This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
EDUARDO M. COJUANGCO, JR., Complainant,
Adm. Case No. 2474
DAVIDE, JR., C.J., PUNO, PANGANIBAN, QUISUMBING, YNARES-SANTIAGO, versus SANDOVAL-GUTIERREZ, CARPIO, *AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ, CORONA, *CARPIO MORALES, CALLEJO, SR., AZCUNA,
TINGA, and **CHICO-NAZARIO, JJ.
ATTY. LEO J. PALMA, Respondent. Promulgated:
September 15, 2004
“The practice of law is a privilege accorded only to those who measure up to certain rigid standards of mental and moral fitness. For the admission of a candidate to the bar, the Rules of Court not only prescribe a test of academic preparation but require satisfactory testimonials of good moral character. These standards are neither dispensed with nor lowered after admission: the lawyer must continue to adhere to them or else incur the risk of suspension or removal.”1
Eduardo M. Cojuangco, Jr. filed with this Court the instant complaint for disbarment against Atty. Leo J. Palma, alleging as grounds “deceit, malpractice, gross misconduct in office, violation of his oath as a lawyer and grossly immoral conduct.” The facts are undisputed:
Complainant and respondent met sometime in the 70’s. Complainant was a client of Angara Concepcion Regala & Cruz Law Offices (ACCRA) and respondent was the lawyer assigned to handle his cases. Owing to his growing business concerns, complainant decided to hire respondent as his personal counsel. Consequently, respondent’s relationship with complainant’s family became intimate. He traveled and dined with them abroad.2 He frequented their house and even tutored complainant’s 22-year old daughter Maria Luisa Cojuangco (Lisa), then a student of Assumption Convent. On June 22, 1982, without the knowledge of complainant’s family, respondent married Lisa in Hongkong. It was only the next day that respondent informed complainant and assured him that “everything is legal.” Complainant was shocked, knowing fully well that respondent is a married man and has three children. Upon investigation, complainant found that respondent courted Lisa during their tutoring sessions. Immediately, complainant sent his two sons to Hongkong to convince Lisa to go home to Manila and discuss the matter with the family. Lisa was persuaded. Complainant also came to know that: (a) on the date of the supposed marriage, respondent requested from his (complainant’s) office an airplane ticket to and from Australia, with stop-over in Hong Kong; (b) respondent misrepresented himself as “bachelor” before the Hong Kong authorities to facilitate his marriage with Lisa; and (c) respondent was married to Elizabeth Hermosisima and has three children, namely: Eugene Philippe, Elias Anton and Eduardo Lorenzo. On August 24, 1982, complainant filed with the Court of First Instance, Branch XXVII, Pasay City a petition3 for declaration of
nullity of the marriage between respondent and Lisa, docketed as Civil Case No. Pq-0401-P. In the Decision4 dated November 2, 1982, the CFI declared the marriage null and void
Thereafter, complainant filed with this Court the instant complaint5 for disbarment, imputing to respondent the following acts: “a. In grave abuse and betrayal of the trust and confidence reposed in him by complainant and his family and taking undue advantage of his tutoring sessions with Maria Luisa, respondent secretly courted her. The great disparity in intelligence, education, age, experience and maturity between Maria Luisa and respondent gave the latter an overwhelming moral ascendancy over Maria Luisa as to overcome her scruples and apprehensions about respondent‟s courtship and advances, considering that he is a married man with three (3) children;
b. Respondent courted Maria Luisa with persistence and determination and even pursued her in her travels abroad under false pretenses that he was traveling on official business for complainant. To break down the final resistance of Maria Luisa and assuage her pangs of guilt, he made representations that there was no legal impediment whatsoever to his marrying;
c. With his moral ascendancy over Maria Luisa and his misrepresentation that there was no legal impediment or prohibition to his contracting a second marriage, respondent succeeded in inducing and beguiling her into marrying him. Without complying with the requirements of Philippine law that he should first obtain a judicial declaration of nullity of his marriage to Elizabeth H. Palma and that the “advice” of Maria
the First Division of this Court issued in G. gross misconduct or violation of his lawyer’s oath. 1982 by falsely representing himself before the Hongkong authorities that he is a „bachelor. report and recommendation.R. Meanwhile.” In the Resolution7 dated March 2. . and (b) remanding the case to the CFI for proper proceeding and determination. on December 28.” Respondent filed a motion to dismiss6 on the ground of lack of cause of action. 1982 in Civil Case No. Pq–0401-P declaring the marriage between respondent and Lisa null and void ab initio. malpractice. To this date. lack of skill or ignorance of the law” in serving complainant’s interest. respondent succeeded in contracting marriage with her in Hongkong on June 22. 1983.Luisa‟s parents should first be obtained she being only twenty-two (22) years of age. he stressed that he married complainant’s daughter with “utmost sincerity and good faith” and that “it is contrary to the natural course of things for an immoral man to marry the woman he sincerely loves. Former Assistant Solicitor General Oswaldo D. we referred the case to the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) for investigation. No. 1983. the records fail to disclose the outcome of this case. Anent the charge of grossly immoral conduct. There is no allegation that he acted with “wanton recklessness. Agcaoili conducted the investigation. 645388 a Resolution9 (a) setting aside the CFI Decision dated November 2.‟ x x x. He contended that the complaint fails to allege acts constituting deceit.
Respondent sought refuge in this Court through an Urgent Motion for Issuance of a Restraining Order.14 complainant manifested and confirmed his continuing interest in prosecuting his complaint for disbarment against respondent. manifest whether or not they are still interested in prosecuting this case or supervening events have transpired which render this case moot and academic or otherwise. 1998. 1984. with a warning that should he fail to appear or present deposition. Pq–0401-P poses a prejudicial question to the disbarment proceeding.On March 19. this case shall be deemed closed and terminated. respondent sought several postponements of hearing on the ground that he needed more time to locate vital documents in support of his defense. On the other hand. On October 19. 2002.12 Thereafter. Commissioner Julio C. 2001 was reset for the last time on January 24. we enjoined the OSG from continuing the investigation of the disbarment proceedings. the case was referred to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines Commission on Bar Discipline. Elamparo issued the following order: “Considering the length of time that this case has remained pending and as a practical measure to ease the backlog of this Commission. the case will be deemed . The scheduled hearing of December 4.11 In the Resolution dated December 19.”13 In his Manifestation. the parties shall within ten (10) days from notice. 1984. It was denied. respondent filed with the OSG an Urgent Motion to Suspend Proceedings10 on the ground that the final outcome of Civil Case No.
however.submitted for resolution. the case was considered submitted for resolution. c) The acts of respondent constitute deceit. hence. Thus: “The main issue to be resolved in this case is whether or not respondent committed the following acts which warrant his disbarment: a) Grave abuse and betrayal of the trust and confidence reposed in him by complainant. 2003. San Juan submitted a Report and Recommendation finding respondent guilty of grossly immoral conduct and violation of his oath as a lawyer. Investigating Commissioner Milagros V. malpractice.15 Respondent again failed to appear on January 24. he claimed that the marriage certificate stated a condition no different from term “spinster” with respect to Luisa. Respondent admits that he married Maria Luisa in Hongkong representing himself as a bachelor. gross misconduct in office. b) His misrepresentation that there was no legal impediment or prohibition to his contracting a second marriage.16 On March 20. grossly immoral conduct and violation of his oath as a lawyer. There is no question that respondent as a lawyer well versed in the law knew fully well that in marrying Maria Luisa he was entering into a bigamous marriage defined . 2002. She recommended that respondent be suspended from the practice of law for a period of three (3) years.
lack of skill and ignorance of the law. it is submitted that respondent committed grossly immoral conduct and violation of his oath as a lawyer. but it reduced respondent’s penalty to only one (1) year suspension.” . This is because a lawyer may not divide his personality so as to be an attorney at one time and a mere citizen at another. insofar as the latter may reflect unfavorably upon the good name and prestige of the profession and the courts. For the foregoing reasons. not only his professional activities but even his private life. The respondent betrayed the trust reposed in him by complainant. the complaint does not allege that he acted with “wanton recklessness. may at any time be the subject of inquiry on the part of the proper authorities. In fact.” The IBP Board of Governors adopted and approved the above Report and Recommendation. At the outset. and it is recommended that respondent be suspended from the practice of law for a period of three (3) years. He was treated as part of the family and was allowed to tutor Maria Luisa. There is no distinction as to whether the transgression is committed in the lawyer’s professional capacity or in his private life.18 Respondent claims that he had served complainant to the best of his ability.17 Thus. SO ORDERED. we affirm the IBP’s Report and Recommendation. it must be stressed that the law profession does not prescribe a dichotomy of standards among its members. Except for the penalty.and penalized under Article 349 of the Revised Penal Code.
