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SECOND DIVISION minutes of the court proceedings in Civil Case No. 9284
nine times from 25 November 2003 to 8 February 2005.
Noe-Lacsamana further alleged that the court orders and
ATTY. EDITA NOE-LACSAMANA, A.C. No. 7269 notices specified Dela Rosa as Busmentes collaborating
counsel. Noe-Lacsamana alleged that upon verification with
Complainant, this Court and the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, she
discovered that Dela Rosa was not a lawyer.
Busmente alleged that Dela Rosa was a law graduate and
was his paralegal assistant for a few years. Busmente
alleged that Dela Rosas employment with him ended in
CARPIO, J., Chairperson, 2000 but Dela Rosa was able to continue misrepresenting
herself as a lawyer with the help of Regine Macasieb
- versus - BRION, (Macasieb), Busmentes former secretary. Busmente alleged
that he did not represent Ulaso in Civil Case No. 9284 and
PEREZ, that his signature in the Answer1 presented as proof by
Noe-Lacsamana was forged.
The Decision of the Commission on Bar Discipline
In its Report and Recommendation,2 the IBP Commission
on Bar Discipline (IBP-CBD) found that Dela Rosa was not a
lawyer and that she represented Ulaso as Busmentes
ATTY. YOLANDO F. BUSMENTE, Promulgated: collaborating counsel in Civil Case No. 9284. The IBP-CBD
noted that while Busmente claimed that Dela Rosa no
Respondent. November 23, 2011 longer worked for him since 2000, there was no proof of her
separation from employment. The IBP-CBD found that
x- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - notices from the MTC San Juan, as well as the pleadings of
-----------x the case, were all sent to Busmentes designated office
address. The IBP-CBD stated that Busmentes only excuse
DECISION was that Dela Rosa connived with his former secretary
Macasieb so that the notices and pleadings would not reach
CARPIO, J.: him.

The Case The IBP-CBD rejected the affidavit submitted by Judy M.

Ortalez (Ortalez), Busmentes staff, alleging Macasiebs
Before the Court is a complaint for disbarment filed by Atty. failure to endorse pleadings and notices of Civil Case No.
Edita Noe-Lacsamana (Noe-Lacsamana) against Atty. 9284 to Busmente. The IBP-CBD noted that Ortalez did not
Yolando F. Busmente (Busmente) before the Integrated Bar exactly refer to Ulasos case in her affidavit and that there
of the Philippines (IBP). was no mention that she actually witnessed Macasieb
withholding pleadings and notices from Busmente. The IBP-
The Antecedent Facts CBD also noted that Macasieb was still working at
Busmentes office in November 2003 as shown by the
Noe-Lacsamana alleged in her complaint that she was the affidavit attached to a Motion to Lift Order of Default that
counsel for Irene Bides, the plaintiff in Civil Case No. SCA- she signed. However, even if Macasieb resigned in November
2481 before the Regional Trial Court of Pasig City, Branch 2003, Dela Rosa continued to represent Ulaso until 2005,
167, while Busmente was the counsel for the defendant which belied Busmentes allegation that Dela Rosa was able
Imelda B. Ulaso (Ulaso). Noe-Lacsamana alleged that Ulasos to illegally practice law using his office address without his
deed of sale over the property subject of Civil Case No. SCA- knowledge and only due to Dela Rosas connivance with
2481 was annulled, which resulted in the filing of an Macasieb. As regards Busmentes allegation that his
ejectment case before the Metropolitan Trial Court (MTC), signature on the Answer was forged, the IBP-CBD gave
San Juan, docketed as Civil Case No. 9284, where Busmente the opportunity to coordinate with the National
Busmente appeared as counsel. Another case for Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to prove that his signature
falsification was filed against Ulaso where Busmente also was forged but he failed to submit any report from the NBI
appeared as counsel. Noe-Lacsamana alleged that one Atty. despite the lapse of four months from the time he reserved
Elizabeth Dela Rosa or Atty. Liza Dela Rosa (Dela Rosa) his right to submit the report.
would accompany Ulaso in court, projecting herself as
Busmentes collaborating counsel. Dela Rosa signed the

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The IBP-CBD recommended Busmentes suspension from unauthorized practice of law by, any agency, personal or
the practice of law for not less than five years. On 26 May corporate. And, the law makes it a misbehavior on his part,
2006, in its Resolution No. XVII-2006-271,3 the IBP Board subject to disciplinary action, to aid a layman in the
of Governors adopted and approved the recommendation of unauthorized practice of law.7
the IBP-CBD, with modification by reducing the period of
Busmentes suspension to six months. In this case, it has been established that Dela Rosa, who is
not a member of the Bar, misrepresented herself as
Busmente filed a motion for reconsideration and submitted Busmentes collaborating counsel in Civil Case No. 9284.
a report4 from the NBI stating that the signature in the The only question is whether Busmente indirectly or directly
Answer, when compared with standard/sample signatures assisted Dela Rosa in her illegal practice of law
submitted to its office, showed that they were not written by
one and the same person. In its 14 May 2011 Resolution Busmente alleged that Dela Rosas employment in his office
No. XIX-2011-168, the IBP Board of Governors denied ended in 2000 and that Dela Rosa was able to continue with
Busmentes motion for reconsideration. her illegal practice of law through connivance with
Macasieb, another member of Busmentes staff. As pointed
The Issue out by the IBP-CBD, Busmente claimed that Macasieb
resigned from his office in 2003. Yet, Dela Rosa continued to
The issue in this case is whether Busmente is guilty of represent Ulaso until 2005. Pleadings and court notices
directly or indirectly assisting Dela Rosa in her illegal were still sent to Busmentes office until 2005. The IBP-CBD
practice of law that warrants his suspension from the noted that Dela Rosas practice should have ended in 2003
practice of law. when Macasieb left.

