03 of Canon 15 of the Code of
Professional Responsibility. It provides:
1wphi1

Rule 15.03 -A lawyer shall not represent conflicting interests except by written consent of all concerned given after a full
disclosure of the facts.
"A lawyer may not, without being guilty of professional misconduct, act as counsel for a person whose interest conflicts
with that of his present or former client." The prohibition against representing conflicting interests is absolute and the rule
applies even if the lawyer has acted in good faith and with no intention to represent conflicting interests. In Quiambao v.
Atty. Bamba, this Court emphasized that lawyers are expected not only to keep inviolate the client's confidence, but also
to avoid the appearance of treachery and double-dealing for only then can litigants be encouraged to entrust their secrets
to their lawyers, which is of paramount importance in the administration of justice.
11

12

13

14

Respondent argues that while complainant is a client of Davis & Sabling Law office, her case is actually handled only by his
partner Atty. Sabling. He was not privy to any transaction between Atty. Sabling and complainant and has no knowledge of
any information or legal matter complainant entrusted or confided to his law partner. He thus inveigles that he could not
have taken advantage of an information obtained by his law firm by virtue of the Retainer Agreement. We are not
impressed. In Hilado v. David, reiterated in Gonzales v. Atty. Cabucana, Jr., this Court held that a lawyer who takes up the
cause of the adversary of the party who has engaged the services of his law firm brings the law profession into public
disrepute and suspicion and undermines the integrity of justice. Thus, respondent's argument that he never took advantage
of any information acquired by his law finn in the course of its professional dealings with the complainant, even assuming it
to be true, is of no moment. Undeniably aware of the fact that complainant is a client of his law firm, respondent should
have immediately informed both the complainant and Balageo that he, as well as the other members of his law firm, cannot
represent any of them in their legal tussle; otherwise, they would be representing conflicting interests and violate the Code
of Professional Responsibility. Indeed, respondent could have simply advised both complainant and Balageo to instead
engage the services of another lawyer.
15

16

LEGAL PROFESSION 2016


The penalty for representing conflicting interests may either be reprimand or suspension from the practice of law ranging
from six months to two years. We thus adopt the recommendation of the IBP Board of Governors.
17

WHEREFORE, the Court ADOPTS and AFFIRMS the January 15, 2012 Resolution of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines
Board of Governors. Atty. Riz Tingalon L. Davis is found GUILTY of violating Rule 15.03, Canon 15 of the Code of
Professional Responsibility and is hereby SUSPENDED from the practice of law for a period of six (6) months effective upon
receipt of this Resolution. He is warned that a commission of the same or similar offense in the future will result in the
imposition of a stiffer penalty.
Let a copy of this Resolution be entered into the records of Atty. Riz Tingalon L. Davis and furnished to the Office of the
Clerk of Court, the Office of the Bar Confidant, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, and all courts in the Philippines, for
their information and guidance.
Atty. Riz Tingalon L. Davis is DIRECTED to inform the Court of the date of his receipt of this Resolution.
SO ORDERED.
Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila
SECOND DIVISION
A.C. No. 5440

December 10, 2014

SPOUSES NICASIO DONELITA SAN PEDRO, Complainants,


vs.
ATTY. ISAGANI A. MENDOZA, Respondent.
RESOLUTION
LEONEN, J.:
For resolution is a complaint for disbarment filed by Spouses Nicasio and Donelita San Pedro (complainants) against Atty.
Isagani A. Mendoza (respondent). This case involves a determination of whether respondent violated his duty to hold in
trust all moneys and properties of the client; his duty to account for all funds and property collected or received for or from
the client; and his duty to deliver the funds and property of the client when due or upon demand under the Code of
Professional Responsibility.
1

The facts are summarized as follows:


On or about November 21, 1996, complainants engaged the services of respondent to facilitate the transfer of title to
property, in the name of Isabel Azcarraga Marcaida, to complainants. Complainants then gave respondent a check
for P68,250.00 for the payment of transfer taxes. They also gave respondent a check for P13,800.00 for respondents
professional fee.
2

Respondent failed to produce the title despite complainants repeated follow-ups.

Several letters were sent by respondent explaining the delay in the transfer of title. However, respondent still failed to
produce the title.
6

Complainants subsequently referred the case to the barangay. Respondent refused to return the amount complainants
gave for the transfer taxes. Complainants were then issued a certificate to file action. They also sent a letter demanding
the refund of the money intended for the transfer taxes. Respondent still did not return the money.
7

10

On May 8, 2000, respondent sent another letter to complainants. He promised to settle the transfer of the land
title. However, respondent reneged on this promise. Complainants were then forced to obtain a loan from Philippine
American Life and General Insurance Company to secure the transfer of the title to the property in their names.
11

12

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LEGAL PROFESSION 2016


Respondent contested the allegations of complainants. According to him, it was complainants who caused the three-year
delay in the transfer of title to complainants names. Complainants were not able to furnish respondent several important
documents: (a) original copy of the deed of extrajudicial petition; (b) affidavit of publication with the clippings of the
published item in a newspaper of general circulation; and (c) a barangay certificate from the barangay where the property
is located as required by the Bureau of Internal Revenue.
14

