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FIRST DIVISION

[A.M. No. RTJ-03-1784. June 17, 2003]

ATTY. MANUEL M. ROSALES, complainant, vs. JUDGE ROMULO S.G. VILLANUEVA, Presiding Judge, Regional Trial Court, Branch 12, Ligao, Albay, respondent. RESOLUTION
AZCUNA, J.:

On June 30, 1997, Atty. Manuel M. Rosales filed a Complaint against respondent Judge Romulo S.G. Villanueva for Grave Misconduct and Acts Unbecoming of a Judge. Complainant stated that he is the legal counsel of respondents father, Jose Villanueva, Sr., in a case for partition[1] filed by respondent in his own behalf and in behalf of his brothers and sisters. Complainant alleged that on June 16, 1997, between 8:30 to 9:00 a.m., he and Crispolo Cerdan, the driver of respondents father, were outside the courtroom of Branch 36 of the Regional Trial Court of Iriga City awaiting the pre-trial of the case for partition. While waiting thereat, respondent approached Cerdan and told him, Poloy, sabihan mo si Boss mo na pigpapara kuwartahan lang siya kan abogado niya (Poloy, tell your employer that he is just being bled dry by his lawyer). According to complainant, respondent uttered the said remark within the hearing distance of other persons, including a police officer, who were also waiting outside the courtroom. After respondent had uttered the remark, he glanced at complainant with an insulting smile and complainant told him, I will take note of that judge. Respondent then sarcastically asked complainant, Ika ang abogado? (Are you the lawyer?) Complainant answered, I will take note of your comment, judge. Complainant further alleged that while the session was ongoing in the courtroom, respondent menacingly looked at him thrice from head to toe and uttered, Guwapongguwapo ka sa sulot mon yan, noy! (You are just too handsome in your attire, boy!) Complainant thanked respondent for the compliment. Complainant contends that respondents actuation was uncalled for, demeaning and unbecoming of one who is a member of the judiciary. Complainant cited other instances allegedly illustrating that respondent was unfit to be in the bench, thus:

a) During the first pre-trial conference of the Partition case between respondent as plaintiff and his father as defendant, [respondent] without any qualms whatsoever told the herein complainant to relay his message to his father to wit: Paero, tell your client (referring to his father, Jose Villanueva, Sr.), he cannot outlive this case. b) Sometime in December 1996, without any reason [or] justification and probably borne out of his seething anger towards his father, respondent slashed all four (4) tires of the Lite Ace Van owned by his fathers wife (stepmother of herein respondent) as well as two (2) of the opposite tires of their service jeepney parked inside the garage of Jose Villanueva, Sr. (please refer to Affidavit of Crispolo Cerdan); c) That sometime on April 28, 1997, again, without any apparent reason, herein respondent slapped his fathers personal driver, Crispolo Cerdan, and Romeo Reodique, Jr., the personal aid/helper of respondents father, which incident is now the subject of a criminal complaint to be filed by said persons (please refer to Affidavit and Police Blotter, Annexes A and B); d) That without any knowledge or consent of respondents father (Jose Villanueva, Sr.) and while the Partition case was already pending, respondent, using his position as an RTC Judge, unceremoniously threatened and drove out the lessee of the residential house owned by respondents father which was then being leased to [a] foreigner thereby depriving respondents father of the income which defrays his fathers day to day expenses (please refer to Annexes C, D and E) which incident was the subject of a complaint for contempt of court in the Partition case and now an Ejectment case is being prepared for respondents ouster from the subject premises.
In his Comment, respondent vehemently denied ever committing grave misconduct and acts unbecoming of a judge. He claimed that the complaint is intended to harass and silence him in view of the partition case he and his siblings filed against their father, former Mayor Villanueva, who is the client of complainant. Respondent specifically denied telling his fathers driver, Crispolo Cerdan, to tell [his] employer that he is just being bled dry by his lawyer. Moreover, he stated that analyzing the statement, the undersigned (respondent) finds nothing wrong in that statement because though we have property disputes with our father, we want his money to be spent wisely. Besides, this Mr. Cerdan being a driver of our fath er and his spouse will do everything to please his employers, added respondent. Respondent also denied having uttered the sarcastic remarks inside the courtroom that complainant was too handsome in his attire, reasoning that it is not his trait to comment on or praise people whom he does not know.

