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Table of Contents

1. PHILIPPINE LAWYER'S ASSOCIATION vs. CELEDONIO AGRAVA................................... 2


2. RENATO CAYETANO vs. CHRISTIAN MONSOD .............................................................. 8
3. TERESITA P. FAJARDO vs. ATTY. NICANOR C. ALVAREZ .............................................. 44
4. IN RE: PETITION TO SIGN IN THE ROLL OF ATTORNEYS MICHAEL A. MEDADO .......... 62
5. LETICIA A. ARIENDA vs. EVELYN A. MONILLA ............................................................... 66
6. RE: APPLICATION FOR ADMISSION TO THE PHILIPPINE BAR vs. VICENTE D. CHING . 70
7. IN THE MATTER OF THE DISQUALIFICATION OF BAR EXAMINEE HARON S. MELING IN
THE 2002 BAR EXAMINATIONS AND FOR DISCIPLINARY ACTION AS MEMBER OF THE
PHILIPPINE SHARI’A BAR, ATTY. FROILAN R. MELENDREZ ............................................. 76
8. SOPHIA ALAWI vs. ASHARY M. ALAUYA ....................................................................... 80
9. RE: PETITION OF AL ARGOSINO TO TAKE THE LAWYERS OATH ................................... 85
10. REMEDIOS RAMIREZ TAPUCAR vs. ATTY. LAURO L. TAPUCAR .................................... 88
11. MAELOTISEA S. GARRIDO vs. ATTYS. ANGEL E. GARRIDO .......................................... 92
12. OFFICE OF THE COURT ADMINISTRATOR vs. ATTY. MISAEL M. LADAGA ................. 102
13. FERDINAND A. CRUZ vs. ALBERTO MINA .................................................................... 106
14. FERDINAND A. CRUZ vs. JUDGE PRISCILLA MIJARES ................................................. 111
15. REY J. VARGAS AND EDUARDO A. PANES, JR vs. ATTY. MICHAEL A. IGNES .......... 116
16. SPOUSES CONSTANTE AGBULOS AND ZENAIDA PADILLA AGBULOS vs. NICASIO
GUTIERREZ ...................................................................................................................... 121
17. FELIMON MANANGAN vs. COURT OF FIRST INSTANCE OF NUEVA VIZCAYA ......... 125
18. DANIEL LEMOINE vs. ATTY. AMADEO E. BALON, JR. ................................................. 131
19. FORTUNATO HALILI vs. COURT OF INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ....................................... 138
20. JORGE MONTECILLO vs. FRANCISCO M. GICA ........................................................ 155
21. RENE P. RAMOS vs. MOISES R. RADA .......................................................................... 164
22. HERMINIO R. NORIEGA vs. ATTY. EMMANUEL R. SISON ............................................ 165
23. RUTHIE LIM-SANTIAGO vs. ATTY. CARLOS B. SAGUCIO ............................................. 168
24. DAN JOEL V. LIM* and RICHARD C. TAN vs. ATTY. EDILBERTO BARCELONA ......... 176

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G.R. No. L-12426 February 16, 1959

PHILIPPINE LAWYER'S ASSOCIATION, petitioner,


vs.
CELEDONIO AGRAVA, in his capacity as Director of the Philippines Patent Office,
respondent.

Arturo A. Alafriz for petitioner.


Office of the Solicitor General Ambrosio Padilla and Solicitor Pacifico P. de Castro for
respondent.

MONTEMAYOR, J.:

This is the petition filed by the Philippine Lawyer's Association for prohibition and
injunction against Celedonio Agrava, in his capacity as Director of the Philippines
Patent Office.

On may 27, 1957, respondent Director issued a circular announcing that he had
scheduled for June 27, 1957 an examination for the purpose of determining who are
qualified to practice as patent attorneys before the Philippines Patent Office, the said
examination to cover patent law and jurisprudence and the rules of practice before
said office. According to the circular, members of the Philippine Bar, engineers and
other persons with sufficient scientific and technical training are qualified to take the
said examination. It would appear that heretofore, respondent Director has been
holding similar examinations.

It is the contention of the petitioner Philippine Lawyer's Association that one who has
passed the bar examinations and is licensed by the Supreme Court to practice law in
the Philippines and who is in good standing, is duly qualified to practice before the
Philippines Patent Office, and that consequently, the cat of the respondent Director
requiring members of the Philippine Bar in good standing to take and pass an
examination given by the Patent Office as a condition precedent to their being
allowed to practice before said office, such as representing applicants in the
preparation and prosecution of applications for patent, is in excess of his jurisdiction
and is in violation of the law.

In his answer, respondent Director, through the Solicitor General, maintains that the
prosecution of patent cases "does not involve entirely or purely the practice of law but
includes the application of scientific and technical knowledge and training, so much so
that, as a matter of actual practice, the prosecution of patent cases may be handled
not only by lawyers, but also engineers and other persons with sufficient scientific and
technical training who pass the prescribed examinations as given by the Patent Office;
. . . that the Rules of Court do not prohibit the Patent Office, or any other quasi-judicial
body from requiring further condition or qualification from those who would wish to
handle cases before the Patent Office which, as stated in the preceding paragraph,
requires more of an application of scientific and technical knowledge than the mere
application of provisions of law; . . . that the action taken by the respondent is in
accordance with Republic Act No. 165, otherwise known as the Patent Law of the

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Philippines, which similar to the United States Patent Law, in accordance with which the
United States Patent Office has also prescribed a similar examination as that prescribed
by respondent. . . .

Respondent further contends that just as the Patent law of the United States of America
authorizes the Commissioner of Patents to prescribe examinations to determine as to
who practice before the United States Patent Office, the respondent, is similarly
authorized to do so by our Patent Law, Republic Act No. 165.

Although as already stated, the Director of Patents, in the past, would appear to have
been holding tests or examinations the passing of which was imposed as a required
qualification to practice before the Patent Office, to our knowledge, this is the first time
that the right of the Director of Patents to do so, specially as regards members of the
bar, has been questioned formally, or otherwise put in issue. And we have given it
careful thought and consideration.

The Supreme Court has the exclusive and constitutional power with respect to
admission to the practice of law in the Philippines1 and to any member of the Philippine
Bar in good standing may practice law anywhere and before any entity, whether
judicial or quasi-judicial or administrative, in the Philippines. Naturally, the question arises
as to whether or not appearance before the patent Office and the preparation and
the prosecution of patent applications, etc., constitutes or is included in the practice of
law.

The practice of law is not limited to the conduct of cases or litigation in court; it
embraces the preparation of pleadings and other papers incident to actions and social
proceedings, the management of such actions and proceedings on behalf of clients
before judges and courts, and in addition, conveying. In general, all advice to clients,
and all action taken for them in matters connected with the law corporation services,
assessment and condemnation services contemplating an appearance before a
judicial body, the foreclosure of a mortgage, enforcement of a creditor's claim in
bankruptcy and insolvency proceedings, and conducting proceedings in attachment,
and in matters of estate and guardianship have been held to constitute law practice
as do the preparation and drafting of legal instruments, where the work done involves
the determination by the trained legal mind of the legal effect of facts and conditions.
(5 Am. Jur. p. 262, 263). (Emphasis supplied).

Practice of law under modern conditions consists in no small part of work performed
outside of any court and having no immediate relation to proceedings in court. It
embraces conveyancing, the giving of legal advice on a large variety of subjects, and
the preparation and execution of legal instruments covering an extensive field of
business and trust relations and other affairs. Although these transactions may have no
direct connection with court proceedings, they are always subject to become involved
in litigation. They require in many aspects a high degree of legal skill, a wide experience
with men and affairs, and great capacity for adaptation to difficult and complex
situations. These customary functions of an attorney or counselor at law bear an
intimate relation to the administration of justice by the courts. No valid distinction, so far
as concerns the question set forth in the order, can be drawn between that part which

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involves advice and drafting of instruments in his office. It is of importance to the
welfare of the public that these manifold customary functions be performed by persons
possessed of adequate learning and skill, of sound moral character, and acting at all
times under the heavy trust obligations to clients which rests upon all attorneys. (Moran,
Comments on the Rules of Court, Vol. 3 (1953 ed.), p. 665-666, citing In re Opinion of the
Justices (Mass.), 194 N.E. 313, quoted in Rhode Is. Bar Assoc. vs. Automobile Service
Assoc. (R. I. ) 179 A. 139, 144). (Emphasis ours).

In our opinion, the practice of law includes such appearance before the Patent Office,
the representation of applicants, oppositors, and other persons, and the prosecution of
their applications for patent, their oppositions thereto, or the enforcement of their rights
in patent cases. In the first place, although the transaction of business in the Patent
Office involves the use and application of technical and scientific knowledge and
training, still, all such business has to be rendered in accordance with the Patent Law,
as well as other laws, including the Rules and Regulations promulgated by the Patent
Office in accordance with law. Not only this, but practice before the Patent Office
involves the interpretation and application of other laws and legal principles, as well as
the existence of facts to be established in accordance with the law of evidence and
procedure. For instance: Section 8 of our Patent Law provides that an invention shall not
be patentable if it is contrary to public order or morals, or to public health or welfare.
Section 9 says that an invention shall not be considered new or patentable if it was
known or used by others in the Philippines before the invention thereof by the inventor
named in any printed publication in the Philippines or any foreign country more than
one year before the application for a patent therefor, or if it had been in public use or
on sale in the Philippines for more than one year before the application for the patent
therefor. Section 10 provides that the right to patent belongs to the true and actual
inventor, his heirs, legal representatives or assigns. Section 25 and 26 refer to connection
of any mistake in a patent. Section 28 enumerates the grounds for cancellation of a
patent; that although any person may apply for such cancellation, under Section 29,
the Solicitor General is authorized to petition for the cancellation of a patent. Section 30
mentions the requirements of a petition for cancellation. Section 31 and 32 provide for
a notice of hearing of the petition for cancellation of the patent by the Director of
Patents in case the said cancellation is warranted. Under Section 34, at any time after
the expiration of three years from the day the patent was granted, any person patent
on several grounds, such as, if the patented invention is not being worked in the
Philippines on a commercial scale, or if the demand for the patented article in the
Philippines on a commercial scale, or if the demand for the patented article in the
Philippines is not being met to an adequate extent and reasonable terms, or if by
reason of the patentee's refusal to grant a license on reasonable terms or by reason of
the condition attached by him to the license, purchase or use of the patented article or
working of the patented process or machine of production, the establishment of a new
trade or industry in the Philippines is prevented; or if the patent or invention relates to
food or medicine or is necessary to public health or public safety. All these things
involve the applications of laws, legal principles, practice and procedure. They call for
legal knowledge, training and experience for which a member of the bar has been
prepared.

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In support of the proposition that much of the business and many of the act, orders and
decisions of the Patent Director involve questions of law or a reasonable and correct
evaluation of facts, the very Patent Law, Republic Act No. 165, Section 61, provides
that:

. . . . The applicant for a patent or for the registration of a design, any party to a
proceeding to cancel a patent or to obtain a compulsory license, and any party to any
other proceeding in the Office may appeal to the Supreme Court from any final order
or decision of the director.

In other words, the appeal is taken to this Tribunal. If the transaction of business in the
Patent Office and the acts, orders and decisions of the Patent Director involved
exclusively or mostly technical and scientific knowledge and training, then logically, the
appeal should be taken not to a court or judicial body, but rather to a board of
scientists, engineers or technical men, which is not the case.

Another aspect of the question involves the consideration of the nature of the functions
and acts of the Head of the Patent Office.

. . . . The Commissioner, in issuing or withholding patents, in reissues, interferences, and


extensions, exercises quasi-judicial functions. Patents are public records, and it is the
duty of the Commissioner to give authenticated copies to any person, on payment of
the legal fees. (40 Am. Jur. 537). (Emphasis supplied).

. . . . The Commissioner has the only original initiatory jurisdiction that exists up to the
granting and delivering of a patent, and it is his duty to decide whether the patent is
new and whether it is the proper subject of a patent; and his action in awarding or
refusing a patent is a judicial function. In passing on an application the commissioner
should decide not only questions of law, but also questions of fact, as whether there has
been a prior public use or sale of the article invented. . . . (60 C.J.S. 460). (Emphasis
supplied).

The Director of Patents, exercising as he does judicial or quasi-judicial functions, it is


reasonable to hold that a member of the bar, because of his legal knowledge and
training, should be allowed to practice before the Patent Office, without further
examination or other qualification. Of course, the Director of Patents, if he deems it
advisable or necessary, may require that members of the bar practising before him
enlist the assistance of technical men and scientist in the preparation of papers and
documents, such as, the drawing or technical description of an invention or machine
sought to be patented, in the same way that a lawyer filing an application for the
registration of a parcel of land on behalf of his clients, is required to submit a plan and
technical description of said land, prepared by a licensed surveyor.

But respondent Director claims that he is expressly authorized by the law to require
persons desiring to practice or to do business before him to submit an examination,
even if they are already members of the bar. He contends that our Patent Law,
Republic Act No. 165, is patterned after the United States Patent Law; and of the United
States Patent Office in Patent Cases prescribes an examination similar to that which he

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(respondent) has prescribed and scheduled. He invites our attention to the following
provisions of said Rules of Practice:

Registration of attorneys and agents. — A register of an attorneys and a register agents


are kept in the Patent Office on which are entered the names of all persons recognized
as entitled to represent applicants before the Patent Office in the preparation and
prosecution of applicants for patent. Registration in the Patent Office under the
provisions of these rules shall only entitle the person registered to practice before the
Patent Office.

(a) Attorney at law. — Any attorney at law in good standing admitted to practice
before any United States Court or the highest court of any State or Territory of the United
States who fulfills the requirements and complied with the provisions of these rules may
be admitted to practice before the Patent Office and have his name entered on the
register of attorneys.

xxx xxx xxx

(c) Requirement for registration. — No person will be admitted to practice and register
unless he shall apply to the Commissioner of Patents in writing on a prescribed form
supplied by the Commissioner and furnish all requested information and material; and
shall establish to the satisfaction of the Commissioner that he is of good moral character
and of good repute and possessed of the legal and scientific and technical
qualifications necessary to enable him to render applicants for patent valuable service,
and is otherwise competent to advise and assist him in the presentation and
prosecution of their application before the Patent Office. In order that the
Commissioner may determine whether a person seeking to have his name placed upon
either of the registers has the qualifications specified, satisfactory proof of good moral
character and repute, and of sufficient basic training in scientific and technical matters
must be submitted and an examination which is held from time to time must be taken
and passed. The taking of an examination may be waived in the case of any person
who has served for three years in the examining corps of the Patent Office.

Respondent states that the promulgation of the Rules of Practice of the United States
Patent Office in Patent Cases is authorized by the United States Patent Law itself, which
reads as follows:

The Commissioner of Patents, subject to the approval of the Secretary of Commerce


may prescribe rules and regulations governing the recognition of agents, attorneys, or
other persons representing applicants or other parties before his office, and may require
of such persons, agents, or attorneys, before being recognized as representatives of
applicants or other persons, that they shall show they are of good moral character and
in good repute, are possessed of the necessary qualifications to enable them to render
to applicants or other persons valuable service, and are likewise to competent to
advise and assist applicants or other persons in the presentation or prosecution of their
applications or other business before the Office. The Commissioner of Patents may,
after notice and opportunity for a hearing, suspend or exclude, either generally or in
any particular case from further practice before his office any person, agent or

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attorney shown to be incompetent or disreputable, or guilty of gross misconduct, or
who refuses to comply with the said rules and regulations, or who shall, with intent to
defraud in any matter, deceive, mislead, or threaten any applicant or prospective
applicant, or other person having immediate or prospective applicant, or other person
having immediate or prospective business before the office, by word, circular, letter, or
by advertising. The reasons for any such suspension or exclusion shall be duly recorded.
The action of the Commissioner may be reviewed upon the petition of the person so
refused recognition or so suspended by the district court of the United States for the
District of Columbia under such conditions and upon such proceedings as the said
court may by its rules determine. (Emphasis supplied)

Respondent Director concludes that Section 78 of Republic Act No. 165 being similar to
the provisions of law just reproduced, then he is authorized to prescribe the rules and
regulations requiring that persons desiring to practice before him should submit to and
pass an examination. We reproduce said Section 78, Republic Act No. 165, for purposes
of comparison:

SEC. 78. Rules and regulations. — The Director subject to the approval of the Secretary
of Justice, shall promulgate the necessary rules and regulations, not inconsistent with
law, for the conduct of all business in the Patent Office.

The above provisions of Section 78 certainly and by far, are different from the provisions
of the United States Patent Law as regards authority to hold examinations to determine
the qualifications of those allowed to practice before the Patent Office. While the U.S.
Patent Law authorizes the Commissioner of Patents to require attorneys to show that
they possess the necessary qualifications and competence to render valuable service
to and advise and assist their clients in patent cases, which showing may take the form
of a test or examination to be held by the Commissioner, our Patent Law, Section 78, is
silent on this important point. Our attention has not been called to any express provision
of our Patent Law, giving such authority to determine the qualifications of persons
allowed to practice before the Patent Office.

Section 551 of the Revised Administrative Code authorizes every chief of bureau to
prescribe forms and make regulations or general orders not inconsistent with law, to
secure the harmonious and efficient administration of his branch of the service and to
carry into full effect the laws relating to matters within the jurisdiction of his bureau.
Section 608 of Republic Act 1937, known as the Tariff and Customs Code of the
Philippines, provides that the Commissioner of Customs shall, subject to the approval of
the Department Head, makes all rules and regulations necessary to enforce the
provisions of said code. Section 338 of the National Internal Revenue Code,
Commonwealth Act No. 466 as amended, states that the Secretary of Finance, upon
recommendation of the Collector of Internal Revenue, shall promulgate all needful
rules and regulations for the effective enforcement of the provisions of the code. We
understand that rules and regulations have been promulgated not only for the Bureau
of Customs and Internal Revenue, but also for other bureaus of the Government, to
govern the transaction of business in and to enforce the law for said bureaus.

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Were we to allow the Patent Office, in the absence of an express and clear provision of
law giving the necessary sanction, to require lawyers to submit to and pass on
examination prescribed by it before they are allowed to practice before said Patent
Office, then there would be no reason why other bureaus specially the Bureau of
Internal Revenue and Customs, where the business in the same area are more or less
complicated, such as the presentation of books of accounts, balance sheets, etc.,
assessments exemptions, depreciation, these as regards the Bureau of Internal
Revenue, and the classification of goods, imposition of customs duties, seizures,
confiscation, etc., as regards the Bureau of Customs, may not also require that any
lawyer practising before them or otherwise transacting business with them on behalf of
clients, shall first pass an examination to qualify.

In conclusion, we hold that under the present law, members of the Philippine Bar
authorized by this Tribunal to practice law, and in good standing, may practice their
profession before the Patent Office, for the reason that much of the business in said
office involves the interpretation and determination of the scope and application of
the Patent Law and other laws applicable, as well as the presentation of evidence to
establish facts involved; that part of the functions of the Patent director are judicial or
quasi-judicial, so much so that appeals from his orders and decisions are, under the law,
taken to the Supreme Court.

For the foregoing reasons, the petition for prohibition is granted and the respondent
Director is hereby prohibited from requiring members of the Philippine Bar to submit to
an examination or tests and pass the same before being permitted to appear and
practice before the Patent Office. No costs.

G.R. No. 100113 September 3, 1991

RENATO CAYETANO, petitioner,


vs.
CHRISTIAN MONSOD, HON. JOVITO R. SALONGA, COMMISSION ON APPOINTMENT, and
HON. GUILLERMO CARAGUE, in his capacity as Secretary of Budget and Management,
respondents.

Renato L. Cayetano for and in his own behalf.

Sabina E. Acut, Jr. and Mylene Garcia-Albano co-counsel for petitioner.

PARAS, J.:

We are faced here with a controversy of far-reaching proportions. While ostensibly only
legal issues are involved, the Court's decision in this case would indubitably have a
profound effect on the political aspect of our national existence.

The 1987 Constitution provides in Section 1 (1), Article IX-C:

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There shall be a Commission on Elections composed of a Chairman and six
Commissioners who shall be natural-born citizens of the Philippines and, at the time of
their appointment, at least thirty-five years of age, holders of a college degree, and
must not have been candidates for any elective position in the immediately preceding
-elections. However, a majority thereof, including the Chairman, shall be members of
the Philippine Bar who have been engaged in the practice of law for at least ten years.
(Emphasis supplied)

The aforequoted provision is patterned after Section l(l), Article XII-C of the 1973
Constitution which similarly provides:

There shall be an independent Commission on Elections composed of a Chairman and


eight Commissioners who shall be natural-born citizens of the Philippines and, at the
time of their appointment, at least thirty-five years of age and holders of a college
degree. However, a majority thereof, including the Chairman, shall be members of the
Philippine Bar who have been engaged in the practice of law for at least ten years.'
(Emphasis supplied)

Regrettably, however, there seems to be no jurisprudence as to what constitutes


practice of law as a legal qualification to an appointive office.

Black defines "practice of law" as:

The rendition of services requiring the knowledge and the application of legal principles
and technique to serve the interest of another with his consent. It is not limited to
appearing in court, or advising and assisting in the conduct of litigation, but embraces
the preparation of pleadings, and other papers incident to actions and special
proceedings, conveyancing, the preparation of legal instruments of all kinds, and the
giving of all legal advice to clients. It embraces all advice to clients and all actions
taken for them in matters connected with the law. An attorney engages in the practice
of law by maintaining an office where he is held out to be-an attorney, using a
letterhead describing himself as an attorney, counseling clients in legal matters,
negotiating with opposing counsel about pending litigation, and fixing and collecting
fees for services rendered by his associate. (Black's Law Dictionary, 3rd ed.)

The practice of law is not limited to the conduct of cases in court. (Land Title Abstract
and Trust Co. v. Dworken, 129 Ohio St. 23, 193 N.E. 650) A person is also considered to be
in the practice of law when he:

... for valuable consideration engages in the business of advising person, firms,
associations or corporations as to their rights under the law, or appears in a
representative capacity as an advocate in proceedings pending or prospective,
before any court, commissioner, referee, board, body, committee, or commission
constituted by law or authorized to settle controversies and there, in such
representative capacity performs any act or acts for the purpose of obtaining or
defending the rights of their clients under the law. Otherwise stated, one who, in a
representative capacity, engages in the business of advising clients as to their rights
under the law, or while so engaged performs any act or acts either in court or outside

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of court for that purpose, is engaged in the practice of law. (State ex. rel. Mckittrick
v..C.S. Dudley and Co., 102 S.W. 2d 895, 340 Mo. 852)

This Court in the case of Philippine Lawyers Association v.Agrava, (105 Phil. 173,176-177)
stated:

The practice of law is not limited to the conduct of cases or litigation in court; it
embraces the preparation of pleadings and other papers incident to actions and
special proceedings, the management of such actions and proceedings on behalf of
clients before judges and courts, and in addition, conveying. In general, all advice to
clients, and all action taken for them in matters connected with the law incorporation
services, assessment and condemnation services contemplating an appearance
before a judicial body, the foreclosure of a mortgage, enforcement of a creditor's
claim in bankruptcy and insolvency proceedings, and conducting proceedings in
attachment, and in matters of estate and guardianship have been held to constitute
law practice, as do the preparation and drafting of legal instruments, where the work
done involves the determination by the trained legal mind of the legal effect of facts
and conditions. (5 Am. Jr. p. 262, 263). (Emphasis supplied)

Practice of law under modem conditions consists in no small part of work performed
outside of any court and having no immediate relation to proceedings in court. It
embraces conveyancing, the giving of legal advice on a large variety of subjects, and
the preparation and execution of legal instruments covering an extensive field of
business and trust relations and other affairs. Although these transactions may have no
direct connection with court proceedings, they are always subject to become involved
in litigation. They require in many aspects a high degree of legal skill, a wide experience
with men and affairs, and great capacity for adaptation to difficult and complex
situations. These customary functions of an attorney or counselor at law bear an
intimate relation to the administration of justice by the courts. No valid distinction, so far
as concerns the question set forth in the order, can be drawn between that part of the
work of the lawyer which involves appearance in court and that part which involves
advice and drafting of instruments in his office. It is of importance to the welfare of the
public that these manifold customary functions be performed by persons possessed of
adequate learning and skill, of sound moral character, and acting at all times under
the heavy trust obligations to clients which rests upon all attorneys. (Moran, Comments
on the Rules of Court, Vol. 3 [1953 ed.] , p. 665-666, citing In re Opinion of the Justices
[Mass.], 194 N.E. 313, quoted in Rhode Is. Bar Assoc. v. Automobile Service Assoc. [R.I.]
179 A. 139,144). (Emphasis ours)

The University of the Philippines Law Center in conducting orientation briefing for new
lawyers (1974-1975) listed the dimensions of the practice of law in even broader terms
as advocacy, counselling and public service.

One may be a practicing attorney in following any line of employment in the


profession. If what he does exacts knowledge of the law and is of a kind usual for
attorneys engaging in the active practice of their profession, and he follows some one
or more lines of employment such as this he is a practicing attorney at law within the
meaning of the statute. (Barr v. Cardell, 155 NW 312)

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Practice of law means any activity, in or out of court, which requires the application of
law, legal procedure, knowledge, training and experience. "To engage in the practice
of law is to perform those acts which are characteristics of the profession. Generally, to
practice law is to give notice or render any kind of service, which device or service
requires the use in any degree of legal knowledge or skill." (111 ALR 23)

The following records of the 1986 Constitutional Commission show that it has adopted a
liberal interpretation of the term "practice of law."

MR. FOZ. Before we suspend the session, may I make a manifestation which I forgot to
do during our review of the provisions on the Commission on Audit. May I be allowed to
make a very brief statement?

THE PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Jamir).

The Commissioner will please proceed.

MR. FOZ. This has to do with the qualifications of the members of the Commission on
Audit. Among others, the qualifications provided for by Section I is that "They must be
Members of the Philippine Bar" — I am quoting from the provision — "who have been
engaged in the practice of law for at least ten years".

To avoid any misunderstanding which would result in excluding members of the Bar
who are now employed in the COA or Commission on Audit, we would like to make the
clarification that this provision on qualifications regarding members of the Bar does not
necessarily refer or involve actual practice of law outside the COA We have to interpret
this to mean that as long as the lawyers who are employed in the COA are using their
legal knowledge or legal talent in their respective work within COA, then they are
qualified to be considered for appointment as members or commissioners, even
chairman, of the Commission on Audit.

This has been discussed by the Committee on Constitutional Commissions and Agencies
and we deem it important to take it up on the floor so that this interpretation may be
made available whenever this provision on the qualifications as regards members of
the Philippine Bar engaging in the practice of law for at least ten years is taken up.

MR. OPLE. Will Commissioner Foz yield to just one question.

MR. FOZ. Yes, Mr. Presiding Officer.

MR. OPLE. Is he, in effect, saying that service in the COA by a lawyer is equivalent to the
requirement of a law practice that is set forth in the Article on the Commission on
Audit?

MR. FOZ. We must consider the fact that the work of COA, although it is auditing, will
necessarily involve legal work; it will involve legal work. And, therefore, lawyers who are
employed in COA now would have the necessary qualifications in accordance with

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the Provision on qualifications under our provisions on the Commission on Audit. And,
therefore, the answer is yes.

MR. OPLE. Yes. So that the construction given to this is that this is equivalent to the
practice of law.

MR. FOZ. Yes, Mr. Presiding Officer.

MR. OPLE. Thank you.

... ( Emphasis supplied)

Section 1(1), Article IX-D of the 1987 Constitution, provides, among others, that the
Chairman and two Commissioners of the Commission on Audit (COA) should either be
certified public accountants with not less than ten years of auditing practice, or
members of the Philippine Bar who have been engaged in the practice of law for at
least ten years. (emphasis supplied)

Corollary to this is the term "private practitioner" and which is in many ways synonymous
with the word "lawyer." Today, although many lawyers do not engage in private
practice, it is still a fact that the majority of lawyers are private practitioners. (Gary
Munneke, Opportunities in Law Careers [VGM Career Horizons: Illinois], [1986], p. 15).

At this point, it might be helpful to define private practice. The term, as commonly
understood, means "an individual or organization engaged in the business of delivering
legal services." (Ibid.). Lawyers who practice alone are often called "sole practitioners."
Groups of lawyers are called "firms." The firm is usually a partnership and members of the
firm are the partners. Some firms may be organized as professional corporations and
the members called shareholders. In either case, the members of the firm are the
experienced attorneys. In most firms, there are younger or more inexperienced salaried
attorneyscalled "associates." (Ibid.).

The test that defines law practice by looking to traditional areas of law practice is
essentially tautologous, unhelpful defining the practice of law as that which lawyers do.
(Charles W. Wolfram, Modern Legal Ethics [West Publishing Co.: Minnesota, 1986], p.
593). The practice of law is defined as the performance of any acts . . . in or out of
court, commonly understood to be the practice of law. (State Bar Ass'n v. Connecticut
Bank & Trust Co., 145 Conn. 222, 140 A.2d 863, 870 [1958] [quoting Grievance Comm. v.
Payne, 128 Conn. 325, 22 A.2d 623, 626 [1941]). Because lawyers perform almost every
function known in the commercial and governmental realm, such a definition would
obviously be too global to be workable.(Wolfram, op. cit.).

The appearance of a lawyer in litigation in behalf of a client is at once the most publicly
familiar role for lawyers as well as an uncommon role for the average lawyer. Most
lawyers spend little time in courtrooms, and a large percentage spend their entire
practice without litigating a case. (Ibid., p. 593). Nonetheless, many lawyers do
continue to litigate and the litigating lawyer's role colors much of both the public image
and the self perception of the legal profession. (Ibid.).

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In this regard thus, the dominance of litigation in the public mind reflects history, not
reality. (Ibid.). Why is this so? Recall that the late Alexander SyCip, a corporate lawyer,
once articulated on the importance of a lawyer as a business counselor in this wise:
"Even today, there are still uninformed laymen whose concept of an attorney is one
who principally tries cases before the courts. The members of the bench and bar and
the informed laymen such as businessmen, know that in most developed societies
today, substantially more legal work is transacted in law offices than in the courtrooms.
General practitioners of law who do both litigation and non-litigation work also know
that in most cases they find themselves spending more time doing what [is] loosely
desccribe[d] as business counseling than in trying cases. The business lawyer has been
described as the planner, the diagnostician and the trial lawyer, the surgeon. I[t] need
not [be] stress[ed] that in law, as in medicine, surgery should be avoided where internal
medicine can be effective." (Business Star, "Corporate Finance Law," Jan. 11, 1989, p.
4).

In the course of a working day the average general practitioner wig engage in a
number of legal tasks, each involving different legal doctrines, legal skills, legal
processes, legal institutions, clients, and other interested parties. Even the increasing
numbers of lawyers in specialized practice wig usually perform at least some legal
services outside their specialty. And even within a narrow specialty such as tax practice,
a lawyer will shift from one legal task or role such as advice-giving to an importantly
different one such as representing a client before an administrative agency. (Wolfram,
supra, p. 687).

By no means will most of this work involve litigation, unless the lawyer is one of the
relatively rare types — a litigator who specializes in this work to the exclusion of much
else. Instead, the work will require the lawyer to have mastered the full range of
traditional lawyer skills of client counselling, advice-giving, document drafting, and
negotiation. And increasingly lawyers find that the new skills of evaluation and
mediation are both effective for many clients and a source of employment. (Ibid.).

Most lawyers will engage in non-litigation legal work or in litigation work that is
constrained in very important ways, at least theoretically, so as to remove from it some
of the salient features of adversarial litigation. Of these special roles, the most prominent
is that of prosecutor. In some lawyers' work the constraints are imposed both by the
nature of the client and by the way in which the lawyer is organized into a social unit to
perform that work. The most common of these roles are those of corporate practice
and government legal service. (Ibid.).

In several issues of the Business Star, a business daily, herein below quoted are emerging
trends in corporate law practice, a departure from the traditional concept of practice
of law.

We are experiencing today what truly may be called a revolutionary transformation in


corporate law practice. Lawyers and other professional groups, in particular those
members participating in various legal-policy decisional contexts, are finding that

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understanding the major emerging trends in corporation law is indispensable to
intelligent decision-making.

Constructive adjustment to major corporate problems of today requires an accurate


understanding of the nature and implications of the corporate law research function
accompanied by an accelerating rate of information accumulation. The recognition of
the need for such improved corporate legal policy formulation, particularly "model-
making" and "contingency planning," has impressed upon us the inadequacy of
traditional procedures in many decisional contexts.

In a complex legal problem the mass of information to be processed, the sorting and
weighing of significant conditional factors, the appraisal of major trends, the necessity
of estimating the consequences of given courses of action, and the need for fast
decision and response in situations of acute danger have prompted the use of
sophisticated concepts of information flow theory, operational analysis, automatic data
processing, and electronic computing equipment. Understandably, an improved
decisional structure must stress the predictive component of the policy-making process,
wherein a "model", of the decisional context or a segment thereof is developed to test
projected alternative courses of action in terms of futuristic effects flowing therefrom.

Although members of the legal profession are regularly engaged in predicting and
projecting the trends of the law, the subject of corporate finance law has received
relatively little organized and formalized attention in the philosophy of advancing
corporate legal education. Nonetheless, a cross-disciplinary approach to legal
research has become a vital necessity.

Certainly, the general orientation for productive contributions by those trained primarily
in the law can be improved through an early introduction to multi-variable decisional
context and the various approaches for handling such problems. Lawyers, particularly
with either a master's or doctorate degree in business administration or management,
functioning at the legal policy level of decision-making now have some appreciation
for the concepts and analytical techniques of other professions which are currently
engaged in similar types of complex decision-making.

Truth to tell, many situations involving corporate finance problems would require the
services of an astute attorney because of the complex legal implications that arise from
each and every necessary step in securing and maintaining the business issue raised.
(Business Star, "Corporate Finance Law," Jan. 11, 1989, p. 4).

In our litigation-prone country, a corporate lawyer is assiduously referred to as the


"abogado de campanilla." He is the "big-time" lawyer, earning big money and with a
clientele composed of the tycoons and magnates of business and industry.

Despite the growing number of corporate lawyers, many people could not explain
what it is that a corporate lawyer does. For one, the number of attorneys employed by
a single corporation will vary with the size and type of the corporation. Many smaller
and some large corporations farm out all their legal problems to private law firms. Many

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others have in-house counsel only for certain matters. Other corporation have a staff
large enough to handle most legal problems in-house.

A corporate lawyer, for all intents and purposes, is a lawyer who handles the legal
affairs of a corporation. His areas of concern or jurisdiction may include, inter alia:
corporate legal research, tax laws research, acting out as corporate secretary (in
board meetings), appearances in both courts and other adjudicatory agencies
(including the Securities and Exchange Commission), and in other capacities which
require an ability to deal with the law.

At any rate, a corporate lawyer may assume responsibilities other than the legal affairs
of the business of the corporation he is representing. These include such matters as
determining policy and becoming involved in management. ( Emphasis supplied.)

In a big company, for example, one may have a feeling of being isolated from the
action, or not understanding how one's work actually fits into the work of the
orgarnization. This can be frustrating to someone who needs to see the results of his
work first hand. In short, a corporate lawyer is sometimes offered this fortune to be more
closely involved in the running of the business.

Moreover, a corporate lawyer's services may sometimes be engaged by a


multinational corporation (MNC). Some large MNCs provide one of the few
opportunities available to corporate lawyers to enter the international law field. After
all, international law is practiced in a relatively small number of companies and law
firms. Because working in a foreign country is perceived by many as glamorous, tills is an
area coveted by corporate lawyers. In most cases, however, the overseas jobs go to
experienced attorneys while the younger attorneys do their "international practice" in
law libraries. (Business Star, "Corporate Law Practice," May 25,1990, p. 4).

This brings us to the inevitable, i.e., the role of the lawyer in the realm of finance. To
borrow the lines of Harvard-educated lawyer Bruce Wassertein, to wit: "A bad lawyer is
one who fails to spot problems, a good lawyer is one who perceives the difficulties, and
the excellent lawyer is one who surmounts them." (Business Star, "Corporate Finance
Law," Jan. 11, 1989, p. 4).

Today, the study of corporate law practice direly needs a "shot in the arm," so to speak.
No longer are we talking of the traditional law teaching method of confining the
subject study to the Corporation Code and the Securities Code but an incursion as well
into the intertwining modern management issues.

Such corporate legal management issues deal primarily with three (3) types of learning:
(1) acquisition of insights into current advances which are of particular significance to
the corporate counsel; (2) an introduction to usable disciplinary skins applicable to a
corporate counsel's management responsibilities; and (3) a devotion to the
organization and management of the legal function itself.

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These three subject areas may be thought of as intersecting circles, with a shared area
linking them. Otherwise known as "intersecting managerial jurisprudence," it forms a
unifying theme for the corporate counsel's total learning.

Some current advances in behavior and policy sciences affect the counsel's role. For
that matter, the corporate lawyer reviews the globalization process, including the
resulting strategic repositioning that the firms he provides counsel for are required to
make, and the need to think about a corporation's; strategy at multiple levels. The
salience of the nation-state is being reduced as firms deal both with global
multinational entities and simultaneously with sub-national governmental units. Firms
increasingly collaborate not only with public entities but with each other — often with
those who are competitors in other arenas.

Also, the nature of the lawyer's participation in decision-making within the corporation is
rapidly changing. The modem corporate lawyer has gained a new role as a
stakeholder — in some cases participating in the organization and operations of
governance through participation on boards and other decision-making roles. Often
these new patterns develop alongside existing legal institutions and laws are perceived
as barriers. These trends are complicated as corporations organize for global
operations. ( Emphasis supplied)

The practising lawyer of today is familiar as well with governmental policies toward the
promotion and management of technology. New collaborative arrangements for
promoting specific technologies or competitiveness more generally require approaches
from industry that differ from older, more adversarial relationships and traditional forms
of seeking to influence governmental policies. And there are lessons to be learned from
other countries. In Europe, Esprit, Eureka and Race are examples of collaborative efforts
between governmental and business Japan's MITI is world famous. (Emphasis supplied)

Following the concept of boundary spanning, the office of the Corporate Counsel
comprises a distinct group within the managerial structure of all kinds of organizations.
Effectiveness of both long-term and temporary groups within organizations has been
found to be related to indentifiable factors in the group-context interaction such as the
groups actively revising their knowledge of the environment coordinating work with
outsiders, promoting team achievements within the organization. In general, such
external activities are better predictors of team performance than internal group
processes.

In a crisis situation, the legal managerial capabilities of the corporate lawyer vis-a-vis
the managerial mettle of corporations are challenged. Current research is seeking ways
both to anticipate effective managerial procedures and to understand relationships of
financial liability and insurance considerations. (Emphasis supplied)

Regarding the skills to apply by the corporate counsel, three factors are apropos:

First System Dynamics. The field of systems dynamics has been found an effective tool
for new managerial thinking regarding both planning and pressing immediate
problems. An understanding of the role of feedback loops, inventory levels, and rates of

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flow, enable users to simulate all sorts of systematic problems — physical, economic,
managerial, social, and psychological. New programming techniques now make the
system dynamics principles more accessible to managers — including corporate
counsels. (Emphasis supplied)

Second Decision Analysis. This enables users to make better decisions involving
complexity and uncertainty. In the context of a law department, it can be used to
appraise the settlement value of litigation, aid in negotiation settlement, and minimize
the cost and risk involved in managing a portfolio of cases. (Emphasis supplied)

Third Modeling for Negotiation Management. Computer-based models can be used


directly by parties and mediators in all lands of negotiations. All integrated set of such
tools provide coherent and effective negotiation support, including hands-on on
instruction in these techniques. A simulation case of an international joint venture may
be used to illustrate the point.

[Be this as it may,] the organization and management of the legal function, concern
three pointed areas of consideration, thus:

Preventive Lawyering. Planning by lawyers requires special skills that comprise a major
part of the general counsel's responsibilities. They differ from those of remedial law.
Preventive lawyering is concerned with minimizing the risks of legal trouble and
maximizing legal rights for such legal entities at that time when transactional or similar
facts are being considered and made.

Managerial Jurisprudence. This is the framework within which are undertaken those
activities of the firm to which legal consequences attach. It needs to be directly
supportive of this nation's evolving economic and organizational fabric as firms change
to stay competitive in a global, interdependent environment. The practice and theory
of "law" is not adequate today to facilitate the relationships needed in trying to make a
global economy work.

Organization and Functioning of the Corporate Counsel's Office. The general counsel
has emerged in the last decade as one of the most vibrant subsets of the legal
profession. The corporate counsel hear responsibility for key aspects of the firm's
strategic issues, including structuring its global operations, managing improved
relationships with an increasingly diversified body of employees, managing expanded
liability exposure, creating new and varied interactions with public decision-makers,
coping internally with more complex make or by decisions.

This whole exercise drives home the thesis that knowing corporate law is not enough to
make one a good general corporate counsel nor to give him a full sense of how the
legal system shapes corporate activities. And even if the corporate lawyer's aim is not
the understand all of the law's effects on corporate activities, he must, at the very least,
also gain a working knowledge of the management issues if only to be able to grasp
not only the basic legal "constitution' or makeup of the modem corporation. "Business
Star", "The Corporate Counsel," April 10, 1991, p. 4).

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The challenge for lawyers (both of the bar and the bench) is to have more than a
passing knowledge of financial law affecting each aspect of their work. Yet, many
would admit to ignorance of vast tracts of the financial law territory. What transpires
next is a dilemma of professional security: Will the lawyer admit ignorance and risk
opprobrium?; or will he feign understanding and risk exposure? (Business Star,
"Corporate Finance law," Jan. 11, 1989, p. 4).

Respondent Christian Monsod was nominated by President Corazon C. Aquino to the


position of Chairman of the COMELEC in a letter received by the Secretariat of the
Commission on Appointments on April 25, 1991. Petitioner opposed the nomination
because allegedly Monsod does not possess the required qualification of having been
engaged in the practice of law for at least ten years.

On June 5, 1991, the Commission on Appointments confirmed the nomination of


Monsod as Chairman of the COMELEC. On June 18, 1991, he took his oath of office. On
the same day, he assumed office as Chairman of the COMELEC.

Challenging the validity of the confirmation by the Commission on Appointments of


Monsod's nomination, petitioner as a citizen and taxpayer, filed the instant petition for
certiorari and Prohibition praying that said confirmation and the consequent
appointment of Monsod as Chairman of the Commission on Elections be declared null
and void.

Atty. Christian Monsod is a member of the Philippine Bar, having passed the bar
examinations of 1960 with a grade of 86-55%. He has been a dues paying member of
the Integrated Bar of the Philippines since its inception in 1972-73. He has also been
paying his professional license fees as lawyer for more than ten years. (p. 124, Rollo)

After graduating from the College of Law (U.P.) and having hurdled the bar, Atty.
Monsod worked in the law office of his father. During his stint in the World Bank Group
(1963-1970), Monsod worked as an operations officer for about two years in Costa Rica
and Panama, which involved getting acquainted with the laws of member-countries
negotiating loans and coordinating legal, economic, and project work of the Bank.
Upon returning to the Philippines in 1970, he worked with the Meralco Group, served as
chief executive officer of an investment bank and subsequently of a business
conglomerate, and since 1986, has rendered services to various companies as a legal
and economic consultant or chief executive officer. As former Secretary-General (1986)
and National Chairman (1987) of NAMFREL. Monsod's work involved being
knowledgeable in election law. He appeared for NAMFREL in its accreditation hearings
before the Comelec. In the field of advocacy, Monsod, in his personal capacity and as
former Co-Chairman of the Bishops Businessmen's Conference for Human
Development, has worked with the under privileged sectors, such as the farmer and
urban poor groups, in initiating, lobbying for and engaging in affirmative action for the
agrarian reform law and lately the urban land reform bill. Monsod also made use of his
legal knowledge as a member of the Davide Commission, a quast judicial body, which
conducted numerous hearings (1990) and as a member of the Constitutional
Commission (1986-1987), and Chairman of its Committee on Accountability of Public
Officers, for which he was cited by the President of the Commission, Justice Cecilia

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Muñoz-Palma for "innumerable amendments to reconcile government functions with
individual freedoms and public accountability and the party-list system for the House of
Representative. (pp. 128-129 Rollo) ( Emphasis supplied)

Just a word about the work of a negotiating team of which Atty. Monsod used to be a
member.

In a loan agreement, for instance, a negotiating panel acts as a team, and which is
adequately constituted to meet the various contingencies that arise during a
negotiation. Besides top officials of the Borrower concerned, there are the legal officer
(such as the legal counsel), the finance manager, and an operations officer (such as
an official involved in negotiating the contracts) who comprise the members of the
team. (Guillermo V. Soliven, "Loan Negotiating Strategies for Developing Country
Borrowers," Staff Paper No. 2, Central Bank of the Philippines, Manila, 1982, p. 11).
(Emphasis supplied)

After a fashion, the loan agreement is like a country's Constitution; it lays down the law
as far as the loan transaction is concerned. Thus, the meat of any Loan Agreement can
be compartmentalized into five (5) fundamental parts: (1) business terms; (2) borrower's
representation; (3) conditions of closing; (4) covenants; and (5) events of default. (Ibid.,
p. 13).

In the same vein, lawyers play an important role in any debt restructuring program. For
aside from performing the tasks of legislative drafting and legal advising, they score
national development policies as key factors in maintaining their countries' sovereignty.
(Condensed from the work paper, entitled "Wanted: Development Lawyers for
Developing Nations," submitted by L. Michael Hager, regional legal adviser of the
United States Agency for International Development, during the Session on Law for the
Development of Nations at the Abidjan World Conference in Ivory Coast, sponsored by
the World Peace Through Law Center on August 26-31, 1973). ( Emphasis supplied)

Loan concessions and compromises, perhaps even more so than purely renegotiation
policies, demand expertise in the law of contracts, in legislation and agreement
drafting and in renegotiation. Necessarily, a sovereign lawyer may work with an
international business specialist or an economist in the formulation of a model loan
agreement. Debt restructuring contract agreements contain such a mixture of
technical language that they should be carefully drafted and signed only with the
advise of competent counsel in conjunction with the guidance of adequate technical
support personnel. (See International Law Aspects of the Philippine External Debts, an
unpublished dissertation, U.S.T. Graduate School of Law, 1987, p. 321). ( Emphasis
supplied)

A critical aspect of sovereign debt restructuring/contract construction is the set of terms


and conditions which determines the contractual remedies for a failure to perform one
or more elements of the contract. A good agreement must not only define the
responsibilities of both parties, but must also state the recourse open to either party
when the other fails to discharge an obligation. For a compleat debt restructuring
represents a devotion to that principle which in the ultimate analysis is sine qua non for

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foreign loan agreements-an adherence to the rule of law in domestic and international
affairs of whose kind U.S. Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. once said:
"They carry no banners, they beat no drums; but where they are, men learn that bustle
and bush are not the equal of quiet genius and serene mastery." (See Ricardo J.
Romulo, "The Role of Lawyers in Foreign Investments," Integrated Bar of the Philippine
Journal, Vol. 15, Nos. 3 and 4, Third and Fourth Quarters, 1977, p. 265).

Interpreted in the light of the various definitions of the term Practice of law". particularly
the modern concept of law practice, and taking into consideration the liberal
construction intended by the framers of the Constitution, Atty. Monsod's past work
experiences as a lawyer-economist, a lawyer-manager, a lawyer-entrepreneur of
industry, a lawyer-negotiator of contracts, and a lawyer-legislator of both the rich and
the poor — verily more than satisfy the constitutional requirement — that he has been
engaged in the practice of law for at least ten years.

Besides in the leading case of Luego v. Civil Service Commission, 143 SCRA 327, the
Court said:

Appointment is an essentially discretionary power and must be performed by the officer


in which it is vested according to his best lights, the only condition being that the
appointee should possess the qualifications required by law. If he does, then the
appointment cannot be faulted on the ground that there are others better qualified
who should have been preferred. This is a political question involving considerations of
wisdom which only the appointing authority can decide. (emphasis supplied)

No less emphatic was the Court in the case of (Central Bank v. Civil Service
Commission, 171 SCRA 744) where it stated:

It is well-settled that when the appointee is qualified, as in this case, and all the other
legal requirements are satisfied, the Commission has no alternative but to attest to the
appointment in accordance with the Civil Service Law. The Commission has no
authority to revoke an appointment on the ground that another person is more
qualified for a particular position. It also has no authority to direct the appointment of a
substitute of its choice. To do so would be an encroachment on the discretion vested
upon the appointing authority. An appointment is essentially within the discretionary
power of whomsoever it is vested, subject to the only condition that the appointee
should possess the qualifications required by law. ( Emphasis supplied)

The appointing process in a regular appointment as in the case at bar, consists of four
(4) stages: (1) nomination; (2) confirmation by the Commission on Appointments; (3)
issuance of a commission (in the Philippines, upon submission by the Commission on
Appointments of its certificate of confirmation, the President issues the permanent
appointment; and (4) acceptance e.g., oath-taking, posting of bond, etc. . . . (Lacson
v. Romero, No. L-3081, October 14, 1949; Gonzales, Law on Public Officers, p. 200)

The power of the Commission on Appointments to give its consent to the nomination of
Monsod as Chairman of the Commission on Elections is mandated by Section 1(2) Sub-
Article C, Article IX of the Constitution which provides:

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The Chairman and the Commisioners shall be appointed by the President with the
consent of the Commission on Appointments for a term of seven years without
reappointment. Of those first appointed, three Members shall hold office for seven
years, two Members for five years, and the last Members for three years, without
reappointment. Appointment to any vacancy shall be only for the unexpired term of
the predecessor. In no case shall any Member be appointed or designated in a
temporary or acting capacity.

Anent Justice Teodoro Padilla's separate opinion, suffice it to say that his definition of
the practice of law is the traditional or stereotyped notion of law practice, as
distinguished from the modern concept of the practice of law, which modern
connotation is exactly what was intended by the eminent framers of the 1987
Constitution. Moreover, Justice Padilla's definition would require generally a habitual
law practice, perhaps practised two or three times a week and would outlaw say, law
practice once or twice a year for ten consecutive years. Clearly, this is far from the
constitutional intent.

Upon the other hand, the separate opinion of Justice Isagani Cruz states that in my
written opinion, I made use of a definition of law practice which really means nothing
because the definition says that law practice " . . . is what people ordinarily mean by
the practice of law." True I cited the definition but only by way of sarcasm as evident
from my statement that the definition of law practice by "traditional areas of law
practice is essentially tautologous" or defining a phrase by means of the phrase itself
that is being defined.

Justice Cruz goes on to say in substance that since the law covers almost all situations,
most individuals, in making use of the law, or in advising others on what the law means,
are actually practicing law. In that sense, perhaps, but we should not lose sight of the
fact that Mr. Monsod is a lawyer, a member of the Philippine Bar, who has been
practising law for over ten years. This is different from the acts of persons practising law,
without first becoming lawyers.

Justice Cruz also says that the Supreme Court can even disqualify an elected President
of the Philippines, say, on the ground that he lacks one or more qualifications. This
matter, I greatly doubt. For one thing, how can an action or petition be brought against
the President? And even assuming that he is indeed disqualified, how can the action
be entertained since he is the incumbent President?

We now proceed:

The Commission on the basis of evidence submitted doling the public hearings on
Monsod's confirmation, implicitly determined that he possessed the necessary
qualifications as required by law. The judgment rendered by the Commission in the
exercise of such an acknowledged power is beyond judicial interference except only
upon a clear showing of a grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of
jurisdiction. (Art. VIII, Sec. 1 Constitution). Thus, only where such grave abuse of
discretion is clearly shown shall the Court interfere with the Commission's judgment. In

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the instant case, there is no occasion for the exercise of the Court's corrective power,
since no abuse, much less a grave abuse of discretion, that would amount to lack or
excess of jurisdiction and would warrant the issuance of the writs prayed, for has been
clearly shown.

Additionally, consider the following:

(1) If the Commission on Appointments rejects a nominee by the President, may the
Supreme Court reverse the Commission, and thus in effect confirm the appointment?
Clearly, the answer is in the negative.

(2) In the same vein, may the Court reject the nominee, whom the Commission has
confirmed? The answer is likewise clear.

(3) If the United States Senate (which is the confirming body in the U.S. Congress)
decides to confirm a Presidential nominee, it would be incredible that the U.S. Supreme
Court would still reverse the U.S. Senate.

Finally, one significant legal maxim is:

We must interpret not by the letter that killeth, but by the spirit that giveth life.

Take this hypothetical case of Samson and Delilah. Once, the procurator of Judea
asked Delilah (who was Samson's beloved) for help in capturing Samson. Delilah
agreed on condition that —

No blade shall touch his skin;

No blood shall flow from his veins.

When Samson (his long hair cut by Delilah) was captured, the procurator placed an
iron rod burning white-hot two or three inches away from in front of Samson's eyes. This
blinded the man. Upon hearing of what had happened to her beloved, Delilah was
beside herself with anger, and fuming with righteous fury, accused the procurator of
reneging on his word. The procurator calmly replied: "Did any blade touch his skin? Did
any blood flow from his veins?" The procurator was clearly relying on the letter, not the
spirit of the agreement.

In view of the foregoing, this petition is hereby DISMISSED.

SO ORDERED.

Fernan, C.J., Griño-Aquino and Medialdea, JJ., concur.


Feliciano, J., I certify that he voted to dismiss the petition. (Fernan, C.J.)

Sarmiento, J., is on leave.

Regalado, and Davide, Jr., J., took no part.

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Separate Opinions

NARVASA, J., concurring:

I concur with the decision of the majority written by Mr. Justice Paras, albeit only in the
result; it does not appear to me that there has been an adequate showing that the
challenged determination by the Commission on Appointments-that the appointment
of respondent Monsod as Chairman of the Commission on Elections should, on the basis
of his stated qualifications and after due assessment thereof, be confirmed-was
attended by error so gross as to amount to grave abuse of discretion and consequently
merits nullification by this Court in accordance with the second paragraph of Section 1,
Article VIII of the Constitution. I therefore vote to DENY the petition.

PADILLA, J., dissenting:

The records of this case will show that when the Court first deliberated on the Petition at
bar, I voted not only to require the respondents to comment on the Petition, but I was
the sole vote for the issuance of a temporary restraining order to enjoin respondent
Monsod from assuming the position of COMELEC Chairman, while the Court deliberated
on his constitutional qualification for the office. My purpose in voting for a TRO was to
prevent the inconvenience and even embarrassment to all parties concerned were the
Court to finally decide for respondent Monsod's disqualification. Moreover, a reading of
the Petition then in relation to established jurisprudence already showed prima facie
that respondent Monsod did not possess the needed qualification, that is, he had not
engaged in the practice of law for at least ten (10) years prior to his appointment as
COMELEC Chairman.

After considering carefully respondent Monsod's comment, I am even more convinced


that the constitutional requirement of "practice of law for at least ten (10) years" has not
been met.

The procedural barriers interposed by respondents deserve scant consideration


because, ultimately, the core issue to be resolved in this petition is the proper construal
of the constitutional provision requiring a majority of the membership of COMELEC,
including the Chairman thereof to "have been engaged in the practice of law for at
least ten (10) years." (Art. IX(C), Section 1(1), 1987 Constitution). Questions involving the
construction of constitutional provisions are best left to judicial resolution. As declared in

Scroll No. 577 23|PALE Cases Set 1


Angara v. Electoral Commission, (63 Phil. 139) "upon the judicial department is thrown
the solemn and inescapable obligation of interpreting the Constitution and defining
constitutional boundaries."

