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Guevarra vs. Eala A.C. No.

7136 August 1, 2007


Object 3
2

Joselano Guevarra vs. Atty. Jose Emmanuel Eala

A.C. No. 7136

August 1, 2007

Facts: On March 4, 2002 a complaint of disbarment was filed before the Integrated Bar of the
Philippines Committee on Bar Discipline against Atty. Jose Emmanuel M. Eala a.k.a. Noli Eala for
grossly immoral conduct and unmitigated violation of the lawyers oath. In the Complaint, Guevarra
first met the respondent in January 2000 when his then fiance Irene Moje introduced respondent to
him as her friend who was married to Marianne Tantoco with whom he had three children.

After his marriage to Irene on October 7, 2000, Complainant noticed that from January to March 2001,
Irene had been receiving from respondent Cellphone calls, as well as messages some which read I
love you, I miss you, or Meet you at Megamall. He also noticed that Irene habitually went home
very late at night or early in the morning of the following day, and sometimes did not go home from
work. When he asked her whereabouts, she replied that she slept at her parents house in Binangonan,
Rizal or she was busy with her work.

In February or March 2001, complainant saw Irene and Respondent together on two occasions. On the
second occasion, he confronted them following which Irene abandoned the conjugal house. On April
22, 2001 complainant went uninvited to Irenes birthday celebration at which he saw her and the
Object 1

respondent celebrating with her family and friends. Out of embarrassment, anger and humiliation, he
left the venue immediately. Following that incident, Irene went to the conjugal house and hauled off all
her personal belongings. Complainant later found a handwritten letter dated October 7, 2007, the day of
his wedding to Irene, Complainant soon saw respondents car and that of Irene constantly parked at No.
71-B11 Street, New Manila where as he was later learn sometime in April 2001, Irene was already
residing. He also learned still later that when his friends saw Irene on about January 18, 2002 together
with respondent during a concert, she was pregnant.

Issue: Whether Concubinage or Adulterous relationship, be the reason for the disbarment of Atty. Jose
Emmanuel Eala.

Held: Lawyers oath stated that a lawyer should support the Constitution and obey the laws, Meaning
he shall not make use of deceit, malpractice, or other gross misconduct, grossly immoral conduct, or be
convicted in any crime involving moral turpitude. In the case at bar Atty. Eala was accused of
Concubinage, under ART. 334 of the Revised Penal Code, Any husband who shall keep a mistress in
a conjugal dwelling, or, shall have sexual intercourse, under scandalous circumstances, with a woman
who is not his wife, or shall cohabit with her in any other place, shall be punished by prision
correccional in its minimum and medium period. Section 2 of ART. XV states that Marriage, as an
inviolable social institution, is the foundation of the family and shall be protected by the state.
Respondents grossly immoral conduct runs afoul of the constitution and the laws, that he as a lawyer
has sworn to uphold. Hence the court declared Atty. Jose Emmanul M. Eala DISBARRED for grossly
immoral conduct, violation of his oath of office, and violation of canon 1, Rule 1.01 and Canon 7, Rule
7.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility.

RE: DECISION DATED 17 MARCH 2011 IN CRIMINAL CASE NO. SB-28361 ENTITLED
"PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES VS. JOSELITO C. BARROZO"
FORMER ASSISTANT PROSECUTOR JOSELITO C. BARROZO, Respondent.
DECISION
PER CURIAM:
This disbarment case against former Assistant Public Prosecutor Joselito C. Barrozo (respondent) is
taken up by this Court motu proprio by virtue of its power to discipline members of the bar under
Section 11 Rule 139-B of the Rules of Court.
Factual Antecedent
Jennie Valeriano (Valeriano) was a respondent in several cases for estafa and violation of Batas
Pambasa Blg. 222 which were assigned to respondent as Assistant Public Prosecutor of Dagupan City,
Pangasinan. According to Valeriano, respondent told her that he would resolve the cases in her favor in
exchange for 20,000.00. hence, Valeriano went to the Office of Regional State Prosecutor to report the
matter. The Regional State Prosecutor introduced her to agents of the National Bureau of Investigation
(NBI), who, after being told of respondents demand, immediately planned an entrapment operation.
During the operation conducted of February 15, 2005, respondent was caught red-handed by the NBI
agents receiving the amount of 20,000.00 from Valeriano.
As a result, a case for direct bribery3 under paragraph 2, Article 210 of the Revised Penal Code was
filed against respondent before the Regional Trial Court of Dagupan City. The case, however, was later
on indorsed to the Sandiganbayan as respondent was occupying a position with a salary grade 27 or
higher.
After finding the existence of all the elements4 of the crime, the Sandiganbayan, in a Decision5 dated
March 17, 2011, found respondent guilty beyond reasonable doubt of direct bribery and sentence him
to suffer the indeterminate penalty of four (4) years, two (2) months and one (1) day of prison
correctional maximum, as minimum, to nine (9) years, four (4) months and one (1) day of prison mayor
medium, as maximum, and to pay a fine of 60,000.00. in addition, it imposed upon him the penalty of
special temporary disqualification.
Respondent filed a Motion for Reconsideration6 (MR) but was denied in a Resolution7 dated
September 28, 2011.
Undeterred, respondent filed a Petition for Review on Certiorari8 before this Court but was denied in a
Resolution9 dated December 14, 2011 on the ground that the Petition failed to sufficiently show that
the Sandiganbayan committed any reversible error in its challenged issuances as to warrant the exercise
of the Courts discretionary appellate jurisdiction. Respondent thrice move for reconsideration.10 the
first two MRs were denied,11 while the third one was ordered expunged from the records.12
Subsequently, an Entry of Judgment13 was issued stating that the Courts Resolution of denial had
already become final and executor on August 16, 2012.
In October 2013, the Office of the Bar Confidant (OBC) received a letter14 dated in August 14, 2013
from Wat & Co. of Hong Kong stating that its client in Hong Kong received a letter from the
Philippines signed by "Atty. Joselito C. Barrozo," asking for long service payment from the employers
of domestic helper Anita G. Calub who passed away on March 4, 2013. Upon checking online and
discovering that said person was convicted of direct bribery, Wat & Co. requested the OBC to inform it
if respondent is still a lawyer qualified to practice law.
Prompted by Wat & Co.s letter, the OBC inquired from the Department of Justice (DOJ) whether
respondent is still connected thereat.15 in reply, the DOJ informed OBC that respondent had already
resigned from his position effective May 3, 2005.16
On November 15, 2012, OBC wrote Wat & Co. to confirm that respondent was indeed convicted of
direct bribery by final judgment and that the Philippine Court has yet to rule on his disbarment.
In view of the foregoing and considering that respondents conviction is a ground for disbarment from
the practice of law under Section 27, Rule 138 of the Rules of Court, the Court through a Resolution17
dated December 11, 2013 required respondent to comment on why he should not be
suspended/disbarred from the practice of law.
In his Comment18 respondent identified the issue in this case as whether he can engage in the practice
of law despite his conviction. He then argued that he did not engage in the practice of law as his act of
signing the claim letter does not constitute such practice. He averred that he signed it not for any
monetary consideration, but out of his sincere desire to help the claimants. And since there is no
payment involved, no lawyer-client relationship was established between him and the claimants. This
therefore negates practice of the law on his part.
Subsequently, upon Order of the Court, the OBC evaluated the case and came up with its February 20,
2015 Report and Recommendation19 recommending the disbarment of respondent.
Our Ruling
The court adopts the OBCs recommendation.
It must first be clarified that the issue in this case is not what respondent essentially argued about in his
Comment, i.e., whether his act of signing the claim letter constitutes practice of law. As aptly stated by
the OBC in its recommendation and viewed from proper perspective the real issue here is whether
respondent should be suspended or disbarred by reason of his conviction of the crime of direct bribery.
Hence, the Court finds respondents comment to be totally without merit as he veered away, whether
wittingly or unwittingly, from the crux of the controversy in this case.
Under Section 27, Rule 138 of the Rules of Court, one of the grounds for the suspension or disbarment
of a lawyer is his conviction of a crime involving moral turpitude. And with the finality of respondents
conviction for direct bribery, the next question that needs to be answered is whether direct bribery is a
crime that involves moral turpitude.
To consider a crime as one involving moral turpitude, the act constituting the same must have been
"done contrary to justice, honesty, modesty, or good morals. [it must involve] an act of baseness,
vileness, or depravity in the private duties which a man owes his fellowmen, or to society in general,
contrary to the accepted and customary rule of right and duty between man and woman, or conduct
contrary to justice, honesty, modesty, or good morals."20
In Catalan, Jr. v. Silvosa,21 the Court already had the occasion to answer the same question posed in
this case, viz:
Moral turpitude is defined as an act of baseness, vileness, or depravity in the private duties which a
man owes to his fellowmen, or to society in general, contrary to justice, honesty, modesty, or good
morals. Section 27, Rule 138 provides:
Section 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 will disobedience of any lawful order of a superior court, or
for corruptly or willfully appearing as an attorney for a party to a case without authority [to do so]. The
practice of soliciting cases at law for the purpose of gain, either personally or through paid agents or
brokers, constitutes malpractice.
Xxxx
[T]he crime of direct bribery is a crime involving moral turpitude. In Magno v. COMELEC,22 we
ruled:
By applying for probation, petitioner in effect admitted all the elements of the crime of direct bribery:
1. The offender is a public officer;
2. The offender accepts an offer or promise or receives a gift or present by himself or through
another;
3. Such offer or promise be accepted or gift or present be received by the public officer with a
view to committing some crime, or in consideration of the execution of an act which does not
constitute a crime but the act must unjust, or to refrain from doing something which it is his
official duty to do; and
4. The act which the offender agrees to perform or which he executes is connected with the
performance of his official duties.
Moral turpitude can be inferred from the third element. The fact that the offender agrees to accept a
promise or gift and deliberately commits an unjust act or refrains from performing an official duty in
exchange for some favors, denotes a malicious intent on the part of the offender to renege on the duties
which he owes his fellowmen and society in general. Also the fact that the offender takes advantage of
his office and position is a betrayal of the trust reposed on him by the public. It is a conduct clearly
contrary o the accepted rule of right and duty, justice, honesty, and good morals. In all respects, direct
bribery is a crime involving moral turpitude.23
Clearly, direct bribery is a crime involving moral turpitude which, as mentioned, is a ground for the
suspension or disbarment of a lawyer from his office as an attorney.
The Court is mindful that a lawyers conviction of a crime involving moral turpitude does not
automatically call for the imposition of the supreme penalty of disbarment since it may, in its
discretion, choose to impose the less severe penalty of suspension. As held, the determination of
whether an attorney should be disbarred or merely suspended for a period involves the exercise of
sound judicial discretion.24 here, however, the circumstances surrounding the case constrain the Court
to impose the penalty of disbarment as recommended by the OBC.
It must be recalled that at the time of the commission of the crime respondent was an assistant public
Prosecutor of the City of Dagupan. His act therefore of extorting money from a party to a case handled
by him does not only violate the requirement that cases must be decided based on the merits of the
parties respective evidence but also lessens the peoples confidence in the rule of law. Indeed
Respondents conduct in office fell short of the integrity and good moral character required of all
lawyers, specially one occupying a public office.1wphi1 Lawyers in public office are expected not
only to refrain from any act or omission which tend to lessen the trust and confidence of the citizenry in
government but also uphold the dignity of the legal profession at all times and observe a high standard
of honesty and fair dealing. A government lawyer is keeper of public faith and is burdened with a high
degree of social responsibility, higher than his brethren in private practice,25
Hence, for committing a crime which does not only show his disregard of his oath as a government
official but is likewise of such a nature as to negatively affect his qualification as a lawyer, respondent
must be disbarred from his office as an attorney.
As a final note, it is well to state that:
The purpose of a proceeding for disbarment is to protect the administration of justice by requiring that
those who exercise this important function be competent, honorable and reliable lawyers in whom
courts and [the public at large] may repose confidence. Thus, whenever a clear case of degenerate and
vile behavior disturbs that vital yet fragile confidence, [the Court] shall not hesitate to rid [the]
profession of odious members.26
WHEREFORE, Atty. Joselito C. Barrozo is herby DISBARRED and his name is ORDERED
STRICKEN from the Roll of Attorneys. Let a copy of the Decision be attached to his personal records
and furnished the Office of the Bar Confidant, Integrated Bar of the Philippines and the Office of the
Court Administrator for circulation to all courts in the country.
SO ORDERED.

Pedro Linsangan vs Atty. Nicomedes Tolentino


July 3, 2015
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598 SCRA 133 Legal Ethics Unethical Solicitation of Legal Business


In 2005, Atty. Pedro Linsangan filed an administrative complaint against Atty. Nicomedes Tolentino
alleging that Atty. Tolentino, through his paralegal Fe Marie Labiano, pirated a client of Atty.
Linsangan. Said client later executed an affidavit in support of Atty. Linsangans allegations.
Atty. Linsangan also questioned the propriety of Labianos calling card which appears as follows:
FRONT

NICOMEDES TOLENTINO
LAW OFFICE

CONSULTANCY & MARITIME SERVICES


W/ FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE

Fe Marie L. Labiano
Paralegal

BACK

SERVICES OFFERED:

CONSULTATION AND ASSISTANCE


TO OVERSEAS SEAMEN
REPATRIATED DUE TO ACCIDENT,
INJURY, ILLNESS, SICKNESS, DEATH
AND INSURANCE BENEFIT CLAIMS
ABROAD.

In his defense, Atty. Tolentino denied knowing Labiano. He also denied authorizing the printing of such
calling cards.
ISSUES:
1. Whether or not Atty. Nicomedes Tolentino encroached upon the professional services of Atty. Pedro
Linsangan.
2. Whether or not Atty. Tolentino is liable for the improper calling card of Labiano.
HELD:
1. Yes. Atty. Tolentino violated Rule 8.02 of the Code of Professional Responsibility. A lawyer should
not steal another lawyers client nor induce the latter to retain him by a promise of better service, good
result or reduced fees for his services. By recruiting Atty. Linsangans clients, Atty.
Tolentino committed an unethical, predatory overstep into anothers legal practice.
2. Yes. Atty. Tolentino violated Rules 1.03, 2.03, and 16.04 of the Code of Professional Responsibility.
Although Atty. Tolentino initially denied knowing Labiano, he admitted he actually knew her later in
the proceedings. It is thus clear that Labiano was connected to his law office. Through Labianos
actions, Atty. Tolentinos law practice was benefited. Hapless seamen were enticed to transfer
representation on the strength of Labianos word that Atty. Tolentino could produce a more favorable
result.
Labianos calling card is improper. The card made it appear that the law office will finance legal
actions for the clients. The rule is, a lawyer shall not 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 rule is intended to safeguard the lawyers independence of mind so that the free exercise of his
judgment may not be adversely affected. It seeks to ensure his undivided attention to the case he is
handling as well as his entire devotion and fidelity to the clients cause. If the lawyer lends money to
the client in connection with the clients case, the lawyer in effect acquires an interest in the subject
matter of the case or an additional stake in its outcome. Either of these circumstances may lead the
lawyer to consider his own recovery rather than that of his client, or to accept a settlement which may
take care of his interest in the verdict to the prejudice of the client in violation of his duty of undivided
fidelity to the clients cause.
The phrase in the calling card which states w/ financial assistance, was clearly used to entice clients
(who already had representation) to change counsels with a promise of loans to finance their legal
actions.
However, since there is no substantial evidence to prove that Atty. Tolentino had a personal and direct
hand in the printing of said calling cards, he cannot be punished with severity. At any rate, for all the
infractions Atty. Tolentino committed, he was suspended by the Supreme Court for one year.

EVANGELINE LEDA, complainant,


vs.
ATTY. TREBONIAN TABANG, respondent.