Victor P. or shameless. Hong Kong. Lazatin. That Elizabeth was alive at the time of respondent’s second marriage was confirmed on the witness stand by Atty. and which shows a moral indifference to the opinion . i. a ground for disbarment under Section 27. 1982. Cebu City.22 Undoubtedly.23 This is not the first occasion that we censure immorality. The Certification20 from the Local Civil Registrar of Cebu City shows that he married Elizabeth on December 19. 1971 at Cardial’s Private Chapel. justice.e. he made a mockery of marriage which is a sacred institution demanding respect and dignity. Good moral character is always an indispensable requirement.19 however. On the other hand. Elizabeth’s classmate and family friend. He exhibited a deplorable lack of that degree of morality required of him as a member of the Bar. decency and morality. we have somehow come up with a common definition of what constitutes immoral conduct. His act of contracting a second marriage is contrary to honesty. The ringing truth in this case is that respondent married Lisa while he has a subsisting marriage with Elizabeth Hermosisima.While. Thus. Rule 138 of the Revised Rules of Court. proves respondent’s subsequent marriage with Lisa on July 9. “that conduct which is willful. professional competency alone does not make a lawyer a worthy member of the Bar. the Certificate of Marriage21 from the Deputy Registrar of Marriages.. In particular. complainant himself admitted that respondent was a good lawyer. respondent’s act constitutes grossly immoral conduct. flagrant.
Macarrubo. decency and morality. Peralta. their marriage still valid and subsisting. Our rulings in the following cases are relevant: 1) In Macarrubo vs.” (2) In Tucay vs. . institutions that this society looks to for the rearing of our children.25 respondent entered into multiple marriages and then resorted to legal remedies to sever them. we ruled that “[S]uch pattern of misconduct by respondent undermines the institutions of marriage and family. We held that “the act of respondent of contracting the second marriage is contrary to honesty. Tucay. respondent was disqualified from being admitted to the bar. respondent’s act is manifestly immoral. First. justice. he abandoned his lawful wife and three children.”24 Measured against this definition. and for the strengthening of our nation as a whole.of the good and respectable members of the community. lacking the good moral character required by the Rules of Court. And third. for the development of values essential to the survival and well-being of our communities.” Thus. he misrepresented himself as a “bachelor” so he could contract marriage in a foreign land.” As such.” warranting respondent’s disbarment. he lured an innocent young woman into marrying him. We ruled that such acts constitute “a grossly immoral conduct and only indicative of an extremely low regard for the fundamental ethics of his profession. Second.27 respondent married complainant while his first wife was still alive. (3) In Villasanta vs.26 respondent contracted marriage with another married woman and left complainant with whom he has been married for thirty years. There. “there can be no other fate that awaits respondent than to be disbarred.
He did this without complainant’s knowledge. he attacked when nobody was looking.. and thereafter cohabited with another woman. Jr. a married woman. he cannot be charged with immorality.(4) In Cabrera vs. Agustin. Obusan. When his concern was supposed to be complainant’s legal affairs only.28 respondent lured an innocent woman into a simulated marriage and thereafter satisfied his lust. he availed of complainant’s resources by securing a plane ticket from complainant’s office in order to marry the latter’s daughter in Hongkong. Like the proverbial thief in the night. The circumstances here speak of a clear case of betrayal of trust and abuse of confidence. observe mutual respect and fidelity. Toledo. (5) In Toledo vs. respondent was disbarred. he even had the temerity to assure complainant that “everything is legal. Afterwards. we ruled that “abandoning one’s wife and resuming carnal relations with a former paramour.” For this. he sneaked at the latter’s back and courted his daughter. He is. His reasoning shows a distorted mind and a brazen regard on the sanctity of marriage. It was respondent’s closeness to the complainant’s family as well as the latter’s complete trust in him that made possible his intimate relationship with Lisa. Here. which at all times is expected of members of the bar. (6) In Obusan vs.29 respondent abandoned his wife. disbarred from the practice of law. We ruled that he “failed to maintain the highest degree of morality expected and required of a member of the bar.31 How .” constitute grossly immoral conduct warranting disbarment. Respondent justified his conduct by professing he really loved Lisa and since he married her. the man and the woman are obliged to live together. respondent had crossed the limits of propriety and decency.30 respondent abandoned his lawful wife and child and resumed cohabitation with his former paramour.” Clearly. therefore. We held that respondent failed to maintain that degree of morality and integrity. In such relationship. who supported him and spent for his law education. Moreover.
34 or if an affidavit of withdrawal of a disbarment case does not affect its course. Suffice it to say that a subsequent judgment of annulment of marriage has no bearing to the instant disbarment proceeding. Anent respondent’s argument that since the validity of his marriage to Lisa has not yet been determined by the court with finality. then the noblest thing he could have done was to walk away. as inscribed in Rule 1.35 then the judgment of annulment of respondent’s marriage does not also exonerate him from a wrongdoing actually committed. then liability attaches. the same poses a prejudicial question to the present disbarment proceeding.could respondent perform these obligations to Lisa when he was previously married to Elizabeth? If he really loved her.33 a disbarment case is sui generis for it is neither purely civil nor purely criminal but is rather an investigation by the court into the conduct of its officers. dishonest.01 of the Code of Professional Responsibility. As we held in In re Almacen.in disciplinary proceedings against members of the bar is met.32 Naturally. immoral or deceitful . So long as the quantum of proof --clear preponderance of evidence --.36 The interdict upon lawyers. she was an easy prey. is that they “shall not engage in unlawful. Thus. if the acquittal of a lawyer in a criminal action is not determinative of an administrative case against him. Respondent’s culpability is aggravated by the fact that Lisa was just a 22-year old college student of Assumption Convent and was under psychological treatment for emotional immaturity.
They knew then that more than anybody else. .the disciples of law -. He is their sworn servant. the lawyer is most sacredly bound to uphold the laws. In sum. respondent committed grossly immoral conduct and violation of his oath as a lawyer.” Corollarily.” It is not by coincidence that the drafters of our Code of Professional Responsibility ranked the above responsibility first in the enumeration. and for him.” This is founded on the lawyers’ primordial duty to society as spelled out in Canon 1 which states: “CANON 1 – A lawyer shall uphold the Constitution. The penalty of one (1) year suspension recommended by the IBP is not commensurate to the gravity of his offense. it is the lawyers -. obey the laws of the land and promote respect for law and legal processes. As stated in Ex Parte Wall:37 “Of all classes and professions. argues recreancy to his position and office and sets a pernicious example to the insubordinate and dangerous elements of the body politic. the above responsibility is enshrined in the Attorney’s Oath which every lawyer in the country has to take before he is allowed to practice. to repudiate and override the laws. to trample them underfoot and to ignore the very bonds of society.conduct. The bulk of jurisprudence supports the imposition of the extreme penalty of disbarment.who are most obliged to venerate the law. of all men in the world.
Let respondent’s name be stricken from the Roll of Attorneys immediately. Palma is found GUILTY of grossly immoral conduct and violation of his oath as a lawyer. . Furnish the Bar Confidant. the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and all courts throughout the country with copies of this Decision. respondent Leo J. SO ORDERED.WHEREFORE. and is hereby DISBARRED from the practice of law.
filed with the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP). Though admitting the fact of marriage with the complainant and the birth of their children. Crispin G. DANTES. The case was docketed as CBD Case No.C. 2001. CRISPIN G. No. DANTES. Dantes. sought the disbarment of her husband. she insisted that she be accommodated in the place where he and their children were residing. Respondent submitted his Answer5 on November 19. ATTY. Hence.2 In an Affidavit-Complaint3 dated June 6. complainant. Respondent purportedly engaged in illicit relationships with two women. good moral character is not only a condition precedent1 to the practice of law.Republic of the Philippines SUPREME COURT Manila EN BANC A. 2001. and violation of professional ethics and law. Pampanga. . In this jurisdiction too. DECISION PER CURIAM: Despite variations in the specific standards and provisions. thus forcing complainant to work abroad to provide for their children’s needs. abandonment. Atty. the IBP Commission on Bar Discipline issued an Order4 requiring respondent to submit his answer to the Affidavit-Complaint. one requirement remains constant in all the jurisdictions where the practice of law is regulated: the candidate must demonstrate that he or she has "good moral character. vs. On July 4. he failed to give regular support to complainant and their children. Emma T. Complainant pointed out that these acts of respondent constitute a violation of his lawyer’s oath and his moral and legal obligation to be a role model to the community. respondent alleged that they have mutually agreed to separate eighteen (18) years before after complainant had abandoned him in their Balintawak residence and fled to San Fernando. Dantes on the ground of immorality. 01-851. he may be suspended or disbarred." and once he becomes a lawyer he should always behave in accordance with the standard. Respondent claimed that when complainant returned after eighteen years. when a lawyer is found guilty of grossly immoral conduct. he was forced to live alone in a rented apartment. Thus. one after the other. From the time respondent’s illicit affairs started. Complainant alleged that respondent is a philanderer. and had illegitimate children with them. 2004 EMMA T. 6486 September 22. 2001. respondent. but an unending requirement for all the members of the bar.