The Constitution has imposed clear and specific standards for a COMELEC Chairman.
Among these are that he must have been "engaged in the practice of law for at least
ten (10) years." It is the bounden duty of this Court to ensure that such standard is met
and complied with.

What constitutes practice of law? As commonly understood, "practice" refers to the


actual performance or application of knowledge as distinguished from mere possession
of knowledge; it connotes an active, habitual, repeated or customary action.1 To
"practice" law, or any profession for that matter, means, to exercise or pursue an
employment or profession actively, habitually, repeatedly or customarily.

Therefore, a doctor of medicine who is employed and is habitually performing the tasks
of a nursing aide, cannot be said to be in the "practice of medicine." A certified public
accountant who works as a clerk, cannot be said to practice his profession as an
accountant. In the same way, a lawyer who is employed as a business executive or a
corporate manager, other than as head or attorney of a Legal Department of a
corporation or a governmental agency, cannot be said to be in the practice of law.

As aptly held by this Court in the case of People vs. Villanueva:2

Practice is more than an isolated appearance for it consists in frequent or customary


actions, a succession of acts of the same kind. In other words, it is frequent habitual
exercise (State vs- Cotner, 127, p. 1, 87 Kan. 864, 42 LRA, M.S. 768). Practice of law to fall
within the prohibition of statute has been interpreted as customarily or habitually
holding one's self out to the public as a lawyer and demanding payment for such
services (State vs. Bryan, 4 S.E. 522, 98 N.C. 644,647.) ... (emphasis supplied).

It is worth mentioning that the respondent Commission on Appointments in a


Memorandum it prepared, enumerated several factors determinative of whether a
particular activity constitutes "practice of law." It states:

1. Habituality. The term "practice of law" implies customarily or habitually holding


one's self out to the public as a lawyer (People vs. Villanueva, 14 SCRA 109 citing State
v. Boyen, 4 S.E. 522, 98 N.C. 644) such as when one sends a circular announcing the
establishment of a law office for the general practice of law (U.S. v. Ney Bosque, 8 Phil.
146), or when one takes the oath of office as a lawyer before a notary public, and files
a manifestation with the Supreme Court informing it of his intention to practice law in all
courts in the country (People v. De Luna, 102 Phil. 968).

Practice is more than an isolated appearance for it consists in frequent or customary


action, a succession of acts of the same kind. In other words, it is a habitual exercise
(People v. Villanueva, 14 SCRA 109 citing State v. Cotner, 127, p. 1, 87 Kan, 864).

Scroll No. 577 24|PALE Cases Set 1


2. Compensation. Practice of law implies that one must have presented himself to
be in the active and continued practice of the legal profession and that his professional
services are available to the public for compensation, as a service of his livelihood or in
consideration of his said services. (People v. Villanueva, supra). Hence, charging for
services such as preparation of documents involving the use of legal knowledge and
skill is within the term "practice of law" (Ernani Paño, Bar Reviewer in Legal and Judicial
Ethics, 1988 ed., p. 8 citing People v. People's Stockyards State Bank, 176 N.B. 901) and,
one who renders an opinion as to the proper interpretation of a statute, and receives
pay for it, is to that extent, practicing law (Martin, supra, p. 806 citing Mendelaun v.
Gilbert and Barket Mfg. Co., 290 N.Y.S. 462) If compensation is expected, all advice to
clients and all action taken for them in matters connected with the law; are practicing
law. (Elwood Fitchette et al., v. Arthur C. Taylor, 94A-L.R. 356-359)

3. Application of law legal principle practice or procedure which calls for legal
knowledge, training and experience is within the term "practice of law". (Martin supra)

4. Attorney-client relationship. Engaging in the practice of law presupposes the


existence of lawyer-client relationship. Hence, where a lawyer undertakes an activity
which requires knowledge of law but involves no attorney-client relationship, such as
teaching law or writing law books or articles, he cannot be said to be engaged in the
practice of his profession or a lawyer (Agpalo, Legal Ethics, 1989 ed., p. 30).3

The above-enumerated factors would, I believe, be useful aids in determining whether


or not respondent Monsod meets the constitutional qualification of practice of law for
at least ten (10) years at the time of his appointment as COMELEC Chairman.

The following relevant questions may be asked:

1. Did respondent Monsod perform any of the tasks which are peculiar to the
practice of law?

2. Did respondent perform such tasks customarily or habitually?

3. Assuming that he performed any of such tasks habitually, did he do so


HABITUALLY FOR AT LEAST TEN (10) YEARS prior to his appointment as COMELEC
Chairman?

Given the employment or job history of respondent Monsod as appears from the
records, I am persuaded that if ever he did perform any of the tasks which constitute
the practice of law, he did not do so HABITUALLY for at least ten (10) years prior to his
appointment as COMELEC Chairman.

While it may be granted that he performed tasks and activities which could be
latitudinarianly considered activities peculiar to the practice of law, like the drafting of
legal documents and the rendering of legal opinion or advice, such were isolated
transactions or activities which do not qualify his past endeavors as "practice of law." To
become engaged in the practice of law, there must be a continuity, or a succession of
acts. As observed by the Solicitor General in People vs. Villanueva:4

Scroll No. 577 25|PALE Cases Set 1


Essentially, the word private practice of law implies that one must have presented
himself to be in the active and continued practice of the legal profession and that his
professional services are available to the public for a compensation, as a source of his
livelihood or in consideration of his said services.

ACCORDINGLY, my vote is to GRANT the petition and to declare respondent Monsod


as not qualified for the position of COMELEC Chairman for not having engaged in the
practice of law for at least ten (10) years prior to his appointment to such position.

CRUZ, J., dissenting:

I am sincerely impressed by the ponencia of my brother Paras but find I must dissent just
the same. There are certain points on which I must differ with him while of course
respecting hisviewpoint.

To begin with, I do not think we are inhibited from examining the qualifications of the
respondent simply because his nomination has been confirmed by the Commission on
Appointments. In my view, this is not a political question that we are barred from
resolving. Determination of the appointee's credentials is made on the basis of the
established facts, not the discretion of that body. Even if it were, the exercise of that
discretion would still be subject to our review.

In Luego, which is cited in the ponencia, what was involved was the discretion of the
appointing authority to choose between two claimants to the same office who both
possessed the required qualifications. It was that kind of discretion that we said could
not be reviewed.

If a person elected by no less than the sovereign people may be ousted by this Court
for lack of the required qualifications, I see no reason why we cannot disqualified an
appointee simply because he has passed the Commission on Appointments.

Even the President of the Philippines may be declared ineligible by this Court in an
appropriate proceeding notwithstanding that he has been found acceptable by no
less than the enfranchised citizenry. The reason is that what we would be examining is
not the wisdom of his election but whether or not he was qualified to be elected in the
first place.

Coming now to the qualifications of the private respondent, I fear that the ponencia
may have been too sweeping in its definition of the phrase "practice of law" as to
render the qualification practically toothless. From the numerous activities accepted as
embraced in the term, I have the uncomfortable feeling that one does not even have
to be a lawyer to be engaged in the practice of law as long as his activities involve the
application of some law, however peripherally. The stock broker and the insurance
adjuster and the realtor could come under the definition as they deal with or give
advice on matters that are likely "to become involved in litigation."

Scroll No. 577 26|PALE Cases Set 1


The lawyer is considered engaged in the practice of law even if his main occupation is
another business and he interprets and applies some law only as an incident of such
business. That covers every company organized under the Corporation Code and
regulated by the SEC under P.D. 902-A. Considering the ramifications of the modern
society, there is hardly any activity that is not affected by some law or government
regulation the businessman must know about and observe. In fact, again going by the
definition, a lawyer does not even have to be part of a business concern to be
considered a practitioner. He can be so deemed when, on his own, he rents a house or
buys a car or consults a doctor as these acts involve his knowledge and application of
the laws regulating such transactions. If he operates a public utility vehicle as his main
source of livelihood, he would still be deemed engaged in the practice of law because
he must obey the Public Service Act and the rules and regulations of the Energy
Regulatory Board.

The ponencia quotes an American decision defining the practice of law as the
"performance of any acts ... in or out of court, commonly understood to be the
practice of law," which tells us absolutely nothing. The decision goes on to say that
"because lawyers perform almost every function known in the commercial and
governmental realm, such a definition would obviously be too global to be workable."

The effect of the definition given in the ponencia is to consider virtually every lawyer to
be engaged in the practice of law even if he does not earn his living, or at least part of
it, as a lawyer. It is enough that his activities are incidentally (even if only remotely)
connected with some law, ordinance, or regulation. The possible exception is the
lawyer whose income is derived from teaching ballroom dancing or escorting wrinkled
ladies with pubescent pretensions.

The respondent's credentials are impressive, to be sure, but they do not persuade me
that he has been engaged in the practice of law for ten years as required by the
Constitution. It is conceded that he has been engaged in business and finance, in
which areas he has distinguished himself, but as an executive and economist and not
as a practicing lawyer. The plain fact is that he has occupied the various positions listed
in his resume by virtue of his experience and prestige as a businessman and not as an
attorney-at-law whose principal attention is focused on the law. Even if it be argued
that he was acting as a lawyer when he lobbied in Congress for agrarian and urban
reform, served in the NAMFREL and the Constitutional Commission (together with non-
lawyers like farmers and priests) and was a member of the Davide Commission, he has
not proved that his activities in these capacities extended over the prescribed 10-year
period of actual practice of the law. He is doubtless eminently qualified for many other
positions worthy of his abundant talents but not as Chairman of the Commission on
Elections.

I have much admiration for respondent Monsod, no less than for Mr. Justice Paras, but I
must regretfully vote to grant the petition.

GUTIERREZ, JR., J., dissenting:

Scroll No. 577 27|PALE Cases Set 1


When this petition was filed, there was hope that engaging in the practice of law as a
qualification for public office would be settled one way or another in fairly definitive
terms. Unfortunately, this was not the result.

Of the fourteen (14) member Court, 5 are of the view that Mr. Christian Monsod
engaged in the practice of law (with one of these 5 leaving his vote behind while on
official leave but not expressing his clear stand on the matter); 4 categorically stating
that he did not practice law; 2 voting in the result because there was no error so gross
as to amount to grave abuse of discretion; one of official leave with no instructions left
behind on how he viewed the issue; and 2 not taking part in the deliberations and the
decision.

There are two key factors that make our task difficult. First is our reviewing the work of a
constitutional Commission on Appointments whose duty is precisely to look into the
qualifications of persons appointed to high office. Even if the Commission errs, we have
no power to set aside error. We can look only into grave abuse of discretion or
whimsically and arbitrariness. Second is our belief that Mr. Monsod possesses superior
qualifications in terms of executive ability, proficiency in management, educational
background, experience in international banking and finance, and instant recognition
by the public. His integrity and competence are not questioned by the petitioner. What
is before us is compliance with a specific requirement written into the Constitution.

Inspite of my high regard for Mr. Monsod, I cannot shirk my constitutional duty. He has
never engaged in the practice of law for even one year. He is a member of the bar but
to say that he has practiced law is stretching the term beyond rational limits.

A person may have passed the bar examinations. But if he has not dedicated his life to
the law, if he has not engaged in an activity where membership in the bar is a
requirement I fail to see how he can claim to have been engaged in the practice of
law.

Engaging in the practice of law is a qualification not only for COMELEC chairman but
also for appointment to the Supreme Court and all lower courts. What kind of Judges or
Justices will we have if there main occupation is selling real estate, managing a business
corporation, serving in fact-finding committee, working in media, or operating a farm
with no active involvement in the law, whether in Government or private practice,
except that in one joyful moment in the distant past, they happened to pass the bar
examinations?

The Constitution uses the phrase "engaged in the practice of law for at least ten years."
The deliberate choice of words shows that the practice envisioned is active and
regular, not isolated, occasional, accidental, intermittent, incidental, seasonal, or
extemporaneous. To be "engaged" in an activity for ten years requires committed
participation in something which is the result of one's decisive choice. It means that one
is occupied and involved in the enterprise; one is obliged or pledged to carry it out with
intent and attention during the ten-year period.

Scroll No. 577 28|PALE Cases Set 1


I agree with the petitioner that based on the bio-data submitted by respondent
Monsod to the Commission on Appointments, the latter has not been engaged in the
practice of law for at least ten years. In fact, if appears that Mr. Monsod has never
practiced law except for an alleged one year period after passing the bar
examinations when he worked in his father's law firm. Even then his law practice must
have been extremely limited because he was also working for M.A. and Ph. D. degrees
in Economics at the University of Pennsylvania during that period. How could he
practice law in the United States while not a member of the Bar there?

The professional life of the respondent follows:

1.15.1. Respondent Monsod's activities since his passing the Bar examinations in 1961
consist of the following:

1. 1961-1963: M.A. in Economics (Ph. D. candidate), University of Pennsylvania

2. 1963-1970: World Bank Group — Economist, Industry Department; Operations,


Latin American Department; Division Chief, South Asia and Middle East, International
Finance Corporation

3. 1970-1973: Meralco Group — Executive of various companies, i.e., Meralco


Securities Corporation, Philippine Petroleum Corporation, Philippine Electric Corporation

4. 1973-1976: Yujuico Group — President, Fil-Capital Development Corporation and


affiliated companies

5. 1976-1978: Finaciera Manila — Chief Executive Officer

6. 1978-1986: Guevent Group of Companies — Chief Executive Officer

7. 1986-1987: Philippine Constitutional Commission — Member

8. 1989-1991: The Fact-Finding Commission on the December 1989 Coup Attempt


— Member

9. Presently: Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of the following
companies:

a. ACE Container Philippines, Inc.

b. Dataprep, Philippines

c. Philippine SUNsystems Products, Inc.

d. Semirara Coal Corporation

e. CBL Timber Corporation

Scroll No. 577 29|PALE Cases Set 1


Member of the Board of the Following:

a. Engineering Construction Corporation of the Philippines

b. First Philippine Energy Corporation

c. First Philippine Holdings Corporation

d. First Philippine Industrial Corporation

e. Graphic Atelier

f. Manila Electric Company

g. Philippine Commercial Capital, Inc.

h. Philippine Electric Corporation

i. Tarlac Reforestation and Environment Enterprises

j. Tolong Aquaculture Corporation

k. Visayan Aquaculture Corporation

l. Guimaras Aquaculture Corporation (Rollo, pp. 21-22)

There is nothing in the above bio-data which even remotely indicates that respondent
Monsod has given the law enough attention or a certain degree of commitment and
participation as would support in all sincerity and candor the claim of having engaged
in its practice for at least ten years. Instead of working as a lawyer, he has lawyers
working for him. Instead of giving receiving that legal advice of legal services, he was
the oneadvice and those services as an executive but not as a lawyer.

The deliberations before the Commission on Appointments show an effort to equate


"engaged in the practice of law" with the use of legal knowledge in various fields of
endeavor such as commerce, industry, civic work, blue ribbon investigations, agrarian
reform, etc. where such knowledge would be helpful.

I regret that I cannot join in playing fast and loose with a term, which even an ordinary
layman accepts as having a familiar and customary well-defined meaning. Every
resident of this country who has reached the age of discernment has to know, follow, or
apply the law at various times in his life. Legal knowledge is useful if not necessary for
the business executive, legislator, mayor, barangay captain, teacher, policeman,
farmer, fisherman, market vendor, and student to name only a few. And yet, can these
people honestly assert that as such, they are engaged in the practice of law?

Scroll No. 577 30|PALE Cases Set 1


The Constitution requires having been "engaged in the practice of law for at least ten
years." It is not satisfied with having been "a member of the Philippine bar for at least ten
years."

Some American courts have defined the practice of law, as follows:

The practice of law involves not only appearance in court in connection with litigation
but also services rendered out of court, and it includes the giving of advice or the
rendering of any services requiring the use of legal skill or knowledge, such as preparing
a will, contract or other instrument, the legal effect of which, under the facts and
conditions involved, must be carefully determined. People ex rel. Chicago Bar Ass'n v.
Tinkoff, 399 Ill. 282, 77 N.E.2d 693; People ex rel. Illinois State Bar Ass'n v. People's Stock
Yards State Bank, 344 Ill. 462,176 N.E. 901, and cases cited.

It would be difficult, if not impossible to lay down a formula or definition of what


constitutes the practice of law. "Practicing law" has been defined as "Practicing as an
attorney or counselor at law according to the laws and customs of our courts, is the
giving of advice or rendition of any sort of service by any person, firm or corporation
when the giving of such advice or rendition of such service requires the use of any
degree of legal knowledge or skill." Without adopting that definition, we referred to it as
being substantially correct in People ex rel. Illinois State Bar Ass'n v. People's Stock Yards
State Bank, 344 Ill. 462,176 N.E. 901. (People v. Schafer, 87 N.E. 2d 773, 776)

For one's actions to come within the purview of practice of law they should not only be
activities peculiar to the work of a lawyer, they should also be performed, habitually,
frequently or customarily, to wit:

xxx xxx xxx

Respondent's answers to questions propounded to him were rather evasive. He was


asked whether or not he ever prepared contracts for the parties in real-estate
transactions where he was not the procuring agent. He answered: "Very seldom." In
answer to the question as to how many times he had prepared contracts for the parties
during the twenty-one years of his business, he said: "I have no Idea." When asked if it
would be more than half a dozen times his answer was I suppose. Asked if he did not
recall making the statement to several parties that he had prepared contracts in a
large number of instances, he answered: "I don't recall exactly what was said." When
asked if he did not remember saying that he had made a practice of preparing deeds,
mortgages and contracts and charging a fee to the parties therefor in instances where
he was not the broker in the deal, he answered: "Well, I don't believe so, that is not a
practice." Pressed further for an answer as to his practice in preparing contracts and
deeds for parties where he was not the broker, he finally answered: "I have done about
everything that is on the books as far as real estate is concerned."

xxx xxx xxx

Respondent takes the position that because he is a real-estate broker he has a lawful
right to do any legal work in connection with real-estate transactions, especially in

Scroll No. 577 31|PALE Cases Set 1


drawing of real-estate contracts, deeds, mortgages, notes and the like. There is no
doubt but that he has engaged in these practices over the years and has charged for
his services in that connection. ... (People v. Schafer, 87 N.E. 2d 773)

xxx xxx xxx

... An attorney, in the most general sense, is a person designated or employed by


another to act in his stead; an agent; more especially, one of a class of persons
authorized to appear and act for suitors or defendants in legal proceedings. Strictly,
these professional persons are attorneys at law, and non-professional agents are
properly styled "attorney's in fact;" but the single word is much used as meaning an
attorney at law. A person may be an attorney in facto for another, without being an
attorney at law. Abb. Law Dict. "Attorney." A public attorney, or attorney at law, says
Webster, is an officer of a court of law, legally qualified to prosecute and defend
actions in such court on the retainer of clients. "The principal duties of an attorney are
(1) to be true to the court and to his client; (2) to manage the business of his client with
care, skill, and integrity; (3) to keep his client informed as to the state of his business; (4)
to keep his secrets confided to him as such. ... His rights are to be justly compensated
for his services." Bouv. Law Dict. tit. "Attorney." The transitive verb "practice," as defined
by Webster, means 'to do or perform frequently, customarily, or habitually; to perform
by a succession of acts, as, to practice gaming, ... to carry on in practice, or repeated
action; to apply, as a theory, to real life; to exercise, as a profession, trade, art. etc.; as,
to practice law or medicine,' etc...." (State v. Bryan, S.E. 522, 523; Emphasis supplied)

In this jurisdiction, we have ruled that the practice of law denotes frequency or a
succession of acts. Thus, we stated in the case of People v. Villanueva (14 SCRA 109
[1965]):

xxx xxx xxx

... Practice is more than an isolated appearance, for it consists in frequent or customary
actions, a succession of acts of the same kind. In other words, it is frequent habitual
exercise (State v. Cotner, 127, p. 1, 87 Kan. 864, 42 LRA, M.S. 768). Practice of law to fall
within the prohibition of statute has been interpreted as customarily or habitually
holding one's self out to the public, as a lawyer and demanding payment for such
services. ... . (at p. 112)

It is to be noted that the Commission on Appointment itself recognizes habituality as a


required component of the meaning of practice of law in a Memorandum prepared
and issued by it, to wit:

l. Habituality. The term 'practice of law' implies customarilyor habitually holding


one's self out to the public as a lawyer (People v. Villanueva, 14 SCRA 109 citing State v.
Bryan, 4 S.E. 522, 98 N.C. 644) such as when one sends a circular announcing the
establishment of a law office for the general practice of law (U.S. v. Noy Bosque, 8 Phil.
146), or when one takes the oath of office as a lawyer before a notary public, and files
a manifestation with the Supreme Court informing it of his intention to practice law in all
courts in the country (People v. De Luna, 102 Phil. 968).

Scroll No. 577 32|PALE Cases Set 1


Practice is more than an isolated appearance, for it consists in frequent or customary
action, a succession of acts of the same kind. In other words, it is a habitual exercise
(People v. Villanueva, 14 SCRA 1 09 citing State v. Cotner, 1 27, p. 1, 87 Kan, 864)."
(Rollo, p. 115)

xxx xxx xxx

While the career as a businessman of respondent Monsod may have profited from his
legal knowledge, the use of such legal knowledge is incidental and consists of isolated
activities which do not fall under the denomination of practice of law. Admission to the
practice of law was not required for membership in the Constitutional Commission or in
the Fact-Finding Commission on the 1989 Coup Attempt. Any specific legal activities
which may have been assigned to Mr. Monsod while a member may be likened to
isolated transactions of foreign corporations in the Philippines which do not categorize
the foreign corporations as doing business in the Philippines. As in the practice of law,
doing business also should be active and continuous. Isolated business transactions or
occasional, incidental and casual transactions are not within the context of doing
business. This was our ruling in the case of Antam Consolidated, Inc. v. Court of appeals,
143 SCRA 288 [1986]).

Respondent Monsod, corporate executive, civic leader, and member of the


Constitutional Commission may possess the background, competence, integrity, and
dedication, to qualify for such high offices as President, Vice-President, Senator,
Congressman or Governor but the Constitution in prescribing the specific qualification
of having engaged in the practice of law for at least ten (10) years for the position of
COMELEC Chairman has ordered that he may not be confirmed for that office. The
Constitution charges the public respondents no less than this Court to obey its
mandate.

I, therefore, believe that the Commission on Appointments committed grave abuse of


discretion in confirming the nomination of respondent Monsod as Chairman of the
COMELEC.

I vote to GRANT the petition.

Bidin, J., dissent

Separate Opinions

NARVASA, J., concurring:

I concur with the decision of the majority written by Mr. Justice Paras, albeit only in the
result; it does not appear to me that there has been an adequate showing that the
challenged determination by the Commission on Appointments-that the appointment
of respondent Monsod as Chairman of the Commission on Elections should, on the basis

Scroll No. 577 33|PALE Cases Set 1


of his stated qualifications and after due assessment thereof, be confirmed-was
attended by error so gross as to amount to grave abuse of discretion and consequently
merits nullification by this Court in accordance with the second paragraph of Section 1,
Article VIII of the Constitution. I therefore vote to DENY the petition.

Melencio-Herrera, J., concur.

PADILLA, J., dissenting:

The records of this case will show that when the Court first deliberated on the Petition at
bar, I voted not only to require the respondents to comment on the Petition, but I was
the sole vote for the issuance of a temporary restraining order to enjoin respondent
Monsod from assuming the position of COMELEC Chairman, while the Court deliberated
on his constitutional qualification for the office. My purpose in voting for a TRO was to
prevent the inconvenience and even embarrassment to all parties concerned were the
Court to finally decide for respondent Monsod's disqualification. Moreover, a reading of
the Petition then in relation to established jurisprudence already showed prima facie
that respondent Monsod did not possess the needed qualification, that is, he had not
engaged in the practice of law for at least ten (10) years prior to his appointment as
COMELEC Chairman.

After considering carefully respondent Monsod's comment, I am even more convinced


that the constitutional requirement of "practice of law for at least ten (10) years" has not
been met.

The procedural barriers interposed by respondents deserve scant consideration


because, ultimately, the core issue to be resolved in this petition is the proper construal
of the constitutional provision requiring a majority of the membership of COMELEC,
including the Chairman thereof to "have been engaged in the practice of law for at
least ten (10) years." (Art. IX(C), Section 1(1), 1987 Constitution). Questions involving the
construction of constitutional provisions are best left to judicial resolution. As declared in
Angara v. Electoral Commission, (63 Phil. 139) "upon the judicial department is thrown
the solemn and inescapable obligation of interpreting the Constitution and defining
constitutional boundaries."

The Constitution has imposed clear and specific standards for a COMELEC Chairman.
Among these are that he must have been "engaged in the practice of law for at least
ten (10) years." It is the bounden duty of this Court to ensure that such standard is met
and complied with.

What constitutes practice of law? As commonly understood, "practice" refers to the


actual performance or application of knowledge as distinguished from mere possession
of knowledge; it connotes an active, habitual, repeated or customary action.1 To
"practice" law, or any profession for that matter, means, to exercise or pursue an
employment or profession actively, habitually, repeatedly or customarily.

Therefore, a doctor of medicine who is employed and is habitually performing the tasks
of a nursing aide, cannot be said to be in the "practice of medicine." A certified public

Scroll No. 577 34|PALE Cases Set 1


accountant who works as a clerk, cannot be said to practice his profession as an
accountant. In the same way, a lawyer who is employed as a business executive or a
corporate manager, other than as head or attorney of a Legal Department of a
corporation or a governmental agency, cannot be said to be in the practice of law.

As aptly held by this Court in the case of People vs. Villanueva:2

Practice is more than an isolated appearance for it consists in frequent or customary


actions, a succession of acts of the same kind. In other words, it is frequent habitual
exercise (State vs- Cotner, 127, p. 1, 87 Kan. 864, 42 LRA, M.S. 768). Practice of law to fall
within the prohibition of statute has been interpreted as customarily or habitually
holding one's self out to the public as a lawyer and demanding payment for such
services (State vs. Bryan, 4 S.E. 522, 98 N.C. 644,647.) ... (emphasis supplied).

It is worth mentioning that the respondent Commission on Appointments in a


Memorandum it prepared, enumerated several factors determinative of whether a
particular activity constitutes "practice of law." It states:

1. Habituality. The term "practice of law" implies customarily or habitually holding


one's self out to the public as a lawyer (People vs. Villanueva, 14 SCRA 109 citing State
v. Boyen, 4 S.E. 522, 98 N.C. 644) such as when one sends a circular announcing the
establishment of a law office for the general practice of law (U.S. v. Ney Bosque, 8 Phil.
146), or when one takes the oath of office as a lawyer before a notary public, and files
a manifestation with the Supreme Court informing it of his intention to practice law in all
courts in the country (People v. De Luna, 102 Phil. 968).

Practice is more than an isolated appearance for it consists in frequent or customary


action, a succession of acts of the same kind. In other words, it is a habitual exercise
(People v. Villanueva, 14 SCRA 109 citing State v. Cotner, 127, p. 1, 87 Kan, 864).

2. Compensation. Practice of law implies that one must have presented himself to
be in the active and continued practice of the legal profession and that his professional
services are available to the public for compensation, as a service of his livelihood or in
consideration of his said services. (People v. Villanueva, supra). Hence, charging for
services such as preparation of documents involving the use of legal knowledge and
skill is within the term "practice of law" (Ernani Paño, Bar Reviewer in Legal and Judicial
Ethics, 1988 ed., p. 8 citing People v. People's Stockyards State Bank, 176 N.B. 901) and,
one who renders an opinion as to the proper interpretation of a statute, and receives
pay for it, is to that extent, practicing law (Martin, supra, p. 806 citing Mendelaun v.
Gilbert and Barket Mfg. Co., 290 N.Y.S. 462) If compensation is expected, all advice to
clients and all action taken for them in matters connected with the law; are practicing
law. (Elwood Fitchette et al., v. Arthur C. Taylor, 94A-L.R. 356-359)

3. Application of law legal principle practice or procedure which calls for legal
knowledge, training and experience is within the term "practice of law". (Martin supra)

4. Attorney-client relationship. Engaging in the practice of law presupposes the


existence of lawyer-client relationship. Hence, where a lawyer undertakes an activity

Scroll No. 577 35|PALE Cases Set 1


which requires knowledge of law but involves no attorney-client relationship, such as
teaching law or writing law books or articles, he cannot be said to be engaged in the
practice of his profession or a lawyer (Agpalo, Legal Ethics, 1989 ed., p. 30).3

The above-enumerated factors would, I believe, be useful aids in determining whether


or not respondent Monsod meets the constitutional qualification of practice of law for
at least ten (10) years at the time of his appointment as COMELEC Chairman.

The following relevant questions may be asked:

1. Did respondent Monsod perform any of the tasks which are peculiar to the
practice of law?

2. Did respondent perform such tasks customarily or habitually?

3. Assuming that he performed any of such tasks habitually, did he do so


HABITUALLY FOR AT LEAST TEN (10) YEARS prior to his appointment as COMELEC
Chairman?

Given the employment or job history of respondent Monsod as appears from the
records, I am persuaded that if ever he did perform any of the tasks which constitute
the practice of law, he did not do so HABITUALLY for at least ten (10) years prior to his
appointment as COMELEC Chairman.

While it may be granted that he performed tasks and activities which could be
latitudinarianly considered activities peculiar to the practice of law, like the drafting of
legal documents and the rendering of legal opinion or advice, such were isolated
transactions or activities which do not qualify his past endeavors as "practice of law." To
become engaged in the practice of law, there must be a continuity, or a succession of
acts. As observed by the Solicitor General in People vs. Villanueva:4

Essentially, the word private practice of law implies that one must have presented
himself to be in the active and continued practice of the legal profession and that his
professional services are available to the public for a compensation, as a source of his
livelihood or in consideration of his said services.

ACCORDINGLY, my vote is to GRANT the petition and to declare respondent Monsod


as not qualified for the position of COMELEC Chairman for not having engaged in the
practice of law for at least ten (10) years prior to his appointment to such position.

CRUZ, J., dissenting:

I am sincerely impressed by the ponencia of my brother Paras but find I must dissent just
the same. There are certain points on which I must differ with him while of course
respecting hisviewpoint.

To begin with, I do not think we are inhibited from examining the qualifications of the
respondent simply because his nomination has been confirmed by the Commission on

Scroll No. 577 36|PALE Cases Set 1


Appointments. In my view, this is not a political question that we are barred from
resolving. Determination of the appointee's credentials is made on the basis of the
established facts, not the discretion of that body. Even if it were, the exercise of that
discretion would still be subject to our review.

In Luego, which is cited in the ponencia, what was involved was the discretion of the
appointing authority to choose between two claimants to the same office who both
possessed the required qualifications. It was that kind of discretion that we said could
not be reviewed.

If a person elected by no less than the sovereign people may be ousted by this Court
for lack of the required qualifications, I see no reason why we cannot disqualified an
appointee simply because he has passed the Commission on Appointments.

Even the President of the Philippines may be declared ineligible by this Court in an
appropriate proceeding notwithstanding that he has been found acceptable by no
less than the enfranchised citizenry. The reason is that what we would be examining is
not the wisdom of his election but whether or not he was qualified to be elected in the
first place.

Coming now to the qualifications of the private respondent, I fear that the ponencia
may have been too sweeping in its definition of the phrase "practice of law" as to
render the qualification practically toothless. From the numerous activities accepted as
embraced in the term, I have the uncomfortable feeling that one does not even have
to be a lawyer to be engaged in the practice of law as long as his activities involve the
application of some law, however peripherally. The stock broker and the insurance
adjuster and the realtor could come under the definition as they deal with or give
advice on matters that are likely "to become involved in litigation."

The lawyer is considered engaged in the practice of law even if his main occupation is
another business and he interprets and applies some law only as an incident of such
business. That covers every company organized under the Corporation Code and
regulated by the SEC under P.D. 902-A. Considering the ramifications of the modern
society, there is hardly any activity that is not affected by some law or government
regulation the businessman must know about and observe. In fact, again going by the
definition, a lawyer does not even have to be part of a business concern to be
considered a practitioner. He can be so deemed when, on his own, he rents a house or
buys a car or consults a doctor as these acts involve his knowledge and application of
the laws regulating such transactions. If he operates a public utility vehicle as his main
source of livelihood, he would still be deemed engaged in the practice of law because
he must obey the Public Service Act and the rules and regulations of the Energy
Regulatory Board.

The ponencia quotes an American decision defining the practice of law as the
"performance of any acts . . . in or out of court, commonly understood to be the
practice of law," which tells us absolutely nothing. The decision goes on to say that
"because lawyers perform almost every function known in the commercial and
governmental realm, such a definition would obviously be too global to be workable."

Scroll No. 577 37|PALE Cases Set 1


The effect of the definition given in the ponencia is to consider virtually every lawyer to
be engaged in the practice of law even if he does not earn his living, or at least part of
it, as a lawyer. It is enough that his activities are incidentally (even if only remotely)
connected with some law, ordinance, or regulation. The possible exception is the
lawyer whose income is derived from teaching ballroom dancing or escorting wrinkled
ladies with pubescent pretensions.

The respondent's credentials are impressive, to be sure, but they do not persuade me
that he has been engaged in the practice of law for ten years as required by the
Constitution. It is conceded that he has been engaged in business and finance, in
which areas he has distinguished himself, but as an executive and economist and not
as a practicing lawyer. The plain fact is that he has occupied the various positions listed
in his resume by virtue of his experience and prestige as a businessman and not as an
attorney-at-law whose principal attention is focused on the law. Even if it be argued
that he was acting as a lawyer when he lobbied in Congress for agrarian and urban
reform, served in the NAMFREL and the Constitutional Commission (together with non-
lawyers like farmers and priests) and was a member of the Davide Commission, he has
not proved that his activities in these capacities extended over the prescribed 10-year
period of actual practice of the law. He is doubtless eminently qualified for many other
positions worthy of his abundant talents but not as Chairman of the Commission on
Elections.

I have much admiration for respondent Monsod, no less than for Mr. Justice Paras, but I
must regretfully vote to grant the petition.

GUTIERREZ, JR., J., dissenting:

When this petition was filed, there was hope that engaging in the practice of law as a
qualification for public office would be settled one way or another in fairly definitive
terms. Unfortunately, this was not the result.

Of the fourteen (14) member Court, 5 are of the view that Mr. Christian Monsod
engaged in the practice of law (with one of these 5 leaving his vote behind while on
official leave but not expressing his clear stand on the matter); 4 categorically stating
that he did not practice law; 2 voting in the result because there was no error so gross
as to amount to grave abuse of discretion; one of official leave with no instructions left
behind on how he viewed the issue; and 2 not taking part in the deliberations and the
decision.

There are two key factors that make our task difficult. First is our reviewing the work of a
constitutional Commission on Appointments whose duty is precisely to look into the
qualifications of persons appointed to high office. Even if the Commission errs, we have
no power to set aside error. We can look only into grave abuse of discretion or
whimsically and arbitrariness. Second is our belief that Mr. Monsod possesses superior
qualifications in terms of executive ability, proficiency in management, educational
background, experience in international banking and finance, and instant recognition

Scroll No. 577 38|PALE Cases Set 1


by the public. His integrity and competence are not questioned by the petitioner. What
is before us is compliance with a specific requirement written into the Constitution.

Inspite of my high regard for Mr. Monsod, I cannot shirk my constitutional duty. He has
never engaged in the practice of law for even one year. He is a member of the bar but
to say that he has practiced law is stretching the term beyond rational limits.

A person may have passed the bar examinations. But if he has not dedicated his life to
the law, if he has not engaged in an activity where membership in the bar is a
requirement I fail to see how he can claim to have been engaged in the practice of
law.

Engaging in the practice of law is a qualification not only for COMELEC chairman but
also for appointment to the Supreme Court and all lower courts. What kind of Judges or
Justices will we have if there main occupation is selling real estate, managing a business
corporation, serving in fact-finding committee, working in media, or operating a farm
with no active involvement in the law, whether in Government or private practice,
except that in one joyful moment in the distant past, they happened to pass the bar
examinations?

The Constitution uses the phrase "engaged in the practice of law for at least ten years."
The deliberate choice of words shows that the practice envisioned is active and
regular, not isolated, occasional, accidental, intermittent, incidental, seasonal, or
extemporaneous. To be "engaged" in an activity for ten years requires committed
participation in something which is the result of one's decisive choice. It means that one
is occupied and involved in the enterprise; one is obliged or pledged to carry it out with
intent and attention during the ten-year period.

I agree with the petitioner that based on the bio-data submitted by respondent
Monsod to the Commission on Appointments, the latter has not been engaged in the
practice of law for at least ten years. In fact, if appears that Mr. Monsod has never
practiced law except for an alleged one year period after passing the bar
examinations when he worked in his father's law firm. Even then his law practice must
have been extremely limited because he was also working for M.A. and Ph. D. degrees
in Economics at the University of Pennsylvania during that period. How could he
practice law in the United States while not a member of the Bar there?

The professional life of the respondent follows:

1.15.1. Respondent Monsod's activities since his passing the Bar examinations in 1961
consist of the following:

1. 1961-1963: M.A. in Economics (Ph. D. candidate), University of Pennsylvania

2. 1963-1970: World Bank Group — Economist, Industry Department; Operations,


Latin American Department; Division Chief, South Asia and Middle East, International
Finance Corporation

Scroll No. 577 39|PALE Cases Set 1


3. 1970-1973: Meralco Group — Executive of various companies, i.e., Meralco
Securities Corporation, Philippine Petroleum Corporation, Philippine Electric Corporation

4. 1973-1976: Yujuico Group — President, Fil-Capital Development Corporation and


affiliated companies

5. 1976-1978: Finaciera Manila — Chief Executive Officer

6. 1978-1986: Guevent Group of Companies — Chief Executive Officer

7. 1986-1987: Philippine Constitutional Commission — Member

8. 1989-1991: The Fact-Finding Commission on the December 1989 Coup Attempt


— Member

9. Presently: Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of the following
companies:

a. ACE Container Philippines, Inc.

b. Dataprep, Philippines

c. Philippine SUNsystems Products, Inc.

d. Semirara Coal Corporation

e. CBL Timber Corporation

Member of the Board of the Following:

a. Engineering Construction Corporation of the Philippines

b. First Philippine Energy Corporation

c. First Philippine Holdings Corporation

d. First Philippine Industrial Corporation

e. Graphic Atelier

f. Manila Electric Company

g. Philippine Commercial Capital, Inc.

h. Philippine Electric Corporation

i. Tarlac Reforestation and Environment Enterprises

Scroll No. 577 40|PALE Cases Set 1


j. Tolong Aquaculture Corporation

k. Visayan Aquaculture Corporation

l. Guimaras Aquaculture Corporation (Rollo, pp. 21-22)

There is nothing in the above bio-data which even remotely indicates that respondent
Monsod has given the law enough attention or a certain degree of commitment and
participation as would support in all sincerity and candor the claim of having engaged
in its practice for at least ten years. Instead of working as a lawyer, he has lawyers
working for him. Instead of giving receiving that legal advice of legal services, he was
the oneadvice and those services as an executive but not as a lawyer.

The deliberations before the Commission on Appointments show an effort to equate


"engaged in the practice of law" with the use of legal knowledge in various fields of
endeavor such as commerce, industry, civic work, blue ribbon investigations, agrarian
reform, etc. where such knowledge would be helpful.

I regret that I cannot join in playing fast and loose with a term, which even an ordinary
layman accepts as having a familiar and customary well-defined meaning. Every
resident of this country who has reached the age of discernment has to know, follow, or
apply the law at various times in his life. Legal knowledge is useful if not necessary for
the business executive, legislator, mayor, barangay captain, teacher, policeman,
farmer, fisherman, market vendor, and student to name only a few. And yet, can these
people honestly assert that as such, they are engaged in the practice of law?

The Constitution requires having been "engaged in the practice of law for at least ten
years." It is not satisfied with having been "a member of the Philippine bar for at least ten
years."

Some American courts have defined the practice of law, as follows:

The practice of law involves not only appearance in court in connection with litigation
but also services rendered out of court, and it includes the giving of advice or the
rendering of any services requiring the use of legal skill or knowledge, such as preparing
a will, contract or other instrument, the legal effect of which, under the facts and
conditions involved, must be carefully determined. People ex rel. Chicago Bar Ass'n v.
Tinkoff, 399 Ill. 282, 77 N.E.2d 693; People ex rel. Illinois State Bar Ass'n v. People's Stock
Yards State Bank, 344 Ill. 462,176 N.E. 901, and cases cited.

It would be difficult, if not impossible to lay down a formula or definition of what


constitutes the practice of law. "Practicing law" has been defined as "Practicing as an
attorney or counselor at law according to the laws and customs of our courts, is the
giving of advice or rendition of any sort of service by any person, firm or corporation
when the giving of such advice or rendition of such service requires the use of any
degree of legal knowledge or skill." Without adopting that definition, we referred to it as
being substantially correct in People ex rel. Illinois State Bar Ass'n v. People's Stock Yards
State Bank, 344 Ill. 462,176 N.E. 901. (People v. Schafer, 87 N.E. 2d 773, 776)

Scroll No. 577 41|PALE Cases Set 1


For one's actions to come within the purview of practice of law they should not only be
activities peculiar to the work of a lawyer, they should also be performed, habitually,
frequently or customarily, to wit:

xxx xxx xxx

Respondent's answers to questions propounded to him were rather evasive. He was


asked whether or not he ever prepared contracts for the parties in real-estate
transactions where he was not the procuring agent. He answered: "Very seldom." In
answer to the question as to how many times he had prepared contracts for the parties
during the twenty-one years of his business, he said: "I have no Idea." When asked if it
would be more than half a dozen times his answer was I suppose. Asked if he did not
recall making the statement to several parties that he had prepared contracts in a
large number of instances, he answered: "I don't recall exactly what was said." When
asked if he did not remember saying that he had made a practice of preparing deeds,
mortgages and contracts and charging a fee to the parties therefor in instances where
he was not the broker in the deal, he answered: "Well, I don't believe so, that is not a
practice." Pressed further for an answer as to his practice in preparing contracts and
deeds for parties where he was not the broker, he finally answered: "I have done about
everything that is on the books as far as real estate is concerned."

xxx xxx xxx

Respondent takes the position that because he is a real-estate broker he has a lawful
right to do any legal work in connection with real-estate transactions, especially in
drawing of real-estate contracts, deeds, mortgages, notes and the like. There is no
doubt but that he has engaged in these practices over the years and has charged for
his services in that connection. ... (People v. Schafer, 87 N.E. 2d 773)

xxx xxx xxx

... An attorney, in the most general sense, is a person designated or employed by


another to act in his stead; an agent; more especially, one of a class of persons
authorized to appear and act for suitors or defendants in legal proceedings. Strictly,
these professional persons are attorneys at law, and non-professional agents are
properly styled "attorney's in fact;" but the single word is much used as meaning an
attorney at law. A person may be an attorney in facto for another, without being an
attorney at law. Abb. Law Dict. "Attorney." A public attorney, or attorney at law, says
Webster, is an officer of a court of law, legally qualified to prosecute and defend
actions in such court on the retainer of clients. "The principal duties of an attorney are
(1) to be true to the court and to his client; (2) to manage the business of his client with
care, skill, and integrity; (3) to keep his client informed as to the state of his business; (4)
to keep his secrets confided to him as such. ... His rights are to be justly compensated
for his services." Bouv. Law Dict. tit. "Attorney." The transitive verb "practice," as defined
by Webster, means 'to do or perform frequently, customarily, or habitually; to perform
by a succession of acts, as, to practice gaming, ... to carry on in practice, or repeated

Scroll No. 577 42|PALE Cases Set 1


action; to apply, as a theory, to real life; to exercise, as a profession, trade, art. etc.; as,
to practice law or medicine,' etc...." (State v. Bryan, S.E. 522, 523; Emphasis supplied)

In this jurisdiction, we have ruled that the practice of law denotes frequency or a
succession of acts. Thus, we stated in the case of People v. Villanueva (14 SCRA 109
[1965]):

xxx xxx xxx

... Practice is more than an isolated appearance, for it consists in frequent or customary
actions, a succession of acts of the same kind. In other words, it is frequent habitual
exercise (State v. Cotner, 127, p. 1, 87 Kan. 864, 42 LRA, M.S. 768). Practice of law to fall
within the prohibition of statute has been interpreted as customarily or habitually
holding one's self out to the public, as a lawyer and demanding payment for such
services. ... . (at p. 112)

It is to be noted that the Commission on Appointment itself recognizes habituality as a


required component of the meaning of practice of law in a Memorandum prepared
and issued by it, to wit:

l. Habituality. The term 'practice of law' implies customarilyor habitually holding


one's self out to the public as a lawyer (People v. Villanueva, 14 SCRA 109 citing State v.
Bryan, 4 S.E. 522, 98 N.C. 644) such as when one sends a circular announcing the
establishment of a law office for the general practice of law (U.S. v. Noy Bosque, 8 Phil.
146), or when one takes the oath of office as a lawyer before a notary public, and files
a manifestation with the Supreme Court informing it of his intention to practice law in all
courts in the country (People v. De Luna, 102 Phil. 968).

Practice is more than an isolated appearance, for it consists in frequent or customary


action, a succession of acts of the same kind. In other words, it is a habitual exercise
(People v. Villanueva, 14 SCRA 1 09 citing State v. Cotner, 1 27, p. 1, 87 Kan, 864)."
(Rollo, p. 115)

xxx xxx xxx

While the career as a businessman of respondent Monsod may have profited from his
legal knowledge, the use of such legal knowledge is incidental and consists of isolated
activities which do not fall under the denomination of practice of law. Admission to the
practice of law was not required for membership in the Constitutional Commission or in
the Fact-Finding Commission on the 1989 Coup Attempt. Any specific legal activities
which may have been assigned to Mr. Monsod while a member may be likened to
isolated transactions of foreign corporations in the Philippines which do not categorize
the foreign corporations as doing business in the Philippines. As in the practice of law,
doing business also should be active and continuous. Isolated business transactions or
occasional, incidental and casual transactions are not within the context of doing
business. This was our ruling in the case of Antam Consolidated, Inc. v. Court of appeals,
143 SCRA 288 [1986]).

Scroll No. 577 43|PALE Cases Set 1


Respondent Monsod, corporate executive, civic leader, and member of the
Constitutional Commission may possess the background, competence, integrity, and
dedication, to qualify for such high offices as President, Vice-President, Senator,
Congressman or Governor but the Constitution in prescribing the specific qualification
of having engaged in the practice of law for at least ten (10) years for the position of
COMELEC Chairman has ordered that he may not be confirmed for that office. The
Constitution charges the public respondents no less than this Court to obey its
mandate.

I, therefore, believe that the Commission on Appointments committed grave abuse of


discretion in confirming the nomination of respondent Monsod as Chairman of the
COMELEC.

I vote to GRANT the petition.

Bidin, J., dissent

A.C. No. 9018, April 20, 2016

TERESITA P. FAJARDO, Complainant, v. ATTY. NICANOR C. ALVAREZ, Respondent.

DECISION

LEONEN, J.:

This administrative case involves the determination of whether a lawyer working in the
Legal Section of the National Center for Mental Health under the Department of Health
is authorized to privately practice law, and consequently, whether the amount
charged by respondent for attorney's fees is reasonable under the principle of quantum
meruit.

Complainant Teresita P. Fajardo (Teresita) was the Municipal Treasurer of San Leonardo,
Nueva Ecija. She hired respondent Atty. Nicanor C. Alvarez (Atty. Alvarez) to defend her
in criminal and administrative cases before the Office of the Ombudsman.

The parties have differing versions of the facts as summarized by the Investigating
Commissioner of the Commission on Bar Discipline of the Integrated Bar of the
Philippines. Teresita's version of the facts is as follows:

Around 2009, Teresita hired Atty. Alvarez to handle several cases filed against her
before the Office of the Ombudsman.1 Atty. Alvarez was then working in the Legal
Section of the National Center for Mental Health.2 He asked for P1,400,000.00 as
acceptance fee.3 However, Atty. Alvarez did not enter his appearance before the
Office of the Ombudsman nor sign any pleadings.4ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary

Atty. Alvarez assured Teresita that he had friends connected with the Office of the
Ombudsman who could help with dismissing her case for a certain fee.5 Atty. Alvarez

Scroll No. 577 44|PALE Cases Set 1


said that he needed to pay the amount of P500,000.00 to his friends and
acquaintances working at the Office of the Ombudsman to have the cases against
Teresita dismissed.6ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary

However, just two (2) weeks after Teresita and Atty. Alvarez talked, the Office of the
Ombudsman issued a resolution and decision recommending the filing of a criminal
complaint against Teresita, and her dismissal from service,
respectively.7ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary

Teresita then demanded that Atty. Alvarez return at least a portion of the amount she
gave.8 Atty. Alvarez promised to return the amount to Teresita; however, he failed to
fulfill this promise.9 Teresita sent a demand letter to Atty. Alvarez, which he failed to
heed.10ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary

On the other hand, Atty. Alvarez claims the following:

Atty. Alvarez is Legal Officer III of the National Center for Mental Health under the
Department of Health.11 He has authority to engage in private practice of the
profession.12 He represented Teresita in several cases before the Office of the
Ombudsman.13ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary

Atty. Alvarez and Teresita had an arrangement that Teresita would consult Atty. Alvarez
whenever a case was filed against her.14 Atty. Alvarez would then advise Teresita to
send him a copy of the complaint and its attachments through courier.15 Afterwards,
Atty. Alvarez would evaluate the case and call Teresita to discuss his fees in accepting
and handling the case.16 A 50% downpayment would be deposited to Atty. Alvarez's
or his secretary's bank account.17 The balance would then be paid in installments.18
The success fee was voluntary on Teresita's part.19ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary

On July 10, 2009, Atty. Alvarez received a call from Teresita regarding a meeting at
Shangri-La Mall to discuss the decision and resolution she received from the Office of
the Ombudsman dismissing her from service for dishonesty and indicting her for
violation of Section 3 of Republic Act No. 3019, respectively.20 Atty. Alvarez accepted
the case and asked for P500,000.00 as acceptance fee.21 According to Atty. Alvarez,
he arrived at the amount after considering the difficulty of the case and the workload
that would be involved, which would include appeals before the Court of Appeals and
this Court.22 However, the fee is exclusive of filing fees, appearance fees, and other
miscellaneous fees such as costs for photocopying and
mailing.23ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary

Atty. Alvarez claimed that he prepared several pleadings in connection with Teresita's
case:

(1)
motion for reconsideration filed on July 23, 2009 in connection with the administrative
case;
(2)

Scroll No. 577 45|PALE Cases Set 1


motion for reconsideration filed on July 23, 2009 in connection with the criminal case;
(3)
petition for injunction filed on October 15, 2009 before the Regional Trial Court of
Gapan City; and
(4)
petition for preliminary injunction with prayer for a temporary restraining order filed
before the Court of Appeals on November 18, 2009, and the amended petition on
November 26, 2009.24

Atty. Alvarez also said that he prepared several letters to different government officials
and agencies.25ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary

Atty. Alvarez alleged that Teresita made staggered payments for the amounts they
agreed on.26 Teresita only paid the balance of the agreed acceptance fee equivalent
to P450,000.00 on February 11, 2010.27 While Teresita paid P60,000.00 for the
miscellaneous expenses, she did not pay the expenses for other legal work performed
and advanced by Atty. Alvarez.28ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary

On the last day for filing of the petition for review of the Office of the Ombudsman's
Decision, Teresita informed Atty. Alvarez that she was no longer interested in retaining
Atty. Alvarez's services as she had hired Atty. Tyrone Contado from Nueva Ecija, who
was Atty. Alvarez's co-counsel in the cases against
Teresita.29ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary

On June 1, 2011, Teresita filed before the Office of the Bar Confidant a Verified
Complaint praying for the disbarment of Atty. Alvarez.30 This Court required Atty.
Alvarez to file his comment on the complaint within 10 days from
notice.31ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary

On December 7, 2011, the case was referred to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines for
investigation, report, and recommendation.32ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary

In his Report and Recommendation33 dated November 12, 2012, Investigating


Commissioner Honesto A. Villamayor found Atty. Alvarez guilty of violating the Code of
Professional Responsibility and recommended Atty. Alvarez's suspension from the
practice of law for one (1) year.34 Atty. Alvarez was also ordered to return the amount
of P700,000.00 to Teresita with legal interest from the time of demand until its full
payment.35 The dispositive portion of the Investigating Commissioner's Report and
Recommendation reads:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
WHEREFORE, finding Respondent guilty of committing unlawful, immoral and deceitful
acts of the Canon of Professional Responsibility, [it] is recommended that he be
suspended for one (1) year in the practice of law and he be ordered to return the
amount of P700,000.00 to the Complainant within two (2) months from receipt of this
order with legal interest from the time of demand, until fully paid, with a warning that
repetition of [a] similar offense in the future will be dealt with more severely.36cralawred
On the unauthorized practice of law, the Investigating Commissioner found that while
Atty. Alvarez claimed that he was authorized by his superior to privately practice law,

Scroll No. 577 46|PALE Cases Set 1


the pleadings he allegedly prepared and filed did not bear his name and signature.37
Hence, the Investigating Commissioner stated that:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
The time that Respondent spent in following up the case of Complainant in the Office
of the Ombudsman is a time lost to the government which could have been used in the
service of many taxpayers[.]38cralawred
In any case, granting that Atty. Alvarez was authorized by his superior to practice his
profession, the Investigating Commissioner stated that Atty. Alvarez was prohibited to
handle cases involving malversation of funds by government officials such as a
municipal treasurer.39ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary

Moreover, the Investigating Commissioner found that the attorney's fees Atty. Alvarez
asked for were unreasonable:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
From all indication, Complainant was forced to give to the Respondent the amount of
P1,400,000.00 because of the words of Respondent that he has friends in the Office of
the Ombudsman who can help with a fee. That because of that guarantee,
Complainant was obligated to shell out every now and then money for the satisfaction
of the allege[d] friend of the Respondent[.]

Complainant is an ordinary Municipal Treasurer of a 4th or 5th class municipality and the
amount of attorney's fees demanded by the Respondent is very much excessive. . . .
The exorbitant amount that he demanded from complainant is too much for a lowly
local government employee. What the Respondent did is not only illegal, immoral and
dishonest but also taking advantage of a defenseless victim.

....

While a lawyer should charge only fair and reasonable fees, no hard and fast rule may
be set in the determination of what a reasonable fee is, or what is not. That must be
established from the facts of each case[.]

....

