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Republic of the Philippines

SUPREME COURT
Manila
EN BANC

A.C. No. 11078

VERLITA V. MERCULLO and RAYMOND VEDANO, Complainants,


vs.
ATTY. MARIE FRANCESE RAMON, Respondent.

DECISION

BERSAMIN, J.:

This case concerns the complaint for the disbarment of Atty. Marie Frances E. Ramon for violating Rule
1.01, Canon 1 of the Code of Professional Responsibility and the Lawyer's Oath for deceiving the
complainants in order to obtain the substantial amount of P350,000.00 on the pretext of having the
foreclosed asset of the latter's mother redeemed.

Antecedents

In the period from 2002 to 2011, the National Home Mortgage Finance Corporation (NHMFC) sent
several demand letters to Carmelita T. Vedaño1 regarding her unpaid obligations secured by the mortgage
covering her residential property in Novaliches, Caloocan City.2 To avoid the foreclosure of the
mortgage, Carmelita authorized her children, Verlita Mercullo and Raymond Vedaño (complainants
herein), to inquire from the NHMFC about the status of the obligations. Verlita and Raymond learned that
their mother's arrears had amounted to P350,000.00, and that the matter of the mortgage was under the
charge of respondent Atty. Ramon, but who was not around at that time.

On June 20, 2012, Carmelita received a letter from the sheriff of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) in
Caloocan City, stating that her property would be put up for auction in July 2013. Verlita and Raymond
thus went to the NHMFC to see the respondent, who advised them about their right to redeem the
property within one year from the foreclosure.3

In August 2013, Verlita and Raymond called up the respondent, and expressed their intention to redeem
the property by paying the redemption price. The latter agreed and scheduled an appointment with them
on August 30,2013.

On August 30, 2013, the respondent arrived at the designated meeting place at around 1:30 p.m., carrying
the folder that Verlita and Raymond had seen at the NHFMC when they inquired on the status of their
mother's property. After the respondent had oriented them on the procedure for redemption, the
complainants handed P350,000.00 to the respondent, who signed an acknowledgment receipt.4 The
respondent issued two acknowledgment receipts for the redemption price and for litigation
expenses,5 presenting to the complainants her NHMFC identification card. Before leaving them, she
promised to inform them as soon as the documents for redemption were ready for their mother's
signature.6

On September 4, 2013, the respondent met with Verlita and handed a letter7 that she had signed, along
with the special power of attorney (SPA) for Carmelita's signature.8 The letter reads:
Office of the Clerk of Court and Ex Officio Sheriff
Regional Trial Court
Caloocan City

Re: Redemption of the property covered by EJF No. 7484-2013

Dear Atty. Dabalos,

Please assist Ms. Carmelita Vedano, through her Attorney-in-Fact in redeeming the property covered by
EJF No. 7484-2013. Please provide the necessary computation as to the full redemption amount in order
for Ms. Vedano to redeem the same.

Thank you.

Truly yours,

(Sgd.) rances E. Ramon

Verlita and Raymond went to the NHMFC on September 9, 2013 to follow up on the redemption, but
discovered that the respondent had already ceased to be connected with the NHMFC. On September 20,
2013, they met with her at Branch 145 of the Regional Trial Court in Makati City where she was
attending a hearing. She informed them that the redemption was under process, and that the certificate of
redemption would be issued in two to three weeks time.9

After communicating through text messages with the respondent, Verlita and Raymond finally went to
see the Clerk of Court of the Regional Trial Court in Caloocan City On November 27, 2013 to inquire on
the status of the redemption. There, they discovered that the respondent had not deposited the redemption
price and had not filed the letter of intent for redeeming the property.10

On December 5, 2013, Verlita and Raymond again went to Branch 145 of the Regional Trial Court in
Makati City where the respondent had a hearing, and handed to her their demand letter requiring her to
return the amount she had received for the redemption.11 She acknowledged the letter and promised to
return the money on December 16, 2013 by depositing the amount in Verlita's bank account. However,
she did not fulfill her promise and did not show up for her subsequent scheduled hearings in Branch
145.12

With their attempts to reach the respondent being in vain, V erlita and Raymond brought their disbarment
complaint in the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP).1âwphi1

Findings and Recommendation of the IBP

The respondent did not submit her answer when required to do so. She also did not attend the mandatory
conference set by the IBP despite notice. Hence, the investigation proceeded ex parte.13

IBP Commissioner Arsenio P. Adriano submitted his Report and Recommendation,14 whereby he found
the respondent to have violated Rule 1.01 of the Code of Professional Responsibility for engaging in
deceitful conduct, and recommended her suspension from the practice of law for two years, and her return
to the complainants of P350,000.00. with legal interest from December 2, 2013.
The IBP Board of Governors adopted Commissioner Adriano's recommendation as stated in its
Resolution No. XXI-2014-929,15 viz.:

RESOLVED to ADOPT and APPROVE, as it is hereby ADOPTED AND APPROVED, the Report and
Recommendation of the Investigating Commissioner in the above-entitled case, herein made part of this
Resolution as Annex "A", and finding the recommendation to be fully supported by the evidence on
record and applicable laws, and for violation of Rule 1.01 of the Code of Professional Responsibility,
Atty. Marie Frances E. Ramon is hereby SUSPENDED from the practice of law for two (2) years and
Ordered to Return the amount of Three Hundred Fifty Thousand (P350,000.00) Pesos to
Complainant.

Ruling of the Court

The Court declares the respondent guilty of dishonesty and deceit.

The Lawyer's Oath is a source of the obligations and duties of every lawyer. Any violation of the oath
may be punished with either disbarment, or suspension from the practice of law, or other commensurate
disciplinary action.16 Every lawyer must at no time be wanting in probity and moral fiber which are not
only conditions precedent to his admission to the Bar, but are also essential for his continued membership
in the Law Profession.17 Any conduct unbecoming of a lawyer constitutes a violation of his oath.

The respondent certainly transgressed the Lawyer's Oath by receiving money from the complainants after
having made them believe that she could assist them in ensuring the redemption in their mother's behalf.
She was convincing about her ability to work on the redemption because she had worked in the NHFMC.
She did not inform them soon enough, however, that she had meanwhile ceased to be connected with the
agency. It was her duty to have so informed them. She further misled them about her ability to realize the
redemption by falsely informing them about having started the redemption process. She concealed from
them the real story that she had not even initiated the redemption proceedings that she had assured them
she would do. Everything she did was dishonest and deceitful in order to have them part with the
substantial sum of P350,000.00. She took advantage of the complainants who had reposed their full trust
and confidence in her ability to perform the task by virtue of her being a lawyer. Surely, the totality of her
actuations inevitably eroded public trust in the Legal Profession.

As a lawyer, the respondent was proscribed from engaging in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful
conduct in her dealings with others, especially clients whom she should serve with competence and
diligence.18 Her duty required her to maintain fealty to them, binding her not to neglect the legal matter
entrusted to her. Thus, her neglect in connection therewith rendered her liable.19 Moreover, the unfulfilled
promise of returning the money and her refusal to communicate with the complainants on the matter of
her engagement aggravated the neglect and dishonesty attending her dealings with the complainants.

The respondent's conduct patently breached Rule 1.01, Canon 1 of the Code of Professional
Responsibility, which provides:

CANON 1 - A lawyer shall uphold the constitution, obey the laws of the land and promote respect for law
and for legal processes.1âwphi1

Rule 1.01 A lawyer shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest, immoral, or deceitful conduct.

Evil intent was not essential in order to bring the unlawful act or omission of the respondent within the
coverage of Rule 1. 01 of the Code of Professional Responsibility.20The Code exacted from her not only a
firm respect for the law and legal processes but also the utmost degree of fidelity and good faith in
dealing with clients and the moneys entrusted by them pursuant to their fiduciary relationship.21

Yet another dereliction of the respondent was her wanton disregard of the several notices sent to her by
the IBP in this case. Such disregard could only be wrong because it reflected her undisguised contempt of
the proceedings of the IBP, a body that the Court has invested with the authority to investigate the
disbarment complaint against her. She thus exhibited her irresponsibility as well as her utter disrespect for
the Court and the rest of the Judiciary. It cannot be understated that a lawyer in her shoes should comply
with the orders of the Court and of the Court's duly constituted authorities, like the IBP, the office that the
Court has particularly tasked to carry out the specific function of investigating attorney misconduct.22

The respondent deserves severe chastisement and appropriate sanctions. In this regard, the IBP Board of
Governors recommended her suspension for two years from the practice of law, and her return of the
amount of P350,000.00 to the complainants. The recommended penalty is not commensurate to the
gravity of the misconduct committed. She merited a heavier sanction of suspension from the practice of
law for five years. Her professional misconduct warranted a longer suspension from the practice of law
because she had caused material prejudice to the clients' interest.23 She should somehow be taught to be
more ethical and professional in dealing with trusting clients like the complainants and their mother, who
were innocently too willing to repose their utmost trust in her abilities as a lawyer and in her
trustworthiness as a legal professional. In this connection, we state that the usual mitigation of the
recommended penalty by virtue of the misconduct being her first offense cannot be carried out in her
favor considering that she had disregarded the several notices sent to her by the IBP in this case. As to the
return of the P350,000.00 to the complainant, requiring her to restitute with legal interest is only fair and
just because she did not comply in the least with her ethical undertaking to work on the redemption of the
property of the mother of the complainants. In addition, she is sternly warned against a similar infraction
in the future; otherwise, the Court will have her suffer a more severe penalty.

WHEREFORE, the Court FINDS and HOLDS ATTY. MARIE FRANCES E. RAMON guilty of
violating Canon 1, Rule 1.01 of the Code of Professional Responsibility and the Lawyer's
Oath; SUSPENDS HER FROM THE PRACTICE OF LAW FOR A PERIOD OF FIVE YEARS
EFFECTIVE FROM NOTICE, with the STERN WARNING that any similar infraction in the future
will be dealt with more severely; ORDERS her to return to the complainants the sum of P350,000.00
within 30 days from notice, plus legal interest of 6% per annum reckoned from the finality of this
decision until full payment; and DIRECTS her to promptly submit to this Court written proof of her
compliance within the same period of 30 days from notice of this decision.

Let copies of this decision be furnished to the Office of the Bar Confidant, to be appended to Atty. Marie
Frances E. Ramon's personal record as an attorney; to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines; and to the
Office of the Court Administrator for dissemination to all courts throughout the country for their
information and guidance.

SO ORDERED.

LUCAS P. BERSAMIN
Associate Justice
Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila

SECOND DIVISION

A.C. No. 9387 June 20, 2012


(Formerly CBD Case No. 05-1562)

EMILIA R. HERNANDEZ, Complainant,


vs.
ATTY. VENANCIO B. PADILLA, Respondent.

RESOLUTION

SERENO, J.:

This is a disbarment case filed by Emilia Hernandez (complainant) against her lawyer, Atty. Venancio B.
Padilla (respondent) of Padilla Padilla Bautista Law Offices, for his alleged negligence in the handling of
her case.

The records disclose that complainant and her husband were the respondents in an ejectment case filed
against them with the Regional Trial Court of Manila (RTC).

In a Decision1 dated 28 June 2002, penned by Judge Rosmari D. Carandang (Judge Carandang), the RTC
ordered that the Deed of Sale executed in favor of complainant be cancelled; and that the latter pay the
complainant therein, Elisa Duigan (Duigan), attorney’s fees and moral damages.

Complainant and her husband filed their Notice of Appeal with the RTC. Thereafter, the Court of Appeals
(CA) ordered them to file their Appellants’ Brief. They chose respondent to represent them in the case.
On their behalf, he filed a Memorandum on Appeal instead of an Appellants’ Brief. Thus, Duigan filed a
Motion to Dismiss the Appeal. The CA granted the Motion in a Resolution2 dated 16 December 2003.

No Motion for Reconsideration (MR) of the Resolution dismissing the appeal was filed by the couple.
Complainant claims that because respondent ignored the Resolution, he acted with "deceit, unfaithfulness
amounting to malpractice of law."3 Complainant and her husband failed to file an appeal, because
respondent never informed them of the adverse decision. Complainant further claims that she asked
respondent "several times" about the status of the appeal, but "despite inquiries he deliberately withheld
response [sic]," to the damage and prejudice of the spouses.4

The Resolution became final and executory on 8 January 2004. Complainant was informed of the
Resolution sometime in July 2005, when the Sheriff of the RTC came to her house and informed her of
the Resolution.

On 9 September 2005, complainant filed an Affidavit of Complaint5 with the Committee on Bar
Discipline of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP), seeking the disbarment of respondent on the
following grounds: deceit, malpractice, and grave misconduct. Complainant prays for moral damages in
the amount of ₱ 350,000.
Through an Order6 dated 12 September 2005, Director of Bar Discipline Rogelio A. Vinluan ordered
respondent to submit an answer to the Complaint. In his Counter-Affidavit/Answer,7 respondent prayed
for the outright dismissal of the Complaint.

Respondent explained that he was not the lawyer of complainant. He averred that prior to the mandatory
conference set by the IBP on 13 December 2005, he had never met complainant, because it was her
husband who had personally transacted with him. According to respondent, the husband "despondently
pleaded to me to prepare a Memorandum on Appeal because according to him the period given by the CA
was to lapse within two or three days."8 Thus, respondent claims that he filed a Memorandum on Appeal
because he honestly believed that "it is this pleading which was required."9

Before filing the Memorandum, respondent advised complainant’s husband to settle the case. The latter
allegedly "gestured approval of the advice."10

After the husband of complainant picked up the Memorandum for filing, respondent never saw or heard
from him again and thus assumed that the husband heeded his advice and settled the case. When
respondent received an Order from the CA requiring him to file a comment on the Motion to Dismiss
filed by Duigan, he "instructed his office staff to contact Mr. Hernandez thru available means of
communication, but to no avail."11 Thus, when complainant’s husband went to the office of respondent to
tell the latter that the Sheriff of the RTC had informed complainant of the CA’s Resolution dismissing the
case, respondent was just as surprised. The lawyer exclaimed, "KALA KO BA NAKIPAG AREGLO NA
KAYO."12

In his 5 January 2009 Report,13 IBP Investigating Commissioner Leland R. Villadolid, Jr. found that
respondent violated Canons 5, 17, and 18 of the Code of Professional Responsibility (the Code). He
recommended that respondent be suspended from practicing law from 3 to 6 months.

The board of governors of the IBP issued Resolution No. XIX-2010-452 on 28 August 2010. Therein,
they resolved to adopt and approve the Report and Recommendation of the Investigating Commissioner.
Respondent was suspended from the practice of law for six months.

Respondent filed a Motion for Reconsideration.14 He prayed for the relaxation of the application of the
Canons of the Code. On 14 January 2012, the IBP board of governors passed Resolution No. XX-2012-
1715 partly granting his Motion and reducing the penalty imposed to one-month suspension from the
practice of law.

Pursuant to Rule 139-B of the Rules of Court, acting Director for Bar Discipline Dennis A.B. Funa,
through a letter16addressed to then Chief Justice Renato C. Corona, transmitted the documents pertaining
to the disbarment Complaint against respondent.

We adopt the factual findings of the board of governors of the IBP. This Court, however, disagrees with
its Decision to reduce the penalty to one-month suspension. We thus affirm the six-month suspension the
Board originally imposed in its 28 August 2010 Resolution.

Respondent insists that he had never met complainant prior to the mandatory conference set for the
disbarment Complaint she filed against him. However, a perusal of the Memorandum of Appeal filed in
the appellate court revealed that he had signed as counsel for the defendant-appellants therein, including
complainant and her husband.17 The pleading starts with the following sentence: "DEFENDANT[S]-
APPELLANTS, by counsel, unto this Honorable Court submit the Memorandum and further allege that: x
x x."18 Nowhere does the document say that it was filed only on behalf of complainant’s husband.
It is further claimed by respondent that the relation created between him and complainant’s husband
cannot be treated as a "client-lawyer" relationship, viz:

It is no more than a client needing a legal document and had it prepared by a lawyer for a fee. Under the
factual milieu and circumstances, it could not be said that a client entrusted to a lawyer handling and
prosecution of his case that calls for the strict application of the Code; x x x19

As proof that none of them ever intended to enter into a lawyer-client relationship, he also alleges that
complainant’s husband never contacted him after the filing of the Memorandum of Appeal. According to
respondent, this behavior was "very unusual if he really believed that he engaged" the former’s services. 20

Complainant pointed out in her Reply21 that respondent was her lawyer, because he accepted her case and
an acceptance fee in the amount of ₱ 7,000.

According to respondent, however, "[C]ontrary to the complainant’s claim that he charged ₱ 7,000 as
acceptance fee," "the fee was only for the preparation of the pleading which is even low for a
Memorandum of Appeal: x x x."22

Acceptance of money from a client establishes an attorney-client relationship and gives rise to the duty of
fidelity to the client’s cause.23 Once a lawyer agrees to handle a case, it is that lawyer’s duty to serve the
client with competence and diligence.24 Respondent has failed to fulfill this duty.

According to respondent, he merely drafted the pleading that complainant’s husband asked from him.
Respondent also claims that he filed a Memorandum of Appeal, because he "honestly believed" that this
was the pleading required, based on what complainant’s husband said.

The IBP Investigating Commissioner’s observation on this matter, in the 5 January 2009 Report, is
correct. Regardless of the particular pleading his client may have believed to be necessary, it was
respondent’s duty to know the proper pleading to be filed in appeals from RTC decisions, viz:

Having seen the Decision dated 18 June 2002 of the trial court, respondent should have known that the
mode of appeal to the Court of Appeals for said Decision is by ordinary appeal under Section 2(a) Rule
41 of the1997 Revised Rules of Civil Procedure. In all such cases, Rule 44 of the said Rules applies.25

When the RTC ruled against complainant and her husband, they filed a Notice of Appeal. Consequently,
what should apply is the rule on ordinary appealed cases or Rule 44 of the Rules on Civil Procedure. Rule
44 requires that the appellant’s brief be filed after the records of the case have been elevated to the CA.
Respondent, as a litigator, was expected to know this procedure. Canon 5 of the Code reads:

CANON 5 — A lawyer shall keep abreast of legal developments, participate in continuing legal education
programs, support efforts to achieve high standards in law schools as well as in the practical training of
law students and assist in disseminating information regarding the law and jurisprudence.

The obligations of lawyers as a consequence of their Canon 5 duty have been expounded in Dulalia, Jr. v.
Cruz,26 to wit:

It must be emphasized that the primary duty of lawyers is to obey the laws of the land and promote
respect for the law and legal processes. They are expected to be in the forefront in the observance and
maintenance of the rule of law. This duty carries with it the obligation to be well-informed of the existing
laws and to keep abreast with legal developments, recent enactments and jurisprudence. It is imperative
that they be conversant with basic legal principles. Unless they faithfully comply with such duty, they
may not be able to discharge competently and diligently their obligations as members of the bar. Worse,
they may become susceptible to committing mistakes.