The Ruling of this Court We agree. Busmentes office continued to receive all the
notices of Civil Case No. 9284. The 7 December 2004
We agree with the IBP. Order8 of Judge Elvira DC. Panganiban (Judge Panganiban)
in Civil Case No. 9284 showed that Atty. Elizabeth Dela
Canon 9 of the Code of Professional Responsibility states: Rosa was still representing Ulaso in the case. In that Order,
Judge Panganiban set the preliminary conference of Civil
Canon 9. A lawyer shall not, directly or indirectly, assist in Case No. 9284 on 8 February 2005. It would have been
the unauthorized practice of law. impossible for Dela Rosa to continue representing Ulaso in
the case, considering Busmentes claim that Macasieb
The Court ruled that the term practice of law implies already resigned, if Dela Rosa had no access to the files in
customarily or habitually holding oneself out to the public Busmentes office.
as a lawyer for compensation as a source of livelihood or in
consideration of his services.5 The Court further ruled that Busmente, in his motion for reconsideration of Resolution
holding ones self out as a lawyer may be shown by acts No. XVII-2006-271, submitted a copy of the NBI report
indicative of that purpose, such as identifying oneself as stating that the signature on the Answer submitted in Civil
attorney, appearing in court in representation of a client, or Case No. 9284 and the specimen signatures submitted by
associating oneself as a partner of a law office for the Busmente were not written by one and the same person.
general practice of law.6 The report shows that Busmente only submitted to the NBI
the questioned signature in the Answer. The IBP-CBD
The Court explained: report, however, showed that there were other documents
signed by Busmente, including the Pre-Trial Brief dated 14
The lawyers duty to prevent, or at the very least not to November 2003 and Motion to Lift Order of Default dated 22
assist in, the unauthorized practice of law is founded on November 2003. Noe-Lacsamana also submitted a letter
public interest and policy. Public policy requires that the dated 14 August 2003 addressed to her as well as three
practice of law be limited to those individuals found duly letters dated 29 August 2003 addressed to the occupants of
qualified in education and character. The permissive right the disputed property, all signed by Busmente. Busmente
conferred on the lawyer is an individual and limited privilege failed to impugn his signatures in these other documents.
subject to withdrawal if he fails to maintain proper
standards of moral and professional conduct. The purpose Finally, Busmente claimed that he was totally unaware of
is to protect the public, the court, the client, and the bar Civil Case No. 9284 and he only came to know about the
from the incompetence or dishonesty of those unlicensed to case when Ulaso went to his office to inquire about its
practice law and not subject to the disciplinary control of status. Busmentes allegation contradicted the Joint
the Court. It devolves upon a lawyer to see that this purpose Counter-Affidavit9 submitted by Ulaso and Eddie B. Bides
is attained. Thus, the canons and ethics of the profession stating that:
enjoin him not to permit his professional services or his
name to be used in aid of, or to make possible the

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a. That our legal counsel is Atty. YOLANDO F. BUSMENTE

of the YOLANDO F. BUSMENTE AND ASSOCIATES LAW The counter-affidavit clearly showed that Busmente was the
OFFICES with address at suite 718 BPI Office Cond. Plaza legal counsel in Civil Case No. 9284 and that he allowed
Cervantes, Binondo Manila. Dela Rosa to give legal assistance to Ulaso.

b. That ELIZABETH DELA ROSA is not our legal counsel in Hence, we agree with the findings of the IBP-CBD that there
the case which have been filed by IRENE BIDES and LILIA was sufficient evidence to prove that Busmente was guilty of
VALERA in representation of her sister AMELIA BIDES for violation of Canon 9 of the Code of Professional
Ejectment docketed as Civil Case No. 9284 before Branch Responsibility. We agree with the recommendation of the
58 of the Metropolitan Trial Court of San Juan, Metro IBP, modifying the recommendation of the IBP-CBD, that
Manila. Busmente should be suspended from the practice of law for
six months.
c. That we never stated in any of the pleadings filed in the
cases mentioned in the Complaint-Affidavit that ELIZABETH WHEREFORE, we SUSPEND Atty. Yolando F. Busmente
DELA ROSA was our lawyer; from the practice of law for SIX MONTHS.

d. That if ever ELIZABETH DELA ROSA had affixed her Let a copy of this Decision be attached to Atty. Busmentes
signature in the notices or other court records as our legal personal record in the Office of the Bar Confidant. Let a
counsel the same could not be taken against us for, we copy of this Decision be also furnished to all chapters of the
believed in good faith that she was a lawyer; and we are Integrated Bar of the Philippines and to all courts in the
made to believe that it was so since had referred her to us land.
(sic), she was handling some cases of Hortaleza and client of
Atty. Yolando F. Busmente; SO ORDERED.

e. That we know for the fact that ELIZABETH DELA ROSA

did not sign any pleading which she filed in court in
connection with our cases at all of those were signed by
Atty. YOLANDO BUSMENTE as our legal counsel; she just
accompanied us to the court rooms and/or hearings;

f. That we cannot be made liable for violation of Article 171

(for and in relation to Article 172 of the Revised Penal Code)
for the reason that the following elements of the offense are
not present, to wit:

1. That offender has a legal obligation to disclose the truth

of the facts narrated;

2. There must be wrongful intent to injure a 3rd party;

3. Knowledge that the facts narrated by him are absolutely


4. That the offender makes in a document untruthful

statements in the narration of facts.

And furthermore the untruthful narrations of facts must

affect the integrity which is not so in the instant case.

g. That from the start of our acquaintance with ELIZABETH

DELA ROSA we never ask her whether she was a real lawyer
and allowed to practice law in the Philippines; it would have
been unethical and shameful on our part to ask her
qualification; we just presumed that she has legal
qualifications to represent us in our cases because Atty.
YOLANDO F. BUSMENTE allowed her to accompany us and
attend our hearings in short, she gave us paralegal
assistance[.] (Emphasis supplied)

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QUERY OF ATTY. KAREN M. SILVERIO-BUFFE, FORMER This administrative matter started as a letter-query dated
Clerk of Court BRANCH 81, ROMBLON, ROMBLON ON March 4, 2008 of Atty. Karen M. Silverio-Buffe (Atty. Buffe)
THE PROHIBITION FROM ENGAGING IN THE PRIVATE addressed to the Office of the Court Administrator, which
PRACTICE OF LAW. query the latter referred to the Court for consideration. In
A.M. No. 08-6-352-RTC the course of its action on the matter, the Court discovered
that the query was beyond pure policy interpretation and
referred to the actual situation of Atty. Buffe, and, hence,
Present: was a matter that required concrete action on the factual
situation presented.


