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G.R. No. 198587, January 14, 2015


SAUDI ARABIAN AIRLINES (SAUDIA) AND BRENDA J. BETIA, Petitioners, v. MA.
JOPETTE M. REBESENCIO, MONTASSAH B. SACAR-ADIONG, ROUEN RUTH A.
CRISTOBAL AND LORAINE S. SCHNEIDER-CRUZ, Respondents.
All Filipinos are entitled to the protection of the rights guaranteed in the Constitution.
This is a Petition for Review on Certiorari with application for the issuance of a temporary
restraining order and/or writ of preliminary injunction under Rule 45 of the 1997 Rules of
Civil Procedure praying that judgment be rendered reversing and setting aside the June
16, 2011 Decision1 and September 13, 2011 Resolution 2 of the Court of Appeals in CAG.R.
SP.
No.
113006.
Petitioner Saudi Arabian Airlines (Saudia) is a foreign corporation established and
existing under the laws of Jeddah, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. It has a Philippine office
located at 4/F, Metro House Building, Sen. Gil J. Puyat Avenue, Makati City. 3 In its Petition
filed with this court, Saudia identified itself as follows:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
1. Petitioner SAUDIA is a foreign corporation established and existing under the Royal
Decree No. M/24 of 18.07.1385H (10.02.1962G) in Jeddah, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
("KSA"). Its Philippine Office is located at 4/F Metro House Building, Sen, Gil J. Puyat
Avenue, Makati City (Philippine Office). It may be served with orders of this Honorable
Court through undersigned counsel at 4 th and 6th Floors, Citibank Center Bldg., 8741
Paseo de Roxas, Makati City.4 (Emphasis supplied)
Respondents (complainants before the Labor Arbiter) were recruited and hired by Saudia
as Temporary Flight Attendants with the accreditation and approval of the Philippine
Overseas Employment Administration.5 After undergoing seminars required by the
Philippine Overseas Employment Administration for deployment overseas, as well as
training modules offered by Saudia (e.g., initial flight attendant/training course and
transition training), and after working as Temporary Flight Attendants, respondents
became Permanent Flight Attendants. They then entered into Cabin Attendant contracts
with Saudia: Ma. Jopette M. Rebesencio (Ma. Jopette) on May 16, 1990; 6Montassah B.
Sacar-Adiong (Montassah) and Rouen Ruth A. Cristobal (Rouen Ruth) on May 22,
1993;7and
Loraine
Schneider-Cruz
(Loraine)
on
August
27,
1995. 8
Respondents continued their employment with Saudia until they were separated from
service
on
various
dates
in
2006.9
Respondents contended that the termination of their employment was illegal. They
alleged that the termination was made solely because they were pregnant. 10
As respondents alleged, they had informed Saudia of their respective pregnancies and
had gone through the necessary procedures to process their maternity leaves. Initially,
Saudia had given its approval but later on informed respondents that its management in
Jeddah, Saudi Arabia had disapproved their maternity leaves. In addition, it required
respondents
to
file
their
resignation
letters. 11
Respondents were told that if they did not resign, Saudia would terminate them all the
same. The threat of termination entailed the loss of benefits, such as separation pay and
ticket
discount
entitlements.12
Specifically, Ma. Jopette received a call on October 16, 2006 from Saudia's Base
1

Manager, Abdulmalik Saddik (Abdulmalik). 13 Montassah was informed personally by


Abdulmalik and a certain Faisal Hussein on October 20, 2006 after being required to
report to the office one (1) month into her maternity leave. 14 Rouen Ruth was also
personally informed by Abdulmalik on October 17, 2006 after being required to report to
the office by her Group Supervisor. 15 Loraine received a call on October 12, 2006 from
her
Group
Supervisor,
Dakila
Salvador. 16
Saudia anchored its disapproval of respondents' maternity leaves and demand for their
resignation on its "Unified Employment Contract for Female Cabin Attendants" (Unified
Contract).17 Under the Unified Contract, the employment of a Flight Attendant who
becomes pregnant is rendered void. It provides:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
(H) Due to the essential nature of the Air Hostess functions to be physically fit on board
to provide various services required in normal or emergency cases on both
domestic/international flights beside her role in maintaining continuous safety and
security of passengers, and since she will not be able to maintain the required medical
fitness while at work in case of pregnancy, accordingly, if the Air Hostess becomes
pregnant at any time during the term of this contract, this shall render her
employment contract as void and she will be terminated due to lack of medical
fitness.18 (Emphasis supplied)
In their Comment on the present Petition, 19 respondents emphasized that the Unified
Contract took effect on September 23, 2006 (the first day of Ramadan), 20 well after they
had filed and had their maternity leaves approved. Ma. Jopette filed her maternity leave
application on September 5, 2006. 21Montassah filed her maternity leave application on
August 29, 2006, and its approval was already indicated in Saudia's computer system by
August 30, 2006.22 Rouen Ruth filed her maternity leave application on September 13,
2006,23 and Loraine filed her maternity leave application on August 22, 2006. 24
Rather than comply and tender resignation letters, respondents filed separate appeal
letters
that
were
all
rejected. 25
Despite these initial rejections, respondents each received calls on the morning of
November 6, 2006 from Saudia's office secretary informing them that their maternity
leaves had been approved. Saudia, however, was quick to renege on its approval. On the
evening of November 6, 2006, respondents again received calls informing them that it
had received notification from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia that their maternity leaves had been
disapproved.26
Faced with the dilemma of resigning or totally losing their benefits, respondents
executed handwritten resignation letters. In Montassah's and Rouen Ruth's cases, their
resignations were executed on Saudia's blank letterheads that Saudia had provided.
These letterheads already had the word "RESIGNATION" typed on the subject portions of
their
headings
when
these
were
handed
to
respondents. 27
On November 8, 2007, respondents filed a Complaint against Saudia and its officers for
illegal dismissal and for underpayment of salary, overtime pay, premium pay for holiday,
rest day, premium, service incentive leave pay, 13 th month pay, separation pay, night
shift differentials, medical expense reimbursements, retirement benefits, illegal
deduction, lay-over expense and allowances, moral and exemplary damages, and
attorney's fees.28 The case was initially assigned to Labor Arbiter Hermino V. Suelo and
docketed
as
NLRC
NCR
Case
No.
00-11-12342-07.
Saudia assailed the jurisdiction of the Labor Arbiter. 29 It claimed that all the determining
points of contact referred to foreign law and insisted that the Complaint ought to be
dismissed on the ground offorum non conveniens.30 It added that respondents had no
cause
of
action
as
they
resigned
voluntarily. 31
2

On December 12, 2008, Executive Labor Arbiter Fatima Jambaro-Franco rendered the
Decision32dismissing respondents' Complaint. The dispositive portion of this Decision
reads:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
WHEREFORE, premises' considered, judgment is hereby rendered DISMISSING the
instant complaint for lack of jurisdiction/merit. 33cralawlawlibrary
On respondents' appeal, the National Labor Relations Commission's Sixth Division
reversed the ruling of Executive Labor Arbiter Jambaro-Franco. It explained that
"[considering that complainants-appellants are OFWs, the Labor Arbiters and the NLRC
has [sic] jurisdiction to hear and decide their complaint for illegal termination." 34 On the
matter of forum non conveniens, it noted that there were no special circumstances that
warranted its abstention from exercising jurisdiction. 35 On the issue of whether
respondents were validly dismissed, it held that there was nothing on record to support
Saudia's
claim
that
respondents
resigned
voluntarily.
The dispositive portion of the November 19, 2009 National Labor Relations Commission
Decision36reads:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
WHEREFORE, premises considered, judgment is hereby rendered finding the appeal
impressed with merit. The respondents-appellees are hereby directed to pay
complainants-appellants the aggregate amount of SR614,001.24 corresponding to their
backwages and separation pay plus ten (10%) percent thereof as attorney's fees. The
decision of the Labor Arbiter dated December 12, 2008 is hereby VACATED and SET
ASIDE. Attached is the computation prepared by this Commission and made an integral
part of this Decision.37cralawlawlibrary
In the Resolution dated February 11, 2010, 38 the National Labor Relations Commission
denied
petitioners'
Motion
for
Reconsideration.
In the June 16, 2011 Decision,39 the Court of Appeals denied petitioners' Rule 65 Petition
and modified the Decision of the National Labor Relations Commission with respect to
the
award
of
separation
pay
and
backwages.
The dispositive portion of the Court of Appeals Decision reads:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
WHEREFORE, the instant petition is hereby DENIED. The Decision dated November 19,
2009 issued by public respondent, Sixth Division of the National Labor Relations
Commission - National Capital Region is MODIFIED only insofar as the computation of
the award of separation pay and backwages. For greater clarity, petitioners are ordered
to pay private respondents separation pay which shall be computed from private
respondents' first day of employment up to the finality of this decision, at the rate of one
month per year of service and backwages which shall be computed from the date the
private respondents were illegally terminated until finality of this decision. Consequently,
the ten percent (10%) attorney's fees shall be based on the total amount of the award.
The
assailed
Decision
is
affirmed
in
all
other
respects.
The labor arbiter is hereby DIRECTED to make a recomputation based on the
foregoing.40cralawlawlibrary
In the Resolution dated September 13, 2011, 41 the Court of Appeals denied petitioners'
Motion
for
Reconsideration.
Hence,
The

this
issues

Appeal
for

resolution

was
are

the

filed.
following:

First, whether the Labor Arbiter and the National Labor Relations Commission may
exercise jurisdiction over Saudi Arabian Airlines and apply Philippine law in adjudicating
the
present
dispute;
3

Second, whether respondents' voluntarily resigned or were illegally terminated; and


Lastly, whether Brenda J. Betia may be held personally liable along with Saudi Arabian
Airlines.chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
I. Summons were validly served on Saudia and jurisdiction over it validly acquired.
There is no doubt that the pleadings and summons were served on Saudia through its
counsel.42Saudia, however, claims that the Labor Arbiter and the National Labor
Relations Commission had no jurisdiction over it because summons were never served
on it but on "Saudia Manila."43 Referring to itself as "Saudia Jeddah," it claims that
"Saudia Jeddah" and not "Saudia Manila" was the employer of respondents because:
First, "Saudia Manila" was never a party to the Cabin Attendant contracts entered into by
respondents;
Second, it was "Saudia Jeddah" that provided the funds to pay for respondents' salaries
and
benefits;
and
Lastly, it was with "Saudia Jeddah" that respondents filed their resignations. 44
Saudia posits that respondents' Complaint was brought against the wrong party because
"Saudia Manila," upon which summons was served, was never the employer of
respondents.45
Saudia is vainly splitting hairs in its effort to absolve itself of liability. Other than its bare
allegation, there is no basis for concluding that "Saudia Jeddah" is distinct from "Saudia
Manila."
What is clear is Saudia's statement in its own Petition that what it has is a "Philippine
Office . . . located at 4/F Metro House Building, Sen. Gil J. Puyat Avenue, Makati
City."46 Even in the position paper that Saudia submitted to the Labor Arbiter, 47 what
Saudia now refers to as "Saudia Jeddah" was then only referred to as "Saudia Head Office
at Jeddah, KSA,"48 while what Saudia now refers to as "Saudia Manila" was then only
referred
to
as
"Saudia's
office
in
Manila." 49
By its own admission, Saudia, while a foreign corporation, has a Philippine office.
Section 3(d) of Republic Act No.. 7042, otherwise known as the Foreign Investments Act
of 1991, provides the following:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
The phrase "doing business" shall include . . . opening offices, whether called
"liaison" offices or branches; . . . and any other act or acts that imply a continuity of
commercial dealings or arrangements and contemplate to that extent the performance
of acts or works, or the exercise of some of the functions normally incident to, and in
progressive prosecution of commercial gain or of the purpose and object of the business
organization. (Emphasis supplied)
A plain application of Section 3(d) of the Foreign Investments Act leads to no other
conclusion than that Saudia is a foreign corporation doing business in the Philippines. As
such, Saudia may be sued in the Philippines and is subject to the jurisdiction of Philippine
tribunals.
Moreover, since there is no real distinction between "Saudia Jeddah" and "Saudia Manila"
the latter being nothing more than Saudia's local office service of summons to
4

Saudia's office in Manila sufficed to vest jurisdiction over Saudia's person in Philippine
tribunals.chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
II Saudia asserts that Philippine courts and/or tribunals are not in a position to make an
intelligent decision as to the law and the facts. This is because respondents' Cabin
Attendant contracts require the application of the laws of Saudi Arabia, rather than those
of the Philippines.50 It claims that the difficulty of ascertaining foreign law calls into
operation the principle of forum non conveniens, thereby rendering improper the
exercise
of
jurisdiction
by
Philippine
tribunals. 51
A choice of law governing the validity of contracts or the interpretation of its provisions
dees not necessarily imply forum non conveniens. Choice of law and forum non
conveniens are
entirely
different
matters.
Choice of law provisions are an offshoot of the fundamental principle of autonomy of
contracts. Article 1306 of the Civil Code firmly ensconces this:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
Article 1306. The contracting parties may establish such stipulations, clauses, terms and
conditions as they may deem convenient, provided they are not contrary to law, morals,
good customs, public order, or public policy.
In contrast, forum non conveniens is a device akin to the rule against forum shopping. It
is designed to frustrate illicit means for securing advantages and vexing litigants that
would otherwise be possible if the venue of litigation (or dispute resolution) were left
entirely
to
the
whim
of
either
party.
Contractual choice of law provisions factor into transnational litigation and dispute
resolution in one of or in a combination of four ways: (1) procedures for settling disputes,
e.g., arbitration; (2) forum, i.e., venue; (3) governing law; and (4) basis for
interpretation. Forum non conveniens relates to, but is not subsumed by, the second of
these.
Likewise, contractual choice of law is not determinative of jurisdiction. Stipulating on the
laws of a given jurisdiction as the governing law of a contract does not preclude the
exercise of jurisdiction by tribunals elsewhere. The reverse is equally true: The
assumption of jurisdiction by tribunals does notipso facto mean that it cannot apply and
rule
on
the
basis
of
the
parties'
stipulation.
In Hasegawa
v.
Kitamura:52ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
Analytically, jurisdiction and choice of law are two distinct concepts. Jurisdiction
considers whether it is fair to cause a defendant to travel to this state; choice of law asks
the further question whether the application of a substantive law V'hich will determine
the merits of the case is fair to both parties. The power to exercise jurisdiction does not
automatically give a state constitutional authority to apply forum law. While jurisdiction
and the choice of the lex fori will often, coincide, the "minimum contacts" for one do not
always provide the necessary "significant contacts" for the other. The question of
whether the law of a state can be applied to a transaction is different from the question
of
whether
the
courts
of
that
state
have
jurisdiction
to
enter
a
judgment.53cralawlawlibrary
As various dealings, commercial or otherwise, are facilitated by the progressive ease of
communication and travel, persons from various jurisdictions find themselves
transacting with each other. Contracts involving foreign elements are, however, nothing
new. Conflict of laws situations precipitated by disputes and litigation anchored on these
contracts
are
not
totally
novel.
Transnational transactions entail differing laws on the requirements Q for the validity of
the formalities and substantive provisions of contracts and their interpretation. These
transactions inevitably lend themselves to the possibility of various fora for litigation and
5

dispute resolution. As observed by an eminent expert on transnational


law:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
The more jurisdictions having an interest in, or merely even a point of contact with, a
transaction or relationship, the greater the number of potential fora for the resolution of
disputes arising out of or related to that transaction or relationship. In a world of
increased mobility, where business and personal transactions transcend national
boundaries, the jurisdiction of a number of different fora may easily be invoked in a
single or a set of related disputes.54cralawlawlibrary
Philippine law is definite as to what governs the formal or extrinsic validity of contracts.
The first paragraph of Article 17 of the Civil Code provides that "[t]he forms and
solemnities of contracts . . . shall be governed by the laws of the country in which they
are
executed"55 (i.e., lex
loci
celebrationis).
In contrast, there is no statutorily established mode of settling conflict of laws situations
on matters pertaining to substantive content of contracts. It has been noted that three
(3) modes have emerged: (1) lex loci contractus or the law of the place of the making;
(2) lex loci solutionis or the law of the place of performance; and (3) lex loci intentionis or
the
law
intended
by
the
parties.56
Given Saudia's assertions, of particular relevance to resolving the present dispute is lex
loci
intentionis.
An author observed that Spanish jurists and commentators "favor lex loci
intentionis."57 These jurists and commentators proceed from the Civil Code of Spain,
which, like our Civil Code, is silent on what governs the intrinsic validity of contracts, and
the
same
civil
law
traditions
from
which
we
draw
ours.
In this jurisdiction, this court, in Philippine Export and Foreign Loan Guarantee v. V.P.
Eusebio Construction, Inc.,58 manifested preference for allowing the parties to select the
law applicable to their contract":chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
No conflicts rule on essential validity of contracts is expressly provided for in our laws.
The rule followed by most legal systems, however, is that the intrinsic validity of a
contract must be governed by the lex contractus or "proper law of the contract." This is
the law voluntarily agreed upon by the parties (the lex loci voluntatis) or the law
intended by them either expressly or implicitly (the lex loci intentionis). The law selected
may be implied from such factors as substantial connection with the transaction, or the
nationality or domicile of the parties. Philippine courts would do well to adopt the first
and most basic rule in most legal systems, namely, to allow the parties to select the law
applicable to their contract, subject to the limitation that it is not against the law, morals,
or public policy of the forum and that the chosen law must bear a substantive
relationship to the transaction.59 (Emphasis in the original)
Saudia asserts that stipulations set in the Cabin Attendant contracts require the
application of the laws of Saudi Arabia. It insists that the need to comply with these
stipulations calls into operation the doctrine of forum non conveniens and, in turn, makes
it necessary for Philippine tribunals to refrain from exercising jurisdiction.
As mentioned, contractual choice of laws factors into transnational litigation in any or a
combination of four (4) ways. Moreover, forum non conveniens relates to one of these:
choosing
between
multiple
possible
fora.
Nevertheless, the possibility of parallel litigation in multiple fora along with the host of
difficulties it poses is not unique to transnational litigation. It is a difficulty that
similarly arises in disputes well within the bounds of a singe jurisdiction.
When parallel litigation arises strictly within the context of a single jurisdiction, such
6

rules as those on forum shopping, litis pendentia, and res judicata come into operation.
Thus, in the Philippines, the 1997 Rules on Civil Procedure provide for willful and
deliberate forum shopping as a ground not only for summary dismissal with prejudice but
also for citing parties and counsels in direct contempt, as well as for the imposition of
administrative sanctions.60 Likewise, the same rules expressly provide that a party may
seek the dismissal of a Complaint or another pleading asserting a claim on the ground
"[t]hat there is another action pending between the same parties for the same cause,"
i.e., litis pendentia, or "[t]hat the cause of action is barred by a prior
judgment,"61 i.e., res
judicata.
Forum non conveniens, like the rules of forum shopping, litis pendentia, and res judicata,
is a means of addressing the problem of parallel litigation. While the rules of forum
shopping, litis pendentia, andres judicata are designed to address the problem of parallel
litigation within a single jurisdiction, forum non conveniens is a means devised to
address
parallel
litigation
arising
in
multiple
jurisdictions.
Forum non conveniens literally translates to "the forum is inconvenient." 62 It is a concept
in private international law and was devised to combat the "less than honorable" reasons
and excuses that litigants use to secure procedural advantages, annoy and harass
defendants, avoid overcrowded dockets, and select a "friendlier" venue. 63 Thus, the
doctrine of forum non conveniens addresses the same rationale that the rule against
forum
shopping
does,
albeit
on
a
multijurisdictional
scale.
Forum non conveniens, like res judicata,64 is a concept originating in common
law.65 However, unlike the rule on res judicata, as well as those on litis pendentia and
forum shopping, forum non conveniensfinds no textual anchor, whether in statute or in
procedural rules, in our civil law system. Nevertheless, jurisprudence has applied forum
non conveniens as basis for a court to decline its exercise of jurisdiction. 66
Forum non conveniens is soundly applied not only to address parallel litigation and
undermine a litigant's capacity to vex and secure undue advantages by engaging in
forum shopping on an international scale. It is also grounded on principles of comity and
judicial
efficiency.
Consistent with the principle of comity, a tribunal's desistance in exercising jurisdiction
on account offorum non conveniens is a deferential gesture to the tribunals of another
sovereign. It is a measure that prevents the former's having to interfere in affairs which
are better and more competently addressed by the latter. Further, forum non
conveniens entails a recognition not only that tribunals elsewhere are better suited to
rule on and resolve a controversy, but also, that these tribunals arebetter positioned to
enforce judgments and, ultimately, to dispense justice. Forum non conveniensprevents
the embarrassment of an awkward situation where a tribunal is rendered incompetent in
the face of the greater capability both analytical and practical of a tribunal in
another
jurisdiction.
The wisdom of avoiding conflicting and unenforceable judgments is as much a matter of
efficiency and economy as it is a matter of international courtesy. A court would
effectively be neutering itself if it insists on adjudicating a controversy when it knows full
well that it is in no position to enforce its judgment. Doing so is not only an exercise in
futility; it is an act of frivolity. It clogs the dockets of a.tribunal and leaves it to waste its
efforts on affairs, which, given transnational exigencies, will be reduced to mere
academic,
if
not
trivial,
exercises.
Accordingly, under the doctrine of forum non conveniens, "a court, in conflicts of law
cases, mayrefuse impositions on its jurisdiction where it is not the most 'convenient' or
7

available forum and the parties are not precluded from seeking remedies
elsewhere."67 In Puyat v. Zabarte,68 this court recognized the following situations as
among
those
that
may
warrant
a
court's
desistance
from
exercising
jurisdiction:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
1) The belief that the matter can be better tried and decided elsewhere, either because
the main aspects of the case transpired in a foreign jurisdiction or the material
witnesses have their residence there;
2)

The belief that the non-resident plaintiff sought the forum[,] a practice known
asforum shopping[,] merely to secure procedural advantages or to convey or harass
the defendant;

3)

The unwillingness to extend local judicial facilities to non residents or aliens when
the docket may already be overcrowded;

4)

The inadequacy of the local judicial machinery for effectuating the right sought to be
maintained; and

5) The difficulty of ascertaining foreign law.69


In Bank of America, NT&SA, Bank of America International, Ltd. v. Court of Appeals,70 this
court underscored that a Philippine court may properly assume jurisdiction over a case if
it chooses to do so to the extent: "(1) that the Philippine Court is one to which the parties
may conveniently resort to; (2) that the Philippine Court is in a position to make an
intelligent decision as to the law and the facts; and (3) that the Philippine Court has or is
likely
to
have
power
to
enforce
its
decision." 71
The use of the word "may" (i.e., "may refuse impositions on its jurisdiction" 72) in the
decisions shows that the matter of jurisdiction rests on the sound discretion of a court.
Neither the mere invocation offorum non conveniens nor the averment of foreign
elements operates to automatically divest a court of jurisdiction. Rather, a court should
renounce jurisdiction only "after 'vital facts are established, to determine whether special
circumstances' require the court's desistance." 73 As the propriety of applying forum non
conveniens is contingent on a factual determination, it is, therefore, a matter of
defense.74
The second sentence of Rule 9, Section 1 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure is exclusive
in its recital of the grounds for dismissal that are exempt from the omnibus motion rule:
(1) lack of jurisdiction over the subject matter; (2) litis pendentia; (3) res judicata; and
(4) prescription. Moreover, dismissal on account offorum non conveniens is a
fundamentally discretionary matter. It is, therefore, not a matter for a defendant to foist
upon the court at his or her own convenience; rather, it must be pleaded at the earliest
possible
opportunity.
On the matter of pleading forum non conveniens, we state the rule, thus: Forum non
conveniens must not only be clearly pleaded as a ground for dismissal; it must be
pleaded as such at the earliest possible opportunity. Otherwise, it shall be deemed
waived.
This court notes that in Hasegawa,76 this court stated that forum non conveniens is not a
ground for a motion to dismiss. The factual ambience of this case however does not
squarely raise the viability of this doctrine. Until the opportunity comes to review the use
of motions to dismiss for parallel litigation,Hasegawa remains existing doctrine.
Consistent with forum non conveniens as fundamentally a factual matter, it is imperative
that it proceed from & factually established basis. It would be improper to dismiss an
8

action pursuant toforum non conveniens based merely on a perceived, likely, or


hypothetical multiplicity of fora. Thus, a defendant must also plead and show that a prior
suit
has,
in
fact,
been
brought
in
another
jurisdiction.
The existence of a prior suit makes real the vexation engendered by duplicitous
litigation, the embarrassment of intruding into the affairs of another sovereign, and the
squandering of judicial efforts in resolving a dispute already lodged and better resolved
elsewhere. As has been noted:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
A case will not be stayed o dismissed on [forum] non conveniens grounds unless the
plaintiff is shown to have an available alternative forum elsewhere. On this, the moving
party
bears
the
burden
of
proof.
A number of factors affect the assessment of an alternative forum's adequacy. The
statute of limitations abroad may have run, of the foreign court may lack either subject
matter or personal jurisdiction over the defendant. . . . Occasionally, doubts will be
raised as to the integrity or impartiality of the foreign court (based, for example, on
suspicions of corruption or bias in favor of local nationals), as to the fairness of its judicial
procedures, or as to is operational efficiency (due, for example, to lack of resources,
congestion and delay, or interfering circumstances such as a civil unrest). In one noted
case, [it was found] that delays of 'up to a quarter of a century' rendered the foreign
forum... inadequate for these purposes. 77cralawlawlibrary
We deem it more appropriate and in the greater interest of prudence that a defendant
not only allege supposed dangerous tendencies in litigating in this jurisdiction; the
defendant must also show that such danger is real and present in that litigation or
dispute resolution has commenced in another jurisdiction and that a foreign tribunal has
chosen to exercise jurisdiction.
III Forum non conveniens finds no application and does not operate to divest Philippine
tribunals of jurisdiction and to require the application of foreign law.
Saudia invokes forum non conveniens to supposedly effectuate the stipulations of the
Cabin Attendant contracts that require the application of the laws of Saudi Arabia.
Forum non conveniens relates to forum, not to the choice of governing law. Thai forum
non conveniensmay ultimately result in the application of foreign law is merely an
incident of its application. In this strict sense, forum non conveniens is not applicable. It
is
not
the
primarily
pivotal
consideration
in
this
case.
In any case, even a further consideration of the applicability of forum non conveniens on
the incidental matter of the law governing respondents' relation with Saudia leads to the
conclusion that it is improper for Philippine tribunals to divest themselves of jurisdiction.
Any evaluation of the propriety of contracting parties' choice of a forum and'its incidents
must grapple with two (2) considerations: first, the availability and adequacy of recourse
to a foreign tribunal; and second, the question of where, as between the forum court and
a foreign court, the balance of interests inhering in a dispute weighs more heavily.
The first is a pragmatic matter. It relates to the viability of ceding jurisdiction to a foreign
tribunal and can be resolved by juxtaposing the competencies and practical
circumstances of the tribunals in alternative fora. Exigencies, like the statute of
limitations, capacity to enforce orders and judgments, access to records, requirements
for the acquisition of jurisdiction, and even questions relating to the integrity of foreign
courts, may render undesirable or even totally unfeasible recourse to a foreign court. As
mentioned, we consider it in the greater interest of prudence that a defendant show, in
pleading forum non conveniens, that litigation has commenced in another jurisdiction
9

10

and

that

foieign

tribunal

has,

in

fact,

chosen

to

exercise

jurisdiction.

Two (2) factors weigh into a court's appraisal of the balance of interests inhering in a
dispute: first, the vinculum which the parties and their relation have to a given
jurisdiction; and second, the public interest that must animate a tribunal, in its capacity
as an agent of the sovereign, in choosing to assume or decline jurisdiction. The first is
more concerned with the parties, their personal circumstances, and private interests; the
second
concerns
itself
with
the
state
and
the
greater
social
order.
In considering the vinculum, a court must look into the preponderance of linkages which
the parties and their transaction may have to either jurisdiction. In this respect, factors,
such as the parties' respective nationalities and places of negotiation, execution,
performance,
engagement
or
deployment,
come
into
play.
In considering public interest, a court proceeds with a consciousness that it is an organ
of the state. It must, thus, determine if the interests of the sovereign (which acts through
it) are outweighed by those of the alternative jurisdiction. In this respect, the court
delves into a consideration of public policy. Should it find that public interest weighs
more heavily in favor of its assumption of jurisdiction, it should proceed in adjudicating
the dispute, any doubt or .contrary view arising from the preponderance of linkages
notwithstanding.
Our law on contracts recognizes the validity of contractual choice of law provisions.
Where such provisions exist, Philippine tribunals, acting as the forum court, generally
defer
to
the
parties'
articulated
choice.
This is consistent with the fundamental principle of autonomy of contracts. Article 1306
of the Civ:l Code expressly provides that "[t]he contracting parties may establish 'such
stipulations,
clauses,
terms
and
conditions
as
they
may
deem
convenient."78 Nevertheless, while a Philippine tribunal (acting as the forum court) is
called upon to respect the parties' choice of governing law, such respect must not be so
permissive as to lose sight of considerations of law, morals, good customs, public order,
or public policy that underlie the contract central to the controversy.
Specifically with respect to public policy, in Pakistan International Airlines Corporation v.
Ople,79 this court explained that:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
counter-balancing the principle of autonomy of contracting parties is the equally general
rule that provisions of applicable law, especially provisions relating to matters affected
with public policy, are deemed written inta the contract. Put a little differently, the
governing principle is that parties may not contract away applicable provisions of law
especially peremptory provisions dealing with matters heavily impressed with public
interest.80 (Emphasis supplied)
Article II, Section 14 of the 1987 Constitution provides that "[t]he State ... shall ensure
the fundamental equality before the law of women and men." Contrasted with Article II,
Section 1 of the 1987 Constitution's statement that "[n]o person shall ... be denied the
equal protection of the laws," Article II, Section 14 exhorts the State to "ensure." This
does not only mean that the Philippines shall not countenance nor lend legal recognition
and approbation to measures that discriminate on the basis of one's being male or
female. It imposes an obligation to actively engage in securing the fundamental equality
of
men
and
women.
The Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women
(CEDAW), signed and ratified by the Philippines on July 15, 1980, and on August 5, 1981,
respectively,81 is part of the law of the land. In view of the widespread signing and
ratification of, as well as adherence (in practice) to it by states, it may even be said that
10

11

many provisions of the CEDAW may have become customary international law. The
CEDAW gives effect to the Constitution's policy statement in Article II, Section 14. Article
I of the CEDAW defines "discrimination against women" as:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex which has the effect or
purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women,
irrespective of their marital status, on a basis of equality of men and women, of human
rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any
other field.82cralawlawlibrary
The constitutional exhortation to ensure fundamental equality, as illumined by its
enabling law, the CEDAW, must inform and animate all the actions of all personalities
acting on behalf of the State. It is, therefore, the bounden duty of this court, in rendering
judgment on the disputes brought before it, to ensure that no discrimination is heaped
upon women on the mere basis of their being women. This is a point so basic and central
that all our discussions and pronouncements regardless of whatever averments there
may
be
of
foreign
law

must
proceed
from
this
premise.
So informed and animated, we emphasize the glaringly discriminatory nature of Saudia's
policy. As argued by respondents, Saudia's policy entails the termination of employment
of flight attendants who become pregnant. At the risk of stating the obvious, pregnancy
is an occurrence that pertains specifically to women. Saudia's policy excludes from and
restricts employment on the basis of no other consideration but sex.
We do not lose sight of the reality that pregnancy does present physical limitations that
may render difficult the performance of functions associated with being a flight
attendant. Nevertheless, it would be the height of iniquity to view pregnancy as a
disability so permanent and immutable that, it must entail the termination of one's
employment. It is clear to us that any individual, regardless of gender, may be subject to
exigencies that limit the performance of functions. However, we fail to appreciate how
pregnancy could be such an impairing occurrence that it leaves no other recourse but
the complete termination of the means through which a woman earns a living.
Apart from the constitutional policy on the fundamental equality before the law of men
and women, it is settled that contracts relating to labor and employment are impressed
with public interest. Article 1700 of the Civil Code provides that "[t]he relation between
capital and labor are not merely contractual. They are so impressed with public interest
that
labor
contracts
must
yield
to
the
common
good."
Consistent with this, this court's pronouncements in Pakistan International Airlines
Corporation83 are clear and unmistakable:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
Petitioner PIA cannot take refuge in paragraph 10 of its employment agreement which
specifies, firstly, the law of Pakistan as the applicable law of the agreement, and,
secondly, lays the venue for settlement of any dispute arising out of or in connection
with the agreement "only [in] courts of Karachi, Pakistan". The first clause of paragraph
10 cannot be invoked to prevent the application of Philippine labor laws and'regulations
to the subject matter of this case, i.e., the employer-employee relationship between
petitioner PIA and private respondents. We have already pointed out that the
relationship is much affected with public interest and that the otherwise applicable
Philippine laws and regulations cannot be rendered illusory by the parties agreeing upon
some other law to govern their relationship. . . . Under these circumstances, paragraph
10 of the employment agreement cannot be given effect so as to oust Philippine
agencies and courts of the jurisdiction vested upon them by Philippine law. 84 (Emphasis
supplied)
As the present dispute relates to (what the respondents allege to be) the illegal
termination of respondents' employment, this case is immutably a matter of public
interest and public policy. Consistent with clear pronouncements in law and
11

12

jurisprudence, Philippine laws properly find application in and govern this case.
'Moreover, as this premise for Saudia's insistence on the application forum non
conveniens has been shattered, it follows that Philippine tribunals may properly assume
jurisdiction over the present controversy. Philippine jurisprudence provides ample
illustrations of when a court's renunciation of jurisdiction on account of forum non
conveniens is
proper
or
improper.'
In Philsec Investment Corporation v. Court of Appeals,85 this court noted that the trial
court failed to consider that one of the plaintiffs was a domestic corporation, that one of
the defendants was a Filipino, and that it was the extinguishment of the latter's debt that
was the object of the transaction subject of the litigation. Thus, this court held, among
others, that the trial court's refusal to assume jurisdiction was not justified by forum non
conveniens and
remanded
the
case
to
the
trial
court.
In Raytheon International, Inc. v. Rouzie, Jr.,86 this court sustained the trial court's
assumption of jurisdiction considering that the trial court could properly enforce
judgment on the petitioner which was a foreign corporation licensed to do business in
the
Philippines.
In Pioneer International, Ltd. v. Guadiz, Jr.,87 this court found no reason to disturb the trial
court's assumption of jurisdiction over a case in which, as noted by the trial court, "it is
more convenient to hear and decide the case in the Philippines because Todaro [the
plaintiff] resides in the Philippines and the contract allegedly breached involve[d]
employment
in
the
Philippines." 88
In Pacific Consultants International Asia, Inc. v. Schonfeld,89 this court held that the fact
that the complainant in an illegal dismissal case was a Canadian citizen and a repatriate
did not warrant the application of forum non conveniens considering that: (1) the Labor
Code does not include forum non conveniens as a ground for the dismissal of a
complaint for illegal dismissal; (2) the propriety of dismissing a case based on forum non
conveniens requires a factual determination; and (3) the requisites for assumption of
jurisdiction as laid out in Bank of America, NT&SA90 were all satisfied.
In contrast, this court ruled in The Manila Hotel Corp. v. National Labor Relations
Commission91 that the National Labor Relations Q Commission was a seriously
inconvenient forum. In that case, private respondent Marcelo G. Santos was working in
the Sultanate of Oman when he received a letter from Palace Hotel recruiting him for
employment in Beijing, China. Santos accepted the offer. Subsequently, however, he was
released from employment supposedly due to business reverses arising from political
upheavals in China (i.e., the Tiananmen Square incidents of 1989). Santos later filed a
Complaint for illegal dismissal impleading Palace Hotel's General Manager, Mr. Gerhard
Schmidt, the Manila Hotel International Company Ltd. (which was, responsible for
training Palace Hotel's personnel and staff), and the Manila Hotel Corporation (which
owned 50% of Manila Hotel International Company Ltd.'s capital stock).
In ruling against the National Labor Relations Commission's exercise of jurisdiction, this
court noted that the main aspects of the case transpired in two (2) foreign jurisdictions,
Oman and China, and that the case involved purely foreign elements. Specifically, Santos
was directly hired by a foreign employer through correspondence sent to Oman. Also, the
proper defendants were neither Philippine nationals nor engaged in business in the
Philippines, while the main witnesses were not residents of the Philippines. Likewise, this
court noted that the National Labor Relations Commission was in no position to conduct
the following: first, determine the law governing the employment contract, as it was
entered into in foreign soil; second, determine the facts, as Santos' employment was
terminated in Beijing; and third, enforce its judgment, since Santos' employer, Palace
12

13

Hotel, was incorporated under the laws of China and was not even served with
summons.
Contrary to Manila Hotel, the case now before us does not entail a preponderance of
linkages
that
favor
a
foreign
jurisdiction.
Here, the circumstances of the parties and their relation do not approximate the
circumstances enumerated in Puyat,92 which this court recognized as possibly justifying
the
desistance
of
Philippine
tribunals
from
exercising
jurisdiction.
First, there is no basis for concluding that the case can be more conveniently tried
elsewhere. As established earlier, Saudia is doing business in the Philippines. For their
part, all four (4) respondents are Filipino citizens maintaining residence in the Philippines
and, apart from their previous employment with Saudia, have no other connection to the
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. It would even be to respondents' inconvenience if this case
were
to
be
tried
elsewhere.
Second, the records are bereft of any indication that respondents filed their Complaint in
an effort to engage in forum shopping or to vex and inconvenience Saudia.
Third, there is no indication of "unwillingness to extend local judicial facilities to nonresidents or aliens."93 That Saudia has managed to bring the present controversy all the
way
to
this
court
proves
this.
Fourth, it cannot be said that the local judicial machinery is inadequate for effectuating
the right sought to be maintained. Summons was properly served on Saudia and
jurisdiction
over
its
person
was
validly
acquired.
Lastly, there is not even room for considering foreign law. Philippine law properly governs
the
present
dispute.
As the question of applicable law has been settled, the supposed difficulty of
ascertaining foreign law (which requires the application of forum non conveniens)
provides no insurmountable inconvenience or special circumstance that will justify
depriving
Philippine
tribunals
of
jurisdiction.
Even if we were to assume, for the sake of discussion, that it is the laws of Saudi Arabia
which should apply, it does not follow that Philippine tribunals should refrain from
exercising jurisdiction. To. recall our pronouncements in Puyat, 94 as well as in Bank of
America, NT&SA,95 it is not so much the mere applicability of foreign law which calls into
operation forum non conveniens. Rather, what justifies a court's desistance from
exercising jurisdiction is "[t]he difficulty of ascertaining foreign law"96 or the inability of a
"Philippine
Court to make an
intelligent decision
as to the law[.]" 97
Consistent with lex loci intentionis, to the extent that it is proper and practicable (i.e., "to
make an intelligent decision"98), Philippine tribunals may apply the foreign law selected
by the parties. In fact, (albeit without meaning to make a pronouncement on the
accuracy and reliability of respondents' citation) in this case, respondents themselves
have made averments as to the laws of Saudi Arabia. In their Comment, respondents
write:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
Under the Labor Laws of Saudi Arabia and the Philippines[,] it is illegal and unlawful to
terminate the employment of any woman by virtue of pregnancy. The law in Saudi Arabia
is even more harsh and strict [sic] in that no employer can terminate the employment of
a female worker or give her a warning of the same while on Maternity Leave, the specific
13

14

provision of Saudi Labor Laws on the matter is hereto quoted as


follows:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
"An employer may not terminate the employment of a female worker or give her a
warning of the same while on maternity leave." (Article 155, Labor Law of the Kingdom of
Saudi Arabia, Royal Decree No. M/51.)99cralawlawlibrary
All told, the considerations for assumption of jurisdiction by Philippine tribunals as
outlined in Bank of America, NT&SA100 have been satisfied. First, all the parties are based
in the Philippines and all the material incidents transpired in this jurisdiction. Thus, the
parties may conveniently seek relief from Philippine tribunals. Second, Philippine
tribunals are in a position to make an intelligent decision as to the law and the facts.
Third, Philippine tribunals are in a position to enforce their decisions. There is no
compelling basis for ceding jurisdiction to a foreign tribunal. Quite the contrary, the
immense public policy considerations attendant to this case behoove Philippine tribunals
to not shy away from their duty to rule on the case.chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
IVRespondents

were

illegally

terminated.

In Bilbao v. Saudi Arabian Airlines,101 this court defined voluntary resignation as "the
voluntary act of an employee who is in a situation where one believes that personal
reasons cannot be sacrificed in favor of the exigency of the service, and one has no
other choice but to dissociate oneself from employment. It is a formal pronouncement or
relinquishment of an office, with the intention of relinquishing the office accompanied by
the act of relinquishment." 102 Thus, essential to the act of resignation is voluntariness. It
must be the result of an employee's exercise of his or her own will.
In the same case of Bilbao, this court advanced a means for determining whether an
employee resigned voluntarily:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
As the intent to relinquish must concur with the overt act of relinquishment, the acts of
the employee before and after the alleged resignation must be considered in
determining whether he or she, in fact, intended, to sever his or her
employment.103(Emphasis supplied)
On the other hand, constructive dismissal has been defined as "cessation of work
because 'continued employment is rendered impossible, unreasonable or unlikely, as an
offer involving a demotion in rank or a diminution in pay' and other benefits." 104
In Penaflor v. Outdoor Clothing Manufacturing Corporation,105 constructive dismissal has
been described as tantamount to "involuntarily [sic] resignation due to the harsh, hostile,
and unfavorable conditions set by the employer." 106 In the same case, it was noted that
"[t]he gauge for constructive dismissal is whether a reasonable person in the employee's
position would feel compelled to give up his employment under the prevailing
circumstances."107
Applying the cited standards on resignation and constructive dismissal, it is clear that
respondents were constructively dismissed. Hence, their termination was illegal.
The termination of respondents' employment happened when they were pregnant and
expecting to incur costs on account of child delivery and infant rearing. As noted by the
Court of Appeals, pregnancy is a time when they need employment to sustain their
families.108 Indeed, it goes against normal and reasonable human behavior to abandon
one's
livelihood
in
a
time
of
great
financial
need.
It is clear that respondents intended to remain employed with Saudia. All they did was
avail of their maternity leaves. Evidently, the very nature of a maternity leave means
that a pregnant employee will not report for work only temporarily and that she will
resume the performance of her duties as soon as the leave allowance expires.
14

15

It is also clear that respondents exerted all efforts to' remain employed with Saudia. Each
of them repeatedly filed appeal letters (as much as five [5] letters in the case of
Rebesencio109) asking Saudia to reconsider the ultimatum that they resign or be
terminated along with the forfeiture of their benefits. Some of them even went to
Saudia's
office
to
personally
seek
reconsideration. 110
Respondents also adduced a copy of the "Unified Employment Contract for Female Cabin
Attendants."111 This contract deemed void the employment of a flight attendant who
becomes pregnant and threatened termination due to lack of medical fitness. 112 The
threat of termination (and the forfeiture of benefits that it entailed) is enough to compel
a reasonable person in respondents' position to give up his or her employment.
Saudia draws attention to how respondents' resignation letters were supposedly made in
their own handwriting. This minutia fails to surmount all the other indications negating
any voluntariness on respondents' part. If at all, these same resignation letters are proof
of how any supposed resignation did not arise from respondents' own initiative. As
earlier pointed out, respondents' resignations were executed on Saudia's blank
letterheads that Saudia had provided. These letterheads already had the word
"RESIGNATION" typed on the subject portion of their respective headings when these
were
handed
to
respondents.113ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
"In termination cases, the burden of proving just or valid cause for dismissing an
employee rests on the employer."114 In this case, Saudia makes much of how respondents
supposedly completed their exit interviews, executed quitclaims, received their
separation pay, and took more than a year to file their Complaint. 115 If at all, however,
these circumstances prove only the fact of their occurrence, nothing more. The
voluntariness
of
respondents'
departure
from
Saudia
is non
sequitur.
Mere compliance with standard procedures or processes, such as the completion of their
exit
interviews,
neither
negates
compulsion
nor
indicates
voluntariness.
As with respondent's resignation letters, their exit interview forms even support their
claim of illegal dismissal and militates against Saudia's arguments. These exit interview
forms, as reproduced by Saudia in its own Petition, confirms the unfavorable conditions
as regards respondents' maternity leaves. Ma. Jopette's and Loraine's exit interview
forms are particularly telling:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
a.
From
Ma.
Jopette's
exit
interview
form:
3. In what respects has the job met or failed to meet your expectations?
THE SUDDEN TWIST OF DECISION REGARDING THE MATERNITY LEAVE. 116
b.

From

Loraine's

exit

interview

form:

1. What are your main reasons for leaving Saudia? What company are you joining?
Others
CHANGING POLICIES REGARDING MATERNITY LEAVE (PREGNANCY) 117
As to respondents' quitclaims, in Phil. Employ Services and Resources, Inc. v.
Paramio,118 this court noted that "[i]f (a) there is clear proof that the waiver was wangled
from an unsuspecting or gullible person; or (b) the terms of the settlement are
unconscionable, and on their face invalid, such quitclaims must be struck down as invalid
or illegal."119 Respondents executed their quitclaims after having been unfairly given an
15

16

ultimatum
to
resign
or
benefits).chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary

be

terminated

(and

forfeit

their

V
Having been illegally and unjustly dismissed, respondents are entitled to full
backwages and benefits from the time of their termination until the finality of this
Decision. They are likewise entitled to separation pay in the amount of one (1) month's
salary for every year of service until the fmality of this Decision, with a fraction of a year
of at least six (6) months being counted as one (1) whole year.
Moreover, "[m]oral damages are awarded in termination cases where the employee's
dismissal was attended by bad faith, malice or fraud, or where it constitutes an act
oppressive to labor, or where it was done in a manner contrary to morals, good customs
or public policy."120 In this case, Saudia terminated respondents' employment in a
manner that is patently discriminatory and running afoul of the public interest that
underlies employer-employee relationships. As such, respondents are entitled to moral
damages.
To provide an "example or correction for the public good" 121 as against such
discriminatory and callous schemes, respondents are likewise entitled to exemplary
damages.
In a long line of cases, this court awarded exemplary damages to illegally dismissed
employees whose "dismissal[s were] effected in a wanton, oppressive or malevolent
manner."122 This court has awarded exemplary damages to employees who were
terminated on such frivolous, arbitrary, and unjust grounds as membership in or
involvement
with
labor
unions, 123 injuries
sustained
in
the
course
of
124
employment, development of a medical condition due to the employer's own violation
of the employment contract,125 and lodging of a Complaint against the
employer.126 Exemplary damages were also awarded to employees who were deemed
illegally dismissed by an employer in an attempt to evade compliance with statutorily
established employee benefits.127 Likewise, employees dismissed for supposedly just
causes, but in violation of due process requirements, were awarded exemplary
damages.128
These examples pale in comparison to the present controversy. Stripped of all
unnecessary complexities, respondents were dismissed for no other reason than simply
that they were pregnant. This is as wanton, oppressive, and tainted with bad faith as any
reason for termination of employment can be. This is no ordinary case of illegal
dismissal. This is a case of manifest gender discrimination. It is an affront not only to our
statutes and policies on employees' security of tenure, but more so, to the Constitution's
dictum
of
fundamental
equality
between
men
and
women. 129
The award of exemplary damages is, therefore, warranted, not only to remind employers
of the need to adhere to the requirements of procedural and substantive due process in
termination of employment, but more importantly, to demonstrate that gender
discrimination
should
in
no
case
be
countenanced.
Having been compelled to litigate to seek reliefs for their illegal and unjust dismissal,
respondents are likewise entitled to attorney's fees in the amount of 10% of the total
monetary award.130
VI

Petitioner

Brenda

J.

Betia

may

not

be

held

liable.

A corporation has a personality separate and distinct from those of the persons
composing it. Thus, as a rule, corporate directors and officers are not liable for the illegal
16

17

termination of a corporation's employees. It is only when they acted in bad faith or with
malice
that
they
become
solidarity
liable
with
the
corporation. 131
In Ever Electrical Manufacturing, Inc. (EEMI) v. Samahang Manggagawa ng Ever
Electrical,132 this court clarified that "[b]ad faith does not connote bad judgment or
negligence; it imports a dishonest purpose or some moral obliquity and conscious doing
of wrong; it means breach of a known duty through some motive or interest or ill will; it
partakes
of
the
nature
of
fraud." 133
Respondents have not produced proof to show that Brenda J. Betia acted in bad faith or
with malice as regards their termination. Thus, she may not be held solidarity liable with
Saudia.cralawred
WHEREFORE, with the MODIFICATIONS that first, petitioner Brenda J. Betia is not
solidarity liable with petitioner Saudi Arabian Airlines, and second, that petitioner Saudi
Arabian Airlines is liable for moral and exemplary damages. The June 16, 2011 Decision
and the September 13, 2011 Resolution of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP. No.
113006 are hereby AFFIRMED in all other respects. Accordingly, petitioner Saudi
Arabian Airlines is ordered to pay respondents:
(1) Full backwages and all other benefits computed from the respective dates in which
each of the respondents were illegally terminated until the finality of this Decision;
(2) Separation pay computed from the respective dates in which each of the
respondents commenced employment until the finality of this Decision at the rate of
one (1) month's salary for every year of service, with a fraction of a year of at least
six (6) months being counted as one (1) whole year;
(3) Moral damages in the amount of P100,000.00 per respondent;
(4) Exemplary damages in the amount of P200,000.00 per respondent; and
(5) Attorney's fees equivalent to 10% of the total award.
Interest of 6% per annum shall likewise be imposed on the total judgment award from
the
finality
of
this
Decision
until
full
satisfaction
thereof.
This case is REMANDED to the Labor Arbiter to make a detailed computation of the
amounts due to respondents which petitioner Saudi Arabian Airlines should pay without
delay.
SO ORDERED.cha

EN BANC
A.C. No. 8235, January 27, 2015
JOSELITO F. TEJANO, Complainant, v. ATTY. BENJAMIN F. BATERINA, Respondent.
17

18

DECISION
CARPIO, J.:
The Case
Before the Court is a verified administrative complaint for disbarment against Atty.
Benjamin F. Baterina.
The Facts
On 26 March 2009, Joselito F. Tejano filed an Affidavit-Complaint 1 before the Office of the
Court Administrator (OCA) of the Supreme Court against Judge Dominador LL. Arquelada,
Presiding Judge of the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Vigan City, Ilocos Sur, Branch 21, and
Tejanos
own
counsel,
Atty.
Baterina.
Tejano accused Judge Arquelada of acting in conspiracy with Atty. Baterina for the former
to take possession of his (Tejano) property, which was the subject matter of litigation in
the
judges
court.
The case stems from Civil Case No. 4046-V, a suit for recovery of possession and
damages filed by Tejano, his mother and sisters against the Province of Ilocos Sur. The
property involved in the suit is a strip of land located at the northern portion of Lot No.
5663 in Tamag, Vigan City. The lot was wholly owned by Tejanos family, but the Province
of Ilocos Sur constructed an access road stretching from the provincial highway in the
east to the provincial governments motor pool in the west without instituting the proper
expropriation
proceedings.2
The case was raffled off to Branch 21 of the Vigan City RTC in October 1988. Four judges
would hear the case before Judge Arquelada became the branchs presiding judge in
2001.3 Prior to his appointment to the bench, however, Judge Arquelada was one of the
trial prosecutors assigned to Branch 21, and in that capacity represented the Province of
Ilocos
Sur
in
Civil
Case
No.
4046-V. 4
In his Affidavit-Complaint, Tejano accused Judge Arquelada of colluding with Atty.
Baterina in the formers bid to take possession of their property and was collecting
rentals from squatters who had set up their businesses inside the whole of Lot [No.]
5663. In support of his accusations, Tejano attached a copy of Transfer Certificate of
Title No. T-430045 covering Lot No. 5663 in the name of Karen Laderas, purportedly the
daughter of Judge Arquelada; receipts of rents paid to Terencio Florendo, 6 sheriff at Judge
Arqueladas sala at the Vigan City RTC; receipts of rents paid to Aida Calibuso, 7 who was
expressly designated by Laderas as her attorney-in-fact 8 in collecting said rents; and
receipts of rents paid to Edgar Arquelada, Judge Arqueladas brother. 9
As to his counsel, Tejano claims that Atty. Baterina miserably failed to advance [his]
cause. Specifically, Tejano alleged that Atty. Baterina (1) failed to object when the trial
court pronounced that he and his co-plaintiffs had waived their right to present evidence
after several postponements in the trial because his mother was ill and confined at the
hospital;10 (2) manifested in open court that he would file a motion for reconsideration of
the order declaring their presentation of evidence terminated but failed to actually do
so;11 (3) not only failed to file said motion for reconsideration, but also declared in open
court that they would not be presenting any witnesses without consulting his
clients;12and (4) failed to comply with the trial courts order to submit their formal offer of
exhibits.13
18

19

In a letter dated 27 March 2009, then Court Administrator (now Supreme Court Associate
Justice) Jose P. Perez informed Tejano that the OCA has no jurisdiction over Atty. Baterina
since it only has administrative supervision over officials and employees of the judiciary.
However, Tejano was informed to file the complaint against his counsel at the Office of
the Bar Confidant, and that the complaint against Judge Arquelada was already being
acted
upon
by
the
OCA. 14
In a Resolution dated 6 July 2009, the Court required Atty. Baterina to file a Comment on
the complaint within 10 days from notice. 15 Failing to comply with the Courts order, Atty.
Baterina was ordered to show cause why he should not be disciplinarily dealt with and
once again ordered to comply with the Courts 6 July 2009 Order. 16
In his Compliance dated 28 March 2010, Atty. Baterina explained that he had been
recuperating from a kidney transplant when he received a copy of the complaint. He
begged the Courts indulgence and said that his failure to comply was not at all
intended to show disrespect to the orders of the Honorable Tribunal. 17
Atty. Baterina also denied the allegation of bad faith and negligence in handling the
Tejano case. He explained that the reason he could not attend to the case was that in
2002, after the initial presentation of the plaintiffs case, he was suspended by the Court
from the practice of law for two years. 18 He alleged that this fact was made known to
Tejanos mother and sister. However, the trial court did not order plaintiffs to secure the
services of another lawyer. On the contrary, it proceeded to hear the case, and plaintiffs
were not represented by a lawyer until the termination of the case. 19 Atty. Baterina
instead points to the displayed bias and undue and conflict of interest 20 of Judge
Arquelada
as
the
culprit
in
Tejanos
predicament.
The Court, in its 19 July 2010 Resolution, found Atty. Baterinas explanation not
satisfactory and admonished him to be more heedful of the Courts directives in order
to avoid delay in the disposition of [the] case. The Court also referred the case to the
Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) for investigation, report and recommendation.
IBP Investigation, Report and Recommendation
After the proceedings, the IBPs Commission on Bar Discipline promulgated its Report
and Recommendation,21 part of which reads:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
First, it appears that respondents failure to appear in representation of his clients in the
said civil case before the RTC was due to his two-year suspension from the practice of
law in 2001. While this is a justified reason for his non-appearance, respondent, however,
manifestly failed to properly inform the RTC of this fact. That way, the RTC would have, in
the meantime, ordered plaintiffs to seek the services of another lawyer. Respondents
contention that the fact of his suspension was nonetheless circularized to all courts of
the Philippines including the RTC is unavailing. Still, respondent should have exerted
prudence in properly informing the RTC of his suspension in order to protect the interests
of
his
clients.
Moreover, while he relayed such fact of suspension to his clients, there is no showing
that he explained the consequences to them, or that he advised them to seek another
counsels assistance in the meantime. Clearly therefore, respondents inaction falls short
of
the
diligence
required
of
him
as
a
lawyer.
Second, it must be recalled that the RTC in the said case required the plaintiffs therein to
submit their formal offer of evidence. However, respondent did not bother to do so, in
total disregard of the RTCs Order dated 8 November 2004. Respondents bare excuse
that he remembers making an oral offer thereof deserves no merit because the records
19

20

of this case clearly reveal the contrary. Because of the said inaction of respondent, his
clients
case
was
dismissed
by
the
RTC.
From the foregoing, it is clear that respondents acts constitute sufficient ground for
disciplinary action against him. His gross negligence under the circumstances cannot be
countenanced. It is, therefore, respectfully recommended that respondent be suspended
from the practice of law for two (2) years, and be fined in the amount of Fifty Thousand
Pesos (P50,000.00), considering that this is his second disciplinary action. x x x. 22
On 20 March 2013, the IBP Board of Governors adopted the following resolution:
RESOLUTION
NO.
XX-2013-237
Adm.
Case
No.
8235
Joselito
F.
Tejano
vs.
Atty. Benjamin F. Baterina
RESOLVED to ADOPT and APPROVE, as it is hereby unanimously ADOPTED and
APPROVED, with modification, the Report and Recommendation of the Investigating
Commissioner in 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 considering that Respondent is guilty of gross negligence,
Atty. Benjamin F. Baterina is hereby SUSPENDED from the practice of law for two (2)
years. However, the Fine of Fifty Thousand Pesos imposed on respondent is
herebydeleted.23
The Courts Ruling
The Court adopts the IBPs report and recommendation, with modification as to the
penalty.
The Code of Professional Responsibility governing the conduct of lawyers
states:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
CANON 18 A LAWYER SHALL SERVE HIS CLIENT WITH COMPETENCE AND DILIGENCE.
RULE 18.03 A lawyer shall not neglect a legal matter entrusted to him, and his
negligence
in
connection
therewith
shall
render
him
liable.
RULE 18.04 A lawyer shall keep the client informed of the status of his case and shall
respond within a reasonable time to the clients request for information.
Lawyers have a fourfold duty to society, the legal profession, the courts and their
clients, and must act in accordance with the values and norms of the legal profession
as
embodied
in
the
Code
of
Professional
Responsibility. 24
When a lawyer agrees to take up a clients cause, he makes a commitment to exercise
due diligence in protecting the latters rights. Once a lawyers services are engaged, he
is duty bound to serve his client with competence, and to attend to his clients cause
with diligence, care and devotion regardless of whether he accepts it for a fee or for free.
He owes fidelity to such cause and must always be mindful of the trust and confidence
reposed on him.25 A lawyers acceptance to take up a case impliedly stipulates [that he
will] carry it to its termination, that is, until the case becomes final and executory. 26
Atty. Baterinas duty to his clients did not automatically cease with his suspension. At the
very least, such suspension gave him a concomitant responsibility to inform his clients
that he would be unable to attend to their case and advise them to retain another
counsel.
A lawyer even one suspended from practicing the profession owes it to his client to
20

21

not sit idly by and leave the rights of his client in a state of uncertainty. 27 The client
should never be left groping in the dark and instead must be adequately and fully
informed
about
the
developments
in
his
case. 28
Atty. Baterina practically abandoned this duty when he allowed the proceedings to run its
course without any effort to safeguard his clients welfare in the meantime. His failure to
file the required pleadings on his clients behalf constitutes gross negligence in violation
of the Code of Professional Responsibility 29 and renders him subject to disciplinary
action.30 The penalties for a lawyers failure to file the required brief or pleading range
from warning, reprimand, fine, suspension, or in grave cases, disbarment. 31
Further, Atty. Baterinas reckless disregard for orders and directives of the courts is
unbecoming of a member of the Bar. His conduct has shown that he has little respect for
rules, court processes, and even for the Courts disciplinary authority. Not only did he fail
to follow the trial courts orders in his clients case, he even disregarded court orders in
his
own
disciplinary
proceedings.
Considering Atty. Baterinas medical condition at that time, a simple explanation to the
Court would have sufficed. Instead, however, he simply let the orders go unheeded,
neglecting
his
duty
to
the
Court.
Lawyers, as this Court has previously emphasized, are particularly called upon to obey
court orders and processes and are expected to stand foremost in complying with court
directives being themselves officers of the court. 32 As such, Atty. Baterina should know
that a resolution of this Court is not a mere request but an order which should be
complied with promptly and completely.33
Proper Penalty
In Spouses Soriano v. Reyes, the Court held that the appropriate penalty on an errant
lawyer depends on the exercise of sound judicial discretion based on the surrounding
facts.34
The Court notes that in 2001, Atty. Baterina was also suspended for two years after being
found guilty of gross misconduct. 35 In that case, Araceli Sipin-Nabor filed a complaint
against Atty. Baterina for failing to file her Answer with Counterclaim in a case for
quieting of title and recovery of possession where she and her siblings were defendants.
Because of such failure, Sipin-Nabor was declared by the trial court to be in default and
unable to present her evidence, and which, in turn, resulted in a decision adverse to her.
Atty. Baterina was also found to have convert[ed] the money of his client to his own
personal use without her consent and deceiv[ed] the complainant into giving him the
amount of P2,000.00 purportedly to be used for filing an answer with counterclaim,
which
he
never
did.
The Court likewise noted in that case Atty. Baterinas repeated failure to comply with the
resolutions of the Court requiring him to comment on the complaint [which] indicates a
high degree of irresponsibility tantamount to willful disobedience to the lawful orders of
the
Supreme
Court.36
These two disciplinary cases against Atty. Baterina show a pattern of neglecting his duty
to his clients, as well as a propensity for disrespecting the authority of the courts. Such
incorrigible behavior is unacceptable and will not be tolerated among the members of
the
Bar.
21

22

For this reason, the Court deems it proper to impose on Atty. Baterina a longer
suspension
period
of
five
(5)
years.
WHEREFORE, Atty. Benjamin F. Baterina is found GUILTY of gross negligence. He
is SUSPENDEDfrom the practice of law for five (5) years. He is also STERNLY
WARNED that a repetition of the same or a similar offense will be dealt with more
severely.
This decision shall take effect immediately and copies thereof furnished the Office of the
Bar Confidant, to be appended to respondents personal record, and the Integrated Bar
of
the
Philippines.
The Office of the Court Administrator is directed to circulate copies of this decision to all
courts.
SO ORDERED.

N BANC
A.M. No. 09-6-1-SC, January 21, 2015
RE: VIOLATION OF RULES ON NOTARIAL PRACTICE
DECISION
MENDOZA, J.:
This case stemmed from three (3) letter-complaints for Violation of Rules on Notarial
Practice endorsed to the Office of the Bar Confidant (OBC) for appropriate action. The
first letter-complaint,1dated March 2, 2009, was filed by the commissioned notaries
public within and for the jurisdiction of Lingayen, Pangasinan, namely, Atty. Butch
Cardinal Torio, Atty. Nepthalie Pasiliao, Atty. Dominique Evangelista, and Atty. Elizabeth C.
Tugade (complainants) before the Executive Judge of the Regional Trial Court, Lingayen,
Pangasinan (RTC-Lingayen) against Atty. Juan C. Siapno, Jr. (Atty. Siapno) for notarizing
documents
without
a
commission.
In their letter, complainants alleged that Atty. Siapno was maintaining a notarial office
along Alvear Street East, Lingayen, Pangasinan, and was performing notarial acts and
practices in Lingayen, Natividad and Dagupan City without the requisite notarial
commission. They asserted that Atty. Siapno was never commissioned as Notary Public
for and within the jurisdiction of Lingayen, Natividad and Dagupan City. Instead, he
applied and was commissioned to perform notarial functions by Executive Judge Anthony
Sison of the RTC, San Carlos City, Pangasinan from March 22, 2007 to December 31,
2008. His notarial commission, however, was never renewed upon expiration.
Complainants presented evidence supporting their allegations such as the pictures of
Atty. Siapnos law office in Lingayen, Pangasinan; and documents to prove that Atty.
Siapno performed acts of notarization in Lingayen, Natividad and Dagupan City, to wit:
(1) Addendum to Loan and Mortgage Agreement 2 showing that the Promissory Note was
notarized before Atty. Siapno in Lingayen, Pangasinan in 2007; (2) Deed of Absolute
Sale,3 dated January 24, 2008, notarized in Natividad, Pangasinan; (3) Joint Affidavit of
Two Disinterested Persons Re: Given Name and Date of Birth, 4 dated January 6, 2009,
notarized in Dagupan City; and (4) Acknowledgement of Debt, 5 dated January 24, 2008,
notarized
in
Dagupan
City.
22

23

Complainants also averred that Atty. Siapno had delegated his notarial authority to his
secretaries, Mina Bautista (Bautista) and Mary Ann Arenas (Arenas), who wrote legal
instruments
and
signed
the
documents
on
his
behalf.
On March 17, 2009, the RTC-Lingayen forwarded the said letter-complaint to the Office of
the Court Administrator (OCA)6 which, in turn, indorsed the same to the OBC.
The second letter-complaint7 was filed by Audy B. Espelita (Espelita) against Atty. Pedro
L. Santos (Atty. Santos). It alleged that in 2008, Espelita lost his drivers license and he
executed an affidavit of loss which was notarized by Atty. Santos. The said affidavit,
however, was denied for authentication when presented before the Notarial Section in
Manila because Atty. Santos was not commissioned to perform notarial commission
within
the
City
of
Manila.
The third letter-complaint8 came from a concerned citizen reporting that a certain Atty.
Evelyn who was holding office at Room 402 Leyba Bldg., 381 Dasmarias Street, Sta.
Cruz, Manila, had been notarizing and signing documents for and on behalf of several
lawyers.
In its Resolution,9 dated June 9, 2009, the Court directed the Executive Judge of the RTCLingayen to conduct a formal investigation on the complaint against Atty. Siapno and
Executive Judge Reynaldo G. Ros (Judge Ros) of the RTC-Manila to conduct a formal
investigation on the alleged violation of the Notarial Law by Atty. Santos, and the illegal
activities of a certain Atty. Evelyn, and thereafter, to submit a report and
recommendation
thereon.
Re:

Complaint

against

Atty.

Siapno

With regard to the complaint against Atty. Siapno, the Executive Judge conducted a
hearing wherein the complainants affirmed the allegations in their letter-complaint. For
his part, Atty. Siapno denied the accusations and averred that the law office in Lingayen,
Pangasinan, was not his and that Bautista and Arenas were not his secretaries. 10
In her Report and Recommendation, 11 the Executive Judge found that Atty. Siapno was
issued a notarial commission within the jurisdiction of Lingayen, Pangasinan, from
January 20, 2003 to December 31, 2004 and February 8, 2005 to December 3, 2006. His
commission, however, was cancelled on June 8, 2006 and he was not issued another
commission thereafter. The Executive Judge found Atty. Siapno to have violated the 2004
Rules on Notarial Commission when he performed notarial functions without commission
and recommended that he be fined in the amount of Fifty Thousand Pesos (P50,000.00).
The Court agrees with the findings of the Executive Judge but not to the recommended
penalty.
A review of the records and evidence presented by complainants shows that Atty. Siapno
indeed maintained a law office in Lingayen, Pangasinan, just beside the law office of one
of the complainants, Atty. Elizabeth Tugade. It was also proven that Atty. Siapno
notarized several instruments with an expired notarial commission outside the territorial
jurisdiction of the commissioning court. Section 11, Rule III of the 2004 Rules on Notarial
Practice provides that:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
Jurisdiction and Term A person commissioned as notary public may perform notarial
acts in any place within the territorial jurisdiction of the commissioning court for a period
of two (2) years commencing the first day of January of the year in which the
23

24

commissioning is made, unless earlier revoked or the notary public has resigned under
these Rules and the Rules of Court.
Under the rule, only persons who are commissioned as notary public may perform
notarial acts within the territorial jurisdiction of the court which granted the commission.
Clearly, Atty. Siapno could not perform notarial functions in Lingayen, Natividad and
Dagupan City of the Province of Pangasinan since he was not commissioned in the said
places
to
perform
such
act.
Time and again, this Court has stressed that notarization is not an empty, meaningless
and routine act. It is invested with substantive public interest that only those who are
qualified or authorized may act as notaries public. 12 It must be emphasized that the act
of notarization by a notary public converts a private document into a public document
making that document admissible in evidence without further proof of authenticity. A
notarial document is by law entitled to full faith and credit upon its face, and for this
reason, notaries public must observe with utmost care the basic requirements in the
performance
of
their
duties.
By performing notarial acts without the necessary commission from the court, Atty.
Siapno violated not only his oath to obey the laws particularly the Rules on Notarial
Practice but also Canons 1 and 7 of the Code of Professional Responsibility which
proscribes all lawyers from engaging in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct
and directs them to uphold the integrity and dignity of the legal profession, at all times. 13
In a plethora of cases, the Court has subjected lawyers to disciplinary action for
notarizing documents outside their territorial jurisdiction or with an expired commission.
In the case of Nunga v. Viray,14 a lawyer was suspended by the Court for three (3) years
for notarizing an instrument without a commission. In Zoreta v. Simpliciano,15 the
respondent was likewise suspended from the practice of law for a period of two (2) years
and was permanently barred from being commissioned as a notary public for notarizing
several documents after the expiration of his commission. In the more recent case
of Laquindanum v. Quintana,16 the Court suspended a lawyer for six (6) months and was
disqualified from being commissioned as notary public for a period of two (2) years
because he notarized documents outside the area of his commission, and with an
expired
commission.
Considering that Atty. Siapno has been proven to have performed notarial work in
Ligayen, Natividad and Dagupan City in the province of Pangasinan without the requisite
commission, the Court finds the recommended penalty insufficient. Instead, Atty. Siapno
must be barred from being commissioned as notary public permanently and suspended
from
the
practice
of
law
for
a
period
of
two
(2)
years.
Re:

Complaints

against

Atty.

Santos

and

Atty.

Evelyn

In a letter,17 dated July 29, 2013, Judge Ros informed the Court that he could not have
complied with the June 9, 2009 and August 4, 2009 orders of the Court because he was
no longer the Executive Judge of the RTC-Manila at that time. To date, no formal
investigation has been conducted on the alleged violation of Atty. Santos and the
reported
illegal
activities
of
a
certain
Atty.
Evelyn.
With respect to the complaints against Atty. Santos and a certain Atty. Evelyn, the Clerk
of Court is ordered to RE-DOCKET the same as separate administrative cases.
The incumbent Executive Judge of the RTC-Manila, whether permanent or in acting
capacity, is ordered to conduct a formal investigation on the matter and to submit his
Report and Recommendation within sixty (60) days from receipt of copy of this decision.
24

25

WHEREFORE, respondent Atty. Juan C. Siapno, Jr. is hereby SUSPENDED from the
practice of law for two (2) years and BARRED PERMANENTLY from being commissioned
as Notary Public, effective upon his receipt of a copy of this decision.
Let copies of this decision be furnished all the courts of the land through the Office of the
Court Administrator, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, the Office of the Bar Confidant,
and
be
recorded
in
the
personal
files
of
the
respondent.
With respect to the complaints against Atty. Pedro L. Santos and a certain Atty. Evelyn,
the Clerk of Court is ordered to RE-DOCKET them as separate administrative cases. The
Executive Judge of the Regional Trial Court, Manila, is ordered to conduct a formal
investigation on the matter and to submit his Report and Recommendation within sixty
(60)
days
from
receipt
of
a
copy
of
this
decision.
SO ORDERED.

EN BANC
A.C. No. 10568 [Formerly CBD Case No. 10-2753], January 13, 2015
MARILEN G. SOLIMAN, Complainant, v. ATTY. DITAS LERIOS-AMBOY, Respondent.
RESOLUTION
REYES, J.:
This is an administrative complaint1 filed by Marilen G. Soliman (Soliman) against Atty.
Ditas Lerios-Amboy (Atty. Amboy) for violation of the Code of Professional Responsibility.
25

26

In her complaint, Soliman claimed that she engaged the services of Atty. Amboy on May
27, 2007 in connection with a partition case. In accordance with the Retainer Agreement
between the parties, Soliman agreed to pay Atty. Amboy P50,000.00 as acceptance fee.
Upon the latters engagement, Soliman paid her P25,000.00. Later on, Atty. Amboy
advised Soliman to no longer institute a partition case since the other co-owners of the
property were amenable to the partition thereof. Instead, Atty. Amboy just facilitated the
issuance of the titles to the said property from the co-owners to the individual owners;
the P25,000.00 already paid to her was then treated as payment for her professional
services.2chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
In November 2008, Soliman gave Atty. Amboy P16,700.00 as payment for the transfer
tax. In the second quarter of 2009, Atty. Amboy told Soliman that there was a delay in
the issuance of the titles to the property because of the failure of the other co-owners to
submit certain documents. Atty. Amboy then told Soliman that someone from the
Register of Deeds (RD) can help expedite the issuance of the titles for a fee of
P80,000.00. On June 17, 2009, Atty. Amboy told Soliman that her contact in the RD
agreed
to
reduce
the
amount
to
P50,000.00. 3chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
Meanwhile, Soliman deposited the amount of P8,900.00 to Atty. Amboys bank account
as payment for the real property tax for the year 2009. Thereafter, Soliman deposited
the amount of P50,000.00 to Atty. Amboys bank account as payment for the latters
contact
in
the
RD.4chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
On October 16, 2009, Atty. Amboy informed Soliman that the certificates of title to the
property were then only awaiting the signature of the authorized officer. However, Atty.
Amboy failed to deliver the respective certificates of title of Soliman and her co-owners
to
the
subject
property.5chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
On January 6, 2010, Atty. Amboys secretary informed Soliman that their contact in the
RD was asking for an additional P10,000.00 to facilitate the release of the said
certificates of title. Soliman then refused to further pay the amount being asked by Atty.
Amboys
secretary.6chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
Thereafter, Soliman kept on asking Atty. Amboy for any update on the release of the said
titles, but the latter was not responding to her queries. On July 7, 2010, Soliman and Atty.
Amboys secretary went to the office of a certain Atty. Marasigan, Deputy RD of Manila.
Soliman asked Atty. Marasigan if he received the P50,000.00 as payment for the release
of the said titles. Atty. Marasigan denied having received any amount to facilitate the
release of the titles and claimed that the reason why the same could not be processed
was that Atty. Amboy failed to file certain documents. 7chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
Soliman further claimed that Atty. Amboy thereafter refused to release the pertinent
documents she gave to her for the processing of the titles to the property or give back
the P50,000.00 that was already paid to her. 8chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
For her part, Atty. Amboy admitted that she had a retainer agreement with Soliman, but
denied having received any amount from the latter pursuant to the said agreement. She
claimed that the retainer agreement was not implemented since the partition case was
not instituted. She claimed that she merely undertook to research, gather and collate all
documents required in the partition and in the transfer of the titles from the co-owners to
the individual owners. She denied having failed to submit the relevant documents to the
RD which caused the delay in the processing of the said titles. She likewise denied
having asked Soliman for P50,000.00 to facilitate the release of the said
titles.9chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
26

27

On May 29, 2012, after due proceedings, the Investigating Commissioner of the
Commission on Bar Discipline of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) issued a
Report and Recommendation,10 which recommended the suspension of Atty. Amboy from
the practice of law for six (6) months. The Investigating Commissioner opined that Atty.
Amboy violated the Code of Professional Responsibility by failing to observe due
diligence in dealing with Soliman. It also opined that she failed to inform the latter of the
status
of
the
proceedings
for
the
issuance
of
the
said
titles.
On March 20, 2013, the IBP Board of Governors issued a Resolution, 11 which adopted and
approved the recommendation of the Investigating Commissioner, albeit with the
modification that the period of Atty. Amboys suspension from the practice of law
was increased from six (6) months to two (2) years and that she was ordered to return
the
entire
amount
she
received
from
Soliman.
Atty. Amboy sought a reconsideration12 of the Resolution dated March 20, 2013, but it
was denied by the IBP Board of Governors in its Resolution 13 dated March 21, 2014.
After a thorough perusal of the respective allegations of the parties and the
circumstances of this case, the Court affirms the penalty imposed by the IBP Board of
Governors.
The Code of Professional Responsibility clearly states that a lawyer owes fidelity to the
cause of his client and that he should be mindful of the trust and confidence reposed in
him.14 A lawyer is mandated to serve his client with competence and diligence; to never
neglect a legal matter entrusted to him; and to keep his client informed of the status of
his case and respond within a reasonable time to the clients request for
information.15chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
The circumstances of this case clearly show that Atty. Amboy, after receiving P25,000.00
as payment for her professional services, failed to submit material documents relative to
the issuance of separate certificates of title to the individual owners of the property. It
was her negligence which caused the delay in the issuance of the certificates of title.
To make matters worse, Atty. Amboy abetted the commission of an illegal act when she
asked from Soliman the amount of P50,000.00 to be paid to her contact inside the
office of the RD in order to facilitate the release of the said certificates of title. Further,
notwithstanding the payment of P50,000.00, Atty. Amboy still failed to obtain issuance of
the said certificates of title. Instead of procuring the release of the certificates of title as
she promised, Atty. Amboy asked for an additional P10,000.00 from Soliman.
Clearly, this is not a simple case of negligence and incompetence by a counsel in dealing
with a client. Atty. Amboys acts undermined the legal processes, which she swore to
uphold and defend. In swearing to the oath, Atty. Amboy bound herself to respect the
law
and
legal
processes.
The Court further finds improper the refusal of Atty. Amboy to return the amount of
P50,000.00 which she paid in order to facilitate the release of the certificates of title. To
reiterate, upon inquiry, Atty. Marasigan, the Deputy RD of Manila, denied having received
any amount from Atty. Amboy. In not returning the money to Soliman after a demand
therefor was made following her failure to procure the issuance of the certificates of title,
Atty. Amboy violated Canon 16 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, particularly
Rule 16.03 thereof, which requires that a lawyer shall deliver the funds and property of
his client upon demand. It is settled that the unjustified withholding of money belonging
to a client warrants the imposition of disciplinary action. 16chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
27

28

A lawyers failure to return upon demand the funds held by him on behalf of his client
gives rise to the presumption that he has appropriated the same for his own use in
violation of the trust reposed in him by his client. Such act is a gross violation of general
morality as well as of professional ethics. It impairs public confidence in the legal
profession
and
deserves
punishment. 17chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrarychanrobleslaw
WHEREFORE, in consideration of the foregoing disquisitions, Atty. Ditas Lerios-Amboy is
foundGUILTY of violating Rule 16.03, Canons 17 and 18, and Rules 18.03 and 18.04 of
the Code of Professional Responsibility and is hereby SUSPENDED from the practice of
law for a period of two (2) years, effective upon receipt of this Resolution. Furthermore,
she is ORDERED to return to Marilen G. Soliman the entire amount of Fifty Thousand
Pesos (P50,000.00) she received from the latter, plus legal interest thereon, reckoned
from finality of this Resolution until fully paid. The respondent is further DIRECTED to
promptly submit to this Court written proof of her compliance within thirty (30) days from
notice
of
this
Resolution.
Let copies of this Resolution be furnished to the Office of the Bar Confidant, to be
appended to Atty. Ditas Lerios-Amboys personal record as an attorney; to the Integrated
Bar of the Philippines; and to the Office of the Court Administrator for dissemination to all
courts
throughout
the
country
for
their
information
and
guidance.
SO ORDERED.cra

EN BANC
A.C. No. 10573, January 13, 2015
28

29

FERNANDO W. CHU, Complainant, v. ATTY. JOSE C. GUICO, JR., Respondents.


