Republic of the Philippines SUPREME COURT Manila SECOND DIVISION

A.M. No. 1769 June 8, 1992 CESAR L. LANTORIA, complainant, vs. ATTY. IRINEO L. BUNYI, respondent.

PER CURIAM: This is an administrative complaint filed by Cesar L. Lantoria, seeking disciplinary action against respondent Irineo L. Bunyi, member of the Philippine Bar, on the ground that respondent Bunyi allegedly committed acts of "graft and corruption, dishonesty and conduct unbecoming of a member of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, and corruption of the judge and bribery", in connection with respondent's handling of Civil Case Nos. 81, 83 and 88 then pending before the Municipal Court of Experanza, Agusan del Sur, presided over by Municipal Judge Vicente Galicia 1 in which respondent Bunyi was the counsel of one of the parties, namely, Mrs. Constancia Mascarinas. Respondent Bunyi alleged that Mrs. Constancia M. Mascarinas of Manila was the owner of d farm located in Esperanza, Agusan del Sur, and that herein complainant Lantoria was the manager and supervisor of said farm, receiving as such a monthly allowance. 2 It appears that the complaint in Civil Case Nos. 81, 83 and 88 sought to eject the squatters from the aforementioned farm. 3 These cases were assigned to the Municipal Court of Esperanza, Agusan del Bur, the acting municipal judge of which was the Honorable Vicente Galicia (who was at the same time the regular judge of the municipal court of Bayugan, Agusan del Sur). 4 The defendants in the mentioned civil cases were, in due course, declared in default. In relation to the same three (3) civil cases, the records of the present case show that complainant Lantoria wrote a letter to respondent Bunyi, dated 23 April 1974, which reads as follows:

Atty. Ireneo Bunye 928 Rizal Avenue Santa Cruz, Manila Dear Atty. Bunye: xxx xxx xxx Upon informing him of your willingness to prepare the corresponding judgements (sic) on the 3 defaulted cases he said he has no objection in fact he is happy and recommended that you mail the said decisions in due time thru me to be delivered to him. xxx xxx xxx I will communicate with you from time to time for any future development. My best regards to you and family and to Mrs. Constancia Mascarinas and all. Very truly yours, (SGD.) CESA RL LANTO RIA Major Inf PC (ret) Executi ve Directo r5 On 01 June 1974, respondent Bunyi wrote to the complainant regarding the said three (3) cases, in this wise:

Dear Major Lantoria, At last, I may say that I have tried my best to respond to the call in your several letters received, which is about the preparation of the three (3) Decisions awaited by Judge Galicia. The delay is that I have been too much occupied with my cases and other professional commitments here in Manila and nearby provinces. Not only to Mrs. Mascarinas I would say that I am so sorry but also to you. Mrs. Mascarinas has been reminding me but I always find myself at a loss to prepare these Decisions at an early date sa (sic) possible. So also with my calendar as to the dates for the next hearing of the remaining cases over there. Herewith now, you will find enclosed the three (3) Decisions against the (3) defaulted defendants. I am not sure if they will suit to satisfy Judge Galicia to sign them at once. However, it is my request to Judge Galicia, thru your kind mediation, that if the preparation of these Decisions do not suit his consideration, then I am ready and willing to accept his suggestions or correction to charge or modify them for the better. And to this effect, kindly relay at once what he is going to say or thinks if he signs them readily and please request for each copy for our hold. xxx xxx xxx Please excuse this delay, and thanks for your kind assistance in attending to our cases there. Regards to you and family and prayer for your more vigor and success. B r o t h e r l y y o u r

s , ( S G D . ) I R I N E O L . B U N Y I
6

C o u n s e l

It also appears that respondent Bunyi wrote an earlier letter to complainant Lantoria, dated 04 March 1974, the contents of which read as follows: 9 2 8 R i z a l A v e . ,

S t a . C r u z , M a n i l a M a r c h 4 , 1 9 7 4 Dear Major Lantoria, This is an additional request, strictly personal and confidential. Inside the envelope addressed to Judge Vicente C. Galicia, are the Decisions and Orders, which he told me to prepare and he is going to sign them. If you please, deliver the envelope to him as if you have no knowledge and information and that you have not opened it. Unless, of course, if the information comes from him. But, you can inquire from him if there is a need to wait from his words about them, or copies to be furnished me, after he signs them, it could be made thru you personally, to expedite receiving those copies for our hold. According to him, this envelope could be delivered to him at his residence at No. 345 M. Calo St., Butuan City, during week end. or, at Bayugan if you happen to go there, if he is not in Butuan City. Thanking You for your kind attention and favor. T r u l y

y o u r s , ( S G D . ) L . B U N Y I
7

Three years after, that is, on 11 April 1977, complainant filed with this Court the present administrative case against respondent Bunyi, predicated mainly on the above-quoted three (3) letters dated 04 March, 23 April and 01 June, 1974. Complainant contends that respondent won the said three (3) cases because to (respondent) was the one who unethically prepared the decisions rendered therein, and that the preparation by respondent of said decisions warranted disciplinary action against him. By way of answer to the complaint, respondent, in a motion to dismiss 8 the administrative complaint, admitted the existence of the letter of 01 June 1974, but explained the contents thereof as follows: xxx xxx xxx b) In the second place, the said letter of June 1, 1974, is self-explanatory and speaks for itself, that if ever the same was written by the Respondent, it was due to the insistence of the Complainant thru his several letters received, that the decisions in question be drafted or prepared for Judge Galicia, who considered such preparation as a big help to him, because he was at that time holding two (2) salas — one as being the regular Municipal Judge of Bayugan and the other, as the acting Judge of Esperanza, both of Agusan del Sur, with many pending cases and it was to the benefit of the Complainant that the early disposition of the cases involved would not suffer inconsiderable delay. But, the intention to draft or prepare the decisions in question was never spawned by the Respondent. Instead, it came from the understanding between the Judge and the complainant who, from his several letters, had demonstrated so much interest to eject at once the squatters from the farm he was entrusted to manage. Furthermore, the Complainant's conclusion that the said decisions were lutong macao is purely non-sense as it is without any factual or legal basis. He himself knew that Judge Galicia asked for help in the drafting of said

decisions as at any rate they were judgments by default, the defendants lost their standing in court when they were declared in default for failure to file their answers and to appear at the place and time set for hearing thereof (See first paragraph, letter of June 1, 1974) c) Thirdly, in the same letter, the decisions as prepared were in the form of drafts, as in fact, the letter mentioned subject to suggestion or correction to change or modify for the better by Judge Galicia (Second paragraph, Ibid); d) Fourthly, in the some letter, Responding (sic) even apologized for the delay in sending the same to the Complainant and expressed his gratitude for his assistance in attending to the cases involved (Last paragraph, Ibid.) In its resolution dated 28 November 1977, this Court referred the case to the Solicitor General for investigation, report and recommendation. 9 On 21 July 1980, the Solicitor General submitted his report to the Court, with the following averments, to wit: 1) that the case was set for hearing on April 12, September 29, and December 18, 1978, but in all said scheduled hearings only respondent Bunyi appeared; 2) that in the hearing of 16 January 1979, both respondent and complainant appeared; 3) that at the same hearing, the Solicitor General reported the following development —
Atty. Mercado submitted a letter of complainant dated January 16, 1979 sworn to before the investigating Solicitor, praying that the complaint be considered withdrawn, dropped or dismissed on the ground that complainant "could hardly substantiate" his charges and that he is "no longer interested to prosecute" the same. For his part, respondent manifested that he has no objection to the withdrawal of the complaint against him. At the same time, he presented complainant Lantoria as a witness are elicited testimony to the effect that complainant no longer has in his possession the original of the letters attached to his basic complaint, and hence, he was not prepared to prove his charges. 10 (emphasis supplied)

In his aforesaid report, the Solicitor General found as follows: a) that the letters of respondent Bunyi (dated 4, March and 1 June 1974), addressed to complainant, showed that respondent had indeed prepared the draft of the decisions in Civil Case Nos. 81, 83 and 88 of the Municipal Court of Esperanza, Agusan del Sur, which he submitted to Judge Vicente Galicia thru the complainant; b) that those letters indicated that respondent had previous communications with Judge Galicia regarding the preparation of the decisions; c) that the testimony of complainant to the effect that he had lost the original of said letters, and complainant's withdrawal of the complaint in the case at bar are of no moment, as respondent Bunyi, and his motion to dismiss filed with the Supreme Court, admitted that he prepared the draft of the decisions in the said civil cases, and be affirmed the existence of the letters. Hence, in his report, the Solicitor General found that respondent is guilty of highly unethical and unprofessional conduct for failure to perform his duty, as an officer of the court, to help promote the independence of the judiciary and to refrain from engaging in acts which would influence judicial determination of a litigation in which he is counsel. 11 The Solicitor General recommended that respondent be suspended from the practice of law for a period of one (1) year. He filed with the Court the corresponding complaint against respondent. In his answer 12 to the complaint filed by the Solicitor General, respondent manifested that in the future he would be more careful in observing his duties as a lawyer, and in upholding the provisions of the canons of professional ethics.

On 10 December 1980, the date set by this Court for the hearing of this case, the hearing was postponed until further notice. On 9 March 1981, respondent filed a manifestation 13 alleging that no hearing was as yet set in the case since the last setting on 10 December 1980, and he requested that the next hearing be not set until after six (6) months when be expected to return from the United States of America where he would visit his children and at the same time have a medical check-up. On 28 October 1981, the date set by this Court for bearing in this case, respondent Bunyi and the Solicitor General appeared, and respondent was directed to submit his memorandum. Respondent Bunyi filed his memorandum on 16 November 1981. In said memorandum, 14 respondent submitted that although he prepared the draft of the decisions in the civil cases, he did not offer Judge Galicia any gift or consideration to influence the Judge in allowing him to prepare the draft decisions. 15 He also offered his apology to the Court for all the improprieties which may have resulted from his preparation of the draft decisions. We agree with the observation of the Solicitor General that the determination of the merits of the instant case should proceed notwithstanding complainant's withdrawal of his complaint in the case, the respondent himself having admitted that the letters in question truly exist, and that he even asked for an apology from the Court, for whatever effects such letters may have had on his duty as a lawyer. With the admission by respondent of the existence of the letters upon which the present administrative complaint is based, the remaining issue to be resolved is the effect of the acts complained of on respondent's duty both as a lawyer and an officer of the Court. We find merit in the recommendation of the Solicitor General that respondent, by way of disciplinary action, deserves suspension from the practice of law. The subject letters indeed indicate that respondent had previous communication with Judge Galicia regarding the preparation of the draft decisions in Civil Case Nos. 81, 83, and 88, and which he in fact prepared. Although nothing in the records would show that respondent got the trial court judge's consent to the said preparation for a favor or consideration, the acts of respondent nevertheless amount to conduct unbecoming of a lawyer and an officer of the Court. Clearly, respondent violated Canon No. 3 of the Canons of Professional Ethics (which were enforced at the time respondent committed the acts admitted by him), which provides as follows: 3. Attempts to exert personal influence on the court Marked attention and unusual hospitality on the part of a lawyer to a judge, uncalled for by the personal relations of the parties, subject both the judge and the lawyer to misconstructions of motive and should be avoided. A lawyer should not communicate or argue privately with the judge as to the merits of a pending cause and deserves rebuke and denunciation for any device or attempt to gain from a judge special personal consideration or favor. A self-respecting independence in the discharge of professional duty, without denial or diminution of the courtesy and respect due the judge's station, is the only proper foundation for cordial personal and official relations between bench and bar. In the new Code of Professional Responsibility 16 a lawyer's attempt to influence the court is rebuked, as shown in Canon No. 13 and Rule 13.01, which read:

CANON 13 — A lawyer shall rely upon the merits of his cause and refrain from any impropriety which tends to influence, or gives the appearance of influencing the court. Rule 13.01 — A lawyer shall not extend extraordinary attention or hospitality to, nor seek opportunity for, cultivating familiarity with judges. Therefore, this Court finds respondent guilty of unethical practice in attempting to influence the court where he had pending civil case. 17 WHEREFORE, respondent Atty. Irineo L. Bunyi is hereby SUSPENDED from the practice of law for a period of one (1) year from the date of notice hereof. Let this decision be entered in the bar records of the respondent and the Court Administrator is directed to inform the different courts of this suspension. SO ORDERED. Narvasa C.J., Paras, Padilla, Regalado and Nocon, JJ., concur.

EN BANC

[G.R. No. 159486-88. November 25, 2003]

PRESIDENT JOSEPH EJERCITO ESTRADA, petitioner, vs. THE HONORABLE SANDIGANBAYAN [SPECIAL DIVISION], HON. MINITA CHICO-NAZARIO, HON. EDILBERTO SANDOVAL, HON. TERESITA LEONARDO-DE CASTRO, and THE PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, respondents. RESOLUTION
PER CURIAM:

On 23 September 2003, this Court issued its resolution in the abovenumbered case; it read: “The case for consideration has been brought to this Court via a Petition for Certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court filed by Joseph Ejercito Estrada, acting through his counsel Attorney Alan F. Paguia, against the Sandiganbayan, et al. The Petition prays –

“1. That Chief Justice Davide and the rest of the members of the Honorable Court disqualify themselves from hearing and deciding this petition; “2. That the assailed resolutions of the Sandiganbayan be vacated and set aside; and “3. That Criminal Cases No. 26558, No. 26565 and No. 26905 pending before the Sandiganbayan be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction. “Attorney Alan F. Paguia, speaking for petitioner, asserts that the inhibition of the members of the Supreme Court from hearing the petition is called for under Rule 5.10 of the Code of Judicial Conduct prohibiting justices or judges from participating in any partisan political activity which proscription, according to him, the justices have violated by attending the „EDSA 2 Rally‟ and by authorizing the assumption of VicePresident Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to the Presidency in violation of the 1987 Constitution. Petitioner contends that the justices have thereby prejudged a case that would assail the legality of the act taken by President Arroyo. The subsequent decision of the Court in Estrada v. Arroyo (353 SCRA 452 and 356 SCRA 108) is, petitioner states, a patent mockery of justice and due process. “Attorney Paguia first made his appearance for petitioner when he filed an Omnibus Motion on 19 May 2003, before the Sandiganbayan, asking that „the appointment of counsels de officio (sic) be declared functus officio’ and that, being the now counsel de parte, he be notified of all subsequent proceedings in Criminal Cases No. 26558, No. 26565 and No. 26905 pending therein. Finally, Attorney Paguia asked that all the foregoing criminal cases against his client be dismissed. “During the hearing of the Omnibus Motion on 30 May 2003, petitioner presented to the court several portions of the book, entitled „Reforming the Judiciary,‟ written by Justice Artemio Panganiban, to be part of the evidence for the defense. On 9 June 2003, petitioner filed a motion pleading, among other things, that – “a) x x x President Estrada be granted the opportunity to prove the „truth‟ of the statements contained in Justice Artemio Panganiban‟s book, „REFORMING THE JUDICIARY,‟ in relation to the prejudgment committed by the Supreme Court justices against President Estrada in the subject case/s of Estrada v. Arroyo, 353 SCRA 452 and 356 SCRA 108; and, A subpoena ad testificandum and duces tecum be issued to Justice Artemio Panganiban, Justice Antonio Carpio, Justice

“b)

Renato Corona, Secretary Angelo Reyes of the Department of National Defense, Vice President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Senator Aquilino Pimentel, Jr., and Chief Justice Hilario Davide, Jr. for them to testify and bring whatever supporting documents they may have in relation to their direct and indirect participation in the proclamation of Vice President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo on January 20, 2001, as cited in the book of Justice Panganiban, including the material events that led to that proclamation and the ruling/s in the Estrada vs. Arroyo, supra.‟ (Rollo, pp. 6-7.) “The „truth‟ referred to in paragraph a) of the relief sought in the motion of petitioner pertains to what he claims should have been included in the resolution of the Sandiganbayan; viz: „The request of the movant is simply for the Court to include in its Joint Resolution the TRUTH of the acts of Chief Justice Davide, et al., last January 20, 2001 in: „a) going to EDSA 2; „b) authorizing the proclamation of Vice-President Arroyo as President on the ground of „permanent disability‟ even without proof of compliance with the corresponding constitutional conditions, e.g., written declaration by either the President or majority of his cabinet; and „c) actually proclaiming Vice-President Arroyo on that same ground of permanent disability. „It is patently unreasonable for the Court to refuse to include these material facts which are obviously undeniable. Besides, it is the only defense of President Estrada.‟ (Petition, Rollo, pp. 13-14.) “On 2 July 2003, the Sandiganbayan issued an order denying the foregoing motion, as well as the motion to dismiss, filed by petitioner. Forthwith, petitioner filed a‘Mosyong Pangrekonsiderasyon’ of the foregoing order. According to Attorney Paguia, during the hearing of his ‘Mosyong Pangrekonsiderasyon’ on 11 June 2003, the three justices of the Special Division of the Sandiganbayan made manifest their bias and partiality against his client. Thus, he averred, Presiding Justice Minita V. Chico-Nazario supposedly employed foul and disrespectful language when she blurted out, ‘Magmumukha naman kaming gago,’ (Rollo, p. 13.) and Justice Teresita Leonardo-De Castro characterized the motion as insignificant even before the prosecution could file its comments or opposition thereto, (Rollo, p. 12.) remarking in

open court that to grant Estrada‟s motion would result in chaos and disorder. (Ibid.) Prompted by the alleged „bias and partial attitude‟ of the Sandiganbayan justices, Attorney Paguia filed, on 14 July 2003, a motion for their disqualification. On 31 July 2003, petitioner received the two assailed resolutions, i.e., the resolution (Promulgated on 30 July 2003.) of 28 July 2003, denying petitioner‟s motion for reconsideration of 6 July 2003; viz: „WHEREFORE, premises considered, accused-movant Joseph Ejercito Estrada‟s ‘Mosyong Pangrekonsiderasyon’ (Na tumutukoy sa Joint Resolution ng Hulyo 2, 2003) dated July 6, 2003 is DENIED for lack of merit.‟ (Rollo, p. 37.) “and the resolution (Promulgated on 30 July 2003.) of 25 July 2003, denying petitioner‟s motion for disqualification of 14 July 2003; viz: „WHEREFORE, prescinding from all the foregoing, the Court, for want of merit, hereby DENIES the Motion for Disqualification.‟ (Rollo, p. 48.) “The instant petition assailing the foregoing orders must be DISMISSED for gross insufficiency in substance and for utter lack of merit. The Sandiganbayan committed no grave abuse of discretion, an indispensable requirement to warrant a recourse to the extraordinary relief of petition for certiorari under Rule 65 of the Revised Rules of Civil Procedure. On the one hand, petitioner would disclaim the authority and jurisdiction of the members of this tribunal and, on the other hand, he would elevate the petition now before it to challenge the two resolutions of the Sandiganbayan. He denounces the decision as being a patent mockery of justice and due process. Attorney Pagula went on to state that„The act of the public officer, if LAWFUL, is the act of the public office. But the act of the public officer, if UNLAWFUL, is not the act of the public office. Consequently, the act of the justices, if LAWFUL, is the act of the Supreme Court. But the act of the justices, if UNLAWFUL, is not the act of the Supreme Court. It is submitted that the Decision in ESTRADA vs. ARROYO being patently unlawful in view of Rule 5.10 of the CODE OF JUDICIAL CONDUCT, is not the act of the Supreme Court but is merely the wrong or trespass of those individual Justices who falsely spoke and acted in the name of the Supreme Court. (Urbano vs. Chavez, 183 SCRA [347]). Furthermore, it would seem absurd to allow the Justices to use the name of the Supreme Court as a shield for their UNLAWFUL act.‟ (Petition, Rollo, p. 11.) “Criticism or comment made in good faith on the correctness or wrongness, soundness or unsoundness, of a decision of the Court would be welcome for, if wellfounded, such reaction can enlighten the court and contribute to the correction of an error if committed. (In Re Sotto, 82 Phil 595.)

“The ruling in Estrada v. Arroyo, being a final judgment, has long put to end any question pertaining to the legality of the ascension of Arroyo into the presidency. By reviving the issue on the validity of the assumption of Mme. Gloria MacapagalArroyo to the presidency, Attorney Paguia is vainly seeking to breathe life into the carcass of a long dead issue. “Attorney Paguia has not limited his discussions to the merits of his client‟s case within the judicial forum; indeed, he has repeated his assault on the Court in both broadcast and print media. Rule 13.02 of the Code of Professional Responsibility prohibits a member of the bar from making such public statements on any pending case tending to arouse public opinion for or against a party. By his acts, Attorney Paguia may have stoked the fires of public dissension and posed a potentially dangerous threat to the administration of justice. “It is not the first time that Attorney Paguia has exhibited similar conduct towards the Supreme Court. In a letter, dated 30 June 2003, addressed to Chief Justice Hilario G. Davide, Jr., and Associate Justice Artemio V. Panganiban, he has demanded, in a clearly disguised form of forum shopping, for several advisory opinions on matters pending before the Sandiganbayan. In a resolution, dated 08 July 2003, this Court has strongly warned Attorney Alan Paguia, on pain of disciplinary sanction, to desist from further making, directly or indirectly, similar submissions to this Court or to its Members. But, unmindful of the well-meant admonition to him by the Court, Attorney Paguia appears to persist on end. “WHEREFORE, the instant petition for certiorari is DISMISSED, and the Court hereby orders Attorney Alan Paguia, counsel for petitioner Joseph Ejercito Estrada, to SHOW CAUSE, within ten days from notice hereof, why he should not be sanctioned for conduct unbecoming a lawyer and an officer of the Court.” On 10 October 2003, Atty. Paguia submitted his compliance with the show-cause order. In a three-page pleading, Atty. Paguia, in an obstinate display of defiance, repeated his earlier claim of political partisanship against the members of the Court. Canon 5.10 of the Code of Judicial Conduct, which Atty. Paguia has tirelessly quoted to give some semblance of validity for his groundless attack on the Court and its members, provides “Rule 5.10. A judge is entitled to entertain personal views on political questions. But to avoid suspicion of political partisanship, a judge shall not make political speeches, contribute to party funds, publicly endorse candidates for political office or participate in other partisan political activities.”

Section 79(b) of the Omnibus Election Code defines the term “partisan political activities;” the law states: “The term „election campaign‟ or „partisan political activity‟ refers to an act designed to promote the election or defeat of a particular candidate or candidates to a public office which shall include: “(1) Forming organizations, associations, clubs, committees or other groups of persons for the purpose of soliciting votes and/or undertaking any campaign for or against a candidate; “(2) Holding political caucuses, conferences, meetings, rallies, parades, or other similar assemblies, for the purpose of soliciting votes and/or undertaking any campaign or propaganda for or against a candidate. “(3) Making speeches, announcements or commentaries, or holding interviews for or against the election of any candidate for public office; “(4) Publishing or distributing campaign literature or materials designed to support or oppose the election of any candidate; or “(5) Directly or indirectly soliciting votes, pledges or support for or against a candidate.” It should be clear that the phrase “partisan political activities,” in its statutory context, relates to acts designed to cause the success or the defeat of a particular candidate or candidates who have filed certificates of candidacy to a public office in an election. The taking of an oath of office by any incoming President of the Republic before the Chief Justice of the Philippines is a traditional official function of the Highest Magistrate. The assailed presence of other justices of the Court at such an event could be no different from their appearance in such other official functions as attending the Annual State of the Nation Address by the President of the Philippines before the Legislative Department. The Supreme Court does not claim infallibility; it will not denounce criticism made by anyone against the Court for, if well-founded, can truly have constructive effects in the task of the Court, but it will not countenance any wrongdoing nor allow the erosion of our people‟s faith in the judicial system, let alone, by those who have been privileged by it to practice law in the Philippines.