The fees claimed and received by the Respondent for the alleged cases he handled
despite the fact that the records and evidence does not show that he ever signed
pleadings filed, the amount of P700,000.00 is reasonable, thus, fairness and equity
dictate, he has to return the excess amount of P700,000.00 to the
complainant[.]40cralawred
In Notice of Resolution No. XX-2013-77841 dated June 21, 2013, the Integrated Bar of the
Philippines Board of Governors adopted the findings and recommendations of the
Investigating Commissioner:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
RESOLVED to ADOPT AND APPROVE, as it is hereby unanimously ADOPTED AND
APPROVED, the Report and Recommendation of the Investigating Commissioner in the
above-entitled case, herein made part of this Resolution as Annex "A", and finding the
recommendation fully supported by the evidence on record and the applicable laws
and rules and considering that complaint [sic] is guilty of unlawful, immoral and
deceitful acts, Atty. Nicanor C. Alvarez is hereby SUSPENDED from the practice of law
for one (1) year with [a] Warning that repetition of the same acts shall be dealt with
more sever[ejly. Further, he is Ordered to Return the amount of P700,000.00 to

Scroll No. 577 47|PALE Cases Set 1


complainant with legal interest from the time of demand.42 (Emphasis in the
original)cralawred
Atty. Alvarez moved for reconsideration of the Resolution,43 but the Motion was denied
by the Board of Governors in Notice of Resolution No. XXI-2014-28644 dated May 3,
2014. The Resolution reads:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
RESOLVED to DENY Respondent's Motion for Reconsideration, there being no cogent
reason to reverse the findings of the Commission and the resolution subject of the
motion, it being a mere reiteration of the matters which had already been threshed out
and taken into consideration. Thus, Resolution No. XX-2013-778 dated June 21, 2013 is
hereby AFFIRMED.45 (Emphasis in the original)cralawred
We resolve the following issues:

First, whether respondent Atty. Nicanor C. Alvarez, as a lawyer working in the Legal
Section of the National Center for Mental Health under the Department of Health, is
authorized to engage in the private practice of law; and

Second, whether the amount charged by respondent for attorney's fees is reasonable
under the principle of quantum meruit.

The Investigating Commissioner did not make a categorical declaration that


respondent is guilty of unauthorized practice of his profession. The Investigating
Commissioner merely alluded to respondent's unauthorized practice of law.

We find that respondent committed unauthorized practice of his profession.

Respondent claims that he is authorized to practice his profession46 as shown in the


letter dated August 1, 2001 of National Center for Mental Health Chief Bernardino A.
Vicente.47 The letter reads:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
TO : ATTY. NICANOR C. ALVAREZ
Legal Officer III
This Center

Subject : Authority to engage in private practice of profession

This refers to your request for permission to engage in private practice of your
profession.

In accordance with Administrative Order No. 21, s. 1999 of the Department of Health,
which vested in the undersigned the authority to grant permission for the exercise of
profession or engage in the practice of profession, you are hereby authorized to teach
or engage in the practice of your profession provided it will not run in conflict with the
interest of the Center and the Philippine government as a whole. In the exigency of the
service however, or when public interest so requires, this authority may be revoked
anytime.

Please be guided accordingly.

[sgd.]

Scroll No. 577 48|PALE Cases Set 1


BERNARDINO A. VICENTE, MD, FFPPA, MHA, CESO IV
Medical Center Chief II48 (Emphasis supplied)cralawred
Respondent practiced law even if he did not sign any pleading. In the context of this
case, his surreptitious actuations reveal illicit intent. Not only did he do unauthorized
practice, his acts also show badges of offering to peddle influence in the Office of the
Ombudsman.

In Cayetano v. Monsod,49 the modern concept of the term "practice of law" includes
the more traditional concept of litigation or appearance before
courts:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
The practice of law is not limited to the conduct of cases in court. A person is also
considered to be in the practice of law when he:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
"x x x for valuable consideration engages in the business of advising person, firms,
associations or corporations as to their rights under the law, or appears in a
representative capacity as an advocate in proceedings pending or prospective,
before any court, commissioner, referee, board, body, committee, or commission
constituted by law or authorized to settle controversies and there, in such
representative capacity performs any act or acts for the purpose of obtaining or
defending the rights of their clients under the law. Otherwise stated, one who, in a
representative capacity, engages in the business of advising clients as to their rights
under the law, or while so engaged performs any act or acts either in court or outside
of court for that purpose, is engaged in the practice of law."cralawred
....

The University of the Philippines Law Center in conducting orientation briefing for new
lawyers (1974-1975) listed the dimensions of the practice of law in even broader terms
as advocacy, counseling and public service.
"One may be a practicing attorney in following any line of employment in the
profession. If what he does exacts knowledge of the law and is of a kind usual for
attorneys engaging in the active practice of their profession, and he follows some one
or more lines of employment such as this he is a practicing attorney at law within the
meaning of the statute."cralawred
Practice of law means any activity, in or out of court, which requires the application of
law, legal procedure, knowledge, training and experience. "To engage in the practice
of law is to perform those acts which are characteristics of the profession. Generally, to
practice law is to give notice or render any kind of service, which device or service
requires the use in any degree of legal knowledge or skill."

....

Interpreted in the light of the various definitions of the term "practice of law," particularly
the modern concept of law practice, and taking into consideration the liberal
construction intended by the framers of the Constitution, Arty. Monsod's past work
experiences as a lawyer-economist, a lawyer-manager, a lawyer-entrepreneur of
industry, a lawyer-negotiator of contracts, and a lawyer-legislator of both the rich and
the poor—verily more than satisfy the constitutional requirement—that he has been
engaged in the practice of law for at least ten years.50 (Emphasis supplied)cralawred
Cayetano was reiterated in Lingan v. Calubaquib:51

Scroll No. 577 49|PALE Cases Set 1


Practice of law is "any activity, in or out of court, which requires the application of law,
legal procedure, knowledge, training and experience." It includes "[performing] acts
which are characteristics of the [legal] profession" or "[rendering any kind of] service
[which] requires the use in any degree of legal knowledge or skill."

Work in government that requires the use of legal knowledge is considered practice of
law. In Cayetano v. Monsod, this court cited the deliberations of the 1986 Constitutional
Commission and agreed that work rendered by lawyers in the Commission on Audit
requiring "[the use of] legal knowledge or legal talent" is practice of law.52 (Citations
omitted)cralawred
By preparing the pleadings of and giving legal advice to complainant, respondent
practiced law.

Under Section 7(b)(2) of Republic Act No. 6713, otherwise known as the Code of
Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees, and Memorandum
Circular No. 17, series of 1986,53 government officials or employees are prohibited from
engaging in private practice of their profession unless authorized by their department
heads. More importantly, if authorized, the practice of profession must not conflict nor
tend to conflict with the official functions of the government official or
employee:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
Republic Act No. 6713:

Section 7. Prohibited Acts and Transactions. - In addition to acts and omissions of public
officials and employees now prescribed in the Constitution and existing laws, the
following shall constitute prohibited acts and transactions of any public official and
employee and are hereby declared to be unlawful:

....

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

....

(2) Engage in the private practice of their profession unless authorized by the
Constitution or law, provided, that such practice will not conflict or tend to conflict with
their official functions[.]

....

Memorandum Circular No. 17:

The authority to grant permission to any official or employee shall be granted by the
head of the ministry or agency in accordance with Section 12, Rule XVIII of the Revised
Civil Service Rules, which provides:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
"Sec. 12. No officer or employee shall engage directly in any private business, vocation,
or profession or be connected with any commercial, credit, agricultural, or industrial
undertaking without a written permission from the head of Department; Provided, That

Scroll No. 577 50|PALE Cases Set 1


this prohibition will be absolute in the case of those officers and employees whose
duties and responsibilities require that their entire time be at the disposal of the
Government: Provided, further, That if an employee is granted permission to engage in
outside activities, the time so devoted outside of office hours should be fixed by the
chief of the agency to the end that it will not impair in any way the efficiency of the
other officer or employee: And provided, finally, That no permission is necessary in the
case of investments, made by an officer or employee, which do not involve any real or
apparent conflict between his private interests and public duties, or in any way
influence him in the discharge of his duties, and he shall not take part in the
management of the enterprise or become an officer or member of the board of
directors",cralawred
subject to any additional conditions which the head of the office deems necessary in
each particular case in the interest of the service, as expressed in the various issuances
of the Civil Service Commission.cralawred
In Abella v. Cruzabra,54 the respondent was a Deputy Register of Deeds of General
Santos City. While serving as an incumbent government employee, the respondent
"filed a petition for commission as a notary public and was commissioned . . . without
obtaining prior authority from the Secretary of the Department of Justice."55 According
to the complainant, the respondent had notarized around 3,000 documents.56 This
Court found the respondent guilty of engaging in notarial practice without written
authority from the Secretary of Justice. Thus:

It is clear that when respondent filed her petition for commission as a notary public, she
did not obtain a written permission from the Secretary of the D[epartment] [of] J[ustice].
Respondent's superior, the Register of Deeds, cannot issue any authorization because
he is not the head of the Department. And even assuming that the Register of Deeds
authorized her, respondent failed to present any proof of that written permission.
Respondent cannot feign ignorance or good faith because respondent filed her
petition for commission as a notary public after Memorandum Circular No. 17 was
issued in 1986.57ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary

In this case, respondent was given written permission by the Head of the National
Center for Mental Health, whose authority was designated under Department of Health
Administrative Order No. 21, series of 1999.58ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary

However, by assisting and representing complainant in a suit against the Ombudsman


and against government in general, respondent put himself in a situation of conflict of
interest.

Respondent's practice of profession was expressly and impliedly conditioned on the


requirement that his practice will not be "in conflict with the interest of the Center and
the Philippine government as a whole."59ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary

In Javellana v. Department of Interior and Local Government,60 the petitioner was an


incumbent City Councilor or member of the Sangguniang Panlungsod of Bago City. He
was a lawyer by profession and had continuously engaged in the practice of law
without securing authority from the Regional Director of the Department of Local
Government.61 In 1989, the petitioner acted as counsel for Antonio Javiero and

Scroll No. 577 51|PALE Cases Set 1


Rolando Catapang and filed a case for Illegal Dismissal and Reinstatement with
Damages against Engr. Ernesto C. Divinagracia, City Engineer of Bago
City.62ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary

Engr. Ernesto C. Divinagracia filed an administrative case before the Department of


Local Government for violation of Section 7(b)(2) of Republic Act No. 6713 and relevant
Department of Local Government memorandum circulars on unauthorized practice of
profession, as well as for oppression, misconduct, and abuse of authority.63 While the
case was pending before Department of Local Government, the petitioner was able to
secure a written authority to practice his profession from the Secretary of Interior and
Local Government, "provided that such practice will not conflict or tend to conflict with
his official functions."64ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary

This Court in Javellana observed that the petitioner practiced his profession in conflict
with his functions as City Councilor and against the interests of
government:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
In the first place, complaints against public officers and employees relating or
incidental to the performance of their duties are necessarily impressed with public
interest for by express constitutional mandate, a public office is a public trust. The
complaint for illegal dismissal filed by Javiero and Catapang against City Engineer
Divinagracia is in effect a complaint against the City Government of Bago City, their
real employer, of which petitioner Javellana is a councilman. Hence, judgment against
City Engineer Divinagracia would actually be a judgment against the City Government.
By serving as counsel for the complaining employees and assisting them to prosecute
their claims against City Engineer Divinagracia, the petitioner violated Memorandum
Circular No. 74-58 (in relation to Section 7[b-2] of R[epublic] A[ct] [No.] 6713) prohibiting
a government official from engaging in the private practice of his profession, if such
practice would represent interests adverse to the government.

Petitioner's contention that Section 90 of the Local Government Code of 1991 and DLG
Memorandum Circular No. 90-81 violate Article VIII, Section 5 of the Constitution is
completely off tangent. Neither the statute nor the circular trenches upon the Supreme
Court's power and authority to prescribe rules on the practice of law. The Local
Government Code and DLG Memorandum Circular No. 90-81 simply prescribe rules of
conduct for public officials to avoid conflicts of interest between the discharge of their
public duties and the private practice of their profession, in those instances where the
law allows it.65cralawred
There is basic conflict of interest here. Respondent is a public officer, an employee of
government. The Office of the Ombudsman is part of government. By appearing
against the Office of the Ombudsman, respondent is going against the same employer
he swore to serve.

In addition, the government has a serious interest in the prosecution of erring


employees and their corrupt acts. Under the Constitution, "[p]ublic office is a public
trust."66 The Office of the Ombudsman, as "protectors of the [P]eople,"67 is mandated
to "investigate and prosecute . . . any act or omission of any public officer or employee,
office or agency, when such act or omission appears to be illegal, unjust, improper or
inefficient."68ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary

Scroll No. 577 52|PALE Cases Set 1


Thus, a conflict of interest exists when an incumbent government employee represents
another government employee or public officer in a case pending before the Office of
the Ombudsman. The incumbent officer ultimately goes against government's
mandate under the Constitution to prosecute public officers or employees who have
committed acts or omissions that appear to be illegal, unjust, improper, or inefficient.69
Furthermore, this is consistent with the constitutional directive that "[p]ublic officers and
employees must, at all times, be accountable to the [P]eople, serve them with utmost
responsibility, integrity, loyalty, and efficiency; act with patriotism and justice, and lead
modest lives."70ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary

The objective in disciplinary cases is not to punish the erring officer or employee but to
continue to uplift the People's trust in government and to ensure excellent public
service:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
[W]hen an officer or employee is disciplined, the object sought is not the punishment of
that officer or employee, but the improvement of the public service and the
preservation of the public's faith and confidence in the government. . . . These
constitutionally-enshrined principles, oft-repeated in our case law, are not mere
rhetorical flourishes or idealistic sentiments. They should be taken as working standards
by all in the public service.71cralawred
Having determined that respondent illicitly practiced law, we find that there is now no
need to determine whether the fees he charged were reasonable.

In disbarment or disciplinary cases pending before this Court, the complainant must
prove his or her allegations through substantial evidence.72 In Advincula v.
Macabata,73 this Court dismissed a complaint for disbarment due to the lack of
evidence in proving the complainant's allegations:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
As a basic rule in evidence, the burden of proof lies on the party who makes the
allegations—ei incumbit probation, qui decit, non qui negat; cum per rerum naturam
factum negantis probation nulla sit. In the case at bar, complainant miserably failed to
comply with the burden of proof required of her. A mere charge or allegation of
wrongdoing does not suffice. Accusation is not synonymous with guilt.74 (Emphasis in
the original, citations omitted)cralawred
Moreover, lawyers should not be hastily disciplined or penalized unless it is shown that
they committed a transgression of their oath or their duties, which reflects on their fitness
to enjoy continued status as a member of the bar:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
The power to disbar or suspend ought always to be exercised on the preservative and
not on the vindictive principle, with great caution and only for the most weighty reasons
and only on clear cases of misconduct which seriously affect the standing and
character of the lawyer as an officer of the court and member of the Bar. Only those
acts which cause loss of moral character should merit disbarment or suspension, while
those acts which neither affect nor erode the moral character of the lawyer should only
justify a lesser sanction unless they are of such nature and to such extent as to clearly
show the lawyer's unfltness to continue in the practice of law. The dubious character of
the act charged as well as the motivation which induced the lawyer to commit it must
be clearly demonstrated before suspension or disbarment is meted out. The mitigating
or aggravating circumstances that attended the commission of the offense should also
be considered.75cralawred

Scroll No. 577 53|PALE Cases Set 1


Likewise, we find that respondent violated the Lawyer's Oath and the Code of
Professional Responsibility when he communicated to or, at the very least, made it
appear to complainant that he knew people from the Office of the Ombudsman who
could help them get a favorable decision in complainant's case.

Lawyers are mandated to uphold, at all times, integrity and dignity in the practice of
their profession.76 Respondent violated the oath he took when he proposed to gain a
favorable outcome for complainant's case by resorting to his influence among staff in
the Office where the case was pending.77ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary

Thus, respondent violated the Code of Professional Responsibility. Canon 1, Rules 1.01,
and 1.0278 prohibit lawyers from engaging in unlawful, dishonest, immoral, or deceitful
conduct.79 Respondent's act of ensuring that the case will be dismissed because of his
personal relationships with officers or employees in the Office of the Ombudsman is
unlawful and dishonest. Canon 780 of the Code of Professional Responsibility requires
lawyers to always "uphold the integrity and dignity of the legal profession."

In relation, Canon 1381 mandates that lawyers "shall rely upon the merits of his [or her]
cause and refrain from any impropriety which tends to influence, or gives the
appearance of influencing the court."

A lawyer that approaches a judge to try to gain influence and receive a favorable
outcome for his or her client violates Canon 13 of the Code of Professional
Responsibility.82 This act of influence peddling is highly immoral and has no place in the
legal profession:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
The highly immoral implication of a lawyer approaching a judge—or a judge evincing a
willingness—to discuss, in private, a matter related to a case pending in that judge's
sala cannot be over-emphasized. The fact that Atty. Singson did talk on different
occasions to Judge Reyes, initially through a mutual friend, Atty. Sevilla, leads us to
conclude that Atty. Singson was indeed trying to influence the judge to rule in his
client's favor. This conduct is not acceptable in the legal profession.83cralawred
In Jimenez v. Verano, Jr.,84 we disciplined the respondent for preparing a release order
for his clients using the letterhead of the Department of Justice and the stationery of the
Secretary:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
The way respondent conducted himself manifested a clear intent to gain special
treatment and consideration from a government agency. This is precisely the type of
improper behavior sought to be regulated by the codified norms for the bar.
Respondent is duty-bound to actively avoid any act that tends to influence, or may be
seen to influence, the outcome of an ongoing case, lest the people's faith in the judicial
process is diluted.

The primary duty of lawyers is not to their clients but to the administration of justice. To
that end, their clients' success is wholly subordinate. The conduct of a member of the
bar ought to and must always be scrupulously observant of the law and ethics. Any
means, not honorable, fair and honest which is resorted to by the lawyer, even in the
pursuit of his devotion to his client's cause, is condemnable and unethical.

....

Scroll No. 577 54|PALE Cases Set 1


Zeal and persistence in advancing a client's cause must always be within the bounds of
the law. A self-respecting independence in the exercise of the profession is expected if
an attorney is to remain a member of the bar. In the present case, we find that
respondent fell short of these exacting standards. Given the import of the case, a
warning is a mere slap on the wrist that would not serve as commensurate penalty for
the offense.85cralawred
Similar to the present case, in Bueno v. Rañeses,86 we disbarred a lawyer who solicited
bribe money from his client in violation of Canon 13 of the Code of Professional
Responsibility:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
Rather than merely suspend Atty. Rañeses as had been done in Bildner, the Court
believes that Atty. Rañeses merits the ultimate administrative penalty of disbarment
because of the multi-layered impact and implications of what he did; by his acts he
proved himself to be what a lawyer should not be, in a lawyer's relations to the client, to
the court and to the Integrated Bar.

First, he extracted money from his client for a purpose that is both false and fraudulent.
It is false because no bribery apparently took place as Atty. Rañeses in fact lost the
case. It is fraudulent because the professed purpose of the exaction was the crime of
bribery. Beyond these, he maligned the judge and the Judiciary by giving the
impression that court cases are won, not on the merits, but through deceitful means—a
decidedly black mark against the Judiciary. Last but not the least, Atty. Rañeses grossly
disrespected the IBP by his cavalier attitude towards its disciplinary proceedings.

From these perspectives, Atty. Rañeses wronged his client, the judge allegedly on the
"take," the Judiciary as an institution, and the IBP of which he is a member. The Court
cannot and should not allow offenses such as these to pass unredressed. Let this be a
signal to one and all—to all lawyers, their clients and the general public—that the Court
will not hesitate to act decisively and with no quarters given to defend the interest of
the public, of our judicial system and the institutions composing it, and to ensure that
these are not compromised by unscrupulous or misguided members of the Bar.87
(Emphasis supplied)cralawred
In the interest of ridding itself of corrupt personnel who encourage influence peddling,
and in the interest of maintaining the high ethical standards of employees in the
judiciary, this Court did not hesitate in dismissing its own employee from government
service when she peddled influence in the Court of Appeals:88
What brings our judicial system into disrepute are often the actuations of a few erring
court personnel peddling influence to party-litigants, creating the impression that
decisions can be bought and sold, ultimately resulting in the disillusionment of the
public. This Court has never wavered in its vigilance in eradicating the so-called "bad
eggs" in the judiciary. And whenever warranted by the gravity of the offense, the
supreme penalty of dismissal in an administrative case is meted to erring
personnel.89cralawred
The Investigating Commissioner found that complainant was "forced to give . . .
Respondent the amount of P1,400,000.00 because of the words of Respondent that he
ha[d] friends in the Office of the Ombudsman who c[ould] help with a fee."90 It is
because of respondent's assurances to complainant that she sent him money over the

Scroll No. 577 55|PALE Cases Set 1


course of several months.91 These assurances are seen from the text messages that
respondent sent complainant:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary
FROM: Atty. Alvarez <+639063630224>

SUBJECT:

Cnbi ko dun sa kontak dati na magbibigay tayo na pera sa allowance lang muna later
na ang bayad pag labas ng reso at kaliwaan pero sbi nya mas maganda kung
isasabay na ang pera pagbgay ng letter mo sa omb.. Parang dun tayo nagkamali
pero ang solusyon ay sana ibalik nila ang pera . . in d meantime hindi dapat apektado
ang kaso at kailangan an Appeal sa CA at may deadline yun

DATE: 31-05-2010

TIME: 5:24 pm

TYPE: Text Message

....

FROM: Atty. Alvarez <+639063630224>

SUBJECT:

Gud pm pnro, naLBC n b ang Reso? Kung Jan un pnrmahn ...

DATE: 21-05-2010

TIME: 5:13 pm

TYPE: Text Message

....

FROM: Atty. Alvarez <+639063630224>

SUBJECT:

Pnro sbi ng Dep Omb la png cnabi sa knya ng Omb. Ang CA Reso pnaiwan n Orly @
studyohn nya (txt kontal)

DATE: 15-04-2010

TIME: 6:07 pm

TYPE: Text Message

....

Scroll No. 577 56|PALE Cases Set 1


FROM: Atty. Alvarez <+639063630224>

SUBJECT:

Yung blessing pala ni gutierez ang hnhntay ng overall dep omb si orly at dun din siya
subok kuha letter pero nasbhan na si gutierez ng dep omb for Luzon sbi ko pwwde b
nila gawin total alam na ni gutierez. . . Maya tawag ko sayo update

DATE: 15-04-2010

TIME: 12:44 pm

TYPE: Text Message

....

FROM: Atty. Alvarez <+639063630224>

SUBJECT:

Gud mrng Tess hindi na svmagot kahapon tnxt ko pero minsan hndi tlga sumasagot yun
nag ttxt lang pagkatapos kaya lang d mo pala naiintindihan ang txt nya bisaya
"istudyahun" ibig sabihn kausapin pa so nasbi na nya sa omb yung letter at istudzahan
pa

DATE: 31-03-2010

TIME: 8:25 am

TYPE: Text Message

....

FROM: Atty. Alvarez <+639063630224>

SUBJECT:

Ok panero update ko na lang client pero nag txt tlga kailangan daw nya letter
habang wala pa omb reso., Txt mo lang ko panero, have a nice holidays., (sagot ko
yan tess)

DATE: 03-03-2010

TIME: 5:03 pm

TYPE: Text Message

Scroll No. 577 57|PALE Cases Set 1


....

FROM: Atty. Alvarez <+639063630224>

SUBJECT:

Sa dep omb for Luzon na nya follow up ang MR at saka overall dep omb si orly dun nya
kukunin letter

DATE: 30-03-2010

TIME: 5:00 pm

TYPE: Text Message

....

FROM: Atty. Alvarez <+639063630224>

SUBJECT:

Gud pm pnro. Ang Dep. Omb. My closd dor mtng pro pnkta s knya ang note q at sabi
rw bumalik aq aftr Holy wk. C Orly nman ay ngsabi n es2dyuhn p rw nya.

DATE: 30-03-2010

TIME: 4:52 pm

TYPE: Text Message

....

FROM: Atty. Alvarez <+639063630224>

SUBJECT:

Binigay ko na pera kahapon at kinausap ko para sa letter magkikita pa kami marnaya


las 2 at kukunin nya copy letter natin kay sales at CA reso

DATE: 15-04-2010

TIME: 12:32 pm

TYPE: Text Message

....

FROM: Atty. Alvarez <+639063630224>

Scroll No. 577 58|PALE Cases Set 1


SUBJECT:

Tess ndpst mo na? Kakausapin ko kasi na qc na lang kami kita at malapit ako dun
maya at hindi na sa crsng. Tnx

DATE: 14-04-2010

TIME: 1:29 pm

TYPE: Text Message

....

FROM: Atty. Alvarez <+639063630224>

SUBJECT:

Gud pm pnro. Ok ba ang 15k rep maya 6pm? Thnx (txt ng kontak tess kausapin ko
mbuti sa letter)

DATE: 14-04-2010

TIME: 10:25 am

TYPE: Text Message

....

FROM: Atty. Alvarez <+639063630224>

SUBJECT:

Pnro ung rep alo n bngay mo 1st Mar 24 ay ok Ing pra s 2 falo-ups q Mar 25 @ Mar 30.
As usual, magkita tau Apr 14 @ kunin q 20th para sa falo-up Apr 15 thnx

DATE: 08-04-2010

TIME: 10:58 am

TYPE: Text Message

....

FROM: Atty. Alvarez <+639063630224>

SUBJECT:

Scroll No. 577 59|PALE Cases Set 1


Ok panero kailangan malinaw din ang presentation lp sa client panero at ang
impression nya yun na ang hningi natin... so april 15 panero an balik mo sa MR at yung
letter form omb to dof bhala ka na sa diskarte panero pag nakakuha tayo nakahanda
na 150k dun

DATE: 08-04-2010

TIME: 10:56 am

TYPE: Text Message

....

FROM: Atty. Alvarez <+639063630224>

SUBJECT:

Pnero dapat maalala mo n ung purpose ng 400th hindi directly delivery ng Reso
granting d MR pro ung delivery by the Dep Omb ng letr of appeal 2 d Omb at
pgpaliwang nya sa Omb. Re sa hnhngi ng rspondnt n modfcation ng Dcsion. Nung 1st
mtng ntn Mar 24, ngin4m q sau n ngawa n i2 ng Dep Omb pro kausapn p ng Omb c
Orly. Itong huli ang nabtn p, pro yon ay dscrtion n ng Omb@ wing control d2 and Dep.
Omb.

DATE: 08-04-2010

TIME: 10:55 am

TYPE: Text Message

....

FROM: Atty. Alvarez <+639063630224>

SUBJECT:

Tess gud mrng, wag mo kalimutan mgdpst 25k today 6pm mtng naming omb tnx.

DATE: 24-03-2010

TIME: 10:23 am

TYPE: Text Message

....

FROM: Atty. Alvarez <+639063630224>

Scroll No. 577 60|PALE Cases Set 1


SUBJECT:

Gud pm uli pnro. Kung subukan q n lkrn ky Orly ung cnabi mong letr adrsd 2 DOF Sec @
synd n Orly ang letr, pktanong s rspndnt kung ok b s knya nab yarn nya aq ng Atty's fee
n 75thou upfront @ another 75thou upon receipt of a DOF ordr holdng n abyans
implmntation of hr dsmsal due 2 Orly's letr? thnx

DATE: 11-03-2010

TIME: 7:03 pm

TYPE: Text Message92cralawred


In response to his alleged text messages, respondent claims that complainant must
have confused him with her other contacts.93 Respondent found it "mesmerizing" that
complainant was able to save all those alleged text messages from two (2) years
ago.94 Moreover, assuming these messages were "true, still they [were] not legally
admissible as they [were] covered by the lawyer-client privileged communication as
those supposed texts '[had been] made for the purpose and in the course of
employment, [were] regarded as privileged and the rule of exclusion [was] strictly
enforced.'"95ChanRoblesVirtualawlibrary

In cases involving influence peddling or bribery, "[t]he transaction is always done in


secret and often only between the two parties concerned."96 Nevertheless, as found
by the Investigating Commissioner and as shown by the records, we rule that there is
enough proof to hold respondent guilty of influence peddling.

We agree with the penalty recommended by the Integrated Bar of the Philippines
Board of Governors. We find respondent's acts of influence peddling, coupled with
unauthorized practice of law, merit the penalty of suspension of one (1) year from the
practice of law. To be so bold as to peddle influence before the very institution that is
tasked to prosecute corruption speaks much about respondent's character and his
attitude towards the courts and the bar.

Lawyers who offer no skill other than their acquaintances or relationships with regulators,
investigators, judges, or Justices pervert the system, weaken the rule of law, and
debase themselves even as they claim to be members of a noble profession. Practicing
law should not degenerate to one's ability to have illicit access. Rather, it should be
about making an honest appraisal of the client's situation as seen through the evidence
fairly and fully gathered. It should be about making a discerning and diligent reading of
the applicable law. It is foremost about attaining justice in a fair manner. Law exists to
temper, with its own power, illicit power and unfair advantage. It should not be
conceded as a tool only for those who cheat by unduly influencing people or public
officials.

It is time that we unequivocally underscore that to even imply to a client that a lawyer
knows who will make a decision is an act worthy of the utmost condemnation. If we are
to preserve the nobility of this profession, its members must live within its ethical
parameters. There is never an excuse for influence peddling.

Scroll No. 577 61|PALE Cases Set 1


While this Court is not a collection agency for faltering debtors,97 this Court has ordered
restitution of amounts to complainants due to the erroneous actions of lawyers.98
Respondent is, therefore, required to return to complainant the amount of
P500,000.00—the amount that respondent allegedly gave his friends connected with
the Office of the Ombudsman.

WHEREFORE, Respondent Arty. Nicanor C. Alvarez is guilty of violating the Code of


Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees, the Lawyer's Oath,
and the Code of Professional Responsibility. He is SUSPENDED from the practice of law
for one (1) year with a WARNING that a repetition of the same or similar acts shall be
dealt with more severely. Respondent is ORDERED to return the amount of P500,000.00
with legal interest to complainant Teresita P. Fajardo.

Let copies of this Decision be furnished to the Office of the Bar Confidant, to be
appended to respondent's personal record as attorney. 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.

B.M. No. 2540 September 24, 2013

IN RE: PETITION TO SIGN IN THE ROLL OF ATTORNEYS


MICHAEL A. MEDADO, Petitioner.

RESOLUTION

SERENO, CJ.:

We resolve the instant Petition to Sign in the Roll of Attorneys filed by petitioner Michael
A. Medado (Medado).

Medado graduated from the University of the Philippines with the degree of Bachelor of
Laws in 19791 and passed the same year's bar examinations with a general weighted
average of 82.7.2

On 7 May 1980, he took the Attorney’s Oath at the Philippine International Convention
Center (PICC) together with the successful bar examinees.3 He was scheduled to sign
in the Roll of Attorneys on 13 May 1980,4 but he failed to do so on his scheduled date,
allegedly because he had misplaced the Notice to Sign the Roll of Attorneys5 given by
the Bar Office when he went home to his province for a vacation.6

Several years later, while rummaging through his old college files, Medado found the
Notice to Sign the Roll of Attorneys. It was then that he realized that he had not signed
in the roll, and that what he had signed at the entrance of the PICC was probably just
an attendance record.7

Scroll No. 577 62|PALE Cases Set 1


By the time Medado found the notice, he was already working. He stated that he was
mainly doing corporate and taxation work, and that he was not actively involved in
litigation practice. Thus, he operated "under the mistaken belief that since he had
already taken the oath, the signing of the Roll of Attorneys was not as urgent, nor as
crucial to his status as a lawyer";8 and "the matter of signing in the Roll of Attorneys lost
its urgency and compulsion, and was subsequently forgotten."9

In 2005, when Medado attended Mandatory Continuing Legal Education (MCLE)


seminars, he was required to provide his roll number in order for his MCLE compliances
to be credited.10

Not having signed in the Roll of Attorneys, he was unable to provide his roll number.

About seven years later, or on 6 February 2012, Medado filed the instant Petition,
praying that he be allowed to sign in the Roll of Attorneys.11

The Office of the Bar Confidant (OBC) conducted a clarificatory conference on the
matter on 21 September 201212 and submitted a Report and Recommendation to this
Court on 4 February 2013.13 The OBC recommended that the instant petition be
denied for petitioner’s gross negligence, gross misconduct and utter lack of merit.14 It
explained that, based on his answers during the clarificatory conference, petitioner
could offer no valid justification for his negligence in signing in the Roll of Attorneys.15

After a judicious review of the records, we grant Medado’s prayer in the instant petition,
subject to the payment of a fine and the imposition of a penalty equivalent to
suspension from the practice of law.

At the outset, we note that not allowing Medado to sign in the Roll of Attorneys would
be akin to imposing upon him the ultimate penalty of disbarment, a penalty that we
have reserved for the most serious ethical transgressions of members of the Bar.

In this case, the records do not show that this action is warranted.

For one, petitioner demonstrated good faith and good moral character when he finally
filed the instant Petition to Sign in the Roll of Attorneys. We note that it was not a third
party who called this Court’s attention to petitioner’s omission; rather, it was Medado
himself who acknowledged his own lapse, albeit after the passage of more than 30
years. When asked by the Bar Confidant why it took him this long to file the instant
petition, Medado very candidly replied:

Mahirap hong i-explain yan pero, yun bang at the time, what can you say? Takot ka
kung anong mangyayari sa ‘yo, you don’t know what’s gonna happen. At the same
time, it’s a combination of apprehension and anxiety of what’s gonna happen. And,
finally it’s the right thing to do. I have to come here … sign the roll and take the oath as
necessary.16

Scroll No. 577 63|PALE Cases Set 1


For another, petitioner has not been subject to any action for disqualification from the
practice of law,17 which is more than what we can say of other individuals who were
successfully admitted as members of the Philippine Bar. For this Court, this fact
demonstrates that petitioner strove to adhere to the strict requirements of the ethics of
the profession, and that he has prima facie shown that he possesses the character
required to be a member of the Philippine Bar.

Finally, Medado appears to have been a competent and able legal practitioner,
having held various positions at the Laurel Law Office,18 Petron, Petrophil Corporation,
the Philippine National Oil Company, and the Energy Development Corporation.19

All these demonstrate Medado’s worth to become a full-fledged member of the


Philippine Bar.1âwphi1 While the practice of law is not a right but a privilege,20 this
Court will not unwarrantedly withhold this privilege from individuals who have shown
mental fitness and moral fiber to withstand the rigors of the profession.

That said, however, we cannot fully exculpate petitioner Medado from all liability for his
years of inaction.

Petitioner has been engaged in the practice of law since 1980, a period spanning more
than 30 years, without having signed in the Roll of Attorneys.21 He justifies this behavior
by characterizing his acts as "neither willful nor intentional but based on a mistaken
belief and an honest error of judgment."22

We disagree.

While an honest mistake of fact could be used to excuse a person from the legal
consequences of his acts23 as it negates malice or evil motive,24 a mistake of law
cannot be utilized as a lawful justification, because everyone is presumed to know the
law and its consequences.25 Ignorantia factiexcusat; ignorantia legis neminem
excusat.

Applying these principles to the case at bar, Medado may have at first operated under
an honest mistake of fact when he thought that what he had signed at the PICC
entrance before the oath-taking was already the Roll of Attorneys. However, the
moment he realized that what he had signed was merely an attendance record, he
could no longer claim an honest mistake of fact as a valid justification. At that point,
Medado should have known that he was not a full-fledged member of the Philippine
Bar because of his failure to sign in the Roll of Attorneys, as it was the act of signing
therein that would have made him so.26 When, in spite of this knowledge, he chose to
continue practicing law without taking the necessary steps to complete all the
requirements for admission to the Bar, he willfully engaged in the unauthorized practice
of law.

Under the Rules of Court, the unauthorized practice of law by one’s assuming to be an
attorney or officer of the court, and acting as such without authority, may constitute
indirect contempt of court,27 which is punishable by fine or imprisonment or both.28
Such a finding, however, is in the nature of criminal contempt29 and must be reached

Scroll No. 577 64|PALE Cases Set 1


after the filing of charges and the conduct of hearings.30 In this case, while it appears
quite clearly that petitioner committed indirect contempt of court by knowingly
engaging in unauthorized practice of law, we refrain from making any finding of liability
for indirect contempt, as no formal charge pertaining thereto has been filed against
him.

Knowingly engaging in unauthorized practice of law likewise transgresses Canon 9 of


'the Code of Professional Responsibility, which provides:

CANON 9 -A lawyer shall not, directly or indirectly, assist in the unauthorized practice of
law.

While a reading of Canon 9 appears to merely prohibit lawyers from assisting in the
unauthorized practice of law, the unauthorized practice of law by the lawyer himself is
subsumed under this provision, because at the heart of Canon 9 is the lawyer's duty to
prevent the unauthorized practice of law. This duty likewise applies to law students and
Bar candidates. As aspiring members of the Bar, they are bound to comport themselves
in accordance with the ethical standards of the legal profession.

Turning now to the applicable penalty, previous violations of Canon 9have warranted
the penalty of suspension from the practice of law.31 As Medado is not yet a full-
fledged lawyer, we cannot suspend him from the practice of law. However, we see it fit
to impose upon him a penalty akin to suspension by allowing him to sign in the Roll of
Attorneys one (1) year after receipt of this Resolution. For his transgression of the
prohibition against the unauthorized practice of law, we likewise see it fit to fine him in
the amount of ₱32,000. During the one year period, petitioner is warned that he is not
allowed to engage in the practice of law, and is sternly warned that doing any act that
constitutes practice of law before he has signed in the Roll of Attorneys will be dealt
with severely by this Court.

WHEREFORE, the instant Petition to Sign in the Roll of Attorneys is hereby GRANTED.
Petitioner Michael A. Medado is ALLOWED to sign in the Roll of Attorneys ONE (1) YEAR
after receipt of this Resolution. Petitioner is likewise ORDERED to pay a FINE of ₱32,000 for
his unauthorized practice of law. During the one year period, petitioner is NOT
ALLOWED to practice law, and is STERNLY WARNED that doing any act that constitutes
practice of law before he has signed in the Roll of Attorneys will be dealt will be
severely by this Court.

Let a copy of this Resolution be furnished the Office of the Bar Confidant, the
Integrated Bar

of the Philippines, and the Office of the Court Administrator for circulation to all courts in
the country.

SO ORDERED.

Scroll No. 577 65|PALE Cases Set 1


A.M. No. P-11-2980 June 10, 2013
(Formerly OCA I.P.I. No. 08-3016-P)

LETICIA A. ARIENDA, Complainant,


vs.
EVELYN A. MONILLA, COURT STENOGRAPHER III, REGIONAL TRIAL COURT, BRANCH 4,
LEGAZPI CITY, Respondent.

DECISION

LEONARDO-DE CASTRO, J.:

This is an administrative complaint for conduct unbecoming a court employee and


abuse of authority filed by complainant Leticia A. Arienda against respondent Evelyn A.
Monilla, Court Stenographer Ill of the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 4 of Legazpi
City.

In her letter-complaint1 dated October 8, 2008, complainant alleged that respondent


and Atty. Zaldy Monilla (Atty. Monilla), respondent's husband (together referred to as
the spouses Monilla), went to complainant’s house on January 13, 2002 and offered
their services in settling the estate of complainant’s deceased mother. According to
the spouses Monilla, they would prepare an extrajudicial settlement for complainant
and the latter’s siblings, while respondent’s brother, Engineer Matias A. Arquero (Engr.
Arquero), would conduct the survey of the estate. Everytime the spouses Monilla went
to complainant’s house, they would ask for partial payment. Six Temporary Receipts
show that complainant had paid the spouses Monilla a total of ₱49,800.00.
Complainant repeatedly requested from the spouses Monilla the approved survey plan
prepared by Engr. Arquero, but the spouses Monilla demanded that complainant first
pay the ₱20,000.00 she still owed them before they give her the approved survey plan
and extrajudicial settlement of estate. Complainant subsequently learned that the
spouses Monilla had no authority to settle her deceased mother’s estate as Atty.
Monilla was currently employed at the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) and
respondent was not even a lawyer but an ordinary court employee.

In her comment2 dated May 23, 2009, respondent denied that it was she and her
husband who offered complainant their services in settling the estate of complainant’s
deceased mother. Respondent averred that it was complainant and her sister, Ester,
who came to respondent’s house sometime in December 2000 and requested
respondent to convince her brother Engr. Arquero, a geodetic engineer, to partition
the four lots left by complainant’s parents situated in Bigaa, Legazpi City. Respondent
was initially hesitant to accede to complainant’s request because of complainant’s
reputation in their locality as a troublemaker. However, respondent’s husband, upon
learning that complainant was a relative, urged respondent to assist the complainant.

Respondent alleged that she was not privy to the agreement between Engr. Arquero
and complainant. Complainant scheduled the survey of one of the lots, Lot No. 5489,
on January 13, 2001. After Engr. Arquero conducted the survey, complainant was
nowhere to be found and respondent had to shoulder the expenses for the same.

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Respondent further narrated that without her knowledge, complainant and her siblings
filed a case for partition of estate before the RTC, Branch 7 of Legazpi City, on May 24,
2001. When their case was dismissed by the RTC, complainant and her siblings argued
at the Hall of Justice, thus, disrupting court proceedings. Knowing that respondent was
a court employee, complainant approached and asked respondent to intervene.
Respondent, during her lunch break, met with complainant and the latter’s siblings at
respondent’s residence located near the Hall of Justice. Complainant and her siblings,
already wishing to partition their deceased parents’ estate out of court, pleaded that
respondent prepare an extrajudicial settlement. Respondent declined to get involved
at first because complainant and her siblings were represented by a lawyer in the
partition case before the RTC, but complainant and her siblings said that they had no
more money to pay for the continued services of their lawyer. Respondent understood
the predicament of complainant and her siblings, so respondent agreed to help them.
Respondent called her brother, Engr. Arquero, and requested him to bring the sketch
plan of Lot No. 5489 he had previously prepared. In the presence of Engr. Arquero,
complainant and her siblings chose their respective shares in the property. Respondent
prepared and finalized the extrajudicial settlement and handed the said document to
complainant and her siblings. After a year, complainant, her sister Ester, and a buyer of
their shares in Lot No. 5489, Marlyn Dominguez (Dominguez), again approached
respondent. Complainant asked that Engr. Arquero continue with the partition of Lot
No. 5489 as Dominguez advanced the money to pay for the expenses, including the
preparation of the lot plan. Engr. Arquero, despite his misgivings and persuaded by
respondent, conducted the survey, but complainant did not show up and respondent
had to shoulder the expenses once more.

Respondent went on to recount that on January 20, 2003, complainant, Ester, and a
sales agent came to respondent’s house, asking respondent to again convince her
brother Engr. Arquero to re-survey Lot No. 5489 because the boundaries were no longer
visible. According to complainant, the new buyer, Galahad O. Rubio (Rubio), wanted
to see the exact location and the boundaries of the lot. Respondent refused and told
complainant to directly negotiate with Engr. Arquero. When complainant and her
companions returned in the afternoon, complainant tendered ₱9,000.00 to
respondent’s husband, Atty. Monilla, as partial payment for the latter’s services. The
following day, complainant and her companions came back and complainant
handed over another ₱9,000.00 as partial payment for the services of respondent’s
brother, Engr. Arquero.

Respondent admitted receiving from complainant payments amounting to ₱49,800.00,


all made at respondent’s residence in Rawis, not at complainant’s house in Bigaa. The
₱25,000.00 was for the preparation by Atty. Monilla of the following documents: (a) four
deeds of sale to different buyers; (b) two copies of extrajudicial settlement; (c) two
contracts to sell; (d) two authorities to sell; and (e) one demand letter. The remaining
₱24,800.00 was for Engr. Arquero’s services in subdividing Lot No. 5489 into 13 lots.

Respondent asserted that she had already turned over to complainant on March 30,
2003 the notarized extrajudicial settlement for Lot No. 5489, the blueprint of the
subdivision plan for the said lot, and the deed of sale between complainant and Rubio.

Scroll No. 577 67|PALE Cases Set 1


The subdivision plan was not approved by the Bureau of Lands because of
complainant’s failure to submit other requirements. Because of complainant’s broken
promises, respondent and her husband, Atty. Monilla, no longer prepared the other
documents complainant was requesting for, and respondent’s brother, Engr. Arquero,
discontinued his services as a surveyor.

Lastly, respondent maintained that complainant knew that Atty. Monilla was a DAR
employee. Complainant and her siblings had often consulted Atty. Monilla regarding
the properties left by their parents, as well as their ongoing family feud. Complainant
was likewise aware that respondent was not a lawyer and was a mere court
stenographer since complainant and respondent are neighbors and they are related to
one another. Respondent had already filed for early retirement effective April 23, 2007,
and she claimed that her former co-employees at the RTC, Branch 4 of Legazpi City
conspired and confederated with one another to induce complainant to file the instant
complaint against her.

In a Resolution3 dated June 23, 2010, the Court referred the instant administrative
matter to Vice Executive Judge Pedro R. Soriao (Investigating Judge Soriao) of RTC,
Branch 5 of Legazpi City, for investigation, report, and recommendation.

In his report4 dated September 22, 2010, Investigating Judge Soriao made the following
findings and recommendations:

Substantial evidence appearing of record demonstrates that Evelyn A. Monilla


committed a simple misconduct unbecoming of court personnel while she was a court
stenographer. The imposition upon her of an administrative penalty of fine equivalent to
two months of the salary that she was receiving when she resigned to be deducted
from her retirement benefits is hereby recommended.

Finally, it is submitted that Evelyn A. Monilla’s liability over the amount of 49,800 pesos
that she received from Leticia Arienda is a legal matter that can be properly ventilated
in a separate appropriate judicial proceeding.5

After evaluation of Investigating Judge Sariao’s report, the Office of the Court
Administrator (OCA) submitted to the Court its Memorandum6 dated July 14, 2011,
likewise recommending that respondent be found guilty of simple misconduct but that
the amount of fine imposed against her be increased to four months salary, to be
deducted from her retirement benefits.

In her Manifestation7 dated May 2, 2012, respondent informed the Court that
Dominguez filed a case against complainant for a sum of money and damages,
docketed as Civil Case No. 5287, before the Municipal Trial Court in Cities (MTCC),
Branch 2 of Legazpi City. Dominguez wanted to recover the partial payments she had
made on Lot No. 5489, plus other damages, after complainant sold the very same
property to someone else. In a Decision dated July 7, 2006, the MTCC ruled in
Dominguez’s favor. Respondent wanted this Court to note that neither complainant nor
Dominguez mentioned in Civil Case No. 5287 the participation of respondent or her
brother in the transaction involving Lot No. 5489.

Scroll No. 577 68|PALE Cases Set 1


It bears to note that respondent admitted in her comment that she prepared and
finalized the extrajudicial settlement of the estate of complainant’s deceased mother.
The preparation of an extrajudicial settlement of estate constitutes practice of law as
defined in Cayetano v. Monsod,8 to wit:

Practice of law means any activity, in or out of court, which requires the application of
law, legal procedure, knowledge, training and experience. "To engage in the practice
of law is to perform those acts which are characteristics of the profession. Generally, to
practice law is to give notice or render any kind of service, which device or service
requires the use in any degree of legal knowledge or skill." x x x.

Not being a lawyer, respondent had no authority to prepare and finalize an


extrajudicial settlement of estate. Worse, respondent also admitted receiving money
from complainant for her services. Being a court employee, respondent ought to have
known that it was improper for her to prepare and finalize the extrajudicial settlement of
estate, a service only a lawyer is authorized to perform, and to receive money therefor.

It is true that respondent prepared and finalized the extrajudicial settlement of estate
pursuant to a private agreement between her and complainant. However, respondent
is an employee of the court whose conduct must always be beyond reproach and
circumscribed with the heavy burden of responsibility as to let her be free from any
suspicion that may taint the judiciary. She is expected to exhibit the highest sense of
honesty and integrity not only in the performance of her official duties but also in her
personal and private dealings with other people to preserve the court’s good name
and standing.9

Respondent’s behavior and conduct, which led other people to believe that she had
the authority and capability to prepare and finalize an extrajudicial settlement of estate
even when she is not a lawyer, clearly fall short of the exacting standards of ethics and
morality imposed upon court employees.

Respondent’s mention of Civil Case No. 5287 before the MTCC does not help her
defense.1âwphi1 That case is irrelevant herein for it is between complainant and
Dominguez.

Misconduct generally means wrongful, unlawful conduct, motivated by a


premeditated, obstinate or intentional purpose. Thus, any transgression or deviation
from the established norm, whether it be work-related or not, amounts to misconduct.10
In preparing and finalizing the extrajudicial settlement of estate and receiving
compensation for the same even when she is not a lawyer, respondent is guilty of
simple misconduct, punishable under Section 52(B)(2) of the Revised Uniform Rules on
Administrative Cases in the Civil Service with suspension for one month and one day to
six months. Considering that this is respondent's first offense and that she had served the
judiciary for almost 16 years, a suspension of four months would have been proper.
Since respondent had already retired, the Court instead imposes the penalty of a fine
equivalent to her salary for four months, to be deducted from her retirement benefits.

Scroll No. 577 69|PALE Cases Set 1


WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the Court finds respondent Evelyn Monilia, retired
Stenographer III of RTC, Branch 4 of Legazpi City, GUILTY of simple misconduct and
imposes upon said respondent a FINE equivalent to four months salary to be deducted
from her retirement benefits.

SO ORDERED.

BAR MATTER No. 914 October 1, 1999

RE: APPLICATION FOR ADMISSION TO THE PHILIPPINE BAR,

vs.

VICENTE D. CHING, applicant.

RESOLUTION

KAPUNAN, J.:

Can a legitimate child born under the 1935 Constitution of a Filipino mother and an
alien father validly elect Philippine citizenship fourteen (14) years after he has reached
the age of majority? This is the question sought to be resolved in the present case
involving the application for admission to the Philippine Bar of Vicente D. Ching.

The facts of this case are as follows:

Vicente D. Ching, the legitimate son of the spouses Tat Ching, a Chinese citizen, and
Prescila A. Dulay, a Filipino, was born in Francia West, Tubao, La Union on 11 April 1964.
Since his birth, Ching has resided in the Philippines.

On 17 July 1998, Ching, after having completed a Bachelor of Laws course at the St.
Louis University in Baguio City, filed an application to take the 1998 Bar Examinations. In
a Resolution of this Court, dated 1 September 1998, he was allowed to take the Bar
Examinations, subject to the condition that he must submit to the Court proof of his
Philippine citizenship.

In compliance with the above resolution, Ching submitted on 18 November 1998, the
following documents:

1. Certification, dated 9 June 1986, issued by the Board of Accountancy


of the Professional Regulations Commission showing that Ching is a
certified public accountant;

Scroll No. 577 70|PALE Cases Set 1


2. Voter Certification, dated 14 June 1997, issued by Elizabeth B. Cerezo,
Election Officer of the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) in Tubao La
Union showing that Ching is a registered voter of the said place; and

3. Certification, dated 12 October 1998, also issued by Elizabeth B. Cerezo,


showing that Ching was elected as a member of the Sangguniang Bayan
of Tubao, La Union during the 12 May 1992 synchronized elections.

On 5 April 1999, the results of the 1998 Bar Examinations were released and Ching was
one of the successful Bar examinees. The oath-taking of the successful Bar examinees
was scheduled on 5 May 1999. However, because of the questionable status of Ching's
citizenship, he was not allowed to take his oath. Pursuant to the resolution of this Court,
dated 20 April 1999, he was required to submit further proof of his citizenship. In the
same resolution, the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) was required to file a
comment on Ching's petition for admission to the bar and on the documents
evidencing his Philippine citizenship.

The OSG filed its comment on 8 July 1999, stating that Ching, being the "legitimate child
of a Chinese father and a Filipino mother born under the 1935 Constitution was a
Chinese citizen and continued to be so, unless upon reaching the age of majority he
elected Philippine citizenship" 1 in strict compliance with the provisions of
Commonwealth Act No. 625 entitled "An Act Providing for the Manner in which the
Option to Elect Philippine Citizenship shall be Declared by a Person Whose Mother is a
Filipino Citizen." The OSG adds that "(w)hat he acquired at best was only an inchoate
Philippine citizenship which he could perfect by election upon reaching the age of
majority." 2 In this regard, the OSG clarifies that "two (2) conditions must concur in order
that the election of Philippine citizenship may be effective, namely: (a) the mother of
the person making the election must be a citizen of the Philippines; and (b) said
election must be made upon reaching the age of majority." 3 The OSG then explains
the meaning of the phrase "upon reaching the age of majority:"

The clause "upon reaching the age of majority" has been construed to
mean a reasonable time after reaching the age of majority which had
been interpreted by the Secretary of Justice to be three (3) years
(VELAYO, supra at p. 51 citing Op., Sec. of Justice No. 70, s. 1940, Feb. 27,
1940). Said period may be extended under certain circumstances, as
when a (sic) person concerned has always considered himself a Filipino
(ibid., citing Op. Nos. 355 and 422, s. 1955; 3, 12, 46, 86 and 97, s. 1953). But
in Cuenco, it was held that an election done after over seven (7) years
was not made within a reasonable time.

In conclusion, the OSG points out that Ching has not formally elected Philippine
citizenship and, if ever he does, it would already be beyond the "reasonable time"
allowed by present jurisprudence. However, due to the peculiar circumstances
surrounding Ching's case, the OSG recommends the relaxation of the standing rule on
the construction of the phrase "reasonable period" and the allowance of Ching to elect

Scroll No. 577 71|PALE Cases Set 1


Philippine citizenship in accordance with C.A. No. 625 prior to taking his oath as a
member of the Philippine Bar.

On 27 July 1999, Ching filed a Manifestation, attaching therewith his Affidavit of Election
of Philippine Citizenship and his Oath of Allegiance, both dated 15 July 1999. In his
Manifestation, Ching states:

1. I have always considered myself as a Filipino;

2. I was registered as a Filipino and consistently declared myself as one in


my school records and other official documents;

3. I am practicing a profession (Certified Public Accountant) reserved for


Filipino citizens;

4. I participated in electoral process[es] since the time I was eligible to


vote;

5. I had served the people of Tubao, La Union as a member of the


Sangguniang Bayan from 1992 to 1995;

6. I elected Philippine citizenship on July 15, 1999 in accordance with


Commonwealth Act No. 625;

7. My election was expressed in a statement signed and sworn to by me


before a notary public;

8. I accompanied my election of Philippine citizenship with the oath of


allegiance to the Constitution and the Government of the Philippines;

9. I filed my election of Philippine citizenship and my oath of allegiance to


(sic) the Civil Registrar of Tubao La Union, and

10. I paid the amount of TEN PESOS (Ps. 10.00) as filing fees.

Since Ching has already elected Philippine citizenship on 15 July 1999, the question
raised is whether he has elected Philippine citizenship within a "reasonable time." In the
affirmative, whether his citizenship by election retroacted to the time he took the bar
examination.