DECISION
PER CURIAM:
Fernando W. Chu invokes the Courts disciplinary authority in resolving this disbarment
complaint against his former lawyer, respondent Atty. Jose C. Guico, Jr., whom he has
accused of gross misconduct.
Antecedents
Chu retained Atty. Guico as counsel to handle the labor disputes involving his company,
CVC San Lorenzo Ruiz Corporation (CVC). 1 Atty. Guicos legal services included handling a
complaint for illegal dismissal brought against CVC (NLRC Case No. RAB-III-08-9261-05
entitled Kilusan ng Manggagawang Makabayan (KMM) Katipunan CVC San Lorenzo Ruiz
Chapter, Ladivico Adriano, et al. v. CVC San Lorenzo Ruiz Corp. and Fernando Chu).2 On
September 7, 2006, Labor Arbiter Herminio V. Suelo rendered a decision adverse to
CVC.3 Atty.
Guico
filed
a
timely
appeal
in
behalf
of
CVC.
According to Chu, during a Christmas party held on December 5, 2006 at Atty. Guicos
residence in Commonwealth, Quezon City, Atty. Guico asked him to prepare a substantial
amount of money to be given to the NLRC Commissioner handling the appeal to insure a
favorable decision.4 On June 10, 2007, Chu called Atty. Guico to inform him that he had
raised P300,000.00 for the purpose. Atty. Guico told him to proceed to his office at No. 48
Times Street, Quezon City, and to give the money to his assistant, Reynaldo (Nardo)
Manahan. Chu complied, and later on called Atty. Guico to confirm that he had delivered
the money to Nardo. Subsequently, Atty. Guico instructed Chu to meet him on July 5,
2007 at the UCC Coffee Shop on T. Morato Street, Quezon City. At the UCC Coffee Shop,
Atty. Guico handed Chu a copy of an alleged draft decision of the NLRC in favor of
CVC.5 The draft decision6 was printed on the dorsal portion of used paper apparently
emanating from the office of Atty. Guico. On that occasion, the latter told Chu to raise
another P300,000.00 to encourage the NLRC Commissioner to issue the decision. But
Chu could only produce P280,000.00, which he brought to Atty. Guicos office on July 10,
2007 accompanied by his son, Christopher Chu, and one Bonifacio Elipane. However, it
was
Nardo
who
received
the
amount
without
issuing
any
receipt.7chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
Chu followed up on the status of the CVC case with Atty. Guico in December 2007.
However, Atty. Guico referred him to Nardo who in turn said that he would only know the
status after Christmas. On January 11, 2008, Chu again called Nardo, who invited him to
lunch at the Ihaw Balot Plaza in Quezon City. Once there, Chu asked Nardo if the NLRC
Commissioner had accepted the money, but Nardo replied in the negative and simply
told Chu to wait. Nardo assured that the money was still with Atty. Guico who would
return it should the NLRC Commissioner not accept it. 8chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
On January 19, 2009, the NLRC promulgated a decision adverse to CVC. 9 Chu confronted
Atty. Guico, who in turn referred Chu to Nardo for the filing of a motion for
reconsideration. After the denial of the motion for reconsideration, Atty. Guico caused the
preparation and filing of an appeal in the Court of Appeals. Finally, Chu terminated Atty.
Guico
as
legal
counsel
on
May
25,
2009. 10chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
In his position paper, 11 Atty. Guico described the administrative complaint as replete with
lies and inconsistencies, and insisted that the charge was only meant for harassment. He
denied demanding and receiving money from Chu, a denial that Nardo corroborated with
29

30

his own affidavit.12 He further denied handing to Chu a draft decision printed on used
paper emanating from his office, surmising that the used paper must have been among
those freely lying around in his office that had been pilfered by Chus witnesses in the
criminal complaint he had handled for Chu. 13chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
Findings
and
IBP Board of Governors

Recommendation

of

the

IBP Commissioner Cecilio A.C. Villanueva found that Atty. Guico had violated Rules 1.01
and 1.02, Canon I of the Code of Professional Responsibility for demanding and receiving
P580,000.00 from Chu; and recommended the disbarment of Atty. Guico in view of his
act of extortion and misrepresentation that caused dishonor to and contempt for the
legal
profession.14chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
On February 12, 2013, the IBP Board of Governors adopted the findings of IBP
Commissioner Villanueva in its Resolution No. XX-2013-87, 15 but modified the
recommended
penalty
of
disbarment
to
three
years
suspension, viz.:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
RESOLVED to ADOPT and APPROVE, as it is hereby unanimously ADOPTED and
APPROVED, with modification, the Report and Recommendation of the Investigating
Commissioner in 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 considering Respondents violation of Canon 1, Rules 1.01
and 1.02 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, Atty. Jose C. Guico, Jr. is
herebySUSPENDED from the practice of law for three (3) years with
Warning that a repetition of the same or similar act shall be dealt with more severely
and Ordered to Return the amount of Five Hundred Eighty Thousand (P580,000.00)
Pesos with legal interest within thirty (30) days from receipt of notice.cralawred
Atty. Guico moved for reconsideration,16 but the IBP Board of Governors denied his
motion for reconsideration on March 23, 2014 in Resolution No. XXI-2014173.17chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
Neither of the parties brought a petition for review vis--vis Resolution No. XX-2013-87
and Resolution No. XXI-2014-173.
Issue Did Atty. Guico violate the Lawyers Oath and Rules 1.01 and 1.02, Canon I of the
Code of Professional Responsibility for demanding and receiving P580,000.00 from Chu
to guarantee a favorable decision from the NLRC?
Ruling of the Court
In disbarment proceedings, the burden of proof rests on the complainant to establish
respondent attorneys liability by clear, convincing and satisfactory evidence. Indeed,
this Court has consistently required clearly preponderant evidence to justify the
imposition of either disbarment or suspension as penalty. 18chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
Chu submitted the affidavits of his witnesses, 19 and presented the draft decision that
Atty. Guico had represented to him as having come from the NLRC. Chu credibly insisted
that the draft decision was printed on the dorsal portion of used paper emanating
from Atty. Guicos office,20 inferring that Atty. Guico commonly printed documents on
used paper in his law office. Despite denying being the source of the draft decision
presented by Chu, Atty. Guicos participation in the generation of the draft decision was
undeniable. For one, Atty. Guico impliedly admitted Chus insistence by conceding that
the used paper had originated from his office, claiming only that used paper was just
30

31

scattered

around

office.21 In

his

that

context,

Atty.

Guicos attempt to downplay the sourcing of used paper from his office was futile
because he did not expressly belie the forthright statement of Chu. All that Atty. Guico
stated by way of deflecting the imputation was that the used paper containing the draft
decision could have been easily taken from his office by Chus witnesses in a criminal
case that he had handled for Chu, 22 pointing out that everything in his office, except the
filing cabinets and his desk, was open to the public xxx and just anybody has access to
everything found therein.23 In our view, therefore, Atty. Guico made the implied
admission because he was fully aware that the used paper had unquestionably come
from
his
office.
The testimony of Chu, and the circumstances narrated by Chu and his witnesses,
especially the act of Atty. Guico of presenting to Chu the supposed draft decision that
had been printed on used paper emanating from Atty. Guicos office, sufficed to confirm
that he had committed the imputed gross misconduct by demanding and receiving
P580,000.00 from Chu to obtain a favorable decision. Atty. Guico offered only his general
denial of the allegations in his defense, but such denial did not overcome the affirmative
testimony of Chu. We cannot but conclude that the production of the draft decision by
Atty. Guico was intended to motivate Chu to raise money to ensure the chances of
obtaining the favorable result in the labor case. As such, Chu discharged his burden of
proof as the complainant to establish his complaint against Atty. Guico. In this
administrative case, a fact may be deemed established if it is supported by substantial
evidence, or that amount of relevant evidence which a reasonable mind might accept as
adequate
to
justify
a
conclusion. 24chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
What

is

the

condign

penalty

for

Atty.

Guico?

In taking the Lawyers Oath, Atty. Guico bound himself to:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary


x x x maintain allegiance to the Republic of the Philippines; x x x support its Constitution
and obey the laws as well as the legal orders of the duly constituted authorities therein;
x x x do no falsehood, nor consent to the doing of any in court; x x x delay no man for
money or malice x x x.
The Code of Professional
wit:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary

Responsibility

echoes

the

Lawyers

Oath,

to

CANON 1 A lawyer shall uphold the constitution, obey the laws of the land and
promote
respect
for
law
and
for
legal
processes.
Rule 1.01 A lawyer shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful
conduct.
Rule 1.02 A lawyer shall not counsel or abet activities aimed at defiance of the law or
at lessening confidence in the legal system.
The sworn obligation to respect the law and the legal processes under the Lawyers Oath
and the Code of Professional Responsibility is a continuing condition for every lawyer to
retain membership in the Legal Profession. To discharge the obligation, every lawyer
should not render any service or give advice to any client that would involve defiance of
the very laws that he was bound to uphold and obey, 25 for he or she was always bound
as an attorney to be law abiding, and thus to uphold the integrity and dignity of the
Legal Profession.26 Verily, he or she must act and comport himself or herself in such a
manner that would promote public confidence in the integrity of the Legal
31

32

Profession.27 Any lawyer found to violate this obligation forfeits his or her privilege to
continue
such
membership
in
the
legal
profession.
Atty. Guico willingly and wittingly violated the law in appearing to counsel Chu to raise
the large sums of money in order to obtain a favorable decision in the labor case. He
thus violated the law against bribery and corruption. He compounded his violation by
actually using said illegality as his means of obtaining a huge sum from the client that he
soon appropriated for his own personal interest. His acts constituted gross dishonesty
and deceit, and were a flagrant breach of his ethical commitments under the Lawyers
Oath not to delay any man for money or malice; and under Rule 1.01 of the Code of
Professional Responsibility that forbade him from engaging in unlawful, dishonest,
immoral or deceitful conduct. His deviant conduct eroded the faith of the people in him
as an individual lawyer as well as in the Legal Profession as a whole. In doing so, he
ceased
to
be
a
servant
of
the
law.
Atty. Guico committed grave misconduct and disgraced the Legal Profession. Grave
misconduct is improper or wrong conduct, the transgression of some established and
definite rule of action, a forbidden act, a dereliction of duty, willful in character, and
implies a wrongful intent and not mere error of judgment. 28 There is no question that
any gross misconduct by an attorney in his professional or private capacity renders him
unfit to manage the affairs of others, and is a ground for the imposition of the penalty of
suspension or disbarment, because good moral character is an essential qualification for
the
admission
of
an
attorney
and
for
the
continuance
of
such
29
privilege. chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
Accordingly, the recommendation of the IBP Board of Governors to suspend him from the
practice of law for three (3) years would be too soft a penalty. Instead, he should be
disbarred,30 for he exhibited his unworthiness of retaining his membership in the legal
profession.
As
the
Court
has
reminded
in Samonte
v.
Abellana:31chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
Disciplinary proceedings against lawyers are designed to ensure that whoever
is granted the privilege to practice law in this country should remain faithful to
the Lawyers Oath. Only thereby can lawyers preserve their fitness to remain
as members of the Law Profession. Any resort to falsehood or deception,
including adopting artifices to cover up ones misdeeds committed against
clients and the rest of the trusting public, evinces an unworthiness to continue
enjoying the privilege to practice law and highlights the unfitness to remain a
member of the Law Profession. It deserves for the guilty lawyer stern
disciplinary sanctions.
Lastly, the recommendation of the IBP Board of Governors that Atty. Guico be ordered to
return the amount of P580,000.00 to Chu is well-taken. That amount was exacted by
Atty. Guico from Chu in the guise of serving the latters interest as the client. Although
the purpose for the amount was unlawful, it would be unjust not to require Atty. Guico to
fully account for and to return the money to Chu. It did not matter that this proceeding is
administrative in character, for, as the Court has pointed out inBayonla v.
Reyes:32chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
Although the Court renders this decision in an administrative proceeding primarily to
exact the ethical responsibility on a member of the Philippine Bar, the Courts silence
about the respondent lawyers legal obligation to restitute the complainant will be both
unfair and inequitable. No victim of gross ethical misconduct concerning the clients
funds or property should be required to still litigate in another proceeding what the
administrative proceeding has already established as the respondents liability. x x x
32

33

ACCORDINGLY, the Court FINDS and DECLARES respondent ATTY. JOSE S. GUICO,
JR. GUILTY of the violation of the Lawyers Oath, and Rules 1.01 and 1.02, Canon I of the
Code of Professional Responsibility, and DISBARS him from membership in the
Integrated Bar of the Philippines. His name is ORDERED STRICKEN from the Roll of
Attorneys.
Let copies of this Decision be furnished to the Office of the Bar Confidant, to be
appended to Atty. Guicos personal record as an attorney; to the Integrated Bar of the
Philippines; and to all courts and quasi-judicial offices in the country for their information
and
guidance.
SO ORDERED.

EN BANC
A.C. No. 7973 and A.C. No. 10457, February 03, 2015
MELVYN G. GARCIA, Complainant, v. ATTY. RAUL H. SESBREO, Respondent.
DECISION
PER CURIAM:
Two complaints for disbarment were filed by Dr. Melvyn G. Garcia (Garcia) against Atty.
Raul H. Sesbreo (Sesbreo). The two cases, docketed as A.C. No. 7973 and A.C. No.
10457, were consolidated in the Courts Resolution dated 30 September 2014.
A.C.

No.

7973

On 30 July 2008, Garcia filed a complaint for disbarment against Sesbreo before the
Office of the Bar Confidant. The case was docketed as A.C. No. 7973. Garcia alleged that
in 1965, he married Virginia Alcantara in Cebu. They had two children, Maria Margarita
and Angie Ruth. In 1971, he and Virginia separated. He became a dentist and practiced
his profession in Cabanatuan City. Garcia alleged that in 1992, Virginia filed a petition for
the
annulment
of
their
marriage,
which
was
eventually
granted.
Garcia alleged that in 2005 while he was in Japan, Sesbreo, representing Maria
Margarita and Angie Ruth, filed an action for support against him and his sister Milagros
Garcia Soliman. At the time of the filing of the case, Maria Margarita was already 39
years old while Angie Ruth was 35 years old. The case was dismissed. In 2007, Garcia
returned from Japan. When Sesbreo and Garcias children learned about his return,
Sesbreo filed a Second Amended Complaint against him. Garcia alleged that he learned
that Sesbreo was convicted by the Regional Trial Court of Cebu City, Branch 18, for
Homicide in Criminal Case No. CBU-31733. Garcia alleged that Sesbreo is only on
33

34

parole. Garcia alleged that homicide is a crime against moral turpitude; and thus,
Sesbreo
should
not
be
allowed
to
continue
his
practice
of
law.
In his Comment, Sesbreo alleged that on 15 August 2008, Garcia filed a similar
complaint against him before the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, Commission on Bar
Discipline (IBP-CBD), docketed as CBC Case No. 08-2273. Sesbreo alleged that Garcias
complaint was motivated by resentment and desire for revenge because he acted as pro
bono
counsel
for
Maria
Margarita
and
Angie
Ruth.
In the Courts Resolution dated 18 January 2010, the Court referred A.C. No. 7973 to the
IBP
for
investigation,
report
and
recommendation.
A.C.

No.

10457

(CBC

Case

No.

08-2273)

A day prior to the filing of A.C. No. 7973, or on 29 July 2008, Garcia filed a complaint for
disbarment against Sesbreo before the IBP-CBD. He alleged that Sesbreo is practicing
law despite his previous conviction for homicide in Criminal Case No. CBU-31733, and
despite the facts that he is only on parole and that he has not fully served his sentence.
Garcia alleged that Sesbreo violated Section 27, Rule 138 of the Rules of Court by
continuing to engage in the practice of law despite his conviction of a crime involving
moral turpitude. Upon the directive of the IBP-CBD, Garcia submitted his verified
complaint against Sesbreo alleging basically the same facts he alleged in A.C. No. 7973.
In his answer to the complaint, Sesbreo alleged that his sentence was commuted and
the phrase with the inherent accessory penalties provided by law was deleted.
Sesbreo argued that even if the accessory penalty was not deleted, the disqualification
applies only during the term of the sentence. Sesbreo further alleged that homicide

does not involve moral turpitude. Sesbreo claimed that Garcias complaint was
motivated by extreme malice, bad faith, and desire to retaliate against him for
representing
Garcias
daughters
in
court.
The IBP-CBD consolidated A.C. No. 7973 with CBD Case No. 08-2273. The parties
agreed on the sole issue to be resolved: whether moral turpitude is involved in a
conviction
for
homicide.
The IBP-CBD ruled that the Regional Trial Court of Cebu found Sesbreo guilty of
murder and sentenced him to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua. On appeal,
this Court downgraded the crime to homicide and sentenced Sesbreo to suffer
the penalty of imprisonment for 9 years and 1 day of prision mayor as minimum
to 16 years and 4 months of reclusion temporal as maximum. The IBP-CBD found
that Sesbreo was released from confinement on 27 July 2001 following his
acceptance of the conditions
of
his
parole on
10
July
2001.
The IBP-CBD ruled that conviction for a crime involving moral turpitude is a
ground for disbarment or suspension. Citing International Rice Research Institute
v. National Labor Relations Commission,1 the IBP-CBD further ruled that homicide
may or may not involve moral turpitude depending on the degree of the crime.
The IBP-CBD reviewed the decision of this Court convicting Sesbreo for the
crime of homicide, and found that the circumstances leading to the death of the
victim involved moral turpitude. The IBP-CBD stated:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
Neither victim Luciano Amparado nor his companion Christopher Yapchangco was
shown to be a foe of respondent and neither had the victim Luciano nor his
34

35

companion Christopher shown to have wronged the respondent. They simply


happened to be at the wrong place and time the early morning of June 3, 1993.
The circumstances leading to the death of Luciano solely caused by respondent,
bear the earmarks of moral turpitude. Paraphrasing what the Supreme Court
observed in Soriano v. Dizon, supra, the respondent, by his conduct, displayed
extreme arrogance and feeling of self-importance. Respondent acted like a god
who deserved not to be slighted by a couple of drunks who may have shattered
the stillness of the early morning with their boisterous antics, natural display of
loud bravado of drunken men who had one too many. Respondents inordinate
overreaction to the ramblings of drunken men who were not even directed at
respondent reflected poorly on his fitness to be a member of the legal profession.
Respondent was not only vindictive without a cause; he was cruel with a
misplaced sense of superiority.2
Following the ruling of this Court in Soriano v. Atty. Dizon3 where the respondent
was disbarred for having been convicted of frustrated homicide, the IBP-CBD
recommended that Sesbreo be disbarred and his name stricken from the Roll of
Attorneys.
In its Resolution No. XX-2013-19 dated 12 February 2013, the IBP Board of
Governors adopted and approved the Report and Recommendation of the IBPCBD.
On 6 May 2013, Sesbreo filed a motion for reconsideration before the IBP-CBD.
Sesbreo alleged that the IBP-CBD misunderstood and misapplied Soriano v. Atty.
Dizon. He alleged that the attendant circumstances in Soriano are disparate,
distinct, and different from his case. He further alleged that there was no
condition set on the grant of executive clemency to him; and thus, he was
restored to his full civil and political rights. Finally, Sesbreo alleged that after his
wife died in an ambush, he already stopped appearing as private prosecutor in
the case for bigamy against Garcia and that he already advised his clients to
settle their other cases. He alleged that Garcia already withdrew the complaints
against
him.
On 11 February 2014, the IBP Board of Governors passed Resolution No. XX-201431 denying Sesbreos motion for reconsideration. The IBP-CBD transmitted the
records of the case to the Office of the Bar Confidant on 20 May 2014. CBD Case
No. 08-2273 was redocketed as A.C. No. 10457. In the Courts Resolution dated
30 September 2014, the Court consolidated A.C. No. 7973 and A.C. No. 10457.
The only issue in these cases is whether conviction for the crime of homicide
involves
moral
turpitude.
We adopt the findings and recommendation of the IBP-CBD and approve
Resolution No. XX-2013-19 dated 12 February 2013 and Resolution No. XX-201431
dated
11
February
2014
of
the
IBP
Board
of
Governors.
Section 27, Rule 138 of the Rules of Court states that a member of the bar may
be disbarred or suspended as attorney by this Court by reason of his conviction of
35

36

a crime involving moral turpitude. This Court has ruled that disbarment is the
appropriate penalty for conviction by final judgment for a crime involving moral
turpitude.4 Moral turpitude is an act of baseness, vileness, or depravity in the
private duties which a man owes to his fellow men or to society in general,
contrary
to
justice,
honesty,
modesty,
or
good
5
morals. chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
The question of whether conviction for homicide involves moral turpitude was
discussed by this Court in International Rice Research Institute v. NLRC6 where it
ruled:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
This is not to say that all convictions of the crime of homicide do not involve
moral turpitude. Homicide may or may not involve moral turpitude depending on
the degree of the crime. Moral turpitude is not involved in every criminal act and
is not shown by every known and intentional violation of statute, but whether any
particular conviction involves moral turpitude may be a question of fact and
frequently depends on all the surrounding circumstances. While x x x generally
but not always, crimes mala in seinvolve moral turpitude, while crimes mala
prohibita do not, it cannot always be ascertained whether moral turpitude does or
does not exist by classifying a crime asmalum in se or as malum prohibitum,
since there are crimes which are mala in se and yet rarely involve moral turpitude
and there are crimes which involve moral turpitude and are mala prohibita only. It
follows therefore, that moral turpitude is somewhat a vague and indefinite term,
the meaning of which must be left to the process of judicial inclusion or exclusion
as the cases are reached.7
In People v. Sesbreo,8 the Court found Sesbreo guilty of homicide and
ruled:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
WHEREFORE, the assailed decision of the Regional Trial Court of Cebu City,
Branch 18, in Criminal Case No. CBU-31733 is hereby MODIFIED. Appellant Raul
H. Sesbreo is hereby found GUILTY of HOMICIDE and hereby sentenced to suffer
a prison term of 9 years and 1 day of prision mayor, as a minimum, to 16 years
and 4 months ofreclusion temporal, as a maximum, with accessory penalties
provided by law, to indemnify the heirs of the deceased Luciano Amparado in the
amount
of
P50,000.00
and
to
pay
the
costs.
SO ORDERED.9
We reviewed the Decision of this Court and we agree with the IBP-CBD that the
circumstances
show
the
presence
of
moral
turpitude.
The Decision showed that the victim Luciano Amparado (Amparado) and his
companion Christopher Yapchangco (Yapchangco) were walking and just passed
by Sesbreos house when the latter, without any provocation from the former,
went out of his house, aimed his rifle, and started firing at them. According to
Yapchangco, they were about five meters, more or less, from the gate of
Sesbreo when they heard the screeching sound of the gate and when they
turned around, they saw Sesbreo aiming his rifle at them. Yapchangco and
Amparado ran away but Amparado was hit. An eyewitness, Rizaldy Rabanes
(Rabanes), recalled that he heard shots and opened the window of his house. He
36

37

saw Yapchangco and Amparado running away while Sesbreo was firing his
firearm rapidly, hitting Rabanes house in the process. Another witness, Edwin
Parune, saw Amparado fall down after being shot, then saw Sesbreo in the
middle of the street, carrying a long firearm, and walking back towards the gate
of his house. The IBP-CBD correctly stated that Amparado and Yapchangco were
just at the wrong place and time. They did not do anything that justified the
indiscriminate firing done by Sesbreo that eventually led to the death of
Amparado.
We cannot accept Sesbreos argument that the executive clemency restored his
full civil and political rights. Sesbreo cited In re Atty. Parcasio10 to bolster his
argument. In that case, Atty. Parcasio was granted an absolute and
unconditional pardon11 which restored his full civil and political rights, 12a
circumstance not present in these cases. Here, the Order of Commutation 13 did
not state that the pardon was absolute and unconditional. The accessory
penalties were not mentioned when the original sentence was recited in the
Order of Commutation and they were also not mentioned in stating the
commuted sentence. It only states:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
By virtue of the authority conferred upon me by the Constitution and upon the
recommendation of the Board of Pardons and Parole, the original sentence of
prisoner RAUL SESBREO Y HERDA convicted by the Regional Trial Court, Cebu
City and Supreme Court and sentenced to an indeterminate prison term of from 9
years and 1 day to 16 years and 4 months imprisonment and to pay an indemnity
of P50,000.00 is/are hereby commuted to an indeterminate prison term of from 7
years and 6 months to 10 years imprisonment and to pay an indemnity of
P50,000.00.14
Again, there was no mention that the executive clemency was absolute and
unconditional and restored Sesbreo to his full civil and political rights.
There are four acts of executive clemency that the President can extend: the
President can grant reprieves, commutations, pardons, and remit fines and
forfeitures, after conviction by final judgment. 15 In this case, the executive
clemency merely commuted to an indeterminate prison term of 7 years
and 6 months to 10 years imprisonment the penalty imposed on Sesbreo.
Commutation is a mere reduction of penalty. 16Commutation only partially
extinguished criminal liability.17 The penalty for Sesbreos crime was never
wiped out. He served the commuted or reduced penalty, for which reason he was
released from prison. More importantly, the Final Release and Discharge 18 stated
that [i]t is understood that such x x x accessory penalties of the law as
have not been expressly remitted herein shall subsist. Hence, the
Parcasio case has no application here. Even if Sesbreo has been granted pardon,
there is nothing in the records that shows that it was a full and unconditional
pardon. In addition, the practice of law is not a right but a privilege. 19 It is granted
only to those possessing good moral character. 20 A violation of the high moral
standards of the legal profession justifies the imposition of the appropriate
penalty
against
a
lawyer,
including
the
penalty
of
21
disbarment. chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrarychanrobleslaw
WHEREFORE,

respondent

Raul

H.

Sesbreo

is DISBARRED effective
37

38

immediately

upon

his

receipt

of

this

Decision.

Let copies of this Decision be furnished the Office of the Bar Confidant, the
Integrated Bar of the Philippines for distribution to all its chapters, and the Office
of the Court Administrator for dissemination to all courts all over the country. Let
a copy of this Decision be attached to the personal records of respondent.
SO

ORDERED.

Carpio, Velasco, Jr., Leonardo-De Castro, Peralta, Bersamin, Del Castillo,


Villarama, Jr., Perez, Mendoza, Perlas-Bernabe, Leonen, and Jardeleza, JJ., concur.
Brion,
J.,
on
leave.
Reyes, J., no part.

A.C. No. 10681, February 03, 2015


SPOUSES
HENRY
A.
CONCEPCION
AND
BLESILDA
CONCEPCION, Complainants, v. ATTY. ELMER A. DELA ROSA, Respondent.

S.

DECISION
PERLAS-BERNABE, J.:
This is an administrative case that stemmed from a Verified Complaint 1 filed by
complainants Spouses Henry A. Concepcion (Henry) and Blesilda S. Concepcion
(Blesilda; collectively complainants) against respondent Atty. Elmer A. dela Rosa
(respondent), charging him with gross misconduct for violating, among others,
Rule 16.04 of the Code of Professional Responsibility (CPR).
The Facts
In their Verified Complaint, complainants alleged that from 1997 2 until August
2008,3 respondent served as their retained lawyer and counsel. In this capacity,
respondent handled many of their cases and was consulted on various legal
matters, among others, the prospect of opening a pawnshop business towards
the
end
of
2005.
Said
business,
however,
failed
to
4
materialize. chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
Aware of the fact that complainants had money intact from their failed business
venture, respondent, on March 23, 2006, called Henry to borrow the amount of
P2,500,000.00, which he promised to return, with interest, five (5) days
thereafter. Henry consulted his wife, Blesilda, who, believing that respondent
would be soon returning the money, agreed to lend the aforesaid sum to
38

39

respondent. She thereby issued three (3) EastWest Bank checks 5 in respondents
name:6chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
Check No.
0000561925
0000561926
0000561927
Total:

Date
03-23-06
03-23-06
03-23-06

Amount
P750,000.00
P850,000.00
P900,000.00
P2,500,000.00

Payee
Elmer dela Rosa
Elmer dela Rosa
Elmer dela Rosa

Upon receiving the checks, respondent signed a piece of paper containing: (a)
photocopies of the checks; and (b) an acknowledgment that he received the
originals of the checks and that he agreed to return the P2,500,000.00, plus
monthly interest of five percent (5%), within five (5) days. 7 In the afternoon of
March 23, 2006, the foregoing checks were personally encashed by
respondent.8chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
On March 28, 2006, or the day respondent promised to return the money, he
failed to pay complainants. Thus, in April 2006, complainants began demanding
payment but respondent merely made repeated promises to pay soon. On July 7,
2008, Blesilda sent a demand letter9 to respondent, which the latter did not
heed.10 On August 4, 2008, complainants, through their new counsel, Atty.
Kathryn Jessica dela Serna, sent another demand letter 11 to respondent.12 In his
Reply,13 the latter denied borrowing any money from the complainants. Instead,
respondent claimed that a certain Jean Charles Nault (Nault), one of his other
clients, was the real debtor. Complainants brought the matter to the Office of the
Lupong Tagapamayapa in Barangay Balulang, Cagayan de Oro City. The parties,
however,
failed
to
reach
a
settlement.14chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
On January 11, 2010, the IBP-Misamis Oriental Chapter received complainants
letter-complaint15charging respondent with violation of Rule 16.04 of the CPR. The
rule prohibits lawyers from borrowing money from clients unless the latters
interests are fully protected by the nature of the case or by independent
advice.16chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
In his Comment,17 respondent denied borrowing P2,500,000.00 from
complainants, insisting that Nault was the real debtor. 18 He also claimed that
complainants had been attempting to collect from Nault and that he was
engaged
for
that
specific
purpose.19chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
In their letter-reply,20 complainants maintained that they extended the loan to
respondent alone, as evidenced by the checks issued in the latters name. They
categorically denied knowing Nault and pointed out that it defies common sense
for them to extend an unsecured loan in the amount of P2,500,000.00 to a person
they do not even know. Complainants also submitted a copy of the Answer to
Third Party Complaint21 which Nault filed as third-party defendant in a related
collection case instituted by the complainants against respondent. 22 In said
pleading, Nault explicitly denied knowing complainants and alleged that it was
respondent
who
incurred
the
subject
loan
from
them.23chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
39

40

On November 23, 2010, the IBP-Misamis Oriental Chapter endorsed the lettercomplaint to the IBP-Commission on Bar Discipline (CBD), 24 which was later
docketed as CBD Case No. 11-2883. 25 In the course of the proceedings,
respondent
failed
to
appear
during
the
scheduled
mandatory
26
conferences. Hence, the same were terminated and the parties were directed to
submit their respective position papers. 27 Respondent, however, did not submit
any.cralawred
The IBP Report and Recommendation
On April 19, 2013, the IBP Investigating Commissioner, Jose I. de La Rama, Jr.
(Investigating Commissioner), issued his Report 28 finding respondent guilty of
violating: (a) Rule 16.04 of the CPR which provides that a lawyer shall not borrow
money from his clients unless the clients interests are fully protected by the
nature of the case or by independent advice; (b) Canon 7 which states that a
lawyer shall uphold the integrity and dignity of the legal profession and support
the activities of the IBP; and (c) Canon 16 which provides that a lawyer shall hold
in trust all monies and properties of his client that may come into his
possession.29chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
The Investigating Commissioner observed that the checks were issued in
respondents name and that he personally received and encashed them. Annex
E30 of the Verified Complaint shows that respondent acknowledged receipt of
the three (3) EastWest Bank checks and agreed to return the P2,500,000.00, plus
a pro-rated monthly interest of five percent (5%), within five (5)
days.31chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
On the other hand, respondents claim that Nault was the real debtor was found
to be implausible. The Investigating Commissioner remarked that if it is true that
respondent was not the one who obtained the loan, he would have responded to
complainants demand letter; however, he did not. 32He also observed that the
acknowledgment33 Nault allegedly signed appeared to have been prepared by
respondent himself.34 Finally, the Investigating Commissioner cited Naults
Answer to the Third Party Complaint which categorically states that he does not
even know the complainants and that it was respondent alone who obtained the
loan
from
them.35chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
In fine, the Investigating Commissioner concluded that respondents actions
degraded the integrity of the legal profession and clearly violated Rule 16.04 and
Canons 7 and 16 of the CPR. Respondents failure to appear during the
mandatory conferences further showed his disrespect to the IBPCBD.36Accordingly, the Investigating Commissioner recommended that
respondent be disbarred and that he be ordered to return the P2,500,000.00 to
complainants,
with
stipulated
interest.37chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
Finding the recommendation to be fully supported by the evidence on record and
by the applicable laws and rule, the IBP Board of Governors adopted and
approved the Investigating Commissioners Report in Resolution No. XX-2013-617
dated May 11, 2013,38 but reduced the penalty against the respondent to
indefinite suspension from the practice of law and ordered the return of the
40

41

P2,500,000.00 to the complainants with legal interest, instead of stipulated


interest.
Respondent sought a reconsideration39 of Resolution No. XX-2013-617 which was,
however, denied in Resolution No. XXI-2014-29440 dated May 3, 2014.cralawred
The Issue Before the Court
The central issue in this case is whether or not respondent should be held
administratively liable for violating the CPR.
The Courts Ruling
The Court concurs with the IBPs findings except as to its recommended penalty
and its directive to return the amount of P2,500,000.00, with legal interest, to
complainants.cralawred
I.
Respondents receipt of the P2,500,000.00 loan from complainants is amply
supported by substantial evidence. As the records bear out, Blesilda, on March
23, 2006, issued three (3) EastWest Bank Checks, in amounts totalling to
P2,500,000.00, with respondent as the payee.41 Also, Annex E42 of the Verified
Complaint shows that respondent acknowledged receipt of the checks and agreed
to pay the complainants the loan plus the pro-rated interest of five percent (5%)
per month within five (5) days.43 The dorsal sides of the checks likewise show that
respondent personally encashed the checks on the day they were issued. 44 With
respondents direct transactional involvement and the actual benefit he derived
therefrom, absent too any credible indication to the contrary, the Court is thus
convinced that respondent was indeed the one who borrowed the amount of
P2,500,000.00 from complainants, which amount he had failed to return, despite
their
insistent
pleas.
Respondents theory that Nault is the real debtor hardly inspires belief. While
respondent submitted a document purporting to be Naults acknowledgment of
his debt to the complainants, Nault, in his Answer to Third Party Complaint,
categorically denied knowing the complainants and incurring the same obligation.
Moreover, as correctly pointed out by complainants, it would be illogical for them
to extend a P2,500,000.00 loan without any collateral or security to a person they
do not even know. On the other hand, complainants were able to submit
documents showing respondents receipt of the checks and their encashment, as
well as his agreement to return the P2,500,000.00 plus interest. This is bolstered
by the fact that the loan transaction was entered into during the existence of a
lawyer-client relationship between him and complainants, 45 allowing the former to
wield a greater influence over the latter in view of the trust and confidence
inherently
imbued
in
such
relationship.
Under Rule 16.04, Canon 16 of the CPR, a lawyer is prohibited from borrowing
money
from
his
client
unless
the
clients
interests
are
fully
protected:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
41

42

CANON 16 A lawyer shall hold in trust all moneys and properties of his clients
that
may
come
into
his
possession.
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.
The Court has repeatedly emphasized that the relationship between a lawyer and
his client is one imbued with trust and confidence. And as true as any natural
tendency goes, this trust and confidence is prone to abuse. The rule against
borrowing of money by a lawyer from his client is intended to prevent the lawyer
from taking advantage of his influence over his client. 46 The rule presumes that
the client is disadvantaged by the lawyers ability to use all the legal
maneuverings to renege on his obligation.47 In Frias v. Atty. Lozada48 (Frias) the
Court categorically declared that a lawyers act of asking a client for a loan, as
what herein respondent did, is unethical, to wit:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
Likewise, her act of borrowing money from a client was a violation of [Rule] 16.04
of the Code of Professional Responsibility:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
A lawyer shall not borrow money from his client unless the clients interests are
fully protected by the nature of the case and by independent advice.
A lawyers act of asking a client for a loan, as what respondent did, is
very unethical. It comes within those acts considered as abuse of
clients confidence. The canon presumes that the client is disadvantaged by
the lawyers ability to use all the legal maneuverings to renege on her
obligation.49 (Emphasis supplied)
As above-discussed, respondent borrowed money from complainants who were
his clients and whose interests, by the lack of any security on the loan, were not
fully protected. Owing to their trust and confidence in respondent, complainants
relied solely on the formers word that he will return the money plus interest
within five (5) days. However, respondent abused the same and reneged on his
obligation, giving his previous clients the runaround up to this day. Accordingly,
there is no quibble that respondent violated Rule 16.04 of the CPR.
In the same vein, the Court finds that respondent also violated Canon 7 of the
CPR which reads:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
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.
In unduly borrowing money from the complainants and by blatantly refusing to
pay the same, respondent abused the trust and confidence reposed in him by his
clients, and, in so doing, failed to uphold the integrity and dignity of the legal
profession. Thus, he should be equally held administratively liable on this score.
That being said, the Court turns to the proper penalty to be imposed and the
propriety of the IBPs return directive.cralawred
42

43

II.
The appropriate penalty for an errant lawyer depends on the exercise of sound
judicial discretion based on the surrounding facts. 50chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
In Frias, the Court suspended the lawyer from the practice of law for two (2)
years after borrowing P900,000.00 from her client, refusing to pay the same
despite court order, and representing conflicting interests. 51 Considering the
greater amount involved in this case and respondents continuous refusal to pay
his debt, the Court deems it apt to suspend him from the practice of law for three
(3) years, instead of the IBPs recommendation to suspend him indefinitely.
The Court also deems it appropriate to modify the IBPs Resolution insofar as it
orders respondent to return to complainants the amount of P2,500,000.00 and
the legal interest thereon. It is settled that in disciplinary proceedings against
lawyers, the only issue is whether the officer of the court is still fit to be allowed
to continue as a member of the Bar.52 In such cases, the Courts only concern is
the determination of respondents administrative liability; it should not involve his
civil liability for money received from his client in a transaction separate, distinct,
and not intrinsically linked to his professional engagement. In this case,
respondent received the P2,500,000.00 as a loan from complainants and not in
consideration of his professional services. Hence, the IBPs recommended return
of the aforementioned sum lies beyond the ambit of this administrative case, and
thus
cannot
be
sustained.chanrobleslaw
WHEREFORE, respondent Atty. Elmer A. dela Rosa is found guilty of violating
Canon 7 and Rule 16.04, Canon 16 of the Code of Professional Responsibility.
Accordingly, he is hereby SUSPENDEDfrom the practice of law for a period of
three (3) years effective upon finality of this Decision, with a stern warning that a
commission of the same or similar acts will be dealt with more severely. This
Decision
is
immediately
executory
upon
receipt.
Let a copy of this Decision be furnished the Office of the Bar Confidant, the
Integrated Bar of the Philippines, and the Office of the Court Administration for
circulation
to
all
the
courts.
SO

ORDERED.

Sereno, C.J., Carpio, Velasco, Jr., Leonardo-De Castro, Peralta, Bersamin, Del
Castillo, Villarama, Jr., Perez, Mendoza, Reyes, Leonen, and Jardeleza, JJ., concur.
Brion, J., on leave.

43

44

FIRST DIVISION
A.C. No. 8101, February 04, 2015
MELANIO S. SALITA, Complainant, v. ATTY. REYNALDO T. SALVE, Respondent.
RESOLUTION
PERLAS-BERNABE, J.:
This instant administrative case arose from an Affidavit-Complaint 1filed by
complainant Melanio S. Salita (Salita) against respondent Atty. Reynaldo T. Salve
(Atty. Salve) in connection with the lattersalleged falsification of public
documents.
The Facts
On December 14, 2002, Salita the registered owner of a parcel of land located
at Visayan Village, Tagum City2 with Transfer Certificate of Title No. T678503 (subject property)applied for a loan fromone Jocelyn Rodriguez
(Rodriguez) in the amount of P50,000.00 and, in such regard, signed blank
documents, including an incomplete Promissory Note (PN). 4 Subsequently,
herestructured the aforesaid loanand further signed several documents prepared
44

45

by the latter, including two (2) Real Estate Mortgage Agreements dated
November 9, 20055and November 18, 20056 (REM instruments), and a pre-formed
Deed
of
Absolute
Sale7 covering
the
subject
property
as
8
collateral. chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
On November 15, 2006, Salita was able to pay his loan in full as evidenced by a
Release of Real Estate Mortgage9 executed by Rodriguez before Notary Public
Buenaventura Melendres, which was later duly entered in the Register of Deeds
of
Davao
Del
Norte.10chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
Notwithstanding such full payment, Rodriguez, on September 17, 2007, instituted
an ejectment complaint11 against Salita before the Office of the Barangay of
Visayan Village, Tagum City, presenting in furtherance of his cause the preformed Deed of Absolute Sale and the two (2) REM instruments signed by the
latter.12Upon checking the said documents, Salita discovered that the Deed of
Absolute Sale had already been notarized 13by Atty. Salve andhis Community Tax
Certificate Numbers were allegedly falsified.14 During a Barangay Conciliation
proceeding, Rodriguez presented the same documents to reinforce her claims.
Salita, for his part, noticed that one copy of the Deed of Sale was purportedly
notarized on August 12, 2007,15 while another was notarized a month later, or on
September 12, 2007.16 Thus, Salita went on to conclude that because of the
foregoing events, it appeared as if he had sold the subject property to Rodriguez
and executed the same before Atty. Salve.17 Aggrieved, Salita filed a criminal case
for falsification of public documents against Rodriguez 18 and Atty. Salve.19 Salita
likewise filed the instant administrative case against Atty. Salve.
In his defense,20Atty. Salve vehemently denied that he falsified the Deed of
Absolute Sale. He averred that the said document was regular on its face except
the month of sale, i.e., August 12, 2007 instead of September 12, 2007, which is
a mere clerical error due to sheer inadvertence on the part of his secretary.
Accounting for such, Atty. Salve claimed that the date stamp accidentally slid to
August instead of September as it was also being used by three (3) other office
clerks and two (2) lawyers for other office documents. 21 Atty. Salvefurther
narrated that both Salita and Rodriguez went to him and brought the PN and
other loan documents executed by Salitahimself. He also clarified that the PN was
notarized in their presence on December 12, 2002 and both got a copy right
after. Atty. Salve then inferred that it was Salita who erased the PNs machine
printed numbers using his own handwriting and thereafter photocopied it to make
it appear that the document was not among the notarial documents he submitted
to the Office of the Clerk of Court of Tagum Cityfor the year 2002. 22 Finally, Atty.
Salve averred that the certified electronic copies of the PN in the Office of the
Clerk of Court of Tagum City and the ones in his law office are identical and the
same,
while
Salitas
alleged
falsified
photocopy
is
totally
23
different. chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
The IBP Report and Recommendation
In a Report and Recommendation24 dated January 4, 2010, the Integrated Bar of
the Philippines (IBP) Investigating Commissionerdismissed Salitas complaint for
lack of merit.25 He found that Salita was not able to obtain the required quantum
of proofto hold Atty. Salve administratively liable, especially considering that
45

46

Salitas
criminal
complaint
was
26
cause. chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary

dismissed

for

lack

of

probable

In aResolution27 dated December 29, 2012 (December 29, 2012 Resolution), the
IBP Board of Governors adopted and approved the IBP Investigating
Commissioners Report and Recommendation dismissing the case for lack of
merit.
On reconsideration,28 however, the IBP Board of Governors issued a
Resolution29 dated March 8, 2014 (March 8, 2014 Resolution) setting aside its
December 29, 2012 Resolution and accordingly, recommended the suspension of
Atty. Salves notarial commission for a period of three (3) months. It, however,
failed tostatethe reasons forimposing the suspension.
The Issue Before the Court
The sole issue for the Courts resolution is whether or not Atty. Salve should be
held administratively liable.
The Courts Ruling
The

Court

rules

in

the

affirmative.

Before delving on the merits, the Court finds it proper to first call out the IBP for
failing to articulate the reasons behind its resolution. Section 12(a), Rule 139-B of
the Rules of Court mandates that the decision of the IBP Board of Governors shall
clearly and distinctly state the facts and the reasons on which it is
based:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
SEC. 12. Review and decision by the Board of Governors. (a) Every case heard
by an investigator shall be reviewed by the IBP Board of Governors upon the
record and evidence transmitted to it by the Investigator with his report. The
decision of the Board upon such review shall be in writing and shall
clearly and distinctly state the facts and the reasons on which it is
based. It shall be promulgated within a period not exceeding thirty (30) days
from the next meeting of the Board following the submittal of the Investigators
Report. (Emphasis supplied)
Section 12(b), Rule 139-B of the Rules of Court further states
that:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
SEC. 12. Review and decision by the Board of Governors. x xx
xxxx
(b) If the Board, by the vote of a majority of its total membership, determines
that the respondent should be suspended from the practice of law or disbarred, it
shall issue a resolution setting forth its findings and recommendations
which, together with the whole record of the case, shall forthwith be
transmitted to the Supreme Court for final action. (Emphasis supplied)
Notably, although the IBPs recommendation only covers herein respondents
notarial commission and not his license to practice law, still, in view of the
necessary connection between the two (for only members of the Bar in good
standing may be commissioned as notaries public 30), the Court equally exhorts
46

47

compliance with the preceding provision requiringthe IBP Board of Governors to


set forth its findings, both of fact and law, and its recommendations in the
resolution
it
submits
to
this
Court
for
final
action.
With its March 8, 2014 Resolution barren of any reason to support the proffered
recommendation, said body had clearly failed to comply with the foregoing
provisions.Thus, it isstrongly prompted to be ever-mindful of the abovementioned
rules.
Be that as it may, the Court takes up the cudgels and explains the reasons
warranting
the
suspension
of
Atty.
Salves
notarial
commission.
To recount, records reveal that Rodriguez used, among others, the Deed of
Absolute Sale notarized by Atty. Salve to file an ejectment complaint against
Salita. However, it must be remembered that Salita was merely made to sign
such document as collateral for his loan and that he had already fully paid the
same, as evidenced by the notarized Release of Real Estate Mortgage executed
by Rodriguez herself. Considering the circumstances, it is simply
unfathomable for Salitato appear before Atty. Salve to have the said
document notarized, as it will be detrimental to his own
interests. Hence, the Court finds that Atty. Salve notarized the pre-formed Deed
of
Absolute
Sale without
Salitas
presence
before
him.
Verily, anotary public should not notarize a document unless the persons who
signed the same are the very same persons who executed and
personally appeared before him to attest to the contents and the truth
of what are stated therein. These acts of the affiants cannot be delegated
because what are stated therein are facts they have personal knowledge of and
are personally sworn to. Otherwise, their representatives names should appear in
the
said
documents
as
the
ones
who
executed
the
same.31chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
The function of a notary public is, among others, to guard against any illegal or
immoral arrangements. By affixing his notarial seal on the instrument, he
converted the Deed of Absolute Sale, from a private document into a public
document. In doing so, Atty. Salve,as borne from the records of this
case,effectively proclaimed to the world that: (a) all the parties therein personally
appeared before him; (b) they are all personally known to him; (c) they were the
same persons who executed the instruments; (d) he inquired into the
voluntariness of execution of the instrument; and (e) they acknowledged
personally before him that they voluntarily and freely executed the same. 32As a
lawyer commissioned to be a notary public, Atty. Salve is mandated to discharge
his sacred duties with faithful observance and utmost respect for the legal
solemnity of an oath in an acknowledgment or jurat. Having failed in this regard,
he must now accept the commensurate consequences of his professional
indiscretion. His act of certifying under oath an irregular Deed of Absolute Sale
without requiring the personal appearance of the persons executing the same
constitutes gross negligence in the performance of duty as a notary
public.33chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
47

48

In the case of Atty. Dela Cruz v. Atty. Zabala,34 the Court revoked the errant
lawyers notarial commission and disqualified him from being commissioned as
such for a period of two (2) yearsfor similarly committing gross negligence in
the performance of his duty as a notary public through his failure to ascertain the
identities of the persons executing the Deed of Absolute sale he notarized 35Thus,
due to the infractions relative comparability, the Court finds it apt to impose the
same against Atty. Salve, thereby effectively modifying the suspension initially
recommended
by
the
IBP.
As a final point, it bears noting that unlike the aforesaid misdeed which palpably
appears from the records the Court expresses its concurrence with the IBP
Investigating Commissioners finding that Atty. Salve should nevertheless be
absolved from the falsification charges against him. Suffice it to state that Salita
failed to prove the allegations against Atty. Salve, especially considering the
resolutions in the criminal case against the latter finding no probable cause to
indict him of the crime of Falsification of Public Documents. 36 That being said,
only Atty. Salves administrative liability for gross negligence in his conduct as a
notary
public
stands.
WHEREFORE, respondent Atty. Reynaldo T. Salve is found GUILTY of gross
negligence in his conduct as a notary public. His notarial commission, if still
existing, is hereby REVOKED and he isDISQUALIFIED from being commissioned
as
a
notary
public
for
a
period
of
two
(2)
years.
Let copies of this Resolution be furnished the Office of the Bar Confidant, to be
appended to respondents personal record as attorney. Further, let copies of this
Resolution be furnished the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and the Office of the
Court Administrator, which is directed to circulate them to all courts in the
country
for
their
information
and
guidance.
SO ORDERED.

FIRST DIVISION
A.C. No. 10451, February 04, 2015
SPOUSES WILLIE AND AMELIA UMAGUING, Complainants, v. ATTY.
WALLEN R. DE VERA,Respondents.
DECISION
PERLAS-BERNABE, J.:
This administrative case stemmed from a Complaint 1 for the alleged betrayal of
trust, incompetence, and gross misconduct of respondent Atty. Wallen R. De Vera
(Atty. De Vera) in his handling of the election protest case involving the candidacy
of MariecrisUmaguing (Umaguing), daughter of Sps. Willie and Amelia Umaguing
48

49

(complainants), for the SangguniangKabataan (SK) Elections, instituted before


the Metropolitan Trial Court of Quezon City, Branch 36 (MeTC), docketed as ELEC.
CASE No. 07-1279.2chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
The Facts
As alleged in the Complaint, Umaguing ran for the position of SK Chairman in the
SK Elections for the year 2007 but lost to her rival Jose Gabriel Bungag by one (1)
vote.3 Because of this, complainants lodged an election protest and enlisted the
services of Atty. De Vera. On November 7, 2007, complainants were asked by
Atty. De Vera to pay his acceptance fee of P30,000.00, plus various court
appearance
fees
and
miscellaneous
expenses
in
the
amount
of
4
P30,000.00. According to the complainants, Atty. De Vera had more than enough
time to prepare and file the case but the former moved at a glacial pace and only
took action when the November 8, 2008 deadline was looming. 5Atty. De Vera then
rushed the preparation of the necessary documents and attachments for the
election protest. Two (2) of these attachments are the Affidavits 6 of material
witnesses Mark Anthony Lachica (Lachica) and Angela Almera (Almera), which
was personally prepared by Atty. De Vera. At the time that the aforesaid affidavits
were needed to be signed by Lachica and Almera, they were unfortunately
unavailable. To remedy this, Atty. De Vera allegedly instructed AbethLalong-Isip
(Lalong-Isip) and Hendricson Fielding (Fielding) to look for the nearest kin or
relatives of Lachica and Almera and ask them to sign over the names. 7 The
signing over of Lachicas and Almeras names were done by Christina Papin
(Papin) and Elsa Almera-Almacen, respectively. Atty. De Vera then had all the
documents
notarized
before
one
Atty.
DonatoManguiat
(Atty.
8
Manguiat). chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
Later, however, Lachica discovered the falsification and immediately disowned
the signature affixed in the affidavit and submitted his own Affidavit, 9 declaring
that he did not authorize Papin to sign the document on his behalf. Lachicas
affidavit was presented to the MeTC and drew the ire of Presiding Judge Edgardo
Belosillo (Judge Belosillo), who ruled that the affidavits filed by Atty. De Vera were
falsified. Judge Belosillo pointed out that while Atty. De Vera filed a pleading to
rectify this error (i.e., an Answer to Counterclaim with Omnibus Motion,10 seeking,
among others, the withdrawal of Lachicas and Almeras affidavits), it was
observed that such was a mere flimsy excuse since Atty. De Vera had ample
amount of time to have the affidavits personally signed by the affiants but still
hastily filed the election protest with full knowledge that the affidavits at hand
were
falsified.11chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
In further breach of his oath as a lawyer, the complainants pointed out that Atty.
De Vera did not appear before the MeTC, although promptly notified, for a certain
December 11, 2007 hearing; and did not offer any explanation as to why he was
not
able
to
attend.12chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
The complainants then confronted Atty. De Vera and asked for an explanation
regarding his non-appearance in the court. Atty. De Vera explained that he was
hesitant in handling the particular case because of the alleged favoritism of Judge
Belosillo. According to Atty. De Vera, Judge Belosillo received P60,000.00 from the
defense counsel, Atty. Carmelo Culvera, in order to acquire a favorable decision
49

50

for his client. Atty. De Vera averred that he would only appear for the case if the
complainants would give him P80,000.00, which he would in turn, give to Judge
Belosillo
to
secure
a
favorable
decision
for
13
Umaguing. chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
On December 12, 2007, for lack of trust and confidence in the integrity and
competency of Atty. De Vera, as well as his breach of fiduciary relations, the
complainants asked the former to withdraw as their counsel and to reimburse
them the P60,000.00 in excessive fees he collected from them, considering that
he
only
appeared
twice
for
the
case.14chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
In view of the foregoing,
complainants
disbarment.15chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary

sought

Atty.

De

Veras

In his Counter-Affidavit,16 Atty. De Vera vehemently denied all the accusations


lodged against him by complainants. He averred that he merely prepared the
essential documents for election protest based on the statements of his
clients.17 Atty. De Vera then explained that the signing of Lachicas falsified
Affidavit was done without his knowledge and likewise stated that it was Christina
Papin who should be indicted and charged with the corresponding criminal
offense. He added that he actually sought to rectify his mistakes by filing the
aforementioned Answer to Counterclaim with Omnibus Motion in order to
withdraw the affidavits of Lachica and Almera. As he supposedly felt that he
could no longer serve complainants with his loyalty and devotion in view of the
aforementioned signing incident, Atty. De Vera then withdrew from the case. 18 To
add, he pointed out that along with his Formal Notice of Withdrawal of Counsel,
complainants
executed
a
document
entitled
Release
Waiver
&
19
Discharge, which, to him, discharges him and his law firm from all causes of
action that complainants may have against him, including the instant
administrative
case.
After the conduct of the mandatory conference/hearing before the Integrated Bar
of the Philippines (IBP) Commission on Bar Discipline, the matter was submitted
for report and recommendation.
The Report and Recommendation of the IBP
In a Report and Recommendation20 dated December 5, 2009, the IBP
Commissioner found the administrative action to be impressed with merit, and
thus recommended that Atty. De Vera be suspended from the practice of law for a
period
of
two
(2)
months.21chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
While no sufficient evidence was found to support the allegation that Atty. De
Vera participated in the falsification of Lachicas affidavit, the IBP Commissioner
ruled oppositely with respect to the falsification of Almeras affidavit, to which
issue Atty. De Vera deliberately omitted to comment on. The Investigating
Commissioner pointed out that the testimony of Elsa Almera-Almacen, Almeras
sister attesting that Lalong-Isip approached her and asked if she could sign the
affidavit, and her vivid recollection that Atty. De Vera was present during its
signing, and that Lalong-Isip declared to Atty. De Vera that she was not Almera
was found to be credible as it was too straightforward and hard to ignore. 22 It was
50

51

also observed that the backdrop in which the allegations were made, i.e., that the
signing of the affidavits was done on November 7, 2007, or one day before the
deadline for the filing of the election protest, showed that Atty. De Vera was really
pressed for time and, hence, his resort to the odious act of advising his clients
campaigners Lalong-Isip and Fielding to look for kin and relatives of the affiants
for and in their behalf in his earnest desire to beat the deadline set for the filing
of the election protest.23 To this, the IBP Investigating Commissioner remarked
that the lawyers first duty is not to his client but to the administration of justice,
and therefore, his conduct ought to and must always be scrupulously observant
of the law and ethics of the profession. 24chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
In a Resolution25 dated December 14, 2012, the Board of Governors of the IBP
resolved to adopt the findings of the IBP Commissioner. Hence, for knowingly
submitting a falsified document in court, a two (2) month suspension was
imposed
against
Atty.
De
Vera.
On reconsideration,26 however, the IBP Board of Governors issued a
Resolution27 dated February 11, 2014, affirming with modification their December
14, 2012 Resolution, decreasing the period of suspension from two (2) months to
one (1) month.
The Issue Before the Court
The sole issue in this case is whether or not Atty. De Vera should be held
administratively liable.
The Courts Ruling
The Court adopts and approves the findings of the IBP, as the same were duly
substantiated by the records. However, the Court finds it apt to increase the
period
of
suspension
to
six
(6)
months.
Fundamental is the rule that in his dealings with his client and with the courts,
every lawyer is expected to be honest, imbued with integrity, and trustworthy.
These expectations, though high and demanding, are the professional and ethical
burdens of every member of the Philippine Bar, for they have been given full
expression in the Lawyers Oath that every lawyer of this country has taken upon
admission as a bona fide member of the Law Profession, thus:28
I, ___________________, do solemnly swear that I will maintain allegiance to the
Republic of the Philippines; I will support its Constitution and obey the laws as
well as the legal orders of the duly constituted authorities therein; I will do no
falsehood, nor consent to the doing of any in court; I will not wittingly or
willingly promote or sue any groundless, false or unlawful suit, nor give aid nor
consent to the same. I will delay no man for money or malice, and will conduct
myself as a lawyer according to the best of my knowledge and discretion with all
good fidelity as well to the courts as to my clients; and I impose upon myself this
voluntary obligation without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion. So
help me God.29 (Emphasis and underscoring supplied)
The Lawyers Oath enjoins every lawyer not only to obey the laws of the land but
also to refrain from doing any falsehood in or out of court or from consenting to
the doing of any in court, and to conduct himself according to the best of his
51

52

knowledge and discretion with all good fidelity to the courts as well as to his
clients. Every lawyer is a servant of the law, and has to observe and maintain the
rule of law as well as be an exemplar worthy of emulation by others. It is by no
means a coincidence, therefore, that the core values of honesty, integrity, and
trustworthiness are emphatically reiterated by the Code of Professional
Responsibility.30 In this light, Rule 10.01, Canon 10 of the Code of Professional
Responsibility provides that [a] lawyer shall not do any falsehood, nor consent to
the doing of any in Court; nor shall he mislead, or allow the Court to be misled by
any
artifice.
After an assiduous examination of the records, the Court finds itself in complete
agreement with the IBP Investigating Commissioner, who was affirmed by the IBP
Board of Governors, in holding that Atty. De Vera sanctioned the submission of a
falsified affidavit, i.e.,Almeras affidavit, before the court in his desire to beat the
November 8, 2008 deadline for filing the election protest of Umaguing. To this,
the Court is wont to sustain the IBP Investigating Commissioners appreciation of
Elsa Almera-Almacens credibility as a witness given that nothing appears on
record to seriously belie the same, and in recognition too of the fact that the IBP
and its officers are in the best position to assess the witnesss credibility during
disciplinary proceedings, as they similar to trial courts are given the
opportunity to first-hand observe their demeanor and comportment. The
assertion that Atty. De Vera authorized the falsification of Almeras affidavit is
rendered more believable by the absence of Atty. De Veras comment on the
same. In fact, in his Motion for Reconsideration of the IBP Board of Governors
Resolution dated December 14, 2012, no specific denial was proffered by Atty. De
Vera on this score. Instead, he only asserted that he was not the one who
notarized the subject affidavits but another notary public, who he does not even
know or has seen in his entire life,31 and that he had no knowledge of the
falsification of the impugned documents, much less of the participation in using
the same.32 Unfortunately for Atty. De Vera, the Court views the same to be a
mere general denial which cannot overcome Elsa Almera-Almacens positive
testimony that he indeed participated in the procurement of her signature and
the signing of the affidavit, all in support of the claim of falsification.
The final lining to it all for which the IBP Board of Governors rendered its
recommendation is that Almeras affidavit was submitted to the MeTC in the
election protest case. The belated retraction of the questioned affidavits, through
the Answer to Counterclaim with Omnibus Motion, does not, for this Court, merit
significant consideration as its submission appears to be a mere afterthought,
prompted only by the discovery of the falsification. Truth be told, it is highly
improbable for Atty. De Vera to have remained in the dark about the authenticity
of the documents he himself submitted to the court when his professional duty
requires him to represent his client with zeal and within the bounds of the
law.33 Likewise, he is prohibited from handling any legal matter without adequate
preparation34 or allow his client to dictate the procedure in handling the
case.35chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
On a related point, the Court deems it apt to clarify that the document captioned
Release Waiver & Discharge which Atty. De Vera, in his Counter-Affidavit,
claimed to have discharged him from all causes of action that complainants may
52

53

have against him, such as the present case, would not deny the Court its power
to
sanction
him
administratively.
It
was
held
in Ylaya
v.
Gacott36 that:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
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 proven. This rule is premised on the nature of disciplinary proceedings. A
proceeding for suspension or disbarment is not a civil action where the
complainant is a plaintiff and the respondent lawyer is a defendant. Disciplinary
proceedings involve no private interest and afford no redress for private
grievance. They are undertaken and prosecuted solely for the public welfare.
They are undertaken for the purpose of preserving courts of justice from the
official administration of persons unfit to practice in them. The attorney is called
to answer to the court for his conduct as an officer of the court. The complainant
or the person who called the attention of the court to the attorneys 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. 37
All told, Atty. De Vera is found guilty of violating the Lawyers Oath and Rule
10.01, Canon 10 of the Code of Professional Responsibility by submitting a
falsified
document
before
a
court.
As for the penalty, the Court, in the case of Samonte v. Atty.
Abellana38 (Samonte), suspended the lawyer therein from the practice of law for
six (6) months for filing a spurious document in court. In view of the antecedents
in this case, the Court finds it appropriate to impose the same here.
Likewise, the Court grants the prayer for reimbursement 39 for the return of the
amount of P60,000.00,40 comprised of Atty. De Veras acceptance fee and other
legal expenses intrinsically related to his professional engagement, 41 for he had
actually admitted his receipt thereof in his Answer before the
IBP.42chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
As
a
final
word,
the
Court
echoes
its
unwavering
exhortation
in Samonte:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
Disciplinary proceedings against lawyers are designed to ensure that whoever is
granted the privilege to practice law in this country should remain faithful to the
Lawyers Oath. Only thereby can lawyers preserve their fitness to remain as
members of the Law Profession. Any resort to falsehood or deception, including
adopting artifices to cover up ones misdeeds committed against clients and the
rest of the trusting public, evinces an unworthiness to continue enjoying the
privilege to practice law and highlights the unfitness to remain a member of the
Law Profession. It deserves for the guilty lawyer stern disciplinary sanctions.43
WHEREFORE, respondent Atty. Wallen R. De Vera (respondent) is
found GUILTY of violating the Lawyers Oath and Rule 10.01, Canon 10 of the
Code of Professional Responsibility. Accordingly, he isSUSPENDED for six (6)
months from the practice of law, effective upon receipt of this Decision, with a
stern warning that any repetition of the same or similar acts will be punished
more
severely.
Moreover, respondent is ORDERED to return to complainants Spouses Willie and
53

54

Amelia Umaguing the amount of P60,000.00 which he admittedly received from


the latter as fees intrinsically linked to his professional engagement within ninety
(90) days from the finality of this Decision. Failure to comply with the foregoing
directive will warrant the imposition of further administrative penalties.
Let copies of this Decision be furnished the Office of the Bar Confidant, to be
appended to respondents personal record as attorney. Further, let copies of this
Decision be furnished the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and the Office of the
Court Administrator, which is directed to circulate them to all courts in the
country
for
their
information
and
guidance.

FIRST DIVISION
A.C. No. 10567, February 25, 2015
WILFREDO ANGLO, Complainant, v. ATTY. JOSE MA. V. VALENCIA, ATTY.
JOSE MA. J. CIOCON, ATTY. PHILIP Z. DABAO, ATTY. LILY UY- VALENCIA,
ATTY. JOEY P. DE LA PAZ, ATTY. CRIS G. DIONELA, ATTY. RAYMUNDO T.
PANDAN, JR.,* ATTY. RODNEY K. RUBICA," AND ATTY. WILFRED RAMON M.
PENALOSA, Respondents.
DECISION
PERLAS-BERNABE, J.:
This is an administrative case stemming from a complaint-affidavit 1 dated
December 4, 2009 filed by complainant Wilfredo Anglo (complainant) charging
respondents Attys. Jose Ma. V. Valencia (Atty. Valencia), Jose Ma. J. Ciocon (Atty.
Ciocon), Philip Z. Dabao (Atty. Dabao), Lily Uy-Valencia (Atty. Uy-Valencia), Joey P.
De La Paz (Atty. De La Paz), Cris G. Dionela (Atty. Dionela), Raymundo T. Pandan,
Jr. (Atty. Pandan, Jr.), Rodney K. Rubica (Atty. Rubica), and Wilfred Ramon M.
Penalosa (Atty. Pefialosa; collectively, respondents) of violating the Code of
Professional Responsibility (CPR), specifically the rule against conflict of interest.
The Facts
In his complaint-affidavit, complainant alleged that he availed the services of the
law firm Valencia Ciocon Dabao Valencia De La Paz Dionela Pandan Rubica Law
54

55

Office (law firm), of which Attys. Valencia, Ciocon, Dabao, Uy-Valencia, De La Paz,
Dionela, Pandan, Jr., and Rubica were partners, for two (2) consolidated labor
cases2 where he was impleaded as respondent. Atty. Dionela, a partner of the law
firm, was assigned to represent complainant. The labor cases were terminated on
June
5,
2008
upon
the
agreement
of
both
parties. 3cralawred
On September 18, 2009, a criminal case 4 for qualified theft was filed against
complainant and his wife by FEVE Farms Agricultural Corporation (FEVE Farms)
acting through a certain Michael Villacorta (Villacorta). Villacorta, however, was
represented by the law firm, the same law office which handled complainant's
labor cases. Aggrieved, complainant filed this disbarment case against
respondents, alleging that they violated Rule 15.03, Canon 15 and Canon 21 of
the CPR,5 to wit:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
CANON 15 - A LAWYER SHALL OBSERVE CANDOR, FAIRNESS AND LOYALTY IN ALL
HIS DEALINGS AND TRANSACTIONS WITH HIS CLIENTS.chanrobleslaw
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.chanrobleslaw
CANON 21 - A LAWYER SHALL PRESERVE THE CONFIDENCES AND SECRETS OF
HIS
CLIENT
EVEN
AFTER
THE
ATTORNEY-CLIENT
RELATION
IS
TERMINATED.cralawlawlibrary
In their defense,6 respondents admitted that they indeed operated under the
name Valencia Ciocon Dabao Valencia De La Paz Dionela Pandan Rubica Law
Office, but explained that their association is not a formal partnership, but one
that is subject to certain "arrangements." According to them, each lawyer
contributes a fixed amount every month for the maintenance of the entire office;
and expenses for cases, such as transportation, copying, printing, mailing, and
the like are shouldered by each lawyer separately, allowing each lawyer to fix and
receive his own professional fees exclusively. 7 As such, the lawyers do not discuss
their clientele with the other lawyers and associates, unless they agree that a
case be handled collaboratively. Respondents claim that this has been the
practice of the law firm since its inception. They averred that complainant's labor
cases were solely and exclusively handled by Atty. Dionela and not by the entire
law firm. Moreover, respondents asserted that the qualified theft case filed by
FEVE Farms was handled by Atty. Penalosa, a new associate who had no
knowledge of complainant's labor cases, as he started working for the firm after
the
termination
thereof.8cralawred
Meanwhile, Atty. Dionela confirmed that he indeed handled complainant's labor
cases but averred that it was terminated on June 13, 2008, 9 and that complainant
did not have any monthly retainer contract.10 He likewise explained that he did
not see the need to discuss complainant's labor cases with the other lawyers as
the issue involved was very simple, 11 and that the latter did not confide any
secret during the time the labor cases were pending that would have been used
in the criminal case with FEVE Farms. He also claimed that the other lawyers were
not aware of the details of complainant's labor cases nor did they know that he
55

56

was the handling counsel for complainant even after the said cases were closed
and terminated.12cralawred
The IBP's Report and Recommendation
In a Report and Recommendation13 dated September 26, 2011, the IBP
Commissioner found respondents to have violated the rule on conflict of interest
and recommended that they bereprimanded therefor, with the exception of Atty.
Dabao,
who
had
died
on
January
17,
2010. 14cralawred
The IBP found that complainant was indeed represented in the labor cases by the
respondents acting together as a law firm and not solely by Atty. Dionela.
Consequently, there was a conflict of interest in this case, as respondents,
through Atty. Penalosa, having been retained by FEVE Farms, created a
connection that would injure complainant in the qualified theft case. Moreover,
the termination of attorney-client relation provides no justification for a lawyer to
represent an interest adverse to or in conflict with that of the former
client.15cralawred
In a Resolution16 dated February 12, 2013, the IBP Board of Governors adopted
and approved the IBP Commissioner's Report and Recommendation with
modification. Instead of the penalty ofreprimand, the IBP Board of Governors
dismissed the case with warning that a repetition of the same or similar act shall
be
dealt
with
more
severely.
Complainant filed a motion for reconsideration 17 thereof, which the IBP Board of
Governors granted in its Resolution18 dated March 23, 2014 and thereby (a) set
aside its February 12, 2013 Resolution and (b) adopted and approved the IBP
Commissioner's Report and Recommendation, with modification, (1)
reprimanding the respondents for violation of the rule on conflict of interest; (2)
dismissing the case against Atty. Dabao in view of his death; and (3) suspending
Atty. Dionela from the practice of law for one year, being the handling counsel of
complainant's labor cases.chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
The Issue Before the Court
The essential issue in this case is whether or not respondents are guilty of
representing conflicting interests in violation of the pertinent provisions of the
CPR.chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
The Court's Ruling
Rule
15.03,
Canon
15
and
provide:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary

Canon

21

of

the

CPR

CANON 15 - A LAWYER SHALL OBSERVE CANDOR, FAIRNESS AND LOYALTY IN ALL


HIS DEALINGS AND TRANSACTIONS WITH HIS CLIENTS.chanrobleslaw
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.chanrobleslaw
56

57

CANON 21 - A LAWYER SHALL PRESERVE THE CONFIDENCES AND SECRETS OF


HIS
CLIENT
EVEN
AFTER
THE
ATTORNEY-CLIENT
RELATIONSHIP
IS
TERMINATED.cralawlawlibrary
In Hornilla v. Atty. Salunat,19 the Court explained the concept of conflict of interest
in this wise:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
There is conflict of interest when a lawyer represents inconsistent interests of two
or more opposing parties. The test is "whether or not in behalf of one client, it is
the lawyer's duty to fight for an issue or claim, but it is his duty to oppose it for
the other client. In brief, if he argues for one client, this argument will be opposed
by him when he argues for the other client." This rule covers not only cases in
which confidential communications have been confided, but also those in which
no confidence has been bestowed or will be used. Also, there is conflict of
interests if the acceptance of the new retainer will require the attorney to perform
an act which will injuriously affect his first client in any matter in which he
represents him and also whether he will be called upon in his new relation to use
against his first client any knowledge acquired through their connection. Another
test of the inconsistency of interests is whether the acceptance of a new relation
will prevent an attorney from the full discharge of his duty of undivided fidelity
and loyalty to his client or invite suspicion of unfaithfulness or double dealing in
the
performance
thereof.20cralawred
cralawlawlibrary
As such, a lawyer is prohibited from representing new clients whose interests
oppose those of a former client in any manner, whether or not they are
parties in the same action or on totally unrelated cases. The prohibition is
founded on the principles of public policy and good taste.21cralawred
In this case, the Court concurs with the IBP's conclusions that respondents
represented conflicting interests and must therefore be held liable. As the records
bear out, respondents' law firm was engaged and, thus, represented complainant
in the labor cases instituted against him. However, after the termination thereof,
the law firm agreed to represent a new client, FEVE Farms, in the filing of a
criminal case for qualified theft against complainant, its former client, and his
wife. As the Court observes, the law firm's unethical acceptance of the criminal
case arose from its failure to organize and implement a system by which it would
have been able to keep track of all cases assigned to its handling lawyers to the
end of, among others, ensuring that every engagement it accepts stands clear of
any potential conflict of interest. As an organization of individual lawyers which,
albeit engaged as a collective, assigns legal work to a corresponding handling
lawyer, it behooves the law firm to value coordination in deference to the conflict
of interest rule. This lack of coordination, as respondents' law firm exhibited in
this case, intolerably renders its clients' secrets vulnerable to undue and even
adverse exposure, eroding in the balance the lawyer-client relationship's
primordial ideal of unimpaired trust and confidence. Had such system been
institutionalized, all of its members, Atty. Dionela included, would have been wary
of the above-mentioned conflict, thereby impelling the firm to decline FEVE
Farms' subsequent engagement. Thus, for this shortcoming, herein respondents,
as the charged members of the law firm, ought to be administratively sanctioned.
57

58

Note that the Court finds no sufficient reason as to why Atty. Dionela should
suffer the greater penalty of suspension. As the Court sees it, all respondents
stand in equal fault for the law firm's deficient organization for which Rule 15.03,
Canon 15 and Canon 21 of the CPR had been violated. As such, all of them are
meted with the same penalty of reprimand, with a stern warning that a repetition
of the same or similar infraction would be dealt with more severely.
As a final point, the Court clarifies that respondents' pronounced liability is not
altered by the fact that the labor cases against complainant had long been
terminated. Verily, the termination of attorney-client relation provides no
justification for a lawyer to represent an interest adverse to or in conflict with that
of the former client. The client's confidence once reposed should not be divested
by
mere
expiration
of
professional
employment.22cralawred
WHEREFORE, respondents Attys. Jose Ma. V. Valencia, Jose Ma. J. Ciocon, Lily UyValencia, Joey P. De La Paz, Cris G. Dionela, Raymundo T. Pandan, Jr., Rodney K.
Rubica, and Wilfred Ramon M. Penalosa are found GUILTY of representing
conflicting interests in violation of Rule 15.03, Canon 15 and Canon 21 of the
Code of Professional Responsibility and are therefore REPRIMANDED for said
violations, with a STERN WARNING that a repetition of the same or similar
infraction would be dealt with more severely. Meanwhile, the case against Atty.
Philip
Dabao
is DISMISSED in
view
of
his
death.
Let a copy of this Resolution be furnished the Office of the Bar Confidant, to be
appended to respondents' personal records as attorneys. Further, let copies of
this Resolution be furnished the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and the Office of
the Court Administrator, which is directed to circulate them to all courts in the
country
for
their
information
and
guidance.
SO ORDERED.crala

SECOND DIVISION
A.C. No. 7158, March 09, 2015
YOLANDA A. ANDRES, MINETTE A. MERCADO, AND ELITO P.
ANDRES , Complainants, v. ATTY. SALIMATHAR V. NAMBI, Respondent.
58