Canon 11 of the Code of Professional Responsibility mandates that the lawyer should observe and maintain the respect due to the courts and judicial officers and, indeed, should insist on similar conduct by others. In liberally imputing sinister and devious motives and questioning the impartiality, integrity, and authority of the members of the Court, Atty. Paguia has only succeeded in seeking to impede, obstruct and pervert the dispensation of justice. The attention of Atty. Paguia has also been called to the mandate of Rule 13.02 of the Code of Professional Responsibility prohibiting a member of the bar from making such public statements on a case that may tend to arouse public opinion for or against a party. Regrettably, Atty. Paguia has persisted in ignoring the Court’s well-meant admonition. On the 7th September 2003 issue of the Daily Tribune, Atty. Paguia wrote to say “What is the legal effect of that violation of President Estrada‟s right to due process of law? It renders the decision in Estrada vs. Arroyo unconstitutional and void. The rudiments of fair play were not observed. There was no fair play since it appears that when President Estrada filed his petition, Chief Justice Davide and his fellow justices had already committed to the other party - GMA with a judgment already made and waiting to be formalized after the litigants shall have undergone the charade of a formal hearing. After the justices had authorized the proclamation of GMA as president, can they be expected to voluntarily admit the unconstitutionality of their own act?” Unrelentingly, Atty. Paguia has continued to make public statements of like nature. The Court has already warned Atty. Paguia, on pain of disciplinary sanction, to become mindful of his grave responsibilities as a lawyer and as an officer of the Court. Apparently, he has chosen not to at all take heed. WHEREFORE, Attorney Alan Paguia is hereby indefinitely suspended from the practice of law, effective upon his receipt hereof, for conduct unbecoming a lawyer and an officer of the Court. Let copies of this resolution be furnished the Office of the Bar Confidant, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and all courts of the land through the Office of the Court Administrator. SO ORDERED.

Davide, Jr., C.J., Puno, Vitug, Panganiban, Quisumbing, Ynares-Santiago, Sandoval-Gutierrez, Austria-Martinez, Corona, Carpio-Morales, Callejo, Sr., Azcuna, and Tinga, JJ., concur. Carpio, J., no part.

Republic of the Philippines SUPREME COURT Manila FIRST DIVISION

A.C. No. 4103 September 7, 1995 VERONICA S. SANTIAGO, BENJAMIN Q. HONTIVEROS, MR. SOCORRO F. MANAS, and TRINIDAD NORDISTA, complainants, vs. ATTY. AMADO R. FOJAS, respondent.

DAVIDE JR., J.: In their letter of 8 September 1993, the complainants, former clients of the respondent, pray that the latter be disbarred for "malpractice, neglect and other offenses which may be discovered during the actual investigation of this complaint." They attached thereto an Affidavit of Merit wherein they specifically allege: 1. That we are Defendants-Appellates [sic] in the Court of Appeals Case No. CAG.N. CV No. 38153 of which to our surprise lost unnecessarily the aforesaid Petition [sic]. A close perusal of the case reveals the serious misconduct of our attorney on record, Atty. Amado Fojas tantamount to malpractice and negligence in the performance of his duty obligation to us, to defend us in the aforesaid case. That the said attorney without informing us the reason why and riding high on the trust and confidence we repose on him either abandoned, failed to act accordingly, or seriously neglected to answer the civil complaint against us in the sala of Judge Teresita Capulong Case No. 3526-V-91 Val. Metro Manila so that we were deduced [sic] in default. 2. That under false pretenses Atty. Fojas assured us that everything was in order. That he had already answered the complaint so that in spite of the incessant demand for him to give us a copy he continued to deny same to us. Only to disclose later that he never answered it after all because according to him he was a very busy man. Please refer to Court of Appeals decision dated August 17, 1993.

3. That because of Atty. Amado Foja's neglect and malpractice of law we lost the Judge Capulong case and our appeal to the Court of Appeals. So that it is only proper that Atty. Fojas be disciplined and disbarred in the practice of his profession. In his Comment, the respondent admits his "mistake" in failing to file the complainants' answer in Civil Case No. 3526-V-91, but he alleges that it was cured by his filing of a motion for reconsideration, which was unfortunately denied by the court. He asserts that Civil Case No. 3526V-91 was a "losing cause" for the complainants because it was based on the expulsion of the plaintiff therein from the Far Eastern University Faculty Association (FEUFA) which was declared unlawful in the final decision in NCR-OD-M-90-10-050. Thus, "[t]he unfavorable judgment in the Regional Trial Court is not imputable to [his] mistake but rather imputable to the merits of the case, i.e., the decision in the Expulsion case wherein defendants (complainants herein) illegally removed from the union (FEUFA) membership Mr. Paulino Salvador. . . ." He further claims that the complainants filed this case to harass him because he refused to share his attorney's fees in the main labor case he had handled for them. The respondent then prays for the dismissal of this complaint for utter lack of merit, since his failure to file the answer was cured and, even granting for the sake of argument that such failure amounted to negligence, it cannot warrant his disbarment or suspension from the practice of the law profession. The complainants filed a Reply to the respondent's Comment. Issues having been joined, we required the parties to inform us whether they were willing to submit this case for decision on the basis of the pleadings they have filed. In their separate compliance, both manifested in the affirmative. The facts in this case are not disputed. Complainants Veronica Santiago, Benjamin Hontiveros, Ma. Socorro Manas, and Trinidad Nordista were the President, Vice-President, Treasurer, and Auditor, respectively, of the FEUFA. They allegedly expelled from the union Paulino Salvador. The latter then commenced with the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) a complaint (NCR-OD-M-90-10-050) to declare illegal his expulsion from the union. In his resolution of 22 November 1990, Med-Arbiter Tomas Falconitin declared illegal Salvador's expulsion and directed the union and all its officers to reinstate Salvador's name in the roll of union members with all the rights and privileges appurtenant thereto. This resolution was affirmed in toto by the Secretary of Labor and Employment. Subsequently, Paulino Salvador filed with the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Valenzuela, Metro Manila, Branch 172, a complaint against the complainants herein for actual, moral, and exemplary damages and attorney's fees, under Articles 19, 20, and 21 of the Civil Code. The case was docketed as Civil Case No. 3526-V-91. As the complainants' counsel, the respondent filed a motion to dismiss the said case on grounds of (1) res judicataby virtue of the final decision of the Med-Arbiter in NCR-OD-M-90-10-050 and (2) lack of jurisdiction, since what was involved was an intra-union issue cognizable by the DOLE. Later, he filed a supplemental motion to dismiss. The trial court, per Judge Teresita Dizon-Capulong, granted the motion and ordered the dismissal of the case. Upon Salvador's motion for reconsideration, however, it reconsidered the order of dismissal, reinstated the case, and required the complainants herein to file their answer within a nonextendible period of fifteen days from notice.

Instead of filing an answer, the respondent filed a motion for reconsideration and dismissal of the case. This motion having been denied, the respondent filed with this Court a petition for certiorari, which was later referred to the Court of Appeals and docketed therein as CA-G.R. SP No. 25834. Although that petition and his subsequent motion for reconsideration were both denied, the respondent still did not file the complainants' answer in Civil Case No. 3526-V-91. Hence, upon plaintiff Salvador's motion, the complainants were declared in default, and Salvador was authorized to present his evidence ex-parte. The respondent then filed a motion to set aside the order of default and to stop the exparte reception of evidence before the Clerk of Court, but to no avail. Thereafter, the trial court rendered a decision ordering the complainants herein to pay, jointly and severally, plaintiff Salvador the amounts of P200,000.00 as moral damages; P50,000.00 as exemplary damages or corrective damages; and P65,000.00 as attorney's fees; plus cost of suit. The complainants, still assisted by the respondent, elevated the case to the Court of Appeals, which, however, affirmed in toto the decision of the trial court. The respondent asserts that he was about to appeal the said decision to this Court, but his services as counsel for the complainants and for the union were illegally and unilaterally terminated by complainant Veronica Santiago. The core issue that presents itself is whether the respondent committed culpable negligence, as would warrant disciplinary action, in failing to file for the complainants an answer in Civil Case No. 3526-V-91 for which reason the latter were declared in default and judgment was rendered against them on the basis of the plaintiff's evidence, which was received ex-parte. It is axiomatic that no lawyer is obliged to act either as adviser or advocate for every person who may wish to become his client. He has the right to decline employment, 1 subject, however, to Canon 14 of the Code of Professional Responsibility. Once he agrees to take up the cause of a client, the lawyer owes fidelity to such cause and must always be mindful of the trust and confidence reposed in him. 2 He must serve the client with competence and diligence, 3 and champion the latter's cause with wholehearted fidelity, care, and devotion. 4Elsewise stated, he owes entire devotion to the interest of the client, warm zeal in the maintenance and defense of his client's rights, and the exertion of his utmost learning and ability to the end that nothing be taken or withheld from his client, save by the rules of law, legally applied. 5 This simply means that his client is entitled to the benefit of any and every remedy and defense that is authorized by the law of the land and he may expect his lawyer to assert every such remedy or defense. 6 If much is demanded from an attorney, it is because the entrusted privilege to practice law carries with it the correlative duties not only to the client but also to the court, to the bar, and to the public. A lawyer who performs his duty with diligence and candor not only protects the interest of his client; he also serves the ends of justice, does honor to the bar, and helps maintain the respect of the community to the legal profession. 7 The respondent admits that it was his duty to file an answer in Civil Case No. 3526-V-91. He justifies his failure to do so in this wise:
[I]n his overzealousness to question the Denial Order of the trial court, 8 [he] instead, thru honest mistake and excusable neglect, filed a PETITION FOR CERTIORARI with the Honorable Court, docketed as G.R. No. 100983. . . .

And, when the Court of Appeals, to which G.R. No. 100983 was referred, dismissed the petition, he again "inadvertently" failed to file an answer "[d]ue to honest mistake and because of his overzealousness as stated earlier. . . . " In their Reply, the complainants allege that his failure to file an answer was not an honest mistake but was "deliberate, malicious and calculated to place them on the legal disadvantage, to their damage and prejudice" for, as admitted by him in his motion to set aside the order of default, his failure to do so was "due to volume and pressure of legal work." 9 In short, the complainants want to impress upon this Court that the respondent has given inconsistent reasons to justify his failure to file an answer. We agree with the complainants. In his motion for reconsideration of the default order, the respondent explained his non-filing of the required answer by impliedly invoking forgetfulness occasioned by a large volume and pressure of legal work, while in his Comment in this case he attributes it to honest mistake and excusable neglect due to his overzealousness to question the denial order of the trial court. Certainly, "overzealousness" on the one hand and "volume and pressure of legal work" on the other are two distinct and separate causes or grounds. The first presupposes the respondent's full and continuing awareness of his duty to file an answer which, nevertheless, he subordinated to his conviction that the trial court had committed a reversible error or grave abuse of discretion in issuing an order reconsidering its previous order of dismissal of Salvador's complaint and in denying the motion to reconsider the said order. The second ground is purely based on forgetfulness because of his other commitments. Whether it be the first or the second ground, the fact remains that the respondent did not comply with his duty to file an answer in Civil Case No. 3526-V-91. His lack of diligence was compounded by his erroneous belief that the trial court committed such error or grave abuse of discretion and by his continued refusal to file an answer even after he received the Court of Appeals' decision in the certiorari case. There is no showing whatsoever that he further assailed the said decision before this Court in a petition for review under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court to prove his claim of overzealousness to challenge the trial court's order. Neither was it shown that he alleged in his motion to lift the order of default that the complainants had a meritorious defense. 10 And, in his appeal from the judgment by default, he did not even raise as one of the errors of the trial court either the impropriety of the order of default or the court's grave abuse of discretion in denying his motion to lift that order. Pressure and large volume of legal work provide no excuse for the respondent's inability to exercise due diligence in the performance of his duty to file an answer. Every case a lawyer accepts deserves his full attention, diligence, skill, and competence, regardless of its importance and whether he accepts it for a fee or for free. All told, the respondent committed a breach of Canon 18 of the Code of Professional Responsibility which requires him to serve his clients, the complainants herein, with diligence and, more specifically, Rule 18.03 thereof which provides: "A lawyer shall not neglect a legal matter entrusted to him, and his negligence in connection therewith shall render him liable." The respondent's negligence is not excused by his claim that Civil Case No. 3526-V-91 was in fact a "losing cause" for the complainants since the claims therein for damages were based on the final decision of the Med-Arbiter declaring the complainants' act of expelling Salvador from the union to be illegal. This claim is a mere afterthought which hardly persuades us. If indeed the respondent was so convinced of the futility of any defense therein, he should have seasonably informed the

complainants thereof. Rule 15.05, Canon 15 of the Code of Professional Responsibility expressly provides: A lawyer, when advising his client, shall give a candid and honest opinion on the merits and probable results of the client's case, neither overstating nor understanding the prospects of the case. Then too, if he were unconvinced of any defense, we are unable to understand why he took all the trouble of filing a motion to dismiss on the grounds of res judicata and lack of jurisdiction and of questioning the adverse ruling thereon initially with this Court and then with the Court of Appeals, unless, of course, he meant all of these to simply delay the disposition of the civil case. Finally, the complainants were not entirely without any valid or justifiable defense. They could prove that the plaintiff was not entitled to all the damages sought by him or that if he were so, they could ask for a reduction of the amounts thereof. We do not therefore hesitate to rule that the respondent is not free from any blame for the sad fate of the complainants. He is liable for inexcusable negligence. WHEREFORE, ATTY. AMADO R. FOJAS is hereby REPRIMANDED and ADMONISHED to be, henceforth, more careful in the performance of his duty to his clients. SO ORDERED. Padilla, Bellosillo, Kapunan and Hermosisima Jr., JJ., concur.

EN BANC

[A.C. No. 6632. August 2, 2005]

NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY, NICOLAS, complainants, vs. ARQUILLO,respondent.

INC., Atty.

and BEN MACARIO

A. D.

DECISION
PANGANIBAN, J.:

Representing conflicting interests is prohibited by the Code of Professional Responsibility. Unless all the affected clients‟ written consent is given after a full disclosure of all relevant facts, attorneys guilty of representing conflicting

interests shall as a rule be sanctioned with suspension from the practice of law. The Case and the Facts This administrative case stems from a sworn Letter-Complaint[1] filed with the Integrated Bar of the Philippines-Commission on Bar Discipline (IBP-CBD) by Ben A. Nicolas, acting for himself and on behalf of Northwestern University, Inc. In that Letter-Complaint, Atty. Macario D. Arquillo was charged with deceit, malpractice, gross misconduct and/or violation of his oath as attorney by representing conflicting interests. The material averments of the Complaint are summarized by the IBP-CBD as follows: “Herein [c]omplainants, Northwestern University, Inc. and Mr. Ben A. Nicolas, accuses (sic) herein [r]espondent, Atty. Macario D. Arquillo, of engaging in conflictinginterest in a case before the National Labor Relations Commission, Regional Arbitration Branch No. 1, San Fernando, La Union. “Complainant alleges that in a consolidated case, herein [r]espondent appeared and acted as counsels for both complainants (eight out of the eighteen complainants therein) and respondent (one out of the ten respondents therein). “In a consolidation of NLRC Cases [Nos.] 1-05-1086-97, 1-05-1087-97, 1-05-108897, 1-05-1091-97, 1-05-1092-97, 1-05-1097-97, 1-05-1109-97, 1-05-1096-97 (“consolidated cases”), herein [r]espondent appeared as counsel for complainants therein, Teresita A. Velasco, Gervacio A. Velasco, Mariel S. Hernando, Virginio C. Rasos, Bonifacio S. Blas, Ronald A. Daoang, Luzviminda T. Urcio and Araceli Quimoyog. In the very same consolidated case, [r]espondent was also the counsel of one of the respondents therein, Jose G. Castro. “Complainants, as their evidence, submitted the Motion to Dismiss dated August 12, 1997 filed by Jose G. Castro, represented by his counsel, herein [r]espondent filed before the NLRC of San Fernando, La Union. Sixteen (16) days later or on August 28, 1997, [r]espondent filed a Complainant’s Consolidated Position Paper, this time representing some of the complainants in the very same consolidated case.”[2] (Citations omitted) Respondent failed to file his Answer to the Complaint despite a June 24 1998 Order[3] of the IBP-CBD directing him to do so. Even after receiving five notices, he failed to appear in any of the scheduled hearings. Consequently,

he was deemed to have waived his right to participate in the proceedings. Thereafter, the complainants were ordered to submit their verified position paper with supporting documents, after which the case was to be deemed submitted for decision.[4] In their Manifestation[5] dated August 30, 2004, they said that they would no longer file a position paper. They agreed to submit the case for decision on the basis of their Letter-Affidavit dated March 16, 1998, together with all the accompanying documents. Report and Recommendation of the IBP In his Report,[6] Commissioner Dennis B. Funa found respondent guilty of violating the conflict-of-interests rule under the Code of Professional Responsibility. Thus, the former recommended the latter‟s suspension from the practice of law for a period of six (6) months. In Resolution No. XVI-2004-415 dated October 7, 2004, the Board of Governors of the IBP adopted the Report and Recommendation of Commissioner Funa, with the modification that the period of suspension was increased to two (2) years. On December 12, 2004, the Resolution and the records of the case were transmitted to this Court for final action, pursuant to Section 12(b) of Rule 139B of the Rules of Court. On January 20, 2005, respondent filed a Motion for Reconsideration to set aside Resolution No. XVI-2004-415. The IBP denied the Motion. The Court’s Ruling We agree with the findings of the IBP Board of Governors, but reduce the recommended period of suspension to one year. Administrative Liability of Respondent The Code of Professional Responsibility requires lawyers to observe candor, fairness and loyalty in all their dealings and transactions with their clients.[7] Corollary to this duty, lawyers shall not represent conflicting interests, except with all the concerned clients‟ written consent, given after a full disclosure of the facts.[8]

When a lawyer represents two or more opposing parties, there is a conflict of interests, the existence of which is determined by three separate tests: (1) when, in representation of one client, a lawyer is required to fight for an issue or claim, but is also duty-bound to oppose it for another client; (2) when the acceptance of the new retainer will require an attorney to perform an act that may injuriously affect the first client or, when called upon in a new relation, to use against the first one any knowledge acquired through their professional connection; or (3) when the acceptance of a new relation would prevent the full discharge of an attorney‟s duty to give undivided fidelity and loyalty to the client or would invite suspicion of unfaithfulness or double dealing in the performance of that duty.[9] In the present case, Atty. Macario D. Arquillo, as counsel for Respondent Jose C. Castro in NLRC Case Nos. I-05-1083-97 to I-05-1109-97, filed a Motion to Dismiss those cases. Shortly thereafter, a position paper was filed by Atty. Arquillo as counsel for several complainants in consolidated NLRC Case Nos. I-05-1087-97, I-05-1088-97, I-05-1091-97, I-05-1092-97, I-051096-97, I-05-1097-97, and I-05-1109-97. All the cases in the second set were included in the first one, for which he had filed the subject Motion to Dismiss. Furthermore, in his position paper for the complainants, Atty. Arquillo protected his other client, Respondent Jose C. Castro, in these words: “3. More than lack of valid cause for the dismissal of complainants, respondents, except Atty. Jose C. Castro and Atty. Ernesto B. Asuncion, should be made accountable for not according complainants their right to due process.”[10] In his two-page Motion for Reconsideration, Atty. Arquillo claims that there was no conflict of interest in his representation of both the respondent and the complainants in the same consolidated cases, because all of them were allegedly on the same side. Attaching to the Motion the Decision of Labor Arbiter Norma C. Olegario on the consolidated NLRC cases, Atty. Arquillo theorizes that her judgment absolved Castro of personal liability for the illegal dismissal of the complainants; this fact allegedly showed that there was no conflict in the interests of all the parties concerned. This Court does not agree. Atty. Arquillo‟s acts cannot be justified by the fact that, in the end, Castro was proven to be not personally liable for the claims of the dismissed employees. Having agreed to represent one of the opposing parties first, the lawyer should have known that there was an obvious conflict of interests, regardless of his alleged belief that they were all on the same side. It cannot be denied that the dismissed employees were the complainants in the same cases in which Castro was one of the respondents. Indeed, Commissioner Funa correctly enounced:

“As counsel for complainants, [r]espondent had the duty to oppose the Motion to Dismiss filed by Jose G. Castro. But under the circumstance, it would be impossible since [r]espondent is also the counsel of Jose G. Castro. And it appears that it was [r]espondent who prepared the Motion to Dismiss, which he should be opposing [a]s counsel of Jose G. Castro, Respondent had the duty to prove the Complaint wrong. But Respondent cannot do this because he is the counsel for the complainants. Here lies the inconsistency. The inconsistency of interests is very clear. “Thus it has been noted „The attorney in that situation will not be able to pursue, with vigor and zeal, the client‟s claim against the other and to properly represent the latter in the unrelated action, or, if he can do so, he cannot avoid being suspected by the defeated client of disloyalty or partiality in favor of the successful client. The foregoing considerations will strongly tend to deprive the relation of attorney and client of those special elements which make it one of trust and confidence[.]‟ (Legal Ethics, Agpalo, p. 230, 4th ed.; In re De la Rosa, 21 Phil. 258)”[11] An attorney cannot represent adverse interests. It is a hornbook doctrine grounded on public policy that a lawyer‟s representation of both sides of an issue is highly improper. The proscription applies when the conflicting interests arise with respect to the same general matter, however slight such conflict may be. It applies even when the attorney acts from honest intentions or in good faith.[12] The IBP Board of Governors recommended that respondent be suspended from the practice of law for two years. Considering, however, prior rulings in cases also involving attorneys representing conflicting interests, we reduce the suspension to one (1) year.[13] WHEREFORE, Atty. Macario D. Arquillo is found GUILTY of misconduct and is hereby SUSPENDED from the practice of law for a period of one (1) year effective upon his receipt of this Decision, with a warning that a similar infraction shall be dealt with more severely in the future. SO ORDERED. Davide, Jr., C.J., Puno, Quisumbing, Ynares-Santiago, SandovalGutierrez, Carpio, Austria-Martinez, Carpio-Morales, Callejo, Sr., Azcuna, Tinga, Chico-Nazario, and Garcia, JJ., concur. Corona, J., on official leave.

FIRST DIVISION

[A.C. No. 4354. April 22, 2002]

LOLITA ARTEZUELA, complainant, MADERAZO, respondent.

vs. ATTY.

RICARTE

B.