Respondent admitted that he told complainant that his (respondents) father could not outlive the case. He claimed, however, that his complete statement was Please tell your client (respondents father) to just have the case settled amicably for he cannot outlive the case. Respondent stated that complainant, with his incomplete statement, tried to make it appear that he wishes evil upon his father. In regard to the taking of the property subject of the case for partition, respondent stated that it is a personal matter and a right being a co -owner, intended to protect the interest of the heirs. Respondent denied knowledge of the alleged slashing of tires (of his fathers Lite Ace van and jeepney) and the slapping of Crispolo Cerdan and Romeo Reodique, Jr. He claimed that he did not know Reodique, Jr. Respondent insisted that all the aforementioned imputations on his character and integrity were fabricated and intended to harass him, the root cause of which is the property dispute between him and his siblings and their father. He prayed for the dismissal of the charges against him. In a Resolution dated August 9, 1999, the Court resolved to refer this case to then Court of Appeals Associate Justice Conchita Carpio Morales[2] for investigation, report and recommendation. The Investigating Justice set the case for hearing on October 20-22, 1999 at the Court of Appeals. During the hearing, complainant and respondent gave their respective testimonies. Complainant gave details of the incidents subject of his complaint. As for respondent, he again denied uttering the aforementioned remark to Crispolo Cerdan who, he claimed, was not then present. In support thereof, respondent presented a certification[3] showing that at the time of the alleged incident, Cerdan was an employee of the Camarines Sur provincial government and that he appeared to have reported for work as shown by the entries in his Daily Time Record. [4]Respondent also declared that he did not see his father on June 16, 1997, although he thought that his father arrived after he had left the courtroom. Respondent likewise denied having talked to complainant inside the courtroom and stated that he harbored no grudge or ill feeling against complainant. After respondent concluded his testimony, complainant filed with this Court an Urgent Motion to Designate the Provincial Prosecutor of Camarines Sur to Hear/Investigate Complainants Other Witnesses, namely, Crispolo Cerdan and SPO1 Stanislao Mota, who were unable to appear in Manila. The Court referred [5] said motion to the Investigating Justice who dispensed with the presentation of the testimonies of complainants other witnesses as they appeared to be merely corroborative of complainants testimony. The Investigating Justice thereafter reported the following findings:

I.

With respect to the alleged utterance of respondent to his fathers driver Cerdan to tell your employer that he is just being bled dry by his lawyer. Between the word of complainant and that of respondent, the undersigned investigator finds for complainant. Why would a practitioner, like complainant, falsely complain against a trial judge without jeopardizing his practice before him and other judges for that matter. While respondent presented a certification that Cerdan was employed at the Camarines Sur provincial government and that he appeared to have reported for work on the incident in question, it does not necessarily mean that Cerdan was not present during the incident, given the practice of some provincial employees being detailed to current or ex government officials. Besides, and this is more crucial, respondent did not at his first opportunity to comment on the complaint, by 2nd Indorsement of September 5, 1997, claim not having seen Cerdan during the incident, he having merely denied uttering the quoted remark to Cerdan, as in fact he added thatthere was to him nothing wrong therewith in light of his and his siblings property dispute with their father.

II.

With respect to the alleged remark inside the courtroom regarding complainants too handsome look in his attire following respondents thrice looking at him from head to toe: Assuming that respondent indeed uttered the remark, he may have meant it, the perception by complainant of the accompanying sarcasm having possibly arisen from respondents previous remark to Cerdan while the parties were still outside the courtroom. For if respondent had intended to insult complainant, he certainly would have carried it outside the courtroom when he earlier saw him outside, instead of doing it inside the courtroom where it could be witnessed by those present.

