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LINE LEDA v. TREBONIAN TABANG : February 1992 - Philipppine Supreme Court Decisions

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February 1992 - Philippine Supreme Court Decisions/Resolutions

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February 1992 Decisions > A.C. No. 2505 February 21, 1992
- EVANGELINE LEDA v. TREBONIAN TABANG:

EN BANC

[A.C. No. 2505. February 21, 1992.]

EVANGELINE LEDA, Complainant, v. ATTY. TREBONIAN


TABANG, Respondent.

SYLLABUS

1. LEGAL ETHICS; CODE OF PROFESSIONAL


RESPONSIBILITY; ADMISSION TO THE BAR; GROSS
MISREPRESENTATION AS A GROUND. — Respondent’s
declaration in his application for admission to the 1981 Bar
Examinations that he was "single" was a gross

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misrepresentation of a material fact made in utter bad faith,


for which he should be made answerable. Rule 7.01, Canon 7,
Chapter II of the Code of Professional Responsibility explicitly
provides: "A lawyer shall be answerable for knowingly making
a false statement or suppression of a material fact in
connection with his application for admission to the bar." That
false statement, if it had been known, would have disqualified
him outright from taking the Bar Examinations as it
indubitably exhibits lack of good moral character.

2. CIVIL LAW; MARRIAGES OF EXCEPTIONAL CHARACTER;


REQUISITES AND CONDITIONS PRESUMED TO HAVE BEEN
MET. — Respondent can not assume that his marriage to
Complainant is void. The presumption is that all the requisites
and conditions of a marriage of an exceptional character
under Article 76 of the Civil Code have been met and that the
Judge’s official duty in connection therewith has been
regularly performed.

3. LEGAL ETHICS; CODE OF PROFESSIONAL


RESPONSIBILITY; ADOPTING CONFLICTING POSITIONS IN
PLEADINGS, DUPLICITOUS AND DEPLORABLE. —
Respondent’s conduct in adopting conflicting positions in the
various pleadings submitted in Bar Matter No. 78 and in the
case at bar is duplicitous and deplorable. Respondent has
resorted to conflicting submissions before this Court to suit
himself. He has also engaged in devious tactics with
Complainant in order to serve his purpose. In so doing, he
has violated Canon 10 of the Code of Professional
Responsibility, which provides that "a lawyer owes candor,
fairness and good faith to the court" as well as Rule 1001
thereof which states that "a lawyer should do no falsehood
nor consent to the doing of any in Court; nor shall he mislead,
or allow the court to be misled by any artifice." cralaw virtua1aw library

4. ID.; ID.; COURTS ENTITLED TO EXPECT COMPLETE


CANDOR AND HONESTY FROM LAWYERS APPEARING AND
PLEADING BEFORE THEM. — Courts are entitled to expect
only complete candor and honesty from the lawyers appearing
and pleading before them (Chavez v. Viola, Adm. Case No.
2152, 19 April 1991, 196 SCRA 10). Respondent, through his
actuations, has been lacking in the candor required of him not

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only as a member of the Bar but also as an officer of the


Court.

5. ID.; ID.; GOOD MORAL CHARACTER, ESSENTIAL FOR


ADMISSION TO AND FOR REMAINING IN THE PRACTICE OF
LAW. — It cannot be overemphasized that the requirement of
good moral character is not only a condition precedent to
admission to the practice of law; its continued possession is
also essential for remaining in the practice of law (People v.
Tuanda, Adm. Case No. 3360, 30 January 1990, 181 SCRA
692).

6. ID.; ID.; COURTS RETAIN THE POWER TO DISCIPLINE AN


ATTORNEY. — As so aptly put by Mr. Justice George A.
Malcolm: "As good character is an essential qualification for
admission of an attorney to practice, when the attorney’s
character is bad in such respects as to show that he is unsafe
and unfit to be entrusted with the powers of an attorney, the
courts retain the power to discipline him (Piatt v. Abordo, 58
Phil. 350 [1933]).