DECISION
PUNO, J.:

For his failure to meet the exacting standards of professional ethics, the Board of Governors of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) in its Resolution of May 2, 2000 recommended the suspension from the practice of law of respondent Atty. Ricarte B. Maderazo for the period of six (6) months, with a stern warning that repetition of the same act will be dealt with more severely. Respondent allegedly represented conflicting interests in violation of Canon 6 of the Code of Professional Ethics, and Canon 15 and Rule 15.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility.[1] By way of a Motion for Reconsideration,[2] respondent now comes before this Court to challenge the basis of the IBP‟s resolution, and prays for its reversal. The factual antecedents of the case are as follows: On or about 3:00 in the early morning of December 24, 1992, Allan Echavia had a vehicular accident at Caduman St., corner H. Abellana St., Mandaue City. At the time of the accident, Echavia was driving a Ford Telstar car owned by a Japanese national named Hirometsi Kiyami, but was registered in the name of his brother-in-law, Jun Anthony Villapez. The car rammed into a small carinderia owned by complainant Lolita Artezuela.[3] The destruction of the complainant‟s carinderia caused the cessation of the operation of her small business, resulting to her financial dislocation. She incurred debts from her relatives and due to financial constraints, stopped sending her two children to college.[4] Complainant engaged the services of the respondent in filing a damage suit against Echavia, Villapez and one Bernardo Sia.[5] Docketed as Civil Case No. 13666, the case was assigned to Branch 14 of the Regional Trial Court of Cebu. An Amended Complaint was thereafter filed, impleading Echavia, Kiyami and Villapez, and dropping Sia as a party-defendant.[6] For his services, complainant paid the respondent the amount of Ten Thousand Pesos (P10, 000.00) as attorney‟s fees and Two Thousand Pesos (P2,000.00) as filing fee.[7] However, the case was dismissed on March 22, 1994, allegedly upon the instance of the complainant and her husband.[8]

Because of the dismissal of Civil Case No. 13666, complainant filed a civil case for damages against the respondent. It was docketed as CEB-18552 and assigned to Branch 57, Regional Trial Court of Cebu City. The case was dismissed on June 12, 2001.[9] On November 24, 1994, Artezuela filed before this Court a verified complaint for disbarment against the respondent. She alleged that respondent grossly neglected his duties as a lawyer and failed to represent her interests with zeal and enthusiasm. According to her, when Civil Case No. 13666 was scheduled for pre-trial conference on August 20, 1993, respondent asked for its postponement although all the parties were present. Notwithstanding complainant‟s persistent and repeated follow-up, respondent did not do anything to keep the case moving. He withdrew as counsel without obtaining complainant‟s consent.[10] Complainant also claimed that respondent engaged in activities inimical to her interests. While acting as her counsel, respondent prepared Echavia‟s Answer to the Amended Complaint. The said document was even printed in respondent‟s office. Complainant further averred that it was respondent who sought the dismissal of the case, misleading the trial court into thinking that the dismissal was with her consent. [11] Respondent denied the complainant‟s allegations and averred that he conscientiously did his part as the complainant‟s lawyer in Civil Case No. 13666. He withdrew as counsel because the complainant was uncooperative and refused to confer with him. He also gave several notices to the complainant and made known his intention before he filed his Manifestation to withdraw as counsel. Because of the severed relationship, the lower court, after holding a conference, decided to grant respondent‟s manifestation and advised the complainant to secure the services of a new lawyer. Complainant, however, refused and instead, sought the dismissal of the case.[12] Respondent alleged that he sought the postponement of the Pre-Trial Conference scheduled on August 20, 1993 so that he could file the Amended Complaint. He admitted that Echavia‟s Answer to the Amended Complaint was printed in his office but denied having prepared the document and having acted as counsel of Echavia. He claimed that complainant requested him to prepare Echavia‟s Answer but he declined. Echavia, however, went back to his office and asked respondent‟s secretary to print the document. Respondent intimated that the complainant and Echavia have fabricated the accusations against him to compel him to pay the amount ofP500,000.00.[13] This Court referred the complaint to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP). The IBP-Visayas Regional Committee on Bar Discipline formed an Investigating Committee to hear the disbarment complaint.

On October 6, 1999, Commissioner Gabriel T. Ingles issued a Report finding the respondent guilty of representing conflicting interests, in violation of Canon 15 and Rule 15.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, as well as, of Canon 6 of the Code of Professional Ethics. He recommended that the respondent be suspended from the practice of law for a period of one (1) year. [14] Commissioner Ingles did not rule on the other issues. As aforesaid, the Board of Governors of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines upheld the findings of the Committee with modification only as to the penalty. Seeking reconsideration of the IBP‟s resolution, respondent contends that the Investigating Committee did not conduct trial; hence, he was not able to confront and examine the witnesses against him. He argues that the Investigating Committee‟s finding that he represented Echavia is contrary to court records and the complainant‟s own testimony in CEB-18552. He also casts doubt on the credibility of the Investigating Committee to render just and fair recommendations considering that the Investigating Commissioner and the respondent are counsel-adversaries in another case, Civil Case No. R-33277. Finally, he questions the imposition of a six-month suspension, which he claims to be harsh considering that his private practice is his only source of income.[15] After carefully examining the records, as well as the applicable laws and jurisprudence on the matter, this Court is inclined to uphold the IBP‟s resolution. In administrative cases, the requirement of notice and hearing does not connote full adversarial proceedings, as “actual adversarial proceedings become necessary only for clarification or when there is a need to propound searching questions to witnesses who give vague testimonies.”[16] Due process is fulfilled when the parties were given reasonable opportunity to be heard and to submit evidence in support of their arguments.[17] In the case at bar, records show that respondent repeatedly sought the postponement of the hearings, prompting the Investigating Commissioner to receive complainant‟s evidence ex parte and to set the case for resolution after the parties have submitted their respective memorandum. Hence: “The records show that this is already the third postponement filed by respondent namely December 12, 1996 (sic), January 3, 1996 and April 1, 1996. The Commission for the last time, will cancel today‟s hearing and can no longer tolerate any further postponement. Notify respondent by telegram for the hearing for (sic) April 22, 1996 at 2:00 P.M. Said hearing is intransferable in character.

In the meantime, complainant affirmed her complaint and likewise her witness, Allan Echavia, also affirmed the contents of his affidavit and further stated that he had executed the same and understood the contents thereof.”[18] It is by his own negligence that the respondent was deemed to have waived his right to cross-examine the complainant and her witness. He cannot belatedly ask this Court to grant new trial after he has squandered his opportunity to exercise his right. Respondent‟s contention that the finding of the Investigating Committee was contrary to the records and the complainant‟s own admission in CEB-18552 is without merit. It is true that Atty. Aviola was Echavia‟s counsel-of-record in Civil Case No. 13666 as evidenced by the certification from the clerk of court, [19] and as admitted by the complainant in CEB-18552, viz:
“ATTY. MADERAZO: (To witness- ON CROSS) Q: Madam witness, you mentioned that the defendant in this case was the counsel of Allan Echavia as early as August 20, 1993, wherein you learned for the first time of this fact when you say he is counsel of Allan Echavia. (sic) You mean he is the counsel of record of Allan Echavia in the Civil Case before Judge Dacudao? Is that what you mean? What I learned was that Atty. Alviola was the counsel of Allan Echavia in the case before Judge Dacudao but I heard Atty. Maderazo telling Allan Echavia not to admit that Atty. Maderazo is appearing for me because he will be the one to coordinate with Allan‟s case. So it is clear that the defendant in this case is not the counsel of record of Allan Echavia. It was Atty. Alviola stated by you now? Atty. Maderazo was not Allan Echavia‟s counsel but it was Atty. Alviola who was the counsel of record of Allan Echavia.”[20]

A:

Q: A:

Nevertheless, the issue in this case is not whether the respondent also acted as the counsel-of-record of Echavia. Rather, it is whether or not he had a direct hand in the preparation of Echavia‟s Answer to the Amended Complaint. To be guilty of representing conflicting interests, a counsel-of-record of one party need not also be counsel-of-record of the adverse party. He does not have to publicly hold himself as the counsel of the adverse party, nor make his efforts to advance the adverse party‟s conflicting interests of record--- although these circumstances are the most obvious and satisfactory proof of the charge. It is enough that the counsel of one party had a hand in the preparation of the pleading of the other party, claiming adverse and conflicting interests with that of his original client. To require that he also be counsel-of-record of the adverse party would punish only the most obvious form of deceit and reward, with impunity, the highest form of disloyalty. Canon 6 of the Code of Professional Ethics states:

“It is the duty of a lawyer at the time of the retainer to disclose to the client the circumstances of his relations to the parties and any interest in or in connection with the controversy, which might influence the client in the selection of the counsel. “It is unprofessional to represent conflicting interests, except by express consent of all concerned given after a full disclosure of the facts. Within the meaning of this Canon, a lawyer represents conflicting interests when in behalf of one of the clients, it is his duty to contend for that which duty to another client requires him to oppose.” (emphasis supplied) An attorney owes his client undivided allegiance. Because of the highly fiduciary nature of the attorney-client relationship, sound public policy dictates that a lawyer be prohibited from representing conflicting interests or discharging inconsistent duties. He may not, without being guilty of professional misconduct, act as counsel for a person whose interest conflicts with that of his present or former client. Indeed, good faith and honest intention on the part of the erring lawyer does not make this rule inoperative.[21] The lawyer is an officer of the court and his actions are governed by the uncompromising rules of professional ethics. Thus: “The relations of attorney and client is founded on principles of public policy, on good taste. The question is not necessarily one of the rights of the parties, but as to whether the attorney has adhered to proper professional standard. With these thoughts in mind, it behooves attorneys, like Ceasar‟s wife, not only to keep inviolate the client‟s confidence, but also to avoid the appearance of treachery and double-dealing. Only thus can litigants be encouraged to entrust their secrets to their attorneys which is of paramount importance in the administration of justice.”[22] The professional obligation of the lawyer to give his undivided attention and zeal for his client‟s cause is likewise demanded in the Code of Professional Responsibility. Inherently disadvantageous to his client‟s cause, representation by the lawyer of conflicting interests requires disclosure of all facts and consent of all the parties involved. Thus: “CANON 15- All lawyers shall observe candor, fairness and loyalty in all his dealings and transactions with his clients. xxx Rule 15.03- A lawyer shall not represent conflicting interests except by written consent of all concerned given after a full disclosure of the facts.”

While the Resolution of the IBP is purely recommendatory, we find no reason to reverse the same. In disciplinary proceedings against members of the bar, only clear preponderance of evidence is required to establish liability. As long as the evidence presented by complainant or that taken judicial notice of by the Court is more convincing and worthy of belief than that which is offered in opposition thereto, the imposition of disciplinary sanction is justified.[23] A perusal of Echavia‟s Answer to the Amended Complaint shows that it indeed conflicts with the complainant‟s claims. It reads: “1. The allegations (sic) in Paragraph One (1) of the Complaint is admitted in so far as it pertains to the personal circumstance and residence of the answering defendant. The rest of the allegations in Paragraph One (1), and all the allegations in Paragraph Two (2) , THREE (3), FOUR (4), FIVE (5), SIX (6), ELEVEN (11), TWELVE (12), and FOURTEEN (14), of the Complaint are DENIED for lack of knowledge sufficient to form a belief as to the truth of such allegations.”[24] By way of prayer, Echavia states: “WHEREFORE, it is respectfully prayed that after hearing, judgment be rendered dismissing plaintiff‟s complaint.”[25] Anent the authorship by the respondent of the document quoted above, the Investigating Committee found the testimonies of the complainant and Echavia credible as opposed to respondent‟s bare denial. As pointed out by Echavia, he was approached by Atty. Maderazo, introduced himself as his lawyer and after some sessions in the latter‟s office, asked him to return and sign a document which he later identified as the Answer to the Amended Complaint. The Investigating Committee found respondent‟s defense weak. Respondent did not bother to present his secretary as witness, nor obtain her affidavit to prove his allegations. Instead, he offered a convenient excuse--- that he cannot anymore locate his secretary. Respondent argued that it was the complainant who asked him to prepare Echavia‟s Answer to the Amended Complaint, after reaching an agreement whereby Echavia would testify in favor of the complainant. After he declined the request, he claimed that it was the complainant who prepared the document and asked his secretary to print the same. But as shown, Echavia‟s Answer to the Amended Complaint was in no way favorable to the complainant. With the dismissal of Civil Case No. 13666, Echavia is practically off the hook. We cannot find any reason why Echavia would commit perjury and entangle himself,

once again, with the law. He does not stand to profit at all by accusing the respondent falsely. Furthermore, considering complainant‟s stature and lack of legal education, we can not see how she could have prepared Echavia‟s Answer to the Amended Complaint and device a legal maneuver as complicated as the present case. Respondent‟s attack on the credibility of Investigating Commissioner Ingles to render an impartial decision, having been an adversary in Civil Case No. R-33277, does not convince us to grant new trial. This is the first time that respondent questions the membership of Commissioner Ingles in the Investigating Committee. If respondent really believed in good faith that Commissioner Ingles would be biased and prejudiced, he should have asked for the latter‟s inhibition at the first instance. Moreover, we could not find any hint of irregularity, bias or prejudice in the conduct of the investigation that would lead us to set it aside. Finally, we remind the respondent that the practice of law is not a property right but a mere privilege, and as such, must bow to the inherent regulatory power of the Court to exact compliance with the lawyer‟s public responsibilities.[26] The suspension of the respondent‟s privilege to practice law may result to financial woes. But as the guardian of the legal profession, we are constrained to balance this concern with the injury he caused to the very same profession he vowed to uphold with honesty and fairness. IN VIEW WHEREOF, the Resolution of the IBP finding the respondent guilty of violating Canon 6 of the Code of Professional Ethics, and Canon 15 and Rule 15.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility is affirmed. Respondent is suspended from the practice of law for six (6) months with a stern warning that a similar act in the future shall be dealt with more severely. SO ORDERED. Austria-Martinez, J., concur. Sandoval-Gutierrez, J., per special order no. 220, dated April 22, 2002, concur. Davide, Jr., C.J., (Chairman), Kapunan, and Ynares-Santiago, JJ., on official leave.

Republic of the Philippines SUPREME COURT Manila

EN BANC

A.C. No. 3701 March 28, 1995 PHILIPPINE NATIONAL BANK, complainant, vs. ATTY. TELESFORO S. CEDO, respondent. RESOLUTION

BIDIN, J.: In a verified letter-complaint dated August 15, 1991, complainant Philippine National Bank charged respondent Atty. Telesforo S. Cedo, former Asst. Vice-President of the Asset Management Group of complainant bank with violation of Canon 6, Rule 6.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, thus: A lawyer shall not, after leaving government service, accept engagement or employment in connection with any matter in which he had intervened while in said service. by appearing as counsel for individuals who had transactions with complainant bank in which respondent during his employment with aforesaid bank, had intervened. Complainant averred that while respondent was still in its employ, he participated in arranging the sale of steel sheets (denominated as Lots 54-M and 55-M) in favor of Milagros Ong Siy for P200,000. He even "noted" the gate passes issued by his subordinate, Mr. Emmanuel Elefan, in favor of Mrs. Ong Siy authorizing the pull-out of the steel sheets from the DMC Man Division Compound. When a civil action arose out of this transaction between Mrs. Ong Siy and complainant bank before the Regional Trial Court of Makati, Branch 146, respondent who had since left the employ of complainant bank, appeared as one of the counsels of Mrs. Ong Siy. Similarly, when the same transaction became the subject of an administrative case filed by complainant bank against his former subordinate Emmanuel Elefan, for grave misconduct and dishonesty, respondent appeared as counsel for Elefan only to be later disqualified by the Civil Service Commission. Moreover, while respondent was still the Asst. Vice President of complainant‟s Asset Management Group, he intervened in the handling of the loan account of the spouses Ponciano and Eufemia Almeda with complainant bank by writing demand letters to the couple. When a civil action ensued between complainant bank and the Almeda spouses as a result of this loan account, the latter were represented by the law firm "Cedo, Ferrer, Maynigo & Associates" of which respondent is one of the Senior Partners. In his Comment on the complaint, respondent admitted that he appeared as counsel for Mrs. Ong Siy but only with respect to the execution pending appeal of the RTC decision. He alleged that he did not participate in the litigation of the case before the trial court. With respect to the case of the

Almeda spouses, respondent alleged that he never appeared as counsel for them. He contended that while the law firm "Cedo Ferrer, Maynigo & Associates" is designated as counsel of record, the case is actually handled only by Atty. Pedro Ferrer. Respondent averred that he did not enter into a general partnership with Atty. Pedro Ferrer nor with the other lawyers named therein. They are only using the aforesaid name to designate a law firm maintained by lawyers, who although not partners, maintain one office as well as one clerical and supporting staff. Each one of them handles their own cases independently and individually receives the revenues therefrom which are not shared among them. In the resolution of this Court dated January 27, 1992, this case was referred to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP), for investigation, report and recommendation. During the investigation conducted by the IBP, it was discovered that respondent was previously fined by this Court in the amount of P1,000.00 in connection with G.R. No. 94456 entitled "Milagros Ong Siy vs. Hon. Salvador Tensuan, et al." for forum shopping, where respondent appeared as counsel for petitioner Milagros Ong Siy "through the law firm of Cedo Ferrer Maynigo and Associates." The IBP further found that the charges herein against respondent were fully substantiated. Respondent's averment that the law firm handling the case of the Almeda spouses is not a partnership deserves scant consideration in the light of the attestation of complainant's counsel, Atty. Pedro Singson, that in one of the hearings of the Almeda spouses' case, respondent attended the same with his partner Atty. Ferrer, and although he did not enter his appearance, he was practically dictating to Atty. Ferrer what to say and argue before the court. Furthermore, during the hearing of the application for a writ of injunction in the same case, respondent impliedly admitted being the partner of Atty. Ferrer, when it was made of record that respondent was working in the same office as Atty. Ferrer. Moreover, the IBP noted that assuming the alleged set-up of the firm is true, it is in itself a violation of the Code of Professional Responsibility (Rule 15.02) since the client‟s secrets and confidential records and information are exposed to the other lawyers and staff members at all times. From the foregoing, the IBP found a deliberate intent on the part of respondent to devise ways and means to attract as clients former borrowers of complainant bank since he was in the best position to see the legal weaknesses of his former employer, a convincing factor for the said clients to seek his professional service. In sum, the IBP saw a deliberate sacrifice by respondent of his ethics in consideration of the money he expected to earn. The IBP thus recommended the suspension of respondent from the practice of law for 3 years. The records show that after the Board of Governors of the IBP had, on October 4, 1994, submitted to this Court its Report and recommendation in this case, respondent filed a Motion for Reconsideration dated October 25, 1994 of the recommendation contained in the said Report with the IBP Board of Governors. On December 12, 1994, respondent also filed another "Motion to Set Hearing" before this Court, the aforesaid Motion for Reconsideration. In resolving this case, the Court took into consideration the aforesaid pleadings. In addition to the findings of the IBP, this Court finds this occasion appropriate to emphasize the paramount importance of avoiding the representation of conflicting interests. In the similar case of Pasay Law and Conscience Union, Inc. vs. Paz, (95 SCRA 24 [1980]) where a former Legal Officer and Legal Prosecutor of PARGO who participated in the investigation of the Anti-Graft case

against Mayor Pablo Cuneta later on acted as counsel for the said Mayor in the same anti-graft case, this Court, citing Nombrado vs. Hernandez (26 SCRA 13 119681) ruled: The Solicitor General is of the opinion, and we find no reason to disagree with him, that even if respondent did not use against his client any information or evidence acquired by him as counsel it cannot be denied that he did become privy to information regarding the ownership of the parcel of land which was later litigated in the forcible entry case, for it was the dispute over the land that triggered the mauling incident which gave rise to the criminal action for physical injuries. This Court's remarks in Hilado vs. David, 84 Phil. 571, are apropos: "Communications between attorney and client are, in a great number of litigations, a complicated affair, consisting of entangled relevant and irrelevant, secret and wellknown facts. In the complexity of what is said in the course of dealings between an attorney and client, inquiry of the nature suggested would lead to the revelation, in advance of the trial, of other matters that might only further prejudice the complainant's cause." Whatever may be said as to whether or not respondent utilized against his former client information given to him in a professional capacity, the mere fact of their previous relationship should have precluded him from appearing as counsel for the other side in the forcible entry case. In the case ofHilado vs. David, supra, this Tribunal further said: Hence the necessity of setting the existence of the bare relationship of attorney and client as the yardstick for testing incompatibility of interests. This stern rule is designed not alone to prevent the dishonest practitioner from fraudulent conduct, but as well to protect the honest lawyer from unfounded suspicion of unprofessional practice. . . . It is founded on principles of public policy, of good taste. As has been said in another case, the question is not necessarily one of the rights of the parties, but as to whether the attorney has adhered to proper professional standard. With these thoughts in mind, it behooves attorney, like Caesar's wife, not only to keep inviolate the client's confidence, but also to avoid the appearance of treachery and double dealing. Only thus can litigants. be encouraged to entrust their secrets to their attorneys which is of paramount importance in the administration of justice. The foregoing disquisition on conflicting interest applies with equal force and effect to respondent in the case at bar. Having been an executive of complainant bank, respondent now seeks to litigate as counsel for the opposite side, a case against his former employer involving a transaction which he formerly handled while still an employee of complainant, in violation of Canon 6 of the Canons of Professional Ethics on adverse influence and conflicting interests, to wit: It is unprofessional to represent conflicting interests, except by express conflicting consent of all concerned given after a full disclosure of the facts. Within the meaning of this canon, a lawyer represents conflicting interest when, in behalf on one client, it is his duty to contend for that which duty to another client requires him to oppose. ACCORDINGLY, this Court resolves to SUSPEND respondent ATTY. TELESFORO S. CEDO from the practice of law for THREE (3) YEARS, effective immediately. Let copies of this resolution be furnished the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and all courts in Metro Manila.

SO ORDERED. Narvasa, C.J., Feliciano, Padilla, Regalado, Davide, Romero, Bellosillo, Melo, Quiason, Puno, Vitug, Kapunan, Mendoza and Francisco, JJ., concur.

EN BANC

[G.R. No. 105938. September 20, 1996]

TEODORO R. REGALA, EDGARDO J. ANGARA, AVELINO V. CRUZ, JOSE C. CONCEPCION, ROGELIO A. VINLUAN, VICTOR P. LAZATIN, and EDUARDO U. ESCUETA, petitioners, vs. THE HONORABLE SANDIGANBAYAN, First Division, REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, ACTING THROUGH THE PRESIDENTIAL COMMISSION ON GOOD GOVERNMENT, and RAUL S. ROCO, respondents.

[G.R. No. 108113. September 20, 1996]

PARAJA G. HAYUDINI, petitioner, vs. THE SANDIGANBAYAN and THE REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES,respondents. DECISION
KAPUNAN, J.:

These cases touch the very cornerstone of every State's judicial system, upon which the workings of the contentious and adversarial system in the Philippine legal process are based - the sanctity of fiduciary duty in the clientlawyer relationship. The fiduciary duty of a counsel and advocate is also what makes the law profession a unique position of trust and confidence, which distinguishes it from any other calling. In this instance, we have no recourse but to uphold and strengthen the mantle of protection accorded to the confidentiality that proceeds from the performance of the lawyer's duty to his client.