*QUISUMBING, The query, as originally framed, related to Section 7(b)(2) of

Republic Act (R.A.) No. 6713, as amended (or the Code of
*YNARES-SANTIAGO, Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and
Employees). This provision places a limitation on public
CARPIO, officials and employees during their incumbency, and those
already separated from government employment for a period
CORONA, of one (1) year after separation, in engaging in the private
practice of their profession. Section 7(b)(2) of R.A. No. 6713

CHICO-NAZARIO, SECTION 7. Prohibited Acts and Transactions. In addition

to acts and omissions of public officials and employees now
VELASCO, JR., prescribed in the Constitution and existing laws, the
following shall constitute prohibited acts and transactions
NACHURA, of any public official and employee and are hereby declared
to be unlawful:


(b) Outside employment and other activities related thereto.
DEL CASTILLO, and Public officials and employees during their incumbency
shall not:


(2) Engage in the private practice of their profession unless

August 19, 2009 authorized by the Constitution or law, provided, that such
practice will not conflict or tend to conflict with their official
x------------------------------------------------------------------------ functions; or
-------------------------------- x



These prohibitions shall continue to apply for a period of

one (1) year after resignation, retirement, or separation from

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public office, except in the case of subparagraph (b) (2) statement under professionalism that [t]hey [public officials
above, but the professional concerned cannot practice his and employees] shall endeavor to discourage wrong
profession in connection with any matter before the office he perceptions of their roles as dispensers or peddlers of undue
used to be with, in which case the one-year prohibition shall patronage.
likewise apply.
Thus, it may be well to say that the prohibition was
In her letter-query, Atty. Buffe posed these questions: Why intended to avoid any impropriety or the appearance of
may an incumbent engage in private practice under (b)(2), impropriety which may occur in any transaction between
assuming the same does not conflict or tend to conflict with the retired government employee and his former colleagues,
his official duties, but a non-incumbent like myself cannot, subordinates or superiors brought about by familiarity,
as is apparently prohibited by the last paragraph of Sec. 7? moral ascendancy or undue influence, as the case may
Why is the former allowed, who is still occupying the very be.[2]
public position that he is liable to exploit, but a non-
incumbent like myself who is no longer in a position of Subsequently, in a Minute Resolution dated July 15, 2008,
possible abuse/exploitation cannot?[1] we resolved to refer this case to the Office of the Chief
Attorney (OCAT) for evaluation, report and
The query arose because Atty. Buffe previously worked as recommendation.[3] The OCAT took the view that:
Clerk of Court VI of the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch
81 of Romblon; she resigned from her position effective The premise of the query is erroneous. She interprets
February 1, 2008. Thereafter (and within the one-year Section 7 (b) (2) as a blanket authority for an incumbent
period of prohibition mentioned in the above-quoted clerk of court to practice law. Clearly, there is a misreading
provision), she engaged in the private practice of law by of that provision of law.[4]
appearing as private counsel in several cases before RTC-
Branch 81 of Romblon. And further observed:

Atty. Buffe alleged that Section 7(b)(2) of R.A. No. 6713 gives The confusion apparently lies in the use of the term such
preferential treatment to an incumbent public employee, practice after the phrase provided that. It may indeed be
who may engage in the private practice of his profession so misinterpreted as modifying the phrase engage in the
long as this practice does not conflict or tend to conflict with private practice of their profession should be prefatory
his official functions. In contrast, a public official or sentence that public officials during their incumbency shall
employee who has retired, resigned, or has been separated not be disregarded. However, read in its entirety, such
from government service like her, is prohibited from practice may only refer to practice authorized by the
engaging in private practice on any matter before the office Constitution or law or the exception to the prohibition
where she used to work, for a period of one (1) year from the against the practice of profession. The term law was
date of her separation from government employment. intended by the legislature to include a memorandum or a
circular or an administrative order issued pursuant to the
Atty. Buffe further alleged that the intention of the above authority of law.
prohibition is to remove the exercise of clout, influence or
privity to insider information, which the incumbent public xxx
employee may use in the private practice of his profession.
However, this situation did not obtain in her case, since she The interpretation that Section 7 (b) (2) generally prohibits
had already resigned as Clerk of Court of RTC-Branch 18 of incumbent public officials and employees from engaging in
Romblon. She advanced the view that she could engage in the practice of law, which is declared therein a prohibited
the private practice of law before RTC-Branch 81 of and unlawful act, accords with the constitutional policy on
Romblon, so long as her appearance as legal counsel shall accountability of public officers stated in Article XI of the
not conflict or tend to conflict with her former duties as Constitution
former Clerk of Court of that Branch.
Then Deputy Court Administrator (now Court
Administrator) Jose P. Perez made the following The policy thus requires public officials and employees to
observations when the matter was referred to him: devote full time public service so that in case of conflict
between personal and public interest, the latter should take
The general intent of the law, as defined in its title is to precedence over the former.[5][Footnotes omitted]
uphold the time-honored principle of public office being a
public trust. Section 4 thereof provides for the norms of
conduct of public officials and employees, among others: (a) With respect to lawyers in the judiciary, the OCAT pointed
commitment to public interest; (b) professionalism; and (c) to Section 5, Canon 3 of the Code of Conduct for Court
justness and sincerity. Of particular significance is the Personnel the rule that deals with outside employment by