Respondent further alleged that he sent their children to the best school he could afford and provided for their needs.6 to support the allegations in her AffidavitComplaint. Instead of presenting evidence. Complainant presented documentary evidence consisting of the birth certificates of Ray Darwin. He.14 In an Order dated April 17. respondent was deemed to have waived his right to crossexamine complainant. and gave complainant adequate financial support even after she had abandoned him in 1983. Respondent asserted that complainant filed this case in order to force him to remit seventy percent (70%) of his monthly salary to her. 1980. Denying that there was a mutual agreement between her and respondent to live separately. and the affidavits of respondent and his paramour13 to prove the fact that respondent sired three illegitimate children out of his illicit affairs with two different women.16 Respondent was given a final chance to present his evidence on July 11. it was established that on January 19.12 all surnamed Dantes. 2003. Complainant narrated that their relationship was marred by frequent quarrels because of respondent’s extramarital affairs. Respondent’s motion was denied because it was filed after the complainant had already presented her evidence. Dandelo and Dante. that he did not want to live with her anymore and that he preferred his mistresses. Complainant presented her evidence. 2002.8 October 14. complainant engaged in the buy and sell business and relied on dole-outs from the respondent’s mother. 1983. 19819 and August 11. At that time. He even bought two lots in Pampanga for his sons. complainant asseverated that she was just compelled to work abroad to support their children. and Christian Dave. respondent was just a fourth year law student. When she returned to the Philippines. Respondent. then bluntly told her. on May 29. To make ends meet. Dante and Daisy. both oral and documentary. respondent filed a Motion for Reconsideration with Motion to Dismiss. Darling. she learned that respondent was living with another woman. namely. respondent submitted a Motion to Adopt Alternative Dispute Resolution Mechanism. 2003.11 Sometime in 1983. complainant and respondent were married7 and lived with the latter’s mother in Balintawak. Letters of complainant’s legitimate children likewise support the allegation that respondent is a womanizer. who were born on February 20. Three children were born to the couple. complainant worked abroad as a domestic helper.10 respectively. which was likewise denied for being a prohibited . however. after he failed to appear during the scheduled hearings despite due notice. From 1986 to 2001. Subsequently. From the evidence presented by the complainant. Dandelo. 1979. she brought their children to her mother in Pampanga to enable her to work because respondent had failed to provide adequate support. submitted his Comment/Opposition to the Complainant’s Formal Offer of Evidence with Motion to Exclude the Evidence from the Records of the Proceedings15 on August 1. the IBP conducted its investigation and hearings on the complaint. 2002. Subsequently.
lawyers must not only in fact be of good moral character but must also be seen to be of good moral character and leading lives in accordance with the highest moral standards of the community. 2004. The Code of Professional Responsibility provides: "Rule 1. as far as the general public is concerned." "Canon 7. 2003. whether in public or private life. he argued that in view of the resolution of the complaint for support with alimony pendente lite18 filed against him by the complainant before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Quezon City. dishonest. immoral or deceitful conduct. it must be so corrupt as to constitute a criminal act or so unprincipled as to be reprehensible to a high degree23 or committed under such scandalous or revolting circumstances as to shock the common sense of decency.17 he reiterated the allegations in his Answer except that this time. If the practice of law is to remain an honorable profession and attain its basic ideals.A lawyer shall not engage in conduct that adversely reflects on his fitness to practice law. dishonest.A lawyer shall at all times uphold the integrity and dignity of the legal profession. nor should he. accord continuing fidelity to them. The requirement of good moral character is of much greater import.21 The IBP recommended that the respondent be suspended indefinitely from the practice of law. Daarol. . Except for the penalty.01. and support the activities of the Integrated Bar. immoral or deceitful conduct. That is.03. behave in a scandalous manner to the discredit of the legal profession. 01-851. Respondent submitted his Position Paper on August 4. in their lives. a member of the Bar and officer of the court is not only required to refrain from adulterous relationships or keeping mistresses but must also so behave himself as to avoid scandalizing the public by creating the belief that he is flouting those moral standards.22 To be the basis of disciplinary action. XVI-2004-230 involving CBD Case No. On July 7. or shameless as to show indifference to the opinion of good and respectable members of the community.pleading under the Rules of Procedure of the Commission on Bar Discipline. than the possession of legal learning. In respondent’s Position Paper.24 In Barrientos vs.19 the instant administrative case should be dismissed for lack of merit. flagrant. those enrolled in its ranks should not only master its tenets and principles but should also. we find the above recommendation well-taken.25 we ruled that as officers of the court." The Code of Professional Responsibility forbids lawyers from engaging in unlawful.A lawyer shall not engage in unlawful. the IBP submitted to us through the Office of the Bar Confidant its Report20 and Resolution No. but grossly immoral. Immoral conduct has been defined as that conduct which is so willful. the lawyer’s conduct must not only be immoral. More specifically." "Rule 7.
He has made a mockery of marriage which is a sacred institution demanding respect and dignity.29 In Toledo vs. Obusan. probity or good demeanor. such as temporary suspension. respondent had breached the high and exacting moral standards set for members of the law profession.30 we disbarred respondent for abandoning his lawful wife and cohabiting with another woman who had borne him a child. not only upon admission to the Bar but also throughout their legal career.32 that moral delinquency which affects the fitness of a member of the bar to continue as such. flagrant. Dantes is hereby DISBARRED and his name is ORDERED STRICKEN from the Roll of Attorneys. Evidently. in view of the foregoing Atty. even if it pertains to his private activities. and on the Office of the Court Administrator for circulation to all courts in the country. the seriousness of the offense compels the Court to wield its power to disbar as it appears to be the most appropriate penalty.It should be noted that the requirement of good moral character has three ostensible purposes. Toledo. taken in conjunction with the documentary evidence. and only in a clear case of misconduct that seriously affects the standing and character of the lawyer as an officer of the Court and as a member of the bar. namely: (i) to protect the public. and which shows moral indifference to the opinion of the good and respectable members of the community. WHEREFORE.26 Lawyers are expected to abide by the tenets of morality. sufficiently established respondent’s commission of marital infidelity and immorality. in the present case. Crispin G. Cordova. honesty. (ii) to protect the public image of lawyers. A writer added a fourth: to protect errant lawyers from themselves. and notice of the same be served on the Integrated Bar of the Philippines. Complainant’s testimony. Let a copy of this Decision be entered in the respondent’s record as a member of the Bar. Likewise. or shameless.31 we ruled that abandoning one’s wife and resuming carnal relations with a paramour fall within that conduct which is willful.27 They may be suspended from the practice of law or disbarred for any misconduct. in order to maintain their good standing in this exclusive and honored fraternity. in Obusan vs. could accomplish the end desired. respondent’s acts of engaging in illicit relationships with two different women during the subsistence of his marriage to the complainant constitutes grossly immoral conduct warranting the imposition appropriate sanctions.33 Where a lesser penalty. and (iii) to protect prospective clients. disbarment should never be decreed. as long as it shows him to be wanting in moral character.28 Undoubtedly. The power to disbar must be exercised with great caution.34 However. We reiterate our ruling in Cordova vs. . includes conduct that outrages the generally accepted moral standards of the community as exemplified by behavior which makes a mockery of the inviolable social institution of marriage.
SO ORDERED. .
Cathay was allowed to present evidence ex-parte. was awarded the property for P376. 350892 in the name of Cabrera. respondents. 270814 was cancelled with the issuance of TCT No. No. a Certificate of Sale was issued by the sheriff on June 27. A brief narration of facts is in order. however.. and on March 25. RESOLUTION ROMERO. 1985. decision of the Courts's First Division. He did not even inform her of all these developments. and to pay damages to. he filed a petition for annulment of judgment with prayer for the issuance of a writ of preliminary mandatory injunction before the Court of Appeals. Thus.EN BANC [G. Legarda’s Transfer Certificate of Title (TCT) No. Legarda’s counsel. Inc. In the meantime. A month later. she refused to sign the contract although respondent lessee.: For our resolution is the motion for reconsideration of the March 18. (Cathay). October 16. The parties hereto entered into a lease agreement over a certain Quezon City property owned by petitioner Victoria Legarda. Consequently. 1986.. Atty. Coronel. failed to file an answer within the extended period. THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS. 1997] VICTORIA LEGARDA. Cathay. made a deposit and a down payment of rentals. 1991. as highest bidder. “she nevertheless did not lose faith in her counsel”ii and prevailed upon him to seek appropriate relief. a Final Deed of Sale was issued by the sheriff on July 8. on October 23. 1986. which was registered by Cabrera with the Register of Deeds three days later. Atty. prompting the latter to file before the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City. 1985. Cabrera.00 in satisfaction of the judgment debt.500. Hence. For some reason or another. Upon failure of Legarda to redeem her property within the one-year redemption period.R. the trial court issued a writ of execution and a public auction was held where Cathay’s manager. Roberto V. Despite the lapse of over a year since the judgment by default became final and executory. BRANCH 94. Branch 94 a complainti against the former for specific performance with preliminary injunction and damages. vs. INC. J. Coronel made no move on behalf of his client.iii . When Legarda did learn of the adverse decision. Jr. The court a quo issued the injunction. 1985. On April 9. THE HONORABLE REGIONAL TRIAL COURT OF QUEZON CITY. Coronel but he took no action until the judgment became final and executory. a copy of said decision was served on Atty. petitioner. requested a 10-day extension of time to file an answer which the court granted. filed by private respondents New Cathay House. a judgment by default was reached by the trial court ordering Legarda to execute the lease contract in favor of. His client was eventually declared in default. NEW CATHAY HOUSE. 94457. noted lawyer Dean Antonio Coronel. Cathay.