In addition, respondent argued that complainants paid him the measly sum of P13,800.00 despite all the work he did for
them, including facilitating the sale of the property. These involved "being-pulled from the office four or five times to
discuss . . . the details of the transaction [with the sellers]; going twice to the Regional Trial Court of Bian, Laguna[,]
Branch 24, to expedite the . . . issuance of a [n]ew owners duplicate copy of the title; going twice to the office of the
Register of Deeds for Calamba, Laguna to make verification and submit the court [o]rder; [and facilitating the] preparation
and notarization of the Deed of Absolute Sale."
15

Respondent also claimed that retention of the money is justified owing to his receivables from complainants for the
services he rendered in various cases:
1) In the case of Spouses Nicasio and Donelita San Pedro versus Severo Basbas, for Forcible Entry, docketed as
Civil Case No. 2004 in the Metropolitan Trial Court of Santa Rosa, Laguna. This case was dismissed by the
Honorable Court for alleged lack of jurisdiction, the issue of possession being intertwined with that of ownership;
2) In the case of Spouses Nicasio and Donelita San Pedro versus Severo Basbas for Accion Publiciana docketed as
Civil Case No. B-5386 raffled to the Regional Trial Court of Bian, Laguna[,] Branch 25;
3) In Civil Case No. B-4503 entitled Basbas versus Spouses Nicasio and Donelita San Pedro et al., for nullity of
title, [r]econveyance with prayer for issuance of writ of preliminary injunction directed specifically to herein
complainant. This case was assigned to the Regional Trial Court of San Pedro, Laguna[.] Respondent, for and in
behalf of herein complainant, submitted an [a]nswer and [o]pposition to the prayer for issuance of the injunction,
which was favorably acted upon. Consequently[,] the case was dismissed by the Court[;]
4) In Civil Case No. B-688 entitled Basbas versus Spouses Nicasio and Donelita San Pedro et al., for [r]e-partition
and [r]econveyance, which was raffled to the Regional Trial Court of Bian, Laguna, Branch 24[;] [and]
5) Likewise, respondent represented herein complainant in [an] ESTAFA case they [filed] against Greg Ramos and
Benjamin Corsino, which case, as per reliable source, was discontinued by complainant after the civil aspect of the
same was amicably settled. Respondent further alleged that complainants challenged him to prove his worth as a
lawyer by doing away with the requirements and expediting the cancellation of the Marcaidas title.
16

17

The present administrative case was referred to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) for investigation, report and
recommendation. The parties were then called to a mandatory conference before the IBP Commission on Bar
Discipline. They were required to submit their position papers. Respondent did not submit his position paper.
18

19

20

21

On July 8, 2008, the Investigating Commissioner, Atty. Salvador B. Hababag, submitted his findings and recommendation.
The Investigating Commissioner found that respondent violated Canon 16, Rules 16.01 and 16.03 of the Code of
Professional Responsibility.
22

23

The Investigating Commissioner found that both checks issued to respondent were encashed despite respondents failure
to facilitate the release of the title in the name of complainants. Complainants had to obtain a loan to facilitate the transfer
of title in their names.
24

25

Moreover, respondent admitted his liability in his letters to complainants. Complainant Nicasio San Pedros affidavit of
desistance is immaterial.
26

27

The Investigating Commissioner recommended the disciplinary action of "censure and warning," hence:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, it is most respectfully recommended that the disciplinary sanction of CENSURE and
WARNING be given the respondent with the admonition that he be extremely careful of his acts to forego severe penalty in
the future.
28

In the Notice of Resolution No. XVIII-2008-399 dated August 14, 2008, the IBP Board of Governors adopted with
modification the findings of the Investigating Commissioner. It held:

LEGAL PROFESSION 2016


RESOLVED to ADOPT and APPROVE, as it is hereby unanimously ADOPTED and APPROVED, with modification, the Report
and Recommendation of the Investigating Commissioner of the above entitled case, herein made part of this Resolution as
Annex "A"; and, finding the recommendation fully supported by the evidence on record and the applicable laws and rules,
and for Respondents violation of Canon 16, [Rule] 16.01 and Rule 16.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility when he
failed to effect the transfer of property despite encashment of the two checks, Atty. Isagani A. Mendoza is hereby
SUSPENDED from the practice of law for three (3) months and Ordered to Returnthe amount of Sixty Eight Thousand Two
Hundred Fifty (P68,250.00) Pesos to complainants within thirty days from receipt of notice. (Emphasis, italics, and
underscoring in the original)
29

On November 14, 2008, respondent filed his motion for reconsideration. The IBP Board of Governors denied respondents
motion in the Notice of Resolution No. XX-2013-839 dated June 22, 2013:
30

RESOLVED to unanimously DENY Respondents Motion for Reconsideration, there being no cogent reason to reverse the
findings of the Commission and it being a mere reiteration of the matters which had already been threshed out and taken
into consideration. Thus, Resolution No. XVIII-2008-399 dated August 14, 2008 is hereby AFFIRMED. (Emphasis and
italics in the original)
31

