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A.C. No. 11149 (Formerly CBD Case No.

13-3709), August 15, 2017

LAURENCE D. PUNLA AND MARILYN SANTOS, Complainants, v. ATTY. ELEONOR MARAVILLA-


ONA, Respondent.

DECISION

PER CURIAM:

The present administrative case stemmed from a Complaint-Affidavit1 filed with the Integrated Bar of
the Philippines Commission on Bar Discipline (IBP-CBD) by complainants Laurence D. Punla and
Marilyn Santos against respondent Atty. Eleonor Maravilla-Ona, charging the latter with violation of
the lawyer's oath, for neglecting her clients' interests.

Factual Background

The facts, as culled from the disbarment complaint, are summarized in the Report and
Recommendation2 of Investigating Commissioner Ricardo M. Espina viz.:
In a complaint-affidavit filed on 15 January 2013, complainants alleged that they got to know
respondent lawyer sometime in January 2012 when they requested her to notarize a Deed of Sale;
that subsequently, they broached the idea to respondent that they intend (sic) to file two (2)
annulment cases and they wanted respondent to represent them; that respondent committed to finish
the two (2) annulment cases within six (6) months from full payment; that the agreed lawyer's fee for
the two annulment cases is P350,000.00; that the P350,000.00 was paid in full by complainants, as
follows: P100,000.00 on 27 January 2012 as evidenced by respondent's Official Receipt (O.R.) No.
55749 of even date (Annex "A"); P150,000.00 on 28 January 2012 as evidenced by respondent's
Official Receipt (O.R.) No. 56509 of even date (Annex "B"); P50,000.00 on 14 March 2012 personally
handed to respondent lawyer and evidenced by respondent's handwritten acknowledgement receipt of
same date (Annex "C"); and, P50,000.00 on 15 March 2012 deposited to respondent's Metrobank
account no. 495-3-49509141-5 (Annex "D").

On the commitment of respondent that she will (sic) finish the cases in six (6) months, complainants
followed up their cases in September 2012 or about 6 months from their last payment in March 2012.
They were ignored by respondent. On 25 September 2012, complainants sent a letter (Annex "E") to
respondent demanding that the P3 50,000.00 they paid her be refunded in full within five (5) days
from receipt of the letter. In a Certification dated 07 November 2012 (Annex "F"), the Philpost of
Dasmariñas, Cavite, attested that complainants' letter was received by respondent on 01 October
2012. No refund was made by respondent.3

In an Order4 dated January 25, 2013, the IBP directed respondent to file her Answer within 15
days. No answer was filed. A Mandatory Conference/Hearing was set on December 4, 20135 but
respondent did not appear, so it was reset to January 22, 2014.6 However, respondent again failed
to attend the mandatory conference/hearing as scheduled. Hence, in an Order7 dated January
22, 2014, the mandatory conference was terminated and both parties were directed to submit their
verified position papers.

Report and Recommendation of the Investigating Commissioner

The Investigating Commissioner was of the opinion that respondent is guilty of violating Canons 17
and 18 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, to wit:8
There is clear violation of Canons 17 and 18, Canons of Professional Responsibility. These canons,
quoted hereunder, [state]:
CANON 17 - A lawyer owes fidelity to the cause of his client and he shall be mindful of the trust and
confidence reposed in him.

CANON 18 - A lawyer shall serve his client with competence and diligence.

Of particular concern is Rule 18.04, Canon 18 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, which
requires a lawyer to always keep the client informed of the developments in his case and to respond
whenever the client requests for information. Respondent has miserably failed to comply with this
Canon.9

In addition, the IBP Investigating Commissioner found that respondent has been charged with several
infractions. Thus:
Moreover, verification conducted by this Office shows that this is not the first time that respondent
lawyer has been administratively charged before this Office. As shown in the table below, respondent
is involved in the following active cases:

WHEN
COMPLAINANTS CASE NO. STATUS PENALTY
FILED
Ten (10) consolidated
cases: A.C. No. 6369 Pending with Supreme Suspension
1. Felisa Amistoso, et A.C. No. 6371 Court
al. A.C. No. 6458
2. Anita Lagman A.C. No. 6459
3. Isidro H. Montoya A.C. No. 6460
4. Noel Angcao A.C. No. 6462
5. Mercedes Bayan A.C. No. 6457
6. Rustica Canuel A.C. No. 6463
7. Anita Canuel A.C. No. 6464
8. Elmer Canuel A.C. No. 6469
9. Evangeline
Sangalang
10. Felisa Amistoso
11. Beatrice Yatoo, et CBD Case No. Pending with Supreme July 26,
Suspension
al. 10-2733 Court 2010
CBD Case No. For report and May 23,
12. Norma Guiterrez
12-3444 recommendation 2012
13. Bienvenida Flor CBD Case No. For report and August 01,
Suarez 12-3534 recommendation 2012

Clearly, respondent lawyer has been a serial violator of the Canons of Professional Responsibility as
shown in the thirteen (13) pending cases filed against her. Add to that the present case and that
places the total pending administrative cases against respondent at fourteen (14). That these 14 cases
were filed on different dates and by various individuals is substantial proof that respondent has the
propensity to violate her lawyer's oath - and has not changed in her professional dealing with the
public.10

Consequently, the Investigating Commissioner recommended that respondent be disbarred and


ordered to pay complainants the amount of P350,000.00 with legal interest until fully paid. 11

Recommendation of the IBP Board of Governors

The IBP Board of Governors, in Resolution No. XXI-2015-15612 dated February 20, 2015, resolved to
adopt the findings of the Investigating Commissioner as well as the recommended penalty of
disbarment.

The issue in this case is whether respondent should be disbarred.

Our Ruling

The Court resolves to adopt the findings of fact of the IBP but must, however, modify the penalty
imposed in view of respondent's previous disbarment.

Rule 138, Sec. 27 of the Rules of Court provides the penalties of disbarment and suspension as
follows:
Disbarment or suspension of attorneys by Supreme Court; grounds therefor. — A member of the bar
may be disbarred or suspended from his office as attorney by the Supreme Court for any deceit,
malpractice, or other gross misconduct in such office, grossly immoral conduct, or by reason of his
conviction of a crime involving moral turpitude, or for any violation of the oath which he is required to
take before admission to practice, or for a wilful disobedience of any lawful order of a superior court,
or for corruptly or wilfully appearing as an attorney for a party to a case without authority so to do x x
x.

Here, there is no question as to respondent's guilt. It is clear from the records


thatrespondentviolatedher lawyer's oath and codeofconduct when she withheld from complainants the
amount of P350,000.00 given to her, despite her failure to render the necessary legal services, and
after complainants demanded its return.

It cannot be stressed enough that once a lawyer takes up the cause of a client, that lawyer is duty-
bound to serve the latter with competence and zeal, especially when he/she accepts it for a fee. The
lawyer owes fidelity to such cause and must always be mindful of the trust and confidence reposed
upon him/her.13 Moreover, a lawyer's failure to return upon demand the monies he/she holds for
his/her client gives rise to the presumption that he/she has appropriated the said monies for his/her
own use, to the prejudice and in violation of the trust reposed in him/her by his/her client.14

What is more, this Court cannot overlook the reality that several cases had been filed against
respondent, as pointed out by the IBP. In fact, one such case eventually led to the disbarment of
respondent. In Suarez v. Maravilla-Ona,15 the Court meted out the ultimate penalty of disbarment and
held that the misconduct of respondent was aggravated by her unjustified refusal to obey the orders
of the IBP directing her to file an answer and to appear at the scheduled mandatory conference. This
constitutes blatant disrespect towards the IBP and amounts to conduct unbecoming a lawyer.

In the same case, the Court took note of the past disbarment complaints that had been filed against
Atty. Maravilla-Ona viz.:
x x x In A.C. No. 10107 entitled Beatrice C. Yatco, represented by her Attorney-In-Fact, Marivic Yatco
v. Atty. Eleanor Maravilla-Ona, the complainant filed a disbarment case against Atty. Maravilla-Ona for
issuing several worthless checks as rental payments for the complainant's property and for refusing to
vacate the said property, thus forcing the latter to file an ejectment case against Atty. Maravilla-Ona.
The IBP required Atty. Maravilla-Ona to file her Answer, but she failed to do so. Neither did she make
an appearance during the scheduled mandatory conference. In its Resolution dated February 13,
2013, the IBP found Atty. Maravilla-Ona guilty of serious misconducty and for violating Canon 1, Rule
1.01 of the Code. The Court later adopted and approved the IBP's findings in its Resolution of
September 15, 2014, and suspended Atty. Maravilla-Ona from the practice of law for a period of one
year.

In yet another disbarment case against Atty. Maravilla-Ona, docketed as A.C. No. 10944[,] and
entitled Norma M. Gutierrez v. Atty. Eleonor Maravilla-Ona, the complainant therein alleged that she
engaged the services of Atty. Maravilla-Ona and gave her the amount of P80,000.00 for the filing of a
case in court. However, Atty. Maravilla-Ona failed to file the case, prompting the complainant to
withdraw from the engagement and to demand the return of the amount she paid. Atty. Maravilla-Ona
returned P15,000.00[,] and executed a promissory note to pay the remaining P65,000.00. However,
despite several demands, Atty. Maravilla-Ona failed to refund completely the complainant's money.
Thus, a complaint for disbarment was filed against Atty. Maravilla-Ona for grave misconduct, gross
negligence and incompetence. But again, Atty. Maravilla-Ona failed to file her Answer and [to] appear
in the mandatory conference before the IBP. The IBP found that Atty. Maravilla-Ona violated Canon
16, Rule 16.03 of the Code [of Professional Responsibility] and recommended her suspension for a
period of five (5) years, considering her previous infractions. The Court, however, reduced Atty.
Maravilla-Ona's penalty to suspension from the practice of law for a period of three (3) years, with a
warning that a repetition of the same or similar offense will be dealt with more severely. She was also
ordered to return the complainant's money.

Clearly, Atty. Maravilla-Ona exhibits the habit of violating her oath as a lawyer and the Code [of
Professional Responsibility], as well as defying the processes of the IBP. The Court cannot allow her
blatant disregard of the Code [of Professional Responsibility] and her sworn duty as a member of the
Bar to continue. She had been warned that a similar violation [would] merit a more severe penalty,
and yet, her reprehensible conduct has, again, brought embarrassment and dishonor to the legal
profession.16

Back to the case at bar: While indeed respondent's condemnable acts ought to merit the penalty of
disbarment, we cannot disbar her anew, for in this jurisdiction we do not impose double disbarment.

WHEREFORE, the Court hereby ADOPTS the findings of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines
and FINDS respondent ATTY. ELEONOR MARAVILLA-ONA GUILTY of gross and continuing violation of
the Code of Professional Responsibility and accordingly FINED P40,000.00. Respondent is
also ORDERED to PAY complainants the amount of P350,000.00, with 12% interest from the date of
demand until June 30, 2013 and 6% per annum from July 1, 2013 until full payment.17 This is without
prejudice to the complainants' filing of the appropriate criminal case, if they so desire.

Furnish a copy of this Decision to the Office of the Bar Confidant, which shall append the same to the
personal record of respondent; to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines; and the Office of the Court
Administrator, which shall circulate the same to all courts in the country for their information and
guidance.

This Decision shall be immediately executory.

SO ORDERED.
A.C. No. 11504, August 01, 2017

ARIEL G. PALACIOS, FOR AND IN BEHALF OF THE AFP RETIREMENT AND SEPARATION
BENEFITS SYSTEM (AFP-RSBS), Complainant, v. ATTY. BIENVENIDO BRAULIO M. AMORA,
JR., Respondent.

DECISION

PER CURIAM:

The instant administrative case arose from a Complaint dated March 11, 2008 1 filed by Ariel G.
Palacios, in his capacity as the Chief Operating Officer and duly authorized representative of the AFP
Retirement and Separation Benefits System (AFP-RSBS), seeking the disbarment of respondent Atty.
Bienvenido Braulio M. Amora, Jr. for alleged violation of: (1) Canon 1, Rules 1.01 to 1.03; Canon 10,
Rules 10.01 to 10.03; Canon 15, Rule 15.03; Canon 17; Canon 21, Rule 21.01 and 21.02 of the Code
of Professional Responsibility (CPR); (2) Section 20, Rule 138 of the Rules of Court; (3) Lawyer's
Oath; and (4) Article 1491 of the Civil Code.

The Facts

The facts as found by the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, Board of Governors (IBP-BOG), are as
follows:
Complainant is the owner[-]developer of more or less 312 hectares of land estate property located at
Barangays San Vicente, San Miguel, Biluso and Lucsuhin, Municipality of Silang, Province of Cavite
("property"). Said property was being developed into a residential subdivision, community club house
and two (2) eighteen[-]hole, world-class championship golf courses (the "Riviera project"). In 1996,
complainant entered into purchase agreements with several investors in order to finance its Riviera
project. One of these investors was Philippine Golf Development and Equipment, Inc. ("Phil Golf"). On
07 March 1996, Phil Golf paid the amount of Php54 Million for the purchase of 2% interest on the
Riviera project consisting of developed residential lots, Class "A" Common Shares, Class "B" Common
Shares, and Class "C" Common Shares of the Riviera Golf Club and Common Shares of the Riviera Golf
Sports and Country Club.

On 02 June 1997, complainant retained the services of respondent of the Amora and Associates Law
Offices to represent and act as its legal counsel in connection with the Riviera project (Annex "C" to
"C-5" of the complaint). Respondent's legal services under the said agreement include the following:
issuance of consolidated title(s) over the project, issuance of individual titles for the resultant
individual lots, issuance of license to sell by the Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board,
representation before the SEC, and services concerning the untitled lots included in the project. For
the said legal services, respondent charged complainant the amount of Php6,500,000.00 for which he
was paid in three different checks (Annexes "D" to "D3" of the complaint).

On 10 May 1999, complainant entered into another engagement agreement with respondent and the
Amora Del Valle & Associates Law Offices for the registration of the Riviera trademark with the
Intellectual Property Office (Annex "E" of the complainant) where respondent was paid in check in the
amount of Php158,344.20 (Annex "F" of the complaint).

On 14 March 2000, another contract for services was executed by complainant and respondent for
the latter to act as its counsel in the reclassification by the Sangguniang Bayan of Silang, Cavite of
complainant's agricultural lot to "residential commercial and/or recreational use" in connection with its
Riviera project (Annexes "G" to "G4" of the complaint). Under this contract, respondent was hired to
"act as counsel and representative of AFP-RSBS before the Sangguniang Bayan of Silang, Cavite in all
matters relative to the reclassification of the subject properties from agricultural to non-agricultural
uses." On 21 March 2000, respondent furnished complainant a copy of Resolution No. MI-007, S of
2000 of the Sangguniang Bayan of Silang dated 21 February 2000 ("resolution") approving the
conversion and was paid the amount of Php1.8M (Annex "H" of the complaint). Notably, the resolution
was passed on 21 February 2000 or a month before the signing of the said 14 March 2000 contract.
Clearly, when [the] 14 March 2000 contract was signed by complainant and respondent, there was
already a resolution of the Sangguniang Bayan of Silang approving the conversion of complainant's
properties to residential/commercial. Clearly, the Php1.8M demanded and received by respondent is
not justifiable for the sole and simple reason that respondent could not have performed any service
under the 14 March 2000 contract considering that the result sought by the complainant
(reclassification) has been fulfilled and completed as early as 21 February 2000. Respondent, must
therefore, be ordered to return this amount to complainant.

On 06 November 2000, complainant entered into another contract for legal services with respondent
for which the latter was paid the amount of Php14,000,000.00 to secure Certificate of Registration and
License to Sell from the SEC (Annexes "I" to "I-5" of the complaint). In addition, complainant further
paid respondent the following checks as professional fees in obtaining the Certificate of Registration
and Permit to Offer Securities for shares and other expenses: EPCIB Check No. 443124 dated 13
February 2003 in the amount of Php1,500,000.00, CENB Check No. 74001 dated 29 February 2000 in
the amount of Php6,754.00, CENB Check No. 70291 dated 15 September 1999 in the amount
Php261,305.00, and LBP Check No. 48691 dated 26 January 2001 in the amount of Php221,970.00.

As complainant's legal counsel, respondent was privy to highly confidential information regarding the
Riviera project which included but was not limited to the corporate set-up, actual breakdown of the
shares of stock, financial records, purchase agreements and swapping agreements with its investors.
Respondent was also very familiar with the Riviera project[,] having been hired to secure Certificate of
Registration and License to Sell with the HLURB and the registration of the shares of stock and license
to sell of the Riviera Golf Club, Inc. and Riviera Sports and Country Club, Inc. Respondent further
knew that complainant had valid titles to the properties of the Riviera project and was also
knowledgeable about complainant's transactions with Phil Golf.

After complainant terminated respondent's services as its legal counsel, respondent became Phil Golfs
representative and assignee. Respondent began pushing for the swapping of Phil Golfs properties with
that of complainant. Respondent sent swapping proposals to his former client, herein complainant, this
time in his capacity as Phil Golfs representative and assignee. These proposals were rejected by
complainant for being grossly disadvantageous to the latter. After complainant's rejection of the said
proposals, respondent filed a case against its former client, herein complainant on behalf of a
subsequent client (Phil Golf) before the HLURB for alleged breach of contract (Annex "R" of the
complaint). In this HLURB case, respondent misrepresented that Phil Golf is a duly organized and
existing corporation under and by virtue of the laws of the Philippines because it appears that Phil
Golfs registration had been revoked as early as 03 November 2003. Despite Phil Golfs revoked
Certificate of Registration, respondent further certified under oath that he is the duly authorized
representative and assignee of Phil Golf. Respondent, however, was not authorized to act for and on
behalf of said corporation because Phil Golfs corporate personality has ceased. The Director's
Certificate signed by Mr. Benito Santiago of Phil Golf dated 10 May 2007 allegedly authorizing
respondent as Phil Golfs representative and assignee was null and void since the board had no
authority to transact business with the public because of the SEC's revocation of Phil Golfs Certificate
of Registration.2

Due to the above actuations of respondent, complainant filed the instant action for disbarment.

The IBP's Report and Recommendation

After hearing, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, Commission on Bar Discipline (IBP-CBD) issued a
Report and Recommendation dated June 21, 2010, penned by Investigating Commissioner Victor C.
Fernandez, recommending the dismissal of the complaint, to wit:
PREMISES CONSIDERED, it is respectfully recommended that the instant complaint be dismissed for
lack of merit.

Respectfully submitted.3

On review, the IBP-BOG reversed the recommendation of the IBP-CBD and recommended the
suspension from the practice of law of respondent for a period of three (3) years and ordering the
return of the amount of PhP1.8 Million to the complainant within six (6) months. The dispositive
portion of the Extended Resolution dated December 28, 2015,4 reads:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Board RESOLVED to unanimously REVERSE the Report and
Recommendation dated 21 June 2010 recommending the dismissal of the Complaint dated 11 March
2008 and instead resolved to suspend respondent from the practice of law for a period of three (3)
years and ordered the latter to return the amount of Php1.8 Million to the complainant within six (6)
months.

SO ORDERED.5

The IBP-BOG found that respondent violated Rules 15.01, 15.03, 21.01 and 21.02 of the CPR, as well
as Article 1491 of the Civil Code.

As provided in Section 12(b), Rule 139-B of the Rules of Court,6 the IBP Board forwarded the instant
case to the Court for final action.

Issue

The singular issue for the consideration of this Court is whether Atty. Amora should be held
administratively liable based on the allegations on the Complaint.

The Court's Ruling

The Court modifies the findings of the IBP-BOG and the penalty imposed on the respondent who
violated the Lawyer's Oath and Rules 15.01, 15.03, 21.01 and 21.02 of the Code of Professional
Responsibility.