7. ID.; ID.; INDEFINITE SUSPENSION IMPOSED WHERE


LAWYER IS FOUND EVIDENTLY LACKING IN GOOD MORAL
CHARACTER. — Wherefore, finding respondent Trebonian C.
Tabang grossly and unworthy to continue to be entrusted with
the duties and responsibilities belonging to the office of an
attorney, he is hereby SUSPENDED from the practice of law
until further Orders, the suspension to take effect
immediately.

D E C I S I O N

PER CURIAM:

Complainant, Evangeline Leda, squarely puts in issue respondent


Atty. Trebonian Tabang’s good moral character, in two Complaints
she had filed against him, one docketed as Bar Matter No. 78
instituted on 6 January 1982, and the present Administrative Case

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No. 2505, which is a Petition for Disbarment, filed on 14 February


1983.

It appears that on 3 October 1976, Respondent and Complainant


contracted marriage at Tigbauan, Iloilo. The marriage, solemnized
by Judge Jose T. Tavarro of Tigbauan, was performed under
Article 76 of the Civil Code 1 as one of exceptional character
(Annex "A," Petition).

The parties agreed to keep the fact of marriage a secret until after
Respondent had finished his law studies (began in 1977), and had
taken the Bar examinations (in 1981), allegedly to ensure a stable
future for them. Complainant admits, though, that they had not
lived together as husband and wife (Letter-Complaint, 6 January
1982). chanrobles.com.ph : virtual law library

Respondent finished his law studies in 1981 and thereafter


applied to take the Bar. In his application, he declared that he
was "single." He then passed the examinations but Complainant
blocked him from taking his Oath by instituting Bar Matter No. 78,
claiming that Respondent had acted fraudulently in filling out his
application and, thus, was unworthy to take the lawyer’s Oath for
lack of good moral character. Complainant also alleged that after
Respondent’s law studies, he became aloof and "abandoned" her
(Petition, par. 5).

The Court deferred Respondent’s Oath-taking and required him to


answer the Complaint.

Respondent filed his "Explanation," dated 26 May 1982 which was


received on 7 June 1982. Said "Explanation" carries Complainant’s
conformity (Records, p. 6). Therein, he admitted that he was
"legally married" to Complainant on 3 October 1976 but that the
marriage "was not as yet made and declared public" so that he
could proceed with his law studies and until after he could take
the Bar examinations "in order to keep stable our future." He also
admitted having indicated that he was "single" in his application
to take the Bar "for reason that to my honest belief, I have still to
declare my status as single since my marriage with the
complainant was not as yet made and declared public." He further
averred that he and Complainant had reconciled as shown by her
conformity to the "Explanation," for which reason he prayed that

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the Complaint be dismissed. chanrobles lawlibrary : rednad

Respondent also filed a Motion to Dismiss, dated 2 June 1982.


Attached to it was Complainant’s Affidavit of Desistance, which
stated that Bar Matter No. 78 arose out of a misunderstanding
and communication gap and that she was refraining from
pursuing her Complaint against Respondent.

Acting on the aforesaid Motion and Comment, the Court dismissed


Bar Matter No. 78 and allowed Respondent to take his Oath in a
Resolution dated 20 August 1982.

On 14 February 1983, however, Complainant filed this


Administrative Case, this time praying for Respondent’s
disbarment based on the following grounds: jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"a. For having made use of his legal knowledge to contract an


invalid marriage with me assuming that our marriage is not valid,
and making a mockery of our marriage institution.

"b. For having misrepresented himself as single when in truth he


is already married in his application to take the bar exam.