In his MR, respondent begged for the consideration of the IBP, claiming that the reason for his failure to
file the proper pleading was that he "did not have enough time to acquaint himself thoroughly with the
factual milieu of the case." The IBP reconsidered and thereafter significantly reduced the penalty
originally imposed.

Respondent’s plea for leniency should not have been granted.

The supposed lack of time given to respondent to acquaint himself with the facts of the case does not
excuse his negligence.

Rule 18.02 of the Code provides that a lawyer shall not handle any legal matter without adequate
preparation. While it is true that respondent was not complainant’s lawyer from the trial to the appellate
court stage, this fact did not excuse him from his duty to diligently study a case he had agreed to handle.
If he felt he did not have enough time to study the pertinent matters involved, as he was approached by
complainant’s husband only two days before the expiration of the period for filing the Appellant’s Brief,
respondent should have filed a motion for extension of time to file the proper pleading instead of
whatever pleading he could come up with, just to "beat the deadline set by the Court of Appeals."27

Moreover, respondent does not deny that he was given notice of the fact that he filed the wrong pleading.
However, instead of explaining his side by filing a comment, as ordered by the appellate court, he chose
to ignore the CA’s Order. He claims that he was under the presumption that complainant and her husband
had already settled the case, because he had not heard from the husband since the filing of the latter’s
Memorandum of Appeal.

This explanation does not excuse respondent’s actions.

First of all, there were several remedies that respondent could have availed himself of, from the moment
he received the Notice from the CA to the moment he received the disbarment Complaint filed against
him. But because of his negligence, he chose to sit on the case and do nothing.

Second, respondent, as counsel, had the duty to inform his clients of the status of their case. His failure to
do so amounted to a violation of Rule 18.04 of the Code, which reads:

18.04 - A lawyer shall keep the client informed of the status of his case and shall respond within a
reasonable time to the client’s request for information.

If it were true that all attempts to contact his client proved futile, the least respondent could have done
was to inform the CA by filing a Notice of Withdrawal of Appearance as counsel. He could have thus
explained why he was no longer the counsel of complainant and her husband in the case and informed the
court that he could no longer contact them.28 His failure to take this measure proves his negligence.

Lastly, the failure of respondent to file the proper pleading and a comment on Duigan’s Motion to
Dismiss is negligence on his part.1âwphi1 Under 18.03 of the Code, a lawyer is liable for negligence in
handling the client’s case, viz:
Rule 18.03 - A lawyer shall not neglect a legal matter entrusted to him, and his negligence in connection
therewith shall render him liable.

Lawyers should not neglect legal matters entrusted to them, otherwise their negligence in fulfilling their
duty would render them liable for disciplinary action.29

Respondent has failed to live up to his duties as a lawyer. When a lawyer violates his duties to his client,
he engages in unethical and unprofessional conduct for which he should be held accountable.30

WHEREFORE, respondent Atty. Venancio Padilla is found guilty of violating Rules 18.02, 18.03, 18.04,
as well as Canon 5 of the Code of Professional Responsibility. Hence, he is SUSPENDED from the
practice of law for SIX (6) MONTHS and STERNLY WARNED that a repetition of the same or a similar
offense will be dealt with more severely.

Let copies of this Resolution be entered into the personal records of respondent as a member of the bar
and furnished to the Bar Confidant, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, and the Court Administrator for
circulation to all courts of the country for their information and guidance.

No costs.

SO ORDERED.

MARIA LOURDES P. A. SERENO


Associate Justice
Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila

SECOND DIVISION

A.C. No. 6368 June 13, 2012

FIDELA BENGCO AND TERESITA BENGCO, Complainants,


vs.
ATTY. PABLO S. BERNARDO, Respondent.

DECISION

REYES, J.:

This is a complaint1 for disbarment filed by complainants Fidela G. Bengco (Fidela) and Teresita N.
Bengco (Teresita) against respondent Atty. Pablo Bernardo (Atty. Bernardo) for deceit, malpractice,
conduct unbecoming a member of the Bar and violation of his duties and oath as a lawyer.

The acts of the respondent which gave rise to the instant complaint are as follows:

That sometime on or about the period from April 15, 1997 to July 22, 1997, Atty. Pablo Bernardo with
the help and in connivance and collusion with a certain Andres Magat [wilfully] and illegally committed
fraudulent act with intent to defraud herein complainants Fidela G. Bengco and Teresita N. Bengco by
using false pretenses, deceitful words to the effect that he would expedite the titling of the land belonging
to the Miranda family of Tagaytay City who are the acquaintance of complainants herein and they
convinced herein complainant[s] that if they will finance and deliver to him the amount of [₱]495,000.00
as advance money he would expedite the titling of the subject land and further by means of other similar
deceit like misrepresenting himself as lawyer of William Gatchalian, the prospective buyer of the subject
land, who is the owner of Plastic City at Canomay Street, Valenzuela, Metro Manila and he is the one
handling William Gatchalian’s business transaction and that he has contracts at NAMREA, DENR,
CENRO and REGISTER OF DEEDS which representation he well knew were false, fraudulent and were
only made to induce the complainant[s] to give and deliver the said amount ([₱]495,000.00) and once in
possession of said amount, far from complying with his obligation to expedite and cause the titling of the
subject land, [wilfully], unlawfully and illegally misappropriated, misapplied and converted the said
amount to his personal use and benefit and despite demand upon him to return the said amount, he failed
and refused to do so, which acts constitute deceit, malpractice, conduct unbecoming a member of the Bar
and Violation of Duties and Oath as a lawyer.2

In support of their complaint, the complainants attached thereto Resolutions dated December 7, 19983 and
June 22, 19994 of the Third Municipal Circuit Trial Court (MCTC) of Sto. Tomas and Minalin, Sto.
Tomas, Pampanga and the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor of San Fernando, Pampanga, respectively,
finding probable cause for the filing of the criminal information5 against both Atty. Bernardo and Andres
Magat (Magat) before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of San Fernando, Pampanga, Branch 48, charging
them with the crime of Estafa punishable under Article 315, par. 2(a) of the Revised Penal Code.

The respondent was required to file his Comment.6 On September 24, 2004, the respondent filed an
undated Comment,7 wherein he denied the allegations against him and averred the following:
2. He had not deceived both complainants between the period from April 15, 1997 to July 22,
1997 for purposes of getting from them the amount of [₱]495,000.00. It was Andy Magat whom
they contacted and who in turn sought the legal services of the respondent. It was Andy Magat
who received the said money from them.

3. There was no connivance made and entered into by Andy Magat and respondent. The
arrangement for titling of the land was made by Teresita N. Bengco and Andy Magat with no
participation of respondent.

4. The acceptance of the respondent to render his legal service is legal and allowed in law
practice.8

The case was referred to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) for investigation, report and
recommendation.

On February 16, 2005, the IBP ordered the respondent to submit a verified comment pursuant to Rule
139-B, Section 6 of the Rules of Court as it appeared that the respondent’s undated comment filed with
the Court was not verified.9

On March 15, 2005, respondent through counsel requested for an additional fifteen (15) days from March
17, 2005, or until April 1, 2005, within which to comply due to his medical confinement.10

Thereafter, on April 4, 2005, the respondent filed a second motion11 for extension praying for another 20
days, or until April 22, 2005, alleging that he was still recovering from his illness.

On August 3, 2005, the case was set for mandatory conference.12 The respondent failed to appear; thus,
the IBP considered the respondent in default for his failure to appear and for not filing an answer despite
extensions granted. The case was then submitted for report and recommendation.13

Based on the records of the case, Investigating Commissioner Rebecca Villanueva-Maala made the
following findings:

[O]n or before the period from 15 April 1997 to 22 July 1997, respondent with the help and in connivance
and collusion with a certain Andres Magat ("Magat"), by using false pretenses and deceitful words,
[wilfully] and illegally committed fraudulent acts to the effect that respondent would expedite the titling
of the land belonging to the Miranda family of Tagaytay City, who were the acquaintance of
complainants.

Respondent and Magat convinced complainants that if they finance and deliver to them the amount of
[₱]495,000.00 as advance money, they would expedite the titling of the subject land. Respondent
represented himself to be the lawyer of William Gatchalian, the owner of Plastic City located at Canomay
Street, Valenzuela, Metro Manila, who was allegedly the buyer of the subject land once it has been titled.
Respondent and Magat also represented that they have contacts at NAMREA, DENR, CENRO and the
Register of Deeds which representation they knew to be false, fraudulent and were only made to induce
complainants to give and deliver to them the amount of [₱]495,000.00. Once in possession of the said
amount, far from complying with their obligation to expedite and cause the titling of the subject land,
respondent and Magat [wilfully], unlawfully and illegally misappropriated, misapplied and converted the
said amount to their personal use and benefit and despite demand upon them to return the said amount,
they failed and refused to do so.
In view of the deceit committed by respondent and Magat, complainants filed a complaint for Estafa
against the former before the Third Municipal Circuit Trial Court, of Sto. Tomas and Minalin, Sto.
Tomas, Pampanga. In the preliminary investigation conducted by the said court, it finds sufficient
grounds to hold respondent and Magat for trial for the crime of Estafa defined under par. 2(a) of Art. 315
of the Revised Penal Code, as amended. The case was transmitted to the Office of the Provincial
Prosecutor of Pampanga for appropriate action as per Order dated 7 December 1998.

The Assistant Provincial Prosecutor of the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor of Pampanga conducted a
re-investigation of the case. During the re-investigation thereof, Magat was willing to reimburse to
complainants the amount of [₱]200,000.00 because according to him the amount of [₱]295,000.00 should
be reimbursed by respondent considering that the said amount was turned over to respondent for expenses
incurred in the documentation prior to the titling of the subject land. Both respondent and Magat
requested for several extensions for time to pay back their obligations to the complainants. However,
despite extensions of time granted to them, respondent and Magat failed to fulfil their promise to pay back
their obligation. Hence, it was resolved that the offer of compromise was construed to be an implied
admission of guilt. The Asst. Provincial Prosecutor believes that there was no reason to disturb the
findings of the investigating judge and an Information for Estafa was filed against respondent and Magat
on 8 July 1999 before the Regional Trial Court, San Fernando, Pampanga.

The failure of the lawyer to answer the complaint for disbarment despite due notice on several occasions
and appear on the scheduled hearings set, shows his flouting resistance to lawful orders of the court and
illustrates his despiciency for his oath of office as a lawyer which deserves disciplinary sanction x x x.

From the facts and evidence presented, it could not be denied that respondent committed a crime that
import deceit and violation of his attorney’s oath and the Code of Professional Responsibility under both
of which he was bound to ‘obey the laws of the land.’ The commission of unlawful acts, specially crimes
involving moral turpitude, acts of dishonesty in violation of the attorney’s oath, grossly immoral conduct
and deceit are grounds for suspension or disbarment of lawyers (Rule 138, Section 27, RRC).

The misconduct complained of took place in 1997 and complainants filed the case only on 16 April 2004.
As provided for by the Rules of Procedure of the Commission of Bar Discipline, as amended, dated 24
March 2004, "A complaint for disbarment, suspension or discipline of attorneys prescribes in two (2)
years from the date of the professional misconduct" (Section 1, Rule VIII).14

The Investigating Commissioner recommended that:

x x x [R]espondent ATTY. PABLO A. BERNARDO be SUSPENDED for a period of TWO YEARS


from receipt hereof from the practice of his profession as a lawyer and as a member of the Bar. 15

On February 1, 2007, the IBP Board of Governors issued Resolution No. XVII-2007-065, viz:

RESOLVED to ADOPT and APPROVE, as it is hereby ADOPTED and APPROVED with modification,
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, Atty. Pablo S. Bernardo is hereby ordered, the
restitution of the amount of [₱]200,000.00 within sixty (60) days from receipt of notice with Warning that
if he does not return the amount with in sixty days from receipt of this Order then he will be meted the
penalty of Suspension from the practice of law for one (1) year.16
On May 16, 2007, the respondent promptly filed a Motion for Reconsideration17 of the aforesaid
Resolution of the IBP. The respondent averred that: (1) the IBP resolution is not in accord with the rules
considering that the complaint was filed more than two (2) years from the alleged misconduct and
therefore, must have been dismissed outright; (2) he did not commit any misrepresentation in convincing
Fidela to give him money to finance the titling of the land; (3) he was hired as a lawyer through Magat
who transacted with Teresita as evidenced by a Memorandum of Agreement18 signed by the latter; (4) he
was denied due process when the Investigating Commissioner considered him as in default after having
ignored the representative he sent during the hearing on August 3, 2005; and (5) he long restituted the
amount of ₱225,000.00 not as an offer of compromise but based on his moral obligation as a lawyer due
to Teresita’s declaration that he had to stop acting as her legal counsel sometime in the third quarter of
1997. The respondent pointed out the admission made by Fidela in her direct testimony before the RTC
that she received the amount, as evidenced by photocopies of receipts.

In an Order19 dated May 17, 2007 issued by the IBP, the complainant was required to comment within
fifteen (15) days from receipt thereof.

In her Comment,20 Fidela explained that it took them quite some time in filing the administrative case
because they took into consideration the possibility of an amicable settlement instead of a judicial
proceeding since it would stain the respondent’s reputation as a lawyer; that the respondent went into
hiding which prompted them to seek the assistance of CIDG agents from Camp Olivas in order to trace
the respondent’s whereabouts; that the respondent was duly accorded the opportunity to be heard; and
finally, that no restitution of the ₱200,000.00 plus corresponding interest has yet been made by the
respondent.

On June 21, 2008, Fidela filed a Manifestation21 stating that the RTC rendered a decision in the criminal
case for Estafa finding the accused, Atty. Bernardo and Magat "guilty of conspiracy in the commission of
Estafa under Article 315 par. 2(a) of the Revised Penal Code and both are sentenced to suffer six (6) years
and one (1) day of Prision Mayor as minimum to twelve (12) years and one (1) day of Reclusion
Temporal as maximum."22

In a Letter23 dated March 23, 2009, addressed to the IBP, Fidela sought the resolution of the present action
as she was already 86 years of age. Later, an Ex-parte Motion to Resolve the Case24 dated September 1,
2010 was filed by the complainants. In another Letter dated October 26, 2011, Fidela, being 88 years old,
sought for Atty. Bernardo’s restitution of the amount of ₱200,000.00 so she can use the money to buy her
medicine and other needs.

The Court adopts and agrees with the findings and conclusions of the IBP.

It is first worth mentioning that the respondent’s defense of prescription is untenable. The Court has held
that administrative cases against lawyers do not prescribe. The lapse of considerable time from the
commission of the offending act to the institution of the administrative complaint will not erase the
administrative culpability of a lawyer. Otherwise, members of the bar would only be emboldened to
disregard the very oath they took as lawyers, prescinding from the fact that as long as no private
complainant would immediately come forward, they stand a chance of being completely exonerated from
whatever administrative liability they ought to answer for.25

Further, consistent with his failure to file his answer after he himself pleaded for several extensions of
time to file the same, the respondent failed to appear during the mandatory conference, as ordered by the
IBP. As a lawyer, the respondent is considered as an officer of the court who is called upon to obey and
respect court processes. Such acts of the respondent are a deliberate and contemptuous affront on the
court’s authority which can not be countenanced.

It can not be overstressed that lawyers are instruments in the administration of justice. As vanguards of
our legal system, they are expected to maintain not only legal proficiency but also a high standard of
morality, honesty, integrity and fair dealing. In so doing, the people’s faith and confidence in the judicial
system is ensured. Lawyers may be disciplined – whether in their professional or in their private capacity
– for any conduct that is wanting in morality, honesty, probity and good demeanor.26

Rules 2.03 and 3.01 of the Code of Professional Responsibility read:

Rule 2.03. – A lawyer shall not do or permit to be done any act designed primarily to solicit legal
business.

Rule 3.01. – A lawyer shall not use or permit the use of any false, fraudulent, misleading, deceptive,
undignified, self-laudatory or unfair statement or claim regarding his qualifications or legal services.

There is no question that the respondent committed the acts complained of. He himself admitted in his
answer that his legal services were hired by the complainants through Magat regarding the purported
titling of land supposedly purchased. While he begs for the Court’s indulgence, his contrition is shallow
considering the fact that he used his position as a lawyer in order to deceive the complainants into
believing that he can expedite the titling of the subject properties. He never denied that he did not benefit
from the money given by the complainants in the amount of ₱495,000.00.

The practice of law is not a business. It is a profession in which duty to public service, not money, is the
primary consideration. Lawyering is not primarily meant to be a money-making venture, and law
advocacy is not a capital that necessarily yields profits. The gaining of a livelihood should be a secondary
consideration. The duty to public service and to the administration of justice should be the primary
consideration of lawyers, who must subordinate their personal interests or what they owe to themselves.27

It is likewise settled that a disbarment proceeding is separate and distinct from a criminal action filed
against a lawyer despite having involved the same set of facts. Jurisprudence has it "that a finding of guilt
in the criminal case will not necessarily result in a finding of liability in the administrative case.
Conversely, the respondent’s acquittal does not necessarily exculpate him administratively." 28

In Yu v. Palaña,29 the Court held that:

Respondent, being a member of the bar, should note that administrative cases against lawyers belong to a
class of their own. They are distinct from and they may proceed independently of criminal cases. A
criminal prosecution will not constitute a prejudicial question even if the same facts and circumstances
are attendant in the administrative proceedings. Besides, it is not sound judicial policy to await the final
resolution of a criminal case before a complaint against a lawyer may be acted upon; otherwise, this Court
will be rendered helpless to apply the rules on admission to, and continuing membership in, the legal
profession during the whole period that the criminal case is pending final disposition, when the objectives
of the two proceedings are vastly disparate. Disciplinary proceedings involve no private interest and
afford no redress for private grievance. They are undertaken and prosecuted solely for the public welfare
and for preserving courts of justice from the official ministration of persons unfit to practice law. The
attorney is called to answer to the court for his conduct as an officer of the court.30 (Citations omitted)
As the records reveal, the RTC eventually convicted the respondent for the crime of Estafa for which he
was meted the penalty of sentenced to suffer six (6) years and one (1) day of Prision Mayor as minimum
to twelve (12) years and one (1) day of Reclusion Temporal as maximum. Such criminal conviction
clearly undermines the respondent’s moral fitness to be a member of the Bar. Rule 138, Section 27
provides that:

SEC. 27. Disbarment and 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 the admission to practice, or for a wilful disobedience appearing as attorney for a party
without authority to do so.

In view of the foregoing, this Court has no option but to accord him the punishment commensurate to all
his acts and to accord the complainants, especially the 88-year old Fidela, with the justice they utmost
deserve.1âwphi1

WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, respondent Atty. Pablo S. Bernardo is found guilty of violating
the Code of Professional Responsibility. Accordingly, he is SUSPENDED from the practice of law for
ONE (1) YEAR effective upon notice hereof.

Further, the Court ORDERS Atty. Pablo S. Bernardo (1) to RETURN the amount of ₱200,000.00 to
Fidela Bengco and Teresita Bengco within TEN (10) DAYS from receipt of this Decision and (2) to
SUBMIT his proof of compliance thereof to the Court, through the Office of the Bar Confidant within
TEN (10) DAYS therefrom; with a STERN WARNING that failure to do so shall merit him the
additional penalty of suspension from the practice of law for one (1) year.