The facts of the case are undisputed. The matters raised herein are an offshoot of the institution of the Complaint on July 31, 1987 before the Sandiganbayan by the Republic of the Philippines, through the Presidential Commission on Good Government against Eduardo M. Cojuangco, Jr., as one of the principal defendants, for the recovery of alleged ill-gotten wealth, which includes shares of stocks in the named corporations in PCGG Case No. 33 (Civil Case No. 0033), entitled "Republic of the Philippines versus Eduardo Cojuangco, et al."
[1]

Among the defendants named in the case are herein petitioners Teodoro Regala, Edgardo J. Angara, Avelino V. Cruz, Jose C. Concepcion, Rogelio A. Vinluan, Victor P. Lazatin, Eduardo U. Escueta and Paraja G. Hayudini, and herein private respondent Raul S. Roco, who all were then partners of the law firm Angara, Abello, Concepcion, Regala and Cruz Law Offices (hereinafter referred to as the ACCRA Law Firm). ACCRA Law Firm performed legal services for its clients, which included, among others, the organization and acquisition of business associations and/or organizations, with the correlative and incidental services where its members acted as incorporators, or simply, as stockholders. More specifically, in the performance of these services, the members of the law firm delivered to its client documents which substantiate the client's equity holdings, i.e., stock certificates endorsed in blank representing the shares registered in the client's name, and a blank deed of trust or assignment covering said shares. In the course of their dealings with their clients, the members of the law firm acquire information relative to the assets of clients as well as their personal and business circumstances. As members of the ACCRA Law Firm, petitioners and private respondent Raul Roco admit that they assisted in the organization and acquisition of the companies included in Civil Case No. 0033, and in keeping with the office practice,ACCRA lawyers acted as nominees-stockholders of the said corporations involved in sequestration proceedings.
[2]

On August 20, 1991, respondent Presidential Commission on Good Government (hereinafter referred to as respondent PCGG) filed a "Motion to Admit Third Amended Complaint" and "Third Amended Complaint" which excluded private respondent Raul S. Roco from the complaint in PCGG Case No. 33 as party-defendant. Respondent PCGG based its exclusion of private respondent Roco as party-defendant on his undertaking that he will reveal the identity of the principal/s for whom he acted as nominee/stockholder in the companies involved in PCGG Case No. 33.
[3] [4]

Petitioners were included in the Third Amended Complaint on the strength of the following allegations:

14. Defendants Eduardo Cojuangco, Jr., Edgardo J. Angara, Jose C. Concepcion, Teodoro Regala, Avelino V. Cruz, Rogelio A. Vinluan, Eduardo U. Escueta, Paraja G. Hayudini and Raul Roco of the Angara Concepcion Cruz Regala and Abello law offices (ACCRA) plotted, devised, schemed. conspired and confederated with each other in setting up, through the use of the coconut levy funds, the financial and corporate framework and structures that led to the establishment of UCPB, UNICOM, COCOLIFE, COCOMARK, CIC, and more than twenty other coconut levy funded corporations, including the acquisition of San Miguel Corporation shares and its institutionalization through presidential directives of the coconut monopoly. Through insidious means and machinations, ACCRA, being the wholly-owned investment arm, ACCRA Investments Corporation, became the holder of approximately fifteen million shares representing roughly 3.3% of the total outstanding capital stock of UCPB as of 31 March 1987. This ranks ACCRA Investments Corporation number 44 among the top 100 biggest stockholders of UCPB which has approximately 1,400,000 shareholders. On the other hand, corporate books show the name Edgardo J. Angara as holding approximately 3,744 shares as of February, 1984.[5]

In their answer to the Expanded petitioners ACCRA lawyers alleged that:

Amended

Complaint,

4.4. Defendants-ACCRA lawyers‟ participation in the acts with which their codefendants are charged, was in furtherance of legitimate lawyering. 4.4.1. In the course of rendering professional and legal services to clients, defendantsACCRA lawyers, Jose C. Concepcion, Teodoro D. Regala, Rogelio A. Vinluan and Eduardo U. Escueta, became holders of shares of stock in the corporations listed under their respective names in Annex „A‟ of the expanded Amended Complaint as incorporating or acquiring stockholders only and, as such, they do not claim any proprietary interest in the said shares of stock. 4.5. Defendant ACCRA-lawyer Avelino V. Cruz was one of the incorporators in 1976 of Mermaid Marketing Corporation, which was organized for legitimate business purposes not related to the allegations of the expanded Amended Complaint. However, he has long ago transferred any material interest therein and therefore denies that the „shares‟ appearing in his name in Annex „A‟ of the expanded Amended Complaint are his assets.
[6]

Petitioner Paraja Hayudini, who had separated from ACCRA law firm, filed a separate answer denying the allegations in the complaint implicating him in the alleged ill-gotten wealth.
[7]

Petitioners ACCRA lawyers subsequently filed their "COMMENT AND/OR OPPOSITION" dated October 8, 1991 with Counter-Motion that respondent PCGG similarly grant the same treatment to them (exclusion as partiesdefendants) as accorded private respondent Roco. The Counter-Motion for
[8]

dropping petitioners from the complaint was duly set for hearing on October 18, 1991 in accordance with the requirements of Rule 15 of the Rules of Court. In its "Comment," respondent PCGG set the following conditions precedent for the exclusion of petitioners, namely: (a) the disclosure of the identity of its clients; (b) submission of documents substantiating the lawyerclient relationship; and (c) the submission of the deeds of assignments petitioners executed in favor of its clients covering their respective shareholdings.
[9]

Consequently, respondent PCGG presented supposed proof to substantiate compliance by private respondent Roco of the conditions precedent to warrant the latter's exclusion as party-defendant in PCGG Case No. 33, to wit: (a) Letter to respondent PCGG of the counsel of respondent Roco dated May 24, 1989 reiterating a previous request for reinvestigation by the PCGG in PCGG Case No. 33; (b) Affidavit dated March 8, 1989 executed by private respondent Roco as Attachment to the letter aforestated in (a); and (c) Letter of the Roco, Bunag, and Kapunan Law Offices dated September 21, 1988 to the respondent PCGG in behalf of private respondent Roco originally requesting the reinvestigation and/or re-examination of the evidence of the PCGG against Roco in its Complaint in PCGG Case No. 33.
[10]

It is noteworthy that during said proceedings, private respondent Roco did not refute petitioners' contention that he did actually not reveal the identity of the client involved in PCGG Case No. 33, nor had he undertaken to reveal the identity of the client for whom he acted as nominee-stockholder.
[11]

On March 18, 1992, respondent Sandiganbayan promulgated the Resolution, herein questioned, denying the exclusion of petitioners in PCGG Case No. 33, for their refusal to comply with the conditions required by respondent PCGG. It held: x x x. ACCRA lawyers may take the heroic stance of not revealing the identity of the client for whom they have acted, i.e. their principal, and that will be their choice. But until they do identify their clients, considerations of whether or not the privilege claimed by the ACCRA lawyers exists cannot even begin to be debated. The ACCRA lawyers cannot excuse themselves from the consequences of their acts until they have begun to establish the basis for recognizing the privilege; the existenceand identity of the client.

This is what appears to be the cause for which they have been impleaded by the PCGG as defendants herein. 5. The PCGG is satisfied that defendant Roco has demonstrated his agency and that Roco has apparently identified his principal, which revelation could show the lack of cause against him. This in turn has allowed the PCGG to exercise its power both under the rules of Agency and under Section 5 of E.O. No. 14-A in relation to the Supreme Court's ruling in Republic v. Sandiganbayan (173 SCRA 72). The PCGG has apparently offered to the ACCRA lawyers the same conditions availed of by Roco; full disclosure in exchange for exclusion from these proceedings (par. 7, PCGG's COMMENT dated November 4, 1991). The ACCRA lawyers have preferred not to make the disclosures required by the PCGG. The ACCRA lawyers cannot, therefore, begrudge the PCGG for keeping them as party defendants. In the same vein, they cannot compel the PCGG to be accorded the same treatment accorded to Roco. Neither can this Court. WHEREFORE, the Counter Motion dated October 8, 1991 filed by the ACCRA lawyers and joined in by Atty. Paraja G. Hayudini for the same treatment by the PCGG as accorded to Raul S. Roco is DENIED for lack of merit.
[12]

ACCRA lawyers moved for a reconsideration of the above resolution but the same was denied by the respondent Sandiganbayan. Hence, the ACCRA lawyers filed the petition for certiorari, docketed as G.R. No. 105938, invoking the following grounds:
I

The Honorable Sandiganbayan gravely abused its discretion in subjecting petitioners ACCRA lawyers who undisputably acted as lawyers in serving as nomineestockholders, to the strict application of the law of agency.
II

The Honorable Sandiganbayan committed grave abuse of discretion in not considering petitioners ACCRA lawyers and Mr. Roco as similarly situated and, therefore, deserving of equal treatment.
1. There is absolutely no evidence that Mr. Roco had revealed, or had undertaken to reveal, the identities of the client(s) for whom he acted as nominee-stockholder.

2. Even assuming that Mr. Roco had revealed, or had undertaken to reveal, the identities of the client(s), the disclosure does not constitute a substantial distinction as would make the classification reasonable under the equal protection clause. 3. Respondent Sandiganbayan sanctioned favoritism and undue preference in favor of Mr. Roco in violation of the equal protection clause.
III

The Honorable Sandiganbayan committed grave abuse of discretion in not holding that, under the facts of this case, the attorney-client privilege prohibits petitioners ACCRA lawyers from revealing the identity of their client(s) and the other information requested by the PCGG.
1. Under the peculiar facts of this case, the attorney-client privilege includes the identity of the client(s). 2. The factual disclosures required by the PCGG are not limited to the identity of petitioners ACCRA lawyers' alleged client(s) but extend to other privileged matters.
IV

The Honorable Sandiganbayan committed grave abuse of discretion in not requiring that the dropping of party-defendants by the PCGG must be based on reasonable and just grounds and with due consideration to the constitutional right of petitioners ACCRA lawyers to the equal protection of the law. Petitioner Paraja G. Hayudini, likewise, filed his own motion for reconsideration of the March 18, 1991 resolution which was denied by respondent Sandiganbayan. Thus, he filed a separate petition for certiorari, docketed as G.R. No. 108113, assailing respondent Sandiganbayan's resolution on essentially the same grounds averred by petitioners in G.R. No. 105938. Petitioners contend that the exclusion of respondent Roco as partydefendant in PCGG Case No. 33 grants him a favorable treatment, on the pretext of his alleged undertaking to divulge the identity of his client, giving him an advantage over them who are in the same footing as partners in the ACCRA law firm. Petitioners further argue that even granting that such an undertaking has been assumed by private respondent Roco, they are prohibited from revealing the identity of their principal under their sworn mandate and fiduciary duty as lawyers to uphold at all times the confidentiality of information obtained during such lawyer-client relationship. Respondent PCGG, through its counsel, refutes petitioners' contention, alleging that the revelation of the identity of the client is not within the ambit of the lawyer-client confidentiality privilege, nor are the documents it required

(deeds of assignment) protected, because they are evidence of nominee status.
[13]

In his comment, respondent Roco asseverates that respondent PCGG acted correctly in excluding him as party-defendant because he "(Roco) has not filed an Answer. PCGG had therefore the right to dismiss Civil Case No. 0033 as to Roco `without an order of court by filing a notice of dismissal,'" and he has undertaken to identify his principal.
[14] [15]

Petitioners' contentions are impressed with merit.
I

It is quite apparent that petitioners were impleaded by the PCGG as codefendants to force them to disclose the identity of their clients. Clearly, respondent PCGG is not after petitioners but the “bigger fish” as they say in street parlance. This ploy is quite clear from the PCGG‟s willingness to cut a deal with petitioners -- the names of their clients in exchange for exclusion from the complaint. The statement of the Sandiganbayan in its questioned resolution dated March 18, 1992 is explicit: ACCRA lawyers may take the heroic stance of not revealing the identity of the client for whom they have acted, i.e., their principal, and that will be their choice. But until they do identify their clients, considerations of whether or not the privilege claimed by the ACCRA lawyers exists cannot even begin to be debated. The ACCRA lawyers cannot excuse themselves from the consequences of their acts until they have begun to establish the basis for recognizing the privilege; the existence and identity of the client. This is what appears to be the cause for which they have been impleaded by the PCGG as defendants herein. (Underscoring ours) In a closely related case, Civil Case No. 0110 of the Sandiganbayan, Third Division, entitled “Primavera Farms, Inc., et al. vs. Presidential Commission on Good Government” respondent PCGG, through counsel Mario Ongkiko, manifested at the hearing on December 5, 1991 that the PCGG wanted to establish through the ACCRA that their “so called client is Mr. Eduardo Cojuangco”; that “it was Mr. Eduardo Cojuangco who furnished all the monies to those subscription payments in corporations included in Annex “A” of the Third Amended Complaint; that the ACCRA lawyers executed deeds of trust and deeds of assignment, some in the name of particular persons, some in blank. We quote Atty. Ongkiko:

ATTY. ONGKIKO: With the permission of this Hon. Court. I propose to establish through these ACCRA lawyers that, one, their so-called client is Mr. Eduardo Cojuangco. Second, it was Mr. Eduardo Cojuangco who furnished all the monies to these subscription payments of these corporations who are now the petitioners in this case. Third, that these lawyers executed deeds of trust, some in the name of a particular person, some in blank. Now, these blank deeds are important to our claim that some of the shares are actually being held by the nominees for the late President Marcos. Fourth, they also executed deeds of assignment and some of these assignments have also blank assignees. Again, this is important to our claim that some of the shares are for Mr. Cojuangco and some are for Mr. Marcos. Fifth, that most of these corporations are really just paper corporations. Why do we say that? One: There are no really fixed sets of officers, no fixed sets of directors at the time of incorporation and even up to 1986, which is the crucial year. And not only that, they have no permits from the municipal authorities in Makati. Next, actually all their addresses now are care of Villareal Law Office. They really have no address on records. These are some of the principal things that we would ask of these nominees stockholders, as they called themselves.
[16]

It would seem that petitioners are merely standing in for their clients as defendants in the complaint. Petitioners are being prosecuted solely on the basis of activities and services performed in the course of their duties as lawyers. Quite obviously, petitioners‟ inclusion as co-defendants in the complaint is merely being used as leverage to compel them to name their clients and consequently to enable the PCGG to nail these clients. Such being the case, respondent PCGG has no valid cause of action as against petitioners and should exclude them from the Third Amended Complaint.
II

The nature of lawyer-client relationship is premised on the Roman Law concepts of locatio conductio operarum (contract of lease of services) where one person lets his services and another hires them without reference to the object of which the services are to be performed, wherein lawyers' services may be compensated by honorarium or for hire, and mandato (contract of agency) wherein a friend on whom reliance could be placed makes a contract in his name, but gives up all that he gained by the contract to the person who requested him. But the lawyer-client relationship is more than that of the principal-agent and lessor-lessee.
[17] [18]

In modern day perception of the lawyer-client relationship, an attorney is more than a mere agent or servant, because he possesses special powers of trust and confidence reposed on him by his client. A lawyer is also as
[19]

independent as the judge of the court, thus his powers are entirely different from and superior to those of an ordinary agent. Moreover, an attorney also occupies what may be considered as a "quasi-judicial office" since he is in fact an officer of the Court and exercises his judgment in the choice of courses of action to be taken favorable to his client.
[20] [21]

Thus, in the creation of lawyer-client relationship, there are rules, ethical conduct and duties that breathe life into it, among those, the fiduciary duty to his client which is of a very delicate, exacting and confidential character, requiring a very high degree of fidelity and good faith, that is required by reason of necessity and public interest based on the hypothesis that abstinence from seeking legal advice in a good cause is an evil which is fatal to the administration of justice.
[22] [23] [24]

It is also the strict sense of fidelity of a lawyer to his client that distinguishes him from any other professional in society. This conception is entrenched and embodies centuries of established and stable tradition. In Stockton v. Ford, the U.S. Supreme Court held:
[25] [26]

There are few of the business relations of life involving a higher trust and confidence than that of attorney and client, or generally speaking, one more honorably and faithfully discharged; few more anxiously guarded by the law, or governed by the sterner principles of morality and justice; and it is the duty of the court to administer them in a corresponding spirit, and to be watchful and industrious, to see that confidence thus reposed shall not be used to the detriment or prejudice of the rights of the party bestowing it.
[27]

In our jurisdiction, this privilege takes off from the old Code of Civil Procedure enacted by the Philippine Commission on August 7, 1901. Section 383 of the Code specifically “forbids counsel, without authority of his client to reveal any communication made by the client to him or his advice given thereon in the course of professional employment.” Passed on into various provisions of the Rules of Court, the attorney-client privilege, as currently worded provides:
[28]

Sec. 24. Disqualification by reason of privileged communication. - The following persons cannot testify as to matters learned in confidence in the following cases: xxx An attorney cannot, without the consent of his client, be examined as to any communication made by the client to him, or his advice given thereon in the course of, or with a view to, professional employment, can an attorney‟s secretary,

stenographer, or clerk be examined, without the consent of the client and his employer, concerning any fact the knowledge of which has been acquired in such capacity.
[29]

Further, Rule 138 of the Rules of Court states: Sec. 20. It is the duty of an attorney: (e) to maintain inviolate the confidence, and at every peril to himself, to preserve the secrets of his client, and to accept no compensation in connection with his client‟s business except from him or with his knowledge and approval. This duty is explicitly mandated in Canon 17 of the Code of Professional Responsibility which provides that: Canon 17. A lawyer owes fidelity to the cause of his client and he shall be mindful of the trust and confidence reposed in him. Canon 15 of the Canons of Professional Ethics also demands a lawyer's fidelity to client: The lawyer owes "entire devotion to the interest of the client, warm zeal in the maintenance and defense of his rights and the exertion of his utmost learning and ability," to the end that nothing be taken or be withheld from him, save by the rules of law, legally applied. No fear of judicial disfavor or public popularity should restrain him from the full discharge of his duty. In the judicial forum the client is entitled to the benefit of any and every remedy and defense that is authorized by the law of the land, and he may expect his lawyer to assert every such remedy or defense. But it is steadfastly to be borne in mind that the great trust of the lawyer is to be performed within and not without the bounds of the law. The office of attorney does not permit, much less does it demand of him for any client, violation of law or any manner of fraud or chicanery. He must obey his own conscience and not that of his client. Considerations favoring confidentiality in lawyer-client relationships are many and serve several constitutional and policy concerns. In the constitutional sphere, the privilege gives flesh to one of the most sacrosanct rights available to the accused, the right to counsel. If a client were made to choose between legal representation without effective communication and disclosure and legal representation with all his secrets revealed then he might be compelled, in some instances, to either opt to stay away from the judicial system or to lose the right to counsel. If the price of disclosure is too high, or if it amounts to self incrimination, then the flow of information would be

curtailed thereby rendering the right practically nugatory. The threat this represents against another sacrosanct individual right, the right to be presumed innocent is at once self-evident. Encouraging full disclosure to a lawyer by one seeking legal services opens the door to a whole spectrum of legal options which would otherwise be circumscribed by limited information engendered by a fear of disclosure. An effective lawyer-client relationship is largely dependent upon the degree of confidence which exists between lawyer and client which in turn requires a situation which encourages a dynamic and fruitful exchange and flow of information. It necessarily follows that in order to attain effective representation, the lawyer must invoke the privilege not as a matter of option but as a matter of duty and professional responsibility. The question now arises whether or not this duty may be asserted in refusing to disclose the name of petitioners' client(s) in the case at bar. Under the facts and circumstances obtaining in the instant case, the answer must be in the affirmative. As a matter of public policy, a client‟s identity should not be shrouded in mystery. Under this premise, the general rule in our jurisdiction as well as in the United States is that a lawyer may not invoke the privilege and refuse to divulge the name or identity of his client.
[30] [31]

The reasons advanced for the general rule are well established. First, the court has a right to know that the client whose privileged information is sought to be protected is flesh and blood. Second, the privilege begins to exist only after the attorney-client relationship has been established. The attorney-client privilege does not attach until there is a client. Third, the privilege generally pertains to the subject matter of the relationship. Finally, due process considerations require that the opposing party should, as a general rule, know his adversary. “A party suing or sued is entitled to know who his opponent is.” He cannot be obliged to grope in the dark against unknown forces.
[32] [33]

Notwithstanding these considerations, the general rule is however qualified by some important exceptions.
1) Client identity is privileged where a strong probability exists that revealing the client‟s name would implicate that client in the very activity for which he sought the lawyer‟s advice.

In Ex-Parte Enzor, a state supreme court reversed a lower court order requiring a lawyer to divulge the name of her client on the ground that the subject matter of the relationship was so closely related to the issue of the client‟s identity that the privilege actually attached to both. In Enzor, the unidentified client, an election official, informed his attorney in confidence that he had been offered a bribe to violate election laws or that he had accepted a bribe to that end. In her testimony, the attorney revealed that she had advised her client to count the votes correctly, but averred that she could not remember whether her client had been, in fact, bribed. The lawyer was cited for contempt for her refusal to reveal his client‟s identity before a grand jury. Reversing the lower court‟s contempt orders, the state supreme court held that under the circumstances of the case, and under the exceptions described above, even the name of the client was privileged.
[34]

U.S. v. Hodge and Zweig, involved the same exception, i.e. that client identity is privileged in those instances where a strong probability exists that the disclosure of the client's identity would implicate the client in the very criminal activity for which the lawyer‟s legal advice was obtained.
[35]

The Hodge case involved federal grand jury proceedings inquiring into the activities of the “Sandino Gang,” a gang involved in the illegal importation of drugs in the United States. The respondents, law partners, represented key witnesses and suspects including the leader of the gang, Joe Sandino. In connection with a tax investigation in November of 1973, the IRS issued summons to Hodge and Zweig, requiring them to produce documents and information regarding payment received by Sandino on behalf of any other person, and vice versa. The lawyers refused to divulge the names. The Ninth Circuit of the United States Court of Appeals, upholding non-disclosure under the facts and circumstances of the case, held: A client‟s identity and the nature of that client‟s fee arrangements may be privileged where the person invoking the privilege can show that a strong probability exists that disclosure of such information would implicate that client in the very criminal activity for which legal advice was soughtBaird v. Koerner, 279 F.2d at 680. While in Baird Owe enunciated this rule as a matter of California law, the rule also reflects federal law. Appellants contend that the Baird exception applies to this case. The Baird exception is entirely consonant with the principal policy behind the attorney-client privilege. “In order to promote freedom of consultation of legal advisors by clients, the apprehension of compelled disclosure from the legal advisors must be removed; hence, the law must prohibit such disclosure except on the client‟s consent.” 8 J. Wigmore, supra sec. 2291, at 545. In

furtherance of this policy, the client‟s identity and the nature of his fee arrangements are, in exceptional cases, protected as confidential communications.
[36]

2) Where disclosure would open the client to civil liability, his identity is privileged. For instance, the peculiar facts and circumstances of Neugass v. Terminal Cab Corporation,[37] prompted the New York Supreme Court to allow a lawyer‟s claim to the effect that he could not reveal the name of his client because this would expose the latter to civil litigation.

In the said case, Neugass, the plaintiff, suffered injury when the taxicab she was riding, owned by respondent corporation, collided with a second taxicab, whose owner was unknown. Plaintiff brought action both against defendant corporation and the owner of the second cab, identified in the information only as John Doe. It turned out that when the attorney of defendant corporation appeared on preliminary examination, the fact was somehow revealed that the lawyer came to know the name of the owner of the second cab when a man, a client of the insurance company, prior to the institution of legal action, came to him and reported that he was involved in a car accident. It was apparent under the circumstances that the man was the owner of the second cab. The state supreme court held that the reports were clearly made to the lawyer in his professional capacity. The court said: That his employment came about through the fact that the insurance company had hired him to defend its policyholders seems immaterial. The attorney in such cases is clearly the attorney for the policyholder when the policyholder goes to him to report an occurrence contemplating that it would be used in an action or claim against him.
[38]

xxx

xxx

xxx.