not just ordinary or simple negligence.” Thus. later. She then hired a new counsel for the purpose of elevating her case to this Court. inter alia. but reckless. whose omissions cannot possibly bind her because this amounted to a violation of her right to due process of law. The Court then declared that Atty. among other things. Upon notice of the Court of Appeals decision. or the lack of it. and the Register of Deeds to cancel the registration of said property in the name of Cathay (not Cabrera) and to issue a new one in Legarda’s name.” and added that there was “pure and simple negligence” on the part of petitioner’s counsel who failed to file an answer and. (b) nullifying the trial court’s decision dated March 25. alleging. It has not been shown nor even alleged. however. and noted that counsel’s “lack of devotion to duty is so gross and palpable that this Court must come to the aid of his distraught client. a petition for relief from judgment by default. that Legarda lost in the courts below because her previous lawyer was grossly negligent and inefficient. the appellate court rendered a decision affirming the March 25. asked Cathay (not Cabrera) to reconvey the subject property to her. ruling. which deprived his client of her property without due process of law. 1985. Cathay was duty bound to return the subject property to Legarda. as follows: (a) granting the petition. ownership over the property had already been validly transferred to innocent third parties at the time of promulgation of said judgment. for two reasons: First. The impossibility of this directive is immediately apparent. even if it did. Justice Gancayco. and the subsequent final deed of sale covering the same property. His acts. and (c) ordering Cathay to reconvey said property to Legarda. inter alia. that Roberto Cabrera had all the time been acting for . It considered her allegation of fraud by Cathay to be “improbable. Atty. therefore. By virtue of the Gancayco decision.” Aggrieved by this development. 1989. second. the Sheriff’s Certificate of Sale dated June 27. Cathay neither possessed nor owned the property so it is in no position to reconvey the same. There is no question that the highest bidder at the public auction was Cathay’s manager. Coronel again neglected to protect his client’s interest by failing to file a motion for reconsideration or to appeal therefrom until said decision became final on December 21. the Court of Appeals decision dated November 29. 1989. 1985. Coronel committed. Sometime in March 1990. 1991.On November 29. Cathay filed the instant motion for reconsideration. that reconveyance is not possible because the subject property had already been sold by its owner. Cabrera. inexcusable and gross negligence. Legarda learned of the adverse decision of the Court of Appeals dated November 29. 1989. Coronel but from his secretary. of the property in question. alleging. even prior to the promulgation of said decision. a decisioniv was rendered in this case by Mr. She. and holding Legarda bound by the negligence of her counsel. not from Atty. The new lawyer filed a petition for certiorari praying for the annulment of the decision of the trial and appellate courts and of the sheriff’s sale. decision of the trial court. 1989. 1985. dismissing the petition for annulment of judgment. the Court ruled against tolerating “such unjust enrichment” of Cathay at Legarda’s expense. should not be allowed to bind Legarda who has been “consigned to penury” because “her lawyer appeared to have abandoned her case not once but repeatedly. On March 18.
et al.ix “(j)urisdiction over a party is acquired by his voluntary appearance or submission to the court or by the coercive process issued by the court to him. The successive owners were each armed with their own indefeasible titles which automatically brought them under the aegis of the Torrens System. more than one year before the Court issued a temporary restraining order in connection with this case. With these transfers. 1991. much less by Cathay itself. 1990. is the fact that Cabrera was impleaded as a party-respondent only on August 12. at a premium price. 1990. Therefore. it would not have created a lien over the property because the main office of a lien is to warn prospective buyers that the property they intend to purchase is the subject of a pending litigation. As we held in the recent case of National Power Corporation v. Since the decision of the Court of Appeals gained finality on December 21. generally by service of summons. viz. having relied as they did on the clean titles of their predecessors. 1993. that a certificate of sale and. Cabrera was simply a vendee whose payment effectively extinguished Legarda’s liability to Cathay as the judgment creditor. decision under reconsideration. an innocent purchaser for value. a final deed of sale were issued to Cabrera which allowed him to consolidate his ownership over the subject property.or in behalf of Cathay. subsequently. it can no longer be returned to its original owner by Cabrera. four months after the decision of the Court of Appeals became final and executory and one year before the promulgation of the March 18. instead of Cabrera to reconvey the property to Legarda. the subject property has been sold and ownership thereof transferred no less than three times. 1990. and finally to Luminlun’s TCT No. NLRC. What is clear from the records is that the auction sale was conducted regularly. (b) from Nancy Saw to Lily Tanlo Sy Chua on August 7.”x In other words. since the property is already in the hands of Luminlun. Nothing on record would demonstrate that Cathay was the beneficiary of the sale between Cabrera and Saw. though not raised as an issue in this case. either as plaintiffappellee below or as respondent in the present action. 350892 gave way to Saw’s TCT No. and (c) from the spouses Victor and Lily Sy Chua to Janet Chong Luminlun on April 3. 1991. Cabrera was never a party to this case. Neither did he ever act as Cathay’s representative. We do not have to belabor the fact that all the successors-in-interest of Cabrera to the subject lot were transferees for value and in good faith.vi “(i)t is settled doctrine that one who deals with property registered under the Torrens system need not go beyond the same. it is not disputed that no notice of lis pendens was ever annotated on any of the titles of the subsequent owners. an innocent purchaser for value. 1990. He is charged with notice only of such burdens and claims as are annotated on the title. August 8. 1989.”vii In the case at bar. with Cabrera acting as a mere conduit for Cathay. register it and obtain a title in his own name. and sell it to Nancy Saw. then to Chua’s TCT No. and November 24. respectively. 1992. 31672. after the promulgation of the Gancayco decision.. For all intents and purposes. Court of Appeals. And even if there were such a notice. As the Court declared in Sandoval v. all issued by the Register of Deeds of Quezon City on April 3.viii The dispositive portion itself ordered Cathay. Another point to consider. Cabrera’s TCT No.: (a) from Cabrera to Nancy Saw on March 21. until Cabrera was impleaded as party respondent and ordered to . but only has to rely on the title. 31673. No proof was ever presented which would reveal that the sale occurred only on paper. 99143. Cabrera himself maintained that he was “acting in his private (as distinct from his corporate) capacity”v when he participated in the bidding.
resolution. Assuming arguendo that reconveyance is possible. Yet. his negligence every step of the way amounting to “abandonment.” If this does not constitute payment. untainted by any irregularity. however. under the facts and evidence obtaining in this case. the order of reconveyance was premised on the alleged gross negligence of Legarda’s counsel which should not be allowed to bind her as she was deprived of her property “without due process of law. Cabrera parted with real money at the auction. for this opportunity to be heard is the very essence of due process. it is likewise true that said bidding was conducted by the book. reconveyance. it was not through any machination on his part. All of his actuations that led to the final registration of the title in his name were aboveboard. she cannot be said to have been denied due process of law. basic that as long as a party was given the opportunity to defend her interests in due course. Her property was sold at public auction to satisfy the judgment debt. There is no call to be alarmed that an official of the company emerges as the winning bidder since in some cases. She cannot claim that she was illegally deprived of her property because such deprivation was done in accordance with the rules on execution of judgments.xii With the fulfillment of the judgment debtor’s obligation. And while it is true that he won in the bidding.” in the words of the Gancayco decision. His act in representing the company was never questioned nor disputed by Legarda. what then is it? Had there been no real purchase and payment below. it cannot be denied that the proceedings which led to the filing of this case were not attended by any irregularity. and to command his principal to reconvey a piece of property which used to be HIS would not only be inappropriate but would also constitute a real deprivation of one’s property without due process of law. that Cathay and Cabrera are one and the same and that Cabrera’s payment redounded to the benefit of his principal. What is important is that it was purchased for value. inter alia. There is no gainsaying that Legarda is the judgment debtor here. In his “Sheriff’s Certificate of Sale” dated June 27. The fact that Cabrera is an officer of Cathay does not make him a purchaser in bad faith. the sale price of the levied property. so was the ensuing sale at public auction. Mendoza certified. The chronology of events shows that the case took its regular course in the trial and appellate courts but Legarda’s counsel failed to act as any ordinary counsel should have acted. If Cabrera was adjudged highest bidder in said auction sale.file a comment in the August 12. 1985. would still not address the issues raised herein The application of the sale price to Legarda’s judgment debt constituted a payment which extinguished her liability to Cathay as the party in whose favor the obligation to pay damages was established. the judgment creditor himself personally participates in the bidding.500.” It is. the Court never obtained jurisdiction over him. that the “highest bidder paid to the Deputy Sheriff the said amount of P376. 1991. Under the Gancayco ruling.xiii Deputy Sheriff Angelito R. The judgment by default was valid. the subject property would never have been awarded to Cabrera and .00. nothing else was required to be done. Whether the money used to pay for said property came from the judgment creditor or its representative is not relevant.xi It was a payment in the sense that Cathay had to resort to a courtsupervised auction sale in order to execute the judgment.