When Ching was born in 1964, the governing charter was the 1935 Constitution. Under
Article IV, Section 1(3) of the 1935 Constitution, the citizenship of a legitimate child born
of a Filipino mother and an alien father followed the citizenship of the father, unless,
upon reaching the age of majority, the child elected Philippine citizenship. 4 This right to
elect Philippine citizenship was recognized in the 1973 Constitution when it provided
that "(t)hose who elect Philippine citizenship pursuant to the provisions of the
Constitution of nineteen hundred and thirty-five" are citizens of the

Scroll No. 577 72|PALE Cases Set 1


Philippines. 5 Likewise, this recognition by the 1973 Constitution was carried over to the
1987 Constitution which states that "(t)hose born before January 17, 1973 of Filipino
mothers, who elect Philippine citizenship upon reaching the age of majority" are
Philippine citizens. 6 It should be noted, however, that the 1973 and 1987 Constitutional
provisions on the election of Philippine citizenship should not be understood as having a
curative effect on any irregularity in the acquisition of citizenship for those covered by
the 1935 Constitution. 7 If the citizenship of a person was subject to challenge under the
old charter, it remains subject to challenge under the new charter even if the judicial
challenge had not been commenced before the effectivity of the new Constitution. 8

C.A. No. 625 which was enacted pursuant to Section 1(3), Article IV of the 1935
Constitution, prescribes the procedure that should be followed in order to make a valid
election of Philippine citizenship. Under Section 1 thereof, legitimate children born of
Filipino mothers may elect Philippine citizenship by expressing such intention "in a
statement to be signed and sworn to by the party concerned before any officer
authorized to administer oaths, and shall be filed with the nearest civil registry. The said
party shall accompany the aforesaid statement with the oath of allegiance to the
Constitution and the Government of the Philippines."

However, the 1935 Constitution and C.A. No. 625 did not prescribe a time period within
which the election of Philippine citizenship should be made. The 1935 Charter only
provides that the election should be made "upon reaching the age of majority." The
age of majority then commenced upon reaching twenty-one (21) years. 9 In the
opinions of the Secretary of Justice on cases involving the validity of election of
Philippine citizenship, this dilemma was resolved by basing the time period on the
decisions of this Court prior to the effectivity of the 1935 Constitution. In these decisions,
the proper period for electing Philippine citizenship was, in turn, based on the
pronouncements of the Department of State of the United States Government to the
effect that the election should be made within a "reasonable time" after attaining the
age of majority. 10 The phrase "reasonable time" has been interpreted to mean that the
election should be made within three (3) years from reaching the age of
majority. 11 However, we held in Cuenco vs. Secretary of Justice, 12 that the three (3)
year period is not an inflexible rule. We said:

It is true that this clause has been construed to mean a reasonable period
after reaching the age of majority, and that the Secretary of Justice has
ruled that three (3) years is the reasonable time to elect Philippine
citizenship under the constitutional provision adverted to above, which
period may be extended under certain circumstances, as when the
person concerned has always considered himself a Filipino. 13

However, we cautioned in Cuenco that the extension of the option to elect Philippine
citizenship is not indefinite:

Regardless of the foregoing, petitioner was born on February 16, 1923. He


became of age on February 16, 1944. His election of citizenship was made
on May 15, 1951, when he was over twenty-eight (28) years of age, or

Scroll No. 577 73|PALE Cases Set 1


over seven (7) years after he had reached the age of majority. It is clear
that said election has not been made "upon reaching the age of
majority." 14

In the present case, Ching, having been born on 11 April 1964, was already thirty-five
(35) years old when he complied with the requirements of C.A. No. 625 on 15 June 1999,
or over fourteen (14) years after he had reached the age of majority. Based on the
interpretation of the phrase "upon reaching the age of majority," Ching's election was
clearly beyond, by any reasonable yardstick, the allowable period within which to
exercise the privilege. It should be stated, in this connection, that the special
circumstances invoked by Ching, i.e., his continuous and uninterrupted stay in the
Philippines and his being a certified public accountant, a registered voter and a former
elected public official, cannot vest in him Philippine citizenship as the law specifically
lays down the requirements for acquisition of Philippine citizenship by election.

Definitely, the so-called special circumstances cannot constitute what Ching


erroneously labels as informal election of citizenship. Ching cannot find a refuge in the
case of In re: Florencio Mallare, 15 the pertinent portion of which reads:

And even assuming arguendo that Ana Mallare were (sic) legally married
to an alien, Esteban's exercise of the right of suffrage when he came of
age, constitutes a positive act of election of Philippine citizenship. It has
been established that Esteban Mallare was a registered voter as of April
14, 1928, and that as early as 1925 (when he was about 22 years old),
Esteban was already participating in the elections and campaigning for
certain candidate[s]. These acts are sufficient to show his preference for
Philippine citizenship. 16

Ching's reliance on Mallare is misplaced. The facts and circumstances obtaining therein
are very different from those in the present case, thus, negating its applicability. First,
Esteban Mallare was born before the effectivity of the 1935 Constitution and the
enactment of C.A. No. 625. Hence, the requirements and procedures prescribed under
the 1935 Constitution and C.A. No. 625 for electing Philippine citizenship would not be
applicable to him. Second, the ruling in Mallare was an obiter since, as correctly
pointed out by the OSG, it was not necessary for Esteban Mallare to elect Philippine
citizenship because he was already a Filipino, he being a natural child of a Filipino
mother. In this regard, the Court stated:

Esteban Mallare, natural child of Ana Mallare, a Filipina, is therefore


himself a Filipino, and no other act would be necessary to confer on him
all the rights and privileges attached to Philippine citizenship (U.S. vs. Ong
Tianse, 29 Phil. 332; Santos Co vs. Government of the Philippine Islands, 42
Phil. 543, Serra vs. Republic, L-4223, May 12, 1952, Sy Quimsuan vs.
Republic, L-4693, Feb. 16, 1953; Pitallano vs. Republic, L-5111, June 28,
1954). Neither could any act be taken on the erroneous belief that he is a
non-filipino divest him of the citizenship privileges to which he is rightfully
entitled. 17

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The ruling in Mallare was reiterated and further elaborated in Co vs. Electoral Tribunal of
the House of Representatives, 18 where we held:

We have jurisprudence that defines "election" as both a formal and an


informal process.

In the case of In re: Florencio Mallare (59 SCRA 45 [1974]), the Court held
that the exercise of the right of suffrage and the participation in election
exercises constitute a positive act of election of Philippine citizenship. In
the exact pronouncement of the Court, we held:

Esteban's exercise of the right of suffrage when he came of


age constitutes a positive act of Philippine citizenship. (p. 52:
emphasis supplied)

The private respondent did more than merely exercise his right of suffrage. He has
established his life here in the Philippines.

For those in the peculiar situation of the respondent who cannot be


excepted to have elected Philippine citizenship as they were already
citizens, we apply the In Re Mallare rule.

xxx xxx xxx

The filing of sworn statement or formal declaration is a requirement for


those who still have to elect citizenship. For those already Filipinos when
the time to elect came up, there are acts of deliberate choice which
cannot be less binding. Entering a profession open only to Filipinos, serving
in public office where citizenship is a qualification, voting during election
time, running for public office, and other categorical acts of similar nature
are themselves formal manifestations for these persons.

An election of Philippine citizenship presupposes that the person electing


is an alien. Or his status is doubtful because he is a national of two
countries. There is no doubt in this case about Mr. Ong's being a Filipino
when he turned twenty-one (21).

We repeat that any election of Philippine citizenship on the part of the


private respondent would not only have been superfluous but it would
also have resulted in an absurdity. How can a Filipino citizen elect
Philippine citizenship? 19

The Court, like the OSG, is sympathetic with the plight of Ching. However, even if we
consider the special circumstances in the life of Ching like his having lived in the
Philippines all his life and his consistent belief that he is a Filipino, controlling statutes and
jurisprudence constrain us to disagree with the recommendation of the OSG.
Consequently, we hold that Ching failed to validly elect Philippine citizenship. The span

Scroll No. 577 75|PALE Cases Set 1


of fourteen (14) years that lapsed from the time he reached the age of majority until he
finally expressed his intention to elect Philippine citizenship is clearly way beyond the
contemplation of the requirement of electing "upon reaching the age of majority."
Moreover, Ching has offered no reason why he delayed his election of Philippine
citizenship. The prescribed procedure in electing Philippine citizenship is certainly not a
tedious and painstaking process. All that is required of the elector is to execute an
affidavit of election of Philippine citizenship and, thereafter, file the same with the
nearest civil registry. Ching's unreasonable and unexplained delay in making his
election cannot be simply glossed over.

Philippine citizenship can never be treated like a commodity that can be claimed
when needed and suppressed when convenient. 20 One who is privileged to elect
Philippine citizenship has only an inchoate right to such citizenship. As such, he should
avail of the right with fervor, enthusiasm and promptitude. Sadly, in this case, Ching
slept on his opportunity to elect Philippine citizenship and, as a result. this golden
privilege slipped away from his grasp.

IN VIEW OF THE FOREGOING, the Court Resolves to DENY Vicente D. Ching's application
for admission to the Philippine Bar.

SO ORDERED.

B. M. No. 1154 June 8, 2004

IN THE MATTER OF THE DISQUALIFICATION OF BAR EXAMINEE HARON S. MELING IN THE


2002 BAR EXAMINATIONS AND FOR DISCIPLINARY ACTION AS MEMBER OF THE PHILIPPINE
SHARI’A BAR, ATTY. FROILAN R. MELENDREZ, petitioner.

RESOLUTION

TINGA, J.:

The Court is here confronted with a Petition that seeks twin reliefs, one of which is ripe
while the other has been rendered moot by a supervening event.

The antecedents follow.

On October 14, 2002, Atty. Froilan R. Melendrez (Melendrez) filed with the Office of the
Bar Confidant (OBC) a Petition1 to disqualify Haron S. Meling (Meling) from taking the
2002 Bar Examinations and to impose on him the appropriate disciplinary penalty as a
member of the Philippine Shari’a Bar.

In the Petition, Melendrez alleges that Meling did not disclose in his Petition to take the
2002 Bar Examinations that he has three (3) pending criminal cases before the
Municipal Trial Court in Cities (MTCC), Cotabato City, namely: Criminal Cases Noa.
15685 and 15686, both for Grave Oral Defamation, and Criminal Case No. 15687 for Less
Serious Physical Injuries.

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The above-mentioned cases arose from an incident which occurred on May 21, 2001,
when Meling allegedly uttered defamatory words against Melendrez and his wife in
front of media practitioners and other people. Meling also purportedly attacked and hit
the face of Melendrez’ wife causing the injuries to the latter.

Furthermore, Melendrez alleges that Meling has been using the title "Attorney" in his
communications, as Secretary to the Mayor of Cotabato City, despite the fact that he
is not a member of the Bar. Attached to the Petition is an indorsement letter which
shows that Meling used the appellation and appears on its face to have been received
by the Sangguniang Panglungsod of Cotabato City on November 27, 2001.

Pursuant to this Court’s R E S O L U T I O N2 dated December 3, 2002, Meling filed his


Answer with the OBC.

In his Answer,3 Meling explains that he did not disclose the criminal cases filed against
him by Melendrez because retired Judge Corocoy Moson, their former professor,
advised him to settle his misunderstanding with Melendrez. Believing in good faith that
the case would be settled because the said Judge has moral ascendancy over them,
he being their former professor in the College of Law, Meling considered the three
cases that actually arose from a single incident and involving the same parties as
"closed and terminated." Moreover, Meling denies the charges and adds that the acts
complained of do not involve moral turpitude.

As regards the use of the title "Attorney," Meling admits that some of his
communications really contained the word "Attorney" as they were, according to him,
typed by the office clerk.

In its Report and Recommendation4 dated December 8, 2003, the OBC disposed of the
charge of non-disclosure against Meling in this wise:

The reasons of Meling in not disclosing the criminal cases filed against him in his petition
to take the Bar Examinations are ludicrous. He should have known that only the court of
competent jurisdiction can dismiss cases, not a retired judge nor a law professor. In fact,
the cases filed against Meling are still pending. Furthermore, granting arguendo that
these cases were already dismissed, he is still required to disclose the same for the Court
to ascertain his good moral character. Petitions to take the Bar Examinations are made
under oath, and should not be taken lightly by an applicant.

The merit of the cases against Meling is not material in this case. What matters is his act
of concealing them which constitutes dishonesty.

In Bar Matter 1209, the Court stated, thus:

It has been held that good moral character is what a person really is, as distinguished
from good reputation or from the opinion generally entertained of him, the estimate in
which he is held by the public in the place where he is known. Moral character is not a
subjective term but one which corresponds to objective reality. The standard of

Scroll No. 577 77|PALE Cases Set 1


personal and professional integrity is not satisfied by such conduct as it merely enables
a person to escape the penalty of criminal law. Good moral character includes at least
common honesty.

The non-disclosure of Meling of the criminal cases filed against him makes him also
answerable under Rule 7.01 of the Code of Professional Responsibility which states that
"a lawyer shall be answerable for knowingly making a false statement or suppressing a
material fact in connection with his application for admission to the bar."5

As regards Meling’s use of the title "Attorney", the OBC had this to say:

Anent the issue of the use of the appellation "Attorney" in his letters, the explanation of
Meling is not acceptable. Aware that he is not a member of the Bar, there was no valid
reason why he signed as "attorney" whoever may have typed the letters.

Although there is no showing that Meling is engaged in the practice of law, the fact is,
he is signing his communications as "Atty. Haron S. Meling" knowing fully well that he is
not entitled thereto. As held by the Court in Bar Matter 1209, the unauthorized use of
the appellation "attorney" may render a person liable for indirect contempt of court.6

Consequently, the OBC recommended that Meling not be allowed to take the
Lawyer’s Oath and sign the Roll of Attorneys in the event that he passes the Bar
Examinations. Further, it recommended that Meling’s membership in the Shari’a Bar be
suspended until further orders from the Court.7

We fully concur with the findings and recommendation of the OBC. Meling, however,
did not pass the 2003 Bar Examinations. This renders the Petition, insofar as it seeks to
prevent Meling from taking the Lawyer’s Oath and signing the Roll of Attorneys, moot
and academic.

On the other hand, the prayer in the same Petition for the Court to impose the
appropriate sanctions upon him as a member of the Shari’a Bar is ripe for resolution and
has to be acted upon.

Practice of law, whether under the regular or the Shari’a Court, is not a matter of right
but merely a privilege bestowed upon individuals who are not only learned in the law
but who are also known to possess good moral character.8 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.9

The standard form issued in connection with the application to take the 2002 Bar
Examinations requires the applicant to aver that he or she "has not been charged with
any act or omission punishable by law, rule or regulation before a fiscal, judge, officer
or administrative body, or indicted for, or accused or convicted by any court or tribunal
of, any offense or crime involving moral turpitude; nor is there any pending case or
charge against him/her." Despite the declaration required by the form, Meling did not
reveal that he has three pending criminal cases. His deliberate silence constitutes
concealment, done under oath at that.

Scroll No. 577 78|PALE Cases Set 1


The disclosure requirement is imposed by the Court to determine whether there is
satisfactory evidence of good moral character of the applicant.10 The nature of
whatever cases are pending against the applicant would aid the Court in determining
whether he is endowed with the moral fitness demanded of a lawyer. By concealing
the existence of such cases, the applicant then flunks the test of fitness even if the
cases are ultimately proven to be unwarranted or insufficient to impugn or affect the
good moral character of the applicant.

Meling’s concealment of the fact that there are three (3) pending criminal cases
against him speaks of his lack of the requisite good moral character and results in the
forfeiture of the privilege bestowed upon him as a member of the Shari’a Bar.

Moreover, his use of the appellation "Attorney", knowing fully well that he is not entitled
to its use, cannot go unchecked. In Alawi v. Alauya,11 the Court had the occasion to
discuss the impropriety of the use of the title "Attorney" by members of the Shari’a Bar
who are not likewise members of the Philippine Bar. The respondent therein, an
executive clerk of court of the 4th Judicial Shari’a District in Marawi City, used the title
"Attorney" in several correspondence in connection with the rescission of a contract
entered into by him in his private capacity. The Court declared that:

…persons who pass the Shari’a Bar are not full-fledged members of the Philippine Bar,
hence, may only practice law before Shari’a courts. While one who has been admitted
to the Shari’a Bar, and one who has been admitted to the Philippine Bar, may both be
considered "counselors," in the sense that they give counsel or advice in a professional
capacity, only the latter is an "attorney." The title "attorney" is reserved to those who,
having obtained the necessary degree in the study of law and successfully taken the
Bar Examinations, have been admitted to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and
remain members thereof in good standing; and it is they only who are authorized to
practice law in this jurisdiction.12

The judiciary has no place for dishonest officers of the court, such as Meling in this case.
The solemn task of administering justice demands that those who are privileged to be
part of service therein, from the highest official to the lowliest employee, must not only
be competent and dedicated, but likewise live and practice the virtues of honesty and
integrity. Anything short of this standard would diminish the public's faith in the Judiciary
and constitutes infidelity to the constitutional tenet that a public office is a public trust.

In Leda v. Tabang, supra, the respondent concealed the fact of his marriage in his
application to take the Bar examinations and made conflicting submissions before the
Court. As a result, we found the respondent grossly unfit and unworthy to continue in
the practice of law and suspended him therefrom until further orders from the Court.

WHEREFORE, the Petition is granted insofar as it seeks the imposition of appropriate


sanctions upon Haron S. Meling as a member of the Philippine Shari’a Bar. Accordingly,
the membership of Haron S. Meling in the Philippine Shari’a Bar is hereby SUSPENDED
until further orders from the Court, the suspension to take effect immediately. Insofar as
the Petition seeks to prevent Haron S. Meling from taking the Lawyer’s Oath and signing

Scroll No. 577 79|PALE Cases Set 1


the Roll of Attorneys as a member of the Philippine Bar, the same is DISMISSED for having
become moot and academic.

Copies of this Decision shall be circulated to all the Shari’a Courts in the country for their
information and guidance.

SO ORDERED.

A.M. No. SDC-97-2-P February 24, 1997

SOPHIA ALAWI, complainant,


vs.
ASHARY M. ALAUYA, Clerk of Court VI, Shari'a District Court, Marawi City, respondent.

NARVASA, C.J.:

Sophia Alawi was (and presumably still is) a sales representative (or coordinator) of E.B.
Villarosa & Partners Co., Ltd. of Davao City, a real estate and housing company. Ashari
M. Alauya is the incumbent executive clerk of court of the 4th Judicial Shari'a District in
Marawi City, They were classmates, and used to be friends.

It appears that through Alawi's agency, a contract was executed for the purchase on
installments by Alauya of one of the housing units belonging to the above mentioned
firm (hereafter, simply Villarosa & Co.); and in connection therewith, a housing loan was
also granted to Alauya by the National Home Mortgage Finance Corporation (NHMFC).

Not long afterwards, or more precisely on December 15, 1995, Alauya addressed a
letter to the President of Villarosa & Co. advising of the termination of his contract with
the company. He wrote:

. . I am formally and officially withdrawing from and notifying you of my intent to


terminate the Contract/Agreement entered into between me and your company, as
represented by your Sales Agent/Coordinator, SOPHIA ALAWI, of your company's
branch office here in Cagayan de Oro City, on the grounds that my consent was
vitiated by gross misrepresentation, deceit, fraud, dishonesty and abuse of confidence
by the aforesaid sales agent which made said contract void ab initio. Said sales agent
acting in bad faith perpetrated such illegal and unauthorized acts which made said
contract an Onerous Contract prejudicial to my rights and interests. He then
proceeded to expound in considerable detail and quite acerbic language on the
"grounds which could evidence the bad faith. deceit, fraud, misrepresentation,
dishonesty and abuse of confidence by the unscrupulous sales agent . . .;" and closed
with the plea that Villarosa & Co. "agree for the mutual rescission of our contract, even
as I inform you that I categorically state on record that I am terminating the contract . .
. I hope I do not have to resort to any legal action before said onerous and
manipulated contract against my interest be annulled. I was actually fooled by your
sales agent, hence the need to annul the controversial contract."

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Alauya sent a copy of the letter to the Vice-President of Villarosa & Co. at San Pedro,
Gusa, Cagayan de Oro City. The envelope containing it, and which actually went
through the post, bore no stamps. Instead at the right hand corner above the
description of the addressee, the words, "Free Postage - PD 26," had been typed.

On the same date, December 15, 1995, Alauya also wrote to Mr. Fermin T. Arzaga, Vice-
President, Credit & Collection Group of the National Home Mortgage Finance
Corporation (NHMFC) at Salcedo Village, Makati City, repudiating as fraudulent and
void his contract with Villarosa & Co.; and asking for cancellation of his housing loan in
connection therewith, which was payable from salary deductions at the rate of
P4,338.00 a month. Among other things, he said:

. . . (T)hrough this written notice, I am terminating, as I hereby annul, cancel, rescind


and voided, the "manipulated contract" entered into between me and the E.B.
Villarosa & Partner Co., Ltd., as represented by its sales agent/coordinator, SOPHIA
ALAWI, who maliciously and fraudulently manipulated said contract and unlawfully
secured and pursued the housing loan without my authority and against my will. Thus,
the contract itself is deemed to be void ab initio in view of the attending
circumstances, that my consent was vitiated by misrepresentation, fraud, deceit,
dishonesty, and abuse of confidence; and that there was no meeting of the minds
between me and the swindling sales agent who concealed the real facts from me.

And, as in his letter to Villarosa & Co., he narrated in some detail what he took to be the
anomalous actuations of Sophia Alawi.

Alauya wrote three other letters to Mr. Arzaga of the NHMFC, dated February 21, 1996,
April 15, 1996, and May 3, 1996, in all of which, for the same reasons already cited, he
insisted on the cancellation of his housing loan and discontinuance of deductions from
his salary on account thereof. a He also wrote on January 18, 1996 to Ms. Corazon M.
Ordoñez, Head of the Fiscal Management & Budget Office, and to the Chief, Finance
Division, both of this Court, to stop deductions from his salary in relation to the loan in
question, again asserting the anomalous manner by which he was allegedly duped into
entering into the contracts by "the scheming sales agent." b

The upshot was that in May, 1996, the NHMFC wrote to the Supreme Court requesting it
to stop deductions on Alauya's UHLP loan "effective May 1996." and began negotiating
with Villarosa & Co. " for the buy-back of . . . (Alauya's) mortgage. and . . the refund of .
. (his) payments." c

On learning of Alauya's letter to Villarosa & Co. of December 15, 1995, Sophia Alawi
filed with this Court a verified complaint dated January 25, 1996 — to which she
appended a copy of the letter, and of the above mentioned envelope bearing the
typewritten words, "Free Postage - PD 26."1 In that complaint, she accused Alauya of:

1. "Imputation of malicious and libelous charges with no solid grounds through


manifest ignorance and evident bad faith;"

Scroll No. 577 81|PALE Cases Set 1


2. "Causing undue injury to, and blemishing her honor and established reputation;"

3. "Unauthorized enjoyment of the privilege of free postage . . .;" and

4. Usurpation of the title of "attorney," which only regular members of the Philippine
Bar may properly use.

She deplored Alauya's references to her as "unscrupulous swindler, forger, manipulator,


etc." without "even a bit of evidence to cloth (sic) his allegations with the essence of
truth," denouncing his imputations as irresponsible, "all concoctions, lies, baseless and
coupled with manifest ignorance and evident bad faith," and asserting that all her
dealings with Alauya had been regular and completely transparent. She closed with
the plea that Alauya "be dismissed from the senice, or be appropriately desciplined
(sic) . . ."

The Court resolved to order Alauya to comment on the complaint, Conformably with
established usage that notices of resolutions emanate from the corresponding Office of
the Clerk of Court, the notice of resolution in this case was signed by Atty. Alfredo P.
Marasigan, Assistant Division Clerk of Court.2

Alauya first submitted a "Preliminary Comment"3 in which he questioned the authority of


Atty. Marasigan to require an explanation of him, this power pertaining, according to
him, not to "a mere Asst. Div. Clerk of Court investigating an Executive Clerk of Court."
but only to the District Judge, the Court Administrator or the Chief Justice, and voiced
the suspicion that the Resolution was the result of a "strong link" between Ms. Alawi and
Atty. Marasigan's office. He also averred that the complaint had no factual basis; Alawi
was envious of him for being not only "the Executive Clerk of Court and ex-officio
Provincial Sheriff and District Registrar." but also "a scion of a Royal Family . . ."4

In a subsequent letter to Atty. Marasigan, but this time in much less aggressive, even
obsequious tones,5 Alauya requested the former to give him a copy of the complaint in
order that he might comment thereon.6 He stated that his acts as clerk of court were
done in good faith and within the confines of the law; and that Sophia Alawi, as sales
agent of Villarosa & Co. had, by falsifying his signature, fraudulently bound him to a
housing loan contract entailing monthly deductions of P4,333.10 from his salary.

And in his comment thereafter submitted under date of June 5, 1996, Alauya
contended that it was he who had suffered "undue injury, mental anguish, sleepless
nights, wounded feelings and untold financial suffering," considering that in six months,
a total of P26,028.60 had been deducted from his salary.7 He declared that there was
no basis for the complaint; in communicating with Villarosa & Co. he had merely acted
in defense of his rights. He denied any abuse of the franking privilege, saying that he
gave P20.00 plus transportation fare to a subordinate whom he entrusted with the
mailing of certain letters; that the words: "Free Postage - PD 26," were typewritten on the
envelope by some other person, an averment corroborated by the affidavit of
Absamen C. Domocao, Clerk IV (subscribed and sworn to before respondent himself,
and attached to the comment as Annex J);8 and as far as he knew, his subordinate
mailed the letters with the use of the money he had given for postage, and if those

Scroll No. 577 82|PALE Cases Set 1


letters were indeed mixed with the official mail of the court, this had occurred
inadvertently and because of an honest mistake.9

Alauya justified his use of the title, "attorney," by the assertion that it is "lexically
synonymous" with "Counsellors-at-law." a title to which Shari'a lawyers have a rightful
claim, adding that he prefers the title of "attorney" because "counsellor" is often
mistaken for "councilor," "konsehal" or the Maranao term "consial," connoting a local
legislator beholden to the mayor. Withal, he does not consider himself a lawyer.

He pleads for the Court's compassion, alleging that what he did "is expected of any
man unduly prejudiced and injured." 10 He claims he was manipulated into reposing his
trust in Alawi, a classmate and friend. 11 He was induced to sign a blank contract on
Alawi's assurance that she would show the completed document to him later for
correction, but she had since avoided him; despite "numerous letters and follow-ups" he
still does not know where the property — subject of his supposed agreement with
Alawi's principal, Villarosa & Co. — is situated; 12 He says Alawi somehow got his GSIS
policy from his wife, and although she promised to return it the next day, she did not do
so until after several months. He also claims that in connection with his contract with
Villarosa & Co., Alawi forged his signature on such pertinent documents as those
regarding the down payment, clearance, lay-out, receipt of the key of the house,
salary deduction, none of which he ever saw. 13

Averring in fine that his acts in question were done without malice, Alauya prays for the
dismissal of the complaint for lack of merit, it consisting of "fallacious, malicious and
baseless allegations." and complainant Alawi having come to the Court with unclean
hands, her complicity in the fraudulent housing loan being apparent and
demonstrable.

It may be mentioned that in contrast to his two (2) letters to Assistant Clerk of Court
Marasigan (dated April 19, 1996 and April 22, 1996), and his two (2) earlier letters both
dated December 15, 1996 — all of which he signed as "Atty. Ashary M. Alauya" — in his
Comment of June 5, 1996, he does not use the title but refers to himself as "DATU
ASHARY M. ALAUYA."

The Court referred the case to the Office of the Court Administrator for evaluation,
report and recommendation. 14

The first accusation against Alauya is that in his aforesaid letters, he made "malicious
and libelous charges (against Alawi) with no solid grounds through manifest ignorance
and evident bad faith, resulting in "undue injury to (her) and blemishing her honor and
established reputation." In those letters, Alauya had written inter alia that:

1) Alawi obtained his consent to the contracts in question "by gross


misrepresentation, deceit, fraud, dishonesty and abuse of confidence;"

2) Alawi acted in bad faith and perpetrated . . . illegal and unauthorized acts . . .
prejudicial to . . (his) rights and interests;"

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3) Alawi was an "unscrupulous (and "swindling") sales agent" who had fooled him
by "deceit, fraud, misrepresentation, dishonesty and abuse of confidence;" and

4) Alawi had maliciously and fraudulently manipulated the contract with Villarosa &
Co., and unlawfully secured and pursued the housing loan without . . (his) authority and
against . . (his) will," and "concealed the real facts . . ."

Alauya's defense essentially is that in making these statements, he was merely acting in
defense of his rights, and doing only what "is expected of any man unduly prejudiced
and injured," who had suffered "mental anguish, sleepless nights, wounded feelings and
untold financial suffering, considering that in six months, a total of P26,028.60 had been
deducted from his salary. 15

The Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees (RA
6713) inter alia enunciates the State policy of promoting a high standard of ethics and
utmost responsibility in the public service. 16 Section 4 of the Code commands that
"(p)ublic officials and employees . . at all times respect the rights of others, and . . refrain
from doing acts contrary to law, good morals, good customs, public policy, public
order, public safety and public interest." 17 More than once has this Court emphasized
that "the conduct and behavior of every official and employee of an agency involved
in the administration of justice, from the presiding judge to the most junior clerk, should
be circumscribed with the heavy burden of responsibility. Their conduct must at all times
be characterized by, among others, strict propriety and decorum so as to earn and
keep the respect of the public for the judiciary." 18

Now, it does not appear to the Court consistent with good morals, good customs or
public policy, or respect for the rights of others, to couch denunciations of acts
believed — however sincerely — to be deceitful, fraudulent or malicious, in excessively
intemperate, insulting or virulent language. Alauya is evidently convinced that he has a
right of action against Sophia Alawi. The law requires that he exercise that right with
propriety, without malice or vindictiveness, or undue harm to anyone; in a manner
consistent with good morals, good customs, public policy, public order, supra; or
otherwise stated, that he "act with justice, give everyone his due, and observe honesty
and good
faith." 19 Righteous indignation, or vindication of right cannot justify resort to
vituperative language, or downright name-calling. As a member of the Shari'a Bar and
an officer of a Court, Alawi is subject to a standard of conduct more stringent than for
most other government workers. As a man of the law, he may not use language which
is abusive, offensive, scandalous, menacing, or otherwise improper. 20 As a judicial
employee, it is expected that he accord respect for the person and the rights of others
at all times, and that his every act and word should be characterized by prudence,
restraint, courtesy, dignity. His radical deviation from these salutary norms might perhaps
be mitigated, but cannot be excused, by his strongly held conviction that he had been
grievously wronged.

As regards Alauya's use of the title of "Attorney," this Court has already had occasion to
declare that persons who pass the Shari'a Bar are not full-fledged members of the
Philippine Bar, hence may only practice law before Shari'a courts. 21 While one who

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has been admitted to the Shari'a Bar, and one who has been admitted to the Philippine
Bar, may both be considered "counsellors," in the sense that they give counsel or
advice in a professional capacity, only the latter is an "attorney." The title of "attorney" is
reserved to those who, having obtained the necessary degree in the study of law and
successfully taken the Bar Examinations, have been admitted to the Integrated Bar of
the Philippines and remain members thereof in good standing; and it is they only who
are authorized to practice law in this jurisdiction.

Alauya says he does not wish to use the title, "counsellor" or "counsellor-at-law, "
because in his region, there are pejorative connotations to the term, or it is confusingly
similar to that given to local legislators. The ratiocination, valid or not, is of no moment.
His disinclination to use the title of "counsellor" does not warrant his use of the title of
attorney.

Finally, respecting Alauya's alleged unauthorized use of the franking privilege, 22 the
record contains no evidence adequately establishing the accusation.

WHEREFORE, respondent Ashari M. Alauya is hereby REPRIMANDED for the use of


excessively intemperate, insulting or virulent language, i.e., language unbecoming a
judicial officer, and for usurping the title of attorney; and he is warned that any similar or
other impropriety or misconduct in the future will be dealt with more severely.

SO ORDERED.

B.M. No. 712 March 19, 1997

RE: PETITION OF AL ARGOSINO TO TAKE THE LAWYERS OATH

RESOLUTION

PADILLA, J.:

Petitioner Al Caparros Argosino passed the bar examinations held in 1993. The Court
however deferred his oath-taking due to his previous conviction for Reckless
Imprudence Resulting In Homicide.

The criminal case which resulted in petitioner's conviction, arose from the death of a
neophyte during fraternity initiation rites sometime in September 1991. Petitioner and
seven (7) other accused initially entered pleas of not guilty to homicide charges. The
eight (8) accused later withdrew their initial pleas and upon re-arraignment all pleaded
guilty to reckless imprudence resulting in homicide.

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On the basis of such pleas, the trial court rendered judgment dated 11 February 1993
imposing on each of the accused a sentence of imprisonment of from two (2) years
four (4) months :and one (1) day to four (4) years.

On 18 June 1993, the trial court granted herein petitioner's application for probation.

On 11 April 1994, the trial court issued an order approving a report dated 6 April 1994
submitted by the Probation Officer recommending petitioner's discharge from
probation.

On 14 April 1994, petitioner filed before this Court a petition to be allowed to take the
lawyer's oath based on the order of his discharge from probation.

On 13 July 1995, the Court through then Senior Associate Justice Florentino P. Feliciano
issued a resolution requiring petitioner Al C. Argosino to submit to the Court evidence
that he may now be regarded as complying with the requirement of good moral
character imposed upon those seeking admission to the bar.

In compliance with the above resolution, petitioner submitted no less than fifteen (15)
certifications/letters executed by among others two (2) senators, five (5) trial court
judges, and six (6) members of religious orders. Petitioner likewise submitted evidence
that a scholarship foundation had been established in honor of Raul Camaligan, the
hazing victim, through joint efforts of the latter's family and the eight (8) accused in the
criminal case.

On 26 September 1995, the Court required Atty. Gilbert Camaligan, father of Raul, to
comment on petitioner's prayer to be allowed to take the lawyer's oath.

In his comment dated 4 December 1995, Atty. Camaligan states that:

a. He still believes that the infliction of severe physical injuries which led to the death of
his son was deliberate rather than accidental. The offense therefore was not only
homicide but murder since the accused took advantage of the neophyte's helplessness
implying abuse of confidence, taking advantage of superior strength and treachery.

b. He consented to the accused's plea of guilt to the lesser offense of reckless


imprudence resulting in homicide only out of pity for the mothers of the accused and a
pregnant wife of one of the accused who went to their house on Christmas day 1991
and Maundy Thursday 1992, literally on their knees, crying and begging for forgiveness
and compassion. They also told him that the father of one of the accused had died of
a heart attack upon learning of his son's involvement in the incident.

c. As a Christian, he has forgiven petitioner and his co-accused for the death of his son.
However, as a loving father who had lost a son whom he had hoped would succeed
him in his law practice, he still feels the pain of an untimely demise and the stigma of
the gruesome manner of his death.

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d. He is not in a position to say whether petitioner is now morally fit for admission to the
bar. He therefore submits the matter to the sound discretion of the Court.

The practice of law is a privilege granted only to those who possess the strict intellectual
and moral qualifications required of lawyers who are instruments in the effective and
efficient administration of justice. It is the sworn duty of this Court not only to "weed out"
lawyers who have become a disgrace to the noble profession of the law but, also of
equal importance, to prevent "misfits" from taking the lawyer's oath, thereby further
tarnishing the public image of lawyers which in recent years has undoubtedly become
less than irreproachable.

The resolution of the issue before us required weighing and reweighing of the reasons
for allowing or disallowing petitioner's admission to the practice of law. The senseless
beatings inflicted upon Raul Camaligan constituted evident absence of that moral
fitness required for admission to the bar since they were totally irresponsible, irrelevant
and uncalled for.

In the 13 July 1995 resolution in this case we stated:

. . . participation in the prolonged and mindless physical behavior, [which]


makes impossible a finding that the participant [herein petitioner] was
then possessed of good moral character. 1

In the same resolution, however, we stated that the Court is prepared to consider de
novo the question of whether petitioner has purged himself of the obvious deficiency in
moral character referred to above.

Before anything else, the Court understands and shares the sentiment of Atty. Gilbert
Camaligan. The death of one's child is, for a parent, a most traumatic experience. The
suffering becomes even more pronounced and profound in cases where the death is
due to causes other than natural or accidental but due to the reckless imprudence of
third parties. The feeling then becomes a struggle between grief and anger directed at
the cause of death.

Atty. Camaligan's statement before the Court- manifesting his having forgiven the
accused is no less than praiseworthy and commendable. It is exceptional for a parent,
given the circumstances in this case, to find room for forgiveness.

However, Atty. Camaligan admits that he is still not in a position to state if petitioner is
now morally fit to be a lawyer.

After a very careful evaluation of this case, we resolve to allow petitioner Al Caparros
Argosino to take the lawyer's oath, sign the Roll of Attorneys and practice the legal
profession with the following admonition:

In allowing Mr. Argosino to take the lawyer's oath, the Court recognizes that Mr.
Argosino is not inherently of bad moral fiber. On the contrary, the various certifications

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show that he is a devout Catholic with a genuine concern for civic duties and public
service.

The Court is persuaded that Mr. Argosino has exerted all efforts to atone for the death
of Raul Camaligan. We are prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt, taking
judicial notice of the general tendency of youth to be rash, temerarious and
uncalculating.

We stress to Mr. Argosino that the lawyer's oath is NOT a mere ceremony or formality for
practicing law. Every lawyer should at ALL TIMES weigh his actions according to the
sworn promises he makes when taking the lawyer's oath. If all lawyers conducted
themselves strictly according to the lawyer's oath and the Code of Professional
Responsibility, the administration of justice will undoubtedly be faster, fairer and easier
for everyone concerned.

The Court sincerely hopes that Mr. Argosino will continue with the assistance he has
been giving to his community. As a lawyer he will now be in a better position to render
legal and other services to the more unfortunate members of society.

PREMISES CONSIDERED, petitioner Al Caparros Argosino is hereby ALLOWED to take the


lawyer's oath on a date to be set by the Court, to sign the Roll of Attorneys and,
thereafter, to practice the legal profession.

SO ORDERED.

A.C. No. 4148 July 30, 1998

REMEDIOS RAMIREZ TAPUCAR, complainant,


vs.
Atty. LAURO L. TAPUCAR, respondent.

PER CURIAM:

In a letter-complaint dated November 22, 1993, complainant Remedios Ramirez


Tapucar sought the disbarment of her husband, Atty. Lauro L. Tapucar, on the ground
of continuing grossly immoral conduct for cohabiting with a certain Elena (Helen) Peña
under scandalous circumstances. 1

Prior to this complaint, respondent was already administratively charged four times for
conduct unbecoming an officer of the court. In Administrative Matter No. 1740,
resolved on April 11, 1980, respondent, at that time the Judge of Butuan City, was
meted the penalty of six months suspension without pay, 2 while in Administrative
Matters Nos. 1720, 1911 and 2300-CFI, which were consolidated, 3 this Court on January
31, 1981 ordered the separation from the service of respondent. 4

Now he faces disbarment.

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The records reveal the following facts:

From the Report and Recommendation of the Commission on Bar Discipline, it appears
that complainant and respondent married on October 29, 1953 at the Sacred Heart
Roman Catholic Church in Quezon City. They established their residence in Antipolo,
Rizal, where eight of their eleven children were born. In 1962 respondent relocated his
family to Dadiangas, Cotabato (now Gen. Santos City), where his last three children
were born and where he practiced his profession until his appointment as a CFI Judge
in Butuan City on January 30, 1976.

In August, 1976, shortly after being appointed as CFI Judge, respondent began
cohabiting with a certain Elena (Helen) Peña, in Nasipit, Agusan del Norte. On
December 28, 1977, Elena gave birth to their first child, named Ofelia Sembrano Peña.

In view of this cohabitation, a certain Atty. Tranquilino Calo filed an administrative


complaint against respondent for immorality. After investigation, the penalty of
suspension from office for a period of six months without pay was meted by this Court
upon respondent. 5

Despite this penalty, respondent still continued to cohabit with Elena, giving rise to
another charge of immorality and other administrative cases, such as: conduct
unbecoming an officer of the court, and grossly immoral conduct. These cases were
consolidated and after investigation, this Court ordered his dismissal and separation
from the service. 6

But his dismissal as a judge did not impel respondent to mend his ways. He continued
living with Elena, which resulted in the birth on September 20, 1989, of their second child
named Laella Peña Tapucar. Moreover, he completely abandoned complainant and
his children by her.

Respondent later moved from Nasipit, Agusan del Norte back to Antipolo, Rizal,
bringing along Elena and their two children. And on March 5, 1992, respondent
contracted marriage with Elena in a ceremony solemnized by MTC Judge Isagani A.
Geronimo of Antipolo, Rizal. This was done while the respondent's marriage to
complainant subsists, as nothing on record shows the dissolution thereof.

Complainant, in the meanwhile, had migrated to United States of America upon her
retirement from the government service in 1990. However, her children, who remained
in Antipolo, kept her posted of the misery they allegedly suffered because of their
father's acts, including deception and intrigues against them. Thus, despite having
previously withdrawn a similar case which she filed in 1976, complainant was forced to
file the present petition for disbarment under the compulsion of the maternal impulse to
shield and protect her children from the despotic and cruel acts of their own father.
Complainant secured the assistance of her eldest daughter, Atty. Ma. Susana Tapucar-
Baua, to represent her in this case.

Consistent with Section 20, Rule 139-B of the Rules of Court, the matter was referred to
the Commission on Bar Discipline of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines for

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investigation, report and recommendation. After conducting a thorough investigation,
the Commission through Commissioner Victor C. Fernandez recommended that
respondent be disbarred, and his name be stricken off the roll of attorneys. Mainly, this
was premised on the ground that, notwithstanding sanctions previously imposed upon
him by the Honorable Supreme Court, respondent continued the illicit liaison with Elena.
7

In his report Commissioner Fernandez noted that, instead of contradicting the charges
against him, respondent displayed arrogance, and even made a mockery of the law
and the Court, as when he said:

I have been ordered suspended by Supreme Court for two months without pay in 1980
for having a mistress, the same girl Ms. Elena (Helen) Peña, now my wife. Being ordered
separated in later administrative case constitute double jeopardy. If now disbarred for
marrying Ms. Elena Peña will constitute triple jeopardy. If that's the law so be it. 8

Based on said report, the Board of Governors of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines,
passed on May 17, 1997, a Resolution adopting the Commissioner's recommendation,
as follows:

RESOLUTION NO. XII-97-97

Adm. Case No. 4148

Remedios Ramirez Tapucar vs.

Atty. Lauro L. Tapucar

RESOLVED to ADOPT and APPROVE, as it is hereby ADOPTED and APPROVED, the


Report and Recommendation of the Investigating Commissioner in the above-entitled
case, herein made part of the Resolution/Decision as Annex "A"; and, finding the
recommendation therein to be fully supported by the evidence on record and the
applicable laws and rules, Respondent Atty. Lauro L. Tapucar is hereby DISBARRED and
that his name be stricken off the roll of attorneys.

We find the Report and Recommendation of Commissioner Fernandez, as approved


and adopted by the Board of Governors of IBP, more than sufficient to justify and
support the foregoing Resolution, herein considered as the recommendation to this
Court by said Board pursuant to Rule 139-B, Sec. 12 (b), of the Rules of Court. * We are in
agreement that respondent's actuations merit the penalty of disbarment.

Well settled is the rule that good moral character is not only a condition precedent for
admission to the legal profession, but it must also remain intact in order to maintain
one's good standing in that exclusive and honored fraternity.9 There is perhaps no
profession after that of the sacred ministry in which a high-toned morality is more
imperative than that of law. 10 The Code of Professional Responsibility mandates that:

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

Rule 7.03. A lawyer shall not engage in conduct that adversely reflects on his fitness
to practice law, nor should he, whether in public or private life, behave in a scandalous
manner to the discredit of the legal profession. (Emphasis supplied.)

As this Court often reminds members of the Bar, they must live up to the standards and
norms expected of the legal profession, by upholding the ideals and tenets embodied
in the Code of Professional Responsibility always. Lawyers must maintain a high
standard of legal proficiency, as well as morality including honesty, integrity and fair
dealing. For they are at all times subject to the scrutinizing eye of public opinion and
community approbation. Needless to state, those whose conduct — both public and
private — fails this scrutiny would have to be disciplined and, after appropriate
proceedings, penalized accordingly.

Moreover, it should be recalled that respondent here was once a member of the
judiciary, a fact that aggravates his professional infractions. For having occupied that
place of honor in the Bench, he knew a judge's actuations ought to be free from any
appearance of impropriety. 11 For a judge is the visible representation of the law and,
more importantly, of justice. Ordinary citizens consider him as a source of strength that
fortifies their will to obey the law. 12 Indeed, a judge should avoid the slightest infraction
of the law in all of his actuations, lest it be a demoralizing example to others. 13 Surely,
respondent could not have forgotten the Code of Judicial Conduct entirely as to lose
its moral imperatives. 14

Like a judge who is held to a high standard of integrity and ethical conduct, 15 an
attorney-at-law is also invested with public trust. Judges and lawyers serve in the
administration of justice. Admittedly, as officers of the court, lawyers must ensure the
faith and confidence of the public that justice is administered with dignity and civility. A
high degree of moral integrity is expected of a lawyer in the community where he
resides. He must maintain due regard for public decency in an orderly society.

A lawyer is expected at all times to uphold the integrity and dignity of the legal
profession by faithfully performing his duties to society, to the bar, to the courts and to
his clients. 16 Exacted from him, as a member of the profession charged with the
responsibility to stand as a shield in the defense of what is right, are such positive
qualities of decency, truthfulness and responsibility that have been compendiously
described as "moral character." To achieve such end, every lawyer needs to strive at all
times to honor and maintain the dignity of his profession, and thus improve not only the
public regard for the Bar but also the administration of justice.

On these considerations, the Court may disbar or suspend a lawyer for misconduct,
whether in his professional or private capacity, which shows him to be wanting in moral
character, in honesty, probity, and good demeanor, thus proving unworthy to continue
as an officer of the court. 17

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The power to disbar, however, is one to be exercised with great caution, and only in a
clear case of misconduct which seriously affects the standing and character of the
lawyer as an officer of the Court and member of the bar. 18 For disbarment
proceedings are intended to afford the parties thereto full opportunity to vindicate their
cause before disciplinary action is taken, to assure the general public that those who
are tasked with the duty of administering justice are competent, honorable, trustworthy
men and women in whom the Courts and the clients may repose full confidence.

In the case of Obusan vs. Obusan, Jr., 19 a complaint for disbarment was filed against a
member of the bar by his wife. She was able to prove that he had abandoned his wife
and their son; and that he had adulterous relations with a married but separated
woman. Respondent was not able to overcome the evidence presented by his wife
that he was guilty of grossly immoral conduct. In another case, 20 a lawyer was
disbarred when he abandoned his lawful wife and cohabited with another woman
who had borne him a child. The Court held that respondent failed to maintain the
highest degree of morality expected and required of a member of the bar.

In the present case, the record shows that despite previous sanctions imposed upon
him by this Court, respondent continued his illicit liaison with a woman other than his
lawfully-wedded wife. The report of the Commissioner assigned to investigate
thoroughly the complaint found respondent far from contrite; on the contrary, he
exhibited a cavalier attitude, even arrogance, in the face of charges against him. The
IBP Board of Governors, tasked to determine whether he still merited the privileges
extended to a member of the legal profession, resolved the matter against him. For
indeed, evidence of grossly immoral conduct abounds against him and could not be
explained away. Keeping a mistress, entering into another marriage while a prior one
still subsists, as well as abandoning and/or mistreating complainant and their children,
show his disregard of family obligations, morality and decency, the law and the lawyer's
oath. Such gross misbehavior over a long period of time clearly shows a serious flaw in
respondent's character, his moral indifference to scandal in the community, and his
outright defiance of established norms. All these could not but put the legal profession
in disrepute and place the integrity of the administration of justice in peril, hence the
need for strict but appropriate disciplinary action.

IN VIEW THEREOF, respondent Atty. Lauro L. Tapucar is hereby DISBARRED. The Clerk of
Court is directed to strike out his name from the Roll of Attorneys.

SO ORDERED.

A.C. No. 6593 February 4, 2010

MAELOTISEA S. GARRIDO, Complainant,


vs.
ATTYS. ANGEL E. GARRIDO and ROMANA P. VALENCIA, Respondents.

DECISION

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PER CURIAM:

Maelotisea Sipin Garrido filed a complaint-affidavit1 and a supplemental affidavit2 for


disbarment against the respondents Atty. Angel E. Garrido (Atty. Garrido) and Atty.
Romana P.Valencia (Atty. Valencia) before the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP)
Committee on Discipline charging them with gross immorality. The complaint-affidavit
states:

1. That I am the legal wife of Atty. Angel E. Garrido by virtue of our marriage on June 23,
1962 at San Marcelino Church, Ermita, Manila which was solemnized by Msgr. Daniel
Cortes x x x

2. That our marriage blossomed into having us blessed with six (6) children, namely, Mat
Elizabeth, Arnel Angelito, Madeleine Eloiza, Arnel Angelo, Arnel Victorino and Madonna
Angeline, all surnamed Garrido;

3. x x x x

4. That on May, 1991, during my light moments with our children, one of my daughters,
Madeleine confided to me that sometime on the later part of 1987, an unknown caller
talked with her claiming that the former is a child of my husband. I ignored it and
dismissed it as a mere joke. But when May Elizabeth, also one of my daughters told me
that sometime on August 1990, she saw my husband strolling at the Robinson’s
Department Store at Ermita, Manila together with a woman and a child who was later
identified as Atty. Ramona Paguida Valencia and Angeli Ramona Valencia Garrido,
respectively x x x

5. x x x x

6. That I did not stop from unearthing the truth until I was able to secure the Certificate
of Live Birth of the child, stating among others that the said child is their daughter and
that Atty. Angel Escobar Garrido and Atty. Romana Paguida Valencia were married at
Hongkong sometime on 1978.

7. That on June 1993, my husband left our conjugal home and joined Atty. Ramona
Paguida Valencia at their residence x x x

8. That since he left our conjugal home he failed and still failing to give us our needed
financial support to the prejudice of our children who stopped schooling because of
financial constraints.

xxxx

That I am also filing a disbarment proceedings against his mistress as alleged in the
same affidavit, Atty. Romana P. Valencia considering that out of their immoral acts I
suffered not only mental anguish but also besmirch reputation, wounded feelings and
sleepless nights; x x x

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In his Counter-Affidavit,3 Atty. Garrido denied Maelotisea’s charges and imputations. By
way of defense, he alleged that Maelotisea was not his legal wife, as he was already
married to Constancia David (Constancia) when he married Maelotisea. He claimed
he married Maelotisea after he and Constancia parted ways. He further alleged that
Maelotisea knew all his escapades and understood his "bad boy" image before she
married him in 1962. As he and Maelotisea grew apart over the years due to financial
problems, Atty. Garrido met Atty. Valencia. He became close to Atty. Valencia to
whom he confided his difficulties. Together, they resolved his personal problems and his
financial difficulties with his second family. Atty. Garrido denied that he failed to give
financial support to his children with Maelotisea, emphasizing that all his six (6) children
were educated in private schools; all graduated from college except for Arnel
Victorino, who finished a special secondary course.4 Atty. Garrido alleged that
Maelotisea had not been employed and had not practiced her profession for the past
ten (10) years.

Atty. Garrido emphasized that all his marriages were contracted before he became a
member of the bar on May 11, 1979, with the third marriage contracted after the death
of Constancia on December 26, 1977. Likewise, his children with Maelotisea were born
before he became a lawyer.

In her Counter-Affidavit,5 Atty. Valencia denied that she was the mistress of Atty.
Garrido. She explained that Maelotisea was not the legal wife of Atty. Garrido since the
marriage between them was void from the beginning due to the then existing marriage
of Atty. Garrido with Constancia. Atty. Valencia claimed that Maelotisea knew of the
romantic relationship between her and Atty. Garrido, as they (Maelotisea and Atty.
Valencia) met in 1978. Maelotisea kept silent about her relationship with Atty. Garrido
and had maintained this silence when she (Atty. Valencia) financially helped Atty.
Garrido build a house for his second family. Atty. Valencia alleged that Maelotisea was
not a proper party to this suit because of her silence; she kept silent when things were
favorable and beneficial to her. Atty. Valencia also alleged that Maelotisea had no
cause of action against her.

In the course of the hearings, the parties filed the following motions before the IBP
Commission on Bar Discipline:

First, the respondents filed a Motion for Suspension of Proceedings6 in view of the
criminal complaint for concubinage Maelotisea filed against them, and the Petition for
Declaration of Nullity7 (of marriage) Atty. Garrido filed to nullify his marriage to
Maelotisea. The IBP Commission on Bar Discipline denied this motion for lack of merit.

Second, the respondents filed a Motion to Dismiss8 the complaints after the Regional
Trial Court of Quezon City declared the marriage between Atty. Garrido and
Maelotisea "an absolute nullity." Since Maelotisea was never the legal wife of Atty.
Garrido, the respondents argued that she had no personality to file her complaints
against them. The respondents also alleged that they had not committed any immoral
act since they married when Atty. Garrido was already a widower, and the acts
complained of were committed before his admission to the bar. The IBP Commission on
Bar Discipline also denied this motion.9

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Third, Maelotisea filed a motion for the dismissal of the complaints she filed against the
respondents, arguing that she wanted to maintain friendly relations with Atty. Garrido,
who is the father of her six (6) children.10 The IBP Commission on Bar Discipline likewise
denied this motion.11

On April 13, 2004, Investigating Commissioner Milagros V. San Juan (Investigating


Commissioner San Juan) submitted her Report and Recommendation for the
respondents’ disbarment.12 The Commission on Bar Discipline of the IBP Board of
Governors (IBP Board of Governors) approved and adopted this recommendation with
modification under Resolution No. XVI-2004-375 dated July 30, 2004. This resolution in
part states:

x x x finding the recommendation fully supported by the evidence on record and the
applicable laws and rules, and considering that Atty. Garrido exhibited conduct which
lacks the degree of morality required as members of the bar, Atty. Angel E. Garrido is
hereby DISBARRED for gross immorality. However, the case against Atty. Romana P.
Valencia is hereby DISMISSED for lack of merit of the complaint.

Atty. Garrido moved to reconsider this resolution, but the IBP Commission on Bar
Discipline denied his motion under Resolution No. XVII-2007-038 dated January 18, 2007.

Atty. Garrido now seeks relief with this Court through the present petition for review. He
submits that under the circumstances, he did not commit any gross immorality that
would warrant his disbarment. He also argues that the offenses charged have
prescribed under the IBP rules.

Additionally, Atty. Garrido pleads that he be allowed on humanitarian considerations to


retain his profession; he is already in the twilight of his life, and has kept his promise to
lead an upright and irreproachable life notwithstanding his situation.

In compliance with our Resolution dated August 25, 2009, Atty. Alicia A. Risos-Vidal
(Atty. Risos-Vidal), Director of the Commission on Bar Discipline, filed her Comment on
the petition. She recommends a modification of the penalty from disbarment to
reprimand, advancing the view that disbarment is very harsh considering that the 77-
year old Atty. Garrido took responsibility for his acts and tried to mend his ways by filing
a petition for declaration of nullity of his bigamous marriage. Atty. Risos-Vidal also notes
that no other administrative case has ever been filed against Atty. Garrido.

THE COURT’S RULING

After due consideration, we resolve to adopt the findings of the IBP Board of Governors
against Atty. Garrido, and to reject its recommendation with respect to Atty. Valencia.