All communications made by a client to his counsel, for the purpose of professional advice or assistance, are privileged, whether they relate to a suit pending or contemplated, or to any other matter proper for such advice or aid; x x x And whenever the communication made, relates to a matter so connected with the employment as attorney or counsel as to afford presumption that it was the ground of the address by the client, then it is privileged from disclosure. xxx. It appears... that the name and address of the owner of the second cab came to the attorney in this case as a confidential communication. His client is not seeking to use the courts, and his address cannot be disclosed on that theory, nor is the present action pending against him as service of the summons on him has not been effected. The objections on which the court reserved decision are sustained.
[39]

In the case of Matter of Shawmut Mining Company, the lawyer involved was required by a lower court to disclose whether he represented certain clients in a certain transaction. The purpose of the court‟s request was to determine whether the unnamed persons as interested parties were connected with the purchase of properties involved in the action. The lawyer refused and brought the question to the State Supreme Court. Upholding the lawyer‟s refusal to divulge the names of his clients the court held:
[40]

If it can compel the witness to state, as directed by the order appealed from, that he represented certain persons in the purchase or sale of these mines, it has made progress in establishing by such evidence their version of the litigation. As already suggested, such testimony by the witness would compel him to disclose not only that he was attorney for certain people, but that, as the result of communications made to him in the course of such employment as such attorney, he knew that they were interested in certain transactions. We feel sure that under such conditions no case has ever gone to the length of compelling an attorney, at the instance of a hostile litigant, to disclose not only his retainer, but the nature of the transactions to which it related, when such information could be made the basis of a suit against his client.
[41]

3) Where the government‟s lawyers have no case against an attorney‟s client unless, by revealing the client‟s name, the said name would furnish the only link that would form the chain of testimony necessary to convict an individual of a crime, the client‟s name is privileged. In Baird vs Korner, a lawyer was consulted by the accountants and the lawyer of certain undisclosed taxpayers regarding steps to be taken to place the undisclosed taxpayers in a favorable position in case criminal charges were brought against them by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
[42]

It appeared that the taxpayers‟ returns of previous years were probably incorrect and the taxes understated. The clients themselves were unsure about whether or not they violated tax laws and sought advice from Baird on the hypothetical possibility that they had. No investigation was then being undertaken by the IRS of the taxpayers. Subsequently, the attorney of the taxpayers delivered to Baird the sum of $12,706.85, which had been previously assessed as the tax due, and another amount of money representing his fee for the advice given. Baird then sent a check for $12,706.85 to the IRS in Baltimore, Maryland, with a note explaining the payment, but without naming his clients. The IRS demanded that Baird identify the lawyers, accountants, and other clients involved. Baird refused on the ground that he did not know their names, and declined to name the

attorney and accountants because this constituted privileged communication. A petition was filed for the enforcement of the IRS summons. For Baird‟s repeated refusal to name his clients he was found guilty of civil contempt. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held that, a lawyer could not be forced to reveal the names of clients who employed him to pay sums of money to the government voluntarily in settlement of undetermined income taxes, unsued on, and with no government audit or investigation into that client‟s income tax liability pending. The court emphasized the exception that a client‟s name is privileged when so much has been revealed concerning the legal services rendered that the disclosure of the client‟s identity exposes him to possible investigation and sanction by government agencies. The Court held: The facts of the instant case bring it squarely within that exception to the general rule. Here money was received by the government, paid by persons who thereby admitted they had not paid a sufficient amount in income taxes some one or more years in the past. The names of the clients are useful to the government for but one purpose - to ascertain which taxpayers think they were delinquent, so that it may check the records for that one year or several years. The voluntary nature of the payment indicates a belief by the taxpayers that more taxes or interest or penalties are due than the sum previously paid, if any. It indicates a feeling of guilt for nonpayment of taxes, though whether it is criminal guilt is undisclosed. But it may well be the link that could form the chain of testimony necessary to convict an individual of a federal crime. Certainly the payment and the feeling of guilt are the reasons the attorney here involved was employed - to advise his clients what, under the circumstances, should be done.
[43]

Apart from these principal exceptions, there exist other situations which could qualify as exceptions to the general rule. For example, the content of any client communication to a lawyer lies within the privilege if it is relevant to the subject matter of the legal problem on which the client seeks legal assistance. Moreover, where the nature of the attorney-client relationship has been previously disclosedand it is the identity which is intended to be confidential, the identity of the client has been held to be privileged, since such revelation would otherwise result in disclosure of the entire transaction.
[44] [45]

Summarizing these exceptions, information relating to the identity of a client may fall within the ambit of the privilege when the client‟s name itself has an independent significance, such that disclosure would then reveal client confidences.
[46]

The circumstances involving the engagement of lawyers in the case at bench, therefore, clearly reveal that the instant case falls under at least two exceptions to the general rule. First, disclosure of the alleged client's name would lead to establish said client's connection with the very fact in issue of the case, which is privileged information, because the privilege, as stated earlier, protects the subject matter or the substance (without which there would be no attorney-client relationship). The link between the alleged criminal offense and the legal advice or legal service sought was duly established in the case at bar, by no less than the PCGG itself. The key lies in the three specific conditions laid down by the PCGG which constitutes petitioners‟ ticket to non-prosecution should they accede thereto: (a) the disclosure of the identity of its clients; (b) submission of documents substantiating the lawyer-client relationship; and (c) the submission of the deeds of assignment petitioners executed in favor of their clients covering their respective shareholdings. From these conditions, particularly the third, we can readily deduce that the clients indeed consulted the petitioners, in their capacity as lawyers, regarding the financial and corporate structure, framework and set-up of the corporations in question. In turn, petitioners gave their professional advice in the form of, among others, the aforementioned deeds of assignment covering their clients‟ shareholdings. There is no question that the preparation of the aforestated documents was part and parcel of petitioners‟ legal service to their clients. More important, it constituted an integral part of their duties as lawyers. Petitioners, therefore, have a legitimate fear that identifying their clients would implicate them in the very activity for which legal advice had been sought, i.e., the alleged accumulation of ill-gotten wealth in the aforementioned corporations. Furthermore, under the third main exception, revelation of the client's name would obviously provide the necessary link for the prosecution to build its case, where none otherwise exists. It is the link, in the words of Baird, “that would inevitably form the chain of testimony necessary to convict the (client) of a... crime."
[47]

An important distinction must be made between a case where a client takes on the services of an attorney for illicit purposes, seeking advice about how to go around the law for the purpose of committing illegal activities and a

case where a client thinks he might have previously committed something illegal and consults his attorney about it. The first case clearly does not fall within the privilege because the same cannot be invoked for purposes illegal. The second case falls within the exception because whether or not the act for which the advice turns out to be illegal, his name cannot be used or disclosed if the disclosure leads to evidence, not yet in the hands of the prosecution, which might lead to possible action against him. These cases may be readily distinguished, because the privilege cannot be invoked or used as a shield for an illegal act, as in the first example; while the prosecution may not have a case against the client in the second example and cannot use the attorney client relationship to build up a case against the latter. The reason for the first rule is that it is not within the professional character of a lawyer to give advice on the commission of a crime. The reason for the second has been stated in the cases above discussed and are founded on the same policy grounds for which the attorney-client privilege, in general, exists.
[48]

In Matter of Shawmut Mining Co., supra, the appellate court therein stated that "under such conditions no case has ever yet gone to the length of compelling an attorney, at the instance of a hostile litigant, to disclose not only his retainer, but the nature of the transactions to which it related, when such information could be made the basis of a suit against his client.” "Communications made to an attorney in the course of any personal employment, relating to the subject thereof, and which may be supposed to be drawn out in consequence of the relation in which the parties stand to each other, are under the seal of confidence and entitled to protection as privileged communications." Where the communicated information, which clearly falls within the privilege, would suggest possible criminal activity but there would be not much in the information known to the prosecution which would sustain a charge except that revealing the name of the client would open up other privileged information which would substantiate the prosecution‟s suspicions, then the client‟s identity is so inextricably linked to the subject matter itself that it falls within the protection. The Baird exception, applicable to the instant case, is consonant with the principal policy behind the privilege, i.e., that for the purpose of promoting freedom of consultation of legal advisors by clients, apprehension of compelled disclosure from attorneys must be eliminated. This exception has likewise been sustained in In re Grand Jury Proceedings and Tillotson v. Boughner. What these cases unanimously seek to avoid is the exploitation of the general rule in what may amount to a fishing expedition by the prosecution.
[49] [50] [51] [52]

There are, after all, alternative sources of information available to the prosecutor which do not depend on utilizing a defendant's counsel as a convenient and readily available source of information in the building of a case against the latter. Compelling disclosure of the client's name in circumstances such as the one which exists in the case at bench amounts to sanctioning fishing expeditions by lazy prosecutors and litigants which we cannot and will not countenance. When the nature of the transaction would be revealed by disclosure of an attorney's retainer, such retainer is obviously protected by the privilege. It follows that petitioner attorneys in the instant case owe their client(s) a duty and an obligation not to disclose the latter's identity which in turn requires them to invoke the privilege.
[53]

In fine, the crux of petitioners' objections ultimately hinges on their expectation that if the prosecution has a case against their clients, the latter's case should be built upon evidence painstakingly gathered by them from their own sources and not from compelled testimony requiring them to reveal the name of their clients, information which unavoidably reveals much about the nature of the transaction which may or may not be illegal. The logical nexus between name and nature of transaction is so intimate in this case that it would be difficult to simply dissociate one from the other. In this sense, the name is as much "communication" as information revealed directly about the transaction in question itself, a communication which is clearly and distinctly privileged. A lawyer cannot reveal such communication without exposing himself to charges of violating a principle which forms the bulwark of the entire attorney-client relationship. The uberrimei fidei relationship between a lawyer and his client therefore imposes a strict liability for negligence on the former. The ethical duties owing to the client, including confidentiality, loyalty, competence, diligence as well as the responsibility to keep clients informed and protect their rights to make decisions have been zealously sustained. In Milbank, Tweed, Hadley and McCloy v. Boon, the US Second District Court rejected the plea of the petitioner law firm that it breached its fiduciary duty to its client by helping the latter's former agent in closing a deal for the agent's benefit only after its client hesitated in proceeding with the transaction, thus causing no harm to its client. The Court instead ruled that breaches of a fiduciary relationship in any context comprise a special breed of cases that often loosen normally stringent requirements of causation and damages, and found in favor of the client.
[54]

To the same effect is the ruling in Searcy, Denney, Scarola, Barnhart, and Shipley P.A. v. Scheller requiring strict obligation of lawyers vis-avis clients. In this case, a contingent fee lawyer was fired shortly before the end of completion of his work, and sought payment quantum meruitof work
[55]

done. The court, however, found that the lawyer was fired for cause after he sought to pressure his client into signing a new fee agreement while settlement negotiations were at a critical stage. While the client found a new lawyer during the interregnum, events forced the client to settle for less than what was originally offered. Reiterating the principle of fiduciary duty of lawyers to clients in Meinhard v. Salmon famously attributed to Justice Benjamin Cardozo that "Not honesty alone, but the punctilio of an honor the most sensitive, is then the standard of behavior," the US Court found that the lawyer involved was fired for cause, thus deserved no attorney's fees at all.
[56]

The utmost zeal given by Courts to the protection of the lawyer-client confidentiality privilege and lawyer's loyalty to his client is evident in the duration of the protection, which exists not only during the relationship, but extends even after the termination of the relationship.
[57]

Such are the unrelenting duties required of lawyers vis-a-vis their clients because the law, which the lawyers are sworn to uphold, in the words of Oliver Wendell Holmes, "xxx is an exacting goddess, demanding of her votaries in intellectual and moral discipline." The Court, no less, is not prepared to accept respondents‟ position without denigrating the noble profession that is lawyering, so extolled by Justice Holmes in this wise:
[58]

Every calling is great when greatly pursued. But what other gives such scope to realize the spontaneous energy of one's soul? In what other does one plunge so deep in the stream of life - so share its passions its battles, its despair, its triumphs, both as witness and actor? x x x But that is not all. What a subject is this in which we are united - this abstraction called the Law, wherein as in a magic mirror, we see reflected, not only in our lives, but the lives of all men that have been. When I think on this majestic theme my eyes dazzle. If we are to speak of the law as our mistress, we who are here know that she is a mistress only to be won with sustained and lonely passion - only to be won by straining all the faculties by which man is likened to God. We have no choice but to uphold petitioners' right not to reveal the identity of their clients under pain of the breach of fiduciary duty owing to their clients, because the facts of the instant case clearly fall within recognized exceptions to the rule that the client‟s name is not privileged information. If we were to sustain respondent PCGG that the lawyer-client confidential privilege under the circumstances obtaining here does not cover the identity of the client, then it would expose the lawyers themselves to possible litigation by their clients in view of the strict fiduciary responsibility imposed on them in the exercise of their duties.

The complaint in Civil Case No. 0033 alleged that the defendants therein, including herein petitioners and Eduardo Cojuangco, Jr. conspired with each other in setting up through the use of coconut levy funds the financial and corporate framework and structures that led to the establishment of UCPB, UNICOM and others and that through insidious means and machinations, ACCRA, using its wholly-owned investment arm, ACCRA Investments Corporation, became the holder of approximately fifteen million shares representing roughly 3.3% of the total capital stock of UCPB as of 31 March 1987. The PCGG wanted to establish through the ACCRA lawyers that Mr. Cojuangco is their client and it was Cojuangco who furnished all the monies to the subscription payment; hence, petitioners acted as dummies, nominees and/or agents by allowing themselves, among others, to be used as instrument in accumulating ill-gotten wealth through government concessions, etc., which acts constitute gross abuse of official position and authority, flagrant breach of public trust, unjust enrichment, violation of the Constitution and laws of the Republic of the Philippines. By compelling petitioners, not only to reveal the identity of their clients, but worse, to submit to the PCGG documents substantiating the client-lawyer relationship, as well as deeds of assignment petitioners executed in favor of its clients covering their respective shareholdings, the PCGG would exact from petitioners a link “that would inevitably form the chain of testimony necessary to convict the (client) of a crime.”
III

In response to petitioners' last assignment of error, respondents allege that the private respondent was dropped as party defendant not only because of his admission that he acted merely as a nominee but also because of his undertaking to testify to such facts and circumstances "as the interest of truth may require, which includes... the identity of the principal."
[59]

First, as to the bare statement that private respondent merely acted as a lawyer and nominee, a statement made in his out-of-court settlement with the PCGG, it is sufficient to state that petitioners have likewise made the same claim not merely out-of- court but also in their Answer to plaintiff's Expanded Amended Complaint, signed by counsel, claiming that their acts were made in furtherance of "legitimate lawyering.” Being "similarly situated" in this regard, public respondents must show that there exist other conditions and circumstances which would warrant their treating the private respondent differently from petitioners in the case at bench in order to evade a violation of the equal protection clause of the Constitution.
[60]

To this end, public respondents contend that the primary consideration behind their decision to sustain the PCGG's dropping of private respondent as a defendant was his promise to disclose the identities of the clients in question. However, respondents failed to show - and absolutely nothing exists in the records of the case at bar - that private respondent actually revealed the identity of his client(s) to the PCGG. Since the undertaking happens to be the leitmotif of the entire arrangement between Mr. Roco and the PCGG, an undertaking which is so material as to have justified PCGG's special treatment exempting the private respondent from prosecution, respondent Sandiganbayan should have required proof of the undertaking more substantial than a "bare assertion" that private respondent did indeed comply with the undertaking. Instead, as manifested by the PCGG, only three documents were submitted for the purpose, two of which were mere requests for re-investigation and one simply disclosed certain clients which petitioners (ACCRA lawyers) were themselves willing to reveal. These were clients to whom both petitioners and private respondent rendered legal services while all of them were partners at ACCRA, and were not the clients which the PCGG wanted disclosed for the alleged questioned transactions.
[61]

To justify the dropping of the private respondent from the case or the filing of the suit in the respondent court without him, therefore, the PCGG should conclusively show that Mr. Roco was treated as a species apart from the rest of the ACCRA lawyers on the basis of a classification which made substantial distinctions based on real differences. No such substantial distinctions exist from the records of the case at bench, in violation of the equal protection clause. The equal protection clause is a guarantee which provides a wall of protection against uneven application of statutes and regulations. In the broader sense, the guarantee operates against uneven application of legal norms so that all persons under similar circumstances would be accorded the same treatment. Those who fall within a particular class ought to be treated alike not only as to privileges granted but also as to the liabilities imposed.
[62]

x x x. What is required under this constitutional guarantee is the uniform operation of legal norms so that all persons under similar circumstances would be accorded the same treatment both in the privileges conferred and the liabilities imposed. As was noted in a recent decision: „Favoritism and undue preference cannot be allowed. For the principle is that equal protection and security shall be given to every person under circumstances, which if not identical are analogous. If law be looked upon in terms of burden or charges, those that fall within a class should be treated in the same fashion, whatever restrictions cast on some in the group equally binding the rest.
[63]

We find that the condition precedent required by the respondent PCGG of the petitioners for their exclusion as parties-defendants in PCGG Case No. 33 violates the lawyer-client confidentiality privilege. The condition also constitutes a transgression by respondents Sandiganbayan and PCGG of the equal protection clause of the Constitution. It is grossly unfair to exempt one similarly situated litigant from prosecution without allowing the same exemption to the others. Moreover, the PCGG‟s demand not only touches upon the question of the identity of their clients but also on documents related to the suspected transactions, not only in violation of the attorney-client privilege but also of the constitutional right against selfincrimination. Whichever way one looks at it, this is a fishing expedition, a free ride at the expense of such rights.
[64]

An argument is advanced that the invocation by petitioners of the privilege of attorney-client confidentiality at this stage of the proceedings is premature and that they should wait until they are called to testify and examine as witnesses as to matters learned in confidence before they can raise their objections. But petitioners are not mere witnesses. They are co-principals in the case for recovery of alleged ill-gotten wealth. They have made their position clear from the very beginning that they are not willing to testify and they cannot be compelled to testify in view of their constitutional right against self-incrimination and of their fundamental legal right to maintain inviolate the privilege of attorney-client confidentiality. It is clear then that the case against petitioners should never be allowed to take its full course in the Sandiganbayan. Petitioners should not be made to suffer the effects of further litigation when it is obvious that their inclusion in the complaint arose from a privileged attorney-client relationship and as a means of coercing them to disclose the identities of their clients. To allow the case to continue with respect to them when this Court could nip the problem in the bud at this early opportunity would be to sanction an unjust situation which we should not here countenance. The case hangs as a real and palpable threat, a proverbial Sword of Damocles over petitioners' heads. It should not be allowed to continue a day longer. While we are aware of respondent PCGG‟s legal mandate to recover illgotten wealth, we will not sanction acts which violate the equal protection guarantee and the right against self-incrimination and subvert the lawyer-client confidentiality privilege. WHEREFORE, IN VIEW OF THE FOREGOING, the Resolutions of respondent Sandiganbayan (First Division) promulgated on March 18, 1992 and May 21, 1992 are hereby ANNULLED and SET ASIDE. Respondent

Sandiganbayan is further ordered to exclude petitioners Teodoro D. Regala, Edgardo J. Angara, Avelino V. Cruz, Jose C. Concepcion, Rogelio A. Vinluan, Victor P. Lazatin, Eduardo U. Escueta and Paraja G. Hayuduni as partiesdefendants in SB Civil Case No. 0033 entitled "Republic of the Philippines v. Eduardo Cojuangco, Jr., et al.".
*

SO ORDERED.

Republic of the Philippines SUPREME COURT Manila SECOND DIVISION

A.C. No. 3745 October 2, 1995 CYNTHIA B. ROSACIA, complainant, vs. ATTY. BENJAMIN B. BULALACAO, respondent. RESOLUTION

FRANCISCO, J.: Complainant Cynthia B. Rosacia, president of Tacma, Phils., Inc., a duly registered corporation, filed a complaint for disbarment dated October 25, 1991, against herein respondent Atty. Benjamin B. Bulalacao. Acting on the complaint, the Court in a resolution dated February 24, 1992, resolved to refer the case to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) for investigation, report and recommendation. Commissioner Victor C. Fernandez, the IBP investigating commissioner, found that respondent breached his oath of office and accordingly recommended respondent's suspension from the practice of law for three (3) months. 1 In a resolution dated July 30, 1994, the IBP Board of Governors resolved to adopt and approve the commissioner's report and recommendation. 2 As found by the IBP, the undisputed facts are as follows: On June 1, 1990, by virtue of a written Agreement (Exh. "3-a"), respondent Atty. Benjamin B. Bulalacao was hired as retained counsel of a corporation by the name of Tacma Phils., Inc. On October 31, 1990, the lawyer-client relationship between the respondent and Tacma Phils., Inc. was severed as shown by another agreement of even date (Exh. "3-b").

On July, 1991, or after almost nine (9) months from the date respondent's retainer agreement with Tacma, Phils., Inc. was terminated, several employees of the corporation consulted the respondent for the purpose of filing an action for illegal dismissal. Thereafter, he agreed to handle the case for the said employees as against Tacma, Phils., Inc. by filing a complaint before the National Labor Relations Commission, and appearing in their behalf. 3

The sole issue to be addressed is whether or not respondent breached his oath of office for representing the employees of his former client, Tacma, Phils., Inc., after the termination of their attorney-client relationship. We agree with the findings of the IBP that respondent breached his oath of office. Respondent does not now dispute this. In fact, in his motion for reconsideration, respondent admitted that he "did commit an act bordering on grave misconduct, if not outright violation of his attorney's oath". 4 However, respondent is pleading for the Court's compassion and leniency to reduce the IBP recommended three months suspension to either fine or admonition with the following proffered grounds: that he is relatively new in the profession having been admitted to the Philippine Bar on April 10, 1990 at the age of 46 when the complained conduct was committed on August 1991; that he is of humble beginnings and his suspension will deprive his family of its only source of livelihood he being the sole bread winner in the family; that he has fully realized his mistake and the gravity of his offense for which he is fully repentant; that he has severed his attorney-client relationship with the employees of Tacma, Phils., Inc. by inhibiting himself and withdrawing his appearance as counsel in the labor case against Tacma, Phils., Inc.; and that he pledges not to commit the same mistake and to henceforth strictly adhere to the professional standards set forth by the Code of Professional Responsibility. The Court reiterates that an attorney owes loyalty to his client not only in the case in which he has represented him but also after the relation of attorney and client has terminated as it is not good practice to permit him afterwards to defend in another case other person against his former client under the pretext that the case is distinct from, and independent of the former case. 5 It behooves respondent not only to keep inviolate the client's confidence, but also to avoid the appearance of treachery and double dealing for only then can litigants be encouraged to entrust their secrets to their attorneys which is of paramount importance in the administration of justice. 6 The relation of attorney and client is one of confidence and trust in the highest degree. 7 A lawyer owes fidelity to the cause of his client and he ought to be mindful of the trust and confidence reposed in him. 8 An attorney not only becomes familiar with all the facts connected with his client's cause, but also learns from his client the weak and strong points of the case. No opportunity must be given attorneys to take advantage of the secrets of clients obtained while the confidential relation of attorney and client exists. Otherwise, the legal profession will suffer by the loss of the confidence of the people. 9 Respondent's plea for leniency cannot be granted. We note that respondent is new in the profession as he was just admitted to the Philippine Bar on April 10, 1990, when the breach of his oath of office occurred more than a year after. Having just hurdled the bar examinations which included an examination in legal ethics, surely the precepts of the Code of Professional Responsibility to keep inviolate the client's trust and confidence even after the attorney-client relation is terminated 10 must have been still fresh in his mind. A lawyer starting to establish his stature in the legal profession must start right and dutifully abide by the norms of conduct of the profession. This will ineluctably redound to his benefit and to the upliftment of the legal profession as well. ACCORDINGLY, respondent is hereby SUSPENDED from the practice of law for three months. Let this resolution be attached to respondent's record in the Office of the Bar Confidant and copies thereof furnished to all courts and to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines. Regalado, Puno and Mendoza, JJ., concur.