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an incumbent judicial employee and which limits such recourse taken when undersigned was already a public
outside employment to one that does not require the prosecutor appearing before the same Branch 81, after she
practice of law.[6] The prohibition to practice law with took her oath of office as such on August 15,
respect to any matter where they have intervened while in 2008.[Emphasis supplied]
the government service is reiterated in Rule 6.03, Canon 6
of the Code of Professional Responsibility, which governs the She also made known her intent to elevate the dismissal of
conduct of lawyers in the government service.[7] the above cases so that eventually, the Honorable Supreme
Court may put to rest the legal issue/s presented in the
In view of the OCAT findings and recommendations, we above petitions which is, why is it that R.A. No. 6713, Sec. 7
issued an En Banc Resolution dated November 11, 2008 (b)(2) and last par. thereof, apparently contains an express
directing the Court Administrator to draft and submit to the prohibition (valid or invalid) on the private practice of
Court a circular on the practice of profession during undersigneds law profession, before Branch 81, while on the
employment and within one year from resignation, other hand not containing a similar, express prohibition in
retirement from or cessation of employment in the regard to undersigneds practice of profession, before the
Judiciary. We likewise required the Executive Judge of the same court, as a public prosecutor within the supposedly
RTC of Romblon to (i) verify if Atty. Buffe had appeared as restricted 1-year period?
counsel during her incumbency as clerk of court and after
her resignation in February 2008, and (ii) submit to the
Court a report on his verification.[8] OUR ACTION AND RULING

In compliance with this our Resolution, Executive Judge Preliminary Considerations

Ramiro R. Geronimo of RTC-Branch 81 of Romblon reported
the following appearances made by Atty. Buffe: As we stated at the outset, this administrative matter
confronts us, not merely with the task of determining how
(1) Civil Case No. V-1564, entitled Oscar Madrigal Moreno, the Court will respond to the query, both with respect to the
Jr. et al. versus Leonardo M. Macalam, et al. on February substance and form (as the Court does not give
19, 2008, March 4, 2008, April 10, 2008 and July 9, 2008 interpretative opinions[9] but can issue circulars and
as counsel for the plaintiffs; regulations relating to pleading, practice and procedure in
all courts[10] and in the exercise of its administrative
(2) Civil Case No. V-1620, entitled Melchor M. Manal versus supervision over all courts and personnel thereof[11]), but
Zosimo Malasa, et al., on (sic) February, 2008, as counsel also with the task of responding to admitted violations of
for the plaintiff; Section 7 (b)(2) of R.A. No. 6713 and to multiple recourses
on the same subject.
(3) Civil Case No. V-1396, entitled Solomon Y. Mayor versus
Jose J. Mayor, on February 21, 2008, as counsel for the After our directive to the Office of the Court Administrator to
plaintiff; and issue a circular on the subject of the query for the guidance
of all personnel in the Judiciary, we consider this aspect of
(4) Civil Case No. V-1639, entitled Philippine National Bank the present administrative matter a finished task, subject
versus Sps. Mariano and Olivia Silverio, on April 11, 2008 only to confirmatory closure when the OCA reports the
and July 9, 2008, as counsel for the defendants. completion of the undertaking to us.

Atty. Buffe herself was furnished a copy of our November Atty. Buffes admitted appearance, before the very same
11, 2008 En Banc Resolution and she filed a Manifestation branch she served and immediately after her resignation, is
(received by the Court on February 2, 2009) acknowledging a violation that we cannot close our eyes to and that she
receipt of our November 11, 2008 Resolution. She likewise cannot run away from under the cover of the letter-query
stated that her appearances are part of Branch 81 records. she filed and her petition for declaratory relief, whose
As well, she informed the Court that she had previously dismissal she manifested she would pursue up to our level.
taken the following judicial remedies in regard to the above We note that at the time she filed her letter-query (on March
query: 4, 2008), Atty. Buffe had already appeared before Branch 81
in at least three (3) cases. The terms of Section 7 (b)(2) of
1. SCA No. 089119028 (Annex C), filed with Branch 54 of R.A. No. 6713 did not deter her in any way and her
the RTC Manila, which had been dismissed without misgivings about the fairness of the law cannot excuse any
prejudice on July 23, 2008 (Annex D) a recourse taken resulting violation she committed. In other words, she took
when undersigned was still a private practitioner; the risk of appearing before her own Branch and should
suffer the consequences of the risk she took.
2. SCA No. 08120423 (Annex A), filed with Branch 17 of the
RTC of Manila, which had been also dismissed (with or Nor can she hide behind the two declaratory relief petitions
without prejudice) on December 4, 2008 (Annex B) a she filed, both of which were dismissed, and her intent to

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elevate the dismissal to this Court for resolution. The first, one-year prohibited period applies with respect to any
filed before the RTC, Branch 54, Manila, was dismissed on matter before the office the public officer or employee used
July 23, 2008 because the court declined to exercise the to work with.
power to declare rights as prayed for in the petition, as any
decision that may be rendered will be inutile and will not The Section 7 prohibitions are predicated on the principle
generally terminate the uncertainty or controversy.[12] The that public office is a public trust; and serve to remove any
second, filed with the RTC, Branch 17, Manila, was impropriety, real or imagined, which may occur in
dismissed for being an inappropriate remedy after the government transactions between a former government
dismissal ordered by the RTC, Branch 54, Manila, on official or employee and his or her former colleagues,
December 4, 2008.[13] Under these circumstances, we see subordinates or superiors. The prohibitions also promote
nothing to deter us from ruling on Atty. Buffes actions, as the observance and the efficient use of every moment of the
no actual court case other than the present administrative prescribed office hours to serve the public.[15]
case, is now actually pending on the issue she raised. On
the contrary, we see from Atty. Buffes recourse to this Court Parenthetically, in the case of court employees, Section
and the filing of the two declaratory petitions the intent to 7(b)(2) of R.A. No. 6713 is not the only prohibition to
shop for a favorable answer to her query. We shall duly contend with; Section 5, Canon 3 of the Code of Conduct for
consider this circumstance in our action on the case. Court Personnel also applies. The latter provision provides
the definitive rule on the outside employment that an
A last matter to consider before we proceed to the merits of incumbent court official or court employee may undertake
Atty. Buffes actions relates to possible objections on in addition to his official duties:
procedural due process grounds, as we have not made any
formal directive to Atty. Buffe to explain why she should not Outside employment may be allowed by the head of office
be penalized for her appearance before Branch 81 soon after provided it complies with all of the following requirements:
her resignation from that Branch. The essence of due
process is the grant of the opportunity to be heard; what it (a) The outside employment is not with a person or entity
abhors is the lack of the opportunity to be heard.[14] The that practices law before the courts or conducts business
records of this case show that Atty. Buffe has been amply with the Judiciary;
heard with respect to her actions. She was notified, and she
even responded to our November 11, 2008 directive for the (b) The outside employment can be performed outside of
Executive Judge of the RTC of Romblon to report on Atty. normal working hours and is not incompatible with the
Buffes appearances before Branch 81; she expressly performance of the court personnels duties and
manifested that these appearances were part of the Branch responsibilities;
records. Her legal positions on these appearances have also
been expressed before this Court; first, in her original letter- (c) That outside employment does not require the practice
query, and subsequently, in her Manifestation. Thus, no of law; Provided, however, that court personnel may render
due process consideration needs to deter us from services as professor, lecturer, or resource person in law
considering the legal consequences of her appearances in schools, review or continuing education centers or similar
her previous Branch within a year from her resignation. institutions;