On December 11, 2013, this court resolved to note the following: (a) Notice of Resolution No. XVIII-2008-399 dated August
14, 2008 of the IBP Board of Governors; (b) Notice of Resolution No. XX-2013-839 dated June 22, 2013 of the IBP Board of
Governors;and (c) IBPs letter dated October 7, 2013 transmitting the documents pertaining to the case.
32

In the manifestation and motion dated October 25,2013, respondent requested for a formal hearing, reasoning that he
"wants to exercise his right to confront his accusers [to] cross[-]examine them and that of their witness." The
manifestation and motion was denied by this court in the resolution dated September 22, 2014.
33

34

The main issue in this case is whether respondent is guilty of violating Canon 16 of the Code of Professional Responsibility
for failing to hold in trust the money of his clients.
After considering the parties arguments and the records of this case, this court resolves to adopt and approve the Notice of
Resolution No. XX-2013-839 dated June 22, 2013 of the IBP Board of Governors.
It has been said that "[t]he practice of law is a privilege bestowed on lawyers who meet the high standards oflegal
proficiency and morality. Any conduct that shows a violation of the norms and values of the legal profession exposes the
lawyer to administrative liability."
35

An examination of the records reveals that respondent violated the Code of Professional Responsibility.
Canon 16 of the Code of Professional Responsibility states:
CANON 16 - A LAWYER SHALL HOLD IN TRUST ALL MONEYS AND PROPERTIES OF HIS CLIENT THAT MAY COME INTO HIS
POSSESSION.
Rule 16.01 A lawyer shall account for all money or property collected or received for or from the client.
Rule 16.02 A lawyer shall keep the funds of each client separate and apart from his own and those of others kept by him.
Rule 16.03 A lawyer shall deliver the funds and property of his client when due or upon demand. However, he shall have a
lien over the funds and may apply so much thereof as may be necessary to satisfy his lawful fees and disbursements, giving
notice promptly thereafter to his client. He shall also have a lien to the same extent on all judgments and executions he has
secured for his client as provided for in the Rules of Court.
Rule 16.04 A lawyer shall not borrow money from his client unless the clients interests are fully protected by the nature
of the case or by independent advice. Neither shall a lawyer lend money to a client except, when in the interest of justice,
he has to advance necessary expenses in a legal matter he is handling for the client.
Similarly, Rule138, Section 25 of the Rules of Court provides:
Section 25. Unlawful retention of client's funds; contempt. When an attorney unjustly retains in his hands money of his
client after it has been demanded, he may be punished for contempt as an officer of the Court who has misbehaved in his
official transactions; but proceedings under this section shall not be a bar to a criminal prosecution.

LEGAL PROFESSION 2016


A lawyers duty under Canon 16 of the Code of Professional Responsibility is clear:
The fiduciary nature of the relationship between counsel and client imposes on a lawyer the duty to account for the money
or property collected or received for or from the client[,] [thus] . . . [w]hen a lawyer collects or receives money from his
client for a particular purpose (such as for filing fees, registration fees, transportation and office expenses), he should
promptly account to the client how the money was spent. If he does not use the money for its intended purpose, he must
immediately return it to the client. His failure either to render an accounting or to return the money (if the intended
purpose of the money does not materialize) constitutes a blatant disregard of Rule 16.01 of the Code of Professional
Responsibility.
[The lawyers] failure to return the clients money upon demand gives rise to the presumption that he has misappropriated
it for his own use to the prejudice of and in violation of the trust reposed in him by the client. (Emphasis supplied)
36

Respondent admitted that there were delays in the transfer of title of property to complainants name. He continuously
assured complainants that he would still fulfill his duty. However, after three (3) years and several demands from
complainants, respondent failed to accomplish the task given to him and even refused to return the money. Complainants
alleged failure to provide the necessary documents to effect the transfer does not justify his violation of his duty under the
Code of Professional Responsibility.
1wphi1

Respondents assertion of a valid lawyers lien is also untenable. A valid retaining lien has the following elements:
An attorneys retaining lien is fully recognized if the presence of the following elements concur: (1) lawyer-client
relationship; (2) lawful possession of the clients funds, documents and papers; and (3) unsatisfied claim for attorneys
fees. Further, the attorneys retaining lien is a general lien for the balance of the account between the attorney and his
client, and applies to the documents and funds of the client which may come into the attorneys possession in the course of
his employment.
37

Respondent did not satisfy all the elements of a valid retaining lien. He did not present evidence as to an unsatisfied claim
for attorneys fees. The enumeration of cases he worked on for complainants remains unsubstantiated. When there is no
unsatisfied claim for attorneys fees, lawyers cannot validly retain their clients funds or properties.
38

Furthermore, assuming that respondent had proven all the requisites for a valid retaining lien, he cannot appropriate for
himself his client's funds without the proper accounting and notice to the client. The rule is that when there is "a
disagreement, or when the client disputes the amount claimed by the lawyer . . . the lawyer should not arbitrarily apply the
funds in his possession to the payment of his fees .... "
39

We also note that despite complainant Nicasio San Pedro's affidavit of desistance dated March 14, 2008, both complainants
signed their comment to respondent's motion for reconsideration and prayed that the motion be dismissed for lack of
merit.
40