Let copies of this Decision be entered in his record as attorney and be furnished the Integrated Bar of the
Philippines and all courts in the country for their information and guidance.

SO ORDERED.

BIENVENIDO L. REYES
Associate Justice
Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila

EN BANC

A.C. No. 4973 March 15, 2010

SPOUSES MANUEL C. RAFOLS, JR. and LOLITA B. RAFOLS, Complainants,


vs.
ATTY. RICARDO G. BARRIOS, JR., Respondent.

DECISION

PER CURIAM:

The primary objective of administrative cases against lawyers is not only to punish and discipline the
erring individual lawyers but also to safeguard the administration of justice by protecting the courts and
the public from the misconduct of lawyers, and to remove from the legal profession persons whose utter
disregard of their lawyer’s oath has proven them unfit to continue discharging the trust reposed in them as
members of the bar. A lawyer may be disbarred or suspended for misconduct, whether in his professional
or private capacity, which shows him to be wanting in moral character, honesty, probity and good
demeanor or unworthy to continue as an officer of the court.

– Rivera v. Corral, A.C. No. 3548, July 4, 2002, 384 SCRA 1.

By its Board Resolution No. 1 dated March 7, 1998, the South Cotabato-Sarangani-General Santos City
(SOCSARGEN) Chapter of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) resolved to refer to the IBP Board
of Governors in Manila, for appropriate action and investigation, the purported anomaly involving Judge
Teodoro Dizon Jr. and Atty. Ricardo G. Barrios, Jr.1 Thus, on March 24, 1998, Atty. Joeffrey L.
Montefrio, the SOCSARGEN IBP Chapter President, transmitted the referral to the Office of the Court
Administrator (OCA).

The matter involving Judge Dizon, Jr., which was docketed as Administrative Matter (AM) No. RTJ-98-
1426 entitled Manuel C. Rafols and Lolita C. Rafols v. Judge Teodoro Dizon, Jr., RTC, General Santos
City, Branch 37,2 was resolved in a per curiam decision promulgated on January 31, 2006,3 whereby the
Court dismissed Judge Dizon, Jr. from the service, with forfeiture of all benefits, except accrued leave
credits, and with prejudice to re-employment in the government or any of its subdivisions,
instrumentalities or agencies, including government-owned and government -controlled corporations.

In the same per curiam decision, the Court reiterated its resolution of October 21, 1998 for the Office of
the Bar Confidant (OBC) to conduct an investigation of the actuations of Atty. Barrios, Jr. (respondent),
and to render its report and recommendation.

Hence, this decision.


Antecedents

The anomaly denounced by the SOCSARGEN IBP Chapter was narrated in the joint affidavit dated
March 3, 1998 of Spouses Manuel C. Rafols, Jr. and Lolita B. Rafols (complainants),4 whose narrative
was corroborated by the affidavit dated March 11, 1998 of Larry Sevilla;5 the affidavit dated March 16,
1998 of Allan Rafols;6 and the affidavit dated March 16, 1998 of Daisy Rafols,7 all of which were
attached to the letter of the IBP Chapter President. Atty. Erlinda C. Verzosa, then Deputy Clerk of Court
and Bar Confidant, referred for appropriate action a copy of the letter and affidavits to then Court
Administrator Alfredo L. Benipayo.

In turn, then Senior Deputy Court Administrator Reynaldo L. Suarez filed with the Court an
Administrative Matter for Agenda, recommending in relation to Atty. Barrios, Jr., as follows:

xxx

5. The Office of the Bar Confidant be FURNISHED with a copy of the letter-note and its attachments so
that it may conduct its own investigation in the matter with respect to the actuations of Atty. Ricardo
Barrios, Jr.8

xxx

In the resolution dated October 21, 1998, the Court approved the recommendations,9 and directed the
Office of the Bar Confidant to investigate the actuations of the respondent, and to render its report and
recommendation thereon.

Proceedings of the OBC

Only the respondent appeared during the hearing before the OBC. Denying the charges against him, he
sought the dismissal of the complaint and re-affirmed the contents of his comment. Despite notice, the
complainants did not appear before the OBC. However, the complainants and the respondent had testified
during the administrative hearing involving Judge Dizon, Jr. before Court of Appeals Associate Justice
Jose Sabio Jr. as the Investigating Justice. Also testifying thereat were the complainants’ witnesses,
namely: Allan Rafols, Daisy Rafols and Larry Sevilla.

A. Evidence for the Complainants

The complainants were the plaintiffs in Civil Case No. 6209 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) in General
Santos City, wherein they sought the cancellation of a deed of sale. Civil Case No. 6209 was assigned to
Branch 37 of the RTC, presided by Judge Dizon, Jr. The complainants were represented by the
respondent, paying to him ₱15,000.00 as acceptance fee.

On December 22, 1997, at 9:30 a.m., the respondent visited the complainants at their residence and
informed complainant Manuel that the judge handling their case wanted to talk to him. The respondent
and Manuel thus went to the East Royal Hotel’s coffee shop where Judge Dizon, Jr. was already waiting.
The respondent introduced Manuel to the judge, who informed Manuel that their case was pending in his
sala. The judge likewise said that he would resolve the case in their favor, assuring their success up to the
Court of Appeals, if they could deliver ₱150,000.00 to him. As he had no money at that time, Manuel told
the judge that he would try to produce the amount. The judge then stated that he would wait for the
money until noon of that day. Thus, Manuel left the coffee shop together with the respondent, who
instructed Manuel to come up with the money before noon because the judge badly needed it. The two of
them went to a lending institution, accompanied by Allan Rafols, but Manuel was told there that only
₱50,000.00 could be released the next day. From the lending institution, they went to the complainants’
shop to look for Ditas Rafols, Allan’s wife, who offered to withdraw ₱20,000.00 from her savings
account.

On their way to the bank, Manuel, Allan and Ditas dropped off the respondent at the hotel for the latter to
assure Judge Dizon, Jr. that the money was forthcoming. Afterwards, Ditas and Manuel withdrew
₱20,000.00 and ₱30,000.00 from their respective bank accounts, and went back to the hotel with the cash.
There, they saw the judge and his driver, who beckoned to them to go towards the judge’s Nissan pick-up
then parked along the highway in front of the hotel. Manuel alighted from his car and approached the
judge. Manuel personally handed the money to the judge, who told Manuel after asking about the amount
that it was not enough. Thereafter, Manuel entered the hotel’s coffee shop and informed the respondent
that he had already handed the money to the judge.

On December 24, 1997, at about 6:00 a.m., the respondent again visited the complainants. He was on
board the judge’s Nissan pick-up driven by the judge’s driver. The respondent relayed to the complainants
the message that the judge needed the balance of ₱100,000.00 in order to complete the construction of his
new house in time for the reception of his daughter’s wedding. However, the complainants managed to
raise only ₱80,000.00, which they delivered to the respondent on that same day.

On January 20, 1998, Judge Dizon, Jr. called up the complainants’ residence and instructed their son to
request his parents to return his call, leaving his cell phone number. When Manuel returned the call the
next day, the judge instructed Manuel to see him in his office. During their meeting in his chambers, the
judge demanded the balance of ₱30,000.00. Manuel clarified to the judge that his balance was only
₱20,000.00 due to the previous amount given being already ₱80,000.00. The judge informed him that the
amount that the respondent handed was short. Saying that he badly needed the money, the judge insisted
on ₱30,000.00, and even suggested that the complainants should borrow in order to raise that amount.

On January 22, 1998, Judge Dizon, Jr. called the complainants to inquire whether the ₱30,000.00 was
ready for pick up. After Manuel replied that he was ready with the amount, the judge asked him to wait
for 20 minutes. The judge and his driver later arrived on board his Nissan pick-up. Upon instructions of
the judge’s driver, the complainants followed the Nissan pick-up until somewhere inside the Doña
Soledad Estate, Espina, General Santos City. There, the judge alighted and approached the complainants
and shook their hands. At that point, Manuel handed ₱30,000.00 to the judge. The judge then told Manuel
that the RTC judge in Iloilo City before whom the perpetuation of the testimony of Soledad
Elevencionado-Provido was made should still testify as a witness during the trial in his sala in order for
the complainants to win. The judge persuaded the complainants to give money also to that judge;
otherwise, they should not blame him for the outcome of the case.

The complainants were forced to give money to the judge, because they feared that the judge would be
biased against them unless they gave in to his demands. But when they ultimately sensed that they were
being fooled about their case, they consulted Larry Sevilla, their mediamen friend, and narrated to Sevilla
all the facts and circumstances surrounding the case. They agreed that the details should be released to the
media. The exposẻ was published in the Newsmaker, a local newspaper.

Thereafter, the respondent and Judge Dizon, Jr. made several attempts to appease the complainants by
sending gifts and offering to return a portion of the money, but the complainants declined the offers.

According to the complainants, the respondent demanded ₱25,000.00 as his expenses in securing the
testimony of Soledad Elevencionado-Provido in Iloilo City to be used as evidence in their civil case. In
addition, the respondent requested the complainants to borrow ₱60,000.00 from the bank because he
wanted to redeem his foreclosed Isuzu Elf, and because he needed to give ₱11,000.00 to his nephew who
was due to leave for work abroad.

B. Evidence for the Respondent

In his verified comment dated March 22, 2006,10 the respondent confirmed that the complainants engaged
him as their counsel in Civil Case No. 6209. His version follows.

On December 22, 1997, the respondent introduced Manuel to Judge Dizon, Jr. inside the East Royal
Hotel’s coffee shop. The respondent stayed at a distance, because he did not want to hear their
conversation. Later, Manuel approached the respondent and gave him ₱2,000.00. When the respondent
asked what the money was for, Manuel replied that it was in appreciation of the former’s introducing the
latter to the judge. The respondent stated that Manuel did not mention what transpired between the latter
and the judge; and that the judge did not tell him (respondent) what transpired in that conversation.

Two days later, the respondent again visited the complainants at their house in General Santos City on
board the judge’s Nissan pick-up driven by the judge’s driver, in order to receive the ₱80,000.00 from the
complainants. The amount was being borrowed by the judge for his swimming pool. Later on, the judge
told the respondent to keep ₱30,000.00 as a token of their friendship. After Manuel handed the
₱80,000.00, the respondent and the judge’s driver headed towards Davao City, where, according to the
judge’s instruction, they redeemed the judge’s wristwatch for ₱15,000.00 from a pawnshop. The driver
brought the remaining amount of ₱35,000.00 to the judge in his home.

On January 27, 1998, Judge Dizon, Jr. visited the respondent at the latter’s house to ask him to execute an
affidavit. Declining the request at first, the respondent relented only because the judge became physically
weak in his presence and was on the verge of collapsing. Nonetheless, the respondent refused to notarize
the document.

In that affidavit dated January 27, 1998,11 the respondent denied that Judge Dizon, Jr. asked money from
the complainants; and stated that he did not see the complainants handing the money to the judge. He
admitted that he was the one who had requested the judge to personally collect his unpaid attorney’s fees
from the complainants with respect to their previous and terminated case; and that the judge did not ask
money from the complainants in exchange for a favorable decision in their case.

On January 28, 1998, the respondent returned to the complainants’ residence, but was surprised to find
complainant Lolita crying aloud. She informed him that the judge was again asking an additional
₱30,000.00 although they had given him ₱30,000.00 only the week before. She divulged that the judge
had told her that their case would surely lose because: (a) they had engaged a counsel who was mahinang
klase; (b) the judge hearing Civil Case No. 5645 in Iloilo and the woman who had testified in Civil Case
No. 6029 had not been presented; and (c) they would have to spend at least ₱10,000.00 for said judge’s
accommodations in General Santos City.12

On January 31, 1998, Judge Dizon, Jr. went to the house of the respondent, but the latter was not home.
The judge left a note addressed to the complainants, and instructed the respondent’s secretary to deliver
the note to the complainants along with a gift (imported table clock).13 According to the respondent, the
complainants consistently refused to accept the gift several times; it was later stolen from his house in
Cebu City.
On February 1, 1998, the respondent delivered the note and gift to the complainants, but the latter refused
to receive it, telling him that they were no longer interested to continue with the case. At the same time,
the complainants assured him that they bore no personal grudge against him, because they had a problem
only with Judge Dizon, Jr.

On February 24, 1998, the respondent went to the National Bureau of Investigation Regional Office,
Region XI, and the Philippine National Police Regional Office, Region XI, both in Davao City, to request
the investigation of the matter.14

On March 2, 1998, the respondent paid Judge Dizon, Jr. a visit upon the latter’s request. In that meeting,
the respondent told the judge about the refusal of the complainants to accept the judge’s gift and about
their decision not to continue with the case.15

On the next day, Judge Dizon, Jr. sent a note to the respondent to inform him that the judge had raised the
amount that he had borrowed from the complainants.16 The judge requested the respondent to tell the
complainants that he (Judge Dizon, Jr.) was going to return whatever he had borrowed from them.
However, the complainants informed the respondent that he should tell the judge that they were no longer
interested in getting back the money.

The respondent made a follow-up at the NBI and PNP Regional Offices in Davao City of his request for
assistance after Manuel mentioned to him that he (Manuel) knew of many armed men ready at any time to
help him in his problem with the judge.

Report and Recommendation of the OBC

In its Report and Recommendation dated May 15, 2008,17 the OBC opined that the administrative case
against the respondent could not be dismissed on the ground of failure to prosecute due to the
complainants’ failure to appear in the scheduled hearing despite due notice.

Based on the facts already established and identified, as rendered in the decision dated January 21, 2006
in Manuel Rafols and Lolita B. Rafols v. Judge Teodoro A. Dizon,18 the OBC rejected the respondent’s
denial of any knowledge of the transaction between his clients and the judge.

The OBC recommended:

"WHEREFORE, in the light of the foregoing premises, it is respectfully recommended that respondent
ATTY. RICARDO BARRIOS, Jr. be SUSPENDED from the practice of law for three (3) years with a
stern warning that a repetition of similar act in the future will be dealt more severely."

Ruling of the Court

We approve and adopt the report and recommendations of the OBC, which we find to be fully and
competently supported by the evidence adduced by the complainants and their witnesses, but we impose
the supreme penalty of disbarment, which we believe is the proper penalty.

Section 27, Rule 138 of the Rules of Court, which governs the disbarment and suspension of attorneys,
provides:
Section 27. Disbarment and suspension of attorneys by the 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 for a crime involving moral turpitude, or for any violation of the oath which he is required to
take before admission to practice, or for a willful disobedience of any lawful order of a superior court, or
for corruptly or willfully appearing as an attorney for a party to a case without authority to do so. The
practice of soliciting cases at law for the purpose of gain, either personally or through paid agents or
brokers constitute malpractice.

The burden of proof in disbarment and suspension proceedings always rests on the shoulders of the
complainant. The Court exercises its disciplinary power only if the complainant establishes the complaint
by clearly preponderant evidence that warrants the imposition of the harsh penalty.19 As a rule, an
attorney enjoys the legal presumption that he is innocent of the charges made against him until the
contrary is proved. An attorney is further presumed as an officer of the Court to have performed his duties
in accordance with his oath.20

Here, the complainants successfully overcame the respondent’s presumed innocence and the presumed
regularity in the performance of his duties as an attorney of the complainants. The evidence against him
was substantial, and was not contradicted.

To begin with, the respondent’s denial of knowledge of the transaction between the complainants and
Judge Dizon, Jr. was not only implausible, but also unsubstantiated. It was the respondent himself who
had introduced the complainants to the judge. His act of introducing the complainants to the judge
strongly implied that the respondent was aware of the illegal purpose of the judge in wanting to talk with
the respondent’s clients. Thus, we unqualifiedly accept the aptness of the following evaluation made in
the OBC’s Report and Recommendation, viz:

xxx Being the Officer of the Court, he must have known that meeting litigants outside the court is
something beyond the bounds of the rule and that it can never be justified by any reason. He must have
known the purpose of Judge Dizon in requesting him to meet the complainants-litigants outside the
chamber of Judge Dizon. By his overt act in arranging the meeting between Judge Dizon and
complainants- litigants in the Coffee Shop of the East Royal Hotel, it is crystal clear that he must have
allowed himself and consented to Judge Dizon’s desire to ask money from the complainants-litigants for a
favorable decision of their case which was pending before the sala of Judge Dizon.21

Secondly, the respondent’s insistence that he did not see the complainants’ act of handing the money to
the judge is unbelievable. In his comment, the respondent even admitted having himself received the
₱80,000.00 from the complainants, and having kept ₱30,000.00 of that amount pursuant to the instruction
of the judge as a token of the friendship between him and the judge.22 The admission proved that the
respondent had known all along of the illegal transaction between the judge and the complainants, and
belied his feigned lack of knowledge of the delivery of the money to the judge.

Thirdly, his attempt to explain that the complainants had given the money to the judge as a loan, far from
softening our strong impression of the respondent’s liability, confirmed his awareness of the gross
impropriety of the transaction. Being the complainants’ attorney in the civil case being heard before the
judge, the respondent could not but know that for the judge to borrow money from his clients was highly
irregular and outrightly unethical. If he was innocent of wrongdoing, as he claimed, he should have
desisted from having any part in the transaction. Yet, he did not, which rendered his explanation
unbelievable. Compounding the unworthiness of his explanation was his admission of having retained
₱30,000.00 of the "borrowed" money upon the judge’s instruction.
And, lastly, the OBC has pointed out that the respondent’s act of requesting the NBI Regional Office in
Davao City to investigate was an afterthought on his part. We agree with the OBC, for the respondent
obviously acted in order to anticipate the complainants’ moves against him and the judge. To be sure, the
respondent sensed that the complainants would not simply forgive and forget the mulcting they had
suffered at the hands of the judge and their own attorney from the time that the complainants assured him
that they were no longer interested to get back their money despite their being very angry at the judge’s
greed.