"c. For being not of good moral character contrary to the


certification he submitted to the Supreme Court;

"d. For (sic) guilty of deception for the reason that he deceived
me into signing the affidavit of desistance and the conformity to
his explanation and later on the comment to his motion to
dismiss, when in truth and in fact he is not sincere, for he only
befriended me to resume our marriage and introduced me to his
family, friends and relatives as his wife, for a bad motive that is
he wanted me to withdraw my complaint against him with the
Supreme Court." cralaw virtua1aw library

Attached to Complainant’s Petition for Disbarment, as Annex "F,"


is an undated and unsigned letter addressed to Complainant,
allegedly written by Respondent after he had already taken his
Oath stating, among others, that while he was grateful for
Complainant’s help, he "could not force myself to be yours," did
not love her anymore and considered her only a friend. Their
marriage contract was actually void for failure to comply with the
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requisites of Article 76 of the Civil Code, among them the


minimum cohabitation for five (5) years before the celebration of
the marriage, an affidavit to that effect by the solemnizing officer,
and that the parties must be at least twenty-one (21) years of
age, which they were not as they were both only twenty years old
at the time. He advised Complainant not to do anything more so
as not to put her family name "in shame." As for him, he had
"attain(ed) my goal as a full pledge (sic) professional and there is
nothing you can do for it to take away from me even (sic) you go
to any court." According to Complainant, although the letter was
unsigned, Respondent’s initials appear on the upper left-hand
corner of the airmail envelope (Exh. "8-A-1").

Respondent denies emphatically that he had sent such a letter


contending that it is Complainant who has been indulging in
fantasy and fabrications.

In his Comment in the present case, Respondent avers that he


and Complainant had covenanted not to disclose the marriage not
because he wanted to finish his studies and take the Bar first but
for the reason that said marriage was void from the beginning in
the absence of the requisites of Article 76 of the Civil Code that
the contracting parties shall have lived together as husband and
wife for at least five (5) years before the date of the marriage and
that said parties shall state the same in an affidavit before any
person authorized by law to administer oaths. He could not have
abandoned Complainant because they had never lived together as
husband and wife. When he applied for the 1981 Bar
examinations, he honestly believed that in the eyes of the law, he
was single.

On 7 May 1984, the Court referred the Complaint to the Solicitor


General for investigation, report and recommendation. On 5
March 1990, the Solicitor General submitted his Report, with the
recommendation that Respondent be exonerated from the
charges against him since Complainant failed to attend the
hearings and to substantiate her charges but that he be
reprimanded for making inconsistent and conflicting statements in
the various pleadings he had filed before this Court.

On 26 March 1990, the Court referred the Solicitor General’s


Report to the Bar Confidant for evaluation, report and

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recommendation. In an undated Report, the latter recommended


the indefinite suspension of Respondent until the status of his
marriage is settled.

Upon the facts on record, even without testimonial evidence from


Complainant, we find Respondent’s lack of good moral character
sufficiently established.

Firstly, his declaration in his application for admission to the 1981


Bar Examinations that he was "single" was a gross
misrepresentation of a material fact made in utter bad faith, for
which he should be made answerable. Rule 7.01, Canon 7,
Chapter II of the Code of Professional Responsibility explicitly
provides: "A lawyer shall be answerable for knowingly making a
false statement or suppression of a material fact in connection
with his application for admission to the bar." That false
statement, if it had been known, would have disqualified him
outright from taking the Bar Examinations as it indubitably
exhibits lack of good moral character.

Respondent’s protestations that he had acted in good faith in


declaring his status as "single" not only because of his pact with
Complainant to keep the marriage under wraps but also because
that marriage to the Complainant was void from the beginning,
are mere afterthoughts absolutely wanting of merit. Respondent
can not assume that his marriage to Complainant is void. The
presumption is that all the requisites and conditions of a marriage
of an exceptional character under Article 76 of the Civil Code have
been met and that the Judge’s official duty in connection
therewith has been regularly performed. cralawnad

Secondly, Respondent’s conduct in adopting conflicting positions


in the various pleadings submitted in Bar Matter No. 78 and in the
case at bar is duplicitous and deplorable.

The records show that in Bar Matter No. 78, Respondent had
submitted an "Explanation," in paragraph 1, page 1 of which he
admits having been "legally married" to Complainant. Yet, during
the hearings before the Solicitor General, he denied under oath
that he had submitted any such pleading (t.s.n., p. 21)
contending instead that it is only the second page where his
signature appears that he meant to admit and not the averments

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on the first page which were merely of Complainant’s own making


(ibid., pp. 59-60). However, in his Comment in this Administrative
Case, he admits and makes reference to such "Explanation" (pars.
3[f]) and [g]; 4[b]).