PER CURIAM:
Complainant, Evangeline Leda, squarely puts in issue respondent Atty. Trebonian Tabang's good moral
character, in two Complaints she had filed against him, one docketed as Bar Matter No. 78 instituted on
6 January 1982, and the present Administrative Case No. 2505, which is a Petition for Disbarment,
filed on 14 February 1983.
It appears that on 3 October 1976, Respondent and Complainant contracted marriage at Tigbauan,
Iloilo. The marriage, solemnized by Judge Jose T. Tavarro of Tigbauan, was performed under Article 76
of the Civil
Code1 as one of exceptional character (Annex "A", Petition).
The parties agreed to keep the fact of marriage a secret until after Respondent had finished his law
studies (began in l977), and had taken the Bar examinations (in 1981), allegedly to ensure a stable
future for them. Complainant admits, though, that they had not lived together as husband and wife
(Letter-Complaint, 6 January 1982).
Respondent finished his law studies in 1981 and thereafter applied to take the Bar. In his application, he
declared that he was "single." He then passed the examinations but Complainant blocked him from
taking his Oath by instituting Bar Matter No. 78, claiming that Respondent had acted fraudulently in
filling out his application and, thus, was unworthy to take the lawyer's Oath for lack of good moral
character. Complainant also alleged that after Respondent's law studies, he became aloof and
"abandoned" her (Petition, par. 5).
The Court deferred Respondent's Oath-taking and required him to answer the Complaint.
Respondent filed his "Explanation," dated 26 May 1982 which was received on 7 June 1982. Said
"Explanation" carries Complainant's conformity (Records, p. 6). Therein, he admitted that he was
"legally married" to Complainant on 3 October 1976 but that the marriage "was not as yet made and
declared public" so that he could proceed with his law studies and until after he could take the Bar
examinations "in order to keep stable our future." He also admitted having indicated that he was
"single" in his application to take the Bar "for reason that to my honest belief, I have still to declare my
status as single since my marriage with the complainant was not as yet made and declared public." He
further averred that he and Complainant had reconciled as shown by her conformity to the
"Explanation," for which reason he prayed that the Complaint be dismissed.
Respondent also filed a Motion to Dismiss, dated 2 June 1982. Attached to it was Complainant's
Affidavit of Desistance, which stated that Bar Matter No. 78 arose out of a misunderstanding and
communication gap and that she was refraining from pursuing her Complaint against Respondent.
Acting on the aforesaid Motion and Comment, the Court dismissed Bar Matter No. 78 and allowed
Respondent to take his Oath in a Resolution dated 20 August 1982.
On 14 February 1983, however, Complainant filed this Administrative Case, this time praying for
Respondent's disbarment based on the following grounds:
a. For having made use of his legal knowledge to contract an invalid marriage with me
assuming that our marriage is not valid, and making a mockery of our marriage
institution.
b. For having misrepresented himself as single when in truth he is already married in his
application to take the bar exam.
c. For being not of good moral character contrary to the certification he submitted to the
Supreme Court;
d. For (sic) guilty of deception for the reason that he deceived me into signing of the
affidavit of desistance and the conformity to his explanation and later on the comment to
his motion to dismiss, when in truth and in fact he is not sincere, for he only befriended
me to resume our marriage and introduced me to his family, friends and relatives as his
wife, for a bad motive that is he wanted me to withdraw my complaint against him with
the Supreme Court.
Attached to Complainant's Petition for Disbarment, as Annex "F," is an undated and unsigned letter
addressed to Complainant, allegedly written by Respondent after he had already taken his Oath stating,
among others, that while he was grateful for Complainant's help, he "could not force myself to be
yours," did not love her anymore and considered her only a friend. Their marriage contract was actually
void for failure to comply with the requisites of Article 76 of the Civil Code, among them the minimum
cohabitation for five (5) years before the celebration of the marriage, an affidavit to that effect by the
solemnizing officer, and that the parties must be at least twenty-one (21) years of age, which they were
not as they were both only twenty years old at the time. He advised Complainant not to do anything
more so as not to put her family name "in shame." As for him, he had "attain(ed) my goal as a full-
pledge (sic) professional and there is nothing you can do for it to take away from me even (sic) you go
to any court." According to Complainant, although the letter was unsigned, Respondent's initials appear
on the upper left-hand corner of the airmail envelope (Exh. "8-A-1").
Respondent denied emphatically that he had sent such a letter contending that it is Complainant who
has been indulging in fantasy and fabrications.
In his Comment in the present case, Respondent avers that he and Complainant had covenanted not to
disclose the marriage not because he wanted to finish his studies and take the Bar first but for the
reason that said marriage was void from the beginning in the absence of the requisites of Article 76 of
the Civil Code that the contracting parties shall have lived together as husband and wife for at least five
(5) years before the date of the marriage and that said parties shall state the same in an affidavit before
any person authorized by law to administer oaths. He could not have abandoned Complainant because
they had never lived together as husband and wife. When he applied for the 1981 Bar examinations, he
honestly believed that in the eyes of the law, he was single.
On 7 May 1984, the Court referred the Complaint to the Solicitor General for investigation, report and
recommendation. On 5 March 1990, the Solicitor General submitted his Report, with the
recommendation that Respondent be exonerated from the charges against him since Complainant failed
to attend the hearings and to substantiate her charges but that he be reprimanded for making
inconsistent and conflicting statements in the various pleadings he had filed before this Court.
On 26 March 1990, the Court referred the Solicitor General's Report to the Bar Confidant for
evaluation, report and recommendation. In an undated Report, the latter recommended the indefinite
suspension of Respondent until the status of his marriage is settled.
Upon the facts on Record even without testimonial evidence from Complainant, we find Respondent's
lack of good moral character sufficiently established.
Firstly, his declaration in his application for Admission to the 1981 Bar Examinations that he was
"single" was a gross misrepresentation of a material fact made in utter bad faith, for which he should be
made answerable. Rule 7.01, Canon 7, Chapter II of the Code of Professional Responsibility explicitly
provides: "A lawyer shall be answerable for knowingly making a false statement or suppression of a
material fact in connection with his application for admission to the bar." That false statement, if it had
been known, would have disqualified him outright from taking the Bar Examinations as it indubitably
exhibits lack of good moral character.
Respondent's protestations that he had acted in good faith in declaring his status as "single" not only
because of his pact with Complainant to keep the marriage under wraps but also because that marriage
to the Complainant was void from the beginning, are mere afterthoughts absolutely wanting of merit.
Respondent can not assume that his marriage to Complainant is void. The presumption is that all the
requisites and conditions of a marriage of an exceptional character under Article 76 of the Civil Code
have been met and that the Judge's official duty in connection therewith has been regularly performed.
Secondly, Respondent's conduct in adopting conflicting positions in the various pleadings submitted in
Bar Matter No. 78 and in the case at bar is duplicitous and deplorable.
The records show that in Bar Matter No. 78, Respondent had submitted an "Explanation," in paragraph
1, page 1 of which he admits having been "legally married" to Complainant. Yet, during the hearings
before the Solicitor General, he denied under oath that he had submitted any such pleading (t.s.n., p.
21) contending instead that it is only the second page where his signature appears that he meant to
admit and not the averments on the first page which were merely of Complainant's own making (ibid.,
pp. 59-60). However, in his Comment in this Administrative Case, he admits and makes reference to
such "Explanation" (pars. 3[f]) and [g]; 4[b]).
Again, while in said "Explanation" he admitted having been "legally married" to Complainant (par. 1),
in this case, however, he denies the legality of the marriage and, instead, harps on its being void ab
initio. He even denies his signature in the marriage contract.
In Bar Matter No. 78, Respondent also averred that the fact of marriage was not to be made public so as
to allow him to finish his studies and take the Bar. In this case, however, he contends that the reason it
was kept a secret was because it was "not in order from the beginning."
Thirdly, Respondent denies that he had sent the unsigned letter (Annex "F," Petition) to Complainant.
However, its very tenor coincides with the reasons that he advances in his Comment why the marriage
is void from the beginning, that is, for failure to comply with the requisites of Article 76 of the Civil
Code.
Fourthly, the factual scenario gathered from the records shows that Respondent had reconciled with
Complainant and admitted the marriage to put a quick finish to Bar Matter No. 78 to enable him to take
the lawyer's Oath, which otherwise he would have been unable to do. But after he had done so and had
become a "full-pledge (sic) lawyer," he again refused to honor his marriage to Complainant.
Respondent's lack of good moral character is only too evident. He has resorted to conflicting
submissions before this Court to suit himself. He has also engaged in devious tactics with Complainant
in order to serve his purpose. In so doing, 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 1001 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." Courts are entitled to
expect only complete candor and honesty from the lawyers appearing and pleading before them
(Chavez v. Viola, Adm. Case No. 2152, 19 April 1991, 196 SCRA 10). 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.
It cannot be overemphasized that the requirement of good moral character is not only a condition
precedent to admission to the practice of law; its continued possession is also essential for remaining in
the practice of law (People v. Tuanda, Adm. Case No. 3360, 30 January 1990, 181 SCRA 692). As so
aptly put by Mr. Justice George A. Malcolm: "As good character is an essential qualification for
admission of an attorney to practice, when the attorney's character is bad in such respects as to show
that he is unsafe and unfit to be entrusted with the powers of an attorney, the courts retain the power to
discipline him (Piatt v. Abordo, 58 Phil. 350 [1933]).
WHEREFORE, finding respondent Trebonian C. Tabang grossly unfit and unworthy to continue to be
entrusted with the duties and responsibilities belonging to the office of an attorney, he is hereby
SUSPENDED from the practice of law until further Orders, the suspension to take effect immediately.
Copies of this Decision shall be entered in his personal record as an attorney and served on the
Integrated Bar of the Philippines and the Court Administrator who shall circulate the same to all Courts
in the country for their information and guidance.
SO ORDERED.

ROSALIE DALLONG-GALICINAO, A.C. No. 6396


Complainant,

Present:

PUNO, J.,
Chairman,
- versus - AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ,
CALLEJO,
TINGA, and
CHICO-NAZARIO, JJ.
ATTY. VIRGIL R. CASTRO,
Respondent, Promulgated:

October 25, 2005

x-------------------------------------------------------------------x

RESOLUTION
TINGA, J.:

This administrative case concerns a lawyer who hurled invectives at a


Clerk of Court. Members of the bar decorum must at all times comfort
themselves in a manner befitting their noble profession.

Complainant Atty. Rosalie Dallong-Galicinao is the Clerk of Court of the


Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Bambang, Nueva Vizcaya. On 8 May 2003,
she filed with the Commission on Bar Discipline (CBD) of the Integrated
Bar of the Philippines (IBP) a Complaint-Affidavit[1] with supporting
documents[2] against respondent Atty. Virgil R. Castro for
Unprofessional Conduct, specifically violation of Canon 7, Rule 7.03,
Canon 8 and Rule 8.02 of the Code of Professional Responsibility.[3] The
charge in the complaint is summed up as follows:

Respondent Atty. Castro was a private practitioner and Vice-President of


IBP-Nueva Vizcaya Chapter. On 5 May 2003, respondent went to
complainants office to inquire whether the complete records of Civil
Case No. 784, entitled Sps. Crispino Castillano v. Sps. Federico S.
Castillano and Felicidad Aberin, had already been remanded to the court
of origin, MCTC Dupax del Norte, Alfonso Castaned, Nueva Vizcaya. It
must be noted that respondent was not the counsel of record of either
party in Civil Case No. 784.

Complainant informed respondent that the record had not yet been
transmitted since a certified true copy of the decision of the Court of
Appeals should first be presented to serve as basis for the transmittal of
the records to the court of origin. To this respondent retorted scornfully,
Who will certify the Court of Appeals Decision, the Court of Appeals?
You mean to say, I would still have to go to Manila to get a certified true
copy? Surprised at this outburst, complainant replied, Sir, its in the
Rules but you could show us the copy sent to the party you claim to be
representing. Respondent then replied, Then you should have notified
me of the said requirement. That was two weeks ago and I have been
frequenting your office since then, but you never bothered to notify me.
Complainant replied, It is not our duty, Sir, to notify you of the said
requirement.

Respondent then answered, You mean to say it is not your duty to


remand the record of the case? Complainant responded, No, Sir, I mean,
its not our duty to notify you that you have to submit a copy of the
Court of Appeals decision. Respondent angrily declared in Ilocano,
Kayat mo nga saw-en, awan pakialam yon? Kasdiay? (You mean to say
you dont care anymore? Is that the way it is?) He then turned and left
the office, banging the door on his way out to show his anger. The
banging of the door was so loud it was heard by the people at the
adjacent RTC, Branch 30 where a hearing was taking place.[4]
After a few minutes, respondent returned to the office, still enraged, and
pointed his finger at complainant and shouted, Ukinnan, no adda ti
unget mo iti kilientek haan mo nga ibales kaniak ah! (Vulva of your
mother! If you are harboring ill feelings against my client, dont turn
your ire on me!) Complainant was shocked at respondents words but
still managed to reply, I dont even know your client, Sir. Respondent left
the office and as he passed by complainants window, he again shouted,
Ukinnam nga babai! (Vulva of your mother, you woman!)[5]

Complainant suffered acute embarrassment at the incident, as it


happened in her office of which she was, and still is, the head and in
front of her staff. She felt that her credibility had been tarnished and
diminished, eliciting doubt on her ability to command full respect from
her staff.[6]

The Complaint-Affidavit, filed three days after the incident, was


supported by an Affidavit[7] signed by employees of RTC-Bambang,
Nueva Vizcaya who witnessed the incident. The Affidavit narrated the
same incident as witnessed by the said employees. A Motion to File
Additional Affidavit/Documentary Evidence was filed by complainant on
25 September 2003.[8]
On 26 May 2003, the CBD-IBP issued an Order[9] requiring respondent
to submit his answer to the complaint. Respondent submitted his
Compliance[10] dated 18 June 2003. Respondent explained that he was
counsel for the plaintiffs in Civil Case No. 847, entitled Sps. Federico
Castillano, et al. v. Sps. Crispin Castillano, et al., filed with the RTC of
Nueva Vizcaya, Branch 30. He learned of the finality of the decision of
the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. No. 64962 with respect to Civil Case
No. 847 before the lower court. Prior to the incident, he went to the
office of the complainant to request for the transmittal of the records of
the case to the MCTC and the complainant reassured him of the same.

Respondent admits having inquired about the status of the transmittal


of the records on 5 May 2003. However, he has no explanation as to
what transpired on that day. Instead, he narrates that on 25 May 2003,
twelve days after the incident, the records had not yet been transmitted,
and he subsequently learned that these records were returned to the
court of origin.

The hearing for the administrative complaint before the CBD was set on
25 September 2003 by the Investigating Commissioner Milagros V. San
Juan. However, on said date, only complainant appeared. The latter also
moved that the case be submitted for resolution.[11] Respondent later
on filed a Manifestation stating that the reason for his non-appearance
was because he was still recuperating from physical injuries and that he
was not mentally fit to prepare the required pleadings as his vehicle was
rained with bullets on 19 August 2003. He also expressed his public
apology to the complainant in the same Manifestation.[12]
Complainant filed a Manifestation expressing her desire not to appear on
the next hearing date in view of respondents public apology, adding that
respondent personally and humbly asked for forgiveness which she
accepted.[13]

The Investigating Commissioner recommended that respondent be


reprimanded and warned that any other complaint for breach of his
professional duties shall be dealt with more severely.[14] The IBP
submitted to this Court a Notice of Resolution adopting and approving
the recommendation of the Investigating Commissioner.[15]

At the onset, it should be noted that respondent was not the counsel of
record of Civil Case No. 784. Had he been counsel of record, it would
have been easy for him to present the required certified true copy of the
decision of the Court of Appeals. He need not have gone to Manila to
procure a certified true copy of the decision since the Court of Appeals
furnishes the parties and their counsel of record a duplicate original or
certified true copy of its decision.

His explanation that he will enter his appearance in the case when its
records were already transmitted to the MCTC is unacceptable. Not
being the counsel of record and there being no authorization from either
the parties to represent them, respondent had no right to impose his will
on the clerk of court.

Rule 8.02 of the Code of Professional Responsibility states:

Rule 8.02A lawyer shall not, directly or indirectly, encroach upon the
professional employment of another lawyer; however, it is the right of any
lawyer, without fear or favor, to give proper advice and assistance to those
seeking relief against unfaithful or neglectful counsel.

Through his acts of constantly checking the transmittal of the records of


Civil Case No. 784, respondent deliberately encroached upon the legal
functions of the counsel of record of that case. It does not matter
whether he did so in good faith.

Moreover, in the course of his questionable activities relating to Civil


Case No. 784, respondent acted rudely towards an officer of the court.
He raised his voice at the clerk of court and uttered at her the most
vulgar of invectives. Not only was it ill-mannered but also unbecoming
considering that he did all these to a woman and in front of her
subordinates.

As held in Alcantara v. Atty. Pefianco,[16] respondent ought to have


realized that this sort of public behavior can only bring down the legal
profession in the public estimation and erode public respect for it.[17]
These acts violate Rule 7.03, Canon 8 and Rule 8.01, to wit:
Rule 7.03 A lawyer shall not engage in conduct that adversely reflect on his fitness to
practice law, now shall he, whether in public or private life behave in scandalous
manner to the discredit of the legal profession.

Canon 8 A lawyer shall conduct himself with courtesy, fairness and candor toward
his professional colleagues, and shall avoid harassing tactics against opposing
counsel.

Rule 8.01 A lawyer shall not, in his professional dealings, use language which is
abusive, offensive or otherwise improper.

