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[A.C. No. 8253(Formerly CBD Case No.

03-1067), March 15, 2011]

ERLINDA R. TAROG, COMPLAINANT, VS. ATTY. ROMULO L. RICAFORT,


RESPONDENT.

FACTS:
1992, the Tarogs sought the advice of Atty. Jaime L. Miralles regarding their bank-
foreclosed property located in the Bicol Region. Atty. Miralles advised them to engage a
Bicol-based attorney for that purpose, so they engaged Atty. Ricafort as their attorney.

Atty. Ricafort required the Tarogs to pay P7,000.00 as filing fee, which they gave to him.
He explained the importance of depositing P65,000.00 in court to counter the P60,000.00
deposited by Antonio Tee, the buyer of the foreclosed property. November 7, 1992, the
Tarogs delivered the P65,000.00 to Atty. Ricafort.

After some time, the Tarogs visited Atty. Ricafort to verify the status of the
consignation. Atty. Ricafort informed them that he had not deposited the amount in court,
but in his own account. He promised to return the money, plus interest. Despite several
inquiries about when the amount would be returned, however, the Tarogs received mere
assurances from Atty. Ricafort that the money was in good hands.

When it became apparent to the Tarogs that Atty. Ricafort would not make good his
promise of returning the P65,000.00, plus interest, Arnulfo demanded by his letter dated
December 3, 2002 that Atty. Ricafort return the P65,000.00, plus interest, and the
P15,000.00 paid for the filing of the memorandum. Yet, they did not receive any reply
from Atty. Ricafort.

Atty. Ricafort denied that the P65,000.00 was intended to be deposited in court, insisting
that the amount was payment for his legal services under a "package deal". He claimed
that the fees were agreed upon after considering the value of the property, his skill and
experience as a lawyer, the labor, time, and trouble involved, and his professional
character and social standing; that at the time he delivered the check, Arnulfo read,
understood, and agreed to the contents of the complaint, which did not mention anything
about any consignation; and that Arnulfo, being a retired school principal, was a learned
person who would not have easily fallen for any scheme like the one they depicted against
him.

ISSUE:

Is Atty. Romulo Ricafort guilty of grave misconduct in his dealings with the Tarogs?
RULING:

Supreme Court affirmed the findings of the Commissioner Reyes, because they were
supported by substantial evidence. However, imposed the penalty of disbarment instead of
the recommended penalty of indefinite suspension, considering that Atty. Ricafort
committed a very serious offense that was aggravated by his having been previously
administratively sanctioned for a similar offense on the occasion of which he was warned
against committing a similar offense.

Atty. Ricafort was required to hold in trust any money and property of his clients
that came into his possession, and he needed to be always mindful of the trust and
confidence his clients reposed in him. Thus, having obtained the funds from the Tarogs
in the course of his professional employment, he had the obligation to deliver such funds
to his clients (a) when they became due, or (b) upon demand.

Atty. Ricafort's act of obtaining P65,000.00 and P15,000.00 from the Tarogs under the
respective pretexts that the amount would be deposited in court and that he would
prepare and file the memorandum for the Tarogs erected a responsibility to account for
and to use the amounts in accordance with the particular purposes intended. For him to
deposit the amount of P65,000.00 in his personal account without the consent of the
Tarogs and not return it upon demand, and for him to fail to file the memorandum and yet
not return the amount of P15,000.00 upon demand constituted a serious breach of his
fiduciary duties as their attorney. He reneged on his duty to render an accounting to his
clients showing that he had spent the amounts for the particular purposes intended. He
was thereby presumed to have misappropriated the moneys for his own use to the
prejudice of his clients and in violation of the clients' trust reposed in him. He could not
escape liability, for upon failing to use the moneys for the purposes intended, he should
have immediately returned the moneys to his clients.

Atty. Ricafort's plain abuse of the confidence reposed in him by his clients rendered him
liable for violation of Canon 16, particularly Rule 16.01, supra, and Canon 17, all of the Code
of Professional Responsibility. His acts and actuations constituted a gross violation of
general morality and of professional ethics that impaired public confidence in the legal
profession and deserved punishment.
A.C. No. 8010 June 16, 2009

KELD STEMMERIK, represented by ATTYS. HERMINIO A. LIWANAG and


WINSTON P.L. ESGUERRA, Complainant, vs. ATTY. LEONUEL N. MAS, Respondent.

FACTS:

Keld Stemmerik is a citizen and resident of Denmark. In one visit to the Philippines,
Stemmerik marveled at the beauty of the country and expressed his interest in acquiring
real property in the Philippines. He consulted Atty. Mas who advised him that he could
legally acquire and own real property in the Philippines. Atty. Mas even suggested an
86,998 sq.m. property in Quarry, Agusuin, Cawag, Subic, Zambales with the assurance that
the property was alienable.