59

This is a Complaint for Disbarment 1 filed against then Labor Arbiter Salimathar V. Nambi
(respondent) on the ground of gross ignorance of the law in issuing an Amended Alias
Writ of Execution against M.A. Blocks Work, Inc. and its incorporators, the herein
complainants, who are not parties to the case.
Factual Antecedents
On December 10, 2003, respondent rendered a Decision 2 in a consolidated labor
case3 against M.A. Mercado Construction and spouses Maximo and Aida Mercado
(spouses Mercado), the fallo of which reads:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, judgment is hereby rendered ordering respondents,
M.A. Mercado Construction and Maximo and Aida Mercado to reinstate the complainants
to their former position[s] without loss of seniority rights and to pay jointly and severally,
their full backwages from October 28, 2000 up to the date of this decision plus ten (10%)
percent attorneys fees of the total monetary award. The Research and Information Unit
of this Office is hereby directed to compute complainants[] monetary award which shall
form part of this decision. The complaint for damages is dismissed. The complaint
against Shoemart, Inc., is likewise DISMISSED for lack of merit. SO ORDERED. 4
The respondents in the labor case, namely the Spouses Mercado, doing business under
the name and style of M.A. Mercado Construction, interposed an appeal which was
dismissed for failure to post an appeal bond. Thus, an Alias Writ of Execution was issued
to implement the Decision. Thereafter, the complainants in the labor case filed an Ex
Parte Motion for Amendment of an Alias Writ of Execution. 5 They claimed that they could
hardly collect the judgment award from M.A. Mercado Construction because it allegedly
transferred its assets to M.A. Blocks Work, Inc. They thus prayed that the Alias Writ of
Execution be amended to include M.A. Blocks Work, Inc. and all its
incorporators/stockholders6 as additional entity/personalities against which the writ of
execution shall be enforced. In an Order 7 dated February 10, 2006, respondent granted
the motion to amend the alias writ of execution. Accordingly, on February 17, 2006 an
Amended Alias Writ of Execution was issued to enforce the monetary judgment
amounting to P19,527,623.55 against M.A. Blocks Work, Inc. and all its incorporators. By
way of special appearance, M.A. Blocks Work, Inc., together with three of its stockholders
who are the complainants in this administrative case, namely Yolanda A. Andres, Minette
A. Mercado and Elito P. Andres, filed an Urgent Motion to Quash 8 the Amended Alias Writ
of Execution, contending that they are not bound by the judgment as they were not
parties to the labor case. In an Order9 dated March 13, 2006, however, respondent
denied the Urgent Motion to Quash. Aggrieved, herein complainants filed the instant
Complaint for Disbarment, which we referred to the IBP on March 4, 2007 for
investigation, report and recommendation.10
IBPs Report and Recommendation
In his Report and Recommendation 11 dated September 6, 2010, the Investigating
Commissioner found respondent guilty of gross ignorance of the law and recommended
that he be suspended from the practice of law for a period of six months. This was
adopted and approved with modification by the IBP Board of Governors in an April 12,
2011 Resolution, to wit:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
RESOLUTION NO. XIX-2011-110 Adm. Case No. 7158 Yolanda A. Andres, et al.
vs. Atty. Salimathar V. Nambi
RESOLVED to ADOPT and APPROVE, as it is hereby unanimously ADOPTED and
APPROVED, with modification the Report and Recommendation of the Investigating
59

60

Commissioner in 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, considering respondent[s] contumacious disregard of the
lawful Order of Supreme Court and the Commission on Bar Discipline of the IBP, and for
his failure to appear despite due notices, Atty. Salimathar V. Nambi is
herebySUSPENDED from the practice of law for six (6) months. 12(Emphasis in the
original).
Issue Whether respondent is guilty of gross ignorance of the law and of violating the
Code of Professional Responsibility.
Our Ruling
At the outset, it must be emphasized that in this administrative proceeding, our
discussion should be limited only on the issue of whether respondent acted in gross
ignorance of the law when he granted the motion to amend the alias writ of execution;
when he issued an Amended Alias Writ of Execution to enforce the monetary judgment
against M.A. Blocks Work, Inc. and all its incorporators; and when he denied
complainants Urgent Motion to Quash. As a rule, for one to be held administratively
accountable for gross ignorance of the law, there must be a showing that the error was
gross and patent as to support a conclusion that the actor was so moved with malice,
bad faith, corruption, fraud, and dishonesty. As such, our discussion should be focused
primarily on whether respondent grossly erred in issuing the above orders as to amount
to malice, bad faith, corruption, fraud and dishonesty. On the other hand, we need not
delve into the issue of whether there is an apparent misapplication of the doctrine of
piercing the veil of corporate fiction when respondent issued the Amended Alias Writ of
Execution. For one, it is outside the ambit of this administrative proceeding. Moreover,
the issue of whether the doctrine of piercing the veil of corporate fiction applies is the
subject of an appeal brought by complainants before the National Labor Relations
Commission and eventually to the Court of Appeals. 13 We perused the records of the case
particularly respondents Order14 dated March 13, 2006 denying complainants Urgent
Motion to Quash. Therein, we note that respondents ruling was not arrived at arbitrarily;
on the contrary, he cited grounds based on his personal assessment of the facts at
hand, viz:
As culled from the case record, there is substantial evidence that respondents Maximo A.
Mercado and Aida A. Mercado, who are doing business under the name and style of M.A.
Mercado Construction put up a corporation in the name of M.A. Block Works, Inc. where
individual movants are one of the incorporators. We give credence to the argument of
the complainants that the incorporators therein are relatives of Maximo A. Mercado and
Aida Mercado as shown by the Articles of Incorporation adduced by the former. The
incorporators listed have similar family names of the Mercados and the Andreses and
common address at Gen. Hizon, Quezon City and 50 Daisy St., Quezon City, and Maximo
A. Mercado is the biggest stockholder. Aside from the Articles of Incorporation,
complainants also submitted a Letter of Intent/Notice To Proceed where respondents,
despite their representation that they have already ceased their business operation, are
still continuing their business operation. The documents submitted by the complainants
were corroborated by certification issued by Maggie T. Jao, AVP-Assistant Controller of SM
Prime Holdings, Inc. that based on their records, an amount of P3,291,300.00
representing a sum total of all goods, effects, money and credit that was garnished
belong to M.A. Mercado Construction and/or Maximo Mercado and/or Aida Mercado
and/or M.A. Block Works, Inc. and/or Gertrudes Casilda A. Mercado, Yolanda A. Andres,
Minette A. Mercado and/or Elito P. Andres. This Office has therefore, enough reason to
conclude that respondents Maximo A. Mercado and Aida Mercado and the movants
herein are one and the same. Movants are alter egos or business conduits to defraud the
complainants and to consequently evade payment of judgment award. x x x As
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61

respondents are duly notified and aware of the execution proceedings, the argument of
denial of due process is untenable.15
It is apparent from the foregoing disquisition that respondents conclusion had some
bases and was not plucked from thin air, so to speak. Clearly, respondent did not act
whimsically or arbitrarily; his ruling could not in any manner be characterized as imbued
with malice, fraud or bad faith. To reiterate what we have already stated above, we are
not here to judge in this present administrative proceeding whether respondents
ratiocination on the application of the piercing of corporate veil is correct; our only
concern here is to decide whether respondents error was so gross as to amount to fraud
and dishonesty. Based on the above-quoted disquisition, it cannot be said, by any stretch
of imagination, that respondents error, if any, was so gross or that he was actuated by
malice when he issued the above orders. His conclusion was reached after an
examination of the documents presented and evaluation and assessment of the
arguments raised by the parties. He did not capriciously rule on the issues presented; on
the contrary, he exerted efforts to weigh the positions of the contending parties. In any
event, we hold that respondent should not be held accountable for committing an honest
mistake or an error in the appreciation of the facts of the case before him. Otherwise
every labor arbiter or any judicial or quasi-judicial officer for that matter, would be
continually plagued with the possibility of being administratively sanctioned for every
honest mistake or error he commits. For sure, this would not augur well to the
administration of justice as a whole. Pertinently, the Court ruled in Andrada v. Judge
Banzon,16viz:
well-settled is the rule that unless the acts were committed with fraud, dishonesty,
corruption, malice or ill-will, bad faith, or deliberate intent to do an injustice, respondent
judge may not be held administratively liable for gross misconduct, ignorance of the law
or incompetence of official acts in the exercise of judicial functions and duties,
particularly in the adjudication of cases. Further, to hold a judge administratively
accountable for every erroneous rule or decision he renders would be nothing short of
harassment and would make his position doubly unbearable. To hold otherwise would be
to render judicial office untenable, for no one called upon to try the facts or interpret the
law in the process of the administration of justice can be infallible in his judgment. 17
Based on the foregoing, we have no basis to hold respondent administratively liable for
gross ignorance of the law. However, we note that respondent had consistently and
obstinately disregarded the Courts and IBPs orders. It is on record that respondent
totally ignored the Courts June 7, 2006 Resolution 18 directing him to file his
Comment. He also failed to attend the mandatory conference before the IBPs
Commission on Bar Discipline despite notice. 19 Neither did he file his Position Paper. As a
former Labor Arbiter, respondent should know that orders of the court are not mere
requests but directives which should have been complied with promptly and
completely.20 He disregarded the oath he took when he was accepted to the legal
profession to obey the laws and the legal orders of the duly constituted legal
authorities. x x x His conduct was unbecoming of a lawyer who is called upon to obey
court orders and processes and is expected to stand foremost in complying with court
directives as an officer of the court. 21 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
61

62

so to do. The practice of soliciting cases at law for the purpose of gain, either personally
or through paid agents or brokers, constitutes malpractice. (Emphasis supplied)
Considering that this appears to be respondents first infraction, we find it proper to
impose on him the penalty of reprimand with warning that commission of the same or
similar infraction will be dealt with more severely.
WHEREFORE, the Court REPRIMANDS respondent Atty. Salimathar V. Nambi for
obstinately and unjustifiably refusing to obey lawful orders of the Court and the
Integrated Bar of the Philippines, with a warning that a repetition of the same or similar
act or offense shall be dealt with more severely. Let copies of this Resolution be furnished
the Office of the Bar Confidant and noted in Atty. Nambis record as a member of the
Bar.
SO ORDERED.
A.C. No. 5816, March 10, 2015
DR. ELMAR O. PEREZ, Complainant, v. ATTY. TRISTAN A. CATINDIG AND ATTY.
KAREN E. BAYDO, Respondents.
DECISION
PER CURIAM:
Before the Court is an administrative complaint 1 for disbarment filed by Dr. Elmar O.
Perez (Dr. Perez) with the Office of the Bar Confidant on August 27, 2002 against Atty.
Tristan A. Catindig (Atty. Catindig) and Atty. Karen E. Baydo (Atty. Baydo) (respondents)
for gross immorality and violation of the Code of Professional Responsibility.
The Facts
In her complaint, Dr. Perez alleged that she and Atty. Catindig had been friends since the
mid-1960s when they were both students at the University of the Philippines, but they
lost touch after their graduation. Sometime in 1983, the paths of Atty. Catindig and Dr.
Perez again crossed. It was at that time that Atty. Catindig started to court Dr.
Perez.2chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
Atty. Catindig admitted to Dr. Perez that he was already wed to Lily Corazon Gomez
(Gomez), having married the latter on May 18, 1968 at the Central Methodist Church in
Ermita, Manila, which was followed by a Catholic wedding at the Shrine of Our Lady of
Lourdes in Quezon City.3 Atty. Catindig however claimed that he only married Gomez
because he got her pregnant; that he was afraid that Gomez would make a scandal out
of her pregnancy should he refuse to marry her, which could have jeopardized his
scholarship
in
the
Harvard
Law
School. 4chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
Atty. Catindig told Dr. Perez that he was in the process of obtaining a divorce in a foreign
country to dissolve his marriage to Gomez, and that he would eventually marry her once
the divorce had been decreed. Consequently, sometime in 1984, Atty. Catindig and
Gomez obtained a divorce decree from the Dominican Republic. Dr. Perez claimed that
Atty. Catindig assured her that the said divorce decree was lawful and valid and that
there was no longer any impediment to their marriage. 5chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
Thus, on July 14, 1984, Atty. Catindig married Dr. Perez in the State of Virginia in the
United States of America (USA). Their union was blessed with a child whom they named
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63

Tristan

Jegar

Josef

Frederic.6chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary

Years later, Dr. Perez came to know that her marriage to Atty. Catindig is a nullity since
the divorce decree that was obtained from the Dominican Republic by the latter and
Gomez is not recognized by Philippine laws. When she confronted Atty. Catindig about it,
the latter allegedly assured Dr. Perez that he would legalize their union once he obtains a
declaration of nullity of his marriage to Gomez under the laws of the Philippines. He also
promised
to
legally
adopt
their
son. 7chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
Sometime in 1997, Dr. Perez reminded Atty. Catindig of his promise to legalize their union
by filing a petition to nullify his marriage to Gomez. Atty. Catindig told her that he would
still have to get the consent of Gomez to the said petition. 8chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
Sometime in 2001, Dr. Perez alleged that she received an anonymous letter 9 in the mail
informing her of Atty. Catindigs scandalous affair with Atty. Baydo, and that sometime
later, she came upon a love letter 10 written and signed by Atty. Catindig for Atty. Baydo
dated April 25, 2001. In the said letter, Atty. Catindig professed his love to Atty. Baydo,
promising to marry her once his impediment is removed. Apparently, five months into
their relationship, Atty. Baydo requested Atty. Catindig to put a halt to their affair until
such time that he is able to obtain the annulment of his marriage. On August 13, 2001,
Atty. Catindig filed a petition to declare the nullity of his marriage to
Gomez.11chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
On October 31, 2001, Atty. Catindig abandoned Dr. Perez and their son; he moved to an
upscale condominium in Salcedo Village, Makati City where Atty. Baydo was frequently
seen.12chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
In a Resolution13 dated October 9, 2002, the Court directed the respondents to file their
respective
comments,
which
they
separately
did
on
November
25,
2002.14chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
Atty. Catindig, in his Comment, 15 admitted that he married Gomez on May 18, 1968. He
claimed, however, that immediately after the wedding, Gomez showed signs that she
was incapable of complying with her marital obligations, as she had serious intimacy
problems; and that while their union was blessed with four children, their relationship
simply
deteriorated.
Eventually, their irreconcilable differences led to their de facto separation in 1984. They
then consulted Atty. Wilhelmina Joven (Atty. Joven), a mutual friend, on how the
agreement to separate and live apart could be implemented. Atty. Joven suggested that
the couple adopt a property regime of complete separation of property. She likewise
advised the couple to obtain a divorce decree from the Dominican Republic for whatever
value it may have and comfort it may provide them. 16chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
Thus, on April 27, 1984, Atty. Catindig and Gomez each executed a Special Power of
Attorney addressed to a Judge of the First Civil Court of San Cristobal, Dominican
Republic, appointing an attorney-in-fact to institute a divorce action under its laws. Atty.
Catindig likewise admitted that a divorce by mutual consent was ratified by the
Dominican Republic court on June 12, 1984. Further, Atty. Catindig and Gomez filed a
Joint Petition for Dissolution of Conjugal Partnership before the Regional Trial Court of
Makati
City,
Branch
133,
which
was
granted
on
June
23,
1984.17chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
Atty. Catindig claimed that Dr. Perez knew of the foregoing, including the fact that the
divorce decreed by the Dominican Republic court does not have any effect in the
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64

Philippines. Notwithstanding that she knew that the marriage of Atty. Catindig and
Gomez still subsisted, Dr. Perez demanded that Atty. Catindig marry her. Thus, Atty.
Catindig married Dr. Perez in July 1984 in the USA. 18chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
Atty. Catindig claimed that Dr. Perez knew that their marriage was not valid since his
previous marriage to Gomez was still subsisting, and that he only married Dr. Perez
because he loved her and that he was afraid of losing her if he did not. He merely
desired
to
lend
a
modicum
of
legitimacy
to
their
19
relationship. chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
Atty. Catindig claimed that his relationship with Dr. Perez turned sour. Eventually, he left
their
home
in
October
2001
to
prevent
any
acrimony
from
developing.20chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
He denied that Atty. Baydo was the reason that he left Dr. Perez, claiming that his
relationship with Dr. Perez started to fall apart as early as 1997. He asserted that Atty.
Baydo joined his law firm only in September 1999; and that while he was attracted to
her, Atty. Baydo did not reciprocate and in fact rejected him. He likewise pointed out that
Atty. Baydo resigned from his firm in January 2001. 21chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
For her part, Atty. Baydo denied that she had an affair with Atty. Catindig. She claimed
that Atty. Catindig began courting her while she was employed in his firm. She however
rejected Atty. Catindigs romantic overtures; she told him that she could not reciprocate
his feelings since he was married and that he was too old for her. She said that despite
being turned down, Atty. Catindig still pursued her, which was the reason why she
resigned
from
his
law
firm.22chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
On January 29, 2003, the Court referred the case to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines
(IBP) for investigation, report and recommendation within 90 days from
notice.23chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
On June 2, 2003, the IBPs Commission on Bar Discipline (CBD) issued an Order 24 setting
the mandatory conference of the administrative case on July 4, 2003, which was later
reset to August 29, 2003. During the conference, the parties manifested that they were
already submitting the case for resolution based on the pleadings already submitted.
Thereupon, the IBP-CBD directed the parties to submit their respective position papers
within 10 days from notice. Respondents Atty. Catindig and Atty. Baydo filed their
position papers on October 17, 2003 25 and October 20, 2003,26 respectively. Dr. Perez
filed her position paper27 on October 24, 2003.
Findings of the IBP Investigating Commissioner
On May 6, 2011, after due proceedings, the Investigating Commissioner of the IBP-CBD
issued a Report and Recommendation, 28 which recommended the disbarment of Atty.
Catindig for gross immorality, violation of Rule 1.01, Canon 7 and Rule 7.03 of the Code
of Professional Responsibility. The Investigating Commissioner pointed out that Atty.
Catindigs act of marrying Dr. Perez despite knowing fully well that his previous marriage
to Gomez still subsisted was a grossly immoral and illegal conduct, which warrants the
ultimate penalty of disbarment. The Investigating Commissioner further opined
that:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
In this case, the undisputed facts gathered from the evidence and the admissions of Atty.
Catindig established a pattern of grossly immoral conduct that warrants fustigation and
his disbarment. His conduct was not only corrupt or unprincipled; it was reprehensible to
the
highest
degree.
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65

There is no dichotomy of morality. A lawyer and a professor of law, both in his official and
personal conduct, must display exemplary behavior. Respondents bigamous marriage
and his proclivity for extramarital adventurism have definitely caused damage to the
legal and teaching professions. How can he hold his head up high and expect his
students, his peers and the community to look up to him as a model worthy of emulation
when he failed to follow the tenets of morality? In contracting a second marriage
notwithstanding knowing fully well that he has a prior valid subsisting marriage, Atty.
Catindig has made a mockery of an otherwise inviolable institution, a serious outrage to
the generally accepted moral standards of the community. 29
On the other hand, the Investigating Commissioner recommended that the charge
against Atty. Baydo be dismissed for dearth of evidence; Dr. Perez failed to present clear
and preponderant evidence in support of the alleged affair between the respondents.
Findings of the IBP Board of Governors
On December 10, 2011, the IBP Board of Governors issued a Resolution, 30 which adopted
and
approved
the
recommendation
of
the
Investigating
Commissioner.
Atty. Catindig sought a reconsideration 31 of the December 10, 2011 Resolution of the IBP
Board of Governors, claiming that the Investigating Commissioner erred in relying solely
on Dr. Perezs uncorroborated allegations. He pointed out that, under Section 1 of Rule
139-B of the Rules of Court, a complaint for disbarment must be supported by affidavits
of persons having knowledge of the facts therein alleged and/or by such documents as
may substantiate said facts. He said that despite the absence of any corroborating
testimony, the Investigating Commissioner gave credence to Dr. Perez testimony.
He also claimed that he had absolutely no intention of committing any felony; that he
never concealed the status of his marriage from anyone. In fact, Atty. Catindig asserted
that he had always been transparent with both Gomez and Dr. Perez.
The IBP Board of Governors, in its Resolution32 dated December 29, 2012, denied Atty.
Catindigs motion for reconsideration.
The Issue The issue in this case is whether the respondents committed gross
immorality, which would warrant their disbarment.
Ruling of the Court
After a thorough perusal of the respective allegations of the parties and the
circumstances of this case, the Court agrees with the findings and recommendations of
the
Investigating
Commissioner
and
the
IBP
Board
of
Governors.
The Code of Professional Responsibility provides:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
Rule 1.01 A lawyer shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful
conduct.
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.cralawred
In Arnobit v. Atty. Arnobit,33 the Court held:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
[T]he requirement of good moral character is of much greater import, as far as the
general public is concerned, than the possession of legal learning. Good moral character
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66

is not only a condition precedent for admission to the legal profession, but it must also
remain intact in order to maintain ones good standing in that exclusive and honored
fraternity. Good moral character is more than just the absence of bad character. Such
character expresses itself in the will to do the unpleasant thing if it is right and the
resolve not to do the pleasant thing if it is wrong. This must be so because vast
interests are committed to his care; he is the recipient of unbounded trust and
confidence; he deals with his clients property, reputation, his life, his all. 34 (Citation
omitted)
In this regard, Section 27, Rule 138 of the Rules of Court provides that a lawyer may be
removed or suspended from the practice of law, inter alia, for grossly immoral conduct.
Thus:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
Sec. 27. Attorneys removed or suspended by Supreme Court on what grounds. A
member of the bar may be removed 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 the
admission to practice, or for a wilfull disobedience of any lawful order of a superior court,
or for corruptly or willful appearing as an attorney for a party to a case without authority
so to do. The practice of soliciting cases at law for the purpose of gain, either personally
or through paid agents or brokers, constitutes malpractice. (Emphasis ours)
A lawyer may be suspended or disbarred for any misconduct showing any fault or
deficiency in his moral character, honesty, probity or good demeanor. 35 Immoral
conduct involves acts that are willful, flagrant, or shameless, and that show a moral
indifference to the opinion of the upright and respectable members of the community.
Immoral conduct is gross when it is so corrupt as to constitute a criminal act, or so
unprincipled as to be reprehensible to a high degree, or when committed under such
scandalous or revolting circumstances as to shock the communitys sense of decency.
The Court makes these distinctions, as the supreme penalty of disbarment arising from
conduct
requires
grossly
immoral,
not
simply
immoral,
conduct.36chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
Contracting a marriage during the subsistence of a previous one amounts to a
grossly
immoral
conduct.
The facts gathered from the evidence adduced by the parties and, ironically, from Atty.
Catindigs own admission, indeed establish a pattern of conduct that is grossly immoral;
it is not only corrupt and unprincipled, but reprehensible to a high degree.
Atty. Catindig was validly married to Gomez twice a wedding in the Central Methodist
Church in 1968, which was then followed by a Catholic wedding. In 1983, Atty. Catindig
started pursuing Dr. Perez when their paths crossed again. Curiously, 15 years into his
first marriage and four children after, Atty. Catindig claimed that his first marriage was
then
already
falling
apart
due
to
Gomez
serious
intimacy
problems.
A year after pursuing Dr. Perez, Atty. Catindig had a de facto separation from Gomez,
dissolved their conjugal partnership of gains, obtained a divorce decree from a court in
the Dominican Republic, and married Dr. Perez in the USA all in the same year. Atty.
Catindig was so enchanted with Dr. Perez at that time that he moved heaven and earth
just so he could marry her right away a marriage that has at least a semblance of
legality.
From his own admission, Atty. Catindig knew that the divorce decree he obtained from
the court in the Dominican Republic was not recognized in our jurisdiction as he and
Gomez were both Filipino citizens at that time. He knew that he was still validly married
to Gomez; that he cannot marry anew unless his previous marriage be properly declared
66

67

a nullity. Otherwise, his subsequent marriage would be void. This notwithstanding, he


still married Dr. Perez. The foregoing circumstances seriously taint Atty. Catindigs sense
of social propriety and moral values. It is a blatant and purposeful disregard of our laws
on
marriage.
It has also not escaped the attention of the Court that Atty. Catindig married Dr. Perez in
the USA. Considering that Atty. Catindig knew that his previous marriage remained valid,
the logical conclusion is that he wanted to marry Dr. Perez in the USA for the added
security of avoiding any charge of bigamy by entering into the subsequent marriage
outside
Philippine
jurisdiction.
Moreover, assuming arguendo that Atty. Catindigs claim is true, it matters not that Dr.
Perez knew that their marriage is a nullity. The fact still remains that he resorted to
various legal strategies in order to render a faade of validity to his otherwise invalid
marriage to Dr. Perez. Such act is, at the very least, so unprincipled that it is
reprehensible
to
the
highest
degree.
Further, after 17 years of cohabiting with Dr. Perez, and despite the various legal actions
he resorted to in order to give their union a semblance of validity, Atty. Catindig left her
and their son. It was only at that time that he finally decided to properly seek the nullity
of his first marriage to Gomez. Apparently, he was then already entranced with the much
younger
Atty.
Baydo,
an
associate
lawyer
employed
by
his
firm.
While the fact that Atty. Catindig decided to separate from Dr. Perez to pursue Atty.
Baydo, in itself, cannot be considered a grossly immoral conduct, such fact forms part of
the pattern showing his propensity towards immoral conduct. Lest it be misunderstood,
the Courts finding of gross immoral conduct is hinged not on Atty. Catindigs desertion of
Dr. Perez, but on his contracting of a subsequent marriage during the subsistence of his
previous
marriage
to
Gomez.
The moral delinquency that affects the fitness of a member of the bar to continue as
such includes conduct that outrages the generally accepted moral standards of the
community, conduct for instance, which makes a mockery of the inviolable social
institution of marriage.37 In various cases, the Court has held that disbarment is
warranted when a lawyer abandons his lawful wife and maintains an illicit relationship
with another woman who has borne him a child. 38chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
Atty. Catindigs subsequent marriage during the subsistence of his previous one
definitely manifests a deliberate disregard of the sanctity of marriage and the marital
vows protected by the Constitution and affirmed by our laws. By his own admission, Atty.
Catindig made a mockery out of the institution of marriage, taking advantage of his legal
skills in the process. He exhibited a deplorable lack of that degree of morality required of
him as a member of the bar, which thus warrant the penalty of disbarment.
The Court is not unmindful of the rule that the power to disbar must be exercised with
great caution, and only in a clear case of misconduct that seriously affects the standing
and character of the lawyer as an officer of the Court and as a member of the bar. Where
a lesser penalty, such as temporary suspension, could accomplish the end desired,
disbarment should never be decreed. Nevertheless, in this case, the seriousness of the
offense compels the Court to wield its power to disbar, as it appears to be the most
appropriate
penalty.
Atty. Catindigs claim that Dr. Perezs allegations against him are not credible since they
are uncorroborated and not supported by affidavits contrary to Section 1, Rule 139-B of
the Rules of Court, deserves scant consideration. Verily, Atty. Catindig himself admitted
67

68

in his pleadings that he indeed married Dr. Perez in 1984 while his previous marriage
with Gomez still subsisted. Indubitably, such admission provides ample basis for the
Court
to
render
disciplinary
sanction
against
him.
There is insufficient evidence to prove the affair between the respondents.
The Court likewise agrees with the Investigating Commissioner that there is a dearth of
evidence to prove the claimed amorous relationship between the respondents. As it is,
the evidence that was presented by Dr. Perez to prove her claim was mere allegation, an
anonymous letter informing her that the respondents were indeed having an affair and
the purported love letter to Atty. Baydo that was signed by Atty. Catindig.
The Court has consistently held that in suspension or disbarment proceedings against
lawyers, the lawyer enjoys the presumption of innocence, and the burden of proof rests
upon the complainant to prove the allegations in his complaint. The evidence required in
suspension
or
disbarment
proceedings
is
preponderance
of
evidence.39chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
The presentation of the anonymous letter that was received by Dr. Perez only proves that
the latter indeed received a letter informing her of the alleged relations between the
respondents; it does not prove the veracity of the allegations therein. Similarly, the
supposed love letter, if at all, only proves that Atty. Catindig wrote Atty. Baydo a letter
professing his love for her. It does not prove that Atty. Baydo is indeed in a relationship
with
Atty.
Catindig.
WHEREFORE, in consideration of the foregoing disquisitions, the Court resolves
to ADOPT the recommendations of the Commission on Bar Discipline of the Integrated
Bar of the Philippines. Atty. Tristan A. Catindig is found GUILTY of gross immorality and of
violating the Lawyers Oath and Rule 1.01, Canon 7 and Rule 7.03 of the Code of
Professional Responsibility and is hereby DISBARREDfrom the practice of law.
Let a copy of this Decision be entered into the records of Atty. Tristan A. Catindig in the
Office of the Bar Confidant and his name is ORDERED STRICKEN from the Roll of
Attorneys. Likewise, copies of this Decision shall be furnished to the Integrated Bar of the
Philippines and circulated by the Court Administrator to all appellate and trial courts.
The charge of gross immorality against Atty. Karen E. Baydo is hereby DISMISSED for
lack
of
evidence.
This

Decision

takes

effect

immediately.

SO ORDERED.

A.C. No. 8776, March 22, 2015


ANTONINA S. SOSA, Complainant, v. ATTY. MANUEL V. MENDOZA, Respondent.
68

69

DECISION
BRION, J.:
Before this Court is the Complaint for the disbarment/suspension of Atty. Manuel V.
Mendoza (Atty. Mendoza) filed on October 22, 2010 by Antonina S. Sosa (Ms. Sosa), for
violation of Rule 1.01 of the Code of Professional Responsibility arising from non-payment
of
debt.1
This Court, in a Resolution dated April 18, 2012, referred the case to the Integrated Bar
of
the
Philippines
(IBP)
for
investigation,
report
and
recommendation. 2
On May 11, 2013, the IBP Board of Governors adopted and approved with modification
the Investigating Commissioners report and recommendation. The IBP resolved to
suspend Atty. Mendoza from the practice of law for six (6) months, likewise ordering him
to
return
the
amount
of
the
debt
with
legal
interest. 3
On December 10, 2013, the IBP Director for Bar Discipline transmitted to this Court the
Notice of the Resolution and the records of the case. 4
The Factual Background
Ms. Sosa alleged that on July 28, 2006, she extended a loan of Five Hundred Thousand
Pesos (P500,000.00) to Atty. Mendoza at an interest of twenty-five thousand pesos
(P25,000.00) to be paid not later than September 25, 2006. They agreed that a penalty
or collection charge of ten percent (10%) per month shall accrue in case of default. 5
To ensure the payment of the obligation, Atty. Mendoza signed a promissory note and
issued
a
postdated
check
for
P500,000.00. 6
Atty. Mendoza failed to comply with his obligation on due date. Upon demand to pay, he
requested Ms. Sosa not to deposit the postdated check. She acceded and deferred the
deposit of the check based on Atty. Mendozas promise that he would later pay. The
check was subsequently returned/dishonored after Ms. Sosa finally deposited it
sometime in October 2006; it was Drawn Against Insufficient Funds. Ms. Sosa then
obtained the services of a lawyer, Atty. Ernesto V. Cabrera (Atty. Cabrera), to legally
address
Atty.
Mendozas
failure
to
pay.
On January 11, 2010, Atty. Cabrera sent a letter 7 to Atty. Mendoza demanding payment of
the loan plus interest and collection charges. Atty. Mendoza ignored the demand letter
despite receipt, as proven by the Registry Receipt and Registry Return Receipt. 8
Likewise, he did not, in any manner, contact Ms. Sosa to explain why he failed to pay.
In view of the repeated failure of Atty. Mendoza to pay, Ms. Sosa filed the complaint for
disbarment or suspension, charging Atty. Mendoza for violation of Rule 1.01 of the Code
of Professional Responsibility. This Rule states that [a] lawyer shall not engage in
unlawful,
dishonest,
immoral
or
deceitful
conduct.
Acting on the complaint, this Court required Atty. Mendoza to comment on the complaint
in a Resolution dated January 10, 2011.9 He filed an Urgent Motion for Extension on
March 18, 2011,10which this Court granted in a Resolution dated October 19, 2011. Atty.
Mendoza
finally
filed
his
Brief
Comment
on
January
10,
2012. 11
Atty. Mendoza admitted in his Brief Comment the existence of the loan and that it is a
valid obligation. However, he alleged that he only received One Hundred Thousand
69

70

Pesos (P100,000.00) from one Elenita Cruz (Elenita), a friend of the complainant. Atty.
Mendoza did not attach an affidavit from Elenita nor any evidence proving that
he only received P100,000.00.12
The Proceedings before the IBP
On July 4, 2012, Investigating Commissioner Honesto A. Villamor issued the Notice of
Mandatory
Conference/Hearing
scheduled
on
August
16,
2012.
When the case was called for hearing, only Atty. Cabrera appeared. Atty. Cabrera
marked the complainants documentary exhibits and the mandatory conference was
subsequently declared terminated. The parties were then directed to submit their
respective verified position papers, documentary exhibits and/or affidavits of their
witnesses,
if
any,
within
fifteen
(15)
days.
In her position paper, 13 Ms. Sosa reiterated her allegations in her Complaint-Affidavit.
She argued that Atty. Mendoza is liable not only administratively but also civilly.
Atty. Mendoza, in his Manifestation, 14admitted that (i) he arrived late during the
scheduled hearing; (ii) he had on hand Six Hundred Thousand Pesos (P600,000.00); (iii)
he was advised by the Hearing Officer to communicate with the complainants counsel;
and (iv) the validity of his obligation and that he has to pay the same.
Atty. Mendoza did not make good his offer to pay despite the express manifestation he
made.15
The IBP Findings
The Investigating Commissioner found Atty. Mendoza liable not only administratively but
also civilly. He gave credence to Ms. Sosas allegations that Atty. Mendoza failed to pay
the loan despite Ms. Sosas attempts to collect. He also took notice of Atty. Mendozas
admission
that
the
obligation
is
valid.
The IBP Board of Governors adopted with modification the findings of the Investigating
Commissioner. In a Resolution dated May 11, 2013, the IBP ruled:
RESOLVED to ADOPT and APPROVE, as it is hereby unanimously ADOPTED and
APPROVED, with modification, the Report and Recommendation of the Investigating
Commissioner x x x finding the recommendation fully supported by the evidence on
record and the applicable laws and rules and considering that [the respondent] is guilty
of misconduct for his failure to pay a just and valid debt, Atty. Manuel V. Mendoza is
hereby SUSPENDED from the practice of law for six (6) months and Ordered to
Return the amount of Five Hundred Thousand (P500,000.00) to [the
complainant] with legal interest.
The Courts Ruling
We

adopt with

modification the

findings

and

recommendation

of

the

IBP.

This Court has held that any gross misconduct of a lawyer in his professional or in
his private capacity is a ground for the imposition of the penalty of suspension or
disbarment because good character is an essential qualification for the admission to and
continued practice of law.16 Any wrongdoing, whether professional or nonprofessional, indicating unfitness for the profession justifies disciplinary action. 17
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71

Gross misconduct is defined as "improper or wrong conduct, the transgression of some


established and definite rule of action, a forbidden act, a dereliction of duty, willful in
character, and implies a wrongful intent and not a mere error in judgment." 18
Rule 1.01 of the Code of Professional Responsibility is emphatic: [a] lawyer shall not
engage
in
unlawful,
dishonest,
immoral
or
deceitful
conduct.
The facts of the case show that Atty. Mendoza engaged in improper or wrong conduct, as
found under Rule 1.01, as the failure to pay the loan was willful in character and implied
a
wrongful
intent
and
not
a
mere
error
in
judgment.
We find it undisputed that Atty. Mendoza obtained a loan in the amount of P500,000.00.
He signed the promissory note and acknowledgement receipt showing he received
P500,000.00.19 Although he initially denied getting this amount and claimed that he only
received P100,000.00, he did not present any evidence to prove his claim. He later also
admitted the validity of his loan without qualification as to the amount. 20
Also undisputed is the fact that Ms. Sosa tried to collect the amount due upon maturity
but Atty. Mendoza failed to pay. In fact, Ms. Sosa deferred depositing the postdated
check upon Atty. Mendozas request, and based on his promises that he would pay.
Despite all these, he still failed to comply with his obligation. Worse, the check when
finally deposited was dishonored, a fact that Atty. Mendoza did not dispute.
Atty. Mendoza further claimed he had P600,000.00 on hand during the hearing with the
IBP Investigating Officer.21 He allegedly failed to deliver the amount to Ms. Sosa or her
counsel
because
he
arrived
late.
We find Atty. Mendozas excuse to be flimsy. It could have been very easy for him to
deliver the P600,000.00 to Ms. Sosa if he had the real intention to pay. In fact, Ms. Sosa
wrote, through her counsel, Atty. Mendoza asking him to settle his obligation because of
his
manifestation
that
he
already
had
the
money. 22
It is unclear to us why Atty. Mendoza ignored Ms. Sosas request for settlement after
claiming that he already had the needed funds. He was either lying he had the money,
or had no intention of paying in the first place. Atty. Mendoza was also not candid with
the IBP Investigating Officer when he claimed he had P600,000.00 and that he was ready
to pay his obligation. What is clear is that his obligation remains outstanding after all
these
years.
In Yuhico v. Atty. Gutierrez23 this Court sitting en banc held:
We have held that deliberate failure to pay just debts constitute gross
misconduct, for which a lawyer may be sanctioned with suspension from the practice of
law. Lawyers are instruments for the administration of justice and vanguards of our legal
system. They are expected to maintain not only legal proficiency, but also a high
standard of morality, honesty, integrity and fair dealing so that the peoples faith and
confidence in the judicial system is ensured. They must, at all times, faithfully
perform their duties to society, to the bar, the courts and to their clients,
which include prompt payment of financial obligations. They must conduct
themselves in a manner that reflects the values and norms of the legal profession as
embodied in the Code of Professional Responsibility. [Emphasis supplied.]
Other than his claim that he was disposing of real properties in order to settle his
obligation,24 Atty. Mendoza failed to explain why he failed to pay despite his admission of
a just and valid loan. Whatever his reasons or excuses may be, dire financial condition
71

72

does

not

justify

non-payment

of

debt,

as

we

have

held

in Yuhico.

25

We also reiterate that


[A] lawyer can do honor to the legal profession by faithfully performing his duties to
society, to the bar, to the courts and to his clients. No moral qualification for bar
membership is more important than truthfulness and candor. To this end nothing
should be done by any member of the legal fraternity which might tend to lessen in any
degree the confidence of the public in the fidelity, honesty and integrity of the
profession.
While it is true that there was no attorney-client relationship between respondent and
complainant, it is well-settled that an attorney may be removed or otherwise
disciplined not only for malpractice and dishonesty in the profession, but also for
gross misconduct not connected with his professional duties, showing him to be
unfit for the office and unworthy of the privileges which his license and the law confer
upon him.26 [Emphasis supplied and citations omitted.]
The facts and evidence in this case clearly establish Atty. Mendozas failure to live up to
his duties as a lawyer as dictated by the lawyer's oath, the Code of Professional
Responsibility and the Canons of Professional Ethics, thereby degrading not only his
personal
integrity
but
his
profession
as
well. 27
To reiterate, his failure to honor his just debt constitutes dishonest and deceitful
conduct. This dishonest conduct was compounded by Atty. Mendozas act of interjecting
flimsy excuses that only strengthened the conclusion that he refused to pay a valid and
just
debt.28
While we agree with the punishment meted out by the IBP, we differ with its
recommendation ordering Atty. Mendoza to pay the amount of the loan plus
legal
interest.
We take exception to the IBPs order to pay only because the case before us is solely
an administrative complaint for disbarment and is not a civil action for
collection of a sum of money. The quantum of evidence in these two types of cases
alone deters us from agreeing with the IBPs order to pay; the administrative complaint
before us only requires substantial evidence to justify a finding of liability, while a civil
action requires greater evidentiary standard of preponderance of evidence.
A proceeding for suspension or disbarment is not a civil action where the complainant
is a plaintiff and the respondent lawyer is a defendant. Disciplinary
proceedings involve no private interestand afford no redress for private
grievance. They are undertaken and prosecuted solely for the public welfare. 29
The purpose of disbarment is mainly to determine the fitness of a lawyer to continue
acting as an officer of the court and as participant in the dispensation of justice. 30 The
purpose of disbarment is to protect the courts and the public from the misconduct of the
officers of the court and to ensure the administration of justice by requiring that those
who exercise this important function shall be competent, honorable and trustworthy men
in
whom
courts
and
clients
may
repose
confidence. 31
We are aware that jurisprudence has allowed a complainant in a disbarment case to
collect an outstanding debt from a lawyer. 32 However, in the recent case of Heenan v.
Atty. Espejo,33 this Court sitting en banc did not agree with the IBPs recommendation to
72

73

order the erring lawyer to return the money he borrowed from the complainant. We said
in this case:
In disciplinary proceedings against lawyers, the only issue is whether the officer of the
court is still fit to be allowed to continue as a member of the Bar. Our only concern is the
determination of respondents administrative liability. Our findings have no material
bearing on other judicial action which the parties may choose to file against
each other. Furthermore, disciplinary proceedings against lawyers do not
involve a trial of an action, but rather investigations by the Court into the
conduct of one of its officers. The only question for determination in these
proceedings is whether or not the attorney is still fit to be allowed to continue as a
member of the Bar. Thus, this Court cannot rule on the issue of the amount of
money that should be returned to the complainant.34 [Emphasis supplied and
citations omitted.]
We note that as in the facts of the present case, the respondent-lawyer in
the Heenan case also did not deny the validity of her loan nor did she proffer any reason
for
issuing
unfunded
checks.
As a final note, we understand the frustration of, and sympathize with Ms. Sosa in her
present situation. However, because the matter before us is not a civil action for the
collection money, we cannot order Atty. Mendoza to pay his outstanding loan. We can
only clarify that our ruling in this case is without prejudice to any future civil or criminal
action that Ms. Sosa, if she so decides, may file against Atty. Mendoza in the future. Our
action likewise is without prejudice to any action we may take that is not based on the
violation
of
the
Code
of
Professional
Responsibility.
WHEREFORE,
premises
considered, ATTY.
MANUEL
V.
MENDOZA is SUSPENDED from the practice of law for a period of one (1) year for
violation of Rule 1.01 of the Code of Professional Responsibility with a STERN
WARNING that commission of the same or similar offense in the future will result in the
imposition
of
a
more
severe
penalty.
SO ORDERED.

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74

SECOND DIVISION
A.C. No. 8330, March 16, 2015
TERESITA B. ENRIQUEZ, Complainant, v. ATTY. TRINA DE VERA, Respondent.
For resolution is an administrative complaint for disbarment or suspension filed by
complainant Teresita B. Enriquez against Atty. Trina De Vera. We resolve whether Atty.
Trina De Vera committed serious misconduct and should be held administratively liable
for the issuance and dishonor of several post-dated checks.
Teresita B. Enriquez (Teresita) filed her Complaint-Affidavit 1 on June 26, 2009 before this
court. The Complaint prayed for Atty. Trina De Vera's (Atty. De Vera) disbarment or
suspension in relation to the latter's issuance of worthless checks and non-payment of a
loan.2cralawred
According to Teresita, she is a businesswoman involved in building cell site towers. She is
acquainted with Atty. De Vera through the business by subcontracting the cell site
acquisition to Atty. De Vera.3cralawred
Sometime in April 2006, Atty. De Vera borrowed P500,000.00 from Teresita with interest
of P20,000.00 per month until fully paid.4 Hbwever, Teresita did not have the full amount.
Atty. De Vera persuaded her to borrow the amount from a common friend, Mary Jane D.
Luzon (Mary Jane), by mortgaging her property located in Lucena City. 5 Atty. De Vera
issued IBank6 Check No. 310571 post-dated July 31, 2006 for P500,000.00. Atty. De Vera
also issued at least two more checks to cover the interest agreed upon. 7cralawred
Teresita alleges that in June 2006, Atty. De Vera obtained another loan from Teresita's
sister in the amount of P100,000.00. Teresita guaranteed the loan. Atty.De Vera issued
IBank Check No. 317689 post-dated July 14, 2006 for P100,000.00 to Teresita. Teresita
claimed that she paid her sister the amount borrowed by Atty. De Vera. 8cralawred
Upon maturity of the checks, Teresita presented the checks for payment. However, the
checks "bounced" for being drawn against insufficient funds. Teresita attempted to
encash the checks for a second time. However, the checks were dishonored because the
74

75

account was closed.9cralawred


Teresita demanded payment from Atty. De Vera. However, she failed to settle her
obligations, prompting Teresita to file complaints against Atty. De Vera for violation of
Batas Pambansa Blg. 22 and estafa under Article 315, paragraph 2(d) of the Revised
Penal Code.10cralawred
The Quezon City Prosecutor's Office issued the Resolution dated March 4, 2008 finding
probable cause for violation of Batas Pambansa Blg. 22 and Article 315, paragraph 2(d)
of the Revised Penal Code. On the same day, an Information for estafa under Article 315,
paragraph 2(d) of the Revised Penal Code was filed before the Regional Trial Court of
Quezon City. Subsequently, a warrant of arrest was issued by the trial court. 11cralawred
In her administrative complaint, Teresita prays that Atty. De Vera be disbarred or
suspended for violation of her oath under Rule 138, Section 27 of the Rules of
Court.12cralawred
On July 29, 2009, this court required Atty. De Vera to comment on the
Complaint.13cralawred
Atty. De Vera filed her Answer14 dated June 24, 2010. She presented her version of the
facts.
According to Atty. De Vera, in February 2006, Teresita awarded a Site Acquisition and
Permitting Project to Atty. De Vera's group. The project involved twenty-nine (29) Globe'
Telecom sites across Northern and Southern Luzon. 15cralawred
Atty. De Vera alleges that Teresita could not pay the required 15% downpayment per site.
Thus, they agreed that Atty. De Vera would advance the costs for mobilization and
survey, while Teresita would cover the costs for application of building permits. Teresita,
thus, owed her P195,000.00 per site.16cralawred
Teresita had not paid Atty. De Vera the downpayment by March 2006. 17 At that time,
Teresita had to deliver at least five (5) cell sites to Globe Telecom. 18 However, Teresita
did not have the funds required for the application of building permits that costs around
P10,000.00 for each cell site.19cralawred
Teresita was constrained to borrow P500,000.00 from Mary Jane. Subsequently, Teresita
approached Atty. De Vera and asked that the latter lend Teresita checks to guaranty the
loan. The main reason Teresita gave was that she had been frequently arguing with her
husband regarding the loan. 20cralawred
Atty. De Vera denies the P100,000.00 loan from Teresita's sister. 21 She only lent Teresita
another check as "additional guaranty for the five sites[.]" 22cralawred
Atty. De Vera argues that the checks were not drawn, issued, and delivered to Teresita for
value. The checks were not meant to be deposited. 23cralawred
Furthermore, Atty. De Vera claims that the present administrative case is baseless. She
points out that the proceedings before the Quezon City Prosecutor's Office were under
reinvestigation since she' did not have the opportunity to answer the criminal
complaint.24cralawred
Moreover, "nowhere in both the affidavit-complaint for Estafa/BP 22 and the
administrative complaint was there any proof that . . . [Atty. De Vera] had in any manner
75

76

breached her oath as a lawyer [or] abused her position against the interests of the
complainant."25cralawred
Atty. De Vera alleges that she was the one who was abused. 26 In addition, "[a] 11 the
bare allegations that [Atty. De Vera] was the one who enticed [Teresita] to mortgage her
property and that the checks issued by [Atty. De Vera] will be honored upon maturity do
not constitute deceitful conduct on the part of [Atty. De Vera]." 27cralawred
On August 25, 2010, this court noted Atty. De Vera's Answer and referred the case to the
Integrated Bar of the Philippines for "investigation, report and recommendation or
decision within ninety (90) days from receipt of [the] records[.]" 28cralawred
The Commission on Bar Discipline of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines scheduled
mandatory conferences where the parties defined the issues, stipulated on facts, and
marked exhibits.29 Upon the termination of the mandatory conferences, the parties were
"directed to submit their respective verified position papers within a period of thirty (30)
days from receipt of the Order."30.
Both parties failed to file their position papers. 31cralawred
The Investigating Commissioner of the Commission on Bar Discipline of the Integrated
Bar of the Philippines found Atty. De Vera administratively liable for serious misconduct
and recommended the penalty of suspension for one (1) year from the practice of
law.32 The Investigating Commissioner ruled:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
Respondent's assertion that the checks she issued to complainant were not security for
the loans she obtained but mere guaranty checks and not for deposit deserves no
credence; it is contrary to the ordinary experience.
. . . [T]he pieces of evidenc[e] on reco[r]d substantially shows [sic] that indeed
respondent incurred monetary obligations from complainant, and she issued postdated
checks to 'the latter as security for the payment of the loans.
Assuming . . . that respondent's version of facts were [sic] true, she is still guilty of
serious misconduct.
The gravamen of the offense punished by B.P. Blg. 22 is the act of making and
issuing . . . worthless check[s]; that is, a check that is dishonored upon its presentation
for payment. The law is not intended or designed to coerce a debtor to pay his debt. The
thrust of the law is to prohibit, under pain of penal sanctions, the making and circulation
of worthless checks. . . . A check issued as an evidence of debt though not intended to
be presented for payment has the same effect as an ordinary check and would fall
within the ambit of B.P. Blg. 22.
As a lawyer, respondent is deemed to know the law, especially B.P. Blg. 22. By issuing
checks in violation of the provisions of the law, respondent is guilty of serious
misconduct.
[A] lawyer may be disciplined not only for malpractice in connection with his profession,
but also for gross misconduct outside of his professional capacity[.] 33 (Citation
omitted)cralawlawlibrary
In issuing the worthless checks, Atty. De Vera did not only violate the law, but she also
broke her oath as a lawyer and transgressed the Canons in the Code of Professional
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77

Responsibility.34 The Investigating Commissioner found that Atty. De Vera violated the
following provisions:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
Cannon [sic] 1 - A lawyer shall uphold the Constitution, obey the laws of the land and
promote respect for the law and legal processes.
Rule 1.01 - A lawyer shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful
conduct.
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 shall he, whether in public or private life, behave in a scandalous
manner to the discredit of the legal profession. 35cralawlawlibrary
The dispositive portion of the Investigating Commissioner's Report and
Recommendation36 reads:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
WHEREFORE, premises considered, respondent is guilty of serious misconduct and it is
recommended that she be suspended for a period of one (1) year from the practice of
law.37cralawred
In the Notice of Resolution No. XX-2013-61238 dated May 11, 2013, the Integrated Bar of
the Philippines Board of Governors resolved to adopt the Investigating Commissioner's
recommendation:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
RESOLVED to ADOPT and APPROVE, as it is hereby unanimously ADOPTED and
APPROVED, the Report and Recommendation of the Investigating Commissioner in 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 considering that Respondent violated the B.P. 22 by issuing a worthless check,
the Attorney's Oath and Canon 1, Rule 1.01, Canon 7 and Rule 7.03 of the Code of
Professional Responsibility, Atty. Trina De Vera is hereby SUSPENDED from the
practice of law for one (1) year.39 (Emphasis in the original)cralawlawlibrary
Teresita filed the Partial Motion for Reconsideration 40 dated September 17, 2013 of the
Integrated Bar of the Philippines Board of Governors' Resolution. Atty. De Vera filed the
Motion for Reconsideration41 dated September 21, 2013.
In the Notice of Resolution No. XXI-2014-24142 dated May 3, 2014, the Integrated Bar of
the Philippines Board of Governors denied the parties' respective
motions:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
RESOLVED to DENY respective Motions for Reconsideration of Complainant and
Respondent, there being no cogent reason to reverse the findings of the Commission
and the resolution .subject of the motion, they being a mere reiteration of the matters
which had already been threshed out and taken into consideration. Moreover,
respondent's Motion for Reconsideration was filed out of time pursuant to his Motion for
Extension of Time which is a prohibited pleading under Rule 139-B of the Rules and
resorted to by lawyers at times to delay proceeding. Thus, Resolution No. XX-2013-612
dated May 11, 2013 is hereby AFFIRMED.43 (Emphasis in the original)
The main issue is whether Atty. De Vera committed serious misconduct and should be
held administratively liable for the issuance and dishonor of worthless checks in violation
77

78

of the Lawyer's Oath and the Code of Professional Responsibility.


After considering the parties' arguments and the records of this case, we resolve to
adopt and approve the recommendations of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines Board
of Governors.
Atty. De Vera tries to free herself from liability by arguing that she did not incur the loans
alleged by Teresita, and the checks were issued merely as a guaranty and not as
payment for the loan. She also raises the prematurity of the administrative complaint in
view of the pendency of the criminal proceedings considering that "the allegations of
deceitful conduct [are] intimately intertwined with the criminal acts complained
of."44cralawred
This is not a case of first impression. This court has ruled that the lawyer's act of issuing
worthless checks, punishable under Batas Pambansa Blg. 22, constitutes serious
misconduct.
In De Jesus v. Collado,45 this court found respondent lawyer guilty of serious misconduct
for issuing post-dated checks that were dishonored upon presentment for
payment:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
In the case at bar, no conviction for violation of B.P. Blg. 22 has as yet been obtained
against respondent Collado.. We do not, however, believe that conviction of the criminal
charges raised against her is essential, so far as either the administrative or civil service
case or the disbarment charge against her is concerned. Since she had admitted issuing
the checks when she did not have enough money in her bank account to cover the total
amount thereof, it cannot be gainsaid that the acts with which she was charged would
constitute a crime penalized by B.P. Blg. 22. We consider that issuance of checks in
violation of the provisions of B.P. Blg. 22 constitutes serious misconduct on the part of a
member of the Bar.46 (Emphasis supplied, citation omitted)cralawlawlibrary
Misconduct involves "wrongful intention and not a mere error of judgment"; 47 it is serious
or gross when it is flagrant. 48cralawred
We recently reiterated the purpose and nature of Batas Pambansa Blg. 22 in relation to
an administrative case against a member of the bar:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
Batas Pambansa Blg. 22 has been enacted in order to safeguard the interest of the
banking system and the legitimate public checking account users. The gravamen of the
offense defined and punished by Batas Pambansa Blg. 22 . . . is the act of making and
issuing a worthless check, or any check that is dishonored upon its presentment for
payment and putting it in circulation; the law is designed to prohibit and altogether
eliminate the deleterious and pernicious practice of issuing checks with insufficient
funds, or with no credit, because the practice is deemed a public nuisance, a crime
against public order to be abated.
Being a lawyer, [respondent] was well aware of the objectives and coverage of Batas
Pambansa Blg. 22. If he did not, he was nonetheless presumed to know them, for. the law
was penal in character and application. His issuance of the unfunded check involved
herein knowingly violated Batas Pambansa Blg. 22, and exhibited his indifference
towards the pernicious effect of his illegal act to public interest and public order. He
thereby swept aside his Lawyer's Oath that enjoined him to support the Constitution and
obey the laws.49 (Citations omitted)cralawlawlibrary
A lawyer is required to observe the law and be mindful of his or her actions whether
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79

acting in a public or private capacity. 50 The Code of Professional Responsibility


provides:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
CANON 1 Rule 1.01 ....
CANON 7 -

A LAWYER SHALL UPHOLD THE CONSTITUTION, OBEY THE LAWS OF THE


LAND AND PROMOTE RESPECT FOR LAW AND LEGAL PROCESSES.
A lawyer shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful
conduct.
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 shall he, whether in public or private life, behave in a
scandalous manner to the discredit of the legal profession.
The Investigating Commissioner found that Atty. De Vera incurred monetary obligations
from Teresita. Atty. De Vera admitted issuing the checks to Teresita. She refused to
answer for her liabilities by denying the existence of the loan and claiming that the
checks were mere "show checks."51 However, she failed to present evidence to prove
those allegations.
The Decision52 wherein the trial court found Teresita civilly liable to Mary Jane for
P540,000.00,53 and on which Atty. De Vera relies upon, is not sufficient evidence to hold
that there was no separate transaction between Teresita and Atty. De Vera. The Decision
involved the post-dated checks issued by Teresita to Mary Jane only. 54 Mary Jane merely
claimed that she had no personal knowledge of any transaction between Teresita and
Atty. De Vera.55cralawred
The Investigating Commissioner correctly pointed out that Atty. De Vera's allegation of
"lending" her checks to Teresita is contrary to ordinary human experience. As a lawyer,
Atty. De Vera is presumed to know the consequences of her acts. She issued several
post-dated checks for value that were dishonored upon presentation for payment.
Membership in the bar requires a high degree of fidelity to the laws whether in a private
or professional capacity. "Any transgression of this duty on his part would not only
diminish his reputation as a lawyer but would also erode the public's faith in the Legal
Profession as a whole."56 A lawyer "may be removed or otherwise disciplined 'not only for
malpractice and dishonesty in his profession, but also for gross misconduct not
connected with his professional duties, which showed him to be unfit for the office and
unworthy of the privileges which his license and the law confer to him.'" 57cralawred
WHEREFORE, respondent Atty. Trina De Vera is SUSPENDED from the practice of law
for one (1) year. Let a copy of this Resolution be entered in Atty. De Vera'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.cralawlawlibrary

SECOND DIVISION
A.C. No. 5116, April 13, 2015
DAVAO IMPORT DISTRIBUTORS, INC., Complainant, v. ATTY. JOHNNY LANDERO, Respondent.

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RESOLUTION
DEL CASTILLO, J.:

This is a Complaint1 for Disbarment filed against Atty. Johnny P. Landero


(respondent) on the grounds of professional misconduct and violation of Canon
12
of
the
Code
of
Professional
Responsibility
(CPR).
Factual

Antecedents

Sometime in August 1997, complainant Davao Import Distributors, Inc.


(complainant), through its representative and branch manager, Jimmy Pandili
(Pandili), engaged the services of respondent to file a Complaint 2 against Angelita
Librando and Juanito Du (Librando and Du, respectively) for the recovery of one
split type air-conditioner with replevin and damages. This case was docketed as
Civil Case No. 3854 (civil case) before Branch 3 of the Municipal Trial Court in
Cities
(MTCC)
of
General
Santos
City.
Apparently, Librando purchased on installment basis a split-type floor-mounted
air-conditioner from complainant in the amount of P86,740.00 which the former
installed in her beauty salon located in a commercial building owned by Du.
When Librando failed to pay, Pandili went to her salon only to find out that the
same had already closed down. Left in the premises, however, was the airconditioning unit Librando purchased from complainant. Claiming that Du refused
to release the unit to complainant as he allegedly intended to retain the same as
a lien for Librando's unpaid rentals, complainant filed the said case.
On the scheduled date of pre-trial on November 10,1997, respondent failed to
appear. And since he also failed to inform complainant or Pandili of the scheduled
pre-trial, they too were unable to attend. As a result, the case was dismissed for
non-suit through an Order3 of even date and Du was allowed to present his
evidence ex-parte in support of his counterclaim. On December 9, 1997, the
MTCC issued a Decision4 ordering complainant to pay Du the amounts of
P70,000.00 as moral damages, P5,000.00 as attorney's fees and P5,000.00 as
litigation
expenses.
Without filing a Motion for Reconsideration, complainant appealed the MTCC
Decision to the Regional Trial Court (RTC). On July 31, 1998, the RTC issued its
Decision5 affirming
the
MTCC
Decision.
Complainant then disbursed to respondent the amount of P1,900.00 so that he
may file a petition for review before the Court of Appeals (CA). Initially,
respondent filed a motion for extension of time to file said petition. However, he
failed to file the same such that on January 22, 1999 the CA issued a
Resolution6 dismissing
the
appeal.
Hence, this Complaint for Disbarment where complainant asserts that
respondent's actuations of (1) not appearing in the pre-trial of the case, (2) not
availing of the legal remedies against the dismissal of the Complaint due to nonsuit, and (3) failing to file a petition for review, constitute unprofessional behavior
or misconduct and violations of Canon 12 of the CPR, which merit disciplinary
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action,

if

not,

disbarment.

Respondent's

Defense

In response to the allegations hurled against him, respondent explained that


upon receiving Du's Answer with Counterclaims, he was alarmed to find out that
the property in question was already in the custody of the sheriff. This was
allegedly by reason of an attachment in an another civil action filed by a different
person against Librando. Respondent thus conferred with the counsel of Du and
requested him to withdraw the counterclaim but was turned down as Du wanted
to pursue his claim for damages. He then informed Pandili of the seizure of the
property by the sheriff and of Du's decision not to withdraw the counterclaim. The
two of them allegedly thereafter agreed to just abandon the case. But when he
discussed to Pandili that it is possible that complainant may be assessed for
damages, Pandili allegedly panicked and requested him to delay the execution of
the judgment on the counterclaim for fear that he would be terminated from his
job. Acceding, respondent appealed the judgment on Du's counterclaim but the
RTC dismissed the appeal and affirmed the MTCC Decision. When informed about
this, Pandili allegedly took from respondent the case folder despite the latter's
warning that they only have 15 days to file a Petition for Review with the CA. It
was only after 30 days that Pandili returned to him and begged that he file an
appeal, again, for fear that he would be terminated by complainant. Out of pity,
and despite knowledge of the expiration of the period for filing an appeal,
respondent still filed a Motion for Extension of Time to File Petition for Review.
Du's counsel opposed the motion pointing out that respondent misled the CA as
to the date of his receipt of the assailed RTC Decision so as to make it appear that
the said motion was timely filed. The CA thus ordered respondent to explain. It
was at his juncture that respondent opted not to file the intended petition
anymore allegedly because he would not want to waste the time of the court in
resolving a petition which is baseless and admittedly filed out of time.
Proceedings

before

the

Integrated

Bar

of

the

Philippines

On May 24, 2008, the Investigating Commissioner, Commission on Bar Discipline


of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) Commissioner Rebecca VillanuevaMaala (Commissioner Villanueva-Maala) recommended that respondent be
suspended from the practice of law for three months. 7 This was after she found
respondent negligent in the performance of his duty as counsel for complainant
and as an officer of the Court. As counsel for complainant, it was respondent's
duty to attend the pre-trial, justify the filing of the complaint, and oppose Du's
counterclaim. Respondent, however, was remiss in his duty by deliberately failing
to attend the pre-trial, which caused prejudice to complainant in that it was
declared in default and was assessed for damages. Moreover, while respondent
claimed that he did not proceed with the filing of the petition for review with the
CA because it was already out of time, the records, on the contrary, show that he
was actually granted by the CA an extension of 15 days to file the intended
petition. Only that he did not file the same on purpose notwithstanding his
receipt from complainant of the amount of P1,900.00 as payment for docket fees.
ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
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82

In a Resolution8 dated July 17, 2008, the EBP Board of Governors adopted and
approved the recommendation of Commissioner Villanueva-Maala but modified
the period of suspension by increasing it from three months to six months.
Respondent then filed a Motion for Reconsideration, 9which the IBP Board of
Governors
denied
in
a
Resolution10 dated
March
21,
2014.
Hence, the transmission of the whole record of the case to this Court for its final
action.chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
Our Ruling
We agree with complainant that respondent displayed unprofessional behavior
and
misconduct
and
violated
the
CPR.
Respondent himself admitted that he deliberately did not appear at the
scheduled pre-trial conference in Civil Case No. 3854 despite notice and that he
did not file a petition for review after receiving from his client the payment for
docket fees and after being granted by the CA an extension of time to file the
same. From these facts alone, it cannot be denied that respondent's acts
constitute misconduct which at the same time amount to violations of the CPR.
The Court has already held in People v. Sevilleno11 and reiterated in Consolidated
Farms, Inc. v. Atty. Alpon, Jr. 12 that Canon 1813 of the CPR requires every lawyer to
serve his client with utmost dedication, competence and diligence. He must not
neglect a legal matter entrusted to him and his negligence in this regard renders
him
administratively
liable.
As complainant's counsel in Civil Case No. 3854, respondent is duty-bound to
handle the same with zeal and all due diligence. Hence, even assuming that
there is truth to his allegation that he and Pandili already agreed to abandon the
case, he should have still attended the scheduled pre-trial to formally move for its
withdrawal. However, despite his awareness that his absence in the pre-trial
would result to a dismissal of the case with prejudice and to a declaration of his
client's default with respect to Du's counterclaim, respondent still deliberately did
not appear thereat. It is worth noting that at that time, Du had already filed an
Answer with Counterclaim. If respondent was indeed concerned about his client's
cause, he should have, under the circumstances, observed the mandate of
Section Rule 17 of the Rules of Court. It provides:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
RULE 17
Dismissal of Actions
Section 2. Dismissal upon motion of plaintiff - Except as provided in the
preceding section, a complaint shall not be dismissed at the plaintiff's instance
save upon approval of the court and upon such terms and conditions as the court
deems proper. If a counterclaim has been pleaded by a defendant prior to the
service upon him of the plaintiffs motion for dismissal, the dismissal shall be
limited to the complaint. The dismissal shall be without prejudice to the right of
the defendant to prosecute his counterclaim in a separate action unless within
fifteen (15) days from notice of the motion he manifests his preference to have
his counterclaim resolved in the same action. Unless otherwise specified in
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83

the order, a dismissal under this paragraph shall be without prejudice. A


class suit shall not be dismissed or compromised without the approval of the
court. (Emphasis supplied)cralawlawlibrary
Had respondent moved for dismissal under the above-quoted rule, the case filed
by complainant would have been dismissed without prejudice thereby giving it
the alternative of re-filing the case should there be a change in circumstances.
But due to respondent's absence and also his failure to inform complainant of the
scheduled pre-trial, the Complaint was dismissed based on Section 314 of the
same Rule. This has the effect of an adjudication on the merits which, needless to
state, curtailed the right of the complainant to refile the case. Moreover, had
respondent been present at the pre-trial and had informed complainant of the
same, the latter would not have been declared in default and, therefore, would
have had the opportunity to present evidence to refute Du's claim for damages
against it. To stress, an attorney is bound to protect his client's interest to the
best of his ability and with utmost diligence.15 This, respondent failed to do in
utter disregard of Canon 18 of the CPR.
Anent respondent's failure to file the Petition for Review despite being granted an
extension of time to do so, his explanation is as
follows:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
o) That because of pity I filed an extension of time to file a petition for review
alleging that the plaintiff had just received a decision and the filing is within the
reglementary period copy furnished the counsel of Juanito Du[.] This was opposed
by bis counsel alleging [I misled] the court [as] to the correctness of the date of
receipt of said decision. So the court issued an order directing the undersigned
respondent to explain, x x x Because of said opposition the herein counsel
decided not to proceed [with] the filing of [a] petition for review considering it
was already filed out of time and it will only waste the golden time of the court in
reviewing a baseless appeal, so the herein respondent advised the manager to be
man enough to accept the truth, otherwise the herein respondent would be
dragged deeper in helping him;16cralawred
cralawlawlibrary
The Court finds respondent's reason to be unacceptable if not downright
disrespectful to the courts. The same only underscores his blatant violation of
Rule 12.03, Canon 12 of the CPR, which states:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
CANON 12 - A LAWYER SHALL EXERT EVERY EFFORT AND CONSIDER IT HIS DUTY
TO ASSIST IN THE SPEEDY AND EFFICIENT ADMINISTRATION OF
JUSTICE.chanrobleslaw
xxxx
Rule 12.03 - A lawyer shall not, after obtaining extensions of time to file
pleadings, memoranda or briefs, let the period lapse without submitting the same
or offering an explanation for his failure to do so.cralawlawlibrary
Respondent needs lecturing that sympathy towards a client does not justify his
act of stating in his motion for extension that he received the RTC Decision at a
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84

later date to make it appear that the filing of the said motion is well-within the
period for filing an appeal. Given his years of experience in the legal profession,
respondent should be well aware that "[a] lawyer is first and foremost an officer
of the: court. Thus, while he owes his entire devotion to the interest and causes
of his client, he must ensure that he acts within the bounds of reason and
common sense, always aware that he is an instrument of truth and justice. More
importantly, as an officer of the court and its indispensable partner in the sacred
task of administering justice, graver responsibility is imposed upon a lawyer than
any other to uphold the integrity of the courts and to show respect to its
processes. Thus, any act on his part which tends visibly to obstruct, pervert or
impede and degrade the administration of justice constitutes professional
misconduct calling for the exercise of disciplinary action against him."17cralawred
All told, the Court finds respondent to have committed acts violative of Canons
12 and 18 of the CPR.
WHEREFORE, the Court ADOPTS the July 17, 2008 Resolution of the Board of
Governors of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines. Atty. Johnny P. Landero is
ordered SUSPENDED from the practice of law for six (6) months effective
immediately. He is directed to report the date of his receipt of this Resolution to
enable this Court to determine when his suspension shall take effect.
Let a copy of this Resolution be entered in the personal records of respondent as
a member of the Bar, and copies furnished the Office of the Bar Confidant, the
Integrated Bar of the Philippines, and the Office of the Court Administrator for
circulation to all courts in the country.
SO ORDERED.cralawlawlibrary

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85

SECOND DIVISION
A.C. No. 9868 [formerly CBD Case No. 05-1617], April 22, 2015
ATTY. ALFREDO L. VILLAMOR, JR., Complainant, v. ATTYS. E. HANS A. SANTOS
AND AGNES H. MARANAN, Respondents.
DECISION
For the Court's consideration is the disbarment complaint 1 filed by Atty. Alfredo L.
Villamor, Jr. (complainant) against Attys. E. Hans A. Santos and Agnes H. Maranan
(respondents) for committing an unethical act in violation of the Code of Professional
Responsibility.chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
Factual Background
In his complaint, the complainant related that the respondents initiated Civil Case No.
70251 for a sum of money before the Regional Trial Court of Pasig City (RTC Pasig) and
used a deceptive ploy to prevent the payment of the proper docket fees. Knowing that
the complaint was actually one for damages, the respondents allegedly disguised the
complaint as an action for specific performance and injunction (where the amount
involved is incapable of pecuniary estimation) and deliberately omitted to specify the
damages prayed for amounting to P68,000,000.00 in the prayer of the complaint in order
to avoid paying the proper docket fees. According to the complainant, this intentional
omission to specify the amount of damages was specifically declared by the Court
inManchester Development Corporation, et al. v. Court of Appeals 2 as grossly unethical,
and thus constitutes a valid ground for disbarment. 3
The respondents denied that they deceived the court in Civil Case No. 70251 by making
it appear that the case was an action for specific performance and injunction. They
claimed that at the time the complaint in Civil Case No. 70251 was filed on January 13,
2005, twelve (12) out of fifteen (15) checks were not yet due and demandable, clearly
indicating that the complaint was really an action for specific performance and
injunction, rather than an action for sum of money or damages. 4
The respondents also claimed that the Manchester doctrine the complainant invoked was
modified less than two (2) years after it was announced. 5
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86

The Investigating Commissioner's Findings


In his Report and Recommendation dated October 29, 2008, IBP Commissioner Wilfredo
E.J.E. Reyes found that the respondents did not commit any violation of the code of
professional ethics.
According to Commissioner Reyes, there is no showing that the Clerk of Court had been
deceived when she assessed the filing fees due on the complaint in Civil Case No. 70251.
A reading of the prayer in Civil Case No. 70251 shows that there were clear and
unequivocal references to paragraph 2.27 of the complaint, which detailed the amounts
of the postdated checks. There was also a specific reference in the prayer to the amount
of P9.5 Million representing the value of the checks that had become due.
Moreover, there is no showing that the Clerk of Court had made any mistake in the
assessment of the docket fees since the court never issued an order for reassessment or
payment of higher docket fees.
Commissioner Reyes recommended that the disbarment case be dismissed for lack of
merit.chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
The IBP Board of Governors' Findings
In a resolution6 dated December 11, 2008, the Board of Governors of the IBP resolved to
adopt and approve the Report and Recommendation of the IBP Commissioner after
finding it to be fully supported by the evidence on record, and by the applicable laws and
rules.
The complainant moved to reconsider the resolution but the IBP Board of Governors
denied his motion in a resolution7 dated January 3, 2013.
On April 5, 2013, the complainant filed a Petition for Review on Certiorari assailing the
IBP's findings. The complainant reiterated that:
(1) The respondents' omission to state, in the prayer of the complaint, the amount
claimed in the action is an "unethical practice";
(2) The case filed by the respondents in Civil Case No. 70251 is one for the collection of
a sum of money; and
(3) The respondents violated the Code of Professional Responsibility, specifically, Canon
1, Rule 1.01; and Canon 10, Rules 10.01, 10.02, and 10.03.
The Issue
The issue in this case is whether the respondents' omission of the specification of the
amount of damages in the prayer of the complaint is unethical, and thereby violative of
the Code of Professional Responsibility.chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
The Court's Ruling
After a careful study of the record, we agree with the findings and recommendations of
the IBP Commissioner and the IBP Board of Governors.
The complainant argued that the Investigating Commissioner's Report and
Recommendation is contrary to the Court's pronouncement in Manchester Development
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87

Corporation, et al. v. Court of Appeals.8 The material portions of the Manchester doctrine
provide:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
"The Court cannot close this case without making the observation that it frowns at the
practice of counsel v/ho filed the original complaint in this case of omitting any
specification of the amount of damages in the prayer although the amount of over
Seventy-Eight Million Pesos (P78,000,000.00) is alleged in the body of the complaint.
This is clearly intended for no other purpose than to evade the payment of the correct
filing fees if not to mislead the docket clerk in the assessment of the filing fee."
"The Court serves warning that it will take drastic action upon a repetition of this
unethical practice."
In that case, the Court observed that the lawyer's act of omitting any specification of the
amount of damages in the prayer of the complaint, although the amount was alleged in
its body, "was clearly intended for no other purpose than to evade the payment of the
correct filing fees if not to mislead the docket clerk in the assessment of the filing
fee."9 It noted the lawyer's fraudulent act of avoiding payment of the required docket
fees, and declared the said act as unethical. Following this pronouncement, the Court
required lawyers filing an original complaint to specify the amount of damages prayed
for not only in the body of the pleading, but also in the prayer.
After a careful study of the import of the Manchester doctrine and the arguments of the
parties, we find as the Investigating Commissioner did -that the respondents did not
commit any violation of the Code of Professional Conduct.
We stress that the main issue in disbarment cases is whether or not a lawyer has
committed serious professional misconduct sufficient to cause disbarment. The test is
whether the lawyer's conduct shows him or her to be wanting in moral character,
honesty, probity, and good demeanor; or whether it renders him or her unworthy to
continue as an officer of the court. 10 The burden of proof rests upon the complainant; and
the Court will exercise its disciplinary power only if the complainant establishes the
complaint with clearly preponderant evidence. 11
In the present case, the respondents' administrative liability would depend on the
resolution of the following sub-issues: (1) whether the respondents employed a
deceptive ploy to avoid payment of the docket fees; (2) whether the respondents' failure
to specify the amount of damages in the prayer of the complaint constitutes an unethical
practice; and ultimately; (3) whether the respondents violated Canon 1, Rule 1.01 of the
Code of Professional Liability.
We agree with the respondents that they did not deceive the court in Civil Case No.
70251 in its assessment of the correct docket fees. Canon 1, Rule 1.01 of the Code of
Professional Liability provide:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
"CANON 1 - A LAWYER SHALL UPHOLD THE CONSTITUTION, OBEY THE LAWS OF THE
LAND AND PROMOTE RESPECT FOR LAW AND FOR LEGAL PROCESSES
xxx
Rule 1.01. A lawyer shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful
conduct."
On the other hand, Canon 10, Rules 10.01, 10.02 and 10.03
provide:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
"CANON 10 - A LAWYER OWES CANDOR, FAIRNESS AND GOOD FAITH TO THE COURT.
Rule 10.01 - A lawyer shall not do any falsehood, nor consent to the doing of any in
court, nor shall he misled by any artifice.
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88

Rule 10.02 - A lawyer shall not knowingly misquote or misrepresent the contents of a
paper, the language or the argument of opposing counsel, or the text of a decision or
authority, or knowingly cite as law a provision already rendered inoperative by repeal or
amendment, or assert as a fact that which has not been proved.
Rule 10.03 - A lawyer shall observe the rules of procedure and shall not misuse them to
defeat the ends of justice."
Contrary to the complainant's allegation that the respondents had defrauded the court,
the element of "deceitful conduct" or "deceit" was not present in this case.
First, the prayer in the complaint clearly showed that there was a clear and express
reference to paragraph 2.27 of the complaint, which listed and described in detail the
date of the checks, the check numbers, and their corresponding amounts.
Second, there was also an express mention in the prayer of the amount of P9.5 Million
representing the value of the checks that had already become due. Thus, we find
unmeritorious the complainant's claim that the respondents intentionally and
deceptively omitted to specify the amount of damages in the prayer.
Third, despite the complainant's move for the dismissal of Case No. 70251 on the
ground that the proper docket fees were not paid, the RTC Pasig Clerk of Court neither
reassessed the filing fees, nor required the plaintiff in that case to pay additional filing
fees.
Fourth, even as of this date, the Court in Civil Case No. 70251 has not issued an order
requiring the reassessment, recomputation, and/or payment of additional docket fees,
signifying that the RTC Pasig Clerk of Court did not make any mistake in the assessment
of the docket fees.
Fifth, an examination of the allegations of the complaint and the prayer in Civil Case No.
70251 shows that the case is really an action for specific performance and injunction.
The complaint sought to judicially require the complainant to deliver the actual and
physical checks enumerated in paragraph 2.27 of the complaint; to compel him to
account for the checks that he may have had already encashed; and to restrain him from
negotiating, transacting, and encashing the checks in his possession. Clearly, the
complaint was an action for specific performance, rather than for a sum of money.
Even assuming that the respondents' mere reference to paragraph 2.27 of the complaint
does not fully comply with the Manchester doctrine, this Court still finds that it is not a
sufficient ground for disbarment. As discussed above, there is no clear showing that the
respondents defrauded or misled the RTC Pasig Clerk of Court. Neither was there any
proof that the respondents have maliciously disguised their complaint as an action for
specific performance and injunction so as to evade the payment of the proper docket
fees. Clearly, the complainant's allegation is merely anchored on speculation and
conjecture, and hence insufficient to justify the imposition of the administrative penalty
of disbarment.
We are likewise not convinced that the respondents violated Canon 10 of the Code of
Professional Responsibility. The record of the case do not show that the respondents had
committed misconduct, dishonesty, falsehood, or had misused the rules of procedure. In
the absence of such proof, the presumption of innocence of the lawyer remains and the
complaint against him must be dismissed.12Viewed in these lights, the disbarment
complaint against the respondents Attys. E. Hans A. Santos and Agnes H. Maranan
should be dismissed for lack of merit.cralawred
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89

WHEREFORE, premises considered, we DENY the present petition for review for lack of
merit. Accordingly, we AFFIRM the IBP Governors' (1) Notice of Resolution No. XVIII2008-602 dated December 11, 2008; and (2) Notice of Resolution No. XX-2013-09 dated
January 3, 2013.
Costs against the petitioner.
SO ORDERED.