Moreover, Canon 8 of the Code of Professional Responsibility demands


that lawyers conduct themselves with courtesy, fairness and candor
toward their fellow lawyers. Lawyers are duty bound to uphold the
dignity of the legal profession. They must act honorably, fairly and
candidly towards each other and otherwise conduct themselves without
reproach at all times.[18]

As correctly evaluated by the Investigating Commissioner, respondent


did not categorically deny the charges in the complaint. Instead, he gave
a lengthy narration of the prefatory facts of the case as well as of the
incident on 5 May 2003.

Complainant also alleged in her Complaint-Affidavit that respondents


uncharacteristic behavior was not an isolated incident. He has
supposedly done the same to Attys. Abraham Johnny G. Asuncion and
Temmy Lambino, the latter having filed a case against respondent
pending before this Court.[19] We, however, cannot acknowledge such
allegation absent any evidence showing the veracity of such claim. No
affidavits to that effect were submitted by either Atty. Asuncion or Atty.
Lambino.

Nonetheless, the penalty to be imposed should be tempered owing to the


fact that respondent had apologized to the complainant and the latter
had accepted it. This is not to say, however, that respondent should be
absolved from his actuations. People are accountable for the
consequences of the things they say and do even if they repent
afterwards. The fact remains that things done cannot be undone and
words uttered cannot be taken back. Hence, he should bear the
consequences of his actions.

The highest reward that can be bestowed on lawyers is the esteem of


their brethren. This esteem cannot be purchased, perfunctorily created,
or gained by artifice or contrivance. It is born of sharp contexts and
thrives despite conflicting interest. It emanates solely from integrity,
character, brains and skills in the honorable performance of
professional duty.[20]

WHEREFORE, premises considered, respondent is hereby FINED in the


amount of TEN THOUSAND (P10,000.00) PESOS with a warning that
any similar infraction with be dealt with more severely. Let a copy of this
Decision be furnished the Bar Confidant for appropriate annotation in
the record of the respondent.

SO ORDERED.
Attorney; aiding illegal practice of law. It has been established that Dela Rosa who is not a member of
the Bar misrepresented herself as respondents collaborating counsel. There was also sufficient
evidence to prove that respondent allowed Dela Rosa to illegally practice law, appear in court, and give
legal assistance to respondents client. This is in violation of Canon 9 of the Code of Professional
Responsibility which states that [a] lawyer shall not, directly or indirectly, assist in the unauthorized
practice of law. The term practice of law implies customarily or habitually holding oneself out to
the public as a lawyer for compensation as a source of livelihood or in consideration of his services.
Holding ones self out as a lawyer may be shown by acts indicative of that purpose, such as identifying
oneself as attorney, appearing in court in representation of a client, or associating oneself as a partner of
a law office for the general practice of law. Atty. Edita Noe-Lacsamana v. Atty. Yolando F. Busmente.
A.C. No. 7269. November 23, 2011.

EDUARDO J. BERENGUER, complainant,


vs.
PEDRO B. CARRANZA, respondent.
FERNANDO, J.:
The law is an exacting taskmaster. Membership in the bar, as so appropriately put, is a privilege
burdened with conditions. 1 A lawyer is called upon by virtue of his oath of office to "do no falsehood,
nor consent to the doing of any in court; ... [and to] conduct (himself) as a lawyer according to the best
of [his] knowledge and discretion with all good fidelity ... to the courts ..." 2 The question, one that has
an element of novelty, is whether respondent Pedro B. Carranza, duly admitted to the practice of the
law, did get entangled in the complexity of the strands in the web of obligation such an oath imposes?
More specifically, did he manifest the utmost fealty to the trust reposed in him as an officer of the
Court by taking all necessary measures to avoid the court being misled, even if such were the result not
of design but of inadvertence?
A complaint against respondent Pedro B. Carranza was filed on July 15, 1966, for deception practiced
on the Court of First Instance of Sorsogon, in that aware of the falsity of an Affidavit of Adjudication
and Transfer executed by the mother of his client to the effect that her own mother left no legitimate
ascendants or descendants or any other heirs except herself, when, as a matter of fact, the deceased was
survived by four other daughters and one son, father of the complainant, he introduced the same in
evidence. 3

Respondent Carranza was required in our resolution of July 22, 1966, to file an answer. Thereafter, on
August 17, 1966, he did so, alleging as the truth of the matter that the aforesaid Affidavit of
Adjudication and Transfer was introduced in evidence only to prove the fact of such transfer of the
property in question to his client, respondent having "no hand in the making of said affidavit nor of the
petition, both of which were prepared in Pasay City." 4

On September 1, 1966, the matter was referred by us to the Solicitor General for investigation, report
and recommendation. Such investigation was had wherein both complainant and respondent were duly
heard. The issue in the opinion of the then Solicitor General, the Honorable Antonio Barredo, now a
member of this Court, as set forth in his report of March 18, 1968, is whether respondent "consented in
violation of his oath, to the doing of any falsehood in court."
It was admitted in said report: "If respondent had anything to do with the preparation of the Petition or
of the Affidavit of Adjudication, his participation does not appear from the evidence presented in this
case. The Petition was subscribed and sworn to in Pasay City before one Atty. A. Mendoza, while the
Affidavit was subscribed under oath in Pasay before Notary Public Ernesto V. Ventura. The foregoing
documents were posted from Pasay to the Clerk of Court, Sorsogon...." 5

It was likewise noted that respondent testified as to his being "not "very meticulous about the petition"
because there was neither private nor government opposition thereto; that if he had intended to deceive
the court by virtue of the documents, he could have told his client to answer his questions at the
cadastral hearing to conform to the controverted paragraph in the Affidavit of Adjudication concerning
the statement reproduced from the tax declaration that the decedent left no legitimate ascendants or
descendants or any other heirs except the affiant...." 6

There is this admission in the aforesaid report. Thus: "As the evidence stands, there is no apparent
causal link between the falsehood and the fact that respondent is the lawyer handling the cadastral case
at the Sorsogon end." 7 Nonetheless, while recognizing the absence of evidence that such falsehood in
the Affidavit of Adjudication could be traced to respondent, the report would hold him liable for
discretionary action as the circumstance that various estates are involved "certainly warranted a greater
exercise of diligence on respondent's part." 8

Moreover, as likewise stated therein, the fact "that he did not even bother to read the entirety of the
affidavit runs counter to respondent's inescapable duty to clear up doubts and inconsistencies." 9 For he
could have been aware of the family litigations between his client and complainant which are rooted in
successional rights...." 10 If only for the above fact then, as stated in the report, "he should precisely
have taken the bother to read the entirety of the Affidavit of Adjudication when the cadastral case was
heard on January 17, 1966...." 11

From which, in the light of the above, it was the conclusion of the then Solicitor General Antonio
Barredo, assisted by Assistant Solicitor General Frine Zaballero: "If he did not, he cannot be relieved
from the consequences of his acts as a lawyer, and disclaim responsibility therefor. To allow respondent
relief from his duty is to ignore what is obvious from the nature of the litigations in which he entered
his appearance.... Actually, respondent's failure to read the affidavit proves that he did not properly
inform himself of the evidence he was going to present in court, thereby exhibiting an indifference to
proof inconsistent with facts he definitely knows. Thus, respondent has contributed to confusion and
the prolongation of the cadastral suit, which pends as a petition for Relief...." 12

It was the recommendation that the corresponding complaint for the violation of his oath against
respondent be instituted. Such complaint was filed by the two above officials on March 18, 1968.
Respondent was charged with "violation of his oath of office, [having] caused confusion and
prolongation of the cadastral suit for presenting evidence therein containing a false statement
inconsistent with facts he definitely knows by reason of the family litigations between his client and
complainant herein, which are rooted in successional rights [and that] respondent's failure to discharge
his duties as a lawyer consistent with his oath of office finds sanction in Rule 138, Section 27, Revised
Rules of Court." 13

Respondent in his answer, dated May 16, 1968, raised no issue as to the facts. He would allege in
justification however "that while it is true that the ... respondent was the counsel who appeared for the
petitioner in Cadastral Case No. 2, LRC Cadastral Record No. 869 of Sorsogon Cadastre, yet he had
nothing to do with the making of the petition and the annexes thereto attached; for the same were made
in Pasay City and that when (he) accepted to represent the petitioner in the Cadastral Case mentioned
above, there was no opposition from anybody ... not even from the Bureau of Lands nor from the
Honorable Solicitor General, making, therefore, the hearing therein a mere formality. Such being the
case, the [respondent] presented the petitioner's case on January 17, 1966, without meticulously going
over the documents, and the alleged Affidavit of Adjudication and Transfer was presented to show the
fact of transfer of the land described therein from the affiant to her son. The stenographic notes in that
proceeding will bear this matter out. [Respondent's] failure to notice the existence of an incorrect
statement in the said affidavit was a mere oversight. It was not [wilful], for he has not consented to the
doing of the falsity therein made, since the same was prepared by petitioner's lawyer in Pasay City; nor
did [respondent] willingly do falsehood in the hearing mentioned above; ..." 14

There is something unique in this proceeding then. With the finding of the then Solicitor General
Barredo that there was nothing wilful in the conduct pursued by respondent in thus introducing in
evidence the Affidavit of Adjudication and Transfer which turned out to be false, in the preparation of
which, however, he had nothing to do, the charge of deliberate deception obviously cannot be
sustained.1awphil.t
Would that of itself entirely exculpate him from any responsibility? The answer must be in the
negative. As was correctly pointed out in the complaint, his failure to exercise greater care did result in
the "confusion and prolongation of the cadastral suit." Under the circumstances, it would be to err on,
the side of undue leniency if he would be held blameless. He had incurred liability. His fidelity to his
oath as attorney was less than entire.
Every member of the bar must be on his guard, lest through oversight or inadvertence, the way he
conducts his case or the evidence he presents could conceivably result in a failure of justice. Time and
time again, lawyers have been admonished to remember that they are officers of the court, and that
while they owe their clients the duty of complete fidelity and the utmost diligence, they are likewise
held to strict accountability insofar as candor and honesty towards the court is concerned.
Even if there be no intent to deceive, therefore, a lawyer whose conduct, as in this case, betrays
inattention or carelessness should not be allowed to free himself from a charge thereafter instituted
against him by the mere plea that his conduct was not wilful and that he has not consented to the doing
of the falsity.
A lawyer's oath is one impressed with the utmost seriousness; it must not be taken lightly. Every
lawyer must do his best to live up to it. There would be a failure of justice if courts cannot rely on the
submission as well as the representations made by lawyers, insofar as the presentation of evidence,
whether oral or documentary, is concerned. If, as unfortunately happened in this case, even without any
intent on the part of a member of the bar to mislead the court, such deplorable event did occur, he must
not be allowed to escape the responsibility that justly attaches to a conduct far from impeccable.
WHEREFORE, respondent Pedro B. Carranza is reprimanded and warned that a repetition of an
offense of this character would be much more severely dealt with. The Court of First Instance of
Sorsogon, through any of the district judges, is hereby directed to administer in public the reprimand
thus imposed on respondent Pedro B. Carranza. The complainant, Eduardo J. Berenguer, must be duly
informed of the date when such reprimand is to be administered.
Concepcion, C.J., Reyes, J.B.L., Dizon, Makalintal, Zaldivar, Sanchez, Castro, Capistrano and
Teehankee, JJ., concur.
Barredo,. J., took no part.

THE OFFICERS AND MEMBERS OF THE IBP BAGUIO-BENGUET CHAPTER, CESAR G.