Respondent represented conflicting interests


The Lawyer's Oath provides:
I ___________ of ___________ do solemnly swear that I will maintain allegiance to the Republic of
the Philippines; I will support its Constitution and obey laws as well as the legal orders of the duly
constituted authorities therein; I will do no falsehood, nor consent to the doing of any court; I will not
wittingly nor willingly promote or sue any groundless, false or unlawful suit, or give aid nor consent to
the same; I will delay no man for money or malice, and will 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; and I impose upon myself this voluntary obligations without any mental reservation or
purpose of evasion. So help me God. (Emphasis supplied)

while Rules 15.01 and 15.03 of the Code state:


Rule 15.01. - A lawyer, in conferring with a prospective client, shall ascertain as soon as practicable
whether the matter would involve a conflict with another client or his own interest, and if so, shall
forthwith inform the prospective client.

Rule 15.03. - A lawyer shall not represent conflicting interests except by written consent of all
concerned given after a full disclosure of the facts.

The requirement under Rule 15.03 is quite clear. A lawyer must secure the written consent of all
concerned parties after a full disclosure of the facts. Respondent, however, failed to present any such
document. He points to the fact that complainant approved several transactions between him and the
complainant. In his Position Paper dated October 2, 2008,7respondent argues that AFP-RSBS gave its
formal and written consent to his status as an investor and allowed him to be subrogated to all the
rights, privileges and causes of action of an investor.8

This purported approval, however, is not the consent that the CPR demands.

In Gonzales v. Cabucana, Jr.,9 the Court ruled that a lawyer's failure to acquire a written
consent from both clients after a full disclosure of the facts would subject him to disciplinary action:
As we explained in the case of Hilado vs. David:

xxxx

In the same manner, his claim that he could not turn down the spouses as no other lawyer is willing to
take their case cannot prosper as it is settled that while there may be instances where lawyers cannot
decline representation they cannot be made to labor under conflict of interest between a present client
and a prospective one. Granting also that there really was no other lawyer who could handle the
spouses' case other than him, still he should have observed the requirements laid down by the
rules by conferring with the prospective client to ascertain as soon as practicable whether
the matter would involve a conflict with another client then seek the written consent of all
concerned after a full disclosure of the facts. These respondent failed to do thus exposing himself
to the charge of double-dealing.10 (Emphasis supplied; citation omitted)

Absent such written consent, respondent is guilty of representing conflicting interests.

Moreover, as correctly pointed out by complainant, respondent did not merely act as its investor at his
own behest. In a letter dated April 26, 2007,11 the respondent wrote AFP-RSBS stating: "Further to our
letter dated 24 April 2007 and on behalf of my principal, Philippine Golf Development and Equipment,
Inc., x x x" Plainly, respondent was acting for and in behalf of Phil Golf.

Worse, at Phil Golfs instance, he caused the filing of a Complaint dated October 10, 2007 12 against
complainant with the HLURB, stating that he is the duly authorized representative and assignee of Phil
Golf and that he caused the preparation of the complaint.13

In Hornilla v. Salunat,14 We explained the test to determine when a conflict of interest is present, thus:
There is conflict of interest when a lawyer represents inconsistent interests of two or more opposing
parties. The test is "whether or not in behalf of one client, it is the lawyer's duty to fight for an issue
or claim, but it is his duty to oppose it for the other client. In brief, if he argues for one client, this
argument will be opposed by him when he argues for the other client." This rule covers not only cases
in which confidential communications have been confided, but also those in which no confidence has
been bestowed or will be used. Also, there is conflict of interest if the acceptance of the new retainer
will require the attorney to perform an act which will injuriously affect his first client in any matter in
which he represents him and also whether he will be called upon in his new relation to use against his
first client any knowledge acquired through their connection. Another test of the inconsistency of
interests is whether the acceptance of a new relation will prevent an attorney from the full
discharge of his duty of undivided fidelity and loyalty to his client or invite suspicion of
unfaithfulness or double-dealing in the performance thereof.15 (Emphasis supplied)

Without cavil, or further need of elucidation, respondent's representation of Phil Golf violated the rules
on conflict of interest as he undertook to take up the causes of his new client against the interest of
his former client.
In Ylaya v. Gacott,16 the Court was succinct in saying that a lawyer should decline any employment
that would involve any conflict of interest:
The relationship between a lawyer and his client should ideally be imbued with the highest level of
trust and confidence. Necessity and public interest require that this be so. Part of the lawyer's duty
to his client is to avoid representing conflicting interests. He is duty bound to decline
professional employment, no matter how attractive the fee offered may be, if its acceptance involves a
violation of the proscription against conflict of interest, or any of the rules of professional conduct.
Thus, a lawyer may not accept a retainer from a defendant after he has given professional advice to
the plaintiff concerning his claim; nor can he accept employment from another in a matter
adversely affecting any interest of his former client. It is his duty to decline employment in
any of these and similar circumstances in view of the rule prohibiting representation of
conflicting interests.17 (Emphasis supplied)

It thus becomes quite clear that respondent's actions fall short of the standard set forth by the CPR
and are in violation of his oath as a lawyer. By representing the interests of a new client against his
former client, he violated the trust reposed upon him. His violation of the rules on conflict of interest
renders him subject to disciplinary action.

Respondent used confidential information against his former client, herein complainant

Additionally, by causing the filing of the complaint before the HLURB, the IBP-BOG correctly points out
that respondent must have necessarily divulged to Phil Golf and used information that he gathered
while he was complainant's counsel in violation of Rules 21.01 and 21.02 of the CPR, which state:
CANON 21 - A LAWYER SHALL PRESERVE THE CONFIDENCE AND SECRETS OF HIS CLIENT EVEN
AFTER THE ATTORNEY-CLIENT RELATION IS TERMINATED.

Rule 21.01 - A lawyer shall not reveal the confidences or secrets of his client except;

(a) When authorized by the client after acquainting him of the consequences of the disclosure;

(b) When required by law;

(c) When necessary to collect his fees or to defend himself, his employees or associates or by judicial
action.

Rule 21.02 - A lawyer shall not, to the disadvantage of his client, use information acquired in the
course of employment, nor shall he use the same to his own advantage or that of a third person,
unless the client with full knowledge of the circumstances consents thereto.

The IBP-BOG properly found thus:


Using confidential information which he secured from complainant while he was the latter's counsel,
respondent accused his former client of several violations. In the process, respondent disclosed
confidential information that he secured from complainant thereby jeopardizing the latter's interest. As
discussed below, respondent violated his professional oath and the CPR.

xxxx

x x x x In the instant case, despite the obvious conflict of interest between complainant and Phil Golf,
respondent nevertheless agreed to represent the latter in business negotiations and worse, even
caused the filing of a lawsuit against his former client, herein complainant, using information the
respondent acquired from his former professional employment.18

In Pacana, Jr. v. Pascual-Lopez,19 the Court reiterated the prohibition against lawyers representing
conflicting interests:
Rule 15.03, Canon 15 of the Code of Professional Responsibility provides:
Rule 15.03 - A lawyer shall not represent conflicting interests except by written consent of all
concerned given after full disclosure of the facts.

This prohibition is founded on principles of public policy, good taste and, more importantly, upon
necessity. In the course of a lawyer-client relationship, the lawyer learns all the facts
connected with the client's case, including its weak and strong points. Such knowledge
must be considered sacred and guarded with care. No opportunity must be given to him to
take advantage of his client; for if the confidence is abused, the profession will suffer by the
loss thereof. It behooves lawyers not only to keep inviolate the client's confidence, but also
to avoid the appearance of treachery and double-dealing for only then can litigants be
encouraged to entrust their secrets to their lawyers, which is paramount in the
administration of justice. It is for these reasons that we have described the attorney-client
relationship as one of trust and confidence of the highest degree.

Respondent must have known that her act of constantly and actively communicating with
complainant, who, at that time, was beleaguered with demands from investors of Multitel, eventually
led to the establishment of a lawyer-client relationship. Respondent cannot shield herself from
the inevitable consequences of her actions by simply saying that the assistance she
rendered to complainant was only in the form of "friendly accommodations," precisely
because at the time she was giving assistance to complainant, she was already privy to the
cause of the opposing parties who had been referred to her by the SEC. 20 (Emphasis supplied)

It is undeniable that, in causing the filing of a complaint against his former client, respondent used
confidential knowledge that he acquired while he was still employed by his former client to further the
cause of his new client. And, as earlier stated, considering that respondent failed to obtain any written
consent to his representation of Phil Golfs interests, he plainly violated the above rules. Clearly,
respondent must be disciplined for his actuations.

No basis for the return of PhP 1.8 Million

Rule 131, Section 3, par. (f) provides:


Sec. 3. Disputable presumptions. - The following presumptions are satisfactory if uncontradicted, but
may be contradicted and overcome by other evidence:

xxxx

(f) That money paid by one to another was due the latter;

xxxx

By alleging that respondent was not entitled to the payment of PhP1.8 Million, it was incumbent upon
complainant to present evidence to overturn the disputable presumption that the payment was due to
respondent. This, complainant failed to do.

Complainant alleged that:


At the time of the signing of said contract, there was already a resolution approved by the
Sangguniang Bayan of Silang approving the conversion of AFP-RSBS' properties to
residential/commercial. Atty. Amora could not, thus, have acted as AFP-RSBS' legal counsel and
representative during the said proceedings, which was conducted a month before he was hired by
AFP-RSBS. However, he charged AFP-RSBS and was paid by the latter the amount of 1.8 million pesos
for not doing anything. He did not represent AFP-RSBS and was not instrumental in having the
resolution passed and approved by the Sangguniang Bayan of Silang.21 (Emphasis supplied)

Notably, complainant never presented any evidence to prove that the resolution was passed without
the intervention of respondent. This it could have done by asking the Sangguniang Bayan of Silang
whether respondent represented AFP-RSBS before them. This, complainant did not do.

The amount of PhP1.8 Million is a substantial amount that, in normal human experience, no person
would pay to someone who did not render any service. Further, the mere fact that the contract was
executed after the issuance of the resolution does not ipso facto mean that respondent did not have
any hand in its issuance.

Verily, complainant failed to overcome the abovementioned disputable presumption. Mere allegations
cannot suffice to prove that respondent did not render any service to complainant and, therefore, not
entitled to the payment of PhP1.8 Million.

The Court adopts the findings of Commissioner Fernandez of the IBP-CBD that respondent actually
rendered the legal services in connection with the Sangguniang Bayan Resolution converting the land
from agricultural to residential/commercial and that respondent is legally entitled to the payment. The
Court finds that the explanation of respondent is credible and it clarifies why the Agreement came
after the issuance of the Resolution, viz:
The amount of Php1.8 Million was paid by complainant AFP-RSBS for fees and expenses related to the
approval of Sangguniang Bayan Resolution No. ML-007, Series of 2007. Based on the usual practice
during that time, respondent performed the work upon the instruction of AFP-RSBS even without any
written agreement regarding his fees and expenses. When respondent secured the Sangguniang
Bayan Resolution, he then sent a billing for the fees and expenses amounting to Php1,850,000.00. It
was addressed to Engr. Samuel Cruz, the then Project Director of RSBS-Riviera Project. However,
since at that time, AFP-RSBS had a new President, the Head of its Corporation Holding and
Investment Group (Col. Cyrano A. Austria) instructed respondent to draw a new contract to comply
with the new policies and requirements. Thus, respondent and complainant entered into a contract for
services if only to document the service already performed by respondent in accordance with the new
policy of AFP-RSBS.22

As such, there is no basis to order respondent to return the PhP1.8 Million.

Respondent did not acquire property of a client subject of litigation

Moreover, with regard to the finding of the IBP-BOG that respondent violated Article 1491 of the Civil
Code, We have to digress. The Article reads:
Art. 1491. The following persons cannot acquire by purchase, even at a public or judicial auction,
either in person or through the mediation of another:
xxxx

(5) Justices, judges, prosecuting attorneys, clerks of superior and inferior courts, and other officers
and employees connected with the administration of justice, the property and rights in litigation or
levied upon an execution before the court within whose jurisdiction or territory they exercise their
respective functions; this prohibition includes the act of acquiring by assignment and shall
apply to lawyers, with respect to the property and rights which may be the object of any
litigation in which they may take part by virtue of their profession.

x x x x (Emphasis supplied)

On this point, We sustain the respondent's position that the prohibition contained in Article 1491 does
not apply in this case. "The subject properties which were acquired by respondent Amora were
allegedly not in litigation and/or object of any litigation at the time of his acquisition." 23

The Court in Sabidong v. Solas, clearly ruled: "For the prohibition to apply, the sale or assignment of
the property must take place during the pendency of the litigation involving the property."24

Under the circumstances, Atty. Amora must be suspended

Notwithstanding the respondent's absolution from liability under Article 1491 of the Civil Code, the
gravity of his other acts of misconduct demands that respondent Amora must still be suspended.

Section 27, Rule 138 of the Revised Rules of Court provides:


SEC. 27. Disbarment or suspension of attorneys by Supreme Court; grounds therefor. - A member of
the bar may be disbarred or suspended from his office as attorney by the Supreme Court for any
deceit, malpractice, or other gross misconduct in such office, grossly immoral conduct, or by
reason of his conviction of a crime involving moral turpitude, or for any violation of the oath which
he is required to take before admission to practice, or for a willful disobedience of any lawful
order of a superior court, or for corruptly or wilfully 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 supplied)

While the Court cannot allow a lawyer to represent conflicting interests, the Court deems disbarment a
much too harsh penalty under the circumstances. Thus, in Francia v. Abdon, the Court opined:
In Alitagtag v. Atty. Garcia, the Court emphasized, thus:

Indeed, the power to disbar must be exercised with great caution, and may be imposed only in a clear
case of misconduct that seriously affects the standing and the character of the lawyer as an officer of
the Court and as a member of the bar. Disbarment should never be decreed where any lesser penalty
could accomplish the end desired. Without doubt, a violation of the high moral standards of the legal
profession justifies the imposition of the appropriate penalty, including suspension and disbarment.
However, the said penalties are imposed with great caution, because they are the most severe forms
of disciplinary action and their consequences are beyond repair.25 (citation omitted)

In Quiambao v. Bamba,26 the Court pointed out that jurisprudence27 regarding the penalty solely for a
lawyer's representation of conflicting interests is suspension from the practice of law for one (1) to
three (3) years. While the IBP-BOG recommends the penalty of suspension from the practice of law
for three (3) years be imposed on respondent, the Court finds that under the circumstances, a penalty
of two (2) years suspension from the practice of law would suffice. Atty. Amora, however, is warned
that a repetition of this and other similar acts will be dealt with more severely.

WHEREFORE, the Court finds Atty. Bienvenido Braulio M. Amora, Jr. GUILTY of violating the
Lawyer's Oath and Canon 15, Rule 15.03; Canon 21, Rule 21.01 and 21.02 of the Code of Professional
Responsibility. He is hereby SUSPENDED from the practice of law for a period of two (2) years. Atty.
Amora is warned that a repetition of the same or similar acts will be dealt with more severely.

Let a copy of this Decision be furnished to the Office of the Bar Confidant, to be appended to the
personal record of Atty. Bienvenido Braulio M. Amora, Jr. as a member of the Bar; the Integrated Bar
of the Philippines; and the Office of the Court Administrator for dissemination to all trial courts for
their information and guidance.

SO ORDERED.
A.C. No. 10562, August 01, 2017

JEAN MARIE S. BOERS, Complainant, v. ATTY. ROMEO CALUBAQUIB, Respondent.

DECISION

PER CURIAM:

The Case

On May 28, 2009, Jean Marie S. Boers (Boers) filed before the Commission on Bar Discipline
(Commission) a complaint-affidavit1 against Atty. Romeo Calubaquib (Calubaquib). Boers claims that
Calubaquib violated the Rules on Notarial Practice and prays that he be given the appropriate
disciplinary action. The Commission directed Calubaquib to file his answer.2 It then conducted a
mandatory conference and thereafter ordered the parties to submit their position papers. 3 On May 23,
2011, the Commission submitted its Report and Recommendation4 to the Integrated Bar of the
Philippines Board of Governors (IBP Board of Governors). The IBP Board of Governors adopted and
approved the Commission's report and recommendation5 and forwarded the resolution to this Court.6

The Facts

Boers and her siblings are co-owners of parcels of land in Tuguegarao City covered by a transfer
certificate of title.7 Sometime in October 2008, Boers learned that a certain Isaac Gavino (Gavino)
annotated an adverse claim on their land.8 The adverse claim was based on a Deed of Sale of a Portion
of Land on Installment Basis (Deed of Sale) dated October 16, 1991.9 Boers' signature appears on the
Deed of Sale as one of the sellers. The Deed of Sale was notarized by Calubaquib on the same date. 10

Boers claims that she could not have signed the Deed of Sale and appeared before Calubaquib for the
notarization on October 16, 1991 because she was in Canada at the time. To prove this, Boers
presented her passport which shows that she left the Philippines to return to Canada on December 20,
1990.11 She also presented her Philippine visa which was valid only until February 7, 1991. 12 Boers also
points to the absence of any residence certificate number under her name and signature in the
notarization of the Deed of Sale. Neither was there any other competent form of identification stated
in it.13

Boers inquired with the National Archives of the Philippines where she learned that the Deed of Sale
does not appear in Calubaquib's notarial file. It appears that the Deed of Sale was acknowledged as
Doc. No. 143; Page No. 30; Book No. LIX; Series of 1991. However, upon verification with the
National Archives, the document that corresponds to this is not the Deed of Sale but an Affidavit
executed by one Alfred Danao on October 15, 1991.14

Boer also added that this Court has already sanctioned Calubaquib in Lingan v. Calubaquib.15 In that
case, we suspended Calubaquib from the practice of law for one (1) year for his failure to enter in his
notarial record a certification of forum shopping which he notarized.16

In his defense, Calubaquib insists that Boers signed the Deed of Sale and the acknowledgment. He
theorizes that Boers may have viewed the adverse claim as a hindrance to a planned sale of the land
and thus filed this complaint against him.17 As evidence, he attached to his answer a joint affidavit of
Eulogia D. Simangan and Erlinda S. Tumaliuan, Boers' aunt and cousin, respectively.18

Notably, the joint affidavit states:

13. That when JEAN MARIE A. SIMANGAN-BOERS signed the document at the office of Atty. ROMEO I.
CALUBAQUIB, the document was not immediately notarized because not all the parties to the
document signed at one time.

14. That when all the parties to the document signed, the same was not immediately brought to Atty.
Calubaquib for notarization because JOSE A. SIMANGAN, JR. wanted to increase the purchase
price and which was objected to vigorously by the BUYERS.

15. That when Jose A. SIMANGAN, JR. and the BUYERS settled their differences, that was the time
that the document was brought to the notary public for notarization.

16. That at the time the document was brought for notarization, JEAN MARIE A. SIMANGAN-BOERS
was no longer in the country.19
The Commission recommended that Calubaquib be suspended from the practice of law for two (2)
years. Further, it recommended the revocation of Calubaquib's notarial commission and his perpetual
prohibition from being commissioned as a notary public.20

The IBP Board of Governors adopted the Commission's recommendation but added a stern warning
that repetition of the same or similar conduct will be dealt with more severely. 21 On Calubaquib's
motion for reconsideration, the IBP Board of Governors modified its resolution and removed the stern
warning as part of Calubaquib's penalties.22

The Ruling of the Court

We affirm the findings of the Commission and the IBP Board of Governors.