SECOND DIVISION
A.C. No. 720, June 17, 2015
FRANCISCO CAOILE, Complainant, v. ATTY. MARCELINO MACARAEG, Respondent.
RESOLUTION
DEL CASTILLO, J.:
Alleging that his lawyer's neglect and dereliction of duty caused the dismissal of his
appeal, complainant Francisco Caoile (Francisco) filed on August 16, 1966 a
Complaint1 for disbarment against Atty. Marcelino Macaraeg (Atty. Macaraeg).
Factual Antecedents
Francisco, and four others, engaged the services of Atty. Macaraeg to represent titiem in
Civil Case No. 11119, an action for recovery of ownership filed before the Court of First
Instance (CFI) of Lingayen, Pangasinan. After the CFI rendered judgment against them,
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90

Francisco and his co-defendants decided to appeal their case before the Court of Appeals
(CA).
Accordingly, Atty. Macaraeg filed a notice of appeal. Thrice he moved for extension of
time to file appellants' brief. In his last motion for extension, 2 he alleged that he was
already in the process of doing the finishing touches on the brief and just needed to have
it printed. Yet, the extended period expired without Atty. Macaraeg filing any brief.
Hence, upon motion of the opposing party, the CA dismissed the appeal. 3 The dismissal
became final and executory on December 13, 1963. 4
Francisco averred that they were unaware of the dismissal of their appeal until they were
served with the CFI's writ of execution5 and a notice of sale at public auction6 of their
property in 1965. After confirming with the CA that they indeed lost the case, Francisco
confronted Atty. Macaraeg who informed him that they lost the case because they failed
to pay him in full.7
Hence, this administrative complaint against Atty. Macaraeg for neglect and dereliction
of duty.
In his Answer,8 Atty. Macaraeg averred that Francisco and his co-defendants did not pay
in full for his services in filing the appeal. Anent the pacto de retro sale which Francisco
and his wife executed in his favor supposedly to cover the balance of his professional
fees, Atty. Macaraeg claimed that it was Francisco who insisted on its execution, and
that, contrary to Francisco's claim, it was intended as payment for his services while
representing Francisco before the CFI, and not as payment for his services in filing the
appeal. Atty. Macaraeg also claimed that, in any case, Francisco did not honor the
said pacto de retro sale as the possession of the lot was never turned over to him. 9
Atty. Macaraeg denied Francisco's accusation that he neglected their case. He pointed
out that to push through with the appeal he even advanced some of the appeal
expenses. While he admitted that he failed to submit an appellants' brief, he averred
that the same was actually the fault of his clients who failed to provide the necessary
funds to file said brief. According to him, he constantly reminded Francisco to give him
the amount necessary to cover the costs of the transcript and printing of the appeal
brief. He even filed three motions for extension of time to file brief to give Francisco more
time to come up with the said payment. Still, Francisco was unable to pay. Moreover,
Atty. Macaraeg was not reimbursed for the amount he advanced for appeal expenses.
On September 22, 1966, this Court referred the Complaint to the Solicitor General for
investigation, report and recommendation.10
Proceedings before the Solicitor General
From March to November 1967, the Solicitor General conducted several
hearings.11 Thereafter, the parties were required to submit their respective
memoranda.12 Atty. Macaraeg submitted his Memorandum on January 18, 1968, 13 while
Francisco submitted his Memorandum on March 25, 1968. 14
In November 1972, the Office of the Solicitor General again summoned the parties to
appear before it.15 Notably, the return of the subpoena served upon Atty. Macaraeg
contained a notation, viz:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
Atty. Marcelino Macaraeg is now deceased.

90

91

(illegible)
Signature
wife16
Subsequently, this case was transferred to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP).
Report and Recommendation of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines
In an Order17 dated May 8, 1990, the IBP notified the parties to manifest whether they
are still interested in prosecuting the case, or whether supervening events have
transpired rendering the case moot and academic. The IBP received no response. On
November 17, 1997, the IBP again sent notices to the parties to appear, 18 but the notices
were unclaimed. Subsequently, the IBP, through an Order 19 dated November 27, 2001,
directed the heirs of Atty. Macaraeg to submit a certified true copy of his death
certificate to no avail as the copy thereof sent to the said heirs was returned to sender.
Finally on October 19, 2011, Commissioner Oliver A. Cachapero (Commissioner
Cachapero) of the Commission on Bar Discipline of the IBP came up with a Report and
Recommendation.20 Noting the long period of time that the Complaint has been pending,
he stated:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
For unknown reasons, this case x x x lingered [quite some time] in the Commission. It
was filed on August 16, 1966 in the Supreme Court and x x x subsequently found its way
[to] the Commission where it was initially assigned to a Commissioner. In the first week
of October 2011, the undersigned, who was tasked to prepare the resolution, received
the folder and the records of the case.
Records show that on May 8, 1990, then Commissioner Ernesto L. Pineda wrote the
parties asking them to manifest within x x x (10) days from notice whether x x x they are
still interested in prosecuting this case, and whether supervening events have transpired
which rendered the resolution moot or academic. The Commission received no response
from either litigant, hence this resolution.21cralawlawlibrary
Anent the merits of the Complaint, Commissioner Cachapero ruled that Atty. Macaraeg
neglected the cause of his clients when he thrice moved for extension of time within
which to file his brief. However, he did not file any, reasoning out that the non-filing was
due to his clients' failure to give him the necessary funds. Commissioner Cachapero
opined that the said excuse cannot stand. He thus found Atty. Macaraeg to have violated
Rule 12.03 of Canon 12 of the Code of Professional
Responsibility,viz.:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
A lawyer shall not, after obtaining extensions of time to file pleadings, memoranda or
briefs, let the period lapse without submitting the same or offering an explanation for his
failure to do so.
Accordingly, Commissioner Cachapero recommended that Atty. Macaraeg be suspended
from the practice of law for a period of two years.
In Resolution No. XX-2013-17422 dated February 13, 2013, the IBP Board of Governors
adopted and approved the findings of Commissioner Cachapero with the modification
that the penalty be reduced to a suspension of one year.chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
The Court's Ruling
Rule 18.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility provides:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
A lawyer shall not neglect a legal matter entrusted to him, and his negligence in
connection therewith shall render him liable.
A considerable length of time had elapsed from the time Atty. Macaraeg' filed the notice
of appeal on August 30, 1962 up to the time he filed the third motion for extension of
time to file brief on October 5, 1963. Despite the passage of such time, however, Atty.
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92

Macaraeg still failed to file the brief, which resulted in the dismissal of his clients' appeal.
Suffice it to state that a motion for extension to file an appellant's brief carries with it the
presumption that the applicant-lawyer will file the pleading within the requested
extended period. Failure to dojo without any reasonable excuse violates the Code of
Professional Responsibility.23
While Atty. Macaraeg attributed the non-filing of the brief to his clients' failure to give the
amount necessary for filing the same, he should have, as aptly stated by Commissioner
Cachapero, shown a more mindful and caring attitude towards the cause of his clients by
advancing the payment. Besides, the facts of this case show that his clients were making
partial payments in their efforts to comply with their obligation to him and were not
deliberately refusing to pay him. In fact, as claimed by Atty. Macaraeg himself, Francisco
even insisted that they enter into a pacto de retro sale in order for them to fully pay him
for the services he rendered in connection with their civil case in the CFI. In fact, if Atty.
Macaraeg truly believed that the necessary funds from his clients were not forthcoming,
he could have excused himself from the case. The Code of Professional Responsibility
allows a counsel to withdraw his services for a good cause, including the client's failure
to comply with the retainer agreement.24 Indeed, Atty. Macaraeg violated Rule 12.03.
Nevertheless, while the actuation of Atty. Macaraeg warrants the imposition of a penalty,
supervening circumstances call for the dismissal of this administrative case.
The Supreme Court Law List shows that Atty. Macaraeg was admitted to the Bar on
November 6, 1933.25 Records reveal that he was already 60 years old when the hearings
in this disbarment case were held in 1967. Hence, he would have been 108 years old by
this time. It is also noteworthy that the subpoena issued by the Solicitor General in 1972
contains a handwritten note that Atty. Macaraeg had already died. Thereafter, nothing
more was heard from either party despite notice. Under these circumstances, it is safe to
assume that the complainant had already lost interest in pursuing this disbarment case
against Atty. Macaraeg and that there is truth in the handwritten notation in the return of
the subpoena that Atty. Macaraeg had already passed away. In Apiag v. Cantero,26 the
Court dismissed the administrative case against therein respondent and no longer
imposed any sanction against him in view of his death during the pendency of said
case.cralawred
WHEREFORE, premises considered, this Complaint for Disbarment against Atty.
Marcelino Macaraeg is hereby DISMISSED.
SO ORDERED.chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary

A.C. No. 5067, June 29, 2015


CORAZON M. DALUPAN, Complainant, v. ATTY. GLENN C. GACOTT,1 Respondent.

92

93

DECISION

Before us is a petition for review under Rule 139-B, Section 12 (c) of the Rules of
Court assailing Resolution No. XVII-2007-1152 dated March 17, 2007 and
Resolution No. XIX-2010-5443 dated October 8, 2010 of the Board of Governors of
the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) which adopted and approved the
Report and Recommendation4 dated December 12, 2006 of the Investigating
Commissioner of the Commission on Bar Discipline of the IBP. Although the IBP
Board of Governors dismissed the complaint for disbarment filed against the
respondent, it ordered the latter to return the payment of the attorney's fee to
the complainant in the amount of P5,000. This order to return the attorney's fee
is
the
subject
of
the
present
petition.
The

salient

facts

of

the

case

follow:

In her affidavit-complaint5 dated April 20, 1999, the complainant claimed that she
was a defendant in a criminal case for grave slander pending before the
Municipal Trial Court (MTC) of Puerto Princesa City, Palawan. Meanwhile, her son,
Wilmer Dalupan, was also a defendant in a separate criminal case for grave
slander and malicious mischief pending before the same court. In order to
represent the complainant and her son, the complainant engaged the legal
services of the respondent who then charged an acceptance fee of P10,000.
On August 20, 1996, the complainant paid the respondent P5,000 as initial
payment
for
his
acceptance
fee.
On August 27, 1996, the complainant requested the respondent to draft a Motion
to Reduce Bail Bond. However, the respondent allegedly denied the request and
claimed that it was beyond the scope of his retainer services. Thus, the
complainant alleged that she caused a certain Roily Calbentos to draft the same
which
was
however
signed
by
the
respondent.
On January 31, 1997, the complainant paid the respondent the remaining balance
of P5,000 for his acceptance fee. When the complainant asked for an Official
Receipt from the respondent, the latter refused saying that there was no need for
the issuance of a receipt. On that same day, the complainant also paid the
respondent P500 for his appearance fee in the preliminary conference and
arraignment
which
occurred
on
the
same
day.
Thereafter, the complainant alleged that the respondent neglected his duties as
counsel and failed to attend any of the hearings before the MTC. In view of the
respondent's repeated absences before the MTC, Judge Jocelyn S. Dilig issued an
Order which appointed a counsel de oficio to represent the complainant.
Aggrieved, the complainant filed the instant complaint for disbarment against the
respondent.
On the other hand, in his comment, 6 the respondent denied all the allegations of
the
complainant.
The respondent alleged that the complainant approached him and represented
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94

herself as an indigent party in the following cases for which she sought to engage
the legal services of the respondent: (1) Criminal Case No. 12586, People of the
Philippines v. Corazon Dalupan, et al. for Grave Slander, (2) Criminal Case No.
12585, People of the Philippines v. Wilmer Dalupan for Malicious Mischief, (3) I.S.
No. 96-1104, Custodio Family v. Cesar Dalupan, et al. for Frustrated Murder, (4)
I.S. No. 97-54,Dalupan Family v. Romulo Custodio, et al. for Physical Injuries, and
(5) I.S. No. 9760 Dalupan Family v. Romulo Custodio for Frustrated Murder. The
respondent agreed to represent the complainant in the aforementioned cases
subject to the payment of an acceptance fee of P5,000 per case and an
appearance
fee
of
P500
for
each
court
appearance.
On August 20, 1996, the complainant paid the respondent P5,000 for his
acceptance
fee.
On August 27, 1996, the respondent filed a Motion for Reduction of Bail in favor
of the complainant before the MTC of Puerto Princesa City. On that same day, the
complainant proceeded to the law office of the respondent and demanded that
the latter negotiate with the MTC judge to ensure the grant of the Motion for
Reduction of Bail. When the respondent refused the demand of the complainant,
the latter replied at the top of her voice: "Binabayaran kita, bakit hindi mo
ginagawa ang gusto ko?" The respondent answered her with, "Hindi po lahat ng
gusto ninyo ay gagawin ko, sa tama lamangpo tayo, abogado po ninyo ako, hindi
ako fixer."7 This irked the complainant who then made verbal threats that she will
replace the respondent with a certain Atty. Roland Pay who held office nearby.
However, when the MTC of Puerto Princesa City eventually ruled in favor of the
complainant and granted the motion, the latter revoked her threats that she will
replace
the
respondent.
On August 19, 1997, the MTC of Puerto Princesa City issued a Notice of Hearing to
the complainant and her son Wilmer Dalupan which ordered them to appear
before the court on September 9, 1997 in connection with their criminal cases
pending "therein. However, the respondent failed to attend the scheduled
hearing as he allegedly failed to receive a copy of the Notice of Hearing. Thus, in
his written explanation dated October 7, 1997, the respondent attributed his
failure to appear before the MTC to the inefficiency of the process server of the
said
court.
On October 10, 1997, the complainant told the respondent that she was
terminating the latter's services on the ground of loss of trust and confidence.
Furthermore, the complainant also told the respondent that she engaged the
services of Atty. Roland Pay to replace the respondent. As a result, on October 30,
1997, the complainant withdrew all her records from the law office of the
respondent.
On January 29, 1998, the MTC of Puerto Princesa City issued an Order which
relieved the respondent of any responsibility in Criminal Case Nos. 12585 and
12586:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
Acting on what the counsel of record of all the accused in the above-entitled
cases call "Compliance", where obvious on the face of which is his desire to
withdraw as Counsel, and it appearing that said intention to withdraw is not only
94

95

with the full conformity of all the accused but at their own initiative, Atty. Glenn
Gacott is hereby relieved of any responsibility in. the further prosecution of the
above-captioned cases.8cralawlawlibrary
In view of the above Order, the respondent argued that he was not guilty of
abandonment or neglect of duty because it was the complainant who wilfully
terminated his services even without fault or negligence on his part.
We referred this case to the IBP for its investigation, report, and recommendation.
On December 12, 2006, Investigating Commissioner Wilfredo E.J.E. Reyes
recommended the dismissal of the complaint for disbarment against the
respondent. At the same time, he also recommended that the respondent return
the payment of the attorney's fee to the complainant in the amount of P5,000. 9
The Investigating Commissioner opined that the respondent cannot be held liable
for abandonment or neglect of duty because it was the complainant who
discharged the respondent for loss of trust and confidence. This was confirmed by
the act of the complainant in withdrawing all her records from the law office of
the respondent. Furthermore, the Investigating Commissioner said that absent
evidence showing that the respondent committed abandonment or neglect of
duty, the presumption of regularity should prevail in favor of the respondent.
Although there was no evidence to support the claim of the complainant that she
paid the respondent the remaining balance of P5,000 as acceptance fee and an
appearance fee of P500 on January 31, 1997, the Investigating Commissioner
gave credence to an Official Receipt dated August 20, 1996 which proved that the
complainant indeed paid the respondent an amount of P5,000. However, the
Investigating Commissioner found that the respondent did not perform any
substantial legal work on behalf of the complainant. For this reason, and in the
interest of justice, the Investigating Commissioner recommended that the
respondent
return
the
amount
of
P5,000
to
the
complainant.
On March 17, 2007, the IBP Board of Governors passed Resolution No. XVII-2007115 which adopted and approved in toto the Report and Recommendation of the
Investigating
Commissioner.
On October 8, 2010, the IBP Board of Governors passed Resolution No. XIX-2010544 which denied the Motion for Reconsideration dated July 27, 2007 filed by the
respondent.
Hence, the present petition10 which raises the sole issue of whether the
respondent should return the payment of the attorney's fee to the complainant in
the
amount
of
P5,000.
Firstly, the respondent argued that when the MTC of Puerto Princesa City issued
the Order dated January 29, 1998 which relieved the respondent of any
responsibility in Criminal Case Nos. 12585 and 12586, the trial court did not
require the respondent to reimburse the payment of the attorney's fee to the
complainant. Thus, the IBP Board of Governors exceeded its authority in ordering
95

96

the

respondent

to

return

such

fees

to

the

complainant.

Secondly, the respondent argued that a plain reading of the Official Receipt dated
August 20, 1996 would reveal that the parties intended the payment of P5,000 to
serve as acceptance fee which is different from attorney's fee. According to the
respondent, the acceptance fee corresponds to the opportunity cost incurred by
the lawyer for not representing other potential clients due to a conflict of interest
with the present client. Thus, the payment of acceptance fee to the lawyer does
not
depend
on
the
latter's
performance
of
legal
services.
Since the complainant failed to file any comment on the petition for review, we
proceed to resolve the sole issue raised, and rule in favor of the respondent.
We find that the respondent did not commit any fault or negligence in the
performance of his obligations under the retainer agreement which was wilfully
terminated by the complainant on the ground of loss of trust and confidence. As
held by the Investigating Commissioner, the evidence on record shows that the
respondent
is
not
liable
for
abandonment
or
neglect
of
duty.
However, we disagree with the conclusion of the Investigating Commissioner that
the respondent should return the payment of the attorney's fee to the
complainant
in
the
amount
of
P5,000.
Firstly, the Investigating Commissioner seriously erred in referring to the amount
to be returned by the respondent as attorney's fee. Relevantly, we agree with the
respondent that there is a distinction between attorney's fee and acceptance fee.
It is well-settled that attorney's fee is understood both in its ordinary and
extraordinary concept.11 In its ordinary sense, attorney's fee refers to the
reasonable compensation paid to a lawyer by his client for legal services
rendered. Meanwhile, in its extraordinary concept, attorney's fee is awarded by
the court to the successful litigant to be paid by the losing party as indemnity for
damages.12 In the present case, the Investigating Commissioner referred to the
attorney's
fee
in
its
ordinary
concept.
On the other hand, acceptance fee refers to the charge imposed by the lawyer for
merely accepting the case. This is because once the lawyer agrees to represent a
client, he is precluded from handling cases of the opposing party based on the
prohibition on conflict of interest. Thus, he incurs an opportunity cost by merely
accepting the case of the client which is therefore indemnified by the payment of
acceptance fee. Since the acceptance fee only seeks to compensate the lawyer
for the lost opportunity, it is not measured by the nature and extent of the legal
services
rendered.
In the present case, based on a simple reading of the Official Receipt dated
August 20, 1996, the parties clearly intended the payment of P5,000 to serve as
acceptance fee of the respondent, and not attorney's fee. Moreover, both parties
expressly claimed that they intended such payment as the acceptance fee of the
respondent. Absent any other evidence showing a contrary intention of the
parties, we find that the Investigating Commissioner gravely erred in referring to
96

97

the

amount

to

be

returned

by

the

respondent

as

attorney's

fee.

Since the Investigating Commissioner made an erroneous reference to attorney's


fee, he therefore mistakenly concluded that the respondent should return the
same as he did not perform any substantial legal work on behalf of the
complainant. As previously mentioned, the payment of acceptance fee does not
depend on the nature and extent of the legal services rendered.
Secondly, the respondent did not commit any fault or negligence which would
entail
the
return
of
the
acceptance
fee.
Once a lawyer receives the acceptance fee for his legal services, he is expected
to serve his client with competence, and to attend to his client's cause with
diligence, care and devotion.13 In Cario v. Atty. De Los Reyes,14 the respondent
lawyer who failed to file a complaint-affidavit before the prosecutor's office,
returned the P10,000 acceptance fee paid to him. Moreover, he was admonished
by the Court to be more careful in the performance of his duty to his clients.
Meanwhile, in Voluntad-Ramirez v. Bautista,15 we ordered the respondent lawyer
to return the P14,000 acceptance fee because he did nothing to advance his
client's cause during the six-month period that he was engaged as counsel.
In the present case, the complainant alleged that she requested the respondent
to draft a Motion to Reduce Bail Bond which was denied by the latter. She also
claimed that the respondent failed to attend any of the hearings before the MTC.
Thus, the complainant filed the present complaint for disbarment on the ground
of abandonment or neglect of duty. On the other hand, the respondent denied the
allegation that he failed to draft the Motion to Reduce Bail Bond and submitted a
copy of the MTC Order16 dated August 28, 1996 granting the motion to reduce
bail. He also justified his failure to attend the hearings before the MTC to the
failure of the process server to provide him with a Notice of Hearing.
Other than her bare allegations, the complainant failed to present any evidence
to support her claim that the respondent committed abandonment or neglect of
duty. Thus, we are constrained to affirm the factual findings of the Investigating
Commissioner that the presumption of regularity should prevail in favor of the
respondent. Absent any fault or negligence on the part of the respondent, we see
no legal basis for the order of the Investigating Commissioner to return the
attorney's
fee
(acceptance
fee)
of
P5,000.cralawred
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the petition is hereby GRANTED. Resolution
No. XVII-2007-115 and Resolution No. XIX-2010-544 of the IBP Board of Governors
insofar as they ordered the respondent to return the attorney's fee (acceptance
fee) to the complainant in the amount of Five Thousand Pesos (P5,000)
are REVERSED
and
SET
ASIDE.
SO ORDERED.

97

98

A.C. No. 5686, June 16, 2015


TEODULO F. ENRIQUEZ, Complaint, v. ATTY. EDILBERTO B. LAVADIA, JR., Respondent.
RESOLUTION
PER CURIAM:

Before us is a letter-complaint1 for disbarment filed before the Office of the Bar
Confidant (OBC) by Teodulo2 Enriquez against Atty. Edilberto B. Lavadia, Jr. for
gross negligence and inefficiency in the performance of his duties as a lawyer.
On January 7, 1997, Mr. Ernesto Ouano, Sr. filed a complaint 3 for forcible entry
against complainant Teodulo Enriquez before the Municipal Circuit Trial Court
(MCTC) of Talibon, Bohol. To defend his interests, Enriquez engaged 4 the services
of the law office of Attys. Joselito M. Alo, R. L. C. Agapay, and Edilberto B. Lavadia,
Jr.
with
Atty.
Lavadia
as
the
assigned
attorney. 5
On March 18, 2000, in open court, Atty. Lavadia agreed to submit their position
papers and affidavits within 30 days from the receipt of the pre-trial order after
which, the case would be submitted for decision. However, Atty. Lavadia failed to
file the position paper resulting in the defendants being declared in default. The
MCTC rendered a decision6 in favor of the plaintiffs.7 Atty. Lavadia filed a notice of
appeal8 with
sufficient
bond.
In its April 26, 2001 Order,9 the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Talibon, Bohol
dismissed the appeal based on Section 7(b),10 Rule 40 of the Rules of Court. The
RTC stated that Atty. Lavadia failed to file the appeal memorandum after more
than 71 days. Atty. Lavadia moved for reconsideration but the same was denied
98

99

by the RTC in its June 26, 2001 Order 11 pointing out that it had granted four
motions for extension and still no appeal memorandum was filed.
On January 16, 2002, this disbarment complaint was received by the OBC.
Enriquez alleged that in failing to file the necessary pleadings before the court,
Atty. Lavadia caused them great damage and prejudice. This constituted gross
negligence and inefficiency in the performance of his professional duties as a
lawyer.12 Enriquez
thus
prayed
that
Atty.
Lavadia
be
disbarred.
On July 3, 2002, this Court required Atty. Lavadia to submit his comment. 13
On August 29, 2002, the Court received an ex parte manifestation from Atty.
Lavadia stating that he cannot file a comment because he did not receive a copy
of the complaint.14 The Court, thus, required Enriquez to furnish Atty. Lavadia a
copy of the complaint within 10 days and required the latter to file his comment
within
10
days
from
receipt
thereof. 15
On December 10, 2002, Enriquez informed16 the Court that he sent a copy of the
complaint and its annexes to Atty. Lavadia on December 6, 2002 as evinced by a
receipt.17
Atty. Lavadia filed two motions for extension 18 citing his heavy case load and
family problems as reasons in both instances for not filing the comment. Said
motions were granted by the Court giving Atty. Lavadia another 60 days within
which
to
file
his
comment. 19
On February 18, 2003, Atty. Lavadia again filed a motion to extend to file his
comment due to his wife's continued illness. 20 The Court granted another 30-day
period, stating that it would be the last extension it would grant. 21
Failing to submit his comment within the period granted, this Court required Atty.
Lavadia to show cause why he should not be held in contempt and to submit his
comment within 10 days from notice. 22 Still, Atty. Lavadia failed to comply. The
Court thus imposed on him a P1,000.00 fine or imprisonment of five days if he
failed to pay the fine and ordered him to comply with its previous resolutions. 23
Atty. Lavadia paid the fine on June 2, 2005,24 and asked for additional time to file
his comment this time stating that he had moved from Tagbilaran to Cebu
because of his wife's illness which was caused by "dark-beings." He claimed that
a series of unfortunate events plagued them, i.e., their house was razed by a fire,
the hard drive of his computer crashing, and his family members falling ill due to
a
"dark
being."25 The
Court
thus
granted
a
30-day
extension. 26
Failing once again to file his comment, the Court in its September 19, 2007
Resolution imposed a fine of P2,000.00 and required Atty. Lavadia to submit his
comment within five days from notice. 27 There is no record to show that he
complied
with
the
September
19,
2007
Resolution.
In its August 18, 2010 Resolution, the Court referred the case to the Integrated
Bar of the Philippines (IBP) for investigation, report and recommendation. 28
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100

The IBP Commission on Bar Discipline (CBD) scheduled a mandatory


conference29 on January 14, 2011 but both parties failed to appear. 30 Parties were
then ordered to submit their position papers within ten days from receipt of the
Order.
On April 20, 2011, Atty. Lavadia requested that he be furnished a copy of the
complaint having lost his copy in a fire that razed his home. 31 The IBP CBD
resolved to furnish Atty. Lavadia a copy of the complaint. It also directed the
parties to file their position papers within 15 days from August 1,2011. 32
In its Report and Recommendation, 33 the IBP CBD recommended that Atty.
Lavadia be disbarred and his name be withdrawn from the Roll of Attorneys. The
IBP CBD found that not only did Atty. Lavadia cause material prejudice to his
clients by neglecting his duties as counsel in failing to file the necessary
pleadings to defend his client's interest, he also displayed a willful, defiant and
cavalier attitude by repeatedly defying the resolutions of the Court. By his actions
the IBP CBD considered Atty. Lavadia unfit to dispense his duties and
responsibilities
as
an
attorney.
On September 28, 2013, the IBP Board of Governors (BOG) resolved to adopt the
report
and
recommendation
of
the
IBP
CBD.34
Atty.

Lavadia

moved

for

reconsideration35 but

it

was

denied.36

After careful review and deliberation, we agree with the report of the IBP that
Atty.
Lavadia
is
administratively
liable.
We cannot stress enough that being a lawyer is a privilege with attached duties
and obligations.37Lawyers bear the responsibility to meet the profession's
exacting standards.38 A lawyer is expected to live by the lawyer's oath, the rules
of the profession and the Code of Professional Responsibility(CPR). The duties of a
lawyer may be classified into four general categories namely duties he owes to
the court, to the public, to the bar and to his client. 39 A lawyer who transgresses
any of his duties is administratively liable and subject to the Court's disciplinary
authority.40
In the present case, the duties transgressed by Atty. Lavadia fall under those
duties to his client and to the court. This Court notes Atty. Lavadia's propensity
for filing motions for extension of time to file pleadings but failing to file the
same,
in
violation
of
Rule
12.03
of
the
CPR
which
states:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
Rule 12.03. - A lawyer shall not, after obtaining extensions of time to file
pleadings, memoranda or briefs, let the period lapse without submitting the
sameor offering an explanation for his failure to do so. (Emphasis supplied)
In fact, such proclivity on the part of Atty. Lavadia to file such motions precisely
led to the filing of this complaint. In the course of this administrative proceeding,
he continued to flaunt to this Court his willful defiance and disregard for court
orders.
100

101

LAWYER

AND

CLIENT:

RULE

12.03

AND

CANON

18

AND

RULE

18.03

A lawyer is expected to serve his client with competence and diligence. 41 Lawyers
are
reminded
to
note
Rules
12.03
and
18.03
of
the
CPR:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
Rule 18.03. - A lawyer shall not neglect a legal matter entrusted to him, and his
negligence in connection there with shall render him liable.
In Solidon v. Macalalad,42 we stated that receiving money as acceptance fee for
legal services and failing to render the services is a violation of Canon 18 of the
CPR. In that case, we also stated that a lawyer's failure to file the position paper
is a per se violation of Rule 18.03 of the CPR.43 We pointed to the fiduciary nature
of a lawyer's duty to his client. We stated:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
x x x A lawyer so engaged to represent a client bears the responsibility of
protecting the latter's interest with utmost diligence. The lawyer bears the duty
to serve his client with competence and diligence, and to exert his best efforts to
protect, within the bounds of the law, the interest of his or her client. Accordingly,
competence, not only in the knowledge of law, but also in the management of the
cases by giving these cases appropriate attention and due preparation, is
expected from a lawyer.44 (Citations omitted)
In Mariveles v. Mallari,45 we disbarred Atty. Mallari for violating Rules 12.03 and
18.03 of the CPR. There, Atty. Mallari, after being granted a total of 245 days to
file his client's appellant's brief failed to file the same, resulting in the dismissal of
the appeal. The Court considered Atty. Mallari's act a shameless disregard of his
duties as a lawyer and found him to be unfit for membership in the noble
profession.46 In the recent case of Figueras v. Jimenez,47 Atty. Jimenez was found
administratively liable for failing to file the appellant's brief on behalf of his client.
Here, Enriquez paid a total of P29,750.00 as acceptance fee and other fees
relating to the preparation of pleadings for the case including the appeal. Atty.
Lavadia however failed to discharge his duties. He failed to file his client's
position paper rendering his client in default. While he filed a notice of appeal and
several motions for extension of time to file the appeal memorandum, all of
which were granted by the lower court, he ultimately neglected to file the appeal
memorandum. Thus, following our pronouncement in Solidon, Atty. Lavadia has
clearly transgressed Canon 18 and Rule 18.03 of the CPR thereby making him
administratively
liable.
As in Mariveles, Atty. Lavadia requested and was granted extensions of time to
file the appeal memorandum after he filed the notice of appeal with sufficient
bond. The lower court granted him four extensions totaling 71 days after which
time he still failed to file the appeal memorandum. His failure adversely affected
the cause of Enriquez, his client. In repeatedly asking for extensions of time
without actually filing the appeal memorandum, Atty. Lavadia is liable under Rule
12.03
of
the
CPR.
LAWYER

AND

THE

COURTS:

RULE

12.03

IN

RELATION

TO

CANON

11

Under Canon 1148 of the CPR a lawyer is required to observe and maintain due
respect to the court and its judicial officers. We read this provision in relation to
Rules 10.0349 and 12.03 of the CPR for this rule does not merely affect the client
101

102

but

the

judicial

process.

In Vaflor-Fabroa v. Paguinto,50 this Court reiterated its previous ruling in Sebastian


v. Bajar51 where we stated that:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
xxx Respondent's cavalier attitude in repeatedly ignoring the orders of
the Supreme Court constitutes utter disrespect to the judicial
institution. Respondent's conduct indicates a high degree of irresponsibility. A
Court's Resolution is "not to be construed as a mere request, nor should
it be complied with partially, inadequately, or selectively". Respondent's
obstinate refusal to comply with the Court's orders "not only betrays a
recalcitrant flaw in her character; it also underscores her disrespect of the Court's
lawful
orders
which
is
only
too
deserving
of
reproof."
Lawyers are called upon to obey court orders and processes and respondent's
deference is underscored by the fact that willful disregard thereof will subject the
lawyer not only to punishment for contempt but to disciplinary sanctions as well.
In fact, graver responsibility is imposed upon a lawyer than any other to uphold
the integrity of the courts and to show respect to their processes. (Citations
omitted).
The present complaint was filed January 2002. We granted Atty. Lavadia every
opportunity to file his comment to the complaint. We issued no less than eight
resolutions ordering Atty. Lavadia to comment: two of which ordered him to pay
fines of P1,000.00 and P2,000.00 and requiring him to show cause for his failure
to file and to comply with the Court's resolutions. In fine, we have granted him a
total of 155 days extension to file his comment, in response to his repeated pleas
contained in his numerous ex parte motions. After a lapse of eight years, this
Court referred the case to the IBP where Atty. Lavadia once again filed a motion
for extension to file his position paper but nevertheless failed to file the same.
While this Court is not unsympathetic to the plight of Atty. Lavadia, we cannot
countenance his act of repeatedly pleading for extensions of time and yet not
submitting anything to the Court. This reflects his willful disregard for Court
orders putting in question his suitability to discharge his duties and functions as a
lawyer. As we stated in Vaflor-Fabroa52 the Court's Resolution is not a mere
request. A lawyer's blatant disregard or refusal to comply with the Court's orders
underscores her disrespect of the Court's lawful orders which is only too
deserving of reproof. Here, this disbarment case has dragged on for years while
we gave Atty. Lavadia every opportunity to file his comment. Despite the
extended time granted him, he continued to fail to do so. Such obstinate
disobedience
to
the
Court's
orders
merits
disciplinary
action.
We said in Figueras v. Atty. Jimenez53 that the determination of whether an
attorney should be disbarred or merely suspended for a period involves the
exercise of sound judicial discretion. This Court has imposed the penalties
ranging from reprimand, warning with fine, suspension and, in grave cases,
disbarment for a lawyer's failure to file a brief or other pleading.
In the present case, we note that this is Atty. Lavadia's first infraction. However,
given his proven propensity for filing motions for extension of time and not filing
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103

the required pleading, this Court finds that it should impose the severe sanction
lest some other unknowing clients engage his services only to lose their case due
to Atty. Lavadia's nonchalant attitude. Considering the gravity of Atty. Lavadia's
cavalier actions both to his client and his impertinent attitude towards the Court,
we find the penalty of DISBARMENT as recommended by the IBP
appropriate.cralawred
WHEREFORE, respondent
Atty.
Edilberto
B.
Lavadia,
Jr.
is
hereby DISBARRED for violating Canons 11 and 18 and Rules 10.03, 12.03 and
18.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility and his name is ORDERED
STRICKEN
OFF from
the
Roll
of
Attorneys.
Let copies of this Resolution be furnished the Office of the Bar Confidant to be
appended to respondent's personal record as a member of the Bar, the
Integrated Bar of the Philippines, the Office of the Court Administrator, the
Department of Justice and all courts in the country for their information and
guidance.
SO ORDERED.chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary

A.C. No. 10687, July 22, 2015

103

104

MABINI COLLEGES, INC. REPRESENTED BY MARCEL N. LUKBAN, ALBERTO I. GARCIA, JR., AND MA.
PAMELA ROSSANA A. APUYA, Complainant, v. ATTY. JOSE D. PAJARILLO, Respondent.
DECISION

Before us is a verified complaint 1 for disbarment against respondent Atty. Jose D. Pajarillo
for allegedly violating Canon 15, Rule 15.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility
which prohibits a lawyer from representing conflicting interests and Canon 15 of the
same Code which enjoins a lawyer to observe candor, fairness, and loyalty in all his
dealings
and
transactions
with
clients.
The

salient

facts

of

the

case

follow:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary

In 1995, the complainant, Mabini Colleges, Inc., had a Board of Trustees which was
divided into two opposing factions. The first faction, called the Adeva Group, was
composed of Romulo M. Adeva, Lydia E. Cacawa, Eleodoro D. Bicierro, and Pilar I.
Andrade. The other faction, called the Lukban Group, was composed of Justo B. Lukban,
Luz
I.
Garcia,
Alice
I.
Adeva,
and
Marcel
N.
Lukban.
In 1996, the complainant appointed the respondent as its corporate secretary with a
total
monthly
compensation
and
honorarium
of
P6,000.
On March 29, 1999, the Adeva Group issued an unnumbered Board Resolution which
authorized Pilar I. Andrade, the Executive Vice President and Treasurer of the
complainant at that time, and Lydia E. Cacawa, the Vice President for Administration and
Finance, to apply for a loan with the Rural Bank of Paracale (RBP), Daet Branch,
Camarines
Norte
in
favor
of
the
complainant.
On May 12, 1999, the Lukban Group sent a letter to RBP to oppose the loan application
because the Adeva Group appointed Librado Guerra and Cesar Echano, who were
allegedly not registered as stockholders in the Stock and Transfer Book of the
complainant, as members of the Board of Trustees. The Lukban Group also alleged that
the
complainant
was
having
financial
difficulties.
On May 14, 1999, respondent sent a letter to RBP to assure the latter of complainant's
financial
capacity
to
pay
the
loan.
On July 13, 1999, RBP granted the loan application in the amount of P200,000 which was
secured by a Real Estate Mortgage over the properties of the complainant.
On September 27, 1999, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) issued an Order
which nullified the appointment of Librado Guerra and Cesar Echano by the Adeva Group
as members of the Board of Trustees of the complainant. As a result, complainant sent a
letter
to
RBP
to
inform
the
latter
of
the
SEC
Order.
On October 19, 1999, RBP sent a letter to the complainant acknowledging receipt of the
SEC Order and informing the latter that the SEC Order was referred to RBP's legal
counsel, herein respondent. The complainant alleged that it was only upon receipt of
such letter that it became aware that respondent is also the legal counsel of RBP.
On

April

On

April

18,
23,

2000,
2002,

complainant
RBP

moved

and
to

RBP

increased

foreclose

the

the
Real

loan

to

P400,000.

Estate

Mortgage.

On May 28, 2002, complainant filed a complaint for Annulment of Mortgage with a Prayer
for Preliminary Injunction against RBP. Respondent entered his appearance as counsel for
104

105

RBP.
On September 2, 2011, complainant filed the present complaint for disbarment against
the respondent for allegedly representing conflicting interests and for failing to exhibit
candor,
fairness,
and
loyalty.
Respondent raised three defenses against the complaint for disbarment. First,
respondent argued that Marcel N. Lukban, Alberto I. Garcia Jr., and Ma. Pamela Rossana
Apuya cannot represent the complainant in this disbarment case because they were not
duly authorized by the Board of Directors to file the complaint. Second, respondent
claimed that he is not covered by the prohibition on conflict of interest which applies only
to the legal counsel of complainant. Respondent argued that he merely served as the
corporate secretary of complainant and did not serve as its legal counsel. Third,
respondent argued that there was no conflict of interest when he represented RBP in the
case for annulment of mortgage because all the documents and information related to
the loan transaction between RBP and the complainant were public records. Thus,
respondent claimed that he could not have taken advantage of his position as the mere
corporate
secretary
of
the
complainant.
On February 14, 2013, the Investigating Commissioner issued a Report and
Recommendation2 finding respondent guilty of representing conflicting interests and
recommending that respondent be suspended from the practice of law for at least one
year. The Investigating Commissioner noted that respondent appeared for RBP in the
case for annulment of mortgage filed by his former client, the complainant herein. The
Investigating Commissioner cited cash vouchers 3 from 1994 to 2001 showing that
respondent was paid by complainant for his retained legal services. According to the
Investigating Commissioner, these vouchers debunk respondent's claim that the
complainant merely appointed him as its corporate secretary. The Investigating
Commissioner also held that the personality of complainant's representatives to file this
administrative case is immaterial since proceedings for disbarment, suspension or
discipline of attorneys may be taken by the Supreme Court motu proprio or by the
Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) upon the verified complaint of any person.
On June 21, 2013, the Board of Governors of the IBP issued Resolution No. XX-20137704 which affirmed the findings of the Investigating Commissioner and imposed a
penalty of suspension from the practice of law for one year against respondent.
On May 3, 2014, the Board of Governors of the IBP issued Resolution No. XXI-20142905 which
denied
the
motion
for
reconsideration
filed
by
respondent.
The issue in this case is whether respondent is guilty of representing conflicting interests
when he entered his appearance as counsel for RBP in the case for annulment of
mortgage
filed
by
complainant
against
RBP.
We rule in the affirmative. We thus affirm the Report and Recommendation of the
Investigating Commissioner, and Resolution Nos. XX-2013-770 and XXI-2014-290 of the
IBP Board of Governors. Indeed, respondent represented conflicting interests in violation
of Canon 15, Rule 15.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility which provides that
"[a] lawyer shall not represent conflicting interests except by written consent of all
concerned
given
after
a
full
disclosure
of
the
facts."
This rule prohibits a lawyer from representing new clients whose interests oppose those
of a former client in any manner, whether or not they are parties in the same action or
on totally unrelated cases.6 Based on the principles of public policy and good taste, this
prohibition on representing conflicting interests enjoins lawyers not only to keep inviolate
105

106

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. 7 In Maturan v. Gonzales8 we
further explained the rationale for the prohibition:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
The reason for the prohibition is found in the relation of attorney and client, which is one
of trust and confidence of the highest degree. A lawyer becomes familiar with all the
facts connected with his client's case. He learns from his client the weak points of the
action as well as the strong ones. Such knowledge must be considered sacred and
guarded with care. No opportunity must be given him to take advantage of the client's
secrets. A lawyer must have the fullest confidence of his client. For if the confidence is
abused, the profession will suffer by the loss thereof.
Meanwhile, in Hornilla v. Salunat,9 we explained the test to determine the existence of
conflict of interest:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
There is conflict of interest when a lawyer represents inconsistent interests of two or
more opposing parties. The test is "whether or not in behalf of one client, it is the
lawyer's duty to fight for an issue or claim, but it is his duty to oppose it for the other
client. In brief, if he argues for one client, this argument will be opposed by him when he
argues for the other client." This rule covers not only cases in which confidential
communications have been confided, but also those in which no confidence has been
bestowed or will be used. Also, there is conflict of interests if the acceptance of the new
retainer will require the attorney to perform an act which will injuriously affect his first
client in any matter in which he represents him and also whether he will be called upon
in his new relation to use against his first client any knowledge acquired through their
connection. Another test of the inconsistency of interests is whether the acceptance of a
new relation will prevent an attorney from the full discharge of his duty of undivided
fidelity and loyalty to his client or invite suspicion of unfaithfulness or double dealing in
the performance thereof.
The rule prohibiting conflict of interest applies to situations wherein a lawyer would be
representing a client whose interest is directly adverse to any of his present or former
clients.10 It also applies when the lawyer represents a client against a former client in a
controversy that is related, directly or indirectly, to the subject matter of the previous
litigation in which he appeared for the former client. 11This rule applies regardless of the
degree of adverse interests. 12 What a lawyer owes his former client is to maintain
inviolate the client's confidence or to refrain from doing anything which will injuriously
affect him in any matter in which he previously represented him. 13 A lawyer may only be
allowed to represent a client involving the same or a substantially related matter that is
materially adverse to the former client only if the former client consents to it after
consultation.14chanrobleslaw
Applying the foregoing to the case at bar, we find that respondent represented
conflicting interests when he served as counsel for RBP in the case for annulment of
mortgage filed by the complainant, respondent's former client, against RBP.
The finding of the Investigating Commissioner that respondent was compensated by
complainant for his retained legal services is supported by the evidence on record, the
cash vouchers from 1994 to 2001. Clearly, complainant was respondent's former client.
And respondent appeared as counsel of RBP in a case filed by his former client against
RBP. This makes respondent guilty of representing conflicting interests since respondent
failed to show any written consent of all concerned (particularly the complainant) given
after a full disclosure of the facts representing conflicting interests. 15chanrobleslaw
We also note that the respondent acted for the complainant's interest on the loan
transaction between RBP and the complainant when he sent a letter dated May 14, 1999
to RBP to assure the latter of the financial capacity of the complainant to pay the loan.
But as counsel for RBP in the case for annulment of mortgage, he clearly acted against
106

107

the

interest

of

the

complainant,

his

former

client.

Contrary to the respondent's claim, it is of no moment that all the documents and
information in connection with the loan transaction between RBP and the complainant
were public records. In Hilado v. David,16 we laid down the following doctrinal
pronouncements:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
The principle which forbids an attorney who has been engaged to represent a client from
thereafter appearing on behalf of the client's opponent applies equally even though
during the continuance of the employment nothing of a confidential nature was revealed
to the attorney by the client. (Christian vs. Waialua Agricultural Co., 30 Hawaii, 553,
Footnote 7, C. J. S., 828.)
Where it appeared that an attorney, representing one party in litigation, had formerly
represented the adverse party with respect to the same matter involved in the litigation,
the court need not inquire as to how much knowledge the attorney acquired from his
former client during that relationship, before refusing to permit the attorney to represent
the adverse party. (Brown vs. Miller, 52 App. D. C. 330; 286, F. 994.)
In order that a court may prevent an attorney from appearing against a former client, it
is unnecessary that the court ascertain in detail the extent to which the former client's
affairs might have a bearing on the matters involved in the subsequent litigation on the
attorney's knowledge thereof. (Boyd vs. Second Judicial Dist. Court, 274 P., 7; 51 Nev.,
264.)
This rule has been so strictly enforced that it has been held that an attorney, on
terminating his employment, cannot thereafter act as counsel against his client in the
same general matter, even though, while acting for his former client, he acquired no
knowledge which could operate to his client's disadvantage in the subsequent adverse
employment. (Pierce vs. Palmer [1910], 31 R. I., 432; 77 Atl., 201, Ann. Cas., 1912S,
181.)
Thus, the nature and extent of the information received by the lawyer from his client is
irrelevant in determining the existence of conflict of interest.
Finally, we agree with the Investigating Commissioner that a complaint for disbarment is
imbued with public interest which allows for a liberal rule on legal standing. Under
Section 1, Rule 139-B of the Rules of Court, "[proceedings for the disbarment, suspension
or discipline of attorneys may be taken by the Supreme Court motu proprio, or by the
Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) upon the verified complaint of any person." Thus,
in the present case, we find that Marcel N. Lukban, Alberto I. Garcia Jr., and Ma. Pamela
Rossana A. Apuya can institute the complaint for disbarment even without authority from
the Board of Directors of the complainant.
WHEREFORE, premises considered, Resolution No. XX-2013-770 and Resolution No. XXI2014-290 of the IBP Board of Governors imposing a penalty of suspension from the
practice of law for one year against respondent Atty. Jose D. Pajarillo are
hereby AFFIRMED.
SO ORDERED.cralawlawlibrary

107

108

.R. No. 183735, July 06, 2015


SEGIFREDO T. VILCHEZ, Petitioner, v. FREE PORT SERVICE CORPORATION AND ATTY. ROEL JOHN T.
KABIGTING, PRESIDENT, Respondents.
DECISION

Assailed in this petition for review on certiorari are the Decision1 dated June 15,
2007 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 94627 and the Resolution2 dated
July
7,
2008
denying
reconsideration
thereof.
Private respondent Free Port Service Corporation (FSC) is a wholly-owned
subsidiary of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) engaged in the
business of providing general services such as security and safety services for
the protection of properties and property custodianship exclusively within the
Subic Bay Freeport Zone. Respondent Atty. Roel John T. Kabieting was the
former FSC President. Petitioner Segifredo T. Vilchez was respondent FSC's
Physical Security Department Manager appointed on January 22, 1999. 3 As
Manager,
petitioner
was
in-charge
of
overseeing
the
successful
operation/management of the Physical Security Department as well as
maintaining effective measures in providing better security services.
In March 1999, petitioner advised the respondent FSC management of the need
to secure PNP SOSIA licenses for its 159 physical security officers and
volunteered to take full responsibility for procuring the said licenses and other
requirements. He required the amount of P127,200.00 for the payment of
licenses, NBI clearances, psychiatric tests and drug tests for the 159 security
officers. Thus, upon petitioner's advice and recommendation, respondent FSC
prepared Disbursement Voucher No. 043084 dated March 25, 1999 in the amount
of P127,200.00 payable to a certain Col. Angelito Gerangco which petitioner
certified that the expenses were necessary and incurred under his direct
supervision. To cover the amount advanced by respondent FSC, all the security
personnel concerned were deducted, on the same month, the sum amounting to
P800.00
each.
108

109

On August 20, 1999, the Commission on Audit (COA) issued a Notice of


Suspension of the P127,200.00 transaction after finding that Gerangco was not a
designated disbursing officer and, therefore, should not be given a cash
advance.5 The COA further directed the petitioner to promptly settle the
suspension notice as items not settled within 90 days after receipt shall become
disallowed, pursuant to Section 82 of Presidential Decree (PD) No. 1445. Despite
the lapse of one (1) year, however, no settlement was made.
In a Memorandum dated April 16, 2001 addressed to petitioner, then FSC
President, respondent Kabigting, wrote that an administrative action was being
initiated against him for the offense of serious misconduct resulting to loss of
trust and confidence, which offense constituted a ground for termination of
employment under the Rules on Administration of Discipline of Freeport Service
Corporation, as well as Article 282 of the Labor Code. Pertinent portions of the
Memorandum read:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
xxxx
Specifically, you caused the preparation of and received from the FSC on March
25, 1999 the amount of One hundred Twenty-Seven Thousand Two Hundred Pesos
(P127,200.00) under Disbursement Voucher #04308 for the payment of Security
Guard licenses, NBI clearance, Psychiatric Test, and Drug Test for FSC Physical
Security personnel's compliance with the requirements of PNP SOSIA. To date,
after two (2) years, you have not produced the clearance nor the licenses, nor
have you shown any proof that the funds that you received were applied to the
payment of the corresponding and appropriate fees therefore.6
Petitioner asked for an extension of thirty (30) days' time to file his reply. In a
Memorandum dated April 23, 2001, respondents granted petitioner a ten (10)day extension and placed petitioner under preventive suspension for thirty (30)
days to have an impartial and objective investigation. Petitioner, however, failed
to file his Answer.
On May 10, 2001, respondents issued a Notice of Dismissal7 of petitioner effective
as of that date.
On January 21, 2002, petitioner filed with the Labor Arbiter (LA) of San Fernando
Pampanga, a Complaint for illegal dismissal, non-payment of salaries, allowances
and 13th month pay with claims for damages and attorney's fees against
respondents. In his position paper, petitioner explained that the amount of
P127,200.00 intended for the payment of the licenses of security guards under
Disbursement Voucher No. 04308 was not given to him but a check was made
payable to Col. Angelito L. Gerangco, who collected and encashed the same; that
he had sent a letter dated April 17, 2001 to Col. Gerangco asking him to liquidate
the remaining unsecured license. Petitioner insisted that Col. Gerangco's noncompliance was his own misfeasance, which he could not be held liable for.
On May 30, 2003, the LA found petitioner to have been illegally dismissed, the
dispositive portion of the Decision8 reads:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
WHEREFORE, judgment is hereby rendered declaring complainant Segifredo
Vilchez to have been ILLEGALLY DISMISSED. Accordingly, respondents are hereby
ordered to reinstate the complainant to his former position without loss of
109

110

seniority rights or at the option of the respondents to merely reinstate the


complainant in the payroll and to pay complainant full backwages from the time
he was illegally dismissed up to his actual reinstatement which now amounts to
Five Hundred Sixty-Two Thousand Five Hundred Pesos (P562,500.00).
All other claims are hereby dismissed for lack of merit.
SO ORDERED.9
Respondents appealed to the NLRC. In the meantime, respondents reinstated
petitioner.
On September 27, 2005, the NLRC issued a Decision10 granting respondents'
appeal, the decretal portion of which reads:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Decision dated 30 May 2003 is hereby
reversed and set aside and a new one is entered dismissing the complaint for
lack of merit.
SO ORDERED.11
Petitioner filed a motion for reconsideration, which the NLRC denied in its
Resolution12 dated March 9, 2006.
Petitioner filed a petition for certiorari with the CA to which respondents filed their
Comment.
On June 15, 2007, the CA denied the petition and affirmed the NLRC, the
dispositive portion of the decision reads:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
WHEREFORE, the instant Petition is hereby DENIED. The Decision dated 27
September 2005 and the Resolution dated 09 March 2006 of the public
respondent in NLRC RAB 111-01-3768-02 is hereby AFFIRMED in toto. No
pronouncement as to costs.
SO ORDERED.13
Petitioner's motion for reconsideration was denied by the CA in a Resolution
dated July 7, 2008.
Undaunted, petitioner filed the instant petition for review on certiorari invoking
the following assignment of errors committed by the CA, to
wit:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
PETITIONER WAS ILLEGALLY DISMISSED BECAUSE HIS DISMISSAL WAS BASED ON
THE ACT OR OMISSION OF ANOTHER PERSON.
THE SUPERVENING EVENT OF PETITIONER'S RETIREMENT FROM SERVICE AS
EMPLOYEE OF PRIVATE RESPONDENTS BEFORE THE NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS
COMMISSION MODIFIED THE DECISION OF LABOR ARBITER RENDERS MOOT AND
ACADEMIC THE PETITIONER'S DISMISSAL FROM SERVICE BECAUSE, IN EFFECT,
PETITIONER WAS ABSOLVED OF ANY INFRACTIONS WHICH THE PETITIONER
ALLEGEDLY COMMITTED DURING HIS EMPLOYMENT.14
Petitioner contends that he was dismissed on the ground of serious misconduct
resulting to loss of trust and confidence, but unfortunately the basis of which was
the act or omission of another person. He claims that the amount of P127,200.00
110

111

intended for the payment of the security guards' licenses under Disbursement
Voucher No. 04308 was not given to him but the check was made payable to Col.
Gerangco who received and encashed the same; and that he had sent a letter
dated April 17, 2001 to Gerangco asking him to liquidate the remaining security
licenses; and, that he should not be held accountable for the non-compliance of
Gerangco
to
complete
the
licenses.
We

are

not

convinced.

Loss of trust and confidence will validate an employee's dismissal only upon
compliance with certain requirements, namely: (1) the employee concerned must
be holding a position of trust and confidence; and (2) there must be an act that
would justify the loss of trust and confidence. 15 And in order to constitute a just
cause for dismissal, the act complained of must be work-related such as would
show employee concerned to be unfit to continue working for the
employer.16chanrobleslaw
The first requisite for dismissal on the ground of loss of trust and confidence is
that the employee concerned must be holding a position of trust and confidence.
In this case, there is no doubt that petitioner held a position of trust and
confidence as respondents' Physical Security Department Manager responsible
for the department's operation and administration and with about 800 people
under
his
charge.
The second requisite is that there must be an act that would justify the loss of
trust and confidence. Here, petitioner was in-charge of respondents' Physical
Security Department, operationally and administratively, and he was the one who
advised respondents of the necessity of securing the licenses of the 159 physical
security personnel. As such, he assumed to take full responsibility for procuring
the said licenses and other requirements. Hence, Disbursement Voucher No.
04308 in the amount of P127,200.00 was prepared in the name of a certain Col.
Angelito Gerangco and a check was issued under the same name. However, two
years had already elapsed from the issuance of the check but not all the licenses
of the 159 security personnel which petitioner volunteered to take responsibility
for
were
released.
Petitioner's failure to produce the licenses of the 100 security personnel for two
years and to account for the money received, is definitely an important aspect of
his work as respondents' Department Manager. He failed to perform what he had
represented or what was expected of him, thus, respondents had a valid reason
in
losing
confidence
in
him
which
justified
his
termination.
We also find worthy to mention the CA's finding that further established
petitioner's willful breach of the trust reposed on him by respondents, to
wit:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
It must be borne in mind that as early as 20 August 1999, petitioner already knew
of the COA's notice of suspension regarding the deficiency in the issuance of the
PI 27,200.00 check to Col. Angelito Gerangco who was not a designated
disbursing officer and in that notice of suspension, petitioner was found to be the
payee or person responsible. Moreover, a Memorandum dated 29 November
111

112

2000 was issued by private respondent Kabigting's predecessor, then FSC


President Manuel Aurelio Jr., for all concerned administrative personnel including
herein petitioner, to settle not later than 05 December 2000 the COA notice of
suspension. In fact, he failed to account and produce the licenses of the FSC
Security personnel after two (2) years from the date of issuance of the check.
This act alone by the petitioner constitutes gross misconduct and disobedience
which
is
already
a
sufficient
ground
for
his
dismissal.
Furthermore, the loss of confidence was justified in the light of petitioner's
continued refusal to comply with the Memoranda issued to him. The evidence
presented by the private respondents were overwhelming to justify his dismissal.
Petitioner insists that the subject amount of P127,200.00 was duly approved by
the former President of the private respondent corporation, without informing him
of the rules and regulations of the Commission on Audit to first secure their
approval /clearance before the issuance of the said check. However, it is the very
same reason why petitioner was given the chance to account for the expenses
incurred. If only he did not defy the orders of the private respondent and
immediately upon receipt of the Memorandum directing him to do so, he
undertook to prepare the same, maybe he would not have been dismissed.
Besides, the two years that has elapsed was already more than enough for him to
explain his side.17
Petitioner's claim that respondents' loss of trust and confidence on him was
based on the act or omission of a certain Col. Gerangco who failed to release all
the licenses is not meritorious. Col. Gerangco is not an employee of the
respondents and it was petitioner who advised respondents of the need to secure
the licenses. As the NLRC found, petitioner, as head of the security personnel, did
not dispute that he was primarily responsible for recommending and choosing
contractor Col. Gerangco to undertake the procurement of licenses of the security
guards. Notably, in the disbursement voucher where Col. Gerangco's name was
written, petitioner had affixed his signature certifying that the expenses/cash
advance was necessary, lawful and incurred under his direct supervision and also
signed his name therein as the one who received the check. Thus, he could not
just place the blame on Col. Gerangco when it was petitioner who had the
obligation
to
secure
the
licenses
as
represented.
Moreover, there was no showing that petitioner had exerted efforts for the
immediate release of the licenses. Petitioner claims that he wrote Col. Gerangco
a letter dated April 17, 2001 asking the latter to liquidate the remaining licenses,
however, such letter was written only after his receipt of respondents' notice of
administrative action on his failure to secure the licenses. Such belated action
showed his lack of fidelity to his duty and his breach of the trust and confidence
reposed
on
him
by
respondents.
Petitioner next contends that when the LA ordered his reinstatement and pending
respondents' appeal to the NLRC, respondents made him retire from
service18 upon reaching the compulsory age of 65, thus, he was absolved of any
infractions, as if he was not charged of the alleged serious misconduct resulting
to
loss
of
trust
and
confidence.
We

are

not

persuaded.
112

113

Petitioner was terminated as Manager on May 10, 2001, and consequently, filed a
case for illegal dismissal against respondents. The LA found his dismissal illegal
and awarded him backwages and ordered his reinstatement. During the
pendency of respondents' appeal with the NLRC, petitioner, whom respondents
had earlier reinstated, reached the mandatory retirement age of 65, thus, he was
sent a memorandum19 notifying him of his retirement pursuant to Article 287 of
the Labor Code and to report to respondents' Human Resources Management for
the processing of his retirement papers and claims. Petitioner's mandatory
retirement during the pendency of the case would not absolve him of his
wrongdoings
committed
while
he
was
still
in
the
service.
The validity of petitioner's dismissal must be ruled upon with finality as it would
bear importance on whether he is entitled to the award of backwages, or to his
retirement benefits under the law. Under the Labor Code, only unjustly dismissed
employees
are
entitled
to
retirement
benefits
and other privileges including reinstatement and backwages. 20 And since
petitioner's termination on May 10, 2001 was valid, there can be no award for
backwages, and there was no basis for his reinstatement and, therefore, there
can be no earned retirement benefits under the law to speak of.
We find apropos to apply by analogy our decision in the Office of Ombudsman v.
Dechavez21 where we held that retirement from the service during the pendency
of an administrative case does not render the case moot and academic. We
found:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
As early as 1975, we have upheld the rule that the jurisdiction that was Ours at
the time of the filing of the administrative complaint was not lost by the mere
fact that the respondent public official had ceased to be in office during the
pendency of his case. The Court retains its jurisdiction either to pronounce the
respondent official innocent of the charges or declare him guilty thereof. A
contrary rule would be fraught with injustices and pregnant with dreadful and
dangerous implications."
xxxx
Recently, we emphasized that in a case that a public official's cessation from
service does not render moot an administrative case that was filed prior to the
official's resignation. In the 2011 case of Office of the Ombudsman v. Andutan
Jr. we reiterated the doctrine and laid down the line of cases supporting this
principle when we ruled:ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
To recall, we have held in the past that a public official's resignation does not
render moot an administrative case that was filed prior to the official's
resignation. In Pagano v. Nazarro, Jr., we held that:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
In Office of the Court Administrator v. Juan [A.M. No. P-03-1726, 22 July 2004, 434
SCRA 654, 658], this Court categorically ruled that the precipitate resignation of a
government employee charged with an offense punishable by dismissal from the
service does not render moot the administrative case against him. Resignation is
not a way out to evade administrative liability when facing administrative
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114

sanction. The resignation of a public servant does not preclude the finding of any
administrative liability to which he or she shall still be answerable-[Baquerfo v.
Sanchez, A.M. No. P-05-1974. 6 April 2005, 455 SCRA 13, 19-20].
Likewise, in Baquerfo v. Sanchez, we held:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
Cessation from office of respondent by resignation or retirement neither warrants
the dismissal of the administrative complaint filed against him while he was still
in the service nor does it render said administrative case moot and academic.
The jurisdiction that was this Court's at the time of the filing of the administrative
complaint was not lost by the mere fact that the respondent public official had
ceased in office during the pendency of his case. Respondent's resignation does
not preclude the finding of any administrative liability to which he shall still be
answerable.
Thus, from the strictly legal point of view and as we have held in a long line of
cases, jurisdiction, once it attaches, cannot be defeated by the acts of the
respondent, save only where death intervenes and the action does not survive. 22
WHEREFORE, the petition for review is DENIED. The Decision dated June 15,
2007 and the Resolution dated July 7, 2008 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP
No. 94627 are herebyAFFIRMED.
SO ORDERED.cralawlawlibrary

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115

SECOND DIVISION
A.C. No. 10187 [Formerly CBD Case No. 11-3053], July 22, 2015
CELINA F. ANDRADA, Complainant, v. ATTY. RODRIGO CERA, Respondent.
DECISION

This administrative case stemmed from an affidavit-complaint1 filed by Celina F.


Andrada (complainant) against Atty. Rodrigo Cera (respondent) for allegedly
engaging in unlawful, dishonest, immoral, and deceitful conduct in violation of
the Lawyer's Code of Professional Responsibility (CPR).
Antecedents
Sometime in late 2009, the complainant hired the respondent to represent her in
an annulment of marriage case pending before the Regional Trial Court (RTC),
Branch
59,
Baguio
City.
In order to file the annulment case, the complainant needed to submit National
Statistics Office (NSO) copies of her children's birth certificates documents
which could not be obtained from the NSO because of her husband's failure to
completely accomplish the certificates resulting in the non-registration of the
births of their two children, Juliane Lourdes and Jose Sebastian. The complainant
gave the respondent the amount of three thousand pesos (P3,000.00) to process
the registration and issuance of her children's birth certificates with the NSO. The
complainant also gave the respondent, through a friend, the amount often
thousand pesos (P10,000.00) as advance payment for the hiring of a psychologist
and/or the conduct of psychologist tests for herself and her children.
In July 2010 when the complainant herself followed up with the NSO the release
of her children's birth certificates she was asked to present the corresponding
receipt for her request. Knowing that the respondent had the receipt, the
complainant called him up but she failed to get even the receipt number because
the respondent allegedly did not have it in his possession at that time. However,
the respondent reassured the complainant that the necessary payment had been
made
for
the
processing
of
the
birth
certificates.
The complainant repeatedly asked the respondent for the NSO receipt, but the
latter would always give an excuse not to turn the receipt over to her. This
prompted the complainant to request confirmation of payment from the NSO. She
found out that the respondent never paid nor filed applications for birth
certificates.
On May 29, 2011, the complainant, through her father Freddie J. Farres, wrote a
demand letter2 to the respondent for the surrender of the NSO receipt and the
return of the P10,000.00 that was supposedly for the administration of the
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116

psychological tests, within two (2) days from receipt of the letter. The respondent
received
the
demand
letter
on
May
30,
2011.
On June 7, 2011, after the respondent refused to heed the complainant's
demands, the complainant filed the present administrative complaint 3 against
him before the Integrated Bar of the Philippines-Commission on Bar Discipline
(IBP-CBD). The complainant alleged that the respondent's deceitful, irresponsible,
and unprofessional conduct in handling her case his failure to file the
necessary application with the NSO for the issuance of her children's birth
certificates, and to provide for a psychologist to administer psychological tests on
herself and her children, as well as his tardiness or absence during hearings
resulted in the unwarranted delay of her case and forced her to file anew an
annulment
case
against
her
husband.
The IBP-CBD called the case for mandatory conference where the complainant
and her counsel appeared. However, despite due notice, the respondent failed to
appear at the conference; he also failed to submit an answer to the affidavitcomplaint.
In April 2012, the respondent returned to the complainant the amount of
seventeen thousand two hundred and eighty pesos (P17,280.00), pursuant to a
compromise agreement4 that the parties entered into in exchange for the
dismissal of the criminal case for estafa filed by the complainant against the
respondent. As part of the settlement, the respondent agreed to secure the birth
certificates of the complainant's children, an obligation which the respondent has
not yet fulfilled up to the present.
IBP's Recommendation
In a report and recommendation 5 dated November 21, 2012, IBP Investigating
Commissioner Eldrid C. Antiquiera found that the respondent had engaged in
unlawful, dishonest, immoral, and deceitful conduct against his client's interest in
violation of Canon 1 of the CPR. The Investigating Commissioner also found the
respondent guilty of misappropriating the funds entrusted to him by his client
and of failing to account for and to return his client's money upon demand, in
violation of Canon 16 of the CPR. Commissioner Antiquiera recommended the
imposition of three (3) years suspension from the practice of law.
In Resolution No. XX-2013-233 dated March 20, 2013, the IBP Board of Governors
adopted and approved Commissioner Antiquiera's findings of administrative
liability but modified the recommended penalty of suspension from three (3)
years to one (1) year.6chanrobleslaw
Our Ruling
We sustain the IBP Board of Governors' findings of administrative
liability, as well as its recommended penalty of one (1) year suspension
from
the
practice
of
law.
When a lawyer takes a case, he covenants that he will exercise due diligence in
protecting his client's rights. Failure to exercise that degree of vigilance and
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117

attention expected of a good father of a family makes the lawyer unworthy of the
trust reposed by his client, and makes him answerable not just to his client but
also to the legal profession, the courts, and society. 7chanrobleslaw
It is apparent that the respondent did not exert any effort on his client's case and
completely reneged on the obligations due his client. The respondent lied to the
complainant that he had made the necessary application and payment with the
NSO for the issuance of the birth certificates of the complainant's children.
Despite the complainant's repeated requests, the respondent failed to comply
with their agreement to provide a psychologist to administer the necessary
psychological tests, thus causing further delay in the proceedings of the
complainant's
annulment
case.
Clearly, these actions show the respondent's negligence and lack of zeal in
handling the complainant's case, for which he should be made administratively
liable. He violated not only Rule 1.01 of Canon 1 of the CPR, which prohibits a
lawyer from engaging in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct, but
also Rule 18.03 of Canon 18 of the same Code, which provides that "a lawyer
shall not neglect a legal matter entrusted to him, and his negligence in
connection
therewith
shall
render
him
liable."
Moreover, the respondent failed to live up to his duties as a lawyer when he
unlawfully withheld the complainant's money. The money given to the respondent
was never used for its intended purposes, as could be gleaned from the NSO's
non-issuance of birth certificates8 of the complainant's children, and by the nonadministration of psychological tests on the complainant and her children. These
omissions confirm the presumption that the respondent misappropriated the
funds of his client, in violation of Canon 16 of the CPR that holds a lawyer in trust
of all moneys and properties of his client that may come into his possession. The
respondent, likewise, violated Rule 16.03 9 of Canon 16 (which provides that "a
lawyer shall deliver the funds and property of his client when due or upon
demand") when he failed to return the complainant's money upon demand. We
note that it was only after a year that the respondent, under threat of a criminal
case filed against him, returned the complainant's money. The respondent's
restitution cannot serve to mitigate his administrative liability as he returned the
complainant's money not voluntarily but for fear of possible criminal liability.
WHEREFORE, respondent Atty. Rodrigo Cera is hereby SUSPENDED from the
practice of law forONE (1) YEAR. He is WARNED that a repetition of the same or
similar
act
shall
be
dealt
with
more
severely.
Let copies of this Resolution be furnished the Office of the Bar Confidant to be
entered into the respondent's personal record. Copies shall likewise be furnished
the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and the Office of the Court Administrator for
circulation
to
all
courts
concerned.
SO ORDERED.cralawlawlibrary

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118

SPOUSES BYRON AND MARIA LUISA SAUNDERS, Complainants, v. ATTY. LYSSA GRACE S. PAGANOCALDE, Respondent.
DECISION
SERENO, C.J.:

Before us is a Complaint filed by spouses Byron and Maria Luisa Saunders


(complainants) against Atty. Lyssa Grace S. Pagano-Calde (respondent) for
allegedly misappropriating P530,000.
THE FACTS
The antecedent facts of
follows:LawlibraryofCRAlaw

the

case

as

shown

by

the

records

are

as

Complainants obtained the services of respondent in relation to the sale of a


property located at 1 Tacay Road, Quezon Hill, Baguio City (subject property),
registered in the name of Virgilio J. Gaerlan (Virgilio). Respondent also
represented complainants in the case involving the partition of the subject
property.
On 12 January 2005, a Deed of Conditional Sale was supposedly entered into by
complainant Maria Luisa with her brother Virgilio who was represented by their
mother, Adelia J. Gaerlan (Adelia), as his attorney-in-fact. In view of this
transaction, complainants gave respondent the following amounts: 1) P500,000
representing partial payment of the purchase price and to be held in trust for
Adelia;1 and 2) P60,000 for various expenses such as P30,000 for the publication
of summons, P15,000 for commissioners fee, and P15,000 for the last will and
testament
of
Adelia.2redarclaw
The sale did not push through. A case for partition of the subject property was
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119

then

instituted.

Subsequently, sometime in 2007, complainants demanded the return of


P500,000, P15,000 for commissioners fee, and P15,000 for the last will and
testament
of
Adelia.
According to complainants, when they demanded the return of the money,
respondent told them that it was in a term deposit. She failed, though, to present
any detail such as proof of deposit. She also failed to meet with complainants to
discuss matters on the pending civil case related to the sale of the subject
property.
On the other hand, respondent claimed that the money had already been turned
over to Adelia on 14 November 2005. She presented an Acknowledgment
Receipt3 allegedly signed by Adelia. It was contended that respondent merely
complied with the provisions of the Deed of Conditional Sale, in which the parties
agreed [t]hat in the event that the vendee shall not make full payment of the
purchase price on or before 31 October 2005, then the partial payment made
shall be forfeited in favor of the vendor. 4 Complainants failed to pay the
purchase price on 31 October 2005, so respondent gave Adelia the P500,000
being held in trust in accordance with the parties agreement.
Receipt of the money was, however, denied by Adelia. The continued refusal of
respondent to return the money prompted complainants to file a criminal case
for estafa. They claimed that respondent produced the dubious Acknowledgment
Receipt supposedly signed by Adelia only after the filing of the criminal case. A
copy of the case records was also attached to the Position Paper of complainants.
The documents include, among others: 1) the Affidavit of Adelia denying receipt
of P500,000 from respondent;5 2) the Resolution of the Prosecutors Office finding
probable cause for the prosecution of respondent for the crime of estafa;6 and 3)
a Questioned Documents Report dated 28 October 2008 issued by the National
Bureau of Investigation (NBI) stating that a comparative examination of the
specimen signatures of Adelia and the signature on the Acknowledgment Receipt
dated 14 November 2005 revealed that they were not written by one and the
same
person.7redarclaw
Spouses Saunders filed a complaint with the Integrated Bar of the Philippines
(IBP), Baguio-Benguet Chapter. This complaint was referred to the IBP
Commission on Bar Discipline (IBP-CBD). However, the parties failed to attend the
mandatory conference set by the Commission despite repeated postponements
and resettings. Commissioner Waldo G. Rebolos gave them an order to file their
respective Position Papers, instead, to which they complied.
THE IBP-CBDS REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
The IBP-CBD, through Commissioner Waldos, finds that complainants and
respondent had diametrically opposed allegations that led to the filing of a
criminal case for estafa against her in Baguio City. Because of the pendency of
the criminal case and the fact that the main issue in this administrative case is
whether respondent actually delivered the amount of P500,000 to Adelia Gaerlan,
the issue of whether the former has in fact misappropriated the funds she held in
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120

trust

for

her

client

cannot

yet

be

resolved.

The IBP-CBD recommends that the case be dismissed without prejudice to the
outcome
of
the
criminal
case
for estafa against
respondent.
In a Resolution dated 26 February 2010, 8 the Board of Governors of the IBP
adopted and approved the Report and Recommendation by the IBP-CBD after
finding that the same is fully supported by evidence on record and applicable
laws and rules.
THE COURTS RULING
This Court does not agree with the recommendation of the IBP Commission on
Bar
Discipline.
Disbarment proceeding is separate and distinct from a criminal action filed
against a lawyer even if they involve the same set of facts. 9 A finding of guilt in
the criminal case will not necessarily result in a finding of liability in the
administrative case. Conversely, the acquittal does not necessarily exculpate one
administratively.10redarclaw
In Yu v. Palaa,11 the Court held:LawlibraryofCRAlaw
Respondent, being a member of the bar, should note that administrative cases
against lawyers belong to a class of their own. They are distinct from and they
may proceed independently of criminal cases. A criminal prosecution will not
constitute a prejudicial question even if the same facts and circumstances are
attendant in the administrative proceedings. Besides, it is not sound judicial
policy to await the final resolution of a criminal case before a complaint against a
lawyer may be acted upon; otherwise, this Court will be rendered helpless to
apply the rules on admission to, and continuing membership in, the legal
profession during the whole period that the criminal case is pending final
disposition, when the objectives of the two proceedings are vastly disparate.
Disciplinary proceedings involve no private interest and afford no redress for
private grievance. They are undertaken and prosecuted solely for the public
welfare and for preserving courts of justice from the official ministration of
persons unfit to practice law. The attorney is called to answer to the court for his
conduct as an officer of the court.
The pendency of the criminal case should not be a reason to dismiss the
complaint of the client against the lawyer. The Court must make a separate
determination of the administrative liability of the lawyer to preserve the integrity
of
the
legal
profession.
At this point, we cannot yet ascertain the full liability of respondent with respect
to the money entrusted to respondent, as this proceeding should not preempt the
outcome of the factual determination of the estafa case. Nonetheless, a
determination of whether a violation of the lawyers oath was committed by
respondent
may
still
be
made.

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121

This Court finds the following pertinent provisions of the Code of Professional
Responsibility applicable to this case, to wit:LawlibraryofCRAlaw
CANON 16 A lawyer shall hold in trust all moneys and properties of his client
that
may
come
into
his
possession.
CANON 17 A lawyer owes fidelity to the cause of his client and shall be mindful
of the trust and confidence reposed in him.
The Complaint was triggered by allegations regarding how respondent had dealt
with complainants money. There is evidence that she fell short of her
undertakings to her clients. She does not deny their allegation that she failed to
meet with them on several instances, making them wonder about the status of
the
money
they
had
entrusted
to
her.
The claim of respondent that the money was already delivered to Adelia following
the terms of the Deed of Conditional Sale is not believable. A reading of the
statements of respondent herself would reveal that she did not personally apprise
complainants about the alleged delivery of P500,000 to Adelia despite their
persistent pleas for the return of the amount. It took a while for respondent to
respond to the queries of complainants. In fact, she did not rebut their allegation
that the Acknowledgment Receipt dated 14 November 2005 purportedly signed
by Adelia was produced only after the estafa case had been filed against the
former. Neither did respondent explain why complainants were not furnished a
copy
of
the
Acknowledgment
Receipt.
If respondents claim of delivery is true, we find it strange that the money was
still delivered to Adelia on 14 November 2005, despite respondents knowledge
of Virgilios revocation of the power of attorney as early as January 2005.
Respondent admitted in her Reply to Complainants Position Paper12 that
complainants discovered the revocation when the Deed of Sale was denied
registration upon its presentation to the Register of Deeds on January
2005.13 From her own statement, she was aware that Virgilio had already revoked
the power of attorney given to Adelia as early as January 2005. Adelia did not
have the authority to sign, much less to receive, the partial payment on behalf of
Virgilio. As lawyer for complainants, she ought to have protected her clients
cause
and
not
have
given
the
money
to
Adelia.
The supposed Deed of Conditional Sale provided for the forfeiture of the partial
payment in favor of the vendor if the vendee failed to pay on or before 31
October 2005. It is worth emphasizing that respondent was representing
complainants who were the vendees in the transaction. Had she fulfilled her duty,
respondent should have pointed out to her clients that Adelia did not have the
authority to sign on behalf of Virgilio as he had already revoked Adelias authority
as early as December 2004. The Deed of Conditional Sale had therefore no force
and effect as far as Virgilio, the registered owner of the subject property, is
concerned, and Adelia therefore had no right to demand the money.
Simply stated, respondent cannot take cover behind the supposed required
compliance with the provisions of the Deed of Conditional Sale, since it was
incumbent upon her to raise concerns regarding the execution of that document.
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122

The revocation of the authority of Adelia and the subsequent filing of a Petition
for Partition, in which complainants were also represented by respondent, are
clear indications that there were issues in the conditional sale that should have
prompted respondent to withhold the money from Adelia to protect the interest of
complainants,
the
formers
clients.
Lawyers have the duty to apprise their client of the status and developments of
the account they are handling. They must be consistently mindful of their
obligation to respond promptly, should there be queries or requests for
information from the client.14 The Code exacts from lawyers not only a firm
respect for law, legal processes and the courts, but also mandates the utmost
degree of fidelity and good faith in dealing with the moneys entrusted to them
pursuant to their fiduciary relationship. Respondent clearly fell short of the
demands required of her as a member of the bar. Her inability to properly
discharge her duty to her clients makes her answerable not just to them, but also
to this Court, to the legal profession, and to the general public. Given the crucial
importance of her role in the administration of justice, her misconduct diminishes
the confidence of the public in the integrity and dignity of the
profession.15redarclaw
Lawyers are bound to protect their client's interest to the best of their ability and
with utmost diligence. Respondent should know that every case that lawyers
accept deserves their full attention, diligence, skill and competence regardless of
its importance. It is their sworn duty to protect the interest of their client and to
defend
it
within
the
authority
of
the
law.
The appropriate penalty for an errant lawyer depends on the exercise of sound
judicial discretion based on the surrounding facts. 16 Considering, that this is the
first offense of respondent, the Court resolves to reprimand her, with the
admonition that she must observe a higher degree of fidelity and diligence in the
practice
of
her
profession.17redarclaw
WHEREFORE, respondent ATTY. LYSSA GRACE S. PAGANO-CALDE is given
the penalty ofREPRIMAND, with a STRONG WARNING to observe a higher
degree
of
fidelity
in
the
practice
of
her
profession.
SO ORDERED.