Overall, the respondent’ denials were worthless and unavailing in the face of the uncontradicted evidence
showing that he had not only personally arranged the meeting between Manuel and Judge Dizon, Jr., but
had also communicated to the complainants the judge’s illegal reason for the meeting. It is axiomatic that
any denial, to be accepted as a viable defense in any proceeding, must be substantiated by clear and
convincing evidence. This need derives from the nature of a denial as evidence of a negative and self-
serving character, weightless in law and insufficient to overcome the testimony of credible witnesses on
affirmative matters.23

II

The practice of law is a privilege heavily burdened with conditions.24 The attorney is a vanguard of our
legal system, and, as such, is expected to

maintain not only legal proficiency but also a very high standard of morality, honesty, integrity, and fair
dealing in order that the people’s faith and confidence in the legal system are ensured.25 Thus, he must
conduct himself, whether in dealing with his clients or with the public at large, as to be beyond reproach
at all times.26 Any violation of the high moral standards of the legal profession justifies the imposition on
the attorney of the appropriate penalty, including suspension and disbarment.27

Specifically, the Code of Professional Responsibility enjoins an attorney from engaging in unlawful,
dishonest, or deceitful conduct.28 Corollary to this injunction is the rule that an attorney shall at all times
uphold the integrity and dignity of the Legal Profession and support the activities of the Integrated
Bar.291avvphi1

The respondent did not measure up to the exacting standards of the Law Profession, which demanded of
him as an attorney the absolute abdication of any personal advantage that conflicted in any way, directly
or indirectly, with the interest of his clients. For monetary gain, he disregarded the vow to "delay no man
for money or malice" and to "conduct myself as a lawyer according to the best of my knowledge and
discretion, with all good fidelity as well to the courts as to my clients" that he made when he took the
Lawyer’s Oath.30 He also disobeyed the explicit command to him as an attorney "to accept no
compensation in connection with his client’s business

except from him or with his knowledge and approval."31 He conveniently ignored that the relation
between him and his clients was highly fiduciary in nature and of a very delicate, exacting, and
confidential character.32

Verily, the respondent was guilty of gross misconduct, which is "improper or wrong conduct, the
transgression of some established and definite rule of action, a forbidden act, a dereliction of duty, willful
in character, and implies a wrongful intent and not mere error of judgment."33 Any gross misconduct of an
attorney in his professional or private capacity shows him unfit to manage the affairs of others, and is a
ground for the imposition of the penalty of suspension or disbarment, because good moral character is an
essential qualification for the admission of an attorney and for the continuance of such privilege.34
The conclusion that the respondent and the disgraced Judge Dizon, Jr. were conspirators against the
former’s own clients, whom he was sworn to protect and to serve with utmost fidelity and morality, is
inevitable for the Court to make in this administrative case. And, being conspirators, they both deserve
the highest penalty. The disbarment of the respondent is in order, because such sanction is on par with the
dismissal of Judge Dizon, Jr.

WHEREFORE, Atty. Ricardo G. Barrios, Jr. is disbarred.

This decision shall be entered in the records of Atty. Barrios, Jr. as a member of the Philippine Bar.

Copies of the decision shall be furnished to the Bar Confidant and the Integrated Bar of the Philippines
for record purposes; and to the Court Administrator, for circulation to all courts nationwide.

SO ORDERED.
Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT

EN BANC

G.R. Nos. 151809-12. April 12, 2005

PRESIDENTIAL COMMISSION ON GOOD GOVERNMENT (PCGG), Petitioners,


vs.
SANDIGANBAYAN (Fifth Division), LUCIO C. TAN, CARMEN KHAO TAN, FLORENCIO T.
SANTOS, NATIVIDAD P. SANTOS, DOMINGO CHUA, TAN HUI NEE, MARIANO TAN ENG
LIAN, ESTATE OF BENITO TAN KEE HIONG (represented by TARCIANA C. TAN),
FLORENCIO N. SANTOS, JR., HARRY C. TAN, TAN ENG CHAN, CHUNG POE KEE,
MARIANO KHOO, MANUEL KHOO, MIGUEL KHOO, JAIME KHOO, ELIZABETH KHOO,
CELSO RANOLA, WILLIAM T. WONG, ERNESTO B. LIM, BENJAMIN T. ALBACITA,
WILLY CO, ALLIED BANKING CORP., ALLIED LEASING AND FINANCE CORPORATION,
ASIA BREWERY, INC., BASIC HOLDINGS CORP., FOREMOST FARMS, INC., FORTUNE
TOBACCO CORP., GRANDSPAN DEVELOPMENT CORP., HIMMEL INDUSTRIES, IRIS
HOLDINGS AND DEVELOPMENT CORP., JEWEL HOLDINGS, INC., MANUFACTURING
SERVICES AND TRADE CORP., MARANAW HOTELS AND RESORT CORP., NORTHERN
TOBACCO REDRYING PLANT, PROGRESSIVE FARMS, INC., SHAREHOLDINGS, INC.,
SIPALAY TRADING CORP., VIRGO HOLDINGS & DEVELOPMENT CORP., and ATTY.
ESTELITO P. MENDOZA, Respondents.

DECISION

PUNO, J.:

This case is prima impressiones and it is weighted with significance for it concerns on one hand, the
efforts of the Bar to upgrade the ethics of lawyers in government service and on the other, its effect on the
right of government to recruit competent counsel to defend its interests.

In 1976, General Bank and Trust Company (GENBANK) encountered financial difficulties. GENBANK
had extended considerable financial support to Filcapital Development Corporation causing it to incur
daily overdrawings on its current account with the Central Bank.1 It was later found by the Central Bank
that GENBANK had approved various loans to directors, officers, stockholders and related interests
totaling ₱172.3 million, of which 59% was classified as doubtful and ₱0.505 million as uncollectible.2 As
a bailout, the Central Bank extended emergency loans to GENBANK which reached a total of ₱310
million.3 Despite the mega loans, GENBANK failed to recover from its financial woes. On March 25,
1977, the Central Bank issued a resolution declaring GENBANK insolvent and unable to resume
business with safety to its depositors, creditors and the general public, and ordering its
liquidation.4 A public bidding of GENBANK’s assets was held from March 26 to 28, 1977, wherein the
Lucio Tan group submitted the winning bid.5 Subsequently, former Solicitor General Estelito P.
Mendoza filed a petitionwith the then Court of First Instance praying for the assistance and
supervision of the court in GENBANK’s liquidation as mandated by Section 29 of Republic Act No. 265.

In February 1986, the EDSA I revolution toppled the Marcos government. One of the first acts of
President Corazon C. Aquino was to establish the Presidential Commission on Good Government
(PCGG) to recover the alleged ill-gotten wealth of former President Ferdinand Marcos, his family and his
cronies. Pursuant to this mandate, the PCGG, on July 17, 1987, filed with the Sandiganbayan a complaint
for "reversion, reconveyance, restitution, accounting and damages" against respondents Lucio Tan,
Carmen Khao Tan, Florencio T. Santos, Natividad P. Santos, Domingo Chua, Tan Hui Nee, Mariano Tan
Eng Lian, Estate of Benito Tan Kee Hiong, Florencio N. Santos, Jr., Harry C. Tan, Tan Eng Chan, Chung
Poe Kee, Mariano Khoo, Manuel Khoo, Miguel Khoo, Jaime Khoo, Elizabeth Khoo, Celso Ranola,
William T. Wong, Ernesto B. Lim, Benjamin T. Albacita, Willy Co, Allied Banking Corporation (Allied
Bank), Allied Leasing and Finance Corporation, Asia Brewery, Inc., Basic Holdings Corp., Foremost
Farms, Inc., Fortune Tobacco Corporation, Grandspan Development Corp., Himmel Industries, Iris
Holdings and Development Corp., Jewel Holdings, Inc., Manufacturing Services and Trade Corp.,
Maranaw Hotels and Resort Corp., Northern Tobacco Redrying Plant, Progressive Farms, Inc.,
Shareholdings, Inc., Sipalay Trading Corp., Virgo Holdings & Development Corp., (collectively referred
to herein as respondents Tan, et al.), then President Ferdinand E. Marcos, Imelda R. Marcos, Panfilo O.
Domingo, Cesar Zalamea, Don Ferry and Gregorio Licaros. The case was docketed as Civil Case No.
0005 of the Second Division of the Sandiganbayan.6 In connection therewith, the PCGG issued
several writs of sequestration on properties allegedly acquired by the above-named persons by taking
advantage of their close relationship and influence with former President Marcos.

Respondents Tan, et al. repaired to this Court and filed petitions for certiorari, prohibition and injunction
to nullify, among others, the writs of sequestration issued by the PCGG.7 After the filing of the parties’
comments, this Court referred the cases to the Sandiganbayan for proper disposition. These cases were
docketed as Civil Case Nos. 0096-0099. In all these cases, respondents Tan, et al. were represented by
their counsel, former Solicitor General Estelito P. Mendoza, who has then resumed his private practice of
law.

On February 5, 1991, the PCGG filed motions to disqualify respondent Mendoza as counsel for
respondents Tan, et al. with the Second Division of the Sandiganbayan in Civil Case Nos. 00058 and
0096-0099.9 The motions alleged that respondent Mendoza, as then Solicitor General10 and counsel to
Central Bank, "actively intervened" in the liquidation of GENBANK, which was subsequently acquired
by respondents Tan, et al. and became Allied Banking Corporation. Respondent Mendoza allegedly
"intervened" in the acquisition of GENBANK by respondents Tan, et al. when, in his capacity as then
Solicitor General, he advised the Central Bank’s officials on the procedureto bring about GENBANK’s
liquidation and appeared as counsel for the Central Bank in connection with its petition for assistance in
the liquidation of GENBANK which he filed with the Court of First Instance (now Regional Trial Court)
of Manila and was docketed as Special Proceeding No. 107812. The motions to disqualify invoked Rule
6.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility. Rule 6.03 prohibits former government
lawyers from accepting "engagement or employment in connection with any matter in which he had
intervened while in said service."

On April 22, 1991 the Second Division of the Sandiganbayan issued a resolution denying PCGG’s
motion to disqualify respondent Mendoza in Civil Case No. 0005.11 It found that the PCGG failed to
prove the existence of an inconsistency between respondent Mendoza’s former function as Solicitor
General and his present employment as counsel of the Lucio Tan group. It noted that respondent Mendoza
did not take a position adverse to that taken on behalf of the Central Bank during his term as Solicitor
General.12 It further ruled that respondent Mendoza’s appearance as counsel for respondents Tan, et al.
was beyond the one-year prohibited period under Section 7(b) of Republic Act No. 6713 since he ceased
to be Solicitor General in the year 1986. The said section prohibits a former public official or employee
from practicing his profession in connection with any matter before the office he used to be with within
one year from his resignation, retirement or separation from public office.13 The PCGG did not seek any
reconsideration of the ruling.14
It appears that Civil Case Nos. 0096-0099 were transferred from the Sandiganbayan’s Second Division
to the Fifth Division.15 In its resolution dated July 11, 2001, the Fifth Division of
the Sandiganbayan denied the other PCGG’s motion to disqualify respondent Mendoza.16 It adopted the
resolution of its Second Division dated April 22, 1991, and observed that the arguments were the same in
substance as the motion to disqualify filed in Civil Case No. 0005. The PCGG sought reconsideration of
the ruling but its motion was denied in its resolution dated December 5, 2001.17

Hence, the recourse to this Court by the PCGG assailing the resolutions dated July 11, 2001 and
December 5, 2001 of the Fifth Division of the Sandiganbayan via a petition for certiorari and
prohibition under Rule 65 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure.18 The PCGG alleged that the Fifth
Division acted with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction in issuing the
assailed resolutions contending that: 1) Rule 6.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility prohibits a
former government lawyer from accepting employment in connection with any matter in which he
intervened; 2) the prohibition in the Rule is not time-bound; 3) that Central Bank could not waive the
objection to respondent Mendoza’s appearance on behalf of the PCGG; and 4) the resolution in Civil Case
No. 0005 was interlocutory, thus res judicata does not apply.19

The petition at bar raises procedural and substantive issues of law. In view, however, of the import and
impact of Rule 6.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility to the legal profession and the
government, we shall cut our way and forthwith resolve the substantive issue.

Substantive Issue

The key issue is whether Rule 6.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility applies to respondent
Mendoza. Again, the prohibition states: "A lawyer shall not, after leaving government service, accept
engagement or employment in connection with any matter in which he had intervened while in the said
service."

I.A. The history of Rule 6.03

A proper resolution of this case necessitates that we trace the historical lineage of Rule 6.03 of the Code
of Professional Responsibility.

In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, ethical standards for lawyers were pervasive
in England and other parts of Europe. The early statements of standards did not resemble modern codes
of conduct. They were not detailed or collected in one source but surprisingly were comprehensive for
their time. The principal thrust of the standards was directed towards the litigation conduct of lawyers. It
underscored the central duty of truth and fairness in litigation as superior to any obligation to the client.
The formulations of the litigation duties were at times intricate, including specific pleading standards, an
obligation to inform the court of falsehoods and a duty to explore settlement alternatives. Most of the
lawyer's other basic duties -- competency, diligence, loyalty, confidentiality, reasonable fees and service
to the poor -- originated in the litigation context, but ultimately had broader application to all aspects of a
lawyer's practice.

The forms of lawyer regulation in colonial and early post-revolutionary America did not differ
markedly from those in England. The colonies and early states used oaths, statutes, judicial oversight, and
procedural rules to govern attorney behavior. The difference from England was in the pervasiveness and
continuity of such regulation. The standards set in England varied over time, but the variation in early
America was far greater. The American regulation fluctuated within a single colony and differed from
colony to colony. Many regulations had the effect of setting some standards of conduct, but the regulation
was sporadic, leaving gaps in the substantive standards. Only three of the traditional core duties can be
fairly characterized as pervasive in the formal, positive law of the colonial and post-revolutionary period:
the duties of litigation fairness, competency and reasonable fees.20

The nineteenth century has been termed the "dark ages" of legal ethics in the United States. By mid-
century, American legal reformers were filling the void in two ways. First, David Dudley Field, the
drafter of the highly influential New York "Field Code," introduced a new set of uniform standards of
conduct for lawyers. This concise statement of eight statutory duties became law in several states in the
second half of the nineteenth century. At the same time, legal educators, such as David Hoffman and
George Sharswood, and many other lawyers were working to flesh out the broad outline of a lawyer's
duties. These reformers wrote about legal ethics in unprecedented detail and thus brought a new level of
understanding to a lawyer's duties. A number of mid-nineteenth century laws and statutes, other than the
Field Code, governed lawyer behavior. A few forms of colonial regulations – e.g., the "do no falsehood"
oath and the deceit prohibitions -- persisted in some states. Procedural law continued to directly, or
indirectly, limit an attorney's litigation behavior. The developing law of agency recognized basic duties of
competence, loyalty and safeguarding of client property. Evidence law started to recognize with less
equivocation the attorney-client privilege and its underlying theory of confidentiality. Thus, all of the core
duties, with the likely exception of service to the poor, had some basis in formal law. Yet, as in the
colonial and early post-revolutionary periods, these standards were isolated and did not provide a
comprehensive statement of a lawyer's duties. The reformers, by contrast, were more comprehensive in
their discussion of a lawyer's duties, and they actually ushered a new era in American legal ethics.21

Toward the end of the nineteenth century, a new form of ethical standards began to guide lawyers in
their practice — the bar association code of legal ethics. The bar codes were detailed ethical standards
formulated by lawyers for lawyers. They combined the two primary sources of ethical guidance from the
nineteenth century. Like the academic discourses, the bar association codes gave detail to the statutory
statements of duty and the oaths of office. Unlike the academic lectures, however, the bar association
codes retained some of the official imprimatur of the statutes and oaths. Over time, the bar association
codes became extremely popular that states adopted them as binding rules of law. Critical to the
development of the new codes was the re-emergence of bar associations themselves. Local bar
associations formed sporadically during the colonial period, but they disbanded by the early nineteenth
century. In the late nineteenth century, bar associations began to form again, picking up where their
colonial predecessors had left off. Many of the new bar associations, most notably the Alabama State Bar
Association and the American Bar Association, assumed on the task of drafting substantive standards of
conduct for their members.22

In 1887, Alabama became the first state with a comprehensive bar association code of ethics. The 1887
Alabama Code of Ethics was the model for several states’ codes, and it was the foundation for the
American Bar Association's (ABA) 1908 Canons of Ethics.23

In 1917, the Philippine Bar found that the oath and duties of a lawyer were insufficient to attain the full
measure of public respect to which the legal profession was entitled. In that year, the Philippine Bar
Association adopted as its own, Canons 1 to 32 of the ABA Canons of Professional Ethics.24

As early as 1924, some ABA members have questioned the form and function of the canons. Among
their concerns was the "revolving door" or "the process by which lawyers and others temporarily enter
government service from private life and then leave it for large fees in private practice, where they can
exploit information, contacts, and influence garnered in government service."25 These concerns were
classified as adverse-interest conflicts" and "congruent-interest conflicts." "Adverse-interest
conflicts" exist where the matter in which the former government lawyer represents a client in private
practice is substantially related to a matter that the lawyer dealt with while employed by the government
and the interests of the current and former are adverse.26 On the other hand, "congruent-interest
representation conflicts" are unique to government lawyers and apply primarily to former government
lawyers.27 For several years, the ABA attempted to correct and update the canons through new canons,
individual amendments and interpretative opinions. In 1928, the ABA amended one canon and added
thirteen new canons.28 To deal with problems peculiar to former government lawyers, Canon 36 was
minted which disqualified them both for "adverse-interest conflicts" and "congruent-interest
representation conflicts."29 The rationale for disqualification is rooted in a concern that the government
lawyer’s largely discretionary actions would be influenced by the temptation to take action on behalf of
the government client that later could be to the advantage of parties who might later become private
practice clients.30 Canon 36 provides, viz.:

36. Retirement from judicial position or public employment

A lawyer should not accept employment as an advocate in any matter upon the merits of which he has
previously acted in a judicial capacity.

A lawyer, having once held public office or having been in the public employ should not, after his
retirement, accept employment in connection with any matter he has investigated or passed upon
while in such office or employ.

Over the next thirty years, the ABA continued to amend many of the canons and added Canons 46 and 47
in 1933 and 1937, respectively.31

In 1946, the Philippine Bar Association again adopted as its own Canons 33 to 47 of the ABA Canons
of Professional Ethics.32

By the middle of the twentieth century, there was growing consensus that the ABA Canons needed
more meaningful revision. In 1964, the ABA President-elect Lewis Powell asked for the creation of a
committee to study the "adequacy and effectiveness" of the ABA Canons. The committee recommended
that the canons needed substantial revision, in part because the ABA Canons failed to distinguish between
"the inspirational and the proscriptive" and were thus unsuccessful in enforcement. The legal profession
in the United States likewise observed that Canon 36 of the ABA Canons of Professional Ethics resulted
in unnecessary disqualification of lawyers for negligible participation in matters during their employment
with the government.

The unfairness of Canon 36 compelled ABA to replace it in the 1969 ABA Model Code of
Professional Responsibility.33 The basic ethical principles in the Code of Professional Responsibility
were supplemented by Disciplinary Rules that defined minimum rules of conduct to which the lawyer
must adhere.34 In the case of Canon 9, DR 9-101(b)35 became the applicable supplementary norm. The
drafting committee reformulated the canons into the Model Code of Professional Responsibility, and, in
August of 1969, the ABA House of Delegates approved the Model Code.36

Despite these amendments, legal practitioners remained unsatisfied with the results and indefinite
standards set forth by DR 9-101(b) and the Model Code of Professional Responsibility as a whole. Thus,
in August 1983, the ABA adopted new Model Rules of Professional Responsibility. The Model Rules
used the "restatement format," where the conduct standards were set-out in rules, with comments
following each rule. The new format was intended to give better guidance and clarity for enforcement
"because the only enforceable standards were the black letter Rules." The Model Rules eliminated the
broad canons altogether and reduced the emphasis on narrative discussion, by placing comments after the
rules and limiting comment discussion to the content of the black letter rules. The Model Rules made a
number of substantive improvements particularly with regard to conflicts of interests.37 In particular, the
ABA did away with Canon 9, citing the hopeless dependence of the concept of impropriety on the
subjective views of anxious clients as well as the norm’s indefinite nature.38

In cadence with these changes, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) adopted a proposed Code
of Professional Responsibility in 1980 which it submitted to this Court for approval. The Code was
drafted to reflect the local customs, traditions, and practices of the bar and to conform with new
realities. On June 21, 1988, this Court promulgated the Code of Professional Responsibility.39 Rule
6.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility deals particularly with former government lawyers, and
provides, viz.:

Rule 6.03 – A lawyer shall not, after leaving government service, accept engagement or employment in
connection with any matter in which he had intervened while in said service.