Trusting him, Stemmerik agreed to purchase the property through Atty. Mas as his
representative or attorney-in-fact. He also engaged the services of Atty. Mas for the
preparation of the necessary documents. For this purpose, Atty. Mas demanded and
received a P400,000 fee.

Confident that Atty. Mas would faithfully carry out his task, Stemmerik returned to
Denmark, entrusting the processing of the necessary paperwork to him.

After the various contracts and agreements were executed, Stemmerik tried to get in
touch with Atty. Mas to inquire about when the property could be registered in his name.
However, the said attorney suddenly became scarce and refused to answer his calls and e-
mail messages.

Stemmerik visited the Philippines in January 2005, he engaged the services of the
Jimenez Gonzales Liwanag Bello Valdez Caluya & Fernandez Law Office to ascertain the
status of the property he supposedly bought. He was devastated to learn that aliens could
not own land under Philippine laws.

ISSUE:

Did Attorney Mas abuse the trust and confidence reposed by Stemmerik in him?
RULING:

Lawyers, as members of a noble profession, have the duty to promote respect for the law
and uphold the integrity of the bar. As men and women entrusted with the law, they must
ensure that the law functions to protect liberty and not as an instrument of oppression or
deception. Atty. Mas committed a serious breach of his oath as a lawyer. He is also guilty
of culpable violation of the Code of Professional Responsibility, the code of ethics of the
legal profession.

All lawyers take an oath to support the Constitution, to obey the laws and to do no
falsehood. That oath is neither mere formal ceremony nor hollow words. It is a sacred
trust that should be upheld and kept inviolable at all times.

Lawyers are servants of the law and the law is their master. They should not simply obey
the laws, they should also inspire respect for and obedience thereto by serving as
exemplars worthy of emulation. Indeed, that is the first precept of the Code of
Professional Responsibility:

CANON 1 A LAWYER SHALL UPHOLD THE CONSTITUTION, OBEY THE LAWS OF


THE LAND AND PROMOTE RESPECT FOR LAW AND LEGAL PROCESSES.

Atty. Mas in giving advice that directly contradicted fundamental constitutional policy,
showed disrespect for the Constitution and gross ignorance of basic law. Worse, he
prepared spurious documents that he knew were void and illegal.

Atty. Mas violated not only the lawyers oath and Canons 1, 5, 7, 15, 16 and 17 of the Code
of Professional Responsibility. He also transgressed the following provisions of the Code of
Professional Responsibility:

CANON 17 A LAWYER OWES FIDELITY TO THE CAUSE OF HIS CLIENT AND HE


SHALL BE MINDFUL OF THE TRUST AND CONFIDENCE REPOSED IN HIM.

A lawyer who resorts to nefarious schemes to circumvent the law and uses his legal
knowledge to further his selfish ends to the great prejudice of others, poses a clear and
present danger to the rule of law and to the legal system. He does not only tarnish the
image of the bar and degrade the integrity and dignity of the legal profession; he also
betrays everything that the legal profession stands for.

It is Atty. Mas and his kind that give lawyering a bad name and make laymen support Dick
the Butchers call, "Kill all lawyers!" A disgrace to their professional brethren, they must
be purged from the bar.
A.C. No. 5687 February 03, 2005

FELIX E. EDQUIBAL, complainant, vs. ATTY. ROBERTO FERRER, JR., Respondent.

FACTS:

Edquibal engaged the services of Ferrer to assist his mother Ursula Edquibal in cases she
filed against his sister Delia Edquibal-Garcia involving a certain real property in Masinloc,
Zambales. His mother obtained favorable judgments in four (4) out of the five (5) cases
handled by Ferrer. However, in Civil Case No. RTC-1495-I (filed with the Regional Trial
Court, Branch 70, Iba, Zambales), the trial judge rendered a decision adverse to his
mother. Ferrer then advised Edquibal to appeal to the Court of Appeals and that the cost
involved is P4,000.00. When Edquibal informed Ferrer that he does not have enough
money, the latter said P2,000.00 would be sufficient for the moment. After receiving the
money from Edquibal, Ferrer told him just to wait for the result. The appeal was docketed
as CA-G.R. CV No. 65019.

Edquibal failed to hear from Ferrer in January 2001, he went to the Court of Appeals to
follow-up the appealed case. He then learned that the appeal was dismissed for failure of
the appellant to file the required appellants brief.

ISSUE:

Whether or not Ferrer violated Canon 17 and 18 of the Code of Professional Responsibility
(CPR).