A.C. No. 10635, August 26, 2015


NOEL S. SORREDA, Complainant, v. ATTY. DAVID L. KHO, Respondent.
The Case

122

123

Before the Court is an administrative case filed by Noel S. Sorreda (Sorreda)


against Atty. David L. Kho (Kho) for malpractice and/or gross misconduct.
The Facts
The records reveal that on 3 October 2006 Marissa L. Macarilay (Macarilay),
through her then counsel Sorreda, 1 filed an administrative complaint2 against Kho
before the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP), docketed as CBD Case No. 061866 (Macarilay's complaint). Sorreda withdrew as counsel for Macarilay on 10
March 2007.3 On 5 December 2007, Sorreda filed with the IBP the present
complaint4 against Kho, which contained exactly the same allegations in
Macarilay's complaint. Sorreda alleged that: (1) Macarilay, through him as
counsel, filed an arbitration case against Candelaria Kholoma (Candelaria) and
Imelda Kholoma (Imelda), Kho's clients, before the Construction Industry
Arbitration Commission (CIAC); (2) Kho notarized Candelaria and Imelda's
affidavit in the arbitration case despite being disqualified under the 2004 Rules
on Notarial Practice, since Candelaria and Imelda are Kho's sister-in-law and
niece, respectively; (3) Kho did not furnish Macarilay and Sorreda a copy of his
comment on their motion for substitution of arbitrator; (4) Kho did not countervail
the manifestation alleging the mendacity of Kho and his clients; (5) Kho
intentionally delayed the receipt of Macarilay's motion for time extension; (6) Kho
advised Robert Kholoma (Robert), the husband of Candelaria, to forcibly eject
Macarilay's watchman in the disputed property; (7) Kho notarized the answer
filed by the Kholomas in the case for forcible entry; (8) Kho also notarized the
Special Power of Attorney (SPA) executed by the Kholomas, which amounted to
"self-notarization," because "the one being given power is the law firm of Kho
Antonio Velasco & Payos Law Offices, of which [Kho] is the premier partner"; (9)
Kho notarized the SPA with only one of the three signatories exhibiting her
cedula; (10) Kho also notarized the petition for review filed by Candelaria and
Imelda before the Court of Appeals; and (11) Kho and his clients deliberately
failed to furnish the CIAC with a copy their appeal.
In his Answer,5 Kho admitted that he notarized Candelaria and Imelda's affidavit,
answer in the case for forcible entry, SPA, and petition for review. Kho, however,
alleged that he acted in good faith for he believed that the decision in Aznar
Brothers Realty Co. v. Court of Appeals,6 where only "those convicted of the crime
involving moral turpitude were disqualified to notarize documents," was still the
prevailing rule. Kho pleaded for liberality in the application of the then recently
enacted 2004 Rules on Notarial Practice, since there was no damage caused by
the notarization. He admitted that he was not yet fully conversant with the new
rules. As to the other allegations, Kho claimed that those were unsubstantiated
conclusions, conjectures and speculations. Kho admitted his failure to furnish
Sorreda with a copy of the comment on the motion for substitution of arbitrator
and his failure to furnish the CIAC with a copy of his clients' appeal. However, he
alleged that no damage was caused and he immediately furnished the copies of
the pleadings upon discovery of his inadvertence.
Finally, Kho claimed that "Macarilay's penchant for deliberate forum shopping and
splitting a cause of action, albeit baseless and unfounded, must be
sanctioned."7 In an Order8 dated 29 January 2009, IBP Commissioner Romualdo A.
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124

Din, Jr. (IBP Commissioner) denied Sorreda's motion to consolidate the present
complaint with Macarilay's complaint, because there was already a report and
recommendation by a different commissioner in Macarilay's complaint. On 4
August 2009, Kho filed an urgent manifestation, 9 pleading for the dismissal of the
present case. Kho attached a copy of this Court's Resolution 10 dated 30 March
2009, where the Third Division of this Court resolved to close and terminate CBD
Case No. 06-1866 (docketed as A.C. No. 8161), considering that no motion for
reconsideration was filed against the IBP Resolution11 dismissing the case for lack
of merit, and no petition for review was filed before the Court.
The Ruling of the IBP
In a Report and Recommendation dated 31 May 2011, 12 the IBP Commissioner
recommended the dismissal of the present complaint against Kho because
Sorreda failed to establish his allegations by clear, convincing, and satisfactory
evidence. The IBP Commissioner also found that Sorreda did not establish how
Kho's alleged violation of the 2004 Rules on Notarial Practice, if proven, would
damage Macarilay. In Resolution No. XX-2013-10713 issued on 12 February 2013,
the IBP Board of Governors adopted and approved the IBP Commissioner's Report
and Recommendation, dismissing the complaint for lack of evidence. In
Resolution No. XXI-2014-22114 issued on 2 May 2014, the IBP Board of Governors
likewise denied the motion for reconsideration filed by Sorreda, since the Board
found no cogent reason to reverse its initial findings and the matters raised were
reiterations of those which had already been taken into consideration.
The Ruling of the Court
We dismiss the complaint against Kho. Applying the principle of res judicata or
bar by prior judgment, the Court finds that the present administrative case
becomes dismissible. Section 47, Rule 39 of the Rules of Court enunciates the
rule of res judicata or bar by prior judgment.15 It provides that a final judgment on
the merits rendered by a court of competent jurisdiction is conclusive as to the
rights of the parties and their privies, and constitutes an absolute bar to
subsequent actions involving the same claim, demand, or cause of action. 16 A.C.
No. 8161 and the present case have substantially identical parties, refer to the
same subject matter, raise the same issue, and claim the same relief. The
present complaint is a mere duplication of Macarilay's complaint in A.C. No. 8161.
Thus, the Resolution of this Court in A.C. No. 8161 is conclusive in the present
case. Furthermore, Sorreda failed to discharge the burden of proving Kho's
administrative liability by clear preponderance of evidence.
The legal presumption is that an attorney is innocent of the charges against him
until the contrary is proved.17 The burden of proof in disbarment and suspension
proceedings always rests on the complainant, 18 and the burden is not satisfied
when complainant relies on mere assumptions and suspicions as
evidence.19 Considering the serious consequences of disbarment and suspension,
this Court has consistently held that clear preponderant evidence is necessary to
justify the imposition of administrative penalty. 20 In the present case, Sorreda did
not substantiate his allegations, and he relied on his own assumptions and
suspicions. Sorreda did not show how Kho's alleged actions amount to
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malpractice or gross misconduct, which will subject Kho to administrative


sanction. Sorreda cannot shift the burden of proof to Kho by asking him to rebut
his allegations. It is axiomatic that one who alleges an act has the onus of proving
it.21 If the burden of proof is not overcome, the respondent is under no obligation
to prove his defense.22
WHEREFORE, we DISMISS the complaint against respondent Atty. David L. Kho.
Costs
against
complainant. SO
ORDERED. Del
Castillo,
Mendoza
Leonen, and Jardeleza, JJ., concur.
A.C. No. 7073, September 01, 2015
FIRE OFFICER I DARWIN S. SAPPAYANI, Complainant, v. ATTY. RENATO G. GASMEN,Respondent.
RESOLUTION
PERLAS-BERNABE, J.:

This instant administrative case arose from a Complaint-Affidavit1 dated February


6, 2006 filed by complainant Fire Officer I Darwin S. Sappayani (Sappayani),
which was endorsed by the Public Attorney's Office, Maguindanao District to this
Court,2 and was referred to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) on July 1,
2008,3 against respondent Atty. Renato G. Gasmen (Atty. Gasmen), a notary
public.
The Facts
In his Complaint-Affidavit, Sappayani alleged that Atty. Gasmen notarized
documents which he purportedly executed, particularly, a Special Power of
Attorney4 (SPA) in favor of one Newtrade Goodwill Corporation (NGC) through
Romeo N. Maravillas (Maravillas) and an Application for Loan and Promissory Note
(loan application) with Air Materiel Wing Savings and Loan Association, Inc.
(AMWSLAI). The SPA, which was notarized by Atty. Gasmen on March 29, 2000,
authorized NGC through Maravillas to complete the loan application with
AMWSLAI and thereafter, receive its proceeds. Thus, by virtue of said notarized
documents, AMWSLAI released to Maravillas, as representative of NGC, a loan
amounting to P157,301.43.
However, Sappayani denied executing said documents, claiming that his
signature found on the SPA was forged as he did not know Maravillas. Neither did
he authorize Maravillas to enter into any transaction on his behalf. Sappayani
added that it was physically impossible for him to personally appear before Atty.
Gasmen and execute the documents at the AMWSLAI office in Quezon City, as he
was then training as a new recruit at the Bureau of Fire Protection at General
Santos City.5cralawrednad
After more than two (2) years, Atty. Gasmen filed his Comment6 dated May 26,
2008 and claimed, among others, that the notarization of the SPA and loan
application was done only after the release of the proceeds of the loan to
Maravillas, who then released the same to one Zenaida C. Razo (Razo), the
marketing representative of NGC for Region V. According to Atty. Gasmen, Razo
was also the one responsible for taking the purported loan of Sappayani, the
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proceeds of which the latter never received. Moreover, he asserted that prior to
notarization, Sappayani's signature on the SPA was compared with his signature
specimen cards with AMWSLAI, of which he was an honorary member. Finally, he
claimed that by practice, notarization of loan applications at AMWSLAI was done
"on a ministerial basis" albeit with "proper safeguards," and that documents were
notarized only after the loan is released and the AMWSLAI President has
approved the same. As such, notarization was merely a way of completing the
loan documentation requirements of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP).
After several re-settings of the mandatory conference and the repeated failure of
Atty. Gasmen to appear, the IBP Commissioner terminated the mandatory
conference and ordered the parties to submit their respective Position Papers for
resolution.
The IBP's Report and Recommendation
In a Report and Recommendation7 dated March 5, 2010, IBP Commissioner Atty.
Albert P. Sordan, EnP (Commissioner Sordan) found Atty. Gasmen guilty of
violating Section 2 (b), Rule IV of the 2004 Rules on Notarial Practice (Notarial
Rules), Section 20 (a) Rule 138 of the Rules of Court, and Rule 1.01, Canon 1 and
Rule 10.01, Canon 10 of the Code of Professional Responsibility (CPR).
Accordingly, he recommended that Atty. Gasmen be suspended from the practice
of law for a period of six (6) months and that his incumbent notarial commission
be revoked. In addition, he should be disqualified from being commissioned as a
notary public for a period of one (1) year, with a stern warning that a repetition of
the same or similar offense shall be dealt with more severely.
Commissioner Sordan found that the signature of Sappayani on the SPA was
forged, and that Atty. Gasmen failed to exercise reasonable diligence or that
degree of vigilance expected of a bonus pater familias. Thus, when he notarized a
forged SPA and untruthfully certified that Sappayani was the very same person
who personally appeared before him, he violated the Notarial Rules and, as a
lawyer, the CPR.8cralawrednad
In a Resolution9 dated May 11, 2013, the IBP Board of Governors adopted and
approved the IBP Commissioner's Report and Recommendation.10 Atty. Gasmen
moved for reconsideration,11 which was denied in a Resolution12 dated August 9,
2014.
The Issue Before the Court
The issue for the Court's resolution is whether or not the IBP correctly found Atty.
Gasmen liable for violation of the Notarial Rules and the CPR.
The Court's Ruling
The findings of the IBP are well taken.
The Court notes that both the SPA and the loan application subject of this case
were notarized in 2000, during which Act No. 271113 of the Revised Administrative
Code of 1917, Title IV, Chapter 11, otherwise known as the "Notarial Law," in
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addition to Act No. 2103,14 governed the rules on notaries public.


Section 1 (a) of Act No. 2103 provides:ChanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
Section 1. x x x
(a) The acknowledgement shall be made before a notary public or an officer duly
authorized by law of the country to take acknowledgements of instruments or
documents in the place where the act is done. The notary public or the officer
taking the acknowledgement shall certify that the person acknowledging the
instrument or document is known to him and that he is the same person who
executed it, and acknowledged that the same is his free act and deed. The
certificate shall be made under his official seal, if he is by law required to keep a
seal, and if not, his certificate shall so state.
One of the obligations of a notary public is to authenticate documents
acknowledged before him, certifying the truth thereof under his seal of
office.15 When acknowledging a document, it is required that the person who
signed or executed the same, appears in person before the notary public and
represents to the latter that the signature on the document was voluntarily
affixed by him for the purposes stated in the document, declaring the same as his
free and voluntary act and deed.16Thereafter, the notary public affixes his notarial
seal on the instrument which certifies the due execution of the document, and
resultantly, converts a private document into a public document which on its
face, is entitled to full faith and credit.17cralawrednad
In the discharge of his powers and duties, the notary public's certification is one
impressed with public interest, accuracy and fidelity18 such that he owes it to the
public to notarize only when the person who signs the document is the same
person who executed it and personally appeared before him to attest to his
knowledge of the contents stated therein. Thus, the Court has repeatedly
emphasized the necessity of an affiant's personal appearance and makes the
failure to observe such rule punishable. In fact, such necessity has been further
stressed in Section 2 (b) of Rule IV of the Rules on Notarial Practice of 2004,
which provides:ChanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
SEC. 2. Prohibitions. - x x x
(b) A person shall not perform a notarial act if the person involved as signatory to
the instrument or document (1) is not in the notary's presence personally at the time of the notarization; and
(2) is not personally known to the notary public or otherwise identified by the
notary public through competent evidence of identity as defined by these Rules.
In Dela Cruz-Sillano v. Pangan,19 the Court suspended a lawyer both from the
practice of law and from his notarial commission for notarizing an SPA without the
personal appearance of the affiant. It held that a lawyer commissioned to be a
notary public is mandated to discharge his sacred duties and observe faithfully
the legal solemnity of an oath in an acknowledgement or jurat. Similarly, the
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Court has meted out penalties on erring notaries for notarizing a document
despite the non-appearance of one of the signatories. It is settled that such
practice constitutes unlawful, dishonest, immoral, or deceitful
conduct.20cralawrednad
In this case, Atty. Gasmen claimed that before the SPA and loan application were
notarized, the proceeds were already released to NGC by AMWSLAI, thus,
dispensing with the need for notarization. Moreover, he insisted that the
notarization of said documents was merely done on a ministerial basis, with
proper safeguards, and that it cannot be expected of him to require the personal
appearance of every loan applicant considering the hundreds of loan applications
brought to him for signing.21cralawrednad
The Court is not persuaded.
Notarization is not an empty, meaningless, or routinary act.22 It is impressed with
substantial public interest, and only those who are qualified or authorized may
act as such. It is not a purposeless ministerial act of acknowledging documents
executed by parties who are willing to pay fees for notarization.23 Moreover,
notarization of a private document, such as an SPA in this case, converts the
document into a public one which, on its face, is given full faith and credit. Thus,
the failure of Atty. Gasmen to observe the utmost care in the performance of his
duties caused not only damage to those directly affected by the notarized
document,24 but also undermined the integrity of a notary public and tainted the
function of notarization.25cralawredcralawrednad
Further, as a lawyer, Atty. Gasmen is expected at all times to uphold the integrity
and dignity of the legal profession and refrain from any act or omission which
might erode the trust and confidence reposed by the public in the integrity of the
legal profession. By notarizing the subject documents, he engaged in unlawful,
dishonest, immoral, or deceitful conduct which makes him liable as well for
violation of the pertinent rules of the CPR, particularly Rule 1.01, Canon 1 which
provides:ChanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
CANON 1 - A LAWYER SHALL UPHOLD THE CONSTITUTION, OBEY THE LAWS OF
THE LAND AND PROMOTE RESPECT FOR LAW AND LEGAL PROCESSES.
Rule 1.01 - A lawyer shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful
conduct.
As to the proper penalty, the Court finds the need to modify the penalty
recommended by the IBP. The Court has ruled that a notary public who fails to
discharge his duties as such is meted out the following penalties: (7) revocation
of notarial commission; (2) disqualification from being commissioned as notary
public; and (3) suspension from the practice of law - the terms of which vary
based on the circumstances of each case. In this case, while the IBP
Commissioner found the absence of bad faith and considered Atty. Gasmen as a
first time offender, the Court finds that the penalties of disqualification from
being commissioned as notary public for a period of two (2) years and suspension
from the practice of law for one (1) year are proper.26 On this score, the Court
observes that Atty. Gasmen did not deny notarizing the documents without the
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presence of Sappayani and indirectly admitted doing the same with other similar
documents and affiants. Thus, such practice, he evidently countenanced fraud.
WHEREFORE, the Court finds respondent Atty. Renato G. Gasmen GUILTY of
violation of the Notarial Law and the Code of Professional Responsibility.
Accordingly, the Court hereby SUSPENDS him from the practice of law for one
(1) year; REVOKES his incumbent cdmmission as a notary public; and PROHIBITS
him from being commissioned as a notary public for two (2) years, effective
immediately. He is WARNED that a repetition of the same offense or similar acts
in the future shall be dealt with more severely.
SO ORDERED.chanrobles virtuallawlibrary

A.C. No. 10676, September 08, 2015


ATTY. ROY B. ECRAELA, Complainant, v. ATTY. IAN RAYMOND A.
PANGALANGAN, Respondent.
DECISION
PER CURIAM:
The Case
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Before the Court is a Petition for Disbarment1 filed by Atty. Roy B. Ecraela with the
Integrated Bar of the Philippines Commission on Bar Discipline (IBP-CBD) on April
12, 2007 against Atty. Ian Raymond A. Pangalangan for his illicit relations, chronic
womanizing, abuse of authority as an educator, and "other unscrupulous
activities" which cause "undue embarrassment to the legal profession."
Complainant claims that respondent's actions involve deceit, malpractice, gross
misconduct and grossly immoral conduct in violation of the Lawyer's Oath.
The Facts
Complainant and respondent were best friends and both graduated from the
University of the Philippines (UP) College of Law in 1990, where they were part of
a peer group or barkada with several of their classmates. After passing the bar
examinations and being admitted as members of the Bar in 1991, they were both
registered with the IBP Quezon City.
Respondent was formerly married to Sheila P. Jardiolin (Jardiolin) with whom he
has three (3) children. Complainant avers that while married to Jardiolin,
respondent had a series of adulterous and illicit relations with married and
unmarried women between the years 1990 to 2007. These alleged illicit relations
involved:ChanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
a. AAA,2 who is the spouse of a colleague in the UP College of Law, from 1990
to 1992, which complainant had personal knowledge of such illicit relations;
b. BBB, sometime during the period from 1992 to 1994 or from 1994 to 1996,
despite being already married to Jardiolin;
c. CCC, despite being married to Jardiolin and while also being romantically
involved with DDD;
d. DDD, sometime during the period from 2000 to 2002, despite still being
married to Jardiolin and while still being romantically involved with CCC;
e. EEE, who is related to complainant, sometime during the period from May
2004 until the filing of the Petition, while still being romantically involved
with CCC.3
Complainant claims that respondent, with malice and without remorse, deceived
CCC and DDD by representing himself to be a bachelor, thereby convincing the
two women to start a love affair with him, when in truth, he was then still married
to Jardiolin.4cralawrednad
Aside from these illicit affairs, complainant avers that sometime during the period
of 1998 to 2000, respondent, as a lawyer of the Office of the Government
Corporate Counsel (OGCC), represented the interest of Manila International
Airport Authority (MIAA) in cancellation proceedings filed by MIAA against
Kendrick Development Corporation (KDC). However, despite being a public officer
and a government counsel, respondent conspired with Atty. Abraham Espejo,
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legal counsel of KDC, and assisted KDC in its case, thereby sabotaging MIAA's
case, and, in effect, that of the Philippine Government.3cralawrednad
Complainant further claims that respondent even attempted to bribe then
Solicitor Rolando Martin of the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) in exchange
for the latter's cooperation in the dismissal of the cancellation proceedings in
favor of KDC. In return for his "earnest efforts" in assisting KDC in its case,
respondent was allegedly rewarded with a Toyota Corolla XL with plate number
ULS-835 by Atty. Espejo. The vehicle was seen several times by respondent's
classmates and officemates being driven and parked by respondent in his own
home and in the OGCC premises itself.6cralawrednad
In connection with his involvement in the MIAA case, complainant claims that
respondent was summoned in a Senate inquiry concerning rampant faking of land
titles in the Philippines, which included an investigation of the alleged spurious
land titles of KDC. In Senate Committee Final Report No. 367, the Senate Blue
Ribbon and Justice & Human Rights Committees recommended that respondent
be investigated and prosecuted by the Office of the Ombudsman (Ombudsman)
for graft and corruption, as well as disbarment or disciplinary sanction by this
Court for grave misconduct or violation of the Revised Penal Code. 7cralawrednad
It was further alleged that, during the pendency of the Senate Inquiry,
respondent even attempted to conceal the evidence by requesting complainant's
parents, spouses Marcelo F. Ecraela and Visitacion B. Ecraela, to have the Toyota
Corolla XL parked in their residence in Cainta, Rizal, for an indefinite period of
time. Respondent's request, however, was refused by the spouses when they
learned that the vehicle was the subject of the Senate Inquiry.8cralawrednad
It appears from the documents presented by complainant that the Ombudsman
issued a Resolution finding probable cause against respondent, and an
Information was thereafter filed with the Sandiganbayan for violation of Section 3
(b) of Republic Act No. (RA) 3019.9cralawrednad
Complainant also claims that respondent abused his authority as an educator in
Manuel L. Quezon University, San Sebastian College, College of St. Benilde, and
Maryknoll College, where respondent induced his male students to engage in
"nocturnal preoccupations" and entertained the romantic gestures of his female
students in exchange for passing grades.10cralawrednad
The Petition was docketed as CBD Case No. 07-1973.
In an Order11 dated April 16, 2007, the Director for Bar Discipline, Honorable
Rogelio A. Vinluan, required respondent to file his verified answer.
In his undated Answer,12 respondent opted not to present any counter-statement
of facts in support of his defense. Instead, respondent simply argued that the
petition suffers from procedural and substantive infirmities, claiming that
petitioner failed to substantiate the allegations or charges against him.
Respondent pointed out that Annex "J" of the Petition entitled "Arguments in
Support of the Disbarment" lacked formal requirements, and thus, should be
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treated as a mere scrap of paper. Respondent also asserts that the e-mail
messages attached to the petition were inadmissible for having been obtained in
violation of the Rules on Electronic Evidence.13 He claims that the identities of the
owners of the e-mail messages, as well as the allegations of illicit relations and
abuse of authority, were not properly established. Respondent further argues that
the statements of complainant's witnesses were merely self-serving and deserved
scant consideration.
Complainant filed a Comment (to the Respondent's Answer),14 stating that the
allegations in the complaint were deemed admitted by reason of respondent's
failure to make specific or even general denials of such in his Answer.
In his Reply (to the Comment filed by Complainant),15 respondent simply denied
all of complainant's accusations in the petition, allegedly for "lack of knowledge
and information sufficient to form a belief as to the truth or falsity
thereof."16cralawrednad
On August 3, 2007, 1BP-CBD Investigating Commissioner Leland R. Villadolid, Jr.
(Commissioner Villadolid) set the case for mandatory conference on August 28,
2007,17 which respondent failed to attend. It appears that respondent filed a
Motion to Cancel Hearing,18 praying for the resetting of the mandatory conference
allegedly due to a previously scheduled hearing on the same date. Respondent's
motion was opposed by complainant and eventually denied by Commissioner
Villadolid in his Order19 dated August 28, 2007. In the same order, complainant's
Manifestation20 praying that subpoenas be issued to several persons who shall be
complainant's hostile witnesses was granted by Commissioner Villadolid.
Accordingly, the case was scheduled for the presentation of complainant's
witnesses on September 11, 2007 and the respective subpoenas21 were issued.
A day before the scheduled hearing, the IBP-CBD received respondent's Motion
for Reconsideration,22 praying that the Order dated August 28, 2007 be set aside
and that the hearing be reset to sometime during the third week of October. In
said motion, respondent informed the IBP-CBD that he has viral conjunctivitis or
more commonly known as "sore eyes" and has been ordered by the doctor to rest
for at least one to two weeks while his eyes are being treated. Attached to his
motion were photocopies of two medical certificates, stating that a certain R.
Pangalangan was suffering from sore eyes.
During the scheduled hearing on September 11, 2007, complainant opposed
petitioner's motion, arguing that based on his personal verification with the court
personnel of Branch 77 of Metropolitan Trial Court (MTC) of Parafiaque City, there
was no case calendared for hearing on the date of the previous setting.
Complainant also argued that this is another ploy of respondent to delay the
proceedings because he knew that complainant worked overseas and was only in
the country for a limited period of time. Finding merit in complainant's opposition,
respondent's motion was denied and complainant was allowed to present his
witnesses.23cralawrednad
Complainant presented his witnesses, as follows: Assistant Solicitor General Karl
Miranda (ASG Miranda), Ms. Laarni Morallos (Ms. Morallos), Atty. Glenda T. Litong
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(Atty. Litong), Atty. Emelyn W. Corpus (Atty. Corpus), Mr. Marcelo Ecraela, and Mrs.
Visitacion Ecraela.
ASG Miranda testified on his participation in the KDC case as reflected in the
Senate Blue Ribbon Committee Report, as well as on his recollection that the
Senate Report had recommended the disbarment of respondent.
Ms. Morallos, Atty. Litong, and Atty. Corpus were presented to establish that the
email messages submitted by complainant indeed originated from respondent
based on their familiarity with respondent, particularly, the email messages
which contained references to his daughter, his relationship with complainant,
and respondent's high blood pressure.
Atty. Litong further testified that respondent personally introduced DDD to her as
his girlfriend and that sometime in 2002 or 2003, she saw respondent with
another girl in Glorietta despite still being married to his wife. Atty. Litong also
recalled encountering respondent at a party sometime in 2007 where he was with
CCC, whom she perceived to be respondent's girlfriend at that time. She also
confirmed that respondent had, in more than one occasion, brought with him his
students during their drinking sessions and had even one student driving for him.
For her testimony, Atty. Corpus corroborated Atty. Litong's statements about
respondent's preoccupations with his students. Atty. Corpus also testified that
DDD called her at her office sometime in 2000 or 2001 to inform her that the
latter had broken up with respondent upon learning that he was actually married.
Atty. Corpus surmised based on her telephone conversation with DDD that
respondent did not tell the latter his actual marital status. Aside from this, Atty.
Corpus also recalled that during complainant's farewell party in February 2007,
respondent introduced CCC as his girlfriend of six years, or since the year 2000 or
2001.
To expedite the hearing, the spouses Ecraela were made to affirm the execution
of their affidavits since their testimonies were based on the affidavits that
complainant included in his petition.
Once complainant's presentation of witnesses was concluded, the mandatory
conference/hearing was terminated and the parties were directed to submit their
respective verified position papers with supporting documentary evidence within
thirty (30) days from receipt of the transcript of stenographic notes. After which,
the case was considered submitted for report and recommendation.
On September 18, 2007, the IBP-CBD received complainant's Manifestation (with
Comments),24pertaining to respondent's Motion to Cancel Hearing and praying for
the IBP-CBD to formally request for records from Branch 77 of MTC, Paranaque
City to verify respondent's claim that he had a hearing in said court during the
first scheduled mandatory conference. On the same date, the IBP-CBD also
received complainant's Compliance (with Comments),25cralawred submitting the
certified photo copies of the Senate Committee Final Report No. 367, the
Resolution dated January 22, 2001 of the Ombudsman, and the Information dated
June 30, 2003 filed with the Sandiganbayan.
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On January 8, 2008, the IBP-CBD received complainant's Position


Paper.26 Complainant thereafter filed two Manifestations,27 asserting that
respondent is already barred from submitting his verified position paper and that
any decision or judgment would have to be based solely on complainant's Verified
Position Paper.28cralawrednad
Findings of the IBP Investigating Commissioner
After the case was submitted for report and recommendation, Commissioner
Villadolid rendered a Report,29 finding that there is more than sufficient evidence
establishing respondent's gross misconduct affecting his standing and moral
character as an officer of the court and member of the bar.
On the issue of respondent's alleged violations of the Revised Penal Code30 and/or
RA 301931 as reflected in the Senate Report, the Ombudsman's Resolution, and
the Information, Commissioner Villadolid found that despite respondent's denials,
complainant was able to present certified true copies of the relevant documents
which support his allegations in the petition.
As for the alleged illicit affairs of respondent, Commissioner Villadolid discredited
complainant's assertion that respondent is guilty of gross immoral conduct for his
alleged adulterous relations with EEE. Based on the Report, complainant was not
able to discharge the burden of proving the authenticity of the email messages
pertaining to this adulterous affair; thus, they were deemed inadmissible.
However, Commissioner Villadolid found merit in complainant's claim that
respondent committed grossly immoral conduct by having illicit relations with
DDD, CCC, and BBB, all while still married to Jardiolin, to
wit:ChanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
4.21 In engaging in such illicit relationships, Respondent disregarded the sanctity
of marriage and the marital vows protected by the Constitution and affirmed by
our laws, which as a lawyer he swore under oath to protect. The 1987
Constitution, specifically Article XV. Section 2 thereof clearly provides that
marriage, an inviolable social institution, is the foundation of the family and shall
be protected by the state.
xxxx
4.23 Moreover. Respondent violated Rule 1.01 of Canon 1, and Rule 7.03 of Canon
7 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, which provides that "a lawyer shall
not engage in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct" nor shall a
lawyer "engage in conduct that adversely reflects on his fitness to practice law.
nor shall he, whether in public or private life, behave in scandalous manner to the
discredit of the legal profession".32
Accordingly, the IBP-CBD reached and gave the following conclusion and
recommendation:ChanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
V. Conclusion/Recommendations
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5.1 In view of the foregoing, and considering that there is more than sufficient
evidence establishing Respondent's gross misconduct affecting his standing and
moral character as an officer of the court and member of the bar. this
Commissioner respectfully recommends that Respondent be suspended from the
practice of law for a period of two (2) years with a STERN WARNING that
Respondent should reform his conduct in a manner consistent with the norms
prescribed by the Canons of Professional Responsibility."33
Findings of the IBP Board of Governors
On March 20, 2013, the Board of Governors of the IBP issued a
Resolution34 adopting and approving, with modification, the Report and
Recommendation of Commissioner Villadolid. As modified, the Board of Governors
disbarred respondent, thus:ChanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
RESOLUTION NO. XX-2013-280
CBD Case No. 07-1973
Atty. Roy B. Ecraela vs.
Atty. Ian Raymundo A. Pangalangan
RESOLVED to ADOPT and APPROVE, as it is hereby unanimously ADOPTED and
APPROVED, with modification, the Report and Recommendation of the
Investigating Commissioner in 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 considering
Respondent's violations of Article XV of the 1987 Constitution, Section 2, Rule
1.01 of Canon 1 and Rule 7.03 of Canon 7 of the Code of Professional
Responsibility, and the Lawyer's Oath, Atty. Ian Raymundo A. Pangalangan is
hereby DISBARRED and his name Ordered Stricken Off from the Roll of
Attorneys.
On July 9, 2013, the IBP received respondent's Motion for Reconsideration35 dated
July 3, 2013, to which complainant was required to submit his
comment.36cralawrednad
For his part, complainant filed a Motion for Reconsideration (of the IBP-CBD
Report dated June 28, 2012)37 dated August 17, 2013. Similarly, respondent was
required to comment on complainant's motion in an Order38 dated August 27,
2013. On the same date, complainant filed his Comment and/or Opposition (to
the Respondent's Motion for Reconsideration).39cralawrednad
Subsequently, respondent filed a Comment on/Opposition to the Motion for
Reconsideration with Leave40 dated September 12, 2013, as well as a Reply to the
Comment and/or Opposition41 dated September 20, 2013.
On May 3, 2014, the Board of Governors of the IBP passed a resolution denying
respondent's motion for reconsideration.42 Thereafter, the Director for Bar
Discipline forwarded the records of this case to this Court on November 11,
2014.43cralawrednad
The Issue
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The issue in this case is whether the respondent committed gross immoral
conduct, which would warrant his disbarment.
The Court's Ruling
After a thorough examination of the records, the Court agrees with the Board of
Governors' resolution finding that Atty. Pangalangan's grossly immoral conduct
was fully supported by the evidences offered.
The Code of Professional Responsibility provides:ChanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
CANON 1 - A LAWYER SHALL UPHOLD THE CONSTITUTION, OBEY THE
LAWS OF THE LAND AND PROMOTE RESPECT FOR LAW AND LEGAL
PROCESSES.
Rule 1.01 - A lawyer shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful
conduct.
xxxx
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 shall he, whether in public or private life, behave in a
scandalous manner to the discredit of the legal profession.
The practice of law is a privilege given to those who possess and continue to
possess the legal qualifications for the profession.44 Good moral character is not
only required for admission to the Bar, but must also be retained in order to
maintain one's good standing in this exclusive and honored fraternity.45
We are not unmindful of the serious consequences of disbarment or suspension
proceedings against a member of the Bar. Thus, the Court has consistently held
that clearly preponderant evidence is necessary to justify the imposition of
administrative penalties on a member of the Bar. This, We explained in Aba v. De
Guzman, Jr.:ChanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
Preponderance of evidence means that the evidence adduced by one side is, as a
whole, superior to or has greater weight than that of the other. It means evidence
which is more convincing to the court as worthy of belief than that which is
offered in opposition thereto. Under Section 1 of Rule 133. in determining
whether or not there is preponderance of evidence, the court may consider the
following: (a) all the facts and circumstances of the case; (b) the witnesses'
manner of testifying, their intelligence, their means and opportunity of knowing
the facts to which they are testifying, the nature of the facts to which they testify,
the probability or improbability of their testimony; (c) the witnesses' interest or
want of interest, and also their personal credibility so far as the same may
ultimately appear in the trial; and (d) the number of witnesses, although it docs
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not mean that preponderance is necessarily with the greater number.


When the evidence of the parties are evenly balanced or there is doubt on which
side the evidence preponderates, the decision should be against the party with
the burden of proof according to the equipoise doctrine.
To summarize, the Court has consistently held that in suspension or disbarment
proceedings against lawyers, the lawyer enjoys the presumption of innocence,
and the burden of proof rests upon the complainant to prove the allegations in his
complaint. The evidence required in suspension or disbarment proceedings is
preponderance of evidence. In case the evidence of the parties are equally
balanced, the equipoise doctrine mandates a decision in favor of the
respondent.46
The IBP-CBD Report sufficiently showed by preponderant evidence the grounds by
which respondent has been found committing gross immorality in the conduct of
his personal affairs.
This Court has, in numerous occasions, revoked the licenses of lawyers who were
proven to have not only failed to retain good moral character in their professional
and personal lives, but have also made a mockery of the institution of marriage
by maintaining illicit affairs.
In Guevarra v. Eala, respondent Atty. Eala was disbarred because he showed
disrespect for an institution held sacred by the law, by having an extramarital
affair with the wife of the complainant. In doing so, he betrayed his unfitness to
be a lawyer.47cralawrednad
A year later, Atty. Arnobit met the same fate as Atty. Eala when the Court revoked
his privilege to practice law after his philandering ways was proven by
preponderant evidence in Arnobit v. Arnobit.48 We
ruled:ChanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
As officers of the court, lawyers must not only in fact be of good moral character
but must also be seen to be of good moral character and leading lives in
accordance with the highest moral standards of the community. A member of the
bar and an officer of the court is not only required to refrain from adulterous
relationships or keeping a mistress but must also so behave himself as to avoid
scandalizing the public by creating the impression that he is flouting those moral
standards.
xxxx
The fact that respondent's philandering ways are far removed from the exercise
of his profession would not save the day for him. For a lawyer may be suspended
or disbarred for any misconduct which, albeit unrelated to the actual practice of
his profession, would show him to be unfit for the office and unworthy of the
privileges with which his license and the law invest him. To borrow from Orbe v.
Adaza, "[t]he grounds expressed in Section 27, Rule 138. of the Rules of Court are
not limitative and are broad enough to. cover any misconduct x x x of a lawyer in
his professional or private capacity." To reiterate, possession of good moral
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character is not only a condition precedent to the practice of law, but a


continuing qualification for all members of the bar.49
Similarly, in the more recent case of Dr. Elmar O. Perez v. Atty. Tristan
Catindig,50 the Court disbarred respondent Atty. Catindig for blatantly and
purposefully disregarding our laws on marriage by resorting to various legal
strategies to render a facade of validity to his invalid second marriage, despite
the existence of his first marriage. We said:ChanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
The moral delinquency that affects the fitness of a member of the bar to continue
as such includes conduct that outrages the generally accepted moral standards
of the community, conduct for instance, which makes 'a mockery of the inviolable
social institution of marriage.'" In various cases, the Court has held that
disbarment is warranted when a lawyer abandons his lawful wife and
maintains an illicit relationship with another woman who has borne him
a child.51 (emphasis ours.)
In the present case, complainant alleged that respondent carried on several
adulterous and illicit relations with both married and unmarried women between
the years 1990 to 2007, including complainant's own wife. Through documentary
evidences in the form of email messages, as well as the corroborating
testimonies of the witnesses presented, complainant was able to establish
respondent's illicit relations with DDD and CCC by preponderant evidence.
Respondent's main defense against the alleged illicit relations was that the same
were not sufficiently established. In his answer, respondent simply argued that
complainant's petition contains self-serving averments not supported by
evidence. Respondent did not specifically deny complainant's allegations and,
instead, questioned the admissibility of the supporting documents. Due to
respondent's own failure to attend the hearings and even submit his own position
paper, the existence of respondent's illicit relations with DDD and CCC remain
uncontroverted.
The IBP-CBD Report was correct when it found that respondent violated Article
XV, Section 2 of the 1987 Constitution, to wit:ChanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
4.21 In engaging in such illicit relationships, Respondent disregarded the sanctity
of marriage and the marital vows protected by the Constitution and affirmed by
our laws, which as a lawyer he swore under oath to protect. The 1987
Constitution, specifically Article XV, Section 2 thereof clearly provides
that marriage, an inviolable social institution, is the foundation of the
family and shall be protected by the State.52 (emphasis in the original.)
Aside from respondent's illicit relations, We agree with Commissioner Villadolid's
findings that respondent violated Canon 10 of the Code of Professional
Responsibility, as well as Rule 10.01 and Rule 10.03 thereof.
The Code of Professional Responsibility provides:ChanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
CANON 10 - A LAWYER OWES CANDOR, FAIRNESS AND GOOD FAITH TO
THE COURT.
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Rule 10.01 - A lawyer shall not do any falsehood, nor consent to the doing of any
in Court; nor shall he mislead, or allow the Court to be misled by any artifice.
xxx
Rule 10.03 - A lawyer shall observe the rules of procedure and shall not misuse
them to defeat the ends of justice.
In the Petition, complainant alleged that respondent was the subject of a Senate
Inquiry and had a pending case for graft and corruption against him with the
Sandiganbayan, to wit:ChanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
13. Respondent has been recommended by the Senate Blue Ribbon and Justice &
Human Rights Committees to be investigated and prosecuted by the
Ombudsman, the same as contained in their "Committee Final Report No. 367"
herein attached as Annex D;
14. Respondent has also been recommended by the above- mentioned
committees to suffer the penalty of disbarment, among others, as evidenced by
the herein attached Annex D-1, and it is believed that a case for graft and
corruption against him is still pending with the Sandiganbayan.''53
Instead of refuting these claims, respondent merely pointed out in his Answer
that complainant failed to adduce additional evidence that a case had been filed
against him, and that complainant's statements were merely self-serving
averments not substantiated by any evidence. In his Reply, respondent even
specifically denied complainant's averments for "lack of knowledge and
information sufficient to form a belief as to the truth or falsity thereof."
We agree with Commissioner Villadolid's findings in the IBP-CBD
Report, viz:ChanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
4.8 It (sic) is thus indisputable that Respondent's pretensions in his Answer were
made in attempt to mislead this Commission. Respondent could have easily
admitted or denied said allegations or explained the same, as he (sic) clearly had
knowledge thereof, however, he (sic) chose to take advantage of Complainant" s
position of being not present in the country and not being able to acquire the
necessary documents, skirt the issue, and mislead the Commission. In doing so,
he has violated Canon 10 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, which
provides that "a lawyer owes candor, fairness and good faith to the
court" as well as Rule 10.01 and Rule 10.03 thereof which states that "a lawyer
should do no falsehood nor consent to the doing of any in Court; nor
shall he mislead, or allow the court to be misled by any artifice" and that
"a lawyer shall observe the rules of procedure and shall not misuse them
to defeat the ends of justice."
4.9 Courts [as well as this Commission] are entitled to expect only complete
candor and honesty from the lawyers appearing and pleading before them.
Respondent, through his actuations, has been lacking in the candor required of
him not only as a member of the Bar but also as an officer of the Court. In view of
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the foregoing, the Commission finds that Respondent has violated Canon 10, Rule
10.01 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, for which he should be
disciplined.54 (emphasis in the original.)
In denying complainant's allegations, respondent had no other intention but to
mislead the IBP, which intention was more so established because complainant
was able to submit supporting documents in the form of certified true copies of
the Senate Report, the Ombudsman's Resolution, and Information.
We also agree with Commissioner Villadolid's finding that respondent violated the
lawyer's oath which he took before admission to the Bar, which
states:ChanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
I,__________ , do solemnly swear that I will maintain allegiance to the Republic of
the Philippines; [will support its Constitution and obey laws as well as the legal
orders of the duly constituted authorities therein; 1 will do no falsehood, nor
consent to the doing of any court; I will not wittingly nor willingly promote or sue
any groundless, false or unlawful suit, or give aid nor consent to the same; I will
delay no man for money or malice, and will conduct myself as a lawyer according
to the best of my knowledge and discretion with all good fidelity as well to the
courts as to my clients; and I impose upon myself this voluntary obligations
without any menial reservation or purpose of evasion. So help me God.
In all, Atty. Pangalangan displayed deplorable arrogance by making a mockery
out of the institution of marriage, and taking advantage of his legal skills by
attacking the Petition through technicalities and refusing to participate in the
proceedings. His actions showed that he lacked the degree of morality required of
him as a member of the bar, thus warranting the penalty of disbarment.
WHEREFORE, in consideration of the foregoing, the Court resolves
to ADOPT the resolution of the IBP Board of Governors approving and adopting,
with modification, the Report and Recommendation of the Investigating
Commissioner. Accordingly, respondent Atty. Ian Raymond A. Pangalangan is
found GUILTY of gross immorality and of violating Section 2 of Article XV of the
1987 Constitution, Canon 1 and Rule 1.01, Canon 7 and Rule 7.03, and Rule 10.01
of Canon 10 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, and the Lawyer's Oath and
is hereby DISBARRED from the practice of law.
Let a copy of this Decision be entered into the personal records of Atty. Ian
Raymond A. Pangalangan with the Office of the Bar Confidant and his name
is ORDERED STRICKEN from the Roll of Attorneys. Likewise, let copies of this
Decision be furnished to all chapters of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and
circulated by the Court Administrator to all the courts in the country for their
information and guidance.
This Decision takes effect immediately.
SO ORDERED.
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G.R. No. 191641, September 02, 2015


EDMUNDO NAVAREZ, Petitioner, v. ATTY. MANUEL ABROGAR III, Respondent.
DECISION
BRION, J.:
This is a petition for certiorari under Rule 651 of the Rules of Court, filed from the
October 16, 2009 Decision and the March 12, 2010 Resolution of the Court of
Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. SP No. 108675.2The CA dismissed the petition
for certiorari that the present petitioner filed against the January 21, 2009 Order
of the Regional Trial Court (RTC).
ANTECEDENTS
On July 30, 2007, petitioner Edmundo Navarez engaged the services of Abrogar
Valerio Maderazo and Associates Law Offices (the Firm) through the respondent,
Atty. Manuel Abrogar III. The Firm was to represent Navarez in Sp. Proc. No. Q-0559112 entitled "Apolonio Quesada, Jr. v. Edmundo Navarez" as collaborating
counsel of Atty. Perfecto Laguio. The case involved the settlement of the estate of
Avelina Quesada-Navarez that was then pending before the Regional Trial Court
(RTC), Branch 83, Quezon City. The pertinent portions of the Retainer Agreement
read:
Our services as collaborating counsel will cover investigation, research and
representation with local banks, concerns regarding deposits (current and
savings) and investment instruments evidenced by certificate of deposits. Our
office may also initiate appropriate civil and/or criminal actions as well as
administrative remedies needed to adjudicate the Estate of Avelina QuesadaNavarez expeditiously, peacefully and lawfully.
Effective Date: June 2007
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Acceptance Fee: P100,000.00 in an installment basis


Success Fee: 2% of the total money value of your share as co-owner and heir of
the Estate (payable proportionately upon your receipt of any amount)
Appearance Fee: P2,500.00 per Court hearing or administrative meetings
and/or other meetings.
Filing of Motions and/or pleadings at our initiative shall be for your account and
you will be billed accordingly.
OUT-OF-POCKET EXPENSES: Ordinary out-of-pocket expenses such as telex,
facsimile, word processing, machine reproduction, and transportation expenses,
as well as per diems and accommodations expenses incurred in undertaking work
for you outside Metro Manila area and other special out-of-pocket expenses as
you may authorized [sic] us to incur (which shall always be cleared with you in
advance) shall be for your account. xxxx
On September 2, 2008, Navarez filed a Manifestation with the RTC that he was
terminating the services of Atty. Abrogar. On the same day, Navarez also caused
the delivery to Atty. Abrogar of a check in the amount of P220,107.51 - allegedly
equivalent to one half of 7.5% of petitioner's P11,200,000.00 share in the estate
of his deceased wife less Atty. Abrogar's cash advances.
On September 9, 2008, Atty. Abrogar manifested that with respect to the
petitioner's one-half (1/2) share in the conjugal partnership, the RTC had already
resolved the matter favorably because it had issued a release order for the
petitioner to withdraw the amount. Atty. Abrogar further declared that the Firm
was withdrawing as counsel - effective upon the appointment of an Administrator
of the estate - from the remaining proceedings for the settlement of the estate of
Avelina Quesada-Navarez.
On September 22, 2008, the petitioner wrote to Atty. Abrogar offering to pay his
attorney's fees in accordance with their Retainer Agreement minus the latter's
cash advances - an offer that Atty. Abrogar had previously refused in August
2008.
On October 7, 2008, Atty. Abrogar filed a Motion to Enter into the Records his
attorney's lien pursuant to Rule 138, Section 37 of the Rules of Court.
On November 21, 2008, the motion was submitted for resolution without oral
arguments.
On January 21, 2009, the RTC issued an order granting the motion and directed
the petitioner to pay Atty. Abrogar's attorney's fees. The Order reads:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, it is hereby ordered:
1. That the attorney's lien of Manuel Abrogar III conformably with the Retainer
Agreement dated July 30, 2007, be entered into the records of this case in
consonance with Section 37, Rule 138 of the Rules of
Court;ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
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2. That oppositor Edmundo Navarez pay the amount of 7.5% of


P11,196,675.05 to Manuel Abrogar III;ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary
3. That the oppositor pay the administrative costs/expenses of P103,000.00 to
the movant; and
4. That the prayers for P100,000.00 as exemplary damages, P200,000.00 as
moral damages and for writ of preliminary attachment be denied.
SO ORDERED.
On February 18, 2009, the petitioner filed a Motion for Reconsideration.
On March 17, 2009, the RTC denied the motion for reconsideration and issued a
Writ of Execution of its Order dated January 21, 2009.
The petitioner elevated the case to the CA via a petition for certiorari. He argued
that the RTC committed grave abuse of discretion because: (1) the RTC granted
Atty. Abrogar's claim for attorney's fees despite non-payment of docket fees; (2)
the RTC denied him the opportunity of a full-blown trial to contradict Atty.
Abrogar's claims and prove advance payments; and (3) the RTC issued a writ of
execution even before the lapse of the reglementary period.
In its decision dated October 16, 2009, the CA dismissed the petition and held
that the RTC did not commit grave abuse of discretion.
The petitioner moved for reconsideration which the CA denied in a Resolution
dated March 12, 2010.
On April 6, 2010, and April 26, 2010, the petitioner filed his first and second
motions for extension of time to file his petition for review. This Court granted
both motions for extension totaling thirty (30) days (or until May 5, 2010) in the
Resolution dated July 26, 2010.
On May 5, 2010, the petitioner filed the present petition entitled "Petition for
Review." However, the contents of the petition show that it is a petition
for certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court.3
THE PETITION
The petitioner argues that the CA gravely erred in dismissing his petition
for certiorari that challenged the RTC ruling ordering the payment of attorney's
fees. He maintains his argument that the RTC committed grave abuse of
discretion because: (1) it granted Atty. Abrogar's claim for attorney's fees despite
lack of jurisdiction due to non-payment of docket fees; (2) it granted the claim for
attorney's fees without requiring a fullblown trial and without considering his
advance payments; and (3) it issued the writ of execution before the lapse of the
reglementary period. The petitioner also points out that the CA nullified the RTC's
release order in CA-G.R. SP No. 108734.
In his Comment dated September 8, 2010, Atty. Abrogar adopted the CA's
position in its October 16, 2009 Decision.
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OUR RULING
We observe that the petitioner used the wrong remedy to challenge the CA's
decision and resolution. The petitioner filed a petition for certiorari under Rule 65,
not a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45. A special civil action
for certiorari is a remedy of last resort, available only to raise jurisdictional issues
when there is no appeal or any other plain, speedy, and adequate remedy under
the
law.
Nonetheless, in the spirit of liberality that pervades the Rules of Court 4 and in the
interest of substantial justice,5 this Court has, on appropriate occasions, treated a
petition for certiorari as a petition for review on certiorari, particularly when: (1)
the petition for certiorari was filed within the reglementary period to file a
petition for review on certiorari;6 (2) the petition avers errors of judgment; 7 and
(3) when there is sufficient reason to justify the relaxation of the
rules.8 Considering that the present petition was filed within the extension period
granted by this Court and avers errors of law and judgment, this Court deems it
proper to treat the present petition for certiorari as a petition for review
on certiorari in
order
to
serve
the
higher
ends
of
justice.
With the procedural issue out of the way, the remaining issue is whether or not
the CA erred when it held that the RTC acted within its jurisdiction and did not
commit grave abuse of discretion when it ordered the payment of attorney's fees.
We

find

merit

in

the

petition.

An attorney has a right to be paid a fair and reasonable compensation for the
services he has rendered to a client. As a security for his fees, Rule 138, Section
37 of the Rules of Court grants an attorney an equitable right to a charging lien
over money judgments he has secured in litigation for his client. For the lien to be
enforceable, the attorney must have caused: (1) a statement of his claim to be
entered in the record of the case while the court has jurisdiction over the case
and before the full satisfaction of the judgment; 9 and (2) a written notice of his
claim to be delivered to his client and to the adverse party.
However, the filing of the statement of the claim does not, by itself, legally
determine the amount of the claim when the client disputes the amount or claims
that the amount has been paid. 10 In these cases, both the attorney and the client
have a right to be heard and to present evidence in support of their claims. 11 The
proper procedure for the court is to ascertain the proper amount of the lien in a
full dress trial before it orders the registration of the charging lien. 12 The necessity
of
a
hearing
is
obvious
and
beyond
dispute.13
In the present case, the RTC ordered the registration of Atty. Abrogar's lien
without a hearing even though the client contested the amount of the lien. The
petitioner had the right to be heard and to present evidence on the true amount
of the charging lien. The RTC acted with grave abuse of discretion because it
denied the petitioner his right to be heard, i.e., the right to due process.
The registration of the lien should also be distinguished from the enforcement of
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the lien. Registration merely determines the birth of the lien. 14 The enforcement
of the lien, on the other hand, can only take place once a final money judgment
has been secured in favor of the client. The enforcement of the lien is a claim for
attorney's fees that may be prosecuted in the very action where the attorney
rendered
his
services
or
in
a
separate
action.
However, a motion for the enforcement of the lien is in the nature of an action
commenced by a lawyer against his clients for attorney's fees. 15 As in every
action for a sum of money, the attorney-movant must first pay the prescribed
docket fees before the trial court can acquire jurisdiction to order the payment of
attorney's
fees.
In this case, Atty. Abrogar only moved for the registration of his lien. He did not
pay any docket fees because he had not yet asked the RTC to enforce his lien.
However, the RTC enforced the lien and ordered the petitioner to pay Atty.
Abrogar's
attorney's
fees
and
administrative
expenses.
Under this situation, the RTC had not yet acquired jurisdiction to enforce the
charging lien because the docket fees had not been paid. The payment of docket
fees is mandatory in all actions, whether separate or an offshoot of a pending
proceeding. In Lacson v. Reyes,16 this Court granted certiorariand annulled the
decision of the trial court granting a "motion for attorney's fees" because the
attorney did not pay the docket fees. Docket fees must be paid before a court can
lawfully act on a case and grant relief. Therefore, the RTC acted without or in
excess of its jurisdiction when it ordered the payment of the attorney's fees.
Lastly, the enforcement of a charging lien can only take place after a final money
judgment has been rendered in favor of the client. 17 The lien only attaches to the
money judgment due to the client and is contingent on the final determination of
the main case. Until the money judgment has become final and executory,
enforcement
of
the
lien
is
premature.
The RTC again abused its discretion in this respect because it prematurely
enforced the lien and issued a writ of execution even before the main case
became final; no money judgment was as yet due to the client to which the lien
could have attached itself. Execution was improper because the enforceability of
the lien is contingent on a final and executory award of money to the client. This
Court notes that in CA-G.R. SP No. 108734, the CA nullified the "award" to which
the RTC attached the attorney's lien as there was nothing due to the petitioner.
Thus,
enforcement
of
the
lien
was
premature.
The RTC's issuance of a writ of execution before the lapse of the reglementary
period to appeal from its order is likewise premature. The Order of the RTC dated
January 21, 2009, is an order that finally disposes of the issue on the amount of
attorney's fees Atty. Abrogar is entitled to. The execution of a final order issues as
a matter of right upon the expiration of the reglementary period if no appeal has
been perfected.18 Under Rule 39, Section 2 of the Rules of Court, discretionary
execution can only be made before the expiration of the reglementary period
upon a motion of the prevailing party with notice to the adverse party.
Discretionary execution may only issue upon good reasons to be stated in a
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146

special

order

after

due

hearing.19

The RTC ordered execution without satisfying the requisites that would have
justified discretionary execution. Atty. Abrogar had not moved for execution and
there were no good reasons to justify the immediate execution of the RTC's order.
Clearly, the RTC gravely abused its discretion when it ordered the execution of its
order dated January 21, 2009, before the lapse of the reglementary period.
For these reasons, this Court finds that the CA erred when it held that the RTC did
not commit grave abuse of discretion and acted without jurisdiction.
As our last word, this decision should not be construed as imposing unnecessary
burden on the lawyer in collecting his just fees. But, as in the exercise of any
other right conferred by law, the lawyer - and the courts -must avail of the proper
legal remedies and observe the procedural rules to prevent the possibility, or
even just the perception, of abuse or prejudice. 20chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
WHEREFORE, premises considered, we hereby GRANT the petition. The decision
of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 108675 dated October 16, 2009, is
hereby REVERSED, and the decision of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 83,
Quezon City in Sp. Proc. No. Q-05-59112 is herebyANNULLED and SET ASIDE.

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147

A.C. No. 6056, September 09, 2015


FELICISIMA MENDOZA VDA. DE ROBOSA, Complainant, v. ATTYS. JUAN B.
MENDOZA AND EUSEBIO P. NAVARRO, JR., Respondents.
DECISION
VILLARAMA, JR., J.:
Before us is a complaint for disbarment against Atty. Juan B. Mendoza (Atty.
Mendoza) for alleged deceitful acts against his client, and Atty. Eusebio P.
Navarro, Jr. (Atty. Navarro) for negligence in the handling of his client's defense in
the collection case filed by Atty. Mendoza.chanrobleslaw
Factual Antecedents
Eladio Mendoza (Eladio) applied for original registration of two parcels of land (Lot
Nos. 3771 and 2489) situated in Calamba, Laguna before the Community
Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) at Los Banos, Laguna and
Land Management Bureau (LMB) in Manila.1 While his application was still
pending, Eladio died leaving all his children as heirs to his estate; among them is
herein complainant Felicisima Mendoza Vda. De Robosa (Felicisima). Eladio's
children pursued the application and executed a Special Power of Attorney2 (SPA)
in favor of Felicisima. Their relative, Atty. Mendoza, prepared and notarized the
said SPA. They also engaged the services of Atty. Mendoza as their counsel in the
proceedings before the CENRO and LMB.
On February 20, 1993, upon the behest of Atty. Mendoza, Felicisima signed a
Contract for Service3prepared by Atty. Mendoza. The said contract stipulated that
in the event of a favorable CENRO or LMB resolution, Felicisima shall convey to
Atty. Mendoza one-fifth (1/5) of the lands subject of the application or one-fifth
(1/5) of the proceeds should the same property be sold.
The CENRO and the LMB proceedings resulted in the dismissal of Felicisima and
her siblings' application for Lot No. 2489 and the partial grant of their application
for Lot No. 3771.4 The Bureau of Lands issued an Original Certificate of Title (OCT)
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148

covering one-third (VV) or about 8,901 square meters of Lot No. 3771 in the
names of Felicisima and her siblings. Subsequently, Felicisima and her siblings
sold the land to Greenfield Corporation (Greenfield) and received the amount of
P2,000,000.00 as down payment.
On October 15, 1998, Atty. Mendoza, joined by his wife Filomena S. Mendoza, filed
in the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Tanauan, Batangas a Complaint5 against
Felicisima and her siblings (Civil Case No. T-1080). Atty. Mendoza claimed that
except for the amount of P40,000.00, Felicisima and her siblings refused to pay
his attorney's fees equivalent to 1/5 of the proceeds of the sale of the land as
stipulated in the Contract for Service.
In their Answer with Counterclaim,6 Felicisima and her siblings denied the
"existence and authenticity of the x x x Contract of Service," adding that it did
not reflect the true intention of the parties as they only agreed to pay Atty.
Mendoza PI,500.00 per appearance and up to P1,500.00 for gasoline expenses.
They also asserted that, based on quantum meruit, Atty. Mendoza is not entitled
to the claimed attorney's fees because they lost in one case and he failed to
accomplish the titling of the land awarded to them, which would have enhanced
the value of the property.
Felicisima and her siblings hired the services of Atty. Navarro as their counsel in
Civil Case No. T-1080.
On March 29, 2000, the RTC rendered judgment in favor of Atty. Mendoza and
against Felicisima and her siblings. The RTC ruled that Felicisima failed to
substantiate her claim that she did not enter into a contingency contract for legal
services with Atty. Mendoza, and ordered Felicisima to pay Atty. Mendoza
P1,258,000.00 (for the land sold at P7,120,800.00) representing attorney's fees
as well as the total cost of suit.7
Atty. Navarro then filed a Notice of Appeal8 on behalf of Felicisima. However, Atty.
Mendoza moved for an execution pending appeal with the RTC. Since no
opposition was filed by Felicisima and her siblings, the RTC granted the said
motion and issued a writ of execution, which resulted in the levy and eventual
transfer of Felicisima's properties covered by Transfer Certificate of Title Nos. T433859 and T-433860 in favor of Atty. Mendoza as the highest bidder in the
execution sale.9
Meanwhile, the Court of Appeals (CA) ordered Felicisima to file an appellant's
brief but Atty. Navarro failed to file the same within the period granted by the CA.
Consequently, the CA dismissed Felicisima's appeal for non-compliance with
Section 1(e), Rule 50 of the Revised Rules of Court.10
On June 3, 2003, Felicisima filed a complaint-affidavit for disbarment before this
Court against Atty. Mendoza for allegedly deceiving her into signing the Contract
for Service by taking advantage of her illiteracy, and against Atty. Navarro for
dereliction of duty in handling her case before the CA causing her properties to
be levied and sold at public auction.11
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149

Felicisima alleges that Atty. Mendoza made her sign a document at her house
without the presence of her siblings. Said document (Contract for Service) was
written in English which she does not understand. She claims that Atty. Mendoza
told her the document will shield her from her siblings' possible future claims on
the property because she alone is entitled to the property as her siblings did not
help her in processing the application for original registration. She was not given
a copy of the said document and she discovered only during the trial that Atty.
Mendoza anchors his claim over Vs of proceeds from the sale of the land awarded
by the CENRO and LMB on the same document she had signed.12
As to Atty. Navarro, Felicisima claims that her case before the CA was neglected
despite repeated follow-ups on her part. She also points out that Atty. Navarro
abandoned her case before the RTC when the latter failed to file an opposition to
Atty. Mendoza's motion for execution pending appeal, which resulted in the loss
of her properties.13
In his Comment,14 Atty. Mendoza avers that he has been a lawyer since 1954 and
retired sometime in 1983 due to partial disability. Fie went back to practicing his
profession in 1996 on a selective basis due to his disability but completely
stopped a year after. Being 82 years of age at the time of filing his comment,
Atty. Mendoza admits that he is now totally disabled, cannot walk on his own,
cannot even write and sign his name, and can only move about with the help of
his family for he has been suffering from a severe case of "acute gouty arthritic
attack" which causes extreme difficulty in moving virtually all his joints. He points
out that he had previously handled pro bono a concubinage case filed by
Felicisima against her husband, having yielded to her repeated pleas as she was
then financially hard-up and psychologically distraught. For the application with
the CENRO and LMB, he agreed to be paid for his legal services on a contingent
basis, which contract was subsequently found by the RTC to be valid. When it was
time to collect his attorney's fees, Felicisima and her siblings refused to pay him
without any justifiable reason and even threatened to shoot him if he continued
to press for his compensation. This left Atty. Mendoza with no other recourse but
to avail of the judicial process to enforce his claim.
Replying to the comment of Atty. Mendoza, Felicisima maintains that she did not
understand the contents of the Contract for Service and if it was truly their
agreement (contingent basis) they would not have given money to Atty. Mendoza
amounting to P66,000.00. in fact, she points out that Atty. Mendoza failed to
recover one of the lands applied for and to have the land awarded to them titled
because he became ill. Further, she denies the allegation that she and her
siblings threatened to shoot Atty. Mendoza for how could they do it to a lawyer
who will certainly have them jailed. Besides, he never mentioned such incident
during the hearing of the case.
On his part, Atty. Navarro asserts that he did his best to win Felicisima's case
although he was unsuccessful. He explains that even before handling Felicisima's
case, he had been saddled by many cases involving politicians and sympathizers,
having previously served as councilor in the Municipality of Sto. Tomas, Batangas
for two consecutive terms. He thus emphasized to Felicisima that in order to
"keep the case alive", he could file the Notice of Appeal in her behalf, and
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instructed her to look for another lawyer who has the time to attend to her case
and that she would return to him only when she failed to get one. However, Atty.
Navarro admits that since he was too preoccupied with so many cases in the local
courts, he had altogether forgotten about Felicisima's case, not having seen her
again as per their agreement.
Atty. Navarro avers that after a long time Felicisima suddenly showed up at his
office complaining why there was no appellant's brief filed on her behalf at the
CA. He claims that Felicisima blamed her and even accused him of conniving with
Atty. Mendoza. Felicisima would not accept his explanation and she obviously
failed to understand his earlier instruction as he had filed the Notice of Appeal
precisely to give her enough time to secure the services of a new lawyer having
told her that he was quite busy with his other cases. He therefore pleads for
mercy and compassion if he had somehow committed some lapses considering
that this is the first time he was charged administratively in his almost 39 years
of law practice and that he is too willing to take complainant's cause if not for
such apparent miscommunication between a lawyer and his client.15
On December 7, 2005, the Court referred the case to the Integrated Bar of the
Philippines (IBP) for investigation, report and recommendation.16
On November 6, 2006, Felicisima filed a position paper17 reiterating that Atty.
Mendoza clearly abused the trust and confidence she reposed in him, depriving
her of her material possessions by filing suit to enforce the Contract for Service.
She asserted that they could not have entered into a contract with Atty. Mendoza
for the conveyance of a portion of the land to be awarded by the Bureau of Lands
as his attorney's fees because they already agreed to pay his fee per hearing plus
transportation expenses and the sum of P40,000.00. She contended that Atty.
Mendoza should be held liable for deceit and misrepresentation for tricking her to
sign, to her detriment, a document that she did not understand.
As to Atty. Navarro, Felicisima maintained that he abandoned his responsibility to
monitor and keep her updated of the status of her case before the CA. She also
alleges that Atty. Navarro made it appear to her that he had already filed the
appellant's brief when, in fact, there was no such undertaking. She thus prayed
that Atty. Navarro be held liable for negligence in the conduct and manner of
handling her case before the CA.chanrobleslaw
IBP's Report and Recommendation
After two postponements, the mandatory conference was finally held on
September 25, 2006 where all parties appeared except for Atty. Mendoza. Upon
termination of the hearing, the parties were required to file their position papers
but only Felicisima complied.
On March 6, 2007, the Investigating Commissioner of the IBP-Commission on Bar
Discipline (CBD) submitted her Report and Recommendation18 finding Atty.
Mendoza guilty of taking advantage of Felicisima's ignorance just to have the
Contract for Service signed. She held that Atty. Mendoza violated Canon 17 of the
Code of Professional Responsibility (CPR) that a lawyer owes fidelity to the cause
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of his client and shall be mindful of the trust and confidence reposed on him, as
well as Rule 20.04, Canon 20 which exhorts lawyers to avoid controversies with
clients concerning matters of compensation and to resort to judicial action only to
prevent imposition, injustice or fraud.19
As to Atty. Navarro, the Investigating Commissioner held that his participation in
politics affected his law practice and caused him to forget about Felicisima's case.
Having failed to file the appellant's brief as ordered by the CA, Atty. Navarro even
filed a Motion to Withdraw Appearance at a very late stage, leaving no time for
Felicisima to secure the services of another lawyer. His infraction caused the
eviction of Felicisima and her children from their residence by virtue of the writ of
execution and public auction of her real properties. The Investigating
Commissioner further said that Atty. Navarro's acts showed lack of diligence in
violation of Canon 18 of the CPR and his Lawyer's Oath.20
The Investigating Commissioner recommended that both Atty. Mendoza and Atty.
Navarro be suspended for two (2) years from the practice of law.21
On September 19, 2007, the IBP Board of Governors issued a
Resolution22 modifying the Investigating Commissioner's Report and
Recommendation by lowering the period of suspension from two (2) years to six
(6) months.
Atty. Navarro filed a motion for reconsideration23 contending that the IBP Board of
Governors failed to consider that after the filing of the Notice of Appeal, there
was no more lawyer-client relationship between him and Felicisima. Insisting that
there was a miscommunication between him and Felicisima regarding his
instruction that she should engage the services of another lawyer after the filing
of the Notice of Appeal, he stressed that she only later found it difficult to scout
for a new lawyer because she was being charged exorbitant acceptance fees.
Hence, Felicisima should be held equally negligent in not hiring the services of
another lawyer despite a clear understanding to this effect. He further cites the
lack of communication between him and Felicisima, which resulted in the late
filing of the Notice of Withdrawal that she volunteered to file a long time ago.
In her comment to Atty. Navarro's motion for reconsideration, Felicisima
reiterated that Atty. Navarro should be held liable for negligence in failing to
update her of the status of the case and admitting such oversight. She claims
that despite several demands, Atty. Navarro ignored them and made himself
scarce.24
On February 28, 2012, the IBP-CBD forwarded the case to this Court for proper
disposition pursuant to Section 12, Rule 139-B of the Rules of Court. Among the
records transmitted was the Resolution dated January 15, 2012 denying the
motion for reconsideration filed by Atty. Navarro.25cralawred
The Court's Ruling
The Court has consistently held that in suspension or disbarment proceedings
against lawyers, the lawyer enjoys the presumption of innocence, and the burden
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of proof rests upon the complainant to prove the allegations in his complaint. The
evidence required in suspension or disbarment proceedings is preponderance of
evidence. In case the evidence of the parties are equally balanced, the equipoise
doctrine mandates a decision in favor of the respondent.26 For the Court to
exercise its disciplinary powers, the case against the respondent must be
established by clear, convincing and satisfactory proof.27
Preponderance of evidence means that the evidence adduced by one side is, as a
whole, superior to or has greater weight than that of the other.28 It means
evidence which is more convincing to the court as worthy of belief than that
which is offered in opposition thereto.29 Under Section 1 of Rule 133, in
determining whether or not there is preponderance of evidence, the court may
consider the following: (a) all the facts and circumstances of the case; (b) the
witnesses' manner of testifying, their intelligence, their means and opportunity of
knowing the facts to which they are testifying, the nature of the facts to which
they testify, the probability or improbability of their testimony; (c) the witnesses'
interest or want of interest, and also their personal credibility so far as the same
may ultimately appear in the trial; and (d) the number of witnesses, although it
does not mean that preponderance is necessarily with the greater number.
After a thorough review of the evidence and pleadings submitted by the parties,
we hold that Felicisima was able to prove her charges against Atty. Navarro but
not Atty. Mendoza.
Contract for Service with Atty. Mendoza
a contract for contingent fees
The Contract for Service dated February 20, 1993 reads:
That the client hereby employs the Attorney as their counsel for the titling and
recovery of their two parcels of land situated at Barangay Maunong, Calamba,
Laguna, [Lot] No. 2489 with an area of approximately 21,784 Square Meters and
[L]ot No. 3771 with an area of more or less 26,703 and in consideration of the
services of the attorney, the client agrees to pay the following:
1. For the prosecution of said proceedings (titling and recovery of the said parcels
of land and hearing at the Land Management Bureau, Manila, and at the Office of
the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office at Los Bafios, Laguna
the client will give the Attorney one fifth (1/5[)] of the said two parcels of land or
one fifth (1/5[)] of the selling price of the said properties if sold.
Said Attorney hereby accepts said employment on said terms and conditions and
to do his best care, skill and ability, and at all times to protect the rights and
interest of said client.
2. That the expenses of the proceedings, and such others as filing fees, expenses
of publication, costs legally taxable and all others shall be for the account of the
client.30
We cannot sustain the finding of the IBP that Atty. Mendoza misled Felicisima into
signing the above contract which supposedly was intended to protect her from
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the claims of her siblings who did not spend for the application with the CENRO
and LMB. Such finding was based solely on the statements of Felicisima in her
affidavit-complaint. While Felicisima made a reference to her testimony before
the RTC, she did not attach the transcript of stenographic notes of the said
testimony detailing the circumstances of her signing the Contract for Service.
Neither is the receipt by Atty. Mendoza of the sum of P40,000.00 after Felicisima
and her siblings sold the land, by itself an indication of fraud and deceit in the
execution of the Contract for Service.
Upon the other hand, Atty. Mendoza presented the RTC Decision in Civil Case No.
T-1080 dated March 29, 2000, the relevant portions of which state:
It is not disputed that Atty. Mendoza was paid PI,000.00 for every appearance and
he was also given P300.00 for hiring a vehicle and driver for each scheduled
hearing. He also received P40,000.00 from Felicisima Mendoza when defendants'
one-third portion of Lot No. 3771 was sold.
Atty. Mendoza filed the instant case to collect one-fifth of the sale price of
defendants' land which was sold for P7,120,800.00 or the amount of
P1,424,000.00 minus the amount of P40,000.00 he received, or the amount of
P1,384,000.00.
During her testimony, Felicisima Mendoza admitted the authenticity of the
Special Power of Attorney whereby her brothers and sisters authorized her to
secure the services of the plaintiff Juan Mendoza adding that it was in writing, in
English and was explained to her before she signed it; that on the basis of the
authority given her by her brothers and sisters she engaged the services of Atty.
Mendoza; that the signature in the document, entitled Contract of Service, is that
of her name which she signed in "his house."
On the basis of the evidence, the Court finds no ground to support Felicisima's
claim that she did not enter into any written agreement with the plaintiff, Juan
Mendoza, for the latter to render legal services and the corresponding
compensation therefor as set forth in the Contract of Service. However, the Court
finds that the amounts received by the plaintiff Juan Mendoza from defendant
Felicisima Mendoza during the course of his legal services for the twenty hearings
in the amount of P1,300.00 per hearing or a total of P26,000.00 should also be
deducted from his claim of P1,384,000.00 leaving an unpaid balance of
PI,258,000.00 due plaintiff Juan Mendoza for legal services rendered the
defendants.31
Given the above finding of the RTC that Felicisima in fact entered into a contract
for legal services with Atty. Mendoza, thus debunking her defense in her Answer
denying the existence and authenticity of the said document, it appears that
Felicisima raised the issue of voluntariness of her signing the Contract for Service
only during the hearing when she supposedly testified that, having reached only
Grade IV and trusting completely her lawyer cousin, Atty. Mendoza who told her
that the document will protect her from the claims of her siblings, she actually
signed the Contract for Service.32 The RTC, however, found the evidence adduced
by Felicisima as insufficient to defeat Atty. Mendoza's claim for attorney's fees.
Said judgment had attained finality and even pending appeal was already
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executed on motion by Atty. Mendoza.