Narvasa, C.J., is on leave.

Republic of the Philippines SUPREME COURT Manila SECOND DIVISION

A.C. No. 2736 May 27, 1991 LORENZANA FOOD CORPORATION represented by Mr. SOLOMON U. LORENZANA, JR., as its President and General Manager, and/or Mrs. ELIZABETH L. DIAZ, as its VicePresident, petitioners, vs. ATTY. FRANCISCO L. DARIA, respondent. Jose Feliciano Loy, Jr. for petitioners. RESOLUTION

PER CURIAM:p The respondent lawyer, Atty. Francisco L. Daria, is administratively charged 1 on two counts, to wit: 1. Negligence and 2. Betrayal of his former client's confidences. A verified complaint dated February 22, 1985 was filed by Lorenzana Food Corporation LFC, hereinafter), and received by the Court on February 25, 1985. 2 The Court, on June 10, 1985, resolved to refer this case to the Office of the Solicitor General for investigation, report, and recommendation. After proper proceedings, the Office of the Solicitor General submitted its "Report and Recommendation," dated February 21, 1990 and received by the Court on February 26, 1990. From the findings made by the Solicitor General, the pertinent facts may be summarized as follows: Respondent Francisco L. Daria is charged with negligence and betrayal of his former client's confidences. The following facts are in connection with the charge of negligence:

Respondent was hired by complainant Lorenzana Food Corporation (LFC) on January 8, 1981 as its legal counsel and was designated as its personnel manager six months later (tsn. pp. 6-7, Dec. 9, 1985). On May 23, 1983, LFC employee, Violeta Hanopol, filed a complaint for illegal dismissal and other monetary claims against complainant before the Ministry (now Department) of Labor and Employment (MOLE). On May 30, 1983, summons was served on the parties with the requirement that position papers be submitted (Exh. G). During the initial hearing on June 13, 1973 * (sic) Hanopol and respondent tried to explore the possibility of an amicable settlement. Since no agreement was reached the hearing was reset to June 17, 1983. On the pretext that Hanopol was supposed to go to his office on that date respondent failed to appear for the second setting (tsn. pp. 14-15, Dec. 9, 1985). So, the Labor Arbiter was constrained to further reset the hearing to June 28, 1983. Respondent received on June 23, 1983 the Order for the resetting to June 1983 (Exh. J). In the meantime, on June 20, 1983, respondent received an Order in another labor case, setting the hearing therein also on June 28, 1983 (Exh. H-6). Faced with a conflicting schedule, respondent decided to move to postpone the hearing in the Hanopol case. However, instead of filing a written motion for postponement, he opted to call, through his secretary, the Office of the Labor Arbiter to move for postponement (Exh. H-5; tsn. p. 16, Dec. 9, 1985). Respondent's telephone message apparently failed to reach the Labor Arbiter, because at the hearing on June 28, 1983, he considered the case submitted for decision on the basis of Hanopol's complaint and affidavit (Exh. G-1). Respondent had not submitted a position paper. After a month, on July 29, 1983, the Labor Arbiter issued a Decision directing LFC to pay Hanopol the total sum of P6,469.60 in labor benefits, on the basis of Hanopol's evidence alone. Respondent Daria appealed the Decision to the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) on August 23, 1983 (Exh. 4). The case was remanded to the Labor Arbiter for further proceedings. The case was set for hearing on June 25, 1984 and July 12, 1984 wherein attempts for an amicable settlement still proved futile. The Labor Arbiter set two more dates for hearing: July 27, 1984 and August 8, 1984 (tsn. pp. 21-22, Dec. 9, 1985). In the meantime, the middle of June 1984, respondent signified to management his intention to resign. In the light of this development, management hired Atty. Rogelio Udarbe to take his place on July 16, 1984, the effective date of his resignation (Exh. 2). Respondent endorsed the cases of complainant to Atty. Udarbe (tsn. pp. 23-25, Dec. 9, 1985). During the hearings in the Hanopol case on July 27, 1984 and August 8, 1984, no one appeared for complainant. So, on August 15, 1984, Hanopol filed a "Manifestation and Motion" praying that the earlier Decision of the Labor Arbiter dated July 29, 1983 be revived. (Exh. 5). On September 1, 1984, Atty. Jose Loy, Jr. was hired by complainant LFC vice Atty. Udarbe and he immediately came across the abovementioned "Manifestation and Motion". On September 5, 1984, he filed an Opposition (Exh. 6) thereto, and on September 19, 1984, he followed this up with a position paper for LFC (Exh. 7).

However, the Labor Arbiter had already revived his earlier Decision dated July 29, 1983 in another Decision dated September 4, 1984, thereby prompting Atty. Loy to appeal the latter Decision (Exh. 3). In a resolution dated May 9, 1985, the NLRC ordered anew the remand of the case for further proceedings (Exh. 8). In connection with the other charge of betrayal by respondent of his former client's confidences, the following facts appear on record: While respondent was still connected with complainant, its general manager, Sebastian Cortes, issued a memorandum dated February 28, 1984 (Exh. C) to its employee, Roberto San Juan, requiring him to submit a written explanation for his alleged double liquidation and unliquidated cash advances. Another memorandum dated March 15, 1984 (Exh. D) was issued this time by complainant's internal auditor, Rosario L. Bernardo, addressed to complainant's president, summing up San Juan's unliquidated advances amounting to P9,351.15. Respondent was furnished a copy of this memorandum (Exh. D-3). The executive committee, to which respondent belongs, investigated San Juan on his unliquidated advances. On account of the gravity of the charge, respondent placed San Juan under preventive suspension, per his letter to him dated April 25, 1984 (Exh. E).
On September 20, 1984, when respondent had already resigned, complainant sent a demand letter to San Juan requiring him to restitute the amount of P9,351.15 (Exh. N-2). Since he failed to pay the amount demanded, a complaint for estafa was lodged against him before the Office of the Provincial Fiscal. San Juan thereafter resigned and sought the assistance of respondent in the preparation of his counteraffidavit in January 1985 (tsn. p. 35, Nov. 5, 1985). Respondent prepared San Juan's counteraffidavit and signed it (Exh. F). San Juan then submitted his counteraffidavit to the Office of the Provincial Fiscal (tsn. p. 42, Nov. 5, 1985). 3

xxx xxx xxx For failure to appear in two consecutive hearings and to submit a position paper in the Hanopol case which resulted in complainant LFC's default and judgment against it by the Labor Arbiter, the respondent is faulted for negligence. The respondent avers that Hanopol should have seen him in his office to work out a compromise agreement, on the scheduled day of the second hearing, June 17, 1983, but did not. 4 It is the finding of the Solicitor General that this excuse by the respondent is not borne by the Constancia 5 setting the case for hearing. The Constancia clearly states: "By agreement of the parties, case reset to June 17, 1983 at 2:00 p.m. as previously scheduled." 6 Since it was signed by both Hanopol and the respondent, the Solicitor General argues that the respondent's explanation is manifestly unsatisfactory. With regard to his second non-appearance for the hearing on June 2, 1983, the respondent justified his absence by claiming that he had another hearing on the same date and that he told his secretary to call up the Office of the Labor Arbiter to have the hearing of the Hanopol case postponed. 7 The Solicitor General avers:
. . . It is submitted that respondent's actuation was not warranted by the circumstances. As it turned out, the telephone request apparently did not reach the Labor Arbiter, thereby constraining him to declare complainant in default and render judgment against it. 8

In an effort to extricate himself from this charge, the respondent submits that since he was able to persuade the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) on appeal to set aside the Decision of the Labor Arbiter and to remand the case for further proceedings, then the charge of negligence should be considered moot and academic already. 9 We find this submission not meritorious. Instead, we agree ,with the position of the Solicitor General:
Respondent's plea is untenable. The setting aside of the adverse Decision of the Labor Arbiter cannot obliterate the effects of respondent's negligence. Indeed, had respondent attended the two scheduled hearings and filed the required position paper, then at least, there would have been no delay in the resolution of the case, which, perhaps, would have been in favor of complainant. The delay, by itself, was prejudicial to complainant because it deprived successor-counsel Atty. Loy of time which he should be devoting to other cases of complainant. In fact he had to prepare complainant's position paper which respondent should have done earlier (Exh. 7). 10

From the foregoing, it is manifest that the respondent is indeed guilty of negligence, a clear violation of the Code of Professional Responsibility: 11 CANON 18 — A LAWYER SHALL SERVE HIS CLIENT WITH COMPETENCE AND DILIGENCE Rule 18.03 — A lawyer shall not neglect a legal matter entrusted to him and his negligence in connection therewith shall render him liable. The other accusation against the respondent by the Solicitor General was that he had betrayed complainant LFC's confidences in violation of the then Canon 37 of the old Canons of Professional Ethics, to wit: It is the duty of a lawyer to preserve his client's confidences. This duty outlasts the lawyer's employment, and extends as well to his employee's and neither of them should accept employment which involves or may involve the disclosure or use of these confidences, either for the private advantages of the client, without his knowledge and consent, and even though there are other available sources of such information. A lawyer should not continue employment when he discovers that this obligation prevents the performance of his full duty to his former or to his new client. xxx xxx xxx Superseded by the Code of Professional Responsibility, the appropriate Canon now is: CANON 17 — A LAWYER OWES FIDELITY TO THE CAUSE OF HIS CLIENT AND HE SHALL BE MINDFUL OF THE TRUST AND CONFIDENCE REPOSED IN HIM. The Solicitor General further found that the respondent assisted Roberto San Juan in the preparation of the counter-affidavit, 12 submitted in defense of the latter in the accusation of estafa filed against San Juan by LFC As a matter of fact, the respondent signed the jurat of the San Juan counter-affidavit he (respondent) helped prepare. It is also a fact that the respondent investigated this same charge of estafa while he was still the lawyer of the complainant and San Juan still likewise an employee of LFC

Again, we concur with the findings and evaluation of the Office of the Solicitor General: . . . Respondent, however, tried to extricate himself from his predicament by testifying that the counteraffidavit was prepared by a lawyer-friend, Atty. Joselito R. Enriquez, who had his (respondent's) name typed on it; that after reading it, he called up Atty. Enriquez so that he will delete his name and signature thereon; that he instructed San Juan to bring the counteraffidavit to Atty. Enriquez so that he will delete his name and signature, but San Juan did not obey him; and that San Juan filed the counteraffidavit with the office of the Provincial Fiscal with his name and signature still on it (tsn. pp. 47-51, Dec. 9, 1985).
It is submitted that, apart from being a mere afterthought, respondent's explanation is incredible. His foregoing testimony is not reflected in his comment on the complaint . . .
13

We are convinced that the respondent had betrayed the confidences of the complainant, his former client.
. . . An attorney owes loyalty to his client not only in the case in which he has represented him but also after the relation of attorney and client has terminated, and it is not a good practice to permit him afterwards to defend in another case other persons against his former client under the pretext that the case is distinct from and independent of the former case. 14

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the respondent is found guilty of both the charge of negligence, a transgression of Rule 18.03, Canon 18, and the charge of betrayal of his former client's confidences, in violation of Canon 17 of the Code of Professional Responsibility. The respondent is hereby SUSPENDED from the practice of law for a period of six (6) months. Let this Decision be entered in the personal records of the respondent and copies thereof furnished to all courts and IBP chapters. SO ORDERED. Melencio-Herrera, Paras, Padilla, Sarmiento and Regalado, JJ., concur.

THIRD DIVISION

[A.C. No. 4566. December 10, 2004]

UNITY FISHING DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION, complainant, vs. ATTY. DANILO G. MACALINO, respondent. RESOLUTION

GARCIA, J.:

Under consideration is this petition by way of a complaint for disbarment filed by Unity Fishing Development Corporation against Atty. Danilo Macalino for having violated Canon 16 of the Code of Professional Responsibility. In its resolution of June 26, 1996, the Court required respondent to comment on the complaint within ten (10) days from notice.
[1]

On July 26, 1996, respondent filed a motion for extension of thirty (30) days within which to file comment, which motion was granted by the Court in its resolution of August 21, 1996.
[2] [3]

On August 26, 1996, respondent filed another motion for extension, this time for an additional period of fifteen (15) days. The motion was similarly granted by the Court in its resolution of October 7, 1996.
[4] [5]

Still, on September 19, 1996, respondent filed a third and “last extension of time to file comment”. Again, this was granted by the Court via its resolution of November 27, 1996.
[6] [7]

Unfortunately, no comment was ever filed by respondent. Hence, and taking note of complainant‟s “Motion to Conduct Further Proceedings”, filed on March 23, 1998, the Court, in its resolution of April 27, 1998, referred the case to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP), for investigation, report and recommendation.
[8] [9]

Acting on the referral, the IBP Commission on Bar Discipline designated Atty. Cesar R. Dulay as investigating commissioner. It appears, however, that even while the case was already under formal investigation, respondent displayed the same attitude of lack of concern. As reported by Atty. Dulay: The Commission issued a notice setting the case for hearing on October 8, 1998, at which hearing complainant represented by its legal counsel and respondent appeared. Again, respondent asked for fifteen days from October 8, 1998 to file his Answer. Complainant also asked the same period within which to file his reply. On November 5, 1998, respondent filed an urgent motion for extension of time to file answer.

On November 9, 1998, respondent again filed an urgent motion for last extension of time or a period of fifteen (15) days from November 15, 1998 to file answer, which was granted by the Commission. Since the respondent has not filed his answer as required by the Honorable Supreme Court and the Commission, the case was again set for hearing on November 9, 1999. On said date, only the counsel for complainant appeared. Respondent was absent. However, records show the notice sent to him was returned unserved with the annotation “Moved.” Records also show that respondent has not filed his answer and again he was given a last chance to file his answer within ten (10) days from receipt of the Order dated November 9, 1999 and the hearing of the case was reset to December 9, 1999. On December 9, 1999, only counsel for complainant appeared and moved that respondent‟s right to file answer be deemed waived and that complainant be allowed to file Memorandum after which, the case shall be deemed submitted for resolution. On December 14, 1999, respondent again filed an Urgent Motion for Extension of fifteen (15) days from December 4, 1999 within which to file his answer. On January 7, 2000, the complainant filed a Memorandum, a copy of which was furnished to respondent and which was not controverted by respondent. All told, respondent filed six (6) motions for extension of time to file Answer and up to this time, which is almost seven (7) years from the time the Honorable Supreme Court required respondent to file his answer to the complaint, respondent has not filed any answer,
[10]

on account of which the investigating commissioner considered the case as “now ready for resolution”.
[11]

Thereafter, the investigating commissioner submitted his Report. Dated January 20, 2003, the Report recites the factual background of the case and the commissioner‟s discussion and findings thereon, thus:
[12]

“Frabal Fishing and Ice Plant Corporation (hereinafter, Frabal) was the owner of a parcel of land located along Ramon Magsaysay Boulevard, Sta. Mesa, Manila which was leased to Wheels Distributors, Inc. (hereinafter, Wheels), an authorized dealer of cars and motor vehicles of various make; A dispute arose between Frabal and Wheels regarding the terms and conditions of the lease contract. The dispute eventually led to a lawsuit. Frabal hired the services of

respondent Atty. Danilo G. Macalino as counsel for the purpose of representing its interest in the said lawsuit; Frabal merged and was absorbed by Petitioner corporation on February 12, 1991, with the former conveying, assigning and transferring all its business assets and liabilities to the latter, including all judicial and extra-judicial claims. Hence, Petitioner was substituted in lieu of Frabal in the former‟s lawsuit with Wheels; As Petitioner‟s legal counsel, Respondent advised Petitioner to severe all contractual relationship with Wheels as a step towards eventually evicting the latter from the property they were occupying; Hence, upon advice of Respondent, the contract of lease between Frabal and Wheels was terminated. Respondent likewise advised Petitioner to return the guarantee deposit equivalent to two (2) months rental or the amount of P50,000.00 to Wheels; On March 2, 1988, Petitioner prepared Metrobank Check No. MB350288 dated March 8, 1988 for the amount of P50,000.00. The check was crossed and made payable to the Wheels Distributors, Inc. (Annex “A”). Respondent volunteered to bring the check to the office of Wheels himself and to make them accept it. Hence, on March 3, 1988, Respondent sent his representative to Petitioner‟s office to get the said check; Respondent‟s representative duly received the said check from Petitioner, as proof of which he signed Check Voucher No. 3-012 (Annex “B”); Thereafter, Respondent represented to Petitioner that he was able to deliver the check to Wheels Distributors, Inc.; The suit between Petitioner and Wheels continued for several years. In the meantime, Petitioner changed counsels, replacing Respondent with someone else; Finally, sometime in May 1994, the suit ended in amicable settlement. In the process of negotiating the terms and conditions of the settlement, Wheels informed Petitioner that it never received therefund (sic) guarantee deposit in the amount of P50,000.00; Petitioner was shocked to learn this piece of information from Wheels Distributors as all along Respondent had represented to Petitioner that Wheels has already received the guarantee deposit of P50,000.00;

Petitioner searched its files for the subject check. After locating the check, Petitioner noted that at the back of the check was a rubber stamp marking indicating that it was deposited with the United Savings Bank Head Office on May 13, 1988 to Account No. CA-483-3. United Savings Bank has since been acquired by the United Coconut Planters Bank (UCPB) and is now known as UCPB Savings Bank; Petitioner checked with Wheels Distributors from whom it later learned that the latter never maintained an account with the United Savings Bank, now the UCPB Savings Bank; Petitioner wrote to Respondent on May 19, 1994 to explain why the check in issue never reached Wheels Distributors and how it was endorsed and encashed despite the fact that it was a crossed check (Copy of said letter is Annex “C”); Despite receipt of said letter, however, Respondent never responded nor attempted to explain his side to what strongly appears to be a gross misappropriation of the money for his own personal use; Hence, Petitioner was constrained to institute an action for damages against Respondent Danilo G. Macalino as well as UCPB Savings Bank with the Regional Trial Court of Malabon, Branch 72 where the same is now docketed as Civil Case No. 2382-MN; That Respondent misappropriated the amount of P50,000.00 for his own personal use cannot be denied. An employee of UCPB in the person of Eduardo Estremadura testified in the aforestated case for damages that Respondent Atty. Danilo G. Macalino was the one maintaining Account No. CA-483-37 at UCPB, to which the crossed check payable to Wheels was deposited (TSN, p. 8, Aug. 24, 1995, copy of the TSN is Annex “D”); The Metrobank Check No. MB350288 dated March 8, 1988 for the amount of P50,000.00 was deposited to Respondent‟s account is further shown in United Savings Bank Current Account Deposit Slip accomplished by Respondent when he deposited said check with United Savings Bank on May 13, 1988 (Copy of said deposit slip is Annex “E”). DISCUSSION AND FINDINGS: Respondent Atty. Danilo G. Macalino was given all the opportunity to answer and present his defenses to the complaint. Regrettably, the records show that despite the orders of the Supreme Court and this Commission respondent has not taken any step to verify and inquire as to the status of the complaint against him. Almost three years

since the submission of the complainant‟s memorandum, respondent has not reacted nor made any move to protect himself and answer the complaint. Due process consists in being given the opportunity to be heard and we believe that in this case respondent has been given all the opportunity to be heard. On the basis of the above, the investigating commissioner concluded his Report with the following RECOMMENDATION WHEREFORE, it is respectfully recommended that respondent be suspended from the practice of law for two (2) years and be ordered to account to complainant the amount of P50,000.00. Respondent should be warned that a similar offense will merit a more severe penalty.
[13]

On June 21, 2003, the IBP Board of Governors passed Resolution No. XV-2003-341, adopting and approving the report and recommendation of the investigating commissioner with a modification as to the penalty, to wit:
[14]

RESOLVED to ADOPT and APPROVE, as it is hereby ADOPTED, 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 as to the penalty to conform to the evidence, and considering respondent‟s failure to account for the funds received by him in trust from complainant in gross violation of Canon 16 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, as well as for respondent‟s lax, remiss and untroubled attitude in this case, Atty. Danilo G. Macalino is hereby SUSPENDED from the practice of law for one (1) year and Ordered to account to complainant the amount of P50,000.00 with a Warning that a similar offense will merit a more severe penalty. This resolution is now before us for confirmation. The relationship between a lawyer and a client is highly fiduciary; it requires a high degree of fidelity and good faith. It is designed “to remove all such temptation and to prevent everything of that kind from being done for the protection of the client”. So it is that the Code of Professional Responsibility provides:
[15]

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. The Canon of Professional Ethics is even more explicit when it states: The lawyer should refrain from any action whereby for his personal benefit or gain he abuses or takes advantages of the confidence reposed in him by his client. Money of the client or collected for the client or other trust property coming into the possession of the lawyer should be reported and accounted for promptly, and should not under any circumstances be commingled with his own or be used by him. (par. 11) Here, we are in full accord with the findings, conclusion and recommendation of the IBP Board of Governors that respondent misappropriated the money entrusted to him and which he failed to account for to his client despite demand therefor. Respondent‟s failure to rebut complainant‟s evidence clearly reveals his failure to live up to his duties as a lawyer in consonance with the lawyer‟s oath and the Code of Professional Responsibility. His repeated failure without any valid reason to comply with the orders of the Court requiring him to comment on the complaint lends credence to the allegations thereof and manifests his tacit admission of the same. As aptly found by Commissioner Dulay, the following uncontroverted facts as supported by the annexes of the complaint had been established: “1. that Metrobank Check No. MB350288 in the amount of P50,000.00 payable to Wheels Distributors (Annex „A‟ of Petition) was prepared by Frabal Fishing & Ice Plant Corporation (Annex „B‟ Petition) and released to respondent‟s representative; 2. that the said Metrobank Check No. [MB350288] was deposited to Account No. 0110004833 under Account Name Danilo G. Macalino at the United Savings Bank (Annex “E” of Petition);

3. that on 19 May 1994 complainant wrote a letter to respondent (Annex „C‟ of Petition) advising the latter that the Metrobank Check intended for Wheel Distributors, Inc. was not received by them (Wheels Distributors) yet it was endorsed and encashed. Respondent was therefore requested to explain how the particular check was encashed. Respondent received the letter on May 23, 1994 (Annex „C-3‟ of Petition) and the records do not show that respondent replied to the latter requiring him to explain; and 4. that complainant filed a civil case against UCPB Savings Bank, and Danilo Macalino before the Regional Trial Court of Malabon, Metro Manila docketed as Civil Case No. 2382-MN (Annex „D‟ of Petition) and at the hearing of said case on August 24, 1995, witness Eduardo Estremadura, a bookeeper of UCPB Bank positively testified that Danilo G. Macalino was the maintainer of Account No. CA483-3 of the UCPB Savings Bank, Legaspi Branch (page 8 & 9 Annex „D‟, TSN of hearing of Civil Case No. 2382-MN) and that Check No. 350288 was deposited to the Account of Danilo G. Macalino under CA-483-3 on May 13, 1988 (page 9 of Annex „D‟, TSN of hearing); and was credited to the account of Danilo G. Macalino (page 12 of Annex „D‟, TSN of hearing of Civil Case No. 2382-MN)” ,
[16]

from which established facts, the investigating commissioner made the following conclusions: “1. that Metrobank Check No. 350288 in the amount of P50,000.00 which was intended for Wheels Distributors, Inc. was deposited and the amount credited to Account No. 483-3 of respondent Danilo G. Macalino with the UCPB Savings Bank. 2. that respondent when required by the complainant to explain and account for the amount of P50,000.00 caused by Metrobank Check No. 350288 which was not intended for him failed to reply and give any accounting of such funds to complainant”.
[17]

Respondent‟s wanton failure to make an accounting and to return to his client the amount entrusted to him upon demand give rise to the presumption that he misappropriated it, in violation of the trust and confidence reposed on him. His act of holding on to complainant‟s money without its acquiescence is conduct indicative of lack of integrity and propriety. A lawyer, under his oath, pledges himself not to delay any man for money and is bound to conduct himself with all good fidelity to his client.
[18] [19]

It is clear, therefore, that respondent, by depositing the check in his own account and subsequently deceiving his client into believing that he delivered the same to Wheels is undoubtedly guilty of deceit, malpractice, gross

misconduct and unethical behavior. He caused dishonor, not merely to himself but to the noble profession to which he belongs. For, it cannot be denied that the respect of litigants to the profession is inexorably diminished whenever a member of the Bar betrays their trust and confidence. Like judges, lawyers must not only be clean; they must also appear clean. This way, the people‟s faith in the justice system remains undisturbed.
[20] [21]

What is more, respondent‟s repeated failures to comply with the orders of the Court requiring him to comment on the complaint indicate a high degree of irresponsibility on his part. We have no hesitance, then, in confirming the resolution passed by the IBP Board of Governors suspending respondent from the practice of law for one (1) year. We could have taken a more drastic action against respondent, but considering that he has no prior administrative record, it is our sentiment that the recommended penalty serves the purpose of protecting the interest of the public and the legal profession. After all, inEspiritu vs. Cabredo, we imposed the same penalty on an attorney who similarly failed to account the money received from his client and to restitute it without any reason.
[22]

WHEREFORE, Atty. Danilo G. Macalino is hereby declared guilty of violation of Canon 16 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, for his failure to immediately return and deliver the funds of his former client upon demand, and is hereby SUSPENDED from the practice of law for a period of one (1) year effective immediately, with a STERN WARNING that a repetition of the same or similar acts shall be dealt with more severely. He is likewise ordered to return the sum of P50,000 to complainant within ten (10) hereof. Let copies of the Resolution be entered into respondent‟s record as an attorney and be furnished the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) and all the courts in the country for their information and guidance. SO ORDERED. Panganiban, (Chairman), JJ., concur. Corona, J., on leave. Sandoval-Gutierrez, and Carpio-Morales,

SECOND DIVISION

[A.C. No. 5020. December 18, 2001]

ROSARIO JUNIO, complainant, GRUPO, respondent.

vs. ATTY.