The Court agrees with the findings of the Investigating Justice, particularly regarding the utterance by respondent of the words, Poloy, sabihan mo si Boss mo na pigpapara kuwartahan lang siya kan abogado niya (Poloy, tell your employer that he is just being bled dry by his lawyer). The positive testimony of complainant is stronger than the negative testimony of respondent.[6] Respondent in fact does not seriously deny having made said remark but claims that he finds nothing wrong with it. Accordingly, the Investigating Justice correctly stated

that respondent has shown that he does not measure up to the standard of conduct expected of a member of the judiciary that would merit the respect and confidence of the people. In uttering, within the hearing distance of complainant and other persons, the aforesaid remark, respondent violated Canon 2 of the Code of Judicial Conduct which provides that [a] judge should avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in all activities. He also violated Canon 3 of the Canons of Judicial Ethics, thus:

A judges official conduct should be free from the appearance of impropriety, and his personal behavior, not only upon the bench and in the performance of judicial duties, but also in his everyday life, should be beyond reproach.
The Court has repeatedly reminded members of the judiciary to be irreproachable in conduct and to be free from any appearance of impropriety in their personal behavior, not only in the discharge of their official duties, but also in their every day life. [7] For no position exacts a greater demand for moral righteousness and uprightness of an individual than a seat in the judiciary.[8] WHEREFORE, respondent Judge Romulo S.G. Villanueva is hereby found guilty of language unbecoming a member of the judiciary and, accordingly, FINED in the amount of Eight Thousand Pesos (P8,000). Respondent is hereby WARNED that a repetition of said offense, or the commission of a similar one in the future, will be dealt with more severely. Costs de oficio. SO ORDERED. Davide, Jr., C.J., (Chairman), Vitug, Ynares-Santiago, and Carpio, JJ., concur.

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Docketed as Civil Case No. IR-2799. Now Associate Justice of this Court. Annex B, Rollo, p. 53. Exhibit 7, Rollo, p. 59. Resolution dated December 6, 1999, Rollo, p. 205. Naval v. Panday, 275 SCRA 654, 678 (1997). Dionisio v. Escano, 302 SCRA 411, 420 (1999); Naval v. Panday, supra at 689. Ibid.

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Republic of the Philippines SUPREME COURT Manila

FIRST DIVISION

A.M. No. 547 January 29, 1975 EMERENCIANA V. REYES,petitioner, vs. FELIPE C. WONG, respondent.

MAKASIAR, J.: Felipe C. Wong, duly admitted in 1962 to the Bar, is sought to be disbarred for grave immorality by Emerenciana V. Reyes, who filed her sworn complaint on October 26, 1962 (pp. 1-4, rec.). In his answer filed on December 17, 1962, respondent completely denied the charge, claiming that he and petitioner were merely friends (pp. 5-7, rec.).. On January 21, 1963, petitioner filed her reply to the answer of respondent, attaching thereto xerox copies of two letters written by respondent to her dated October 20, 1960 and December 14, 1960 (pp. 30-34, rec.) for comparison with the penmanship of the respondent in his answer sheets to the Bar questions in 1961 to disprove respondent's claim that he never wrote letters to petitioner. The aforesaid reply was forwarded to the Solicitor General, to whom the case was referred on December 28, 1962 for investigation, report and recommendation (pp. 10, 15, rec.). After the submission of petitioner's evidence, respondent filed a motion to dismiss dated July 31, 1963, contending that in the light of the ruling of this Court in Soberano vs. Villanueva (Dec. 29, 1962, 6 SCRA 891-896), the evidence presented by the petitioner does not make out a case against him (pp. 67-70, 85-90, rec.). Respondent likewise filed on August 1, 1963 a motion for the cancellation of all scheduled hearings of the case until after the Court has resolved the said motion to dismiss (p. 85, rec.). Petitioner in turn filed an opposition dated August 17, 1963 to the motion to dismiss, arguing that the Soberano ruling does not apply to her situation, because, unlike the complainant in said case petitioner never doubted her marriage with respondent; and that respondent in fact wrote her numerous letters and sent her telegrams, all addressing her either as "E.R. Wong" or "Emerenciana R. Wong" (pp. 91-95, rec.).. To this opposition, respondent filed a reply dated August 28, 1963, substantially reiterating the same arguments contained in his motion to dismiss (pp. 96-100, rec.). On June 9, 1972, then Assistant Solicitor General Jaime M. Lantin, now CFI Judge, issued an order resetting the case for hearing on June 20, 1972 (p. 58, rec.). The June 20, 1972 hearing was however postponed, and it was only on September 6, 1972 that the hearing of