The Rules on Notarial Practice governs the various notarial acts that a duly commissioned notary
public is authorized to perform. These include acknowledgment, affirmation and oath, and jurat. In the
case of the Deed of Sale, Calubaquib performed the notarial act identified under the Rules as
acknowledgment. Rule II, Section 1 of the Rules define acknowledgment as:
Sec. 1. Acknowledgment. — "Acknowledgment" refers to an act in which an individual on a single
occasion:

(a) appears in person before the notary public and presents an integrally complete instrument
or document;

(b) is attested to be personally known to the notary public or identified by the notary public
through competent evidence of identity as defined by these Rules; and

(c) represents to the notary public that the signature on the instrument or document was
voluntarily affixed by him for the purposes stated in the instrument or document, declares
that he has executed the instrument or document as his free and voluntary act and deed,
and, if he acts in a particular representative capacity, that he has the authority to sign in
that capacity.
In Cabanilla v. Cristal-Tenorio,23 we held that "a party acknowledging must appear before the notary
public."24 This rule is hinged on the obligation of a notary public to guard against any illegal
arrangements.25 The appearance of the parties to the deed helps the notary public to ensure that the
signature appearing on the document is genuine and that the document itself is not spurious. The
persons who signed the document must appear before the notary public to enable the latter to verify
that the persons who signed the document are the same persons making the acknowledgment. Their
presence also enables the notary public to ensure that the document was signed freely and
voluntarily. Thus, we have consistently repeated that a notary public should not notarize a document
unless the persons who signed are the very same persons who executed and personally appeared
before him or her to attest to the contents and truth of the matters stated in the document. 26

Calubaquib clearly violated this rule. Boer satisfactorily proved that she could not have personally
appeared before Calubaquib on October 16, 1991 as she was out of the country as early as December
20, 1990. Moreover, Calubaquib's own evidence established this same fact. He presented a joint
affidavit which expressly states that Boer was not in the Philippines when he notarized the Deed of
Sale. For this violation of the Rules, the imposition of disciplinary sanctions is proper.

Calubaquib also violated the mandatory recording requirements under the Rules. Section 1 of Rule VI
of the Rules requires a notary public to keep a notarial register. Section 2 mandates that a notary
public must record in the notarial register every notarial act at the time of notarization. We explained
the importance of this mandatory recording in Vda. de Rosales v. Ramos:27
The notarial registry is a record of the notary public's official acts. Acknowledged documents and
instruments recorded in it are considered public document. If the document or instrument does not
appear in the notarial records and there is no copy of it therein, doubt is engendered that the
document or instrument was not really notarized, so that it is not a public document and cannot
bolster any claim made based on this document. Considering the evidentiary value given to notarized
documents, the failure of the notary public to record the document in his notarial registry is
tantamount to falsely making it appear that the document was notarized when in fact it was not. 28

The Certification from the National Archives reveals that Calubaquib failed to record the Deed of Sale
in his notarial register. In the face of this evidence and the lack of any explanation on the part of
Calubaquib, we rule that he committed a further violation of the Rules.

In Sappayani v. Gasmen29 and Sultan v. Macabanding,30 where the notary public involved notarized a
document without the presence of the affiant, we meted out the penalties of revocation of the notarial
commission, suspension from the practice of law for one (1) year, and disqualification from being
commissioned as a notary public for two (2) years. Further, in instances where the notaiy public
improperly recorded entries in the notarial registry, as in the cases of Gimeno v. Zaide31 and Heirs of
Pedro Alilano v. Examen,32 we ordered the revocation of the notarial commission. We also imposed the
penalties of suspension from the practice of law for at least one (1) year and disqualification from
being commissioned as a notary public for two (2) years.

In this case, however, we note that this is not the first time that we sanctioned Calubaquib for his
violation of the Rules on Notarial Practice. This serves as an aggravating circumstance that merits a
harsher penalty.

WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, we AFFIRM WITH MODIFICATION Resolution No. XX-
2014-136 of the Board of Governors of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines. We impose on
Calubaquib the penalty of SUSPENSION for TWO (2) YEARS from the practice of law effective upon
finality of this Decision. Further, Calubaquib's notarial commission is REVOKED and he
is PERPETUALLY DISQUALIFIED from being commissioned as a notary public. Calubaquib is
also STERNLY WARNED that a repetition of the same or similar acts will be dealt with more severely.

SO ORDERED.
A.C. No. 11616 [Formerly CBD Case No. 08-2141], August 23, 2017

LITO V. BUENVIAJE, Complainant, v. ATTY. MELCHOR G. MAGDAMO, Respondent.

DECISION

PERALTA, J.:

Before us is an Administrative Complaint dated December 28, 2007 filed by Lito


Buenviaje1 (Buenviaje) against respondent Atty. Melchor G. Magdamo (Atty. Magdamo), docketed as
A.C. No. 11616 for violation of the Code of Professional Responsibility.

The antecedent facts are as follows:

In the instant Complaint dated December 28, 2007, Buenviaje alleged that he was married to the late
Fe Gonzalo-Buenviaje as evidenced by NSO issued Marriage Contract Register No. 87-13503-A.2 Fe
died on September 17, 2007.

Meanwhile, Atty. Magdamo was the counsel of Fe's sisters, Lydia and Florenia Gonzalo, who filed a
criminal case for bigamy against Buenviaje. They claimed that Buenviaje was married to a certain
Amalia Ventura in 1978, thus, making him guilty of bigamy.

In an attempt to protect the rights and interests of his clients in securing the monies of their sibling,
deceased Fe Gonzalo, Atty. Magdamo sent a Notice of Death of Depositor3 dated October 11, 2007 to
the Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI)-Dagupan Branch where Buenviaje and Fe appeared to have a
joint account. The pertinent portion of said Notice reads as follows:

"x x x x

FE SOLIS GONZALO was formerly an Overseas Filipina Worker (OFW) Nurse in Switzerland whose
lifetime savings is now in an account in BPI-Dagupan. She came back to the Philippines to spend the
last days of her life with her family in San Fabian, Pangasinan. Unfortunately, while she was
terminally ill and while residing in Manila so as to be near Saint Luke's Hospital, a clever
swindler by the name of LITO BUENVIAJE made it appear on spurious documents that he is
the husband of Fe Gonzalo when in truth and in fact LITO BUENVIAJE is married to AMALIA
VALERA.

xxxx

Moreover, ever since 24 August 2007, LITO V. BUENVIAJE has been a fugitive from justice as he
has been hiding from the criminal charge in People of the Philippines versus Lito Buenviaje
y Visayana, case number 7H-103365, pending in the City of Manila.

xxxx

Fe never had a husband or child in her entire life. x x x" (Emphasis ours)

Aggrieved, Buenviaje filed the instant administrative complaint against Atty. Magdamo for violation of
Rule 1.01, Canon 7 , Rule 7.03 and Rule 19.01 of the Code of Professional Responsibility. Buenviaje
averred that in Atty. Magdamo's Notice of Death of Depositor dated October 11, 2007 sent to the BPI-
Dagupan Branch, he untruthfully and maliciously quoted the following statements: (1) "a clever
swindler by the name of Lito Buenviaje made it appear on spurious document that he is the husband
of Fe Gonzalo when in truth and in fact Lito Buenviaje is married to Amalia Valero", (2) "since August
24, 2007, Lito V. Buenviaje has been a fugitive from justice as he has been hiding from the criminal
charge in People of the Philippines versus Lito Buenviaje y Visayana, case number 7H-103365 pending
in the City of Manila", and (3) "Fe never had a husband or child in her entire life" to his prejudice.

Buenviaje alleged that he discovered the Notice's existence sometime in December 2007 when he
inquired about the remaining balance of his joint account with Fe. He lamented that he was shocked
upon reading the letter and felt humiliated at the words written against him as the bank manager and
the other bank personnel might have really thought that he was a swindler and a fugitive from
justice.4

Buenviaje denied Atty. Magdamo's allegation that Fe was never married as they were in fact married
in a public civil rites in the presence of many relatives of Fe. As to his alleged marriage with a certain
Amalia Valera, Buenviaje admitted that he had extramarital relationship with her and that they had
two (2) sons. When they separated and he subsequently worked overseas, it did not stop him from
fulfilling his responsibilities as a father to his sons. He was then advised to remit money to Amalia but
he was told that he needed a marriage contract to be able to do so, thus, he asked someone to make
a marriage contract for remittance purposes and that he was told that there would be no record of it.
Buenviaje claimed that at that time, he really believed that no valid marriage took place between him
and Amalia and that he was single up to the time he married Fe.
Buenviaje lamented that Atty. Magdamo employed dirty and dishonest means and tactics to ensure
that BPI will prevent him from withdrawing money from the joint account that he has with his late
wife. He averred that in referring to him as a "swindler", Atty. Magdamo succeeded in intimidating
BPI-Dagupan into extrajudicially "freezing" the joint account and in not transacting with him.

Buenviaje also pointed out that Atty. Magdamo, in referring to him as a fugitive from justice, in effect,
made BPI-Dagupan believe that a criminal complaint was already pending against him when in truth
and in fact, the August 24, 2007 complaint for bigamy filed by Lydia and Florenia was still pending
before the Office of the City Prosecutor of Manila at the time that they wrote and served the Notice to
BPI-Dagupan.

Buenviaje further added that Atty. Magdamo even made threats to him as evidenced by his text
messages to him, to wit: "Sometime in the morning of 1 October 2007, I sent text messages to Lito's
last known Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) number (+639062097612) requesting him to stop his
merciless plunder and to voluntarily surrender to the rule of law."

Finally, Buenviaje questioned Atty. Magdamo's fitness to continue in the practice of law as he has
displayed lack of ability to distinguish a fugitive from justice and a respondent in a criminal
investigation; employed of dirty and unprofessional tactics of calling him a "swindler"; and by referring
to his marriage contract with his wife as "spurious document". He, thus, prayed that considering Atty.
Magdamo's actuations, he should be disbarred or suspended from the practice of law.

On January 9, 2008, the IBP-Commission on Bar Discipline (IBP-CBD) directed Atty. Magdamo to
submit his answer on the complaint against him.5

In its Report and Recommendation6 dated October 23, 2013, the IBP-CBD recommended that Atty.
Magdamo be reprimanded for his unethical actuations.

However, the IBP-Board of Governors, in a Notice of Resolution No. XXI-2014-717 dated October 10,
2014, resolved to adopt and approve with modification the Report and Recommendation of the IBP-
CBD, and instead suspend Atty. Magdamo from the practice of law for three (3) months.7

Aggrieved, Atty. Magdamo moved for reconsideration. However, in Resolution No. XXII-2016-
3268 dated May 28, 2016, the IBP-Board of Governors resolved to deny Atty. Magdamo's motion for
reconsideration and affirm the latter's suspension.

We concur with the findings and recommendation of the IBP-Board of Governors.

The practice of law is a privilege given to lawyers who meet the high standards of legal proficiency and
morality. Any violation of these standards exposes the lawyer to administrative liability. Canon 8 of
the Code of Professional Responsibility provides:
CANON 8 — A lawyer shall conduct himself with courtesy, fairness and candor towards his professional
colleagues, and shall avoid harassing tactics against the opposing counsel.

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

In the instant case, Atty. Magdamo's actuations do not measure up to this Canon. The records show
that he referred to Buenviaje as a "swindler". He made this imputation with pure malice for he had no
evidence that Buenviaje is committing swindling activities. Even if he was suspicious of Buenviaje, he
should have refrained from making such malicious reference or name-calling for he should know as a
lawyer that the mere filing of a complaint against a person does not guarantee a finding of guilt, and
that an accused is presumed innocent until proven guilty. Here, other than the criminal complaint for
bigamy which Fe's siblings filed before the prosecutor's office, there were no other cases decided
against Buenviaje.

Atty. Magdamo's malicious imputation against Buenviaje is further aggravated by the fact that said
imputation was made in a forum which is not a party to the legal dispute between Fe's siblings and
Buenviaje. He could have just informed BPI-Dagupan of the death of its client and that there is a
pending litigation regarding their client's estate, and he did not have to resort to name-calling and
make unnecessary commentaries in order to support his cause. Undoubtedly, his malicious imputation
against Buenviaje is unfair as the latter was unnecessarily exposed to humiliation and shame even as
there was no actual case yet to be filed in the courts.

Moreover, Atty. Magdamo is likewise out of line when he made inference to the marriage documents
of Buenviaje and Fe as "spurious" as well as his conclusion that "Fe never had a husband or child in
her entire life". He should know better that without the courts' pronouncement to this effect, he is in
no position to draw conclusions and pass judgment as to the existence, and validity or nullity of the
marriage of Buenviaje and Fe. That is not his job to do. While his statements in the Notice given to
BPI-Dagupan might be prompted by a good cause, it were nevertheless careless, premature and
without basis. At the very least, Atty. Magdamo's actuations are blatant violation of Rule 10.02 of the
Code of Professional Responsibility which provides:
Rule 10.02 - A lawyer shall not knowingly misquote or misrepresent the contents of a paper, the
language or the argument of opposing counsel, or the text of a decision or authority, or knowingly cite
as law a provision already rendered inoperative by repeal or amendment, or assert as a fact that
which has not been proved. (Emphasis ours)

Equally incredulous is Atty. Magdamo's statement in the Notice that "Lito V. Buenviaje has been a
fugitive from justice as he has been hiding from the criminal charge in People vs. Lito Buenviaje y
Visayana, case number 7H-103365, pending in the City of Manila". Upon review, it appears that case
number 7H-103365 is the same bigamy case which Fe's siblings filed against Buenviaje before the
Prosecutor's Office of Manila. At the time Atty. Magdamo made the subjects statement in the Notice to
BPI-Dagupan, he knew that there was no final resolution yet from the prosecutor's office, no case has
yet to be filed in the courts, there was no warrant of arrest against Buenviaje, and more importantly,
there was no evidence that Buenviaje had any intent to flee prosecution as he even filed the instant
case and participated in the proceedings hereto. A mere charge or allegation of wrongdoing does not
suffice. Accusation is not synonymous with guilt. There must always be sufficient evidence to support
the charge.9 As to why Atty. Magdamo made such malicious statements is beyond this Court's
comprehension.

We had an occasion to say that the use of disrespectful, intemperate, manifestly baseless, and
malicious statements by an attorney in his pleadings or motions is a violation of the lawyer's oath and
a transgression of the canons of professional ethics.10 The Court has constantly reminded lawyers to
use dignified language in their pleadings despite the adversarial nature of our legal system. 11 Though a
lawyer's language may be forceful and emphatic, it should always be dignified and respectful, befitting
the dignity of the legal profession. The use of intemperate language and unkind ascriptions has no
place in the dignity of judicial forum. Atty. Magdamo ought to have realized that this sort of public
behavior can only bring down the legal profession in the public estimation and erode public respect for
it.12

In this case, Atty. Magdamo's statements against Buenviaje were not only improper but it also
undoubtedly tended to mislead BPI-Dagupan into thinking that the latter is a swindler and a fugitive as
it was made without hesitation notwithstanding the absence of any evidentiary support. The Court
cannot condone this irresponsible and unprofessional behavior.

As this Court emphasized in Re: Supreme Court Resolution dated 28 April 2003 in G.R. Nos. 145817 &
145822:13
The Court cannot countenance the ease with which lawyers, in the hopes of strengthening their cause
in a motion for inhibition, make grave and unfounded accusations of unethical conduct or even
wrongdoing against other members of the legal profession. It is the duty of members of the Bar to
abstain from all offensive personality and to advance no fact prejudicial to the honor or
reputation of a party or witness, unless required by the justness of the cause with which they are
charged. (emphasis ours)

Finally, it must be emphasized anew that, in support of the cause of their clients, lawyers have the
duty to present every remedy or defense within the authority of the law. However, a client's cause
does not permit an attorney to cross the line between liberty and license. 14 The lawyer's duty to its
clients must never be at the expense of truth and justice. As explained in Choa v. Chiongson:15
While a lawyer owes absolute fidelity to the cause of his client, full devotion to his genuine interest,
and warm zeal in the maintenance and defense of his rights, as well as the exertion of his utmost
learning and ability, he must do so only within the bounds of the law. He must give a candid and
honest opinion on the merits and probable results of his client's case with the end in view of
promoting respect for the law and legal processes, and counsel or maintain such actions or
proceedings only as it appears to him to be just, and such defenses only as he believes to be honestly
debatable under the law. He must always remind himself of the oath he took upon admission to the
Bar that he will not wittingly or willingly promote or sue any groundless, false or unlawful suit nor give
aid nor consent to the same; and that he will conduct [himself] as a lawyer according to the best of
[his] knowledge and discretion with all good fidelity as well to the courts as to [his] clients. Needless
to state, the lawyers fidelity to his client must not be pursued at the expense of truth and the
administration of justice, and it must be done within the bounds of reason and common sense. A
lawyers responsibility to protect and advance the interests of his client does not warrant a course of
action propelled by ill motives and malicious intentions against the other party.

Based on the foregoing, We cannot countenance Atty. Magdamo's use of offensive and disrespectful
language in his Notice addressed to BPI-Dagupan. He clearly violated Canons 8 and 10 of the Code of
Professional Responsibility, for his actions erode the public's perception of the legal profession. We,
thus, sustain the findings and recommendation of the IBP-Board of Governors.

ACCORDINGLY, the Court AFFIRMS the October 10, 2014 and May 28, 2016 Resolutions of the
Integrated Bar of the Philippines Board of Governors in CBD Case No. 08-2141 and ORDERS the
suspension of Atty. Melchor G. Magdamo from the practice of law for three (3) months effective upon
his receipt of this Decision.
Let a copy of this Decision be entered in Atty. Magdamo's personal record as an attorney with the
Office of the Bar Confidant and a copy of the same be served to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines
and to the Office of the Court Administrator for circulation to all the courts in the land.

SO ORDERED.
A.C. No. 6980, August 30, 2017

CESAR O. STA. ANA, CRISTINA M. STA. ANA AND ESTHER STA. ANA-
SILVERIO, Complainants, v. ATTY. ANTONIO JOSE F. CORTES, Respondent.

RESOLUTION

DEL CASTILLO,***J.:

This is a complaint for disbarment filed by complainants against Atty. Antonio Jose F. Cortes
(respondent) against whom they imputed deceit and falsification of public documents in the sale of
two parcels of property located at Bo. Lantic, Carmona, Cavite and covered by Transfer Certificates of
Title (TCT) Nos. T-1069335 and T-1069336; and in the donation of66 pieces of property by Atty.
Cesar Casal (Atty. Casal) and his wife, Pilar P. Casal (Pilar).

Factual Antecedents

In a sworn letter dated August 4, 2005, complainants alleged that respondent was left ith the care and
maintenance of several properties either owned or under the administration of Atty. Casal since the
latter's death; that respondent abused his authority, as such administrator, and engineered the sale or
transfer of the said properties, specifically the two parcels of land covered by TCT Nos. T-1069335 and
T-1069336, which were owned originally by their (complainants') ancestors; that on May 19, 2004,
respondent, in connivance with Cesar Inis (Inis) and A Casal's alleged adopted daughter, Gloria Casal
Cledera (Gloria), and her husband, Hugh Cledera (the spouses Cledera), sold the abovementioned
parcels of land to the Property Company of Friends, Inc. (PCFI).1

Complainants further averred that as the said properties were originally in the names of Inis, Ruben
Loyola (Loyola), Angela Lacdan (Lacdan) and Cesar Veloso Casal (Veloso), these persons, in
conspiracy with respondent, caused to be executed a Special Power of Attorney2 (SPA) dated May 4,
2004, under which Loyola, Lacdan and Veloso purportedly authorized their co-owner Inis to sell the
said properties; that this SPA was, however, forged or falsified, because Loyola was already dead on
August 15, 1994, whereas Lacdan died on August 31, 2001, and at the time of the execution of the
SPA in Catmona, Cavite, Veloso was in fact in Tacloban City; and that indeed, as a consequence of
respondent's wrongdoing, criminal cases for Estata through Falsification of Public Document were filed
against respondent and the spouses Cledera.3

Complainants moreover claimed that respondent notarized 12 falsified Deeds of Donation, dated
September 17 and 18, 2003, and supposedly executed in Carmona, Cavite, under which it was made
to appear that Atty. Casal purportedly donated 66 pieces of property to Gloria; that they
(complainants) caused to be verified/examined Atty. Casal's "superimposed" signatures on these
deeds of donation by the Questioned Documents Division of the National Bureau of Investigation
(NBI); and that in its Disposition Forms, the NBI concluded that "the signatures appearing on the said
questioned documents are mere xerox copies which do not truly and clearly reflect the minute details
of the writing strokes and other aspects relative to the preparation of the questioned signatures."4

In his answer, respondent asserted that all the criminal complaints against him had been dismissed,
and the criminal information/s instituted therefor had been withdrawn by the Department of Justice
(DOJ), hence, he had been exonerated of all the charges against him. Respondent adverted to the
Resolution of Regional State Prosecutor Ernesto C. Mendoza, which in part declared -
x x x the signatures of Cesar E. Casal appearing on the said questioned documents are mere xerox
copies which do not truly and clearly reflect the minute details of the writing strokes and other aspects
relative to the preparation of the questioned signatures.