ORACION, PRESIDENT, Complainant,
vs.
FERNANDO VIL PAMINTUAN, Presiding Judge, Regional Trial Court, Branch III, Baguio
City, Respondent.
DECISION
CALLEJO, SR., J.:
Before the Court is the Administrative Complaint filed by the officers and members1 of the Integrated
Bar of the Philippines (IBP), Baguio-Benguet Chapter against Judge Fernando Vil Pamintuan of the
Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 3 of Baguio City, for gross ignorance of the law, gross violation of
constitutional rights of the accused, arrogance, violations of the Code of Judicial Conduct, oppression
and graft and corruption.
In their Complaint, the complainants charge the respondent judge of gross ignorance of law stating that:
1. His decision in Criminal Case No. 14054-R . . . and in Criminal Cases Nos. 15776-R, 15777-
R, 15778-R, 15779-R and 15780-R . . . show his complete ignorance of the Indeterminate
Sentence Law;
2. He continues to violate the provision of Section 3, Rule 71 of the Rules of Court by
immediately imposing a fine of 500.00 on any lawyer who does not answer the first call,
without giving the lawyer an opportunity to show cause why he should not be cited for
contempt;
3. He fined Atty. Miguel B. Liceralde 500.00 for allegedly being absent during a hearing when
in fact he was present;
4. He dismisses cases if the counsel or a litigant does not appear even for the first time, without
giving the concerned party a chance to explain his absence;
5. He limits the period of appeal in criminal cases. In a case handled by Atty. George Florendo,
he rendered a decision convicting the accused. After the promulgation of the decision, he told
the accused that he was giving him three (3) days only within which to file his notice of appeal
to the Court of Appeals or to file an application for probation. He further declared that in case
the accused files his notice of appeal, he will double his bail bond and immediately order his
arrest;
6. In the case of PEOPLE VS. ANGELINA MAMARIL, Criminal Case No. 16187-R for
THEFT of the amount of Fourteen Thousand One Hundred Pesos (14,100.00), the accused,
who was seventeen (17) years old, pleaded GUILTY to FRUSTRATED THEFT with the
consent of the Prosecution. In his decision, Judge Pamintuan imposed a penalty one degree
lower than that which is imposed for Consummated Theft and ordered the accused to be
recommitted to the DSWD Rehabilitation Center by virtue of her minority. However, he failed
to reduce the penalty imposed by another degree by reason of said minority in accordance with
the clear and explicit provision of Article 68 [2] of the Revised Penal Code. . .;
7. In the case of PEOPLE VS. BENJIE GOSE, MARK JOSEPH OCHARAN, ET AL., Criminal
Case No. 14935-R for Robbery, the respondent did the same thing.2
The complainants likewise charge the respondent judge of gross violation of the constitutional rights of
the accused alleging, as follows:
1. In PEOPLE VS. CEFERINO BANIQUED, Criminal Case No. 13949-R, for alleged violation
of Section 3 [e] of RA 3019 (Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act) the respondent has yet to act
on a motion for the preventive suspension of the accused filed way back in 1996 and which was
reiterated after he took over the case in April 1998. The said incident was deemed submitted for
resolution by then Acting Presiding Judge Joven F. Costales on December 2, 1997. When Judge
Pamintuan took over, the prosecution reiterated the motion which, on August 18, 1998, he
ordered as deemed submitted for the resolution of the court. For more than one (1) year, and as
of date, Judge Pamintuan has not resolved the motion;
2. In the case of SURLA VS. DIMLA, Civil Case No. 3322-R for Collection of Sum of Money,
Judge Pamintuan dismissed the complaint because the plaintiff-witness arrived at about 8:32 in
the morning or just two (2) minutes later, the counsel asked for reconsideration of the dismissal,
manifesting that the witness was ready to testify. In the interest of justice and fair play, the
adverse party even manifested his conformity to the reconsideration of the order of dismissal.
However, Judge Pamintuan did not rule on the motion and simply considered the same
submitted for resolution. For more than four (4) months, the respondent did not resolve the
motion;
3. He refused to furnish a copy of the decision to the accused, but when notice of appeal was
filed, he directed the counsel for the accused to amend the notice to reflect receipt of the
decision although no such decision was really received. This was done in, at least, two (2)
instances, particularly, in People vs. Remedios Malapit, et al. (Criminal Cases Nos. 15320,
15323, 15327, 15570 and 15571) and in People vs. Alejandro Cas (Criminal Case No. 15306-
R).3
The complainants also claim that the respondent judge is arrogant in that:
1. He waves at lawyers and tells them to approach his bench; if, by chance, a lawyer touches a
portion of his bench he shouts at him and berates him saying he has not given him permission to
touch his bench;
2. He tells lawyers appearing before him to give priority to his court at the expense of their
other court duties;
3. He insults lawyers by means of harsh and intemperate words in the presence of litigants and
the public;
4. He impresses to the lawyers and parties litigants that he is a convicting judge. He boasts that
since he sat as judge all his decisions in criminal cases except two (2) were convictions;
5. He berates the lowly security guards in the Justice Hall of Baguio City every time they fail to
salute him;
6. He insults litigants who want to settle their cases for allegedly wasting his time;
7. He insults doctors and other expert witnesses who cannot appear because of previous
commitments;
8. In one occasion, he interrupted Atty. Federico J. Mandapat, Jr., in the course of his cross-
examination of a witness and told him: "that is not the way to cross-examine, ask questions only
that are answerable by yes or no." Atty. Mandapat explained that he was laying the basis for his
succeeding questions. The respondent curtly replied that he was giving him only ten (10)
minutes to conduct his cross-examination, to which Atty. Mandapat countered by telling the
respondent that it was tantamount to obstruction of justice and violation of the right of the
accused to cross-examine a witness being presented against him.4
The respondent judge is also allegedly guilty of violating the Code of Judicial Conduct, as follows:
1. He is discourteous to lawyers, especially the new and inexperienced;
2. He tells the client in the presence of the lawyer to engage the services of another lawyer
because his lawyer does not know anything or he does not deserve to be paid (Atty. Joris Karl
Dacawi);
3. He verbally assaults lawyers;
4. He does not give even a little respect to old lawyers;
5. He insulted in open court retired Court of Appeals Justice Sixto Domondon because he came
to court late once. For such act, he was even admonished by the Honorable Supreme Court for
his unbecoming conduct towards a former Justice of the Court of Appeals, yet, his arrogance
continues unabated and is more manifest, apparently in defiance to the admonition he received.5
The respondent judge is allegedly guilty of oppressive conduct committed as follows:
1. He unreasonably limits the presentation of evidence to the detriment of party-litigants;
2. He scolds and insults lawyers who stand up and walk while propounding questions to
witnesses. He pursues a strategy of assault and appeasement. He verbally assaults lawyers, and
if they re-act, he tries to appease some of them in an effort to get them to his side;
3. He directed Atty. Reynaldo U. Agranzamendez (immediate past President of the IBP Baguio-
Benguet Chapter) to stand up, in lieu of the accused who jumped bail, during the promulgation
of the decision in absentia. Atty. Agranzamendez acting as de oficio counsel requested that he
be allowed to sit down because the people in court might think that he was the accused but the
judge in utter disregard of elementary courtesy that befits a lawyer did not budge. Instead, he
berated Atty. Agranzamendez and told him to "shut up and dont argue with the court". When
Atty. Agranzamendez got tired during the reading of the long decision, he slightly leaned to his
side. When the Judge noticed this, he shouted at him and told him to stand up properly. This he
did in the presence of lawyers and litigants who could only look at Atty. Agranzamendez with
sympathy and compassion;
4. He cited Atty. Nicasio M. Aliping, Jr., for contempt for not appearing as a witness in one case
before his sala. When Atty. Aliping learned about this, he explained to the judge that he was not
notified of the date of hearing and presented records clearly showing that indeed he was not
notified. Atty. Aliping prayed that the order be lifted and set aside. The judge refused and told
Atty. Aliping that it was a different matter. To this day, the order citing him for contempt has not
been lifted;
5. In one case where Atty. Cirilo Cawed is the private complainant, the latter executed an
affidavit of desistance praying, among others, for the dismissal of the case. The respondent did
not act on it and instead issued an order threatening his arrest if he will not appear before him
and explain.6
Finally, the respondent judge is allegedly guilty of corruption:
Respondent had a certain EUFEMIO M. GULA, his long-time "bodyguard", appointed as driver
assigned to his branch despite his knowledge that Mr. Gula has no drivers license, and worse, he does
not know how to drive. This supposed driver draws his salary from the City of Baguio. The driver fills
up the required itinerary forms, which indicate that he supposedly drives for the respondent from
Baguio City to Manila and back, but the truth is that they commute by bus. It is a certain WILLIAM
DANNANG, personnel from the maintenance department of the Baguio City Justice Hall, who actually
drives for the respondent.7
In his Comment, the respondent judge vehemently denies the charges hurled against him.
On the charge of gross ignorance of the law, the respondent judge avers:
1. Criminal Cases Nos. 15776-R to 15780-R, entitled "People of the Philippines vs. Danilo
Dumez, et al." are now pending appeal before the Court of Appeals. . . Whether or not the
decision of the Respondent Judge in the aforecited cases is correct will be a matter only the
appellate [court] can decide. The perceived errors in the imposition of the penalty imposed
should be addressed in the Accused-Appellants brief. Assuming arguendo that the Respondent
Judge erred in applying the [I]ndeterminate [S]entence [L]aw, which of course he denies, the
proper remedy would have been Appeal, and not to file Administrative Case against the Judge;
2. In Criminal Case No. 14054-R entitled "People vs. Polic-ew," Respondent Judge submits the
same argument . . . ;
3. In Criminal Case No. 16187-R entitled "People vs. Mamaril" and Criminal Case No. 14935
entitled "People vs. Gose," the decisions of the Respondent Judge had become final and
executory without the Counsels appealing. Had the Counsels appealed their cases, or at least
Moved for Reconsideration, they could have properly raised the mitigating circumstances,
which they claim were not appreciated by the Respondent Judge. Again the remedy is not the
filing of administrative case against the Judge;
4. The Administrative Case against the Respondent Judge in A.M. No. RTJ-99-1483 was
resolved by the Supreme Court in a Decision dated September 17, 1999 and received by the
Respondent Judge on October 4, 1999. Respondent Judge has FIFTEEN (15) DAYS to file a
Motion for Reconsideration, which he will comply with. Suffice it to say that in this case, the
Respondent Judge believed, as he believes in good faith that he had no cogent reason to inhibit
himself from the case . . .;
5. The imposition of fines for tardiness or non-appearance in scheduled cases is inherent upon
any court as part of its disciplining authority. The remedy would have been to seek
reconsideration and not an Administrative Case. The Court has never collected on the fine,
provided the reasons cited in the reconsideration are meritorious. The Complainants cite the
case of Atty. Miguel Liceralde. Said lawyer was never fined by the Respondent Judge. The fact
is, as of date, the Respondent Judge never issued a writ of execution for the collection of fines
from lawyers. . . There were only four (4) instances when fines were paid by lawyers who
volunteered to pay the fine on their own without filing a motion for reconsideration. . .;
5. The dismissal of the case for failure of the parties or counsel to appear in their scheduled
hearings is so provided by the Rules. Again the remedy is a motion for reconsideration and not
an administrative case on petty grounds. . .;
6. Atty. George Florendo who is not even a signatory to this Petition is mentioned, albeitly [sic]
without his consent regarding "People vs. Joseph Santos," Criminal Case No. 15171-R for
Illegal Possession of Marijuana where he appears for the accused. Nowhere in the records does
it show that he limited the fifteen (15) day period to appeal.8
On his alleged violation of the constitutional rights of the accused, the respondent judge counters:
1. In Criminal Case No. 13949-R, "People vs. Baniqued" for Violation of Section 3(e) of R.A.
3019, which was inherited by the Respondent Judge, he submits that no violation was ever
made as the complainants would want to imply. Complainants wanted the accused preventively
suspended. The defense insisted that the entire prosecution evidence first be heard, as a pre-
suspension hearing which was granted by the respondent judges predecessor, Hon. Joven
Costales, and by the respondent judge himself. Thereafter, despite the opposition of the Accused
to the preventive suspension, an order was issued on September 2, 1999. The move for
suspension was complicated by the incomplete prosecution evidence as well as the constant
absence of the Manila-based private prosecutor. The Court has given wide latitude to the
accused and he has no cause to complain;
2. Civil Case No. 3322-R entitled "Surla vs. Dimla" for Sum of Money, is a continuing attempt
by the Complainants to mislead the Supreme Court. This case had been dismissed and the
dismissal has become final and executory. The case was earlier dismissed for failure to
prosecute on the part of the Plaintiff for failure to appear during the scheduled hearings of the
case, but a Motion for Reconsideration was filed and granted by the Respondent Judge. Several
postponements at the instance of the plaintiff were tolerably allowed but then again the plaintiff
failed to appear during the scheduled hearing. The Respondent Judge dismissed the case on the
same grounds. No motion for reconsideration was filed and the decision became final. Clearly
no fault can be attributed to the Respondent Judge;
3. Respondent Judge denies refusing to furnish copies of the decision to the accused in Criminal
Cases Nos. 15321-R, 15323-R, 15327-R, 15770-R and 15771-R entitled "People vs. Malapit, et
al." as these are matters of public record available and accessible to the public. He could not and
never will prevent or obstruct any litigant, much more a lawyer to access of records pertaining
to a case;
4. Respondent Judge denies directing the defense counsel to amend his Notice of Appeal to
allegedly reflect receipt of the decision in Criminal Case No. 15306-R entitled "People vs.
Alejandro Cas," as such an action will gain him nothing. The Manifestation of Apology by the
concerned defense counsel says it all.9
Anent the charge that he is arrogant, the respondent judge declares:
1. The pettiness of the charges (3A to G) are completely wasteful of the Supreme Courts
precious time as they are bereft of the specifics and are mere general allegations;
2. As to 3H involving Atty. Federico Mandapat, said defense counsel together with Atty. Juan
Alberto and Prosecutor Raymond Tabangin were requested to approach the bench. Atty.
Mandapat was advised by the respondent judge to ask questions answerable by yes or no as it
was observed that he was repeating questions asked on direct examination. Certainly, the court
can advise counsel on how to conduct proper cross-examination so as not to tax the time of both
the court and the witnesses. When the Respondent Judge said ten minutes, he was referring to
the time left for him to conduct the cross-examination on that trial day, as there were other ready
cases. It was not limiting his time to cross-examine the witness, as the records would show that
the next trial date, Atty. Mandapat was allowed to his hearts content to continue the cross-
examination.10
On the charge of violation of the Code of Judicial Conduct, the respondent judge states:
1. Respondent Judge denies 4A to D on his non-support for new lawyers. The fact is he
encourages old practitioners to help new lawyers and he announces this in open court as a
matter of policy. . . ;
2. Atty. Primitivo Jularbal, 72 years old, a former Professor in the College of Law of Saint Louis
University and a long time distinguished practitioner in the City of Baguio, and Atty. Juan
Valdez, 70 years old, former City Legal Officer of Mayors Luis L. Lardizabal and Mauricio G.
Domogan can affirm the respect, deference and dignified treatment he habitually accord these
senior lawyers;
3. As to the case of former Justice Sixto Domondon for which the Respondent Judge was
admonished by the Supreme Court, your Respondent Judge was barely one month in office
when he asked the former justice, whom he did not know at that time to come on time for his
hearings. Said justice was more than forty-five (45) minutes late for the pre-trial conference and
Respondent Judge applied the rule on him, like he did to all lawyers.11
As to his alleged oppressive conduct, the respondent judge states as follows:
1. Respondent Judge denies 5A and B as they are mere general statements without basis in fact
and in law;
2. In the case of Atty. Reynaldo U. Agranzamendez, as defense counsel in Criminal Case No.
7304-R, entitled "People vs. Liwayway Cruz," he required said counsel in the absence of the
accused to rise as a matter of procedure during the promulgation of decisions. This is by way of
proper decorum and discipline, which the Respondent Judge submits as part of the inherent
power of the court. The allegation that the Respondent Judge berated Atty. Agranzamendez and
told him to "shut up" is a patent lie. The Respondent Judge recalls asking him politely not to
argue with the Court, on matters like standing up to show decorum and respect to the judicial
processes . . .;
3. Atty. Nicasio Aliping was never cited for contempt, contrary to what the complainants want
to impress. No order was ever issued by the Court to the effect . . .;
4. Atty. Cirilo Cawed, who is not a signatory to the complaint, is the private complainant in
Criminal Cases No. 13535-R entitled "People vs. Licayayo" for Estafa. Despite several orders
for him to appear in the scheduled hearings, he refused, ignored and neglected the same. He was
warned that his continued defiance would constrain the court to order his arrest. The
Respondent Judge submits that it is the rule and practice and even the responsibility, and duty of
the court to summon the complaining witness who executed an Affidavit of Desistance to
determine the authenticity or genuineness of the affidavit. The Respondent Judge should not be
condemned for ensuring the integrity of affidavits submitted in court.12
Regarding the charge of corruption against him, the respondent judge asserts that:
1. As a public officer, he is ready to face all kinds of charges as an inherent "risk" that comes
with the territory. It hurts him; however, to be accused of the baseless charge of Graft and
Corruption, for he values his honor and his name, presumably like the Complainants
themselves;
It is a matter of public and judicial knowledge that courts have no employment item for drivers. On this
point alone, how could Respondent Judge appoint a driver as alleged in the complaint? Had the
Complainants asked or in the least conducted a thorough investigation, they would have discovered that
in the RTC, Baguio City, Branch 3, there was a vacant item for City-paid Utility Worker. In 1988, the
RTC Clerk of Court, Atty. Delilah G. Muoz, made a project proposal to the City Government of
Baguio for the revival of item. . .
Almost a year later, the City Government approved the request, and it was Mayor Mauricio G.
Domogan who appointed Mr. Eufemio Gula to the position and not the Respondent Judge. The item
approved was for a driver and not as Utility Worker. A correction was sought and again Mayor
Mauricio G. Domogan and the City Council of Baguio approved the amendment for the appointment of
Utility Worker and not as Driver. . . Mr. Eufemio Gula is not a Court-paid Employee and performs his
duty as a utility worker paid by the City Government of Baguio. He has no drivers license, as he did
not apply as a driver. The respondent judge did not appoint Gula and no judiciary funds were used for
his pay. Neither did the respondent judge screen his qualification as to whether or not it conforms to the
minimum criteria set by the city for the item - utility worker.13
The respondent judge prays that the administrative complaint against him be dismissed for lack of
merit.
In its Memorandum dated November 17, 1999, the Office of the Court Administrator revealed that
since his appointment to the judiciary on February 23, 1998, four (4) administrative cases had been
filed against the respondent judge:
1. RTJ-99-1450 "Justice Sixto Domondon vs. Judge Fernando Vil Pamintuan" Respondent
was REPRIMANDED by the Court on June 14, 1999;
2. RTJ-99-1483 "Lauro Gacayan vs. Judge Fernando Vil Pamintuan" Respondent was FINED
10,000.00 and REPRIMANDED for Violation of Canon 2 of the Code of Judicial Conduct and
Canon 3 of the Code of Judicial Ethics which amount to grave misconduct, conduct
unbecoming an officer of the Judiciary and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service
and WARNED that a repetition of the foregoing or similar transgressions shall be dealt with
more severely;
3. OCA IPI No. 99-808-RTJ The instant case under consideration;
4. OCA IPI No. 99-832-RTJ "Mr. Galo R. Reyes vs. Judge Fernando Vil Pamintuan" for
willful violation of the Rules of Court and incompetence. Awaiting comment of the respondent
judge.14
Considering the seriousness of the charges against the respondent judge, the OCA recommended that an
investigation be conducted thereon. In the Resolution of December 8, 1999, the Court referred the
instant case, together with OCA IPI No. 99-832-RTJ (Mr. Galo R. Reyes vs. Judge Fernando Vil
Pamintuan), to the Presiding Justice of the Court of Appeals for immediate raffle among the incumbent
appellate court justices.15
The cases were raffled to Justice Mercedes Gozo-Dadole (Investigating Justice) who forthwith set the
cases for preliminary conference in accordance with Section 1, Rule 58 of the Revised Rules of Court.
Thereafter, hearings were held where the complainants and the respondent judge were allowed to
present their witnesses in support of their respective allegations.
The Evidence of the Complainants
The complainants presented Lauro Gacayan, Jurgenson Lagdao, Federico Mandapat, Jr., Reynaldo
Agranzamendez, Reynaldo Cortes, Joris Karl Dacawi, Maria Ligaya Rivera, Rogelio Daet and Edgardo
Ancheta. Except for Ancheta, all the witnesses are lawyers and members of the IBP Baguio-Benguet
Chapter.
Gross Ignorance of the Law and
Violation of the Constitutional
Rights of the Accused
Attorneys Lauro Gacayan and Jurgenson Lagdao were presented to substantiate the charges of gross
ignorance of law and violation of the constitutional rights of the accused against the respondent judge.
Atty. Gacayan executed the Affidavit dated March 15, 200016 and during his testimony affirmed the
truthfulness of its contents. Atty. Gacayan stated that he is a practicing lawyer based in Baguio City. He