the case was continued but was again reset to October 18, 1972, upon motion of respondent so as to give him time to file a motion with this Court in connection with his 1963 motion to dismiss (pp. 61, 66-74, 82, rec.). On September 13, 1972, respondent thus filed with this Court a motion reiterating his still unresolved 1963 motion to dismiss the case, adding that the Solicitor General had already reset the case for hearing; that subsequent to the filing of the present administrative case, petitioner herein filed with the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court of Manila a civil action against herein respondent, entitled "Emerenciana V. Reyes, plaintiff, versus Felipe C. Wong, defendant," Civil Case No. E-00454, For Recognition of Natural Children and Support; and that in the compromise agreement dated October 28, 1966 submitted in said case, respondent acknowledged that he is the father of the two daughters of petitioner and that he agreed to support these children, while petitioner in turn agreed to withdraw this administrative case against respondent, which compromise agreement was approved by the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court on November 14, 1966 (pp. 105-108, rec.; p. 4, Report and Recommendation of the Solicitor General, p. 118, rec.). On September 18, 1972, petitioner filed another pleading reiterating her opposition to the motion to dismiss of respondent (p. 109, rec.) . The aforesaid pleadings were referred to the Solicitor General (p. 110, rec.) . Before the Solicitor General could resolve the motion to dismiss, petitioner Emerenciana V. Reyes filed on November 21, 1972 an affidavit of desistance, requesting permission to withdraw the administrative complaint against respondent. Her affidavit, which was subscribed and sworn to before City Fiscal Manuel R. Maza of San Jose City, Nueva Ecija, stated that it would be for the good of her children that the administrative case against respondent be dismissed and terminated (p. 114, rec.; pp. 4-5, Report and Recommendation of the Solicitor General; p. 118, rec.). Since withdrawal by a complainant in an administrative case does not ipso facto exonerate a respondent (Co vs. Candoy, 21 SCRA 438, 442 [1967]; Mortel vs. Aspiras, 100 Phil. 586; Bolivar vs. Simbol, 16 SCRA 623, 628 [1966]) -especially so in this instant case where the withdrawal of the complainant came after she had rested her case - the Solicitor General did not act upon petitioner's motion to withdraw; but instead proceeded to take up respondent's motion to dismiss. With petitioner's desistance at this stage of the proceeding, and considering respondent's motion to dismiss, the question left for resolution is whether in the light of the evidence presented by petitioner, there is a prima faciecase against respondent to warrant requiring respondent to present his evidence. In his report and recommendation, the Solicitor General recommended that the present administrative case be dismissed in the light of the Soberano case (p. 118, rec.). We sustain the said recommendation of the Solicitor General, on the force of the Soberano ruling and on the fact that the evidence presented by the petitioner failed to disclose a case against respondent warranting disciplinary action.