Nowhere in this report was there a categorical statement that the document was falsified or the
signatures were forged. x x x5

In a Resolution6 dated November 27, 2006, the Court resolved to refer this administrative case to the
Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) for investigation, report and recommendation.

Report and Recommendation of the IBP

The Investigating Commissioner summarized the charges against respondent as follows:


(a) First, [r]espondent was involved in the preparation of the Loyola SPA, which was used to
sell the [s)ubject [p]roperties to PCFI, despite the fact that two (2) of the alleged
signatories therein were already dead at the time the Loyola SPA was executed;
(b) Second, [r]espondent prepared and notarized 12 Deeds of Donation, which [appear] to be
spurious because the signatures of Atty. Casal thereon were only superimposed;
(c) Third, [r]espondent notarized the 12 Deeds of Donation in Quezon City, within his
territorial jurisdiction as a notary public x x x despite the fact that Atty. Casal signed the
same in x x x Cavite, or outside his jurisdiction as a notary public;

(d) Fourth, [r]espondent caused the preparation of the Casal SPA, which appears to be
spurious because the signature of Atty. Casal thereon was only superimposed; and

(e) Fifth, [r]espondent knowingly used the spurious Casal SPA and executed a Deed of Sale in
favor of PCFI involving other properties. 7

After due proceedings, the Investigating Commissioner submitted a Report 8 dated May 14, 2010,
finding respondent not only guilty of dishonesty and deceitful conduct, but also guilty of having
violated hls oath as a notary public.

In finding respondent guilty of using a falsified document, the Investigating Commissioner noted that
although there was no direct evidence that it was respondent himself who prepared or drafted the
SPA, there was evidence nonetheless that respondent did actively participate, or take part, in the offer
and sale of the properties to the PCFI; and that since the execution of the forged or falsified SPA is a
crucial or critical component of the eventual consummation of the sale to PCFI, respondent could not
be heard to say that he had no knowledge of the use of a falsified document.9

As regards the 12 Deeds of Donation allegedly executed by Atty. Casal, the Investigating
Commissioner lent more credence to the unbiased or impartial report of the NBI's finding that the
signatures of Atty. Casal were per se mere xerox copies; and that moreover, respondent had violated
Section 24010 of the Revised Administrative Code, when he caused to be acknowledged the Deeds of
Donation in his law office in Quezon City, despite the fact that these were supposedly signed and
executed by Atty. Casal in Cavite. The Investigating Commissioner opined that respondent "ought to
have known that since he was outside his territorial jurisdiction as a notary public, he could not have
performed the acts of a notary public at the time of the signing of the 12 Deeds of Donation, including
the taking of oath of the parties."11

The Investigating Commissioner thus recommended:


1. ATTY. ANTONIO JOSE F. CORTES be suspended from the practice of law for a period ranging from
six (6) months to two (2) years with a STERN WARNING that repetition of the same or similar acts or
conduct shall be dealt with more severely; and

2. ATTY. ANTONIO JOSE F. CORTES be barred from being commissioned as a notary public for a
period of two (2) years, and in the event that he is presently commissioned as notary public, that his
commission be immediately revoked and suspended for such period.12

In its Resolution13 dated May 10, 2013, the IBP Board of Governors adopted and approved the findings
of the Investigating Commissioner but modified the recommended penalty to a one-year suspension
from the practice of law, with revocation of respondent's notarial license, plus a two-year
disqualification from reappointment as notary public. The pertinent portion of the Resolution reads:
RESOLVED to ADOPT and APPROVE, as it is hereby unanimously ADOPTED and APPROVED with
modification, the Report and Recommendation of the Investigating Commissioner in the above-entitled
case, herein made part ofthis Resolution as Annex "A", and finding the recommendation fully
supported by the evidence on record and the applicable laws and rules and considering Respondent's
violation of the Notarial Law, Atty. Antonio Jose F. Cortes is hereby SUSPENDED from the practice of
law for one (1) year and his Notarial Commission immediately REVOKED presently commissioned.
Further, he is DISQUALIFIED from reappointment as Notary Publicfor two (2) years.

No motions for reconsideration having been filed by any of the parties, the case is before us for fmal
resolution.

Our Ruling
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. [It is only in living up to the very high standards and tenets of the legal profession
that] the people's faith and confidence in the judicial system can be 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.14

In the instant case, respondent acted with deceit when he used the falsified documents to effect the
transfer of properties owned or administered by the late Atty. Casal. In a letter15sent by Atty. Florante
O. Villegas, counsel for the PCFI, to the spouses Cledera, the former explicitly stated that respondent
did have a hand in the negotiation leading to the sale of the properties covered by TCT Nos. T-
1069335 and T-1069336. In clarifying that it only entered into a Deed of Absolute Sale because of the
"offer and representation that spouses Cesar and Pilar Casal are the true owners of the subject parcels
of land,"16 the PCFI, through its legal counsel, declared:
We understand that you, together with Atty. Antonio Jose F. Cortes, offered to sell the said
parcels ofland to our client, and that on September 17, 2003, an agreement of Purchase and Sale was
executed between Spouses Cesar E. Casal and Pilar P. Casal (represented by Atty. Cortes as their
attorney-in-fact) and our client.17 (Emphasis supplied)

Moreover, Mr. Guillermo C. Choa, President of the PCFI, narrated in his affidavit18 the events leading to
another sale likewise involving properties coowned by Atty. Casal through the use of the spurious SPA,
to wit:
3) That sometime in August 2003, Sps. Hugh Cledera and Gloria Casal Cledera and Atty. Antonio
Jose F. Cortes offered to me for sale several parcels of land owned by Cesar E. Casal (father
of Gloria Casal Cledera) including Lot 5, Psu 10120 and Lot 6, Psu 101205 containing an area of
39,670 square meters and 47,638 square meters, more or less, located at Bo. Lantic, Carmona, Cavite
which was then registered in the name of Eduardo Gan, et al. under TCT No. T-79153 of the Register
of Deeds fur the Province of Cavite.

4) That Sps. Hugh Cledera and Gloria Casal Cledera together with Atty. Cortes also
presented to me the following documents, to wit:

a) TCT No. T-79153 of the Registry of Deeds for the Province of Cavite.

b) Deed of Absolute Sale dated December 15, 1990 executed by heirs of Eduardo B. Gan, et
al. in favor of Cesar E. Casal, Cesar Inis, Ruben Loyola and Angela Lacdan.

c) Deed of Absolute Sale dated December 19, 1990 executed by Cesar Veloso Casal, et. al. in
favor ofSps. Cesar and Pilar Casal.

xxxx

6) That in the Agreement of Purchase and Sale, it was agreed that the seller shall register the several
Deeds of Sale and deliver the titles over said properties to Pro-friends (PCFI). In the above-
mentioned Agreement of Purchase and Sale, Sps. Casal were represented by their duly
authorized attorney-in-fact, Atty. Antonio Jose F. Cortes, of legal age, Filipino, with address at
2/F ELCO Bldg., 202 E. Rodriguez, Sr., Blvd., Quezon City. Present during negotiations for the
terms and conditions to be contained in the Agreement of Purchase and Sale aside from myself and
Atty.Cortes were Sps. Hugh and Gloria Cledera, the son-in-law and daughter, respectively of Sps.
Casal; x x x19(Emphasis supplied)

Likewise, it cannot be denied that it was respondent who engineered the execution of the 12 Deeds of
Donation involving 66 pieces of Atty. Casal's property. Respondent was personally present dwing the
alleged signing of the Deeds of Donation in Cavite, which deeds he brought afterwards to his law office
in Quezon City, and notarized the same. Indeed, in his Affidavit, respondent stated:
11. When I presented the documents for signature of the donorsspouses, Cesar E. Casal and
Pilar P. Casal, the late Cesar E. Casal stamped the rubber facsimile of his genuine signature in all the
spaces provided in all copies of the Deeds of Donation. At the same time and place, I also saw his wife
Pilar P. Casal affixed [sic] her own signature in the Deeds of Donation. Also present dming the signing
occasion was the donee herself, Dr. Gloria P. Casal, as well as, [sic] her husband, Dr. Hugh Cledera
who affixed their signatures in all the copies of the Deeds of Donation in my presence.

12. Thereafter, I gathered and brought all the signed copies of the Deeds of Donation to my
office in Quezon City, and notarized them. Record shows that I notarized them and entered the
documents in my Notarial Registry on September 17 and 18, 2003.20 (Emphasis supplied)

By using the falsified SPA and by knowingly notarizing documents outside of his notarial commission's
jurisdiction, respondent was evidently bereft of basic integrity which is an indispensable sine qua non
of his ongoing membership, in good standing, in the legal profession, and as a duly-commissioned
notary public.

In actively participating in the offer and sale of property to PCFI, respondent was guilty of deceit and
dishonesty by leveraging on the use of a spurious Special Power of Attorney

There can be no debate either as to the fact that respondent made use of a forged or falsified SPA in
his dealings with PCFI. As the lawyer who assisted in the sale of the properties through the use of the
falsified SPA in question, he ought to know that the use of such falsified or forged SPA gives rise to
grievous legal consequences which must inevitably enmesh him professionally. As a member of the
Bar in apparent good legal standing, he effectively held himself out as a trustworthy agent for the
principals he was purportedly representing in the transaction/s in question.
Respondent's act of notarizing a forged Deed of Donation outside of his jurisdiction is a violation of his
duties as a notary public, as well as a blatant falsification of public document

This Court agrees with the fmdings of the IBP Board of Governors which upheld the impartial report of
the NBI and its findings that the signatures on the Deeds of Donation were mere photocopies attached
to the said Deeds.21 Given the fact that respondent admitted to having been with the late Atty. Casal
at the time of the execution of the Deed, it would not be far-fetched to say that the use of the said
mere photocopies was with his knowledge and consent. What is more, his act of bringing the Deeds of
Donation that were executed in Carmona, Cavite, to his law office in Quezon City, and notarizing them
there, not only violated Section 240 of the Revised Administrative Code but "also [partook] of
malpractice of law and falsification."22

Section 240 of the Revised Administrative Code explicitly states:


Sec. 240. Territorial jurisdiction. - The jurisdiction of a notary public in a province shall be co-
extensive with the province. The jurisdiction of a notary public in the City of Manila shall be co-
extensive with said city. No notary shall possess authority to do any notarial act beyond the
limits of his jurisdiction.23 (Emphasis supplied)

Needless to say, respondent cannot escape from the clutches of this provision.

The dismissal of the criminal complaints against respondent did not change the sui generis character
of disbarment proceedings

Respondent's contention that the DOJ had resolved to withdraw the criminal complaints filed against
him and his co-accused, the spouses Cledera,24 does not persuade. The dismissal or withdrawal of the
criminal complaints/ information/sat the instance of the DOJ, is of no moment. As a member of the
Bar, respondent should know that administrative cases against lawyers are sui generis, or a class of
their own. "Disciplinary proceedings involve no private interest and afford no redress for private
grievance."25 Disbarment cases are aimed at purging the legal profession of individuals who obdurately
scorn and despise the exalted standards of the noble profession of law. It is within this Court's power,
as a check and balance to its own system, to ensure undeviating integrity by members of the Bar both
on the professional and the personal level. It is only by maintaining this integrity and this loyalty to
the law, to the Courts of Justice and to their client and the public at large, that lawyers are enabled to
maintain the trust reposed upon them and to deliver justice inside and outside the courtroom.

WHEREFORE, Atty. Antonio Jose F. Cortes is hereby SUSPENDED from the practice of law for one
(1) year and his Notarial Commission immediately REVOKED, if he is presently commissioned.
Furthermore, he is DISQUALIFIED from reappointment as Notary Public for two (2) years, reckoned
from the date of finality of this Resolution.

Furnish a copy of this Resolution to the Office of the Bar Confidant, which shall append the same to
the personal record of respondent; to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines; and the Office of the Court
Administrator, which shall circulate the same to all courts in the country for their infonnation and
guidance.

SO ORDERED.
A.C. No. 7253, August 29, 2017

ATTY. PLARIDEL C. NAVA II, Complainant, v. PROSECUTOR OFELIA M. D. ARTUZ,*Respondent.

A.M. No. MTJ-08-1717 (FORMERLY OCA IPI NO. 07-1911-MTJ)

ATTY. PLARIDEL C. NAVA II, Complainant, v. JUDGE OFELIA M. D. ARTUZ, MUNICIPAL TRIAL
COURT IN CITIES OF ILOILO CITY, BRANCH 5, Respondent.

DECISION

PER CURIAM:

For resolution are the two (2) consolidated cases filed by complainant Atty. Plaridel C. Nava II (Nava)
against respondent then Prosecutor, now Presiding Judge, Ofelia M. D. Artuz (Artuz) of the Municipal
Trial Court in Cities of Iloilo City, Branch 5, (MTCC, Br. 5): (a) A.C. No. 7253 that sought to disbar
Artuz, then a Prosecutor at the time of the filing of the petition; and (b) A.M. No. MTJ-08-1717
(formerly OCA IPI No. 07-1911-MTJ) that sought to nullify the nomination and appointment of Artuz
as Presiding Judge of the MTCC, Br. 5, for being patently illegal, improper, and irregular.

The Facts

A.C. No. 7253

In the Petition for Disbarment1 dated February 10, 2006 (disbarment case), Nava claimed that on July
28, 2005, he filed a Request for Inhibition and Re-raffle2 of his client's case before the Office of the
City Prosecutor of Iloilo City on the ground that he and Artuz, as then the assigned prosecutor
handling his client's case, are not in good terms because they are adversaries in various
administrative and criminal cases.3 In response to his request, Artuz filed her comment,4 where she
willfully and viciously maligned, insulted, and scorned him and his father, who is not a party to the
case;5 thus, Nava asserted that Artuz violated Canon 8 of the Code of Professional Responsibility (CPR)
that enjoins lawyers to conduct themselves with courtesy, fairness, and candor toward their
colleagues in the profession.6 He added that Artuz: (a) made malicious and false accusations in her
comment when she accused him of crimes which are baseless and purely conjectural; (b) had
maliciously filed criminal cases against him, along with others, before the Department of Justice (DOJ)
intended to harass, annoy, vex, and humiliate him; and (c) had maligned her former superior and
colleague, City Prosecutor Efrain V. Baldago,7 which acts constitute grave misconduct and are violative
of the CPR and of Republic Act No. (RA) 6713.8

In a Resolution9 dated August 2, 2006, the Court referred the disbarment case to the DOJ for
appropriate action.

Meanwhile, record shows that Nava filed before the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) an
opposition10 dated January 4, 2006, to the application for judgeship of Artuz. Notwithstanding, Artuz
was appointed on September 28, 200611 and took her Oath of Office as Presiding Judge of the MTCC,
Br. 5 on October 9, 2006.12 Thus, the record of the disbarment case was retrieved from the DOJ13 and
referred to the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) for appropriate action.14

A.M. No. MTJ-08-1717

In the petition15 for nullification of the nomination and appointment of Artuz as Presiding Judge of
MTCC, Br. 5 filed on October 17, 2006 (nullification case), Nava alleged that Artuz is unfit and
incompetent to be appointed as a trial judge as she faces "several criminal and administrative cases,
the nature of which involves her character, competence, probity, integrity and independence which
should not have been disregarded in her application to the judiciary."16 These cases are: (a) four (4)
disbarment cases - A.C. No. 6605 filed by a certain Zenaida Ramos, A.C. No. 7253 filed by him, a case
filed by a certain Julieta Laforteza on July 11, 2006,17 and another filed by a certain Herminia Dilla on
November 9, 2005; (b) four (4) criminal cases filed before the Office of the Ombudsman-Visayas
(Ombudsman) - OMB-V-C-06-0218-D, OMB-V-C-06-0219-D, OMB-V-C-06-220-D, and OMB-V-C-06-
221-D; and (c) one (1) criminal case - I.S. No. 2175-05, and one (1) administrative case filed on
October 23, 2003, both pending before the DOJ.18

Nava reiterated that during her incumbency as a public prosecutor, Artuz received numerous judicial
fines and admonition for tardiness, absences without prior notice, and lack of interest to prosecute
cases. In fact, some of the cases she handled were dismissed due to her dismal
performance.19 Further, Nava narrated specific incidents showing Artuz's character as vindictive,
oppressive, and discourteous.20

In her defense,21 Artuz alleged that the nullification case is a desperate retaliatory move on Nava's
part because of the disbarment case she filed against him, where he was found guilty of gross
misconduct and suspended from the practice of law for a period of two (2) months.22 She claimed that
the charges filed against her were already dismissed or outrightly not given due course.23 She thus
prayed that the nullification case be dismissed, since she met all the qualifications and has none of the
disqualifications for a judicial position.24

Meanwhile, on October 19, 2006, the OCA wrote separate letters for the DOJ and the Ombudsman,
requesting information as to the date of filing and status of the criminal and administrative cases filed
against Artuz before their respective offices, and whether she has been duly notified thereof. 25

In a letter26 dated January 29, 2007, the DOJ, through Assistant Chief State Prosecutor Richard
Anthony D. Fadullon, stated that it only learned of the criminal cases filed against then Prosecutor
Artuz through Regional State Prosecutor Domingo J. Laurea, Jr. (RSP Laurea). The latter furnished
said office of copy of his 2nd Indorsement27 dated March 16, 2006, forwarding the records of the cases
to Officer-in-Charge Virginia Palanca-Santiago of the Deputy Ombudsman's Office (OIC Santiago), due
to RSP Laurea's inhibition from the said cases. As regards the administrative cases filed against Artuz,
in her capacity as then public prosecutor, the DOJ stated that there was already a draft resolution as
of October 2005; its contents, however, could not, at that time, be disclosed as it was still subject for
review by the Office of the DOJ Secretary.

On the other hand,28 in a letter dated November 22, 2006 (which the OCA-Legal Office received only
on September 4, 2007), OIC Santiago informed the OCA that OMB-V-C-06-0218-D, OMB-V-C-06-
0219-D, OMB-V-C-06-0220-D, and OMB-V-C-06-0221-D, all entitled "Herminia Dilla v. Ofelia Artuz,"
were received by the Ombudsman on March 24, 2006; that Artuz was notified of the three (3) cases
wherein she filed her counter-affidavit and position paper; and that two (2) of the cases are pending
resolution, while the other two (2) were already forwarded to the Tanodbayan for appropriate action.