The Governing Law: Section 7 of R.A. No. 6713 (d) The outside employment does not require or induce the
court personnel to disclose confidential information
Section 7 of R.A. No. 6713 generally provides for the acquired while performing officials duties;
prohibited acts and transactions of public officials and
employees. Subsection (b)(2) prohibits them from engaging (e) The outside employment shall not be with the
in the private practice of their profession during their legislative or executive branch of government, unless
incumbency. As an exception, a public official or employee specifically authorized by the Supreme Court.
can engage in the practice of his or her profession under the
following conditions: first, the private practice is authorized Where a conflict of interest exists, may reasonably appear to
by the Constitution or by the law; and second, the practice exist, or where the outside employment reflects adversely on
will not conflict, or tend to conflict, with his or her official the integrity of the Judiciary, the court personnel shall not
functions. accept outside employment. [Emphasis supplied]

The Section 7 prohibitions continue to apply for a period of In both the above discussed aspect of R.A. No. 6713 and the
one year after the public official or employees resignation, quoted Canon 3, the practice of law is covered; the practice
retirement, or separation from public office, except for the of law is a practice of profession, while Canon 3 specifically
private practice of profession under subsection (b)(2), which mentions any outside employment requiring the practice of
can already be undertaken even within the one-year law. In Cayetano v. Monsod,[16] we defined the practice of
prohibition period. As an exception to this exception, the law as any activity, in and out of court, that requires the

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application of law, legal procedure, knowledge, training and other prohibitions under Section 7 of R.A. No. 6713. The
experience. Moreover, we ruled that to engage in the clerk of courts limitation is that she cannot practice her
practice of law is to perform those acts which are profession within one year before the office where he or she
characteristics of the profession; to practice law is to give used to work with. In a comparison between a resigned,
notice or render any kind of service, which device or service retired or separated official or employee, on the one hand,
requires the use in any degree of legal knowledge or and an incumbent official or employee, on the other, the
skill.[17] Under both provisions, a common objective is to former has the advantage because the limitation is only with
avoid any conflict of interest on the part of the employee respect to the office he or she used to work with and only for
who may wittingly or unwittingly use confidential a period of one year. The incumbent cannot practice at all,
information acquired from his employment, or use his or save only where specifically allowed by the Constitution and
her familiarity with court personnel still with the previous the law and only in areas where no conflict of interests
office. exists. This analysis again disproves Atty. Buffes basic
After separation from the service, Section 5, Canon 3 of the
Code of Conduct for Court Personnel ceases to apply as it A worrisome aspect of Atty. Buffes approach to Section 7
applies specifically to incumbents, but Section 7 and its (b)(2) is her awareness of the law and her readiness to risk
subsection (b)(2) of R.A. No. 6713 continue to apply to the its violation because of the unfairness she perceives in the
extent discussed above. Atty. Buffes situation falls under law. We find it disturbing that she first violated the law
Section 7. before making any inquiry. She also justifies her position by
referring to the practice of other government lawyers known
Atty. Buffes Situation to her who, after separation from their judicial employment,
immediately engaged in the private practice of law and
A distinctive feature of this administrative matter is Atty. appeared as private counsels before the RTC branches
Buffes admission that she immediately engaged in private where they were previously employed. Again we find this a
practice of law within the one-year period of prohibition cavalier attitude on Atty. Buffes part and, to our mind, only
stated in Section 7(b)(2) of R.A. No. 6713. We find it emphasizes her own willful or intentional disregard of
noteworthy, too, that she is aware of this provision and only Section 7 (b)(2) of R.A. No. 6713.
objects to its application to her situation; she perceives it to
be unfair that she cannot practice before her old office By acting in a manner that R.A. No. 6713 brands as
Branch 81 for a year immediately after resignation, as she unlawful, Atty. Buffe contravened Rule 1.01 of Canon 1 of
believes that her only limitation is in matters where a the Code of
conflict of interest exists between her appearance as counsel Professional Responsibility, which provides:
and her former duties as Clerk of Court. She believes that
Section 7 (b)(2) gives preferential treatment to incumbent CANON 1 A LAWYER SHALL UPHOLD THE CONSTITUTION,
public officials and employees as against those already OBEY THE LAWS OF THE LAND AND PROMOTE RESPECT
separated from government employment. FOR LAW AND FOR LEGAL PROCESSES

Atty. Buffe apparently misreads the law. As the OCAT aptly xxx
stated, she interprets Section 7 (b)(2) as a blanket authority
for an incumbent clerk of court to practice law. We reiterate Rule 1.01 A lawyer shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest,
what we have explained above, that the general rule under immoral or deceitful conduct.
Section 7 (b)(2) is to bar public officials and employees from
the practice of their professions; it is unlawful under this As indicated by the use of the mandatory word shall, this
general rule for clerks of court to practice their profession. provision must be strictly complied with. Atty. Buffe failed
By way of exception, they can practice their profession if the to do this, perhaps not with an evil intent, considering the
Constitution or the law allows them, but no conflict of misgivings she had about Section 7 (b)(2)s unfairness.
interest must exist between their current duties and the Unlawful conduct under Rule 1.01 of Canon 1, however,
practice of their profession. As we also mentioned above, no does not necessarily require the element of criminality,
chance exists for lawyers in the Judiciary to practice their although the Rule is broad enough to include it.[18]
profession, as they are in fact expressly prohibited by Likewise, the presence of evil intent on the part of the
Section 5, Canon 3 of the Code of Conduct for Court lawyer is not essential to bring his or her act or omission
Personnel from doing so. Under both the general rule and within the terms of Rule 1.01, when it specifically prohibits
the exceptions, therefore, Atty. Buffes basic premise is lawyers from engaging in unlawful conduct.[19] Thus, we
misplaced. find Atty. Buffe liable under this quoted Rule.

