Today is Saturday, August 03, 2013
Republic of the Philippines SUPREME COURT
A.C. No. 6632. August 2, 2005
NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY, INC., and BEN A. NICOLAS, Complainant, vs. Atty. MACARIO D. ARQUILLO, Respondent.
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
"In a consolidation of NLRC Cases [Nos. herein [r]espondent filed before the NLRC of San Fernando. 1-05-1097-97. Teresita A. Gervacio A. gross misconduct and/or violation of his oath as attorney by representing conflicting interests. Castro. Virginio C. Macario D. Inc.4 In their Manifestation5 dated August 30. 1-05-1109-97. San Fernando. of engaging in conflicting interest in a case before the National Labor Relations Commission. 1997. 1997 filed by Jose G. 2004. herein [r]espondent appeared as counsel for complainants therein. he failed to appear in any of the scheduled hearings. Blas. 1-05-1096-97 ("consolidated cases"). they said that they would no longer file a position paper. Sixteen (16) days later or on August 28.
"Complainant alleges that in a consolidated case. Ronald A. Luzviminda T. Consequently.] 1-05-1086-97. Ben A. the complainants were ordered to submit their verified position paper with supporting documents. as their evidence. 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). Urcio and Araceli Quimoyog. Inc. after which the case was to be deemed submitted for decision. The material averments of the Complaint are summarized by the IBP-CBD as follows:
"Herein [c]omplainants. and Mr. acting for himself and on behalf of Northwestern University. They agreed to submit
. Nicolas. Daoang. Hernando. malpractice. Velasco. Nicolas. submitted the Motion to Dismiss dated August 12. Atty. 1-05-1087-97. Even after receiving five notices. Bonifacio S."2 (Citations omitted)
Respondent failed to file his Answer to the Complaint despite a June 24 1998 Order3 of the IBP-CBD directing him to do so. Atty. La Union. 1. Velasco. In that Letter-Complaint.This administrative case stems from a sworn Letter-Complaint1 filed with the Integrated Bar of the Philippines-Commission on Bar Discipline (IBP-CBD) by Ben A. Northwestern University. Regional Arbitration Branch No. he was deemed to have waived his right to participate in the proceedings. [r]espondent was also the counsel of one of the respondents therein. this time representing some of the complainants in the very same consolidated case. In the very same consolidated case. 1-05-1091-97. Rasos. Arquillo. Arquillo was charged with deceit. Jose G. Macario D. represented by his counsel. Mariel S. La Union. *r+espondent filed a Complainant’s Consolidated Position Paper. Castro. 1-05-1088-97.
"Complainants. accuses (sic) herein [r]espondent. Thereafter. 1-051092-97.
6 Commissioner Dennis B. 2005.7 Corollary to this duty. XVI-2004-415. On January 20. but reduce the recommended period of suspension to one year. fairness and loyalty in all their dealings and transactions with their clients. together with all the accompanying documents. lawyers shall not represent conflicting interests. the former recommended the latter’s suspension from the practice of law for a period of six (6) months. Thus.
Administrative Liability of Respondent
The Code of Professional Responsibility requires lawyers to observe candor.8
. 1998. with the modification that the period of suspension was increased to two (2) years. The IBP denied the Motion. pursuant to Section 12(b) of Rule 139-B of the Rules of Court. except with all the concerned clients’ written consent. the Resolution and the records of the case were transmitted to this Court for final action.
In Resolution No. respondent filed a Motion for Reconsideration to set aside Resolution No.the case for decision on the basis of their Letter-Affidavit dated March 16. the Board of Governors of the IBP adopted the Report and Recommendation of Commissioner Funa. 2004. Funa found respondent guilty of violating the conflict-ofinterests rule under the Code of Professional Responsibility.
On December 12.
Report and Recommendation of the IBP
In his Report. given after a full disclosure of the facts.
The Court’s Ruling
We agree with the findings of the IBP Board of Governors. 2004. XVI-2004-415 dated October 7.
filed a Motion to Dismiss those cases. Castro and Atty. Olegario on the consolidated NLRC cases. Attaching to the Motion the Decision of Labor Arbiter Norma C. Arquillo. Arquillo protected his other client. Atty."10
In his two-page Motion for Reconsideration. Atty. I-05-1092-97. Atty. respondents. I-05-1088-97. I-05-1083-97 to I-05-1109-97. All the cases in the second set were included in the first one. this fact allegedly showed that there was no conflict in the interests of all the parties concerned. Atty. More than lack of valid cause for the dismissal of complainants. Shortly thereafter. I-05-1096-97. Having agreed to represent one of the opposing parties first. for which he had filed the subject Motion to Dismiss. It cannot be denied that the dismissed employees were the complainants in the same cases in which Castro was one of the respondents. Furthermore. in the end. a lawyer is required to fight for an issue or claim. Macario D. Arquillo as counsel for several complainants in consolidated NLRC Case Nos. Arquillo claims that there was no conflict of interest in his representation of both the respondent and the complainants in the same consolidated cases. should be made accountable for not according complainants their right to due process. there is a conflict of interests. Castro was proven to be not personally liable for the claims of the dismissed employees. I-05-1091-97. Indeed.