RULING:

Undoubtedly, Ferrers failure to exercise due diligence in protecting and attending to the
interest of Complainant (Complainants mother) caused the latter material prejudice. It
should be remembered that the moment a lawyer takes a clients cause, he covenants that
he will exert all effort for its prosecution until its final conclusion. A lawyer who fails to
exercise due diligence or abandons his clients cause makes him unworthy of the trust
reposed in him by the latter. x x x"

Obviously, his negligence, which resulted in the dismissal of the appeal, caused prejudice
to his clients. Likewise, respondents failure to inform complainant of the status of his
mothers appeal is inexcusable.

It bears stressing that the lawyer-client relationship is one of trust and confidence. Thus,
there is a need for the client to be adequately and fully informed about the developments
in his case. A client should never be left groping in the dark, for to do so would be to
destroy the trust, faith, and confidence reposed in the lawyer so retained in particular and
the legal profession in general.

Respondent violated Canons 17 and 18 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, which


provide:

"Canon 17 - A lawyer owes fidelity to the cause of his client and he shall be mindful
of the trust and confidence reposed in him.

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 his clients request for information."

Diligence is "the attention and care required of a person in a given situation and is the
opposite of negligence." A lawyer serves his client with diligence by adopting that norm of
practice expected of men of good intentions. He thus owes entire devotion to the interest
of his client, warm zeal in the defense and maintenance of his rights, and the exertion of
his utmost learning, skill, and ability to ensure that nothing shall be taken or withheld from
him, save by the rules of law legally applied. It is axiomatic in the practice of law that the
price of success is eternal diligence to the cause of the client.

The practice of law does not require extraordinary diligence (exactissima diligentia) or
that "extreme measure of care and caution which persons of unusual prudence and
circumspection use for securing and preserving their rights." All that is required is
ordinary diligence (diligentia) or that degree of vigilance expected of a bonus pater
familias. Yet, even by this lesser standard, Ferrers failure to attend to his clients appeal
is clearly wanting.

ATTY. ROBERTO FERRER, JR. is hereby found guilty of professional misconduct and
neglect of duty. He is SUSPENDED from the practice of law for three (3) months with a
WARNING that a repetition of the same or a similar offense shall be dealt with more
severely. He is further DIRECTED to return immediately to the complainant the amount of
P2,000.00.
A.C. No. 5655 April 22, 2005

VALERIANA U. DALISAY, Complainant, vs.ATTY. MELANIO MAURICIO, JR.,


Respondent.

FACTS:

Dalisay was impressed by the pro-poor and pro-justice advocacy of Mauricio, a media
personality and engaged his services as her counsel in Civil Case No. 00-44, wherein she is
the defendant, pending before the Municipal Trial Court of Binangonan, Rizal. She handed
to him all the pertinent documents. Mauricio demanded P25,000.00 as acceptance fee
which she paid. Mauricio asked her to pay P8,000.00 as filing fee which she obliged
although she knew that Civil Case No. 00-44 was already filed with the court.

After a month, Dalisay followedup her case. Mauricio demanded additional acceptance
fee, or a total of P90,000.00, with the explanation that he can give a discount should she
pay in cash. He also asked her to pay him P3,000.00 as appearance fee.

Dalisay further alleged that notwithstanding her payments, Mauricio never rendered any
legal service for her in Civil Case No. 00-044. As a result, she terminated their attorney-
client relationship and demanded the return of her money and documents. However, he
refused to do so.

ISSUE:

Whether or not Mauricio is guilty of malpractice and gross misconduct in relation to


Canons 17 and 18 of the Code Professional Responsibility.

RULING:

There is nothing in the records to show that Mauricio entered his appearance as counsel of
record for Dalisay in Civil Case No. 00-044. He did not even follow-up the case which
remained pending up to the time she terminated his services.

As to the P8,000.00, allegedly as docket fees for other cases, paid to respondent by
complainant, the Investigating Commissioner found that "there was no evidence nor any
pleadings submitted to show that respondent filed any case considering that the filing
fee had to be paid simultaneously with the filing of a case."

Canons 17 and 18 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, the body of rules governing
the conduct of every member of the Bar in this jurisdiction, provides:
"CANON 17 A LAWYER OWES FIDELITY TO THE CAUSE OF HIS CLIENT
AND HE SHALL BE MINDFUL OF THE TRUST AND CONFIDENCE REPOSED
IN HIM.

CANON 18 A LAWYER SHALL SERVE HIS CLIENT WITH COMPETENCE AND


DILIGENCE."

More specifically, Rule 18.03 states:

"A LAWYER SHALL NOT NEGLECT A LEGAL MATTER ENTRUSTED TO HIM, AND
HIS NEGLIGENCE IN CONNECTION THEREWITH SHALL RENDER HIM
LIABLE."