It bears to stress that a contingent fee arrangement is valid in this jurisdiction
and is generally recognized as valid and binding but must be laid down in an
express contract.33 The validity of contingent fees depends, in large measure,
upon the reasonableness of the amount fixed as contingent fee under the
circumstances of the case.34 Nevertheless, when it is shown that a contract for a
contingent fee was obtained by undue influence exercised by the attorney upon
his client or by any fraud or imposition, or that the compensation is clearly
excessive, the Court must, and will protect the aggrieved party.35
Apart from the allegations in her affidavit-complaint, Felicisima failed to establish
by clear and satisfactory proof of the deception allegedly committed by Atty.
Mendoza when she agreed in writing for the latter's contingent fees. Fraud and
irregularity in the execution of their contingency fee contract cannot be deduced
from the fact alone that Atty. Mendoza filed suit to enforce their contract.
Atty. Navarro 's Gross Negligence
With respect to Atty. Navarro, the facts on record clearly established his failure to
live up to the standards of diligence and competence of the legal profession.
Lawyers engaged to represent a client in a case bear the responsibility of
protecting the latter's interest with warmth, zeal and utmost diligence.36 They
must constantly keep in mind that their actions or omissions would be binding on
the client.37
In this case, Atty. Navarro agreed to represent Felicisima and her siblings in Civil
Case No. T-1080 and as their counsel he filed the Answer with Counterclaim. He
likewise attended the hearings of the case until the RTC rendered an adverse
judgment. However, after filing the Notice of Appeal, nothing was heard of again
from him. He did not file any opposition when Atty. Mendoza moved for execution
pending appeal, which resulted in the sale of Felicisima's properties at public
auction and eventual eviction of Felicisima and her children from the said
premises. Worse, he failed to file an appellant's brief despite receipt of the order
from the CA directing him to do so within the period specified therein, and to file
a motion for reconsideration when the appeal was dismissed due to non-filing of
such brief. His motion for extension of time to submit an appellant's brief was
filed 93 days late and was thus denied by the CA. Barely a week after, he filed a
notice of withdrawal of appearance bearing the conformity of his clients which
was granted. It is evident from the foregoing that Atty. Navarro failed to inform
Felicisima of the status of the case so that the latter was surprised upon being
served the eviction order of the court and eventual dismissal by the CA of their
appeal.
Canon 18 of the CPR mandates that a lawyer shall serve his client with
competence and diligence. Rule 18.03 further provides that a lawyer shall not
neglect a legal matter entrusted to him and his negligence in connection
therewith shall render him liable.
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Thus:
Once he agrees to take up the cause of a client, a lawyer owes fidelity to such
cause and must always be mindful of the trust and confidence reposed in him. He
must serve the client with competence and diligence and champion the latter's
cause with wholehearted fidelity, care and devotion. Elsewise stated, he owes
entire devotion to the interest of the client, warm zeal in the maintenance and
defense of his client's rights, and the exertion of his utmost learning and ability to
the end that nothing be taken or withheld from his client, save by the rules of
law, legally applied. This simply means that his client is entitled to the benefit of
any and every remedy and defense that is authorized by the law of the land and
he may expect his lawyer to assert every such remedy or defense. If much is
demanded from an attorney, it is because the entrusted privilege to practice law
carries with it the correlative duties not only to the client but also to the court, to
the bar and to the public. A lawyer who performs his duty with diligence and
candor not only protects the interest of his client; he also serves the ends of
justice, does honor to the bar and helps maintain the respect of the community to
the legal profession.38
Atty. Navarro's asseveration that he had instructed Felicisima to look for another
lawyer and given them the Notice of Withdrawal of Appearance for them to file in
the CA, fails to convince. If it is true that he did not agree to continue being
Felicisima's counsel before the CA, he should have immediately filed the Notice of
Withdrawal of Appearance himself after filing the Notice of Appeal. Despite
receipt of the order to file appellant's brief from the CA, he did not inform
Felicisima about it nor did he inquire from the latter whether they already secured
the services of a new counsel. That such withdrawal was filed long after the
expiration of the period to file appellant's brief and the denial by the CA of the
motion for extension also belatedly filed by him, clearly indicate that he never
updated Felicisima on the status of their appeal, such information being crucial
after Atty. Mendoza succeeded in having the judgment executed pending appeal.
Atty. Navarro, in fact, admitted that he forgot about Felicisima's case due to his
political activities. Despite having received notices from the CA, he allowed the
period of filing the appellant's brief to lapse and failed to file a motion for
extension before such period expired. He did file a motion for extension but only
three months later and when such motion was denied, he finally moved to
withdraw from the case. There being no appellant's brief filed, the CA granted
Atty. Mendoza's motion to dismiss the appeal. Under the circumstances, Atty.
Navarro was grossly negligent in his duties, resulting in great prejudice to
Felicisima who lost her properties to satisfy the judgment in favor of Atty.
Mendoza.
We have held that the failure of counsel to submit the appeal brief for his client
within the reglementary period constitutes inexcusable negligence39 an offense
that entails disciplinary action.40The filing of a brief within the period set by law is
a duty not only to the client, but also to the court.41The failure to file an appellate
court brief without any justifiable reason thus deserves sanction. 42
Atty. Navarro's negligent handling of Felicisima's case was exacerbated by his
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failure to inform her of the status of her case. There was no mention in his
pleadings of any attempt on his part to contact Felicisima at the crucial stages
when Atty. Mendoza moved for execution pending appeal and the CA sent a
directive for the filing of the appellant's brief. If indeed, he had already instructed
Felicisima to look for another lawyer, he should have apprised her of these
developments and explained to her the urgency of filing the notice of withdrawal
of appearance and entry of appearance of a new counsel she may have already
engaged.
Atty. Navarro's failure to communicate vital information to his client violated Rule
18.04 which provides:
Rule 18.04 A lawyer shall keep the client informed of the status of his case and
shall respond within a reasonable time to the client's request for information.
The lawyer's duty to keep his client constantly updated on the developments of
his case is crucial in maintaining the client's confidence. Indeed, the relationship
of lawyer-client being one of confidence, there is ever present the need for the
lawyer to inform timely and adequately the client of important developments
affecting the client's case. The lawyer should not leave the client in the dark on
how the lawyer is defending the client's interests.43
In cases involving a lawyer's failure to file a brief or other pleading before an
appellate court, this Court has imposed suspension from the practice of law for
periods ranging from three to six months, and in most serious cases, even
disbarment.44
We find the recommendation of the IBP-Board of Governors to suspend Atty.
Navarro from the practice of law for six months appropriate under the
circumstances. Considering that this is his first administrative offense, such
penalty, and not disbarment as prayed for by complainant, serves the purpose of
protecting the interest of the public and the legal profession. For this Court will
exercise its power to disbar only in clear cases of misconduct that seriously
affects the standing and character of the lawyer as an officer of the court and a
member of the bar.45
WHEREFORE, the Court finds respondent Atty. Eusebio P. Navarro, Jr. GUILTY of
violation of Rule 18.03 and Rule 18.04 of the Code of Professional Responsibility,
and is hereby SUSPENDED from the practice of law for six (6) months effective
upon finality of this Decision, with warning that a repetition of the same or similar
violation shall be dealt with more severely. The charges against Atty. Juan B.
Mendoza are DISMISSED.
SO ORDERED.chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary

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EN BANC
AC. No. 10912, January 19, 2016
PAULINA T. YU, Complainant, v. ATTY. BERLIN R. DELA CRUZ, Respondent.
DECISION
PER CURIAM:
Subject of this disposition is the September 28, 2014 Resolution 1 of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines Board of
Governors (IBP-BOG) which adopted and approved the findings and the recommendation of the Investigating
Commissioner for the disbarment of Atty. Berlin Dela Cruz(respondent lawyer).
It appears from the records that respondent lawyer agreed to represent Paulina T. Yu (complainant) in several
cases after having received various amounts as acceptance fees, to wit:
chanRoble svirtualLawlibrary

Case Title
People v. Tortona for attempted homicide (Case No. 06-359) filed with the
Metropolitan Trial Court, Bacoor, Cavite
Paulina T. Yu v. Pablo and Rodel Gamboa for qualified theft/estafa (I.S. No. XV07-INV-116-05339) filed with the City Prosecutor of Manila
Paulino T. Yu v. Roberto Tuazon et al. (Civil Case No. LP-00-0087) filed before
the Regional Trial Court of Las Pias2

Acceptance
Fees
P 20,000.00
P 8,000.00
P 15,000.00

cralawlawlibrary
On November 29, 2011, while the lawyer-client relationship was subsisting, respondent lawyer borrowed pieces of
jewelry from complainant and pledged the same with the Citystate Savings Bank, Inc. for the amount of
P29,945.50, as shown in the Promissory Note with Deed of Pledge. 3 Respondent lawyer appropriated the proceeds
of the pledge to his personal use. In order to facilitate the redemption of the said jewelry, respondent lawyer
issued to complainant, Citystate Savings Bank Check No. 0088551, dated August 31, 2011, in the amount of
P34,500.00. Upon presentment, however, complainant was shocked to learn that the check was dishonored for the
reason, "Account Closed."4 Complainant immediately notified respondent lawyer of the dishonor of the check.
In a letter,5 dated March 23, 2012, complainant demanded for the refund of the acceptance fees received by
respondent lawyer prior to the "abandonment" of the cases and the payment of the value of the jewelry, but to no
avail.
In another letter,6 dated April 18, 2012, this time represented by another lawyer, Atty. Francisco C. Miralles,
complainant yet again demanded the redemption of the check in cash within five days from notice; the refund of
the paid acceptance fees, in exchange for which no service was rendered; the payment of the value of the pledged
jewelry in the amount of PI00,000.00 in order to avoid the interests due and the possible foreclosure of the
pledge; and moral damages of P 300,000.00.
For his failure to heed the repeated demands, a criminal case for violation of Batas Pambansa Blg. 22 was filed
with the Office of the City Prosecutor, Las Pinas City, against him. 7
On June 7, 2012, a verified complaint was filed with the IBP-Commission on Bar Discipline (IBP-CBD), 8where
complainant prayed for the disbarment of respondent lawyer on account of grave misconduct, conduct unbecoming
of a lawyer and commission of acts in violation of the lawyer's oath. The IBP-CBD required respondent lawyer to
submit his answer to the complaint.9 Despite having been duly served with a copy of the complaint and the order
to file his answer, as shown in a certification10 issued by the Post Master of the Las Pias Central Post Office,
respondent still failed to file an answer.
Respondent lawyer was likewise notified of the scheduled mandatory conference/hearing on November 23, 2012,

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but only the complainant and her counsel appeared on the said day. The IBP-CBD then ordered the resetting of the
mandatory conference for the last time to January 11, 2013 and the personal service of the notice thereof to
respondent lawyer's given address.11 Notwithstanding the receipt of the notice by respondent lawyer's mother,12 he
still failed to appear during the conference, prompting complainant to move for the termination of the conference
and the submission of the case for report and recommendation.
On June 7, 2013, the Investigating Commissioner recommended the disbarment of respondent lawyer from the
practice of law.13 Based on the evidence on record, respondent lawyer was found to have violated Rule 16.04 of the
Code of Professional Responsibility (CPR), which proscribed the borrowing of money from a client, unless the
latter's interests were fully protected by the nature of the case or by independent advice. Worse, respondent
lawyer had clearly issued a worthless check in violation of law which was against Rule 1.01 of Canon 1 of the CPR
stating that, "[a] lawyer shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest and immoral or deceitful conduct."
On September 28, 2014, the IBP-BOG affirmed the said recommendation in Resolution No. XXI-2014-698. 14
Neither a motion for reconsideration before the BOG nor a petition for review before this Court was filed.
Nonetheless, the IBP elevated to this Court the entire records of the case for appropriate action with the IBP
Resolution being merely recommendatory and, therefore, would not attain finality, pursuant to par. (b), Section 12,
Rule 139-B of the Rules of Court.15
The Court acknowledges the fact that respondent lawyer failed to refute the accusations against him despite the
numerous opportunities afforded to him to explain his side. All means were exhausted to give respondent lawyer a
chance to oppose the charges against him but to no avail and for reasons only for known to him. Whether
respondent lawyer had personally read the orders by the IBP-CBD or his mother failed to forward the same for his
personal consideration may only be an object of surmise in which the Court cannot indulge. "Disbarment of
lawyers is a proceeding that aims to purge the law profession of unworthy members of the bar. It is intended to
preserve the nobility and honor of the legal profession." 16 Surely, respondent lawyer's failure or refusal to
participate in the IBP-CBD proceedings does not hinder the Court from determining the full extent of his liability
and imposing an appropriate sanction, if any.
After a judicious review of the records, the Court finds no reason to deviate from the findings of the Investigating
Commissioner with respect to respondent lawyer's violation of Canons 1, 17 16,18 17,19and Rules 1.01,20 16.04,21 of
the CPR.
In the case at bench, the complaint stemmed from the use by respondent lawyer of his client's property. He had,
indeed, come into possession of valuable pieces of jewelry which he presented as security in a contract of pledge.
Complainant voluntarily and willingly delivered her jewelry worth P135,000.00 to respondent lawyer who meant to
borrow it and pawn it thereafter. This act alone shows respondent lawyer's blatant disregard of Rule 16.04.
Complainant's acquiescence to the "pawning" of her jewelry becomes immaterial considering that the CPR is clear
in that lawyers are proscribed from borrowing money or property from clients, unless the latter's interests are fully
protected by the nature of the case or by independent advice. Here, respondent lawyer's act of borrowing does not
constitute an exception. Respondent lawyer used his client's jewelry in order to obtain, and then appropriate for
himself, the proceeds from the pledge. In so doing, he had abused the trust and confidence reposed upon him by
his client. That he might have intended to subsequently pay his client the value of the jewelry is inconsequential.
What deserves detestation was the very act of his exercising influence and persuasion over his client in order to
gain undue benefits from the latter's property. The Court has repeatedly emphasized that the relationship between
a lawyer and his client is one imbued with trust and confidence. And as true as any natural tendency goes, this
"trust and confidence" is prone to abuse.22 The rule against borrowing of money by a lawyer from his client is
intended to prevent the lawyer from taking advantage of his influence over his client. 23 The rule presumes that the
client is disadvantaged by the lawyer's ability to use all the legal maneuverings to renege on his
obligation.24 Suffice it to say, the borrowing of money or property from a client outside the limits laid down in the
CPR is an unethical act that warrants sanction.
Due to complainant's respect for respondent lawyer, she trusted his representation that the subject jewelry would
be redeemed upon maturity. She accepted respondent lawyer's check, which was eventually dishonored upon
presentment. Despite notice of the dishonor, respondent lawyer did not take steps to remedy the situation and, on
the whole, reneged on his obligation, constraining complainant to avail of legal remedies against him.
Given the circumstances, the Court does not harbor any doubt in favor of respondent lawyer. Obviously, his
unfulfilled promise to facilitate the redemption of the jewelry and his act of issuing a worthless check constitute
grave violations of the CPR and the lawyer's oath. These shortcomings on his part have seriously breached the
highly fiduciary relationship between lawyers and clients. Specifically, his act of issuing worthless checks patently
violated Rule 1.01 of Canon 1 of the CPR which requires that "[a] lawyer shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest,
immoral or deceitful conduct." This indicates a lawyer's unfitness for the trust and confidence reposed on him,
shows such lack of personal honesty and good moral character as to render him unworthy of public confidence,
and constitutes a ground for disciplinary action,25 and thus seriously and irreparably tarnishes the image of the
profession.26 Such conduct, while already off-putting when attributed to an ordinary person, is much more
abhorrent when exhibited by a member of the Bar.27 In this case, respondent lawyer turned his back from the

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promise that he once made upon admission to the Bar. As "vanguards of the law and the legal system, lawyers
must at all times conduct themselves, especially in their dealings with their clients and the public at large, with
honesty and integrity in a manner beyond reproach."28
As to the penalty commensurate to respondent lawyer's actions, the Court takes heed of the guidepost provided by
jurisprudence, viz.: "Disbarment should not be decreed where any punishment less severe, such as reprimand,
suspension, or fine, would accomplish the end desired. This is as it should be considering the consequence of
disbarment on the economic life and honor of the erring person." 29Hence, caution is called for amidst the Court's
plenary power to discipline erring lawyers. In line with prevailing jurisprudence, 30 the Court finds it proper to
impose the penalty of three-year suspension against respondent lawyer, with a stern warning that a repetition of
any of the infractions attributed to him in this case, or any similar act, shall merit a heavier penalty.
Anent the monetary demands made by complainant, the Court reiterates the rule that in disciplinary proceedings
against lawyers, the only issue is whether the officer of the court is still fit to be allowed to continue as a member
of the Bar.31 Thus, the Court is not concerned with the erring lawyer's civil liability for money received from his
client in a transaction separate, distinct, and not intrinsically linked to his professional engagement. Accordingly, it
cannot order respondent lawyer to make the payment for the subject jewelry he pawned, the value of which is yet
to be determined in the appropriate proceeding.
As to the return of acceptance fees, a clarification is in order. The Investigating Commissioner erred in referring to
them as "attorney's fees"
As to the charge that respondent abandoned the cases he accepted after payment of attorney's fees, this
commission is not fully satisfied that the complainant was able to prove it with substantial or clear evidence. It was
not fully explained in the complaint how or in what manner were the cases "abandoned" by the respondent; and
what prejudice was caused to the complainant. This Commission noted that not a single document or order coming
from the court of prosecutor's office was appended to the Complaint-Affidavit that would at least apprise this body
of what the respondent actually did with the cases he represented. 32
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There is a distinction between attorney's fee and acceptance fee. It is well-settled that attorney's fee is understood
both in its ordinary and extraordinary concept.33 In its ordinary sense, attorney's fee refers to the reasonable
compensation paid to a lawyer by his client for legal services rendered. Meanwhile, in its extraordinary concept,
attorney's fee is awarded by the court to the successful litigant to be paid by the losing party as indemnity for
damages.34 On the other hand, acceptance fee refers to the charge imposed by the lawyer for merely accepting the
case. This is because once the lawyer agrees to represent a client, he is precluded from handling cases of the
opposing party based on the prohibition on conflict of interest. Thus, this incurs an opportunity cost by merely
accepting the case of the client which is therefore indemnified by the payment of acceptance fee. Since the
acceptance fee only seeks to compensate the lawyer for the lost opportunity, it is not measured by the nature and
extent of the legal services rendered.35
In the case at bench, the amounts of P20,000.00, P18,000.00, and P15,000.00, respectively, were in the nature of
acceptance fees for cases in which respondent lawyer agreed to represent complainant. Despite this oversight of
the Investigating Commissioner, the Court affirms the finding that aside from her bare allegations, complainant
failed to present any evidence showing that respondent lawyer committed abandonment or neglect of duty in
handling of cases. Hence, the Court sees no legal basis for the return of the subject acceptance fees.
WHEREFORE, finding respondent Atty. Berlin R. Dela Cruz GUILTY of violating Canons 1, 16, 17, and Rules 1.01
and 16.04 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, the Court hereby SUSPENDS him from the practice of law
for THREE YEARS with a STERN WARNING
that a repetition of the same or similar act would be dealt with more severely.
Let copies of this decision be furnished the Bar Confidant to be entered in the personal record of the respondent as
a member of the Philippine Bar; the Integrated Bar of the Philippines for distribution to all its chapters; and the
Office of the Court Administrator for circulation to all courts throughout the country.
SO ORDERED.

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A.C. No. 8723 [Formerly CBD Case No. 11-2974], January 26, 2016
GREGORY FABAY, Complainant, v. ATTY. REX A. RESUENA, Respondent.
DECISION
PER CURIAM:
Before us is a Complaint for Disbarment filed by Gregory Fabay (Fabay) against respondent Atty. Rex A. Resuena
(Atty. Resuena), docketed as A.C. No. 8723 for Gross Misconduct due to the unauthorized notarization of
documents relative to Civil Case No. 2001.1
The facts are as follows:

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On October 15, 2003, Virginia Perez, Marcella Perez, Amador Perez, Gloria Perez, Gracia Perez and Valentino Perez
(plaintiffs) filed a complaint for ejectment/forcible entry against Gregory Fabay before the Municipal Trial Court of
Pili, Camarines Sur with respondent Atty. Resuena as their counsel.
On the same date, October 15, 2003, Atty. Resuena notarized a special power of attorney (SPA) with plaintiffs as
grantors, in favor of Apolo D. Perez. However, it appeared that it was only Remedios Perez who actually signed the
SPA in behalf of Amador Perez, Valentino Perez, Gloria Perez and Gracia Perez. Said SPA was recorded in Atty.
Resuena's notarial book as Doc. No. 126, Page 26, Book 1, Series of 2003. 2
The ejectment case was later on decided in favor of the client of Atty. Resuena, however, on appeal, the Regional
Trial Court of Pili, Camarines Sur, Branch 32, ordered the case to be remanded to the court a quo to try the case
on the merits.3 In its Decision4 dated August 4, 2005, the trial court noted that both Amador Perez and Valentino
Perez have already died on September 7, 1988 and April 26, 1976, respectively.
Complainant Fabay alleged that Atty. Resuena violated the provisions of the Notarial Law by notarizing a special
power of attorney notwithstanding the fact that two of the principals therein, Amador Perez and Valentino Perez
were already dead long before the execution of the SPA. Complainant added that Atty. Resuena likewise notarized
a complaint for ejectment in 2003 where Apolo Perez was made to appear as attorney-in-fact of Amador Perez and
Valentino Perez when again the latter could not have possibly authorized him as they were already dead. Further,
complainant averred that Atty. Resuena, as counsel of the plainfiffs, participated in the barangay conciliations
which is prohibited under the law.
Thus, the instant complaint for disbarment for violation of the notarial law and for Atty. Resuena's misconduct as a
lawyer.
On October 18, 2010, the Court resolved to require Atty. Resuena to file his comment relative to the complaint
filed against him.5
In compliance, Atty. Resuena submitted his Comment 6 dated December 20, 2010 wherein he denied the
allegations in the complaint and claimed that it was tainted with malice, considering that it was only filed with the
Supreme Court on August 20, 2010 when in fact it was allegedly prepared last June 18, 2006.
Atty. Resuena explained that although it was just Remedios Perez who signed the SPA on behalf of Amador Perez,
Valentino Perez, Gloria Perez and Gracia Perez, there was no misrepresentation since Remedios Perez is the spouse
of Amador Perez and she was likewise previously authorized by the other co-owners, Gloria Perez and Gracia
Perez, to represent them.7 Atty. Resuena, thus, prayed that the complaint against him be dismissed for lack of
merit.
On January 19, 2011, the Court then resolved to refer the instant case to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines for
investigation, report and recommendation/decision.8
On June 16, 2011, a mandatory conference was conducted where complainant was assisted by his counsel Atty.
Crispo Borja, Jr., while Atty. Resuena appeared for himself.
Atty. Resuena denied that he participated in the barangay conciliations and presented the certificate issued by the
barangay captain showing that there was no record of his attendance during the confrontations of the parties
before the barangay. He, however, did not deny that Amador Perez and Valentino Perez were already deceased at
the time of the execution and notarization of the SPA,albeit, he argued that in the same SPA, Amador Perez and
Valentino Perez were signed by or represented by Remedios Perez. He further insisted that in the acknowledgment
portion of the SPA, the names of Amador Perez and Valentino Perez were not included as among the parties who
have personally appeared before him. Thus, Atty. Resuena insisted that there was no misrepresentation done in

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the notarization of the SPA.


In its Report and Recommendation, the IBP-CBD found Atty. Resuena to have violated the provisions of the
notarial law. The pertinent portion thereof reads as thus:
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A close scrutiny of the evidence submitted would show that respondent notarized a Special Power of Attorney on
October 15, 2003 wherein the supposed principals were Virginia Perez, Marcella Perez, Amador Perez, Gloria Perez,
Gracia Perez, Valentino Perez, the purpose of which, was to authorize Apolo D. Perez to represent them to sue and
be sued in any administrative or judicial tribunal in connection with any suit that may arise out of any and all
transactions in their properties covered by TCT No. RT-1118 (14380), 38735, 38737. In the said document, the
signatures of Amado Perez, Gloria Perez, Gracia Perez and Valentino Perez were signed as "BY:
REMEDIOS PEREZ". Remedios Perez is the spouse of Amador Perez and the mother of [Apolo] Perez.
Evaluating the Special Power of Attorney, two of the parties, namely, Amador Perez and Valentino
Perez were already dead during the execution of the Special Power of Attorney. Amador Perez died
sometime in September 7, 1988, while Valentino Perez died in April 26, 1976. Despite this fact,
respondent allowed them to be represented by Remedios Perez in the signing of the Special Power of
Attorney without the proper authority provided for by law.
On the other hand, the other parties in the Special Power of Attorney, GRACIA PEREZ and GLORIA PEREZ were
both residing in the United States of America. While the respondent alleged that there was a previous
authority to sign the Special Power of Attorney, no proof was presented by the respondent to that
effect. They also were signed as "BY REMEDIOS PEREZ".9
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The IBP-CBD, thus, recommended that his notarial commission be revoked and that he be disqualified to be
commissioned as notary public for one (1) year.
In Notice of Resolution No. XX-2013-591 dated May 10, 2013, the IBP-Board of Governors adopted and
approved in toto the Report and Recommendation of the IBP-CBD.
On September 9, 2013, complainant moved for reconsideration of Resolution No. XX-2013-591 and prayed that the
same be set aside and instead the penalty of suspension be imposed against Atty. Resuena as an erring member of
the bar and not merely as a notary public.
On May 3, 2014, the IBP Board of Governors, in its Resolution No. XXI-2014-293, 10 denied complainant's motion
for reconsideration, thus affirming Resolution No. XX-2013-591 but modified the penalty imposed to two (2) years
disqualification from notarial practice.
We concur with the findings of the IBP except as to the penalty.
Time and again, we have held that notarization of a document is not an empty act or routine. It is invested with
substantive public interest, such that only those who are qualified or authorized may act as notaries public.
Notarization converts a private document into a public document thus making that document admissible in
evidence without further proof of its authenticity. A notarial document is by law entitled to full faith and credit upon
its face. Courts, administrative agencies and the public at large must be able to rely upon the acknowledgment
executed by a notary public and appended to a private instrument. 11
For this reason, notaries public must observe with utmost care the basic requirements in the performance of their
duties. Otherwise, the confidence of the public in the integrity of this form of conveyance would be undermined.
Hence, a notary public should not notarize a document unless the persons who signed the same are the very same
persons who executed and personally appeared before him to attest to the contents and truth of what are stated
therein. The purpose of this requirement is to enable the notary public to verify the genuineness of the signature
of the acknowledging party and to ascertain that the document is the party's free act and deed. 12
Section 2 (b) of Rule IV of the 2004 Rules on Notarial Practice stresses the necessity of the affiant's personal
appearance before the notary public:
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xxxx
(b) A person shall not perform a notarial act if the person involved as signatory to the instrument or document (1) is not in the notary's presence personally at the time of the notarization; and
(2) is not personally known to the notary public or otherwise identified by the notary public through competent
evidence of identity as defined by these Rules.
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In the instant case, it is undisputed that Atty. Resuena violated not only the notarial law but also his oath as a
lawyer when he notarized the subject SPA without all the affiant's personal appearance. As found by the IBP-CBD,

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the purpose of the SPA was to authorize a certain Apolo D. Perez to represent the principals "to sue and be sued in
any administrative or judicial tribunal in connection with any suit that may arise out of their properties." It is, thus,
appalling that Atty. Resuena permitted Remedios Perez to sign on behalf of Amador Perez and Valentino Perez
knowing fully well that the two were already dead at that time and more so when he justified that the latter's
names were nevertheless not included in the acknowledgment albeit they are signatories of the SPA. Equally
deplorable is the fact that Remedios was likewise allowed to sign on behalf of Gracia Perez and Gloria Perez, who
were said to be residing abroad. Worse, he deliberately allowed the use of the subject SPA in an ejectment case
that was filed in court. In effect, Atty. Resuena, in notarizing the SPA, contented himself with Remedios'
representation of four of the six principals of the SPA, doing away with the actual physical appearance of all the
parties. There is no question then that Atty. Resuena ignored the basics of notarial procedure and actually
displayed his clear ignorance of the importance of the office of a notary public. Not only did he violate the notarial
law, he also did so without thinking of the possible damage that might result from its non-observance.
We cannot overemphasize that a notary public should not notarize a document unless the person who signed the
same is the very same person who executed and personally appeared before him to attest to the contents and the
truth of what are stated therein. Without the appearance of the person who actually executed the document in
question, the notary public would be unable to verify the genuineness of the signature of the acknowledging party
and to ascertain that the document is the party's free act or deed.
In Agbulos v. Atty. Viray,13 this Court, citing Dela Cruz-Sillano v. Pangan,14 reiterated anew the necessity of
personal appearance of the affiants, to wit:
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The Court is aware of the practice of not a few lawyers commissioned as notary public to authenticate documents
without requiring the physical presence of affiants. However, the adverse consequences of this practice far
outweigh whatever convenience is afforded to the absent affiants. Doing away with the essential requirement of
physical presence of the affiant does not take into account the likelihood that the documents may be spurious or
that the affiants may not be who they purport to be. A notary public should not notarize a document unless the
persons who signed the same are the very same persons who executed and personally appeared before him to
attest to the contents and truth of what are stated therein. The purpose of this requirement is to enable the notary
public to verify the genuineness of the signature of the acknowledging party and to ascertain that the document is
the party's free act and deed.
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Atty. Resuena's failure to perform his duty as a notary public resulted not only damage to those directly affected
by the notarized document but also made a mockery of the integrity of a notary public and degraded the function
of notarization. Moreso, in this case, where Atty. Resuena being the counsel of the plaintiffs-affiants can be
assumed to have known the circumstances of the subject case, as well as the fact that affiants Amador Perez and
Valentino Perez were already deceased at the time of the execution of the subject SPA. Having appeared to have
intentionally violated the notarial law, Atty. Resuena has, in fact, allowed himself to be an instrument of fraud
which this Court will not tolerate.
A graver responsibility is placed upon Atty. Resuena by reason of his solemn oath to obey the laws and to do no
falsehood or consent to the doing of any. The Code of Professional Responsibility also commands lawyers not to
engage in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct and to uphold at all times the integrity and dignity of
the legal profession.15 It requires every lawyer to uphold the Constitution, obey the laws of the land and promote
respect for the law and legal processes.16Moreover, the Notarial Law and the 2004 Rules on Notarial Practice
require a duly-commissioned notary public to make the proper entries in his Notarial Register and to refrain from
committing any dereliction or act which constitutes good cause for the revocation of commission or imposition of
administrative sanction.17 Unfortunately, Atty. Resuena failed in both respects.
Through his acts, Atty. Resuena committed a serious breach of the fundamental obligation imposed upon him by
the Code of Professional Responsibility, particularly Rule 1.01 of Canon 1, which prohibited him from engaging in
unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct. As a lawyer and as an officer of the court, it was his duty to
serve the ends of justice, not to corrupt it. Oath-bound, he was expected to act at all times in accordance with law
and ethics, and if he did not, he would not only injure himself and the public but also bring reproach upon an
honorable profession.18 Atty. Resuena must now accept the consequences of his unwarranted actions.
WHEREFORE, Atty. Rex A. Resuena is found GUILTY of malpractice as a notary public, and of violating the
lawyer's oath as well as Rule 1.01, Canon 1 of the Code of Professional Responsibility. Accordingly, he
is DISBARRED from the practice of law and likewise PERPETUALLY DISQUALIFIEDfrom being commissioned as
a notary public.
Let copies of this Resolution be furnished the Office of the Bar Confidant, to be appended to Atty. Resuena's
personal record. Further, let copies of this Resolution be furnished the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and the
Office of the Court Administrator, which is directed to circulate them to all the courts in the country for their
information and guidance.
SO ORDERED.

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Sereno, C.J., Carpio, Velasco, Jr., Leonardo-De Castro, Brion, Peralta, Bersamin, Del Castillo, Perez, Mendoza,
Reyes, Perlas-Bernabe, Leonen, and Jardeleza, JJ., concur.
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EN BANC
A.C. No. 10910 [Formerly CBD Case No. 12-3594], January 19, 2016
ANTERO M. SISON, JR., Complainant, v. ATTY. MANUEL N. CAMACHO, Respondent.
DECISION
PER CURIAM:
In his verified affidavit-complaint,1 dated September 17, 2012, filed before the Integrated Bar of the Philippines
Commission on Bar Discipline (IBP-CBD), complainant Atty. Antero M. Sison, Jr. (Atty. Sison), president of
Marsman-Drysdale Agribusiness Holdings Inc. (MDAHI), charged respondent Atty. Manuel Camacho (Atty.
Camacho) with violation of the Code of Professional Responsibility (CPR). He accused Atty. Camacho of violating
Rule 1.01, for dishonestly entering into a compromise agreement without authorization, and Rule 16.01, for failure
to render an accounting of funds which were supposed to be paid as additional docket fees.
Complainant's Position
Atty. Sison alleged that Atty. Camacho was the counsel of MDAHI in an insurance claim action against Paramount
Life & General Insurance Corp. (Paramount Insurance), docketed as Civil Case No. 05-655, before the Regional
Trial Court, Makati City, Branch 139 (RTC). The initial insurance claim of MDAHI against Paramount Insurance was
P14,863,777.00.
On March 4, 2011, Atty. Camacho met with Atty. Enrique Dimaano (Atty. Dimaano), corporate secretary of MDAHI,
and proposed to increase their claim to P64,412,534.18 by taking into account the interests imposed. Atty.
Camacho, however, clarified that the increase in the claim would require additional docket fees in the amount of
P1,288,260.00, as shown in his hand-written computation. 2MDAHI agreed and granted the said amount to Atty.
Dimaano which was evidenced by a Payment Request/Order Form. 3 On May 27, 2011, Atty. Dimaano gave the
money for docket fees to Atty. Camacho who promised to issue a receipt for the said amount, but never did. 4
Atty. Sison later discovered that on May 26, 2011, the RTC had already rendered a decision5 in favor of MDAHI
granting its insurance claim plus interests in the amount of approximately P65,000,000.00.
On August 11, 2011, Atty. Camacho sent a letter6 to MDAHI recommending a settlement with Paramount
Insurance in Civil Case No. 05-655 in the amount of PI5,000,000.00 allegedly to prevent a protracted appeal with
the appellate court. MDAHI refused the offer of compromise and did not indicate its conforme on the letter of Atty.
Camacho. Surprisingly, even without the written conformity of MDAHI, Atty. Camacho filed the Satisfaction of
Judgment,7 dated August 15, 2011, before the RTC stating that the parties had entered into a compromise
agreement.
On August 18, 2011, Atty. Sison met with Atty. Camacho to clarify the events that transpired. 8 He asked Atty.
Camacho whether he paid the amount of P1,288,260.00 as additional dockets fees, and the latter replied that he
simply gave it to the clerk of court as the payment period had lapsed.
Disappointed with the actions of Atty. Camacho, Atty. Sison sent a letter,9 dated August 24, 2011, stating that he
was alarmed that the former would accept a disadvantageous compromise; that it was against company policy to
bribe any government official with respect to the P1,288,260.00 given to the clerk of court; and that MDAHI would
only pay P200,000.00 to Atty. Camacho as attorney's fees.
Respondent's Position
In his verified answer,10 dated October 30, 2012, Atty. Camacho denied all the allegations against him. He stressed
that he had the authority to enter into the compromise agreement. Moreover, the alleged docket fees given to him
by MDAHI formed part of his attorney's fees.
He further stated in his position paper11 that the judgment debt was paid and accepted by MDAHI without any
objection, as duly evidenced by an acknowledgment receipt. 12 Thus, there was no irregularity in the compromise
agreement.
With respect to the amount handed to him, Atty. Camacho averred that he filed a Motion to Compel Plaintiff to Pay
Attorney's Fee on September 13, 2011 before the RTC. The Court granted the said motion in its April 12, 2012
Order13 stating that the amount of PI,288,260.00 was considered as part of his attorney's fees.

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On July 6, 2012, the RTC issued an Order 14 resolving the motion for reconsideration filed by both parties in favor of
Atty. Camacho. In the said order, the RTC opined that only P300,000.00 was previously paid to Atty. Camacho 15 as
attorney's fees. Based on the foregoing, Atty. Camacho asserted that the amount of P1,288,260.00 which he
received, truly formed part of his unpaid attorney's fees. He stressed that the said RTC order had attained finality
and constituted res judicataon the present administrative case. He added that MDAHI disregarded the RTC order
as it filed an estafa case against him concerning the amount of PI,288,260.00.
Report and Recommendation
After the mandatory conference on January 24, 2013 and upon a thorough evaluation of the evidence presented
by the parties in their respective position papers, the IBP-CBD submitted its Report and Recommendation, 16 dated
April 1, 2013 finding Atty. Camacho to have violated the provisions of Rule 1.01 and Rule 16.01 of the CPR and
recommending the imposition of the penalty of one (1) year suspension from the practice of law against him. In its
Resolution No. XX-2013-474,17 dated April 16, 2013, the Board of Governors of the Integrated Bar of the
Philippines (Board) adopted the said report and recommendation of Investigating Commissioner Eldrid C.
Antiquiera.
Aggrieved, Atty. Camacho filed a motion for reconsideration18 before the Board reiterating that the compromise
agreement was valid because MDAHI did not reject the same and that the amount of P1,288,260.00 formed part
of his attorney's fees.
In his Comment/Opposition,19 Atty. Sison countered that Atty. Camacho never denied that he filed the satisfaction
of judgment without the written authority of MDAHI and that there was a pending estafa case against him before
the Regional Trial Court, Makati City, Branch 146, docketed as Criminal Case No. 13-1688, regarding the
P1,288,260.00 handed to him.
In its Resolution No. XXI-2014-532,20 dated August 10, 2014, the Board adopted the report and
recommendation21 of National Director Dominic CM. Solis. The Board partially granted the motion for
reconsideration and dismissed, without prejudice, the charge regarding the failure to account for the money,
because it was premature to act on such issue due to the pending criminal case against the Atty. Camacho.
Accordingly, the penalty of one (1) year suspension imposed was lowered to six (6) months suspension from the
practice of law.
Hence, the case was elevated to the Court.
The Court's Ruling
The Court finds that Atty. Camacho violated Rules 1.01 and 16.01 of the CPR.
Entering into a compromise
agreement without written
authority of the client
Those in the legal profession must always conduct themselves with honesty and integrity in all their dealings.
Members of the Bar took their oath to conduct themselves according to the best of their knowledge and discretion
with all good fidelity as well to the courts as to their clients and to delay no man for money or malice. These
mandates apply especially to dealings of lawyers with their clients considering the highly fiduciary nature of their
relationship.22
In the practice of law, lawyers constantly formulate compromise agreements for the benefit of their clients. Article
1878 of the Civil Code provides that " [s]pecial powers of attorney are necessary in the following cases: xxx (3) To
compromise, to submit questions to arbitration, to renounce the right to appeal from a judgment, to waive
objections to the venue of an action or to abandon a prescription already acquired xxx."
In line with the fiduciary duty of the Members of the Bar, Section 23, Rule 138 of the Rules of Court specifies a
stringent requirement with respect to compromise agreements, to wit:
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Sec. 23. Authority of attorneys to bind clients. - Attorneys have authority to bind their clients in any case by any
agreement in relation thereto made in writing, and in taking appeals, and in all matters of ordinary judicial
procedure. But they cannot, without special authority, compromise their client's litigation, or receive
anything in discharge of a client's claim but the full amount in cash.
[Emphasis and Underscoring Supplied]
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In the case at bench, the RTC decision, dated May 26, 2011, awarded MDAHI approximately P65,000,000.00.
When Paramount Insurance offered a compromise settlement in the amount of P15,000,000.00, it was clear as
daylight that MDAHI never consented to the said offer. As can be gleaned from Atty. Camacho's letter, MDAHI did

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not sign the conforme regarding the compromise agreement. 23


Glaringly, despite the lack of a written special authority, Atty. Camacho agreed to a lower judgment award on
behalf of his client and filed a satisfaction of judgment before the RTC. The said pleading also failed to bear the
conformity of his client.24 Although MDAHI subsequently received the payment of P15M from Paramount Insurance,
it does not erase Atty. Camacho's transgression in reaching the compromise agreement without the prior consent
of his client.
For entering into a compromise agreement without the written authority of his client, Atty. Camacho violated Rule
1.01 of the CPR, which states that "[a] lawyer shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful
conduct." Members of the Bar must always conduct themselves in a way that promotes public confidence in the
integrity of the legal profession.25
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Failing to account for


the money of the client
Atty. Camacho was also charged with violation of Rule 16.01 of the CPR, which provides for a lawyer's duty to
"account for all money or property collected or received for or from the client."
Here, Atty. Sison alleged that MDAHI gave Atty. Camacho the amount of PI,288,260.00 as payment of additional
docket fees but the latter failed to apply the same for its intended purpose. In contrast, Atty. Camacho invoked the
July 6, 2012 Order of the RTC which declared the MDAHI allegation as unsubstantiated, and claimed that the said
amount formed part of his attorney's fees. The Board, on the other hand, opined that it was still premature to
decide such issue because there was a pending estafa case, docketed as Criminal Case No. 13-1688, filed by
MDAHI against Atty. Camacho involving the same amount of P1,288,260.00.
The Court is of the view that it is not premature to rule on the charge against Atty. Camacho for his failure to
account for the money of his client. The pending case against him is criminal in nature. The issue therein is
whether he is guilty beyond reasonable doubt of misappropriating the amount of P1,288,260.00 entrusted to him
by his client. The present case, however, is administrative in character, requiring only substantial evidence. It only
entails a determination of whether Atty. Camacho violated his solemn oath by failing to account for the money of
his client. Evidently, the adjudication of such issue in this administrative case shall not, in any way, affect the
separate criminal proceeding.
In disciplinary proceedings against lawyers, the only issue is whether the officer of the court is still fit to be allowed
to continue as a member of the Bar. The only concern of the Court is the determination of the respondent's
administrative liability. The findings in this case will have no material bearing on other judicial action which the
parties may choose to file against each other. While a lawyer's wrongful actuations may give rise at the same time
to criminal, civil, and administrative liabilities, each must be determined in the appropriate case; and every case
must be resolved in accordance with the facts and the law applicable and the quantum of proof required in each. 26
Delving into the substance of the allegation, the Court rules that Atty. Camacho indeed violated Rule 16.01 of the
CPR. When Atty. Camacho personally requested MDAHI for additional docket fees, the latter obediently granted the
amount of P1,288,260.00 to the former. Certainly, it was understood that such amount was necessary for the
payment of supposed additional docket fees in Civil Case No. 05-655. Yet, when Atty. Sison confronted Atty.
Camacho regarding the said amount, the latter replied that he simply gave it to the clerk of court as the payment
period had lapsed. Whether the said amount was pocketed by him or improperly given to the clerk of court as a
form of bribery, it was unmistakably clear that Atty. Camacho did not apply the amount given to him by his client
for its intended legal purpose.
Atty. Camacho did not even deny making that request to MDAHI for additional docket fees and receiving such
amount from his client. Rather, he set up a defense that the said amount formed part of his attorney's fees. Such
defense, however, is grossly contradictory to the established purpose of the P1,288,260.00. In its Payment
Request/Order Form,27 it is plainly indicated therein that MDAHI released the said amount only to be applied as
payment for additional docket fees, and not for any other purposes. Consequently, the lame excuse of Atty.
Camacho is bereft of merit because it constitutes a mere afterthought and a manifest disrespect to the legal
profession. Atty. Camacho is treading on a perilous path where the payment of his attorney's fees is more
important than his fiduciary and faithful duty of accounting the money of his client. Well-settled is the rule that
lawyers are not entitled to unilaterally appropriate their clients' money for themselves by the mere fact that the
clients owe them attorney's fees.28
Moreover, Atty. Camacho failed to issue a receipt to MDAHI from the moment he received the said amount.
In Tarog v. Ricafort,29 the Court held that ethical and practical considerations made it both natural and imperative
for a lawyer to issue receipts, even if not demanded, and to keep copies of the receipts for his own records.
Pursuant to Rule 16.01 of the CPR, a lawyer must be aware that he is accountable for the money entrusted to him
by the clients, and that his only means of ensuring accountability is by issuing and keeping receipts.
Worse, on May 26, 2011, the RTC already rendered its decision in Civil Case No. 05-655, adjudging MDAHI

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entitled to an insurance claim in the amount of approximately P65,000,000.00. From that date on, there was no
more need for additional docket fees. Apparently, still unaware of the judgment, MDAHI subsequently released the
money for additional docket fees to Atty. Dimaano, who handed it to Atty. Camacho on May 27, 2011. Despite a
decision having been rendered, Atty. Camacho did not reject the said amount or return it to his client upon receipt.
Instead, he unilaterally withheld the said amount by capriciously invoking the payment of his attorney's fees.
The fiduciary nature of the relationship between the counsel and his client imposes on the lawyer the duty to
account for the money or property collected or received for or from his client. Money entrusted to a lawyer for a
specific purpose but not used for the purpose should be immediately returned. A lawyer's failure, to return upon
demand, the funds held by him on behalf of his client gives rise to the presumption that he has appropriated the
same for his own use in violation of the trust reposed in him by his client. Such act is a gross violation of general
morality as well as of professional ethics. It impairs public confidence in the legal profession and deserves
punishment.30
Administrative penalty
A member of the Bar may be penalized, even disbarred or suspended from his office as an attorney, for violation of
the lawyer's oath and/or for breach of the ethics of the legal profession as embodied in the CPR. The practice of
law is a profession, a form of public trust, the performance of which is entrusted to those who are qualified and
who possess good moral character. The appropriate penalty for an errant lawyer depends on the exercise of sound
judicial discretion based on the surrounding facts.31
In Luna v. Galarrita,32 the Court suspended the respondent lawyer for two (2) years because he accepted a
compromise agreement without valid authority and he failed to turn over the payment to his client. In the case
of Melendrez v. Decena33 the lawyer therein was disbarred because he entered into a compromise agreement
without the special authority of his client and he drafted deceptive and dishonest contracts. Similarly, in Navarro v.
Meneses III,34 another lawyer, who misappropriated the money entrusted to him by his client which he failed
and/or refused to account for despite repeated demands, was disbarred because his lack of personal honesty and
good moral character rendered him unworthy of public confidence.
In this case, Atty. Camacho entered into a compromise agreement without the conformity of his client which is
evidently against the provisions of the CPR and the law. Moreover, he deliberately failed to account for the money
he received from his client, which was supposed to be paid as additional docket fees. He even had the gall to
impute that the money was illicitly given to an officer of the court. The palpable indiscretions of Atty. Camacho
shall not be countenanced by the Court for these constitute as a blatant and deliberate desecration of the fiduciary
duty that a lawyer owes to his client.
The Court finds that Atty. Camacho's acts are so reprehensible, and his violations of the CPR are so flagrant,
exhibiting his moral unfitness and inability to discharge his duties as a member of the Bar. His actions erode rather
than enhance the public perception of the legal profession. Therefore, in view of the totality of his violations, as
well as the damage and prejudice they caused to his client, Atty. Camacho deserves the ultimate penalty of
disbarment.
Further, he must be ordered to return the amount of P1,288,260.00 to MDAHI, which he received in his
professional capacity for payment of the purported additional docket fees. Disciplinary proceedings revolve around
the determination of the respondent-lawyer's administrative liability, which must include those intrinsically linked
to his professional engagement.
WHEREFORE, Atty. Manuel N. Camacho is found guilty of violating Rule 1.01 and Rule 16.01 of the Code of
Professional Responsibility. For reasons above-stated, he is DISBARRED from the practice of law and his name
stricken off the Roll of Attorneys, effective immediately.
Furthermore, Atty. Manuel N. Camacho is ORDERED to return to Marsman-Drysdale Agribusiness Holdings Inc. the
money intended to pay for additional docket fees which he received from the latter in the amount of
P1,288,260.00 within ninety (90) days from the finality of this decision.
Let a copy of this decision be furnished the Office of the Bar Confidant to be entered into the records of respondent
Atty. Manuel N. Camacho. Copies shall likewise be furnished the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and the Office of
the Court Administrator for circulation to all courts concerned.
SO ORDERED.

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Carpio, Velasco, Jr., Leonardo-De Castro, Brion, Peralta, Bersamin, Del Castillo, Villarama, Jr., Perez, Mendoza,
Reyes, Perlas-Bernabe, Leonen, and Jardeleza,

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THIRD DIVISION
A.C. No. 10737, November 09, 2015
ROLANDO TOLENTINO, Complainant, v. ATTY. RODIL L. MILLADO AND ATTY. FRANCISCO B.
SIBAYAN, Respondents.
RESOLUTION
REYES, J.:
Before the Court is the instant Verified Letter Complaint for Disbarment 1 dated February 9, 2015 filed by Rolando
Tolentino (Tolentino) against Atty. Rodil L. Millado (Atty. Millado) and Atty. Francisco B. Sibayan (Atty. Sibayan)
(respondents) for alleged unethical misrepresentations in violation of the Canons of the Code of Professional
Responsibility.
Antecedents
In the October 28, 2013 elections, Tolcntino and Henry A. Manalo (Manalo) both ran as Punong
Barangay of Barangay Calingcuan, Tarlac City. Manalo was proclaimed winner with 441 votes. Tolentino, on the
other hand, garnered 440 votes.2
Tolentino thereafter filed against Manalo an Election Protest 3 dated October 30, 2013 before the Municipal Trial
Court in Cities (MTCC), Tarlac City. The protest was docketed as Election Case No. 03-2013, raffled to Branch 1
presided by Judge Ryan Scott F. Robios (Judge Robios).
Alter the revision of ballots and conduct of hearings with reception of evidence, Judge Robinos rendered on
November 26, 2014 a Decision4 declaring Tolentino the winner with 438 votes as opposed to 436 garnered by
Manalo.
To assail the MTCC Decision dated November 26, 2014, Manalo promptly filed an ordinary appeal before the
Commission on Elections (COMELEC).5
Tolentino, on his part, filed before the MTCC a motion for execution pending appeal, 6 which was granted through
the Special Order7 dated December 16, 2014.
Manalo filed before the COMELEC a Petition for Certiorari8 dated January 8, 2015 to challenge the MTCC Special
Order dated December 16, 2014. Manalo was represented therein by Atty. Millado.
On January 26, 2015, Atty. Sibayan, as collaborating counsel for Manalo, filed before the COMELEC an Extremely
Urgent Manifestation/Motion for Issuance of Injunctive Relief and/or Status Quo AnteOrder with Entry of
Appearance.9
On January 30, 2015, the COMELEC First Division issued a Temporary Restraining Order enjoining Judge Robios
from implementing or enforcing the MTCC Special Order dated December 16, 2014. Due to the possibility that
Tolentino had already assumed the functions of Punong Barangay pursuant to the aforementioned Special Order,
the COMELEC likewise issued a Status Quo Ante Order directing the turnover of the post to Manalo.10
Issues
In February of 2015, Tolentino filed before the Court the instant complaint for disbarment against the respondents
alleging violation of Rules 10.0111 and 10.212 of Canon 1013 of the Code of Professional Responsibility committed
through the following:
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(1) Atty. Millado improperly misrepresented in the Petition for Certiorari, which he filed before the COMELEC, the
ruling in the case of Fermo v. COMELEC,14 to the effect that "shortness of the remaining term of office and posting
of bond are not good reasons for execution of a judgment pending appeal." 15
(2) Atty. Sibayan wrote a misleading statement in his Extremely Urgent Manifestation/Motion for Issuance of
Injunctive Relief and/or Status Quo Ante Order with Entry of Appearance filed before the COMELEC. He wrote that
the protest case was initiated on November 16, 2013 and decided on May 5, 2014. 16 The MTCC had in fact
rendered its Decision on November 26, 2014.

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(3) The respondents falsely alleged that the MTCC had baselessly disregarded the conclusions of the Philippine
National Police (PNP) Crime Laboratory anent the dissimilarities in the handwritings found in some of the ballots,
resulting to prejudice against Manalo. Tolentino claimed that the handwritings belonged to the same persons. 17
In his Comment,18 Atty. Millado claims that Tolentino's complaint tends to destroy his honor and reputation as a
person and a lawyer.
Atty. Millado denies having misquoted the doctrine in Fermo. In the aforesaid case, the Court ruled that the
"shortness of term, alone and by itself, cannot justify premature execution:"19 The Petition for Certiorari, which he
filed before the COMELEC, indicated that the shortness of term is not a sufficient ground to support execution
pending appeal. The statement in Fermo, on one hand, and Atty. Millado's in his Petition for Certiorari, on the
other, meant the same thing. Before an order directing execution pending appeal in an election protest case can be
issued, there must exist other grounds justifying the same apart from shortness of term alone. 20
Atty. Millado further avers that his statement anent the MTCC's baseless disregard of the findings of the PNP Crime
Laboratory is honest and objective. Tolentino presented an expert witness from the National Bureau of
Investigation (NBI), who testified that the handwritings found in several ballots were written by the same persons.
Manalo, on his part, offered an expert witness from the PNP, who stated that the handwritings in the ballots
belonged to different persons. The MTCC favored the NBI's findings even when the former "could not detennine the
difference between the arcaded and circular manner of writing:"21 Thus, Atty. Millado merely and honestly
observed that the MTCC substituted with its own the findings of the PNP Crime Laboratory even when the court
lacked the expertise and experience in analyzing handwritings. 22
Atty. Sibayan, on his part, alleges that in his Extremely Urgent Manifestation/Motion for Issuance of Injunctive
Relief and/or Status Quo Ante Order with Entry of Appearance dated January 26, 2015 filed before the COMELEC,
he had inadvertently written May 5, 2014, instead of November 26, 2014, as the date of the MTCC Decision. 23 He
admits having committed a typographical error, but insists on his lack of intent to mislead especially since he had
correctly indicated in the first paragraph of the aforesaid motion that the MTCC had rendered its Decision on
November 26 2014.24 Besides, whether the MTCC rendered its Decision on May 2014 or November 2014, the fact is
unchanged that the remaining term of the contested office is two years, more or less. Hence, shortness of term as
a ground justifying execution pending appeal is negated. 25
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Ruling of the Court


The Court reprimands the respondents.
The Court finds no misrepresentation or misquotation committed by Atty. Millado when he indicated that
"shortness of term' is not a sufficient ground to support execution pending appeal" 26 Notably, only the phrase
"shortness of term" is placed inside the quotation marks. He did not exactly quote the words "shortness of
term," alone and by itself cannot justify premature execution" and "shortness of the remaining term of office and
posting a bond are not good reasons for execution of a judgment pending appeal" as found in Fermo.27 Atty.
Millado merely restated the ruling without altering its substance. This, the Court finds as permissible.
Anent Atty. Sibayan's alleged misrepresentation relative to the date of the MTCC's rendition of its decision, the
Court finds the same to be without merit.
In Adez Realty, Incorporated v. CA,28 the Court reminds lawyers, viz:

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It is the bounden duty of lawyers to check, review and recheck the allegations in their pleadings, x x x and ensure
that the statements therein are accurate x x x. The legal profession demands that lawyers thoroughly go over
pleadings, motions and other documents dictated or prepared by them xxx before filing them with the court, x x x.
xxxx
x x x A lawyer should never venture to mislead the court by false statements or quotations of facts or laws, x x
x.29 (Citation omitted)
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In paragraph 12.4 of Extremely Urgent Manifestation/Motion for Issuance of Injunctive Relief and/or Status Quo
Ante Order with Entry of Appearance filed before the COMELEC, Atty. Sibayan indeed erroneously wrote that the
MTCC had rendered its Decision on May 5, 2014.30 Notably, however, it was correctly indicated in paragraph 1 of
the same Manifestation/Motion that the date of the MTCC Decision was November 26, 2014. 31 Prescinding
therefrom, the Court finds sufficient Atty. Sibayan's explanation that he merely committed a typographical error,
without any real intent to mislead. While the lawyers arc enjoined to be precise in the allegations in their
pleadings, occasional errors, if committed or omitted without apparent intent to deceive, do not provide the Court
with compelling grounds to impose disciplinary measures.
Lastly, Tolentino claims that the respondents should be penalized for falsely alleging that the MTCC, with partiality,

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disregarded on the basis of mere observation and nothing more, the findings of the PNP Crime Laboratory. To this,
the Court agrees.
In his Petition for Certiorari filed before the COMELEC, Atty. Millado wrote that:

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[With] [t]he disregard of x x x [the] MTCC of the examination made by the PNP Crime Laboratory and substituting
the same on [the basis of] its mere observation, which is kicking [in] expertise and experience, [it] is evident that
x x. x [the] MTCC' was biased in favoring [Tolentino], thus, subverting the will of the people of Barangay
Calingcuan, Tarlac City in choosing [Manalo] as their duly elected Barangay Chairman[.] 32
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Atty. Sibayan made exactly the same allegation in paragraph 9 of his Extremely Urgent Manifestation/Motion for
Issuance of Injunctive Relief and/or Status Quo Ante Order with Entry of Appearance filed before the COMELEC. 33
In disregarding the findings of the PNP Crime Laboratory, the MTCC explained that:

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During the respective testimonies of the document examiners, the Court asked extensive clarificatory questions
from each of the witnesses. The Court would ask the document examiners to explain their findings in detail and.
show the similarities or dissimilarities to the Court and point to the specific portions found in the enlarged
photographs of the ballots. The witness from the NBI patiently explained his findings in detail, all the time
illustrating his findings with enlarged photographs of the questioned ballots. Based on the Court[']s perception of
the enlarged photographs, the Court was in agreement with the findings of the NBI examiner that there were
significant similarities in the handwritings in the questioned ballots. On the other hand, the Court found it difficult
to see the differences in the handwritings as pointed out by the PNP examiner. To the eye of the Court, there were
no significant dissimilarities in the handwritings on the questioned ballots. For example, the PNP witness testified
that tip of the letter A on Q-l is arcaded, while the letter A on Q-2 is written in a circular manner. Upon scrutiny,
the Court could not determine the difference between the arcaded and circular manner of writing and the witness
could not explain the differences in a clear manner.34
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In A.M. No. 10-10-4-SC,35 the Court is emphatic that:

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[M]embership in the Bar imposes upon a person obligations and duties which are not mere flux and
ferment. His investiture into the legal profession places upon his shoulders no burden more basic, more exacting
and more imperative than that of respectful behavior toward the courts. He vows solemnly to conduct himself
"with all good fidelity x x x to the courts"; and the Rules of Court constantly remind him "to observe and maintain
the respect due to courts of justice and judicial officers." x x x.
xxxx
The counsel in any case may or may not be an abler or more learned lawyer than the judge, and it may tax his
patience and temper to submit to rulings which he regards as incorrect, but discipline and self-respect
are as necessary to the orderly administration of justice as they are to the effectiveness of an army, x
x x.
xxxx
As an officer of the court and its indispensable partner in the sacred task of administering justice, graver
responsibility is imposed upon a lawyer than any other to uphold the integrity of the courts and to show respect to
its officers. This does not mean, however, that a lawyer cannot criticize a judge, x x x
xxxx
But it is a cardinal condition of all such criticism that it shall be bona fide, and shall not spill over the walls of
decency and propriety. A wide chasm exists between fair criticism, on the one hand, and abuse and
slander of courts and the judges thereof, on the other. Intemperate and unfair criticism is a gross violation
of the duty of respect to courts. It is such a misconduct, that subjects a lawyer to disciplinary action. 36 (Citations
omitted and emphasis in the original)
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In the case at bar, the MTCC amply explained the reasons why it had accorded more credence to the testimony of
the NBI expert witness. Considering that there were two conflicting testimonies both rendered by expert
witnesses, the trial court was not bound by either and was not precluded from making its own conclusions. In
resolving the issue of similarities and dissimilarities in the handwritings found in several ballots, the MTCC used its
powers of observation and properly applied logic to the facts of the case.
In Atty. Millado's Petition for Certiorari and Atty. Sibayan's Extremely Urgent Manifestation/Motion for Issuance of
Injunctive Relief and/or Status Quo Ante Order with Entry of Appearance filed before the COMELEC, they recklessly
alleged not only the MTCC's lack of expertise and experience, but bias as well, in violation of Canon 11 37 of the
Code of Professional Responsibility. Rules 11.03 and 11.04 of the said Code read as follows:
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Rule 11.03 - A lawyer shall abstain from scandalous, offensive or menacing language or behavior before the
Courts.
Rule 11.04 - A lawyer shall not attribute to a Judge motives not supported by the recordor have no materiality to
the case. (Italics ours)
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Again, the Court reiterates that the use of intemperate language and unkind ascriptions has no place in the dignity
of judicial forum.38 Further, while lawyers are free to criticize judges, criticism sans fair basis, grossly violates the
duty to accord respect owing to the courts.
The Court notes that while Tolentino filed the instant complaint against the respondents for violation of Canon 10
of the Code of Professional Responsibility, their allegations herein clearly included the respondents' unfair
attribution of lack of expertise and experience, and impartiality of the MTCC.
WHEREFORE, respondents Atty. Rodil L. MiJlado and Atty. Francisco B. Sibayan are herebyREPRIMANDED for
breach of Canon 11, Rules 11.03 and 11.04 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, with a STERN
WARNING that repetition of the same or similar offenses in the future will be severely dealt with by this Court.
SO ORDERED.

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THIRD DIVISION
A.C. No. 10671, November 25, 2015
JOSEPH C. CHUA, Complainant, v. ATTY. ARTURO M. DE CASTRO, Respondent.
RESOLUTION
REYES, J.:
In a verified complaint1 before the Commission on Bar Discipline (CBD) of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines
(IBP), Joseph C. Chua (Chua) sought the disbarment of Atty. Arturo M. De Castro (Atty. De Castro) for his
capricious and continuous unethical practice of law in deliberately delaying, impeding and obstructing the
administration of justice in his strategy for the defense of his client in Civil Case No. 7939 pending before the
Regional Trial Court of Batangas City, Branch 84.
Chua alleged that his company, Nemar Computer Resources Corp. (NCRC), filed a collection case against Dr.
Concepcion Aguila Memorial College, represented by its counsel, Atty. De Castro.2
According to Chua, since the filing of the collection case on June 15, 2006, it took more than five (5) years to
present one witness of NCRC due to Atty. De Castro's propensity to seek postponements of agreed hearing dates
for unmeritorious excuses. Atty. De Castro's flimsy excuses would vary from simple absence without notice, to
claims of alleged ailment unbacked by any medical certificates, to claims of not being ready despite sufficient time
given to prepare, to the sending of a representative lawyer who would profess non-knowledge of the case to seek
continuance, to a plea for the postponement without providing any reason therefore. 3
Moreover, Chua averred that when the trial court required Atty. De Castro to explain why he should not be held in
contempt for such delays, he belatedly made his explanation, further contributing to the delay of the proceedings. 4
For his defense, Atty. De Castro countered that his pleas for continuance and resetting were based on valid
grounds.5 Also, he pointed out that most of the resetting were without the objection of the counsel for NCRC, and
that, certain resetting were even at the instance of the latter.6
On April 10, 2013, the CBD submitted its Report and Recommendation 7 addressing the charge against Atty. De
Castro. The CBD found Atty. De Castro to have violated Canons 10, 11, 12 and 13 of the Code of Professional
Responsibility when he deterred the' speedy and efficient administration of justice by deliberately employing
delaying tactics in Civil Case No. 7939. The CBD recommended that he be suspended from the practice of law for a
period of six (6) months from notice, with a warning that a similar lapse in the future may warrant more severe
sanctions.
On April 16, 2013, the IBP Board of Governors issued a Resolution 8 adopting and approving with modification the
Report and Recommendation of the CBD. The Board of Governors modified the penalty meted out to respondent
reducing the period of suspension from six (6) months to three (3) months. Both Chua and Atty. De Castro filed
their respective motions for reconsideration dated August 28, 2013 9 and August 23, 201310 but the same were
denied in a Resolution11 dated May 3, 2014.
Upon review of the records of the instant case, this Court finds the recommendation of the IBP Board of Governors
to be proper under the circumstances.
"Lawyers should be reminded that their primary duty is to assist the courts in the administration of justice. Any
conduct which tends to delay, impede or obstruct the administration of justice contravenes such lawyers[']
duty."12 Rule 1.03 and Rule 10.3 of the Code of Professional Responsibility explicitly states:
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Rule 1.03 - A lawyer shall not, for any corrupt motive or interest, encourage any suit or proceeding or delay any
man's cause.
Rule 10.03 - A lawyer shall observe the rules of procedure and shall not misuse them to defeat the ends of
justice.
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As shown by the records, Atty. De Castro violated his oath of office in his handling of the collection case against his
client. Chua was able to show that, through Atty. De Castro's atrocious maneuvers, he successfully delayed the

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disposition of the case, causing injury and prejudice to NCRC.


The CBD, in its Report and Recommendation, correctly observed that Atty. De Castro violated his responsibility to
attend previously set engagements with the court, absent a truly good reason to be absent. The Report and
Recommendation in part states:
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Through manueverings [sic] obviously orchestrated by [Atty. De Castro], who has nonchalantly forgotten or
otherwise deliberately disregarded professional commitments, much of the time has been wasted with [Atty. De
Castro's] uncharacteristic reliance on postponements for reasons that may not be termed valid but ones that really
border on plain attempts to rile the other side. [Atty. De Castro's] lack of concern for the other party, that
amounted to obvious disrespect to the Court which has accommodated some requests for resettings which may
not have solid ground to be granted, does not speak well of [Atty. De Castro's] attitude towards his lack of concern
with the court's (and adverse parties/counsel's) time specially reserved to hear the case. 13
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Under Section 27, Rule 138 of the Rules of Court, a lawyer may be removed or suspended on the following
grounds: (i) deceit; (ii) malpractice; (iii) gross misconduct in office; (iv) grossly immoral conduct; (v) conviction of
a crime involving moral turpitude; (vi) violation of the lawyers oath; (vii) willful disobedience of any lawful order of
a superior court; and (viii) corruptly or willfully appearing as a lawyer for a party to a case without authority so to
do.
Here, Atty. De Castro clearly caused a mockery of the judicial proceedings and inflicted injury to the administration
of justice through his deceitful, dishonest, unlawful and grossly immoral conduct. "Indeed, he abused beyond
measure his privilege to practice law."14
Undoubtedly, Atty. De Castro failed to live up to the exacting standards expected of him as a vanguard of law and
justice. Fie showed his great propensity to disregard court orders. His acts of wantonly employing dilatory tactics
show an utter disrespect for the Court and the legal profession.
In line with jurisprudence, however, this Court held that disbarment is meted out only in clear cases of misconduct
that seriously affect the standing and character of the lawyer as an officer of the court. 15 In the present case, this
Court, after considering the circumstances and records of the case, finds that the suspension from the practice of
law for three (3) months oi Atty. De Castro, as recommended by the IBP Board of Governors, is sufficient to
discipline him.
WHEREFORE, Atty. Arturo M. De Castro is hereby SUSPENDED from the practice of law for a period of THREE
(3) MONTHS effective from notice, with a STERN WARNING that a repetition of the same or similar acts will be
dealt with more severely.
Let copies of this Resolution be entered in the record of Atty. Arturo M. De Castro as a member of the Bar and
served on the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, as well as on the Office of the Court Administrator for circulation to
all courts for their information and guidance.
SO ORDERED.

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Velasco, Jr., J., Chairperson, Peralta, Bersamin,* and Villarama, Jr., JJ., concur.

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FIRST DIVISION
A.C. No. 8507, November 10, 2015
ELENA BIETE LEONES VDA. DE MILLER, Complainant, v. ATTY. ROLANDO B. MIRANDA,Respondent.
DECISION
PERLAS-BERNABE, J.:
Before the Court is an administrative Complaint1 dated December 12, 2009 filed by complainant Elena Biete
Leones Vda. de Miller (complainant) against respondent Atty. Rolando B. Miranda (respondent) praying for the
latter's disbarment.
The Facts
Complainant alleged that she filed a complaint for ejectment (ejectment case) against a certain Clarita Rodriguez
Magbuhos2 (Magbuhos), docketed as Civil Case No. 08-749, before the Municipal Trial Court in Cities of Angeles
City, Branch III (MTCC).3 A certain Corazon P. Manansala (Manansala), who claimed to be Magbuhos's attorney-infact, appeared in the latter's behalf alongside with her counsel, herein respondent. To prove her authority as
attorney-in-fact, she presented a Special Power of Attorney4 (SPA) duly notarized by respondent on March 6, 2009
and entered into his notarial register as Doc. No. 340; Page No. 68; Book No. IX, Series of 2009 (original
SPA).5 However, upon scrutiny of the original SPA, complainant's counsel pointed out that Manansala's authority to
represent Magbuhos pertained to an alleged "cash loan extended to one Nestor Cabais" and not to the ejectment
case. Insisting that she was authorized to represent Magbuhos in the ejectment case, Manansala, thru respondent,
submitted another SPA6 (altered SPA), which turned out to be almost identical to the original SPA earlier
submitted, with the following notable changes: (a) the phrase "the cash loan extended to one Nestor Cabais" was
enclosed with a handwritten parenthesis; and (b) the handwritten phrase "my property located at Purok 6,
Aguinaldo St., Sapang Bato, Angeles City," was inserted in its stead, with all handwritten iterations not having any
initials or counter-signatures of Magbuhos, as well as any indication as to when the aforesaid alterations were
made.7
In an Order8 dated November 18, 2009, the MTCC denied the admission of the altered SPA, thus, ruling that
Manansala has no authority to represent Magbuhos in the ejectment case. It held that the handwritten insertions
made on the altered SPA were made after the document's notarization and were without any counter-signatures
from Magbuhos, and as such, cannot be given any effect. The MTCC also pointed out that the document registered
as Doc. No. 340; Page No. 68; Book No. IX, Series of 2009 in respondent's notarial register is the SPA which
authorized Manansala to represent Magbuhos regarding "the cash loan extended to one Nestor Cabais," and has no
reference to the ejectment case.9
The foregoing incidents led to the filing of the instant administrative complaint, with complainant arguing that
respondent's act of submitting before the MTCC an altered and/or falsified document which he himself had
notarized is blatantly and patently immoral, improper, and unlawful, and thus, he should be accordingly penalized
for the same.10
In his defense, respondent maintained that the handwritten iterations made in the SPA were neither malicious nor
intentional but were mere products of his "honest mistake or oversight." Respondent then explained that on March
5, 2009, Magbuhos personally appeared before him and asked him to prepare an SPA in order to authorize
Manansala to appear in her behalf in the ejectment case. Respondent then asked his secretary to print a copy of a
similar document in his files for him to insert the necessary corrections, and after which, instructed his secretary to
re-type the document and re-print the same with the corrections. Thinking that the re-printed copy already
contained his corrections, he no longer bothered to proofread the SPA, went on to have Magbuhos sign the
document, and then proceeded to notarize the same.11 Upon realizing the existence of the erroneous phrase
therein, i.e., "the cash loan extended to one Nestor Cabais," respondent asserted that he informed Magbuhos of
such error, and that the latter explicitly gave him instructions to insert the necessary corrections. 12
The IBP's Report and Recommendation
In a Report and Recommendation13 dated March 23, 2011, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) Investigating
Commissioner found respondent administratively liable and, accordingly, recommended that he be meted the
penalty of suspension from the practice of law for a period of one (1) year and disqualification as notary public for

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a period of two (2) years.14


The Investigating Commissioner found that since respondent already performed notarial acts on the original SPA
which already contains the acts of solemn affirmation of the parties, it was improper, wrongful, and/or unlawful for
respondent to have notarized a copy thereof with the handwritten alterations. In this regard, the Investigating
Commissioner remarked that respondent cannot simply put the blame on his legal secretary in order to save
himself from any administrative sanctions.15
In a Resolution16 dated June 20, 2013, the IBP Board of Governors adopted and approved the aforesaid Report and
Recommendation, with modification decreasing the recommended penalty to suspension from the practice of law
for a period of six (6) months, immediately revoking respondent's notarial commission, and disqualifying him from
being appointed as a notary public for a period of one (1) year.17 Aggrieved, respondent moved for
reconsideration18 which was, however, denied in a Resolution19 dated September 27, 2014.
The Issue Before the Court
The essential issue in this case is whether or not respondent should be held administratively liable for the acts
complained of.
The Court's Ruling
A notary public is empowered to perform a variety of notarial acts, most common of which are the
acknowledgement and affirmation of documents or instruments. In the performance of these notarial acts, the
notary public must be mindful of the significance of the notarial seal affixed on documents. The notarial seal
converts a document from a private to a public instrument, after which it may be presented as evidence without
need of proof of its genuineness and due execution. Thus, notarization should not be treated as an empty,
meaningless or routinary act. A notary public exercises duties calling for carefulness and faithfulness. Notaries
must inform themselves of the facts they certify to; most importantly, they should not take part or allow
themselves to be part of illegal transactions.20The importance of the functions of a notary public is highlighted
in De Jesus v. Sanchez-Malit21 as follows:
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The important role a notary public performs cannot be overemphasized. The Court has repeatedly stressed that
notarization is not an empty, meaningless routinary act, but one invested with substantive public interest.
Notarization converts a private document into a public document, making it admissible in evidence without further
proof of its authenticity. Thus, a notarized document is, by law, entitled to full faith and credit upon its face. It is
for this reason that a notary public must observe with utmost care the basic requirements in the
performance of his notarial duties; otherwise, the public's confidence in the integrity of a notarized
document would be undermined.22 (Emphasisd and underscoring supplied)
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In view of such importance, the Notarial Law and the 2004 Rules on Notarial Practice 23 require a duly
commissioned notary public to make the proper entries in his Notarial Register and to refrain from committing any
dereliction or any act which may serve as cause for the revocation of his commission or the imposition of
administrative sanctions.24
In the instant case, records reveal that respondent prepared the original SPA to show that Manansala was
authorized by Magbuhos to appear in the latter's behalf in the ejectment case instituted by herein complainant.
However, upon the original SPA's submission before the MTCC, it was pointed out that the authority given by
Magbuhos to Manansala only pertained to "the cash loan extended to one Nestor Cabais" and not to the ejectment
case. In order to remedy the situation, handwritten alterations were made on the said SPA, such as the enclosing
of the aforesaid phrase with a parenthesis and the insertion of the phrase "my property located at Purok 6,
Aguinaldo St., Sapang Bato, Angeles City," and thereafter, the altered SPA was then re-submitted to the MTCC. In
this regard, respondent explained that in the preparation of the original SPA, he merely asked his secretary to get
a similar document from his files and insert his corrections. Respondent then admitted that he did not bother
checking the draft of the original SPA as he simply assumed that his secretary did her job properly. Finally,
respondent reasoned out that the error made on the original SPA was only due to "honest mistake and oversight"
and upon discovery thereof, he himself caused the alterations on the SPA with the knowledge and verbal consent
of Magbuhos.
These factual circumstances only show that respondent's failure to carefully double-check the draft of the original
SPA submitted to him by his secretary led him to notarize a document which did not reflect the true intent of his
client. His attempt to escape administrative sanctions by pinning the blame on his secretary cannot be condoned
as case law instructs that in these instances, the lawyer himself, not merely his secretary, should be held
accountable for these kinds of misdeeds.25 Worse, respondent himself caused the intercalation of the notarized SPA
by inserting handwritten alterations therein which changed its meaning - thus, violating Rule 1.01, Canon 1 of the
Code of Professional Responsibility, which provides that "[a] lawyer shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest,
immoral or deceitful conduct." Absent any competent proof, respondent's assertion that he was verbally authorized
by Magbuhos in altering the SPA is self-serving and cannot be given any credence.

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Irrefragably, respondent's acts not only caused damage to those directly affected by the altered SPA, but also
tainted the integrity of the legal profession by degrading the function of notarization. Thus, he should be held liable
therefor not only as a notary public, but also as a lawyer.26 In a similar case, the Court imposed upon the erring
lawyer the following penalties: (a) suspension from the practice of law for a period of one (1) year; (b) immediate
revocation of the lawyer's notarial commission, if still existing; and (c) disqualification from being appointed as a
notary public for a period of two (2) years.27 Accordingly, the Court finds it appropriate that respondent be meted
with the same penalties.
WHEREFORE, respondent Atty. Rolando B. Miranda is found GUILTY of violating the 2004 Rules on Notarial
Practice and the Code of Professional Responsibility. Accordingly, the Court SUSPENDS him from the practice of
law for one (1) year; REVOKES his incumbent notarial commission, if any; andPROHIBITS him from being
commissioned as a notary public for two (2) years, effective immediately, with a STERN WARNING that a
repetition of the same or similar acts in the future shall be dealt with more severely.
Let a copy of this Decision be furnished the Office of the Bar Confidant, to be appended to respondent's personal
record in this Court as attorney. Further, let copies of this Decision be furnished the Integrated Bar of the
Philippines and the Office of the Court Administrator, which is directed to circulate them to all the courts in the
country for their information and guidance.
SO ORDERED.