Rule 6.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility retained the general structure of paragraph 2, Canon
36 of the Canons of Professional Ethics but replaced the expansive phrase "investigated and passed
upon" with the word "intervened." It is, therefore, properly applicable to both "adverse-interest
conflicts" and "congruent-interest conflicts."

The case at bar does not involve the "adverse interest" aspect of Rule 6.03. Respondent Mendoza, it
is conceded, has no adverse interest problem when he acted as Solicitor General in Sp. Proc. No. 107812
and later as counsel of respondents Tan, et al. in Civil Case No. 0005 and Civil Case Nos. 0096-0099
before the Sandiganbayan. Nonetheless, there remains the issue of whether there exists a "congruent-
interest conflict"sufficient to disqualify respondent Mendoza from representing respondents Tan, et al.

I.B. The "congruent interest" aspect of Rule 6.03

The key to unlock Rule 6.03 lies in comprehending first, the meaning of "matter" referred to in the rule
and, second, the metes and bounds of the "intervention" made by the former government lawyer on the
"matter." The American Bar Association in its Formal Opinion 342, defined "matter" as any discrete,
isolatable act as well as identifiable transaction or conduct involving a particular situation and specific
party, and not merely an act of drafting, enforcing or interpreting government or agency procedures,
regulations or laws, or briefing abstract principles of law.

Firstly, it is critical that we pinpoint the "matter" which was the subject of intervention by respondent
Mendoza while he was the Solicitor General. The PCGG relates the following acts of respondent
Mendoza as constituting the "matter" where he intervened as a Solicitor General, viz:40

The PCGG’s Case for Atty. Mendoza’s Disqualification

The PCGG imputes grave abuse of discretion on the part of the Sandiganbayan (Fifth Division) in issuing
the assailed Resolutions dated July 11, 2001 and December 5, 2001 denying the motion to disqualify
Atty. Mendoza as counsel for respondents Tan, et al. The PCGG insists that Atty. Mendoza, as then
Solicitor General, actively intervened in the closure of GENBANK by advising the Central Bank on how
to proceed with the said bank’s liquidation and even filing the petition for its liquidation with the CFI of
Manila.
As proof thereof, the PCGG cites the Memorandum dated March 29, 1977 prepared by certain key
officials of the Central Bank, namely, then Senior Deputy Governor Amado R. Brinas, then Deputy
Governor Jaime C. Laya, then Deputy Governor and General Counsel Gabriel C. Singson, then Special
Assistant to the Governor Carlota P. Valenzuela, then Asistant to the Governor Arnulfo B. Aurellano and
then Director of Department of Commercial and Savings Bank Antonio T. Castro, Jr., where they averred
that on March 28, 1977, they had a conference with the Solicitor General (Atty. Mendoza), who advised
them on how to proceed with the liquidation of GENBANK. The pertinent portion of the said
memorandum states:

Immediately after said meeting, we had a conference with the Solicitor General and he advised that the
following procedure should be taken:

1. Management should submit a memorandum to the Monetary Board reporting that studies and
evaluation had been made since the last examination of the bank as of August 31, 1976 and it is believed
that the bank can not be reorganized or placed in a condition so that it may be permitted to resume
business with safety to its depositors and creditors and the general public.

2. If the said report is confirmed by the Monetary Board, it shall order the liquidation of the bank and
indicate the manner of its liquidation and approve a liquidation plan.

3. The Central Bank shall inform the principal stockholders of Genbank of the foregoing decision to
liquidate the bank and the liquidation plan approved by the Monetary Board.

4. The Solicitor General shall then file a petition in the Court of First Instance reciting the proceedings
which had been taken and praying the assistance of the Court in the liquidation of Genbank.

The PCGG further cites the Minutes No. 13 dated March 29, 1977 of the Monetary Board where it was
shown that Atty. Mendoza was furnished copies of pertinent documents relating to GENBANK in order
to aid him in filing with the court the petition for assistance in the bank’s liquidation. The pertinent
portion of the said minutes reads:

The Board decided as follows:

...

E. To authorize Management to furnish the Solicitor General with a copy of the subject memorandum of
the Director, Department of Commercial and Savings Bank dated March 29, 1977, together with copies
of:

1. Memorandum of the Deputy Governor, Supervision and Examination Sector, to the Monetary Board,
dated March 25, 1977, containing a report on the current situation of Genbank;

2. Aide Memoire on the Antecedent Facts Re: General Bank and Trust Co., dated March 23, 1977;

3. Memorandum of the Director, Department of Commercial and Savings Bank, to the Monetary Board,
dated March 24, 1977, submitting, pursuant to Section 29 of R.A. No. 265, as amended by P.D. No. 1007,
a repot on the state of insolvency of Genbank, together with its attachments; and
4. Such other documents as may be necessary or needed by the Solicitor General for his use in then CFI-
praying the assistance of the Court in the liquidation of Genbank.

Beyond doubt, therefore, the "matter" or the act of respondent Mendoza as Solicitor General involved in
the case at bar is "advising the Central Bank, on how to proceed with the said bank’s liquidation and
even filing the petition for its liquidation with the CFI of Manila." In fine, the Court should resolve
whether his act of advising the Central Bank on the legal procedure to liquidate GENBANK is included
within the concept of "matter" under Rule 6.03. The procedure of liquidation is given in black and
white in Republic Act No. 265, section 29, viz:

The provision reads in part:

SEC. 29. Proceedings upon insolvency. – Whenever, upon examination by the head of the appropriate
supervising or examining department or his examiners or agents into the condition of any bank or non-
bank financial intermediary performing quasi-banking functions, it shall be disclosed that the condition of
the same is one of insolvency, or that its continuance in business would involve probable loss to its
depositors or creditors, it shall be the duty of the department head concerned forthwith, in writing, to
inform the Monetary Board of the facts, and the Board may, upon finding the statements of the
department head to be true, forbid the institution to do business in the Philippines and shall designate an
official of the Central Bank or a person of recognized competence in banking or finance, as receiver to
immediately take charge of its assets and liabilities, as expeditiously as possible collect and gather all the
assets and administer the same for the benefit of its creditors, exercising all the powers necessary for these
purposes including, but not limited to, bringing suits and foreclosing mortgages in the name of the bank
or non-bank financial intermediary performing quasi-banking functions.

...

If the Monetary Board shall determine and confirm within the said period that the bank or non-bank
financial intermediary performing quasi-banking functions is insolvent or cannot resume business with
safety to its depositors, creditors and the general public, it shall, if the public interest requires, order its
liquidation, indicate the manner of its liquidation and approve a liquidation plan. The Central Bank shall,
by the Solicitor General, file a petition in the Court of First Instance reciting the proceedings which have
been taken and praying the assistance of the court in the liquidation of such institution. The court shall
have jurisdiction in the same proceedings to adjudicate disputed claims against the bank or non-bank
financial intermediary performing quasi-banking functions and enforce individual liabilities of the
stockholders and do all that is necessary to preserve the assets of such institution and to implement the
liquidation plan approved by the Monetary Board. The Monetary Board shall designate an official of the
Central Bank, or a person of recognized competence in banking or finance, as liquidator who shall take
over the functions of the receiver previously appointed by the Monetary Board under this Section. The
liquidator shall, with all convenient speed, convert the assets of the banking institution or non-bank
financial intermediary performing quasi-banking functions to money or sell, assign or otherwise dispose
of the same to creditors and other parties for the purpose of paying the debts of such institution and he
may, in the name of the bank or non-bank financial intermediary performing quasi-banking functions,
institute such actions as may be necessary in the appropriate court to collect and recover accounts and
assets of such institution.

The provisions of any law to the contrary notwithstanding, the actions of the Monetary Board under this
Section and the second paragraph of Section 34 of this Act shall be final and executory, and can be set
aside by the court only if there is convincing proof that the action is plainly arbitrary and made in bad
faith. No restraining order or injunction shall be issued by the court enjoining the Central Bank from
implementing its actions under this Section and the second paragraph of Section 34 of this Act, unless
there is convincing proof that the action of the Monetary Board is plainly arbitrary and made in bad faith
and the petitioner or plaintiff files with the clerk or judge of the court in which the action is pending a
bond executed in favor of the Central Bank, in an amount to be fixed by the court. The restraining order
or injunction shall be refused or, if granted, shall be dissolved upon filing by the Central Bank of a bond,
which shall be in the form of cash or Central Bank cashier(s) check, in an amount twice the amount of the
bond of the petitioner or plaintiff conditioned that it will pay the damages which the petitioner or plaintiff
may suffer by the refusal or the dissolution of the injunction. The provisions of Rule 58 of the New Rules
of Court insofar as they are applicable and not inconsistent with the provisions of this Section shall
govern the issuance and dissolution of the restraining order or injunction contemplated in this Section.

Insolvency, under this Act, shall be understood to mean the inability of a bank or non-bank financial
intermediary performing quasi-banking functions to pay its liabilities as they fall due in the usual and
ordinary course of business. Provided, however, That this shall not include the inability to pay of an
otherwise non-insolvent bank or non-bank financial intermediary performing quasi-banking functions
caused by extraordinary demands induced by financial panic commonly evidenced by a run on the bank
or non-bank financial intermediary performing quasi-banking functions in the banking or financial
community.

The appointment of a conservator under Section 28-A of this Act or the appointment of a receiver under
this Section shall be vested exclusively with the Monetary Board, the provision of any law, general or
special, to the contrary notwithstanding. (As amended by PD Nos. 72, 1007, 1771 & 1827, Jan. 16, 1981)

We hold that this advice given by respondent Mendoza on the procedure to liquidate GENBANK is not
the "matter"contemplated by Rule 6.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility. ABA Formal
Opinion No. 342 is clear as daylight in stressing that the "drafting, enforcing or
interpreting government or agency procedures, regulations or laws, or briefing abstract principles of
law" are acts which do not fall within the scope of the term "matter" and cannot disqualify.

Secondly, it can even be conceded for the sake of argument that the above act of respondent Mendoza
falls within the definition of matter per ABA Formal Opinion No. 342. Be that as it may, the said act of
respondent Mendoza which is the "matter" involved in Sp. Proc. No. 107812 is entirely different from
the "matter" involved in Civil Case No. 0096. Again, the plain facts speak for themselves. It is given
that respondent Mendoza had nothing to do with the decision of the Central Bank to liquidate
GENBANK. It is also given that he did not participate in the sale of GENBANK to Allied Bank. The
"matter" where he got himself involved was in informing Central Bank on the procedure provided by
law to liquidate GENBANK thru the courts and in filing the necessary petition in Sp. Proc. No. 107812 in
the then Court of First Instance. The subject "matter" of Sp. Proc. No. 107812, therefore, is not the
same nor is related to but is different from the subject "matter" in Civil Case No. 0096. Civil Case
No. 0096 involves the sequestration of the stocks owned by respondents Tan, et al., in Allied Bank on
the alleged ground that they are ill-gotten. The case does not involve the liquidation of GENBANK. Nor
does it involve the sale of GENBANK to Allied Bank. Whether the shares of stock of the reorganized
Allied Bank are ill-gotten is far removed from the issue of the dissolution and liquidation of GENBANK.
GENBANK was liquidated by the Central Bank due, among others, to the alleged banking malpractices
of its owners and officers. In other words, the legality of the liquidation of GENBANK is not an issue in
the sequestration cases. Indeed, the jurisdiction of the PCGG does not include the dissolution and
liquidation of banks. It goes without saying that Code 6.03 of the Code of Professional
Responsibility cannot apply to respondent Mendoza because his alleged intervention while a
Solicitor General in Sp. Proc. No. 107812 is an intervention on a matter different from the matter
involved in Civil Case No. 0096.
Thirdly, we now slide to the metes and bounds of the "intervention" contemplated by Rule 6.03.
"Intervene" means, viz.:

1: to enter or appear as an irrelevant or extraneous feature or circumstance . . . 2: to occur, fall, or come in


between points of time or events . . . 3: to come in or between by way of hindrance or modification:
INTERPOSE . . . 4: to occur or lie between two things (Paris, where the same city lay on both sides of an
intervening river . . .)41

On the other hand, "intervention" is defined as:

1: the act or fact of intervening: INTERPOSITION; 2: interference that may affect the interests of
others.42

There are, therefore, two possible interpretations of the word "intervene." Under the first interpretation,
"intervene" includes participation in a proceeding even if the intervention is irrelevant or has no effect or
little influence.43 Under the second interpretation, "intervene" only includes an act of a person who has
the power to influence the subject proceedings.44 We hold that this second meaning is more appropriate to
give to the word "intervention" under Rule 6.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility in light of its
history. The evils sought to be remedied by the Rule do not exist where the government lawyer does an
act which can be considered as innocuous such as "x x x drafting, enforcing or interpreting government or
agency procedures, regulations or laws, or briefing abstract principles of law."

In fine, the intervention cannot be insubstantial and insignificant. Originally, Canon 36 provided that a
former government lawyer "should not, after his retirement, accept employment in connection with any
matter which he has investigated or passed upon while in such office or employ." As aforediscussed,
the broad sweep of the phrase "which he has investigated or passed upon" resulted in unjust
disqualification of former government lawyers. The 1969 Code restricted its latitude, hence, in DR 9-
101(b), the prohibition extended only to a matter in which the lawyer, while in the government service,
had "substantial responsibility." The 1983 Model Rules further constricted the reach of the rule. MR
1.11(a) provides that "a lawyer shall not represent a private client in connection with a matter in which the
lawyer participated personally and substantially as a public officer or employee."

It is, however, alleged that the intervention of respondent Mendoza in Sp. Proc. No. 107812 is significant
and substantial. We disagree. For one, the petition in the special proceedings is an initiatory pleading,
hence, it has to be signed by respondent Mendoza as the then sitting Solicitor General. For another,
the record is arid as to the actual participation of respondent Mendoza in the subsequent proceedings.
Indeed, the case was in slumberville for a long number of years. None of the parties pushed for its early
termination. Moreover, we note that the petition filed merely seeks the assistance of the court in the
liquidation of GENBANK. The principal role of the court in this type of proceedings is to assist the
Central Bank in determining claims of creditors against the GENBANK. The role of the court is not
strictly as a court of justice but as an agent to assist the Central Bank in determining the claims of
creditors. In such a proceeding, the participation of the Office of the Solicitor General is not that of the
usual court litigator protecting the interest of government.

II

Balancing Policy Considerations

To be sure, Rule 6.03 of our Code of Professional Responsibility represents a commendable effort on the
part of the IBP to upgrade the ethics of lawyers in the government service. As aforestressed, it is a take-
off from similar efforts especially by the ABA which have not been without difficulties. To date, the legal
profession in the United States is still fine tuning its DR 9-101(b) rule.

In fathoming the depth and breadth of Rule 6.03 of our Code of Professional Responsibility, the Court
took account of various policy considerations to assure that its interpretation and application to the case
at bar will achieve its end without necessarily prejudicing other values of equal importance. Thus, the rule
was not interpreted to cause a chilling effect on government recruitment of able legal talent. At
present, it is already difficult for government to match compensation offered by the private sector and it is
unlikely that government will be able to reverse that situation. The observation is not inaccurate that the
only card that the government may play to recruit lawyers is have them defer present income in return for
the experience and contacts that can later be exchanged for higher income in private practice.45 Rightly,
Judge Kaufman warned that the sacrifice of entering government service would be too great for most men
to endure should ethical rules prevent them from engaging in the practice of a technical specialty which
they devoted years in acquiring and cause the firm with which they become associated to be
disqualified.46 Indeed, "to make government service more difficult to exit can only make it less appealing
to enter."47

In interpreting Rule 6.03, the Court also cast a harsh eye on its use as a litigation tactic to harass
opposing counsel as well as deprive his client of competent legal representation. The danger that the rule
will be misused to bludgeon an opposing counsel is not a mere guesswork. The Court of Appeals for the
District of Columbia has noted "the tactical use of motions to disqualify counsel in order to delay
proceedings, deprive the opposing party of counsel of its choice, and harass and embarrass the opponent,"
and observed that the tactic was "so prevalent in large civil cases in recent years as to prompt frequent
judicial and academic commentary."48 Even the United States Supreme Court found no quarrel with the
Court of Appeals’ description of disqualification motions as "a dangerous game."49 In the case at bar,
the new attempt to disqualify respondent Mendoza is difficult to divine. The disqualification of
respondent Mendoza has long been a dead issue. It was resuscitated after the lapse of many years and
only after PCGG has lost many legal incidents in the hands of respondent Mendoza. For a fact, the
recycled motion for disqualification in the case at bar was filed more than four years after the filing of
the petitions for certiorari, prohibition and injunction with the Supreme Court which were subsequently
remanded to the Sandiganbayan and docketed as Civil Case Nos. 0096-0099.50 At the very least, the
circumstances under which the motion to disqualify in the case at bar were refiled put petitioner’s motive
as highly suspect.

Similarly, the Court in interpreting Rule 6.03 was not unconcerned with the prejudice to the
client which will be caused by its misapplication. It cannot be doubted that granting a disqualification
motion causes the client to lose not only the law firm of choice, but probably an individual lawyer in
whom the client has confidence.51 The client with a disqualified lawyer must start again often without the
benefit of the work done by the latter.52 The effects of this prejudice to the right to choose an effective
counsel cannot be overstated for it can result in denial of due process.

The Court has to consider also the possible adverse effect of a truncated reading of the rule on the
official independence of lawyers in the government service. According to Prof. Morgan: "An
individual who has the security of knowing he or she can find private employment upon leaving the
government is free to work vigorously, challenge official positions when he or she believes them to be in
error, and resist illegal demands by superiors. An employee who lacks this assurance of private
employment does not enjoy such freedom."53 He adds: "Any system that affects the right to take a new job
affects the ability to quit the old job and any limit on the ability to quit inhibits official
independence."54 The case at bar involves the position of Solicitor General, the office once occupied
by respondent Mendoza. It cannot be overly stressed that the position of Solicitor General should be
endowed with a great degree of independence. It is this independence that allows the Solicitor General
to recommend acquittal of the innocent; it is this independence that gives him the right to refuse to defend
officials who violate the trust of their office. Any undue dimunition of the independence of the Solicitor
General will have a corrosive effect on the rule of law.