Again, while in said "Explanation" he admitted having been


"legally married" to Complainant (par. 1), in this case, however,
he denies the legality of the marriage and, instead, harps on its
being void ab initio. He even denies his signature in the marriage
contract.

In Bar Matter No. 78, Respondent also averred that the fact of
marriage was not to be made public so as to allow him to finish
his studies and take the Bar. In this case, however, he contends
that the reason it was kept a secret was because it was "not in
order from the beginning." cralaw virtua1aw library

Thirdly, Respondent denies that he had sent the unsigned letter


(Annex "F," Petition) to Complainant. However, its very tenor
coincides with the reasons that he advances in his Comment why
the marriage is void from the beginning, that is, for failure to
comply with the requisites of Article 76 of the Civil Code.

Fourthly, the factual scenario gathered from the records shows


that Respondent had reconciled with Complainant and admitted
the marriage to put a quick finish to Bar Matter No. 78 to enable
him to take the lawyer’s Oath, which otherwise he would have
been unable to do. But after he had done so and had become a
"full-pledge (sic) lawyer," he again refused to honor his marriage
to Complainant.

Respondent’s lack of good moral character is only too evident. He


has resorted to conflicting submissions before this Court to suit
himself. He has also engaged in devious tactics with Complainant
in order to serve his purpose. In so doing, he has violated Canon
10 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, which provides that
"a lawyer owes candor, fairness and good faith to the court" as
well as Rule 1001 thereof which states that "a lawyer should do
no falsehood nor consent to the doing of any in Court; nor shall
he mislead, or allow the court to be misled by any artifice." Courts
are entitled to expect only complete candor and honesty from the
lawyers appearing and pleading before them (Chavez v. Viola,

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1/20/2020 A.C. No. 2505 February 21, 1992 - EVANGELINE LEDA v. TREBONIAN TABANG : February 1992 - Philipppine Supreme Court Decisions

Adm. Case No. 2152, 19 April 1991, 196 SCRA 10). Respondent,
through his actuations, has been lacking in the candor required of
him not only as a member of the Bar but also as an officer of the
Court. chanrobles.com:cralaw:red

It cannot be overemphasized that the requirement of good moral


character is not only a condition precedent to admission to the
practice of law; its continued possession is also essential for
remaining in the practice of law (People v. Tuanda, Adm. Case No.
3360, 30 January 1990, 181 SCRA 692). As so aptly put by Mr.
Justice George A. Malcolm: "As good character is an essential
qualification for admission of an attorney to practice, when the
attorney’s character is bad in such respects as to show that he is
unsafe and unfit to be entrusted with the powers of an attorney,
the courts retain the power to discipline him (Piatt v. Abordo, 58
Phil. 350 [1933]).

WHEREFORE, finding respondent Trebonian C. Tabang grossly


unfit and unworthy to continue to be entrusted with the duties
and responsibilities belonging to the office of an attorney, he is
hereby SUSPENDED from the practice of law until further Orders,
the suspension to take effect immediately.

Copies of this Decision shall be entered in his personal record as


an attorney and served on the Integrated Bar of the Philippines
and the Court Administrator who shall circulate the same to all
Courts in the country for their information and guidance.

SO ORDERED.

Narvasa, C.J., Melencio-Herrera, Gutierrez, Jr., Cruz, Paras,


Feliciano, Padilla, Bidin, Griño-Aquino, Medialdea, Regalado,
Davide, Jr., Romero and Nocon, JJ., concur.

Endnotes:

1. ART. 76. No marriage license shall be necessary


when a man and a woman who have attained the age
of majority and who, being unmarried, have lived
together as husband and wife for at least five years,
desire to marry each other. The contracting parties
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shall state the foregoing facts in an affidavit before


any person authorized by law to administer oaths. The
official, priest or minister who solemnized the marriage
shall also state in an affidavit that he took steps to
ascertain the ages and other qualifications of the
contracting parties and that he found no legal
impediment to the marriage.