As we discussed above, a clerk of court can already engage We also find that Atty. Buffe also failed to live up to her
in the practice of law immediately after her separation from lawyers oath and thereby violated Canon 7 of the Code of
the service and without any period limitation that applies to Professional Responsibility when she blatantly and

Compiled by: | TINA SIUAGAN 8


unlawfully practised law within the prohibited period by We applied the principle of res ipsa loquitur once more in In
appearing before the RTC Branch she had just left. Canon 7 re: Wenceslao Laureta[28] where we punished a lawyer for
states: grave professional misconduct solely based on his answer to
a show-cause order for contempt and without going into a
CANON 7. A LAWYER SHALL AT ALL TIMES UPHOLD THE trial-type hearing. We ruled then that due process is
INTEGRITY AND THE DIGNITY OF THE LEGAL satisfied as long as the opportunity to be heard is given to
PROFESSION AND SUPPORT THE ACTIVITIES OF THE the person to be disciplined.[29]
INTEGRATED BAR. [Emphasis supplied]
Likewise in Zaldivar v. Gonzales,[30] the respondent was
By her open disregard of R.A. No. 6713, she thereby disciplined and punished for contempt for his slurs
followed the footsteps of the models she cited and wanted to regarding the Courts alleged partiality, incompetence and
replicate the former court officials who immediately waded lack of integrity on the basis of his answer in a show-cause
into practice in the very same court they came from. She, order for contempt. The Court took note that the respondent
like they, disgraced the dignity of the legal profession by did not deny making the negative imputations against the
openly disobeying and disrespecting the law.[20] By her Court through the media and even acknowledged the
irresponsible conduct, she also eroded public confidence in correctness of his degrading statements. Through a per
the law and in lawyers.[21] Her offense is not in any way curiam decision, we justified imposing upon him the penalty
mitigated by her transparent attempt to cover up her of suspension in the following tenor:
transgressions by writing the Court a letter-query, which
she followed up with unmeritorious petitions for declaratory The power to punish for contempt of court does not exhaust
relief, all of them dealing with the same Section 7 (b)(2) the scope of disciplinary authority of the Court over lawyers.
issue, in the hope perhaps that at some point she would The disciplinary authority of the Court over members of the
find a ruling favorable to her cause. These are acts whose Bar is but corollary to the Court's exclusive power of
implications do not promote public confidence in the admission to the Bar. A lawyer is not merely a professional
integrity of the legal profession.[22] but also an officer of the court and as such, he is called
upon to share in the task and responsibility of dispensing
Considering Atty. Buffes ready admission of violating justice and resolving disputes in society. Any act on his part
Section 7(b)(2), the principle of res ipsa loquitur finds which visibly tends to obstruct, pervert, or impede and
application, making her administratively liable for violation degrade the administration of justice constitutes both
of Rule 1.01 of Canon 1 and Canon 7 of the Code of professional misconduct calling for the exercise of
Professional Responsibility.[23] In several cases, the Court disciplinary action against him, and contumacious conduct
has disciplined lawyers without further inquiry or resort to warranting application of the contempt power.[31]
any formal investigation where the facts on record
sufficiently provided the basis for the determination of their These cases clearly show that the absence of any formal
administrative liability. charge against and/or formal investigation of an errant
lawyer do not preclude the Court from immediately
In Prudential Bank v. Castro,[24] the Court disbarred a exercising its disciplining authority, as long as the errant
lawyer without need of any further investigation after lawyer or judge has been given the opportunity to be heard.
considering his actions based on records showing his As we stated earlier, Atty. Buffe has been afforded the
unethical misconduct; the misconduct not only cast opportunity to be heard on the present matter through her
dishonor on the image of both the Bench and the Bar, but letter-query and Manifestation filed before this Court.
was also inimical to public interest and welfare. In this
regard, the Court took judicial notice of several cases A member of the bar may be penalized, even disbarred or
handled by the errant lawyer and his cohorts that revealed suspended from his office as an attorney, for violation of the
their modus operandi in circumventing the payment of the lawyers oath and/or for breach of the ethics of the legal
proper judicial fees for the astronomical sums they claimed profession as embodied in the Code of Professional
in their cases.[25] The Court held that those cases Responsibility.[32] The appropriate penalty on an errant
sufficiently provided the basis for the determination of lawyer depends on the exercise of sound judicial discretion
respondents' administrative liability, without need for based on the surrounding facts.[33]
further inquiry into the matter under the principle of res
ipsa loquitur.[26] In this case, we cannot discern any mitigating factors we
can apply, save OCATs observation that Atty Buffes letter-
Also on the basis of this principle, we ruled in Richards v. query may really reflect a misapprehension of the
Asoy,[27] that no evidentiary hearing is required before the parameters of the prohibition on the practice of the law
respondent may be disciplined for professional misconduct profession under Section 7 (b) (2) of R.A. No. 6713.
already established by the facts on record. Ignorance of the law, however, is no excuse, particularly on
a matter as sensitive as practice of the legal profession soon
after ones separation from the service. If Atty. Buffe is

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correct in the examples she cited, it is time to ring the bell

and to blow the whistle signaling that we cannot allow this
practice to continue.

As we observed earlier,[34] Atty. Buffe had no qualms about

the simultaneous use of various fora in expressing her
misgivings about the perceived unfairness of Section 7 of
R.A. 6713. She formally lodged a query with the Office of the
Court Administrator, and soon after filed her successive
petitions for declaratory relief. Effectively, she exposed these
fora to the possibility of embarrassment and confusion
through their possibly differing views on the issue she
posed. Although this is not strictly the forum-shopping that
the Rules of Court prohibit, what she has done is something
that we cannot help but consider with disfavor because of
the potential damage and embarrassment to the Judiciary
that it could have spawned. This is a point against Atty.
Buffe that cancels out the leniency we might have exercised
because of the OCATs observation about her ignorance of
and misgivings on the extent of the prohibition after
separation from the service.