General Considerations

Laws dealing with double jeopardy or with procedure – such as the verification of
pleadings and prejudicial questions, or in this case, prescription of offenses or the filing

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of affidavits of desistance by the complainant – do not apply in the determination of a
lawyer’s qualifications and fitness for membership in the Bar.13 We have so ruled in the
past and we see no reason to depart from this ruling.14 First, admission to the practice
of law is a component of the administration of justice and is a matter of public interest
because it involves service to the public.15 The admission qualifications are also
qualifications for the continued enjoyment of the privilege to practice law. Second,
lack of qualifications or the violation of the standards for the practice of law, like
criminal cases, is a matter of public concern that the State may inquire into through this
Court. In this sense, the complainant in a disbarment case is not a direct party whose
interest in the outcome of the charge is wholly his or her own;16 effectively, his or her
participation is that of a witness who brought the matter to the attention of the Court.

As applied to the present case, the time that elapsed between the immoral acts
charged and the filing of the complaint is not material in considering the qualification
of Atty. Garrido when he applied for admission to the practice of law, and his
continuing qualification to be a member of the legal profession. From this perspective, it
is not important that the acts complained of were committed before Atty. Garrido was
admitted to the practice of law. As we explained in Zaguirre v. Castillo,17 the
possession of good moral character is both a condition precedent and a continuing
requirement to warrant admission to the bar and to retain membership in the legal
profession. Admission to the bar does not preclude a subsequent judicial inquiry, upon
proper complaint, into any question concerning the mental or moral fitness of the
respondent before he became a lawyer.18 Admission to the practice only creates the
rebuttable presumption that the applicant has all the qualifications to become a
lawyer; this may be refuted by clear and convincing evidence to the contrary even
after admission to the Bar.19

Parenthetically, Article VIII Section 5(5) of the Constitution recognizes the disciplinary
authority of the Court over the members of the Bar to be merely incidental to the
Court's exclusive power to admit applicants to the practice of law. Reinforcing the
implementation of this constitutional authority is Section 27, Rule 138 of the Rules of
Court which expressly states that a member of the bar may be disbarred or suspended
from his office as attorney by the Supreme Court for, among others, any deceit, grossly
immoral conduct, or violation of the oath that he is required to take before admission to
the practice of law.

In light of the public service character of the practice of law and the nature of
disbarment proceedings as a public interest concern, Maelotisea’s affidavit of
desistance cannot have the effect of discontinuing or abating the disbarment
proceedings. As we have stated, Maelotisea is more of a witness than a complainant in
these proceedings. We note further that she filed her affidavits of withdrawal only after
she had presented her evidence; her evidence are now available for the Court’s
examination and consideration, and their merits are not affected by her desistance.
We cannot fail to note, too, that Mealotisea filed her affidavit of desistance, not to
disown or refute the evidence she had submitted, but solely becuase of compassion
(and, impliedly, out of concern for her personal financial interest in continuing friendly
relations with Atty. Garrido).

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Immoral conduct involves acts that are willful, flagrant, or shameless, and that show a
moral indifference to the opinion of the upright and respectable members of the
community.20 Immoral conduct is gross when it is so corrupt as to constitute a criminal
act, or so unprincipled as to be reprehensible to a high degree, or when committed
under such scandalous or revolting circumstances as to shock the community’s sense of
decency.21 We make these distinctions as the supreme penalty of disbarment arising
from conduct requires grossly immoral, not simply immoral, conduct.22

In several cases, we applied the above standard in considering lawyers who


contracted an unlawful second marriage or multiple marriages.

In Macarrubo v. Macarrubo,23 the respondent lawyer entered into multiple marriages


and subsequently used legal remedies to sever them. We ruled that the respondent’s
pattern of misconduct undermined the institutions of marriage and family – institutions
that this society looks up to for the rearing of our children, for the development of
values essential to the survival and well-being of our communities, and for the
strengthening of our nation as a whole. In this light, no fate other than disbarment
awaited the wayward respondent.

In Villasanta v. Peralta,24 the respondent lawyer married the complainant while his
marriage with his first wife was subsisting. We held that the respondent’s act of
contracting the second marriage was contrary to honesty, justice, decency and
morality. The lack of good moral character required by the Rules of Court disqualified
the respondent from admission to the Bar.

Similar to Villasanta was the case of Conjuangco, Jr. v. Palma,25 where the respondent
secretly contracted a second marriage with the daughter of his client in Hongkong. We
found that the respondent exhibited a deplorable lack of that degree of morality
required of members of the Bar. In particular, he made a mockery of marriage – a
sacred institution that demands respect and dignity. We also declared his act of
contracting a second marriage contrary to honesty, justice, decency and morality.

In this case, the undisputed facts gathered from the evidence and the admissions of
Atty. Garrido established a pattern of gross immoral conduct that warrants his
disbarment. His conduct was not only corrupt or unprincipled; it was reprehensible to
the highest degree.

First, Atty. Garrido admitted that he left Constancia to pursue his law studies; thereafter
and during the marriage, he had romantic relationships with other women. He had the
gall to represent to this Court that the study of law was his reason for leaving his wife;
marriage and the study of law are not mutually exclusive.

Second, he misrepresented himself to Maelotisea as a bachelor, when in truth he was


already married to Constancia.26 This was a misrepresentation given as an excuse to
lure a woman into a prohibited relationship.

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Third, Atty. Garrido contracted his second marriage with Maelotisea notwithstanding
the subsistence of his first marriage. This was an open admission, not only of an illegal
liaison, but of the commission of a crime.

Fourth, Atty. Garrido engaged in an extra-marital affair with Atty. Valencia while his two
marriages were in place and without taking into consideration the moral and emotional
implications of his actions on the two women he took as wives and on his six (6) children
by his second marriage.

Fifth, instead of making legal amends to validate his marriage with Maelotisea upon the
death of Constancia, Atty. Garrido married Atty. Valencia who bore him a daughter.

Sixth, Atty. Garrido misused his legal knowledge and convinced Atty. Valencia (who
was not then a lawyer) that he was free to marry, considering that his marriage with
Maelotisea was not "valid."

Seventh, as the evidence on record implies, Atty. Garrido married Atty. Valencia in
Hongkong in an apparent attempt to accord legitimacy to a union entered into while
another marriage was in place.

Eighth, after admission to the practice of law, Atty. Garrido simultaneously cohabited
and had sexual relations with two (2) women who at one point were both his wedded
wives. He also led a double life with two (2) families for a period of more than ten (10)
years.

Lastly, Atty. Garrido petitioned for the nullity of his marriage to Maelotisea. Contrary to
the position advanced by Atty. Alicia A. Risos-Vidal, this was not an act of facing up to
his responsibility or an act of mending his ways. This was an attempt, using his legal
knowledge, to escape liability for his past actions by having his second marriage
declared void after the present complaint was filed against him.

By his actions, Garrido committed multiple violations relating to the legal profession,
specifically, violations of the bar admission rules, of his lawyer’s oath, and of the ethical
rules of the profession.

He did not possess the good moral character required of a lawyer at the time of his
admission to the Bar.27 As a lawyer, he violated his lawyer’s oath,28 Section 20(a) of
Rule 138 of the Rules of Court,29 and Canon 1 of the Code of Professional
Responsibility,30 all of which commonly require him to obey the laws of the land. In
marrying Maelotisea, he committed the crime of bigamy, as he entered this second
marriage while his first marriage with Constancia was subsisting. He openly admitted his
bigamy when he filed his petition to nullify his marriage to Maelotisea.

He violated ethical rules of the profession, specifically, Rule 1.01 of the Code of
Professional Responsibility, which commands that he "shall not engage in unlawful,
dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct"; Canon 7 of the same Code, which demands
that "[a] lawyer shall at all times uphold the integrity and dignity of the legal profession";
Rule 7.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, which provides that, "[a] lawyer shall

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not engage in conduct that adversely reflects on his fitness to practice law, nor should
he, whether in public or private life, behave in a scandalous manner to the discredit of
the legal profession."

As a lawyer, his community looked up to Atty. Garrido with the expectation and that he
would set a good example in promoting obedience to the Constitution and the laws.
When he violated the law and distorted it to cater to his own personal needs and selfish
motives, he discredited the legal profession and created the public impression that laws
are mere tools of convenience that can be used, bended and abused to satisfy
personal whims and desires. In this case, he also used the law to free him from
unwanted relationships.

The Court has often reminded the members of the bar to live up to the standards and
norms expected of the legal profession by upholding the ideals and principles
embodied in the Code of Professional Responsibility.31 Lawyers are bound to maintain
not only a high standard of legal proficiency, but also of morality, including honesty,
integrity and fair dealing.32 Lawyers are at all times subject to the watchful public eye
and community approbation.33 Needless to state, those whose conduct – both public
and private – fail this scrutiny have to be disciplined and, after appropriate
proceedings, accordingly penalized.34

Atty. Valencia

We agree with the findings of Investigating Commissioner San Juan that Atty. Valencia
should be administratively liable under the circumstances for gross immorality:

x x x The contention of respondent that they were not yet lawyers in March 27, 1978
when they got married shall not afford them exemption from sanctions, for good moral
character is required as a condition precedent to admission to the Bar. Likewise there is
no distinction whether the misconduct was committed in the lawyer’s professional
capacity or in his private life. Again, the claim that his marriage to complainant was
void ab initio shall not relieve respondents from responsibility x x x Although the second
marriage of the respondent was subsequently declared null and void the fact remains
that respondents exhibited conduct which lacks that degree of morality required of
them as members of the Bar.35

Moral character is not a subjective term but one that corresponds to objective
reality.36 To have good moral character, a person must have the personal
characteristics of being good. It is not enough that he or she has a good reputation,
i.e., the opinion generally entertained about a person or the estimate in which he or she
is held by the public in the place where she is known.37 The requirement of good moral
character has four general purposes, namely: (1) to protect the public; (2) to protect
the public image of lawyers; (3) to protect prospective clients; and (4) to protect errant
lawyers from themselves.38 Each purpose is as important as the other.

Under the circumstances, we cannot overlook that prior to becoming a lawyer, Atty.
Valencia already knew that Atty. Garrido was a married man (either to Constancia or
to Maelotisea), and that he already had a family. As Atty. Garrido’s admitted

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confidante, she was under the moral duty to give him proper advice; instead, she
entered into a romantic relationship with him for about six (6) years during the
subsistence of his two marriages. In 1978, she married Atty. Garrido with the knowledge
that he had an outstanding second marriage. These circumstances, to our mind,
support the conclusion that she lacked good moral character; even without being a
lawyer, a person possessed of high moral values, whose confidential advice was sought
by another with respect to the latter’s family problems, would not aggravate the
situation by entering into a romantic liaison with the person seeking advice, thereby
effectively alienating the other person’s feelings and affection from his wife and family.

While Atty. Valencia contends that Atty. Garrido’s marriage with Maelotisea was null
and void, the fact remains that he took a man away from a woman who bore him six
(6) children. Ordinary decency would have required her to ward off Atty. Garrido’s
advances, as he was a married man, in fact a twice-married man with both marriages
subsisting at that time; she should have said no to Atty. Garrido from the very start.
Instead, she continued her liaison with Atty. Garrido, driving him, upon the death of
Constancia, away from legitimizing his relationship with Maelotisea and their children.
Worse than this, because of Atty. Valencia’s presence and willingness, Atty. Garrido
even left his second family and six children for a third marriage with her. This scenario
smacks of immorality even if viewed outside of the prism of law.1avvphi1

We are not unmindful of Atty. Valencia’s expressed belief that Atty. Garrido’s second
marriage to Maelotisea was invalid; hence, she felt free to marry Atty. Garrido. While
this may be correct in the strict legal sense and was later on confirmed by the
declaration of the nullity of Atty. Garrido’s marriage to Maelotisea, we do not believe at
all in the honesty of this expressed belief.

The records show that Atty. Valencia consented to be married in Hongkong, not within
the country. Given that this marriage transpired before the declaration of the nullity of
Atty. Garrido’s second marriage, we can only call this Hongkong marriage a
clandestine marriage, contrary to the Filipino tradition of celebrating a marriage
together with family. Despite Atty. Valencia’s claim that she agreed to marry Atty.
Garrido only after he showed her proof of his capacity to enter into a subsequent valid
marriage, the celebration of their marriage in Hongkong39 leads us to the opposite
conclusion; they wanted to marry in Hongkong for the added security of avoiding any
charge of bigamy by entering into the subsequent marriage outside Philippine
jurisdiction. In this regard, we cannot help but note that Atty. Valencia afterwards
opted to retain and use her surname instead of using the surname of her "husband."
Atty. Valencia, too, did not appear to mind that her husband did not live and cohabit
with her under one roof, but with his second wife and the family of this marriage.
Apparently, Atty. Valencia did not mind at all "sharing" her husband with another
woman. This, to us, is a clear demonstration of Atty. Valencia’s perverse sense of moral
values.

Measured against the definition of gross immorality, we find Atty. Valencia’s actions
grossly immoral. Her actions were so corrupt as to approximate a criminal act, for she
married a man who, in all appearances, was married to another and with whom he has
a family. Her actions were also unprincipled and reprehensible to a high degree; as the

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confidante of Atty. Garrido, she preyed on his vulnerability and engaged in a romantic
relationship with him during the subsistence of his two previous marriages. As already
mentioned, Atty. Valencia’s conduct could not but be scandalous and revolting to the
point of shocking the community’s sense of decency; while she professed to be the
lawfully wedded wife, she helped the second family build a house prior to her marriage
to Atty. Garrido, and did not object to sharing her husband with the woman of his
second marriage.

We find that Atty. Valencia violated Canon 7 and Rule 7.03 of the Code of Professional
Responsibility, as her behavior demeaned the dignity of and discredited the legal
profession. She simply failed in her duty as a lawyer to adhere unwaveringly to the
highest standards of morality.40 In Barrientos v. Daarol,41 we held that lawyers, as
officers of the court, must not only be of good moral character but must also be seen to
be of good moral character and must lead lives in accordance with the highest moral
standards of the community. Atty. Valencia failed to live up to these standards before
she was admitted to the bar and after she became a member of the legal profession.

Conclusion

Membership in the Bar is a privilege burdened with conditions. As a privilege bestowed


by law through the Supreme Court, membership in the Bar can be withdrawn where
circumstances concretely show the lawyer’s lack of the essential qualifications required
of lawyers. We resolve to withdraw this privilege from Atty. Angel E. Garrido and Atty.
Rowena P. Valencia for this reason.

In imposing the penalty of disbarment upon the respondents, we are aware that the
power to disbar is one to be exercised with great caution and only in clear cases of
misconduct that seriously affects the standing and character of the lawyer as a legal
professional and as an officer of the Court.42

We are convinced from the totality of the evidence on hand that the present case is
one of them. The records show the parties’ pattern of grave and immoral misconduct
that demonstrates their lack of mental and emotional fitness and moral character to
qualify them for the responsibilities and duties imposed on lawyers as professionals and
as officers of the court.

While we are keenly aware of Atty. Garrido’s plea for compassion and his act of
supporting his children with Maelotisea after their separation, we cannot grant his plea.
The extent of his demonstrated violations of his oath, the Rules of Court and of the
Code of Professional Responsibility overrides what under other circumstances are
commendable traits of character.

In like manner, Atty. Valencia’s behavior over a long period of time unequivocally
demonstrates a basic and serious flaw in her character, which we cannot simply brush
aside without undermining the dignity of the legal profession and without placing the
integrity of the administration of justice into question. She was not an on-looker
victimized by the circumstances, but a willing and knowing full participant in a love
triangle whose incidents crossed into the illicit.

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WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Court resolves to:

(1) DISBAR Atty. Angel E. Garrido from the practice of law for gross immorality, violation
of the Lawyer’s Oath; and violation of Rule 1.01, Canon 7 and Rule 7.03 of the Code of
Professional Responsibility; and

(2) DISBAR Atty. Romana P. Valencia from the practice of law for gross immorality,
violation of Canon 7 and Rule 7.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility.

Let a copy of this Decision be attached to the personal records of Atty. Angel E.
Garrido and Atty. Romana P. Valencia in the Office of the Bar Confidant, and another
copy furnished the Integrated Bar of the Philippines.

The Clerk of Court is directed to strike out the names of Angel E. Garrido and Rowena P.
Valencia from the Roll of Attorneys.

SO ORDERED.

A.M. No. P-99-1287 January 26, 2001

OFFICE OF THE COURT ADMINISTRATOR, complainant,


vs.
ATTY. MISAEL M. LADAGA, Branch Clerk of Court, Regional Trial Court, Branch 133,
Makati City, respondent.

KAPUNAN, J.:

In a Letter, dated August 31, 1998, respondent Atty. Misael M. Ladaga, Branch Clerk of
Court of the Regional Trial Court of Makati, Branch 133, requested the Court
Administrator, Justice Alfredo L. Benipayo, for authority to appear as pro bono counsel
of his cousin, Narcisa Naldoza Ladaga, in Criminal Case No. 84885, entitled "People vs.
Narcisa Naldoza Ladaga" for Falsification of Public Document pending before the
Metropolitan Trial Court of Quezon City, Branch 40.1 While respondent's letter-request
was pending action, Lisa Payoyo Andres, the private complainant in Criminal Case No.
84885, sent a letter to the Court Administrator, dated September 2, 1998, requesting for
a certification with regard to respondent's authority to appear as counsel for the
accused in the said criminal case.2 On September 7, 1998, the Office of the Court
Administrator referred the matter to respondent for comment.3

In his Comment,4 dated September 14, 1998, respondent admitted that he had
appeared in Criminal Case No. 84885 without prior authorization. He reasoned out that
the factual circumstances surrounding the criminal case compelled him to handle the
defense of his cousin who did not have enough resources to hire the services of a
counsel de parte; while, on the other hand, private complainant was a member of a
powerful family who was out to get even with his cousin. Furthermore, he rationalized
that his appearance in the criminal case did not prejudice his office nor the interest of

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the public since he did not take advantage of his position. In any case, his
appearances in court were covered by leave applications approved by the presiding
judge.1âwphi1.nêt

On December 8, 1998, the Court issued a Resolution denying respondent's request for
authorization to appear as counsel and directing the Office of the Court Administrator
to file formal charges against him for appearing in court without the required
authorization from the Court.5 On January 25, 1999, the Court Administrator filed the
instant administrative complaint against respondent for violating Sec. 7(b)(2) of
Republic Act No. 6713, otherwise known as the "Code of Conduct and Ethical
Standards for Public Officials and Employees," which provides:

Sec. 7. Prohibited Acts and Transactions. – In addition to acts and omissions of public
officials and employees now prescribed in the Constitution and existing laws, the
following shall constitute prohibited acts and transactions of any public official and
employee and are hereby declared to be unlawful:

x x x

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

x x x

(2) Engage in the private practice of their profession unless authorized by the
Constitution or law, Provided, that such practice will not conflict or tend to conflict with
their official functions;

In our Resolution, dated February 9, 1999, we required respondent to comment on the


administrative complaint.

In his Comment, respondent explained that he and Ms. Ladaga are "close blood
cousins" who belong to a "powerless family" from the impoverished town of Bacauag,
Surigao del Norte. From childhood until he finished his law degree, Ms. Ladaga had
always supported and guided him while he looked up to her as a mentor and an
adviser. Because of their close relationship, Ms. Ladaga sought respondent's help and
advice when she was charged in Criminal Case No. 84885 for falsification by the private
complainant, Lisa Payoyo Andres, whose only purpose in filing the said criminal case
was to "seek vengeance" on her cousin. He explained that his cousin's discord with Ms.
Andres started when the latter's husband, SPO4 Pedro Andres, left the conjugal home
to cohabit with Ms. Ladaga. During the course of their illicit affair, SPO4 Andres and Ms.
Ladaga begot three (3) children. The birth certificate of their eldest child is the subject
of the falsification charge against Ms. Ladaga. Respondent stated that since he is the
only lawyer in their family, he felt it to be his duty to accept Ms. Ladaga's plea to be her
counsel since she not have enough funds to pay for the services of a lawyer.
Respondent also pointed out that in his seven (7) years of untainted government
service, initially with the Commission on Human Rights and now with the judiciary, he
had performed his duties with honesty and integrity and that it was only in this particular

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case that he had been administratively charged for extending a helping hand to a
close relative by giving a free legal assistance for "humanitarian purpose." He never
took advantage of his position as branch clerk of court since the questioned
appearances were made in the Metropolitan Trial Court of Quezon City and not in
Makati where he is holding office. He stressed that during the hearings of the criminal
case, he was on leave as shown by his approved leave applications attached to his
comment.

In our Resolution, dated June 22, 1999, we noted respondent's comment and referred
the administrative matter to the Executive Judge of the Regional Trial Court of Makati,
Judge Josefina Guevarra-Salonga, for investigation, report and recommendation.

In her Report, dated September 29, 1999, Judge Salonga made the following findings
and recommendation:

There is no question that Atty. Misael Ladaga appeared as counsel for and in behalf of
his cousin, Narcisa Naldoza Ladaga, an accused in Criminal Case No. 84-885 for
"Falsification of Public Documents" before the METC of Quezon City. It is also denied
that the appearance of said respondent in said case was without the previous
permission of the Court.

An examination of the records shows that during the occasions that the respondent
appeared as such counsel before the METC of Quezon City, he was on official leave of
absence. Moreover, his Presiding Judge, Judge Napoleon Inoturan was aware of the
case he was handling. That the respondent appeared as pro bono counsel likewise
cannot be denied. His cousin-client Narcisa Ladaga herself positively declared that the
respondent did not receive a single centavo from her. Helpless as she was and
respondent being the only lawyer in the family, he agreed to represent her out of his
compassion and high regard for her.

It may not be amiss to point out, this is the first time that respondent ever handled a
case for a member of his family who is like a big sister to him. He appeared for free and
for the purpose of settling the case amicably. Furthermore, his Presiding Judge was
aware of his appearance as counsel for his cousin. On top of this, during all the years
that he has been in government service, he has maintained his integrity and
independence.

RECOMMENDATION

In the light of the foregoing, it appearing that the respondent appeared as counsel for
his cousin without first securing permission from the Court, and considering that this is his
first time to do it coupled with the fact that said appearance was not for a fee and was
with the knowledge of his Presiding Judge, it is hereby respectfully recommended that
he be REPRIMANDED with a stern warning that any repetition of such act would be
dealt with more severely.6

We agree with the recommendation of the investigating judge.

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Respondent is charged under Sec. 7(b)(2) of the Code of Conduct and Ethical
Standards for Public Officials and Employees which prohibits civil servants from
engaging in the private practice of their profession. A similar prohibition is found under
Sec. 35, Rule 138 of the Revised Rules of Court which disallows certain attorneys from
engaging in the private practice of their profession. The said section reads:

SEC. 35. Certain attorneys not to practice. – No judge or other official or employee of
the superior courts or of the Office of the Solicitor General, shall engage in private
practice as a member of the bar or give professional advise to clients.

However, it should be clarified that "private practice" of a profession, specifically the


law profession in this case, which is prohibited, does not pertain to an isolated court
appearance; rather, it contemplates a succession of acts of the same nature habitually
or customarily holding one's self to the public as a lawyer.

In the case of People vs. Villanueva,7 we explained the meaning of the term "private
practice" prohibited by the said section, to wit:

We believe that the isolated appearance of City Attorney Fule did not constitute
private practice, within the meaning and contemplation of the Rules. Practice is more
than an isolated appearance, for it consists in frequent or customary action, a
succession of acts of the same kind. In other words, it is frequent habitual exercise (State
vs. Cotner, 127, p. 1, 87 Kan. 864, 42 LRA, N.S. 768). Practice of law to fall within the
prohibition of statute has been interpreted as customarily or habitually holding one's self
out to the public, as a lawyer and demanding payment for such services (State vs.
Bryan, 4 S. E. 522, 98 N. C. 644, 647). The appearance as counsel on one occasion, is not
conclusive as determinative of engagement in the private practice of law. The
following observation of the Solicitor General is noteworthy:

"Essentially, the word private practice of law implies that one must have presented
himself to be in the active and continued practice of the legal profession and that his
professional services are available to the public for a compensation, as a source of his
livelihood or in consideration of his said services."

For one thing, it has never been refuted that City Attorney Fule had been given
permission by his immediate superior, the Secretary of Justice, to represent the
complainant in the case at bar, who is a relative.8

Based on the foregoing, it is evident that the isolated instances when respondent
appeared as pro bono counsel of his cousin in Criminal Case No. 84885 does not
constitute the "private practice" of the law profession contemplated by law.

Nonetheless, while respondent's isolated court appearances did not amount to a


private practice of law, he failed to obtain a written permission therefor from the head
of the Department, which is this Court as required by Section 12, Rule XVIII of the
Revised Civil Service Rules, thus:

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Sec 12. No officer or employee shall engage directly in any private business, vocation,
or profession or be connected with any commercial, credit, agricultural, or industrial
undertaking without a written permission from the head of the Department: Provided,
That this prohibition will be absolute in the case of those officers and employees whose
duties and responsibilities require that their entire time be at the disposal of the
Government; Provided, further, That if an employee is granted permission to engage in
outside activities, time so devoted outside of office hours should be fixed by the agency
to the end that it will not impair in any way the efficiency of the officer or employee:
And provided, finally, That no permission is necessary in the case of investments, made
by an officer or employee, which do not involve real or apparent conflict between his
private interests and public duties, or in any way influence him in the discharge of his
duties, and he shall not take part in the management of the enterprise or become an
officer of the board of directors.9

Respondent entered his appearance and attended court proceedings on numerous


occasions, i.e., May 4-15, 1998, June 18, 1998, July 13, 1998 and August 5, 1998, as borne
out by his own admission. It is true that he filed leave applications corresponding to the
dates he appeared in court. However, he failed to obtain a prior permission from the
head of the Department. The presiding judge of the court to which respondent is
assigned is not the head of the Department contemplated by law.1âwphi1.nêt

WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, respondent Atty. Misael M. Ladaga is hereby


REPRIMANDED with a stern warning that any repetition of such act would be dealt with
more severely.

SO ORDERED.

G.R. No. 154207 April 27, 2007

FERDINAND A. CRUZ, Petitioner,


vs.
ALBERTO MINA, HON. ELEUTERIO F. GUERRERO and HON. ZENAIDA LAGUILLES,
Respondents.

DECISION

AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ, J.:

Before the Court is a Petition for Certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court, grounded
on pure questions of law, with Prayer for Preliminary Injunction assailing the Resolution
dated May 3, 2002 promulgated by the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 116, Pasay
City, in Civil Case No. 02-0137, which denied the issuance of a writ of preliminary
injunction against the Metropolitan Trial Court (MeTC), Branch 45, Pasay City, in Criminal
Case No. 00-1705;1 and the RTC’s Order dated June 5, 2002 denying the Motion for
Reconsideration. No writ of preliminary injunction was issued by this Court.

The antecedents:

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On September 25, 2000, Ferdinand A. Cruz (petitioner) filed before the MeTC a formal
Entry of Appearance, as private prosecutor, in Criminal Case No. 00-1705 for Grave
Threats, where his father, Mariano Cruz, is the complaining witness.

The petitioner, describing himself as a third year law student, justifies his appearance as
private prosecutor on the bases of Section 34 of Rule 138 of the Rules of Court and the
ruling of the Court En Banc in Cantimbuhan v. Judge Cruz, Jr.2 that a non-lawyer may
appear before the inferior courts as an agent or friend of a party litigant. The petitioner
furthermore avers that his appearance was with the prior conformity of the public
prosecutor and a written authority of Mariano Cruz appointing him to be his agent in
the prosecution of the said criminal case.

However, in an Order dated February 1, 2002, the MeTC denied permission for petitioner
to appear as private prosecutor on the ground that Circular No. 19 governing limited
law student practice in conjunction with Rule 138-A of the Rules of Court (Law Student
Practice Rule) should take precedence over the ruling of the Court laid down in
Cantimbuhan; and set the case for continuation of trial.3

On February 13, 2002, petitioner filed before the MeTC a Motion for Reconsideration
seeking to reverse the February 1, 2002 Order alleging that Rule 138-A, or the Law
Student Practice Rule, does not have the effect of superseding Section 34 of Rule 138,
for the authority to interpret the rule is the source itself of the rule, which is the Supreme
Court alone.

In an Order dated March 4, 2002, the MeTC denied the Motion for Reconsideration.

On April 2, 2002, the petitioner filed before the RTC a Petition for Certiorari and
Mandamus with Prayer for Preliminary Injunction and Temporary Restraining Order
against the private respondent and the public respondent MeTC.

After hearing the prayer for preliminary injunction to restrain public respondent MeTC
Judge from proceeding with Criminal Case No. 00-1705 pending the Certiorari
proceedings, the RTC, in a Resolution dated May 3, 2002, resolved to deny the issuance
of an injunctive writ on the ground that the crime of Grave Threats, the subject of
Criminal Case No. 00-1705, is one that can be prosecuted de oficio, there being no
claim for civil indemnity, and that therefore, the intervention of a private prosecutor is
not legally tenable.

On May 9, 2002, the petitioner filed before the RTC a Motion for Reconsideration. The
petitioner argues that nowhere does the law provide that the crime of Grave Threats
has no civil aspect. And last, petitioner cites Bar Matter No. 730 dated June 10, 1997
which expressly provides for the appearance of a non-lawyer before the inferior courts,
as an agent or friend of a party litigant, even without the supervision of a member of
the bar.

Pending the resolution of the foregoing Motion for Reconsideration before the RTC, the
petitioner filed a Second Motion for Reconsideration dated June 7, 2002 with the MeTC

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seeking the reversal of the March 4, 2002 Denial Order of the said court, on the strength
of Bar Matter No. 730, and a Motion to Hold In Abeyance the Trial dated June 10, 2002
of Criminal Case No. 00-1705 pending the outcome of the certiorari proceedings before
the RTC.

On June 5, 2002, the RTC issued its Order denying the petitioner’s Motion for
Reconsideration.

Likewise, in an Order dated June 13, 2002, the MeTC denied the petitioner’s Second
Motion for Reconsideration and his Motion to Hold in Abeyance the Trial on the ground
that the RTC had already denied the Entry of Appearance of petitioner before the
MeTC.

On July 30, 2002, the petitioner directly filed with this Court, the instant Petition and
assigns the following errors:

I.

the respondent regional trial court abused its discretion when it resolved to deny the
prayer for the writ of injunction of the herein petitioner despite petitioner having
established the necessity of granting the writ;

II.

THE RESPONDENT TRIAL COURT ABUSED ITS DISCRETION, TANTAMOUNT TO IGNORANCE


OF THE LAW, WHEN IT RESOLVED TO DENY THE PRAYER FOR THE WRIT OF PRELIMINARY
INJUNCTION AND THE SUBSEQUENT MOTION FOR RECONSIDERATION OF THE HEREIN
PETITIONER ON THE BASIS THAT [GRAVE] THREATS HAS NO CIVIL ASPECT, FOR THE SAID
BASIS OF DENIAL IS NOT IN ACCORD WITH THE LAW;

III.

THE RESPONDENT METROPOLITAN TRIAL COURT ABUSED ITS DISCRETION WHEN IT DENIED
THE MOTION TO HOLD IN ABEYANCE TRIAL, WHEN WHAT WAS DENIED BY THE
RESPONDENT REGIONAL TRIAL COURT IS THE ISSUANCE OF THE WRIT OF PRELIMINARY
INJUNCTION and WHEN THE RESPONDENT REGIONAL TRIAL COURT IS YET TO DECIDE ON
THE MERITS OF THE PETITION FOR CERTIORARI;

IV.

THE RESPONDENT COURT[s] ARE CLEARLY IGNORING THE LAW WHEN THEY PATENTLY
REFUSED TO HEED TO [sic] THE CLEAR MANDATE OF THE LAPUT, CANTIMBUHAN AND
BULACAN CASES, AS WELL AS BAR MATTER NO. 730, PROVIDING FOR THE APPEARANCE
OF NON-LAWYERS BEFORE THE LOWER COURTS (MTC’S).4

This Court, in exceptional cases, and for compelling reasons, or if warranted by the
nature of the issues reviewed, may take cognizance of petitions filed directly before it.5

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Considering that this case involves the interpretation, clarification, and implementation
of Section 34, Rule 138 of the Rules of Court, Bar Matter No. 730, Circular No. 19
governing law student practice and Rule 138-A of the Rules of Court, and the ruling of
the Court in Cantimbuhan, the Court takes cognizance of herein petition.

The basic question is whether the petitioner, a law student, may appear before an
inferior court as an agent or friend of a party litigant.

The courts a quo held that the Law Student Practice Rule as encapsulated in Rule 138-A
of the Rules of Court, prohibits the petitioner, as a law student, from entering his
appearance in behalf of his father, the private complainant in the criminal case
without the supervision of an attorney duly accredited by the law school.

Rule 138-A or the Law Student Practice Rule, provides:

RULE 138-A
LAW STUDENT PRACTICE RULE

Section 1. Conditions for Student Practice. – A law student who has successfully
completed his 3rd year of the regular four-year prescribed law curriculum and is
enrolled in a recognized law school's clinical legal education program approved by the
Supreme Court, may appear without compensation in any civil, criminal or
administrative case before any trial court, tribunal, board or officer, to represent
indigent clients accepted by the legal clinic of the law school.

Sec. 2. Appearance. – The appearance of the law student authorized by this rule, shall
be under the direct supervision and control of a member of the Integrated Bar of the
Philippines duly accredited by the law school. Any and all pleadings, motions, briefs,
memoranda or other papers to be filed, must be signed by the supervising attorney for
and in behalf of the legal clinic.

However, in Resolution6 dated June 10, 1997 in Bar Matter No. 730, the Court En Banc
clarified:

The rule, however, is different if the law student appears before an inferior court, where
the issues and procedure are relatively simple. In inferior courts, a law student may
appear in his personal capacity without the supervision of a lawyer. Section 34, Rule 138
provides:

Sec. 34. By whom litigation is conducted. - In the court of a justice of the peace, a party
may conduct his litigation in person, with the aid of an agent or friend appointed by
him for that purpose, or with the aid of an attorney. In any other court, a party may
conduct his litigation personally or by aid of an attorney, and his appearance must be
either personal or by a duly authorized member of the bar.

Thus, a law student may appear before an inferior court as an agent or friend of a party
without the supervision of a member of the bar.7 (Emphasis supplied)

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The phrase "In the court of a justice of the peace" in Bar Matter No. 730 is subsequently
changed to "In the court of a municipality" as it now appears in Section 34 of Rule 138,
thus:8

SEC. 34. By whom litigation is conducted. — In the Court of a municipality a party may
conduct his litigation in person, with the aid of an agent or friend appointed by him for
that purpose, or with the aid of an attorney. In any other court, a party may conduct his
litigation personally or by aid of an attorney and his appearance must be either
personal or by a duly authorized member of the bar. (Emphasis supplied)

which is the prevailing rule at the time the petitioner filed his Entry of Appearance with
the MeTC on September 25, 2000. No real distinction exists for under Section 6, Rule 5 of
the Rules of Court, the term "Municipal Trial Courts" as used in these Rules shall include
Metropolitan Trial Courts, Municipal Trial Courts in Cities, Municipal Trial Courts, and
Municipal Circuit Trial Courts.

There is really no problem as to the application of Section 34 of Rule 138 and Rule 138-A.
In the former, the appearance of a non-lawyer, as an agent or friend of a party litigant,
is expressly allowed, while the latter rule provides for conditions when a law student, not
as an agent or a friend of a party litigant, may appear before the courts.

Petitioner expressly anchored his appearance on Section 34 of Rule 138. The court a
quo must have been confused by the fact that petitioner referred to himself as a law
student in his entry of appearance. Rule 138-A should not have been used by the courts
a quo in denying permission to act as private prosecutor against petitioner for the
simple reason that Rule 138-A is not the basis for the petitioner’s appearance.

Section 34, Rule 138 is clear that appearance before the inferior courts by a non-lawyer
is allowed, irrespective of whether or not he is a law student. As succinctly clarified in
Bar Matter No. 730, by virtue of Section 34, Rule 138, a law student may appear, as an
agent or a friend of a party litigant, without the supervision of a lawyer before inferior
courts.

Petitioner further argues that the RTC erroneously held that, by its very nature, no civil
liability may flow from the crime of Grave Threats, and, for this reason, the intervention
of a private prosecutor is not possible.

It is clear from the RTC Decision that no such conclusion had been intended by the RTC.
In denying the issuance of the injunctive court, the RTC stated in its Decision that there
was no claim for civil liability by the private complainant for damages, and that the
records of the case do not provide for a claim for indemnity; and that therefore,
petitioner’s appearance as private prosecutor appears to be legally untenable.

Under Article 100 of the Revised Penal Code, every person criminally liable for a felony is
also civilly liable except in instances when no actual damage results from an offense,
such as espionage, violation of neutrality, flight to an enemy country, and crime against
popular representation.9 The basic rule applies in the instant case, such that when a
criminal action is instituted, the civil action for the recovery of civil liability arising from

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the offense charged shall be deemed instituted with criminal action, unless the
offended party waives the civil action, reserves the right to institute it separately or
institutes the civil action prior to the criminal action.10

The petitioner is correct in stating that there being no reservation, waiver, nor prior
institution of the civil aspect in Criminal Case No. 00-1705, it follows that the civil aspect
arising from Grave Threats is deemed instituted with the criminal action, and, hence,
the private prosecutor may rightfully intervene to prosecute the civil aspect.

WHEREFORE, the Petition is GRANTED. The assailed Resolution and Order of the Regional
Trial Court, Branch 116, Pasay City are REVERSED and SET ASIDE. The Metropolitan Trial
Court, Branch 45, Pasay City is DIRECTED to ADMIT the Entry of Appearance of petitioner
in Criminal Case No. 00-1705 as a private prosecutor under the direct control and
supervision of the public prosecutor.

No pronouncement as to costs.

SO ORDERED.

G.R. No. 154464 September 11, 2008

FERDINAND A. CRUZ,
Petitioner,
- versus -
JUDGE PRISCILLA MIJARES, Presiding Judge, Regional Trial Court, Branch 108, Pasay City,
Metro Manila, Public Respondent.
x------------------------------------------------------------------------------------x

DECISION

NACHURA, J.:

This is a Petition for Certiorari, Prohibition and Mandamus, with prayer for the issuance of
a writ of preliminary injunction under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court. It was directly filed
with this Court assailing the Resolutions dated May 10, 2002[1] and July 31, 2002[2] of
the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 108, Pasay City, which denied the appearance of
the plaintiff Ferdinand A. Cruz, herein petitioner, as party litigant, and the refusal of the
public respondent, Judge Priscilla Mijares, to voluntarily inhibit herself from trying the
case. No writ of preliminary injunction was issued by this Court.

The antecedents:

On March 5, 2002, Ferdinand A. Cruz (petitioner) sought permission to enter his


appearance for and on his behalf, before the RTC, Branch 108, Pasay City, as the
plaintiff in Civil Case No. 01-0410, for Abatement of Nuisance. Petitioner, a fourth year

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law student, anchors his claim on Section 34 of Rule 138 of the Rules of Court[3] that a
non-lawyer may appear before any court and conduct his litigation personally.

During the pre-trial, Judge Priscilla Mijares required the petitioner to secure a written
permission from the Court Administrator before he could be allowed to appear as
counsel for himself, a party-litigant. Atty. Stanley Cabrera, counsel for Benjamin Mina,
Jr., filed a Motion to Dismiss instead of a pre-trial brief to which petitioner Cruz
vehemently objected alleging that a Motion to Dismiss is not allowed after the Answer
had been filed. Judge Mijares then remarked, Hay naku, masama yung marunong pa
sa Huwes. Ok? and proceeded to hear the pending Motion to Dismiss and calendared
the next hearing on May 2, 2002.

On March 6, 2002, petitioner Cruz filed a Manifestation and Motion to Inhibit,[4] praying
for the voluntary inhibition of Judge Mijares. The Motion alleged that expected partiality
on the part of the respondent judge in the conduct of the trial could be inferred from
the contumacious remarks of Judge Mijares during the pre-trial. It asserts that the judge,
in uttering an uncalled for remark, reflects a negative frame of mind, which engenders
the belief that justice will not be served.

In an Order[6] dated April 19, 2002, Judge Mijares denied the motion for inhibition
stating that throwing tenuous allegations of partiality based on the said remark is not
enough to warrant her voluntary inhibition, considering that it was said even prior to the
start of pre-trial. Petitioner filed a motion for reconsideration[7] of the said order.

On May 10, 2002, Judge Mijares denied the motion with finality.[8] In the same Order,
the trial court held that for the failure of petitioner Cruz to submit the promised
document and jurisprudence, and for his failure to satisfy the requirements or conditions
under Rule 138-A of the Rules of Court, his appearance was denied.

In a motion for reconsideration,[9] petitioner reiterated that the basis of his appearance
was not Rule 138-A, but Section 34 of Rule 138. He contended that the two Rules were
distinct and are applicable to different circumstances, but the respondent judge
denied the same, still invoking Rule 138-A, in an Order[10] dated July 31, 2002.

On August 16, 2002, the petitioner directly filed with this Court, the instant petition and
assigns the following errors:

I.

THE RESPONDENT REGIONAL TRIAL COURT GRAVELY ERRED AND ABUSED ITS DISCRETION
WHEN IT DENIED THE APPEARANCE OF THE PETITIONER, FOR AND IN THE LATTERS BEHALF,
IN CIVIL CASE NO. 01-0401 [sic] CONTRARY TO RULE 138, SECTION 34 OF THE RULES OF
COURT, PROVIDING FOR THE APPEARANCE OF NON-LAWYERS AS A PARTY LITIGANT;

II.

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THE RESPONDENT COURT GRAVELY ERRED AND ABUSED ITS DISCRETION WHEN IT DID NOT
VOLUNTARILY INHIBIT DESPITE THE ADVENT OF JURISPRUDENCE [sic] THAT SUCH AN
INHIBITION IS PROPER TO PRESERVE THE PEOPLES FAITH AND CONFIDENCE TO THE
COURTS.

The core issues raised before the Court are: (1) whether the extraordinary writs of
certiorari, prohibition and mandamus under Rule 65 of the 1997 Rules of Court may
issue; and (2) whether the respondent court acted with grave abuse of discretion
amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction when it denied the appearance of the
petitioner as party litigant and when the judge refused to inhibit herself from trying the
case.

This Courts jurisdiction to issue writs of certiorari, prohibition, mandamus and injunction is
not exclusive; it has concurrent jurisdiction with the RTCs and the Court of Appeals. This
concurrence of jurisdiction is not, however, to be taken as an absolute, unrestrained
freedom to choose the court where the application therefor will be directed.[11] A
becoming regard of the judicial hierarchy most certainly indicates that petitions for the
issuance of extraordinary writs against the RTCs should be filed with the Court of
Appeals.[12] The hierarchy of courts is determinative of the appropriate forum for
petitions for the extraordinary writs; and only in exceptional cases and for compelling
reasons, or if warranted by the nature of the issues reviewed, may this Court take
cognizance of petitions filed directly before it.[13]

Considering, however, that this case involves the interpretation of Section 34, Rule 138
and Rule 138-A of the Rules of Court, the Court takes cognizance of herein petition.
Nonetheless, the petitioner is cautioned not to continue his practice of filing directly
before this Court petitions under Rule 65 when the issue raised can be resolved with
dispatch by the Court of Appeals. We will not tolerate litigants who make a mockery of
the judicial hierarchy as it necessarily delays more important concerns before us.

In resolving the second issue, a comparative reading of Rule 138, Section 34 and Rule
138-A is necessary.

Rule 138-A, or the Law Student Practice Rule, provides:

RULE 138-A

LAW STUDENT PRACTICE RULE

Section 1. Conditions for Student Practice. A law student who has successfully
completed his 3rd year of the regular four-year prescribed law curriculum and is
enrolled in a recognized law school's clinical legal education program approved by the
Supreme Court, may appear without compensation in any civil, criminal or
administrative case before any trial court, tribunal, board or officer, to represent
indigent clients accepted by the legal clinic of the law school.

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Sec. 2. Appearance. The appearance of the law student authorized by this rule, shall
be under the direct supervision and control of a member of the Integrated Bar of the
Philippines duly accredited by the law school. Any and all pleadings, motions, briefs,
memoranda or other papers to be filed, must be signed by the supervising attorney for
and in behalf of the legal clinic.

The respondent court held that the petitioner could not appear for himself and on his
behalf because of his failure to comply with Rule 138-A. In denying petitioners
appearance, the court a quo tersely finds refuge in the fact that, on December 18,
1986, this Court issued Circular No. 19, which eventually became Rule 138-A, and the
failure of Cruz to prove on record that he is enrolled in a recognized schools clinical
legal education program and is under supervision of an attorney duly accredited by
the law school.

However, the petitioner insisted that the basis of his appearance was Section 34 of Rule
138, which provides:

Sec. 34. By whom litigation is conducted. - In the court of a justice of the peace, a party
may conduct his litigation in person, with the aid of an agent or friend appointed by
him for that purpose, or with the aid of an attorney. In any other court, a party may
conduct his litigation personally or by aid of an attorney, and his appearance must be
either personal or by a duly authorized member of the bar.

and is a rule distinct from Rule 138-A.

From the clear language of this provision of the Rules, it will have to be conceded that
the contention of the petitioner has merit. It recognizes the right of an individual to
represent himself in any case to which he is a party. The Rules state that a party may
conduct his litigation personally or with the aid of an attorney, and that his appearance
must either be personal or by a duly authorized member of the Bar. The individual
litigant may personally do everything in the course of proceedings from
commencement to the termination of the litigation.[14] Considering that a party
personally conducting his litigation is restricted to the same rules of evidence and
procedure as those qualified to practice law,[15] petitioner, not being a lawyer himself,
runs the risk of falling into the snares and hazards of his own ignorance. Therefore, Cruz
as plaintiff, at his own instance, can personally conduct the litigation of Civil Case No.
01-0410. He would then be acting not as a counsel or lawyer, but as a party exercising
his right to represent himself.

The trial court must have been misled by the fact that the petitioner is a law student
and must, therefore, be subject to the conditions of the Law Student Practice Rule. It
erred in applying Rule 138-A, when the basis of the petitioners claim is Section 34 of Rule
138. The former rule provides for conditions when a law student may appear in courts,
while the latter rule allows the appearance of a non-lawyer as a party representing
himself.

The conclusion of the trial court that Rule 138-A superseded Rule 138 by virtue of
Circular No. 19 is misplaced. The Court never intended to repeal Rule 138 when it

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released the guidelines for limited law student practice. In fact, it was intended as an
addendum to the instances when a non-lawyer may appear in courts and was
incorporated to the Rules of Court through Rule 138-A.

It may be relevant to recall that, in respect to the constitutional right of an accused to


be heard by himself and counsel,[16] this Court has held that during the trial, the right to
counsel cannot be waived.[17] The rationale for this ruling was articulated in People v.
Holgado,[18] where we declared that even the most intelligent or educated man may
have no skill in the science of law, particularly in the rules of procedure, and without
counsel, he may be convicted not because he is guilty but because he does not know
how to establish his innocence.

The case at bar involves a civil case, with the petitioner as plaintiff therein. The solicitous
concern that the Constitution accords the accused in a criminal prosecution obviously
does not obtain in a civil case. Thus, a party litigant in a civil case, who insists that he
can, without a lawyers assistance, effectively undertake the successful pursuit of his
claim, may be given the chance to do so. In this case, petitioner alleges that he is a law
student and impliedly asserts that he has the competence to litigate the case himself.
Evidently, he is aware of the perils incident to this decision.

In addition, it was subsequently clarified in Bar Matter 730, that by virtue of Section 34,
Rule 138, a law student may appear as an agent or a friend of a party litigant, without
need of the supervision of a lawyer, before inferior courts. Here, we have a law student
who, as party litigant, wishes to represent himself in court. We should grant his wish.

Additionally, however, petitioner contends that the respondent judge committed


manifest bias and partiality by ruling that there is no valid ground for her voluntary
inhibition despite her alleged negative demeanor during the pre-trial when she said:
Hay naku, masama yung marunong pa sa Huwes. Ok? Petitioner avers that by denying
his motion, the respondent judge already manifested conduct indicative of arbitrariness
and prejudice, causing petitioners and his co-plaintiffs loss of faith and confidence in
the respondents impartiality.

We do not agree.

It must be noted that because of this incident, the petitioner filed an administrative
case[19] against the respondent for violation of the Canons of Judicial Ethics, which we
dismissed for lack of merit on September 15, 2002. We now adopt the Courts findings of
fact in the administrative case and rule that there was no grave abuse of discretion on
the part of Judge Mijares when she did not inhibit herself from the trial of the case.

In a Motion for Inhibition, the movant must prove the ground for bias and prejudice by
clear and convincing evidence to disqualify a judge from participating in a particular
trial,[20] as voluntary inhibition is primarily a matter of conscience and addressed to the
sound discretion of the judge. The decision on whether she should inhibit herself must be
based on her rational and logical assessment of the circumstances prevailing in the
case before her.[21] Absent clear and convincing proof of grave abuse of discretion on

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the part of the judge, this Court will rule in favor of the presumption that official duty has
been regularly performed.

WHEREFORE, the Petition is PARTIALLY GRANTED. The assailed Resolution and Order of
the Regional Trial Court, Branch 108, Pasay City are MODIFIED. Regional Trial Court,
Branch 108, Pasay City is DIRECTED to ADMIT the Entry of Appearance of petitioner in
Civil Case No. 01-0410 as a party litigant.

No pronouncement as to costs.

SO ORDERED.

A.C. No. 8096 July 5, 2010

REY J. VARGAS AND EDUARDO A. PANES, JR., Complainants,


vs.
ATTY. MICHAEL A. IGNES, ATTY. LEONARD BUENTIPO MANN, ATTY. RODOLFO U. VIAJAR,
JR., AND ATTY. JOHN RANGAL D. NADUA, Respondents.

RESOLUTION

VILLARAMA, JR., J.:

Before the Court is a petition for review of Resolution No. XVIII-2008-3351 passed on July
17, 2008 by the Board of Governors of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) in CBD
Case No. 07-1953. The IBP Board of Governors dismissed the disbarment case filed by
the complainants against the respondents.

The facts and proceedings antecedent to this case are as follows:

Koronadal Water District (KWD), a government-owned and controlled corporation


(GOCC), hired respondent Atty. Michael A. Ignes as private legal counsel for one (1)
year effective April 17, 2006.2 The Office of the Government Corporate Counsel
(OGCC) and the Commission on Audit (COA) gave their consent to the employment of
Atty. Ignes.3 However, controversy later erupted when two (2) different groups, herein
referred to as the Dela Peña board and Yaphockun board, laid claim as the legitimate
Board of Directors of KWD.

On December 28, 2006, the members of the Dela Peña board filed Civil Case No. 17934
for Injunction and Damages, seeking to annul the appointment of two (2) directors,
Joselito T. Reyes and Carlito Y. Uy, who will allegedly connive with Director Allan D.
Yaphockun whose hostility to the "present" Board of Directors, the Dela Peña board, is
supposedly of public knowledge.

On January 18, 2007, the Dela Peña board also adopted Resolution No. 0095
appointing respondents Atty. Rodolfo U. Viajar, Jr. and Atty. Leonard Buentipo Mann as

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private collaborating counsels for all cases of KWD and its Board of Directors, under the
direct supervision and control of Atty. Ignes.

Subsequently, on February 9, 2007, Attys. Ignes, Viajar, Jr. and Mann filed SCA Case No.
50-24 for Indirect Contempt of Court6 entitled Koronadal Water District (KWD),
represented herein by its General Manager, Eleanor Pimentel-Gomba v. Efren V.
Cabucay, et al. On February 19, 2007, they also filed Civil Case No. 1799 for Injunction
and Damages7 entitled Koronadal Water District (KWD), represented herein by its
General Manager, & Eleanor Pimentel-Gomba v. Rey J. Vargas. On March 9, 2007, KWD
and Eleanor Pimentel-Gomba filed a supplemental complaint8 in Civil Case No. 1799.

Meanwhile, in Contract Review No. 0799 dated February 16, 2007, the OGCC had
approved the retainership contract of Atty. Benjamin B. Cuanan as new legal counsel
of KWD and stated that the retainership contract of Atty. Ignes had expired on January
14, 2007.

In its letter10 dated March 2, 2007, the OGCC also addressed Eleanor P. Gomba’s
insistence that the retainership contract of Atty. Ignes will expire on April 17, 2007. The
OGCC stated that as stipulated, the KWD or OGCC may terminate the contract
anytime without need of judicial action; that OGCC’s grant of authority to private
counsels is a privilege withdrawable under justifiable circumstances; and that the
termination of Atty. Ignes’s contract was justified by the fact that the Local Water
Utilities Administration had confirmed the Yaphockun board as the new Board of
Directors of KWD and that said board had terminated Atty. Ignes’s services and
requested to hire another counsel.

Alleging that respondents acted as counsel for KWD without legal authority,
complainants filed a disbarment complaint11 against the respondents before the IBP
Commission on Bar Discipline (CBD), docketed as CBD Case No. 07-1953. Complainants
alleged that respondents filed SCA Case No. 50-24 and Civil Case No. 1799 as counsels
of KWD without legal authority. They likewise stated in their position paper12 that Atty.
Ignes continued representing KWD even after the OGCC had confirmed the expiration
of Atty. Ignes’s contract in its April 4, 2007 manifestation/motion13 in Civil Case No.
1796-25 entitled Koronadal Water District (KWD), represented herein by its General
Manager, Eleanor Pimentel Gomba v. Supreme Investigative and Security Agency,
represented by its Manager Efren Y. Cabucay.

In his defense,14 Atty. Mann stated that he and his fellow respondents can validly
represent KWD until April 17, 2007 since Atty. Ignes was not notified of his contract’s pre-
termination. Atty. Mann also stated that he stopped representing KWD after April 17,
2007 in deference to the OGCC’s stand. Attys. Ignes, Viajar, Jr. and Nadua echoed
Atty. Mann’s defense.15

On March 10, 2008, complainants filed a manifestation16 before the IBP with the
following attachments: (1) the transcript of stenographic notes taken on January 28,
2008 in Civil Case No. 1799, and (2) the notice of appeal dated February 28, 2008 of the
January 7, 2008 Order dismissing Civil Case No. 1799. Aforesaid transcript showed that

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Atty. Ignes appeared as counsel of KWD and Ms. Gomba. He also signed the notice of
appeal.

In his report and recommendation,17 the Investigating Commissioner recommended


that the charge against Atty. Ignes be dismissed for lack of merit. The Investigating
Commissioner held that Atty. Ignes had valid authority as counsel of KWD for one (1)
year, from April 2006 to April 2007, and he was unaware of the pre-termination of his
contract when he filed pleadings in SCA Case No. 50-24 and Civil Case No. 1799 in
February and March 2007.

As to Attys. Viajar, Jr., Mann and Nadua, the Investigating Commissioner recommended
that they be fined ₱5,000 each for appearing as attorneys for a party without authority
to do so, per Santayana v. Alampay.18 The Investigating Commissioner found that they
failed to secure the conformity of the OGCC and COA to their engagement as
collaborating counsels for KWD.

As aforesaid, the IBP Board of Governors reversed the recommendation of the


Investigating Commissioner and dismissed the case for lack of merit.

Hence, the present petition.