On February 27, 2007, the OCA requested29 from the Secretary of the JBC a certified copy of Artuz's
Personal Data Sheet (PDS),30 which she submitted relative to her application to the judiciary. On March
13, 2007, then Clerk of Court and Ex Officio JBC Secretary Ma. Luisa D. Villarama forwarded to the
OCA the application documents of Artuz on file with the JBC, including the latter's PDS subscribed and
sworn to on October 28, 2005 (October 28, 2005 PDS).31

In a Memorandum32 dated October 3, 2007, the OCA noted that the nullification case is deemed
mooted by Artuz's appointment to the judiciary, but nonetheless opined that the Court can review her
appointment, pursuant to its administrative supervision powers under Section 6, Article VIII of the
Constitution.33 Thus, it recommended that Artuz "be [directed] to show cause within ten (10) days
from receipt of notice why no disciplinary action should be taken against her for not disclosing in her
[October 28, 2005 PDS] filed with the JBC the fact that she has been formally charged and that she
has pending criminal, administrative and disbarment cases."34

The Court adopted the OCA's recommendation in a Resolution35 dated November 28, 2007.

On February 7, 2008,36 Artuz filed her Compliance37 to the November 28, 2007 Resolution, alleging
that the disbarment case against her has already been dismissed by the Court on December 6,
2007.38 She likewise denied the accusations against her and claimed that she will never exchange her
thirty-one (31) years of government service by perjuring her records, much less her PDS. Finally, she
reiterated that she had complied with all the requirements of the JBC and possessed all the
qualifications and none of the disqualifications for the appointment to the judiciary. 39 The Court
referred her compliance to the OCA for evaluation, report, and recommendation.40

In a Resolution41 dated August 20, 2008, the Court, upon the recommendation of the OCA in its
Memorandum42 dated July 11, 2008, resolved to: (a) consider as unsatisfactory her compliance with
the Court's November 28, 2007 show cause Resolution for her failure to sufficiently explain why no
disciplinary action should be taken against her for not disclosing in her October 28, 2005 PDS the fact
that she has been formally charged; (b) re-docket the complaint as a regular administrative
matter, i.e., A.M. No. MTJ-08-1717; and refer the administrative matter to the Executive Judge of the
Regional Trial Court of Iloilo City (RTC) for further investigation.

During the investigation, Artuz reiterated her previous allegations that the nullification case is
frivolous, malicious, and a harassment citing her complaint for disbarment against Nava which
resulted in the latter's suspension from the practice of law for a period of two (2) months.43 Artuz
presented: (1) a Certification44 dated January 30, 2007 issued by the DOJ, certifying that she has no
pending administrative case; (2) a Certification45 dated June 15, 2004 issued by the Ombudsman,
stating that she has no pending criminal and administrative cases; and (3) the Court's
Resolution46 dated November 21, 2005, noting the dismissal of her disbarment case.

On February 16, 2011, the Court, on Artuz's motion,47 relieved Executive Judge (EJ) Antonio M. Natino
from investigating the matter and directed First Vice EJ Danilo P. Galvez (EJ Galvez), RTC, Iloilo City
to continue with the investigation.48

In his Investigation Report49 dated September 30, 2014, EJ Galvez submitted that Artuz missed the
point of the administrative matter as she failed to explain why she omitted or falsely answered the
subject questions in her October 28, 2005 PDS submitted before the JBC.50 He noted that, while a
disbarment case filed against her had been pending before the DOJ since October 23, 2003, Artuz
nonetheless did not answer the PDS question requiring disclosure of any pending case or complaint
filed against her. Worse, she answered "NO" when asked whether she had been charged with,
convicted of, or sanctioned for violation of any law, decree, ordinance, or regulation, or otherwise
found guilty of an administrative offense in the same PDS.51 In another PDS52 dated November 6,
2006, which she filed before the Office of the Administrative Services-OCA (OAS-OCA), Artuz likewise
answered "NO" to the question "Have you ever been formally charged?."53 EJ Galvez opined that Artuz
omitted and falsely answered these questions purposely to deceive the JBC which was then
deliberating on her application.54

In a Resolution55 dated February 23, 2015, the Court referred the September 30, 2014 Investigation
Report of EJ Galvez to the OCA for evaluation, report, and recommendation.

The OCA's Evaluation and Recommendation

In the Memorandum56 dated November 3, 2015 issued in A.M. MTJ-08-1717, the OCA recommended
that Artuz be found guilty of Grave Misconduct, Dishonesty, and Falsification of Public Documents, and
accordingly be dismissed from service effective immediately.57

The OCA agreed with EJ Galvez's observation that Artuz not only missed the point of the investigation,
but also the opportunity to explain her side as to why she did not disclose in her two (2) PDS -
submitted on October 28, 2005 and November 6, 2006 (subject PDS) - the material fact that she had
been formally charged.58 To the OCA, Artuz deliberately lied in her answers in the subject PDS to
conceal the truth and make it appear that she is qualified for a judgeship position to which she was
eventually appointed.59 Had she disclosed this material fact, the JBC would have surely disqualified her
from nomination for judgeship based on its rules. Her act of making an obviously false statement in
her two (2) PDS is a clear indication that she does not deserve any position in the judiciary.60 Worse,
she repeatedly disregarded the Court's directives to show cause why no disciplinary action should be
taken against her for not disclosing in the subject PDS the fact that she had been formally charged
and that she had pending criminal, administrative, and disbarment cases.61

In this light, the OCA held that Artuz's act of making untruthful statements in her two (2) PDS
amounts to dishonesty and falsification of an official document which carries the extreme penalty of
dismissal from service with forfeiture of all retirement benefits, except accrued leave credits, and
perpetual disqualification from reemployment in the government service.

In the interim, the OCA, in a Memorandum62 dated August 7, 2014 issued in A.C. No. 7253,
recommended that A.C. No. 7253 (disbarment case) be consolidated with A.M. No. MTJ-08-1717
(nullification case), which the Court adopted in a Resolution63 dated June 17, 2015.

The Issues Before the Court

The essential issues for the Court's resolution are whether or not Artuz is guilty of: (a) Grave
Misconduct, Dishonesty, and Falsification of official document for her failure to disclose in the subject
PDS the material fact that she had been formally charged; and (b) Grave Misconduct and violating the
CPR and RA 6713.

The Court's Ruling

The Court agrees with the findings and recommendations of the OCA in A.M. No. MTJ-08-1717 that
Judge Artuz is guilty of Grave Misconduct, Dishonesty, and Falsification of official document for her
false statements in her two (2) PDS and for her willful defiance of Court directives.

Misconduct has been defined as any unlawful conduct, on the part of the person concerned with the
administration of justice, prejudicial to the rights of the parties or to the right determination of the
cause.64 It implies wrongful, improper, or unlawful conduct, not a mere error of judgment, motivated
by a premeditated, obstinate or intentional purpose, although it does not necessarily imply corruption
or criminal intent, and must have a direct relation to and be connected with the performance of the
public officer's official duties amounting either to maladministration or willful, intentional neglect, or
failure to discharge the duties of the office.65

On the other hand, dishonesty has been defined as "intentionally making a false statement on any
material fact, or practicing or attempting to practice any deception or fraud in securing his
examination, appointment, or registration. [It] is a serious offense which reflects a person's character
and exposes the moral decay which virtually destroys his honor, virtue, and integrity. It is a
malevolent act that has no place in the judiciary, as no other office in the government service exacts a
greater demand for moral righteousness from an employee than a position in the judiciary."66

Proceeding from these definitions, the Court agrees that Artuz deliberately and calculatedly lied in her
answers to the subject questions in her two (2) PDS to conceal the truth and make it appear that she
is qualified for the judgeship position which she now holds. Indeed, it is inconceivable for her not to
have been aware of any of the pending cases against her since an administrative case filed against her
had been pending before the DOJ since October 23, 2003, or long before she submitted her
application with the JBC.67 Had she disclosed this material fact in her October 28, 2005 PDS, the JBC
may have disqualified her from nomination for judgeship, or disregarded her application. Because of
this intentional omission, the judiciary may have lost someone truly deserving of the judgeship post.
Moreover, when she filed her November 6, 2006 PDS, Artuz was already clearly aware of the pending
charges against her before the Ombudsman, i.e., OMB-V-C-06-0219-D, OMB-V-C-06-0220-D, and
OMB-V-C-06-0221-D, all of which appear to have been filed, at most, in the early part of 2006, and
received68 by the Ombudsman on March 24, 2006 through the March 16, 2006 Indorsement of RSP
Laurea.69 In several cases, the Court has held that a duly accomplished PDS is an official document
and any false statements made in one's PDS is ultimately connected with one's employment in the
government. An employee making false statement in his or her PDS becomes liable for falsification.70

Artuz, as a member of the Bar, is presumed to be a learned individual, who knew, and is in fact
expected to know, exactly what the subject questions called for, what they mean, and what
repercussions will befall her should she make false declarations thereon. Obviously, she knew that she
was committing an act of dishonesty, but nonetheless decided to proceed with this action, in her
October 28, 2005 PDS, and even tenaciously repeated the same in her November 6, 2006 PDS
submitted after she had been appointed to the judiciary.

Worse, notwithstanding the several opportunities given to her (through her May 28, 2007 and
February 6, 2008 compliances and during the investigation of the nullification case), Artuz did not
explain, in disregard of the Court's directive, why no disciplinary action should be taken against her for
not disclosing in the subject PDS the fact that she has been formally charged and has pending cases.
Instead, she attempted to wriggle her way out of her predicament by maintaining that the cases
against her had been dismissed or outrightly not given due course. She even argued and insisted that
these charges were motivated by ill will and were initiated for the purpose of humiliating her and
putting her under public contempt and ridicule. Finally, she adamantly denied committing perjury in
her PDS and insisted that she has all of the qualifications and none of the disqualifications for
appointment to the judiciary.

In this regard, EJ Galvez aptly observed that Artuz indeed missed the point of the
investigation.71 Whether or not the cases were already dismissed and whatever motive impelled the
complainants and petitioners to file these cases against her were completely irrelevant as the
questions: "Is there any pending civil, criminal or administrative (including disbarment) case or
complaint filed against you pending in any court, prosecution office, or any other office, agency or
instrumentality of the government or the Integrated Bar of the Philippines?" "Have you ever been
charged with or convicted of or otherwise imposed a sanction for the violation of any law, decree,
ordinance or regulation by any court, tribunal, or any other government office, agency or
instrumentality in the Philippines or in foreign country, or found guilty of an administrative [offense] or
imposed any administrative sanction?" (in the October 28, 2005 PDS),72 and "Have you ever been
formally charged?" (in the November 6, 2006 PDS)73 simply called for information on cases filed
against her at any time in the past or in the present, regardless of their current status, i.e., whether
decided, pending, or dismissed/denied for any reason. To note, jurisprudence 74 elucidates that a
person shall be considered formally charged when:
(1) In administrative proceedings — (a) upon the filing of a complaint at the instance of the
disciplining authority; or (b) upon the finding of the existence of a prima facie case by the disciplining
authority, in case of a complaint filed by a private person.

(2) In criminal proceedings — (a) upon the finding of the existence of probable cause by the
investigating prosecutor and the consequent filing of an information in court with the required prior
written authority or approval of the provincial or city prosecutor or chief state prosecutor or the
Ombudsman or his deputy; (b) upon the finding of the existence of probable cause by the public
prosecutor or by the judge in cases not requiring a preliminary investigation nor covered by the Rule
on Summary Procedure; or (c) upon the finding of cause or ground to hold the accused for trial
pursuant to Section 13 of the Revised Rule on Summary Procedure.75

Without a doubt, Artuz had been formally charged under both contexts and yet, chose to conceal the
same in her PDS, for which she should be held administratively liable.

Time and again, the Court has emphasized that a judge should conduct himself or herself in a manner
which merits the respect and confidence of the people at all times, for he or she is the visible
representation of the law.76 Having been a public prosecutor and now a judge, it is her duty to ensure
that all the laws and rules of the land are followed to the letter. Judge Artuz's dishonesty, and tenacity
to commit the same, misled the JBC and tarnished the image of the judiciary. Her act of making false
statements in her PDS is reprehensible, depraved, and unbecoming of the exalted position of a judge.

All told, Artuz committed Grave Misconduct, Dishonesty, and Falsification of official document
warranting the penalty of dismissal from service. Under Sections 46 (A)77 and 52 (a),78Rule 10 of the
Revised Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil Service79 (RRACCS), in relation to Section 23, Rule
XIV of the Omnibus Rules Implementing Book V of Executive Order No. 292,80 Dishonesty, Grave
Misconduct, and Falsification of official document are grave offenses that carry the extreme penalty of
dismissal from service for the first offense, with cancellation of eligibility, forfeiture of retirement
benefits, and perpetual disqualification for holding public office.81

In this regard, the Court invites attention to A.M. No. 02-9-02-SC,82 entitled "Re: Automatic
Conversion of Some Administrative Cases Against Justices of the Court of Appeals and the
Sandiganbayan; Judges of Regular and Special Courts; and Court Officials Who are Lawyers as
Disciplinary Proceedings Against Them Both as Such Officials and as Members of the Philippine Bar"
Under this rule, the administrative case against a judge for Grave Misconduct, Dishonesty, and
Falsification — which are also grounds for the disciplinary action against members of the Bar - are
automatically considered as disciplinary proceedings against him or her as a member of the Bar. This
is the proper course for the Court to take as a violation of the fundamental tenets of judicial conduct,
embodied in the new Code of Judicial Conduct for the Philippine Judiciary, the Code of Judicial Conduct
and the Canons of Judicial Ethics, constitutes a breach of the following Canons of the CPR:
CANON 1 - A LAWYER SHALL UPHOLD THE CONSTITUTION, OBEY THE LAWS OF THE LAND AND
PROMOTE RESPECT FOR LAW AND FOR LEGAL PROCESSES.

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

CANON 7 - A LAWYER SHALL AT ALL TIMES UPHOLD THE INTEGRITY AND DIGNITY OF THE LEGAL
PROFESSION x x x.

CANON 10 - A LAWYER OWES CANDOR, FAIRNESS AND GOOD FAITH TO THE COURT.

Rule 10.01 - a lawyer shall not do any falsehood, nor consent to the doing of any in court; nor shall he
mislead or allow the court to be misled by any artifice.

CANON 11 - A LAWYER SHALL OBSERVE AND MAINTAIN THE RESPECT DUE TO THE COURTS AND TO
JUDICIAL OFFICERS AND SHOULD INSIST ON SIMILAR CONDUCT BY OTHERS.83

Artuz's misconduct likewise constitutes a contravention of Section 27, Rule 138 of the Rules of Court,
which enjoins a judge, at the pain of disbarment or suspension, from committing acts of deceit or for
willfully disobeying the orders of the Court:
Section 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 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 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. (Emphases supplied)

Membership in the bar is an integral qualification for membership in the bench; his or her moral
fitness as a judge also reflects her moral fitness as a lawyer. Thus, a judge who disobeys the basic
rules of judicial conduct also violates her oath as a lawyer.84

In view of the foregoing, the Court hereby requires Artuz to show cause why she should not likewise
be suspended, disbarred, or otherwise proceeded against, as a member of the Bar.

As regards A.C. No. 7253, the record does not show that Artuz had been given an opportunity to
defend and answer the allegations against her for Grave Misconduct and violations of the CPR and RA
6713. The Court, therefore, finds it proper to require Artuz to file her comment before it takes action
on this disbarment case.

Accordingly, the Court hereby requires Artuz, within a non-extendible period of fifteen (15) days from
notice, to show cause why she should not be suspended, disbarred, or otherwise proceeded against,
as a member of the Bar for her actions in A.M. No. MTJ-08-1717, and file her Comment in A.C. No.
7253.

WHEREFORE, the Court resolves the following:

In A.M. No. MTJ-08-1717: the Court finds Ofelia M. D. Artuz (Artuz), Presiding Judge of Municipal
Trial Court in Cities, Branch 5, Iloilo City, GUILTY of Grave Misconduct, Dishonesty, and Falsification
of official documents. Accordingly, she is DISMISSED from service effective immediately, with
forfeiture of all retirement benefits, except accrued leave credits, and with prejudice to re-employment
in any branch or agency of the government, including government-owned or controlled corporations,
without prejudice to her criminal liabilities.

She is likewise REQUIRED to SHOW CAUSE within fifteen (15) days from notice why she should not
be disbarred, specifically for her apparent violations of Rule 1.01, Canon 1, Canon 7, Rule 10.01,
Canon 10, and Canon 11 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, as well as Section 27, Rule 138 of
the Rules of Court, as discussed in this Decision.
In A.C. No. 7253: Artuz is REQUIRED to file her COMMENT to the Petition for Disbarment within
fifteen (15) days from notice. SO ORDERED.
A.C. No. 10253, August 22, 2017

RAFAEL PADILLA, Complainant, v. ATTY. GLENN SAMSON, Respondent.

DECISION

PERALTA, J.:

This case stemmed from a complaint filed by Rafael Padilla against his former lawyer, Atty. Glenn
Samson, for behavior unbecoming of a lawyer.

The following are the procedural and factual antecedents of the case:

Complainant Rafael Padilla filed a Complaint on November 25, 2013 against his former counsel,
respondent Atty. Glenn Samson, in connection with his case, entitled Indelecia Balaga and Enrique
Balaga v. Rafael Padilla, Case No. 00-05-07038-08. Padilla contends that Samson suddenly cut all
communications with him, which almost caused him to miss the due date for the filing of a required
pleading. He even wrote a demand letter asking Samson to withdraw his appearance and return all the
documents pertinent to his case, but to no avail.

Also, Padilla had been asking Samson for the refund of his overpayment amounting to P19,074.00.
However, Samson failed to offer any response, despite aforementioned demands. Likewise, when
ordered by the Court as well as the Commission on Bar Discipline of the Integrated Bar of the
Philippines (IBP) to refute the allegations in Padilla's complaint and explain his side, Samson refused
to do so.

On January 26, 2016, the Commission on Bar Discipline of the IBP recommended Samson's
suspension for six (6) months.1 On February 25, 2016, the IBP Board of Governors passed Resolution
No. XXII-2016-176,2 which adopted and approved, with modification, the abovementioned
recommendation, hence:

RESOLVED to ADOPT, with modification, the recommendation of the Investigating Commissioner


increasing the penalty to one (1) year suspension considering the gravity of the offense committed by
the Respondent.

The Court's Ruling

The Court sustains the findings and recommendations of the IBP that Samson should be held
administratively accountable.

Ordinarily, lawyers may decline employment and refuse to accept representation, if they are not in a
position to carry it out effectively or competently. But once they agree to handle a case, attorneys are
required by the Canons of Professional Responsibility (CPR) to undertake the task with zeal, care, and
utmost devotion. Acceptance of money from a client establishes an attorney-client relationship and
gives rise to the duty of fidelity to the client's cause. Every case which a lawyer accepts deserves full
attention, diligence, skill, and competence, regardless of importance.3

Canons 15, and 17, Rule 18.03 of Canon 18, and Rule 19.01 of Canon 19 of the CPR provide:
xxxx

CANON 15 A LAWYER SHALL OBSERVE CANDOR, FAIRNESS AND LOYALTY IN ALL HIS
DEALINGS AND TRANSACTIONS WITH HIS CLIENTS.

xxx

CANON 17 - A LAWYER OWES FIDELITY TO THE CAUSE OF HIS CLIENT AND HE SHALL BE
MINDFUL OF THE TRUST AND CONFIDENCE REPOSED IN HIM.

CANON 18 - A LAWYER SHALL SERVE HIS CLIENT WITH COMPETENCE AND DILIGENCE.

xxx

Rule 18.03 A lawyer shall not neglect a legal matter entrusted to him, and his negligence in
connection therewith shall render him liable.

xxx

CANON 19 - A LAWYER SHALL REPRESENT HIS CLIENT WITH ZEAL WITHIN THE BOUNDS OF
THE LAW.