was the counsel for the accused in "People vs. Ceferino Baniqued" (Criminal Case No. 13949-R) for
Violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and for the defendant in "Albert Surla vs. Nelson
Dimla" (Civil Case No. 3322-R) for collection of sum of money. These two cases were pending before
the RTC, Branch 3 of Baguio City, presided over by the respondent judge.
According to Atty. Gacayan, in "People vs. Ceferino Baniqued," the prosecution filed a motion for the
preventive suspension of the accused. The latter duly opposed said motion. In his Order dated August
18, 1998, the respondent judge submitted for resolution the aforesaid motion. However, it was only on
September 29, 1999, or more than one (1) year after its submission for resolution, that Atty. Gacayan,
as counsel for the accused, received an order resolving the motion. Upon further verification, Atty.
Gacayan discovered that the said order was received by the RTCs Office of the Clerk of Court only on
September 23, 1999, after the instant administrative complaint had already been filed against the
respondent judge. Incidentally, the respondent judges failure to act on the motion for preventive
suspension in the Baniqued case is one of the infractions raised in this administrative complaint.17
Further, during the hearing of Surla vs. Dimla on May 18, 1998, the respondent judge dismissed the
case on account of the fact that when the case was called at 8:30 in the morning, the plaintiffs first
witness was not around. When the witness arrived at 8:32 a.m., or barely two (2) minutes after, the
plaintiffs counsel manifested his readiness to present the witness. The respondent judge denied the
same. On even date, the plaintiffs counsel moved for a reconsideration of the said dismissal, which
was not opposed by Atty. Gacayan as counsel for the defendant. The motion for reconsideration was
submitted for resolution at the hearing on June 5, 1998. However, it took the respondent judge almost
four (4) months to resolve this simple and unopposed motion.18
Atty. Gacayan likewise narrated that he was in the sala of the respondent judge during the promulgation
of his decisions in People vs. Danilo Dumez et al (Criminal Cases Nos. 15776-R up to 15780-R),
People vs. Bernardo Polic-ew (Criminal Case No. 14054-R), People vs. Angelina Mamaril (Criminal
Case No. 16187-R), People vs. Benjie Gose et al. (Criminal Case No. 14935-R). The last case
particularly caught Atty. Gacayans attention because the penalty imposed on the accused, who was
then a minor, was the same as that of all the other accused who were of legal age.
Atty. Lagdao, also one of the complainants in this case, executed an Affidavit dated August 27, 199919
and Reply-Affidavit dated March 17, 200020 and during his testimony, affirmed the truthfulness of the
contents thereof. Atty. Lagdao is connected with the Public Attorneys Office (PAO) in Baguio City and
handled People vs. Remedios Malapit (Criminal Cases Nos. 15321-R, 15323-R, 15327-R, 15770-R and
15771-R) and People vs. Alejandro Cas (Criminal Case No. 15306-R) pending before the sala of the
respondent judge.
In these two cases, the respondent judge failed to immediately furnish the accused copies of the
decisions after their respective promulgation. In the Malapit case, a copy of the decision was served on
the accused seventeen (17) days after the judgment was promulgated; in the Cas case, fifteen (15) days
after promulgation of judgment. Moreover, in the latter case, one of the court personnel approached
Atty. Lagdao and told him that the respondent judge wanted the tenor of the notice of appeal changed
by deleting therein the phrase "copies of which [referring to the decision] the Honorable Court has yet
to release." In order not to prejudice the accused, Atty. Lagdao did as instructed.
Atty. Lagdao admitted that, to support their charge of gross ignorance of law, he secured certified true
copies of the following decisions of the respondent judge where he misapplied the Indeterminate
Sentence Law:
Decision in Criminal Case No. 11363-R is marked as Exhibit "D";
Decision in Criminal Case No. 15108-R is marked as Exhibit "E";
Decision in Criminal Case No. 15544-R is marked as Exhibit "F";
Decision in Criminal Case No. 3200-R is marked as Exhibit "G";
Decision in Criminal Case No. 7703-R is marked as Exhibit "H";
Decision in Criminal Case No. 13646-R is marked as Exhibit "I";
Decision in Criminal Case No. 14054-R is marked as Exhibit "J";
Decision in Criminal Case No. 14524-R is marked as Exhibit "K";
Decision in Criminal Case No. 15600-R is marked as Exhibit "L";
Decision in Criminal Case No. 14776-R is marked as Exhibit "M";
Decision in Criminal Case No. 15932-R is marked as Exhibit "N";
Decision in Criminal Case No. 15653-R is marked as Exhibit "O";
Decision in Criminal Case No. 13379-R is marked as Exhibit "P";
Decision in Criminal Case No. 13367-R is marked as Exhibit "Q";
Decision in Criminal Case No. 14929-R is marked as Exhibit "R";
Decision in Criminal Case No. 7304-R is marked as Exhibit "S"; and,
Decision in Criminal Case No. 14925-R is marked as Exhibit "T".21
Arrogance, Oppression
and Violations of the
Code of Judicial Conduct
Atty. Federico Mandapat, Jr. was presented to support the complainants charges of arrogance and
violations of the Code of Judicial Conduct against the respondent judge.
As one of the complainants in the instant case, Atty. Mandapat executed the Affidavit dated December
14, 199922 and affirmed the truthfulness of its contents. Atty. Mandapat, a councilor of Baguio City, is
also engaged in the practice of law. He appears in various courts in Baguio City, including that presided
by the respondent judge.
He recalled that during the hearing of People vs. Andrade presided by the respondent judge, his (Atty.
Mandapats) cross-examination of the witness was interrupted by the respondent judge. Atty.
Mandapat, the other defense counsel and the prosecutor, were instructed to approach the bench. In a
loud voice, the respondent judge directed Atty. Mandapat to refrain from asking questions that were
already asked in the direct-examination. Atty. Mandapat explained that he was just trying to test the
credibility of the witness and in fact, the witness gave different answers on cross-examination. The
respondent judge then limited Atty. Mandapats time to cross-examine the witness to ten (10) minutes.
When Atty. Mandapat inquired from the respondent judge whether he was limiting the right of the
accused to cross-examine the witness, the respondent judge replied that he did not want to argue.
Atty. Mandapat opined that in Baguio City, the respondent judge had the reputation of being arrogant,
and is known for treating litigants in an arrogant and rude manner.
To further substantiate the charges of violations of the Code of Judicial Conduct and oppression against
the respondent judge, the complainants presented Atty. Reynaldo Agranzamendez. He executed the
Affidavit dated March 20, 200023 and during his testimony affirmed the truthfulness of its contents.
Atty. Agranzamendez, also one of the complainants in this case, was the Past President of the IBP
Baguio-Benguet Chapter. He narrated that he appeared as defense counsel for accused Liwayway Cruz
in an estafa case pending before the sala of the respondent judge. During the promulgation of judgment
on July 29, 1999, Atty. Agranzamendez manifested that the accused was not in court. The respondent
judge ordered Atty. Agranzamendez to stand up in place of the accused during the reading of the
decision. Atty. Agranzamendez requested that he be allowed to sit down because if he stood up, it
would seem that he was the accused. The respondent judge curtly told him not to argue with the court.
During the reading of the decision, every time the clerk of court mentioned the word "estafa", Atty.
Agranzamendez would cringe in embarrassment. Since the decision was quite long, Atty.
Agranzamendez leaned on his side at one point. The respondent judge immediately banged his gavel
and sternly told Atty. Agranzamendez to stand up properly. Several lawyers witnessed the incident. In
fact, Atty. Jose Molintas playfully stood beside Atty. Agranzamendez and pretended to be his counsel.
Atty. Agranzamendez felt so humiliated at the time. Even after the incident, several people, including
his students at the Baguio Colleges Foundation where he was Dean of the College of Law, approached
Atty. Agranzamendez and asked him why he was convicted for estafa.
Atty. Joris Karl Dacawi was likewise presented, also to substantiate the charge of violations of the
Code of Judicial Conduct by the respondent judge. He executed the Affidavit dated March 23, 200024
and during his testimony, affirmed the truthfulness thereof. He worked as an associate at the Sanidad
and Villanueva Law Offices in Baguio City. One of the cases assigned to him was Alejo Cabreros vs.
Sussie Edralin which was pending before the sala of the respondent judge. During one of the hearings
of the said case, Atty. Dacawi manifested to the respondent judge that although he was ready to present
the plaintiff Mr. Cabreros as first witness, the latter was not feeling well. Atty. Dacawi thus moved that
the hearing be reset to another day. The respondent judge angrily remarked that Atty. Dacawi was just
not ready to present his case and suggested that Mrs. Cabreros, who was also in the court, be presented
as witness instead. Atty. Dacawi explained that he could not do as suggested because it would destroy
his manner of presenting the evidence.
The respondent judge eventually cancelled the hearing that day but stated that the same be deducted
from the number of trial dates allotted for the plaintiff. The respondent judge further ordered Mr.
Cabreros to stand up and told the latter not to pay Atty. Dacawi as no service was rendered by him as
counsel that day; hence, did not deserve to be paid.
Violation of the Anti-Graft
and Corrupt Practices Act
The complainants likewise charge the respondent judge with graft and corruption. In support thereof,
they presented Atty. Reynaldo Cortes who executed the Affidavit dated July 14, 2000.25
Atty. Cortes is a practicing lawyer in Baguio City and also one of the complainants in this case. He
averred that on July 1, 1999, a certain Eufemio Dula was appointed as "driver" by the City Government
of Baguio City and was assigned to the respondent judge. According to Atty. Cortes, he had observed
that Dula accompanied the respondent judge everywhere he went. Despite his designation as driver,
Dula never drove the car of the respondent judge. Upon verification by the complainants, it was
discovered that Dula had no license to drive. In September 1999, the RTC of Baguio City, through its
clerk of court, requested that the item of Dula be amended from "driver" to "utility worker".
Other Corroborative Evidence
Atty. Maria Ligaya Rivera, Branch Clerk of Court of the RTC, Branch 3 of Baguio City, was also
presented as one of the witnesses of the complainants. She testified that she received the notice of
appeal filed in the case of People of the Philippines vs. Alejandro Cas and, following the standard
procedure, forwarded it to Edgardo Ancheta, the clerk-in-charge of the criminal docket, for submission
to the respondent judge for his action. However, the respondent judge did not then act on the matter.
Instead, he called Atty. Rivera to his chamber and instructed her to tell Atty. Lagdao, the PAO lawyer
handling the case, to change the notice of appeal; otherwise, he would not act on it. Atty. Rivera took
the notice of appeal and talked to Ancheta regarding the respondent judges instructions.
Thereafter, Atty. Lagdao told Atty. Rivera that he could no longer change the notice of appeal as the
same already formed part of the records. The respondent judge insisted that the notice of appeal be
changed. Atty. Lagdao maintained that he could no longer do so because a later date would be reflected
as the date of its receipt. In such a case, it would appear as if the same was filed out of time. Atty.
Lagdao was eventually constrained to change the notice of appeal by deleting the phrase "copies of
which [referring to the decision] the Honorable Court has yet to release." According to Atty. Rivera, the
decision on People of the Philippines vs. Alejandro Cas was released fifteen (15) days after its
promulgation.
Atty. Rivera also confirmed that Dula was a part of the respondent judges staff. Dulas designation was
originally as "driver" of the respondent judge but was later on changed to "utility worker." Per the
respondent judges instruction, Atty. Rivera signed Dulas accomplishment report. This report falsely
stated that he drove for the respondent judge. Atty. Rivera admitted that, by signing Dulas
accomplishment report, she was abetting the crime of falsification of public document. However, she
maintained that she could not go against the instruction of the respondent judge on the matter.
Atty. Rivera was the one who read the decision in People v. Liwayway Cruz during its promulgation.
She corroborated Atty. Agranzamendez allegation that he was made to stand up to take the place of the
accused during the promulgation of the judgment. She confirmed that Atty. Agranzamendez expressed
his objection to this procedure but the respondent judge merely told him to "shut up."
Atty. Rogelio Daet, the Regional Director of the Public Attorneys Office of the Cordillera
Administrative Region including Baguio City, was presented to corroborate the testimony of Atty.
Lagdao regarding the changing of the notice of appeal in People vs. Remedios Malapit.
Atty. Daet testified that as the immediate superior of Atty. Lagdao, he assigned the latter to handle the
PAO cases before the sala of the respondent judge. At one time, Atty. Lagdao approached Atty. Daet to
express his apprehension that they had not yet received the decision in the Malapit case despite the fact
that almost fifteen (15) days had already passed since its promulgation. Atty. Lagdao informed Atty.
Daet that he would file a notice of appeal even without receiving a copy of the decision.1wphi1 Atty.
Lagdao showed to Atty. Daet the notice of appeal and manifestation that were subsequently filed in
connection with the Malapit case.
Some time in July 1999, the respondent judge called Atty. Daet to his chamber and informed the latter
that he disliked the tone of Atty. Lagdaos notice of appeal and manifestation. The respondent judge
returned the said pleadings to Atty. Daet and instructed him to direct Atty. Lagdao to change them. Atty.
Daet did as he was told and later on learned that Atty. Lagdao had complied with the respondent
judges directive and deleted the phrase that he found objectionable so as not to prejudice the accused.
Thereafter, upon the instance of the respondent judge, Atty. Daet transferred Atty. Lagdao to another
sala. Atty. Daet did not assign another lawyer to take Atty. Lagdaos place because the respondent judge
insinuated that his approval should first be sought regarding the assignment of the PAO lawyer to his
sala. Atty. Daet felt that this was an encroachment on his prerogative as regional director of the PAO.
Edgardo Ancheta, clerk-in-charge of the criminal docket in the sala of the respondent judge, testified to
corroborate Atty. Lagdaos testimony. He recalled that at one time, Atty. Ma. Ligaya Rivera, his
immediate superior, directed him to talk to Atty. Lagdao regarding the notice of appeal and
manifestation that he filed in the Cas case. Atty. Rivera instructed Ancheta to tell Atty. Lagdao to delete
the phrase "copies of which the Honorable Court has yet to release" in the notice of appeal in order that
the respondent judge would act on it. Atty. Lagdao initially refused to change the notice of appeal but
when he was told that the respondent judge would not act on the same unless the "objectionable"
phrase was deleted, Atty. Lagdao was constrained to obey the respondent judges directive.
In order that the second notice of appeal would not be considered as filed out of time, it was the date of
receipt of the first notice of appeal that was stamped on the second notice of appeal. This was done
presumably with the respondent judges knowledge and consent, since it was him who ordered the
alteration.
The Evidence of the Respondent Judge
On the other hand, to refute the charges against him, the respondent judge presented thirteen (13)
witnesses: Atty. Victoria C.M. Sturch, Atty. Primitivo C. Jularbal, Atty. Ma. Inglay Capuyon-Fokno,
Justice Sixto Domondon, Atty. Lourdes Maita Andres, Atty. Juan B. Valdez, Lina de Guzman Dalusong,
Prosecutor Lilian Dris S. Alejo, Sister Mercedes del Rosario Nicolas, Atty. Johnico Alim, Prosecutor
Raymond Tabangin, Ret. RTC Judge Concepcion B. Buencamino and Atty. Lyssa G.S. Pagano-Calde.
Atty. Victoria C.M. Sturch, a member of the IBP Baguio-Benguet Chapter, executed the Affidavit dated
January 18, 2001.26 As a practicing lawyer, Atty. Sturch has appeared before the sala of the respondent
judge. She averred that the respondent consistently starts the hearings at exactly 8:30 in the morning
and that he is strict in the observance of decorum inside the courtroom. She has not witnessed any
instance when the respondent acted in an arrogant or offensive manner. She was of the opinion that the
respondent judge could not be influenced or bribed by anyone.
Atty. Primitivo C. Jularbal also a member of the IBP Baguio-Benguet Chapter, executed an Affidavit
dated January 22, 2001.27 He is seventy-one (71) years old and has been in the practice of law for over
thirty-four (34) years and in the course thereof has appeared before the respondent judge.
Atty. Jularbal revealed that he was asked to sign the complaint against the respondent judge but that he
declined. He believed that filing an administrative charge against a judge whenever he committed an
error would set a bad precedent. He dismissed the charge of gross ignorance of the law against the
respondent judge as very easy to make, but whether it can be proven is another matter.
He knew of only one instance when the respondent judge imposed a fine of 500 on the counsel for
tardiness. But, according to Atty. Jularbal, the respondent judge did not make any effort to enforce the
payment of the fine. He has not witnessed any arrogant or oppressive conduct by the respondent judge.
Neither has he seen the respondent judge act discourteously or disrespectfully towards senior lawyers
like him (Atty. Jularbal).
Atty. Ma. Inglay Capuyan-Fokno another member of the IBP Baguio-Benguet Chapter, executed the
Affidavit dated January 22, 2001.28
Atty. Fokno admitted that in 1998, the respondent judge, when newly-appointed, intimidated the
lawyers who appeared before his sala, including herself. She noticed, however, that over the lapse of
time, the respondent judge had become more considerate towards the lawyers. Atty. Fokno maintained
that the respondent judge is diligent and serious in the performance of his job as he starts the hearings
at promptly 8:30 in the morning.
Retired Justice Sixto Domondon, a member of the IBP Baguio-Benguet Chapter, executed the Affidavit
dated May 24, 200029 in the respondents brief. Justice Domondon manifested that as a practicing
lawyer, he has three (3) civil cases pending before the sala of the respondent judge. He confirmed that
while he filed an administrative case against the respondent judge for which the latter was sanctioned
by this Court, he could vouch for the respondents integrity, capacity and moral will to dispense justice
fairly.
Atty. Lourdes Maita Andres executed her Affidavit in January 2001.30 As a practicing lawyer, she has
appeared several times before the respondent judge. Atty. Andres considered the respondent judge to be
fair and even-handed in dealing with the litigants. On one occasion, Atty. Andres approached the
respondent ex-parte to ask for a resetting of a case. The respondent judge refused, explaining that the
other party should be present "para walang masabi." Atty. Andres realized that the respondent judge
could not be easily approached for any favor.
Atty. Juan Valdez also a member of the IBP Baguio-Benguet Chapter, executed the Affidavit dated
January 11, 2001.31 Atty. Valdez has been in the practice of law for over thirty (30) years and has
appeared before the respondent judge. According to him, the respondent judge strictly requires the
observance of proper decorum inside the courtroom. For example, the lawyers are enjoined to arrive at
the hearings on time; otherwise, a fine is imposed on them for tardiness. Upon proper motion and
explanation, however, the respondent judge would lift the fine. Further, the respondent judge requires
that lawyers (1) wear the proper attire; and (2) refrain from making unnecessary noises when the court
is in session. In Atty. Valdez view, the strictness of the respondent judge is necessary for orderly court
proceedings.
Aside from handling cases, Atty. Valdez acted as the City Legal Officer of Baguio City from 1992 up to
1996. As such, he confirmed the practice of the local government of Baguio City of hiring contractual
employees and assigning them to the various courts in the city.
Lina de Guzman Dalusong was one of the parties in a civil case that was pending in the sala of the
respondent judge. She executed the Affidavit dated April 2, 2001.32 She testified that prior to the
respondent judges appointment to the court, the civil case where she was one of the parties had been
pending for almost twelve (12) years. When the respondent judge took over the said sala, Dalusong
noticed that he closely monitored the status of the cases pending therein. He enforced a strict system
where the litigants, as well as their counsel, were enjoined to come on time. Consequently, the pending
cases, including that of Dalusong, were resolved with dispatch. Dalusong also attested to the
respondent judges fairness in dealing with the parties and deciding the cases assigned to him.
Lilian Doris Alejo is a State Prosecutor in the Department of Justice. She executed the Affidavit dated
February 23, 2001.33 She has appeared before the respondent judge and found him to be
accommodating. She noted that the respondent judge would see to it that both parties are present before
he talked to either of them. Since Alejo and her opposing counsel were based in Manila, they often
requested for cancellation of hearings and the respondent judge invariably granted the same.
Sister Mercedes Nicolas is a nun belonging to the Franciscan Sisters, Immaculate Conception
Congregation and resides at the Little Flower Convent in Baguio City. She executed the Affidavit dated
February 26, 2001.34 Sister Nicolas knows the respondent judge because he used to visit their convent
to pray and attend their retreats. There was likewise an occasion when Sister Nicolas appeared as
witness in a case pending before the respondent judge. During the hearing, Sister Nicolas saw that the
respondent judge treated the people with patience and kindness.
Atty. Johnico Alim, a member of the IBP Baguio-Benguet Chapter, executed the Affidavit dated
December 18, 2000.35 As a practicing lawyer, he has also appeared before the respondent judge. Atty.
Alim claimed that he has personally observed the respondent judges deportment in and out of the
courtroom, and that he could vouch for the latters neutrality, competence and integrity.
Prosecutor Raymond Tabangin, a trial prosecutor assigned to the sala of the respondent judge, executed
the Affidavit dated October 15, 1999.36 Prosecutor Tabangin asserted that the respondent judge is a
strict and idealistic judge, who starts the hearings promptly at 8:30 in the morning and ends them at
12:00. He requires the lawyers to be punctual and imposes a fine on them if they are late. The orders
and processes issued by the respondent judge are carried out promptly. The respondent judges
strictness has resulted in the unclogging of the court docket as he reduced the same from over 300 cases