WHEREFORE, respondent Atty. Isagani A. Mendoza is SUSPENDED from the practice of law for three (3) months. He is also
ordered to RETURN to complainants the amount of P68,250.00 with 6% legal interest from the date of finality of this
judgment until full payment. Respondent is further DIRECTED to submit to this court proof of payment of the amount
within 10 days from payment. Let a copy of this resolution be entered in respondent Atty. Isagani A. Mendoza's personal
record with the Office of the Bar Confidant, and a copy be served to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and the Office of
the Court Administrator for circulation to all the courts in the land.
SO ORDERED.
Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila
FIRST DIVISION
A.C. No. 9091

December 11, 2013

CONCHITA A. BALTAZAR, ROLANDO SAN PEDRO, ALICIA EULALIO-RAMOS, SOLEDAD A. FAJARDO AND ENCARNACION A.
FERNANDEZ, Complainants,
vs.
ATTY. JUAN B. BAEZ, Respondent.

LEGAL PROFESSION 2016


RESOLUTION
SERENO, CJ.:
Complainants are the owners of three parcels of land located in Dinalupihan, Bataan. n 4 September 2002, they entered
into an agreement, they stood to be paid P35,000.000 for all the lots that would be sold in the subdivision. For that
purpose, they executed a Pecial Power of Attorney authorizing Fevidal to enter into all agreements concerning the parcels
of land and to sign those agreements on their behalf.
1

Fevidal did not update complainants about the status of the subdivision project and failed to accout for the titles to the
subdivided land. Complainants also found that he had sold a number of parcels to third parties, but that he did not turn the
proceeds over to them. Neither were complainants invited to the ceremonial opening of the subdivision project.
4

Thus, on 23 August 2005, they revoked the Special Power of Attorney they had previously executed in his favor.

Complainants subsequently agreed to settle with Fevidal for the amount of P10,000,000, but the latter again failed to pay
them.
7

Complainants engaged the professional services of respondent for the purpose of assisting them in the preparation of a
settlement agreement.
8

Instead of drafting a written settlement, respondent encouraged them to institute actions against Fevidal in order to
recover their properties. Complainants then signed a contract of legal services, in which it was agreed that they would not
pay acceptance and appearance fees to respondent, but that the docket fees would instead be shared by the parties. Under
the contract, complainants would pay respondent 50% of whatever would be recovered of the properties. In preparation
for the filing of an action against Fevidal, respondent prepared and notarized an Affidavit of Adverse Claim, seeking to
annotate the claim of complainants to at least 195 titles in the possession of Fevidal.
9

10

A certain Luzviminda Andrade (Andrade) was tasked to submit the Affidavit of Adverse Claim to the Register of Deeds of
Bataan.
11

The costs for the annotation of the adverse claim were paid by respondent. Unknown to him, the adverse claim was held in
abeyance, because Fevidal got wind of it and convinced complainants to agree to another settlement.
12

Meanwhile, on behalf of complainants, and after sending Fevidal a demand letter dated 10 July 2006, respondent filed a
complaint for annulment, cancellation and revalidation of titles, and damages against Fevidal before the Regional Trial
Court (RTC) of Bataan on 13 October 2006.
13

Complainants found it hard to wait for the outcome of the action. Thus, they terminated the services of respondent on 8
June 2007, withdrew their complaint against Fevidal on 9 June 2007, and finalized their amicable settlement with him on 5
July 2007.
14

Respondent filed a Manifestation and Opposition dated 20 July 2007 before the RTC, alleging that the termination of his
services and withdrawal of the complaint had been done with the intent of defrauding counsel. On the same date, he filed a
Motion for Recording of Attorneys Charging Lien in the Records of the Above-Captioned Cases.
15

16

When the RTC granted the withdrawal of the complaint, he filed a Manifestation and Motion for Reconsideration.
17

18

After an exchange of pleadings between respondent and Fevidal, with the latter denying the formers allegation of
collusion, complainants sought the suspension/disbarment of respondent through a Complaint filed before the Integrated
Bar of the Philippines (IBP) on 14 November 2007. Complainants alleged that they were uneducated and underprivileged,
and could not taste the fruits of their properties because the disposition thereof was "now clothed with legal problems"
brought about by respondent.
19

20

21

In their complaint, they alleged that respondent had violated Canons 1.01, 1.03, 1.04, 12.02, 15.05, 18.04, and
20.04 of the Code of Professional Responsibility. On 14 August 2008, the IBP Commission on Bar Discipline adopted and
approved the Report and Recommendation of the investigating commissioner. It suspended respondent from the practice
of law for a period of one year for entering into a champertous agreement.
22

23

24

25

26

27

28

29

30

On 26 June 2011, it denied his motion for reconsideration. On 26 November 2012, this Court noted the Indorsement of the
IBP Commission on Bar Discipline, as well as respondents second motion for reconsideration. We find that respondent did

LEGAL PROFESSION 2016


not violate any of the canons cited by complainants. In fact, we have reason to believe that complainants only filed the
instant complaint against him at the prodding of Fevidal.
Respondent cannot be faulted for advising complainants to file an action against Fevidal to recover their properties, instead
of agreeing to a settlement of P10,000,000 a measly amount compared to that in the original agreement, under which
Fevidal undertook to pay complainants the amount of P35,000,000. Lawyers have a sworn duty and responsibility to protect
the interest of any prospective client and pursue the ends of justice.
31