As contained in the report and recommendation of the Solicitor General (pp. 1-3, 118, rec.), the evidence adduced by petitioner reveals that: Petitioner is a holder of the degree of Bachelor of Laws, graduating from the MLQ University in 1960 (pp. 21-22, t.s.n., May 28, 1963); in 1958 petitioner and respondent were classmates at the same university (p. 2, t.s.n., May 28, 1963); respondent began courting petitioner and finally won her love (p. 6, t.s.n., May 28, 1963); sometime in the first week of February, 1960, petitioner was requested to fill up and sign an application for marriage license (p. 4, t.s.n., May 28, 1963); later on, upon the request of respondent, petitioner also filled up and signed a marriage contract (pp. 4-5, t.s.n., May 28, 1963; pp. 3839, t.s.n., May 31, 1963); thereafter, petitioner was shown by respondent the marriage contract, dated February 15, 1960, now allegedly signed by witnesses and the Honorable Arsenio Dizon as the solemnizing minister (pp. 4-5, t.s.n., May 28, 1963; p. 46, t.s.n., May 31, 1963); believing that petitioner was married to respondent, she went with him in hotels and had carnal knowledge with him (pp. 5-6, t.s.n., May 28, 1963); they lived together in an apartment at 1236 Isaac Peral, Manila, but moved out after some 4 months when respondent went to Zamboanga City to work at the Bank of P.I. (pp. 67, t.s.n., May 28, 1963); while respondent was in Zamboanga City, petitioner gave birth to her first child on November 28, 1960 (p. 7, t.s.n., May 28, 1963); in July 1961, respondent was in Manila reviewing for the Bar Examinations which was to be held in August of that year (pp. 11-12, t.s.n., May 28, 1963); petitioner who was then in Munoz, Nueva Ecija, was called by respondent to Manila (p. 11, t.s.n., May 28, 1963); petitioner stayed at her sister's house in Pandacan where respondent used to visit her (pp. 11-13, t.s.n., May 28, 1963); after respondent took the Bar examinations, he left for Mindoro to help candidate Cesar Climaco in his senatorial campaign (pp. 13-14, t.s.n., May 28, 1963); on May 25, 1962, petitioner gave birth to her second child (p. 14, t.s.n., May 28, 1963); petitioner thereafter received news from her cousin in Zamboanga City that respondent had married someone else (p. 20, t.s.n., May 28, 1963); petitioner found out from the Local Civil Registrars of Manila and Bacoor, Cavite, that their alleged marriage was not registered (pp. 18-20. t.s.n., May 28, 1963). Quite clearly petitioner's evidence disclosed that petitioner voluntarily yielded to the carnal desire of respondent, with whom thereafter she freely lived as husband and wife without the benefit of marriage an illegitimate cohabitation that stemmed from love and mutual desire. In fact, in his letters to Petitioner (Exhibits A, C, G, H, I, J, K, M, O, Q, R, T, U, V, W and AA), respondent manifested much concern for the health and well-being of petitioner and their Baby Sheila (p. 8, Report and Recommendation of the Solicitor General; p. 118, rec.). And in the compromise agreement embodied in the decision of the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court in C.C. No. E-00454, respondent acknowledged that he is the father of the two natural children, Sheila Reyes Wong and Florinda (Thelma) Reyes Wong, and agreed to support them (p. 8, Report and Recommendation of the Solicitor General; p. 118, rec.). It was indeed a relationship that was devoid of deceit on the part of the respondent and a happy one until his sudden turnabout and marriage to another woman that compelled him to abandon petitioner and their children.

Petitioner's claim that she consented to live with respondent as husband and wife because she was made to believe by respondent that she was legally married to him as she was made to sign by respondent an application for a marriage license and afterwards a marriage contract which later was shown to her complete with the alleged signatures of supposed witnesses and of a solemnizing officer allegedly in the person of no less than a member of the Supreme Court is belied by the contents of her letter dated December 18, 1961 (Exhibit 2-H) to respondent, from which letter We can readily infer that she had knowledge of the legal infirmities of the said marriage contract. Said letter reads: Another thing that worry me so much is about our relationship at present. My family is in good faith about the legality of our marriage. If they'll discover the truth I don't know if what shall happen to both of us. I'm sure that they'll take some drastic action against you and I don't want this thing to happen. As I observed you even doubt the paternity of our children. I swear before God and before all that this children are yours. But if you don't like to recognize them as yours, nobody else can force you. In this situation of ours now, nobody can be blamed for it except the two of us. How can you expect me not to worry when in spite of our present situation we'll have another child? Have we not gone to the extent of committing this mistake, both of us will be happy. But now, its too late for us to repent. In spite of everything we can still remedy our situation if you'll only grant my request. All I want you to do is to come here or on before January in order to settle down everything smoothly." (Pp. 6-7, Report and Recommendation of the Solicitor-General; p. 118, rec.). The above-quoted portions of petitioner's letter to respondent show that petitioner was aware all the time of the nature of her relationship with respondent, foreclosing all doubts that the petitioner knowingly and freely lived with respondent without the benefit of marriage (Soberano vs. Villanueva, 6 SCRA 893-894). Furthermore, complainant was then in the fourth year in the School of Law, MLQ University. In the first year of the law course, she already knew the requisites and formalities of a valid marriage, which she took up again in Civil Law review in her senior year. Complainant could not have been so naive as to be easily deceived to believe that she was legally married to respondent, knowing fully well that no marriage ceremony was performed publicly, in the presence of witnesses and solemnizing minister, before whom the parties to the marriage are to declare that they take each other as husband and wife (Articles 55 & 57, New Civil Code). Petitioner should have realized that an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court would not have consented to taking part in the execution of a simulated or fictitious marriage contract. This circumstance alone should have put her on her guard and should