to a manageable level. Civil cases that were pending for several years had been disposed of and in
criminal cases, the accused would opt to enter into plea bargaining because the respondent judge has a
reputation of being honest and incorruptible. According to Prosecutor Tabangin, the respondent judge,
for all his strictness, has a soft spot for young lawyers as he patiently teaches them what to do. He takes
great care not to arouse suspicion of partiality and bias in dealing with the parties. He carefully uses his
words when admonishing lawyers and, contrary to the complainants allegation, telling a lawyer to
"shut up" is definitely not his style. Despite his stern and uncompromising countenance, the respondent
judge is a God-fearing and deeply religious man.
Retired Judge Concepcion Buencamino is eighty-three (83) years old and, upon her retirement from the
judiciary, has engaged in the practice of law, albeit on a limited basis. She executed the Affidavit dated
February 24, 2000.37 She averred that she has appeared before the respondent judge in connection with
a case involving a property dispute among siblings. Through the efforts of the respondent judge, the
parties reached an amicable settlement sparing them from what could have been an expensive and long
litigation.
Judge Buencamino stated that the respondent judge possesses a good knowledge of the law.1wphi1
She observed that the respondent judge is never arrogant or overbearing. He listens to the witnesses and
asks clarificatory questions in a polite manner. Judge Buencamino confirmed that the respondent judge
is strict about the attendance of the lawyers during hearings.
Through Atty. Lyssa G.S. Pagano-Calde, the respondent judge presented several documentary
evidence38 to further refute the charges against him.
The Investigating Justices Report and Recommendation
Upon careful evaluation of the evidence presented by the complainants and the respondent judge, the
Investigating Justice found that the charges against the respondent judge for gross ignorance of the law,
violation of the constitutional rights of the accused, arrogance, oppression, impropriety and violations
of the Code of Judicial Conduct are well-grounded, while the charge of graft and corruption was
unsubstantiated. The Investigating Justice made the following recommendation:
On the basis of the foregoing evaluation on the evidence presented by both the complainants and the
respondent, undersigned Investigating Justice recommends, for Gross Ignorance of the Law, Gross
Violation of the Constitutional Rights of the Accused, Arrogance, Oppressive Conduct and Violations
of the Canons of Judicial Ethics that respondent Judge Fernando Vil Pamintuan be meted the severest
of administrative penalties, that is, he should be stripped of his robe.
IN VIEW THEREOF, recommendation is hereby made that respondent Judge Fernando Vil Pamintuan
be dismissed from the service with forfeiture of all retirement benefits and privileges with prejudice to
reinstatement to re-employment in any branch of the government or its corporation for Gross Ignorance
of the Law, Gross Violation of the Constitutional Rights of the Accused, Arrogance, Oppressive
Conduct, and Violations of the Canons of Judicial Ethics.39
The Ruling of the Court
The Court finds the Report and Recommendation of the Investigating Justice well-taken.
On Gross Ignorance of the Law
The respondent judges ignorance of the Indeterminate Sentence Law is palpable. In People vs. Dumez,
et al. (Criminal Cases Nos. 15776-R up to 15779-R), the respondent judge sentenced the accused who
were found guilty of theft to suffer imprisonment "from seven (7) years, four (4) months and one (1)
day as minimum to eight (8) years and eight (8) months as maximum of prision mayor for each case."
The penalty imposed by the respondent judge was contrary to the Indeterminate Sentence Law which
prescribes that the minimum of the imposable penalty shall be within the range of the penalty next
lower to that prescribed by the Revised Penal Code. Since the penalty for theft is prision mayor, the
minimum of the penalty imposable on the accused should have been within the range of prision
correccional, the penalty next lower to prision mayor.
A perusal of the other decisions rendered by the respondent judge shows that his erroneous application
of the Indeterminate Sentence Law in imposing the penalties was committed in not just one or two
instances. Rather, as correctly raised by the complainants, the respondent judge had repeatedly
misapplied the Indeterminate Sentence Law in at least seventeen (17) other cases, to wit:
1. People vs. Rose Dalmacio, et. al.
Crim. Case No. 11363-R, for
Theft (Exhibit "D")
The amount stolen was P10,000.00. Under Art. 309, Par. 2 of the Revised Penal Code, the penalty
imposable is prision correccional in its medium and maximum period. However, the sentence imposed
by Respondent Judge was from four (4) years, nine (9) months and eleven (11) days as minimum, to six
(6) years, as maximum. Worse, he imposed subsidiary imprisonment in case of insolvency when no
fine was imposed as penalty.
2. People vs. Joel Ramos, et al.
Crim. Case No. 15108-R,
for Robbery With Violence
(Exhibit "E")
As found by respondent, the provision applicable is Article 294, Par. 5 of the Revised Penal Code
which provides a penalty of prision correccional in its maximum period to prision mayor in its medium
period. However, he imposed upon the accused imprisonment from six (6) years and one (1) day, as
minimum, to eight (8) years, as maximum. Again, he disregarded Article 39 of the Revised Penal Code
and imposed subsidiary imprisonment in case of insolvency.
3. People vs. Manuel Carino
Crim. Case No. 15544-R, for
Frustrated Homicide (Exhibit "F")
The accused pleaded guilty to Attempted Homicide and thus, the imposable penalty is prision
correccional (Art. 51 in rel. to Art. 249, RPC). Respondent, however, imposed the penalty of four (4)
years, two (2) months and one (1) day, as minimum, to six (6) years, as maximum. Notably, it was
imposed in its maximum period without any finding of aggravating circumstance.
4. People vs. German Abarquez,
et al. Crim. Case No. 3200,
for Robbery (Exhibit "G")
As found by respondent, the penalty imposable is prision mayor. However, what he imposed was
imprisonment from ten (10) years and one (1) day, as minimum, to twelve (12) years, as maximum.
Again, the penalty imposed is in its maximum period without any express finding of aggravating
circumstance.
5. People vs. Rolando Tawanna, et. al.
Crim. Case No. 7703-R, for Frustrated
Homicide (Exhibit "H")
The penalty imposed is prision correccional (Art. 50 in rel. to Art. 249, RPC) but respondent sentenced
all accused to ten (10) years and one (1) day, as minimum, to twelve (12) years, as maximum, without
any express finding of aggravating circumstance.
6. People vs. Jose Tamo, et. al.
Crim. Case No. 13646-R, for
Frustrated Murder (Exhibit "I")
The imposable penalty is prision mayor in its maximum period to reclusion temporal in its medium
period (Art. 50 in rel. to Art. 248, RPC) but the penalty imposed by respondent was fourteen (14) years,
eight (8) months and one (1) day, as minimum, to seventeen (17) years and four (4) months, as
maximum.
7. People vs. Bernardo Polic-ew
Crim. Case No. 14054-R, for
Frustrated Murder (Exhibit "J")
The penalty imposable is prision mayor (Art. 50 in rel. to Art. 249, RPC) but respondent fixed the
sentence at eleven (11) years, four (4) months and one (1) day, as minimum, to twelve (12) years, as
maximum. Note that the penalty is in the maximum period without any express finding of aggravating
circumstance.
8. People vs. Johnson Simsim
Crim. Case No. 14524-R, for
Attempted Rape (Exhibit "K")
It being in its attempted stage, the penalty imposable is prision mayor. However, the penalty imposed
by respondent was ten (10) years and one (1) (sic), as minimum, to twelve (12) years, as maximum.
9. People vs. Moses Polic-ew
Crim. Case No. 15600-R, for
Malversation of Public
Property (Exhibit "L")
As found by respondent, accused violated Par. 2 of Art. 217, RPC, which provides a penalty of prision
mayor in its minimum and medium periods. However, what he imposed was seven (7) years, four (4)
months and one (1) day, as minimum, to eight (8) years, as maximum.
10. People vs. Renato Bernal
Crim. Case No. 14776-R, for
Homicide (Exhibit "M")
The imposable penalty for Homicide is reclusion temporal. Again, in complete disregard of the
Indeterminate Sentence Law, respondent imposed fourteen (14) years, eight (8) months and one (1)
day, as minimum, to seventeen (17) years and four (4) months, as maximum.
11. People vs. John Baliling
Crim. Case No. 15932-R,
for Frustrated Homicide
(Exhibit "N")
The offense charged is punishable by prision mayor. However, respondent imposed eight (8) years and
one (1) day, as minimum, to ten (10) years, as maximum.
12. People vs. Melchor Bawalan, et al.
Crim. Case No. 15653-R, for
Robbery with Violence (Exhibit "O")
The offense charged is punishable under Par. 5, Art. 294, RPC, which provides a penalty of prision
correccional in its maximum period to prision mayor in its medium period. However, respondent
imposed eight (8) years and one (1) (sic) as minimum, to ten years, as maximum.
13. People vs. Paul Afiagan
Crim. Case No. 13379-R, for
Frustrated Homicide (Exhibit "P")
Accused pleaded guilty to Attempted Homicide punishable with imprisonment of prision correccional,
but respondent fixed the penalty at four (4) years, two (2) months, and one (1) day, as minimum, to six
(6) years, as maximum.
14. People vs. Edwin Longaquit, et. al.
Crim. Case No. 13367-R, for
Frustrated Homicide (Exhibit "Q")
The offense charged is punishable by imprisonment of prision mayor. Respondent imposed eight (8)
years and one (1) day, as minimum, to ten (10) years, maximum.
15. People vs. Joseph Samir Kairuz, et al.
Crim. Case No. 14929-R, for Estafa
(Exhibit "R")
The amount involved was P90,000.00. Under the first paragraph of Art. 315 of the Revised Penal Code,
the imposable penalty is prision correccional in its maximum period to prision mayor in its minimum
period, plus one year for every P10,000.00 since the amount involved exceeds P22,000.00. The
sentence imposed by respondent, however, is twelve (12) years, eight (8) months, and twenty (21) days,
as minimum, to fourteen (14) years, as maximum. Note that aside from not applying the Indeterminate
Sentence Law, the minimum of the penalty he imposed is beyond the penalty imposable under the law.
16. People vs. Liwayway Cruz
Crim. Case No. 7304-R,
for Estafa (Exhibit "S")
The amount involved is P29,470.00. Hence, pursuant to Art. 315, Par. 1, Revised Penal Code, the
imposable penalty is prision correccional in its maximum period to prision mayor in its minimum
period. The penalty imposed by respondent was six (6) years, eight (8) months and twenty (21) days, as
minimum, to eight (8) years, as maximum.
17. People vs. Benjie Gose, et al.;
Crim. Case No. 149935-R, for
Robbery (Exhibit T")
The penalty imposable is prision mayor there being no evidence that accused carried arms during the
robbery (Art. 299, RPC). Respondent, however, imposed a sentence of six (6) years and one (1) day, as
minimum, to eight (8) years, as maximum. Note, too, that he imposed the same penalty upon accused
Mark Joseph Ocharan despite his findings that he was a minor during the commission of the crime.
Minority is a privilege mitigating circumstance and thus, accused Ocharans penalty should have been
lowered by one degree.40
The application of the Indeterminate Sentence Law in the imposition of penalties in crimes punishable
by the Revised Penal Code is a basic precept. The respondent judges repeated misapplication thereof
in quite a number of criminal cases he had rendered constitutes gross ignorance of the law. As this
Court has consistently ruled, "a judge is presumed to know the law and when the law is so elementary,
not to be aware of it constitutes gross ignorance of the law."41 Indeed, judges are duty bound to have
more than a cursory acquaintance with laws and jurisprudence. Failure to follow basic legal commands
constitutes gross ignorance of the law from which no one may be excused, not even a judge.42
The Code of Judicial Conduct mandates that "a judge shall be faithful to the law and maintain
professional competence."43 It bears stressing that
. . . Competence is a mark of a good judge. When a judge displays an utter lack of familiarity with the
rules, he erodes the publics confidence in the competence of our courts. Such is gross ignorance of the
law. Having accepted the exalted position of a judge, he owes the public and the court the duty to be
proficient in the law.44
The respondent judge has utterly failed to live up to the standard of competence required of him. His
erroneous application of the Indeterminate Sentence Law committed not just once or twice but in at
least seventeen (17) instances is a compelling evidence of his gross ignorance of the law.
On Gross Violation of
the Constitutional Rights
of the Accused
In People vs. Ceferino Baniqued (Criminal Case No. 13949-R) for violation of the Anti-Graft and
Corrupt Practices Act, the prosecution filed a motion for preventive suspension and the accused filed
his opposition thereto. In his Order of August 18, 1998, the respondent judge submitted the said motion
for resolution. However, it took the respondent judge more than one (1) year to resolve the same. As
correctly found by the Investigating Justice, the delay in resolving this motion constituted violation of
the right of the accused to a speedy trial.
In Surla vs. Dimla (Civil Case No. 3322-R), the respondent judge resolved an unopposed motion for
reconsideration after almost four (4) months. Again, this contravened the mandate of the Constitution
that "all persons shall have the right to a speedy disposition of cases."
Rule 1.02 of Canon 1 and Rule 3.05 of Canon 3 of the Code of Judicial Conduct provide:
Rule 1.02. A judge should administer justice impartially and without delay.
Rule 3.05. A judge shall dispose of the courts business promptly and decide cases within the required
periods.
SC Administrative Circular No. 13-87 enjoins that:
3. Judges shall observe scrupulously the periods prescribed by Article VIII, Section 15 of the
Constitution for the adjudication and resolution of all cases or matters submitted in their courts. Thus,
all cases or matters must be decided or resolved within twelve months from dates of submission by all
lower collegiate courts while all other lower courts are given a period of three months to do so . . .
Further, SC Administrative Circular No. 1-88 reads:
6.1. All Presiding Judges must endeavor to act promptly on all motions and interlocutory matters
pending before their courts . . .
Conformably with the foregoing mandate, this Court has pronounced
The office of a judge exists for one solemn end to promote the ends of justice by administering it
speedily and impartially. The judge as the person presiding over that court is the visible representation
of the law and justice. Failure to resolve cases submitted for decision within the period fixed by law
constitutes violation of the constitutional right of the parties to a speedy disposition of their cases.45
The unreasonable delay of the respondent judge in resolving the motions submitted for his resolution
clearly constituted a violation of the parties constitutional right to a speedy disposition of their cases.
On Arrogant, Oppressive
and Improper Conduct and
Violations of the Code of
Judicial Conduct
As correctly enumerated by the Investigating Justice, the following incidents establish the respondent
judges arrogant and oppressive conduct:
a. Arrogance
When he tried to limit the cross examination by Atty. Fernando Manapat Jr., who was representing the
accused in People vs. Andrada, of the prosecution witness to ten (10) minutes with an advice of not
repeating questions that were already asked during the direct examination;
b. Arrogance and Oppression
Atty. J[o]ris Karl B. Dacaw[i], a young lawyer, who became the beneficiary of respondents arrogance
and oppressive conduct on 11 March 1999. On said date, Atty. Dacaw[i], as plaintiffs lawyer, moved
for the cancellation of the hearing of the case entitled "Alejo Cabre[r]os vs. Susie Edralin" alleging
although his witness Alejo Cabre[r]os was present, said witness however was not feeling well. This
simple manifestation caught the ire of respondent judge who instantaneously ordered Alejo Cabre[r]os
to stand and told him not to pay his lawyer his attorneys fees because he did not do anything for that
day;
c. Oppression and Violation of the Code of Judicial Conduct
1. Atty. Reynaldo U. Agranzamendez, while appearing as counsel de oficio for Liwayway Cruz
in Criminal Case No. 7304-R, for estafa last 29 July 1999, was extremely embarrassed when he
was ordered by respondent judge to stand in behalf of accused, who was then absent despite due
notice, and face the Clerk of Court during the reading of the full text of the decision when said
case was called for promulgation. Accordingly, Atty. Agranzamendez asked respondent judge to
allow him to take his seat as there were several people inside the courtroom who, being
unmindful of the rules might think that he was the accused. But his pleas, however, got
respondent mad, for instead of allowing him to sit down, respondent instead banged his gavel
and told Atty. Agranzamendez not to argue with the court and to stand straight as he leaned over
avoid the glances of the Clerk of Court.
2. Evidence on hand also reveals respondents casual disregard of procedural rules, that is, when
he promulgated a decision that has yet to be released as shown in the case of People vs. Malapit,
et al., docketed as Criminal Case Nos. 15320-R, 15323-R, 15[327]-R and 15571-R and in
People vs. Cas, docketed as Criminal Case No. 15306-R.46
The behavior of the respondent judge towards Atty. Mandapat, i.e. berating the latter in his cross-
examination for repeating the questions already asked during the direct examination, betrayed his
impatience in the conduct of the hearing. A display of petulance and impatience in the conduct of trial
is a norm of behavior incompatible with the needful attitude and sobriety of a good judge.47
The respondents statement to the client that Atty. Dacawi did not deserve to be paid as he did not do
anything during the trial was uncalled for. Further, his act of requiring Atty. Agranzamendez to take the
place of the accused during the reading of the decision at the promulgation thereof was improper. These
actuations of the respondent judge cannot be countenanced as they clearly violated Rule 3.04 of Canon
3 of the Code of Judicial Conduct:
Rule 3.04. A judge should be patient, attentive, and courteous to lawyers, especially the
inexperienced, to litigants, witnesses, and others appearing before the court. A judge should avoid
unconsciously falling into the attitude of mind that the litigants are made for the courts, instead of the
courts for the litigants.
Apropos, this Court has held:
. . . A judge should be courteous both in his conduct and in his language especially to those appearing
before him. He can hold counsels to a proper appreciation of their duties to the court, their clients, and
the public without being petty, arbitrary, overbearing, or tyrannical. He should refrain from conduct that
demeans his office and remember always that courtesy begets courtesy. Above all, he must conduct
himself in such a manner that he gives no reason for reproach.48
Clearly, the respondent judge has failed to observe courtesy and civility to the lawyers as well as to the
litigants who appeared before him.
Finally, the Court frowns upon the highly irregular practice of the respondent judge of promulgating a
decision, copies of which were not then ready for release to the parties. Consequently, Atty. Lagdao of
the PAO, who represented the accused, filed the notices of appeal stating as follows:
In the Malapit case:
. . . hereby gives notice that she is appealing to the Supreme Court decision of the honorable Court
promulgated on 18 September 1999, copies of which the honorable Court has yet to release despite the
fact that the reglementary period for filing a motion for reconsideration or a notice of appeal is about to
expire. . .
In the Cas case:
. . . hereby gives notice that she is appealing to the court of appeals the decision of the honorable Court
promulgated on 22 June 1999, a copy of which the Honorable Court has yet to release.. .49
What is even more reprehensible were the respondent judges directives to Atty. Lagdao to delete the
phrase "copies of which the Honorable Court has yet to release" from the notices of appeal otherwise
he (the respondent judge) would not act thereon. This conduct of the respondent judge was utterly
unbecoming a magistrate and violated the following canons of the Code of Judicial Conduct:
CANON 1 - A JUDGE SHOULD UPHOLD THE INTEGRITY AND INDEPENDENCE OF THE
JUDICIARY
Rule 1.01. A judge should be the embodiment of competence, integrity, and independence.
CANON 2 - A JUDGE SHOULD AVOID IMPROPRIETY AND APPEARANCE OF IMPROPRIETY
IN ALL ACTIVITIES
Rule 2.01. - A judge should so behave at all times as to promote public confidence in the integrity and
impartiality of the judiciary.
CANON 3 - A JUDGE SHOULD PERFORM OFFICAL DUTIES HONESTLY, AND WITH
IMPARTIALITY AND DILIGENCE
Rule 3.01. - A judge shall be faithful to the law and maintain professional competence.
On Graft and Corruption
While the Investigating Justice absolved, for insufficiency of evidence, the respondent judge of the
charge of graft and corruption in connection with the appointment of Mr. Gula as driver, nonetheless,
she found the respondent judge guilty of impropriety. As found by the Investigating Justice, the
respondent judges recommendation of Mr. Gula to be his driver "despite the latters lack of drivers
license and inability to drive not only casts doubt in his integrity but also his honesty as a judge."50
Indeed, the personal behavior of the judge, not only while in the performance of his duties but also
outside the court must be beyond reproach for he is the visible representation of the law and of
justice.51
The Court also notes that this is not the respondents first administrative case. In Gacayan vs.
Pamintuan,52 the Court found him guilty of violating Canon 2 of the Code of Judicial Conduct and
Canon 3 of the Code of Judicial Ethics which amount to grave misconduct, conduct unbecoming an
officer of the judiciary and conduct prejudicial to the best interests of the service. Despite the fact that
the accused already filed a Demurer to Evidence, the respondent, without resolving the same and in
blatant disregard for the rules of criminal procedure, still called witnesses who were not listed in the
information as well as those who had already testified to appear before him, resulting in the re-opening
of the case with respect to the presentation of evidence for the prosecution. When the accused filed a
motion for inhibition and a motion to suspend further proceedings, the respondent judge denied the
same. He was also seen conferring with the witnesses for the prosecution, and later set the case for
hearing without notice to the counsel of the accused. The respondent was meted a fine of 10,000 and
sternly warned that a repetition of similar transgressions would be dealt with more severely.53
Considering all the foregoing, we find that the penalty of suspension for a period of one (1) year is
appropriate.
WHEREFORE, Respondent Judge Fernando Vil Pamintuan of the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch
3 of Baguio City, is SUSPENDED for a period of one (1) year effective immediately. He is sternly
WARNED that a repetition of the same or similar acts shall be dealt with more severely.
The respondent is DIRECTED to report the date of his receipt of this Decision to the Court to enable it
to determine when his suspension shall have taken effect.
SO ORDERED.