and the judgment debt would never have been satisfied. it cannot play the role of a “knight in shining armor” coming to the aid of someone.” It must be remembered that this Court renders decisions. appropriate law. It may be true that the subject lot could have fetched a higher price during the public auction. She could not feign ignorance of said sale on account of her counsel’s failure to so inform her. If she may be said to be “innocent” because she was ignorant of the acts of negligence of her counsel. applying the relevant. she admits that her mother Ligaya represented her during her absence. Neither Cathay nor Cabrera should be made to suffer for the gross negligence of Legarda’s counsel. because such auction sales comply with requirements of notice and publication under the Rules of Court. an act which would constitute an actual denial of property without due process of law. but not for that alone can the law intervene and restore. or any losing litigant for that matter. in addition. Legarda. who misjudged and hired the services of the lawyer who practically abandoned her case and who continued to retain him even after his proven apathy and negligence. 1985.xiv In short. Thus. There must be.indeed. all they have in the world. not on the basis of emotions but on its sound judgment. Moreover. that “. use miserable judgment. make ridiculous contracts.B. she was not totally in the dark as to the fate of her property and she could have exercised her right of redemption if she chose to. Much as it may pity Legarda. Legarda still failed to redeem her property within the one-year redemption period.00 was the highest. Finally. In Vales v. but she did not. the one who made it possible for the wrong to be done should be the one to bear the resulting loss. it was not respondents. who through her weakness. this Court “must come to the aid of the distraught client.xvi this Court warned against the danger of jumping to the aid of a litigant who commits serious error of judgment resulting in his own loss: “x x x Courts operate not because one person has been defeated or overcome by another. The Gancayco decision makes much of the fact that Legarda is now “consigned to penury” and. in spite of this allegedly low selling price. . (B)etween two innocent parties. therefore. but she admits that she left the Philippines only on July 13. to require either Cathay or Cabrera to reconvey the property would be an unlawful intrusion into the lawful exercise of his proprietary rights over the land in question. but because he has been defeated or overcome illegally. Legarda also claims that she was in the United States during the redemption period. In the absence of any clear and convincing proof that such requirements were not followed. and lose money by them .500. This reflects the basic common law maxim. a violation of . he could not help it if his bid of only P376. Villa. the party who was responsible for making it happen should suffer the consequences. but the fail to betray any hint of a bid higher than Cabrera’s which was bypassed in his favor. with more reason are respondents truly “innocent.”xv In this case. ignorance or misjudgment may have been bested in a legal joust which complied with all the rules of legal proceedings. as Legarda claims.” As between two parties who may lose due to the negligence or incompetence of the counsel of one. the presumption of regularity stands.L. Certainly.registered in his name. . Reyes. or sixteen days after the auction sale of June 27. 1985. Men may do foolish things. so succinctly stated by Justice J.
”xxi In other words.xix This is the stage of finality which judgments must at one point or another reach. judgments of courts should become final at some definite date fixed by law.law. “they. the only errors that may be corrected are those which are clerical. it is readily apparent that the real issue that must be resolved in this motion for reconsideration is the alleged illegality of the final judgments of the trial and appellate courts.xxii From the foregoing precedents. a judgment becomes ipso facto final when no appeal is perfected or the reglementary period to appeal therefrom expires. which were nullified by the Gancayco decision. Void judgments may be classified into two groups: those rendered by a court without jurisdiction to do so and those obtained by fraud or collusion. the trial court’s judgment was based on Cathay’s evidence after Legarda was declared in default. it was only after the decisions of the trial and appellate courts had gained finality. If the subject property was at all sold. become inviolable. This judgment became final when she failed to avail of remedies available to her. The very object for which courts were instituted was to put an end to controversies. then. fixes the rights and liabilities of the parties. or in any way modified directly or indirectly. Damages were duly awarded to Cathay. but upon proof of its entitlement thereto. an action to annul a judgment on the ground of fraud will not lie unless the fraud is extrinsic or collateral and .”xx When judgments of lower courts gain finality. “The necessity of giving finality to judgments that are not void is selfevident. “A judgment may be broadly defined as the decision or sentence of the law given by a court or other tribunal as the result of proceedings instituted therein. such as filing a motion for reconsideration or appealing the case. Public policy and sound practice demand that. should be respected and allowed to stand by this Court for having become final and executory." Respondents should not be penalized for Legarda’s mistake. by a higher court. and it is regarded as the sentence of the law pronounced by the court on the action or question before it. no longer be reviewed. too.”xviii In the case at bar. “In this regard. not even by the Supreme Court. once a judgment becomes final. At the time. It would create doubt. Consequently. and controversy would constantly arise as to what the judgment or order was. real or imaginary. and determines the proceeding. not whimsically. The issue of whether the plaintiff (Cathay) deserved to recover damages because of the defendant’s (Legarda’s) refusal to honor their lease agreement was resolved. These twin judgments. the commission of what the law knows as an actionable wrong. at the risk of occasional errors. the issues raised in the complaint had already been determined and disposed of by the trial court.”xvii It is “a judicial act which settles the issues. the right of Cathay to be vindicated for such breach and the liability incurred by Legarda in the process were determined. They may. impervious to modification. The opposite view might make litigations more unendurable than the wrongs (they are) intended to redress. before the courts are authorized to lay hold of the situation and remedy it. The interests of society impose it. In our jurisdiction.xxiii This case must be tested in light of the guidelines governing the latter class of judgments.
aside from the fact that no extrinsic fraud attended the trial and resolution of this case. WHEREFORE. Errors of judgment. SP-10487. Fortunately. of the Court’s First Division is VACATED and SET ASIDE. No. It was only after the appellate court’s decision had become final and executory. This could only imply that at the time she filed her petition for annulment of judgment. . decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G. Inc. the Motion for Reconsideration of respondent New Cathay House.R. a writ of execution issued. failing which the decision becomes final and executory. In most cases. Costs against petitioner Victoria Legarda. Consequently. the decision of the trial court cannot be nullified. that she began to protest the alleged negligence of her attorney. it must be pointed out that while Legarda went to the Court of Appeals claiming precisely that the trial court’s decision was fraudulently obtained. the decision dated March 18. if any. ruled otherwise. Such being the case. 1991. 1989. this would have been dismissed outright for being dilatory and appearing as an act of desperation on the part of a vanquished litigant.facts upon which it is based (have) not been controverted or resolved in the case where (the) judgment was rendered. she grounded her petition before the Supreme Court upon her estranged counsel’s negligence.”xxv At this juncture. she entertained no notion that Atty. The Gancayco ruling. the jurisdiction of the court a quo over the parties and the subject matter was never raised as an issue by Legarda. “valid and binding upon the parties in the case and their successors in interest. Coronel was being remiss in his duties. is hereby GRANTED. we now have an opportunity to rectify a grave error of the past. A new judgment is hereby entered DISMISSING the instant petition for review and AFFIRMING the November 29. the property auctioned off then sold to an innocent purchasers for value. unfortunately.”xxiv Where is the fraud in the case at bar? Was Legarda unlawfully barred from the proceedings below? Did her counsel sell her out to the opponent? It must be noted that. SO ORDERED. can only be reviewed on appeal.
the Judge issued an Order on October 2. Iloilo City (MTC). RODOLFO and VIOLETA ALCANTARA. are all titled properties. It found that Espinosa did not encroach on the lot of the Alcantaras as his restaurant was situated on Lot 933-A-18 which he owns.6 Its Presiding Judge. litigation expenses. petitioner. on November 4. SP No.3 Espinosa denied the encroachment. RTC Iloilo City and Sps.5 The Alcantaras appealed the decision to the RTC. DECISION Tinga. 128686 May 28. Branch 23. J.7 .4 After trial. covered by Transfer Certificate of Title No. HON. Atty. 1989. dismissing the petition for the annulment of the Decision2 dated May 15. Espinosa succeeded in having the case tried as in a regular case. Also through his counsel then.R. Rex Castillon. was occupied by the petitioner Honorato Espinosa’s ("Espinosa") restaurant. instead of a hearing under the Rules on Summary Procedure. No. vs. After finding through a relocation survey that a portion of their Lot 933-A-1-A. 18622. Gustilo. 2004 HONORATO ESPINOSA. the private respondents Rodolfo and Violeta Alcantara ("Alcantaras") filed an action for ejectment against Espinosa before the Municipal Trial Court in Cities. PRESIDING JUDGE. T-69242 (Iloilo). 1990 of the Regional Trial Court of Iloilo City (RTC) in Civil Case No. 1989 in favor of Espinosa. dismissing the complaint and ordering the Alcantara spouses to pay moral damages.: This is a petition for review of the Decision1 dated October 11. 1996 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G. respondents. Hon. 39206.Republic of the Philippines SUPREME COURT Manila SECOND DIVISION G. On that basis and with the concurrence of the parties and their respective lawyers. known as "Tatoy’s Manokan and Seafoods Restaurant". and costs of suit. Tito G. 1985. the MTC rendered judgment on February 6.R. The antecedents are recited below. noted that the lot of the Alcantaras and the adjoining lots. including those of Espinosa and the city street. attorney’s fees. COURT OF APPEALS. commissioning the Bureau of Lands to conduct a relocation survey for the purpose of determining whether Espinosa’s restaurant has indeed encroached on the Alcantaras’ lot. exemplary damages.
.9 The sketch plan indicates that Espinosa’s restaurant encroaches on eighty-nine (89) square meters of the Alcantaras’ Lot 933A-1-A and also on a portion of the city street known as Melo Boulevard and designated as Lot 933-A-1-B. the RTC rendered its decision in favor of the Alcantaras. 111752) and the decision or resolution on the petitions. 1990. 111752. 1995. April 2. Present were the parties and their lawyers. Atty.11 During the relocation survey.Judge Gustilo presided over the ocular inspection and relocation survey on October 2.14 On September 6. He alleged that the promulgation of the RTC decision was attended with extrinsic fraud and denial of due process. Espinosa agreed to the proposal at the time. 1989. reversing the MTC decision and ordering Espinosa to vacate the lot in question and to pay the Alcantaras moral damages. however.16 Less than three (3) months later. the Court of Appeals promulgated its Decision in the case.8 In due time. denying Espinosa’s Petition For Review.00 per square meter from the Alcantaras.000.15 Unfazed.R. the Bureau of Lands through its authorized representative submitted to the RTC the result of the relocation survey with the corresponding sketch plan. 1989. Jr. Espinosa.13 Espinosa elevated the RTC decision to the Court of Appeals through a Petition For Review which was docketed as CA-G. This Court denied the Petition in a Resolution dated February 27. attorney’s fees. 1990. namely: on December 27. SP No. No.00) for forum-shopping. Espinosa was silent on the petitions he earlier filed with the Court of Appeals (CA-G. 22398) and this Court (G. 1995. on December 6.R. the Court of Appeals dismissed the petition for annulment of judgment..R. 22398. 1995 for which the corresponding Entry of Judgment was made on August 18. However. Laguilles.19 It also declared Espinosa and his present counsel in contempt of court and fined each of them One Thousand Pesos (P1. filed a petition for annulment of judgment with the Court of Appeals.18 In the challenged Decision.R. this time through his present counsel. 1993.17 In his verification and certification of non-forum shopping. No. Espinosa elevated the CA Decision to this Court and his Petition was docketed as G. when the Judge invited the parties and their counsels to his chambers to explore or pursue the proposed compromise agreement on three (3) occasions. Honorio S. SP No.10 Said street lot used to be a part of the bigger property owned by the Alcantaras’ predecessor-in-interest from whom the City of Iloilo purchased the street lot. 1990 and April 5. Judge Gustilo proposed a compromise settlement to the parties and their lawyers whereby should the relocation survey attest to the encroachment on the Alcantaras’ lot Espinosa would buy the encroached area at P250. litigation expenses and costs of suit. Espinosa rejected the proffered settlement.12 On May 15.