Any lawyer worth his salt would advise complainants against the abuses of Fevidal under the circumstances, and we cannot
countenance an administrative complaint against a lawyer only because he performed a duty imposed on him by his oath.
The claim of complainants that they were not informed of the status of the case is more appropriately laid at their door
rather than at that of respondent. He was never informed that they had held in abeyance the filing of the adverse claim.
Neither was he informed of the brewing amicable settlement between complainants and Fevidal. We also find it very hard
to believe that while complainants received various amounts as loans from respondent from August 2006 to June
2007, they could not spare even a few minutes to ask about the status of the case. We shall discuss this more below. As
regards the claim that respondent refused to "patch up" with Fevidal despite the pleas of complainants, we note the latters
Sinumpaang Salaysay dated 24 September 2007, in which they admitted that they could not convince Fevidal to meet with
respondent to agree to a settlement.
32

33

Finally, complainants apparently refer to the motion of respondent for the recording of his attorneys charging lien as the
"legal problem" preventing them from enjoying the fruits of their property. Section 26, Rule 138 of the Rules of Court
allows an attorney to intervene in a case to protect his rights concerning the payment of his compensation. According to the
discretion of the court, the attorney shall have a lien upon all judgments for the payment of money rendered in a case in
which his services have been retained by the client. We recently upheld the right of counsel to intervene in proceedings for
the recording of their charging lien. In Malvar v. KFPI, we granted counsels motion to intervene in the case after
petitioner therein terminated his services without justifiable cause. Furthermore, after finding that petitioner and
respondent had colluded in order to deprive counsel of his fees, we ordered the parties to jointly and severally pay counsel
the stipulated contingent fees. Thus, the determination of whether respondent is entitled to the charging lien is based on
the discretion of the court before which the lien is presented. The compensation of lawyers for professional services
rendered is subject to the supervision of the court, not only to guarantee that the fees they charge remain reasonable and
commensurate with the services they have actually rendered, but to maintain the dignity and integrity of the legal
profession as well.
34

35

In any case, an attorney is entitled to be paid reasonable compensation for his services.

36

That he had pursued its payment in the appropriate venue does not make him liable for disciplinary action. Notwithstanding
the foregoing, respondent is not without fault. Indeed, we find that the contract for legal services he has executed with
complainants is in the nature of a champertous contract an agreement whereby an attorney undertakes to pay the
expenses of the proceedings to enforce the clients rights in exchange for some bargain to have a part of the thing in
dispute.
37

Such contracts are contrary to public policy and are thus void or inexistent.
38

39

They are also contrary to Canon 16.04 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, which states that lawyers shall not lend
money to a client, except when in the interest of justice, they have to advance necessary expenses in a legal matter they
are handling for the client. A reading of the contract for legal services shows that respondent agreed to pay for at least
half of the expense for the docket fees. He also paid for the whole amount needed for the recording of complainants
adverse claim. While lawyers may advance the necessary expenses in a legal matter they are handling in order to safeguard
their clients rights, it is imperative that the advances be subject to reimbrusement. The purpose is to avoid a situation in
which a lawyer acquires a personal stake in the clients cause. Regrettably, nowhere in the contract for legal services is it
stated that the expenses of litigation advanced by respondents shall be subject to reimbursement by complainants.
40

41

In addition, respondent gave various amounts as cash advances (bali), gasoline and transportation allowance to them for
the duration of their attorney-client relationship. In fact, he admits that the cash advances were in the nature of personal
loans that he extended to complainants.
42

Clearly, respondent lost sight of his responsibility as a lawyer in balancing the clients interests with the ethical standards of
his profession. Considering the surrounding circumstances in this case, an admonition shall suffice to remind him that
however dire the needs of the clients, a lawyer must always avoid any appearance of impropriety to preserve the integrity
of the profession.
WHEREFORE, Attorney Juan B. Baez, Jr. is hereby ADMONISHED for advancing the litigation expenses in a legal matter her
handled for a client without providing for terms of reimbursement and lending money to his client, in violation of Canon
16.04 of the Code of Professional Responsibility. He us sternly warned that a repetition of the same or similar act would be
dealt with more severly.

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Let a copy of this Resolution be attached to the personal record of Atty. Baez, Jr.
SO ORDERED.
Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila
EN BANC
A.C. No. 5581

January 14, 2014

ROSE BUNAGAN-BANSIG, Complainant,


vs.
ATTY. ROGELIO JUAN A. CELERA, Respondent.
DECISION

PER CURIAM:
Before us is a Petition for Disbarment dated January 8, 2002 filed by complainant Rose Bunagan-Bansig (Bansig) against
respondent Atty. Rogelio Juan A. Celera (respondent) for Gross Immoral Conduct.
1

In her complaint, Bansig narrated that, on May 8, 1997, respondent and Gracemarie R. Bunagan (Bunagan), entered into a
contract of marriage, as evidenced by a certified xerox copy of the certificate of marriage issued by the City Civil Registry of
Manila. Bansig is the sister of Gracemarie R. Bunagan, legal wife of respondent.
2