NICASIO I. ALCANTARA, G.R. No. 156183


Petitioner,
Present:
PUNO, C.J., Chairperson,
SANDOVAL-GUTIERREZ,
- v e r s u s - CORONA,
AZCUNA* and
GARCIA, JJ.
VICENTE C. PONCE and the
PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES,
Respondents. Promulgated:
February 28, 2007
x--------------------------------------------------x
DECISION
CORONA, J.:
This is a petition for review on certiorari[1] from a decision[2] and resolution[3] of the

Court of Appeals (CA).

In 1997, respondent Vicente C. Ponce filed a string of criminal complaints against

petitioner Nicasio I. Alcantara and his family, hereafter the Alcantaras, including one for

estafa against petitioner in the Makati Prosecutors Office docketed as I.S. No. 97-39547.

In essence, respondent Ponce alleged that petitioner had swindled him out of 3,000,000

shares of Floro Cement Corporation.

It was in the course of the preliminary investigation of the complaint for estafa

that respondent Ponce, shortly after giving his sur-rejoinder affidavit,[4] submitted to the

investigating prosecutor a newsletter[5] purporting to be a belated annex to the affidavit.

It was prefaced with the quotation For every extraordinary fortune there is a great crime

and the text:

An example is Marcos. We need not discuss this.


Second example is the Alcantaras.
a) Overshipment of log; b) Land grabbing;
c) Corruption of public office; d) Corporate grabbing.

The newsletter then went on to discuss SEC Case No. 2507 which, in the sur-

rejoinder affidavit, respondent Ponce described as being the forefather of all the cases he

had filed against the Alcantaras. In SEC Case No. 2507 which the Securities and
Exchange Commission en banc decided against him, Ponce accused the Alcantaras of

defrauding him of his shares in Iligan Cement Corporation.

On December 3, 1997, petitioner filed a complaint for libel against respondent

Ponce with the Makati Prosecutors Office[6] in connection with the aforesaid newsletter.

He claimed that: (1) the statements therein were defamatory; (2) respondent had

circulated it in the Makati Prosecutors Office and (3) the newsletter could not be

considered an annex to the sur-rejoinder because respondent had not attached it to the

said affidavit but had given it thereafter.

The preliminary investigation was conducted by City Prosecutor Imelda P. Saulog.

On March 17, 1998, Prosecutor Saulog issued a resolution[7] finding probable cause for

libel and recommending the filing of an information[8] in court. Thereafter, the case was

filed with the Regional Trial Court of Makati and raffled to Judge Tranquil Salvador of

Branch 63.

However, respondent Ponce filed a petition for review with the Secretary of

Justice, who reversed the City Prosecutor in a resolution dated February 28, 2000.[9]

This reversal was based on the finding that the newsletter was a privileged

communication, having been submitted to the investigating prosecutor Benjamin R.

Bautista as an intended annex to respondents sur-rejoinder. The Secretary of Justice thus

directed the withdrawal of the information.

Petitioner filed a motion for reconsideration[10] but it was denied.[11]


Petitioner elevated the matter via petition for certiorari to the CA where it was

docketed as CA-G.R. SP No. 61543. In a decision dated August 29, 2002, the CA found

that the Secretary of Justice committed grave abuse of discretion, set aside the latters

resolution and directed the reinstatement of the criminal case.[12] After unsuccessfully

moving for reconsideration in the Department of Justice, respondent Ponce attempted to

elevate the matter to the Supreme Court by way of a petition for review on certiorari.

The case was docketed as G.R. No. 157105. However, we denied respondent Ponces

motion for extension for time to file his petition[13] as well as his subsequent motions

for reconsideration.

In the meantime, however, before CA-G.R. SP No. 61543 was decided, the Office

of the Makati City Prosecutor, in deference to the resolution of the Justice Secretary,

filed a motion to withdraw information, which the trial court granted on September 28,

2001.[14] The trial court ruled that the absence of the essential element of publicity

precluded the commission of the crime of libel. Petitioner moved for reconsideration of

the withdrawal but the trial court denied the motion in an order dated March 21, 2002.

[15]

On June 17, 2002, petitioner filed another petition for certiorari in the CA,

docketed as CA-G.R. SP No. 71189. In this case, the CA rendered the assailed decision.

The principal question for our consideration is whether or not the CA, in its

decision in CA-G.R. SP No. 71189, gravely erred in finding that Judge Salvador had not
committed grave abuse of discretion for granting the withdrawal of the information for

libel against respondent Ponce.

The crime of libel, as defined in Article 353 of the Revised Penal Code,[16] has the

following elements:

(1) imputation of a crime, vice or defect, real or imaginary, or any act, omission,

condition, status or circumstance;

(2) publicity or publication;

(3) malice;

(4) direction of such imputation at a natural or juridical person, or even a dead person

and

(5) tendency to cause the dishonor, discredit or contempt of the person defamed.

The factual antecedents are undisputed. The only issue is whether or not the

controversial newsletter constituted privileged communication, which would exempt it

from libel.

According to the Special Fifth Division of the CA:

It is a settled principle in this jurisdiction that statements made in the course of judicial proceedings are
absolutely privileged. This absolute privilege remains regardless of the defamatory tenor and the
presence of malice if the same are relevant, pertinent or material to the cause in hand or subject of the
inquiry. The lone requirement imposed to maintain the cloak of absolute privilege is the test of
relevancy.
In this case, a reading of the Sur-Rejoinder Affidavit, contrary to petitioners submission, instantly
shows that there was sufficient reference to the newsletter which justified the Justice Secretary and
respondent Judge in holding that private respondent actually intended the said article to be included as
an annex attached to said pleading and that the same was merely omitted and belatedly submitted to
Prosecutor Bautista during the preliminary investigation. Such sufficient reference is shown by the fact
that the newsletter is about SEC Case No. 2507 the very same case being discussed by private
respondent in pages 8 to 12 of his Sur-Rejoinder Affidavit and hence, petitioners claim that Annex F
mentioned together with Annex E, both articles showing the devious maneuvering of petitioner in the
said case, refers to another article. And even if the supposed Exhibit F could refer also to that article So
The Public May Know, such circumstance will not exclude the subject newsletter as an intended annex
to the said pleading as in fact private respondent explicitly mentioned articles without stating that there
were only two (2) particular articles being referred or which of those articles caused to be published by
his counsel.
As the Justice Secretary opined and which position the respondent Judge adopted, the newsletter
containing the defamatory statement is relevant and pertinent to the criminal complaint for estafa then
under preliminary investigation. The crime of estafa involves deceit, dishonesty and other fraudulent
acts. The inclusion in the Sur-Rejoinder Affidavit of the newsletter discussing the alleged corporate
grabbing by petitioner will tend to support private respondents case of estafa against petitioner insofar
as such alleged corporate grabbing will highlight or manifest petitioners propensity for dishonest
dealing or fraudulent machinations. There is therefore no doubt that the subject newsletter is relevant
and pertinent to the criminal complaint for estafa, and hence the same comes within the protective
cloak of absolutely privileged communications as to exempt private respondent from liability for libel
or damages.
In determining the issue of relevancy of statements made in judicial proceedings, courts have adopted a
liberal attitude by resolving all doubts in favor of relevancy. Thus, in People vs. Aquino, our Supreme
Court has emphasized that it is the rule that what is relevant or pertinent should be liberally construed
to favor the writer, and the words are not to be scrutinized with microscopic intensity. The doctrine of
privileged communication has a practical purpose.
xxx xxx xxx
Publication in libel means making the defamatory matter, after it has been written, known to someone
other than the person to whom it has been written. There is publication if the material is communicated
to a third person. What is material is that a third person has read or heard the libelous statement, for a
mans reputation is the estimate in which others hold him, not the good opinion which he has of himself.
Our Supreme Court has established the rule that when a public officer, in the discharge of his or her
official duties, sends a communication to another officer or to a body of officers, who have a duty to
perform with respect to the subject matter of the communication, such communication does not amount
to publication. Applying this rule by analogy to the present case, private respondents submission of the
newsletter intended as an annex to his Sur-Rejoinder Affidavit in I.S. No. 97-39547 to Prosecutor
Bautista who was then conducting the preliminary investigation in said case, does not amount to
publication for the reason that the sending of such material was made specifically for the purpose of
including the same as evidence in the preliminary investigation. That such submission was belatedly
made does not take out the material from the absolutely privileged communication rule. Prosecutor
Bautista had a legal duty to perform with respect to the subject communication, which is to consider the
same along with the other evidence submitted by private respondent as complainant in I.S. no. 97-
39547, in determining the existence of probable cause for the commission of the crime of estafa and
that petitioner as accused-defendant therein should be tried for such offense. Under the circumstances
and in the lawful exercise of private respondents right to present evidence in support of his accusations
against petitioner in the criminal complaint for estafa, We fail to see how such submission of
documentary evidence omitted from the annexes to the Sur-Rejoinder Affidavit, could amount to
publication that would give rise to private respondents liability for a libel charge especially when there
is no proof of the alleged circulation of copies of the subject newsletter except to the City Prosecutors
Office of Makati wherein I.S. No. 97-39547 was then in the preliminary investigation stage. Petitioners
feeble argument that Prosecutor Bautista remains a third person because the subject newsletter was
never included or formally offered as evidence, hardly convinces Us to hold that there was actual
publication for purpose of finding a prima facie case for libel against the private respondent. He must
be reminded that the case for estafa was still at the preliminary investigation stage and there is no
requirement of a formal offer of such documentary evidence or supporting documents to establish
probable cause (citations omitted).[17]

Since the newsletter was presented during the preliminary investigation, it was vested

with a privileged character. While Philippine law is silent on the question of whether the

doctrine of absolute privilege extends to statements made in preliminary investigations

or other proceedings preparatory to the actual trial, the U.S. case of Borg v. Boas[18]

makes a categorical declaration of the existence of such protection:

It is hornbook learning that the actions and utterances in judicial proceedings so far as the actual
participants therein are concerned and preliminary steps leading to judicial action of an official
nature have been given absolute privilege. Of particular interest are proceedings leading up to
prosecutions or attempted prosecutions for crime xxx [A] written charge or information filed with the
prosecutor or the court is not libelous although proved to be false and unfounded. Furthermore, the
information given to a prosecutor by a private person for the purpose of initiating a prosecution is
protected by the same cloak of immunity and cannot be used as a basis for an action for defamation.
(Emphasis ours)

The ruling in Borg is persuasive in this jurisdiction. We see no reason why we

should not adopt it.