Also, respondents Attorneys Oath declares that respondent shall impose upon himself the
sacred duty, among others, that he will not delay any man for money or malice, and will
conduct himself as a lawyer according to the best of his knowledge and discretion with all
good fidelity to courts as well as to his clients.

A member of the legal profession owes his client entire devotion to his genuine interest
and warm zeal in the maintenance and defense of his rights. An attorney is expected to
exert his best efforts and ability to protect his clients case, for his unwavering loyalty to
his client likewise serves the ends of justice. Indeed, the entrusted privilege of every
lawyer to practice law carries with it his corresponding duties, not only to his client, but
also to the court, to the bar and to the public.

Mauricio insists that he is entitled to attorneys fees since he gave legal advice and
opinions to complainant on her problems and those of her family. Just like any other
professional, a lawyer is entitled to collect fees for his services. However, he should
charge only a reasonable amount of fees. Canon 20 of the Code of Professional
Responsibility mandates that "A lawyer shall charge only fair and reasonable fees." There
is, however, no hard and fast rule which will serve as guide in determining what is or what
is not a reasonable fee. That must be determined from the facts of each case. The
power to determine the reasonableness or the unconscionable character of a lawyers fee
is a matter falling within the regulatory prerogative of the Court. It is now clear that
since Mauricio did not take any step to assist Dalisay in her case, charging P56,000.00 is
improper. While giving legal advice and opinion on complainants problems and those of her
family constitutes legal service, however, the attorneys fee must be reasonable.
Obviously, P56,000.00 is exorbitant.
A.C. No. 5302. February 18, 2005

MARCIAL L. ABIERO, complainant, vs. ATTY. BERNARDO G. JUANINO, respondent.

FACTS:

July 20, 2000, an administrative complaint was filed by Marcial L. Abiero charging Atty.
Bernardo G. Juanino with negligence in connection with a legal matter entrusted to him.

It appears that Abiero engaged the services of Juanino of the law firm P.C. Nolasco and
Associates as counsel de parte in NLRC NCR OCW Case No. 00-12-00904-95. On January
29, 1998, Labor Arbiter Eduardo J. Carpio ruled in favor of complainant by ordering the
respondents to pay complainant his unpaid wages and unpaid vacation leave pay, to refund
his plane fare and to pay moral damages and attorneys fees.

The National Labor Relations Commission reversed the arbiters decision and dismissed the
case for lack of basis.

Abiero, either personally or through his designated agents, tried to follow up the status of
the case. Each time, Juanino would advise him to call on a later date at which time he may
have some news of any development with the case.

Juanino filed with the Court of Appeals a motion for extension of time to file a petition
for review and paid the corresponding docket fee.

When Abiero verified with the Court of Appeals the status of the case, he found out that
Juanino never filed a Petition for Review of his labor case. Consequently, the NLRC
decision became final and executory.

ISSUE:

Whether Juanino violated Canons 17 and 18 of the Code of Professional Responsibility.

RULING:

A lawyer owes fidelity to the cause of his client at all times, mindful of the trust and
confidence reposed in him. He must always serve with competence and diligence, and never
neglect a legal matter entrusted to him. An attorney should endeavor to keep his client
informed of the status of his case and respond within a reasonable time to the latters
request for information. Failure to comply with these abiding precepts of ethical conduct
renders counsel liable for violating the canons of his profession.
The lawyer has the duty to exert his best judgment in the prosecution or defense of the
case entrusted to him and to exercise reasonable and ordinary care and diligence in the
pursuit or defense of the case.

As a lawyer, Juanino should know that he is not required to seek prior approval from the
labor arbiter before he could file a motion for execution. Notwithstanding, he presented
himself, not once, but thrice, before the office of the arbiter to discuss his plan to file a
motion for execution, only to discover that such recourse was not feasible. Worse, while
Juanino was waiting for the arbiters opinion, the period to file the petition before the
Court of Appeals continued to run, as in fact, it eventually expired.

Failure to appeal to the Court of Appeals despite instructions by the client to do so


constitutes inexcusable negligence on the part of counsel. Once a lawyer consents to
defend the cause of his client, he owes fidelity to such cause and must at all times be
mindful of the trust and confidence reposed in him. He is bound to protect his clients
interest to the best of his ability and perform his duties to his client with utmost
diligence. Nothing less can be expected from a member of the Philippine Bar. For having
neglected a legal matter entrusted to him by his client, respondent did not serve his client
with diligence and competence. His inexcusable negligence on such matter renders him
liable for violation of Canons 17 and 18 of the Code of Professional Responsibility.

The Court cannot overstate the duty of a lawyer to uphold the integrity and dignity of the
legal profession at all times. He can do this by faithfully performing his duties to society,
to the bar, to the courts and to his clients.