However, notwithstanding respondent's marriage with Bunagan, respondent contracted another marriage on January 8,
1998 with a certain Ma. Cielo Paz Torres Alba (Alba), as evidenced by a certified xerox copy of the certificate of marriage
issued by the City Registration Officer of San Juan, Manila.
3

Bansig stressed that the marriage between respondent and Bunagan was still valid and in full legal existence when he
contracted his second marriage with Alba, and that the first marriage had never been annulled or rendered void by any
lawful authority.
Bansig alleged that respondents act of contracting marriage with Alba, while his marriage is still subsisting, constitutes
grossly immoral and conduct unbecoming of a member of the Bar, which renders him unfit to continue his membership in
the Bar.
In a Resolution dated February 18, 2002, the Court resolved to require respondent to file a comment on the instant
complaint.
4

Respondent failed to submit his comment on the complaint, despite receipt of the copy of the Court's Resolution, as
evidenced by Registry Return Receipt No. 30639. Thus, the Court, in a Resolution dated March 17, 2003, resolved to
require respondent to show cause why he should not be disciplinarily dealt with or held in contempt for failing to file his
comment on the complaint against him.
5

On December 10, 2002, Bansig filed an Omnibus Ex Parte Motion praying that respondent's failure to file his comment on
the complaint be deemed as a waiver to file the same, and that the case be submitted for disposition.
7

On May 4, 2003, in a Motion, respondent claimed that while it appeared that an administrative case was filed against him,
he did not know the nature or cause thereof since other than Bansig's Omnibus Motion, he received no other pleading or
any processes of this Court. Respondent, however, countered that Bansig's Omnibus Motion was merely a ploy to frighten
him and his wife from pursuing the criminal complaints for falsification of public documents they filed against Bansig and
her husband. He also explained that he was able to obtain a copy of the Court's Show Cause Order only when he visited his
brother who is occupying their former residence at 59-B Aguho St., Project 3, Quezon City. Respondent further averred that
he also received a copy of Bansig's Omnibus Motion when the same was sent to his law office address.
Respondent pointed out that having been the family's erstwhile counsel and her younger sister's husband, Bansig knew his
law office address, but she failed to send a copy of the complaint to him. Respondent suspected that Bansig was trying to
mislead him in order to prevent him from defending himself. He added that Bansig has an unpaid obligation amounting

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to P2,000,000.00 to his wife which triggered a sibling rivalry. He further claimed that he and his wife received death threats
from unknown persons; thus, he transferred to at least two (2) new residences, i.e., in Sampaloc, Manila and Angeles City.
He then prayed that he be furnished a copy of the complaint and be given time to file his answer to the complaint.
In a Resolution dated July 7, 2003, the Court resolved to (a) require Bansig to furnish respondent with a copy of the
administrative complaint and to submit proof of such service; and (b) require respondent to file a comment on the
complaint against him.
8

In compliance, Bansig submitted an Affidavit of Mailing to show proof that a copy of the administrative complaint was
furnished to respondent at his given address which is No. 238 Mayflower St., Ninoy Aquino Subdivision, Angeles City, as
evidenced by Registry Receipt No. 2167.
9

On March 17, 2004, considering that respondent failed anew to file his comment despite receipt of the complaint, the Court
resolved to require respondent to show cause why he should not be disciplinarily dealt with or held in contempt for such
failure.
10

On June 3, 2004, respondent, in his Explanation, reiterated that he has yet to receive a copy of the complaint. He claimed
that Bansig probably had not complied with the Court's Order, otherwise, he would have received the same already. He
requested anew that Bansig be directed to furnish him a copy of the complaint.
11

Again, on August 25, 2004, the Court granted respondent's prayer that he be furnished a copy of the complaint, and
required Bansig to furnish a copy of the complaint to respondent.
12

On October 1, 2004, Bansig, in her Manifestation, lamented the dilatory tactics allegedly undertaken by respondent in
what was supposedly a simple matter of receipt of complaint. Bansig asserted that the Court should sanction respondent
for his deliberate and willful act to frustrate the actions of the Court. She attached a copy of the complaint and submitted
an Affidavit of Mailing stating that again a copy of the complaint was mailed at respondent's residential address in Angeles
City as shown by Registry Receipt No. 3582.
13

On May 16, 2005, the Court anew issued a Show Cause Order to respondent as to why he should not be disciplinarily dealt
with or held in contempt for failure to comply with the Resolution dated July 7, 2003 despite service of copy of the
complaint by registered mail.
14

On August 1, 2005, the Court noted the returned and unserved copy of the Show Cause Order dated May 16, 2005 sent to
respondent at 238 Mayflower St., Ninoy Aquino Subd. under Registry Receipt No. 55621, with notation "RTS-Moved." It
likewise required Bansig to submit the correct and present address of respondent.
15

On September 12, 2005, Bansig manifested that respondent had consistently indicated in his correspondence with the
Court No. 238 Mayflower St., Ninoy Aquino Subdivision, Angeles City as his residential address. However, all notices served
upon him on said address were returned with a note "moved" by the mail server. Bansig averred that in Civil Case No.
59353, pending before the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 1, Tuguegarao City, respondent entered his appearance as
counsel with mailing address to be at "Unit 8, Halili Complex, 922 Aurora Blvd., Cubao, Quezon City."
16