Rule 19.01 - A lawyer shall employ only fair and honest means to attain the lawful objectives of his
client and shall not present, participate in presenting or threaten to present unfounded criminal
charges to obtain an improper advantage in any case or proceeding.

xxx

In the case at bar, Samson completely abandoned Padilla without any justification, notwithstanding his
receipt of the professional fees for services rendered as well as the latter's efforts to reach him. His
continuous inaction despite repeated follow-ups reveals his cavalier attitude and appalling indifference
toward his client's cause, in blatant disregard of his duties as a lawyer. Also, despite numerous
demands, Samson has unjustifiably refused to return Padilla's documents and the amount of
P19,074.00 as overpayment for his legal services. It is a hornbook principle that a lawyer's duty of
competence and diligence includes, not merely reviewing the cases entrusted to his care or giving
sound legal advice, but also consists of properly representing the client before any court or tribunal,
attending scheduled hearings or conferences, preparing and filing the required pleadings, prosecuting
the handled cases with reasonable dispatch, and urging their termination even without prodding from
the client or the court. Further, Samson failed to file his Answer to the complaint despite due notice
from the Court and the IBP. His unwarranted tenacity simply shows, not only his lack of responsibility,
but also his lack of interest in clearing his name, which, as pronounced in case law, is indicative of an
implied admission of the charges levelled against him.4

Clients are led to expect that lawyers would always be mindful of their cause and, accordingly,
exercise the required degree of diligence in handling their affairs. On the other hand, the lawyer is
expected to maintain, at all times, a high standard of legal proficiency, and to devote his full attention,
skill, and competence to the case, regardless of its importance and whether or not he accepts it for a
fee. To this end, he is enjoined to employ only fair and honest means to attain lawful objectives.5

The CPR requires lawyers to give their candid and best opinion to their clients on the merit or lack of
merit of the case. Knowing whether a case would be potentially successful is not only a function, but
also an obligation on the part of lawyers. If ever Samson found that his client's cause was defenseless,
then he should have met with Padilla so that they would be able to discuss their possible options,
instead of abruptly dropping the case without any notice or explanation. Samson's failure to fulfill this
basic undertaking constitutes a violation of his duty to observe candor, fairness, and loyalty in all his
dealings and transactions with his clients.6

Withal, his persistent refusal to return Padilla's money and case files despite frequent demands clearly
reflects his lack of integrity and moral soundness; he is clinging to something that does not belong to
him, and that he absolutely has no right to keep or use without Padilla's permission. Lawyers are
deemed to hold in trust their client's money and property that may come into their possession. Thus,
Samson's failure to return Padilla's money upon demand gave rise to the presumption that he had
converted it to his own use and thereby betrayed the trust that was reposed upon him, which
constitutes a gross violation of professional ethics and a betrayal of public confidence in the legal
profession.7

The Code does not only exact from lawyers a firm respect for the law, legal processes, and the courts,
but also mandates the utmost degree of fidelity and good faith in dealing with the moneys entrusted
to them pursuant to their fiduciary relationship. Verily, Samson fell short of the demands required of
him as a faithful member of the bar. His inability to properly discharge his duty to his client makes him
answerable, not just to Padilla, but also to the Court, to the legal profession, and to the general public.
Given the crucial importance of his role in the administration of justice, his misconduct diminished the
confidence of the public in the integrity and dignity of the legal profession.8

Therefore, pursuant to the aforecited principles, the Court finds Samson guilty of violating the
pertinent Canons of the CPR, for which he must necessarily be held administratively liable.

In previous cases, lawyers who have been held liable for infractions similar to those which Samson
committed were suspended from the practice of law for a period of two (2) years. In Jinon v. Atty.
Jiz,9 a lawyer who neglected his client's case, misappropriated the client's funds, and disobeyed the
IBP's directives to submit his pleadings and attend the hearings, was suspended from the practice of
law for two (2) years. In Small v. Atty. Banares,10 the Court imposed a similar penalty against a lawyer
who failed to render any legal service even after receiving money from the complainant, to return the
money and documents he received despite demand, to update his client on the status of her case, to
respond to her requests for information, and to file an answer and attend the mandatory conference
before the IBP. Also, in Villanueva v. Atty. Gonzales,11 a lawyer who neglected complainant's cause,
refused to immediately account for his client's money and to return the documents received, failed to
update his client on the status of her case and to respond to her requests for information, and failed to
submit his answer and attend the mandatory conference before the IBP, was likewise suspended from
the practice of law for two (2) years.12

Finally, Samson must also return all the properties and documents in his possession relative to
Padilla's case, and the amount of Pl9,074.00 as overpayment of fees since the same is intrinsically
linked to his professional engagement. While the Court has previously held that disciplinary
proceedings should only revolve around the determination of the respondent lawyer's administrative
and not his civil liability, it must be clarified that said rule remains applicable only when the claim
involves moneys received by the lawyer from his client in a transaction separate and distinct from and
not intrinsically linked to his professional engagement. And considering the fact that Samson's receipt
of said amount and documents from Padilla remains undisputed, the Court finds the return of the
same to be in order.13

WHEREFORE, IN VIEW OF THE FOREGOING, the Court SUSPENDS Atty. Glenn Samson from the
practice of law for a period of two (2) years, effective upon finality of this Decision, ORDERS him
to RETURN to complainant Rafael Padilla, within thirty (30) days from notice of this Decision, all the
documents and properties entrusted to him by virtue of their lawyer-client relationship and the
amount of 19,074.00 as overpayment of fees, with interest at the rate of six percent (6%) per annum,
from November 25, 2013, until fully paid, and WARNS him that a repetition of the same or similar
offense, including the failure to return said amount and documents, shall be dealt with more severely.

Let copies of this Decision be included in the personal records of Atty. Glenn Samson and entered in
his file in the Office of the Bar Confidant.

Let copies of this decision be disseminated to all lower courts by the Office of the Court Administrator,
as well as to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, for their information and guidance.

SO ORDERED.
A.C. No. 8903, August 30, 2017

EDIGARDO V. BONDOC, Complainant, v. ATTY. OLIMPIO R. DATU, Respondent.

DECISION

JARDELEZA, J.:

The Case

On February 22, 2011, the Office of the Bar Confidant (OBC) received a Sinumpaang Salaysay1 signed
by complainant Edigardo V. Bondoc, (Bondoc) seeking the disbarment of respondent Atty. Olimpio R.
Datu (Datu) for alleged violations of the Code of Professional Conduct. Acting on this matter, this
Court required Datu to file his comment.2 After this, the parties were required to attend a series of
mandatory conferences before the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) Commission on Bar
Discipline. Upon filing of their position papers at the end of the mandatory conference, the
Commission on Bar Discipline rendered its report and recommendation. The IBP adopted the
recommendation with modification and forwarded the resolution to this Court.

The Facts

Bondoc claims that sometime in November 2006, he consulted Datu regarding a civil case for damages
that he intended to file against a certain John Paul Metcado (Mercado). Bondoc disclosed to Datu that
he figured in a vehicular accident caused by Mercado. Because of his injuries, Bondoc had to be
hospitalized and was forced to spend P100,000 in medical expenses. Mercado attempted to settle the
matter with him but he was paid the small sum of P30,000. Bondoc thus sought to hire Datu to file a
civil case for damages. Datu assured Bondoc that given the facts, he had a strong case. Bondoc and
Datu then agreed that Datu will handle the filing of the case. In return, Bondoc undertook to pay Datu
P25,000 in attorney's fees. Bondoc complied with his obligation by paying Datu in two installments. He
paid P15,000 on February 6, 2007 and P10,000 on August 6, 2007. The checks covering these
payments were received by a certain Tess Pano, a staff in Datu's office. Bondoc also turned over to
Datu all the documents pertinent to the civil damages case. He then regularly followed up on the
progress of the case. However, Datu persistently told him to give the court more time. 3

Meanwhile, on February 12, 2008, Bondoc consulted Datu about a complaint for estafa and illegal
recruitment which he intended to file against Ronald De Auzen (Auzen) and Nor-ain M. Blah (Blah). He
relayed to Datu that he had already sent demand letters with the assistance of a certain SPO2 Jose
Alamin Ho of the Pampanga Police and that he only needed help in drafting affidavits. Datu offered his
services in drafting the affidavits for Bondoc and two other persons also intending to file cases against
Auzen and Blah. For this service, Datu charged the total amount of P1,200.4

More than a year later, Datu still made no reports to Bondoc regarding the civil case for damages.
When Bondoc inquired with the trial court in San Fernando City, he was informed that no civil suit for
damages was filed against Mercado in his behalf. Bondoc then asked Datu about the status of the case
without disclosing that he had already inquired with the court. Datu requested Bondoc to return the
next day. When he returned, Datu showed him a letter5 dated May 5, 2008 which Datu supposedly
sent to Mercado inviting the latter to a meeting to discuss a possible settlement of the case. On the
date set for the conference, only Bondoc attended. Datu related to Bondoc that he had talked to
Mercado's lawyer who informed him that Mercado had already paid Bondoc P500,000 in settlement.
Bondoc denied this and presented to Datu the acknowledgment receipt showing that he was only paid
P30,000. Bondoc further claims that he requested Datu to pursue the case and the latter acceded.
However, notwithstanding the several months that had passed, Datu still took no steps to file the civil
case. Because of this, Bondoc demanded the return of the P25,000 which he paid. Datu, however,
refused.6

In his comment,7 Datu vehemently denied Bondoc's allegations. He claims that sometime in November
2006, Bondoc went to his office to hire him as a lawyer in connection with the case for civil damages
which Bondoc intended to file against Mercado. Datu states that Bondoc told him he only received a
measly sum of P30,000 from Mercado because of the accident. Believing that Bondoc had a
meritorious cause of action, Datu agreed to represent him. Bondoc returned to his office in February
2007 to deliver two checks, worth P15,000, to cover his attorney's fees.8 Datu alleges that he sent a
letter to Mercado inviting him to a conference with Bondoc before the case was filed in court. To prove
this, he attached as Annex 1 of his comment a letter9 dated May 5, 2008. He then claims that
Mercado's counsel called him and told him that Mercado had already settled the matter and paid
Bondoc P500,000.10 As proof of this, Datu attached to his comment an unsigned document purporting
to be the affidavit11 of a certain Hector Mercado claiming to be the father of Mercado and asserting
that he settled his son's liability to Bondoc through the payment of P500,000. Datu states that he
confronted Bondoc about this matter who eventually admitted that he did, in fact, receive P500,000.
Because of this, Datu no longer filed the complaint.12
Datu further claims that Bondoc also employed his legal services for the filing of an estafa and illegal
recruitment case. He alleges that he drafted the complaint-affidavit for Bondoc and two other
complainants. They purportedly agreed that Bondoc will give Datu a personal computer as payment
for his attorney's fees. Datu also said that Bondoc also obtained his services in drafting demand
letters. However, due to an unexpected tum of events, their lawyer-client relationship was terminated.
According to Datu, he was surprised when Bondoc started demanding the refund of P15,000. He
explained that while it is true that Bondoc gave him two checks in the amount of P8,000, Bondoc had
supposedly intended this as payment of Datu's attorney's fees for his legal services to certain Spouses
Gonzales. Bondoc had allegedly owed the Spouses Gonzales a sum of money.13

IBP Commissioner Jaime G. Oracion (Commissioner Oracion) recommended that Datu be found liable
for violating Rule 16.03 of Canon 16, Canon 17, and Rule 18.03 of Canon 18 of the Code of
Professional Responsibility, suspended from the practice of law for three months, and ordered to pay
Bondoc P25,000 with legal interest.14 The IBP Board of Governors adopted Commissioner Oracion's
recommendation with modification. It increased the amount from P25,000 to P30,000 and decreased
the period of suspension from three months to one month.15

The Ruling of the Court

We agree with the IBP's findings that Datu breached his obligation under the Code of Professional
Responsibility.

Bondoc's allegation is clear and simple. He obtained Datu's services to file a civil case for damages.
Datu agreed and received P25,000 as attorney's fees. This amount was paid in two installments -
P15,000 on February 6, 2007 and P10,000 on August 6, 2007. However, instead of filing the civil case
for damages, Datu did nothing. He only acted more than a year later when Bondoc demanded for an
update as to the progress of the case. Further, even when Datu finally decided to render the legal
service he promised, all he did was to draft a letter inviting Mercado to a meeting. This meeting never
took place. After this, Datu chose to no longer act on the matter. Datu admitted these in his
pleadings.16

While Datu insists that he properly performed his obligation as Bondoc's lawyer in the case for civil
damages, the evidence clearly shows that the only effort that Datu made was to write a letter to
Mercado 18 months from the time that Bondoc obtained his services. This letter purportedly invited
Mercado to a meeting. This meeting, however, did not push through as Datu claims that Mercado's
counsel had informed him that Mercado had already settled the matter by paying Bondoc P500,000.
While Bondoc asserts that he denied Mercado's version and even presented to Datu the
acknowledgment receipt showing that he received a mere P30,000, Datu, instead of endeavoring to
ascertain the truth of Mercado's claim, merely decided to believe Mercado's story hook, line and
sinker. Datu attempts to prove his claim by presenting an affidavit allegedly signed by a certain Hector
Mercado stating that Bondoc had already been paid P500,000. The document, however, is both
unsigned and undated. Datu claims that this document was lifted from his computer files. Elementary
rules of evidence prevent us from giving weight to this affidavit. Neither has its due execution or
authenticity been established.17

While Datu claims that he has no obligation to return Bondoc's payment because he purportedly
rendered other legal services, no proof exists in the record to show that he legally represented Bondoc
in any case for which the latter owes him payment. Datu points to a complaint-affidavit which he
allegedly assisted Bondoc in drafting. The document attached to prove this does not in any way show
that Datu indeed provided such assistance. He also asserts that he drafted demand letters for Bondoc.
We note that there are two sets of demand letters presented to establish this allegation. None of these
letters prove Datu's story. One set of demand letters themselves clearly state that they were drafted
with the assistance of a certain SPO2 Jose Alamin Ho.18 Meanwhile, the other set shows Datu as
counsel but these letters are unsigned and show no indication that they were duly sent out to, and
received by, the proper parties.19

Finally, Datu also claims that in addition to the P15,000 that he received from Bondoc, he also
received P8,000. According to him, this was not intended as payment for the services he rendered to
Bondoc. Datu alleges that this was payment for his legal services to the Spouses Gonzalez, to whom
Bondoc owed a sum of money. There is, however, nothing in the record to prove that Datu
represented the Spouses Gonzalez in any proceeding.

Canon 17 of the Code of Professional Responsibility reminds lawyers that they owe fidelity to the
cause of their client. Inextricably linked to this duty is Rule 18.03 of Canon 18 which impresses upon
lawyers not to neglect a legal matter entrusted to them. In Camara v. Reyes20 (Camara), we reiterated
that the duty of fidelity and the obligation not to neglect a legal matter entrusted by the client mean
nothing short of entire devotion to the client's genuine interest and warm zeal in the defense of his or
her rights. Lawyers must exert their best efforts to preserve their clients' cause. Unwavering loyalty
displayed to a client also serves the ends of justice. Hence, in Camara, where the respondent Atty.
Reyes, after receiving his attorney's fees, took no steps to protect his client's interest, we found him
liable under Rule 18.03 of Canon 18 and suspended him for a period of six months.21

This case also bears semblance to the case Sencio v. Calvadores22 (Sencio). In Sencio, Atty.
Calvadores received the amount of P12,000 as attorney's fees. He undertook to prosecute the civil
aspect of his client's case which involved the death of the latter's son in a vehicular accident. While
the client persistently asked for updates and Atty. Calvadores continuously reassured her, she
eventually found out that no case was ever filed.23 We found Atty. Calvadores liable under Canon 17
and Rule 18.03 of Canon 18. In this case, we reminded members of the legal profession that "[o]nce a
lawyer agrees to handle a case, he should undertake the task with dedication and care; less than that,
he is not true to his oath as a lawyer."24 For his violation, we suspended Atty. Calvadores for six
months.25

This court has consistently penalized lawyers who fall short of their obligation to manifest devotion
and diligence to protect the interest of the client by failing to file his or her client's initiatory action
after receiving attorney's fees. This is the import of our ruling in the cases Camara, Sencio, as well as
in Reyes v. Vitan 26 and Solidon v. Macalalad.27 In all these cases, we imposed a penalty of suspension
for a period of six months.

Applying these rulings to the present case, this court finds that Datu fell short of the fidelity and
diligence that he owed his client Bondoc. Datu failed to protect Bondoc's interest by: (1) not acting on
the complaint he promised to file on behalf of Bondoc; (2) acting on the matter only after 18 months
and after Bondoc's persistent inquiries; and (3) by believing Mercado's alleged payment to Bondoc
without as much as demanding any proof of this payment. Rather than securing Bondoc's interest,
Datu chose to side with Mercado. This is not the kind of unwavering loyalty and diligence that is
expected of members of the legal profession.

Further, having failed to render legal services, Datu has the legal and moral obligation to return the
P25,000 which he received. Rule 16.03 of Canon 16 mandates that "[a] lawyer shall deliver the funds
and property of his client when due or upon demand x x x." Failure to do so merits the imposition of
disciplinary action. In addition to the imposition of disciplinary action, this Court, in a number of
cases,28 has also ordered the return of the attorney's fees received with legal interest.

Thus, in accordance with our consistent ruling, the proper penalty that should be imposed in this case
is suspension from the practice of law for a period of six months. Further, Datu must also return the
P25,000 he received from Bondoc with legal interest.

WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, we AFFIRM WITH MODIFICATION Resolution No. XX-
2013-374 of the IBP Board of Governors. We impose upon Atty. Olimpio R. Datu the penalty of SIX
MONTHS SUSPENSION from the practice of law for violation of Rule 16.03, Rule 18.03, and Canon
17 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, effective upon finality of this Decision. He is
also STERNLY WARNED that a repetition of the same or similar acts will be dealt with more severely.

Atty. Olimpio R. Datu is also ORDERED to RETURN to Edigardo V. Bondoc the amount of P25,000
with legal interest from the date of finality of this Decision until the full amount is returned.

Let copies of this Decision be furnished to the Office of the Bar Confidant and noted in Atty. Olimpio R.
Datu's record as a member of the Bar.

SO ORDERED.
A.C. No. 10245, August 16, 2017

ELIBENA A. CABILES, Complainant, v. ATTY. LEANDRO S. CEDO, Respondent.

DECISION

DEL CASTILLO, J.:

Complainant Elibena Cabiles (Elibena) filed this administrative complaint 1 before the Integrated Bar of
the Philippines (IBP) seeking the disbarment of Atty. Leandro Cedo (respondent lawyer) for neglecting
the two cases she referred to him to handle.

The Facts

According to Elibena, she engaged the services of respondent lawyer to handle an illegal dismissal
case, i.e., NLRC NCR Case No. 00-11-16153-08 entitled "Danilo Ligbos v. Platinum Autowork and/or
Even Cabiles and Rico Guido," where therein respondents were Elibena's business partners.
Respondent lawyer was paid Php5,500.002 for drafting therein respondents' position paper3 and
Php2,000.004 for his every appearance in the NLRC hearings.

During the hearing set on March 26, 2009, only Danilo Ligbos (Danilo), the complainant therein,
showed up and submitted his Reply.5 On the other hand respondent lawyer did not file a Reply for his
clients,6 despite being paid his appearance fee earlier.7

In a Decision8 dated March 31, 2009, the Labor Arbiter ruled for Danilo, and ordered the clients of
respondent lawyer to pay Danilo backwages, separation pay, and 13th month pay.

Worse still, on October 27, 2009, the NLRC likewise dismissed the appeal of the clients of respondent
lawyer for failure to post the required cash or surety bond, an essential requisite in perfecting an
appeal.9

According to Elibena, respondent lawyer misled them by claiming that it was Danilo who was absent
during the said hearing on March 26, 2009; and that moreover, because of the failure to submit a
Reply, they were prevented from presenting the cash vouchers10 that would refute Danilo's claim that
he was a regular employee.