Under the circumstances, we find that her actions merit a

penalty of fine of P10,000.00, together with a stern warning
to deter her from repeating her transgression and
committing other acts of professional misconduct.[35] This
penalty reflects as well the Courts sentiments on how
seriously the retired, resigned or separated officers and
employees of the Judiciary should regard and observe the
prohibition against the practice of law with the office that
they used to work with.

WHEREFORE, premises considered, we find Atty. Karen M.

Silverio-Buffe GUILTY of professional misconduct for
violating Rule 1.01 of Canon 1 and Canon 7 of the Code of
Professional Responsibility. She is hereby FINED in the
amount of Ten Thousand Pesos (P10,000.00), and STERNLY
WARNED that a repetition of this violation and the
commission of other acts of professional misconduct shall
be dealt with more severely.

Let this Decision be noted in Atty. Buffes record as a

member of the Bar.

Compiled by: | TINA SIUAGAN 10


EN BANC secretary of the Sangguniang Bayan of Mandaon, Masbate.

As such, respondent is not allowed by law to act as counsel
[B. M. No. 1036. June 10, 2003] for a client in any court or administrative body.

DONNA MARIE S. AGUIRRE, complainant, vs. EDWIN L. On the charge of grave misconduct and misrepresentation,
RANA, respondent. complainant accuses respondent of acting as counsel for
vice mayoralty candidate George Bunan (Bunan) without
DECISION the latter engaging respondents services. Complainant
claims that respondent filed the pleading as a ploy to
CARPIO, J.: prevent the proclamation of the winning vice mayoralty
The Case
On 22 May 2001, the Court issued a resolution allowing
Before one is admitted to the Philippine Bar, he must respondent to take the lawyers oath but disallowed him
possess the requisite moral integrity for membership in the from signing the Roll of Attorneys until he is cleared of the
legal profession. Possession of moral integrity is of greater charges against him. In the same resolution, the Court
importance than possession of legal learning. The practice required respondent to comment on the complaint against
of law is a privilege bestowed only on the morally fit. A bar him.
candidate who is morally unfit cannot practice law even if
he passes the bar examinations. In his Comment, respondent admits that Bunan sought his
specific assistance to represent him before the MBEC.
The Facts Respondent claims that he decided to assist and advice
Bunan, not as a lawyer but as a person who knows the law.
Respondent Edwin L. Rana (respondent) was among those Respondent admits signing the 19 May 2001 pleading that
who passed the 2000 Bar Examinations. objected to the inclusion of certain votes in the canvassing.
He explains, however, that he did not sign the pleading as a
On 21 May 2001, one day before the scheduled mass oath- lawyer or represented himself as an attorney in the
taking of successful bar examinees as members of the pleading.
Philippine Bar, complainant Donna Marie Aguirre
(complainant) filed against respondent a Petition for Denial On his employment as secretary of the Sangguniang Bayan,
of Admission to the Bar. Complainant charged respondent respondent claims that he submitted his resignation on 11
with unauthorized practice of law, grave misconduct, May 2001 which was allegedly accepted on the same date.
violation of law, and grave misrepresentation. He submitted a copy of the Certification of Receipt of
Revocable Resignation dated 28 May 2001 signed by Vice-
The Court allowed respondent to take his oath as a member Mayor Napoleon Relox. Respondent further claims that the
of the Bar during the scheduled oath-taking on 22 May complaint is politically motivated considering that
2001 at the Philippine International Convention Center. complainant is the daughter of Silvestre Aguirre, the losing
However, the Court ruled that respondent could not sign the candidate for mayor of Mandaon, Masbate. Respondent
Roll of Attorneys pending the resolution of the charge prays that the complaint be dismissed for lack of merit and
against him. Thus, respondent took the lawyers oath on the that he be allowed to sign the Roll of Attorneys.
scheduled date but has not signed the Roll of Attorneys up
to now. On 22 June 2001, complainant filed her Reply to
respondents Comment and refuted the claim of respondent
Complainant charges respondent for unauthorized practice that his appearance before the MBEC was only to extend
of law and grave misconduct. Complainant alleges that specific assistance to Bunan. Complainant alleges that on
respondent, while not yet a lawyer, appeared as counsel for 19 May 2001 Emily Estipona-Hao (Estipona-Hao) filed a
a candidate in the May 2001 elections before the Municipal petition for proclamation as the winning candidate for
Board of Election Canvassers (MBEC) of Mandaon, Masbate. mayor. Respondent signed as counsel for Estipona-Hao in
Complainant further alleges that respondent filed with the this petition. When respondent appeared as counsel before
MBEC a pleading dated 19 May 2001 entitled Formal the MBEC, complainant questioned his appearance on two
Objection to the Inclusion in the Canvassing of Votes in grounds: (1) respondent had not taken his oath as a lawyer;
Some Precincts for the Office of Vice-Mayor. In this and (2) he was an employee of the government.
pleading, respondent represented himself as counsel for and
in behalf of Vice Mayoralty Candidate, George Bunan, and Respondent filed a Reply (Re: Reply to Respondents
signed the pleading as counsel for George Bunan (Bunan). Comment) reiterating his claim that the instant
administrative case is motivated mainly by political
On the charge of violation of law, complainant claims that vendetta.
respondent is a municipal government employee, being a