No less significant a consideration is the deprivation of the former government lawyer of the
freedom to exercise his profession. Given the current state of our law, the disqualification of a former
government lawyer may extend to all members of his law firm.55 Former government lawyers stand in
danger of becoming the lepers of the legal profession.

It is, however, proffered that the mischief sought to be remedied by Rule 6.03 of the Code of Professional
Responsibility is the possible appearance of impropriety and loss of public confidence in government.
But as well observed, the accuracy of gauging public perceptions is a highly speculative exercise at
best56 which can lead to untoward results.57 No less than Judge Kaufman doubts that the lessening of
restrictions as to former government attorneys will have any detrimental effect on that free flow of
information between the government-client and its attorneys which the canons seek to protect.58 Notably,
the appearance of impropriety theory has been rejected in the 1983 ABA Model Rules of
Professional Conduct59 and some courts have abandoned per sedisqualification based on Canons 4 and 9
when an actual conflict of interest exists, and demand an evaluation of the interests of the defendant,
government, the witnesses in the case, and the public.60

It is also submitted that the Court should apply Rule 6.03 in all its strictness for it correctly disfavors
lawyers who "switch sides." It is claimed that "switching sides" carries the danger that former
government employee may compromise confidential official information in the process. But this
concern does not cast a shadow in the case at bar. As afore-discussed, the act of respondent Mendoza in
informing the Central Bank on the procedure how to liquidate GENBANK is a different matter from the
subject matter of Civil Case No. 0005 which is about the sequestration of the shares of respondents
Tan, et al., in Allied Bank. Consequently, the danger that confidential official information might be
divulged is nil, if not inexistent. To be sure, there are no inconsistent "sides" to be bothered about in the
case at bar. For there is no question that in lawyering for respondents Tan, et al., respondent Mendoza is
not working against the interest of Central Bank. On the contrary, he is indirectly defending the validity
of the action of Central Bank in liquidating GENBANK and selling it later to Allied Bank. Their
interests coincide instead of colliding. It is for this reason that Central Bank offered no objection to the
lawyering of respondent Mendoza in Civil Case No. 0005 in defense of respondents Tan, et al. There is
no switching of sides for no two sides are involved.

It is also urged that the Court should consider that Rule 6.03 is intended to avoid conflict of loyalties, i.e.,
that a government employee might be subject to a conflict of loyalties while still in government
service.61 The example given by the proponents of this argument is that a lawyer who plans to work for
the company that he or she is currently charged with prosecuting might be tempted to prosecute less
vigorously.62 In the cautionary words of the Association of the Bar Committee in 1960: "The greatest
public risks arising from post employment conduct may well occur during the period of employment
through the dampening of aggressive administration of government policies."63 Prof. Morgan, however,
considers this concern as "probably excessive."64 He opines "x x x it is hard to imagine that a private firm
would feel secure hiding someone who had just been disloyal to his or her last client – the government.
Interviews with lawyers consistently confirm that law firms want the ‘best’ government lawyers – the
ones who were hardest to beat – not the least qualified or least vigorous advocates."65 But again, this
particular concern is a non factor in the case at bar. There is no charge against respondent Mendoza
that he advised Central Bank on how to liquidate GENBANK with an eye in later defending respondents
Tan, et al. of Allied Bank. Indeed, he continues defending both the interests of Central Bank and
respondents Tan, et al. in the above cases.

Likewise, the Court is nudged to consider the need to curtail what is perceived as the "excessive
influence of former officials" or their "clout."66 Prof. Morgan again warns against extending this
concern too far. He explains the rationale for his warning, viz: "Much of what appears to be an
employee’s influence may actually be the power or authority of his or her position, power that evaporates
quickly upon departure from government x x x."67 More, he contends that the concern can
be demeaning to those sitting in government. To quote him further: "x x x The idea that, present officials
make significant decisions based on friendship rather than on the merit says more about the present
officials than about their former co-worker friends. It implies a lack of will or talent, or both, in federal
officials that does not seem justified or intended, and it ignores the possibility that the officials will tend
to disfavor their friends in order to avoid even the appearance of favoritism."68

III

The question of fairness

Mr. Justices Panganiban and Carpio are of the view, among others, that the congruent interest prong of
Rule 6.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility should be subject to a prescriptive period. Mr.
Justice Tinga opines that the rule cannot apply retroactively to respondent Mendoza. Obviously, and
rightly so, they are disquieted by the fact that (1) when respondent Mendoza was the Solicitor General,
Rule 6.03 has not yet adopted by the IBP and approved by this Court, and (2) the bid to disqualify
respondent Mendoza was made after the lapse of time whose length cannot, by any standard, qualify as
reasonable. At bottom, the point they make relates to the unfairness of the rule if applied without any
prescriptive period and retroactively, at that. Their concern is legitimate and deserves to be initially
addressed by the IBP and our Committee on Revision of the Rules of Court.

IN VIEW WHEREOF, the petition assailing the resolutions dated July 11, 2001 and December 5, 2001
of the Fifth Division of the Sandiganbayan in Civil Case Nos. 0096-0099 is denied.

No cost.

SO ORDERED.

Davide, Jr., C.J., Quisumbing, Ynares-Santiago, Sandoval-Gutierrez, Carpio, Austria-Martinez, Corona


and Garcia, JJ., concur.

Panganiban and Tinga, JJ., Please see separate opinion.

Carpio-Morales and Callejo, Sr., JJ., Please see dissenting opinion.

Azcuna, J., I was former PCGG Chair.

Chico-Nazario, J., No part.


Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila
EN BANC

A.C. No. 4018 March 8, 2005

OMAR P. ALI, Complainant,


vs.
ATTY. MOSIB A. BUBONG, respondent.

DECISION

PER CURIAM:

This is a verified petition for disbarment1 filed against Atty. Mosib Ali Bubong for having been found
guilty of grave misconduct while holding the position of Register of Deeds of Marawi City.

It appears that this disbarment proceeding is an off-shoot of the administrative case earlier filed by
complainant against respondent. In said case, which was initially investigated by the Land Registration
Authority (LRA), complainant charged respondent with illegal exaction; indiscriminate issuance of
Transfer Certificate of Title (TCT) No. T-2821 in the names of Lawan Bauduli Datu, Mona
Abdullah,2 Ambobae Bauduli Datu, Matabae Bauduli Datu, Mooamadali Bauduli Datu, and Amenola
Bauduli Datu; and manipulating the criminal complaint filed against Hadji Serad Bauduli Datu and others
for violation of the Anti-Squatting Law. It appears from the records that the Baudali Datus are relatives of
respondent.3

The initial inquiry by the LRA was resolved in favor of respondent. The investigating officer, Enrique
Basa, absolved respondent of all the charges brought against him, thus:

It is crystal clear from the foregoing that complainant not only failed to prove his case but that he
has no case at all against respondent Mosib Ali Bubong. Wherefore, premises considered, it is
respectfully recommended that the complaint against respondent be dismissed for lack of merit
and evidence.4

The case was then forwarded to the Department of Justice for review and in a report dated 08 September
1992, then Secretary of Justice Franklin Drilon exonerated respondent of the charges of illegal exaction
and infidelity in the custody of documents. He, however, found respondent guilty of grave misconduct for
his imprudent issuance of TCT No. T-2821 and manipulating the criminal case for violation of the Anti-
Squatting Law instituted against Hadji Serad Bauduli Datu and the latter's co-accused. As a result of this
finding, Secretary Drilon recommended respondent's dismissal from service.

On 26 February 1993, former President Fidel V. Ramos issued Administrative Order No. 41 adopting in
toto the conclusion reached by Secretary Drilon and ordering respondent's dismissal from government
service. Respondent subsequently questioned said administrative order before this Court through a
petition for certiorari, mandamus, and prohibition5 claiming that the Office of the President did not have
the authority and jurisdiction to remove him from office. He also insisted that respondents6 in that petition
violated the laws on security of tenure and that respondent Reynaldo V. Maulit, then the administrator of
the LRA committed a breach of Civil Service Rules when he abdicated his authority to resolve the
administrative complaint against him (herein respondent).

In a Resolution dated 15 September 1994, we dismissed the petition "for failure on the part of petitioner
to sufficiently show that public respondent committed grave abuse of discretion in issuing the questioned
order."7Respondent thereafter filed a motion for reconsideration which was denied with finality in our
Resolution of 15 November 1994.

On the basis of the outcome of the administrative case, complainant is now before us, seeking the
disbarment of respondent. Complainant claims that it has become obvious that respondent had "proven
himself unfit to be further entrusted with the duties of an attorney"8 and that he poses a "serious threat to
the integrity of the legal profession."9

In his Comment, respondent maintains that there was nothing irregular with his issuance of TCT No. T-
2821 in the name of the Bauduli Datus. According to him, both law10 and jurisprudence support his stance
that it was his ministerial duty, as the Register of Deeds of Marawi City, to act on applications for land
registration on the basis only of the documents presented by the applicants. In the case of the Bauduli
Datus, nothing in the documents they presented to his office warranted suspicion, hence, he was duty-
bound to issue TCT No. T-2821 in their favor.

Respondent also insists that he had nothing to do with the dismissal of criminal complaint for violation of
the Anti-Squatting Law allegedly committed by Hadji Serad Abdullah and the latter's co-defendants.
Respondent explains that his participation in said case was a result of the two subpoenas duces
tecum issued by the investigating prosecutor who required him to produce the various land titles involved
in said dispute. He further claims that the dismissal of said criminal case by the Secretary of Justice was
based solely on the evidence presented by the parties. Complainant's allegation, therefore, that he
influenced the outcome of the case is totally unjustified.

Through a resolution dated 26 June 1995,11 this Court referred this matter to the Integrated Bar of the
Philippines (IBP) for investigation, report, and recommendation. Acting on this resolution, the IBP
commenced the investigation of this disbarment suit. On 23 February 1996, Commissioner Victor C.
Fernandez issued the following order relative to the transfer of venue of this case. The pertinent portion of
this order provides:

ORDER

When this case was called for hearing, both complainant and respondent appeared.

The undersigned Commissioner asked them if they are willing to have the reception of evidence
vis-à-vis this case be done in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur before the president of the local IBP
Chapter. Both parties agreed. Accordingly, transmit the records of this case to the Director for
Bar Discipline for appropriate action.12

On 30 March 1996, the IBP Board of Governors passed a resolution approving Commissioner
Fernandez's recommendation for the transfer of venue of this administrative case and directed the
Western Mindanao Region governor to designate the local IBP chapter concerned to conduct the
investigation, report, and recommendation.13The IBP Resolution states:
Resolution No. XII-96-153
Adm. Case No. 4018
Omar P. Ali vs. Atty. Mosib A. Bubong

RESOLVED TO APPROVE the recommendation of Commissioner Victor C. Fernandez for the


Transfer of Venue of the above-entitled case and direct the Western Mindanao Region Governor
George C. Jabido to designate the local IBP Chapter concerned to conduct the investigation,
report and recommendation.

Pursuant to this resolution, Atty. Benjamin B. Bernardino, Director for Bar Discipline, wrote a letter
dated 23 October 1996 addressed to Governor George C. Jabido, President of IBP Cotabato Chapter
requesting the latter to receive the evidence in this case and to submit his recommendation and
recommendation as directed by the IBP Board of Governors.14

In an undated Report and Recommendation, the IBP Cotabato Chapter15 informed the IBP Commission
on Bar Discipline (CBD) that the investigating panel16 had sent notices to both complainant and
respondent for a series of hearings but respondent consistently ignored said notices. The IBP Cotabato
Chapter concluded its report by recommending that respondent be suspended from the practice of law for
five years.

On 01 July 1998, respondent filed a motion dated 30 June 1998 praying for the transmittal of the records
of this case to the Marawi City-Lanao del Sur Chapter of the IBP pursuant to Resolution No. XII-96-153
as well as Commissioner Fernandez's Order dated 23 February 1996.

Commissioner Fernandez thereafter ordered the investigating panel of IBP Cotabato Chapter to comment
on respondent's motion.17 Complying with this directive, the panel expressed no opposition to
respondent's motion for the transmittal of the records of this case to IBP Marawi City.18 On 25 September
1998, Commissioner Fernandez ordered the referral of this case to IBP Marawi City for the reception of
respondent's evidence.19 This order of referral, however, was set aside by the IBP Board of Governors in
its Resolution No. XIII-98-268 issued on 4 December 1998. Said resolution provides:

RESOLVED to DENY the ORDER of Commissioner Victor C. Fernandez for the transmittal of
the case records of the above-entitled case to Marawi City, rather he is directed to re-evaluate the
recommendation submitted by Cotabato Chapter and report the same to the Board of Governors.20

Prior to the issuance of Resolution No. XIII-98-268, respondent filed on 08 October 1998 a motion
praying that the recommendation of the IBP Cotabato Chapter be stricken from the records.21 Respondent
insists that the investigating panel constituted by said IBP chapter did not have the authority to conduct
the investigation of this case since IBP Resolution XII-96-153 and Commissioner Fernandez's Order of
23 February 1996 clearly vested IBP Marawi City with the power to investigate this case. Moreover, he
claims that he was never notified of any hearing by the investigating panel of IBP Cotabato Chapter
thereby depriving him of his right to due process.

Complainant opposed22 this motion arguing that respondent is guilty of laches. According to complainant,
the report and recommendation submitted by IBP Cotabato Chapter expressly states that respondent was
duly notified of the hearings conducted by the investigating panel yet despite these, respondent did
nothing to defend himself. He also claims that respondent did not even bother to submit his position paper
when he was directed to do so. Further, as respondent is a member of IBP Marawi City Chapter,
complainant maintains that the presence of bias in favor of respondent is possible. Finally, complainant
contends that to refer the matter to IBP Marawi City would only entail a duplication of the process which
had already been completed by IBP Cotabato Chapter.

In an Order dated 15 October 1999,23 Commissioner Fernandez directed IBP Cotabato Chapter to submit
proofs that notices for the hearings conducted by the investigating panel as well as for the submission of
the position paper were duly received by respondent. On 21 February 2000, Atty. Jabido, a member of the
IBP Cotabato Chapter investigating panel, furnished Commissioner Fernandez with a copy of the panel's
order dated 4 August 1997.24Attached to said order was Registry Receipt No. 3663 issued by the local
post office. On the lower portion of the registry receipt was a handwritten notation reading "Atty. Mosib
A. Bubong."

On 20 April 2001, Commissioner Fernandez ordered Atty. Pedro S. Castillo, Chairman of the
Commission on Bar Discipline for Mindanao, to reevaluate the report and recommendation submitted by
IBP Cotabato Chapter. This directive had the approval of the IBP Board of Governors through its
Resolution No. XIV-2001-271 issued on 30 June 2001, to wit:

RESOLVED to APPROVE the recommendation of Director Victor C. Fernandez for the Transfer
of Venue of the above-entitled case and direct the CBD Mindanao to conduct an investigation, re-
evaluation, report and recommendation within sixty (60) days from receipt of notice.25

Meanwhile, Bainar A. Ali, informed the CBD Mindanao of the death of her father, Omar P. Ali,
complainant in this case. According to her, her father passed away on 12 June 2002 and that in interest of
peace and Islamic brotherhood, she was requesting the withdrawal of this case.26

Subsequently, respondent filed another motion, this time, asking the IBP CBD to direct the chairman of
the Commission on Bar Discipline for Mindanao to designate and authorize the IBP Marawi City-Lanao
del Sur Chapter to conduct an investigation of this case.27 This motion was effectively denied by Atty.
Pedro S. Castillo in an Order dated 19 July 2002.28 According to Atty. Castillo –

After going over the voluminous records of the case, with special attention made on the report of
the IBP Cotabato City Chapter, the Complaint and the Counter-Affidavit of respondent, the
undersigned sees no need for any further investigation, to be able to make a re-evaluation and
recommendation on the Report of the IBP Chapter of Cotabato City.

WHEREFORE, the Motion to authorize the IBP-Chpater of Marawi City, Zamboanga del Norte
is hereby denied. The undersigned will submit his Report to the Commission on Bar Discipline,
IBP National Office within ten (10) days from date hereof.

In his Report and Recommendation, Atty. Castillo adopted in toto the findings and conclusion of IBP
Cotabato Chapter ratiocinating as follows:

The Complaint for Disbarment is primarily based on the Decision by the Office of the President
in Administrative Case No. 41 dated February 26, 1993, wherein herein respondent was found
guilty of Grave Misconduct in:

a) The imprudent issuance of T.C.T. No. T-2821; and,

b) Manipulating the criminal complaint for violation of the anti-squatting law.


And penalized with dismissal from the service, as Register of Deeds of Marawi City. In the
Comment filed by respondent in the instant Adminsitrative Case, his defense is good faith in the
issuance of T.C.T. No. T-2821 and a denial of the charge of manipulating the criminal complaint
for violation of the anti-squatting law, which by the way, was filed against respondent's relatives.
Going over the Decision of the Office of the President in Administrative Case No. 41, the
undersigned finds substantial evidence were taken into account and fully explained, before the
Decision therein was rendered. In other words, the finding of Grave Misconduct on the part of
respondent by the Office of the President was fully supported by evidence and as such carries a
very strong weight in considering the professional misconduct of respondent in the present case.

In the light of the foregoing, the undersigned sees no reason for amending or disturbing the
Report and Recommendation of the IBP Chapter of South Cotabato.29

In a resolution passed on 19 October 2002, the IBP Board of Governors adopted and approved, with
modification, the afore-quoted Report and Recommendation of Atty. Castillo. The modification pertained
solely to the period of suspension from the practice of law which should be imposed on respondent –
whereas Atty. Castillo concurred in the earlier recommendation of IBP Cotabato Chapter for a five-year
suspension, the IBP Board of Governors found a two-year suspension to be proper.

On 17 January 2003, respondent filed a Motion for Reconsideration with the IBP which the latter denied
as by that time, the matter had already been endorsed to this Court.30

The issue thus posed for this Court's resolution is whether respondent may be disbarred for grave
misconduct committed while he was in the employ of the government. We resolve this question in the
affirmative.