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EN BANC
A.C. No. 7353, November 16, 2015
NELSON P. VALDEZ, Petitioner, v. ATTY. ANTOLIN ALLYSON DABON, JR., Respondent.
DECISION
PER CURIAM:
This is an administrative complaint for disbarment filed by Nelson P. Valdez (Nelson) against Atty. Antolin Allyson
M. Dabon, Jr. (Atty. Dabon) anchored on the ground of grossly immoral and indecent conduct which transgressed
the high moral standards required for membership in the Bar.
The Position of the Complainant
Complainant Nelson charged respondent Atty. Dabon, a Division Clerk of Court of the Court of Appeals (CA), with
gross immorality for allegedly carrying on an adulterous relationship with his wife, Sonia Romero Valdez (Sonia),
which was made possible by sexual assaults and maintained through threat and intimidation.
In his Affidavit-Complaint,1 dated September 13, 2006, Nelson averred, among others, that he married Sonia on
January 28, 1998 in Paniqui, Tarlac; that Sonia was employed as Court Stenographer of the CA from 1992 until her
resignation on May 15, 2006;2 that Sonia admitted to have had an adulterous and immoral relationship with Atty.
Dabon, from 2000 to 2006, a span of more than five years; that he came to know of the relationship only on April
18, 2006 after receiving an anonymous text message hinting/stating about the existence of an illicit affair between
the two; and that initially, Sonia denied the affair but eventually broke down and admitted her sexual liaison with
Atty. Dabon when confronted with a text message he received from Atty. Jocelyn Dabon (Atty. Joy), the wife of the
respondent, on May 4, 2006 at about 9:47 o'clock in the morning, which stated:
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Nelson, Jun and I were separating I will file an annulment anytime soon, although I'm in great pain, I ask for your
apology and forgiveness for everything he is leaving for US and I hope he evolves into a strong and mature person
there. D cya masamang tao, just emotional and easily manipulated. Sana don't blame him entirely bee. he is d
type that never initiate things. He is passive and tame. He was honest with me and I hope Sonia would find d
courage to tell d truth to you. I just pray for peace and fresh start for all of us. I just want to go on with my life
and use above all these for my son's sake. I love jun and I appeal to you n asana wala ka maisip sa atin lahat. Just
as I have accepted everything. Salamat sa panahon at pangunawa. God bless. 3
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Nelson also asserted that Sonia confessed her infidelity and described her extramarital affair with Atty. Dabon to
have been attended by sexual assaults and maintained through intimidation and threats of exposure, humiliation
and embarrassment.
In her own Affidavit,4 dated September 13, 2006 and attached to the complaint, Sonia narrated that her illicit
relationship with Atty. Dabon started sometime in November 2000 and ended in March 2006 when she, bothered
by her conscience, decided to break it off; that Atty. Dabon relentlessly pursued her for years and even admitted
that he fell in love with her the first time he laid eyes on her; that on November 13, 2000, Atty. Dabon lured her to
what appeared to be a mere friendly lunch date, managed to put sleep-inducing drug into her food or drink
causing her to feel drowsy and weak and, thereafter, brought her to Victoria Court Motel where he sexually
molested her while she was asleep; that she opted to keep silent about the incident for fear of its adverse
repercussions of shame and embarrassment to her and her family; that she pleaded with Atty. Dabon to leave her
and forget what had happened, but the respondent instead taunted her by laughing at her misery; that since then,
Atty. Dabon succeeded in having repeated carnal knowledge of her once or twice a week through intimidation and
threats; that Atty. Dabon threatened her that he would tell everyone that she had been playing around with him, if
she would not yield to his lascivious cravings; and that she suffered in silence for years and submitted herself to
the bestial desires of Atty. Dabon, until she even thought that she was in love with him.
Sonia further claimed that after years of living in deception and infidelity, she decided to call it quits with Atty.
Dabon sometime in March 2006 but he could not let go of their relationship; that Atty. Dabon started pestering
and threatening her through phone calls and handwritten messages in vile attempts to persuade her to continue
their illicit affair; that despite their break-up, Atty. Dabon still pursued his lustful quest by bringing her to Anito
Motel, along Quirino Avenue on March 10, 2006, but she foiled his plan when she went ballistic prompting the
respondent to drive her back to the CA; that on March 13, 2006, Atty. Dabon forcibly boarded her car and pleaded
for forgiveness and reconciliation but she remained firm in her resolve to end the affair; that she had to seek the
assistance of her officemates, Atty. Heiddi Venecia Barrozo (Atty. Barrozo) and Atty. Aileen T. Ligot (Atty. Ligot),

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just to convince Atty. Dabon to alight from her car as the said incident had already drawn the attention of several
employees within the vicinity of the CA parking lot; that Atty. Dabon used the members of his staff to relay his
messages and deliver his handwritten letters to her; that Atty. Dabon, angered by her repeated rejection, went
berserk and sent her a letter which stated, among others, that he could no longer stand her constant avoidance of
him and that he would divulge their illicit relationship to her husband; that it numbed her with fright, so she called
Atty. Joy, without disclosing her identity, and told her that Atty. Dabon was harassing an employee at the CA; that
Atty. Dabon sent a text message to Nelson telling him of the extramarital affair; that Atty. Joy called up Nelson and
informed him that her husband, Atty. Dabon, had confessed to her the illicit relationship; and that when she was
asked by Nelson, she initially denied the affair for fear of reprisal but, afterwards, admitted the truth and explained
to him that she was merely a victim of Atty. Dabon's threat and intimidation which led to their illicit relationship.
Nelson further stated that Atty. Dabon's willful, flagrant and shameless conduct was in gross defiance of the
customs, values and sense of morality of the community. He prayed for the disbarment of Atty. Dabon whose
immoral acts showed his lack of moral character, honesty, probity, and good demeanor and, hence, unworthy to
continue as an officer of the court. Nelson alleged that he had previously filed an administrative complaint for
"Gross Immorality" against Atty. Dabon before the CA.
Together with Sonia's Affidavit, Nelson also attached to his Affidavit-Complaint for disbarment, the Joint
Affidavit5 executed by Atty. Barrozo and Atty. Ligot on May 19, 2006; the Affidavit 6 of Virginia D. Ramos (Ramos),
dated May 19, 2006; and the Affidavit7 of Marie Iris Magdalene Minerva (Minerva), dated May 22, 2006, wherein
the said affiants corroborated the declaration of Sonia in her affidavit.
The Position of Atty. Dabon
Respondent Atty. Dabon strongly refuted the accusation against him claiming that the same was baseless and
unfounded and that the complaint for disbarment was merely calculated to harass, annoy and besmirch his
reputation.
In his Comment,8 Atty. Dabon denied the charges of grossly immoral and unlawful acts through sexual assaults,
abuses, threats and intimidation. He posited that the allegations of spouses Nelson and Sonia in their respective
affidavits were nothing but pure fabrication solely intended to malign his name and honor. In support of his prayer
for the dismissal of the present disbarment case, Atty. Dabon proffered the following arguments:
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First, complainant Nelson had no personal knowledge of the alleged illicit relationship between him and Sonia. He
relied heavily on the sworn statement of Sonia which was replete with inconsistencies and incredible and
preposterous claims which defied logic and common sense, thus, revealing the fallacy of the subject complaint. He
contended that it was highly improbable for him, a married lawyer at that, to suddenly turn crazy and abandon all
cares just to satisfy his purported lustful hungerness by sexually assaulting Sonia, "an ordinary plain-looking 43year old woman with two (2) teen aged children."9
Second, nowhere in the administrative complaint of Nelson previously filed before the CA was there any mention of
any sexual assault he allegedly committed against Sonia or of an adulterous relationship that was maintained
through threats and intimidation. Surprisingly, such allegations were included in the present complaint for
disbarment. He also pointed out that Nelson did not attach to his administrative complaint before the CA the
September 13, 2006 Affidavit of Sonia containing grave imputations against him. Such omissions were indicative
that the serious charges against him were mere concoctions and afterthoughts designed to attain Nelson's desire
to come up with a graver accusation against him. The filing of the complaint for disbarment was motivated by
vengeance against him as Nelson was consummed by his suspicion that he had seduced Sonia which led to the
deterioration of their marriage. He was a victim caught in the crossfire between the troubled couple, Nelson and
Sonia.
Third, there was no truth to Sonia's allegation that he was attracted to her from the first time he saw her much
less pursued her relentlessly. He and Sonia were just close friends. He was Sonia's confidante. She would usually
confide in him her personal woes and problems especially those concerning her husband, Nelson. It was Sonia who
aggressively sought his companionship and frequented his office, bringing food, fruits and other goodies. The said
visits were attested to by Mary Jane Tulalian and Imelda Adan in their respective affidavits, 10 both dated April 30,
2008. His friendship with Sonia turned sour when she learned of his plan to settle for good in the Unites States
with his family. Sonia began to avoid him. He exerted efforts to make her understand his decision, but to no avail.
Fourth, the cards expressing Sonia's affection towards him as well as the expensive gifts she gave him belied her
claim that she was sexually assaulted and that she resisted his alleged sexual advances.
Fifth, it was unlikely that Sonia would not tell anyone the grave injustice and abuses that she allegedly suffered in
his hands or report the matter to the police considering her length of service in the Judiciary and her familiarity on
how the criminal justice system worked.
Sixth, he denied Nelson's allegation that he confessed to his wife, Atty. Joy, his illicit relationship with Sonia. He
also denied that the alleged text messages, quoted by Nelson and Sonia in their respective affidavits, were sent by

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him or his wife. All were part of an elaborate scheme to force him to immediately resign as Division Clerk of Court
from the CA.
Lastly, it was not true that he harassed Sonia through text messages and phone calls. It was he who was the
victim of harassment from Nelson, who orchestrated a series of events that compelled him to leave the country
earlier than scheduled for fear that an untoward incident might happen to him.
On August 15, 2007, the Court referred the case to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) for investigation,
report and recommendation.11
After the parties had submitted their respective verified position papers, Investigating Commissioner Manuel T.
Chan (Investigating Commissioner Chan) of the IBP Commission on Bar Discipline (IBP-CBD) rendered his Report
and Recommendation,12 dated October 2, 2008, finding that the charge against respondent Atty. Dabon had been
sufficiently proven. The recommendatory portion of the report reads:
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WHEREFORE, this Commissioner, after a thorough and exhaustive review of the facts and applicable legal
provisions, recommends that respondent be found guilty of gross immoral conduct and, accordingly, be disbarred
and dropped from the Roll of Attorneys. 13
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On December 11, 2008, the Board of Governors of the IBP adopted and approved the recommendation and issued
Resolution No. XVIII-2008-653, the pertinent portion of which reads:
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RESOLVED to ADOPT and APPROVE, as it is hereby unanimously ADOPTED and APPROVED 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 finding Respondent guilty of gross immoral conduct, Atty. Antolin Allyson M. Dabon,
Jr. is hereby DISBARRED and his name be stricken off from the Roll of Attorneys. 14
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Atty. Dabon filed a motion for reconsideration of Resolution No. XVIII-2008-653, but it was denied by the IBP
Board of Governors in its Resolution No. XX-2012-550,15 dated December 14, 2012.
After due consideration, the Court resolves to adopt the findings and recommendation of the IBP-CBD.
Lawyers have been repeatedly reminded by the Court that possession of good moral character is both a condition
precedent and a continuing requirement to warrant admission to the Bar and to retain membership in the legal
profession.This proceeds from the lawyer's bounden duty to observe the highest degree of morality in order to
safeguard the Bar's integrity,16 and the legal profession exacts from its members nothing less. Lawyers are called
upon to safeguard the integrity of the Bar, free from misdeeds and acts constitutive of malpractice. Their exalted
positions as officers of the court demand no less than the highest degree of morality.17
The Court explained in Arnobit v. Atty. Arnobit18 that "as officers of the court, lawyers must not only in fact be of
good moral character but must also be seen to be of good moral character and leading lives in accordance with the
highest moral standards of the community. A member of the bar and an officer of the court is not only required to
refrain from adulterous relationships or keeping a mistress but must also so behave himself as to avoid
scandalizing the public by creating the impression that he is flouting those moral standards." Consequently, any
errant behavior of the lawyer, be it in his public or private activities, which tends to show deficiency in moral
character, honesty, probity or good demeanor, is sufficient to warrant suspension or disbarment. 19
In the case at bench, the Court subscribes to the IBP's opinion that there was substantial evidence showing that
Atty. Dabon did have an illicit relationship with Nelson's legal wife.
To begin with, the Court notes from the respondent's Comment that he appeared to be perplexed as to whether or
not he would admit his extramarital liaisons with Sonia. As Investigating Commissioner Chan stated in his report,
Atty. Dabon interposed a blanket denial of the romantic involvement but at the same time, he seemed to have
tacitly admitted the illicit affair only that it was not attended by sexual assaults, threats and intimidations. The
Court also observed that he devoted considerable effort to demonstrate that the affair did not amount to gross
immoral conduct and that no sexual abuse, threat or intimidation was exerted upon the person of Sonia, but not
once did he squarely deny the affair itself.
In other words, the respondent's denial is a negative pregnant, a denial coupled with the admission of substantial
facts in the pleading responded to which are not squarely denied. Stated otherwise, a negative pregnant is a form
of negative expression which carries with it an affirmation or at least an implication of some kind favorable to the
adverse party. Where a fact is alleged with qualifying or modifying language and the words of the allegation as so
qualified or modified are literally denied, it has been held that the qualifying circumstance alone is denied while the
fact itself is admitted.20 It is clear from Atty. Dabon's Comment that his denial only pertained as to the existence of
a forced illicit relationship. Without a categorical denial thereof, he is deemed to have admitted his consensual
affair with Sonia.

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More telling of the existence of a romantic relationship are the notes and cards 21 that Sonia sent to Atty. Dabon
containing personal and intimate messages in her own handwriting. The messages conveyed Sonia's affection
towards him as she even referred to him as "hon" or "honey." There were also gifts she gave him on special
occasions such as signature shoes, watch and shirts. It also appeared that Sonia frequently visited him in his office
either to bring him food, fruits and other goodies or to invite him to lunch which apparently displayed her
emotional attachment to him. Curiously, the foregoing was never refuted by Sonia. Such "ego-boosting
admissions"22 of Atty. Dabon indeed proved that a consensual relationship between him and Sonia existed.
It has not escaped the Court's attention either that Atty. Dabon really tried hard to win back Sonia because he
could not let go of their relationship, even to the point of pestering her with his persistent pleas for reconciliation.
In one instance, Atty. Dabon boarded Sonia's car and refused to alight unless she would talk to him. Sonia had to
seek the assistance of her officemates, Atty. Barrazo and Atty. Ligot, who pleaded with him to alight from the
vehicle. Moreover, Atty. Dabon made several attempts to communicate with Sonia in the hope of rekindling their
relationship through letters and phone calls but she remained firm in her stand to avoid him. Such incident was
recounted by Ramos and Minerva in their respective affidavits.
Incidentally, vis-a-vis Nelson's overwhelming evidence of said harassments, he offered only denials which was selfserving and weak under the law on evidence. Other than his general claim that Atty. Barrazo, Atty. Ligot, Ramos,
and Minerva were biased witnessess because they were former officemates of Sonia, the respondent did not even
bother to proffer his own version of the supposed harassment incidents.
In light of the above disquisition, the Court finds Sonia's allegation that the illicit relationship was made possible by
sexual assaults and maintained through threat and intimidations, to be untrue. Certainly, a sexually abused
woman could not be expected to lavish her oppressor with expensive gifts or pay him affectionate compliments or
words of endearment. The natural reaction of a victim of a sexual molestation would be to avoid her ravisher. In
this case, however, it appeared that Sonia continually remained in the company of Atty. Dabon for more than five
years, even inviting him for lunch-outs and frequenting his office to bring food whenever the latter was
preoccupied with his workload and could not go out with her to eat. Verily, Sonia's actuations towards Atty. Dabon
are in stark contrast to the expected demeanor of one who had been repeatedly sexually abused.
Further, the Court cannot fathom why Sonia never reported the alleged sexual abuse to the police, if such was the
truth. She could have placed the respondent behind bars and put an end to her claimed misery. Also, the Court
cannot lend credence to Sonia's claim that she merely succumbed to the respondent's sexual advances because of
his continuous threats of public exposure and humiliation. It must be stressed that Atty. Dabon would be in a much
more precarious situation if he would carry out such threats, as this would exposed himself to countless criminal
and administrative charges. The Court believes that Nelson's allegation of sexual assaults and continuing threat
and intimidation was not established by clear preponderant evidence. The Court is left with the most logical
conclusion that Sonia freely and wittingly entered into an illicit and immoral relationship with Atty. Dabon sans any
threat and intimidation.
Consequently, the Court quotes with approval the following observations of Investigating Commissioner Chan on
this score, thus:
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Sorting out the maze of technicalities, denials and evasions of the respondent as well as the oftentimes
exaggerated language of complainant or his wife, Sonia, and the self-exculpatory declarations of Sonia, this
Commissioner considers the following facts as established:
1.

Respondent and Sonia are both married, not to each other, but to other persons, and each is aware of this
fact, or should have known such fact at the start of their illicit relationship because they were officemates
at that time;

2.

Respondent and Sonia engaged in an intimate and sexual relationship, intermittent perhaps, for a period
of about six years starting 2000 up to 2006;

3.

Respondent and Sonia, despite protestations of Sonia that respondent assaulted her using drugs and
employing threats and blackmail to maintain the relationship, appeared to have entered into such illicit
relationship voluntarily and also appeared to have been fueled by their deep emotional needs, if not
mutual lust, as shown by the fact that the illicit relationship lasted for six long years;

4.

Respondent and Sonia, despite the protestation of Sonia to the contrary, were not really ready to give up
the illicit relationship even if they were fully aware of its immorality or its devastating effect on their
respective marriages and careers as shown by the fact that both respondent and Sonia did not voluntarily
confess to their respective spouses their dark secret, but were only discovered by complainant through
other channels.23

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For what ethical breaches then may Atty. Dabon be held liable?
The Code of Professional Responsibility provides:

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Rule 1.01- A lawyer shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct.
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.
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Morality in our liberal society today is probably a far cry from what it used to be. Notwithstanding this
permissiveness, lawyers, as keepers of public faith, are burdened with a high degree of social responsibility and,
hence, must handle their personal affairs with greater caution. 24 Indeed, those who have taken the oath to assist
in the dispensation of justice should be more possessed of the consciousness and the will to overcome the
weakness of the flesh.
It has been repeatedly held that to justify suspension or disbarment, the act complained of must not only be
immoral, but grossly immoral.25 A grossly immoral act is one that is so corrupt as to constitute a criminal act, or so
unprincipled as to be reprehensible to a high degree or committed under such scandalous or revolting
circumstances as to shock the common sense of decency. It is willful, flagrant, or shameless as to show
indifference to the opinion of good and respectable members of the community.26
In the case at bench, Atty. Dabon's intimate relationship with a woman other than his wife showed his moral
indifference to the opinion of the good and respectable members of the community. It manifested his disrespect for
the laws on the sanctity of marriage and for his own marital vow of fidelity. It showed his utmost moral depravity
and low regard for the fundamental ethics of his profession. Indeed, he has fallen below the moral bar. Such
detestable behavior warrants a disciplinary sanction. Even if not all forms of extramarital relations are punishable
under penal law, sexual relations outside of marriage are considered disgraceful and immoral as they manifest
deliberate disregard of the sanctity of marriage and the marital vows protected by the Constitution and affirmed by
our laws.27
In Advincula v. Macabata,28 the Court elucidated as to what disciplinary sanction should be imposed against a
lawyer found guilty of misconduct. Thus:
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Xxx. "When deciding upon the appropriate sanction, the Court must consider that the primary purposes of
disciplinary proceedings are to protect the public; to foster public confidence in the Bar; to preserve the integrity
of the profession; and to deter other lawyers from similar misconduct. Disciplinary proceedings are means of
protecting the administration of justice by requiring those who carry out this important function to be competent,
honorable and reliable men in whom courts and clients may repose confidence. While it is discretionary upon the
Court to impose a particular sanction that it may deem proper against an erring lawyer, it should neither be
arbitrary and despotic nor motivated by personal animosity or prejudice, but should ever be controlled by the
imperative need to scrupulously guard the purity and independence of the bar and to exact from the lawyer strict
compliance with his duties to the court, to his client, to his brethren in the profession and to the public.
The power to disbar or suspend ought always to be exercised on the preservative and not on the vindictive
principle, with great caution and only for the most weighty reasons and only on clear cases of misconduct which
seriously affect the standing and character of the lawyer as an officer of the court and member of the Bar. Only
those acts which cause loss of moral character should merit disbarment or suspension, while those acts which
neither affect nor erode the moral character of the lawyer should only justify a lesser sanction unless they are of
such nature and to such extent as to clearly show the lawyer's unfitness to continue in the practice of law. The
dubious character of the act charged as well as the motivation which induced the lawyer to commit it must be
clearly demonstrated before suspension or disbarment is meted out. The mitigating or aggravating circumstances
that attended the commission of the offense should also be considered.
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The penalty for maintaining an illicit relationship may either be suspension or disbarment, depending on the
circumstances of the case.29 In case of suspension, the period would range from one year 30to indefinite suspension,
as in the case of Cordova v. Cordova,31 where the lawyer was found to have maintained an adulterous relationship
for two years and refused to support his family. On the other hand, there is a string of cases where the Court
meted out the extreme penalty of disbarment, to wit:
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In Toledo v. Toledo,32 a lawyer was disbarred from the practice of law, when he abandoned his lawful wife and
cohabited with another woman who had borne him a child.
In Obusan v. Obusan, Jr.,33 a lawyer was disbarred after the complainant proved that he had abandoned her and
maintained an adulterous relationship with a married woman. The Court declared that the respondent failed to

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maintain the highest degree of morality expected and required of a member of the Bar.
In Cojuangco, Jr. v. Palma,34 the respondent lawyer was disbarred when he abandoned his lawful wife and three
children, lured an innocent woman into marrying him and misrepresented himself as a "bachelor" so he could
contract marriage in a foreign land.
In Dantes v. Dantes,35 disbarment was imposed as a penalty on the respondent lawyer who maintained illicit
relationships with two different women during the subsistence of his marriage to the complainant. The
Complainant's testimony, taken in conjunction with the documentary evidence, sufficiently established that the
respondent breached the high and exacting moral standards set for members of the law profession.
In Villatuya v. Tabalingcos,36 the respondent lawyer was disbarred because he was found to have entered into
marriage twice while his first marriage was still subsisting. The Court declared that he 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.
In the case at bench, Atty. Dabon's misconduct and unrepentant demeanor clearly showed a serious flaw in his
character, his moral indifference to the sanctity of marriage and marital vows, and his outright defiance of
established norms. All these could not but put the legal profession in disrepute and place the integrity of the
administration of justice in peril. Accordingly, the Court finds the need for the imposition of the extreme
administrative penalty of disbarment.
WHEREFORE, finding the respondent Atty. Antolin Allyson M. Dabon, Jr. GUILTY of Gross Immorality, the Court
hereby DISBARS him from the practice of law.
Let respondent's name be stricken from the Roll of Attorneys immediately. Furnish the Bar Confidant, the
Integrated Bar of the Philippines and all court throughout the country with copies of this Decision.
SO ORDERED.

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SECOND DIVISION
G.R. No. 191031, October 05, 2015
DOLORES L. HACBANG AND BERNARDO J. HACBANG, Petitioners, v. ATTY. BASILIO H. ALO,Respondent.
DECISION
BRION, J.:*
This petition for review on certiorari seeks to reverse the 13 October 2009 Decision and the 21 January 2010
resolution of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R CV No. 83137.1 The CA affirmed the Quezon City Regional Trial
Court's (RTC) dismissal of the petitioners' complaint in Civil Case No. Q 99-366602 for lack of cause of action.
ANTECEDENTS
On 3 April 1937, Bishop Sofronio Hacbang (Bishop Sofronio) died leaving several properties behind. Among these
was Lot No. 8-A of subdivision Plan Psd-6227 located at Espaa Street, San Juan, Rizal, 3covered by Transfer
Certificate of Title (TCT) No. (19896) 227644 (the subject lot).
Bishop Sofronio was survived by his parents, Basilio and Maria Hacbang, and his siblings: Perfecto Hacbang,
Joaquin Hacbang, Lucia Teresita Hacbang, and Dolores Hacbang Alo. Petitioner Dolores L. Hacbang is the
grandchild of Perfecto while petitioner Bernardo Hacbang (Bernardo) is a son of Joaquin. The respondent Basilio
Alo is the son of Dolores.
Bishop Sofronio left a will denominated as Ultima Voluntad y Testamento. He left one-half of his properties to his
parents and devised the other half - including the subject lot - to his sister Dolores. The pertinent portions of his
will read:
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FOURTH: By these presents I give, name, declare and institute as heirs my parents BASILIO HACBANG and MARIA
GABORNY DE HACBANG of one-half of all my properties, whether real, personal or mixed, in whatever place they
may be found, whether they were acquired before or after the execution of this testament, including all the
properties that at the time of my death I may have the power to dispose of by will, and which properties consist of
the following:
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Fifty (50) percent of the shares of stock that I own in the "SAMAR NAVIGATION CO. INC."
A parcel of land with its camarin situated in the Municipality of Carigara, Province of Leyte.
A parcel of land in the Barrio of Pinamopuan, of the Municipality of Capoocan, Province of Leyte.
A parcel of land with house and planted to coconuts in the Barrio of Sorsogon, Municipality of Sta. Margarita,
Province of Samar.
FIFTH: The other remaining half of my properties wherever they may be located, by these presents I
give, cede and hand over to my sister Dolores Hacbang, which properties are more particularly described as
follows:
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Fifty (50) percent of my stockholdings in the "SAMAR NAVIGATION CO. INC."


A piece of land with one house where the Botica San Antonio is located, in the Municipality of Calbayog, Province of
Samar.
A piece of land with house in Acedillo St., Municipality of Calbayog, Province of Samar.
A piece of land with 1 camarin in the barrio of Sorsogon, Municipality of Sta. Margarita, Province of Samar.
Six (6) Parcels of land located in "NEW MANILA," Municipality of San Juan, Province of Rizal, in 7 th St., described as
follows: Block 7, Lots 16, 18, 20 and 22, and in 3rd Street, Block 3, Lots 4 and 6.
A piece of land situated in Espana St., Municipality of San Juan del Monte of the Province of Rizal,
marked as Lot 8-A, Block 17, of 1,403 square meters in area.4
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On 16 April 1937, a petition for the probate of Bishop Sofronio's will and the settlement of his estate was filed
before the then Court of First Instance (CFI) of Manila. The petition was docketed as SP. PROC. No. 51199.
On 21 May 1937, the CFI admitted Bishop Sofronio's will to probate. 5
The records are bare with respect to what happened next. They show, however, that the CFI ordered the
proceedings to be archived on 2 November 1957.
On 24 September 1971, the Register of Deeds of Quezon City appears to have issued TCT No. 169342over the
subject lot in the name of respondent Basilio H. Alo. TCT No. 169342 cancelled TCT No. 117322/T-500. However,
this Court cannot determine the circumstances surrounding the issuance of TCT No. 169342 or the relationship
between TCT No. 117322/T-500 and TCT No. (19896) 227644 due to the inadequacy of the documents on record.
On 17 March 1975, Dolores Hacbang Alo moved to revive the settlement proceedings because the CFI had not yet
completed adjudicating the properties.
On 23 May 1975, the CFI denied the motion for revival because the order to archive "had long become final and
executory."6
On 1 February 1999, petitioners Dolores L. Hacbang and Bernardo filed a petition to cancel TCT No. 169342 on the
ground that it was fraudulently secured. In support of their allegations, they submitted the 5 March 1997
Investigation Report of Land Registration Authority (LRA) Investigator Rodrigo I. Del Rosario. The report concluded
that TCT No. 117322 was of "doubtful authenticity" and was neither derived from TCT No. 117322 nor issued by
the Registry of Deeds of Quezon City on 24 September 1971 at 2:30 PM.
In his Answer dated 18 August 1999, Basilio denied all allegations of irregularity and wrongdoing. He also moved
to dismiss the petition because the petitioners were neither heirs nor devisees of Bishop Sofronio and had no legal
interest in the subject lot.
On 7 January 2003, the RTC dismissed the petition because the petitioners had no right to prosecute the case on
the subject lot. The RTC noted that Bishop Sofronio's will had already been admitted into probate in 1937; thus,
the intrinsic validity of the will is no longer in question. Though the settlement proceedings were archived, Bishop
Sofronio already designated his heirs: Bishop Sofronio's parents were compulsory heirs entitled to half of his
estate while the respondent's mother, Dolores Hacbang Alo, was devised the remaining half (the free portion).
Thus, the petitioners, who are neither compulsory nor testamentary heirs, are not real parties in interest.
The petitioners moved for reconsideration which the RTC denied on 19 August 2003.
The petitioners appealed to the CA, arguing that: (1) Bishop Sofronio's will did not validly transfer the subject
property to Dolores Hacbang Alo; (2) the probate of the will is not conclusive as to the validity of its intrinsic
provisions; and (3) only a final decree of distribution of the estate vests title on the properties from the estate on
the distributees.7 The appeal was docketed as CA-G.R CV No. 83137.
They further argued that the distribution of the estate should be governed by intestate succession because: (1)
the subject property was not adjudicated; and (2) the settlement proceedings were archived and dismissed. Thus,
all the properties passed on to and became part of the estate of Bishop Sofronio's parents. The petitioners
concluded that they had legal interest in the subject lot as representatives of their ascendants, the other children
of Bishop Sofronio's parents.
In his appeal brief, the respondent insisted that the petitioners do not have a clear legal right to maintain the suit
because: (1) as collateral relatives, they cannot invoke the right of representation to the estate of Bishop Sofronio;
and (2) they are not real parties in interest and have no right of action over the subject lot.
On 13 October 2009, the CA affirmed the RTC's order of dismissal. The CA held that the admission of Bishop
Sofronio's will to probate precluded intestate succession unless the will was intrinsically invalid or failed to
completely dispose of his estate. Contrary to the petitioners' contention, the settlement proceedings were not
dismissed but archived; the will did not lose its validity merely because the proceedings were archived.
Undoubtedly, Bishop Sofronio did not die intestate.
The CA denied the petitioners' claim to a right of inheritance by representation. It held that the presence of Bishop
Sofronio's parents during his death excluded his brothers and sisters from being compulsory heirs; the petitioners
cannot represent those who are hot entitled to succeed. Considering that they are neither compulsory nor
testamentary heirs, petitioners have no legal interest in the subject property.
The petitioners moved for reconsideration which the CA denied on 21 January 2010. The denial paved the way for
the petitioners to file the present petition for review on certiorari.

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THE PETITION
The petitioners argue: (1) that the CA erred when it failed to rule on the validity of TCT No. 169342; (2) that the
probate proceedings of the estate was dismissed, not archived; and (3) that the CA erred when it used Bishop
Sofronio's will as basis to declare that they are not real parties in interest.
In his Comment, the respondent maintained that the petitioners had no right over the property and moved to
dismiss the present petition.
OUR RULING
At the outset, this Court observes that the parties and even the lower courts erroneously applied the provisions of
the present Civil Code to the will and the estate of Bishop Sofronio. The law in force at the time of the decedent's
death determines the applicable law over the settlement of his estate. 8 Bishop Sofronio died in 1937 before the
enactment of the Civil Code in 1949. Therefore, the correct applicable laws to the settlement of his estate are the
1889 Spanish Civil Code and the 1901 Code of Civil Procedure.
In any case, under both the Spanish Code and our Civil Code, successional rights are vested at the precise
moment of the death of the decedent. Section 657 of the Spanish code provides:
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Art. 657. Los derechos a la sucesion de una persona se transmiten desde el momento de su muerte. 9

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The inheritance vests immediately upon the decedent's death without a moment's interruption. This provision was
later on translated and adopted as Article 777 of our Civil Code. 10
As a consequence of this principle, ownership over the inheritance passes to the heirs at the precisemoment of
death - not at the time the heirs are declared, nor at the time of the partition, nor at the distribution of the
properties. There is no interruption between the end of the decedent's ownership and the start of the
heir/legatee/devisee's ownership.
For intestate heirs, this means that they are immediately entitled to their hereditary shares in the estate even
though they may not be entitled to any particular properties yet. For legatees and devisees granted specific
properties, this means that they acquire ownership over the legacies and devises at that immediate moment
without prejudice to the legitimes of compulsory heirs.
Undoubtedly, Bishop Sofronio did not die intestate. He left a will that was probated in 1937. He left half of his
properties to his parents and the remaining half to his sister Dolores Hacbang Alo. The admission of his will to
probate is conclusive with respect to its due execution and extrinsic validity.11
Unfortunately, the settlement proceedings were never concluded; the case was archived without any
pronouncement as to the intrinsic validity of the will or an adjudication of the properties. Because of this, the
petitioners posit that intestate succession should govern. They maintain that the entire inheritance should have
gone to Bishop Sofronio's parents, the petitioners' ascendants. Thus, they claim to have a legal interest in the
subject lot as representatives of the other children of Bishop Sofronio's parents.
We do not find the petitioners' argument meritorious.
Our jurisdiction has always respected a decedent's freedom to dispose of his estate, whether under the Spanish
Civil Code or under the present Civil Code. Article 763 of the Spanish Code provides:
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Art. 763. El que no tuviere herederos forzosos puede disponer por testamento de todos sus bienes o de parte de
ellos en favor de cualquiera persona que tenga capacidad para adquirirlos. El que tuviere herederos forzosos solo
podra disponer de sus bienes en la forma y con las limitaciones que se establecen en la section quinta de este
capitulo.
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This provision states that a person without compulsory heirs may dispose of his estate, either in part or in its
entirety, in favor of anyone capacitated to succeed him; if the testator has compulsory heirs, he can dispose of his
property provided he does not impair their legitimes. This provision was later translated and adopted as Article 842
of our Civil Code.12
Our jurisdiction accords great respect to the testator's freedom of disposition. Hence, testate succession has
always been preferred over intestacy.13 As much as possible, a testator's will is treated and interpreted in a way
that would render all of its provisions operative. 14 Hence, there is no basis to apply the provisions on intestacy
when testate succession evidently applies.
Even though the CFI archived the settlement proceedings, there is no indication that it declared any of the
dispositions in the will invalid. The records are understandably bare considering the probate proceedings were
initiated as early as 1937. Nonetheless, we find no reason to doubt the intrinsic validity of the will.

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Bishop Sofronio was free to dispose of his estate without prejudice to the legitimes of his compulsory heirs. Bishop
Sofronio's only compulsory heirs were his parents.15 Their legitime was one-half of Bishop Sofronio's
estate.16 Considering that Bishop Sofronio gave his parents half of his estate, then he was free to dispose of the
free portion of his estate in favor of his sister, Dolores Hacbang Alo. Thus, his will was intrinsically valid.
The CFPs failure to adjudicate the specific properties is irrelevant because Bishop Sofronio did not just name his
heirs; he also identified the specific properties forming part of their inheritance. The dispositions in the will
rendered court adjudication and distribution unnecessary.
The petitioners' contention that only a final decree of distribution of the estate vests title to the land of the estate
in the distributees is also incorrect. Again, ownership over the inheritance vests upon the heirs, legatees, and
devisees immediately upon the death of the decedent.
At the precise moment of death, the heirs become owners of the estate pro-indiviso. They become absolute
owners of their undivided aliquot share but with respect to the individual properties of the estate, they become coowners. This co-ownership remains until partition and distribution. Until then, the individual heirs cannot claim any
rights over a specific property from the estate. This is because the heirs do not know which properties will be
adjudicated to them yet. Hence, there is a need for a partition before title over particular properties vest in the
distributee-heirs.
However, heirs, legatees, and devisees bequeathed specific properties do not require Court adjudication to identify
which particular properties become theirs; the testator had already identified these. From the very moment of the
testator's death, title over these particular properties vests on the heir, legatee, or devisee.
On 3 April 1937, title over the subject lot passed on to the respondent's mother, Dolores Hacbang Alo, at the exact
moment of her brother's death. From that moment on, she was free to dispose of the subject lot as a consequence
of her ownership.
On the other hand, Bishop Sofronio's parents, Basilio and Maria Gaborny Hacbang, never acquired the title over
the subject lot. Thus, it never became part of their estate. Clearly, the petitioners - who claim to represent the
children of Basilio and Maria Gaborny in the spouses' estate -have no legal right or interest over the subject lot.
Every ordinary civil action must be based on a cause of action - an act or omission that violates the rights of the
plaintiff.17 A cause of action requires:
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(1) a legal right in favor of the plaintiff;

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(2) a correlative duty of the defendant to respect the plaintiffs right; and
(3) an act or omission of the defendant in violation of the plaintiffs right. 18
Every action must also be prosecuted or defended in the name of the real party in interest: the party who stands
to be benefited or injured by the judgment.19 These fundamental requirements are not merely technical matters;
they go into the very substance of every suit.
The petitioners came to the courts praying for the annulment of the respondent's title yet they failed to show that
they are entitled to even ask for such relief. They have no right over the subject lot and the respondent has no
legal obligation to them with respect to the subject lot. Even if we assume that the respondent fraudulently or
irregularly secured his certificate of title, the bottom-line is that the petitioners have no legal standing to sue for
the cancellation of this title. This right only belongs to the rightful owner of the subject lot.
Judicial power is the duty of the courts to settle actual controversies involving rights which are legally
demandable and enforceable.20 Courts settle real legal disputes involving the rights and obligations between
parties. If either of the parties is not the real party in interest, the Court cannot grant the reliefs prayed for
because that party has no legal right or duty with respect to his opponent. Further litigation becomes an academic
exercise in legal theory that eventually settles nothing - a waste of time that could have been spent resolving
actual justiciable controversies.
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the petition is DENIED for lack of merit. Costs against the petitioners.
SO ORDERED.

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Peralta,** Del Castillo, Leonen, and Jardeleza,*** JJ., concur.

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FIRST DIVISION
A.C. No. 10783, October 14, 2015
ATTY. BENIGNO T. BARTOLOME, Complainant, v. ATTY. CHRISTOPHER A. BASILIO, Respondent.
DECISION
PERLAS-BERNABE, J.:
This administrative case stems from a complaint1 filed by complainant Atty. Benigno T. Bartolome (Bartolome) on
May 19, 2009 before the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) against respondent Atty. Christopher A. Basilio
(Basilio) for violation of the 2004 Rules on Notarial Practice 2 (Notarial Rules).
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The Facts
In the complaint, Bartolome alleged that Basilio, a notary public in Tarlac City, notarized a document entitled "Joint
Affidavit of Non-Tenancy and Aggregate Landholdings" 3 (Joint Affidavit) purportedly subscribed and sworn to before
him by Loreto M. Taedo (Tanedo) and Ramon T. Lim on January 15, 2006, and supposedly recorded as Doc. No.
375, Page No. 75, Book No. X, Series of 2007 in his notarial register,4 despite the fact that Taedo had already
passed away as early as December 1, 2003.5
In his Answer/Comment6 dated June 24, 2009, Basilio admitted having notarized the Joint Affidavit but claimed
that, prior to the notarization, he verified the identities of the persons who appeared before him through their
respective Social Security System (SSS) identification cards and driver's licenses. He further denied any knowledge
that the one who appeared before him misrepresented himself as Taedo and that the latter was already dead as
of December 1, 2003.7
During the clarificatory hearing, Basilio, who undisputedly notarized the Joint Affidavit, admitted his failure to: (a)
record the subject document in his notarial book; (b) submit a copy of the same to the Regional Trial Court of
Tarlac City (RTC); and (c) have the notarization revoked or recalled.8
The IBP's Report and Recommendation
In a Report and Recommendation9 dated June 10, 2010 submitted by IBP Investigating Commissioner Randall C.
Tabayoyong (Investigating Commissioner), Basilio was found to have manifested gross negligence and a complete
disregard of the Notarial Rules. The Investigating Commissioner pointed out that contrary to Section 8, in relation
to Section 6, Rule II of the Notarial Rules, Basilio failed to indicate in the Joint Affidavit the details of the SSS
identification card and driver's license which were allegedly shown as competent evidence of identity of the
persons who appeared before him. Thus, his claim that he verified the identities of the persons who subscribed the
Joint Affidavit could not be given credence. Basilio also failed to record in his notarial register his notarial act on
the Joint Affidavit in violation of Section 2 (a), Rule VI of the Notarial Rules. Lastly, the Investigating Commissioner
found that Basilio failed to submit a copy of the Joint Affidavit to the Clerk of Court of the RTC, contrary to Section
2 (h), Rule VI of the Notarial Rules.10 Accordingly, he recommended that Basilio's notarial commission, if still
existing, be revoked; he be disqualified from obtaining a notarial commission for a period of one (1) year and
suspended from the practice of law for six (6) months. 11
In a Resolution12 dated December 29, 2012, the IBP Board of Governors adopted and approved the Investigating
Commissioner's Report and Recommendation. Dissatisfied, Basilio filed a motion for reconsideration, which was
denied in a Resolution13 dated September 27, 2014.
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The Issue Before the Court


The sole issue for the Court's resolution is whether or not the IBP correctly found Basilio liable for violation of the
Notarial Rules.
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The Court's Ruling


The act of notarization is impressed with public interest.14 As such, a notary public must observe the highest
degree of care in complying with the basic requirements in the performance of his duties in order to preserve the
confidence of the public in the integrity of the notarial system. 15

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In the present case, Basilio, as duly found by the IBP, failed to faithfully comply with his duties as a notary public.
Section 5 (b), Rule IV of the Notarial Rules clearly states that:
SEC. 5. False or Incomplete Certificate. A notary public shall not:
xxxx
(b) affix an official signature or seal on a notarial certificate that is incomplete. (Emphases supplied)

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A notarial certificate, as defined in Section 8, Rule II of the Notarial Rules, requires a statement of the facts
attested to by the notary public in a particular notarization, viz.:
SEC. 8. Notarial Certificate. "Notarial Certificate" refers to the part of, or attachment to, a notarized instrument
or document that is completed by the notary public, bears the notary's signature and seal, and states the facts
attested to by the notary public in a particular notarization as provided for by these Rules. (Emphasis
supplied)
Meanwhile, a jurat is, among others, an attestation that the person who presented the instrument or document to
be notarized is personally known to the notary public or identified by the notary public through competent
evidence of identity as defined by the Notarial Rules:16
SEC. 6. Jurat. "Jurat" refers to an act in which an individual on a single occasion:
(a) appears in person before the notary public and presents an instrument or document;

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(b) is personally known to the notary public or identified by the notary public through competent evidence of
identity as defined by these Rules;
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(c) signs the instrument or document in the presence of the notary; and
(d) takes an oath or affirmation before the notary public as to such instrument or document. (Emphasis
supplied)
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As the records bear out, Basilio affixed his official signature and seal on the notarial certificate of the Joint Affidavit
without properly identifying the person/s who signed the same. His claim that he verified the identities of the
affiants through their respective SSS identification cards and driver's licenses cannot be given any credence
considering the ostensible lack of their details on the face of the certificate. Neither was he able to provide the fact
of identification in any way. On the other hand, it has been established that one of the named signatories to the
Joint Affidavit was already dead when he notarized the aforesaid document. Hence, it is sufficiently clear that
Basilio had indeed affixed his official signature and seal on an incomplete, if not false, notarial certificate.
Moreover, by the same account, Basilio violated Section 2 (b), Rule IV of the Notarial Rules which prohibits the
notarization of a document if the person involved is not personally known to the notary public or has not identified
himself through competent evidence of identity:
SEC. 2. Prohibitions. - x x x
xxxx
(b) A person shall not perform a notarial act if the person involved as signatory to the instrument or document (1) is not in the notary's presence personally at the time of the notarization; and
(2) is not personally known to the notary public or otherwise identified by the notary public through
competent evidence of identity as defined by these Rules. (Emphasis supplied)
To add, Basilio himself admitted that he failed to record his notarial act on the Joint Affidavit in his notarial register,
contrary to Section 2 (a), Rule VI of the Notarial Rules, which states:
SEC. 2. Entries in the Notarial Register. (a) For every notarial act, the notary shall record in the notarial
register at the time of notarization the following:
(1) the entry number and page number;
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(2) the date and time of day of the notarial act;


(3) the type of notarial act;

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(4) the title or description of the instrument, document or proceeding;

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(5) the name and address of each principal;

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(6) the competent evidence of identity as defined by these Rules if the signatory is not personally
known to the notary;
(7) the name and address of each credible witness swearing to or affirming the person's identity;
(8) the fee charged for the notarial act;

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(9) the address where the notarization was performed if not in the notary's regular place of work or business; and
(10) any other circumstance the notary public may deem of significance or relevance.
x x x x (Emphases supplied)

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Since the notarial register is a record of the notary public's official acts, he is charged with recording therein the
necessary information regarding the document or instrument notarized. If the document or instrument does not
appear in the notarial records, doubt as to its nature arises so that the alleged notarized document cannot be
considered a public document.17 Considering the evidentiary value given to the notarized documents, the failure of
the notary public to record the document in his notarial register is tantamount to falsely making it appear that the
document was notarized when, in fact, it was not,18 as in this case.
It should be clarified, however, that while Basilio had also failed to submit a copy of the Joint Affidavit to the Clerk
of Court of the RTC, and to retain a copy thereof for his own records, the requirement therefor, as stated under
Section 2 (h),19 Rule VI of the Notarial Rules, applies only to instruments acknowledged before the notary public.
Documents like the Joint Affidavit which contain a jurat and not an acknowledgment are not required to be
forwarded to the Clerk of Court. Hence, there should be no administrative infraction on this score. Nevertheless,
Basilio's afore-discussed violations of the Notarial Rules are grave enough to warrant sanctions from the Court.
A notary public exercises duties calling for carefulness and faithfulness. 20 Notaries must inform themselves of the
facts they certify to; most importantly, they should not take part or allow themselves to be part of illegal
transactions.21 In line with this mandate, a notary public should not notarize a document unless the person who
signed the same is the very person who executed and personally appeared before him to attest to the contents
and the truth of what are stated therein.22By failing in this regard, the notary public permits a falsehood which
does not only transgress the Notarial Rules but also Rule 1.01, Canon 1 of the Code of Professional Responsibility,
which provides that "[a] lawyer shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct." 23 Verily, a
notarized document is, by law, entitled to full faith and credit upon its face; and it is for this reason that a notary
public must observe with utmost care the basic requirements in the performance of his duties; otherwise, the
public's confidence in the integrity of a notarized document would be undermined.
As herein discussed, Basilio's failure to properly perform his duty as a notary public resulted not only in damage to
those directly affected by the notarized document, but also in undermining the integrity of the office of a notary
public and in degrading the function of notarization. In fine, he should be meted out with the modified penalty of
disqualification from being commissioned as notary public for a period of two (2) years and suspension from the
practice of law for one (1) year. Although there is no showing that Basilio prepared the document in question, his
utter disregard of the Notarial Rules as exhibited during the proceedings before the IBP, together with his admitted
failure to revoke or recall his notarization despite his knowledge of its irregularity, warrants the same treatment as
the errant lawyer in Agbulos v. Viray:24
[T]he Court finds the need to increase that recommended by the IBP which is one month suspension as a lawyer
and six months suspension as notary public, considering that respondent himself prepared the document, and he
performed the notarial act without the personal appearance of the affiant and without identifying her with
competent evidence of her identity. With his indiscretion, he allowed the use of a CTC by someone who did not
own it. Worse, he allowed himself to be an instrument of fraud. Based on existing jurisprudence, when a lawyer
commissioned as a notary public fails to discharge his duties as such, he is meted the penalties of revocation of his
notarial commission, disqualification from being commissioned as a notary public for a period of two
years, and suspension from the practice of law for one year.25 (Emphasis supplied)
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WHEREFORE, the Court finds respondent Atty. Christopher A. Basilio GUILTY of violating the 2004 Rules of
Notarial Practice and Rule 1.01, Canon 1 of the Code of Professional Responsibility. Accordingly, the Court
hereby SUSPENDS him from the practice of law for one (1) year; REVOKEShis incumbent commission as a notary
public, if any; and PROHIBITS him from being commissioned as a notary public for two (2) years, effective
immediately. He is WARNED that a repetition of the same offense or similar acts in the future shall be dealt with
more severely.
SO ORDERED.

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FIRST DIVISION
G.R. No. 194814, October 21, 2015
ROSARIO ENRIQUEZ VDA. DE SANTIAGO, Petitioner, v. ATTY. JOSE A. SUING, Respondent.
G.R. NO. 194825
JAIME C. VISTAR, Petitioner, v. ATTY. JOSE A. SUING, Respondent.
DECISION
LEONARDO-DE CASTRO, J.:
The Court is now faced with two consolidated cases that stemmed from litigation long-resolved but which gave rise
to a dispute between a lawyer and his client.
G.R. No. 194814 is a petition1 for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court filed by petitioner
Rosario Enriquez Vda. de Santiago (Rosario), while G.R. No. 194825 is a petition2 for review oncertiorari filed by
Jaime C. Vistar (Vistar). Both petitions assail the Amended Decision 3 dated June 4, 2010 and the Resolution4 dated
December 17, 2010 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 97807.
THE FACTS
The Complaint for Reconveyance

Respondent Atty. Jose A. Suing (Atty. Suing) served as counsel for the plaintiff in Civil Case No. 59439, which
was filed before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Pasig City, Branch 71 on May 7, 1990. 5 The original plaintiff,
Eduardo M. Santiago (Eduardo), sought the reconveyance of 91 parcels of land from the Government Service
Insurance System (GSIS). On October 18, 1994, Atty. Suing and Atty. Roberto R. Reverente (Atty. Reverente)
entered their appearance as Eduardo's counsels.6 Unfortunately, Eduardo passed away on March 6, 1996.7 By
virtue of the RTC Order8 dated March 27, 1996, Eduardo was substituted by his widow, Rosario.
Consequently, on May 8, 1996, Rosario entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) 9 with Atty. Suing,
Atty. Reverente,10 and Atty. Wellington B. Lachica (Atty. Lachica). Said MOU pertinently states:
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3. THAT [Atty. Suing, Atty. ReverenteJ and [Atty. Lachica] agree to render their legal services to [Rosario] on a
contingency basis and shall not collect acceptance nor advance legal fees from [Rosario] excepting only as are
consisting of out-of-pocket expenses, such as docket fees, sheriff fees and costs of stenographic notes and
photocopies or certified true copies of documents and other legal papers;
4. THAT [Atty. Suing and Atty. Reverente] shall represent [Rosario] during all the trial hearings of the above case;
while [Atty. Lachica] shall collaborate and endevour (sic) also to secure a final and executory judgment of the case
before the lower court;
5. THAT in the [event] [Atty. Suing, Atty. Reverente] and [Atty. Lachica] are able to secure a favorable final and
executory judgment from the lower court, [Rosario] shall share and deliver to [Atty. Suing, Atty. Reverente] and
[Atty. Lachica] out of the net proceeds and/or net benefits which [Rosario] shall have acquired and/or obtained
from the said judgment in the following proportions:
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a. To [Atty. Suing and Atty. Reverente] - 35% of the net proceeds and/or net benefits;
b. To [Atty. Lachica] - 30% of the net proceeds and/or net benefits;
6. THAT in the [event] of said favorable final and executory judgment [Rosario] agrees to have the above net
sharing be constituted as attorney's lien on all the property/ies which may be awarded to [Rosario] in satisfaction
of said final judgment;
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Thereafter, on December 17, 1997, the RTC rendered judgment in Civil Case No. 59439, ordering GSIS to

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reconvey 78 of the subject parcels to Rosario or to pay her the fair market value of said parcels of land if
reconveyance cannot be done. GSIS appealed the trial court's decision to the Court of Appeals, 11 which appeal was
docketed as CA-G.R. CV No. 62309.12 In a Decision dated February 22, 2002, the Court of Appeals affirmed the
trial court's ruling. GSIS elevated the case to this Court via a petition for review oncertiorari that was docketed as
G.R. No. 155206, but the petition was also denied in the Court's Decision dated October 28, 2003. Subsequently,
after the denial of GSIS's motion for reconsideration, the Court issued an entry of judgment in G.R. No. 155206. 13
The Motion for Execution
Thereafter, Rosario, through Atty. Suing, filed a motion for execution of the RTC Decision dated December 17,
1997 as affirmed by the Court of Appeals and this Court. In an Order dated April 27, 2004, the trial court
granted the motion for execution. The RTC subsequently issued a writ of execution and notices of garnishment to
the Philippine National Bank (PNB) and Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP), among others, against the
deposits of GSIS. GSIS moved to quash the writ of execution, but the RTC denied the same in its Order dated
May 13, 2004.
GSIS then assailed the above RTC orders before the Court of Appeals in a petition for certiorari and prohibition
with a prayer for a temporary restraining order and/or a writ of preliminary injunction, which was docketed as CAG.R. SP No. 84079. On May 27, 2004, the Court of Appeals temporarily enjoined the enforcement of the trial
court's order of execution and garnishment. The appellate court also resolved to grant GSIS's application for a
preliminary injunction.14
In a Decision15dated August 3, 2006, the Court of Appeals eventually allowed the partial execution of the RTC
Decision dated December 17, 1997, to wit:
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WHEREFORE, premises considered, the instant petition is PARTIALLY GRANTED. The orders dated April 27,
2004 and May 13, 2004 and writ of execution dated April 28, 2004, all issued by the Regional Trial Court of Pasig
City (Branch 71) in Civil Case No. 59439 entitled "Eduardo M. Santiago, etc., vs. Government Service Insurance
System", are AFFIRMEDwith MODIFICATIONS in (i) that said orders and writ shall be for the satisfaction of the
decision dated December 17, 1997 rendered in said case to the extent of the sum of P399,828,000.00; and (ii)
that said court is directed to immediately conduct a hearing for the purpose of determining the fair market value of
the subject lots as of April 29, 2004 and, upon such determination, issue an order of execution and the
corresponding writ for the unsatisfied portion of the decision, if any.
The motion for reconsideration of our resolution dated July 27, 2004 and motion to allow immediate partial
execution filed by respondent Rosario Enriquez Vda. de Santiago arePARTIALLY GRANTED in that the writ of
preliminary injunction heretofore issued by this Court is PARTIALLY LIFTED, such that execution of the decision
in Civil Case No. 59439 for the amount of P399,828,000.00 may immediately proceed while the writ of preliminary
injunction against the execution of the rest of the judgment award is made PERMANENTsubject to the disposition
in the preceding paragraph.
For lack of merit, the motion to cite GSIS and others for direct contempt isDENIED.16(Underscoring supplied.)
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GSIS filed a Verified Motion for Reconsideration of the above ruling, but this was denied in the Court of Appeals
Resolution dated April 27, 2007. GSIS then assailed in a petition for review on certiorari before this Court the
Decision dated August 3, 2006 and the Resolution dated April 27, 2007 of the Court of Appeals. Said petition was
docketed as G.R. No. 177731.
The Enforcement ofAtty. Suing's Lien
Meanwhile, on April 26, 2006, Atty. Suing filed before the RTC in Civil Case No. 59439 a Notice of Attorney's
Lien.17 Given that the RTC Decision dated December 17, 1997 had since been affirmed with finality by this Court in
a Decision dated October 28, 2003 in G.R. No. 155206, Atty. Suing prayed that his attorney's lien and that ofAtty.
Reverente - i.e., 35% of the net proceeds and/or benefits, as stated in the MOU with Rosario - be satisfied
accordingly. In an Order18 dated May 3, 2006, the trial court merely noted the Notice of Attorney's Lien.
In a letter19 dated May 29, 2006, Rosario informed Atty. Suing and Atty. Reverente that she was "very disturbed"
by their filing of a Notice of Attorney's Lien. Rosario stated that the attorney's fees sought were clearly excessive
and unjustified and that she was dismayed that Atty. Suing even filed the claim on behalf of Atty. Reverente and
Atty. Lachica. Rosario said that she would be opposing the claim and that she was discharging Atty. Suing and Atty.
Reverente as counsels in all of her cases against GSIS.
On June 1, 2006, Rosario filed before the RTC in Civil Case No. 59439 a Notice of Discharge of Counsel, 20stating
that she has terminated the legal services ofAtty. Suing and Atty. Reverente as her counsels of record in said case.
In his comment21 thereto, Atty. Suing prayed for the denial of the Notice of Discharge of Counsel. He argued that
the stipulated 35% of the net proceeds of the judgment award was neither unconscionable nor unreasonable since
he and Atty. Reverente were Rosario's counsels for ten years and they successfully obtained a final judgment in
her favor.

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On June 20, 2006, Atty. Felito S. Ramirez (Atty. Ramirez) and Atty. Nicanor H. Lazaro (Atty. Lazaro) filed their
Notice of Appearance22 as counsels for Rosario before the RTC in Civil Case No. 59439. Said counsels likewise
entered their Notice of Appearance23 before the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 84079.
On August 10, 2006, Atty: Suing filed before the RTC in Civil Case No. 59439 a "Motion to Direct the Sheriff to
Proceed with the Execution of Garnished Funds of Defendant GSIS with DBP and PNB with Motion for Immediate
Execution of Undersigned Counsel's Attorney's Lien against such Garnished Funds." 24 He prayed, among others, for
an order directing the Sheriff of the RTC to collect from the DBP and PNB the amount of P399,828,000.00 and for a
writ of execution to be issued to satisfy his attorney's lien amounting to P139,939,800.00.
Rosario opposed the motion, praying that Atty. Suing be required to prove the amount of attorney's fees due him
on the basis of quantum meruit. Other lawyers who previously represented Rosario in the instant case also filed
their respective claims for attorney's fees.
In an Order dated September 12, 2006, the RTC resolved thus:

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WHEREFORE, premises considered, let the enforcement of the Writ of Execution dated April 28, 2004, up to the
extent allowed by the Decision of Court of Appeals proceed immediately.Ten percent (10%) of the proceeds of
the execution or (P39,982,800.00) shall be turned over to the Court to await the disposition of the
various claims of the lawyers. The 90% proceeds of the execution shall be turned over immediately to
[Rosario].
The Branch Sheriff of the Court is hereby directed to proceed immediately.25 (Emphasis ours.)

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On September 13, 2006, Atty. Suing filed before the trial court a Manifestation (re: Proof of Claims for Attorney's
Fees per Order dated August 16, 2006).26 He argued therein that he remained the counsel of Rosario as the latter's
Notice of Discharge of Counsel and the Notice of Appearance of Atty. Ramirez and Atty. Lazaro were yet to be
favorably acted upon by the trial court. Atty. Suing also reiterated his and Atty. Reverente's entitlement to 35% of
the judgment award as attorney's fees.
Subsequently, GSIS, Atty. Suing, and the other lawyers who filed charging liens on the judgment award to Rosario
all assailed the Order dated September 12, 2006 of the trial court. However, the RTC affirmed its previous ruling in
an Order27dated November 20, 2006, decreeing thus:
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WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Court resolves to DENY the defendant's motions x x x.
xxxx
The Sheriff is hereby directed to deliver the amount of Php359,845,200.00 representing the 90% of
Php399,828,000.00 to [Rosario] or her attorney-in-fact, Mr. Gregorio S.B. Enriquez, Jr.
The court further determines the respective attorney's fees and distributes thePhp39,982,800.00 (10% of
Php399,828,000.00) in the following manner:
1.

Atty. Jose A. Suing and Atty. Roberto R. Reverente - 60% or Php23,989,680.00;

2.

Atty. Sherwin S. Gatdula - 4% or Phpl ,599,312.00;

3.

Atty. Wellington B. Lachica - 1% or Php399,828.00; and

4.

Atty. Benjamin C. Santos - 35% or Phpl3,993,980.00.28 (Emphases ours.)

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GSIS, thereafter, filed before the Court a petition for certiorari and prohibition, seeking to annul the RTC Orders
dated September 12, 2006 and November 20, 2006 in Civil Case No. 59439 for having been issued with grave
abuse of discretion. Said petition was docketed as G.R. No. 175393, which was consolidated with G.R. No.
177731. To recall, G.R. No. 177731 involved GSIS's petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45, seeking to
reverse the Court of Appeals' Decision dated August 3, 2006 and Resolution dated April 27, 2007 in CA-G.R. SP
No. 84079.
The Court's Decision in G.R. Nos. 175393 and 177731
In our Decision29dated December 18, 2009, we dismissed GSIS's consolidated petitions in this wise:

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WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the consolidated petitions docketed as G.R. Nos. 175393 and
177731 are hereby DISMISSED. The Decision of the Court of Appeals dated August 3, 2006 in CA-G.R. SP No.
84079 and Resolution dated April 27, 2007 modifying the Orders by respondent judge dated November 20,
2006 and September 12, 2006 issued in Civil Case No. 59439 are hereby AFFIRMED.
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On February 15, 2010, we denied with finality GSIS's motion for reconsideration of the above decision. Our ruling
then became final on April 12, 2010.
Atty. Suins's Petition (CA-G.R. SPNo. 97807)
For his part, Atty. Suing filed on February 5, 2007 a petition30 for certiorari, prohibition and mandamus before the
Court of Appeals, assailing the RTC Orders dated September 12, 2006 and November 20, 2006. The petition was
docketed as CA-G.R. SP No. 97807. Atty. Suing argued that the aforesaid orders of the RTC contravened the
agreement of the parties in the MOU regarding the payment of attorney's fees.
On February 19, 2010, the Court of Appeals rendered a Decision31 against Atty. Suing, disposing thusly:

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WHEREFORE, all the foregoing considered, the instant petition is DISMISSED for lack of merit. The orders of the
Regional Trial Court of Pasig City (Branch 71) dated 12 September 2006 and 20 November 2006 in Civil Case No.
59439 are AFFIRMED in so far as they were assailed in this case.32
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The Court of Appeals explained that it found no grave abuse of discretion on the part of the trial court in granting
attorney's fees to Atty. Suing and his co-counsels based on quantum meruit. Under the MOU insisted upon by Atty.
Suing, he and Atty. Reverente were entitled to receive 35% of the net proceeds of the judgment award in the
case; while his co-counsel, Atty. Lachica, was entitled to 30% thereof. As said lawyers charged Rosario a
contingent attorney's fees equivalent to 65% of the net proceeds of the judgment award, the appellate court held
that said fees contained in the MOU were unreasonable and unconscionable.
Atty. Suing moved for reconsideration of the above ruling, which the appellate court granted. In anAmended
Decision dated June 4, 2010, the Court of Appeals reversed its earlier decision, thusly:
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WHEREFORE, premises considered, the instant Motion for Reconsideration is GRANTED and our Decision dated 19
February 2010, is hereby REVERSED and SET ASIDE, such that the Regional Trial Court of Pasig City (Branch 71) is
hereby ORDERED to AWARD to Atty. Jose A. Suing and Atty. Roberto R. Reverente 35% of the net
proceeds of the total judgment award in Civil Case No. 59439.33 (Emphasis ours.)
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This time, the Court of Appeals adjudged that the 35% contingent fee claimed by Atty. Suing was warranted since
he rendered a total of 12 years of legal service to Rosario and her late husband. While the case before the RTC was
a mere action for reconveyance, the appellate court found that the events subsequent to the trial court's decision
showed that Atty. Suing rendered legal services far more than what was expected of him. After the RTC rendered
its Decision dated December 17, 1997 in favor of Rosario, GSIS appealed the same to the Court of Appeals and to
the Supreme Court, albeit unsuccessfully. Thereafter, GSIS still questioned the execution of the trial court's
decision in the Court of Appeals and again in this Court.
The Court of Appeals also faulted Rosario for belatedly questioning the validity of the MOU in a letter dated May
29, 2006, despite the fact that the MOU was executed more than a decade ago on May 8, 1996. The Court of
Appeals found no indication that the MOU was obtained through fraud, imposition or suppression of facts.
Moreover, the timing of Rosario's letter, i.e., right before the execution of the RTC decision, raised suspicion that
she was merely trying to avoid a just and valid obligation to Atty. Suing. The appellate court further stressed that
Atty. Suing undertook a considerable risk in taking the case on a contingent basis, which risk was extended for at
least 12 years. Thus, the award of legal fees to Atty. Suing amounting to 35% of the net proceeds under the MOU,
which must still be shared with Atty. Reverente, was commensurate to their efforts in pursuing Rosario's cause.
Rosario34 and GSIS respectively moved for a reconsideration of the above decision. During the pendency thereof,
on October 1, 2010, Jaime C. Vistar filed a Motion for Leave to File Motion for Intervention.35Attached
therewith was the Motion for Intervention36 sought to be admitted. Vistar alleged, among others, that he had a
legal interest in the matter in litigation as he was a transferee of Rosario's right equivalent to fifty percent (50%)
of the judgment award to Rosario in Civil Case No. 59439. This interest was allegedly embodied in the
Agreement37 dated January 12, 2009 he executed with Rosario. He argued that said interest would be affected by
the outcome of the proceedings before the Court of Appeals.
In a Resolution dated December 17, 2010, the Court of Appeals denied the pending incidents in this wise:

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WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Motion for Reconsideration of [Rosario] is DENIED, the Motion for
Reconsideration of respondent GSIS is DENIED, the Motion to Intervene by Jaime C. Vistar is DENIED and the
Court's Amended Decision dated 04 June 2010 is herebyAFFIRMED.38
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The Court of Appeals reiterated, inter alia, that Atty. Suing rendered legal service for Rosario for a total of 12 years

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and throughout said period, he was able to secure favorable decisions in the trial court, the Court of Appeals, and
the Supreme Court. Thus, the appellate court deemed it proper to give effect to the clear terms of the MOU
regarding the stipulated attorney's fees. The Court of Appeals also found no substantial evidence to support the
allegation that Atty. Suing took advantage of Rosario in securing the MOU. Contrary to the claim of Rosario, the
appellate court ruled that the Amended Decision dated June 4, 2010 did not run counter to the Court's Decision
dated December 18, 2009 in G.R. Nos. 175393 and 177731. The Court Appeals stated that said judgment of the
Supreme Court did not touch upon the issues pertaining to the validity of the MOU or the distribution of attorney's
fees.
The Court of Appeals also rejected the Motion for Intervention of Vistar, holding that the same was belatedly filed,
i.e., filed after the rendition of the trial court's decision in the reconveyance case. The appellate court ruled that
Vistar was not precluded from pursuing his claim against Rosario in a separate action.
To assail the above-mentioned rulings of the Court of Appeals, Rosario, thus, filed before this Court the instant
petition for review docketed as G.R. No. 194814 on February 7, 2011, while Vistar filed the petition for review
docketed as G.R. No. 194825 on even date. In a Resolution39 dated January 17, 2011, the Court ordered the
consolidation of the said petitions.
The Intervention of Jaime Vistar
To provide a clearer picture of Vistar's prayer for intervention, a brief background thereof is in order.
On January 12, 2009, Rosario and Vistar, both purportedly represented by a certain Atty. Rene Lazaro Bondal, filed
a Joint Manifestation (with Motion for Judicial Confirmation and Approval) 40 before the RTC in Civil Case
No. 59439. They prayed for the trial court to confirm and approve the Agreement they entered into, which was
attached to their motion. In accordance therewith, Vistar was to render financial assistance and consultancy
services to Rosario for the purpose of assisting her in recovering from the GSIS certain real properties and/or
compensation for real properties in Civil Case No. 59439 and other related cases before the Court of Appeals and
the Supreme Court. As consideration for said services, Rosario was to transfer to Vistar 50% of whatever amount
she was entitled to receive as judgment award in the aforesaid case. The Agreement likewise provided that the
parties shall submit the same to the RTC for approval and implementation, after which Vistar may be substituted
and/or impleaded in Civil Case No. 59439 to the extent of his assignment without further consent from Rosario.
In an Order41 dated September 17, 2010, the RTC in Civil Case No. 59439 resolved the above Joint
Manifestation, together with the other pending incidents in the case. The trial court noted that:
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The Joint Manifestation for Judicial Confirmation and Approval filed by Atty. Rene Lazaro Bondal, for [Rosario], and
Mr. Vistar, is nothing else but the agreements [sic] between Mr. Vistar and [Rosario] which, on its face, is the law
between the parties.
Atty. Ramirez claims, however, that the foregoing agreements (sic) was repudiated by [Rosario], despite [her]
admission that Mr. Vistar has helped [her] financially in the amount [of] one (1) million in cash. The claims of Mr.
Vistar is one-half (1/2) of the amount of the initial award.
xxxx
This Court is now faced with the claims of the attorney's fees which are now enforceable and the contending claims
and interest of [another intervenor, Albert U. Espiritu] and Mr. Vistar which have yet to be ascertained in a
protracted legal battle which will take the time of this Court and the parties.
This Court cannot accede to the claims of the intervenor and Mr. Vistar for the 90% already earmarked to [Rosario]
which will result to the travesty of justice.
xxxx
In its efforts to settle the varied and contending claims of the intervenor, Mr. Vistar and the lawyers themselves[,]
they were given a chance to sit down and discuss the possibility of arriving [at] a compromise agreement.
xxxx
The parties are directed anew to continue these negotiations for a possible settlement of their respective claims
and interest in good faith and mutual trusts, in order to serve best the interest of justice.
For this purpose, the intervenor and Jaime Vistar are given the personality to participate in the negotiation for
settlement of their respective claims as directed by the Court.
The Court has already made a ruling on the fight for attorney's fees. This time, since the Court has recognized the
efforts of the intervenor on the negotiations for settlement and the claims of Mr. Vistar, the Court[,] to avoid any

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further legal battle among themselves and in its efforts to settle the claim, hereby rules:

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1. To issue an alias writ of execution on the partial execution of Php399,828,000.00;


2. Upon satisfaction/payment by [GSIS] of the aforesaid amount, the Branch Sheriff of this Court is directed to
immediately deposit 35% of the said amount to the account of [Rosario];
3. The other 35% shall remain in custodia legis subject to the final disposition of Atty. Suing's claim for attorney's
fees now pending before the Court of Appeals or any settlement he may enter into with [Rosario];
4. The award of attorney's fees to Atty. Benjamin Santos (Phpl3,993,980.00), Atty. Sherwin S. Gatdula (Php
1,599,312.00) and Atty. Wellington Lachica (Php399,828.00) shall be satisfied immediately from the remaining
30% of the partial executed amount; and
5. The balance on the remaining 30% shall also remain in custodia legis subject to any settlement or compromise
the claimants may enter into with [Rosario] and her lawyers.
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As previously stated, Vistar filed on October 1, 2010 a Motion for Leave to File Motion for Intervention before the
Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 97807. In the appellate court's Resolution dated December 17, 2010, however,
Vistar's Motion was denied. He then filed the petition to this Court docketed as G.R. No. 194825.
Meanwhile, upon motion by Atty. Suing, the trial court modified its Order dated September 17, 2010. In
theOrder42 dated December 8, 2010, the amount of P23,989,680.00 was ordered to be released to Atty. Suing
to be taken from the 35% set aside in custodia legis subject to the disposition of his claim for attorney's fees.
Subsequent Incidents
After the filing of the instant petitions, other relevant incidents subsequently transpired.
On February 28, 2011, Rosario and GSIS filed a Joint Manifestation43 before the trial court in Civil Case No.
59439, stating that they have agreed to amicably settle the case. Rosario acknowledged the full and final
settlement of the judgment embodied in the RTC Decision dated December 17, 1997 and she declared that she
had no more cause of action against GSIS in connection with Civil Case No 59439. Rosario further stated that she
executed a Waiver, Release and Quitclaim, which released GSIS and its officers from any claim or cause of action
arising from said case. She likewise agreed "to hold GSIS and its officers free from any and all liabilities and claims
which any third party may have including, but not limited to, Atty. Jose A. Suing, Atty. Antonio Vilar, Mr. Jaime
Vistar, Eastern Petroleum Corporation and its chairman Fernando L. Martinez, may have relative to the instant case
and all subsequent cases arising therefrom." Lastly, Rosario repudiated the right of the aforesaid parties to lay
claim on the judgment award or settlement of Civil Case No. 59439.
In the same vein, Atty. Suing also executed a Waiver, Release and Quitclaim 44 dated March 10, 2011, whereby he
acknowledged the receipt of P23,989,680.00 from GSIS that was deducted from the PI39,939,800.00 that
constituted the 35% of the partial executed judgment award set aside by the trial court subject to the final
disposition of his claim for attorney's fees. Atty. Suing thereby waived any further claim against GSIS.
OTHER PENDING MOTIONS BEFORE THE COURT
GSIS's Manifestation and Motion
On March 29, 2012, GSIS filed a Manifestation and Motion45 dated March 21, 2012, stating that it had already
released to Atty. Suing the amount of P23,989,680.00 in accordance with the RTC Order dated December 8, 2010.
GSIS then prayed for an order allowing it to place in an escrow account with the Land Bank of the Philippines the
P115,950,000.00 remainder of the 35% of the partial executed judgment. Thereafter, GSIS sought its release from
any responsibility relative to the outcome of the case.
Atty. Suing moved46 for the above motion to be expunged from the records of the instant consolidated cases given
that GSIS is not a party thereto. Rosario, on the other hand, did not object to GSIS's motion provided that the
interest income from the escrow account will be awarded in favor of the prevailing party and GSIS will not be
discharged from further liability should the amount deposited be deemed insufficient. 47 Vistar likewise did not
object to the motion of GSIS, except that the latter should not be released from liability relative to the outcome of
the case since what was ordered executed was only a portion of the judgment of the trial court. 48
The Intervention of Atty. Antonio T. Vilar
Thereafter, on March 28, 2014, Atty. Antonio T. Vilar (Vilar) filed in the instant consolidated petitions aMotion for
Leave of Court to Intervene.49 He alleged that before the RTC decided Civil Case No. 59439, the late Eduardo
Santiago executed in his favor two Deeds of Assignment of Rights dated November 14, 1989 50 and November 27,
1990.51 By virtue thereof, Eduardo purportedly transferred to Vilar ninety percent (90%) of the former's rights and

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interests in the excluded lots subject of the said case.


Vilar averred that after the RTC rendered its Order dated September 17, 2010, which directed the issuance of an
alias writ of execution on the partial execution of P399,828,000.00, Vilar filed a Verified Omnibus Motion (For
Substitution Of Party Plaintiff With Authority To Implement Writ Of Execution Until Full Satisfaction Of The Final
Judgment Of The Court).52 Vilar pointed out, however, that in the RTC Order dated December 8, 2010, the trial
court merely noted his motion without acting on the same.
Vilar assailed the aforesaid order in a petition for certiorari before the Court of Appeals, which was docketed
as CA-G.R. SP No. 117439. In a Decision dated February 10, 2014,53 the Court of Appeals ruled in favor of
Vilar. The appellate court granted his Verified Omnibus Motion and he was ordered impleaded in Civil Case No.
59439 as party-plaintiff in substitution of Rosario. The Court of Appeals further ruled that upon GSIS's payment of
the amount of P399,828,000.00, the Branch Sheriff of the trial court was directed to give to Vilar 90% of the 35%
share of Rosario. The remaining 10% of the 35% shall be deposited to Rosario's account.
Before this Court, Vilar argues that he is a transferee pendente lite in Civil Case No. 59439, to the extent of 90%
of the judgment award therein. He thus prays for an order allowing him to intervene and that the assailed rulings
of the Court of Appeals be reversed such that 90% of the 35% of the amount of P399,828,000.00 shall be
awarded to him.
THE ISSUES
The Arguments of Rosario
In her Memorandum54 in the instant consolidated cases, Rosario invoked the following points to impugn the
Amended Decision dated June 4, 2010 and the Resolution dated December 17, 2010 of the Court of Appeals in CAG.R. SP No. 97807:
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ARGUMENTS
A. As ruled in the case of Radiowealth Finance Co., Inc., et al, v. International Corporate Bank, et al, the
reasonableness of the attorney's fees is a question of law. Thus, being a question of law, it is a proper subject of a
petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court.
B. Considering that the Orders dated 12 September 2006 and 20 November 2006 of the trial court in Civil Case
No. 59439 have been rendered final and immutable by the Honorable Court in the consolidated cases docketed as
G.R. Nos. 175393 and 177731, the Court of Appeals committed reversible error when it promulgated the assailed
amended Decision dated 04 June 2010 and assailed Resolution dated 17 December 2010 as it disregarded the
Honorable Court's decision in G.R. Nos. 175393 and 177731 in violation of the principle of res judicata.
C. Even assuming arguendo that said Orders dated 12 September 2006 and 20 November 2006 of the trial court in
Civil Case No. 59439 are not final and immutable, the Court of Appeals committed reversible error in its assailed
Amended Decision and Resolution when it declared the validity of the Memorandum of Understanding despite the
fact that the contingency fee of 35% is unconsionable (sic) and unreasonable under the facts and circumstances of
the case.
D. The Court of Appeals committed reversible error when it disregarded the fact that there was bad faith and
actual fraud employed upon petitioner Mrs. Santiago when she executed the Memorandum of Understanding
containing the unconscionable and unreasonable contingency fee of 65%.
E. The Court of Appeals committed reversible error when it failed to consider the fact that the attorney's fees due
to respondent Atty. Suing and Atty. Reverente should be based onquantum meruit and several factors exist
warranting the reduction of the fees due to said lawyers.
F. Considering the lack of legal interest, delay of the intervention, and as an alleged assigneependente lite,
petitioner Mr. Vistar should not be allowed to intervene on the issue on the reasonableness of the attorney's fees.
Further, his money claims based on the alleged assignment of rights should be pursued in a separate action. 55
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Rosario argued that the power to determine the reasonableness of attorney's fees stipulated by a lawyer and client
falls within the regulatory prerogative of the courts. Even if there is an agreement between said parties, the courts
may reduce the attorney's fees fixed in the contract if the amount thereof appears to be unconscionable or
unreasonable.
Rosario also claimed that the Court of Appeals erred in setting aside the RTC Orders dated September 12, 2006
and November 20, 2006 in Civil Case No. 59439, which orders awarded to the former counsels of Rosario 10% of
the proceeds of the execution of the RTC Decision dated December 17, 1997. Rosario claimed that the said RTC
Orders were already rendered final and immutable by virtue of this Court's Decision dated December 18, 2009 in
G.R. Nos. 175393 and 177731. Rosario opined that the Court of Appeals ignored the said decision and erroneously

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promulgated the assailed rulings, which awarded 35% of the net proceeds of the judgment award to Atty. Suing
and Atty. Reverente.
Assuming that the RTC Orders dated September 12, 2006 and November 20, 2006 were not yet final, Rosario
posited that the Court of Appeals still erred in declaring valid the MOU between the parties. By awarding the 35%
contingency fee of Atty. Suing and Atty. Reverente, the Court of Appeals m

EN BANC
A.C. No. 7073, September 01, 2015
FIRE OFFICER I DARWIN S. SAPPAYANI, Complainant, v. ATTY. RENATO G. GASMEN,Respondent.
RESOLUTION
PERLAS-BERNABE, J.:
This instant administrative case arose from a Complaint-Affidavit 1 dated February 6, 2006 filed by complainant Fire
Officer I Darwin S. Sappayani (Sappayani), which was endorsed by the Public Attorney's Office, Maguindanao
District to this Court,2 and was referred to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) on July 1, 2008, 3 against
respondent Atty. Renato G. Gasmen (Atty. Gasmen), a notary public.
The Facts
In his Complaint-Affidavit, Sappayani alleged that Atty. Gasmen notarized documents which he purportedly
executed, particularly, a Special Power of Attorney4 (SPA) in favor of one Newtrade Goodwill Corporation (NGC)
through Romeo N. Maravillas (Maravillas) and an Application for Loan and Promissory Note (loan application) with
Air Materiel Wing Savings and Loan Association, Inc. (AMWSLAI). The SPA, which was notarized by Atty. Gasmen
on March 29, 2000, authorized NGC through Maravillas to complete the loan application with AMWSLAI and
thereafter, receive its proceeds. Thus, by virtue of said notarized documents, AMWSLAI released to Maravillas, as
representative of NGC, a loan amounting to P157,301.43.
However, Sappayani denied executing said documents, claiming that his signature found on the SPA was forged as
he did not know Maravillas. Neither did he authorize Maravillas to enter into any transaction on his behalf.
Sappayani added that it was physically impossible for him to personally appear before Atty. Gasmen and execute
the documents at the AMWSLAI office in Quezon City, as he was then training as a new recruit at the Bureau of
Fire Protection at General Santos City.5
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After more than two (2) years, Atty. Gasmen filed his Comment 6 dated May 26, 2008 and claimed, among others,
that the notarization of the SPA and loan application was done only after the release of the proceeds of the loan to
Maravillas, who then released the same to one Zenaida C. Razo (Razo), the marketing representative of NGC for
Region V. According to Atty. Gasmen, Razo was also the one responsible for taking the purported loan of
Sappayani, the proceeds of which the latter never received. Moreover, he asserted that prior to notarization,
Sappayani's signature on the SPA was compared with his signature specimen cards with AMWSLAI, of which he
was an honorary member. Finally, he claimed that by practice, notarization of loan applications at AMWSLAI was
done "on a ministerial basis" albeit with "proper safeguards," and that documents were notarized only after the
loan is released and the AMWSLAI President has approved the same. As such, notarization was merely a way of
completing the loan documentation requirements of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP).
After several re-settings of the mandatory conference and the repeated failure of Atty. Gasmen to appear, the IBP
Commissioner terminated the mandatory conference and ordered the parties to submit their respective Position
Papers for resolution.
The IBP's Report and Recommendation
In a Report and Recommendation7 dated March 5, 2010, IBP Commissioner Atty. Albert P. Sordan, EnP
(Commissioner Sordan) found Atty. Gasmen guilty of violating Section 2 (b), Rule IV of the 2004 Rules on Notarial
Practice (Notarial Rules), Section 20 (a) Rule 138 of the Rules of Court, and Rule 1.01, Canon 1 and Rule 10.01,
Canon 10 of the Code of Professional Responsibility (CPR). Accordingly, he recommended that Atty. Gasmen be
suspended from the practice of law for a period of six (6) months and that his incumbent notarial commission be
revoked. In addition, he should be disqualified from being commissioned as a notary public for a period of one (1)
year, with a stern warning that a repetition of the same or similar offense shall be dealt with more severely.

