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OLAZO.docx

OLAZO.docx

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MJLARUTASSCRLAW Page 1
A.M. No. 10-5-7-SC December 7,2010
 
JOVITO S. OLAZO,
Complainant,vs.
JUSTICE DANTE O. TINGA (Ret.),
 Respondent.D E C I S I O N
BRION,
J.: 
 Before us is the disbarment case againstretired Supreme Court Associate Justice DanteO. Tinga (respondent) filed by Mr. Jovito S.Olazo (complainant). The respondent ischarged of violating Rule 6.02,
1
 Rule 6.03
2
 andRule 1.01
3
 of the Code of ProfessionalResponsibility for representing conflictinginterests.
Facts
The complainant filed a sales applicationcovering a parcel of land in Taguig. The landwas previously part of Fort Andres Bonifaciothat was segregated and declared open fordisposition.
The First Charge: Violation of Rule 6.02
The complainant claimed that the respondentabused his position as Congressman and as amember of the Committee on Awards when heexerted undue pressure and influence over the
complainant’s father, Miguel P. Olazo, for thelatter to contest the complainant’s
salesapplication and claim the subject land forhimself.The complainant further claimed that therespondent brokered the transfer of rights ofthe subject land between Miguel Olazo andJoseph Jeffrey Rodriguez, who is the nephew
of the respondent’s dec
eased wife.
 As a result of the respondent’s abuse of hisofficial functions, the complainant’s sales
application was denied. The conveyance ofrights to Joseph Jeffrey Rodriguez and hissales application were subsequently given duecourse by the Department of Environment andNatural Resources (DENR).The Second Charge: Violation of Rule 6.03The second charge involves another parcel ofland within the proclaimed areas belonging to
Manuel Olazo, the complainant’s brother. The
complainant alleged that the respondentpersuaded Miguel Olazo to direct Manuel toconvey his rights over the land to JosephJeffrey Rodriguez. In addition, the complainantalleged that in May 1999, the respondent metwith Manuel for the purpose of nullifying theconveyance of rights over the land to JosephJeffrey Rodriguez. The complainant claimedthat the respondent wanted the rights over theland transferred to one Rolando Olazo, theBarangay Chairman of Hagonoy, Taguig. Therespondent in this regard executed an"Assurance" where he stated that he was thelawyer of Ramon Lee and Joseph JeffreyRodriguez.The Third Charge: Violation of Rule 1.01The complainant alleged that the respondentengaged in unlawful conduct considering hisknowledge that Joseph Jeffrey Rodriguez wasnot a qualified beneficiary . The complainantaverred that Joseph Jeffrey Rodriguez is not abona fide resident of the proclaimed areas anddoes not qualify for an award.
ISSUE:
 
whether the respondent’s actions
constitute a breach of the standard ethicalconduct
 –
first, while the respondent was stillan elective public official and a member of theCommittee on Awards; and second, when hewas no longer a public official, but a privatelawyer who represented a client before theoffice he was previously connected with.
Ruling
Generally, a lawyer who holds agovernment office may not be
 
MJLARUTASSCRLAW Page 2
disciplined as a member of the Bar formisconduct in the discharge of hisduties as a government official.
9
 He maybe disciplined by this Court as amember of the Bar only when hismisconduct also constitutes a violationof his oath as a lawyer.
Accountability of a government lawyer inpublic office
Canon 6 of the Code of ProfessionalResponsibility highlights the continuingstandard of ethical conduct to beobserved by government lawyers in thedischarge of their official tasks. Inaddition to the standard of conduct laiddown under R.A. No. 6713 forgovernment employees, a lawyer in thegovernment service is obliged toobserve the standard of conduct underthe Code of Professional Responsibility.
Since public office is a public trust, theethical conduct demanded upon lawyersin the government service is moreexacting than the standards for those inprivate practice. Lawyers in thegovernment service are subject toconstant public scrutiny under norms ofpublic accountability. They also bear theheavy burden of having to put asidetheir private interest in favor of theinterest of the public; their privateactivities should not interfere with thedischarge of their official functions.
we find the absence of any concreteproof that the respondent abused hisposition as a Congressman and as amember of the Committee on Awards inthe manner defined under Rule 6.02 ofthe Code of Professional Responsibility.
First, the records do not clearly show ifthe
complainant’s sales application was
ever brought before the Committee onAwards.
The circumstances do not show that therespondent did in any way promote,advance or use his private interests inthe discharge of his official duties.
To repeat, since the sales applicationwas not brought before the Committeeon Awards when the respondent wasstill a member, no sufficient basis existsto conclude that he used his position toobtain personal benefits. We note in thisregard that the denial of thecomplain
ant’s sales application over the
subject land was made by the DENR,not by the Committee on Awards.
 