Complainants contend that the IBP Board of Governors erred in dismissing the case
because respondents had no authority from the OGCC to file the complaints and
appear as counsels of KWD in Civil Case No. 1799, SCA Case No. 50-24 and Civil Case
No. 1796-25. Complainants point out that the retainership contract of Atty. Ignes had
expired on January 14, 2007; that the "Notice of Appeal filed by Atty. Ignes, et al." in
Civil Case No. 1799 was denied per Order dated April 8, 2008 of the Regional Trial Court
(RTC) "for being filed by one not duly authorized by law;" and that the authority of Attys.
Viajar, Jr. and Mann as collaborating counsels is infirm since Resolution No. 009 of the
Dela Peña board lacks the conformity of the OGCC. As a consequence, according to
complainants, respondents are liable for willfully appearing as attorneys for a party to a
case without authority to do so.

In his comment, Atty. Ignes admits that their authority to represent KWD had expired on
April 17, 2007, but he and his fellow respondents stopped representing KWD after that
date. He submits that they are not guilty of appearing as counsels without authority. In
their comment, Attys. Viajar, Jr. and Nadua propound similar arguments. They also say
that their fees were paid from private funds of the members of the Dela Peña board
and KWD personnel who might need legal representation, not from the public coffers of
KWD. In his own comment, Atty. Mann submits similar arguments.

After a careful study of the case and the parties’ submissions, we find respondents
administratively liable.

At the outset, we note that the parties do not dispute the need for OGCC and COA
conformity if a GOCC hires private lawyers. Nonetheless, we shall briefly recall the legal
basis of this rule. Under Section 10, Chapter 3, Title III, Book IV of the Administrative Code
of 1987, it is the OGCC which shall act as the principal law office of all GOCCs. And

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Section 3 of Memorandum Circular No. 9,19 issued by President Estrada on August 27,
1998, enjoins GOCCs to refrain from hiring private lawyers or law firms to handle their
cases and legal matters. But the same Section 3 provides that in exceptional cases, the
written conformity and acquiescence of the Solicitor General or the Government
Corporate Counsel, as the case may be, and the written concurrence of the COA shall
first be secured before the hiring or employment of a private lawyer or law firm. In
Phividec Industrial Authority v. Capitol Steel Corporation,20 we listed three (3)
indispensable conditions before a GOCC can hire a private lawyer: (1) private counsel
can only be hired in exceptional cases; (2) the GOCC must first secure the written
conformity and acquiescence of the Solicitor General or the Government Corporate
Counsel, as the case may be; and (3) the written concurrence of the COA must also be
secured.

In the case of respondents, do they have valid authority to appear as counsels of KWD?

We find that Attys. Nadua, Viajar, Jr. and Mann had no valid authority to appear as
collaborating counsels of KWD in SCA Case No. 50-24 and Civil Case No. 1799. Nothing
in the records shows that Atty. Nadua was engaged by KWD as collaborating counsel.
While the 4th Whereas Clause of Resolution No. 009 partly states that he and Atty. Ignes
"presently stand as KWD legal counsels," there is no proof that the OGCC and COA
approved Atty. Nadua’s engagement as legal counsel or collaborating counsel. Insofar
as Attys. Viajar, Jr. and Mann are concerned, their appointment as collaborating
counsels of KWD under Resolution No. 009 has no approval from the OGCC and COA.

Attys. Nadua, Viajar, Jr. and Mann are in the same situation as the private counsel of
Phividec Industrial Authority in Phividec. In that case, we also ruled that said private
counsel of Phividec Industrial Authority, a GOCC, had no authority to file the
expropriation case in Phividec’s behalf considering that the requirements set by
Memorandum Circular No. 9 were not complied with.21 Thus, Resolution No. 009 did not
grant authority to Attys. Nadua, Viajar, Jr. and Mann to act as collaborating counsels of
KWD. That Atty. Ignes was not notified of the pre-termination of his own retainership
contract cannot validate an inexistent authority of Attys. Nadua, Viajar, Jr. and Mann
as collaborating counsels.

In the case of Atty. Ignes, he also appeared as counsel of KWD without authority, after
his authority as its counsel had expired. True, the OGCC and COA approved his
retainership contract for one (1) year effective April 17, 2006. But even if we assume as
true that he was not notified of the pre-termination of his contract, the records still
disprove his claim that he stopped representing KWD after April 17, 2007.

Atty. Ignes offered no rebuttal to the verified manifestation of complainants filed with
the IBP on March 10, 2008. Attached therein was the transcript of stenographic notes22
in Civil Case No. 1799 taken on January 28, 2008 when Atty. Ignes argued the extremely
urgent motion for the immediate return of the facilities of the KWD to the KWD Arellano
Office. The RTC was compelled to ask him why he seeks the return of KWD properties if
he filed the motion as counsel of Ms. Gomba. When the RTC noted that KWD does not
appear to be a party to the motion, Atty. Ignes said that KWD is represented by Ms.
Gomba per the caption of the case. Atty. Ignes also manifested that they will file a

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motion for reconsideration of the orders dismissing Civil Case No. 1799 and Civil Case
No. 1793. The RTC ruled that it will not accept any motion for reconsideration in behalf
of KWD unless he is authorized by the OGCC, but Atty. Ignes later filed a notice of
appeal23 dated February 28, 2008, in Civil Case No. 1799. As the notice of appeal
signed by Atty. Ignes was filed by one (1) not duly authorized by law, the RTC, in its
Order24 dated April 8, 2008, denied due course to said notice of appeal.

As we see it, Atty. Ignes portrayed that his appearance on January 28, 2008 was merely
as counsel of Ms. Gomba. He indicted himself, however, when he said that Ms. Gomba
represents KWD per the case title. In fact, the extremely urgent motion sought the return
of the facilities of KWD to its Arellano Office. Clearly, Atty. Ignes filed and argued a
motion with the interest of KWD in mind. The notice of appeal in Civil Case No. 1799
further validates that Atty. Ignes still appeared as counsel of KWD after his authority as
counsel had expired. This fact was not lost on the RTC in denying due course to the
notice of appeal.

Now did respondents willfully appear as counsels of KWD without authority?

The following circumstances convince us that, indeed, respondents willfully and


deliberately appeared as counsels of KWD without authority. One, respondents have
admitted the existence of Memorandum Circular No. 9 and professed that they are
aware of our ruling in Phividec.25 Thus, we entertain no doubt that they have full grasp
of our ruling therein that there are indispensable conditions before a GOCC can hire
private counsel and that for non-compliance with the requirements set by
Memorandum Circular No. 9, the private counsel would have no authority to file a case
in behalf of a GOCC. Still, respondents acted as counsels of KWD without complying
with what the rule requires. They signed pleadings as counsels of KWD. They presented
themselves voluntarily, on their own volition, as counsels of KWD even if they had no
valid authority to do so.

Two, despite the question on respondents’ authority as counsels of KWD which question
was actually raised earlier in Civil Case No. 1799 by virtue of an urgent motion to
disqualify KWD’s counsels26 dated February 21, 2007 and during the hearing on
February 23, 200727 respondents still filed the supplemental complaint in the case on
March 9, 2007. And despite the pendency of this case before the IBP, Atty. Ignes had to
be reminded by the RTC that he needs OGCC authority to file an intended motion for
reconsideration in behalf of KWD.

With the grain of evidence before us, we do not believe that respondents are innocent
of the charge even if they insist that the professional fees of Attys. Nadua, Viajar, Jr. and
Mann, as collaborating counsels, were paid not from the public coffers of KWD. To be
sure, the facts were clear that they appeared as counsels of KWD without authority,
and not merely as counsels of the members of the Dela Peña board and KWD
personnel in their private suits.

Consequently, for respondents’ willful appearance as counsels of KWD without authority


to do so, there is a valid ground to impose disciplinary action against them. Under
Section 27, Rule 138 of the Rules of Court, a member of the bar may be disbarred or

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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 to do so.

Disbarment, however, is the most severe form of disciplinary sanction, and, as such, the
power to disbar must always be exercised with great caution, and should be imposed
only for the most imperative reasons and in clear cases of misconduct affecting the
standing and moral character of the lawyer as an officer of the court and member of
the bar. Accordingly, disbarment should not be decreed where any punishment less
severe such as a reprimand, suspension or fine, would accomplish the end desired.28 In
Santayana,29 we imposed a fine of ₱5,000 on the respondent for willfully appearing as
an attorney for a party to a case without authority to do so. The respondent therein also
appeared as private counsel of the National Electrification Administration, a GOCC,
without any approval from the OGCC and COA.

Conformably with Santayana, we impose a fine of ₱5,000 on each respondent.

On another matter, we note that respondents stopped short of fully narrating what had
happened after the RTC issued four (4) orders on March 24, 2007 and on April 13, 2007
in Civil Case No. 1799.30 As willingly revealed by complainants, all four (4) orders were
nullified by the Court of Appeals.31 We are compelled to issue a reminder that our
Code of Professional Responsibility requires lawyers, like respondents, to always show
candor and good faith to the courts.321awphi1

WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. The assailed Resolution No. XVIII-2008-335 passed
on July 17, 2008 by the IBP Board of Governors in CBD Case No. 07-1953 is REVERSED
and SET ASIDE.

Respondents Attys. Michael A. Ignes, Leonard Buentipo Mann, Rodolfo U. Viajar, Jr., and
John Rangal D. Nadua are found GUILTY of willfully appearing as attorneys for a party
to a case without authority to do so and FINED ₱5,000 each, payable to this Court
within ten (10) days from notice of this Resolution. They are STERNLY WARNED that a
similar offense in the future will be dealt with more severely.

Let a copy of this Resolution be attached to respondents’ personal records in the Office
of the Bar Confidant.

SO ORDERED.

G.R. No. 176530 June 16, 2009

SPOUSES CONSTANTE AGBULOS AND ZENAIDA PADILLA AGBULOS, Petitioners,


vs.
NICASIO GUTIERREZ, JOSEFA GUTIERREZ and ELENA G. GARCIA, Respondents.

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RESOLUTION

NACHURA, J.:

This petition for review on certiorari seeks the review of the Decision1 of the Court of
Appeals (CA) dated February 6, 2007 in CA–G.R. CV No. 83994 which set aside the
dismissal of a complaint for declaration of nullity of contract, cancellation of title,
reconveyance and damages.

The case stems from the following antecedents:

On October 16, 1997, respondents, Dr. Nicasio G. Gutierrez, Josefa Gutierrez de


Mendoza and Elena G. Garcia, through their counsel, Atty. Adriano B. Magbitang, filed
with the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Gapan, Nueva Ecija, a complaint against
petitioners, spouses Constante Agbulos and Zenaida Padilla Agbulos, for declaration of
nullity of contract, cancellation of title, reconveyance and damages. The complaint
alleged that respondents inherited from their father, Maximo Gutierrez, an eight-
hectare parcel of land located in Callos, Penaranda, Nueva Ecija, covered by Transfer
Certificate of Title (TCT) No. NT-123790 in the name of Maximo Gutierrez. Through fraud
and deceit, petitioners succeeded in making it appear that Maximo Gutierrez
executed a Deed of Sale on July 21, 1978 when, in truth, he died on April 25, 1977. As a
result, TCT No. NT-123790 was cancelled and a new one, TCT No. NT-188664, was issued
in the name of petitioners. Based on the notation at the back of the certificate of title,
portions of the property were brought under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform
Program (CARP) and awarded to Lorna Padilla, Elenita Nuega and Suzette Nuega who
were issued Certificates of Land Ownership Award (CLOAs).

In their defense, petitioners averred that respondents were not the real parties in
interest, that the Deed of Sale was regularly executed before a notary public, that they
were possessors in good faith, and that the action had prescribed.

On the day set for the presentation of the respondents’ (plaintiffs’) evidence, petitioners
filed a Motion to Dismiss, assailing the jurisdiction of the RTC over the subject matter of
the case. Petitioners contended that the Department of Agrarian Reform Adjudication
Board (DARAB), not the RTC, had jurisdiction since the subject land was covered by the
CARP, and CLOAs had been awarded to tenants. Respondents opposed the motion,
arguing that the motion had been filed beyond the period for filing an Answer, that the
RTC had jurisdiction over the case based on the allegations in the complaint, and that
the DARAB had no jurisdiction since the parties had no tenancy relationship.

In an Order2 dated October 24, 2002, the RTC granted the petitioners’ motion and
dismissed the complaint for lack of jurisdiction. The RTC held that the DARAB had
jurisdiction, since the subject property was under the CARP, some portions of it were
covered by registered CLOAs, and there was prima facie showing of tenancy. 3

Respondents filed a motion for reconsideration. On November 13, 2003, the RTC denied
the motion.4

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Atty. Magbitang filed a Notice of Appeal5 with the RTC, which gave due course to the
same.6 The records reveal that on December 15, 2003, respondent Elena G. Garcia
wrote a letter to Judge Arturo M. Bernardo, Acting Judge of RTC Gapan, Branch 87,
stating that they were surprised to receive a communication from the court informing
them that their notice of appeal was ready for disposition. She also stated in the letter
that there was no formal agreement with Atty. Magbitang as to whether they would
pursue an appeal with the CA, because one of the plaintiffs was still in America.7

On February 6, 2007, the CA rendered a Decision in favor of respondents. The dispositive


portion of the decision reads:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the appeal is hereby GRANTED and the assailed
Order dated October 24, 2002 issued by the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Gapan,
Nueva Ecija, Branch 87, is REVERSED and SET ASIDE. Accordingly, the subject complaint
is reinstated and the records of the case is (sic) hereby remanded to the RTC for further
proceedings.1avvphi1

SO ORDERED.8

The CA concluded that the dispute between the parties was purely civil, not agrarian,
in nature. According to the CA, the allegations in the complaint revealed that the
principal relief sought was the nullification of the purported deed of sale and
reconveyance of the subject property. It also noted that there was no tenurial,
leasehold, or any other agrarian relations between the parties.

Thus, this petition, raising the following issues for the resolution of this Court:

1. Whether or not the CA erred in not dismissing the appeal despite the undisputed fact
that Atty. Magbitang filed the notice of appeal without respondents’ knowledge and
consent;

2. Whether or not the CA erred in giving due course to the appeal despite the fact that
Atty. Magbitang’s appellants’ brief failed to comply with the mandatory requirements
of Section 13, Rule 44 of the Rules of Court regarding the contents of an appellants’
brief; and

3. Whether or not the CA erred in ruling that the RTC (Regional Trial Court), not the
DARAB (Department of Agrarian Reform Adjudication Board) or the PARAD/RARAD
(Provincial/Regional Agrarian Provincial Agrarian Reform Adjudicator), has jurisdiction
over respondents’ complaint.9

The CA did not err in giving due course to the appeal, on both procedural and
substantive grounds.

A lawyer who represents a client before the trial court is presumed to represent such
client before the appellate court. Section 22 of Rule 138 creates this presumption, thus:

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SEC. 22. Attorney who appears in lower court presumed to represent client on appeal.
— An attorney who appears de parte in a case before a lower court shall be presumed
to continue representing his client on appeal, unless he files a formal petition
withdrawing his appearance in the appellate court.

A reading of respondent Elena Garcia’s letter to the RTC would show that she did not
actually withdraw Atty. Magbitang’s authority to represent respondents in the case. The
letter merely stated that there was, as yet, no agreement that they would pursue an
appeal.

In any case, an unauthorized appearance of an attorney may be ratified by the client


either expressly or impliedly. Ratification retroacts to the date of the lawyer’s first
appearance and validates the action taken by him.10 Implied ratification may take
various forms, such as by silence or acquiescence, or by acceptance and retention of
benefits flowing therefrom.11 Respondents’ silence or lack of remonstration when the
case was finally elevated to the CA means that they have acquiesced to the filing of
the appeal.

Moreover, a lawyer is mandated to "serve his client with competence and diligence."12
Consequently, a lawyer is entreated not to neglect a legal matter entrusted to him;
otherwise, his negligence in connection therewith shall render him liable.13 In light of
such mandate, Atty. Magbitang’s act of filing the notice of appeal without waiting for
her clients to direct him to do so was understandable, if not commendable.

The CA was likewise correct in holding that the case is within the jurisdiction of the RTC,
not the DARAB.

For the DARAB to have jurisdiction over a case, there must be a tenancy relationship
between the parties. It is, therefore, essential to establish all the indispensable elements
of a tenancy relationship, to wit: (1) that the parties are the landowner and the tenant
or agricultural lessee; (2) that the subject matter of the relationship is an agricultural
land; (3) that there is consent between the parties to the relationship; (4) that the
purpose of the relationship is to bring about agricultural production; (5) that there is
personal cultivation on the part of the tenant or agricultural lessee; and (6) that the
harvest is shared between the landowner and the tenant or agricultural lessee.14

Basic is the rule that jurisdiction is determined by the allegations in the complaint.15
Respondents’ complaint did not contain any allegation that would, even in the
slightest, imply that there was a tenancy relation between them and the petitioners. We
are in full agreement with the following findings of the CA on this point:

x x x A reading of the material averments of the complaint reveals that the principal
relief sought by plaintiffs-appellants is for the nullification of the supposedly forged deed
of sale which resulted in the issuance of TCT No. NT-188664 covering their 8-hectare
property as well as its reconveyance, and not for the cancellation of CLOAs as claimed
by defendants-appellees. Moreover, the parties herein have no tenurial, leasehold, or
any other agrarian relations whatsoever that could have brought this controversy under
the ambit of the agrarian reform laws. Neither were the CLOA awardees impleaded as

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parties in this case nor the latter’s entitlement thereto questioned. Hence, contrary to
the findings of the RTC, the herein dispute is purely civil and not agrarian in nature falling
within the exclusive jurisdiction of the trial courts.

On the alleged deficiency of the appellants’ brief filed before the CA by the
respondents, suffice it to state that the requirements in Section 13, Rule 44 are intended
to aid the appellate court in arriving at a just and proper resolution of the case.
Obviously, the CA found the appellants’ brief sufficient in form and substance as the
appellate court was able to arrive at a just decision. We have repeatedly held that
technical and procedural rules are intended to help secure, not to suppress, substantial
justice. A deviation from a rigid enforcement of the rules may, thus, be allowed in order
to attain this prime objective for, after all, the dispensation of justice is the core reason
for the existence of courts.16

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the petition is DENIED. The Court of Appeals’


Decision dated February 6, 2007 is AFFIRMED.

SO ORDERED.

G.R. No. 82760 August 30, 1990

FELIMON MANANGAN, petitioner,


vs.
COURT OF FIRST INSTANCE OF NUEVA VIZCAYA, BRANCH 28, respondent.

MELENCIO-HERRERA, J.:

For abuse of Court processes, hopping from one forum to another, filing a labyrinth of
cases and pleadings, thwarting the smooth prosecution of Criminal Case No. 639
against him for no less than twelve (12) years, and for masquerading as Filemon
Manangan when his real name is Andres Culanag, petitioner has brought upon himself
the severest censure and a punishment for contempt. The Petition for Certiorari he has
filed likewise calls for dismissal.

The Petition, Amended Petition, and Second Amended Petition seek the annulment of
the entire proceedings in Criminal Case No. 639 of respondent Court, including the Alias
Warrant of Arrest issued by it, dated 19 July 1979, "for being stale/functus officio." It is
claimed, inter alia, that respondent Court committed grave abuse of discretion in
making it appear that petitioner was duly tried and convicted when the contrary was
true, and that the Alias Warrant of Arrest was irregularly issued because respondent
Court had already accepted a property bond.

In the Amended Petition, petitioner further alleges that respondent Court had irregularly
assumed jurisdiction as it is the Sandiganbayan that has exclusive original jurisdiction
over the case considering that he was Legal Officer I of the Bureau of Lands, Region II,
and that he had supposedly committed the offense in relation to that office.

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Piecing together the facts from the hodgepodge of quotations from the Decisions in
the different cases filed by petitioner, we recite the relevant ones below.

On 7 November 1977, petitioner, representing himself as a lawyer, was appointed Legal


Officer I of the Bureau of Lands in Region II (p. 98, Rollo).

On 30 June 1978, Criminal Case No. 639 entitled "People v. Filemon Manangan alias
Andres Culanag" (Annex D, Petition, Rollo, UDK 3906, p. 20) was filed before the then
Court of First Instance of Nueva Vizcaya, First Judicial District, Bayombong, charging
petitioner with "Execution of Deeds by Intimidation" under Article 298 of the Revised
Penal Code (the Criminal Case, for short). Apparently, the Director of Lands had given
his imprimatur to the charge.

On the same date, an Order of Arrest was issued by then Judge Gabriel Dunuan of
respondent Court (Rollo, UDK 3906, p. 21).

On 18 April 1979, petitioner filed before this Court a Petition for Certiorari, Prohibition and
mandamus with Writ of Preliminary Injunction entitled "Filemon de Asis Manangan v.
Court of First Instance, et al.," in UDK No. 3906, assailing the jurisdiction of respondent
Court to try the criminal case and seeking to stay the Order of Arrest of 30 June 1978.
The petition was dismissed on 7 May 1979 for non-payment of legal fees (p. 99, Rollo).

On 10 and 18 July 1978, the dates set for preliminary investigation, petitioner did not
show up and, in fact, disappeared for about a year.

On 31 July 1978, a Second Amended Information was filed (Comment, Solicitor


General, p. 61, Rollo), this time Identifying the accused as "Andres Culanag (alias
Andres M. Culanag, Filemon Manangan Atty. Filemon A. Manangan and Atty. Ross V.
Pangilinan)."

On 8 July 1979, petitioner surfaced and, through counsel, posted a bailbond with the
Municipal Circuit Court of San Miguel, Zamboanga del Sur (Resolution of the RTC,
Nueva Vizcaya, 25 March 1983, Annex B, Petition, p. 2).

On 19 July 1979, an Alias Warrant of Arrest was by Judge Gabriel Dunuan. It is this Alias
Warrant that is challenged herein.

On 12 September 1979, petitioner filed an ex-parte Motion to Dismiss the Criminal Case,
which was denied by respondent Court (see CA-G.R. No. 11588-SP, p. 2).

Petitioner then resorted to a Petition for Certiorari and Mandamus before the Court of
Appeals in CA-G.R. No. 11588-SP entitled "Filemon Manangan v. Director of Lands and
CFI of Nueva Vizcaya." The Petition sought to (1) nullify the decision of the Director of
Lands, dated 27 March 1980, finding petitioner guilty of extortion, impersonation and
abandonment of office and ordering his dismissal from the service; and (2) "require
respondent CFI of Nueva Ecija to dismiss Criminal Case No. 639 pending in its Court." In
a Decision, promulgated on 27 February 1981, the Appellate Court dismissed the

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Petition for "absolute lack of legal and factual basis" and holding, among others, that
"the non-withdrawal of the Information for execution of deeds by intimidation . . . is not
covered by mandamus" (hereinafter, the German Decision). 1

On 30 October 1981, before respondent Court, a Motion for Reconsideration was filed
by petitioner, ostensibly through counsel, Atty. Benjamin Facun, asking that the Criminal
Case be dismissed on the ground that the accused had already died on 29 September
1971 such that respondent Court had not acquired jurisdiction over his person. The
Motion was denied.

On 22 February 1982, erroneously construing the German Decision as a final judgment


of conviction, respondent Court reset the promulgation to 19 April 1982 and ordered
the bondsmen to produce the body of the accused on said date (Annex A, Petition).
Realizing the mistake, on 9 July 1982, respondent Court vacated said order and ruled
that "the warrant of arrest issued by this Court through Judge Gabriel Dunuan on 19 July
1979, shall remain in full force and effect" (Annex F, Petition).

On 25 June 1982, petitioner again resorted to the Court of Appeals in another Petition
for Certiorari (CA-G.R. No. SP-14428) filed by one Atty. Benjamin Facun as counsel for
petitioner, this time praying for the annulment of the proceedings in the Criminal Case
"on the ground that the accused was already dead when the decision finding him
guilty of the crime . . . was rendered." The pleading alleged "that petitioner is of age,
Filipino, deceased, but has come to this Honorable Court through counsel. . . ." In a
Decision promulgated on 29 November 1982, Certiorari was denied for being devoid of
merit inasmuch as "there is nothing on record to show that such dismissal had been
sought before the decision was rendered" (briefly, the Kapunan Decision). 2 (Actually,
no judgment has been rendered by respondent Court).

Unfazed by the adverse Kapunan Decision, the supposed heirs of the accused, on 10
February 1983, filed a Manifestation before respondent Court asking for the dismissal
and termination of the Criminal Case on the same ground that the accused had
allegedly died.

On 25 March 1983, Judge Quirino A. Catral of respondent Court refused to declare the
case closed and terminated inasmuch as the accused was alive on 8 July 1979 when
he posted his bailbond (citing the Kapunan Decision) and reiterated that the "alias
warrant issued by the Court on July 19, 1979 which up to the present has not yet been
served upon the accused as in full force and effect."

For the third time, the case was elevated to the then Intermediate Appellate Court in
AC-G.R. No. SP-00707, entitled "Heirs of the Deceased Filemon Manangan v. Hon.
Quirino A. Catral, etc." The Petition sought to annul the Order of Judge Catral of 25
March 1983 denying the closure and termination of the Criminal Case.

On 28 May 1983, the then IAC, after quoting at length from the Kapunan Decision and
the Catral Order, dismissed the Petition (hereinafter, the Aquino Decision) 3 holding,
inter alia, that "whether or not its denial of the motion to dismiss that case constitutes a
grave abuse of discretion, was already passed upon by this Court in CA-G.R. No. SP-

Scroll No. 577 127|PALE Cases Set 1


14428 (Kapunan Decision), hence, it is res adjudicata. It may not be litigated anew, no
matter what form the action for that purpose may take."

On 28 June 1984, before the respondent Court, petitioner-accused filed an Omnibus


Motion with Motion for New Trial, which was denied for lack of merit in the Order of 19
November 1984. In the same Order, respondent Court ordered the case archived until
such time that the accused is brought to the Court.

On 19 June 1986, counsel for petitioner-accused filed a Motion to Quash on the


grounds that: "(1) the court trying the case has no jurisdiction over the offense charged
or the person of the accused; and (2) the accused has been previously convicted or in
jeopardy of being convicted of the offense charged."

It was at that stage of the case below, without awaiting disposition on the Motion to
Quash, that the present Petition was instituted.

The obvious conclusion from the recital of facts given is that the Petition is without merit.
Petitioner-accused had a pending Motion to Quash before respondent Court and
should have awaited resolution thereon. He had a plain, speedy and adequate
remedy in the ordinary course of law and resort to this Petition is decidedly premature.

Contrary to petitioner's pretensions, the Alias Warrant of Arrest is valid. Petitioner had
evaded arrest by disappearing from the jurisdiction of respondent Court. Neither is
there any indication in the records that the property bond, filed by petitioner-accused
in the Municipal Circuit Court of San Miguel, Zamboanga del Sur, had been accepted
by respondent Court and petitioner discharged on the basis thereof. The Alias Warrant
is not "stale or functus officio," as alleged. Unlike a warrant, which is valid for only ten
(10) days from date (Rule 126, Sec. 9), a Warrant of Arrest remains valid until arrest is
effected or the Warrant lifted. Respondent Court, therefore, cannot be faulted with
grave abuse of discretion for holding that said Warrant is in full force and effect.

Although there may have been some initial confusion on the part of respondent Court
arising from the Kapunan Decision, that was timely rectified. In the final analysis,
respondent Court has not made it appear that petitioner-accused has already been
arraigned and tried, let alone convicted. No jeopardy has attached, as alleged. Again,
therefore, no grave abuse of discretion can be attributed to respondent Court.

Petitioner's argument in his Amended Petition and Second Amended Petition that it is
the Sandiganbayan that has exclusive jurisdiction over the Criminal Case neither holds
water considering that not only is he ineligible for the position of Legal Officer I in the
Bureau of Lands, Region II, for not being a lawyer, but also because he was dismissed
from the service on 27 March 1980 by the Director of Lands, who found him, with the
approval of the Minister of Natural Resources, guilty of extortion, impersonation and
abandonment of office CA-G.R. No. 11588-SP, p. 2).

The foregoing conclusions could dispose of the case.

Scroll No. 577 128|PALE Cases Set 1


However, on 8 June 1989, the Solicitor General filed a "Manifestation/Motion to Strike
Out" the present petition for being fictitious and that by reason thereof petitioner should
be cited for contempt of Court. The Solicitor General has also prayed that he be
excused from filing a Comment on petitioner's Second Amended Petition, which we
resolve to grant.

The Solicitor General maintains that a re-examination of the records in the Criminal
shows that:

a. Filemon A. Manangan is only an alias of Andres M. Culanag, the person charged


in Criminal Case No. 639;

b. Filemon A. Manangan was a lawyer from San Marcelino, Zambales, who died on
September 29, 1971 in the vicinity of his residence where he and his driver died on the
spot; and

c. [Andres M. Culanag] knew the real Filemon Manangan and knowing about the
latter's death, assumed the name, qualifications and other personal circumstances of
Filemon Manangan. By means thereof, he was able to pass himself off as a lawyer and
to actually practice law, using even the Certificate of Admission to the Philippine Bar of
Filemon Manangan which states that he was admitted to the Bar on March 6, 1964. By
this guise, [Andres M. Culanag] succeeded in obtaining a position as legal Officer I in
the Bureau of Lands.

In opposition, petitioner maintains that he is not a fictitious person, having been born
out of the lawful wedlock of Segundino Manangan and Felipa Asis; and that assuming
that there is sufficient basis to charge him for contempt, it will no longer prosper on the
ground of prescription.

Petitioner's posturings are completely bereft of basis. As the Solicitor General had also
disclosed in the German Decision, petitioner [Andres Culanag] had, on 23 February
1977, filed Sp. Procs. No. 23 with the Court of First Instance of Nueva Ecija, San Jose City
Branch, for the change of his name from Andres Culanag to Filemon Manangan. In that
petition, he claimed that his real name is Andres Culanag; that his entire school records
carry his name as Filemon Manangan: and that he is the same person as Andres
Culanag, the latter being his real name. The imprisonment was carried to the extreme
when, in petitioner's Manifestation, dated 10 February 1983, before respondent Court,
his supposed heirs alleged that accused had died before the filing of the Information
on 29 September 1971, the exact date of death of the real Filemon Manangan. More,
petitioner also masquerades under the name of Atty. Benjamin M. Facun in the several
pleadings filed in connection with the Criminal Case.

In the German Decision, it was additionally pointed out that petitioner had also
committed imprisonation when, representing himself as Atty. Ross V. Pangilinan, he filed
a petition with this Court praying that his right to practice law be affirmed (Misc. Bar-I
and Misc. Bar-2). In those cases, we ruled that petitioner Filemon Manangan is "really
Andres Culanag, an impostor;" dismissed the petitions; and directed Andres Culanag to
show cause why he should not be punished for contempt for filing the two false

Scroll No. 577 129|PALE Cases Set 1


petitions (In re: Andres Culanag, September 30, 1971, 41 SCRA 26). He explained that
"he thought this Court would not discover that he is a poseur, for which reason he
apologizes to the Court promising that he would not commit the same act if he is
excused and given another chance." On 12 November 1971, after finding his
explanation unsatisfactory, we adjudged him guilty of indirect contempt of Court under
Rule 71, Section 3(e) of the Rules of Court 4 and sentenced him to suffer imprisonment
for six (6) months.

Parenthetically, we also take judicial notice of Bar Matter No. 190, entitled "In Re Andres
Culanag alias Atty. Ross V. Pangilinan" and Bar Matter No. 206, entitled "Eriberto H.
Decena vs. Andres Culanag" wherein, on 9 October 1984, this Court Resolved "to direct
that petitioner be subjected to mental examination by a doctor from the National
Mental Hospital" after noting that petitioner was suffering from some kind of mental
alienation. This mitigates somewhat petitioner's present liability for contempt.

It is the height of chicanery, indeed, that despite the foregoing antecedents, petitioner
still has the gall to claim that he is, in truth and in fact, Filemon Manangan. The
evidence on hand, without need for more, and with petitioner having been sufficiently
heard, amply establishes that petitioner Filemon Manangan, is an impostor. He is guilty
of continued fraudulent misrepresentation and highly improper conduct tending
directly to impede, obstruct, degrade, and make a mockery of the administration of
justice (Rule 71, Sec. 3 [d]).

While it may be that some pronouncements in the pertinent decisions allude to Filemon
Manangan and that Andres Culanag is just an alias of Filemon Manangan, those
statements actually refer to the person of Andres Culanag and not to the real Filemon
Manangan, long since dead.

The action for contempt has not prescribed since it is apparent that the contumacious
acts continue to this day.

WHEREFORE, (1) the Petition, Amended Petition, and the Second Amended Petition are
hereby dismissed for utter lack of merit; (2) petitioner is adjudged in contempt of Court,
severely censured, and sentenced to suffer three (3) months imprisonment, the same to
be served at the Provincial Jail of Nueva Vizcaya to ensure his appearance during the
trial of the subject criminal case; (3) respondent Court is hereby directed to retrieve
Criminal Case No. 639 from its archives and to proceed to its determination with
deliberate dispatch; (4) all Courts are directed not to recognize any person
representing himself as Filemon Manangan, Atty. Filemon Manangan, or Atty. Benjamin
M. Facun; and (5) petitioner's real name is declared to be Andres Culanag.

Treble costs against petitioner.

SO ORDERED.

Scroll No. 577 130|PALE Cases Set 1


A.C. No. 5829 October 28, 2003

DANIEL LEMOINE, complainant,


vs.
ATTY. AMADEO E. BALON, JR., respondent.

DECISION

PER CURIAM:

On December 17, 1999, complainant Daniel Lemoine, a French national, filed a verified
complaint1 against respondent Atty. Amadeo E. Balon, Jr., for estafa and misconduct
before the Integrated Bar of the Philippines. The case, docketed as CBD Case No. 99-
679, was referred by the Commission on Bar Discipline to an Investigator for
investigation, report and recommendation.

The facts that spawned the filing of the complaint are as follows:

In early 1998, complainant filed a car insurance claim with the Metropolitan Insurance
Company (Metropolitan Insurance), the insurer of his vehicle which was lost. As
complainant encountered problems in pursuing his claim which was initially rejected,2
his friend, a certain Jesus "Jess" Garcia (Garcia), arranged for the engagement of
respondent’s services.

By letter3 of October 21, 1998 addressed to Elde Management, Inc., "ATTN: Mr. Daniel
Lemoine," under whose care complainant could be reached, respondent advised
complainant, whom he had not before met, that for his legal services he was charging
"25% of the actual amount being recovered. . . payable upon successful recovery;" an
advance payment of P50,000.00 "to be charged [to complainant] to be deducted
from whatever amount [would] be successfully collected;" P1,000.00 "as appearance
and conference fee for each and every court hearings, conferences outside our law
office and meetings before the Office of the Insurance Commission which will be also
charged to our 25% recovery fee;" and legal expenses "such as but not limited to filing
fee, messengerial and postage expenses . . . and other miscellaneous but related
expenses," to be charged to complainant’s account which would be reimbursed upon
presentation of statement of account.

The letter-proposal of respondent regarding attorney’s fees does not bear


complainant’s conformity, he not having agreed therewith.

It appears that Metropolitan Insurance finally offered to settle complainant’s claim, for
by letter4 of December 9, 1998 addressed to it, respondent confirmed his acceptance
of its offer to settle the claim of complainant "in an ex-gratia basis of 75% of his policy
coverage which is therefore FIVE HUNDRED TWENTY FIVE THOUSAND (P525,000.00)
PESOS."

A day or a few days before December 23, 1998 when complainant left for France,5 he,
on the advice of respondent, signed an already prepared undated Special Power of

Scroll No. 577 131|PALE Cases Set 1


Attorney6 authorizing respondent and/or Garcia to bring any action against
Metropolitan Insurance for the satisfaction of complainant’s claim as well as to
"negotiate, sign, compromise[,] encash and receive payment" from it. The Special
Power of Attorney was later dated December 23, 1998 on which same date
Metropolitan Insurance issued a Chinabank Check No. 841172 payable to complainant
in the amount of P525,000.00 as full settlement of the claim.7 The check was received
by respondent.

In the meantime, complainant returned to the Philippines in early January 1999 but left
again on the 24th of the same month.8 On inquiry about the status of his claim, Garcia
echoed to complainant what respondent had written him (Garcia) in respondent’s
letter9 of March 26, 1999 that the claim was still pending with Metropolitan Insurance
and that it was still subject of negotiations in which Metropolitan Insurance offered to
settle it for P350,000.00 representing fifty percent thereof. In the same letter to Garcia,
respondent suggested the acceptance of the offer of settlement to avoid a protracted
litigation.

On December 6, 1999, on complainant’s personal visit to the office of Metropolitan


Insurance, he was informed that his claim had long been settled via a December 23,
1998 check given to respondent the year before.10 Complainant lost no time in going
to the law office of respondent who was not around, however, but whom he was able
to talk by telephone during which he demanded that he turn over the proceeds of his
claim.11

Respondent thereupon faxed to complainant a December 7, 1999 letter12 wherein he


acknowledged having in his possession the proceeds of the encashed check which he
retained, however, as attorney’s lien pending complainant’s payment of his attorney’s
fee, equivalent to fifty percent (50%) of entire amount collected. In the same letter,
respondent protested what he branded as the "uncivilized and unprofessional
behavior" complainant "reportedly demonstrated" at respondent’s office. Respondent
winded up his letter as follows, quoted verbatim:

We would like to make it clear that we cannot give you the aforesaid amount until and
unless our attorney’s fees will be forthwith agreed and settled. In the same manner,
should you be barbaric and uncivilized with your approached, we will not hesitate to
make a proper representation with the Bureau of Immigration and Deportation for the
authenticity of your visa, Department of Labor and Employment for your working status,
Bureau of Internal Revenue for your taxation compliance and the National Bureau of
Investigation [with] which we have a good network...

While it [is your] prerogative to file a legal action against us, it is also our prerogative to
file a case against you. We will rather suggest if you could request your lawyer to just
confer with us for the peaceful settlement of this matter. (Underscoring and emphasis
supplied)

As despite written demands,13 respondent refused to turn over the proceeds of the
insurance claim and to acknowledge the unreasonableness of the attorney’s fees he

Scroll No. 577 132|PALE Cases Set 1


was demanding, complainant instituted the administrative action at bar on December
17, 1999.

In his Complaint-Affidavit, complainant alleged that "[i]t appears that there was
‘irregularity’ with the check," it having been issued payable to him, but "and/or
AMADEO BALON" was therein intercalated after his (complainant’s) name.14
1awphi1.nét

Maintaining that respondent was entitled to only P50,000.00 in attorney’s fees,15


complainant decried respondent’s continued possession of the proceeds of his claim16
and his misrepresentations that the recovery thereof was fraught with difficulties.17

In his Counter-Affidavit18 of February 18, 2000, respondent asserted that his continued
retention of the proceeds of complainant’s claim is in lawful exercise of his lien for
unpaid attorney’s fees. He expressed readiness, however, to account for and turn them
over once he got paid fifty percent (50%) thereof, he citing the so called contingent
fee billing method of "no cure, no pay" adopted by practicing lawyers in the insurance
industry as the basis of the amount of his attorney’s fees,19 which to him was justified in
the absence of an attorney-client contract between him and complainant, the latter
having rejected respondent’s letter-proposal of October 21, 1998.20

Respondent also highlighted the value of the time and efforts he extended in pursuing
complainant’s claim and the expenses he incurred in connection therewith. He went
on to assert that his inability to contact complainant whose whereabouts he did not
know prompted him to encash the check and keep the proceeds thereof in conformity
with the Special Power of Attorney executed in his favor.21

During the hearings conducted by the IBP Investigator, complainant echoed his
allegations in his Complaint-Affidavit and stressed that he turned down as
unreasonable respondent’s proposal in his October 21, 1998 letter that he be paid 25%
of the actual amount collected for his legal services.22 And he presented documentary
evidence, including the March 26, 1999 letter of respondent informing his co-attorney-
in-fact Garcia of the supposedly still unrecovered claim and suggesting acceptance of
the purported offer of Metropolitan Insurance to settle complainant’s claim at
P350,000.00.

Explaining how his above-mentioned March 26, 1999 letter to Garcia came about,
respondent declared that it was made upon Garcia’s request, intended for a certain
Joel Ramiscal (Ramiscal) who was said to be Garcia’s business partner.23

Respondent later submitted a June 13, 2001 Supplement24 to his Counter-Affidavit


reiterating his explanation that it was on Garcia’s express request that he wrote the
March 26, 1999 letter, which was directed to the fax number of Ramiscal.1ªvvphi1.nét

Additionally, respondent declared that in the first week of May 1999, on the
representation of Garcia that he had talked to complainant about respondent’s
retention of fifty percent (50%) of the insurance proceeds for professional fees less
expenses,25 he gave Garcia, on a staggered basis, the total amount of P233,000.00

Scroll No. 577 133|PALE Cases Set 1


which, so respondent averred, is the amount of insurance claim complainant is entitled
to receive less attorney’s fees and expenses.26 Thus, respondent claimed that he gave
Garcia the amount of P30,000.00 on May 31, 1999 at Dulcinea Restaurant in Greenbelt,
Makati; the amounts of P50,000.00, P20,000.00 and P30,000.00 on different occasions at
his (respondent’s) former address through his executive secretary Sally I. Leonardo; the
amount of P20,000.00 at the office of his (respondent’s) former employer
Commonwealth Insurance Company through his subordinate Glen V. Roxas; and
several other payments at Dulcinea, and at Manila Intercontinental Hotel’s coffee shop
sometime in October 1999.27 Respondent submitted the separate sworn statements of
Leonardo and Roxas.28

Explaining why no written memorandum of the turn over of various payments to Garcia
was made, respondent alleged that there was no need therefor since he very well
knew Garcia who is a co-Rotarian and co-attorney-in-fact and whom he really dealt
with regarding complainant’s claim.29

Respondent furthermore declared that he rejected complainant’s offer to pay him


P50,000.00 for his services, insisting that since there had been no clear-cut agreement
on his professional fees and it was through him that Metropolitan Insurance favorably
reconsidered its initial rejection of complainant’s claim, he is entitled to a contingent
fee of 50% of the net proceeds thereof.30

Finally, respondent declared that he, in connection with his follow-up of the insurance
claim, incurred representation expenses of P35,000.00, entertainment and other
representation expenses on various occasions of P10,000.00, and transportation and
gasoline expenses and parking fees of P5,000.00;31 and that his retention of
complainant’s money was justified in light of his apprehension that complainant, being
an alien without a valid working permit in the Philippines, might leave the country
anytime without settling his professional fees.32

The Investigating Commissioner, by Report and Recommendation33 of October 26,


2001, found respondent guilty of misconduct and recommended that he be disbarred
and directed to immediately turn over to complainant the sum of P475,000.00
representing the amount of the P525,000.00 insurance claim less respondent’s
professional fees of P50,000.00, as proposed by complainant.

The Board of Govenors of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, acting on the
Investigator’s Report, issued Resolution No. XV-2002-40134 on August 3,2002, reading:

RESOLVED to ADOPT and APPROVE, as it is hereby ADOPTED and APPROVED, the


Report and Recommendation of the Investigating Commissioner of the above-entitled
case, herein made part of this Resolution/Decision as Annex "A"; and, finding the
recommendation fully supported by the evidence on record and the applicable laws
and rules, with modification, and considering respondent’s dishonesty which amounted
to grave misconduct and grossly unethical behavior which caused dishonor, not merely
to respondent but the noble profession to which he belongs, Respondent is hereby
SUSPENDED from the practice of law for six (6) months with the directive to turn over the
amount of Five Hundred Twenty Five Thousand (P525,000.00) Pesos to the complainant

Scroll No. 577 134|PALE Cases Set 1


without prejudice to respondent’s right to claim attorney’s fees which he may collect in
the proper forum. (Underscoring supplied)

The records of the case are before this Court for final action.

Respondent, by a Motion for Reconsideration35 filed with this Court, assails the
Investigating Commissioner’s Report and Recommendation as not supported by clear,
convincing and satisfactory proof. He prays for the reopening of the case and its
remand to the Investigator so that Garcia can personally appear for his (respondent’s)
confrontation.

There is no need for a reopening of the case. The facts material to its resolution are
either admitted or documented.

This Court is in full accord with the findings of the IBP Investigator that respondent
violated the following provisions of the Code of Professional Responsibility, to wit:

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

xxx

CANON 15 - A lawyer shall observe candor, fairness and loyalty in all his dealings and
transactions with his clients.

RULE 15.06 - A lawyer shall not state or imply that he is able to influence any public
official, tribunal or legislative body.

xxx

CANON 16 - A lawyer shall hold in trust all moneys and properties of his client that may
come into his possession.

RULE 16.01 - A lawyer shall account for all money or property collected or received for
or from the client.

RULE 16.02 - A lawyer shall keep the funds of each client separate and apart from his
own and those of others kept by him.

RULE 16.03 - A lawyer shall deliver the funds and property of his client when due or upon
demand. However, he shall have a lien over the funds and may apply so much thereof
as may be necessary to satisfy his lawful fees and disbursements, giving notice promptly
thereafter to his client. He shall also have a lien to the same extent on all judgments
and executions he has secured for his client as provided for in the Rules of Court.

xxx

Scroll No. 577 135|PALE Cases Set 1


CANON 17 - A lawyer owes fidelity to the cause of his client and he shall be mindful of
the trust and confidence in him.

xxx

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

xxx

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 advantage or
that of a third person, unless the client with full knowledge of the circumstances
consents thereto.

Specifically with respect to above-quoted provision of Canon 16 of the Code of


Professional Responsibility, the Filipino lawyer’s principal source of ethical rules, which
Canon 16 bears on the principal complaint of complainant, a lawyer must hold in trust
all moneys and properties of his client that he may come to possess. This
commandment entails certain specific acts to be done by a lawyer such as rendering
an accounting of all money or property received for or from the client36 as well as
delivery of the funds or property to the client when due or upon demand.37
Respondent breached this Canon when after he received the proceeds of
complainant’s insurance claim, he did not report it to complainant, who had a given
address in Makati, or to his co-attorney-in-fact Garcia who was his contact with respect
to complainant.

In fact, long after respondent received the December 23, 1998 check for P525,000.00
he, by his letter of March 26, 1999 to Garcia, had even the temerity to state that the
claim was still pending and recommend "acceptance of the 50% offer . . . which is
P350,000.00 pesos." His explanation that he prepared and sent this letter on Garcia’s
express request is nauseating. A lawyer, like respondent, would not and should not
commit prevarication, documented at that, on the mere request of a friend.

By respondent’s failure to promptly account for the funds he received and held for the
benefit of his client, he committed professional misconduct.38 Such misconduct is
reprehensible at a greater degree, for it was obviously done on purpose through the
employment of deceit to the prejudice of complainant who was kept in the dark about
the release of the check, until he himself discovered the same, and has to date been
deprived of the use of the proceeds thereof.

A lawyer who practices or utilizes deceit in his dealings with his client not only violates his
duty of fidelity, loyalty and devotion to the client’s cause but also degrades himself and
besmirches the fair name of an honorable profession.39

That respondent had a lien on complainant’s funds for his attorney’s fees did not relieve
him of his duty to account for it.40 The lawyer’s continuing exercise of his retaining lien
presupposes that the client agrees with the amount of attorney’s fees to be charged. In

Scroll No. 577 136|PALE Cases Set 1


case of disagreement or when the client contests that amount for being
unconscionable, however, the lawyer must not arbitrarily apply the funds in his
possession to the payment of his fees.41 He can file, if he still deems it desirable, the
necessary action or proper motion with the proper court to fix the amount of such
fees.42

In respondent’s case, he never had the slightest attempt to bring the matter of his
compensation for judicial determination so that his and complainant’s sharp
disagreement thereon could have been put to an end. Instead, respondent stubbornly
and in bad faith held on to complainant’s funds with the obvious aim of forcing
complainant to agree to the amount of attorney’s fees sought. This is an appalling
abuse by respondent of the exercise of an attorney’s retaining lien which by no means
is an absolute right and cannot at all justify inordinate delay in the delivery of money
and property to his client when due or upon demand.

Respondent was, before receiving the check, proposing a 25% attorney’s fees. After he
received the check and after complainant had discovered its release to him, he was
already asking for 50%, objection to which complainant communicated to him. Why
respondent had to doubly increase his fees after the lapse of about one year when all
the while he has been in custody of the proceeds of the check defies comprehension.
At any rate, it smacks of opportunism, to say the least.

As for respondent’s claim in his June 2001 Supplement to his Counter-Affidavit that he
had on several occasions from May 1999 to October 1999 already delivered a total of
P233,000.00 out of the insurance proceeds to Garcia in trust for complainant, this does
not persuade, for it is bereft of any written memorandum thereof. It is difficult to believe
that a lawyer like respondent could have entrusted such total amount of money to
Garcia without documenting it, especially at a time when, as respondent alleged, he
and Garcia were not in good terms.43 Not only that. As stated earlier, respondent’s
Counter-Affidavit of February 18, 2000 and his December 7, 1999 letter to complainant
unequivocally contained his express admission that the total amount of P525,000.00 was
in his custody. Such illogical, futile attempt to exculpate himself only aggravates his
misconduct. Respondent’s claim discredited, the affidavits of Leonardo and Roxas who,
acting allegedly for him, purportedly gave Garcia some amounts forming part of the
P233,000.00 are thus highly suspect and merit no consideration.

The proven ancillary charges against respondent reinforce the gravity of his professional
misconduct.

The intercalation of respondent’s name to the Chinabank check that was issued
payable solely in favor of complainant as twice certified by Metropolitan Insurance44 is
clearly a brazen act of falsification of a commercial document which respondent
resorted to in order to encash the check.

Respondent’s threat in his December 7, 1999 letter to expose complainant to possible


sanctions from certain government agencies with which he bragged to have a "good
network" reflects lack of character, self-respect, and justness.

Scroll No. 577 137|PALE Cases Set 1


It bears noting that for close to five long years respondent has been in possession of
complainant’s funds in the amount of over half a million pesos. The deceptions and lies
that he peddled to conceal, until its discovery by complainant after about a year, his
receipt of the funds and his tenacious custody thereof in a grossly oppressive manner
point to his lack of good moral character. Worse, by respondent’s turnaround in his
Supplement to his Counter-Affidavit that he already delivered to complainant’s friend
Garcia the amount of P233,000.00 which, so respondent claims, is all that complainant
is entitled to, he in effect has declared that he has nothing more to turn over to
complainant. Such incredible position is tantamount to a refusal to remit complainant’s
funds, and gives rise to the conclusion that he has misappropriated them.45

In fine, by respondent’s questioned acts, he has shown that he is no longer fit to remain
a member of the noble profession that is the law.

WHEREFORE, respondent Atty. Amadeo E. Balon, Jr., is found GUILTY of malpractice,


deceit and gross misconduct in the practice of his profession as a lawyer and he is
hereby DISBARRED. The Office of the Clerk of Court is directed to strike out his name
from the Roll of Attorneys and to inform all courts and the Integrated Bar of the
Philippines of this Decision.

Respondent is ordered to turn over to complainant, Daniel Lemoine, the amount of


P525,000.00 within thirty (30) days from notice, without prejudice to whatever judicial
action he may take to recover his attorney’s fees and purported expenses incurred in
securing the release thereof from Metropolitan Insurance.

SO ORDERED.

G.R. No. L-24864 April 30, l985

FORTUNATO HALILI, doing business under the name and style HALILI TRANSIT (substituted
by EMILIA DE VERA DE HALILI), petitioner
vs.
COURT OF INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS and HALILI BUS DRIVERS and CONDUCTORS UNION
(PTGWO), respondents.

G.R. No. L-27773 April 30, l985

EMILIA DE VERA VDA. DE HALILI, petitioner,


vs.
COURT OF INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS and HALILI BUS DRIVERS AND CONDUCTORS UNION
(PTGWO), respondents.

G.R. No. L-38655 April 30, l985

FELICIDAD M. TOLENTINO, et al., petitioners,


vs.
COURT OF INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS, et al., respondents.

Scroll No. 577 138|PALE Cases Set 1


G.R. No. L-30110 April 30, l985

EMILIA DE VERA VDA. DE HALILI petitioner,


vs.
HALILI BUS DRIVERS AND CONDUCTORS UNION-PTGWO and COURT OF INDUSTRIAL
RELATIONS, respondents.

RESOLUTION

MAKASIAR, J.:

Before Us for resolution is the urgent motion to cite Atty. Benjamin C. Pineda, Ricardo
Capuno and Manila Bank (Cubao Branch) in contempt for the alleged continued
failure of aforenamed parties to comply with the temporary mandatory restraining
order issued by this Court on September 1, 1983 and with the resolution dated
September 13, 1983 which again directed Atty. Pineda and union administrator
Capuno to comply with the aforesaid mandatory restraining order and which ordered
the Manila Bank to transfer the funds allocated for the workers to the NLRC (p. 376, L-
24864, rec.; p. 301, L027773 rec.).

The issuance of the temporary mandatory restraining order stemmed from the
questioned orders of September 23, 1982 and February 9, 1983 issued by Labor Arbiter
Raymundo Valenzuela in Case No. 1099-V before the NLRC which orders respectively
allowed the sale of the property awarded to satisfy or answer for the claims of the union
members in these four cases and authorized the distribution of the proceeds of the
purchase.

For a better appreciation of the aforesaid motion for contempt, We must recall certain
prefatory facts which the Solicitor General has so aptly summed up. Thus:

The above-entitled cases involve disputes regarding claims for overtime of more than
five hundred bus drivers and conductors of Halili Transit. Litigation initially commenced
with the filing of a complaint for overtime with the defunct Court of Industrial Relations
on August 20, 1958 docketed as CIR Case No. 1099-V. The disputes were eventually
settled when the contending parties reached an Agreement on December 23, 1974,
the pertinent portions of which are as follows:

WHEREAS, in the face of this strong urging on the part of the Supreme Court Justices
upon the parties to put an immediate end to this case by amicable settlement, the
parties repeatedly came to conference, conscientiously explored all avenues of
settlement, and finally arrived at the tentative agreement (tentative because of the
condition that the same be sanctioned by the court in the estate case) whereby the
Administratrix would transfer to the employees title to that tract of land, covered by TCT
No. 36389, containing an area of approximately 33,952 square meters, situated in the
Barrio of San Bartolome, Municipality of Caloocan, Province of Rizal, and pay in

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addition the cash amount of P25,000.00 in full and final satisfaction of all the claims and
causes of action of all of the employees against the estate of Fortunato F. Halili subject
of CIR Case No. 1099-V.

xxx xxx xxx

NOW, THEREFORE, for and in consideration of the foregoing and of the covenants,
stipulations and undertakings hereinafter contained, the parties have agreed as follows:

l. The UNION, its officers and members-claimants relative to CIR Case No. 1099-V, shall
withdraw and dismiss with prejudice Case No. 1099-V filed by the UNION in behalf of its
members-claimants before the Court of Industrial Relations and all its incidents thereto.

2. The ESTATE shall deliver or cause to be delivered, to the UNION the following:

(a) Deed of Transfer of a parcel of land situated in Barrio San Bartolome, Caloocan
City, containing an area of THIRTY-THREE THOUSAND NINE HUNDRED FIFTY-TWO (33,952)
Square Meters, more or less, and covered by Transfer Certificate of Title No. 35389 of the
Registry of Deeds of Rizal, to be made, upon authority and approval granted by the
Court of First of Rizal, Branch IV, at Quezon City, in Proc. No. Q-10852 in the name of the
Halili Bus Drivers & Conductors Union (PTGWO), free from any and all liens
encumbrances, and any and all claims whatsoever.

