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Azucena Segovia-Ribaya and Atty. Bartolome Lawsin entered into a retainership

agreement for the processing of registration and delivery of the certificate of title over a
certain parcel of land. Respondent acted as the representative of Heirs of the late Isabel
Segovia and received P15,000 for litigation and P39,000 for land registration expenses.
In the lapse of 3 years, it was alleged that respondent failed to fulfill his undertaking to
register the subject land and deliver to complainant the certificate of the title over the
same. Complainant decided to withdraw the subject amount and sent 2 demand letters
but all to no avail. Respondent asserted that the complainants brother, Erlindo, asked to
be reimbursed the amount of P7,500.00 which the latter purportedly paid to the land
surveyor. He also found out that he could not perform his undertaking under the retainer
because the ownership of the subject land was still under litigation. He also wanted to
return the balance of the subject amount but it was prevented because the complainant
shouted and called him names in the presence of his staff in his office.


Whether or not the respondent should be held administratively liable for violating
Rules 16.01 and 16.03, Canon 16 of the Code.


The Supreme Court affirms with the findings of IBP that respondent is
administratively liable but extends IBPs recommendation from 6 months to a year of
suspension due to his failure to comply with Rules 18.03 and 18.04, Canon 18 of the
Code. Respondent did not only accomplish his undertaking under the retainer, but
likewise failed to give an explanation for such non-performance despite the length of
time given for him to do so.

CF Sharp Crew Management Inc. v Nicolas C. Torres

A.C. No. 10438, Sept 23, 2014

Complainant Corporation hired Atty. Nicolas Torres, a medical doctor and a lawyer
by profession, as its Legal and Claims Manager to serve as its legal counsel and to
oversee the administration and management of legal cases and medical- related
claims instituted by seafarers against complainants various principals.
In several cases, complainant issued several checks in different amounts as
settlement of claims of seafarers upon the request of Torres. However, it was later
discovered that Torres never gave the checks to the seafarers and instead had them
deposited at International Exchange Bank, Banawe, Quezon City Branch, under
Account No. 003-10-06902-1.

Complainant filed the present complaint directly to the IBP. The IBP issued an order
requiring Atty. Torres to answer, but he failed to do so. He also failed to appear in a
mandatory conference.

The essential issue in this case is whether or not respondent should be

held administratively liable for violating the CPR.

The IBP Investigating Commissioner found respondent administratively liable for

violating the CPR. The IBP Board of Governors unanimously adopted the report of
the Investigating Commissioner.

After a judicious perusal of the records, the Supreme Court concurs with the findings
of the IBP in its report and recommendation.

It is fundamental that the relationship between a lawyer and his client is highly
fiduciary and ascribes to a lawyer a great degree of fidelity and good faith. The
highly fiduciary nature of this relationship imposes upon the lawyer the duty to
account for the money or property collected or received for or from his client. This is
the standard laid down by Rules 16.01 and 16.03, Canon 16 of the CPR.

According to the SC, the IBP Investigating Commissioner correctly found that
complainant had duly proven its charges against respondent. In particular,
complainant had exposed respondents modus operandi of repeatedly requesting
the issuance of checks purportedly for the purpose of settling seafarers claims
against the complainants various principals, only to have such checks deposited to
an unauthorized bank account, particularly International Exchange Bank, Banawe,
Quezon City Branch, under Account No. 003-10-06902-1. It is well-settled that
when a lawyer receives money from the client for a particular purpose, the lawyer
is bound to render an accounting to the client showing that the money was spent
for a particular purpose. And if he does not use the money for the intended purpose,
the lawyer must immediately return the money to his client. This, respondent failed
to do.

Clearly, respondents acts of misappropriation constitute dishonesty, abuse of trust

and confidence reposed in him by the complainant, and betrayal of his clients
interests which he is duty-bound to protect. They are contrary to the mandate of
Rule 1.01, Canon 1 of the CPR.

What is the proper penalty for Atty. Torres acts?

The Investigating Commissioner recommended suspension from the practice of law

for one (1) year. The IBP Board of Governors recommended suspension from
practice of law for two (2) years.

The Supreme Court held that the proper penalty is disbarment.

Jurisprudence provides that in similar cases where lawyers misappropriated their

clients money, the Court imposed upon them the ultimate penalty of disbarment
from the practice of law. In Arellano University, Inc. v. Mijares III, the Court disbarred
the lawyer for misappropriating his clients money intended for securing a
certificate of title on the latters behalf. Similarly, in Freeman v. Reyes, the same
penalty was imposed upon the lawyer who misappropriated the insurance proceeds
of her clients deceased husband.

Respondent's conduct of misappropriating complainant's money has made him unfit

to remain in the legal profession. He has definitely fallen below the moral bar when
he engaged in deceitful, dishonest, unlawful, and grossly immoral acts.

WHEREFORE, respondent Nicolas C. Torres is found guilty of violating Rule 1.01,

Canon 1 and Rules 16.01 and 16.03, Canon 16 of the Code of Professional
Responsibility. Accordingly, he is hereby DISBARRED from the practice of law and
his name ordered STRICKEN OFF from the roll of attorneys.

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