With regard to the non-perfection of the appeal before the NLRC, Elibena claimed that respondent
lawyer instructed them (his clients) to pick up the said Memorandum only on the last day to file the
appeal, i.e., on May 28, 2009; that the memorandum was ready for pick up only at around 2:30 p.m.
that day; that left to themselves, with no help or assistance from respondent lawyer, they rushed to
file their appeal with the NLRC in Quezon City an hour later; that the NLRC Receiving Section informed
them that their appeal was incomplete, as it lacked the mandatory cash/surety bond, a matter that
respondent lawyer himself did not care to attend to; and, consequently, their appeal was dismissed for
non-perfection.

Elibena moreover claimed that respondent lawyer failed to indicate his Mandatory Continuing Legal
Education (MCLE) compliance11 in the position paper and in the memorandum of appeal that he
prepared. Elibena pointed to a certification12 issued on June 29, 2010 by the MCLE Office that
respondent lawyer had not at all complied with the first, second, and third compliance periods13 of the
(MCLE) requirement.

Elibena also averred that in May 2009, she hired respondent lawyer to file a criminal case for unjust
vexation against Emelita Claudit; that as evidenced by a May 5, 2009 handwritten receipt, 14 she paid
respondent lawyer his acceptance fees, the expenses for the filing of the case, and the appearance
fees totalling Php45,000.00; and that in order to come up with the necessary amount, she sold 'to
respondent lawyer her 1994 Model Mitsubishi Lancer worth Php85,000.00, this sale being covered by
an unnotarized Deed of Sale15 dated August 1, 2009.

Elibena claimed that, despite payment of his professional fees, respondent lawyer did not exert any
effort to seasonably file her Complaint for unjust vexation before the City Prosecutor's Office; that the
Office of the City Prosecutor of Muntinlupa City dismissed her Complaint for unjust vexation on
September 10, 2009 on the ground of prescription; and that although she moved for reconsideration
of the Order dismissing the case, her motion for reconsideration was denied by the City Prosecutor's
Office in a resolution dated October 19, 2009.16

In his Answer,17 respondent lawyer argued that the March 26, 2009 hearing was set to provide the
parties the opportunity either to explore the possibility of an amicable settlement, or give time for him
(respondent lawyer) to decide whether to file a responsive pleading, after which the case would be
routinely submitted for resolution, with or without the parties' further appearances. As regards the
cash vouchers, respondent lawyer opined that their submission would only contradict their defense of
lack of employer-employee relationship. Respondent lawyer likewise claimed that Elibena was only
feigning ignorance of the cost of the appeal bond, and that in any event, Elibena herself could have
paid the appeal bond. With regard to Elibena's allegation that she was virtually forced to sell her car to
respondent lawyer to complete payment of the latter's professional fee, respondent lawyer claimed
that he had fully paid for the car.18

Respondent lawyer did not refute Ebilena's claim that he failed to indicate his MCLE compliance in the
position paper and in the memorandum of appeal.

The IBP's Report and Recommendation

In a May 18, 2011 Report and Recommendation,19 the Investigating Commissioner found respondent
lawyer guilty of having violated Canons 5, 17, and 18 of the Code of Professional Responsibility and
recommended his suspension from the practice of law for two years. Aside from respondent lawyer's
failure to comply with the MCLE requirements, the Investigating Commissioner also found him grossly
negligent in representing his clients, particularly (1) in failing to appear on the March 26, 2009 hearing
in the NLRC, and file the necessary responsive pleading; (2) in failing to advise and assist his clients
who had no knowledge of, or were not familiar with, the NLRC rules of procedure, in filing their appeal
and; 3) in failing to file seasonably the unjust vexation complaint before the city prosecutor's office, in
consequence of which it was overtaken by prescription.

In its March 20, 2013 Resolution, the IBP Board of Governors adopted and approved the Investigating
Commissioner's Report and Recommendation, but modified the recommended administrative sanction
by reducing the suspension to one year.

The Court's Ruling

We adopt the IBP's finding that respondent lawyer violated the Code of Professional Responsibility. We
also agree with the recommended penalty.

Violation of Canon 5

Firstly, Bar Matter 850 mandates continuing legal education for IBP members as an additional
requirement to enable them to practice law. This is ''to ensure that throughout their career, they keep
abreast with law and jurisprudence, maintain the ethics of the profession and enhance the standards
of the practice of law."20 Non-compliance with the MCLE requirement subjects the lawyer to be listed
as a delinquent IBP member.21 In Arnado v. Adaza,22 we administratively sanctioned therein
respondent lawyer for his non-compliance with four MCLE Compliance Periods. We stressed therein
that in accordance with Section 12(d) of the MCLE Implementing Regulations,23 even if therein
respondent attended an MCLE Program covered by the Fourth Compliance Period, his attendance
therein would only cover his deficiency for the First Compliance Period, and he was still considered
delinquent and had to make up for the other compliance periods. Consequently, we declared
respondent lawyer therein a delinquent member of the IBP and suspended him from law practice for
six months or until he had fully complied with all the MCLE requirements for all his non-compliant
periods.

In the present case, respondent lawyer failed to indicate in the pleadings filed in the said labor case
the number and date of issue of his MCLE Certificate of Compliance for the Third Compliance
Period, i.e., from April 15, 2007 to April 14, 2010, considering that NLRC NCR Case No. 00-11-16153-
08 had been pending in 2009. In fact, upon checking with the MCLE Office, Elibena discovered that
respondent lawyer had failed to comply with the three MCLE compliance periods. For this reason, there
is no doubt that respondent lawyer violated Canon 5, which 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.

Violation of Canons 17 and 18 and Rule 18.03

The circumstances of this case indicated that respondent lawyer was guilty of gross negligence for
failing to exert his utmost best in prosecuting and in defending the interest of his client. Hence, he is
guilty of the following:

CANON 17 - A LAWYER OWES FIDELITY TO THE CAUSE OF HIS CLIENT AND HE SHALL BE MINDFUL

OF THE TRUST AND CONFIDENCE REPOSED IN HIM.


CANON 18 - A LAWYER SHALL SERVE HIS CLIENT WITH COMPETENCE AND DILIGENCE.

Rule 18.03 - A lawyer shall not neglect a legal matter entrusted to him, and his negligence in

connection therewith shall render him liable.

Furthermore, respondent lawyer's act of receiving an acceptance fee for legal services, only to
subsequently fail to render such service at the appropriate time, was a clear violation of Canons 17
and 18 of the Code of Professional Responsibility.24

Respondent lawyer did not diligently and fully attend to the cases that he accepted, although he had
been fully compensated for them. First off, respondent lawyer never successfully refuted Elibena's
claim that he was paid in advance his Php2,000.00 appearance fee on March 21, 2009 for the
scheduled hearing of the labor case on March 26, 2009, during which he was absent. Furthermore,
although respondent lawyer had already received the sum of Php45,000.00 to file an unjust vexation
case, he failed to promptly file the appropriate complaint therefor with the City Prosecutor's Office, in
consequence of which the crime prescribed, resulting in the dismissal of the case.

We have held that:

Case law further illumines that a lawyer's duty of competence and diligence includes not merely

reviewing the cases entrusted to the counsel's care or giving sound legal advice, but also consists of

properly representing the client before any court or tribunal, attending scheduled hearings or

conferences, preparing and filing the required pleadings, prosecuting the handled cases with

reasonable dispatch, and urging their termination without waiting for the client or the court to prod

him or her to do so.

Conversely, a lawyer's negligence in fulfilling his duties subjects him to disciplinary action. While such

negligence or carelessness is incapable of exact formulation, the Court has consistently held that the

lawyer's mere failure to perform the obligations due his client is per se a violation.25

"[A] lawyer 'is expected to exert his best efforts and [utmost] ability to [protect and defend] his
client's cause, for the unwavering loyalty displayed to his client likewise serves the ends of
justice."'26 However, in the two cases for which he was duly compensated, respondent lawyer was
grossly remiss in his duties as counsel. He exhibited lack of professionalism, even indifference, in the
defense and protection of Elibena's rights which resulted in her losing the two cases.

With regard to the labor case tor which he opted not to file a Reply and refused to present the cash
vouchers which, according to Elibena, ought to have been submitted to the NLRC, we hold that even
granting that he had the discretion being the handling lawyer to present what he believed were
available legal defenses for his client, and conceding, too, that it was within his power to employ an
allowable legal strategy, what was deplorable was his way of handling the appeal before the NLRC.
Aside from handing over or delivering the requisite pleading to his clients almost at the end of the
day, at the last day to file the appeal before the NLRC, he never even bothered to advise Elibena and
the rest of his clients about the requirement of the appeal bond. He should not expect Elibena and her
companions to be conversant with the indispensable procedural requirements to perfect the appeal
before the NLRC. If the averments in his Answer are any indication, respondent lawyer seemed to
have relied heavily on the NLRC's much vaunted 'leniency' in gaining the successful prosecution of the
appeal of his clients in the labor case; no less censurable is his propensity for passing the blame onto
his clients for not doing what he himself ought to have done. And, in the criminal case, he should have
known the basic rules relative to the prescription of crimes that operate to extinguish criminal liability.
All these contretemps could have been avoided had respondent lawyer displayed the requisite zeal and
diligence.

As mentioned earlier, the failure to comply with the MCLE requirements warranted a six-month
suspension in the Adaza case. Respondent lawyer must likewise be called to account for violating
Canons 17, 18, and Rule 18.03. In one case involving violation of Canons 17 and 18 where a lawyer
failed to file a petition for review with the Court of Appeals, the lawyer was penalized with a six-month
suspension.27 In another case,28 involving transgression of the same Canons, the guilty lawyer was
meted out the penalty of suspension from the practice of law for a period of six months and
admonished and sternly warned that a commission of the same or similar acts would be dealt with
more severely.
"[T]he appropriate penalty for an errant lawyer depends on the exercise of sound judicial discretion
based on the surrounding facts."29 Given herein respondent lawyer's failure to maintain a high
standard of legal proficiency with his refusal to comply with the MCLE as well as his lack of showing of
his fealty to Elibena's interest in view of his lackadaisical or indifferent approach in handling the cases
entrusted to him, we find it apt and commensurate to the facts of the case to adopt the
recommendation of the IBP to suspend him from the practice of law for one year.

WHEREFORE, respondent Atty. Leandro S. Cedo is hereby found GUILTY of violating Canons 5, 17,
18, and Rule 18.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility. He is hereby SUSPENDED from the
practice of law for a period of one (1) year effective upon receipt of this Decision, and warned that a
repetition of the same or a similar act will be dealt with more severely.

Let a copy of this Decision be attached to Atty. Cedo's personal record as attorney-at-law. Further, let
copies of this Decision be furnished the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and the Office of the Court
Administrator, which is directed to circulate said copies to all courts in the country for their
information and guidance.

SO ORDERED.
A.C. No. 8574, August 16, 2017

CARMELO IRINGAN, Complainant, v. ATTY. CLAYTON B. GUMANGAN, Respondent.

DECISION

LEONARDO-DE CASTRO, J.:

This is an administrative complaint for disbarment or suspension filed by complainant Carmelo Iringan
(Carmelo) against respondent Atty. Clayton B. Gumangan (Atty. Gumangan) relative to Civil Case No.
518-09, entitled Sps. Renato and Carmen A. Iringan v. Carmelo A. Iringan, for Illegal Detainer and
Ejectment with Damages, before the Municipal Trial Court in Cities (MTCC) of the City of Tabuk,
Kalinga.

Civil Case No. 518-09 was instituted before the MTCC by spouses Renato (Renato) and Carmen
Iringan (spouses Iringan) against Carmelo, who is Renato's brother. The spouses Iringan alleged in
their complaint that they are the owners of a piece of land, with an area of about 625 square meters,
located in Tabuk, Kalinga, registered under Original Certificate of Title No. P-88641 in Renato's name.
A two-storey structure stands on said piece of land, which was used as a restaurant with the name
"Emilia's Kitchenette." Renato acquired the right to operate said restaurant from his mother, Lourdes
Iringan, by virtue of a Deed of Assignment to Operate Establishments2 dated January 19, 1982, for the
consideration of P5,000.00. Pursuant to a Contract of Lease3 dated December 30, 2005, Renato
agreed to lease to Carmelo the land and the two-storey building thereon (collectively referred to
herein as the premises) for a period of one year, for a monthly rental of P5,000.00. The Contract of
Lease was notarized by Atty. Gumangan also on December 30, 2005. The lease expired but Carmelo
continued to possess the premises upon spouses Iringan's tolerance. In September 2008, the spouses
Iringan demanded that Carmelo vacate the premises but to no avail. A Final Demand dated April 1,
2009 was served upon Carmelo on April 2, 2009, signed by Atty. Gumangan, with Renato's approval
and conformity. Carmelo, however, still refused to vacate the premises. The barangay heard the
dispute between the spouses Iringan and Carmelo on April 29, 2009 but no settlement was reached.
Thus, the spouses Iringan had no other recourse but to file Civil Case No. 518-09 for Illegal Detainer
and Ejectment with Damages against Carmelo.

In his defense, Carmelo averred that he and Renato are brothers. The premises actually belonged to
their late parents Sixto and Lourdes Iringan, and upon their parents' deaths, the premises descended
to Carmelo, Renato, and their other siblings. Hence, Renato is not the sole owner of the premises even
though the certificate of title to the land is registered in his name alone. Renato is a mere trustee of
the premises for his siblings. The Deed of Assignment to Operate Establishments did not vest title to
the premises upon the spouses Iringan as this was in derogation of the succession rights of Renato's
siblings. Carmelo further claimed that the Contract of Lease for the premises was spurious as he had
never entered into such a contract with Renato. Carmelo asserted that he did not sign the Contract of
Lease nor did he appear before Atty. Gumangan who notarized the same.

In its Decision4 dated September 24, 2009, the MTCC rendered a Decision in favor of the spouses
Iringan. Particularly on the matter of the Contract of Lease, the MTCC found:

THERE IS A VALID CONTRACT OF LEASE EXECUTED BY THE PARTIES

Exhibit "D" of the [spouses Iringan] is the alleged "Spurious" Contract of Lease. It is a document duly
notarized before a Notary public. It was executed with all the formalities required by law and duly
acknowledged before Atty. Clayton Gumangan. This Contract of Lease is a public document, which
needs no further proof of its content and is entitled to much faith and confidence, unless clear
evidences show otherwise. This is where [Carmelo] failed. [Carmelo] offered no evidence tending to
show that said document is indeed spurious. What we have, are the allegations of [Carmelo] and his
witnesses, which allegations are, to say the least, self-serving and biased. Allegations are not proofs.

On this point, the [spouses Iringan] submitted the Affidavit of the Notary Public before whom the
document was executed and acknowledged. In said Affidavit, Atty. Gumangan affirmed that he
prepared the document and that Carmelo and Renata Iringan signed the contract of lease in his
presence. There is no showing that Atty. Gumangan was telling a lie, or that he was ill-motivated. His
affidavit rings true and is credible.

xxxx

Then too, we have the affidavit of the instrumental witnesses, in the person of Hilda Langgaman and
Narcisa Padua (Exhibit "Q"). They were the witnesses to the execution of the contract at the office of
Atty. Gumangan. They saw with their own eyes Carmelo and Renato signing the Contract of Lease.
These are impartial witnesses. In order to discredit the allegations of the Affidavit of Atty. Gumangan,
[Carmelo] submitted the Affidavit of Atty. Mary Jane Andomang to the effect that Atty. Clayton
Gumangan has not submitted his notarial register containing the questioned document. But the non-
submission of Atty. Gumangan of his notarial register does not preclude the fact that said document
was executed and notarized as claimed by the affiants. If any, it should be Atty. Gumangan who is
brought to task for his negligence, not the [spouses Iringan]. The failure of Gumangan to submit his
register should not prejudice the cause of the [spouses Iringan]. This Affidavit of Atty. Andomang only
proved that Atty. Gumangan failed to submit his register. It cannot disprove the due execution of the
Contract of lease.

Much noise has been made on the fact that the document was allegedly executed in December 2005
but that the Community Tax Receipt of Renato was dated January 17, 2006. Also, that the CTR of
[Carmelo] has not been indicated in the said document. Again, to [Carmelo], this smacks of fraud.

The court is not convinced. This may have been a typographical error attributable to human frailties.
The intent to defraud or falsify was not shown by [Carmelo] through independent and credible
evidences. Fraud is not assumed.5

The MTCC decreed:

WHEREFORE, judgment is hereby rendered in favor of the [spouses Iringan] and against Carmelo
Iringan, ordering [Carmelo] to;

1. VACATE immediately the property in dispute and turnover peacefully its possession to the
[spouses Iringan];

2. Pay FIVE THOUSAND (P5,000.00) PESOS a month from April 2, 2009 up to the time the finality of
Judgment with interest at 6% per annum;

3. The total amount awarded above shall earn legal interest at 12% per annum from the time
judgment became final until the same shall have been fully paid;

4. PAY TWENTY THOUSAND (P20,000.00) PESOS as attorney's fees and cost of litigation; and

5. [P]ay the cost of the suit.6

Carmelo filed an appeal with the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Bulanao, Tabuk City, Kalinga, Branch
25, docketed as Civil Case No. 762. In a Decision7 dated May 25, 2010, the RTC affirmed in toto the
MTCC judgment. The RTC eventually issued a Writ of Execution and an Alias Writ of Execution dated
November 2, 2010 and February 22, 2011, respectively, for the implementation of its judgment.

In the meantime, while Civil Case No. 762 was still pending before the RTC, Carmelo instituted on
April 5, 2010, before the Court, through the Office of the Bar Confidant (OBC), the present
administrative complaint8 against Atty. Gumangan, alleging as follows:

3. That [Atty. Gumangan] is a practicing attorney and a notary public, principally based [in] Tabuk,
Kalinga;

4. That sometime on December 30, 2005, a "Contract of Lease" was purportedly executed by and
between [Carmelo] and Renato Iringan; This document was prepared and notarized by [Atty.
Gumangan];

5. That the aforecited "Contract of Lease" became the principal subject of a Civil Case between
[Carmelo] and Sps. Renato and Carmen Iringan docketed as Civil Case No. 518-09; The original copy
of the pertinent Summons (with the Complaint and annexes thereto) is made Annex "A" and appended
therewith is a certified machine copy of the said "Contract of Lease" (Annex "C" of the Complaint);

6. That the purported "Contract of Lease" is entirely spurious and fraudulent; [Carmelo] never
executed such instrument and did not appear before [Atty. Gumangan] for its due subscription under
oath; [Carmelo] never ever entered into any lease contract with Renato A. Iringan whether verbal or
in writing;

7. That it is too obvious that the alleged Lease Contract prepared and notarized by [Atty. Gumangan]
is fraudulent since by simple examination, the same was executed and subscribed before [Atty.
Gumangan] on December 30, 2005, when in fact Renato Iringan's CTC (08768743) was
issued on January 17, 2006; [Carmelo's] own CTC does not appear thereon, meaning that he
never appeared to execute it; That besides not appearing before [Atty. Gumangan], [Carmelo] has
not been or seen the alleged witnesses to the contract;
8. That more importantly, [Carmelo] had not known, met or had any transaction with [Atty.
Gumangan]; He only saw him for the first time in the Municipal Trial Court, Tabuk, Kalinga,
during one of the proceedings in Civil Case No. 518-09 where [Atty. Gumangan] happened to be
present in attendance;

9. Moreover, the said "Contract of Lease" was never filed with the notarial report of [Atty. Gumangan]
with the Office of the Clerk of Court of Kalinga.; The Sworn Affidavit of Atty. Mary Jane A. Andomang
(Regional Trial Court, Branch 25, Clerk of Court) made Annex "B" hereof attests to this fact;

10. That the very blatant act of [Atty. Gumangan] in preparing and notarizing said "Contract of Lease"
bespeaks of wanton and willful violation of the Canons of Professional Responsibility for lawyers; As
officers of the Court they are mandated not to involve themselves in fraudulent and deceitful acts, to
the grave damage and prejudice of private individuals;

11. That [Atty. Gumangan] had not acted with honesty and faithfulness to the responsibilities and
duties of his profession; He must then be sanctioned and subjected to disciplinary action by this
Honorable Supreme Court.9

Carmelo prayed that Atty. Gumangan "be DISBARRED/SUSPENDED from the practice of law, and with
all the attendant accessory penalties and fines to be justly imposed."10

In support of his allegations, Carmelo attached, among other documents, the purported Contract of
Lease between him and Renato and the Affidavit11 dated September 3, 2009 of Mary Jane A.
Andomang (Andomang), RTC Clerk of Court VI, certifying that Atty. Gumangan "did not submit his
Notarial Report and a copy of a 'Contract of Lease,' appearing as Doc. No. 191, Page No. 39, Book No.
X, Series of 2005."