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JESUS FERNANDEZ v.
ANSCOR CONTAINER
CORPORATION, ET AL.

G.R. No. 69162


February 21, 1992 -
BANK OF THE
PHILIPPINE ISLANDS v.
INTERMEDIATE
APPELLATE COURT, ET
AL.

G.R. No. 94008


February 21, 1992 -
PEOPLE OF THE PHIL. v.
EDGAR B. FERNANDEZ

G.R. No. 94643


February 21, 1992 -
PEOPLE OF THE PHIL. v.
JOVITO C. CALLAO, ET
AL.

G.R. No. 96004


February 21, 1992 -
JOSE O. TEODORO, ET
AL. v. GUILLERMO
CARAGUE, ET AL.

G.R. No. 96161


February 21, 1992 -
PHILIPS EXPORT B.V.,
ET AL. v. COURT OF
APPEALS, ET AL.

A.C. No. 3695


February 24, 1992 -
DOMINGO C.
GAMALINDA v.
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FERNANDO ALCANTARA,
ET AL.

B.M. No. 44 February


24, 1992 - EUFROSINA
Y. TAN v. NICOLAS EL.
SABANDAL

G.R. No. 85502


February 24, 1992 -
SUNVILLE TIMBER
PRODUCTS, INC. v.
ALFONSO G. ABAD, ET
AL.

A.C. No. P-88-198


February 25, 1992 -
PEDRO J. CALLEJO, JR.
v. JOSE D. GARCIA

G.R. No. 86200


February 25, 1992 -
APEX MINING
COMPANY, INC. v.
NATIONAL LABOR
RELATIONS
COMMISSION, ET AL.

G.R. No. 89425


February 25, 1992 -
REPUBLIC OF THE PHIL.
v. SANDIGANBAYAN, ET
AL.

G.R. Nos. 94193-99


February 25, 1992 -
NATIONAL POWER
CORPORATION v.
ENRIQUE T. JOCSON, ET
AL.

G.R. No. 96283


February 25, 1992 -
CHUNG FU INDUSTRIES
(PHILIPPINES) INC., ET
AL. v. COURT OF
APPEALS, ET AL.

G.R. No. 49823


February 26, 1992 -
HEIRS OF EUGENIO
SEVILLA, INC. v. COURT
OF APPEALS, ET AL.
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G.R. Nos. 58507-08


February 26, 1992 -
RAMON GIL ABAD, ET
AL. v. COURT OF FIRST
INSTANCE OF
PANGASINAN, BRANCH
VIII, ET AL.

G.R. No. 62082


February 26, 1992 -
PHILIPPINE NATIONAL
BANK v. TEODORO N.
FLORENDO, ET AL.

G.R. No. 85923


February 26, 1992 -
CYNTHIA S. SANTIAGO,
ET AL. v. TEOFILO
GUADIZ, JR., ET AL.

G.R. No. 88226


February 26, 1992 -
ADJAP ALLAMA, ET AL.
v. REPUBLIC OF THE
PHIL.

G.R. No. 92143


February 26, 1992 -
PEOPLE OF THE PHIL. v.
PONCIANO AGCAOILI

G.R. No. 95425


February 26, 1992 -
FLORENCIO P. SALLES
v. NICEFORO B.
FRANCISCO, ET AL.

G.R. No. 100990


February 27, 1992 -
PEOPLE OF THE PHIL. v.
RUPERTO PASCUA

G.R. No. 101022


February 27, 1992 -
PEOPLE OF THE PHIL. v.
EDUARDO ANDASA

G.R. No. 71664


February 28, 1992 -
BAGUIO COUNTRY CLUB
CORP. v. NATIONAL

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LABOR RELATIONS
COMMISSION, ET AL.

G.R. No. 83027


February 28, 1992 -
PEOPLE OF THE PHIL. v.
NORIEL C. FULE

G.R. No. 95957


February 28, 1992 -
PEOPLE OF THE PHIL. v.
CARLITO ALCANTARA

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