This Court does not agree. regardless of his alleged belief that they were all on the same side. Arquillo’s acts cannot be justified by the fact that. in these words:
"3. because all of them were allegedly on the same side. Castro. the lawyer should have known that there was an obvious conflict of interests. in his position paper for the complainants. Ernesto B. except Atty. I-05-1097-97. to use against the first one any knowledge acquired through their professional connection. Jose C. Asuncion. when called upon in a new relation. 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. but is also duty-bound to oppose it for another client. Commissioner Funa correctly enounced:
. Atty. as counsel for Respondent Jose C.When a lawyer represents two or more opposing parties.9
In the present case. in representation of one client. and I-05-1109-97. a position paper was filed by Atty. the existence of which is determined by three separate tests: (1) when. Castro in NLRC Case Nos. I05-1087-97. (2) when the acceptance of the new retainer will require an attorney to perform an act that may injuriously affect the first client or. Arquillo theorizes that her judgment absolved Castro of personal liability for the illegal dismissal of the complainants. Respondent Jose C.
Austria-Martinez. Carpio-Morales.. 230. 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*.
Davide. 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.+’ (Legal Ethics. we reduce the suspension to one (1) year. however. 21 Phil. Callejo. Macario D.. concur. It is a hornbook doctrine grounded on public policy that a lawyer’s representation of both sides of an issue is highly improper. Tinga. Sr. however slight such conflict may be. it would be impossible since [r]espondent is also the counsel of Jose G. and Garcia. And it appears that it was [r]espondent who prepared the Motion to Dismiss. Sandoval-Gutierrez. Ynares-Santiago. the client’s claim against the other and to properly represent the latter in the unrelated action. Here lies the inconsistency. In re De la Rosa. Respondent had the duty to prove the Complaint wrong. he cannot avoid being suspected by the defeated client of disloyalty or partiality in favor of the successful client.13
WHEREFORE.. 4th ed. prior rulings in cases also involving attorneys representing conflicting interests. Agpalo. Azcuna. It applies even when the attorney acts from honest intentions or in good faith. The proscription applies when the conflicting interests arise with respect to the same general matter. with a warning that a similar infraction shall be dealt with more severely in the future.
SO ORDERED. Quisumbing. which he should be opposing [a]s counsel of Jose G. Castro. Considering. Chico-Nazario.
. if he can do so.. Castro. or. Castro. JJ. Jr. Puno. The inconsistency of interests is very clear..12
The IBP Board of Governors recommended that respondent be suspended from the practice of law for two years."As counsel for complainants. But under the circumstance. Carpio. 258)"11
An attorney cannot represent adverse interests. C. p.J.
"Thus it has been noted
‘The attorney in that situation will not be able to pursue. with vigor and zeal. Atty. But Respondent cannot do this because he is the counsel for the complainants. [r]espondent had the duty to oppose the Motion to Dismiss filed by Jose G.
on official leave. 2003. Salunat. pp. Beltran. 418 SCRA 17. See Agpalo. pp. J. id. Carmina M.
5 Rollo. pp. per Commissioner Ma. August 18. 2-3.
6 Report of the IBP Investigating Commissioner.
8 Rule 15.
9 Santos v. rollo. rollo. December 11.
2 Report of the IBP-CBD. 2003. 36. p. p. 166. August 27.
1 Dated March 16. Hornilla v. 38-39.
4 IBP-CBD Order. 405 SCRA 220. 1998. p. The Code of Professional Responsibility for Lawyers. July 1.. rollo. 2004. 1-2. 2004.
3 IBP-CBD Order.
7 Canon 15 of the Code of Professional Responsibility.Corona. Alejandro-Abbas. 223. 17.
supra. 8. 1997. 4. 350 Phil. supra. 412. 14. August 28.10 Complainant’s Position Paper signed by Atty. 1991.
12 Nakpil v. March 4. Arquillo. 1998. Nakpil v. Tiania v.
13 See Santos v.Arellano Law Foundation
. rollo. Ocampo. Macario D. Emphasis ours. p.
The Lawphil Project . August 12. Beltran. 200 SCRA 472.
11 Report of IBP Investigating Commissioner. p. Valdes. p. Valdes.