SALVADOR

M.

DECISION
MENDOZA, J.:

This is a complaint for disbarment filed against Atty. Salvador M. Grupo for malpractice and gross misconduct. Complainant Rosario N. Junio alleged that 

3. Sometime in 1995, [she] engaged the services of [respondent], then a private practitioner, for the redemption of a parcel of land covered by Transfer Certificate of Title No. 20394 registered in the name of her parents, spouses Rogelio and Rufina Nietes, and located at Concepcion, Loay, Bohol. 4. On 21 August 1995, [complainant] entrusted to [respondent] the amount of P25,000.00 in cash to be used in the redemption of the aforesaid property. Respondent received the said amount as evidenced by an acknowledgment receipt, a copy of which is being hereto attached as Annex “A”. 5. Notwithstanding the foregoing and for no valid reason, respondent did not redeem the property; as a result of which the right of redemption was lost and the property was eventually forfeited. 6. Because of respondent‟s failure to redeem the property, complainant had demanded [the] return of the money which she entrusted to the former for the abovestated purpose. 7. Despite repeated demands made by the complainant and without justifiable cause, respondent has continuously refused to refund the money entrusted to him.
[1]

In his Answer, petitioner admitted receiving the amount in question for the purpose for which it was given. However, he alleged that

6. The subject land for which the money of complainant was initially intended to be applied could really not be redeemed anymore . . ; 7. Complainant knew the mortgage agreement between her parents and the mortgageowner had already expired, and what respondent was trying to do was a sort of [a] desperate, last-ditch attempt to persuade the said mortgagee to relent and give back the land to the mortgagors with the tender of redemption; but at this point, the

mortgagee simply would not budge anymore. For one reason or another, he would no longer accept the sum offered; 8. By the time that complainant was to return to Manila, it was already a foregone matter that respondent‟s efforts did not succeed. And so, when transaction failed, respondent requested the complainant that he be allowed, in the meantime, to avail of the money because he had an urgent need for some money himself to help defray his children‟s educational expenses. It was really a personal request, a private matter between respondent and complainant, thus, respondent executed a promissory note for the amount, a copy of which is probably still in the possession of the complainant. 9. . . . [T]he family of the complainant and that of the respondent were very close and intimate with each other. Complainant, as well as two of her sisters, had served respondent‟s family as household helpers for many years when they were still in Manila, and during all those times they were treated with respect, affection, and equality. They were considered practically part of respondent‟s own family. That is why, when complainant requested . . . assistance regarding the problem of the mortgaged property which complainant wanted to redeem, respondent had no secondthoughts in extending a lending hand . . . . Respondent did not ask for any fee. His services were purely gratuitous; his acts [were] on his own and by his own. It was more than pro bono; it was not even for charity; it was simply an act of a friend for a friend. It was just lamentably unfortunate that his efforts failed. .... Of course, respondent accepts his fault, because, indeed, there were occasions when complainant‟s sisters came to respondent to ask for the payment in behalf of complainant, and he could not produce the money because the circumstances somehow, did not allow it. [I]t does not mean that respondent will not pay, or that he is that morally depraved as to wilfully and deliberately re[nege] in his obligation towards the complainant.
[2]

Complainant filed a reply denying that respondent informed her of his failure to redeem the property and that respondent requested her to instead lend the money to him.[3] The case was thereafter referred to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) for investigation, report, and recommendation. However, while two hearings were set for this purpose, both were postponed at the instance of respondent. For this reason, on August 28, 2000, complainant asked the Investigating Commissioner[4] to consider the case submitted for decision on the basis of the pleadings theretofore filed. Respondent was required to comment on

complainant‟s motion, but he failed to do so. Consequently, the case was considered submitted for resolution. In his report, dated January 5, 2001, the Investigating Commissioner found respondent liable for violation of Rule 16.04 of the Code of Professional Responsibility which forbids lawyers from borrowing money from their clients unless the latter‟s interests are “protected by the nature of the case or by independent advice.” The Investigating Commissioner found that respondent failed to pay his client‟s money. However, in view of respondent‟s admission of liability and “plea for magnanimity,” the Investigating Commissioner recommended that respondent be simply reprimanded and ordered to pay the amount of P25,000.00 loan plus interest at the legal rate. In its Resolution No. XIV-2001-183, dated April 29, 2001, the IBP Board of Governors adopted and approved the Investigating Commissioner‟s findings. However, it ordered 

[R]espondent . . . suspended indefinitely from the practice of law for the commission of an act which falls short of the standard of the norm of conduct required of every attorney and . . . ordered [him] to return to the complainant the amount of P25,000.00 plus interest at the legal rate from the time the said amount was misappropriated, until full payment; provided that the total suspension shall be at least one (1) year from the date of said full payment.
On July 4, 2001, respondent filed a motion for reconsideration alleging that 
(a) there was no actual hearing of the case wherein respondent could have fully ventilated and defended his position; (b) the subject Resolution gravely modified the Report and Recommendation of the Trial Commissioner, Hon. Pedro Magpayo, Jr., . . . such that the resultant sanctions that are ordered imposed are too leonine, unjust and cruel; (c) that the factual circumstances attending the matter which gave rise to the complaint were not rightly or fairly appreciated.[5]

He argues that the Court should adopt the report and recommendation of the IBP Investigating Commissioner. In its resolution of August 15, 2001, the Court resolved to treat respondent‟s motion for reconsideration as a petition for review of IBP Resolution No. XIV 2001-183 and required complainant to comment on the petition. In her comment, complainant states that her primary interest is to recover the amount of P25,000.00 with interest and that she is leaving it to the Court to decide whether respondent deserves the penalty recommended by the IBP.[6] The Court resolves to partially grant the petition. In his report and recommendation, Investigating Commissioner Magpayo, Jr. made the following findings:

In his Answer, the respondent ADMITS all the allegations in paragraph 4 of the complaint which avers:

4. On 21 August 1995, complainant entrusted to respondent the amount of P25,000.00 in cash to be used in the redemption of the aforesaid property (parcel of land covered by TCT No. 20394 registered in the name of complainant‟s parents located at Concepcion, Loay, Bohol). Respondent received the said amount as evidenced by an acknowledgment receipt (Annex A). By way of confession and avoidance, the respondent, . . . however, contended that when the mortgagee refused to accept the sum tendered as the period of redemption had already expired, he requested the complainant to allow him in the meantime to use the money for his children‟s educational expenses[,] to which request the complainant allegedly acceded and respondent even executed a promissory note (please see 4th par. of Annex “B” of complaint). Respondent takes further refuge in the intimate and close relationship existing between himself and the complainant‟s family on the basis of which his legal services were purely gratuitous or “simply an act of a friend for a friend” with “no consideration involved.” Unfortunately, his efforts to redeem the foreclosed property, as already stated, did not produce the desired result because the mortgagee “would not budge anymore” and “would not accept the sum offered.” Thus, the respondent concluded that there was, strictly speaking, no attorney-client [relationship] existing between them. Rather, right from the start[,] everything was sort of personal, he added. Granting to the respondent the benefit of the doubt, we shall assume that there was in reality a loan in the amount of P25,000.00. This is likewise confirmed by the execution of a promissory note on 12 December 1996 by the respondent who “undertook to pay Mrs. Junio on or before January 1997” (Annex B of complaint). Moreover, the demand letter of 12 March 1998 (Annex B) mentions of “reimbursement of the sum received” and interest of “24% per annum until fully paid” giving the impression that the funds previously intended to be used for the repurchase of a certain property (Annex A of complaint) was converted into a loan with the consent of the complainant who gave way to the request of the respondent “to help defray his children‟s educational expenses” (par. 8 of Answer). Be that as it may, the duty and obligation to repay the loan remains unshaken. Having utilized the sum to fulfill his “urgent need for some money,” it is but just and proper that he return the amount borrowed together with interest. Five (5) years had already passed since respondent retained the cash for his own personal use. But notwithstanding the same and his firm promise “to pay Mrs. Junio on or before January 1997” he has not demonstrated any volition to settle his

obligation to his creditor[,] although admittedly “there w[ere] occasions when complainant‟s sister came to respondent to ask for the payment in behalf of complainant,” worse, “the passage of time made respondent somehow forgot about the obligation.” A lawyer shall not borrow money from his client unless the client‟s interests are fully protected by the nature of the case or by independent advice (Rule 16.04, Code of Professional Responsibility). This rule is intended to prevent the lawyer from taking advantage of his influence over the client. This rule is especially significant in the instant case where the respondent enjoys an immense ascendancy over the complainant who, “as well as two of his sisters, had served respondent‟s family as household helpers for many years.” Having gained dominance over the complainant by virtue of such long relation of master and servant, the respondent took advantage of his influence by not returning the money entrusted to him. Instead, he imposed his will on the complainant and borrowed her funds without giving adequate security therefor and mindless of the interest of the complainant. In the light of the foregoing, . . . respondent has committed an act which falls short of the standard of the norm of conduct required of every attorney. If an ordinary borrower of money is required by the law to repay the loan failing which he may be subjected to court action, it is more so in the case of a lawyer whose conduct serves as an example.
[7]

It would indeed appear from the records of the case that respondent was allowed to borrow the money previously entrusted to him by complainant for the purpose of securing the redemption of the property belonging to complainant‟s parents. Respondent, however, did not give adequate security for the loan and subsequently failed to settle his obligation. Although complainant denied having loaned the money to respondent, the fact is that complainant accepted the promissory note given her by respondent on December 12, 1996. In effect, complainant consented to and ratified respondent‟s use of the money. It is noteworthy that complainant did not attach this promissory note to her complaint nor explain the circumstances surrounding its execution. She only mentioned it in her demand letter of March 12, 1998 (Annex B), in which she referred to respondent‟s undertaking to pay her the P25,000.00 on or before January 1997. Under the circumstances and in view of complainant‟s failure to deny the promissory note, the Court is constrained to give credence to respondent‟s claims that the money previously entrusted to him by complainant was later converted into a loan. Respondent‟s liability is thus not for misappropriation or embezzlement but for violation of Rule 16.04 of the Code of Professional Responsibility which forbids lawyers from borrowing money from their clients unless the latter‟s interests are protected by the nature of the case or by independent advice. In this case, respondent‟s liability is compounded by the fact that not only

did he not give any security for the payment of the amount loaned to him but that he has also refused to pay the said amount. His claim that he could not pay the loan “because circumstances . . . did not allow it” and that, because of the passage of time, “he somehow forgot about his obligation” only underscores his blatant disregard of his obligation which reflects on his honesty and candor. A lawyer is bound to observe candor, fairness, and loyalty in all his dealings and transactions with his client.[8] Respondent claims that complainant is a close personal friend and that in helping redeem the property of complainant‟s parents, he did not act as a lawyer but as a friend, hence there is no client-attorney relationship between them. This contention has no merit. As explained in Hilado v. David,[9]

To constitute professional employment it is not essential that the client should have employed the attorney professionally on any previous occasion . . . It is not necessary that any retainer should have been paid, promised, or charged for; neither is it material that the attorney consulted did not afterward undertake the case about which the consultation was had. If a person, in respect to his business affairs or troubles of any kind, consults with his attorney in his professional capacity with the view to obtaining professional advice or assistance, and the attorney voluntarily permits or acquiesces in such consultation, then the professional employment must be regarded as established . ...
Considering the foregoing, the Investigating Commissioner‟s recommendation to impose on respondent the penalty of reprimand and restitution of the amount loaned by him is clearly inadequate. On the other hand, the penalty of indefinite suspension with restitution imposed by the IBP Board of Governors is too harsh in view of respondent‟s apparent lack of intent to defraud complainant and of the fact that this appears to be his first administrative transgression. It is the penalty imposed inIgual v. Javier[10] which applies to this case. In that case, this Court ordered the respondent suspended for one month from the practice of law and directed him to pay the amount given him by his clients within 30 days from notice for his failure to return the money in question notwithstanding his admission that he did not use the money for the filing of the appellee‟s brief, as agreed by them, because of an alleged quarrel with his clients. Anent petitioner‟s allegation regarding the lack of hearing during the IBP investigation, suffice it to say that he waived such right when he failed to comment on petitioner‟s motion to submit the case for resolution on the basis of the pleadings theretofore filed despite due notice to him, not to mention the fact that it was he who had requested the postponement of the two hearings scheduled by the Investigating Commissioner. WHEREFORE, the Court finds petitioner guilty of violation of Rule 16.04 of the Code of Professional Responsibility and orders him suspended from the practice of law for a period of one (1) month and to pay to respondent, within 30 days from notice, the amount of P25,000.00 with interest at the legal rate, computed from December 12, 1996. SO ORDERED. Bellosillo, (Chairman), Quisumbing, and De Leon, Jr., JJ., concur.

Buena, J., abroad on official business.

Republic of the Philippines SUPREME COURT Manila SECOND DIVISION A.M. No. 2662-CFI November 25, 1982 FLAVIANO A. PELMOKA, complainant, vs. FELIX T. DIAZ, JR., Court of First Instance of Nueva Ecija, Branch IV, respondent.

ABAD SANTOS, J.: In a verified complaint dated December 4, 1981, Flaviano A. Pelmoka charged Judge Felix T. Diaz, Jr. of the Court of First Instance of Nueva Ecija and Attorneys Facundo T. Bautista and Inocencio B. Garampil, Sr. with serious misconduct in connection with Civil Case No. 279-G, entitled Eustacio Nepomuceno, et al. vs. Ester Garampil, et al. The charge against Judge Diaz is for gross ignorance of the law and judicial proceedings; failure to protect the complainant's charging lien as one of the lawyers who intervened in the aforementioned civil case; and partiality, bias prejudice or malicious motive. This decision concerns Judge Diaz only who was required to file an answer to the complaint. The answer denies the allegations of the complaint with a prayer that it be dismissed. The complainant filed a reply to the answer and issues having been joined, it was ascertained that the case could be decided on the basis of the documentary evidence submitted without resorting to a formal hearing. The Rollo of the case reveals, according to Deputy Court Administrator Romeo D. Mendoza, the following: Civil Case No. 279-G was a case for partition and reconveyance filed with the CFI of Nueva Ecija, Branch IV, on March 4, 1972, long before respondent judge was appointed to the Bench. When the respondent judge inherited the case in 1976, there were many side issues and/or incidents pending to be resolved, among which were: (a) Motion to exclude defendant Ester Garampil as an heir of the late Leon Arguelles; and (b) Motion for appointment of commissioners to partition the properties, both filed by herein complainant. Respondent judge issued an order denying the motion of the plaintiffs for exclusion of defendant Ester Garampil as heir so as to avoid the piecemeal adjudication of the issues raised in the case. (p. 74.) The motion of the plaintiffs for the appointment of commissioners was likewise denied by respondent judge for the reason that there was then pending before the Court of Appeals, an appeal involving the same parties and the same properties whereby the legality of a Deed of Donation concerning the same properties being litigated, is the very issue to be resolved. (p. 75.) It was for this reason that respondent judge held in abeyance

the trial of Civil Case No. 279-G pending termination of the appeal before the Court of Appeals. (p. 80.) On May 4, 1981, a Motion to set the case for conference among the parties, was filed by defendants Serranos, Rigors and Garcias who were represented by Atty. Facundo T. Bautista. After a hearing on the aforesaid motion was held, the defendants moved for the approval of the "Compromise Agreement" dated July 1, 1981, which was signed by all the parties to the case (except defendant Ester Garampil), as well as by all the lawyers of the said parties, namely, complainant himself, representing the plaintiffs, Atty. Facundo Bautista, representing the defendants, and Atty. Inocencio Garampil, representing defendant Ester Garampil. (pp. 89-94.) The parties agreed that they would partition the properties being litigated in the manner specified in the "Compromise Agreement" and that they would be separately responsible for the payment of the fees of their respective lawyers. On September 21, 1981, the respondent judge issued a decision approving the said compromise agreement on July 1, 1981. (pp. 97-100.) Defendant Ester Garampil thereafter filed a motion to deposit in court, the purchase price of a commercial property in the amount of P250,000.00 in order that the proceeds thereof may be disposed of in accordance with the approved compromise agreement. Complainant then filed a motion for the payment of his professional fee in the amount of P57,519.00, (pp. 104-105.) which was later raised to P79,186.00 in two subsequent motions of the complainant. (pp. 113-119.) On October 22, 1981, defendant Ester Garampil filed a motion for the withdrawal of the sum of P20,060.00 (p.109.) from the amount deposited with the court, representing partial payment of her share in the estate pursuant to the expressed agreement of the heirs of the deceased contained in the compromise agreement, which motion was granted by the respondent judge. (p.110.) The other parties thereafter moved to withdraw their respective shares in the cash deposit with the court, and on the basis of the said motions, respondent judge issued the Order dated October 30, 1981, allowing the defendants to withdraw their shares; (p.120.) and the Order dated November 20, 1981, granting the request of the other parties for the withdrawal of their respective shares. (pp. 135-137.) In his complaint, complainant charged respondent judge with gross ignorance of the law and judicial proceedings committed in the following manner: (a) unduly delaying the disposition of Civil Case No. 279-G when respondent judge denied plaintiffs' motion for the appointment of commissioners to partition the properties; (b) not resolving plaintiffs' motion to exclude defendant Ester Garampil as heir of deceased Leon Arguelles despite early pronouncement of Judge Placido Ramos, respondent judge's predecessor, that Ester Garampil is not an heir of the deceased; (c) approving the compromise agreement of partition entered into by all the parties; (d) allowing Ester Garampil to withdraw the amount of P20,000.00 from the cash deposit, with the court, considering that she is not an heir of the deceased; and (e) ignoring complainant's motion for payment of his fees out of the money deposited with the court. The complainant further alleged that the respondent judge failed to protect his charging lien for his attorney's fees when he allowed plaintiffs to withdraw their share from the said deposit. He likewise charged respondent judge with bias and partiality when he allowed all the parties to withdraw their respective shares while the complainant was not allowed to do the same in so far as his charging lien is concerned.

Respondent judge, in his Answer dated January 13, 1982, (pp. 62-71.) denied all the charges in the complaint. The respondent judge alleged that Civil Case No. 279-G was a case for reconveyance and partition of the estate of deceased Leon Arguelles which had been heard and tried by no less than four (4) judges before him. When he inherited the case in 1976, there were several side issues and/or incidents pending to be resolved and while all these side issues were pending before the court a quo, an appeal involving the same parties and the same properties being litigated, was then pending before the Court of Appeals. It was for this reason that the respondent judge denied complainant's motion for appointment of a commissioner as well as his motion to exclude defendant Ester Garampil as an heir. Respondent judge also stated that he allowed the parties, including defendant Ester Garampil who is not a compulsory heir, to withdraw their respective shares from the cash portion of the estate in order to implement the compromise agreement entered into by all the parties and their respective lawyers. With respect to the charge of the complainant that the respondent judge failed to protect his charging lien or f& attorney's fees, the respondent judge explained that he did not grant complainant's motion for payment of his professional fees because he could not ascertain the exact amount of complainant's just, reasonable and fair fee, considering that his claim of P79,186.00 was contested by the plaintiffs as being exorbitant. Deputy Court Administrator Mendoza has assessed the charges against Judge Diaz in the light of the record as follows: The respondent judge cannot be faulted for dismissing complainant's motion for appointment of commissioners as well as his motion to exclude defendant Ester Garampil as an heir. The respondent judge had to dismiss the said motions to avoid piecemeal adjudication of the issues raised before him. In fact, respondent judge even suspended the trial of the case until after the Court of Appeals shall have resolved the issue pending before it which involved the same parties and the same properties being litigated. The respondent judge was likewise justified in granting the motion of the parties to withdraw their respective shares from the cash portion of the estate. The respondent judge only implemented the compromise agreement entered into by all the parties and signed by all their respective lawyers including complainant herein. With respect to complainant's professional fees, it was specified in the compromise agreement that the parties would be separately responsible for the payment of the fees of their respective lawyers. Since the plaintiffs (complainant's clients), refused to pay complainant's claim for attorney's fee in the amount of P79,186.00 on the ground that the same is exorbitant, the remedy of the complainant is to file a separate action for recovery of his fees where the parties win be afforded the chance to prove their respective claims and defenses. In the case of Bongco vs. Judge Serapio, (Adm. Matter No. 1804-CAR, Feb. 28, 1980.) this Court held that where it does not appear from the facts in an administrative complaint that the assailed judicial acts of respondent judge were corrupt or inspired by an intention to violate the law, or were done in persistent disregard of well known legal rules, the complaint should be dismissed for lack of merit.