have provoked her into further inquiry before submitting herself to the sexual passions of respondent, if she valued her honor and virtue as she now pretends. Undoubtedly, the cohabitation of respondent with petitioner is immoral for lack of a valid marriage. But to be the basis of a disciplinary action, the act must not merely be immoral; it must be "grossly immoral" "it must be so corrupt and false as to constitute a criminal act or so unprincipled as to be reprehensible to a high degree" (Section 27, Rule 138. New Rules of Court; Soberano vs. Villanueva, 6 SCRA 893, 895; Mortel vs. Aspiras, December 28, 1956, 100 Phil. 587, 591-593; Royong vs. Oblena, April 30, 1963, 7 SCRA 869-870; Bolivar vs. Simbol, April 29, 1966, 16 SCRA 623, 630; and Quingwa vs. Puno, February 28, 1967, 19 SCRA 439-440, 444-445). And the same must be established by clear and convincing proof, disclosing a case that is free from doubt as to compel the exercise by the Court of its disciplinary power (Co vs. Candoy, October 23, 1967, 21 SCRA 439, 442). Likewise, the dubious character of the act done as well as the motivation thereof must be clearly demonstrated (Co vs. Candoy, supra). The evidence adduced by petitioner lacks the quantity and quality required by the foregoing criteria. All told, because of petitioner's active and voluntary participation in her illicit relationship with respondent, the latter's acts are not grossly immoral nor highly reprehensible. For as We have declared in Soberano: Intimacy between a man and a woman who are not married, ... is neither so corrupt as to constitute a criminal act nor so unprincipled as to warrant disbarment or disciplinary action against the man as a member of the Bar. ." (p. 895) It should be added that the decision of the Judge of the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court embodied the compromise agreement between the parties herein under which respondent expressly acknowledged their two children and committed himself to support them. WHEREFORE, THIS DISBARMENT PROCEEDING AGAINST RESPONDENT FELIPE C. WONG IS HEREBY DISMISSED. Castro, Teehankee, Esguerra and Munoz Palma, concur. Republic of the Philippines SUPREME COURT Manila SECOND DIVISION A.M. No. 1646 September 30, 1981 MARIO HERNANDEZ, complainant, vs. SERGIO VILLAREAL, respondent.

RESOLUTION

CONCEPCION JR., J.: This disbarment case was filed against Atty. Sergio Villareal of 927 Shuler St., Mandaluyong, Rizal and holding office at Rm. 511 Madrigal Bldg., Escolta, Manila by Mario Hernandez of Bo. Bangkal, Meycauayan, Bulacan. In his complaint 1 the complainant alleges, among others: 3. That the services of Respondent were hired by herein Complainant on August 20, 1974, in connection with the recovery of possession of a piece of land covered by TCT No. T-202322 of the Registry of Deeds of Bulacan, and in connection therewith Complainant was made to sign a Power of Attorney by Respondent in his favor; 4. That Respondent was able to sell the said piece of land and received payment of the same from RANULFO DAVID for P120,000.00 but the Deed of Sale signed by Respondent states that the land was sold for P90,000.00; 5. That on April 18, 1975, Subject gave Complainant P15,000.00 as part of the payment of the land, but he was made to sign a receipt in the amount of P20,000.00; 6. That Respondent failed and still fails to deliver the balance of the price of the said piece of land to Complainant despite repeated demands; 7. That sometime in September 24, 1975, Respondent delivered to Complainant three (3) Bank of the Philippine Islands, Makati (Quad) Branch Cheeks through Atty. LUIS CUVIN amounting to P52,000.00 drawn against the account of one AURORA C. DEAO in favor of Complainant; 8. That the aforementioned checks were dishonored for the reason that they were drawn against a closed account; xxx xxx xxx In his answer 2 the respondent denied the material allegations of the complaint and prayed for its
dismissal.

The case was, thereafter, referred to the Solicitor General for investigation, report and recommendation. 3 Subsequently, the complainant filed a motion to dismiss 4 the complaint alleging:

Upon a less emotional confrontation of the parties herein and a more thorough and impartial review and evaluation of the sequence of events which transpired between them in their relationship as client and counsel, the complainant is now convinced beyond any doubt and so confirms that, consonant to their agreement as affirmed in his letter of 28 October 1974, copy of which is attached hereto as part hereof and marked Annex "A", he is entitled to the sum of only Sixty Seven Thousand Five Hundred (P67,500.00) Pesos, Philippine Currency, as his net share, interest and participation in and out of the proceeds of the disposal of the land involved, which sum was precomputed and ascertained at 75% of and on the basis of the pre-fixed price or consideration of P90,000.00, regardless of the actual amount of the price or consideration of such disposal, whether it be more or less than P90,000.00; that it is entirely none of his concern what methods, procedures and expenses the prospective buyer whosoever he or it may be - may in fact adopt, pursue and/or incur in raising the price or consideration of sale or disposal; That, having already received a part payment of P15,000.00 against said P67,500.00, the only balance due to the complainant is P52,500.00; that the disagreement between the parties here really emanates from the demand of the complainant upon the respondent to pay on the basis of 75% of P120,000.00 and the refusal of the latter to pay on said basis; that there is thus no conversion or misappropriation, nor intent to convert or misappropriate on the part of respondent; that the parties herein have consequently arrived at a mutually satisfactory mode of settlement of their dispute and the liquidation of the subject account; that a dismissal of the case at bar is so desired, and in order. In his report and recommendation, 5 the Solicitor General states: Before resolving the motion to dismiss, an investigation of both complainantmovant and respondent Atty. Sergio Villareal was conducted. Complainant-movant testified under oath: That he caused the filing of the complaint against Atty. Sergio Villareal; that the complaint arose from an oral agreement entered on August 20, 1974 between him (Mario Hernandez) and Atty. Sergio Villareal regarding the sale of a parcel of land owned by the former; that as per said agreement, Atty. Sergio Villareal was to sell said parcel of land for P90,000.00; that the terms of the sale whether on cash or installment basis, was left to the sound discretion of Atty. Villareal; that there was no condition attached to their agreement as to the time within which Atty. Sergio Villareal was to deliver to Mario Hernandez the proceeds of the sale; that as per the oral agreement, Atty. Villareal was to receive 25% of the proceeds of the sale of P90,000.00; that in the event the land was sold for an amount in excess of P90,000.00 there was no agreement as to whom the said excess amount should go; that on April 18, 1975, he (Mario Hernandez) inquired from Atty. Sergio Villareal whether or not the land was already sold; that on the same occasion, he was given P15,000.00 by Atty. Villareal, which amount represented part of the

proceeds of the sale of the land; that on that occasion, April 18, 1975, Atty. Villareal did not tell him (Mario Hernandez) that subject parcel of land was sold way back in 1974; that he came to know that the land was already fully paid only about the latter part of July, 1975 as per information received from Mr. David, the vendee of subject land; that after April 18, 1975 when the amount of P15,000.00 was delivered to him, and before the institution of this administrative case, no other amount representing the proceeds of the sale was given to him by Atty. Villareal; that it was only in July, 1975 that he came to know that the vendee of subject land paid Atty. Villareal on different occasions; check for P5,000.00 in October 1974; check for P20,000-00 on March 15, 1975; check for P20,000.00 with notation "cancelled replaced by cash" and check for P30,000 with notation "cancelled replaced by cash"; that in November 1976, he and Atty. Sergio Villareal agreed that full payment of the land be delivered to the former at the rate of P5,000 a month; that after April 18, 1975 and after the institution of this administrative case, he was paid P5,000 monthly in December 1976, January and February, 1977; that he was prompted to file the complaint against Atty. Villareal for the latter's failure to deliver monthly the amounts of P15,000 or 1120,000 as earlier agreed upon between them; that he understood all the allegations in his complaint; that he caused the filing of the Motion to Dismiss because he and Atty. Villareal have come to agree that instead of P20,000 Atty. Villareal would pay him (Mario Hernandez) P5,000 monthly that he wants to end the case as he cannot afford anymore to pursue this complaint; that he was not forced nor influenced in any manner by Atty. Villareal in causing the filing of the motion to dismiss: that he understood fully the allegations in his Motion to Dismiss that he realizes that the allegations in said motion to dismiss are contrary to the allegations in the complaint he earlier filed; that he understands the legal consequences of the motion to dismiss; and that he affirms under oath the contents of the Motion to Dismiss Respondent Sergio Villareal testified under oath: That he is the respondent in the complaint for disbarment filed by Mario Hernandez; that he knows of the filing of the Motion to Dismiss said complaint; that as a matter of fact, he had affixed his signature or conformity to said motion to dismiss; that he did not have anything to do in causing this motion to dismiss to be prepared: that the motion to dismiss was the product or the consequence of a long series of confrontations with the complainant in the presence of his counsel; that he did not give any consideration nor promise anything to complainant for the latter to file the motion to dismiss, that he did not exercise any undue influence on complainant to file this motion to dismiss; and that as a matter of fact, the complainant was all the time assisted by his counsel; xxx xxx xxx There is no question that the burden of proof in disbarment proceedings rests upon the Complainant, and for the Court to exercise its disciplinary powers,