On February 13, 2006, the Court resolved to resend a copy of the Show Cause Order dated May 16, 2005 to respondent at
his new address at Unit 8, Halili Complex, 922 Aurora Blvd., Cubao, Quezon City.
17

On June 30, 2008, due to respondent's failure to comply with the Show Cause Order dated May 16, 2005, for failure to file
his comment on this administrative complaint as required in the Resolution dated July 7, 2003, the Court resolved to: (a)
IMPOSE upon Atty. Celera a FINE of P1,000.00 payable to the court, or a penalty of imprisonment of five (5) days if said fine
is not paid, and (b) REQUIRE Atty. Celera to COMPLY with the Resolution dated July 7, 2003 by filing the comment required
thereon.
18

In a Resolution dated January 27, 2010, it appearing that respondent failed to comply with the Court's Resolutions dated
June 30, 2008 and July 7, 2003, the Court resolved to: (1) DISPENSE with the filing by respondent of his comment on the
complaint; (2) ORDER the arrest of Atty. Celera; and (3) DIRECT the Director of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI)
to (a) ARREST and DETAIN Atty. Celera for non-compliance with the Resolution dated June 30, 2008; and (b) SUBMIT a
report of compliance with the Resolution. The Court likewise resolved to REFER the complaint to the Integrated Bar of the
Philippines for investigation, report and recommendation.
19

20

However, the Return of Warrant dated March 24, 2010, submitted by Atty. Frayn M. Banawa, Investigation Agent II, AntiGraft Division of the NBI, showed that respondent cannot be located because neither Halili Complex nor No. 922 Aurora
Blvd., at Cubao, Quezon City cannot be located. During surveillance, it appeared that the given address, i.e., No. 922 Aurora
Blvd., Cubao, Quezon City was a vacant lot with debris of a demolished building. Considering that the given address cannot
21

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be found or located and there were no leads to determine respondent's whereabouts, the warrant of arrest cannot be
enforced.
The Integrated Bar of the Philippines, meanwhile, in compliance with the Court's Resolution, reported that as per their
records, the address of respondent is at No. 41 Hoover St., Valley View Royale Subd., Taytay, Rizal.
Respondent likewise failed to appear before the mandatory conference and hearings set by the Integrated Bar of the
Philippines, Commission on Bar Discipline (IBP-CBD), despite several notices. Thus, in an Order dated August 4, 2010,
Commissioner Rebecca Villanueva-Maala, of the IBP-CBD, declared respondent to be in default and the case was submitted
for report and recommendation. The Order of Default was received by respondent as evidenced by a registry return receipt.
However, respondent failed to take any action on the matter.
On January 3, 2011, the IBP-CBD, in its Report and Recommendation, recommended that respondent Atty. Celera be
suspended for a period of two (2) years from the practice of law.
RULING
A disbarment case is sui generis for it is neither purely civil nor purely criminal, but is rather an investigation by the court
into the conduct of its officers. The issue to be determined is whether respondent is still fit to continue to be an officer of
the court in the dispensation of justice. Hence, an administrative proceeding for disbarment continues despite the
desistance of a complainant, or failure of the complainant to prosecute the same, or in this case, the failure of respondent
to answer the charges against him despite numerous notices.
22

In administrative proceedings, the complainant has the burden of proving, by substantial evidence, the allegations in the
complaint. Substantial evidence has been defined as such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate
to support a conclusion. For the Court to exercise its disciplinary powers, the case against the respondent must be
established by clear, convincing and satisfactory proof. Considering the serious consequence of the disbarment or
suspension of a member of the Bar, this Court has consistently held that clear preponderant evidence is necessary to justify
the imposition of the administrative penalty.
23

In the instant case, there is a preponderance of evidence that respondent contracted a second marriage despite the
existence of his first marriage. The first marriage, as evidenced by the certified xerox copy of the Certificate of Marriage
issued on October 3, 2001 by the City Civil Registry of Manila, Gloria C. Pagdilao, states that respondent Rogelio Juan A.
Celera contracted marriage on May, 8, 1997 with Gracemarie R. Bunagan at the Church of Saint Augustine, Intramuros,
Manila; the second marriage, however, as evidenced by the certified xerox copy of the Certificate of Marriage issued on
October 4, 2001 by the City Civil Registry of San Juan, Manila, states that respondent Rogelio Juan A. Celera contracted
marriage on January 8, 1998 with Ma. Cielo Paz Torres Alba at the Mary the Queen Church, Madison St., Greenhills, San
Juan, Metro Manila.
Bansig submitted certified xerox copies of the marriage certificates to prove that respondent entered into a second
marriage while the latters first marriage was still subsisting. We note that the second marriage apparently took place
barely a year from his first marriage to Bunagan which is indicative that indeed the first marriage was still subsisting at the
time respondent contracted the second marriage with Alba.
The certified xerox copies of the marriage contracts, issued by a public officer in custody thereof, are admissible as the best
evidence of their contents, as provided for under Section 7 of Rule 130 of the Rules of Court, to wit:
Sec. 7. Evidence admissible when original document is a public record. When the original of a document is in the custody
of a public officer or is recorded in a public office, its contents may be proved by a certified copy issued by the public officer
in custody thereof.
Moreover, the certified xerox copies of the marriage certificates, other than being admissible in evidence, also clearly
indicate that respondent contracted the second marriage while the first marriage is subsisting. By itself, the certified xerox
copies of the marriage certificates would already have been sufficient to establish the existence of two marriages entered
into by respondent. The certified xerox copies should be accorded the full faith and credence given to public documents. For
purposes of this disbarment proceeding, these Marriage Certificates bearing the name of respondent are competent and
convincing evidence to prove that he committed bigamy, which renders him unfit to continue as a member of the Bar.
24