Second, the complainant’s allegation
that the respondent "orchestrated" theefforts to get the subject land does notspecify how the orchestration wasundertaken.
Private practice of law after separation frompublic office
As proof that the respondent wasengaged in an unauthorized practice oflaw after his separation from thegovernment service, the complainantpresented the Sinumpaang Salaysay,dated January 20, 2000, of Manuel andthe document entitled "Assurance"where the respondent legallyrepresented Ramon Lee and JosephJeffrey Rodriguez. Nevertheless, theforegoing pieces of evidence fail topersuade us to conclude that there wasa violation of Rule 6.03 of the Code ofProfessional Responsibility.
Under the circumstances, the foregoingdefinition should be correlated with R.A.No. 6713 and Rule 6.03 of the Code ofProfessional Responsibility whichimpose certain restrictions on
 
MJLARUTASSCRLAW Page 3
government lawyers to engage inprivate practice after their separationfrom the service.Section 7(b)(2) of R.A. No. 6713 reads:
Section 7. Prohibited Acts and Transactions.
In addition to acts andomissions of public officials and employeesnow prescribed in the Constitution and existinglaws, the following shall constitute prohibitedacts and transactions of any public official andemployee and are hereby declared to beunlawful:x x x x(b)
Outside employment and other activities related thereto 
.
 –
Public officials andemployees during their incumbency shall not:x x x x(2) Engage in the private practice of theirprofession unless authorized by theConstitution or law, provided, that suchpractice will not conflict or tend to conflict withtheir official functions; x x x
These prohibitions shall continue toapply for a period of one (1) year afterresignation, retirement, or separationfrom public office, except in the case ofsubparagraph (b) (2) above, but theprofessional concerned cannot practicehis profession in connection with anymatter before the office he used to bewith, in which case the one-yearprohibition shall likewise apply.
As a rule, government lawyers are notallowed to engage in the private practiceof their profession during theirincumbency.
 By way of exception, agovernment lawyer can engage in thepractice of his or her profession underthe following conditions:
first 
, the privatepractice is authorized by theConstitution or by the law; and
second 
,the practice will not conflict or tend toconflict with his or her officialfunctions.
The last paragraph of Section 7provides an exception to the exception.In case of lawyers separated from thegovernment service who are coveredunder subparagraph (b) (2) of Section 7of R.A. No. 6713, a one-year prohibitionis imposed to practice law in connectionwith any matter before the office heused to be with.
Rule 6.03 of the Code of ProfessionalResponsibility echoes this restrictionand prohibits lawyers, after leaving thegovernment service, to acceptengagement or employment inconnection with any matter in which hehad intervened while in the said service.
The keyword in Rule 6.03 of the Code ofProfessional Responsibility is the term"intervene" which we previouslyinterpreted to include an act of a personwho has the power to influence theproceedings.
 Otherwise stated, to fallwithin the ambit of Rule 6.03 of theCode of Professional Responsibility, therespondent must have acceptedengagement or employment in a matterwhich, by virtue of his public office, hehad previously exercised power toinfluence the outcome of theproceedings.
As the records show, no evidence existsshowing that the respondent previouslyinterfered with the sales application
covering Manuel’s land when the former 
was still a member of the Committee onAwards.
In any event, even granting that
respondent’s act fell within the definition
of practice of law, the available pieces ofevidence are insufficient to show thatthe legal representation was madebefore the Committee on Awards, orthat the Assurance was intended to be

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