The same issue was raised again in G. i. It was rejected by the appellate court in its decision in the said case. Nor was Espinosa prevented from arguing against the adoption of such findings before the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court. but upon lawful order by the RTC. Extrinsic fraud exists when there is a fraudulent act of prevailing party committed outside of the trial of the case. Annulment of judgment is a recourse equitable in character. The relocation survey was ordered for the purpose of conclusively ascertaining a factual issue. His claim has acquired the veneer of a scratchy vinyl record that repeats its hoary tune ad nauseum to the general effect of irritation.21 However.. Espinosa suggests that it was highly questionable on the part of the RTC to have ordered such a survey since the case was being heard on appeal. as the same has to be definitively established by the claimant. the procedure was consented to by all of the parties and their lawyers.22 The extrinsic fraud complained off by Espinosa refers to the act of conducting the relocation survey while the case was on appeal to the RTC. Moreover. and given the nature of an ejectment action. allowed only in exceptional cases as where there is no available or other adequate remedy. Espinosa was not prevented from challenging the findings before the RTC. such lapse is procedural in character only. . and (b) whether Espinosa and his present counsel are guilty of forum-shopping. only the submission of memoranda by the parties are required. Espinosa raised the same issue concerning the alleged impropriety of the relocation survey ordered by the RTC before the CA in CA G. the exact location of the structure belonging to Espinosa in relation to the lot of the Alcantaras. On the contrary. whereby the defeated party was prevented from exhibiting fully his side of the case by fraud or deception practiced on him by the prevailing party. and well within its competence as it is a trier of facts. considering that he had availed of the proper appellate processes before these higher courts.24 Even assuming that the order for the relocation survey is irregular on the premise that RTC may decide the appealed case based only on the records and pleadings before it. Espinosa has had multiple opportunities to raise the same issue on the impropriety of the relocation survey before the courts. Indeed. 22398.R.23 Clearly. the ground upon which Espinosa relies upon.e. 111752 before this Court. This is a proper question for the RTC to have inquired into. Espinosa has failed to prove extrinsic fraud. the conduct of the relocation survey was not occasioned at the instigation of the prevailing party (the Alcantaras). Despite such relocation survey. the issues before this Court are (a) whether the RTC Decision may be annulled on the ground of extrinsic fraud and denial of due process. No.R.20 Extrinsic fraud. Every court has the inherent power to do all things reasonably necessary for the administration of justice within the scope of its jurisdiction. albeit unsuccessfully. the mere allegation of extrinsic fraud does not instantly warrant the annulment of a final judgment. The findings would not be ipso facto binding on the parties who consented to the survey.Consequently. SP No. is one of the recognized grounds for annulment of judgment. but would only form part of the proofs on which the trial court would base its decision upon. A claim of extrinsic fraud would presuppose that the claimant was prevented exhibiting fully his side of the case.
was rendered by the trial court. save when the negligence of counsel is so gross. The Court therein noted the following negligent acts of lawyer Antonio Coronel: Petitioner's counsel is a well-known practicing lawyer and dean of a law school.28 Gross negligence on the part of the counsel in Legarda is clearly established. in Alabanzas counsel failed to file an appellant’s brief. Castillon.30 It strikes as odd that Espinosa should cite Alabanzas in the first place. Castillon hardly measure up to this standard of gross negligence exhibited in the Legarda case. Nevertheless. a judgment. the judgment became final and executory. characterized by a series of negligent omissions that led to a final executory judgment against the client.29 Despite such inexcusable and fatal lapse. The general rule is that the client is bound by the mistakes of his counsel. were present during the survey and are thus estopped from questioning its very conduct in the first place. Hence. Unfortunately. counsel appears to have abandoned the cause of petitioner. It is to be expected that he would extend the highest quality of service as a lawyer to the petitioner. yet the Court anyway still refused to apply the exception to the general rule. said counsel did nothing more than enter his appearance and seek for an extension of time to file the answer.Espinosa claims that he was deprived of due process and blames his former counsel. considering that the lapse of the counsel therein was far worse than that imputed to Atty. These very cases cited demonstrate why Atty. the Court ruled that it was not sufficient to establish such gross or palpable negligence that justified a deviation from the rule that clients should be bound by the acts and mistakes of their counsel. Espinosa invokes the exception to the general rule that a client need not be bound by the actions of counsel who is grossly and palpably negligent. Castillon is a law professor on Property and a distinguished practitioner in the City of Iloilo. Atty. Said counsel for petitioner received a copy of the judgment but took no steps to have the same set aside or to appeal therefrom. On the other hand. for having consented to the relocation survey. After agreeing to defend the petitioner in the civil case filed against her by private respondent. who never once got her side aired before the court of law before finality of judgment set in. On the contrary. thereby causing the dismissal of the appeal before the Court of Appeals. Thus. Espinosa and his former counsel agreed to the relocation survey. Castillon’s acts hardly constitute gross or palpable negligence. there is nothing in the record that would tend to establish that Atty. Besides. Indubitably. After the evidence of private respondent was received ex-parte. Castillon served as Espinosa’s counsel for more than ten years. petitioner was declared in default on motion of private respondent's counsel. When a party retains the services of a lawyer.32 .31 Moreover. Court of Appeals26 and Alabanzas v. The actions of Atty. Legarda provides a textbook example of gross negligence on the part of the counsel. Atty. implicitly suggesting that the lawyer too had an active hand in denying him due process. he failed to file the answer. IAC27. as noted by the Alcantaras in their Comment. he is bound by his counsel's decisions regarding the conduct of the case.25 Citing the cases of Legarda v. Castillon performed less than ably in representing Espinosa. Atty. Castillon. reckless and inexcusable that the client is deprived of his day in court.
111752 and the decisions or resolutions thereon.33 An action based on extrinsic fraud must be filed within four (4) years from its discovery. but with a different collar. that same question of impropriety was already passed upon by the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court in two previous petitions filed by Espinosa. In his present petition before this Court. Laguilles. it could have very well been dismissed on that ground alone. Jr. 39206. without prejudice to the filing of criminal action against the guilty party and the institution of disciplinary proceedings against the counsel. though with the disclaimer that those cases involved different issues than those addressed in the current petition. Anent the issue of forum-shopping. which contains the certificate of nonforum shopping in the petition in CA G. 22398] vis-a-vis the one filed in this case would readily reveal that not much difference exists between the two except that the first is a petition for review while the present is one for annulment of judgment."38 However. 28-91. Espinosa does mention the existence of the previous cases in his Verification With Affidavit of Non-Forum Shopping. the petitioner is obliged to state the status of the same. SP No. this was done out of the honest belief that the survey would benefit his client’s cause.35 the petitioner has to attest that he has not commenced any other action or proceeding involving the same issues in the Supreme Court. If such an action or proceeding has been instituted. The Petition for Annulment of Judgment is silent as to when Espinosa received a copy of the impugned decision."37 In the pithy words of the Court of Appeals. SP No.R. Castillon committed a tactical error in consenting to the relocation survey. Espinosa and his new counsel could not just turn about and pin the blame on the patsy of their convenient choice. 39206 was filed on October 11. Under Revised Circular No. Espinosa argues against this finding by noting that the issues of "denial of due process" and "fraud" were raised for the first time in the Petition for Annulment of Judgment. No.00) imposed upon them.Espinosa’s defeat is attributable not to the purported incompetence of his former lawyer but to the untenability of his legal position.R. is of no moment. which can be summarily adjudged and punished by a fine39. Unlike in cases of direct contempt. 28-91 (as amended) was already in force when the petition in CA G.000. the Court of Appeals. as his failure to assert the same before the Court of Appeals is sufficient to warrant liability..R. Another matter cited by the Court of Appeals is also worth noting. violated the rules on non-forum shopping. however.36 In his Verification. which has since been incorporated into the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure. 22398 and G. The belated compliance. Revised Circular No. Atty. a finding . As the Court of Appeals noted. And even if Atty. SP No. 1996. or when he discovered the alleged extrinsic fraud. Yet.R. The Court of Appeals noted that: "A reading of the petition filed [in CA-G. the submission of a false certification constitutes indirect contempt of court. this Court is unable to sustain the Court of Appeals’ declaration that Espinosa and his counsel are in contempt of court and the corresponding fine of One Thousand Pesos (P1.R. Certification and Affidavit of Merit. Just because it did not. "same dog. Under the Circular.34 Since the timeliness of the Petition could not be ascertained. Espinosa and his new counsel did not mention the petitions in CA G. or any other tribunal or agency. the Court agrees with the Court of Appeals’ finding that Espinosa and his present counsel. SP No. the proof of such fraud is the alleged improper allowance of the relocation survey.