(b) Negotiable Check for TWENTY-FIVE THOUSAND (P25,000.00) PESOS in the name of
Domingo D. Cabading, President of the UNION.

3. The transfer of the above-described parcel of land and receipt of the amount of
P25,000.00 constitute the full and final satisfaction of the claims and award in said CIR
Case No. 1099-V, as well as any and all attorney's liens in said case, for and in
consideration of which the UNION members-claimants in CIR Case No. 1099-V by these
present now and forever release and quitclaim Halili Enterprises, Halili Transit, Fortunato
F. Halili his estate, heirs and successors by reason of CIR Case No. 1099-V, it being their
intention that they be absolutely, completely and finally absolved and released from
any and all liability in said case, including attorneys' liens the transfer of the property
and payment of the amount hereinabove stated constituting for all intents and
purposes a full, final and complete settlement and satisfaction of the award in CIR Case
No. 1099-V and all incidents thereto.

4. The UNION and its undersigned officers hereby warrant that the UNION is a duly
registered labor organization and that in a special meeting called for the purpose they
were duly authorized on December 22, 1974, by all the members- claimants in CIR Case
No. 1099-V to sign this Memorandum of Agreement with Release and Quitclaim which
was unanimously approved and ratified by said members-claimants as evidenced by a
Resolution dated December 22, 1974, a copy of which is attached hereto and made a
part hereof as Annex "B", and hereby jointly and severally hold the estate and heirs of
Fortunato F. Halili free and harness from, and undertake to indemnify them for, any and
all liability for any claims by members of the UNION, their heirs, assigns and agents

Scroll No. 577 140|PALE Cases Set 1


relating to CIR Case No. 1099-V or attorneys' liens in connection therewith (69 SCRA 509-
510).

On January 6, 1975, pursuant to the Agreement, the administratrix of the estate of


Fortunato F, Halili executed a Deed of Conveyance of Real Property, transferring the
aforementioned parcel of land to the Halili Bus and Conductors Union (PTGWO) in trust
for the members of the union claimants. The parcel of land was eventually registered in
the name of the Union on February 14, 1975. Hence, on February 10, 1976, the
contending parties moved for the dismissal of G.R. No. L-30110 and G.R. No. L-38655,
which this Honorable Court granted on February 27, 1976 (69 SCRA 505). The two other
cases, G.R. No. L-24864 and G.R. No. L- 27773, were previously disposed of on February
26, 1968 and December 28, 1970, respectively (22 SCRA 785. and 36 SCRA 522).

On August 9, 1982, the Union, through Atty. Benjamin C. Pineda, filed an urgent motion
with the Ministry of Labor and Employment (MOLE) requesting for authority to sell and
dispose of the property. The motion was granted in an order dated September 23, 1982.
A prospective buyer, the Manila Memorial Park Cemetery, inc. expressed its misgivings
on the authority of the Union to sell the property in view of sec. 66 of PD 1529 which
requires no less than an order from a court of competent jurisdiction as authority to sell
property in trust. So, Atty. Pineda filed a motion with the Supreme Court on December
1, 1982 requesting for authority to sell the property, This Honorable Court, however,
merely noted the motion in a resolution dated December 8, 1982.

Nevertheless, Atty. Pineda, without authority from the Supreme Court but relying on the
earlier authority given him by the Ministry of Labor, filed another urgent motion with the
latter, praying that the Union be authorized to sell the lot to the Manila Memorial Park
Cemetery, Inc. and to make arrangements with it such that payment will be advanced
for the real estate taxes inclusive of penalties, attorney's lien which is equivalent to a
thirty-five percent (35%) of the total purchase price, and home developer's fee of
P69,000.00. Apparently, the prospective purchaser had decided to withdraw its
objection regarding the Union's authority to sell. In an Order dated February 9, 1983,
Labor Arbiter Raymundo R. Valenzuela granted the motion. So, the sale was finally
consummated on June 7, 1983, resulting in the execution of an escrow agreement on
June 8, 1983 wherein the purchase price was deposited under escrow with the Manila
Bank-Cubao Branch. The Bank then released the amounts due the claimants in
accordance with the escrow agreement" (pp. 352- 356, L-24864 rec.).

The dispositive portion in L-24864 is re-stated hereunder:

WHEREFORE, the appealed order and resolution en banc are hereby affirmed and the
Court of Industrial Relations is hereby enjoined to make a judicial determination of the
union membership of the claimants, while the Examining Division of said court shall
proceed with its computation of the compensable hours of work rendered by, and the
corresponding compensation payable to, the drivers and conductors admitted by both
parties to be union members since October 1, 1956 and those contended by the union
to be such members but disputed by the employer. No costs. So ordered (p. 186, L-
24864 rec.).

Scroll No. 577 141|PALE Cases Set 1


When Atty. Jose C. Espinas (herein movant and alleged original counsel for the Union)
learned of the sale and apportionment of the proceeds from past Union president
Amado Lopez, he requested Labor Arbiter Raymundo Valenzuela to allow him to look
into the records of Case No. 1099-V. The latter, however, told him that the records of
the aforecited case were missing. Thereupon, Atty. Espinas requested Director Pascual
Reyes of the NLRC to locate the records (p. 356, L24864 rec.).

Hence, Atty. Espinas filed the urgent motion with prayer for a temporary mandatory
restraining order on August 26, 1983 and the supplement thereto on August 29, 1983
(pp. 215, 227, L-24864 rec.).

On August 30, 1983, the records of Case No. 1099-V were finally found and Atty. Espinas
was dully informed of the development,

The above two motions question the legality of the orders dated September 23, 1982
and February 9, 1983 issued by Labor Arbiter Raymundo Valenzuela in Case No. 1099-V
before the NLRC which authorized the sale of the awarded property and the
distribution of the proceeds from such purchase.

Movants Union and counsel Espinas upon filing of the motions urgently pray of thisourt
to:

1. Require Atty. Benjamin C. Pineda to deposit with the NLRC the amount of
P712,992.00 paid to him or deposited to his account at Manila Bank, Cubao
Branch,allegedly representing 35% attorney's fees on the sale of 33,952 square meters of
the lot registered in the name of the Union;

2. Require the Halili Drivers and Conductors Union through Domingo Cabading or
any of his representatives to deposit with the NIRC the 6% alleged union expenses paid
to them or similarly deposited to their account;

3. Implead with leave of court this Manila Bank Cubao Branch to require the said
bank to prevent further withdrawals of amount deposited in the name of Atty. Pineda
and/or the Halili Drivers and Conductors Union or any of its officers and to turn over any
remaining deposits to the NLRC for proper disposition;

4. Should Atty. Pineda and the Union officers have already withdrawn the deposits
or parts thereof, require them to post a bond in the equivalent amounts of 35%
(attorney's fee), 6% (union expenses), and 5% (broker's fee) respectively of the total
proceeds of the sale of the property, solidarity (p. 219, L-24864 rec.; p. 160, L-27773 rec.).

Likewise, and after due consideration of the merits, movants prayed that—

1. the order of Arbiter Valenzuela dated February 9, 983 be nullified insofar as it


allows Atty. Pineda 35% attorney's fees;

2. the NLRC be directed to locate the records of Case No. 1099-V or reconstitute
the same and thereafter to equitably dispose 20% as fees to all lawyers who

Scroll No. 577 142|PALE Cases Set 1


participated in the proceedings and any excess amounts to be again distributed to the
workers; and

3. these cases be remanded to the NLRC with instructions as above-stated and


that the proper penalty be imposed on those involved and who have acted
fraudulently and illegally (p. 220, L-24864 rec.; p. 165, L-27773 rec.).

The succeeding pleadings and developments which are common to all these cases
are now presented chronologically.

On August 29, 1983, Atty. Espinas, for himself and members of the respondent Union,
filed a supplement to urgent motion stating that the prayers in the urgent motion of
August 26, 1983 are reiterated and praying for the nullification of Arbiter Valenzuela's
order not only on the award of attorney's fees but also on the allowance of payment of
"union obligations" not previously authorized nor approved by the NLRC (p. 227, L-24864,
rec.; p. 176, L-27773 rec.).

In its resolution dated September 1, 1983, this Court impleaded the Manila Bank, Cubao
Branch as party respondent and directed the issuance of a temporary mandatory
restraining order (p. 234, L-24864 rec. & p. 187, L-27773 rec.). This Court correspondingly
issued a temporary mandatory restraining order on the same date which enjoined Atty.
Benjamin C. Pineda or his agents or any person acting in his stead to deposit with the
NLRC the amount of P712,992.00 paid to him or deposited in his account at Manila
Bank, Cubao Branch allegedly representing 35% attorney's fees on the sale of 33,952
square meters of the lot registered in the name of Halili Drivers and Conductors Union;
directed the Union thru Domingo Cabading or his agents to deposit with the NLRC 6%
alleged union expenses paid to the Union or similarly deposited to its account; and
ordered the NLRC and Manila Bank, Cubao Branch, or their agents or persons in their
stead not to allow withdrawals of amounts deposited in the name of Atty. Benjamin C.
Pineda and/or the Union or any of its officers (P. 235, L-24864; p. 188, L-27773 rec.).

On September 6, 1983, respondent Union, thru Atty. Pineda, filed its comment, in
compliance with the resolution of September 1, 1983, on the urgent motion and the
supplement thereto both filed by counsel Espinas, alleging therein that the subject
matter sought to be enjoined or mandated by the restraining order ceased to exist
rendering the same moot and academic, and thus praying for the dismissal of the said
motion and the supplement thereto (p. 237, L-24864 rec.; p. 191, L-27773 rec.).

On September 7, 1983, Atty. Pedro Lopez, an original associate of Atty. Espinas, filed his
motion for leave to intervene, with the submission that the lawyers involved should only
divide 20% fees as per the workers' contract and the rest refunded by Atty. Pineda and
the alleged "union officers" for redistribution to the members (p. 265, L-24864, rec.; p.
219. L-27773 rec.).

Atty. Espinas, in behalf of the workers, filed a manifestation and motion to require Atty,
Pineda and the union to comply with the temporary mandatory restraining order on
September 9, 1983, with prayer that the Manila Bank be ordered to transfer the funds
allocated for the workers to the NLRC, which should be instructed to pay the workers

Scroll No. 577 143|PALE Cases Set 1


upon proper Identification (without prejudice to additional shares) or to mail such
amounts by money order or manager's check to the workers' addresses as furnished to
the NLRC (p. 274, L-24864, rec.; p. 231, L-27773 rec.).

On September 12, 1983, petitioner filed a manifestation in compliance with the


resolution of September 2, 1983 stating, among other things, that its liability had been
completely extinguished with the approval of the Memorandum of Agreement with
Release and Quitclaim in L-38655 and L-30110; that said agreement operated as an
absolute and complete release of petitioner from any liability to the Union; and that
petitioner had not been given any notice of any proceedings respecting cases
subsequent to the promulgation of the decisions aforestated (p. 281, L-24864, rec.; p.
237, L-27773 rec.).

Counsel Espinas (for the workers involved) filed his reply to comments of respondent
Union on September 14, 1983 praying for this Court to:

1. nullify the order of February 9, 1983 issued by Arbiter Raymundo Valenzuela in CIR
Case No. 1099-V and others connected therewith regarding the distribution of
proceeds of the sale of the land belonging to the members-claimants for lack of due
process and for being contrary to law;

2. nullify the 35% attorney's fees of Atty. Benjamin Pineda as illegal and
unconscionable and in disregard of other lawyers in the case;

3. require reimbursement to the members-from the Union P101,856.00 allocated


without their consent as Union expenses; P101,856 unreceipted brokers' fees less
P4,020.40 expenses for the transfer of title; to refund the 1 % of the net proceeds,
P9,596.18, for named claimants; and to secure a refund of P308,000.00 from the
P712,992.00 fees of Atty. Pineda (the excess of 20% fees for all lawyers);

4. subject the balance of P404,992.00 of the remainder of Atty. Pineda's 35% fees
for distribution among the three lawyers as may be determined by the NLRC; and

5. should this Court so decides, fix the fees (p. 285, L- 24864 rec.; p. 240, L-27773
rec.).

On September 13, 1983, the Solicitor General filed his comment on the urgent motion
and the supplement thereto dated August 25, 1983 and August 29, 1983, respectively
with the recommendations that (1) the orders of Arbiter Valenzuela dated September
23, 1982 and February 9, 1983 be nullified for having been issued without due process;
(2) the case must be remanded to the NLRC for further proceedings; and (3) the
temporary restraining order issued by this Court on September 1, 1983 be maintained,
pending final resolution by the NLRC (p. 351, L-24864 rec.).

The Solicitor General, on October 6, 1983, filed his manifestation and motion in lieu of
comment on the motion of Atty. Pedro Lopez for leave to intervene in L-24864 and L-
27773 (p. 360, L-24864 rec.; p. 289, L-27773 rec.).

Scroll No. 577 144|PALE Cases Set 1


On October 6, 1983, counsel Espinas filed his comment on the intervention of Atty.
Pedro Lopez wherein he offers no objection to the latter's intervention and states that
said counsel is also entitled to attorney's fees in accordance with his participation (p.
364, L-24864 rec.; p. 292, L-27773 rec.).

Atty. Pineda filed his comment and manifestation on October 7, 1983, in compliance
with the resolution of September 13, 1983, alleging therein that as per Retainer's
Contract dated January 1, 1967, he handled Case No. 1099-V before the Court of
Industrial Relations alone. On the mandatory restraining order, Atty. Pineda claims that
as of October 4, 1983, he had a balance of P2,022.70 in his account with the Manila
Bank (p. 370, L-24864 rec.; p. 295, L-27773 rec.).

In its resolution dated October 18, 1983, this Court (1) set, aside as null and void the
orders of September 23, 1982 and February 9, 1983 of Arbiter Raymundo R. Valenzuela;
(2) allowed the intervention of Atty. Pedro Lopez; (3) directed the Manila Bank (Cubao
Branch), Atty. Benjamin Pineda, and the Halili Drivers and Conductors Union through
Domingo Cabading or any of his representatives, to comply with the temporary
mandatory restraining order issued on September 1, 1983 and the resolution dated
September 13, 1983, within ten [10] days from receipt thereof; and (4) remanded these
cases to the NLRC for further proceedings (p. 374, L-24864 rec.; p. 299, L-27773 rec.).

The day before or on October 17, 1983, Sergio de Pedro, as representative of the
workers and assisted by Atty. Espinas, thus fided the urgent motion to cite Atty. Pineda,
Ricardo Capuilo and Manila Bank (Cubao Branch) in contempt, alleging therein that
after two letters dated October 6 and October l4, l983 to the NLRC which inquired as to
whether or not compliant, with the restraining order had been made, the Commission
certified that as of October 14, 1983, no deposits had been effected by the parties so
(directed (p. 376, L-24864 rec.; p. 301, L-27773 rec.).

In its manifestation and motion filed on November 2, 1983, respondent Manila Banking
Corporation (Rustan-Cubao Branch), in compliance with this Court's resolution of
September 13, 1983, stated that it transmitted or paid to the NLRC the amount of
P417,380.64 under Cashier's Check No. 34084190 for the account of the Union and
P2,022.70 under Cashier's Check No. 34084191 for the account of Atty. Pineda and thus
prayed therein that the aforesaid transmittals be deemed as sufficient compliance with
the aforecited resolution and that the urgent motion to cite respondents in contempt
dated October 17, 1983 be considered moot and academic (p. 390, L-24864 rec.).

On November 8, 1983, respondent Atty. Pineda filed his manifestation and motion in lieu
of comment in compliance with this Court's resolution of October 20, 1983, stating that
he and respondent Union thereby adopt the aforecited manifestation and motion of
respondent Manila Banking Corporation and thus prayed that since they have
complied with this Court's resolution of September 13, 1983, the urgent motion to cite
them for contempt be considered moot and academic (p. 394, L-24864 rec.; p. 310, L-
27773 rec.).

On November 10, 1983, respondent Manila Banking Corporation filed another


manifestation and motion in lieu of commence, by way of compliance with the Court's

Scroll No. 577 145|PALE Cases Set 1


resolution of October 20, 1983 with prayer that its previous manifestation and motion
dated October 28, 1983 and filed on November 2, 1983 be considered as sufficient
compliance with the resolution of September 13, 1983 which would render the urgent
motion to cite respondents in contempt moot and academic (p. 396, L-24864 rec. p.
312, L-27773 rec.).

On the foregoing manifestations and motions, representative Sergio de Pedro, with the
assistance of Atty. Espinas, filed a comment on November 16,1983 wherein he alleged
that out of the P2,037,120.00 purchase price, only Pl,940,127.29 was deposited with the
Manila Bank; that Atty. Pineda has yet to return the balance of P710,969,30; and that
the Union has still to account for P111,452.18 (p. 399, L- 24864 rec.; p. 315, L-27773 rec.).

December 14, 1983, respondent Union filed its reply to Mr. de Pedro's above unsigned
comment therein stating among other things that the alleged missing amount of
P96.992.71 was used for the payment of outstanding real estate taxes on real property
of said Union covered by TCT No. 205755 and that the amount of P2,022.70 only was
remitted by Manila Bank to the NLRC for the account of Atty. Pineda (p. 323, L-27773
rec.)

On December 20, 1983, Mr. de Pedro and Atty. Espinas, for the workers involved, filed
their rejoinder to the comment of Atty. Pineda and Mr. Capuno reiterating therein their
plea to declare Atty. Pineda and Mr. Capuno in contempt of court and to mete out
the proper penalty (p. 328, L-27773 rec.).

The Manila Banking Corporation filed its compliance with the Court resolution of
November 22, 1983 on February 3, 1984, praying that its report to the NLRC on the
amount of withdrawals be considered as sufficient compliance with the said resolution
(p. 343, L-27773 rec.).

Atty. Espinas filed his comment and motion on March 15, 1984, stating among other
things that as per report of the Manila Bank to the NLRC, Atty. Pineda has not yet
complied with the said order. He thus moved that Atty. Pineda be required to post a
bond on the undeposited balance in the amounts of P710,969.30 and that Mr. Capuno
be also required to post a bond before the NLRC on the undeposited balance of
P52,236.04 during the pendency of the motion for contempt (p. 373, L-27773 rec.).

On April 4, 1984, Mr. Sergio de Pedro filed his reply to the aforesaid comment of the
Union administrator and Atty. Pineda stating therein that there are still questions to be
resolved on the merits before the NLRC and hence, prays that Arbiter Antonio Tirona be
required to continue hearing the merits of the case pending in the said Commission (p.
377, L-27773 rec.).

Before We resolve the motion for contempt, certain crucial facts which have surfaced
and which precipitated Our issuance of the resolution of October 18, 1983 declaring
the two questioned orders of Arbiter Valenzuela as null and void, must be retraced.

Then Union President Amado Lopez, in a letter dated August 21, 1958, informed J.C.
Espinas and Associates that the general membership of the said Union had authorized

Scroll No. 577 146|PALE Cases Set 1


a 20% contingent fee for the law firm based on whatever amount would be awarded
the Union (p. 267, L-24864 rec.).

Atty. Jose C. Espinas, the original counsel, established the award of 897 workers' claim in
the main cases before the defunct CIR and the Supreme Court. In L-24864, the Notice
of Judgment of this Court dated February 26, 1968 was served on Messrs. J.C. Espinas &
Associates (p. 188, L-24864 rec.). In L-27773, the Notice of Judgment dated December
29, 1970 was sent to Atty. B.C. Pineda & Associates under same address-716 Puyat Bldg.,
Suit 404 at Escolta, Manila (p. 147, L-27773 rec.) Note that this is the same address of
Atty. J.C. Espinas & Associates.

When Atty. 'Pineda appeared for the Union in these cases, still an associate of the law
firm, his appearance carried the firm name B.C. Pineda and Associates," giving the
impression that he was the principal lawyer in these cases.

Atty. Pineda joined the law firm of Atty. Espinas in 1965 when these cases were pending
resolution. He always held office in the firm's place at Puyat Building, Escolta until 1974,
except in 1966 to 1967 when he transferred to the Lakas ng Manggagawa Offices.
During this one-year stint at the latter office, Atty. Pineda continued handling the case
with the arrangement that he would report the developments to the Espinas firm. When
he rejoined the law firm in 1968, he continued working on these cases and using the
Puyat Building office as his address in the pleadings.

When Atty. Pineda rejoined the Espinas firm in 1968, he did not reveal to his partners (he
was made the most senior partner) that he had a retainer's contract entered into on
January 1, 1967 which allegedly took effect in 1966. He stayed with the law firm until
1974 and still did not divulge the 1967 retainer's contract. Only the officers of the Union
knew of the contract.

The alleged retainer's contract between Atty. Pineda and the Union appears
anomalous and even illegal as well as unethical considering that-

1. The contract was executed only between Atty. Pineda and the officers of the
Union chosen by about 125 members only. It was not a contract with the general
membership, Only 14% of the total membership of 897 was represented. This violates
Article 242 (d) of the Labor Code which provides:

The members shall determine by secret ballot, after due deliberation, any question of
major policy affecting the entire membership of the organization, unless the nature of
the organization or force majeure renders such secret ballot impractical, in which case
the board of directors of the organization may make the decision in behalf of the
general membership (emphasis supplied).

2. The contingent fee of 30% for those who were still working with Halili Transit and
the 45% fee for those who were no longer working worked to the prejudice of the latter
group who should and were entitled to more benefits. Thus, too, when the alleged
retainer's contract was executed in 1967, the Halili Transit had already stopped

Scroll No. 577 147|PALE Cases Set 1


operations in Metro Manila. By then, Atty. Pineda knew that all the workers would be
out of work which would mean that the 45% contingent fee would apply to all.

3. The contract which retroactively took effect on January 1, 1966, was executed
when Atty. Espinas was still handling the appeal of Halili Transit in the main case before
the Supreme Court. Atty. Pineda would have but did not substitute himself in place of
Atty. Espinas or the law firm on the basis of such contract.

4. When Atty. Pineda filed his motion for approval of his attorney's lien with Arbiter
Valenzuela on February 8, 1983, he did not attach the retainer's contract.

5. The retainer's contract was not even notarized (p. 248, L-24864 rec.).

The Manila Memorial Park Cemetery, Inc., as the prospective buyer, initially expresses its
misgivings over the authority of the Union to sell subject property conformably with
Section 66 of P.D. No. 1529, which requires an order from a court of competent
jurisdiction authorizing the sale of a property in trust. The pertinent portion of Section 66
provides:

No instruments which transfers or mortgages or in any way deals with registered land in
trust shall be registered, unless the enabling power thereto is expressly conferred in the
trust instrument, or unless a final judgment or order of a court of competent jurisdiction
has construed the instrument in favor of the power, in which case a certified copy of
such judgment or order may be registered.

The decision of aforenamed purchaser to stop questioning the Union's authority to sell
and the expeditious manner by which Arbiter Valenzuela granted Atty. Pineda's motion
for such authority to sell the property make the entire transaction dubious and irregular.

Thus, without notice to the other lawyers and parties, Atty. Pineda commenced the
proceeds before the NLRC with the filing of a motion and manifestation on August 9,
1982 with Arbiter Valenzuela of the NLRC Office of the Labor Ministry wherein he asked
for authority to sell the property. On September 23, 1983 or just over a month, Arbiter
Valenzuela approved the motion per order of the same date. Notably, only Atty.
Pineda and the lawyers of the purchaser were informed of such order.

On February 4, 1983, again without notice to Atty. Espinas and Atty. Lopez, Atty. Pineda
filed a motion with Arbiter Valenzuela wherein he asked for authority to distribute the
proceeds of the sale of the property. This distribution would include his attorney's fee
which was allegedly the subject of a retainer contract entered into between him and
the alleged Union officers, On February 9, 1983, or barely five days from the day the
motion was filed, Arbiter Valenzuela, without informing the other lawyers and relying
exclusively on the unverified motion of Atty. Pineda (the records of the case were not
on hand), approved the said motion which authorized the appointment.

This Court, as earlier stated, nullified said orders dated September 23, 1982 and February
9, 1983 of Labor Arbiter Valenzuela as violative of the due process clause. It is a settled
rule that in administrative proceedings, or cases coming before administrative tribunals

Scroll No. 577 148|PALE Cases Set 1


exercising quasi-judicial powers, due process requires not only notice and hearing, but
also the consideration by the administrative tribunal of the evidence presented; the
existence of evidence to support the decision; its substantiality a decision based
thereon or at least contained in the record and disclosed to the parties; such decision
by the administrative tribunal resting on its own independent consideration of the law
and facts of the controversy; and such decision acquainting the parties with the various
issued involved and the reasons therefore (Ang Tibay vs. Court, 69 Phil. 635, cited on p.
84, Philippine Constitutional Law, Fernando, 1984 ed.)

Significantly Atty. Pineda's act of filing a motion with this Court on December 1, 1982
praying for authority to sell was by itself an admission on his part that he did not possess
the authority to sell the property and that this Court was the proper body which had the
power to grant such authority. He could not and did not even wait for such valid
authority but instead previously obtained the same from the labor arbiter whom he
knew was not empowered to so authorize. Under Article 224 (a) of the Labor Code,
only final decisions or awards of the NLRC, the Labor Arbiter, or compulsory or voluntary
arbitrators may be implemented or may be the subject of implementing orders by
aforenamed body or officers.

When Atty. Espinas discovered the sale of the property, he went to Arbiter Valenzuela
to look into the transaction who told him that the records of CIR Case No. 1099-V were
missing. It took director Pascual Reyes of the NLRC to locate the records.

The 45% attorney's lien on the award of those union members who were no longer
working and the 30% lien on the benefits of those who were still working as provided for
in the alleged retainer's contract are very exorbitant and unconscionable in view of
Section 11, Rule VIII of Book III which explicitly provides:

Sec. 11. Attorney's fees—Attorney's fees on any judicial or administrative proceedings


for the recovery of wages shall not exceed 10% of the amount awarded. The fees may
be deducted from the total amount due the winning party.

The amount of P101,856.00 which Atty. Pineda donated to the Union and which
actually corresponds to 5% of the total 35% attorney's fees taken from the proceeds (p.
263, L-24864, rec.) appears improper since it amounts to a rebate or commission. This
amount was subsequently treated as union miscellaneous operating expenses without
the consent of the general membership.

Thus, in the case of Amalgamated Laborers' Association vs. Court of Industrial Relations
(L-23467, 22 SCRA 1267 [March 27, 1968]), We declared:

We strike down the alleged oral agreement that the union president should share in the
attorney's fees. Canon 34 of Legal Ethics condemns this arrangement in terms clear and
explicit. It says: 'No division of fees for legal services is proper, except with another
lawyer, based upon a division of service or responsibility.' The union president is not the
attorney for the laborers. He may seek compensation only as such president. An
agreement whereby a union president is allowed to share in attorney's fees is immoral.
Such a contract we emphatically reject. It cannot be justified.

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A contingent fee contract specifying the percentage of recovery an attorney is to
receive in a suit 'should be reasonable under all the circumstances of the case,
including the risk and uncertainty of the compensation, but should always be subject to
the supervision of a court, as to its reasonableness. (emphasis supplied).

A deeper scrutiny of the pleadings in L-24864 notably indicates a fraudulent or deceitful


pattern in the actuations of Atty. Pineda. Thus, in his motion for execution of judgment
filed on September 18, 1965 in this case, he signed for and in behalf of "J.C. Espinas &
Associates" (p. 323, rec.). In his manifestation dated December 10, 1968, he signed as
"B.C. Pineda," lone counsel for petitioner (p. 327, rec.); and yet, he carried the address
of Espinas & Associates at 716 G. Puyat Building, Escolta.

However, in the October 29, 1968 resolution of this Court, a copy thereof was served on
"Messrs. J.C. Espinas, B.C Pineda, J.J. dela Rosa & Associates" at Puyat Building, Escolta
(p. 324, rec.). In the notice of judgment dated December 29, 1970, this Court addressed
the said pleading to "Attys. B.C. Pineda & Associates with the same Puyat Building
address (p. 325, rec.). Notably also, then Union President Amado Lopez addressed his
letter dated August 21, 1958 to J.C. Espinas & Associates" wherein he informed the latter
that the general membership of the Union had authorized them a 20%, contingent fee
on whatever award would be given the workers (p. 267, rec.).

The Manila Banking Corporation (Cubao Branch) has manifested that it turned over to
the NLRC the amount of P417,380.64 for the Union's account, which appears to be the
balance of P950,021.76 corresponding to the net proceeds for distribution to the
workers after deducting P525,480.40, the total payments to claimants. The amount of
P417,380.64 appears lacking, since accurately computed, the balance should be
P424,541,36.

However, the Union has yet to account for P101,856.00, the 5% donation or share from
Atty. Pineda's attorney's fee of 35%.

For the account of Atty. Pineda, the Manila Banking Corporation has remitted to the
NLRC the amount of P2,022.70 only. This means that Atty. Pineda is still accountable for
the amount of P710,969.30. He is directed to return the amount of P712,992.00
representing the 35% attorney's fees he unlawfully received.

In view of Our resolution of October 18, 1983, which set aside as null and void the
questioned orders dated September 23, 1982 and February 9, 1983 issued by Arbiter
Raymundo Valenzuela, the sale of the Union property and the distribution of the
proceeds therefrom had been effected without authority and, therefore, illegal
Consequently. Atty. Pineda and Arbiter Valenzuela become liable for their
unauthorized acts,

Atty. Pineda should be cited for indirect contempt under paragraphs (b), (c) and (d) of
Section 3, Rule 71 of the Revised Rules of Court, The said paragraphs read thus:

Sec. 3. indirect contempts to be punished after charge and hearing.—

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xxx xxx xxx

(b) Disobedience of or resistance to a lawful writ, process, order, judgment, or


company court, or injunction granted by a court or judge, including the act of a person
who, after being dispossessed or ejected from any real property by the judgment or
process of any court of competent jurisdiction, enters or attempts or induces another to
enter into or upon such real property, for the purpose of executing acts of ownership or
possession, or in any manner disturbs the possession given to the person adjudged to be
entitled thereto;

(c) Any abuse of or any interference with the process or proceedings of a court not
constituting direct contempt under section 1 of this rule;

(d) Any improper conduct tending, directly or indirectly to impede, obstruct, or


degrade the administration of justice.

Contempt of court is a defiance of the authority, justice or dignity of the court; such
conduct as tends to bring the authority and administration of the law into disrespect or
to interfere with or prejudice parties litigant or their witnesses during litigation (12 Am. jur.
389, cited in 14 SCRA 813).

Contempt of court is defined as a disobedience to the court by acting in opposition to


its authority, justice and dignity. It signifies not only a willful disregard or disobedience of
the court's orders, but such conduct as tends to bring the authority of 'the court and the
administration of law into disrepute or in some manner to impede the due
administration of justice (17 C.J.S. 4).

This Court has thus repeatedly declared that the power to punish for contempt is
inherent in all courts and is essential to the preservation of order in judicial proceedings
and to the enforcement of judgments, orders, and mandates of the court, and
consequently, to the due administration of justice (Slade Perkins vs. Director of Prisons,
58 Phil. 271; In re Kelly, 35 Phil. 944; Commissioner of Immigration vs. Cloribel, 20 SCRA
1241; Montalban vs. Canonoy, 38 SCRA 1).

In the matter of exercising the power to punish contempts, this Court enunciated in the
Slade Perkins case that "the exercise of the power to punish contempts has a twofold
aspect, namely (1) the proper punishment of the guilty party for his disrespect to the
court or its order; and (2) to compel his performance of some act or duty required of
him by the court which he refuses to perform. Due to this twofold aspect of the exercise
of the power to punish them, contempts are classified as civil or criminal. A civil
contempt is the failure to do something ordered to be done by a court or a judge for
the benefit of the opposing party therein; and a criminal contempt, is conduct directed
against the authority and dignity of a court or of a judge, as in unlawfully assailing or
discrediting the authority or dignity of the court or judge, or in doing a duly forbidden
act. Where the punishment imposed, whether against a party to a suit or a stranger, is
wholly or primarily to protect or vindicate the dignity and power of the court, either by
fine payable to the government or by imprisonment, or both, it is deemed a judgment

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in a criminal case. Where the punishment is by fine directed to be paid to a party in the
nature of damages for the wrong inflicted, or by imprisonment as a coercive measure
to enforce the performance of some act for the benefit of the party or in aid of the final
judgment or decree rendered in his behalf, the contempt judgment will, if made before
final decree, be treated as in the nature of an interlocutory order, or, if made after final
decree, as remedial in nature, and may be reviewed only on appeal from the final
decree, or in such other mode as is appropriate to the review of judgments in civil
cases. ... The question of whether the contempt committed is civil or criminal, does not
affect the jurisdiction or the power of a court to punish the same. ... (58 Phil. 271, 272).

For civil contempt, Section 7, Rule 71 of the Revised Rules of Court explicitly provides:

Sec. 7, Rule 71. Imprisonment until order obeyed. When the contempt consists in the
omission to do an act which is yet in the power of the accused to perform, he may be
imprisoned by order of a superior court until he performs it.

Thus, in the case of Harden vs. Director of Prisons (L-2349, 81 Phil. 741 [Oct. 22, 1948]),
where petitioner was confined in prison for contempt of court, this Court, in denying the
petition and resolving the question of petitioner's indefinite confinement, had the
occasion to apply and clarify the aforequoted provision in the following tenor:

The penalty complained of is neither cruel unjust nor excessive. In Ex-parte Kemmler 136
U.S. 436, the United States Supreme Court said that 'punishments are cruel when they
involve torture or a lingering death, but the punishment of death is not cruel, within the
meaning of that word as used in the constitution. It implies there something inhuman
and barbarous, something more than the extinguishment of life.

The punishment meted out to the petitioner is not excessive. It is suitable and adapted
to its objective; and it accords with section 7, Rule 64 of the Rules of Court which
provides that "when the contempt consists in the omission to do an act which is yet in
the power of the accused to perform, he may be imprisoned by order of a superior
court until he performs it."

If the term of imprisonment in this case is indefinite and might last through the natural
life of the petitioner, yet by the terms of the sentence the way is left open for him to
avoid serving any part of it by complying with the orders of the court, and in this
manner put an end to his incarceration. In these circumstances, the judgment cannot
be said to be excessive or unjust. (Davis vs. Murphy [1947], 188 P., 229- 231.) As stated in
a more recent case (De Wees [1948], 210 S.W., 2d, 145-147), 'to order that one be
imprisoned for an indefinite period in a civil contempt is purely a remedial measure. Its
purpose is to coerce the contemner to do an act within his or her power to perform. He
must have the means by which he may purge himself of the contempt . The latter
decision cites Staley vs. South Jersey Realty Co., 83 N.J. Eq., 300, 90 A., 1042, 1043, in
which the theory is expressed in this language:

In a "civil contempt" the proceeding is remedial, it is a step in the case the object of
which is to coerce one party for the benefit of the other party to do or to refrain from
doing some act specified in the order of the court. Hence, if imprisonment be ordered,

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it is remedial in purpose and coercive in character, and to that end must relate to
something to be done by the defendant by the doing of which he may discharge
himself. As quaintly expressed, the imprisoned man carries the keys to his prison in his
own pocket (pp. 747-748).

Likewise. American courts had long enunciated these rulings:

The commitment of one found in contempt of a court order only until the contemnor
shall have purged himself of such contempt by complying with the order is a decisive
characteristic of civil contempt. Maggio v. Zeitz, 333 US 56, 92 L. ed. 476, 68 S Ct 401.

Civil or quasi-criminal contempt is contemplated by a statute providing that if any


person refused to obey or perform any rule, order, or judgment of court, such court shall
have power to fine and imprison such person until the rule, order, or judgment shall be
complied with. Evans v. Evans, 193 Miss 468, 9 So 2d. 641. (17 Am. Jur. 2d.)

The reason for the inherent power of courts to punish for contempt is that respect of the
courts guarantees the stability of the judicial institution. Without such guarantee said
institution would be resting on a very shaky foundation (Salcedo vs. Hernandez, 61 Phil.
724; Cornejo vs. Tan, 85 Phil. 722),

Likewise, Atty. Pineda should be subject to disbarment proceedings under Section 27 of


Rule 138 of the Revised Rules of Court which provides:

Sec. 27. Attorneys removed or suspended by Supreme Court on what grounds.—A


member of the bar may be removed or suspended from his office as attorney by the
Supreme Court for any deceit, malpractice, or other gross misconduct in such office,
grossly immoral conduct, or by reason of his conviction of a crime involving moral
turpitude, or for any violation of the oath which he is required to take before admission
to practice, or for a willful disobedience of any lawful order of a superior court, or for
corrupt 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.

The Court may suspend or disbar a lawyer for any conduct on his part showing his
unfitness for the confidence and trust which characterize the attorney and client
relations, and the practice of law before the courts, or showing such a lack of personal
honesty or of good moral character as to render him unworthy of public confidence (7
C.J.S. 733).

It is a well-settled rule that the statutory grounds for disbarment or suspension are not to
be taken as a limitation on the general power of the courts in this respect. The inherent
powers of the court over its officers cannot be restricted (In re Pelaez, 44 Phil. 567).

Finally, Atty. Pineda could be prosecuted for betrayal of trust by an attorney under
Article 209 of the Revised Penal Code. Said article provides:

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Art. 209. Betrayal of must by an attorney or solicitor. Revelation of secrets.—In addition
of the proper administrative action , the penalty of prision correccional in its minimum
period, or a fine ranging from 200 to 1,000 pesos, or both shall be imposed upon any
attorney-at-law or solicitor (procurador judicial) who, by any malicious breach of
professional duty or inexcusable negligence or ignorance, shall prejudice his client, or
reveal any of the secrets of the latter learned by him in his professional capacity
(emphasis supplied).

The aforequoted criminal sanction for unprofessional conduct of an attorney is without


prejudice to proper administrative action, such as disbarment or suspension of attorneys
(p. 503, Criminal Law Annotated, Padilla, 1972 Ed.).

Labor Arbiter Raymundo Valenzuela should be made to answer for having acted
without or beyond his authority in proper administrative charges. He could also be
prosecuted before the Tanodbayan under the provisions of the Anti-Graft Law.
Independently of his liabilities as a government officer, he could be the subject of
disbarment proceedings under Section 27, Rule 138 of the Revised Rules of Court.

Atty. Benjamin Pineda could also be held liable under Section 4(b) of R.A. No. 3019
(Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act) which makes it unlawful for any person knowingly
to induce or cause any public official to commit any of the offenses defined in Section
3 of said act. Section 3 enumerates the corrupt practices which public officers may be
prosecuted for. Atty. Pineda knowingly induced or caused Labor Arbiter Valenzuela to
issue the questioned orders without or beyond the latter's authority and to which orders
the former was not entitled, considering that he was not the sole and proper
representative.

The Manila Banking Corporation (Cubao Branch) per manifestation and motion dated
October 28, 1983 and reiterated on November 10, 1983, had transmitted to the NLRC
the remaining balance of P417,380.64 and P2,022.70 for the account of the Union and
Atty. Pineda, respectively. This turnover of the aforecited amounts is a sufficient
compliance with Our restraining order and resolution of September 13, 1983 and hence,
the Manila Banking Corporation can no longer be liable for contempt of court.

Very recently, on August 23, 1984, respondent Union, thru Acting Administrator Ricardo
Capuno, filed its motion to drop Halili Bus Drivers and Conductors Union from the
contempt charge in view of these reasons:

1. The Manila Bank has already turned over to the NLRC the amount of P59,716.14
which represents the remaining balance of 5% earmarked for Union expenses incurred
in the case aside from the amounts deposited in escrow for the workers. The amount of
P42,140.00 was spent legitimately by the Union for administration purposes relative to
the subject property. The Union asserts that it is ready and willing to account for all
expenses and withdrawals from the bank before the NLRC.

2. The alleged 5% donation of Atty. Pineda to the Union taken from the 35%
attorneys' fees was given to and received by then President Domingo Cabading alone,
who thereafter left for the United States.

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3. The 1% allocated for unknown claimants or those not previously listed in the
amount of P9,596.18 can easily be accounted for by the Union before the NLRC.

In the same motion, Mr. Capuno clarifies that with regard to attorneys' fees, Atty.
Pineda made the Union officers believe that he would be the one to pay the fees of
Attys. Espinas and Lopez for which reason, the 35% increased fees was approved by the
Union's board in good faith. The Union likewise confirms that Atty. Pineda came into the
picture only when he was assigned by Atty. Espinas in, 1965 to execute the CIR decision
which, thru Atty. Espinas handling, was upheld by this Court in L-24864 in 1968. The Union
officers were aware that Atty. Espinas was the principal counsel even after Atty.
Pineda's assignment. They also knew of the original contract for 20% attorney's fees
which was increased to 35% by Atty. Pineda upon the arrangement that with the
increase, he would answer for the payment of Attys. Espinas and Lopez' fees and for
necessary representation expenses (p. 450, L-24864 rec.).

Acting on the aforesaid motion, this Court in its resolution of August 28, 1964, dropped
the Union and its officers from the within contempt charge (p. 455, L-24864 rec.).

WHEREFORE, ATTY. BENJAMIN PINEDA IS HEREBY FOUND GUILTY OF INDIRECT CONTEMPT


OF COURT FOR WHICH HE IS HEREBY SENTENCED TO IMPRISONMENT IN THE MANILA CITY
JAIL UNTIL THE ORDERS OF THIS COURT DATED SEPTEMBER 1 AND SEPTEMBER 13, 1983 ARE
COMPLIED WITH.

ATTY. BENJAMIN PINEDA IS ALSO DIRECTED TO SHOW CAUSE WHY HE SHOULD NOT BE
DISBARRED UNDER RULE 138 OF THE REVISED RULES OF COURT.

LET COPIES OF THIS RESOLUTION AND THE RESOLUTION OF OCTOBER 18, 1983 BE
FURNISHED THE MINISTRY OF LABOR AND THE TANODBAYAN FOR APPROPRIATE ACTION.

SO ORDERED.

G.R. No. L-36800 October 21, 1974

JORGE MONTECILLO and QUIRICO DEL MAR, petitioners,


vs.
FRANCISCO M. GICA, MAGNO S. GATMAITAN, JOSE N. LEUTERIO, and RAMON G.
GAVIOLA, Justices of the Court of Appeals, respondents. In Re Quirico del Mar, For
Disciplinary action as member of the Philippine Bar, respondent.

ESGUERRA, J.:p

Petitioner Atty. Quirico del Mar of Cebu City in G. R. No. L-36800, and as respondent in
contempt proceedings both in the Court of Appeals and in this Court, virtually focused
the limelight on himself and relegated to insignificance the limelight on himself and
relegated to insignificance the principal issue raised in the petition for certiorari to

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review the entitled "Francisco M. Gica vs. Hon. Santiago O. Tañada, et al" which was
denied due course by this Court's resolution dated May 14, 1973, for lack of merit.

Although the petition for certiorari has been denied, it becomes imperatively necessary
to elucidate upon the antecedents of this case even if Our only justification in so doing
is to seek a reason or motive for the acts of contempt perpetrated by respondent
Quirico del Mar that might serve to lighten the enormity of his wrongdoing as a member
of the Bar.

As a result of an alleged slander committed by Jorge Montecillo on Francisco M. Gica


(the former allegedly calling the latter "stupid" or a "fool'), Mr. Gica filed a criminal
complaint for oral defamation against Montecillo (Criminal Case No. R-28782 in Branch
VII of the Cebu City Court) and a case for damages arising from the same incident
(Civil Case No. R-13075 in Branch VI of the Cebu City Court). Montecillo was acquitted
in Criminal Case No. R-28782, and in Civil Case No. R-13075, the Cebu City Court found
that Montecillo did not call Gica "stupid". Finding the counter-claim of Montecillo
meritorious, the City Court rendered judgment against Gica for him to pay Montecillo
five hundred pesos as moral damages, two hundred pesos as compensatory damages
and three hundred pesos as attorney's fees, plus costs.

Francisco Gica appealed from the decision of the City Court of Cebu in Civil Case No.
R-13075 to the Court of First Instance of Cebu presided by Hon. Santiago O. Tañada but
the Court of First Instance upheld the decision of the City Court. The case was then
elevated to the Court of Appeals by petition for review by petitioner Francisco M. Gica
and it was docketed therein as CA-G.R. No. 46504-R.

The Fourth Division of the Court of Appeals in a decision penned by the Hon. Magno S.
Gatmaitan and concurred in by Associate Justices Jose N. Leuterio and Ramon G.
Gaviola, Jr. (promulgated on Sept. 27, 1972), reversed the decision of the Court of First
Instance of Cebu; ruled in favor of petitioner Gica on the ground that the
preponderance of evidence favored petitioner Francisco M. Gica on the principle that
positive must prevail over the negative evidence, and that "some words must have
come from Montecillo's lips that were insulting to Gica". The appellate court concluded
that its decision is a vindication of Gica and instead, awarded him five hundred pesos
as damages.

It is from this point that trouble began for respondent Atty. Quirico del Mar when, as
counsel for Montecillo, he moved for a reconsideration of the Appellate Court's
decision with a veiled threat by mentioning the provisions of the Revised Penal Code on
"Knowingly rendering unjust judgment" and "judgment rendered through negligence",
and the innuendo that the Court of Appeals allowed itself to be deceived. When the
Appellate Court denied the motion for reconsideration in its Resolution of October 24,
1972, it observed that the terminology of the motion insinuated that the Appellate
Court rendered an unjust judgment, that it abetted a falsification and it permitted itself
to be deceived. It admonished Atty. del Mar to remember that threats and abusive
language cannot compel any court of justice to grant reconsideration. Respondent del
Mar persisted and in his second motion for reconsideration, filed without leave of court,
made another threat by stating that "with almost all penal violations placed under the

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jurisdiction of the President of the Philippines, particularly Articles 171, 204 and 205 of the
Revised Penal Code, as Commander in Chief of the AFP, by virtue of the proclamation
of martial law, the next appeal that will he interposed, will be to His Excellency, the
President of the Philippines."

The Appellate Court in its resolution of Nov. 27, 1972, noticed that notwithstanding its
admonition in its resolution of Oct. 24, 1972, for Atty. del Mar to refrain from abusive
language and threats, he reiterated his threats, and that the Appellate Court, impelled
to assert its authority, ordered respondent del Mar to explain within 10 days (and to
appear on January 10, 1973) why he should not be punished for contempt of court.

On December 5, 1972, respondent del Mar made a written explanation wherein he said
that the Appellate Court could not be threatened and he was not making any threat
but only informing the Appellate Court of the course of action he would follow. On the
same date, respondent sent a letter to the Justices of the 4th Division of the Court of
Appeals informing them that he sent a letter to the President of the Philippines,
furnishing them a copy thereof, and requesting the Justices to take into consideration
the contents of said letter during the hearing of the case scheduled for January 10,
1973. Not content with that move, on December 8, 1972, respondent sent another letter
to the same Justices of the Court of Appeals wherein he reminded them of a civil case
he instituted against Justices of the Supreme Court for damages in the amount of
P200,000 for a decision rendered not in accordance with law and justice, stating that
he would not like to do it again but would do so if provoked. We pause here to observe
that respondent del Mar seems to be of that frame of mind whereby he considers as in
accordance with law and justice whatever he believes to be right in his own opinion
and as contrary to law and justice whatever does not accord with his views. In other
words, he would like to assume the role of this Court, personally and individually, in the
interpretation and construction of the laws, evaluation of evidence and determination
of what is in accordance with law and justice.

The documented incidents as narrated in the Appellate Court's Resolution of March 5,


1973, cannot more eloquently depict the very manifest and repeated threats of
respondent del Mar to bludgeon the Justices of the Fourth Davison into reconsidering its
decision which happened to be adverse to respondent's client. Respondent del Mar,
instead of presenting lucid and forceful arguments on the merits of his plea for a
reconsideration to convince the Justices of the Fourth Division of the alleged error in
their decision, resorted to innuendos and veiled threats, even casting downright
aspersion on the Justices concerned by insinuating that for their decision they could be
criminally and civilly liable for knowingly rendering unjust judgment, or doing it through
ignorance.

We quote with approval this portion of the Appellate Court's Resolution (March 5, 1973):

A just man can never be threatened, p. 145, rollo, is not at all true; any man, just or
unjust, can be threatened; if he is unjust, he will succumb, if he is just, he will not, but the
offense is committed, whether the threats do or do not succeed. As to his (respondent
del Mar's reference to the New Society, p. 150, in his letter to his Excellency,
complaining against those justices, let it be said that precisely it was under the Former

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Society that there had been so much disrespect for the constituted authorities, there
was abuse, worse than abuse, there was arrogant abuse, of the so-called civil liberties,
against the authorities, including the courts, not excluding even the President; it is this
anarchy that is the program to cure in the New.

This Resolution of the Appellate Court of March 5, 1973, fittingly concluded that "counsel
del Mar is found guilty of contempt and condemned to pay a fine of P200.00 and
ordered suspended from the practice of law and pursuant to Sec. 9 of Rule 139, let
certified copies of these papers be elevated to the Honorable Supreme Court". We
upheld the Court of Appeals and gave full force and effect to this order of suspension
from the practice of law when in Our resolution dated Nov. 19, 1973, the Judicial
Consultant of this Court was directed to circularize all courts about the order of the
Court of Appeals suspending Atty. Quirico del Mar from the practice of law.

Not satisfied with the wrong that he had already done against Associate Justices
Magno S. Gatmaitan, Jose N. Leuterio and Ramon Gaviola, Jr., respondent del Mar
sued the three Justices for damages in Civil Case No. R-13277 of the Court of First
Instance of Cebu, trying to hold them liable for their decision in CA-G.R. No. 46504-R;
that the case for damages (R-13277)was terminated by compromise agreement after
Mr. del Mar himself moved for the dismissal of his complaint apologized to the Court of
Appeals and the Justices concerned, and agreed to pay nominal moral damages in
favor of the defendants-justices. This is the undeniable indication that respondent del
Mar did not only threaten the three Justices of the Appellate Court but he actually
carried out his threat, although he did not succeed in making them change their minds
in the case they decided in accordance with the exercise of their judicial discretion
emanating from pure conviction.

To add insult to injury, respondent del Mar had the temerity to file his motion on October
10, 1973, before Us, asking that his suspension from the practice of law imposed by the
Court of Appeals be ignored because of the amicable settlement reached in Civil
Case No. R-13277 of the Court of First Instance of Cebu which was the action for
damages filed against the three Justices of the Appellate Court.

Respondent del Mar's ire at the Appellate Court, fanned by the wind of frustration,
turned against Us when We denied on May 14, 1973, his petition for review on certiorari
of the decision of the Appellate Court, G. R. No. L-36800, for on May 25, 1973, he filed
his motion for reconsideration and wrote a letter addressed to the Clerk of this Court
requesting the names of the Justices of this Court who supported the resolution denying
his petition, together with the names of the Justices favoring his motion for
reconsideration. This motion for reconsideration We denied for lack of merit in Our
resolution dated June 15, 1973. He, then, filed a manifestation dated July 1, 1973,
before Us, stating brazenly, among other things, "I can at this time reveal to you that,
had your Clerk of Court furnished me with certified true copies of the last two
Resolutions of the Supreme Court confirming the decision of the Court of Appeals in the
case entitled Francisco M. Gica vs. Jorge Montecillo, I would have filed against the
Justices supporting the same, civil and criminal suit as I did to the Justices of the Court
of Appeals who, rewarding the abhorent falsification committed by Mr. Gica, reversed
for him the decisions of the City Court and the Court of First Instance of Cebu, not with

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a view to obtaining a favorable judgment therein but for the purpose of exposing to
the people the corroding evils extant in our Government, so that they may well know
them and work for their extermination" (Emphasis supplied. In one breath and in a
language certainly not complimentary to the Appellate Court and to Us, respondent
del Mar again made his veiled threat of retribution aimed at the Appellate Court and
at Us for Our judicial acts in CA-G. R. No. 46504-R and G. R. No. L-36800.

Our immediate reaction to this manifestation, dictated by the impulse of placing on a


pedestal beyond suspicion the integrity and honor of this Court and that of any of our
other courts of justice, was to require by Resolution of July 16, 1973, respondent del Mar
to show cause why disciplinary action should not be taken against him for the
contemptuous statements contained in his manifestation.

At this juncture, We pause to reexamine the act of the Appellate Court in CA-G. R. No.
46504-R and our own in G. R. No. L-36800 to determine what error we might have
committed to generate such a vengeful wrath of respondent del Mar which drove him
to make his contemptuous statements.

The crucial issue in the case of oral defamation filed by Francisco M. Gica against Jorge
Montecillo is as to what was the statement really uttered by Montecillo on the occasion
in question — "binuang man gud na" (That act is senseless or done without thinking) or
"buang man gud na siya" (He is foolish or stupid). If the statement uttered was the
former, Montecillo should be exonerated; if the latter, he would be liable. The Appellate
Court on evaluating the evidence ruled that the preponderance thereof favored Gica
"on the principle that the positive evidence must prevail over the negative" and,
therefore, what was really uttered by Montecillo on that occasion was "buang man gud
na siya" (He is foolish or stupid), thus making him liable for oral defamation. When We
denied in G. R. No. L-36800 the petition for review on certiorari of the Appellate Court's
decision in CA-G. R. No. 46504-R, We did so because We could find no reason for
disturbing the Appellate Court's finding and conclusion on the aforementioned lone
question of fact which would warrant overturning its decision.

On July 13, 1973, Our resolution of May 14, 1973, denying the petition for review on
certiorari of the decision of the Appellate Court in CA-G. R. No. 46504-R, became final
and executory and the Court of Appeals was so informed.

To Our resolution of July 16, 1973, requiring respondent del Mar to show cause why he
should not be disciplined for his statements contained in his manifestation of July 1,
1973, he submitted an explanation dated August 1, 1973, wherein he stated that "..., he
is attaching hereto the criminal case he filed with the President of the Philippines (copy
marked as Annex "A") and the civil case he instituted in the Court of First Instance of
Cebu (copy marked as Annex "B") against Justices Magno S. Gatmaitan, Jose N.
Leuterio and Ramon G. Gaviola, Jr., which embody the corroding evils he complained
of as extant in the Government needing correction. He would have followed suit were it
not for the fact that he is firmly convinced that human efforts in this direction will be
fruitless. As manifested, he, therefore, decided to retire from a life of militancy to a life of
seclusion leaving to God the filling-up of human deficiencies" (Emphasis supplied).

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This so-called explanation is more, in its tenor, of a defiant justification of his
contemptuous statements contained in the manifestation of July 1, 1973. Its contents
reveal a continued veiled threat against the Justices of this Court who voted to deny
del Mar's petition for review on certiorari of the decision of the Court of Court Appeals in
CA-G R. No. 46504-R.

Our resolution of September 4, 1973, required respondent Atty. Quirico del Mar to
appear personally at the hearing of his explanation on November 5, 1973. On
September 26, 1973, respondent filed an additional explanation with this Court, wherein
he stated, among other things: "Graft, corruption and injustice are rampant in and
outside of the Government. It is this state of things that convinced me that all human
efforts to correct and/or reform the said evils will be fruitless and, as stated in my
manifestation to you, I have already decided to retire from a life of militancy to a life of
seclusion, leaving to God the filling-up of human deficiencies."