The assessment is well taken except in respect of the failure of the respondent to protect the complainant's right to collect his professional fees. The respondent should not have allowed the clients of the complainant to withdraw their shares from the cash deposit without extending ample protection to the latter's claim. This error was compounded by his order allowing even Ester Garampil to withdraw her share when she did not sign the compromise agreement of July 1, 1981. It was grossly unfair for the respondent to leave the complainant holding an empty bag, so to speak, after he had rendered his professional services as counsel to the plaintiffs. True it is that the compromise agreement stipulates that the parties shall be separately responsible for the payment of the fees for their respective lawyers; nevertheless, the respondent should not have improvidently allowed the clients of the complainant to withdraw their shares without first determining his reasonable fees. A lawyer has the right to claim the fruits of his labor. He has the equitable right to be paid his fees out of the judgment which he has obtained from a court of justice. Any allegation of exorbitant or excessive fees should have been resolved by the respondent Judge on the basis of quantum meruit. Or the respondent could have inquired from the plaintiffs what they considered as reasonable attorney's fees for the services of complainant, direct the payment of such "reasonable amount" as partial payment of his attorney's fees, and set for hearing the disputed difference between the claim of the complainant and the amount considered reasonable by the plaintiffs. WHEREFORE, for his failure to protect the complainant's charging lien, the respondent is hereby reprimanded. SO ORDERED. Makasiar (Chairman), Aquino, Concepcion, Jr., Guerrero, De Castro and Escolin, JJ., concur.

EN BANC

[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 complaint[1] 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 letter[3] 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 letter[4] 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 Attorney[6] 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 letter[9] 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 forP350,000.00 representing fifty percent thereof. In the same letter to

Garcia, respondent suggested the acceptance of the offer of settlement to protracted litigation.

avoid

a

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 letter[12] 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 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] 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 claim[16]and his misrepresentations that the recovery thereof was fraught with difficulties.[17] In his Counter-Affidavit[18] 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 Supplement[24] to his CounterAffidavit 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. 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 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 Recommendation[33] 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-2002-401[34] onAugust 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 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 Reconsideration[35] 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

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 client [36] 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 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 October1999 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 CounterAffidavit 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 [44] Insurance 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. 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. Davide, Jr., C.J., Bellosillo, Puno, Vitug, Panganiban, Quisumbing, SandovalGutierrez, Carpio, Austria-Martinez, Corona, Carpio-Morales, Callejo, Sr., Azcuna, and Tinga, JJ., concur. Ynares-Santiago, J., on leave.

Republic of the Philippines SUPREME COURT Manila SECOND DIVISION A.M. No. 801 June 27, 1978 CESARIO ADARNE, complainant, vs. ATTY. DAMIAN V. ALDABA, respondent.

CONCEPCION JR., J.: Administrative action against the respondent attorney for gross negligence and misconduct, for failure to give his entire devotion to the interest of his client, warm zeal in the . maintenance and defense of his rights, and exertion of his utmost learning and ability in the prosecution and defense of his client, and for not taking steps to protect the interests of his client in the face of an adverse decision. The record shows that sometime in 1958, Raymunda Cumpio and her husband, Rufo Cumpio, filed an action for forcible entry against herein complaint Cesario Adarne, Aning Arante, and Miguel Inokando with the Justice of the Peace of Alang-alang Leyte. The case was docketed in the said court as Civil Case No. 96. Atty. Isauro Marmita represented the defendants who raised the issue of ownership of the land in question. After hearing the parties, the Justice of the Peace dismissed the complaint for lack of jurisdiction. Consequently, the plaintiffs therein appealed to the Court of First Instance of Leyte and the case was assigned to Branch VI of Carigara, where it was docketed as Civil Case No. 556. Resolving the issue interposed by the appellants, the Judge of the Court of First Instance found that the Justice of the Peace Court has jurisdiction over the case and returned the same to the lower court for trial on the merits. After trial on the merits, the Justice of the Peace again

dismissed the case and the plaintiffs again appealed to the Court of First Instance of Leyte where the case was docketed anew as Civil Case No, 632. Attys. Arturo Mirales and Generoso Casimpan filed the answer for the defendants. 1 At the hearing of the case on August 7, 1961, the herein complainant Cesario Adarne, one of the defendants in the aforementioned Civil Case No. 632, noting that his attorneys had not yet arrived, prevailed upon the respondent Atty. Damian Aldaba, who was then present in court to attend the trial of an electoral case, to appear as counsel for them and ask for the Postponement of the trial. The respondent, who is a third degree cousin of the complainant, agreed, and entered a special appearance. Upon noticing that the plaintiffs and their counsel were not also present in court, the respondent, instead of asking for a postponement, moved for the dismissal of the case. "is motion was granted and the case was again dismissed. Thereafter, the plaintiff filed a motion for the reconsideration of the order, 2 to which the respondent filed an opposition in behalf of the defendants, 3 and the motion was denied. 4 Whereupon, the plaintiffs appealed to the Court of Appeals. After appropriate. proceedings, the appellee court set aside the order of dismissal and remanded the case to the lower court for further proceedings. At the hearing of the case on October 23, 1964 before the Court of First Instance of Leyte, the respondent was again prevailed upon by the complainant to appear in his behalf. The respondent entered a "special appearance" for the complainant and thereafter argued that the interest of justice would best be served of the defendants were allowed to file an action for quieting of title and the case heard jointly with the pending action for forcible entry. Finding merit in the argument, the court ordered the defendant Cesario Adarne to file an action for quieting of title within one (1) week and the plaintiffs to answer the same within the reglementary period, after which both cases would be tried jointly. The hearing was deferred until after the filing of the action for quieting of title. 5 On June 17, 1965, the court declared the defendants in default for their failure to appeal at the hearing set for that day and directed the plaintiffs to present evidence to support their claim. 6 On September 17, 1965, the court rendered a decision and a writ of execution was issued thereafter. 7 Because of this, Cesario Adarne filed the present complaint against the respondent Atty. Damian V. Aldaba on August 3, 1967, praying: Dahil dito, isinusumbong ko po ang aking Abogado ng "Mal practice" pabaya at pahamak sa kliente at sinisingil ko po siya ng pinsala katumbas sa sinisingil sa kin ng akin kalaban. O kaya lakarin niya na mapigil and decision ng Hukom sa C.F.I. at ulitin and hearing sa Forcible Entry. Kung hindi niya magagawa ito, ipinauubaya ko na po sa kataas taasan Hukoman and paglapat ng parusa. Sapagkat kung hindi p susugpo-in and masamang gawa naito ng mga ibang abogado na nabibili, — lalala and sakit naito sa profession ng mga abogado, at lilikha ng maraming api, at habang naghahari and pang-aapi, lalaganap and kriminalidad ng walang tigil, at walang katahimikan ang ating Demukrasya, at kung magkakagayon ang mga mamamayan at — sapilitan sa kumunista sasamba. The respondent denied that he ever had any agreement with the complainant with respect to the handling of the latter's case in the Court of First Instance of Leyte, Carigara Branch, except for the "special appearance" that he entered for the complainant on August 7, 1961 and October 23, 1964, in view of the non-availability of the complainant's lawyers on said dates. The case referred to the Solicitor General for investigation, report and recommendation, 8 after which a complaint for the disbarment of the respondent attorney was filed. 9 The judgment by default rendered against the complainant cannot be attributed to the respondent attorney. The blame lies with the complainant for having engaged the services of several lawyers to

handle his case without formally withdrawing the authority he had given to them to appear in his behalf as to place the responsibility upon the respondent. To add to the confusion, the complainant had also requested the clerk of court of the Court of First Instance of Leyte that he (complainant) be furnished with summons and subpoena accorded to him. 10 He also filed a motion by himself, 11 thus implying that he was handling his case personally. It appears that there have been three changes made of the attorneys for the complainant in the forcible entry case. The complainant was originally represented by Atty. Isauro Marmita who, upon his appointment to the Department of Labor, engaged Atty. de Veyra to take his place. 12 Then came Atty. Arturo Mirales and later, Atty. Generoso Casimpan. However, no formalities whatever were observed in those changes such that the respondent entered a "special appearance" for the complainant in order that he could ask for the dismissal of the case for the failure of the adverse party to prosecute. The rule followed on matters of substitution of attorneys as laid down by this Court is that no substitution of attorneys will be allowed unless there be filed: (1) a written application for such substitution; (2) the written consent of the client; (3) the written consent of the attorney substituted; and (4) in case such written consent can not be secured, there must be filed with the application proof of service of notice of such motion upon the attorney to be substituted, in the manner prescribed by the rules. Unless the foregoing formalities are complied with, substitution will not be permitted, and the attorney who properly appeared last in the cause, before such application for substitution, will be regarded as the attorney of record and will be held responsible for the proper conduct of the cause. 13 Besides, the respondent honestly believed that he had appeared for the complainant only for a special purpose and that the complainant had agreed to contact his attorney of record to handle his case after the hearing of October 23, 1964, so that he did nothing more about it. 14 It was neither gross negligence nor omission to have entertained such belief. An attorney is not bound to exercise extraordinary diligence, but only a reasonable degree of care and skill, having reference to the character of the business he undertakes to do. Prone to err like any other human being, he is not answerable for every error or mistake, and will be protected as long as he acts honestly and in good faith to the best of his skill and knowledge. It is well settled that 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 attorney must be established by convincing proof. In the instant case, there is no sufficient proof to warrant the disbarment of the respondent attorney. Neither is there culpable malpractice to justify his suspension. WHEREFORE, the present administrative complaint is hereby DISMISSED. SO ORDERED. Santos and Guerrero, JJ., concur. Antonio, J., concurs in the result. Fernando (Chairman) and Aquino, JJ., took no part.

Separate Opinions

BARREDO, J., concurring: I concur in the result since respondent made only a special appearance on Oct. 23, 1964, when he made a creditable showing for complainant. The counsel of record of complainant should have been the one to take the corresponding subsequent steps.

Separate Opinions BARREDO, J., concurring: I concur in the result since respondent made only a special appearance on Oct. 23, 1964, when he made a creditable showing for complainant. The counsel of record of complainant should have been the one to take the corresponding subsequent steps.

THIRD DIVISION

[A.C. No. 5835. April 15, 2005]

CARLOS B. REYES, complainant, VITAN, respondent.

vs. ATTY.

JEREMIAS

R.

DECISION
SANDOVAL-GUTIERREZ, J.:

A lawyer shall serve his client with competence and diligence[1] and never neglect a legal matter entrusted to him and his negligence in connection therewith shall render him liable. Indeed, it is his sworn duty not to delay no man for money or malice; and to conduct himself in a proper manner not only to his client, but also to the court, the legal profession and society at large.[2] This is an administrative complaint for disbarment filed by Carlos Reyes against Atty. Jeremias Vitan for gross negligence.

The complaint alleges that sometime in June 2001, complainant Carlos Reyes hired the services of respondent Atty. Jeremias Vitan for the purpose of filing the appropriate complaint or charge against his sister-in-law, Estelita Reyes, and the latter‟s niece, Julieta P. Alegonza; that both women refused to abide with the Decision of Judge Juan C. Nabong, Jr., of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 32, Manila, in Civil Case No. 99-92657 ordering the partition of the properties left by complainant‟s brother Damaso B. Reyes; and that respondent, after receiving the amount of P17,000.00, did not take any action on complainant‟s case. We referred the complaint to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines for investigation, report and recommendation. IBP Commissioner Lydia A. Navarro issued several orders to respondent directing him to file his answer to the complaint, but he failed to do so. He only sent his secretary to represent him during the proceedings. On April 18, 2001,[3] IBP Commissioner Navarro submitted to the IBP Board of Governors her Report and Recommendation quoted as follows: “x x x. After going over the evidence on record, the undersigned noted that respondent ignored all the Orders issued by this Commission and neither did he comply with any of those Orders. Respondent even failed to submit the responsive pleadings he himself requested in his motion and only sent his assistant secretary to represent him in the scheduled hearings of this case. Up to and until the present, no pleadings was submitted despite respondent‟s allegations that he was collating evidence to prove his side of the case. It was complainant who submitted the supposed letters of the respondent Estelita Reyes and Juliet Alegonza but there were no proofs when they sent and when the same were received by the addressee. Likewise, the complaint submitted by the complainant was only a format in the sense that it was not signed by the respondent; the RTC Branch No. was left blank; there was no Civil Case No. and there was no proof that said pleading was filed which amounts only to a mere scrap of paper and not a pleading or authenticated document in the legal parlance. As it is, nothing had been done by the respondent for the complainant as his client for the legal fees he collected which was paid by the complainant as reflected in the receipts issued by the respondent in handwritten forms and signed by him. Respondent not only violated Rule 18.03 and 18.04 of Cannon 18 of the Code of Professional Responsibility for having neglected a legal matter entrusted to him and did not inform complainant the status of his case but also disregarded the orders of the Commission without reasons which amounted to utter disrespect of authority and unethical conduct in the practice of his profession, thus, should be sanctioned.

Wherefore, in view of the foregoing, the undersigned respectfully recommends that the respondent be suspended from the practice of his profession for a period of two (2) years from receipt hereof; and refund to the complainant the amount of P17,000.00 paid to him for not having extended his legal services to the complainant on a lawyer-client relationship within six (6) months from receipt hereof.” On August 3, 2002, the IBP Board of Governors passed Resolution No. XV2002-406 adopting and approving the above Report and Recommendation of IBP Commissioner Navarro. When respondent accepted the amount of P17,000.00 from complainant, it was understood that he agreed to take up the latter‟s case and that an attorney-client relationship between them was established. From then on, it was expected of him to serve his client, herein complainant, with competence and attend to his cause with fidelity, care and devotion. The act of receiving money as acceptance fee for legal services in handling complainant‟s case and subsequently failing to render such services is a clear violation of Canon 18 of the Code of Professional Responsibility which provides that a lawyer shall serve his client with competence and diligence. More specifically, Rule 18.03 states: “Rule 18.03. A lawyer shall not neglect a legal matter entrusted to him, and his negligence in connection therewith shall render him liable.” A member of the legal profession owes his client entire devotion to his genuine interest, warm zeal in the maintenance and defense of his rights.[4] An attorney is expected to exert his best efforts and ability to preserve his client‟s cause, for the unwavering loyalty displayed to his client likewise serves the ends of justice. Verily, the entrusted privilege to practice law carries with it the corresponding duties, not only to the client, but also to the court, to the bar and to the public. In Santos vs. Lazaro,[5] we held that Rule 18.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, above-quoted, is a basic postulate in legal ethics. Indeed, when a lawyer takes a client‟s cause, he covenants that he will exercise due diligence in protecting his rights. The failure to exercise that degree of vigilance and attention expected of a good father of a family makes such lawyer unworthy of the trust reposed in him by his client and makes him answerable not just to his client but also to the legal profession, the courts and society.[6] Significantly, respondent also violated his oath as a lawyer, which declares in part, that he will not delay any man for money or malice and will conduct himself as a lawyer according to the best of his knowledge and discretion, with all good fidelity as well to the courts as to his client.

However, the recommended penalty by the IBP is too harsh. Jurisprudence shows that lighter sanctions have been imposed for violations of this nature, taking into consideration the gravity of the offense and the necessity of preserving the integrity of the legal profession. The facts of Sencio vs. Calvadores[7] bear a striking similarity to the present case. Respondent lawyer in Sencio did not return the money to complainant despite demand following his failure to file the case. During the proceedings before the IBP, respondent did not file his answer to the complaint nor appeared during the hearing notwithstanding his receipt of notices. We found him guilty of violation of the lawyer‟s oath, malpractice and gross misconduct and suspended him for six (6) months, and ordered to return to his client the amount of P12,000.00 with interest at 12% per annum from the date of the promulgation of our Resolution until the return of the amount. In Garcia vs. Manuel,[8] we suspended respondent lawyer from the practice of law for six (6) months and ordered him to render an accounting of all monies he received from the complainant. We found him guilty of gross misconduct. WHEREFORE, respondent Atty. Jeremias R. Vitan is hereby declared guilty of violation of Canon 18 of the Code of Professional Responsibility and is SUSPENDED from the practice of law for a period of six (6) months effective upon notice of this Decision. He is ordered to return to complainant within five (5) days from notice the sum of P17,000.00 with interest of 12% per annum from the date of the promulgation of this Decision until the full amount shall have been returned. Let a copy of this Decision be furnished the Court Administrator for distribution to all courts of the land, the IBP, the Office of the Bar Confidant, and entered into respondent‟s personal records as an attorney and as a member of the Philippine Bar. SO ORDERED.

Republic of the Philippines SUPREME COURT Manila SECOND DIVISION

A.C. No. 4380 October 13, 1995

NICANOR GONZALES and SALUD B. PANTANOSAS, complainants, vs. ATTY. MIGUEL SABACAJAN, respondent.

REGALADO, J.: This resolves the administrative case filed by Nicanor Gonzales and Salud B. Pantanosas against Atty. Miguel Sabacajan on February 14, 1995, 1 the verified complaint wherefor alleges: xxx xxx xxx 4. That sometime in October, 1994, complainants were informed by the Register of Deeds of Cagayan de Oro City that the complainants' owner's duplicate of title covering their lands, Transfer Certificate of Title Nos. T-91736 and T-91735 were entrusted to the office secretary of the respondent who in torn entrusted the same to respondent; 5. That respondent admitted and confirmed to the complainants that their titles are in his custody and has even shown the same (to) the complainant Salud B. Pantanosas but when demanded (sic) to deliver the said titles to the complainant in a formal demand letter, marked as ANNEX "A," respondent refused and continues to refuse without any justification to give their titles (and) when confronted, respondent challenged the complainants to file any case in any court even in the Honorable Supreme Court; 6. That respondent's dare or challeng(e) is a manifestation of his arrogance taking undue advantage of his legal profession over the simplicity, innocence and ignorance of the complainants, one of whom is his blood relative, his aunt, for which complainants shudder with mental anguish; 7. That due to his challeng(e), the complainants sent a letter to the Honorable Supreme Court for enlightenment, copy of which is attached as ANNEX "B", for which the Honorable Supreme Court required 19 legible copies of a verified complaint;
8. That in spite of repeated demands, request(s) and pleas towards (sic) respondent, respondent still fail(ed) and stubbornly refused without justification to surrender the said titles to the rightful owners, the complainants here(in), which act is tantamount to willful and malicious defiance of legal and moral obligations emanating from his professional capacity as a lawyer who had sworn to uphold law and justice, to the prejudice and damage of the complainants; 2

xxx xxx xxx On March 22, 1995, the Court required respondent to comment on the foregoing complaint. In his unverified "Answer" thereto, respondent admitted having met Salud Pantanosas but claims that, to his recollection, "Nicanor Gonzales/Serdan" has never been to his office. Respondent likewise denied that he challenged anyone to file a case in any court, much less the Supreme Court. He also claims that he referred complainant Pantanosas to his client, Mr. Samto M. Uy of Iponan, Cagayan

de Oro City, for whom he worked out the segregation of the titles, two of which are the subject of the instant case. 3 Respondent likewise denies complainants' allegation that he is arrogant, in contrast to the innocence, simplicity and ignorance of said complainants. He contends that the truth of the matter is that complainants have been charged with a number of criminal and civil complaints before different courts. He also asserts that he was holding the certificates of title in behalf of his client, Samto M. Uy. 4 Atty. Sabacajan stresses, by way of defense, that "the instant action was chosen precisely to browbeat him into delivering the Certificates of Title to them without said certificates passing the hands of Mr. Samto Uy with whom the complainants have some monetary obligations." 5 In its resolution dated June 26, 1995, 6 for internal administrative purposes the Court referred this case to the Office of the Bar Confidant for the corresponding evaluation, report and recommendation. From the foregoing proceedings taken on this matter, the Court finds that respondent admitted having taken possession of the certificates of title of complainants but refused to surrender the same despite demands made by the latter. It follows, therefore, that it was incumbent upon him to show that he was legally justified in doing so. Instead, all he did was to inform this Court that "his obligation to deliver the certificates to Mr. Samto Uy excludes the delivery of said certificates to anyone else." 7 Respondent attached some certifications to his "Answer" to support his contention that complainants are notorious characters. However, the certifications indicate that most of the cases stated therein, especially those involving fraud, have been dismissed. With respect to those still pending, there is no indication as to the identity of the party who instituted the same, aside from the consideration that the remedy thereon is judicial in nature. At any rate, these aspersions on the character of complainants have no bearing on the misconduct of respondent charged in the present case. Respondent likewise submitted xerox copies of certain certificates of title in an effort to explain why he kept the certificates of title of complainants, that is, supposedly for the purpose of subdividing the property. However, an examination of the same does not show any connection thereof to respondent's claim. In fact, the two sets of certificates of title appear to be entirely different from each other. As a lawyer, respondent should know that there are lawful remedies provided by law to protect the interests of his client. The records do not show that he or his client have availed of said remedies, instead of merely resorting to unexplained, if not curt, refusals to accommodate the requests of complainants. Also, he cannot be unaware of the imposable sanctions on a counsel who resorts to unlawful means that would cause injustice to the adversaries of his client. The Court accordingly finds that respondent has not exercised the good faith and diligence required of lawyers in handling the legal affairs of their clients. If complainants did have the alleged monetary obligations to his client, that does not warrant his summarily confiscating their certificates of title since there is no showing in the records that the same were given as collaterals to secure the payment of a debt. Neither is there any intimation that there is a court order authorizing him to take and retain custody of said certificates of title. Apparently, respondent has disregarded Canon 15, Rule 15.07 of the Code of Professional Responsibility which provides that a lawyer shall impress upon his client the need for compliance

with the laws and principles of fairness. Instead, he unjustly refused to give to complainants their certificates of titles supposedly to enforce payment of their alleged financial obligations to his client and presumably to impress the latter of his power to do so. Canon 19, Rule 19.01 ordains that a lawyer shall employ only fair and honest means to attain the lawful objectives of his client and shall not present, participate in presenting, or threaten to present unfounded charges to obtain an improper advantage in any case or proceeding. Respondent has closely skirted this proscription, if he has not in fact transgressed the same. On the foregoing considerations, the Court desires and directs that respondent should forthwith return the certificates of title of complainants. To ensure the same, he should be placed under suspension until he presents to the Court proof of receipt by complainants of their respective copies of Certificates of Title Nos. T-91735 and T-91736 or a judicial order or document authorizing or justifying the retention of possession thereof by respondent or his aforenamed client. WHEREFORE, Atty. Miguel Sabacajan is hereby SUSPENDED from the practice of law until he can duly show to this Court that the disputed certificates of title have been returned to and the receipt thereof duly acknowledged by complainants, or can present a judicial order or appropriate legal authority justifying the possession by him or his client of said certificates. He is further WARNED that a repetition of the same or similar or any other administrative misconduct will be punished more severely. Let a copy of this resolution be spread on the personal records of respondent and have copies thereof furnished to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and duly circularized to all courts in the country. SO ORDERED. Narvasa, C.J., Puno, Mendoza and Francisco, JJ., concur.

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