.of guilt for indirect contempt must be preceded by a charge in writing. Honorio S. and the judgment therein attained finality in 1995. Jr. considering that the charge against them only constitutes indirect contempt. an opportunity given to the respondent to comment thereon and to be heard by himself or by counsel in a hearing. the Petition is DENIED for lack of merit. The assailed Decision of the Court of Appeals Sixteenth Division is AFFIRMED.40 The Court of Appeals erred in summarily punishing Espinosa and his counsel. EXCEPT insofar as it imposes a fine of One Thousand Pesos (P1. Instead. the ejectment case against Espinosa was filed way back in 1985. The immediate execution of this judgment is declared exigent to enable the Alcantaras deservedly to rest secure in the vindication of their rights and the enjoyment of their property..00) on petitioner Honorato Espinosa and Atty. the Court of Appeals is DIRECTED to initiate indirect contempt proceedings against Espinosa and Atty. If the pendency of this case has prevented the Alcantaras from enforcing the long-final judgment in their favor. WHEREFORE.000. Laguilles. Jr. then such delay is understandably egregious. In cases of indirect contempt. Finally. due process as laid down in the rules of procedure must be observed before the penalty is imposed. Laguilles. SO ORDERED. and RESOLVE the same in conformity with Rule 71 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure. no matter how palpable the errant’s bad faith might appear to the court.
Mercado. who merely entrusted said title to respondent pursuant to a transaction with the Quedancor. respondent filed her Answer alleging that: she issued several Equitable PCIBank checks amounting to P234. 22 were filed by Isidra and Olivia with the City Prosecutor of Cabanatuan. on May 16.00. respondent. respondent issued several Equitable PCIBank Checks in favor of both Isidra and Olivia. 6408 August 31. complainants tried to get in touch with respondent over the phone but the latter was always unavailable.000.: Before this Court is a complaint for disbarment filed against Atty. registered in the name of Victoria Villamar which was allegedly paid to respondent by a client. the sole heir of Victoria Villamar. RESOLUTION AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ. 2001.C. Talavera. thus the present complaint. respondent sent text messages to complainants asking for the deferment of the criminal charges with the promise that she will pay her debt. the checks bounced due to insufficient funds thus charges for violation of B. tried to give complainants a title for a parcel of land in exchange for the bounced checks which were in the possession of complainants.00 in favor of Olivia but not to Isidra. LIBIRAN-METEORO. respondent however failed to fulfill said promise. ATTY. J. said checks were issued in payment of a pre-existing obligation but said amount had already been paid and replaced with new checks. Helen Garcia. amounting to P67. totaling P234. Elerizza A. 2001. Libiran-Meteoro for deceit and non-payment of debts.000. No. in compliance with the Order2 of the IBP-Commission on Bar Discipline (CBD). which was signed. by Isidra only.Republic of the Philippines SUPREME COURT Manila SECOND DIVISION A. It states that: sometime in September of 2000. complainant. La Torre. respondent. however. and in favor of Olivia.000 square meters located at Bantug. Nueva Ecija. vs.P.00. Isidra signed a document attesting to the fact that the subject of her letter-complaint . 2001 was filed with the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) under the names of Isidra Barrientos and Olivia C. complainants checked the property and discovered that the land belonged to a certain Dra.1 On July 13. 2004 ISIDRA BARRIENTOS. ELERIZZA A. through her sister-in-law. A letter-complaint dated May 21. for the payment of a pre-existing debt.000. the title covered an area of 5.
That my name was indicated as co-complainant in a letter-complaint filed by Ms. That I. 3. Meteoro. Meteoro since the complaint was brought about by a case of some mistakes in the records. Elerizza LibiranMeteoro filed before the Integrated Bar of the Philippines National Office in Pasig City.P. That with respect to I. the Informations for Violation of B. That I was the one who transacted with Atty. Elerizza L. Elerizza L. 7. That I am one of the complainants for the Disbarment of Atty. Meteoro but I am not interested in pursuing the complaint against Atty. Meteoro and the corresponding checks were given to Isidra Barrientos through me. 8.S. and the present complaint was initiated by Isidra only because she had a misunderstanding with Olivia and she wants to extract money from respondent. 03-01-1356 to 1361 the case was not filed in court and I have also executed an affidavit of desistance for said complaint. 01-840. Elerizza L. 6.5 Attached to said Answer is an affidavit signed by Olivia C.3 she also issued in favor of Olivia several Equitable PCIBank checks amounting to P67. 01-14090-034 were never filed in court. Nos. Mercado which states as follows: 1. 4.no longer exists. the checks which were the subject of the complaint filed at the City Prosecutor’s Office in Cabanatuan City are already in the possession of respondent and the criminal case filed by complainants before the Municipal Trial Court of Cabanatuan City Branch 3 was already dismissed.S. 77851 to 56 for violation of BP 22 were filed against Atty. Meteoro and not my cocomplainant Isidra Barrientos. she never transacted with Isidra since all dealings were made with Olivia. Isidra Barrientos against Atty. together with Isidra Barrientos had already signed an affidavit of desistance and submitted the same before the Municipal Trial Court Branch III of Cabanatuan City w(h)ere Criminal Case Nos. 2.00 for the payment of a pre-existing obligation.000. 22 under I. 5. respondent did not send text messages to Isidra and Olivia asking for deferment of the criminal complaints neither did she present any title in exchange for her bounced checks. That I am executing this affidavit to attest to the truth of all the foregoing and to prove that I have no cause of action against Atty. Olivia already signed an affidavit of desistance. Meteoro. That all the pieces of jewelry were taken from me by Atty. Meteoro. Elerizza L. Philippines docketed as CBD case no. Elerizza L. That the filing of the said complaint before the Integrated Bar of the Philippines was brought about by some misunderstanding and error in the accounting of the records of the account of Atty.6 . nos. Elerizza L.
the IBP-CBD issued a Notice of Hearing requiring both parties to appear before it on September 6. 2003.2002 to finally settle her debt with complainant. respondent was absent and was warned again that should she fail to appear in the next hearing.11 A hearing was then set for May 28. Libiran-Meteoro has committed a violation of the Code of Professional Responsibility. respondent’s father was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit of the University of Santo Tomas Hospital thus she was not able to settle her remaining balance as planned. 2003.000. Respondent sent somebody to ask for a postponement which the commission denied. In the hearing of July 31. 2003. 2001. Another hearing was then set for February 5. she had already paid complainant the amount of P64. the Commissioner shall resolve the case. However. the photocopies of the receipts she submitted evidencing payment amount only to P45. The case was thereafter submitted for resolution. only complainant appeared. 2003 which the commission said was "intransferrable. it was complainant who was unavailable. Respondent failed to appear in said hearing despite due notice. respondent was not able to fully settle the balance of her debt up to this date. 2002.000.8 Respondent appeared in the next two hearings. On said date. 2002. 2002.On August 9.10 On April 30. 2001. both parties appeared and agreed to settle their misunderstanding. . The hearing was however reset several times until August 20. She has shown herself to possess poor moral characters. in March of 2002. the parties agreed that the balance of P134. 2003 at which time. respondent filed with the Commission a motion for reconsideration of the July 31 order stating that: she got sick a few days before the scheduled hearing. In her motion for reconsideration. the Investigating IBP Commissioner Renato G. The commission gave respondent a last opportunity to settle her accounts with complainant.13 On October 24. 2002. On said date. More particularly.00. This Office holds that she has. 2003 at which time respondent was directed to present proof of her payments to the complainant. Cunanan submitted his report pertinent portions of which read as follows: The issue to be resolved is whether or not Atty."12 On October 7. the respondent. the IBP-CBD issued an order granting respondent’s motion and setting aside the order dated July 31. 2002 with the order that should respondent fail to appear. Respondent prayed that she be given another 60 days from August 1. the case shall already be submitted for resolution. only complainant appeared.9 On August 1. this time. Elerizza A. It noted that while respondent claims that she already paid complainant P64.00. and because of said emergency.000. 2001. The hearing was set for October 7. by initially and vehemently denying her indebtedness to herein complainant and then subsequently admitting liability by proposing a staggered settlement has displayed a glaring flaw in her integrity.00.000.00 which respondent acknowledged as her indebtedness to complainant will be settled on a staggered basis.7 On November 27. The commission noted that respondent was duly notified and even personally received the notice for that day’s hearing. respondent did not appear despite due notice. It was then reset to February 28.