Furthermore, the newsletter qualified as a communication made bona fide upon

any subject-matter in which the party communicating has an interest . . . made to a

person having a corresponding interest or duty, although it contained [in]criminatory

matter which without this privilege would be slanderous and actionable.[19]

While the doctrine of privileged communication can be abused, and its abuse can

lead to great hardships, to allow libel suits to prosper strictly on this account will give

rise to even greater hardships. The doctrine itself rests on public policy which looks to

the free and unfettered administration of justice.[20] It is as a rule applied liberally.[21]

The one obstacle that those pleading the defense of privileged communication

must hurdle is the test of relevancy. Under this test, a matter alleged in the course of the

proceedings need not be in every case material to the issues presented but should be

legitimately related to the issues or be so pertinent to the controversy that it may become

the subject of inquiry in the course of trial.[22]

Here, the controversial statements were made in the context of a criminal complaint

against petitioner, albeit for other, separate acts involving greed and deceit, and were

disclosed only to the official investigating the complaint. Liberally applying the

privileged communication doctrine, these statements were still relevant to the complaint

under investigation because, like the averments therein, they also involved petitioners

alleged rapacity and deceitfulness.


WHEREFORE, the instant petition is hereby DENIED and the September 13,

2002 decision and November 21, 2002 resolution of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP

No. 71189 AFFIRMED.

Costs against petitioner.


SO ORDERED.

ELISA V. VENTEREZ, A. C. No. 7421


GENARO DE VERA,
INOCENCIA V. RAMIREZ, Present:
PACITA V. MILLS,
ANTONINA V. PALMA and YNARES-SANTIAGO, J.,
RAMON DE VERA,
Chairperson,
Complainants,
AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ,
- versus -
CHICO-NAZARIO,
ATTY. RODRIGO R. COSME,
NACHURA, and
Respondent.
REYES, JJ.

Promulgated:

October 10, 2007

x- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -x

RESOLUTION
CHICO-NAZARIO, J.:
Before Us is a Complaint filed by complainants Eliza V. Venterez , Genaro de Vera,
Inocencia V. Ramirez, Pacita V. Mills, Antonina V. Palma and Ramon de Vera against
respondent Atty. Rodrigo R. Cosme, charging the latter with Abandonment, Gross
Negligence and Dereliction of Duty.

Complainants contracted the legal services of respondent in Civil Case No. 981 entitled,
Sps. Daniel and Lolita Oviedo, et al. v. Eliza de Vera, et al., for Declaration of
Ownership with Damages filed before the Municipal Trial Court (MTC) of Calasiao,
Pangasinan. Respondent represented the complainants, who were defendants in said
case, until a Decision thereon was rendered by the MTC on 25 February 2004. The MTC
ruled against the complainants. Respondent received a copy of the said Decision on 3
March 2004.

Complainants alleged that they directed the respondent to either file a Motion for
Reconsideration or a Notice of Appeal, but respondent failed or refused to do so. The 15-
day period within which to file an appeal or a motion for reconsideration of the MTC
Decision expired on 18 March 2004. Complainant Elisa V. Venterez was constrained to
contract another lawyer to prepare the Motion for Reconsideration which was filed on
19 March 2004. It must be stressed that the said motion was signed by complainant Elisa
V. Venterez herself as the said lawyer did not enter his appearance.

On 23 March 2004, the said Motion for Reconsideration was denied[1] by the MTC.
Respondent was not furnished a copy of the denial of the motion per a Certification[2]
issued by Clerk of Court II Zenaida C. de Vera. On 31 March 2004, a Motion for
Issuance of Writ of Execution[3] was filed by the plaintiffs in Civil Case No. 981 but
respondent never bothered to file an opposition to or any comment on the said motion
despite receipt thereof. The motion was eventually granted[4] by the MTC on 23 April
2004. On 28 April 2004, a Writ of Execution[5] was issued and on 26 April 2004, an
Entry of Judgment[6] was made in the said case.

Two months after respondent received a copy of the Decision, the respondent filed his
Notice of Retirement of Counsel with the MTC on 3 May 2004.
Feeling aggrieved by respondents actuations, complainants filed the instant
administrative complaint against him.[7]

In his Answer,[8] respondent denied the claim of complainants that soon after the
Decision was rendered by the MTC, they (complainants) directed him to file an appeal
or a motion for reconsideration thereof. For his defense, respondent averred that
Salvador Ramirez (the son of one of the complainants, Inocencia V. Ramirez), informed
him that he [was] withdrawing the case from the respondent because he already engaged
another lawyer to take over the case, so respondent gave the records of the case to him.
Respondent explained that after Salvador Ramirez withdrew the case from the
respondent, and engaged another lawyer, the respondent turned over the records of the
case to him and the respondent ceased as the counsel of the complainants. Respondent
further alleged that the said Motion for Reconsideration was already prepared by another
lawyer. He denied being furnished a copy of the Motion for Reconsideration allegedly
prepared and filed by another lawyer engaged by complainant Elisa V. Venterez and that
he was served with a copy of the denial of the said Motion by the MTC. Respondent also
clarified that the last day of the 15-day period for the perfection of the appeal is 19
March 2004 since a copy of the decision was served on the respondent on 4 March 2004.
Finally, respondent argued that when the respondent was served a copy of the Motion for
Writ of Execution, he immediately notified Salvador Ramirez about said Motion but
Salvador Ramirez came to see the respondent only on 3 May 2005, when the respondent
asked him to sign a Notice of Retirement of Counsel signed by Salvador Ramirez which
respondent immediately filed in court.

Pursuant to the complaint, a hearing was conducted by the Commission on Bar


Discipline of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) at the IBP Building, Ortigas
Center, Pasig City, on 15 February 2006.

On 11 April 2006, Investigating Commissioner Dennis A. B. Funa submitted his Report


and Recommendation,[9] finding respondent liable for gross negligence and
recommending the imposition upon him of the penalty of three months suspension, to
wit:

PREMISES CONSIDERED, it is submitted that Respondent is GUILTY of Gross Negligence and


should be given the penalty of THREE (3) MONTHS SUSPENSION.

Thereafter, the IBP Board of Governors passed Resolution[10] No. XVII-2006-457


dated 8 September 2006, approving and adopting the recommendation of the
Investigating Commissioner, thus:

RESOLVED to ADOPT and APPROVE, as it is hereby 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 considering that Respondent is guilty of gross
negligence, Atty. Rodrigo Cosme is hereby SUSPENDED from the practice of law for three (3)
months.[11]

We sustain the findings and recommendation of the IBP Board of Governors.

The core issue is whether the respondent committed culpable negligence in handling
complainants case, as would warrant disciplinary action.

No lawyer is obliged to advocate for every person who may wish to become his client,
but once he agrees to take up the cause of a client, the lawyer owes fidelity to such cause
and must be mindful of the trust and confidence reposed in him.[12] Among the
fundamental rules of ethics is the principle that an attorney who undertakes an action
impliedly stipulates to carry it to its termination, that is, until the case becomes final and
executory. A lawyer is not at liberty to abandon his client and withdraw his services
without reasonable cause and only upon notice appropriate in the circumstances.[13]
Any dereliction of duty by a counsel affects the client.[14] This means that his client is
entitled to the benefit of any and every remedy and defense that is authorized by the law
and he may expect his lawyer to assert every such remedy or defense.[15]

The Decision in Civil Case No. 981 was rendered by the MTC of Calasaio, Pangasinan,
on 25 February 2004. Respondent admitted[16] that he was served a copy of the said
Decision on 4 March 2004. After having received a copy of the MTC Decision,
respondent did not bother to file a Motion for Reconsideration or a notice of appeal with
the proper courts. Thus, complainants were compelled to engage the services of a new
counsel to file a Motion for Reconsideration with the MTC who did not, however, enter
his appearance as new counsel. It bears stressing that during this time, respondent had
not yet filed any notice of withdrawal as counsel for the complainants in Civil Case No.
981. Respondent only formally withdrew as counsel for complainant in Civil Case No.
981 when he filed with the MTC his Notice[17] of Retirement as Counsel on 5 May
2004, on the ground that "he was also retired as Counsel for the [complainants] two days
after he received copy of the decision rendered in this case when SALVADOR
RAMIREZ, a representative of the [complainants], withdrew all the records of the case
from [respondent] to be given to his new counsel.

We cannot accept respondents defense that he had already withdrawn from the case two
days after his receipt of the MTC Decision and that he had allegedly communicated this
withdrawal to Salvador Ramirez, son of one of the herein complainants, Inocencia
Ramirez. It is an apparent attempt on the part of respondent to wash his hands of any
liability for failing to pursue any of the available remedies to complainants from the
adverse MTC Decision.

The rule in this jurisdiction is that a client has the absolute right to terminate the
attorney-client relation at any time with or without cause.[18] The right of an attorney to
withdraw or terminate the relation other than for sufficient cause is, however,
considerably restricted.[19] Among the fundamental rules of ethics is the principle that
an attorney who undertakes to conduct an action impliedly stipulates to carry it to its
conclusion.[20] He is not at liberty to abandon it without reasonable cause.[21] A
lawyer's right to withdraw from a case before its final adjudication arises only from the
client's written consent or from a good cause.[22]

Section 26, Rule 138 of the Revised Rules of Court provides:


Sec. 26. Change of attorneys -- An attorney may retire at any time from any action or special
proceeding, by the written consent of his client filed in court. He may also retire at any time from
an action or special proceeding, without the consent of his client, should the court, on notice to the
client and attorney, and on hearing, determine that he ought to be allowed to retire. In case of
substitution, the name of the attorney newly employed shall be entered on the docket of the court in
place of the former one, and written notice of the change shall be given to the adverse party.
A lawyer may retire at any time from any action or special proceeding with the
written consent of his client filed in court and with a copy thereof served upon
the adverse party. Should the client refuse to give his consent, the lawyer must
file an application with the court. The court, on notice to the client and adverse
party, shall determine whether the lawyer ought to be allowed to retire. The
application for withdrawal must be based on a good cause.[23]

What constitute good cause for the withdrawal of services by the counsel are identified
under Rule 22.01, Canon 22 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, which provides:

CANON 22 -- A LAWYER SHALL WITHDRAW HIS SERVICES ONLY FOR GOOD CAUSE AND
UPON NOTICE APPROPRIATE IN THE CIRCUMSTANCES.
Rule 22.01-- A lawyer may WITHDRAW his services in any of the following cases:
a) When the client pursues an illegal or immoral course of conduct in connection with the matter he is
handling;
b) When the client insists that the lawyer pursue conduct violative of these canons and rules;
c) When his inability to work with co-counsel will not promote the best interest of the client;
d) When the mental or physical condition of the lawyer renders it difficult for him to carry out the
employment effectively;
e) When the client deliberately fails to pay the fees for the services or fails to comply with the retainer
agreement;
f) When the lawyer is elected or appointed to public office; and
g) Other similar cases.

The instant case does not fall under any of the grounds aforementioned. Neither can the
circumstances of this case be considered analogous to the grounds thus explicitly
enumerated. Contrary to respondents contention, his professional relations as a lawyer
with his clients are not terminated by the simple turnover of the records of the case to his
clients. Respondents defense completely crumbles in face of the fact that Salvador
Ramirez is not even a party in Civil Case No. 981 and, hence, had no authority to
withdraw the records of the said case from respondent or to terminate the latters
services.

Assuming, nevertheless, that respondent was justified in withdrawing his services, he,
however, cannot just do so and leave complainants in the cold, unprotected. The lawyer
has no right to presume that his petition for withdrawal will be granted by the court.[24]
Until his withdrawal shall have been approved, the lawyer remains counsel of record
who is expected by his clients, as well as by the court, to do what the interests of his
clients require.[25] He must still appear before the court to protect the interest of his
clients by availing himself of the proper remedy, for the attorney-client relations are not
terminated formally until there is a withdrawal of record.

Without a proper revocation of his authority and withdrawal as counsel, respondent


remains counsel of record for the complainants in Civil Case No. 981; and whether he
has a valid cause to withdraw from the case, he cannot immediately do so and leave his
clients without representation. An attorney may only retire from the case either by a
written consent of his client or by permission of the court after due notice and hearing,
in which event, the attorney should see to it that the name of the new attorney is
recorded in the case.[26] Respondent did not comply with these obligations. Therefore,
he remains the counsel of record for the complainants in Civil Case No. 981 with the
duty to protect complainants interest. Had he made the necessary inquiries as to the
status of the case, he would have known that he was still the counsel of record as no
entry of appearance was ever made by another counsel. It would have been easily
discernible on his part that there was no change in his status as complainants lawyer. As
of that time, their client-lawyer relationship was still subsisting. Therefore, he would
have known that the Motion for Reconsideration was denied; and a writ of execution had
been issued under the circumstances.
All told, we rule and so hold that on account of respondents failure to protect the interest
of complainants, respondent indeed violated Rule 18.03, Canon 18 of the Code of
Professional Responsibility, which states that a lawyer shall not neglect a legal matter
entrusted to him, and his negligence in connection therewith shall render him liable.
Respondent is reminded that the practice of law is a special privilege bestowed only
upon those who are competent intellectually, academically and morally. This Court has
been exacting in its expectations for the members of the Bar to always uphold the
integrity and dignity of the legal profession and refrain from any act or omission which
might lessen the trust and confidence of the public.

The determination of the appropriate penalty to be imposed on an errant lawyer involves


the exercise of sound judicial discretion based on the facts of the case.[27] In cases of
similar nature, the penalty imposed by the Court consisted of reprimand,[28] fine of five
hundred pesos with warning,[29] suspension of three months,[30] six months[31] and
even disbarment[32] in an aggravated case.

The facts of the case show that respondent failed to live up to his duties as a lawyer
pursuant to the Code of Professional Responsibility. We conclude that a 3-month
suspension from the practice of law is a just penalty under the circumstances.

WHEREFORE, the resolution of the IBP Board of Governors approving and adopting
the report and recommendation of the Investigating Commissioner is hereby
AFFIRMED. Accordingly, ATTY. RODRIGO R. COSME is hereby SUSPENDED
from the practice of law for a period of THREE (3) MONTHS, with a stern warning
that a repetition of the same or similar wrongdoing will be dealt with more severely.

Let a copy of this decision be attached to respondents personal record with the Office of
the Bar Confidant and copies be furnished to all chapters of the Integrated Bar of the
Philippines and to all courts of the land.

SO ORDERED.