The Code of Professional Responsibility does not cease to apply to a lawyer simply because he has joined
the government service. In fact, by the express provision of Canon 6 thereof, the rules governing the
conduct of lawyers "shall apply to lawyers in government service in the discharge of their official tasks."
Thus, where a lawyer's misconduct as a government official is of such nature as to affect his qualification
as a lawyer or to show moral delinquency, then he may be disciplined as a member of the bar on such
grounds.31 Although the general rule is that a lawyer who holds a government office may not be
disciplined as a member of the bar for infractions he committed as a government official, he may,
however, be disciplined as a lawyer if his misconduct constitutes a violation of his oath a member of the
legal profession.32

Indeed, in the case of Collantes v. Atty. Vicente C. Renomeron,33 we ordered the disbarment of respondent
on the ground of his dismissal from government service because of grave misconduct. Quoting the late
Chief Justice Fred Ruiz Castro, we declared –

[A] person takes an oath when he is admitted to the bar which is designed to impress upon him
his responsibilities. He thereby becomes an "officer of the court" on whose shoulders rests the
grave responsibility of assisting the courts in the proper, fair, speedy and efficient administration
of justice. As an officer of the court he is subject to a rigid discipline that demands that in his
every exertion the only criterion be that truth and justice triumph. This discipline is what has
given the law profession its nobility, its prestige, its exalted place. From a lawyer, to paraphrase
Justice Felix Frankfurter, are expected those qualities of truth-speaking, a high sense of honor,
full candor, intellectual honesty, and the strictest observance of fiduciary responsibility – all of
which, throughout the centuries, have been compendiously described as moral character.34
Similarly, in Atty. Julito D. Vitriolo, et al. v. Atty. Felina Dasig,35 this Court found sufficient basis to
disbar respondent therein for gross misconduct perpetrated while she was the Officer-in-Charge of Legal
Services of the Commission on Higher Education. As we had explained in that case –

… [A] lawyer in public office is expected not only to refrain from any act or omission which
might tend to lessen the trust and confidence of the citizenry in government, she must also uphold
the dignity of the legal profession at all times and observe a high standard of honesty and fair
dealing. Otherwise said, a lawyer in government service is a keeper of the public faith and is
burdened with high degree of social responsibility, perhaps higher than her brethren in private
practice.36 (Emphasis supplied)

In the case at bar, respondent's grave misconduct, as established by the Office of the President and
subsequently affirmed by this Court, deals with his qualification as a lawyer. By taking advantage of his
office as the Register of Deeds of Marawi City and employing his knowledge of the rules governing land
registration for the benefit of his relatives, respondent had clearly demonstrated his unfitness not only to
perform the functions of a civil servant but also to retain his membership in the bar. Rule 6.02 of the Code
of Professional Responsibility is explicit on this matter. It reads:

Rule 6.02 – A lawyer in the government service shall not use his public position to promote or
advance his private interests, nor allow the latter to interfere with his public duties.

Respondent's conduct manifestly undermined the people's confidence in the public office he used to
occupy and cast doubt on the integrity of the legal profession. The ill-conceived use of his knowledge of
the intricacies of the law calls for nothing less than the withdrawal of his privilege to practice law.

As for the letter sent by Bainar Ali, the deceased complainant's daughter, requesting for the withdrawal of
this case, we cannot possibly favorably act on the same as proceedings of this nature cannot be
"interrupted or terminated by reason of desistance, settlement, compromise, restitution, withdrawal of the
charges or failure of the complainant to prosecute the same."37 As we have previously explained in the
case of Irene Rayos-Ombac v. Atty. Orlando A. Rayos:38

… A case of suspension or disbarment may proceed regardless of interest or lack of interest of the
complainant. What matters is whether, on the basis of the facts borne out by the record, the charge of deceit
and grossly immoral conduct has been duly proven. This rule is premised on the nature of disciplinary
proceedings. A proceeding for suspension or disbarment is not in any sense a civil action where the
complainant is a plaintiff and the respondent lawyer is a defendant. Disciplinary proceedings involve no
private interest and afford no redress for private grievance. They are undertaken and prosecuted solely for
the public welfare. They are undertaken for the purpose of preserving courts of justice from the official
ministration of persons unfit to practice in them. The attorney is called to answer to the court for his
conduct as an officer of the court. The complainant or the person who called the attention of the court to the
attorney's alleged misconduct is in no sense a party, and has generally no interest in the outcome except as
all good citizens may have in the proper administrative of justice. 39

WHEREFORE, respondent Atty. Mosib A. Bubong is hereby DISBARRED and his name is ORDERED STRICKEN from the Roll of
Attorneys. Let a copy of this Decision be entered in the respondent's record as a member of the Bar, and notice of the same be served on the
Integrated Bar of the Philippines, and on the Office of the Court Administrator for circulation to all courts in the country.

SO ORDERED.

Davide, Jr., C.J., Puno, Panganiban, Quisumbing, Ynares-Santiago, Sandoval-Gutierrez, Austria-Martinez, Corona, Callejo, Sr., Azcuna, Tinga,
Chico-Nazario, and Garcia, JJ., concur.
Carpio, J., no part.
Carpio-Morales, J., on leave.
Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila

EN BANC

Adm. Case No. 7332 June 18, 2013

EDUARDO A. ABELLA, Complainant,


vs.
RICARDO G. BARRIOS, JR., Respondent.

DECISION

PERLAS-BERNABE, J.:

Far the Court's resolution is an administrative complaint1 for disbarment filed by Eduardo A. Abella
(complainant) against Ricardo G. Barrios, Jr. (respondent) based on the latter's violation of Rules 1.01 and
1.03, Canon 1, and Rule 6.Q2, Canon 6 of the Code of Professional Responsibility (Code).

The Facts

On January 21, 1999, complainant filed an illegal dismissal case against Philippine Telegraph and
Telephone Corporation (PT&T) before the Cebu City Regional Arbitration Branch (RAB) of the National
Labor Relations Commission (NLRC), docketed as RAB-VII-01-0128-99. Finding merit in the complaint,
Labor Arbiter (LA) Ernesto F. Carreon, through a Decision dated May 13, 1999,2 ordered PT&T to pay
complainant ₱113,100.00 as separation pay and ₱73,608.00 as backwages. Dissatisfied, PT&T appealed
the LA’s Decision to the NLRC. In a Decision dated September 12, 2001,3 the NLRC set aside LA
Carreon’s ruling and instead ordered PT&T to reinstate complainant to his former position and pay him
backwages, as well as 13th month pay and service incentive leave pay, including moral damages and
attorney’s fees. On reconsideration, it modified the amounts of the aforesaid monetary awards but still
maintained that complainant was illegally dismissed.4 Consequently, PT&T filed a petition for certiorari
before the Court of Appeals (CA).

In a Decision dated September 18, 2003 (CA Decision),5 the CA affirmed the NLRC’s ruling with
modification, ordering PT&T to pay complainant separation pay in lieu of reinstatement. Complainant
moved for partial reconsideration, claiming that all his years of service were not taken into account in the
computation of his separation pay and backwages. The CA granted the motion and thus, remanded the
case to the LA for the same purpose.6 On July 19, 2004, the CA Decision became final and executory.7

Complainant alleged that he filed a Motion for Issuance of a Writ of Execution before the Cebu City RAB
on October 25, 2004. At this point, the case had already been assigned to the new LA, herein respondent.
After the lapse of five (5) months, complainant’s motion remained unacted, prompting him to file a
Second Motion for Execution on March 3, 2005. Eight (8) months thereafter, still, there was no action on
complainant’s motion. Thus, on November 4, 2005, complainant proceeded to respondent’s office to
personally follow-up the matter. In the process, complainant and respondent exchanged notes on how
much the former’s monetary awards should be; however, their computations differed. To complainant’s
surprise, respondent told him that the matter could be "easily fixed" and thereafter, asked "how much is
mine?" Despite his shock, complainant offered the amount of ₱20,000.00, but respondent replied: "make
it ₱30,000.00." By force of circumstance, complainant acceded on the condition that respondent would
have to wait until he had already collected from PT&T. Before complainant could leave, respondent
asked him for some cash, compelling him to give the latter ₱1,500.00.8

On November 7, 2005, respondent issued a writ of execution,9 directing the sheriff to proceed to the
premises of PT&T and collect the amount of ₱1,470,082.60, inclusive of execution and deposit fees.
PT&T moved to quash10the said writ which was, however, denied through an Order dated November 22,
2005.11 Unfazed, PT&T filed a Supplemental Motion to Quash dated December 2, 2005,12 the contents of
which were virtually identical to the one respondent earlier denied. During the hearing of the said
supplemental motion on December 9, 2005, respondent rendered an Order13 in open court, recalling the
first writ of execution he issued on November 7, 2005. He confirmed the December 9, 2005 Order
through a Certification dated December 14, 200514 and eventually, issued a new writ of
execution15 wherein complainant’s monetary awards were reduced from ₱1,470,082.60 to ₱114,585.00,
inclusive of execution and deposit fees.

Aggrieved, complainant filed on December 16, 2005 a Petition for Injunction before the NLRC. In a
Resolution dated March 14, 2006,16 the NLRC annulled respondent’s December 9, 2005 Order, stating
that respondent had no authority to modify the CA Decision which was already final and executory.17

Aside from instituting a criminal case before the Office of the Ombudsman,18 complainant filed the
instant disbarment complaint19 before the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP), averring that respondent
violated the Code of Professional Responsibility for (a) soliciting money from complainant in exchange
for a favorable resolution; and (b) issuing a wrong decision to give benefit and advantage to PT&T.

In his Comment,20 respondent denied the abovementioned accusations, maintaining that he merely
implemented the CA Decision which did not provide for the payment of backwages. He also claimed that
he never demanded a single centavo from complainant as it was in fact the latter who offered him the
amount of ₱50,000.00.

The Recommendation and Action of the IBP

In the Report and Recommendation dated May 30, 2008,21 Investigating Commissioner Rico A.
Limpingco (Commissioner Limpingco) found that respondent tried to twist the meaning of the CA
Decision out of all logical, reasonable and grammatical context in order to favor PT&T.22 He further
observed that the confluence of events in this case shows that respondent deliberately left complainant’s
efforts to execute the CA Decision unacted upon until the latter agreed to give him a portion of the
monetary award thereof. Notwithstanding their agreement, immoral and illegal as it was, respondent later
went as far as turning the proceedings into some bidding war which eventually resulted into a resolution
in favor of PT&T. In this regard, respondent was found to be guilty of gross immorality and therefore,
Commissioner Limpingco recommended that he be disbarred.23

On July 17, 2008, the IBP Board of Governors passed Resolution No. XVIII-2008-345 (IBP
Resolution),24 adopting and approving Commissioner Limpingco’s recommendation, to wit:

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 for Respondent’s violation of the provisions of the Code of
Professional Responsibility, the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and the Code of Ethical Standards
for Public Officials and Employees, Atty. Ricardo G. Barrios, Jr. is hereby DISBARRED.25
Issue

The sole issue in this case is whether respondent is guilty of gross immorality for his violation of Rules
1.01 and 1.03, Canon 1, and Rule 6.02, Canon 6 of the Code.

The Court’s Ruling

The Court concurs with the findings and recommendation of Commissioner Limpingco as adopted by the
IBP Board of Governors.

The pertinent provisions of the Code provide:

CANON 1 - A LAWYER SHALL UPHOLD THE CONSTITUTION, OBEY THE LAWS OF THE
LAND AND PROMOTE RESPECT FOR LAW AND LEGAL PROCESSES.

Rule 1.01 - A lawyer shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct.

xxxx

Rule 1.03 - A lawyer shall not, for any corrupt motive or interest, encourage any suit or proceeding or
delay any man’s cause.

CANON 6 - THESE CANONS SHALL APPLY TO LAWYERS IN GOVERNMENT SERVICE IN


THE DISCHARGE OF THEIR OFFICIAL TASKS.

xxxx

Rule 6.02 - A lawyer in the government service shall not use his public position to promote or advance
his private interests, nor allow the latter to interfere with his public duties.

The above-cited rules, which are contained under Chapter 1 of the Code, delineate the lawyer’s
responsibility to society: Rule 1.01 engraves the overriding prohibition against lawyers from engaging in
any unlawful, dishonest, immoral and deceitful conduct; Rule 1.03 proscribes lawyers from encouraging
any suit or proceeding or delaying any man’s cause for any corrupt motive or interest; meanwhile, Rule
6.02 is particularly directed to lawyers in government service, enjoining them from using one’s public
position to: (1) promote private interests; (2) advance private interests; or (3) allow private interests to
interfere with public duties.26 It is well to note that a lawyer who holds a government office may be
disciplined as a member of the Bar only when his misconduct also constitutes a violation of his oath as a
lawyer.27

In this light, a lawyer’s compliance with and observance of the above-mentioned rules should be taken
into consideration in determining his moral fitness to continue in the practice of law.

To note, "the possession of good moral character is both a condition precedent and a continuing
requirement to warrant admission to the Bar and to retain membership in the legal profession."28 This
proceeds from the lawyer’s duty to observe the highest degree of morality in order to safeguard the Bar’s
integrity.29 Consequently, any errant behavior on the part of a lawyer, be it in the lawyer’s public or
private activities, which tends to show deficiency in moral character, honesty, probity or good demeanor,
is sufficient to warrant suspension or disbarment.30
In this case, records show that respondent was merely tasked to recompute the monetary awards due to
the complainant who sought to execute the CA Decision which had already been final and executory.
When complainant moved for execution – twice at that – respondent slept on the same for more than a
year. It was only when complainant paid respondent a personal visit on November 4, 2005 that the latter
speedily issued a writ of execution three (3) days after, or on November 7, 2005. Based on these
incidents, the Court observes that the sudden dispatch in respondent’s action soon after the aforesaid visit
casts serious doubt on the legitimacy of his denial, i.e., that he did not extort money from the
complainant.

The incredulity of respondent’s claims is further bolstered by his complete turnaround on the quashal of
the November 7, 2005 writ of execution.

To elucidate, records disclose that respondent denied PT&T’s initial motion to quash through an Order
dated November 22, 2005 but later reversed such order in open court on the basis of PT&T’s
supplemental motion to quash which was a mere rehash of the first motion that was earlier denied. As a
result, respondent recalled his earlier orders and issued a new writ of execution, reducing complainant’s
monetary awards from ₱1,470,082.60 to ₱114,585.00, inclusive of execution and deposit fees.

To justify the same, respondent contends that he was merely implementing the CA Decision which did
not provide for the payment of backwages. A plain and cursory reading, however, of the said decision
belies the truthfulness of the foregoing assertion. On point, the dispositive portion of the CA Decision
reads:

WHEREFORE, the petition is PARTIALLY GRANTED. The decision of public respondent National
Labor Relations Commission dated September 12, 2001 and October 8, 2002 are AFFIRMED with the
MODIFICATION, ordering petitioner PT&T to pay private respondent Eduardo A. Abella separation pay
(as computed by the Labor Arbiter) in lieu of reinstatement.31

Noticeably, the CA affirmed with modification the NLRC’s rulings dated September 12, 2001 and
October 8, 2002 which both explicitly awarded backwages and other unpaid monetary benefits to
complainant.32 The only modification was with respect to the order of reinstatement as pronounced in
both NLRC’s rulings which was changed by the CA to separation pay in view of the strained relations
between the parties as well as the supervening removal of complainant’s previous position.33 In other
words, the portion of the NLRC’s rulings which awarded backwages and other monetary benefits
subsisted and the modification pertained only to the CA’s award of separation pay in lieu of the NLRC’s
previous order of reinstatement. This conclusion, palpable as it is, can be easily deduced from the records.

Lamentably, respondent tried to distort the findings of the CA by quoting portions of its decision,
propounding that the CA’s award of separation pay denied complainant’s entitlement to any backwages
and other consequential benefits altogether. In his Verified Motion for Reconsideration of the IBP
Resolution,34 respondent stated:

From the above quoted final conclusions, the Court is very clear and categorical in directing PT&T to pay
complainant his separation pay ONLY in lieu of reinstatement. Clearly, the Court did not direct the PT&T
to pay him his backwages, and other consequential benefits that were directed by the NLRC because he
could no longer be reinstated to his previous position on the ground of strained relationship and his
previous position had already gone, and no equivalent position that the PT&T could offer. x x x.

Fundamental in the realm of labor law is the rule that backwages are separate and distinct from separation
pay in lieu of reinstatement and are awarded conjunctively to an employee who has been illegally
dismissed.35 There is nothing in the records that could confound the finding that complainant was illegally
dismissed as LA Carreon, the NLRC, and the CA were all unanimous in decreeing the same. Being a
labor arbiter, it is hardly believable that respondent could overlook the fact that complainant was entitled
to backwages in view of the standing pronouncement of illegal dismissal.1âwphi1 In this regard,
respondent’s defense deserves scant consideration.

Therefore, absent any cogent basis to rule otherwise, the Court gives credence and upholds Commissioner
Limpingco’s and the IBP Board of Governor’s pronouncement of respondent’s gross immorality.
Likewise, the Court observes that his infractions constitute gross misconduct.

Jurisprudence illumines that immoral conduct involves acts that are willful, flagrant, or shameless, and
that show a moral indifference to the opinion of the upright and respectable members of the
community.36 It treads the line of grossness when it is so corrupt as to constitute a criminal act, or so
unprincipled as to be reprehensible to a high degree, or when committed under such scandalous or
revolting circumstances as to shock the community’s sense of decency.37 On the other hand, gross
misconduct constitutes "improper or wrong conduct, the transgression of some established and definite
rule of action, a forbidden act, a dereliction of duty, willful in character, and implies a wrongful intent and
not mere error of judgment."38

In this relation, Section 27, Rule 138 of the Rules of Court states that when a lawyer is found guilty of
gross immoral conduct or gross misconduct, he may be suspended or disbarred:

SEC. 27. Attorneys removed or suspended by Supreme Court on what grounds. — A member of the bar may be removed or suspended from his office as
attorney by the Supreme Court for any deceit, malpractice, or other gross misconduct in such office, grossly immoral conduct, or by reason of his
conviction of a crime involving moral turpitude, or for any violation of the oath which he is required to take before the admission to practice, or for a
willful disobedience of any lawful order of a superior court, or for corruptly or willful appearing as an attorney for a party to a case without authority so to
do. The practice of soliciting cases at law for the purpose of gain, either personally or through paid agents or brokers, constitutes malpractice. (Emphasis
and underscoring supplied)

Thus, as respondent’s violations clearly constitute gross immoral conduct and gross misconduct, his disbarment
should come as a matter of course.1âwphi1 However, the Court takes judicial notice of the fact that he had already
been disbarred in a previous administrative case, entitled Sps. Rafols, Jr. v. Ricardo G. Barrios, Jr., 39 which therefore
precludes the Court fromduplicitously decreeing the same. In view of the foregoing, the Court deems it proper to,
instead, impose a fine in the amount of ₱40,000.00 40 in order to penalize respondent’s transgressions as discussed
herein and to equally deter the commission of the same or similar acts in the future.

As a final word, the Court staunchly reiterates the principle that the practice of law is a privilege41 accorded only to
those who continue to meet its exacting qualifications. Verily, for all the prestige and opportunity which the
profession brings lies the greater responsibility to uphold its integrity and honor. Towards this purpose, it is
quintessential that its members continuously and unwaveringly exhibit, preserve and protect moral uprightness in
their activities, both in their legal practice as well as in their personal lives. Truth be told, the Bar holds no place for
the deceitful, immoral and corrupt.

WHEREFORE, respondent Ricardo G. Barrios, Jr. is hereby found GUILTY of gross immoral conduct and gross
misconduct in violation of Rules 1.01 and 1.03, Canon 1, and Rule 6.02, Canon 6 of the Code of Professional
Responsibility. Accordingly, he is ordered to pay a FINE of ₱40,000.00.

Let a copy of this Decision be furnished the Office of the Bar Confidant, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, and
the Office of the Court Administrator for circulation to all the courts.

SO ORDERED.