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Commissioner Sordan found that the signature of Sappayani on the SPA was forged, and that Atty. Gasmen failed
to exercise reasonable diligence or that degree of vigilance expected of a bonus pater familias. Thus, when he
notarized a forged SPA and untruthfully certified that Sappayani was the very same person who personally
appeared before him, he violated the Notarial Rules and, as a lawyer, the CPR. 8
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In a Resolution9 dated May 11, 2013, the IBP Board of Governors adopted and approved the IBP Commissioner's
Report and Recommendation.10 Atty. Gasmen moved for reconsideration,11 which was denied in a
Resolution12 dated August 9, 2014.
The Issue Before the Court
The issue for the Court's resolution is whether or not the IBP correctly found Atty. Gasmen liable for violation of
the Notarial Rules and the CPR.
The Court's Ruling
The findings of the IBP are well taken.
The Court notes that both the SPA and the loan application subject of this case were notarized in 2000, during
which Act No. 271113 of the Revised Administrative Code of 1917, Title IV, Chapter 11, otherwise known as the
"Notarial Law," in addition to Act No. 2103,14 governed the rules on notaries public.
Section 1 (a) of Act No. 2103 provides:

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Section 1. x x x
(a) The acknowledgement shall be made before a notary public or an officer duly authorized by law of the country
to take acknowledgements of instruments or documents in the place where the act is done. The notary public or
the officer taking the acknowledgement shall certify that the person acknowledging the instrument or document is
known to him and that he is the same person who executed it, and acknowledged that the same is his free act and
deed. The certificate shall be made under his official seal, if he is by law required to keep a seal, and if not, his
certificate shall so state.
One of the obligations of a notary public is to authenticate documents acknowledged before him, certifying the
truth thereof under his seal of office.15 When acknowledging a document, it is required that the person who signed
or executed the same, appears in person before the notary public and represents to the latter that the signature
on the document was voluntarily affixed by him for the purposes stated in the document, declaring the same as his
free and voluntary act and deed.16Thereafter, the notary public affixes his notarial seal on the instrument which
certifies the due execution of the document, and resultantly, converts a private document into a public document
which on its face, is entitled to full faith and credit.17
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In the discharge of his powers and duties, the notary public's certification is one impressed with public interest,
accuracy and fidelity18 such that he owes it to the public to notarize only when the person who signs the document
is the same person who executed it and personally appeared before him to attest to his knowledge of the contents
stated therein. Thus, the Court has repeatedly emphasized the necessity of an affiant's personal appearance and
makes the failure to observe such rule punishable. In fact, such necessity has been further stressed in Section 2
(b) of Rule IV of the Rules on Notarial Practice of 2004, which provides:
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SEC. 2. Prohibitions. - x x x
(b) A person shall not perform a notarial act if the person involved as signatory to the instrument or document (1) is not in the notary's presence personally at the time of the notarization; and
(2) is not personally known to the notary public or otherwise identified by the notary public through competent
evidence of identity as defined by these Rules.
In Dela Cruz-Sillano v. Pangan,19 the Court suspended a lawyer both from the practice of law and from his notarial
commission for notarizing an SPA without the personal appearance of the affiant. It held that a lawyer
commissioned to be a notary public is mandated to discharge his sacred duties and observe faithfully the legal
solemnity of an oath in an acknowledgement or jurat. Similarly, the Court has meted out penalties on erring
notaries for notarizing a document despite the non-appearance of one of the signatories. It is settled that such
practice constitutes unlawful, dishonest, immoral, or deceitful conduct. 20
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In this case, Atty. Gasmen claimed that before the SPA and loan application were notarized, the proceeds were
already released to NGC by AMWSLAI, thus, dispensing with the need for notarization. Moreover, he insisted that
the notarization of said documents was merely done on a ministerial basis, with proper safeguards, and that it

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cannot be expected of him to require the personal appearance of every loan applicant considering the hundreds of
loan applications brought to him for signing.21
cralawrednad

The Court is not persuaded.


Notarization is not an empty, meaningless, or routinary act. 22 It is impressed with substantial public interest, and
only those who are qualified or authorized may act as such. It is not a purposeless ministerial act of acknowledging
documents executed by parties who are willing to pay fees for notarization. 23 Moreover, notarization of a private
document, such as an SPA in this case, converts the document into a public one which, on its face, is given full
faith and credit. Thus, the failure of Atty. Gasmen to observe the utmost care in the performance of his duties
caused not only damage to those directly affected by the notarized document, 24 but also undermined the integrity
of a notary public and tainted the function of notarization. 25
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Further, as a lawyer, Atty. Gasmen is expected at all times to uphold the integrity and dignity of the legal
profession and refrain from any act or omission which might erode the trust and confidence reposed by the public
in the integrity of the legal profession. By notarizing the subject documents, he engaged in unlawful, dishonest,
immoral, or deceitful conduct which makes him liable as well for violation of the pertinent rules of the CPR,
particularly Rule 1.01, Canon 1 which provides:
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CANON 1 - A LAWYER SHALL UPHOLD THE CONSTITUTION, OBEY THE LAWS OF THE LAND AND PROMOTE
RESPECT FOR LAW AND LEGAL PROCESSES.
Rule 1.01 - A lawyer shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct.
As to the proper penalty, the Court finds the need to modify the penalty recommended by the IBP. The Court has
ruled that a notary public who fails to discharge his duties as such is meted out the following penalties: (7)
revocation of notarial commission; (2) disqualification from being commissioned as notary public; and (3)
suspension from the practice of law - the terms of which vary based on the circumstances of each case. In this
case, while the IBP Commissioner found the absence of bad faith and considered Atty. Gasmen as a first time
offender, the Court finds that the penalties of disqualification from being commissioned as notary public for a
period of two (2) years and suspension from the practice of law for one (1) year are proper.26 On this score, the
Court observes that Atty. Gasmen did not deny notarizing the documents without the presence of Sappayani and
indirectly admitted doing the same with other similar documents and affiants. Thus, such practice, he evidently
countenanced fraud.
WHEREFORE, the Court finds respondent Atty. Renato G. Gasmen GUILTY of violation of the Notarial Law and the
Code of Professional Responsibility. Accordingly, the Court hereby SUSPENDS him from the practice of law for one
(1) year; REVOKES his incumbent cdmmission as a notary public; and PROHIBITS him from being commissioned
as a notary public for two (2) years, effective immediately. He is WARNED that a repetition of the same offense or
similar acts in the future shall be dealt with more severely.
SO ORDERED.

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SECOND DIVISION
G.R. No. 191641, September 02, 2015
EDMUNDO NAVAREZ, Petitioner, v. ATTY. MANUEL ABROGAR III, Respondent.
DECISION
BRION, J.:
This is a petition for certiorari under Rule 651 of the Rules of Court, filed from the October 16, 2009 Decision and
the March 12, 2010 Resolution of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. SP No. 108675.2The CA dismissed the
petition for certiorari that the present petitioner filed against the January 21, 2009 Order of the Regional Trial
Court (RTC).
ANTECEDENTS
On July 30, 2007, petitioner Edmundo Navarez engaged the services of Abrogar Valerio Maderazo and Associates
Law Offices (the Firm) through the respondent, Atty. Manuel Abrogar III. The Firm was to represent Navarez in Sp.
Proc. No. Q-05-59112 entitled "Apolonio Quesada, Jr. v. Edmundo Navarez" as collaborating counsel of Atty.
Perfecto Laguio. The case involved the settlement of the estate of Avelina Quesada-Navarez that was then pending
before the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 83, Quezon City. The pertinent portions of the Retainer Agreement
read:
Our services as collaborating counsel will cover investigation, research and representation with local banks,
concerns regarding deposits (current and savings) and investment instruments evidenced by certificate of
deposits. Our office may also initiate appropriate civil and/or criminal actions as well as administrative remedies
needed to adjudicate the Estate of Avelina Quesada-Navarez expeditiously, peacefully and lawfully.
Effective Date: June 2007
Acceptance Fee: P100,000.00 in an installment basis
Success Fee: 2% of the total money value of your share as co-owner and heir of the Estate (payable
proportionately upon your receipt of any amount)
Appearance Fee: P2,500.00 per Court hearing or administrative meetings and/or other meetings.
Filing of Motions and/or pleadings at our initiative shall be for your account and you will be billed accordingly.
OUT-OF-POCKET EXPENSES: Ordinary out-of-pocket expenses such as telex, facsimile, word processing,
machine reproduction, and transportation expenses, as well as per diems and accommodations expenses incurred
in undertaking work for you outside Metro Manila area and other special out-of-pocket expenses as you may
authorized [sic] us to incur (which shall always be cleared with you in advance) shall be for your account. xxxx
On September 2, 2008, Navarez filed a Manifestation with the RTC that he was terminating the services of Atty.
Abrogar. On the same day, Navarez also caused the delivery to Atty. Abrogar of a check in the amount of
P220,107.51 - allegedly equivalent to one half of 7.5% of petitioner's P11,200,000.00 share in the estate of his
deceased wife less Atty. Abrogar's cash advances.
On September 9, 2008, Atty. Abrogar manifested that with respect to the petitioner's one-half (1/2) share in the
conjugal partnership, the RTC had already resolved the matter favorably because it had issued a release order for
the petitioner to withdraw the amount. Atty. Abrogar further declared that the Firm was withdrawing as counsel effective upon the appointment of an Administrator of the estate - from the remaining proceedings for the
settlement of the estate of Avelina Quesada-Navarez.
On September 22, 2008, the petitioner wrote to Atty. Abrogar offering to pay his attorney's fees in accordance
with their Retainer Agreement minus the latter's cash advances - an offer that Atty. Abrogar had previously
refused in August 2008.

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On October 7, 2008, Atty. Abrogar filed a Motion to Enter into the Records his attorney's lien pursuant to Rule 138,
Section 37 of the Rules of Court.
On November 21, 2008, the motion was submitted for resolution without oral arguments.
On January 21, 2009, the RTC issued an order granting the motion and directed the petitioner to pay Atty.
Abrogar's attorney's fees. The Order reads:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, it is hereby ordered:
1.

That the attorney's lien of Manuel Abrogar III conformably with the Retainer Agreement dated July 30,
2007, be entered into the records of this case in consonance with Section 37, Rule 138 of the Rules of
Court;
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2.

That oppositor Edmundo Navarez pay the amount of 7.5% of P11,196,675.05 to Manuel Abrogar III;

3.

That the oppositor pay the administrative costs/expenses of P103,000.00 to the movant; and

4.

That the prayers for P100,000.00 as exemplary damages, P200,000.00 as moral damages and for writ of
preliminary attachment be denied.

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SO ORDERED.
On February 18, 2009, the petitioner filed a Motion for Reconsideration.
On March 17, 2009, the RTC denied the motion for reconsideration and issued a Writ of Execution of its Order
dated January 21, 2009.
The petitioner elevated the case to the CA via a petition for certiorari. He argued that the RTC committed grave
abuse of discretion because: (1) the RTC granted Atty. Abrogar's claim for attorney's fees despite non-payment of
docket fees; (2) the RTC denied him the opportunity of a full-blown trial to contradict Atty. Abrogar's claims and
prove advance payments; and (3) the RTC issued a writ of execution even before the lapse of the reglementary
period.
In its decision dated October 16, 2009, the CA dismissed the petition and held that the RTC did not commit grave
abuse of discretion.
The petitioner moved for reconsideration which the CA denied in a Resolution dated March 12, 2010.
On April 6, 2010, and April 26, 2010, the petitioner filed his first and second motions for extension of time to file
his petition for review. This Court granted both motions for extension totaling thirty (30) days (or until May 5,
2010) in the Resolution dated July 26, 2010.
On May 5, 2010, the petitioner filed the present petition entitled "Petition for Review." However, the contents of
the petition show that it is a petition for certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court.3
THE PETITION
The petitioner argues that the CA gravely erred in dismissing his petition for certiorari that challenged the RTC
ruling ordering the payment of attorney's fees. He maintains his argument that the RTC committed grave abuse of
discretion because: (1) it granted Atty. Abrogar's claim for attorney's fees despite lack of jurisdiction due to nonpayment of docket fees; (2) it granted the claim for attorney's fees without requiring a fullblown trial and without
considering his advance payments; and (3) it issued the writ of execution before the lapse of the reglementary
period. The petitioner also points out that the CA nullified the RTC's release order in CA-G.R. SP No. 108734.
In his Comment dated September 8, 2010, Atty. Abrogar adopted the CA's position in its October 16, 2009
Decision.
OUR RULING
We observe that the petitioner used the wrong remedy to challenge the CA's decision and resolution. The
petitioner filed a petition for certiorari under Rule 65, not a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45. A
special civil action for certiorari is a remedy of last resort, available only to raise jurisdictional issues when there is
no appeal or any other plain, speedy, and adequate remedy under the law.
Nonetheless, in the spirit of liberality that pervades the Rules of Court 4 and in the interest of substantial
justice,5 this Court has, on appropriate occasions, treated a petition for certiorari as a petition for review

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on certiorari, particularly when: (1) the petition for certiorari was filed within the reglementary period to file a
petition for review on certiorari;6 (2) the petition avers errors of judgment;7 and (3) when there is sufficient reason
to justify the relaxation of the rules.8 Considering that the present petition was filed within the extension period
granted by this Court and avers errors of law and judgment, this Court deems it proper to treat the present
petition for certiorari as a petition for review on certiorari in order to serve the higher ends of justice.
With the procedural issue out of the way, the remaining issue is whether or not the CA erred when it held that the
RTC acted within its jurisdiction and did not commit grave abuse of discretion when it ordered the payment of
attorney's fees.
We find merit in the petition.
An attorney has a right to be paid a fair and reasonable compensation for the services he has rendered to a client.
As a security for his fees, Rule 138, Section 37 of the Rules of Court grants an attorney an equitable right to a
charging lien over money judgments he has secured in litigation for his client. For the lien to be enforceable, the
attorney must have caused: (1) a statement of his claim to be entered in the record of the case while the court
has jurisdiction over the case and before the full satisfaction of the judgment; 9 and (2) a written notice of his claim
to be delivered to his client and to the adverse party.
However, the filing of the statement of the claim does not, by itself, legally determine the amount of the claim
when the client disputes the amount or claims that the amount has been paid. 10 In these cases, both the attorney
and the client have a right to be heard and to present evidence in support of their claims. 11 The proper procedure
for the court is to ascertain the proper amount of the lien in a full dress trial before it orders the registration of the
charging lien.12 The necessity of a hearing is obvious and beyond dispute. 13
In the present case, the RTC ordered the registration of Atty. Abrogar's lien without a hearing even though the
client contested the amount of the lien. The petitioner had the right to be heard and to present evidence on the
true amount of the charging lien. The RTC acted with grave abuse of discretion because it denied the petitioner his
right to be heard, i.e., the right to due process.
The registration of the lien should also be distinguished from the enforcement of the lien. Registration merely
determines the birth of the lien.14 The enforcement of the lien, on the other hand, can only take place once a final
money judgment has been secured in favor of the client. The enforcement of the lien is a claim for attorney's fees
that may be prosecuted in the very action where the attorney rendered his services or in a separate action.
However, a motion for the enforcement of the lien is in the nature of an action commenced by a lawyer against his
clients for attorney's fees.15 As in every action for a sum of money, the attorney-movant must first pay the
prescribed docket fees before the trial court can acquire jurisdiction to order the payment of attorney's fees.
In this case, Atty. Abrogar only moved for the registration of his lien. He did not pay any docket fees because he
had not yet asked the RTC to enforce his lien. However, the RTC enforced the lien and ordered the petitioner to pay
Atty. Abrogar's attorney's fees and administrative expenses.
Under this situation, the RTC had not yet acquired jurisdiction to enforce the charging lien because the docket fees
had not been paid. The payment of docket fees is mandatory in all actions, whether separate or an offshoot of a
pending proceeding. In Lacson v. Reyes,16 this Court granted certiorariand annulled the decision of the trial court
granting a "motion for attorney's fees" because the attorney did not pay the docket fees. Docket fees must be paid
before a court can lawfully act on a case and grant relief. Therefore, the RTC acted without or in excess of its
jurisdiction when it ordered the payment of the attorney's fees.
Lastly, the enforcement of a charging lien can only take place after a final money judgment has been rendered in
favor of the client.17 The lien only attaches to the money judgment due to the client and is contingent on the final
determination of the main case. Until the money judgment has become final and executory, enforcement of the
lien is premature.
The RTC again abused its discretion in this respect because it prematurely enforced the lien and issued a writ of
execution even before the main case became final; no money judgment was as yet due to the client to which the
lien could have attached itself. Execution was improper because the enforceability of the lien is contingent on a
final and executory award of money to the client. This Court notes that in CA-G.R. SP No. 108734, the CA nullified
the "award" to which the RTC attached the attorney's lien as there was nothing due to the petitioner. Thus,
enforcement of the lien was premature.
The RTC's issuance of a writ of execution before the lapse of the reglementary period to appeal from its order is
likewise premature. The Order of the RTC dated January 21, 2009, is an order that finally disposes of the issue on
the amount of attorney's fees Atty. Abrogar is entitled to. The execution of a final order issues as a matter of right
upon the expiration of the reglementary period if no appeal has been perfected. 18 Under Rule 39, Section 2 of the
Rules of Court, discretionary execution can only be made before the expiration of the reglementary period upon a
motion of the prevailing party with notice to the adverse party. Discretionary execution may only issue upon good

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reasons to be stated in a special order after due hearing. 19


The RTC ordered execution without satisfying the requisites that would have justified discretionary execution. Atty.
Abrogar had not moved for execution and there were no good reasons to justify the immediate execution of the
RTC's order. Clearly, the RTC gravely abused its discretion when it ordered the execution of its order dated January
21, 2009, before the lapse of the reglementary period.
For these reasons, this Court finds that the CA erred when it held that the RTC did not commit grave abuse of
discretion and acted without jurisdiction.
As our last word, this decision should not be construed as imposing unnecessary burden on the lawyer in collecting
his just fees. But, as in the exercise of any other right conferred by law, the lawyer - and the courts -must avail of
the proper legal remedies and observe the procedural rules to prevent the possibility, or even just the perception,
of abuse or prejudice.20
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WHEREFORE, premises considered, we hereby GRANT the petition. The decision of the Court of Appeals in CAG.R. SP No. 108675 dated October 16, 2009, is hereby REVERSED, and the decision of the Regional Trial Court,
Branch 83, Quezon City in Sp. Proc. No. Q-05-59112 is herebyANNULLED and SET ASIDE.
SO ORDERED.

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EN BANC
A.C. No. 10676, September 08, 2015
ATTY. ROY B. ECRAELA, Complainant, v. ATTY. IAN RAYMOND A. PANGALANGAN, Respondent.
DECISION
PER CURIAM:
The Case
Before the Court is a Petition for Disbarment1 filed by Atty. Roy B. Ecraela with the Integrated Bar of the Philippines
Commission on Bar Discipline (IBP-CBD) on April 12, 2007 against Atty. Ian Raymond A. Pangalangan for his illicit
relations, chronic womanizing, abuse of authority as an educator, and "other unscrupulous activities" which cause
"undue embarrassment to the legal profession." Complainant claims that respondent's actions involve deceit,
malpractice, gross misconduct and grossly immoral conduct in violation of the Lawyer's Oath.
The Facts
Complainant and respondent were best friends and both graduated from the University of the Philippines (UP)
College of Law in 1990, where they were part of a peer group or barkada with several of their classmates. After
passing the bar examinations and being admitted as members of the Bar in 1991, they were both registered with
the IBP Quezon City.
Respondent was formerly married to Sheila P. Jardiolin (Jardiolin) with whom he has three (3) children.
Complainant avers that while married to Jardiolin, respondent had a series of adulterous and illicit relations with
married and unmarried women between the years 1990 to 2007. These alleged illicit relations involved:
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a.

AAA,2 who is the spouse of a colleague in the UP College of Law, from 1990 to 1992, which complainant
had personal knowledge of such illicit relations;

b.

BBB, sometime during the period from 1992 to 1994 or from 1994 to 1996, despite being already married
to Jardiolin;

c.

CCC, despite being married to Jardiolin and while also being romantically involved with DDD;

d.

DDD, sometime during the period from 2000 to 2002, despite still being married to Jardiolin and while still
being romantically involved with CCC;

e.

EEE, who is related to complainant, sometime during the period from May 2004 until the filing of the
Petition, while still being romantically involved with CCC. 3

Complainant claims that respondent, with malice and without remorse, deceived CCC and DDD by representing
himself to be a bachelor, thereby convincing the two women to start a love affair with him, when in truth, he was
then still married to Jardiolin.4
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Aside from these illicit affairs, complainant avers that sometime during the period of 1998 to 2000, respondent, as
a lawyer of the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel (OGCC), represented the interest of Manila
International Airport Authority (MIAA) in cancellation proceedings filed by MIAA against Kendrick Development
Corporation (KDC). However, despite being a public officer and a government counsel, respondent conspired with
Atty. Abraham Espejo, legal counsel of KDC, and assisted KDC in its case, thereby sabotaging MIAA's case, and, in

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effect, that of the Philippine Government.3

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Complainant further claims that respondent even attempted to bribe then Solicitor Rolando Martin of the Office of
the Solicitor General (OSG) in exchange for the latter's cooperation in the dismissal of the cancellation proceedings
in favor of KDC. In return for his "earnest efforts" in assisting KDC in its case, respondent was allegedly rewarded
with a Toyota Corolla XL with plate number ULS-835 by Atty. Espejo. The vehicle was seen several times by
respondent's classmates and officemates being driven and parked by respondent in his own home and in the OGCC
premises itself.6
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In connection with his involvement in the MIAA case, complainant claims that respondent was summoned in a
Senate inquiry concerning rampant faking of land titles in the Philippines, which included an investigation of the
alleged spurious land titles of KDC. In Senate Committee Final Report No. 367, the Senate Blue Ribbon and Justice
& Human Rights Committees recommended that respondent be investigated and prosecuted by the Office of the
Ombudsman (Ombudsman) for graft and corruption, as well as disbarment or disciplinary sanction by this Court
for grave misconduct or violation of the Revised Penal Code. 7
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It was further alleged that, during the pendency of the Senate Inquiry, respondent even attempted to conceal the
evidence by requesting complainant's parents, spouses Marcelo F. Ecraela and Visitacion B. Ecraela, to have the
Toyota Corolla XL parked in their residence in Cainta, Rizal, for an indefinite period of time. Respondent's request,
however, was refused by the spouses when they learned that the vehicle was the subject of the Senate Inquiry.8
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It appears from the documents presented by complainant that the Ombudsman issued a Resolution finding
probable cause against respondent, and an Information was thereafter filed with the Sandiganbayan for violation
of Section 3 (b) of Republic Act No. (RA) 3019.9
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Complainant also claims that respondent abused his authority as an educator in Manuel L. Quezon University, San
Sebastian College, College of St. Benilde, and Maryknoll College, where respondent induced his male students to
engage in "nocturnal preoccupations" and entertained the romantic gestures of his female students in exchange for
passing grades.10
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The Petition was docketed as CBD Case No. 07-1973.


In an Order11 dated April 16, 2007, the Director for Bar Discipline, Honorable Rogelio A. Vinluan, required
respondent to file his verified answer.
In his undated Answer,12 respondent opted not to present any counter-statement of facts in support of his defense.
Instead, respondent simply argued that the petition suffers from procedural and substantive infirmities, claiming
that petitioner failed to substantiate the allegations or charges against him. Respondent pointed out that Annex "J"
of the Petition entitled "Arguments in Support of the Disbarment" lacked formal requirements, and thus, should be
treated as a mere scrap of paper. Respondent also asserts that the e-mail messages attached to the petition were
inadmissible for having been obtained in violation of the Rules on Electronic Evidence. 13 He claims that the
identities of the owners of the e-mail messages, as well as the allegations of illicit relations and abuse of authority,
were not properly established. Respondent further argues that the statements of complainant's witnesses were
merely self-serving and deserved scant consideration.
Complainant filed a Comment (to the Respondent's Answer), 14 stating that the allegations in the complaint were
deemed admitted by reason of respondent's failure to make specific or even general denials of such in his Answer.
In his Reply (to the Comment filed by Complainant),15 respondent simply denied all of complainant's accusations in
the petition, allegedly for "lack of knowledge and information sufficient to form a belief as to the truth or falsity
thereof."16
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On August 3, 2007, 1BP-CBD Investigating Commissioner Leland R. Villadolid, Jr. (Commissioner Villadolid) set the
case for mandatory conference on August 28, 2007,17 which respondent failed to attend. It appears that
respondent filed a Motion to Cancel Hearing,18 praying for the resetting of the mandatory conference allegedly due
to a previously scheduled hearing on the same date. Respondent's motion was opposed by complainant and
eventually denied by Commissioner Villadolid in his Order19 dated August 28, 2007. In the same order,
complainant's Manifestation20 praying that subpoenas be issued to several persons who shall be complainant's
hostile witnesses was granted by Commissioner Villadolid. Accordingly, the case was scheduled for the
presentation of complainant's witnesses on September 11, 2007 and the respective subpoenas 21 were issued.
A day before the scheduled hearing, the IBP-CBD received respondent's Motion for Reconsideration, 22 praying that
the Order dated August 28, 2007 be set aside and that the hearing be reset to sometime during the third week of
October. In said motion, respondent informed the IBP-CBD that he has viral conjunctivitis or more commonly
known as "sore eyes" and has been ordered by the doctor to rest for at least one to two weeks while his eyes are
being treated. Attached to his motion were photocopies of two medical certificates, stating that a certain R.
Pangalangan was suffering from sore eyes.

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During the scheduled hearing on September 11, 2007, complainant opposed petitioner's motion, arguing that
based on his personal verification with the court personnel of Branch 77 of Metropolitan Trial Court (MTC) of
Parafiaque City, there was no case calendared for hearing on the date of the previous setting. Complainant also
argued that this is another ploy of respondent to delay the proceedings because he knew that complainant worked
overseas and was only in the country for a limited period of time. Finding merit in complainant's opposition,
respondent's motion was denied and complainant was allowed to present his witnesses. 23
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Complainant presented his witnesses, as follows: Assistant Solicitor General Karl Miranda (ASG Miranda), Ms.
Laarni Morallos (Ms. Morallos), Atty. Glenda T. Litong (Atty. Litong), Atty. Emelyn W. Corpus (Atty. Corpus), Mr.
Marcelo Ecraela, and Mrs. Visitacion Ecraela.
ASG Miranda testified on his participation in the KDC case as reflected in the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee
Report, as well as on his recollection that the Senate Report had recommended the disbarment of respondent.
Ms. Morallos, Atty. Litong, and Atty. Corpus were presented to establish that the email messages submitted by
complainant indeed originated from respondent based on their familiarity with respondent, particularly, the email
messages which contained references to his daughter, his relationship with complainant, and respondent's high
blood pressure.
Atty. Litong further testified that respondent personally introduced DDD to her as his girlfriend and that sometime
in 2002 or 2003, she saw respondent with another girl in Glorietta despite still being married to his wife. Atty.
Litong also recalled encountering respondent at a party sometime in 2007 where he was with CCC, whom she
perceived to be respondent's girlfriend at that time. She also confirmed that respondent had, in more than one
occasion, brought with him his students during their drinking sessions and had even one student driving for him.
For her testimony, Atty. Corpus corroborated Atty. Litong's statements about respondent's preoccupations with his
students. Atty. Corpus also testified that DDD called her at her office sometime in 2000 or 2001 to inform her that
the latter had broken up with respondent upon learning that he was actually married. Atty. Corpus surmised based
on her telephone conversation with DDD that respondent did not tell the latter his actual marital status. Aside from
this, Atty. Corpus also recalled that during complainant's farewell party in February 2007, respondent introduced
CCC as his girlfriend of six years, or since the year 2000 or 2001.
To expedite the hearing, the spouses Ecraela were made to affirm the execution of their affidavits since their
testimonies were based on the affidavits that complainant included in his petition.
Once complainant's presentation of witnesses was concluded, the mandatory conference/hearing was terminated
and the parties were directed to submit their respective verified position papers with supporting documentary
evidence within thirty (30) days from receipt of the transcript of stenographic notes. After which, the case was
considered submitted for report and recommendation.
On September 18, 2007, the IBP-CBD received complainant's Manifestation (with Comments), 24pertaining to
respondent's Motion to Cancel Hearing and praying for the IBP-CBD to formally request for records from Branch 77
of MTC, Paranaque City to verify respondent's claim that he had a hearing in said court during the first scheduled
mandatory conference. On the same date, the IBP-CBD also received complainant's Compliance (with
Comments),25 submitting the certified photo copies of the Senate Committee Final Report No. 367, the Resolution
dated January 22, 2001 of the Ombudsman, and the Information dated June 30, 2003 filed with the
Sandiganbayan.
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On January 8, 2008, the IBP-CBD received complainant's Position Paper.26 Complainant thereafter filed two
Manifestations,27 asserting that respondent is already barred from submitting his verified position paper and that
any decision or judgment would have to be based solely on complainant's Verified Position Paper.28
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Findings of the IBP Investigating Commissioner


After the case was submitted for report and recommendation, Commissioner Villadolid rendered a Report, 29 finding
that there is more than sufficient evidence establishing respondent's gross misconduct affecting his standing and
moral character as an officer of the court and member of the bar.
On the issue of respondent's alleged violations of the Revised Penal Code 30 and/or RA 301931 as reflected in the
Senate Report, the Ombudsman's Resolution, and the Information, Commissioner Villadolid found that despite
respondent's denials, complainant was able to present certified true copies of the relevant documents which
support his allegations in the petition.
As for the alleged illicit affairs of respondent, Commissioner Villadolid discredited complainant's assertion that
respondent is guilty of gross immoral conduct for his alleged adulterous relations with EEE. Based on the Report,
complainant was not able to discharge the burden of proving the authenticity of the email messages pertaining to
this adulterous affair; thus, they were deemed inadmissible. However, Commissioner Villadolid found merit in

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complainant's claim that respondent committed grossly immoral conduct by having illicit relations with DDD, CCC,
and BBB, all while still married to Jardiolin, to wit:
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4.21 In engaging in such illicit relationships, Respondent disregarded the sanctity of marriage and the marital vows
protected by the Constitution and affirmed by our laws, which as a lawyer he swore under oath to protect. The
1987 Constitution, specifically Article XV. Section 2 thereof clearly provides that marriage, an inviolable social
institution, is the foundation of the family and shall be protected by the state.
xxxx
4.23 Moreover. Respondent violated Rule 1.01 of Canon 1, and Rule 7.03 of Canon 7 of the Code of Professional
Responsibility, which provides that "a lawyer shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct"
nor shall a lawyer "engage in conduct that adversely reflects on his fitness to practice law. nor shall he, whether in
public or private life, behave in scandalous manner to the discredit of the legal profession". 32
Accordingly, the IBP-CBD reached and gave the following conclusion and recommendation:

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V. Conclusion/Recommendations
5.1 In view of the foregoing, and considering that there is more than sufficient evidence establishing Respondent's
gross misconduct affecting his standing and moral character as an officer of the court and member of the bar. this
Commissioner respectfully recommends that Respondent be suspended from the practice of law for a period of two
(2) years with a STERN WARNING that Respondent should reform his conduct in a manner consistent with the
norms prescribed by the Canons of Professional Responsibility."33
Findings of the IBP Board of Governors
On March 20, 2013, the Board of Governors of the IBP issued a Resolution 34 adopting and approving, with
modification, the Report and Recommendation of Commissioner Villadolid. As modified, the Board of Governors
disbarred respondent, thus:
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RESOLUTION NO. XX-2013-280


CBD Case No. 07-1973
Atty. Roy B. Ecraela vs.
Atty. Ian Raymundo A. Pangalangan
RESOLVED to ADOPT and APPROVE, as it is hereby unanimously ADOPTED and APPROVED, with modification,
the Report and Recommendation of the Investigating Commissioner in 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 considering Respondent's violations of Article XV of the 1987 Constitution,
Section 2, Rule 1.01 of Canon 1 and Rule 7.03 of Canon 7 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, and the
Lawyer's Oath, Atty. Ian Raymundo A. Pangalangan is hereby DISBARRED and his name Ordered Stricken Off
from the Roll of Attorneys.
On July 9, 2013, the IBP received respondent's Motion for Reconsideration 35 dated July 3, 2013, to which
complainant was required to submit his comment.36
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For his part, complainant filed a Motion for Reconsideration (of the IBP-CBD Report dated June 28, 2012) 37 dated
August 17, 2013. Similarly, respondent was required to comment on complainant's motion in an Order 38 dated
August 27, 2013. On the same date, complainant filed his Comment and/or Opposition (to the Respondent's
Motion for Reconsideration).39
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Subsequently, respondent filed a Comment on/Opposition to the Motion for Reconsideration with Leave 40 dated
September 12, 2013, as well as a Reply to the Comment and/or Opposition 41 dated September 20, 2013.
On May 3, 2014, the Board of Governors of the IBP passed a resolution denying respondent's motion for
reconsideration.42 Thereafter, the Director for Bar Discipline forwarded the records of this case to this Court on
November 11, 2014.43
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The Issue
The issue in this case is whether the respondent committed gross immoral conduct, which would warrant his
disbarment.
The Court's Ruling
After a thorough examination of the records, the Court agrees with the Board of Governors' resolution finding that
Atty. Pangalangan's grossly immoral conduct was fully supported by the evidences offered.

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The Code of Professional Responsibility provides:

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CANON 1 - A LAWYER SHALL UPHOLD THE CONSTITUTION, OBEY THE LAWS OF THE LAND AND
PROMOTE RESPECT FOR LAW AND LEGAL PROCESSES.
Rule 1.01 - A lawyer shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct.
xxxx
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 shall he,
whether in public or private life, behave in a scandalous manner to the discredit of the legal profession.
The practice of law is a privilege given to those who possess and continue to possess the legal qualifications for the
profession.44 Good moral character is not only required for admission to the Bar, but must also be retained in order
to maintain one's good standing in this exclusive and honored fraternity.45
We are not unmindful of the serious consequences of disbarment or suspension proceedings against a member of
the Bar. Thus, the Court has consistently held that clearly preponderant evidence is necessary to justify the
imposition of administrative penalties on a member of the Bar. This, We explained in Aba v. De Guzman, Jr.:
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Preponderance of evidence means that the evidence adduced by one side is, as a whole, superior to or has greater
weight than that of the other. It means evidence which is more convincing to the court as worthy of belief than
that which is offered in opposition thereto. Under Section 1 of Rule 133. in determining whether or not there is
preponderance of evidence, the court may consider the following: (a) all the facts and circumstances of the case;
(b) the witnesses' manner of testifying, their intelligence, their means and opportunity of knowing the facts to
which they are testifying, the nature of the facts to which they testify, the probability or improbability of their
testimony; (c) the witnesses' interest or want of interest, and also their personal credibility so far as the same may
ultimately appear in the trial; and (d) the number of witnesses, although it docs not mean that preponderance is
necessarily with the greater number.
When the evidence of the parties are evenly balanced or there is doubt on which side the evidence preponderates,
the decision should be against the party with the burden of proof according to the equipoise doctrine.
To summarize, the Court has consistently held that in suspension or disbarment proceedings against lawyers, the
lawyer enjoys the presumption of innocence, and the burden of proof rests upon the complainant to prove the
allegations in his complaint. The evidence required in suspension or disbarment proceedings is preponderance of
evidence. In case the evidence of the parties are equally balanced, the equipoise doctrine mandates a decision in
favor of the respondent.46
The IBP-CBD Report sufficiently showed by preponderant evidence the grounds by which respondent has been
found committing gross immorality in the conduct of his personal affairs.
This Court has, in numerous occasions, revoked the licenses of lawyers who were proven to have not only failed to
retain good moral character in their professional and personal lives, but have also made a mockery of the
institution of marriage by maintaining illicit affairs.
In Guevarra v. Eala, respondent Atty. Eala was disbarred because he showed disrespect for an institution held
sacred by the law, by having an extramarital affair with the wife of the complainant. In doing so, he betrayed his
unfitness to be a lawyer.47
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A year later, Atty. Arnobit met the same fate as Atty. Eala when the Court revoked his privilege to practice law
after his philandering ways was proven by preponderant evidence in Arnobit v. Arnobit.48 We ruled:
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As officers of the court, lawyers must not only in fact be of good moral character but must also be seen to be of
good moral character and leading lives in accordance with the highest moral standards of the community. A
member of the bar and an officer of the court is not only required to refrain from adulterous relationships or
keeping a mistress but must also so behave himself as to avoid scandalizing the public by creating the impression
that he is flouting those moral standards.
xxxx
The fact that respondent's philandering ways are far removed from the exercise of his profession would not save
the day for him. For a lawyer may be suspended or disbarred for any misconduct which, albeit unrelated to the
actual practice of his profession, would show him to be unfit for the office and unworthy of the privileges with

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which his license and the law invest him. To borrow from Orbe v. Adaza, "[t]he grounds expressed in Section 27,
Rule 138. of the Rules of Court are not limitative and are broad enough to. cover any misconduct x x x of a lawyer
in his professional or private capacity." To reiterate, possession of good moral character is not only a condition
precedent to the practice of law, but a continuing qualification for all members of the bar.49
Similarly, in the more recent case of Dr. Elmar O. Perez v. Atty. Tristan Catindig,50 the Court disbarred respondent
Atty. Catindig for blatantly and purposefully disregarding our laws on marriage by resorting to various legal
strategies to render a facade of validity to his invalid second marriage, despite the existence of his first marriage.
We said:
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The moral delinquency that affects the fitness of a member of the bar to continue as such includes conduct that
outrages the generally accepted moral standards of the community, conduct for instance, which makes 'a mockery
of the inviolable social institution of marriage.'" In various cases, the Court has held that disbarment is
warranted when a lawyer abandons his lawful wife and maintains an illicit relationship with another
woman who has borne him a child.51 (emphasis ours.)
In the present case, complainant alleged that respondent carried on several adulterous and illicit relations with
both married and unmarried women between the years 1990 to 2007, including complainant's own wife. Through
documentary evidences in the form of email messages, as well as the corroborating testimonies of the witnesses
presented, complainant was able to establish respondent's illicit relations with DDD and CCC by preponderant
evidence.
Respondent's main defense against the alleged illicit relations was that the same were not sufficiently established.
In his answer, respondent simply argued that complainant's petition contains self-serving averments not supported
by evidence. Respondent did not specifically deny complainant's allegations and, instead, questioned the
admissibility of the supporting documents. Due to respondent's own failure to attend the hearings and even submit
his own position paper, the existence of respondent's illicit relations with DDD and CCC remain uncontroverted.
The IBP-CBD Report was correct when it found that respondent violated Article XV, Section 2 of the 1987
Constitution, to wit:
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4.21 In engaging in such illicit relationships, Respondent disregarded the sanctity of marriage and the marital vows
protected by the Constitution and affirmed by our laws, which as a lawyer he swore under oath to protect. The
1987 Constitution, specifically Article XV, Section 2 thereof clearly provides that marriage, an inviolable social
institution, is the foundation of the family and shall be protected by the State.52 (emphasis in the
original.)
Aside from respondent's illicit relations, We agree with Commissioner Villadolid's findings that respondent violated
Canon 10 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, as well as Rule 10.01 and Rule 10.03 thereof.
The Code of Professional Responsibility provides:

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CANON 10 - A LAWYER OWES CANDOR, FAIRNESS AND GOOD FAITH TO THE COURT.
Rule 10.01 - A lawyer shall not do any falsehood, nor consent to the doing of any in Court; nor shall he mislead, or
allow the Court to be misled by any artifice.
xxx
Rule 10.03 - A lawyer shall observe the rules of procedure and shall not misuse them to defeat the ends of justice.
In the Petition, complainant alleged that respondent was the subject of a Senate Inquiry and had a pending case
for graft and corruption against him with the Sandiganbayan, to wit:
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13. Respondent has been recommended by the Senate Blue Ribbon and Justice & Human Rights Committees to be
investigated and prosecuted by the Ombudsman, the same as contained in their "Committee Final Report No. 367"
herein attached as Annex D;
14. Respondent has also been recommended by the above- mentioned committees to suffer the penalty of
disbarment, among others, as evidenced by the herein attached Annex D-1, and it is believed that a case for graft
and corruption against him is still pending with the Sandiganbayan.'' 53
Instead of refuting these claims, respondent merely pointed out in his Answer that complainant failed to adduce
additional evidence that a case had been filed against him, and that complainant's statements were merely selfserving averments not substantiated by any evidence. In his Reply, respondent even specifically denied
complainant's averments for "lack of knowledge and information sufficient to form a belief as to the truth or falsity
thereof."

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We agree with Commissioner Villadolid's findings in the IBP-CBD Report, viz:

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4.8 It (sic) is thus indisputable that Respondent's pretensions in his Answer were made in attempt to mislead this
Commission. Respondent could have easily admitted or denied said allegations or explained the same, as he (sic)
clearly had knowledge thereof, however, he (sic) chose to take advantage of Complainant" s position of being not
present in the country and not being able to acquire the necessary documents, skirt the issue, and mislead the
Commission. In doing so, he has violated Canon 10 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, which provides
that "a lawyer owes candor, fairness and good faith to the court" as well as Rule 10.01 and Rule 10.03
thereof which states that "a lawyer should do no falsehood nor consent to the doing of any in Court; nor
shall he mislead, or allow the court to be misled by any artifice" and that "a lawyer shall observe the
rules of procedure and shall not misuse them to defeat the ends of justice."
4.9 Courts [as well as this Commission] are entitled to expect only complete candor and honesty from the lawyers
appearing and pleading before them. Respondent, through his actuations, has been lacking in the candor required
of him not only as a member of the Bar but also as an officer of the Court. In view of the foregoing, the
Commission finds that Respondent has violated Canon 10, Rule 10.01 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, for
which he should be disciplined.54 (emphasis in the original.)
In denying complainant's allegations, respondent had no other intention but to mislead the IBP, which intention
was more so established because complainant was able to submit supporting documents in the form of certified
true copies of the Senate Report, the Ombudsman's Resolution, and Information.
We also agree with Commissioner Villadolid's finding that respondent violated the lawyer's oath which he took
before admission to the Bar, which states:
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I,__________ , do solemnly swear that I will maintain allegiance to the Republic of the Philippines; [will support
its Constitution and obey laws as well as the legal orders of the duly constituted authorities therein; 1 will do no
falsehood, nor consent to the doing of any court; I will not wittingly nor willingly promote or sue any groundless,
false or unlawful suit, or give aid nor consent to the same; I will delay no man for money or malice, and will
conduct myself as a lawyer according to the best of my knowledge and discretion with all good fidelity as well to
the courts as to my clients; and I impose upon myself this voluntary obligations without any menial reservation or
purpose of evasion. So help me God.

In all, Atty. Pangalangan displayed deplorable arrogance by making a mockery out of the institution of marriage,
and taking advantage of his legal skills by attacking the Petition through technicalities and refusing to participate in
the proceedings. His actions showed that he lacked the degree of morality required of him as a member of the bar,
thus warranting the penalty of disbarment.
WHEREFORE, in consideration of the foregoing, the Court resolves to ADOPT the resolution of the IBP Board of
Governors approving and adopting, with modification, the Report and Recommendation of the Investigating
Commissioner. Accordingly, respondent Atty. Ian Raymond A. Pangalangan is found GUILTY of gross immorality
and of violating Section 2 of Article XV of the 1987 Constitution, Canon 1 and Rule 1.01, Canon 7 and Rule 7.03,
and Rule 10.01 of Canon 10 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, and the Lawyer's Oath and is
hereby DISBARRED from the practice of law.
Let a copy of this Decision be entered into the personal records of Atty. Ian Raymond A. Pangalangan with the
Office of the Bar Confidant and his name is ORDERED STRICKEN from the Roll of Attorneys. Likewise, let copies
of this Decision be furnished to all chapters of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and circulated by the Court
Administrator to all the courts in the country for their information and guidance.
This Decision takes effect immediately.
SO ORDERED.

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THIRD DIVISION
A.C. No. 6056, September 09, 2015
FELICISIMA MENDOZA VDA. DE ROBOSA, Complainant, v. ATTYS. JUAN B. MENDOZA AND EUSEBIO P.
NAVARRO, JR., Respondents.
DECISION
VILLARAMA, JR., J.:
Before us is a complaint for disbarment against Atty. Juan B. Mendoza (Atty. Mendoza) for alleged deceitful acts
against his client, and Atty. Eusebio P. Navarro, Jr. (Atty. Navarro) for negligence in the handling of his client's
defense in the collection case filed by Atty. Mendoza.
Factual Antecedents
Eladio Mendoza (Eladio) applied for original registration of two parcels of land (Lot Nos. 3771 and 2489) situated in
Calamba, Laguna before the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) at Los Banos, Laguna
and Land Management Bureau (LMB) in Manila.1 While his application was still pending, Eladio died leaving all his
children as heirs to his estate; among them is herein complainant Felicisima Mendoza Vda. De Robosa (Felicisima).
Eladio's children pursued the application and executed a Special Power of Attorney 2 (SPA) in favor of Felicisima.
Their relative, Atty. Mendoza, prepared and notarized the said SPA. They also engaged the services of Atty.
Mendoza as their counsel in the proceedings before the CENRO and LMB.
On February 20, 1993, upon the behest of Atty. Mendoza, Felicisima signed a Contract for Service 3prepared by
Atty. Mendoza. The said contract stipulated that in the event of a favorable CENRO or LMB resolution, Felicisima
shall convey to Atty. Mendoza one-fifth (1/5) of the lands subject of the application or one-fifth (1/5) of the
proceeds should the same property be sold.
The CENRO and the LMB proceedings resulted in the dismissal of Felicisima and her siblings' application for Lot No.
2489 and the partial grant of their application for Lot No. 3771. 4 The Bureau of Lands issued an Original Certificate
of Title (OCT) covering one-third (VV) or about 8,901 square meters of Lot No. 3771 in the names of Felicisima
and her siblings. Subsequently, Felicisima and her siblings sold the land to Greenfield Corporation (Greenfield) and
received the amount of P2,000,000.00 as down payment.
On October 15, 1998, Atty. Mendoza, joined by his wife Filomena S. Mendoza, filed in the Regional Trial Court
(RTC) of Tanauan, Batangas a Complaint5 against Felicisima and her siblings (Civil Case No. T-1080). Atty.
Mendoza claimed that except for the amount of P40,000.00, Felicisima and her siblings refused to pay his
attorney's fees equivalent to 1/5 of the proceeds of the sale of the land as stipulated in the Contract for Service.
In their Answer with Counterclaim,6 Felicisima and her siblings denied the "existence and authenticity of the x x x
Contract of Service," adding that it did not reflect the true intention of the parties as they only agreed to pay Atty.
Mendoza PI,500.00 per appearance and up to P1,500.00 for gasoline expenses. They also asserted that, based
on quantum meruit, Atty. Mendoza is not entitled to the claimed attorney's fees because they lost in one case and
he failed to accomplish the titling of the land awarded to them, which would have enhanced the value of the
property.
Felicisima and her siblings hired the services of Atty. Navarro as their counsel in Civil Case No. T-1080.
On March 29, 2000, the RTC rendered judgment in favor of Atty. Mendoza and against Felicisima and her siblings.
The RTC ruled that Felicisima failed to substantiate her claim that she did not enter into a contingency contract for

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legal services with Atty. Mendoza, and ordered Felicisima to pay Atty. Mendoza P1,258,000.00 (for the land sold at
P7,120,800.00) representing attorney's fees as well as the total cost of suit. 7
Atty. Navarro then filed a Notice of Appeal8 on behalf of Felicisima. However, Atty. Mendoza moved for an execution
pending appeal with the RTC. Since no opposition was filed by Felicisima and her siblings, the RTC granted the said
motion and issued a writ of execution, which resulted in the levy and eventual transfer of Felicisima's properties
covered by Transfer Certificate of Title Nos. T-433859 and T-433860 in favor of Atty. Mendoza as the highest
bidder in the execution sale.9
Meanwhile, the Court of Appeals (CA) ordered Felicisima to file an appellant's brief but Atty. Navarro failed to file
the same within the period granted by the CA. Consequently, the CA dismissed Felicisima's appeal for noncompliance with Section 1(e), Rule 50 of the Revised Rules of Court. 10
On June 3, 2003, Felicisima filed a complaint-affidavit for disbarment before this Court against Atty. Mendoza for
allegedly deceiving her into signing the Contract for Service by taking advantage of her illiteracy, and against Atty.
Navarro for dereliction of duty in handling her case before the CA causing her properties to be levied and sold at
public auction.11
Felicisima alleges that Atty. Mendoza made her sign a document at her house without the presence of her siblings.
Said document (Contract for Service) was written in English which she does not understand. She claims that Atty.
Mendoza told her the document will shield her from her siblings' possible future claims on the property because
she alone is entitled to the property as her siblings did not help her in processing the application for original
registration. She was not given a copy of the said document and she discovered only during the trial that Atty.
Mendoza anchors his claim over Vs of proceeds from the sale of the land awarded by the CENRO and LMB on the
same document she had signed.12
As to Atty. Navarro, Felicisima claims that her case before the CA was neglected despite repeated follow-ups on her
part. She also points out that Atty. Navarro abandoned her case before the RTC when the latter failed to file an
opposition to Atty. Mendoza's motion for execution pending appeal, which resulted in the loss of her properties. 13
In his Comment,14 Atty. Mendoza avers that he has been a lawyer since 1954 and retired sometime in 1983 due to
partial disability. Fie went back to practicing his profession in 1996 on a selective basis due to his disability but
completely stopped a year after. Being 82 years of age at the time of filing his comment, Atty. Mendoza admits
that he is now totally disabled, cannot walk on his own, cannot even write and sign his name, and can only move
about with the help of his family for he has been suffering from a severe case of "acute gouty arthritic attack"
which causes extreme difficulty in moving virtually all his joints. He points out that he had previously handled pro
bono a concubinage case filed by Felicisima against her husband, having yielded to her repeated pleas as she was
then financially hard-up and psychologically distraught. For the application with the CENRO and LMB, he agreed to
be paid for his legal services on a contingent basis, which contract was subsequently found by the RTC to be valid.
When it was time to collect his attorney's fees, Felicisima and her siblings refused to pay him without any
justifiable reason and even threatened to shoot him if he continued to press for his compensation. This left Atty.
Mendoza with no other recourse but to avail of the judicial process to enforce his claim.
Replying to the comment of Atty. Mendoza, Felicisima maintains that she did not understand the contents of the
Contract for Service and if it was truly their agreement (contingent basis) they would not have given money to
Atty. Mendoza amounting to P66,000.00. in fact, she points out that Atty. Mendoza failed to recover one of the
lands applied for and to have the land awarded to them titled because he became ill. Further, she denies the
allegation that she and her siblings threatened to shoot Atty. Mendoza for how could they do it to a lawyer who will
certainly have them jailed. Besides, he never mentioned such incident during the hearing of the case.
On his part, Atty. Navarro asserts that he did his best to win Felicisima's case although he was unsuccessful. He
explains that even before handling Felicisima's case, he had been saddled by many cases involving politicians and
sympathizers, having previously served as councilor in the Municipality of Sto. Tomas, Batangas for two
consecutive terms. He thus emphasized to Felicisima that in order to "keep the case alive", he could file the Notice
of Appeal in her behalf, and instructed her to look for another lawyer who has the time to attend to her case and
that she would return to him only when she failed to get one. However, Atty. Navarro admits that since he was too
preoccupied with so many cases in the local courts, he had altogether forgotten about Felicisima's case, not having
seen her again as per their agreement.
Atty. Navarro avers that after a long time Felicisima suddenly showed up at his office complaining why there was
no appellant's brief filed on her behalf at the CA. He claims that Felicisima blamed her and even accused him of
conniving with Atty. Mendoza. Felicisima would not accept his explanation and she obviously failed to understand
his earlier instruction as he had filed the Notice of Appeal precisely to give her enough time to secure the services
of a new lawyer having told her that he was quite busy with his other cases. He therefore pleads for mercy and
compassion if he had somehow committed some lapses considering that this is the first time he was charged
administratively in his almost 39 years of law practice and that he is too willing to take complainant's cause if not
for such apparent miscommunication between a lawyer and his client. 15

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On December 7, 2005, the Court referred the case to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) for investigation,
report and recommendation.16
On November 6, 2006, Felicisima filed a position paper 17 reiterating that Atty. Mendoza clearly abused the trust
and confidence she reposed in him, depriving her of her material possessions by filing suit to enforce the Contract
for Service. She asserted that they could not have entered into a contract with Atty. Mendoza for the conveyance
of a portion of the land to be awarded by the Bureau of Lands as his attorney's fees because they already agreed
to pay his fee per hearing plus transportation expenses and the sum of P40,000.00. She contended that Atty.
Mendoza should be held liable for deceit and misrepresentation for tricking her to sign, to her detriment, a
document that she did not understand.
As to Atty. Navarro, Felicisima maintained that he abandoned his responsibility to monitor and keep her updated of
the status of her case before the CA. She also alleges that Atty. Navarro made it appear to her that he had already
filed the appellant's brief when, in fact, there was no such undertaking. She thus prayed that Atty. Navarro be held
liable for negligence in the conduct and manner of handling her case before the CA.
IBP's Report and Recommendation
After two postponements, the mandatory conference was finally held on September 25, 2006 where all parties
appeared except for Atty. Mendoza. Upon termination of the hearing, the parties were required to file their position
papers but only Felicisima complied.
On March 6, 2007, the Investigating Commissioner of the IBP-Commission on Bar Discipline (CBD) submitted her
Report and Recommendation18 finding Atty. Mendoza guilty of taking advantage of Felicisima's ignorance just to
have the Contract for Service signed. She held that Atty. Mendoza violated Canon 17 of the Code of Professional
Responsibility (CPR) that a lawyer owes fidelity to the cause of his client and shall be mindful of the trust and
confidence reposed on him, as well as Rule 20.04, Canon 20 which exhorts lawyers to avoid controversies with
clients concerning matters of compensation and to resort to judicial action only to prevent imposition, injustice or
fraud.19
As to Atty. Navarro, the Investigating Commissioner held that his participation in politics affected his law practice
and caused him to forget about Felicisima's case. Having failed to file the appellant's brief as ordered by the CA,
Atty. Navarro even filed a Motion to Withdraw Appearance at a very late stage, leaving no time for Felicisima to
secure the services of another lawyer. His infraction caused the eviction of Felicisima and her children from their
residence by virtue of the writ of execution and public auction of her real properties. The Investigating
Commissioner further said that Atty. Navarro's acts showed lack of diligence in violation of Canon 18 of the CPR
and his Lawyer's Oath.20
The Investigating Commissioner recommended that both Atty. Mendoza and Atty. Navarro be suspended for two
(2) years from the practice of law.21
On September 19, 2007, the IBP Board of Governors issued a Resolution 22 modifying the Investigating
Commissioner's Report and Recommendation by lowering the period of suspension from two (2) years to six (6)
months.
Atty. Navarro filed a motion for reconsideration23 contending that the IBP Board of Governors failed to consider that
after the filing of the Notice of Appeal, there was no more lawyer-client relationship between him and Felicisima.
Insisting that there was a miscommunication between him and Felicisima regarding his instruction that she should
engage the services of another lawyer after the filing of the Notice of Appeal, he stressed that she only later found
it difficult to scout for a new lawyer because she was being charged exorbitant acceptance fees. Hence, Felicisima
should be held equally negligent in not hiring the services of another lawyer despite a clear understanding to this
effect. He further cites the lack of communication between him and Felicisima, which resulted in the late filing of
the Notice of Withdrawal that she volunteered to file a long time ago.
In her comment to Atty. Navarro's motion for reconsideration, Felicisima reiterated that Atty. Navarro should be
held liable for negligence in failing to update her of the status of the case and admitting such oversight. She claims
that despite several demands, Atty. Navarro ignored them and made himself scarce. 24
On February 28, 2012, the IBP-CBD forwarded the case to this Court for proper disposition pursuant to Section 12,
Rule 139-B of the Rules of Court. Among the records transmitted was the Resolution dated January 15, 2012
denying the motion for reconsideration filed by Atty. Navarro. 25
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The Court's Ruling


The Court has consistently held that in suspension or disbarment proceedings against lawyers, the lawyer enjoys
the presumption of innocence, and the burden of proof rests upon the complainant to prove the allegations in his

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complaint. The evidence required in suspension or disbarment proceedings is preponderance of evidence. In case
the evidence of the parties are equally balanced, the equipoise doctrine mandates a decision in favor of the
respondent.26 For the Court to exercise its disciplinary powers, the case against the respondent must be
established by clear, convincing and satisfactory proof.27
Preponderance of evidence means that the evidence adduced by one side is, as a whole, superior to or has greater
weight than that of the other.28 It means evidence which is more convincing to the court as worthy of belief than
that which is offered in opposition thereto.29 Under Section 1 of Rule 133, in determining whether or not there is
preponderance of evidence, the court may consider the following: (a) all the facts and circumstances of the case;
(b) the witnesses' manner of testifying, their intelligence, their means and opportunity of knowing the facts to
which they are testifying, the nature of the facts to which they testify, the probability or improbability of their
testimony; (c) the witnesses' interest or want of interest, and also their personal credibility so far as the same may
ultimately appear in the trial; and (d) the number of witnesses, although it does not mean that preponderance is
necessarily with the greater number.
After a thorough review of the evidence and pleadings submitted by the parties, we hold that Felicisima was able
to prove her charges against Atty. Navarro but not Atty. Mendoza.
Contract for Service with Atty. Mendoza
a contract for contingent fees
The Contract for Service dated February 20, 1993 reads:

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That the client hereby employs the Attorney as their counsel for the titling and recovery of their two parcels of land
situated at Barangay Maunong, Calamba, Laguna, [Lot] No. 2489 with an area of approximately 21,784 Square
Meters and [L]ot No. 3771 with an area of more or less 26,703 and in consideration of the services of the attorney,
the client agrees to pay the following:
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1. For the prosecution of said proceedings (titling and recovery of the said parcels of land and hearing at the Land
Management Bureau, Manila, and at the Office of the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office at Los
Bafios, Laguna the client will give the Attorney one fifth (1/5[)] of the said two parcels of land or one fifth (1/5[)]
of the selling price of the said properties if sold.
Said Attorney hereby accepts said employment on said terms and conditions and to do his best care, skill and
ability, and at all times to protect the rights and interest of said client.
2. That the expenses of the proceedings, and such others as filing fees, expenses of publication, costs legally
taxable and all others shall be for the account of the client. 30
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We cannot sustain the finding of the IBP that Atty. Mendoza misled Felicisima into signing the above contract which
supposedly was intended to protect her from the claims of her siblings who did not spend for the application with
the CENRO and LMB. Such finding was based solely on the statements of Felicisima in her affidavit-complaint.
While Felicisima made a reference to her testimony before the RTC, she did not attach the transcript of
stenographic notes of the said testimony detailing the circumstances of her signing the Contract for Service.
Neither is the receipt by Atty. Mendoza of the sum of P40,000.00 after Felicisima and her siblings sold the land, by
itself an indication of fraud and deceit in the execution of the Contract for Service.
Upon the other hand, Atty. Mendoza presented the RTC Decision in Civil Case No. T-1080 dated March 29, 2000,
the relevant portions of which state:
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It is not disputed that Atty. Mendoza was paid PI,000.00 for every appearance and he was also given P300.00 for
hiring a vehicle and driver for each scheduled hearing. He also received P40,000.00 from Felicisima Mendoza when
defendants' one-third portion of Lot No. 3771 was sold.
Atty. Mendoza filed the instant case to collect one-fifth of the sale price of defendants' land which was sold for
P7,120,800.00 or the amount of P1,424,000.00 minus the amount of P40,000.00 he received, or the amount of
P1,384,000.00.
During her testimony, Felicisima Mendoza admitted the authenticity of the Special Power of Attorney whereby her
brothers and sisters authorized her to secure the services of the plaintiff Juan Mendoza adding that it was in
writing, in English and was explained to her before she signed it; that on the basis of the authority given her by
her brothers and sisters she engaged the services of Atty. Mendoza; that the signature in the document, entitled
Contract of Service, is that of her name which she signed in "his house."
On the basis of the evidence, the Court finds no ground to support Felicisima's claim that she did not enter into
any written agreement with the plaintiff, Juan Mendoza, for the latter to render legal services and the
corresponding compensation therefor as set forth in the Contract of Service. However, the Court finds that the
amounts received by the plaintiff Juan Mendoza from defendant Felicisima Mendoza during the course of his legal

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services for the twenty hearings in the amount of P1,300.00 per hearing or a total of P26,000.00 should also be
deducted from his claim of P1,384,000.00 leaving an unpaid balance of PI,258,000.00 due plaintiff Juan Mendoza
for legal services rendered the defendants.31
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Given the above finding of the RTC that Felicisima in fact entered into a contract for legal services with Atty.
Mendoza, thus debunking her defense in her Answer denying the existence and authenticity of the said document,
it appears that Felicisima raised the issue of voluntariness of her signing the Contract for Service only during the
hearing when she supposedly testified that, having reached only Grade IV and trusting completely her lawyer
cousin, Atty. Mendoza who told her that the document will protect her from the claims of her siblings, she actually
signed the Contract for Service.32 The RTC, however, found the evidence adduced by Felicisima as insufficient to
defeat Atty. Mendoza's claim for attorney's fees. Said judgment had attained finality and even pending appeal was
already executed on motion by Atty. Mendoza.
It bears to stress that a contingent fee arrangement is valid in this jurisdiction and is generally recognized as valid
and binding but must be laid down in an express contract. 33 The validity of contingent fees depends, in large
measure, upon the reasonableness of the amount fixed as contingent fee under the circumstances of the
case.34 Nevertheless, when it is shown that a contract for a contingent fee was obtained by undue influence
exercised by the attorney upon his client or by any fraud or imposition, or that the compensation is clearly
excessive, the Court must, and will protect the aggrieved party.35
Apart from the allegations in her affidavit-complaint, Felicisima failed to establish by clear and satisfactory proof of
the deception allegedly committed by Atty. Mendoza when she agreed in writing for the latter's contingent fees.
Fraud and irregularity in the execution of their contingency fee contract cannot be deduced from the fact alone
that Atty. Mendoza filed suit to enforce their contract.
Atty. Navarro 's Gross Negligence
With respect to Atty. Navarro, the facts on record clearly established his failure to live up to the standards of
diligence and competence of the legal profession.
Lawyers engaged to represent a client in a case bear the responsibility of protecting the latter's interest with
warmth, zeal and utmost diligence.36 They must constantly keep in mind that their actions or omissions would be
binding on the client.37
In this case, Atty. Navarro agreed to represent Felicisima and her siblings in Civil Case No. T-1080 and as their
counsel he filed the Answer with Counterclaim. He likewise attended the hearings of the case until the RTC
rendered an adverse judgment. However, after filing the Notice of Appeal, nothing was heard of again from him.
He did not file any opposition when Atty. Mendoza moved for execution pending appeal, which resulted in the sale
of Felicisima's properties at public auction and eventual eviction of Felicisima and her children from the said
premises. Worse, he failed to file an appellant's brief despite receipt of the order from the CA directing him to do
so within the period specified therein, and to file a motion for reconsideration when the appeal was dismissed due
to non-filing of such brief. His motion for extension of time to submit an appellant's brief was filed 93 days late
and was thus denied by the CA. Barely a week after, he filed a notice of withdrawal of appearance bearing the
conformity of his clients which was granted. It is evident from the foregoing that Atty. Navarro failed to inform
Felicisima of the status of the case so that the latter was surprised upon being served the eviction order of the
court and eventual dismissal by the CA of their appeal.
Canon 18 of the CPR mandates that a lawyer shall serve his client with competence and diligence. Rule 18.03
further provides that a lawyer shall not neglect a legal matter entrusted to him and his negligence in connection
therewith shall render him liable.
Thus:

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Once he agrees to take up the cause of a client, a lawyer owes fidelity to such cause and must always be mindful
of the trust and confidence reposed in him. He must serve the client with competence and diligence and champion
the latter's cause with wholehearted fidelity, care and devotion. Elsewise stated, he owes entire devotion to the
interest of the client, warm zeal in the maintenance and defense of his client's rights, and the exertion of his
utmost learning and ability to the end that nothing be taken or withheld from his client, save by the rules of law,
legally applied. This simply means that his client is entitled to the benefit of any and every remedy and defense
that is authorized by the law of the land and he may expect his lawyer to assert every such remedy or defense. If
much is demanded from an attorney, it is because the entrusted privilege to practice law carries with it the
correlative duties not only to the client but also to the court, to the bar and to the public. A lawyer who performs
his duty with diligence and candor not only protects the interest of his client; he also serves the ends of justice,
does honor to the bar and helps maintain the respect of the community to the legal profession. 38
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Atty. Navarro's asseveration that he had instructed Felicisima to look for another lawyer and given them the Notice
of Withdrawal of Appearance for them to file in the CA, fails to convince. If it is true that he did not agree to
continue being Felicisima's counsel before the CA, he should have immediately filed the Notice of Withdrawal of

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Appearance himself after filing the Notice of Appeal. Despite receipt of the order to file appellant's brief from the
CA, he did not inform Felicisima about it nor did he inquire from the latter whether they already secured the
services of a new counsel. That such withdrawal was filed long after the expiration of the period to file appellant's
brief and the denial by the CA of the motion for extension also belatedly filed by him, clearly indicate that he never
updated Felicisima on the status of their appeal, such information being crucial after Atty. Mendoza succeeded in
having the judgment executed pending appeal.
Atty. Navarro, in fact, admitted that he forgot about Felicisima's case due to his political activities. Despite having
received notices from the CA, he allowed the period of filing the appellant's brief to lapse and failed to file a motion
for extension before such period expired. He did file a motion for extension but only three months later and when
such motion was denied, he finally moved to withdraw from the case. There being no appellant's brief filed, the CA
granted Atty. Mendoza's motion to dismiss the appeal. Under the circumstances, Atty. Navarro was grossly
negligent in his duties, resulting in great prejudice to Felicisima who lost her properties to satisfy the judgment in
favor of Atty. Mendoza.
We have held that the failure of counsel to submit the appeal brief for his client within the reglementary period
constitutes inexcusable negligence39 an offense that entails disciplinary action.40The filing of a brief within the
period set by law is a duty not only to the client, but also to the court. 41The failure to file an appellate court brief
without any justifiable reason thus deserves sanction.42
Atty. Navarro's negligent handling of Felicisima's case was exacerbated by his failure to inform her of the status of
her case. There was no mention in his pleadings of any attempt on his part to contact Felicisima at the crucial
stages when Atty. Mendoza moved for execution pending appeal and the CA sent a directive for the filing of the
appellant's brief. If indeed, he had already instructed Felicisima to look for another lawyer, he should have apprised
her of these developments and explained to her the urgency of filing the notice of withdrawal of appearance and
entry of appearance of a new counsel she may have already engaged.
Atty. Navarro's failure to communicate vital information to his client violated Rule 18.04 which provides:

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Rule 18.04 A lawyer shall keep the client informed of the status of his case and shall respond within a reasonable
time to the client's request for information.
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The lawyer's duty to keep his client constantly updated on the developments of his case is crucial in maintaining
the client's confidence. Indeed, the relationship of lawyer-client being one of confidence, there is ever present the
need for the lawyer to inform timely and adequately the client of important developments affecting the client's
case. The lawyer should not leave the client in the dark on how the lawyer is defending the client's interests. 43
In cases involving a lawyer's failure to file a brief or other pleading before an appellate court, this Court has
imposed suspension from the practice of law for periods ranging from three to six months, and in most serious
cases, even disbarment.44
We find the recommendation of the IBP-Board of Governors to suspend Atty. Navarro from the practice of law for
six months appropriate under the circumstances. Considering that this is his first administrative offense, such
penalty, and not disbarment as prayed for by complainant, serves the purpose of protecting the interest of the
public and the legal profession. For this Court will exercise its power to disbar only in clear cases of misconduct
that seriously affects the standing and character of the lawyer as an officer of the court and a member of the
bar.45
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WHEREFORE, the Court finds respondent Atty. Eusebio P. Navarro, Jr. GUILTY of violation of Rule 18.03 and Rule
18.04 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, and is hereby SUSPENDED from the practice of law for six (6)
months effective upon finality of this Decision, with warning that a repetition of the same or similar violation shall
be dealt with more severely. The charges against Atty. Juan B. Mendoza are DISMISSED.
SO ORDERED.

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Velasco, Jr., Peralta, Perez,* and Jardeleza, JJ., concur.


Endnotes:

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FIRST DIVISION
G.R. No. 182151, September 21, 2015
IGLICERIA VDA. DE KARAAN, Petitioner, v. ATTY. SALVADOR AGUINALDO, MARCELINA AGUINALDO,
JUANITA AGUINALDO AND SERGIO AGUINALDO, Respondents.
DECISION
SERENO, C.J.:
This resolves the Petition for Review on Certiorari filed by petitioner Igliceria vda. de Karaan to assail the Court of
Appeals (CA) Decision dated 28 September 20071 and Resolution dated 12 March 20082in CA-G.R. SP No. 85862.
Petitioner questions the CA's finding of forum shopping, which led to the dismissal of her complaint for damages
against respondents Salvador Aguinaldo, Marcelina Aguinaldo, Juanita Aguinaldo and Sergio Aguinaldo. 3
Factual Antecedents
On 20 September 1999, petitioner filed a Complaint 4 against respondents before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of
Quezon City. The case was docketed as Civil Case No. Q-99-38762. 5 In her Complaint, petitioner sought payment
of damages for the alleged destruction of the cottages and other structures inside Fine Sand Beach Resort, which
she owned and operated.6 She alleged that respondents destroyed the structures inside her property using a
bulldozer in the guise of enforcing a Writ of Demolition issued by the RTC of Balanga in Civil Case Nos. 5702 and
5826.7 She maintained, however, that the demolition of improvements inside her resort was illegal, since she was
not a party to the two civil cases, and her name was not even mentioned in the writ. 8
On 8 October 1999, respondents filed a Motion to Dismiss 9 the Complaint on the ground of forum shopping. They
asserted that petitioner failed to disclose the other actions she had filed against them in her Verification and
Certification of Non-Forum Shopping;10 in particular, the cases she had initiated before the Office of the
Ombudsman and the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP). 11 The RTC denied respondents' Motion to Dismiss in a
Resolution dated 10 April 2000.12
On 27 February 2003, respondents filed a Manifestation and Motion to Dismiss 13 seeking the dismissal of the case
on the following grounds: (a) forum shopping; 14 (b) lack of jurisdiction over the person of deceased respondent
Angel Aguinaldo and over nonresidents Pedro and Concepcion Aguinaldo; 15 and (c) lack of jurisdiction over the
subject matter of the case.16 Respondents again emphasized the failure of petitioner to disclose the existence of:
(i) OMB-1-99-0870 and OMB 1-99-0900, two cases for malicious mischief she had filed against them before the
Ombudsman; and (ii) Civil Case No. 7345, a civil action for right of way allegedly involving the same property and
the same parties.17
The RTC denied the motion of respondents in a Resolution dated 11 April 2003 18 noting that their arguments had
already been passed upon by the court in their first motion to dismiss. 19 Their Motion for Reconsideration20 was
likewise denied.21
On 19 August 2004, respondents filed a Petition for Certiorari 22 with the CA to challenge the RTC Resolution. They
contended that the RTC committed grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction when it
denied their Motion to Dismiss. They reiterated petitioner's supposed acts of forum shopping, the absence of a
cause of action, and the court's lack of jurisdiction over both the person of respondents and the subject matter of

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the case.
In a Decision dated 28 September 2007,23 the CA granted the Petition for Certiorari filed by respondents. While the
appellate court rejected the arguments on lack of jurisdiction, 24 it upheld their claim of forum shopping, specifically
with respect to Civil Case No. 7345.25 It noted that this second case involved an identical claim for damages being
raised by the same parties and arising from the demolition of the same structures in Bataan. 26 The CA thus
considered the filing of the two cases as an act of forum shopping, which warranted the dismissal of the instant
suit:
Anent the damages and right of way cases, the requisites for litis pendentia are present. Thus, the Public
Respondent gravely erred in denying the Petitioners' prayer for the dismissal of the damages case.
The dismissal of the damages case is, therefore, proper under the circumstances by reason of forum-shopping and
not on the basis of lack of jurisdiction over the persons of some of the defendants and over the subject matter.
With all the foregoing disquisitions, We find grave abuse of discretion on the part of the Public Respondent in
denying the dismissal of the damages case on the ground of forum-shopping.
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Petition is hereby GRANTED. The Order(s) dated April 11, 2003 and May
18, 2004 of the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City, Br. 78, in Civil Case No. 99-38762, respectively, are hereby
REVERSED and SET ASIDE. Accordingly, the case is ordered DISMISSED. Costs against the Respondents. 27 (Italics
and underscoring in the original)
On 11 October 2007, petitioner sought reconsideration of the Decision. 28 Her motion was, however, denied by the
CA in a Resolution dated 12 March 2008.29
In this Petition for Review, petitioner asserts that the CA grossly erred in finding her guilty of forum shopping and
ordering the dismissal of this case.30 She contends that although her name was included as a plaintiff in Civil Case
No. 7345, she was not a party to the case inasmuch as she never consented to her inclusion in the list. 31 She also
points out the "glaring divergence in the rights asserted and reliefs prayed for in Civil Case No. 7345 and Civil Case
No. 99-3 8762."32 She claims that Civil Case No. 7345 involves a claim arising from the closure by respondents of a
road right of way located inside their property in Morong, Bataan, while the instant case centers on the malicious
and unlawful demolition of the improvements inside her beach resort. 33
In their Comment and/or Opposition to the Petition dated 7 September 2008, 34 respondents assert that petitioner
committed forum shopping when she filed Civil Case No. 7345 while the instant case for damages was
pending.35 They contend that the same cause of action was utilized in both cases to protest the purportedly illegal
eviction of petitioner from the same property in Morong, Bataan. 36Both cases also allegedly involve a prayer for
damages.37 Respondents further refute petitioner's supposed lack of knowledge of the filing of Civil Case No. 7345,
citing her familiarity with the eventual outcome of the action and her failure to take any legal action against the
persons who caused her inclusion as a plaintiff in the case.
In her Reply dated 23 September 2008,38 petitioner maintains that: (a) she was not a party to Civil Case No.
7345;39 and (b) there are "obvious differences in the rights asserted and reliefs prayed for" in the two cases. 40
ISSUE
The Court is called upon to resolve a single issue: whether the filing of Civil Case No. 7345 constituted forum
shopping on the part of petitioner.
OUR RULING
We GRANT the Petition.
Forum shopping is committed when multiple suits involving the same parties and the same causes of action are
filed, either simultaneously or successively, for the purpose of obtaining a favorable judgment through means
other than appeal or certiorari.41 In Guerrero v. Director, Land Management Bureau,42 the Court explained the
three modes in which forum shopping is committed:
Forum shopping can be committed in three ways: (1) by filing multiple cases based on the same cause of action
and with the same prayer, the previous case not having been resolved yet (which makes the cases susceptible to
dismissal based on litis pendentia); (2) by filing multiple cases based on the same cause of action and the same
prayer, the previous case having been finally resolved (which makes the subsequent case susceptible to dismissal
based on res judicata); and (3) by filing multiple cases based on the same cause of action, but with different
prayers (which amounts to splitting of causes of action, which renders the cases susceptible to dismissal on the
ground of either litis pendentia or res judicata).
In this case, the CA found petitioner guilty of forum shopping and ordered the dismissal of her Complaint on the
basis of litis pendentia.43 It ruled that the parties and the claims raised in this case are identical with those in Civil
Case No. 7345:
With regard to the case for damages and the case filed with the RTC of Balanga, Bataan (for right of way),
however, there is identity of parties and causes of action. The plaintiffs in the case for damages were the

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defendants in the right of way case, and the plaintiffs in the right of way case were the Petitioners, with the
municipal government of Morong, Batan, the government of Brgy. Nagbalayong, Morong, Bataan as co-plaintiffs.
In the same manner, the Petitioners, on the other hand, were the defendants in the damages case. Furthermore,
the right of way case includes a claim for damages arising not only from the commencement of the action but also
by reason of the demolition undertaken by the Petitioners. From the records, it appears that the case for damages
filed with the RTC of Quezon City stemmed from, the demolition of the Respondent's constructed structures in
Bataan, and the right of way case before the RTC of Bataan also carried with it a claim for damages arising from
the same demolition. Thus, in this instance, there is forum shopping. 44
We reverse.
A finding of litis pendentia must be premised on the existence of the following elements: (a) identity of the parties
in the two actions; and (b) substantial identity in the causes of action and in the reliefs sought such that any
judgment rendered in one case, regardless of which party is successful, would amount to res judicata in the
other.45 Of these elements, we find that only the identity of the parties in the two cases has been sufficiently
established.
Identity of Parties Established
Petitioner does not deny that her name appears in the list of plaintiffs in the Complaint 46 filed in Civil Case No.
7345.47 She nonetheless asserts that she should not be considered a party to Civil Case No. 7345, because she
never agreed to become a plaintiff in the suit and was not even aware that the action had been filed. She also
points out that she did not sign the Verification and Affidavit of Non-Forum Shopping attached to the Complaint, or
any other document authorizing the lawyer who filed the case to represent her.
The Court is not inclined to believe this denial, particularly in light of petitioner's conduct.
First, the failure of petitioner to allege this defense early causes us to doubt her assertion. We note that in their
Manifestation and Motion to Dismiss dated 27 February 2003,48 respondents first discussed the filing of Civil Case
No. 7345 as an act of forum shopping. Although petitioner filed a Comment and/or Opposition 49 to the motion, she
never alleged that she had been erroneously included as a plaintiff in the civil case. Respondents subsequently
reiterated their discussion of Civil Case No. 7345 in their Motion for Reconsideration 50 filed with the RTC and in
their Petition forCertiorari 51 with the CA. In her Comment and/or Opposition (To: Motion for Reconsideration) 52 and
Comment and/or Opposition53 to the petition for certiorari, petitioner again failed to assert that she had been
included as a plaintiff in Civil Case No. 7345 without her knowledge and consent. The records of this case show
that she first used this particular defense only in her Motion for Reconsideration 54 filed with the CA on 11 October
2007.
Second, there is no indication that petitioner ever conveyed her predicament to the RTC of Balanga, Branch 2 - the
court where Civil Case No. 7345 was pending. If it were true that she was included as a plaintiff in the civil action
without her knowledge and consent, she would have taken steps to protect herself by manifesting that fact to the
RTC or, at