Again We noticed that the tenor of this additional explanation is a toned-down


justification(as compared to his explanation of August 1, 1973) of his previous
contemptuous statements without even a hint of apology or regret. Respondent is
utilizing what exists in his mind as state of graft, corruption and injustice allegedly
rampant in and outside of the government as justification for his contemptuous
statements. In other words, he already assumed by his own contemptuous utterances
that because there is an alleged existence of rampant corruption, graft, and injustice in
and out of the government, We, by Our act in G. R. No. L-36800, are among the
corrupt, the grafters and those allegedly committing injustice. We are at a complete
loss to follow respondent del Mar's logic and We certainly should, with understanding
condescension, commiserate in the pitiable state of mind of a brother in the legal
profession who seems to have his reasoning and sense of proportion blurred or warped
by an all-consuming obsession emanating from a one-track mind that only his views are
absolutely correct and those of others are all wrong.

When this Court in the resolution dated November 19, 1973, directed the Judicial
Consultant to circularize to all courts concerning the order of the Court of Appeals
suspending Atty. Quirico del Mar from the practice of law, respondent del Mar filed a
motion for reconsideration on December 12, 1973, requesting Us to reconsider said
directive. In Our resolution dated December 17, 1973, respondent del Mar, after he had
been interpellated by the Court, was given a period of five days to submit a
memorandum in support of his explanation. In view of respondent's manifestation that
there was no need for further investigation of the facts involved, in accordance with
Section 29 of Rule 138, We resolved that the matter be deemed submitted for decision.

In the memorandum entitled "Explanation" dated December 20, 1973, respondent del
Mar stated that he suffered repeated strokes of high blood pressure which rendered
him dizzy and unstable mentally and physically; that his sight is blurred and his reasoning
is faulty; he easily forgets things and cannot readily correlate them; that for any and all
mistakes he might have committed he asked for forgiveness; he reiterated that
"blunders" were committed by the Court of Appeals in its decision and that the Justices
thereof knowingly rendered the same in violation of Article 204 of the Penal Code; he
persisted in his view that the Court of Appeals committed an error in its decision; justified

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his act of invoking Article 204 of the Penal Code in trying to make the Appellate Justices
liable; that he was high in his academic and scholastic standing during his school days;
that "with all the confusion prevailing nowadays, the undersigned has decided for
reasons of sickness and old age to retire from the practice of law. He hopes and
expects that, with the approval thereof by the Supreme Court, he could have himself
released from the obligation he has contracted with his clients as regards all his
pending cases."

It is Our observation that the tenor of this explanation although pleading mental and
physical ailment as a mitigation of the contemptuous acts, is still that of arrogant
justification for respondent's previous statements. We quote:

The undersigned was asked if he had not filed against the Justices of the Supreme
Court a case for damages against them. He answered in the affirmative, but the case
was dismissed by Judge Villasor, of the Court of First Instance of Cebu, because of an
American ruling that a justice of the Supreme Court of the Philippines cannot be civilly
held liable. The ruling cited was rendered during the American regime in the Philippines
which was still subject to the jurisdiction of the American laws. But the Philippines is now
independent and Article 204 of the Penal Code still remains incorporated therein for
observance and fulfillment. Up to now, there is not yet any definite ruling of the
Supreme Court thereon

While still persistently justifying his contemptuous statements and at the same time
pleading that his physical and mental ailment be considered so that We may forgive
respondent del Mar he shrewdly stated at the end of his explanation that he has
decided for reasons of sickness and old age to retire from the practice of law, in
practical anticipation of whatever penalty We may decide to impose on him and thus
making it appear that he has voluntarily done so with honor and in complete evasion of
whatever this Court may decide to do in this case.

With full realization that a practicing lawyer and officer of the court facing contempt
proceedings cannot just be allowed to voluntarily retire from the practice of law, an act
which would negate the inherent power of the court to punish him for contempt in
defense of its integrity and honor, We resolve, by resolution of January 10, 1974, to deny
said prayer of Atty. del Mar without prejudice to his making arrangement directly with
his clients.

To aged brethren of the bar it may appear belated to remind them that second only to
the duty of maintaining allegiance to the Republic of the Philippines and to support the
Constitution and obey the laws of the Philippines, is the duty of all attorneys to observe
and maintain the respect due to the courts of justice and judicial officers (Sec. 20 (b)
Rule 138, Rules of Court). But We do remind them of said duty to emphasize to their
younger brethren its paramount importance. A lawyer must always remember that he is
an officer of the court exercising a high privilege and serving in the noble mission of
administering justice.

It is the duty of the lawyer to maintain towards the courts a respectful attitude (People
vs. Carillo, 77 Phil. 572). As an officer of the court, it is his duty to uphold the dignity and

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authority of the court to which he owes fidelity, according to the oath he has taken.
Respect for the courts guarantees the stability of our democratic institutions which,
without such respect, would be resting on a very shaky foundation. (In re Sotto 82 Phil.
595).

As We stated before:

We concede that a lawyer may think highly of his intellectual endowment. That is his
privilege. And, he may suffer frustration at what he feels is others' lack of it. This is his
misfortune. Some such frame of mind, however, should not be allowed to harden into a
belief that he may attack a court's decision in words calculated to jettison the time-
honored aphorism that courts are the temples of right. He should give due allowance to
the fact that judges are but men; and men are encompassed by error, fettered by
fallibility.

... To be sure, lawyers may come up with various methods, perhaps much more
effective, in calling the Court's attention to the issues involved. The language vehicle
does not run short of expressions, emphatic but respectful, convincing but not
derogatory, illuminating but not offensive (Rheem of the Philippines vs. Ferrer G. R. No. L-
22979, June 26, 1967; 20 SCRA 441, 444-445)

Criminal contempt has been defined as a conduct that is directed against the dignity
and authority of the court or a judge acting judicially. It is an act obstructing the
administration of justice which tends to bring the court into disrepute or disrespect (17
C. J. S. 7).

We have held that statements contained in a motion to disqualify a judge, imputing to


the latter conspiracy or connivance with the prosecutors or concocting a plan with a
view to securing the conviction of the accused, and implicating said judge in a
supposed attempt to extort money from the accused on a promise or assurance of the
latter's acquittal, all without basis, were highly derogatory and serve nothing but to
discredit the judge presiding the court in an attempt to secure his disqualification.
Statements of that nature have no place in a court pleading and if uttered by a
member of the bar, constitute a serious disrespect. We said:

As an officer of the court, it is his sworn and moral duty to help build and not destroy
unnecessarily the high esteem and regard towards the court so essential to the proper
administration of justice (Emphasis supplied). (People vs. Carillo, 43 O.G. No. 12, p. 5021;
De Joya et al vs. C. F. I. of Rizal and Rilloraza 52 0. G. 6150).

As already stated, the decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G. R. No. 46504-R was
based on its evaluation of the evidence on only one specific issue. We in turn denied in
G. R. No. L-36800 the petition for review on certiorari of the decision because We found
no reason for disturbing the appellate court's finding and conclusion. In both instances,
both the Court of Appeals and this Court exercised judicial discretion in a case under
their respective jurisdiction. The intemperate and imprudent act of respondent del Mar
in resorting to veiled threats to make both Courts reconsider their respective stand in

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the decision and the resolution that spelled disaster for his client cannot be anything
but pure contumely for said tribunals.

It is manifest that respondent del Mar has scant respect for the two highest Courts of the
land when on the flimsy ground of alleged error in deciding a case, he proceeded to
challenge the integrity of both Courts by claiming that they knowingly rendered unjust
judgment. In short, his allegation is that they acted with intent and malice, if not with
gross ignorance of the law, in disposing of the case of his client.

We note with wonder and amazement the brazen effrontery of respondent in assuming
that his personal knowledge of the law and his concept of justice are superior to that of
both the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals. His pretense cannot but tend to
erode the people's faith in the integrity of the courts of justice and in the administration
of justice. He repeatedly invoked his supposed quest for law and justice as justification
for his contemptuous statements without realizing that, in seeking both abstract elusive
terms, he is merely pursuing his own personal concept of law and justice. He seems not
to comprehend that what to him may be lawful or just may not be so in the minds of
others. He could not accept that what to him may appear to be right or correct may
be wrong or erroneous from the viewpoint of another. We understand that respondent's
mind delves into the absolute without considering the universal law of change. It is with
deep concern that We view such a state of mind of a practicing lawyer since what We
expect as a paramount qualification for those in the practice of law is
broadmindedness and tolerance, coupled with keen perception and a sound sense of
proportion in evaluating events and circumstances.

For a lawyer in the twilight of his life, with supposed physical and mental ailments at
that, who dares to challenge the integrity and honor of both the Supreme Court and
Court of Appeals, We have nothing but commiseration and sympathy for his choosing
to close the book of his long years of law practice not by voluntary retirement with
honor but in disciplinary action with ignominy and dishonor. To those who are in the
practice of law and those who in the future will choose to enter this profession, We wish
to point to this case as a reminder for them to imprint in their hearts and minds that an
attorney owes it to himself to respect the courts of justice and its officers as a fealty for
the stability of our democratic institutions.

WHEREFORE, the resolution of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. No. 46504-R, dated
March 5, 1973, suspending Atty. Quirico del Mar from the practice of law, as
implemented by Our resolution of November 19, 1973, is hereby affirmed.

Respondent Atty. Quirico del Mar for his misconduct towards the Supreme Court, shall
be, as he is hereby, suspended from the practice of law until further orders of this Court,
such suspension to take effect immediately. (In re Almacen, No. L-27654, Feb. 18, 1970,
31 SCRA, p. 562.)

The Judicial Consultant of this Court is directed to circularize all courts and the
Integrated Bar of the Philippines regarding the indefinite suspension of Atty. Quirico del
Mar from the practice of law.

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SO ORDERED.

A.M. No. 202 July 22, 1975

RENE P. RAMOS, complainant,


vs.
MOISES R. RADA, respondent.

CASTRO, J.:

Moises R. Rada a messenger in the Court of First Instance of Camarines Norte, Branch II,
is charged with a violation of Section 12 of Civil Service Rule XVIII, which provides as
follows:

Sec. 12. No officer or employee shall engage directly in any private business,
vocation, or profession or be connected with any commercial, credit, agricultural or
industrial undertaking without a written permission from the head of Department:
Provided, That this prohibition will be absolute in the case of those officers and
employees whose duties and responsibilities require that their entire time be at the
disposal of the Government:....

From the respondent Rada's letters of explanation and their annexes, dated December
16, 1973 and June 27, 1974, respectively, and the letter and its annexes, dated August
12, 1974, filed by the complainant Rene P. Ramos, by way of rejoinder to Rada's
explanation, undisputed fundamental facts emerge that justify us in dispensing with a
full-blown investigation of this administrative case.

The respondent Rada receives a monthly salary of P267.75. On December 15, 1972 he
was extended an appointment by the Avesco Marketing Corporation, thru its president,
Jimmy Tang, as representative to manage and supervise real properties situated in
Camarines Norte which were foreclosed by the corporation. Rada accepted the
appointment and discharged his duties as administrator. The administrative complaint
against Rada was filed with the Department of Justice on October 3, 1973. He
requested permission to accept the appointment on October 27, 1973. It is not
indicated that his acceptance and discharge of the duties of the position of
administrator has at all impaired his efficiency as messenger; nor has it been shown that
he did not observe regular office hours.

Indubitably, therefore, Rada has violated the civil service rule prohibiting government
employees from engaging directly in a private business, vocation or profession or being
connected with any commercial, credit, agricultural or industrial undertaking without a
written permission from the head of the Department. But, indubitably, also, his private
business connection has not resulted in any prejudice to the Government service. Thus,
his violation of the rule — the lack of prior permission is a technical one, and he should
be meted no more than the minimum imposable penalty, which is reprimand.

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The duties of messenger Rada are generally ministerial which do not require that his
entire day of 24 hours be at the disposal of the Government. Such being his situation, it
would be to stifle his willingness to apply himself to a productive endeavor to augment
his income, and to award a premium for slothfulness if he were to be banned from
engaging in or being connected with a private undertaking outside of office hours and
without foreseeable detriment to the Government service. His connection with Avesco
Marketing Corporation need not be terminated, but he must secure a written
permission from the Executive Judge of the Court of First Instance of Camarines Norte,
who is hereby authorized to grant or revoke such permission, under such terms and
conditions as will safeguard the best interests of the service, in general, and the court, in
particular.

ACCORDINGLY, the respondent Moises R. Rada is adjudged guilty of a technical


violation of Section 12 of Civil Service Rule XVIII, for which he is hereby reprimanded. He
may however apply, if he so desires, for permission to resume his business connection
with the corporation, in the manner above indicated.

A.M. No. 2266 October 27, 1983

HERMINIO R. NORIEGA, complainant,


vs.
ATTY. EMMANUEL R. SISON, respondent.

GUERRERO, J.:

This is a complaint for disbarment filed on June 3, 1981 by Herminio R. Noriega against
Atty. Emmanuel R. Sison "admitted to the Bar on March 31, 1976) on the ground of
malpractice through gross misrepresentation and falsification.

Complainant Noriega alleges that respondent Sison is a regular and permanent


employee of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) as a Hearing Officer and
as such, "is mandated to observe strictly the civil service rules and regulations, more
particularly ... the prohibition of government employees to practice their professions";
that to circumvent the prohibition and to evade the law, respondent assumed a
different name, falsified his Identity and represented himself to be one "Atty. Manuel
Sison", with offices at No. 605 EDSA, Cubao, Quezon City, "at the times that he will
handle private cases"; that "Manuel Sison" is not listed as a member of the Bar in the
records of the Supreme Court; that under his said assumed name, respondent is
representing one Juan Sacquing, the defendant in Case No. E01978 before the Juvenile
and Domestic Relations Court of Manila, submitting pleadings therein signed by him
respondent) under his assumed name, despite his full knowledge That "Manuel Sison" is
not a member of the Bar and that his acts in doing so are illegal and unlawful. 1 Xerox
copies of pertinent documents, pleadings, orders and notices are annexed to the
complaint to support the material allegations therein.

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As requireD, respondent filed his Answer on August 20, 1981. He attached thereto a
copy of the written authorization given by Julio A. Sulit, Jr., Associate Commissioner of
the Securities and Exchange Commission, for him to appear as counsel of Juan
Sacquing, a close family friend, in the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court JDRC of
Manila, Respondent alleges that he never held himself out to the public as a practicing
lawyer; that he provided legal services to Sacquing in view of close family friendship
and for free; that he never represented himself deliberately and intentionally as "Atty.
Manuel Sison" in the Manila JDRC where, in the early stages of his appearance, he
always signed the minutes as "Atty. Emmanuel R. Sison", and in one instance, he even
made the necessary correction when the court staff wrote his name as Atty Manuel
Sison"; that due to the "inept and careless work of the clerical staff of the JDRC", notices
were sent to "Atty. Manuel Sison", at 605 EDSA, Cubao, Quezon City, where respondent's
parents conduct a printing office and establishment, which notices were honored by
the personnel of said office as respondent's family has called respondent by the
nickname "Manuel"; that respondent did not feel any necessity to correct this error of
the JDRC since he "could use his nickname 'Manuel' interchangeably with his original
true name as a formal name, and its use was not done for a fraudulent purpose nor to
misrepresent"; and, that this administrative case is only one of the numerous baseless
complaints brought by complainant against respondent, the former being a disgruntled
loser in an injunction case in the SEC heard before respondent as Hearing Officer.

In resolving this disbarment case, We must initially emphasize the degree of integrity
and respectability attached to the law profession. There is no denying that the
profession of an attorney is required after a long and laborious study. By years of
patience, zeal and ability the attorney acquires a fixed means of support for himself
and his family. This is not to say, however, that the emphasis is on the pecuniary value of
this profession but rather on the social prestige and intellectual standing necessarily
arising from and attached to the same by reason of the fact that every attorney is
deemed an officer of the court.

The importance of the dual aspects of the legal profession has been wisely put by Chief
Justice Marshall of the United States Court when he said:

On one hand, the profession of an Atty. is of great importance to an individual and the
prosperity of his life may depend on its exercise. The right to exercise it ought not to be
lightly or capriciously taken from him. On the other hand, it is extremely desirable that
the respectability of the Bar should be maintained and that its harmony with the bench
should be preserved. For these objects, some controlling power, some discretion ought
to be exercised with great moderation and judgment, but it must be exercised. 2

The purpose of disbarment, therefore, is not meant as a punishment depriving him of a


source of livelihood but is rather intended to protect the administration of justice by
requiring that those who exercise this function should be competent, honorable and
reliable in order that the courts and clients may rightly repose confidence in them. 3

In disbarment proceedings, the burden of proof rests upon the complainant, and for
the court to exercise its disciplinary powers, the case against the respondent must be
established by clear, convincing, and satisfactory proof. Considering the serious

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consequences of the disbarment or suspension of a member of the Bar, this Court has
consistently held that clear preponderant evidence is necessary to justify the imposition
of the administrative penalty. 4

This Court has also held in re Atty. Felizarda M. de Guzman 5 that to be made the basis
of suspension or disbarment, the record must disclose as free from doubt a case which
compels the exercise by this Court of its disciplinary powers. The dubious character of
the act done as well as the motivation thereof must be clearly demonstrated. An
attorney enjoys the legal presumption that he is innocent of the charges preferred
against him until the contrary is proved; and as an officer of the court, that he
performed his duty in accordance with his oath.

Examining the facts of this case, We hold that the allegations in the complaint do not
warrant disbarment of the respondent. There is no evidence that the respondent has
committed an act constituting deceit, immoral conduct, violation of his oath as a
lawyer, wilful disobedience of any lawful order of the court, or corruptly and willfully
appearing as an attorney to a part to a case without attorney to do so. 6

There is no violation of the Civil Service Rules and Regulations for his appearance as
counsel for the defendant in the JDRC Case No. E-01978 was with authority given by
the Associate Commisioner Of SEC, Julio A. Sulit, Jr.

This Court also holds that under the facts complained of supported by the annexes and
the answer of respondent likewise sustained by annexes attached thereto and the reply
of the complainant, the accusation that respondent with malice and deliberate intent
to evade the laws, assumed a different name, falsified his Identity and represented
himself to be one "ATTY. MANUEL SISON" with offices at No. 605 EDSA, Cubao, Quezon
City at the times that he will handle private cases, is not meritorious. Neither is the
charge referred to is that pending the slantiated. The only case DRC Case No. E-01978
wherein respondent appeared as counsel for the defendant. It being an isolated case,
the same does not constitute the practice of law, more so since respondent did not
derive any pecuniary gain for his appearance because respondent and defendant
therein were close family friends. Such act of the respondent in going out of his way to
aid as counsel to a close family friend should not be allowed to be used as an
instrument of harrassment against respondent.

The ruling in Zeta vs. Malinao (87 SCRA 303) wherein the respondent was dismissed from
the service because being a government employee, he appeared as counsel in a
private case, cannot be applied in the case at bar because the respondent in said
Zeta case had appeared as counsel without permission from his superiors.

Although the complaint alleges violation of civil service rules, the complainant however
states that the basis of his complaint for disbarment is not the respondent's act of
appearing as counsel but the unauthorized use of another name. 7

A perusal of the records however, reveals that whereas there is indeed a pleading
entitled "Objection/Opposition to the 2 Formal Offer of Evidence" (Annex "C" to the
Complaint for Disbarment, which is signed as "Manuel Sisori", counsel for defendant, 605

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EDSA, Cubao, Quezon City, p. 7 of the Records), there is, however, no showing that
respondent was thus motivated with bad faith or malice, for otherwise lie would not
have corrected the spelling of his name when the court staff misspelled it in one of the
minutes of the proceeding. Moreover, We find no reason or motive for respondent to
conceal his true name when he have already given express authority by his superior to
act as counsel for Juan Sacquing in the latter's case pending before the JDRC And
while it may be True that subsequent errors were made in sending notices to him under
the name "Atty. Manuel Sison, ' the errors were attributable to the JDRC clerical staff
and not to the respondent.

At most, this Court would only counsel the respondent to be more careful and cautious
in signing his name so as to avoid unnecessary confusion as regards his Identity.

At this point, We are constrained to examine the motives that prompted the
complainant in filing the present case. An examination of the records reveals that the
complainant was a defendant in the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Case
No. 1982 filed by the Integrated Livestock Dealers Inc. and Teofisto Jiao against seven
(7) respondents including the complainant, seeking to oust the complainant and his
codefendants from acting as officers of the Integrated Livestock Dealers lnc. then
pending before respondent as Hearing Officer of the SEC, who after trial decided the
case against the herein complainant. From this antecedent fact, there is cast a grave
and serious doubt as to the true motivation of the complainant in filing the present
case, considering further that other administrative charges were filed by the
complainant against respondent herein before the SEC, JDRC and the Fiscal's office in
Manila.

We hold that complainant's repeated charges or accusations only indicate his


resentment and bitterness in losing the SEC case and not with the honest and sincere
desire and objectives "(1) to compel the attorney to deal fairly and honestly with his
client;" (Strong vs. Munday 52 N.J. Eq. 833, 21 A. 611) and "(2) to remove from the
profession a person whose misconduct has proved him unfit to be entrusted with the
duties and responsibilities belonging to the office of an attorney." (Ex parte Brounsal
Cowp 829; 83 Reprint; 6 C.J., p. 581; see In re de los Angeles Adm. Case No. 225, Sept.
31, 1959, cited in Moran, Comments on the Rules of Court, Vol. 6, p. 242).

In the light of the foregoing, We find no reason or necessity to refer this complaint to the
Solicitor General for investigation, report and recommendation.

WHEREFORE, this case is hereby DISMISSED for lack of merit.

SO ORDERED.

A.C. No. 6705 March 31, 2006

RUTHIE LIM-SANTIAGO, Complainant,


vs.
ATTY. CARLOS B. SAGUCIO, Respondent.

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DECISION

CARPIO, J.:

The Case

This is a disbarment complaint against Atty. Carlos B. Sagucio for violating Rule 15.03 of
the Code of Professional Responsibility and for defying the prohibition against private
practice of law while working as government prosecutor.

The Facts

Ruthie Lim-Santiago ("complainant") is the daughter of Alfonso Lim and Special


Administratrix of his estate. 1 Alfonso Lim is a stockholder and the former President of
Taggat Industries, Inc. 2

Atty. Carlos B. Sagucio ("respondent") was the former Personnel Manager and Retained
Counsel of Taggat Industries, Inc. 3 until his appointment as Assistant Provincial
Prosecutor of Tuguegarao, Cagayan in 1992. 4

Taggat Industries, Inc. ("Taggat") is a domestic corporation engaged in the operation of


timber concessions from the government. The Presidential Commission on Good
Government sequestered it sometime in 1986, 5 and its operations ceased in 1997. 6

Sometime in July 1997, 21 employees of Taggat ("Taggat employees") filed a criminal


complaint entitled "Jesus Tagorda, Jr. et al. v. Ruthie Lim-Santiago," docketed as I.S. No.
97-240 ("criminal complaint"). 7 Taggat employees alleged that complainant, who took
over the management and control of Taggat after the death of her father, withheld
payment of their salaries and wages without valid cause from 1 April 1996 to 15 July
1997. 8

Respondent, as Assistant Provincial Prosecutor, was assigned to conduct the preliminary


investigation. 9 He resolved the criminal complaint by recommending the filing of 651
Informations 10 for violation of Article 288 11 in relation to Article 116 12 of the Labor
Code of the Philippines. 13

Complainant now charges respondent with the following violations:

1. Rule 15.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility

Complainant contends that respondent is guilty of representing conflicting interests.


Respondent, being the former Personnel Manager and Retained Counsel of Taggat,
knew the operations of Taggat very well. Respondent should have inhibited himself from
hearing, investigating and deciding the case filed by Taggat employees. 14
Furthermore, complainant claims that respondent instigated the filing of the cases and
even harassed and threatened Taggat employees to accede and sign an affidavit to
support the complaint. 15

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2. Engaging in the private practice of law while working as a government prosecutor

Complainant also contends that respondent is guilty of engaging in the private


practice of law while working as a government prosecutor. Complainant presented
evidence to prove that respondent received P10,000 as retainer’s fee for the months of
January and February 1995, 16 another P10,000 for the months of April and May 1995,
17 and P5,000 for the month of April 1996. 18

Complainant seeks the disbarment of respondent for violating Rule 15.03 of the Code of
Professional Responsibility and for defying the prohibition against private practice of law
while working as government prosecutor.

Respondent refutes complainant’s allegations and counters that complainant was


merely aggrieved by the resolution of the criminal complaint which was adverse and
contrary to her expectation. 19

Respondent claims that when the criminal complaint was filed, respondent had
resigned from Taggat for more than five years. 20 Respondent asserts that he no longer
owed his undivided loyalty to Taggat. 21 Respondent argues that it was his sworn duty
to conduct the necessary preliminary investigation. 22 Respondent contends that
complainant failed to establish lack of impartiality when he performed his duty. 23
Respondent points out that complainant did not file a motion to inhibit respondent from
hearing the criminal complaint 24 but instead complainant voluntarily executed and
filed her counter-affidavit without mental reservation. 25

Respondent states that complainant’s reason in not filing a motion to inhibit was her
impression that respondent would exonerate her from the charges filed as gleaned
from complainant’s statement during the hearing conducted on 12 February 1999:

xxx

Q. (Atty. Dabu). What do you mean you didn’t think he would do it, Madam Witness?

A. Because he is supposed to be my father’s friend and he was working with my Dad


and he was supposed to be trusted by my father. And he came to me and told me he
gonna help me. x x x. 26

Respondent also asserts that no conflicting interests exist because he was not
representing Taggat employees or complainant. Respondent claims he was merely
performing his official duty as Assistant Provincial Prosecutor. 27 Respondent argues that
complainant failed to establish that respondent’s act was tainted with personal interest,
malice and bad faith. 28

Respondent denies complainant’s allegations that he instigated the filing of the cases,
threatened and harassed Taggat employees. Respondent claims that this accusation is
bereft of proof because complainant failed to mention the names of the employees or
present them for cross-examination. 29

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Respondent does not dispute his receipt, after his appointment as government
prosecutor, of retainer fees from complainant but claims that it

was only on a case-to-case basis and it ceased in 1996. 30 Respondent contends that
the fees were paid for his consultancy services and not for representation. Respondent
submits that consultation is not the same as representation and that rendering
consultancy services is not prohibited. 31 Respondent, in his Reply-Memorandum,
states:

x x x [I]f ever Taggat paid him certain amounts, these were paid voluntarily by Taggat
without the respondent’s asking, intended as token consultancy fees on a case-to-case
basis and not as or for retainer fees. These payments do not at all show or translate as a
specie of ‘conflict of interest’. Moreover, these consultations had no relation to, or
connection with, the above-mentioned labor complaints filed by former Taggat
employees. 32

Respondent insists that complainant’s evidence failed to prove that when the criminal
complaint was filed with the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor of Cagayan,
respondent was still the retained counsel or legal consultant. 33

While this disbarment case was pending, the Resolution and Order issued by
respondent to file 651 Informations against complainant was reversed and set aside by
Regional State Prosecutor of Cagayan Rodolfo B. Cadelina last 4 January 1999. 34
Hence, the criminal complaint was dismissed. 35

The IBP’s Report and Recommendation

The Integrated Bar of the Philippines’ Investigating Commissioner Ma. Carmina M.


Alejandro-Abbas ("IBP Commissioner Abbas") heard the case 36 and allowed the
parties to submit their respective memoranda. 37 Due to IBP Commissioner Abbas’
resignation, the case was reassigned to Commissioner Dennis A.B. Funa ("IBP
Commissioner Funa"). 38

After the parties filed their memoranda and motion to resolve the case, the IBP Board of
Governors issued Resolution No. XVI-2004-479 ("IBP Resolution") dated 4 November 2004
adopting with modification 39 IBP Commissioner Funa’s Report and Recommendation
("Report") finding respondent guilty of conflict of interests, failure to safeguard a former
client’s interest, and violating the prohibition against the private practice of law while
being a government prosecutor. The IBP Board of Governors recommended the
imposition of a penalty of three years suspension from the practice of law. The Report
reads:

Now the issue here is whether being a former lawyer of Taggat conflicts with his role as
Assistant Provincial Prosecutor in deciding I.S. No. 97-240. A determination of this issue
will require the test of whether the matter in I.S. No. 97-240 will conflict with his former
position of Personnel Manager and Legal Counsel of Taggat.

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I.S. No. 97-240 was filed for "Violation of Labor Code" (see Resolution of the Provincial
Prosecutors Office, Annex "B" of Complaint). Herein Complainant, Ruthie Lim-Santiago,
was being accused as having the "management and control" of Taggat (p. 2,
Resolution of the Prov. Pros. Office, supra).

Clearly, as a former Personnel Manager and Legal Counsel of Taggat, herein


Respondent undoubtedly handled the personnel and labor concerns of Taggat.
Respondent, undoubtedly dealt with and related with the employees of Taggat.
Therefore, Respondent undoubtedly dealt with and related with complainants in I.S. No.
97-240. The issues, therefore, in I.S. No. 97-240, are very much familiar with Respondent.
While the issues of unpaid salaries pertain to the periods 1996-1997, the mechanics and
personalities in that case are very much familiar with Respondent.

A lawyer owes something to a former client. Herein Respondent owes to Taggat, a


former client, the duty to "maintain inviolate the client’s confidence or to refrain from
doing anything which will injuriously affect him in any matter in which he previously
represented him" (Natam v. Capule, 91 Phil. 640; p. 231, Agpalo, Legal Ethics, 4th ed.)

Respondent argues that as Assistant Provincial Prosecutor, he does not represent any
client or any interest except justice. It should not be forgotten, however, that a lawyer
has an immutable duty to a former client with respect to matters that he previously
handled for that former client. In this case, matters relating to personnel, labor policies,
and labor relations that he previously handled as Personnel Manager and Legal
Counsel of Taggat. I.S. No. 97-240 was for "Violation of the Labor Code." Here lies the
conflict. Perhaps it would have been different had I.S. No. 97-240 not been labor-
related, or if Respondent had not been a Personnel Manager concurrently as Legal
Counsel. But as it is, I.S. No. 97-240 is labor-related and Respondent was a former
Personnel Manager of Taggat.

xxxx

While Respondent ceased his relations with Taggat in 1992 and the unpaid salaries
being sought in I.S. No. 97-240 were of the years 1996 and 1997, the employees and
management involved are the very personalities he dealt with as Personnel Manager
and Legal Counsel of Taggat. Respondent dealt with these persons in his fiduciary
relations with Taggat. Moreover, he was an employee of the corporation and part of its
management.

xxxx

As to the propriety of receiving "Retainer Fees" or "consultancy fees" from herein


Complainant while being an Assistant Provincial Prosecutor, and for rendering legal
consultancy work while being an Assistant Provincial Prosecutor, this matter had long
been settled. Government prosecutors are prohibited to engage in the private practice
of law (see Legal and Judicial Ethics, Ernesto Pineda, 1994 ed., p. 20; People v.
Villanueva, 14 SCRA 109; Aquino v. Blanco 70 Phil. 647). The act of being a legal
consultant is a practice of law. To engage in the practice of law is to do any of those
acts that are characteristic of the legal profession (In re: David, 93 Phil. 461). It covers

Scroll No. 577 172|PALE Cases Set 1


any activity, in or out of court, which required the application of law, legal principles,
practice or procedures and calls for legal knowledge, training and experience (PLA v.
Agrava, 105 Phil. 173; People v. Villanueva, 14 SCRA 111; Cayetano v. Monsod, 201
SCRA 210).

Respondent clearly violated this prohibition.

As for the secondary accusations of harassing certain employees of Taggat and


instigating the filing of criminal complaints, we find the evidence insufficient.

Accordingly, Respondent should be found guilty of conflict of interest, failure to


safeguard a former client’s interest, and violating the prohibition against the private
practice of law while being a government prosecutor. 40

The IBP Board of Governors forwarded the Report to the Court as provided under
Section 12(b), Rule 139-B 41 of the Rules of Court.

The Ruling of the Court

The Court exonerates respondent from the charge of violation of Rule 15.03 of the
Code of Professional Responsibility ("Code"). However, the Court finds respondent liable
for violation of Rule 1.01, Canon 1 of the Code of Professional Responsibility against
unlawful conduct. 42 Respondent committed unlawful conduct when he violated
Section 7(b)(2) of the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and
Employees or Republic Act No. 6713 ("RA 6713").

Canon 6 provides that the Code "shall apply to lawyers in government service in the
discharge of their official duties." 43 A government lawyer is thus bound by the
prohibition "not [to] represent conflicting interests." 44 However, this rule is subject to
certain limitations. The prohibition to represent conflicting interests does not apply when
no conflict of interest exists, when a written consent of all concerned is given after a full
disclosure of the facts or when no true attorney-client relationship exists. 45 Moreover,
considering the serious consequence of the disbarment or suspension of a member of
the Bar, clear preponderant evidence is necessary to justify the imposition of the
administrative penalty. 46

Respondent is also mandated under Rule 1.01 of Canon 1 not to engage in "unlawful x x
x conduct." Unlawful conduct includes violation of the statutory prohibition on a
government employee to "engage in the private practice of [his] profession unless
authorized by the Constitution or law, provided, that such practice will not conflict or
tend to conflict with [his] official functions." 47

Complainant’s evidence failed to substantiate the claim that respondent represented


conflicting interests

In Quiambao v. Bamba, 48 the Court enumerated various tests to determine conflict of


interests. One test of inconsistency of interests is whether the lawyer will be asked to use
against his former client any confidential information acquired through their connection

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or previous employment. 49 In essence, what a lawyer owes his former client is to
maintain inviolate the client’s confidence or to refrain from doing anything which will
injuriously affect him in any matter in which he previously represented him. 50

In the present case, we find no conflict of interests when respondent handled the
preliminary investigation of the criminal complaint filed by Taggat employees in 1997.
The issue in the criminal complaint pertains to non-payment of wages that occurred
from 1 April 1996 to 15 July 1997. Clearly, respondent was no longer connected with
Taggat during that period since he resigned sometime in 1992.

In order to charge respondent for representing conflicting interests, evidence must be


presented to prove that respondent used against Taggat, his former client, any
confidential information acquired through his previous employment. The only
established participation respondent had with respect to the criminal complaint is that
he was the one who conducted the preliminary investigation. On that basis alone, it
does not necessarily follow that respondent used any confidential information from his
previous employment with complainant or Taggat in resolving the criminal complaint.

The fact alone that respondent was the former Personnel Manager and Retained
Counsel of Taggat and the case he resolved as government prosecutor was labor-
related is not a sufficient basis to charge respondent for representing conflicting
interests. A lawyer’s immutable duty to a former client does not cover transactions that
occurred beyond the lawyer’s employment with the client. The intent of the law is to
impose upon the lawyer the duty to protect the client’s interests only on matters that he
previously handled for the former client and not for matters that arose after the lawyer-
client relationship has terminated.

Further, complainant failed to present a single iota of evidence to prove her


allegations. Thus, respondent is not guilty of violating Rule 15.03 of the Code.

Respondent engaged in the private practice of law while working as a government


prosecutor

The Court has defined the practice of law broadly as –

x x x any activity, in or out of court, which requires the application of law, legal
procedure, knowledge, training and experience. "To engage in the practice of law is to
perform those acts which are characteristics of the profession. Generally, to practice
law is to give notice or render any kind of service, which device or service requires the
use in any degree of legal knowledge or skill." 51

"Private practice of law" contemplates a succession of acts of the same nature


habitually or customarily holding one’s self to the public as a lawyer. 52

Respondent argues that he only rendered consultancy services to Taggat intermittently


and he was not a retained counsel of Taggat from 1995 to 1996 as alleged. This
argument is without merit because the law does not distinguish between consultancy
services and retainer agreement. For as long as respondent performed acts that are

Scroll No. 577 174|PALE Cases Set 1


usually rendered by lawyers with the use of their legal knowledge, the same falls within
the ambit of the term "practice of law."

Nonetheless, respondent admitted that he rendered his legal services to complainant


while working as a government prosecutor. Even the receipts he signed stated that the
payments by Taggat were for "Retainer’s fee." 53 Thus, as correctly pointed out by
complainant, respondent clearly violated the prohibition in RA 6713.

However, violations of RA 6713 are not subject to disciplinary action under the Code of
Professional Responsibility unless the violations also constitute infractions of specific
provisions of the Code of Professional Responsibility. Certainly, the IBP has no jurisdiction
to investigate violations of RA 6713 – the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for
Public Officials and Employees – unless the acts involved also transgress provisions of the
Code of Professional Responsibility.

Here, respondent’s violation of RA 6713 also constitutes a violation of Rule 1.01 of


Canon 1, which mandates that "[a] lawyer shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest,
immoral or deceitful conduct." Respondent’s admission that he received from Taggat
fees for legal services while serving as a government prosecutor is an unlawful conduct,
which constitutes a violation of Rule 1.01.

Respondent admitted that complainant also charged him with unlawful conduct when
respondent stated in his Demurrer to Evidence:

In this instant case, the complainant prays that the respondent be permanently and
indefinitely suspended or disbarred from the practice of the law profession and his
name removed from the Roll of Attorneys on the following grounds:

xxxx

d) that respondent manifested gross misconduct and gross violation of his oath of office
and in his dealings with the public. 54

On the Appropriate Penalty on Respondent

The appropriate penalty on an errant lawyer depends on the exercise of sound judicial
discretion based on the surrounding facts. 55

Under Civil Service Law and rules, the penalty for government employees engaging in
unauthorized private practice of profession is suspension for six months and one day to
one year. 56 We find this penalty appropriate for respondent’s violation in this case of
Rule 1.01, Canon 1 of the Code of Professional Responsibility.

WHEREFORE, we find respondent Atty. Carlos B. Sagucio GUILTY of violation of Rule 1.01,
Canon 1 of the Code of Professional Responsibility. Accordingly, we SUSPEND
respondent Atty. Carlos B. Sagucio from the practice of law for SIX MONTHS effective
upon finality of this Decision.

Scroll No. 577 175|PALE Cases Set 1


Let copies of this Decision be furnished the Office of the Bar Confidant to be appended
to respondent’s personal record as an attorney, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines,
the Department of Justice, and all courts in the country for their information and
guidance.

SO ORDERED.

A.C. No. 5438 March 10, 2004

DAN JOEL V. LIM* and RICHARD C. TAN, complainants,


vs.
ATTY. EDILBERTO BARCELONA, respondent.

RESOLUTION

PER CURIAM:

On May 9, 2001, Dan Joel V. Lim and Richard C. Tan,1 both businessmen, filed a
complaint for alleged robbery or extortion and violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt
Practices Act against Atty. Edilberto Barcelona, a lawyer formerly employed with the
National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC). The complaint was simultaneously filed
with this Court and the Integrated Bar of the Philippines.2

Complainant Lim alleged that on the first week of August 2000, respondent phoned him
and introduced himself as a lawyer and chief of the Public Assistance Center, NLRC.
Respondent informed him that his employees filed a labor complaint against him in his
office and it was necessary for him to see and talk with respondent. From then on
respondent would often call him. Respondent visited him in his office and told him to
settle the case or else his business, Top Gun Billiards, would be shut down. Lim recalled
that on August 14, 2000, at around 7:30 p.m., respondent again visited his establishment
and told him to settle the case for P20,000.00.

In support of his allegations, Lim submitted a written complaint of Arnel E. Ditan and
Pilipino Ubante; an endorsement letter dated August 2, 2000 of Atty. Jonathan F.
Baligod of the Presidential Action Center; handwritten calling cards of the respondent;
and an affidavit of desistance executed by Ditan and Ubante.

In their joint affidavit, Ditan and Ubante confirmed the filing of their complaint against
their employer, Lim, and that after some dialogue, the aforenamed employees
executed an affidavit dated August 8, 2000 withdrawing their complaint. According to
Ditan and Ubante, they met the respondent in Top Gun Billiards where the latter often
played billiards. One day, respondent gave them a letter and asked them to sign it.
Since they were busy at that time, they signed it without reading and understanding its
contents. Their employer, Lim, asked what it was about and they told him that they
were just made to sign a document without their understanding it. They added, they

Scroll No. 577 176|PALE Cases Set 1


did not have any complaint against their employer. Despite such withdrawal,
respondent still called Lim threatening the latter that he would pursue the case, have
his establishment closed and he would be jailed if he did not come up with P20,000.00
as settlement. In the evening of August 14, 2000, respondent reiterated his demand for
P20,000.00, again with the threat of closure of the billiard center and putting Lim in jail.

Complainant Lim said that after his meeting with respondent, he agreed to give the
amount but did not fix any date when payment would be made, whereupon,
respondent gave notice that he would drop in at around 7:00 in the evening, on August
16, 2000, to pick up the money.

Aurora Cruz y Libunao, owner of the carinderia adjacent to Top Gun Billiards, stated in
her sworn statement as well as court testimony that she met respondent when he ate in
her carinderia. She recalled that the respondent told her that he would shut down the
billiard business if the owner would not talk to him. She also recounted that on August
14, 2000, at around 8:30 p.m., she saw on the second floor of the pool house, the
respondent and Lim talking. After a while, the respondent came down and passed by
her carinderia. The respondent then informed her that he and Lim talked about the
P20,000.00 which respondent would give to his alleged boss in Malacañang. During the
hearing, she also recalled seeing Lim hand money to respondent who in turn put the
cash in his attaché case and immediately thereafter, she saw three men arrest
respondent.3

Notably, almost nine months before the filing of his complaint, or on August 14, 2000,
complainant Lim personally submitted a letter to the NBI requesting the NBI to
investigate respondent Atty. Edilberto Barcelona.4 According to the NBI report, after
due investigation, it decided to conduct an entrapment operation. On August 15, 2000,
Special Investigator Marvin de Jemil, sent nine five hundred peso bills and five one
hundred peso bills for fluorescent powder dusting to the NBI Forensic Chemistry Division.
Further, the NBI reported that thru the NBI Identification and Records Division, it found
no record of such person named Edilberto Barcelona.

The NBI report also stated that on August 16, 2000, Lim informed the NBI operatives that
at around 7:00 p.m. respondent would drop by his pool house to collect the money. At
around 6:30 p.m., the operatives went to the pool house and strategically positioned
themselves and posed as pool players. At about 7:20 p.m., respondent arrived, sat on a
plastic chair and talked to complainant Lim. At around 7:30 p.m., Lim handed the
marked money to the respondent who, in turn, received it. While respondent was
counting the money and about to place it inside his bag, he was immediately arrested.
The respondent initially resisted and tried to create scandal but was later pacified.

The NBI averred that the respondent was informed of his constitutional rights and was
brought to the NBI office where he was booked and fingerprinted. In his fingerprint
chart, the respondent indicated that he was a government lawyer and assigned at the
office of the Chief, Public Assistance Center, NLRC, Banawe, Quezon City. He showed
his identification card. Later he was brought to the Forensic Chemistry Division for
ultraviolet examination. The certification issued by Forensic Chemist Loren G. Janobas
stated that there were "yellow fluorescent specks and smudges" on the back and palm

Scroll No. 577 177|PALE Cases Set 1


of the left and right hand of the respondent. On August 17, 2000, the NBI turned over
respondent to the City Prosecutor of Manila who eventually indicted him for
robbery/extortion.5

Complainant Richard Tan, owner of Tai Hing Glass Supply, a co-signee in the herein
complaint, executed a sworn statement dated August 16, 2000. In it he alleged that he
went to the Criminal Intelligence Division, Intelligence Service of the NBI to complain
about respondent Barcelona. He said that sometime during the last week of July,
respondent called him, introduced himself and informed him that one of his employees
filed an illegal dismissal case against him. He remembered that before respondent's
call, he had suspended an employee, Bryan Tellen, for leaving his workplace without
permission. Tellen received several warning letters from him regarding his
misdemeanors. Tan remembered that Tellen once hinted that he knew someone in the
Department of Labor, who turned out to be herein respondent, Atty. Barcelona. Before
Tan sent his accountant, Ditas Guitierrez, to respondent's office to represent him, he told
her to bring a copy of Tellen's suspension letter and to inform respondent that Tellen
had not been dismissed. When Guitierrez returned, she told him that respondent
wanted him to pay his employee. She added that respondent did not give her any
copy of a formal complaint on the alleged illegal dismissal. After two days, according
to Tan, respondent went to his office, showed him an identification card and gave him
a handwritten calling card. Respondent told him to pay his employee P20,000.00 to
P30,000.00, otherwise respondent would go on with the filing of the illegal dismissal case.
When he said he did not have that kind of money, respondent lowered the amount to
P15,000.00. Complainant Tan added that when he gave respondent the money, the
latter promised to take care of the illegal dismissal complaint. On July 29, 2000,
according to Tan, respondent came to see him again. Respondent appeared drunk
and told Tan to go to the respondent's office because a problem regarding the case
arose. Tan stated that before respondent left, respondent invited his employees to a
game of billiards. Tan said he did not consent to the employees playing because they
had work. On July 31, 2000, respondent went to him a third time and asked for an
additional P10,000.00 allegedly for his employee, Tellen, since the P15,000.00 Tan gave
earlier was for respondent only. After a few more visits by respondent, Tan finally told
the respondent to show him the formal complaint and he would just get himself a
lawyer.6

The Joint Affidavit of Arrest, signed on August 17, 2000 by Agent Don R. Hernandez, SI
Felix O. Senora and SI Marvin de Jemil, cited complainant Tan's allegations.7

Respondent Atty. Barcelona filed his Comment8 on December 10, 2001, praying for the
dismissal of the complaint against him. Respondent, in his defense, alleges that he
normally played billiards at the Top Gun Billiard Center where he would drop by from his
office before going to his residence; that when certain employees of the billiard center
learned that he was a lawyer and Chief of the Public Assistance Center of the NLRC,
they confided in him their grievance against their employer, Lim, for alleged violation of
labor laws, there respondent gave them assistance; that with the proper complaint and
required documentation accomplished, respondent's office scheduled the case for a
dialogue-conference between the complaining workers and their employer; that on
instigation and coercion of complainant Lim, respondent became a victim of theft,

Scroll No. 577 178|PALE Cases Set 1


billiard hustling, swindling and syndicated gambling on August 9, 2000; that on or about
August 9, 2000, respondent filed a complaint for theft of cellphone and pack of
cigarettes, billiard hustling, syndicated gambling, and swindling against Lim and his
three workers, eventually docketed as I.S. No. 38251 to 53.9

Respondent's Comment narrated his version on how the money allegedly was given to
him. According to the respondent, on August 16, 2000, at about 3 p.m., he received a
phone call from complainant Lim informing him that Ian Gonvan,10 one of the accused
in I.S. No. 38251, admitted taking his cellphone and was willing and ready to return it at
around 7 p.m., at the Top Gun Billiard Center. It was the birthday of his daughter that
was why he took the day off from office. At about 7:30 p.m., he arrived at the billiard
hall and there found Lim with one of his complaining workers, fixing the lamp of one of
the billiard tables. He did not see Gonvan within the premises so he sat and watched
the billiard games going on while he waited. After about 15 minutes Lim sat beside him
and told him that Gonvan could no longer return the cellphone and instead Gonvan
entrusted Lim with the equivalent value in cash. According to respondent, Lim
persistently whispered to him to accept and count the wad of paper money Lim pulled
out. According to respondent, he consistently refused to touch the money and he
insisted, "Gusto ko munang makaharap ang sinasabi mong si Gumban,"11 continuously
refusing to accept, much less count, the offered wad of money. Respondent added
that when Lim realized that he could not be prevailed upon to accept it, he placed
and inserted the wad of money in the open side pocket of respondent's shoulder bag
that respondent normally carried, again pleading to respondent that he should count
the money. Respondent added that Lim's behavior was rude and intimidating so much
so that respondent protested such rudeness. But respondent said while he was trying to
retrieve the wad of money to throw it back to Lim, about five or seven burly men
accosted respondent and handcuffed him over his vehement protestations.12

On Tan's complaint, respondent declared that he never demanded nor received


money from Tan, and Tan's accusations are but a product of the former's fertile
imagination as leverage because he actively assisted a complaining worker of Tan.13
Respondent added that a formal labor complaint has been filed against Tan.14

Eventually, we referred the complaint against Atty. Barcelona to the Integrated Bar of
the Philippines (IBP) for investigation, report and recommendation. Its report with
recommendation is now before us. We shall now proceed to the merits of the
complaint.

Respondent's version seeks to discredit the NBI report to the effect that respondent
accepted the marked money which Lim handed to him. His version, however, fails to
explain why he was found positive for yellow fluorescent specks and smudges in his
dorsal and palmar aspects of the left and right hands by the Forensic Department of
the NBI.

Respondent claims that he continuously refused to accept, much less count, the
offered wad of money. Because of such refusal, according to respondent, Lim inserted
the wad of money in respondent's shoulder bag's open pocket while complainant Lim
was still pleading to count the wad of money.

Scroll No. 577 179|PALE Cases Set 1


Respondent alleges that the alleged bribery or extortion is a mere concoction of
complainant and as leverage for the cases against Lim and Tan.

Based on the NBI report, this case appears to be an entrapment operation. Notably,
Atty. Don Hernandez and his team of arresting officers confirm the entrapment
operation against respondent on the basis of complainant Lim's call for NBI assistance.

While respondent alleges that complainant Lim merely concocted a charge of


extortion against him in retaliation to a complaint for theft which he had filed, it may be
noted that the complaint for theft was not directed against Lim but only against his
workers who were accused by respondent. Hence, there appears to be no strong
reason for Lim to resort to a counter-charge for extortion against respondent.

The Commission on Bar Discipline of the IBP concluded that it is highly improbable that
the NBI could be misled by complainant Lim into conducting an entrapment operation
against respondent, if there was no merit to his complaint against respondent. From a
reading of the NBI Report as well as the documents attached to said report, it is evident
that the NBI considered the merits of Lim's complaint of extortion against respondent.
Finding it worth pursuing, the NBI conducted an entrapment operation against
respondent. On the basis of the entrapment operation conducted by the NBI,
respondent was caught in the act, so to speak, of attempted extortion. Respondent
was brought to the City Prosecutor of Manila for inquest and the appropriate complaint
for Robbery/Extortion was filed against respondent.15

Based on its own evaluation and the NBI Report, the Investigating Commissioner of the
Commission on Bar Discipline recommended the suspension of respondent from the
practice of law for a period of two years.16

In the final resolution dated September 27, 2003, the Board of Governors of the IBP
imposed the penalty of disbarment for the reason that respondent in fact attempted to
extort money as Chief of the Public Assistance Center of the NLRC to threaten/coerce
Lim and that no less than the NBI caught him in the act of receiving and counting the
money extorted from Lim.17

The grounds for disbarment or suspension of an attorney are: (1) deceit; (2) malpractice
or other gross misconduct in office; (3) grossly immoral conduct; (4) conviction of a
crime involving moral turpitude; (5) violation of the lawyer's oath; (6) willful
disobedience of any lawful order of a superior court; and (7) willfully appearing as an
attorney for a party without authority.18

The NBI found that respondent's hands had yellow fluorescent specks and smudges with
which the money used for the entrapment of the respondent had been powdered. We
find no reason to doubt the NBI report. Also, we see no basis to overturn the
presumption that the NBI had done its duty regularly.

Respondent would make us believe that the specks and smudges of yellow fluorescent
were in his hands because Lim offered him what was allegedly the payment for the

Scroll No. 577 180|PALE Cases Set 1


stolen cellphone by a certain Gonvan. Regrettably, there is no corroboration from
Gonvan nor anyone else on this matter. Thus, respondent's story appears to us entirely
self-serving.

We had held previously that if a lawyer's misconduct in the discharge of his official
duties as government official is of such a character as to affect his qualification as a
lawyer or to show moral delinquency, he may be disciplined as a member of the Bar on
such ground.19 More significantly, lawyers in government service in the discharge of
their official tasks have more restrictions than lawyers in private practice. Want of moral
integrity is to be more severely condemned in a lawyer who holds a responsible public
office. 20 Rule 1.02 of the Code of Professional Responsibility provides that a lawyer shall
not counsel or abet activities aimed at defiance of the law or at lessening confidence
in the legal system. Extortion by a government lawyer, an outright violation of the law,
calls for the corresponding grave sanctions. With the aforesaid rule a high standard of
integrity is demanded of a government lawyer as compared to a private practitioner
because the delinquency of a government lawyer erodes the people's trust and
confidence in the government.

Needless to say, lawyers owe it to the court and to society not to stir up litigations.
Employees of the billiards hall, Ditan and Ubante, swore that respondent public officer
encouraged complainant Lim's workers to file a case against the latter. Rule 1.03 of the
same Code states that a lawyer shall not, for any corrupt motive or interest, encourage
any suit or proceeding or delay any man's cause.

Noteworthy, as an Attorney IV and Chief of the Public Assistance Center of the NLRC,
respondent failed to observe prudence by hanging out and playing in the billiard hall.
By so doing, he exposed himself unnecessarily to certain elements and situations which
could compromise his official position and his status as a lawyer.

Time and again, we have declared that the practice of law is a noble profession. It is a
special privilege bestowed only upon those who are competent intellectually,
academically and morally. A lawyer must at all times conduct himself, especially in his
dealings with his clients and the public at large, with honesty and integrity in a manner
beyond reproach. He must faithfully perform his duties to society, to the bar, to the
courts and to his clients. A violation of the high standards of the legal profession
subjects the lawyer to administrative sanctions which includes suspension and
disbarment.21 More importantly, possession of good moral character must be
continuous as a requirement to the enjoyment of the privilege of law practice;
otherwise, the loss thereof is a ground for the revocation of such privilege.22

Indeed, the primary objective of administrative cases against lawyers is not only to
punish and discipline the erring individual lawyers, but also to safeguard the
administration of justice by protecting the courts and the public from the misconduct of
lawyers and to remove from the legal profession persons whose utter disregard of the
lawyer's oath has proven them unfit to continue discharging the trust reposed in them
as members of the bar.23 These pronouncements gain practical significance in this
case, considering that respondent is a senior lawyer of the NLRC. It bears stressing also
that government lawyers who are public servants owe fidelity to the public service, a

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public trust. As such, government lawyers should be more sensitive to their professional
obligations as their disreputable conduct is more likely to be magnified in the public
eye.24

As a lawyer, who was also a public officer, respondent miserably failed to cope with the
strict demands and high standards of the legal profession.

In Montano v. IBP,25 this Court said that only in a clear case of misconduct that seriously
affects the standing and character of the lawyer may disbarment be imposed as a
penalty. In the instant case, the Court is convinced that the evidence against
respondent is clear and convincing. He is administratively liable for corrupt activity,
deceit, and gross misconduct. As correctly held by the Board of Governors of the
Integrated Bar of the Philippines, he should not only be suspended from the practice of
law but disbarred.

WHEREFORE, respondent Atty. Edilberto Barcelona is found administratively guilty of


corrupt activity, deceit, and gross misconduct and is hereby ordered DISBARRED. Let his
name be stricken from the Roll of Attorneys effective immediately, and this resolution
spread in his record in this Court and circulated to all courts in the Philippines.

SO ORDERED.

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