respondent never intended to ignore the Commission’s hearings. Rule 1. if not for said reasons. 01-840 Isidra Barrientos vs. Respondent prays that the resolution of the case be deferred and that she be given another 90 days from said date or until January 19. as much as she wanted to pay complainant in full. the respondent has not offered any satisfactory explanation for. XVI-2003-67 CBD Case No. the family home of respondent in Cabanatuan has already been foreclosed by the bank.00.seeking the reopening of this case. from the very beginning. Libiran-Meteoro . Libiran-Meteoro be suspended from the practice of law for two years and meted a fine of twenty thousand pesos. respondent’s husband has been confined recently due to thyroid problems and respondent herself had sought medical help on several occasions due to her inability to conceive despite being married for more than five years. respondent filed another motion for reconsideration stating that: she was not able to receive the notice for the October 7 hearing because she was in Bicol attending to pressing personal problems. Based on all the foregoing findings and the deliberate failure of the respondent to come forward and settle her accountabilities. and her failure to attend the scheduled hearings despite due notice. respondent could have already paid the complainant despite respondent’s knowledge that the amount complainant wanted to collect from her is merely the interest of her debt since she already returned most of the pieces of jewelry she purchased and she already paid for those that she was not able to return. What is more disconcerting is that while she is aware and duly notified of the settings of this Office respondent has seemingly ignored the same deliberately.15 On October 29.14 He then recommended that Atty. the respondent made a false assertion that she had settled up to P64. Elerizza A. 2003 and it was only then that she got hold of the Order dated October 7. the Board of Governors of the IBP passed a resolution as follows: RESOLUTION NO. Elerizza Libiran-Meteoro has committed a glaring violation not only of her oath as a lawyer but also the dictates of Canon 1. 2003. 2004.16 On February 27. the financial crisis which hit her family since 2001 has gravely affected her ability to pay.00 of her indebtedness but the receipts she submitted total only P50. this Office is convinced that Atty.01 which mandates that a worthy member of the Bar must constantly be of good moral character and unsullied honesty. until that day. inspite of several warnings given her by the undersigned. Finally.000. the expenses incurred by respondent due to the hospitalization of her father has not been paid in full by her family. 2003 to settle whatever balance remains after proper accounting and presentation of receipts. she only arrived from the province on October 25. Atty. Elerizza A. Helen Garcia to her relative to a transaction which the former had with the Quedancor where respondent was formerly employed.000. nor has she controverted the complainant’s charge that she (respondent) had tried to negotiate a transfer certificate of title (TCT) which had been entrusted by a certain Dra.
In this case. This .01. immoral or deceitful conduct. as it is hereby ADOPTED and APPROVED. the courts and to their clients. respondent filed another motion for reconsideration.00 to complainant. Upon appearing before the IBP-CBD. above quoted. Atty.01 explicitly states that: CANON 1 -. Elerizza A. Rule 1. she committed herself to the payment thereof. integrity and fair dealing so that the people’s faith and confidence in the judicial system is ensured. We have held that deliberate failure to pay just debts and the issuance of worthless checks constitute gross misconduct. which include prompt payment of financial obligations. to the bar. She did not appear in most of the hearings and merely submitted a motion for reconsideration on August 1. and.RESOLVED to ADOPT and APPROVE. she failed to fulfill her promise and did not appear before the Commission in the succeeding hearings despite due notice. Again.18 Lawyers are instruments for the administration of justice and vanguards of our legal system. They are expected to maintain not only legal proficiency but also a high standard of morality.20 Canon 1 and Rule 1. obey the laws of the land and promote respect for law and for legal processes. this time saying that she was in the province attending to personal matters. and violates the lawyer’s oath which imposes upon every member of the bar the duty to delay no man for money or malice. 2003. They must conduct themselves in a manner that reflect the values and norms of the legal profession as embodied in the Code of Professional Responsibility. honesty. She claimed that she got sick days before the hearing and asked for sixty days to finally settle her account. 2002 after the IBPCBD Commissioner had already submitted the case for resolution.A lawyer shall not engage in unlawful. Canon 1 of the Code of Professional Responsibility.A lawyer shall uphold the constitution. finding the recommendation fully supported by the evidence on record and the applicable laws and rules. and considering respondent’s glaring violation not only of her oath as a lawyer but of Rule 1. however. promising only to pay in a staggered basis.000. Her attempt to evade her financial obligation runs counter to the precepts of the Code of Professional Responsibility. the Report and Recommendation of the Investigating Commissioner of the above-entitled case.01 -. dishonest.19 They must at all times faithfully perform their duties to society.00.17 We agree with the findings and recommendation of the IBP except as to the alleged matter of respondent offering a transfer certificate of title to complainants in exchange for the bounced checks that were in their possession. herein made part of this Resolution as Annex "A". Yet she failed many times to fulfill said promise. respondent eventually acknowledged her indebtedness to Isidra in the amount of P134. with modification. for which a lawyer may be sanctioned with suspension from the practice of law.21 After respondent acknowledged her debt to complainant. respondent in her answer initially tried to deny having any obligation towards Isidra Barrientos. After the case was submitted anew for resolution on October 6. Again she asked for another ninety days to settle her entire debt. Libiran-Meteoro is hereby SUSPENDED from the practice of law for six (6) months and Restitution of P84.000.
in spite of the many opportunities given her. puts his moral character in serious doubt…26 (Citations omitted).24 Mere issuance of worthless checks by a lawyer. Basic is the principle that if the complainant. Where. which led to the dismissal of the criminal complaints against her. regardless of whether or not the same were issued in his professional capacity to a client. the court may be justified in suspending or removing him from the office of attorney. without presenting any proof therefor. calls for appropriate disciplinary measures. she should be held liable therefor. As we explained in Co vs.23 It also manifests a lawyer’s low regard to her commitment to the oath she has taken when she joined her peers. though not related to his professional duties as a member of the bar. which prompted Isidra and Olivia to file complaints before the prosecutor’s office in Cabanatuan City. We cannot uphold the IBP in finding that since respondent has not offered any explanation for.22 The issuance of a series of worthless checks also shows the remorseless attitude of respondent. She however did not present any proof to substantiate such claims. We have held that the issuance of checks which were later dishonored for having been drawn against a closed account indicates a lawyer’s unfitness for the trust and confidence reposed on her. and the court may not ordinarily assume jurisdiction to discipline him for misconduct in his nonprofessional or private capacity. to make arrangements for the payment of her debt considering the circumstances that befell her family. This gross misconduct on his part. She also claims that her father was hospitalized in March 2002 and that she and her husband also had to seek medical help which greatly affected her ability to pay. She also could not deny that she issued several checks without sufficient funds. unmindful to the deleterious effects of such act to the public interest and public order. the misconduct outside of the lawyer’s professional dealings is so gross a character as to show him morally unfit for the office and unworthy of the privilege which his licenses and the law confer on him. Her failure to attend most of the hearings called by the commission and her belated pleas for reconsideration also manifest her propensity to delay the resolution of the case and to make full use of the mechanisms of administrative proceedings to her benefit. she waited until the case was submitted for resolution to allege such facts. seriously and irreparably tarnishing the image of the profession she should hold in high esteem. It shows a lack of personal honesty and good moral character as to render her unworthy of public confidence. Instead. upon whom rests the burden of proving her cause . however. The evidence on record clearly shows respondent’s propensity to issue bad checks. nor has she controverted the complainants’ charge that she tried to negotiate with them a transfer certificate of title that had been entrusted to her by a client. Bernardino:25 The general rule is that a lawyer may not be suspended or disbarred.repeated failure on her part to fulfill her promise puts in question her integrity and moral character. She also did not appear personally before the complainant and the commission. Her only excuse is that she was able to replace said checks and make arrangements for the payment of her debt.
00 to complainant Isidra Barrientos would be sufficient in this case.of action.000.27 Simply put. not even in the hearings before the commission.29 For this reason.31 which also involved non-payment of debt and issuance of worthless checks. Elerizza A. SO ORDERED. administrative sanction is warranted by respondent’s misconduct. Libiran-Meteoro is found guilty of gross misconduct and is hereby SUSPENDED for six months from the practice of law. denied having any knowledge regarding such matter and no further discussion was made on the matter. meanwhile. Respondent in her answer. plus 6% interest from date of finality of herein decision. which according to complainants was the title respondent tried. Let copies of this Resolution be entered in the record of respondent and served on the IBP as well as the court administrator who shall circulate herein Resolution to all courts for their information and guidance. not only as a condition precedent to admission.000.00. through her sister-in-law. but also as a continuing requirement for the practice of law. as evidenced by receipts amounting to P50. In Lao vs. Medel. the respondent is under no obligation to prove her exception or defense. but only for the non-payment of debts and the issuance of worthless checks which were sufficiently proved and which respondent herself admitted. the burden is not on the respondent to prove her innocence but on the complainants to prove her guilt. complainants submitted a photocopy of a TCT in the name of Victoria Villamar together with their letter-complaint. The IBP Board of Governors recommended that respondent be suspended from the practice of law for six months. Atty. Unlike in the Lao case however.28 No other evidence or sworn statement was submitted in support of such allegation. In this case. and is ordered to pay complainant Isidra Barrientos the amount of P84. fails to show in a satisfactory manner the facts upon which she bases her claim. the Court held that suspension from the practice of law for one year was appropriate. We reiterate that membership in the legal profession is a privilege and demands a high degree of good moral character. . effective upon her receipt of this Decision.000. we hold that respondent should not be held liable for the alleged negotiation of a TCT to complainants for lack of sufficient evidence. as balance of her debt to the latter. WHEREFORE. respondent is this case paid a portion of her debt. to negotiate with them in exchange for the bounced checks in their possession. Thus we deem that six months suspension from the practice of law and the restitution of P84.00.30 Accordingly.
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
We've moved you to where you read on your other device.
Get the full title to continue reading from where you left off, or restart the preview.