Compiled by: | TINA SIUAGAN 11


On 17 July 2001, the Court referred the case to the Office of

the Bar Confidant (OBC) for evaluation, report and All these happened even before respondent took the lawyers
recommendation. oath. Clearly, respondent engaged in the practice of law
without being a member of the Philippine Bar.
OBCs Report and Recommendation
In Philippine Lawyers Association v. Agrava,[1] the Court
The OBC found that respondent indeed appeared before the elucidated that:
MBEC as counsel for Bunan in the May 2001 elections. The
minutes of the MBEC proceedings show that respondent The practice of law is not limited to the conduct of cases or
actively participated in the proceedings. The OBC likewise litigation in court; it embraces the preparation of pleadings
found that respondent appeared in the MBEC proceedings and other papers incident to actions and special
even before he took the lawyers oath on 22 May 2001. The proceedings, the management of such actions and
OBC believes that respondents misconduct casts a serious proceedings on behalf of clients before judges and courts,
doubt on his moral fitness to be a member of the Bar. The and in addition, conveyancing. In general, all advice to
OBC also believes that respondents unauthorized practice of clients, and all action taken for them in matters connected
law is a ground to deny his admission to the practice of law. with the law, incorporation services, assessment and
The OBC therefore recommends that respondent be denied condemnation services contemplating an appearance before
admission to the Philippine Bar. a judicial body, the foreclosure of a mortgage, enforcement
of a creditor's claim in bankruptcy and insolvency
On the other charges, OBC stated that complainant failed to proceedings, and conducting proceedings in attachment,
cite a law which respondent allegedly violated when he and in matters of estate and guardianship have been held to
appeared as counsel for Bunan while he was a government constitute law practice, as do the preparation and drafting
employee. Respondent resigned as secretary and his of legal instruments, where the work done involves the
resignation was accepted. Likewise, respondent was determination by the trained legal mind of the legal effect of
authorized by Bunan to represent him before the MBEC. facts and conditions. (5 Am. Jur. p. 262, 263). (Italics
supplied) x x x
The Courts Ruling
In Cayetano v. Monsod,[2] the Court held that practice of
We agree with the findings and conclusions of the OBC that law means any activity, in or out of court, which requires
respondent engaged in the unauthorized practice of law and the application of law, legal procedure, knowledge, training
thus does not deserve admission to the Philippine Bar. and experience. To engage in the practice of law is to
perform acts which are usually performed by members of
Respondent took his oath as lawyer on 22 May 2001. the legal profession. Generally, to practice law is to render
However, the records show that respondent appeared as any kind of service which requires the use of legal
counsel for Bunan prior to 22 May 2001, before respondent knowledge or skill.
took the lawyers oath. In the pleading entitled Formal
Objection to the Inclusion in the Canvassing of Votes in Verily, respondent was engaged in the practice of law when
Some Precincts for the Office of Vice-Mayor dated 19 May he appeared in the proceedings before the MBEC and filed
2001, respondent signed as counsel for George Bunan. In various pleadings, without license to do so. Evidence clearly
the first paragraph of the same pleading respondent stated supports the charge of unauthorized practice of law.
that he was the (U)ndersigned Counsel for, and in behalf of Respondent called himself counsel knowing fully well that
Vice Mayoralty Candidate, GEORGE T. BUNAN. Bunan he was not a member of the Bar. Having held himself out as
himself wrote the MBEC on 14 May 2001 that he had counsel knowing that he had no authority to practice law,
authorized Atty. Edwin L. Rana as his counsel to represent respondent has shown moral unfitness to be a member of
him before the MBEC and similar bodies. the Philippine Bar.[3]

On 14 May 2001, mayoralty candidate Emily Estipona-Hao The right to practice law is not a natural or constitutional
also retained respondent as her counsel. On the same date, right but is a privilege. It is limited to persons of good moral
14 May 2001, Erly D. Hao informed the MBEC that Atty. character with special qualifications duly ascertained and
Edwin L. Rana has been authorized by REFORMA LM-PPC certified. The exercise of this privilege presupposes
as the legal counsel of the party and the candidate of the possession of integrity, legal knowledge, educational
said party. Respondent himself wrote the MBEC on 14 May attainment, and even public trust[4] since a lawyer is an
2001 that he was entering his appearance as counsel for officer of the court. A bar candidate does not acquire the
Mayoralty Candidate Emily Estipona-Hao and for the right to practice law simply by passing the bar
REFORMA LM-PPC. On 19 May 2001, respondent signed as examinations. The practice of law is a privilege that can be
counsel for Estipona-Hao in the petition filed before the withheld even from one who has passed the bar
MBEC praying for the proclamation of Estipona-Hao as the examinations, if the person seeking admission had
winning candidate for mayor of Mandaon, Masbate. practiced law without a license.[5]

Compiled by: | TINA SIUAGAN 12


The regulation of the practice of law is unquestionably

strict. In Beltran, Jr. v. Abad,[6] a candidate passed the bar
examinations but had not taken his oath and signed the
Roll of Attorneys. He was held in contempt of court for
practicing law even before his admission to the Bar. Under
Section 3 (e) of Rule 71 of the Rules of Court, a person who
engages in the unauthorized practice of law is liable for
indirect contempt of court.[7]

True, respondent here passed the 2000 Bar Examinations

and took the lawyers oath. However, it is the signing in the
Roll of Attorneys that finally makes one a full-fledged
lawyer. The fact that respondent passed the bar
examinations is immaterial. Passing the bar is not the only
qualification to become an attorney-at-law.[8] Respondent
should know that two essential requisites for becoming a
lawyer still had to be performed, namely: his lawyers oath to
be administered by this Court and his signature in the Roll
of Attorneys.[9]

On the charge of violation of law, complainant contends that

the law does not allow respondent to act as counsel for a
private client in any court or administrative body since
respondent is the secretary of the Sangguniang Bayan.

Respondent tendered his resignation as secretary of the

Sangguniang Bayan prior to the acts complained of as
constituting unauthorized practice of law. In his letter dated
11 May 2001 addressed to Napoleon Relox, vice- mayor and
presiding officer of the Sangguniang Bayan, respondent
stated that he was resigning effective upon your
acceptance.[10] Vice-Mayor Relox accepted respondents
resignation effective 11 May 2001.[11] Thus, the evidence
does not support the charge that respondent acted as
counsel for a client while serving as secretary of the
Sangguniang Bayan.

On the charge of grave misconduct and misrepresentation,

evidence shows that Bunan indeed authorized respondent
to represent him as his counsel before the MBEC and
similar bodies. While there was no misrepresentation,
respondent nonetheless had no authority to practice law.

WHEREFORE, respondent Edwin L. Rana is DENIED

admission to the Philippine Bar.


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