ESTELA M. PERLAS-BERNABE
Associate Justice
Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila

EN BANC

A.C. No. 6622 July 10, 2012

MIGUEL G. VILLATUYA, Complainant,


vs.
ATTY. BEDE S. TABALINGCOS, Respondent.

DECISION

PER CURIAM:

In this Complaint for disbarment filed on 06 December 2004 with the Office or the Bar Confidant,
complainant Manuel G. Villatuya (complainant) charges Atty. Bcde S. 'L1halingcos (resrondent) with
unlawful solicitation of cases, violation of the ('ode or Professional Responsibility for nonpayment of fees
to complainant, and gross immorality for marrying two other women while respondent’s first marriage
was subsisting.1

In a Resolution2 dated 26 January 2005, the Second Division of this Court required respondent to file a
Comment, which he did on 21 March 2005.3 The Complaint was referred to the Integrated Bar of the
Philippines (IBP) for investigation, report and recommendation within sixty (60) days from receipt of the
record.4

On 23 June 2005, the Commission on Bar Discipline of the IBP (Commission) issued a Notice5 setting the
mandatory conference of the administrative case on 05 July 2005. During the conference, complainant
appeared, accompanied by his counsel and respondent. They submitted for resolution three issues to be
resolved by the Commission as follows:

1. Whether respondent violated the Code of Professional Responsibility by nonpayment of fees to


complainant

2. Whether respondent violated the rule against unlawful solicitation, and

3. Whether respondent is guilty of gross immoral conduct for having married thrice.6

The Commission ordered the parties to submit their respective verified Position Papers. Respondent filed
his verified Position Paper,7 on 15 July 2005 while complainant submitted his on 01 August 2005.8

Complainant’s Accusations

Complainant averred that on February 2002, he was employed by respondent as a financial consultant to
assist the latter on technical and financial matters in the latter’s numerous petitions for corporate
rehabilitation filed with different courts. Complainant claimed that they had a verbal agreement whereby
he would be entitled to ₱ 50,000 for every Stay Order issued by the court in the cases they would handle,
in addition to ten percent (10%) of the fees paid by their clients. He alleged that, from February to
December 2002, respondent was able to rake in millions of pesos from the corporate rehabilitation cases
they were working on together. Complainant also claimed that he was entitled to the amount of ₱ 900,000
for the 18 Stay Orders issued by the courts as a result of his work with respondent, and a total of ₱
4,539,000 from the fees paid by their clients.9 Complainant appended to his Complaint several annexes
supporting the computation of the fees he believes are due him.

Complainant alleged that respondent engaged in unlawful solicitation of cases in violation of Section 27
of the Code of Professional Responsibility. Allegedly respondent set up two financial consultancy firms,
Jesi and Jane Management, Inc. and Christmel Business Link, Inc., and used them as fronts to advertise
his legal services and solicit cases. Complainant supported his allegations by attaching to his Position
Paper the Articles of Incorporation of Jesi and Jane,10 letter-proposals to clients signed by respondent on
various dates11 and proofs of payment made to the latter by their clients.12

On the third charge of gross immorality, complainant accused respondent of committing two counts of
bigamy for having married two other women while his first marriage was subsisting. He submitted a
Certification dated 13 July 2005 issued by the Office of the Civil Registrar General-National Statistics
Office (NSO) certifying that Bede S. Tabalingcos, herein respondent, contracted marriage thrice: first, on
15 July 1980 with Pilar M. Lozano, which took place in Dasmarinas, Cavite; the second time on 28
September 1987 with Ma. Rowena Garcia Piñon in the City of Manila; and the third on 07 September
1989 with Mary Jane Elgincolin Paraiso in Ermita, Manila.13

Respondent’s Defense

In his defense, respondent denied the charges against him. He asserted that complainant was not an
employee of his law firm – Tabalingcos and Associates Law Office14 – but of Jesi and Jane Management,
Inc., where the former is a major stockholder.15 Respondent alleged that complainant was unprofessional
and incompetent in performing his job as a financial consultant, resulting in the latter’s dismissal of many
rehabilitation plans they presented in their court cases.16 Respondent also alleged that there was no verbal
agreement between them regarding the payment of fees and the sharing of professional fees paid by his
clients. He proffered documents showing that the salary of complainant had been paid.17

As to the charge of unlawful solicitation, respondent denied committing any. He contended that his law
firm had an agreement with Jesi and Jane Management, Inc., whereby the firm would handle the legal
aspect of the corporate rehabilitation case; and that the latter would attend to the financial aspect of the
case’ such as the preparation of the rehabilitation plans to be presented in court. To support this
contention, respondent attached to his Position Paper a Joint Venture Agreement dated 10 December 2005
entered into by Tabalingcos and Associates Law Offices and Jesi and Jane Management, Inc.;18 and an
Affidavit executed by Leoncio Balena, Vice-President for Operations of the said company.19

On the charge of gross immorality, respondent assailed the Affidavit submitted by William Genesis, a
dismissed messenger of Jesi and Jane Management, Inc., as having no probative value, since it had been
retracted by the affiant himself.20 Respondent did not specifically address the allegations regarding his
alleged bigamous marriages with two other women.

On 09 January 2006, complainant filed a Motion to Admit Copies of 3 Marriage Contracts.21 To the said
Motion, he attached the certified true copies of the Marriage Contracts referred to in the Certification
issued by the NSO.22 The appended Marriage Contracts matched the dates, places and names of the
contracting parties indicated in the earlier submitted NSO Certification of the three marriages entered into
by respondent. The first marriage contract submitted was a marriage that took place between respondent
and Pilar M. Lozano in Dasmarinas, Cavite, on 15 July 1980.23 The second marriage contract was between
respondent and Ma. Rowena G. Piñon, and it took place at the Metropolitan Trial Court Compound of
Manila on 28 September 1987.24 The third Marriage Contract referred to a marriage between respondent
and Mary Jane E. Paraiso, and it took place on 7 September 1989 in Ermita, Manila. In the second and
third Marriage Contracts, respondent was described as single under the entry for civil status.

On 16 January 2006, respondent submitted his Opposition to the Motion to Admit filed by complainant,
claiming that the document was not marked during the mandatory conference or submitted during the
hearing of the case.25 Thus, respondent was supposedly deprived of the opportunity to controvert those
documents.26 He disclosed that criminal cases for bigamy were filed against him by the complainant
before the Office of the City Prosecutor of Manila. Respondent further informed the Commission that he
had filed a Petition to Declare Null and Void the Marriage Contract with Rowena Piñon at the Regional
Trial Court (RTC) of Biñan, Laguna, where it was docketed as Civil Case No. B-3270.27 He also filed
another Petition for Declaration of Nullity of Marriage Contract with Pilar Lozano at the RTC-Calamba,
where it was docketed as Civil Case No. B-3271.28 In both petitions, he claimed that he had recently
discovered that there were Marriage Contracts in the records of the NSO bearing his name and allegedly
executed with Rowena Piñon and Pilar Lozano on different occasions. He prayed for their annulment,
because they were purportedly null and void.

On 17 September 2007, in view of its reorganization, the Commission scheduled a clarificatory hearing
on 20 November 2007.29 While complainant manifested to the Commission that he would not attend the
hearing,30respondent manifested his willingness to attend and moved for the suspension of the resolution
of the administrative case against the latter. Respondent cited two Petitions he had filed with the RTC,
Laguna, seeking the nullification of the Marriage Contracts he discovered to be bearing his name.31

On 10 November 2007, complainant submitted to the Commission duplicate original copies of two (2)
Informations filed with the RTC of Manila against respondent, entitled "People of the Philippines vs.
Atty. Bede S. Tabalingcos."32The first criminal case, docketed as Criminal Case No. 07-257125, was for
bigamy for the marriage contracted by respondent with Ma. Rowena Garcia Piñon while his marriage
with Pilar Lozano was still valid.33 The other one, docketed as Criminal Case No. 07-257126, charged
respondent with having committed bigamy for contracting marriage with Mary Jane Elgincolin Paraiso
while his marriage with Pilar Lozano was still subsisting.34 Each of the Informations recommended bail in
the amount of P24,000 for his provisional liberty as accused in the criminal cases.35

On 20 November 2007, only respondent attended the clarificatory hearing. In the same proceeding, the
Commission denied his Motion to suspend the proceedings pending the outcome of the petitions for
nullification he had filed with the RTC–Laguna. Thus, the Commission resolved that the administrative
case against him be submitted for resolution.36

IBP’s Report and Recommendation

On 27 February 2008, the Commission promulgated its Report and

Recommendation addressing the specific charges against respondent.37 The first charge, for dishonesty for
the nonpayment of certain shares in the fees, was dismissed for lack of merit. The Commission ruled that
the charge should have been filed with the proper courts since it was only empowered to determine
respondent’s administrative liability. On this matter, complainant failed to prove dishonesty on the part of
respondent.38 On the second charge, the Commission found respondent to have violated the rule on the
solicitation of client for having advertised his legal services and unlawfully solicited cases. It
recommended that he be reprimanded for the violation. It failed, though, to point out exactly the specific
provision he violated.39
As for the third charge, the Commission found respondent to be guilty of gross immorality for violating
Rules 1.01 and 7.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility and Section 27 of Rule 138 of the Rules of
Court. It found that complainant was able to prove through documentary evidence that respondent
committed bigamy twice by marrying two other women while the latter’s first marriage was
subsisting.40 Due to the gravity of the acts of respondent, the Commission recommended that he be
disbarred, and that his name be stricken off the roll of attorneys.41

On 15 April 2008, the IBP Board of Governors, through its Resolution No. XVIII-2008-154, adopted and
approved the Report and Recommendation of the Investigating Commissioner.42 On 01 August 2008,
respondent filed a Motion for Reconsideration, arguing that the recommendation to disbar him was
premature. He contends that the Commission should have suspended the disbarment proceedings pending
the resolution of the separate cases he had filed for the annulment of the marriage contracts bearing his
name as having entered into those contracts with other women. He further contends that the evidence
proffered by complainant to establish that the latter committed bigamy was not substantial to merit the
punishment of disbarment. Thus, respondent moved for the reconsideration of the resolution to disbar him
and likewise moved to archive the administrative proceedings pending the outcome of the Petitions he
separately filed with the RTC of Laguna for the annulment of Marriage Contracts.43

On 26 June 2011, the IBP Board of Governors denied the Motions for Reconsideration and affirmed their
Resolution dated 15 April 2008 recommending respondent’s disbarment.44

The Court’s Ruling

The Court affirms the recommendations of the IBP.

First Charge:

Dishonesty for nonpayment of share in the fees

While we affirm the IBP’s dismissal of the first charge against respondent, we do not concur with the
rationale behind it.

The first charge of complainant against respondent for the nonpayment of the former’s share in the fees, if
proven to be true is based on an agreement that is violative of Rule 9.0245 of the Code of Professional
Responsibility. A lawyer is proscribed by the Code to divide or agree to divide the fees for legal services
rendered with a person not licensed to practice law. Based on the allegations, respondent had agreed to
share with complainant the legal fees paid by clients that complainant solicited for the respondent.
Complainant, however, failed to proffer convincing evidence to prove the existence of that agreement.

We ruled in Tan Tek Beng v. David46 that an agreement between a lawyer and a layperson to share the
fees collected from clients secured by the layperson is null and void, and that the lawyer involved may be
disciplined for unethical conduct. Considering that complainant’s allegations in this case had not been
proven, the IBP correctly dismissed the charge against respondent on this matter.

Second Charge:

Unlawful solicitation of clients


Complainant charged respondent with unlawfully soliciting clients and advertising legal services through
various business entities. Complainant submitted documentary evidence to prove that Jesi & Jane
Management Inc. and Christmel Business Link, Inc. were owned and used as fronts by respondent to
advertise the latter’s legal services and to solicit clients. In its Report, the IBP established the truth of
these allegations and ruled that respondent had violated the rule on the solicitation of clients, but it failed
to point out the specific provision that was breached.

A review of the records reveals that respondent indeed used the business entities mentioned in the report
to solicit clients and to advertise his legal services, purporting to be specialized in corporate rehabilitation
cases. Based on the facts of the case, he violated Rule 2.0347 of the Code, which prohibits lawyers from
soliciting cases for the purpose of profit.

A lawyer is not prohibited from engaging in business or other lawful occupation. Impropriety arises,
though, when the business is of such a nature or is conducted in such a manner as to be inconsistent with
the lawyer’s duties as a member of the bar. This inconsistency arises when the business is one that can
readily lend itself to the procurement of professional employment for the lawyer; or that can be used as a
cloak for indirect solicitation on the lawyer’s behalf; or is of a nature that, if handled by a lawyer, would
be regarded as the practice of law.48

It is clear from the documentary evidence submitted by complainant that Jesi & Jane Management, Inc.,
which purports to be a financial and legal consultant, was indeed a vehicle used by respondent as a means
to procure professional employment; specifically for corporate rehabilitation cases. Annex "C"49 of the
Complaint is a letterhead of Jesi & Jane

Management, Inc., which proposed an agreement for the engagement of legal services. The letter clearly
states that, should the prospective client agree to the proposed fees, respondent would render legal
services related to the former’s loan obligation with a bank. This circumvention is considered
objectionable and violates the Code, because the letter is signed by respondent as President of Jesi & Jane
Management, Inc., and not as partner or associate of a law firm.

Rule 15.0850 of the Code mandates that the lawyer is mandated to inform the client whether the former is
acting as a lawyer or in another capacity. This duty is a must in those occupations related to the practice
of law. The reason is that certain ethical considerations governing the attorney-client relationship may be
operative in one and not in the other.51 In this case, it is confusing for the client if it is not clear whether
respondent is offering consultancy or legal services.

Considering, however, that complainant has not proven the degree of prevalence of this practice by
respondent, we affirm the recommendation to reprimand the latter for violating Rules 2.03 and 15.08 of
the Code.

Third Charge:

Bigamy

The third charge that respondent committed bigamy twice is a serious accusation. To substantiate this
allegation, complainant submitted NSO-certified copies of the Marriage Contracts entered into by
respondent with three (3) different women. The latter objected to the introduction of these documents,
claiming that they were submitted after the administrative case had been submitted for resolution, thus
giving him no opportunity to controvert them.52 We are not persuaded by his argument.
We have consistently held that a disbarment case is sui generis. Its focus is on the qualification and fitness
of a lawyer to continue membership in the bar and not the procedural technicalities in filing the case.
Thus, we explained in Garrido v. Garrido:53

Laws dealing with double jeopardy or with procedure — such as the verification of pleadings and
prejudicial questions, or in this case, prescription of offenses or the filing of affidavits of desistance by the
complainant — do not apply in the determination of a lawyer's qualifications and fitness for membership
in the Bar. We have so ruled in the past and we see no reason to depart from this ruling. First, admission
to the practice of law is a component of the administration of justice and is a matter of public interest
because it involves service to the public. The admission qualifications are also qualifications for the
continued enjoyment of the privilege to practice law. Second, lack of qualifications or the violation of the
standards for the practice of law, like criminal cases, is a matter of public concern that the State may
inquire into through this Court.

In disbarment proceedings, the burden of proof rests upon the complainant.1âwphi1 For the court to
exercise its disciplinary powers, the case against the respondent must be established by convincing and
satisfactory proof.54 In this case, complainant submitted NSO-certified true copies to prove that
respondent entered into two marriages while the latter’s first marriage was still subsisting. While
respondent denied entering into the second and the third marriages, he resorted to vague assertions
tantamount to a negative pregnant. He did not dispute the authenticity of the NSO documents, but denied
that he contracted those two other marriages. He submitted copies of the two Petitions he had filed
separately with the RTC of Laguna – one in Biñan and the other in Calamba – to declare the second and
the third Marriage Contracts null and void.55

We find him guilty of gross immorality under the Code.

We cannot give credence to the defense proffered by respondent. He has not disputed the authenticity or
impugned the genuineness of the NSO-certified copies of the Marriage Contracts presented by
complainant to prove the former’s marriages to two other women aside from his wife. For purposes of this
disbarment proceeding, these Marriage Contracts bearing the name of respondent are competent and
convincing evidence proving that he committed bigamy, which renders him unfit to continue as a member
of the bar. The documents were certified by the NSO, which is the official repository of civil registry
records pertaining to the birth, marriage and death of a person. Having been issued by a government
agency, the NSO certification is accorded much evidentiary weight and carries with it a presumption of
regularity. In this case, respondent has not presented any competent evidence to rebut those documents.

According to the respondent, after the discovery of the second and the third marriages, he filed civil
actions to annul the Marriage Contracts. We perused the attached Petitions for Annulment and found that
his allegations therein treated the second and the third marriage contracts as ordinary agreements, rather
than as special contracts contemplated under the then Civil Code provisions on marriage. He did not
invoke any grounds in the Civil Code provisions on marriage, prior to its amendment by the Family Code.
Respondent’s regard for marriage contracts as ordinary agreements indicates either his wanton disregard
of the sanctity of marriage or his gross ignorance of the law on what course of action to take to annul a
marriage under the old Civil Code provisions.

What has been clearly established here is the fact that respondent entered into marriage twice while his
first marriage was still subsisting. In Bustamante-Alejandro v. Alejandro,56 we held thus:

We have in a number of cases disciplined members of the Bar whom we found guilty of misconduct
which demonstrated a lack of that good moral character required of them not only as a condition
precedent for their admission to the Bar but, likewise, for their continued membership therein. No
distinction has been made as to whether the misconduct was committed in the lawyer’s professional
capacity or in his private life. This is because a lawyer may not divide his personality so as to be an
attorney at one time and a mere citizen at another. He is expected to be competent, honorable and reliable
at all times since he who cannot apply and abide by the laws in his private affairs, can hardly be expected
to do so in his professional dealings nor lead others in doing so. Professional honesty and honor are not to
be expected as the accompaniment of dishonesty and dishonor in other relations. The administration of
justice, in which the lawyer plays an important role being an officer of the court, demands a high degree
of intellectual and moral competency on his part so that the courts and clients may rightly repose
confidence in him.

Respondent exhibited a deplorable lack of that degree of morality required of him as a member of the bar.
He made a mockery of marriage, a sacred institution demanding respect and dignity.57 His acts of
committing bigamy twice constituted grossly immoral conduct and are grounds for disbarment under
Section 27, Rule 138 of the Revised Rules of Court.58

Thus, we adopt the recommendation of the IBP to disbar respondent and order that his name be stricken
from the Roll of Attorneys.

WHEREFORE, this Court resolves the following charges against Atty. Bede S. Tabalingcos as follows:

1. The charge of dishonesty is DISMISSED for lack of merit.

2. Respondent is REPRIMANDED for acts of illegal advertisement and solicitation.

3. Atty. Bede S. Tabalingcos is DISBARRED for engaging in bigamy, a grossly immoral


conduct.

Let a copy of this Decision be attached to the personal records of Atty. Bede S. Tabalingcos in the Office
of the Bar Confidant, and another copy furnished to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines.

The Clerk of Court is directed to strike out the name of Bede S. Tabalingcos from the Roll of Attorneys.

SO ORDERED.

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