The Code of Professional Responsibility provides:


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

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Canon 7- A lawyer shall at all times uphold the integrity and dignity of the legal profession, and support the activities of the
Integrated Bar.
Rule 7.03- A lawyer shall not engage in conduct that adversely reflects on his fitness to practice law, nor should he,
whether in public or private life, behave in a scandalous manner to the discredit of the legal profession.
Respondent exhibited a deplorable lack of that degree of morality required of him as a member of the Bar. He made a
mockery of marriage, a sacred institution demanding respect and dignity. His act of contracting a second marriage while his
first marriage is subsisting constituted grossly immoral conduct and are grounds for disbarment under Section 27, Rule 138
of the Revised Rules of Court.
25

This case cannot be fully resolved, however, without addressing rather respondents defiant stance against the Court as
demonstrated by his repetitive disregard of its Resolution requiring him to file his comment on the complaint. This case has
dragged on since 2002. In the span of more than 10 years, the Court has issued numerous directives for respondent's
compliance, but respondent seemed to have preselected only those he will take notice of and the rest he will just ignore.
The Court has issued several resolutions directing respondent to comment on the complaint against him, yet, to this day, he
has not submitted any answer thereto. He claimed to have not received a copy of the complaint, thus, his failure to
comment on the complaint against him. Ironically, however, whenever it is a show cause order, none of them have escaped
respondent's attention. Even assuming that indeed the copies of the complaint had not reached him, he cannot, however,
feign ignorance that there is a complaint against him that is pending before this Court which he could have easily obtained
a copy had he wanted to.
The Court has been very tolerant in dealing with respondent's nonchalant attitude towards this case; accommodating
respondent's endless requests, manifestations and prayers to be given a copy of the complaint. The Court, as well as
Bansig, as evidenced by numerous affidavits of service, have relentlessly tried to reach respondent for more than a decade;
sending copies of the Court's Resolutions and complaint to different locations - both office and residential addresses of
respondent. However, despite earnest efforts of the Court to reach respondent, the latter, however conveniently offers a
mere excuse of failure to receive the complaint. When said excuse seemed no longer feasible, respondent just disappeared.
In a manner of speaking, respondents acts were deliberate, maneuvering the liberality of the Court in order to delay the
disposition of the case and to evade the consequences of his actions. Ultimately, what is apparent is respondents
deplorable disregard of the judicial process which this Court cannot countenance.
Clearly, respondent's acts constitute willful disobedience of the lawful orders of this Court, which under Section 27, Rule
138 of the Rules of Court is in itself alone a sufficient cause for suspension or disbarment. Respondents cavalier attitude in
repeatedly ignoring the orders of the Supreme Court constitutes utter disrespect to the judicial institution. Respondents
conduct indicates a high degree of irresponsibility. We have repeatedly held that a Courts Resolution is "not to be
construed as a mere request, nor should it be complied with partially, inadequately, or selectively." Respondents obstinate
refusal to comply with the Courts orders "not only betrays a recalcitrant flaw in his character; it also underscores his
disrespect of the Court's lawful orders which is only too deserving of reproof."
26

Section 27, Rule 138 of the Rules of Court provides:


Sec. 27. Disbarment or suspension of attorneys by Supreme Court grounds therefor. - A member of the bar may be
disbarred or suspended from his office as attorney by the Supreme Court for any deceit, malpractice, or other gross
misconduct in such office, grossly immoral conduct, or by reason of his conviction of a crime involving moral turpitude or
for any violation of the oath which he is required to take before admission to practice, or for a willful disobedience of any
lawful order of a superior court, or for corruptly or willfully appearing as an attorney for a party to a case without authority
to do so. The practice of soliciting cases for the purpose of gain, either personally or through paid agents or brokers,
constitutes malpractice.
Considering respondent's propensity to disregard not only the laws of the land but also the lawful orders of the Court, it
only shows him to be wanting in moral character, honesty, probity and good demeanor. He is, thus, unworthy to continue as
an officer of the court.
IN VIEW OF ALL THE FOREGOING, we find respondent ATTY. ROGELIO JUAN A. CELERA, guilty of grossly immoral conduct
and willful disobedience of lawful orders rendering him unworthy of continuing membership in the legal profession. He is
thus ordered DISBARRED from the practice of law and his name stricken of the Roll of Attorneys, effective immediately.
1wphi1

Let copies of this Decision be furnished the Office of the Bar Confidant, which shall forthwith record it in the personal file of
respondent. All the Courts of the Philippines and the Integrated Bar of the Philippines shall disseminate copies thereof to all
its Chapters.
SO ORDERED.

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