Atty. Gumangan, in his Comment/Answer,12 asserted that Carmelo instituted the instant administrative
complaint to harass and embarrass him, and to extricate himself, Carmelo, from the felonious acts of
dispossessing his very own brother of the latter's property.

Atty. Gumangan admitted that he notarized the Contract of Lease, but maintained that Carmelo,
together with Renato, personally executed said Contract before Atty. Gumangan and in the presence
of two witnesses, namely, Hilda Langgaman (Langgaman) and Narcisa Padua (Padua). Atty.
Gumangan attached to his Comment/Answer the Joint Affidavit13 dated July 20, 2009 in which
Langgaman and Padua affirmed that they were personally present at Atty. Gumangan's office when
Carmelo and Renato signed the Contract of Lease, and that they saw with their own eyes Carmelo
signing said Contract. Atty. Gumangan likewise attached to his Comment/Answer the Affidavit 14 dated
July 9, 2009 executed by Carmelo's daughter-in-law, Cathelyn Bawat Iringan (Cathelyn), attesting to
the existence and implementation of the Contract of Lease:

That as trustee of the Emilia's Kitchenette, I was instrumental in the payment of rentals over said
Kitchenette to plaintiffs [spouses Iringan] thus:

a) In June, 2007, I withdrew the sum of Twenty-five Thousand (P25,000.00) Pesos from the Rural
Bank of Rizal, Kalinga and used it for the medical operation of Inez Gamad; the amount was treated
as rentals of Emilia's Kitchenette covering the months of November & December, 2006, January,
February and March of year 2007;

b) I paid Ten Thousand (P10,000.00) Pesos on August 23, 2007 for our rental of April and May 2007;

c) I paid rental of Thirty Thousand (P30,000.00) Pesos to Carmen Iringan, which was used for the eye
treatment of Renato Iringan;

d) I issued a check in the sum of One Hundred Thousand (P100,000.00) Pesos, given to Engr.
Federico Iringan, son of [spouses Iringan]; Sixty Thousand (P60,000.00) Pesos was used to cover
rentals of the Kitchenette and Forty Thousand (P40,000.00) Pesos was personal to Federico[.]

Atty. Gumangan proffered the following explanation for the irregularities as regards the community
tax certificates (CTCs) of Carmelo and Renato, the parties to the Contract of Lease:

A. [Carmelo] and his brother Renato Iringan appeared before the herein [Atty. Gumangan] in the
afternoon of December 30, 2005, and after they x x x, together with their witnesses, affixed their
signature on the Contract of Lease, the herein [Atty. Gumangan], directed them to produce their
community tax certificates, but they failed to do so, but they instead promised to secure their
community tax certificates the earliest possible opportunity;

B. Considering that December 30, 2005 is a Friday, and the next working day January 01, 2006, is a
holiday, Renato Iringan secured his community tax certificate on the 17th day of January 2006. x x x.15
Atty. Gumangan substantiated his foregoing averments by appending Renato's Affidavit 16 dated August
11, 2010 to his Comment/Answer, in which the latter deposed and stated:

1. That on the 30th day of December 2005, I together with my brother Carmelo Iringan, went to the
office of Atty. Clayton B. Gumangan, for the purpose of executing a Contract of Lease, over my
two storey building, located at Bulanao, Tabuk City, Kalinga;

2. That after we came to the terms and conditions of the Contract of Lease, Atty. Gumangan,
prepared the same, and explained the contents thereof to us in Ilokano dialect;

xxxx

5. That after we had affixed our signatures, Atty. Gumangan required us to present our community
tax certificates, but we have none that time;

6. That Atty. Gumangan, directed us to secure a cedula, but considering that it was then a Friday
and the 30th of December 2005, we told him that we will just secure our community tax
certificates, on the following working day which is [in] January of 2006;

7. That I then entered the number of my community tax certificate the date of its issuance and place
of issuance. on the 17th of January 2006;

8. That considering that Carmelo Iringan is my very own brother, I no longer [asked] him to secure
his community tax certificate for the purpose of entering its number, date of issue and place of
issue, in our Contract of Lease as directed by Atty. Gumangan[;]

9. That I hereby state that I and my very own brother CARMELO IRINGAN, together with our
witnesses are personally present before Atty. Gumangan, when we [executed] our contract of
lease[.]

In addition, Atty. Gumangan belied Carmelo's claim that they do not know each other prior to Civil
Case No. 518-09. According to Atty. Gumangan, after Renato and Carmelo executed the Contract of
Lease before him, he frequented Emilia's Kitchenette, which was only 500 meters away from the RTC,
and Tabuk City, Kalinga is a small community where almost everyone know each other.

Atty. Gumangan also argued that the Contract of Lease was not the principal subject of Civil Case No.
518-09. Civil Case No. 518-09 was for Illegal Detainer and Ejectment with Damages filed by Renato
against Carmelo because of the latter's failure to vacate the premises. It was Carmelo who alleged
that the Contract of Lease between him and Renato was spurious, but both the MTCC and the RTC
found that the notarized Contract was a public document which needed no further proof of its content
and was entitled to much faith and confidence, absent clear evidence to the contrary.

Lastly, Atty. Gumangan submitted the Affidavit17 dated July 21, 2009 of one Margielyn Narag (Narag),
Carmelo's employee at Emilia's Kitchenette from July 2008 to June 2009. Narag recalled in her
Affidavit that in June 2009, she saw Carmelo practicing his signature on a blank yellow pad paper,
while his niece, Ines Gammad (Gammad) watched. After sometime, Gammad went over Carmelo's
signatures and said, "kitaem sabalin ti pirmam," which meant, "look[,] your signatures are now
different."

In a Resolution18 dated October 11, 2010, the Court referred the administrative case to the Integrated
Bar of the Philippines (IBP) for investigation, report, and recommendation.

The IBP Commission on Bar Discipline set the case for mandatory conference on June 8, 2011. Only
Carmelo and his counsel appeared for the scheduled mandatory conference. In his Order 19 dated June
8, 2011, Commissioner (Com.) Hector B. Almeyda (Almeyda) granted Carmelo's motion and instead of
resetting the mandatory conference, directed the parties to submit their respective position papers
within 40 days, without prejudice to the submission of a comment or reply to the other party's position
paper within 10 days from receipt; and provided that, thereafter, the case would be deemed
submitted for report and recommendation.
Com. Almeyda rendered his Report and Recommendation20 on December 7, 2011 finding that:

The existence and execution of the lease contract between [Carmelo] and his brother Renato appears
to be an established fact. Not only was the agreement between the brothers given recognition by a
couple of courts (MTC of Tabuk City and the Regional Trial Court of Tabuk City), [Carmelo], other than
the self-serving claim that he did not appear at the signing, completely failed to deny that his
signature on the contract of lease was not his or otherwise forged. The validity of the contract of
lease, absent clear evidence of its non-execution in the face of document/affidavits that quite clearly
showed the contrary, established the fact of execution.

There is one other matter [though] that needs some discussion. Sustaining the validity of the contract
of lease notwithstanding, [Atty. Gumangan] must be held responsible for the execution of that
document that is incomplete due to the absence and/or questionable CTC's of the parties. Add to that
the admitted failure of [Atty. Gumangan] to make his notarial report, and even on the assumption
that he filed his notarial report, he failed to include in his notarial report the contract of lease as
among those he notarized. The violation of the notarial law and the liability of [Atty. Gumangan] in
this regard is obvious.

In the end, Com. Almeyda recommended:

WHEREFORE, it is respectfully recommended that the complaint for disbarment on the grounds relied
on be dismissed for insufficiency of merit to sustain the plea for disbarment and/or suspension. But
[Atty. Gumangan] is advised to be a bit more circumspect in the performance of his duties as a lawyer
so that he is warned that a repetition of a similar lapse will be dealt with more serious sanctions.

Due to the incompleteness in the preparation of the contract of lease, [Atty. Gumangan's] commission
as notary public is recommended to be revoked upon notice and he is further recommended to be
disqualified to act as notary public for the next two (2) years.21

In its Resolution No. XX-2013-41522 dated April 15, 2013, the IBP Board of Governors unanimously
adopted and approved Com. Almeyda's Report and Recommendation.

The Court wholly agrees with the findings and recommendations of Com. Almeyda and the IBP Board
of Governors.

The Contract of Lease was executed by Renato and Carmelo on December 30, 2005 and notarized by
Atty. Gumangan on even date. During said time, the 2004 Rules on Notarial Practice23 still applied.

The 2004 Rules on Notarial Practice required the notary public to maintain a notarial register with the
following information:

RULE VI
Notarial Register

xxxx

Sec. 2. Entries in the Notarial Register. – (a) For every notarial act, the notary shall record in the
notarial register at the time of notarization the following:

(1) the entry number and page number;

(2) the date and time of day of the notarial act;

(3) the type of notarial act;

(4) the title or description of the instrument, document or proceeding;

(5) the name and address of each principal;

(6) the competent evidence of identity as defined by these Rules if the signatory is not
personally known to the notary;

(7) the name and address of each credible witness swearing to or affirming the person's identity;

(8) the fee charged for the notarial act;

(9) the address where the notarization was performed if not in the notary's regular place of work or
business; and
(10) any other circumstance the notary public may deem of significance or relevance. (Emphasis
supplied.)

Highlighting the importance of the requirement of competent evidence of identity of the parties, the
2004 Rules on Notarial Practice explicitly prohibited the notary public, who did not personally know the
parties, from notarizing an instrument or document without the same, thus:

RULE IV
Powers and Limitations of Notaries Public

xxxx

Sec. 2. Prohibitions. – x x x

xxxx

(b) A person shall not perform a notarial act if the person involved as signatory to the instrument
or document –

xxxx

2. Is not personally known to the notary public or otherwise identified by the notary public
through competent evidence of identity as defined by these Rules. (Emphases supplied.)

The 2004 Rules on Notarial Practice defined "competent evidence of identity" as follows:

RULE II
Definitions

xxxx

Sec. 12. Competent Evidence of Identity. – The phrase "competent evidence of identity" refers to the
identification of an individual based on:

(a) at least one current identification document issued by an official agency bearing the photograph
and signature of the individual; or

(b) the oath or affirmation of one credible witness not privy to the instrument, document or
transaction who is personally known to the notary public and who personally knows the individual, or
of two credible witnesses neither of whom is privy to the instrument, document or transaction who
each personally knows the individual and shows to the notary public documentary identification.

Atty. Gumangan herein violated the 2004 Rules on Notarial Practice by notarizing the Contract of
Lease on December 30, 2005 without competent evidence of identity of Renato and Carmelo and,
thus, committing an expressly prohibited act under the Rules.

Atty. Gumangan did not allege that he personally knew Renato and Carmelo when they appeared
before him on December 30, 2005 for the notarization of the Contract of Lease. There was no showing
that Renato and Carmelo presented current identification documents issued by an official agency
bearing their photographs and signatures before Atty. Gumangan notarized their Contract of Lease.
Langgaman and Padua witnessed Renato and Carmelo signing the Contract of Lease in person at Atty.
Gumangan's office, but they did not attest under oath or affirmation that they personally knew Renato
and Carmelo, and neither did they present their own documentary identification.

According to Renato, Atty. Gumangan asked them to present their CTCs, but neither Renato nor
Carmelo had CTCs at that moment. Renato only secured a CTC on January 17, 2006, which he
belatedly presented to Atty. Gumangan for recording.

CTCs no longer qualifies as competent evidence of the parties' identity as defined under Rule II,
Section 12 of the 2004 Rules on Notarial Practice. In Bay/on v. Almo,24 considering the ease with
which a CTC could be obtained these days and recognizing the established unreliability of a CTC in
proving the identity of a person who wishes to have his document notarized, the Court did not include
the CTC in the list of competent evidence of identity that notaries public should use in ascertaining the
identity of persons appearing before them to have their documents notarized. 25 Worse, neither Renato
nor Carmelo had CTCs with them on December 30, 2005, yet, Atty. Gumangan still proceeded with
notarizing the Contract of Lease, allowing Renato to belatedly present his CTC weeks later, while
Carmelo did not present any CTC at all.
Moreover, the 2004 Rules on Notarial Practice also prescribed:

RULE VI
Notarial Register

xxxx

Sec. 2. Entries in the Notarial Register. – x x x

xxxx

(d) When the instrument or document is a contract, the notary public shall keep an original copy
thereof as part of his records and enter in said records a brief description of the substance thereof and
shall give to each entry a consecutive number, beginning with number one in each calendar year. He
shall also retain a duplicate original copy for the Clerk of Court.

xxxx

(h) A certified copy of each month's entries and a duplicate original copy of any instrument
acknowledged before the notary public shall, within the first ten (10) days of the month
following, be forwarded to the Clerk of Court and shall be under the responsibility of such officer.
If there is no entry to certify for the month, the notary shall forward a statement to this effect in lieu
of certified copies herein required. (Emphases supplied.)

Per Atty. Andomang's Affidavit dated September 3, 2009, Atty. Gumangan did not submit to the RTC
Clerk of Court his Notarial Report and a duplicate original of the Contract of Lease dated December 30,
2005 between Renata and Carmelo. Atty. Gumangan did not dispute Atty. Andomang's Affidavit nor
provide any explanation for his failure to comply with such requirements.

In Agagon v. Bustamante,26 which involved closely similar administrative infractions by therein


respondent, Atty. Artemio F. Bustamante, the Court stressed the importance of the notary public's
compliance with the formalities for notarization of documents:

There is no doubt that respondent violated the Code of Professional Responsibility and the Notarial
Law when he failed to include a copy of the Deed of Sale in his Notarial Report and for failing to
require the parties to the deed to exhibit their respective community tax certificates. Doubts were cast
as to the existence and due execution of the subject deed, thus undermining the integrity and sanctity
of the notarization process and diminishing public confidence in notarial documents since the subject
deed was introduced as an annex to the Affidavit of Title/Right of Possession of Third Party Claimant
relative to NLRC Case No. RAB-CAR-12-0672-00.

A notary public is empowered to perform a variety of notarial acts, most common of which are the
acknowledgment and affirmation of a document or instrument. In the performance of such notarial
acts, the notary public must be mindful of the significance of the notarial seal as affixed on a
document. The notarial seal converts the document from private to public, after which it may be
presented as evidence without need for proof of its genuineness and due execution. Thus,
notarization. should not be treated as an empty, meaningless, or routinary act. As early
as Panganiban v. Borromeo, we held that notaries public must inform themselves of the facts which
they intend to certify and to take no part in illegal transactions. They must guard against any illegal or
immoral arrangements.

It cannot be overemphasized that notarization of documents is not an empty, meaningless or


routinary act. It is invested with substantive public interest, such that only those who are qualified or
authorized may act as notaries public. It is through the act of notarization that a private document is
converted into a public one, making it admissible in evidence without need of preliminary proof of
authenticity and due execution. Indeed, a notarial document is by law entitled to full faith and credit
upon its face, and for this reason, notaries public must observe utmost care in complying with the
elementary formalities in the performance of their duties. Otherwise, the confidence of the public in
the integrity of this form of conveyance would be undermined.

Canon 1 of the Code of Professional Responsibility requires every lawyer to uphold the Constitution,
obey the laws of the land and promote respect for the law and legal processes. Moreover, the Notarial
Law and the 2004 Rules on Notarial Practice require a duly commissioned notary public to make the
proper entries in his Notarial Register and to refrain from committing any dereliction or act which
constitutes good cause for the revocation of commission or imposition of administrative sanction.
Unfortunately, respondent failed in both respects. (Citations omitted.)

A lawyer, who is also commissioned as a notary public, is mandated to discharge with fidelity the
sacred duties appertaining to his office, such duties being dictated by public policy and impressed with
public interest. Faithful observance and utmost respect for the legal solemnity of an oath in an
acknowledgment are sacrosanct. A notary public cannot simply disregard the requirements and
solemnities of the Notarial Law.27

Clearly, herein, Atty. Gumangan – in notarizing the Contract of Lease without competent evidence of
the identity of Renato and Carmelo, and in failing to submit to the RTC Clerk of Court his Notarial
Report and a duplicate original of the Contract of Lease – had been grossly remiss in his duties as a
notary public and as a lawyer, consequently, undermining the faith and confidence of the public in the
notarial act and/or notarized documents.

Therefore, in light of the foregoing, the Court holds Atty. Gumangan administratively liable and
imposes upon him the penalty of suspension of his notarial commission for two years.

As a last note, the Court points out that its judgment in the present case does not touch upon the
execution and existence of the Contract of Lease between Renato and Carmelo, facts which the MTCC
found sufficiently established in its Decision dated September 24, 2009 in Civil Case No. 518-09, and
affirmed on appeal by the RTC in its Decision dated May 25, 2010. Such factual findings of the MTCC
and RTC were not based solely on the irregularly-notarized Contract of Lease between Renato and
Carmelo, but also on the consistent declarations of Renato, Atty. Gumangan, and the two impartial
witnesses, Langgaman and Padua, that Renato and Carmelo personally appeared and signed said
Contract of Lease at the office and in the presence of Atty. Gumangan on December 30, 2005.
Carmelo's self-serving denial, averments of irregularities in the notarization of the Contract of Lease,
and presentation of Atty. Andomang's Affidavit dated September 3, 2009 were deemed insufficient by
the MTCC and the RTC to refute such factual findings.

It is worthy to mention that any defect in the notarization of the Contract of Lease did not affect its
validity and it continued to be binding between the parties to the same, namely, Renato and Carmelo.
The irregularity in the notarization was not fatal to the validity of the Contract of Lease since the
absence of such formality would not necessarily invalidate the lease, but would merely render the
written contract a private instrument rather than a public one.28 In addition, parties who appear before
a notary public to have their documents notarized should not be expected to follow up on the
submission of the notarial reports. They should not be made to suffer the consequences of the
negligence of the notary public in following the procedures prescribed by the Notarial Law. 29

Hence, the ruling of the Court in the present administrative case, essentially addressing the defects in
the notarization of the Contract of Lease dated December 30, 2005 between Renato and Carmelo and
Atty. Gumangan's failings as a notary public, should not affect the judgment rendered against Carmelo
in Civil Case No. 518-09, the unlawful detainer case.

WHEREFORE, respondent Atty. Clayton B. Gumangan is found GUILTY of violating the Notarial Law,
the 2004 Rules on Notarial Practice, and the Code of Professional Responsibility. His incumbent
commission as notary public, if any, is REVOKED, and he is PROHIBITED from being commissioned
as a notary public for two (2) years, effective immediately. He is DIRECTED to report the date of his
receipt of this Decision to enable this Court to determine when his suspension shall take effect. He is
finally WARNED that a repetition of the same or similar offense shall be dealt with more severely.

Let a copy of this Decision be furnished to the Office of the Bar Confidant, to be appended to
respondent Atty. Clayton B. Gumangan's personal record as member of the Bar. Likewise, copies shall
be furnished to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and all courts in the country for their information
and guidance.

SO ORDERED.