the case against respondent must be established by convincing evidence. In the case at bar, Complainant is no longer interested in prosecuting this Administrative Case. Be that as it may, the trust relation which exists between attorney and client as well as between court and attorney, and the statutory rule prescribing the qualifications of attorneys, uniformly require that an attorney shall be a person of good moral character. If that qualification is a condition precedent to a license or privilege to enter upon the practice of law, it would seem to be equally essential during the continuance of the practice or the exercise of the privilege. So it is held that an attorney will be removed not only for malpractice and dishonesty in his profession, but also for gross misconduct not connected with his professional duties, which shows him to be unfit for the office and unworthy of the privilege which his license and the law confer upon him. (In re Pelaez 44 Phil. 572 citing Peyton's Appeal 12 Kan. 398, 404), Thus, while complainant has filed a motion to dismiss the complaint, the evidence on record shows censurable conduct on the part of respondent in failing to deliver to complainant, per agreement, the proceeds of the sale of subject land. Considering that the object of a disbarment proceeding is not so much to punish the individual attorney himself, as to safeguard the administration of justice by protecting the court and the public from the misconduct of officers of the court (Deles v. Aragonas Jr., Adm. Case No. 598, March 28, 1969, 27 SCRA 634), undersigned, therefore, are of the view that respondent deserves to be admonished to behave with more circumspection and display at all times the highest degree of uprightness befitting a member of the bar. WHEREFORE, the complaint for disbarment against respondent Atty. Sergio Villareal is DISMISSED but he is reprimanded for his misconduct with a warning that a more drastic punishment will be imposed on a repetition of the same act. SO ORDERED. Barredo Chairman, Aquino, Abad Santos and De Castro, ,JJ., concur.

SECOND DIVISION

[A.M. No. RTJ-95-1332. February 24, 1998]

TERESITA O. ZAMUDIO, complainant, vs. JUDGE JOSE S. PEAS, JR., respondent.

[A.M. No. RTJ-98-1398. February 24, 1998]

BENJAMIN R. AREJOLA, complainant, vs. JUDGE JOSE S. PEAS, JR., respondent. DECISION
REGALADO, J.:

These two administrative matters concern former Judge Jose S. Peas, Jr. of the Regional Trial Court of Iriga City, Branch 34. Although respondent retired from the service on December 10, 1996, the charges were instituted when he was still the presiding judge of said court.[1] On August 9, 1994, Teresita O. Zamudio filed a complaint in the Office of the Ombudsman alleging that respondent is guilty of neglecting to support her two illegitimate daughters whom he sired several years before he was appointed to the judiciary.[2] The complaint was referred to the Office of the Court Administrator where it was docketed as Administrative Matter No. RTJ-95-1332, and which this Court later assigned to Associate Justice Eubolo G. Verzola of the Court of Appeals for investigation, report and recommendation.[3] On July 31, 1995, the Court received a complaint from one Benjamin R. Arejola, a party in a civil case then pending before respondent.[4]Arejola charged respondent with dereliction of judicial duty, grave misconduct, oppression, and conduct unbecoming a judge. The case was accepted for informal preliminary investigation and initially identified as Administrative Matter No. OCA IPI-95-74-RTJ. The corresponding action in the two aforesaid cases then proceeded separately. After all the proceedings involved had been completed and the requisite reports with recommendations were duly submitted, with the second administrative matter having been given its present docket number, both cases were consolidated for judgment by the Court. The circumstances which eventuated in A.M. No. RTJ-95-1332 date back to the year 1968 when Zamudio, then a naive fifteen year-old, met respondent who was in his forties, a practicing lawyer and a married man. Respondent was the counsel of Zamudios mother in a criminal case that was ultimately dismissed. Upon her mothers pleas, respondent extended financial support to Zamudio for several years thereafter, enabling her to pursue her schooling. An illicit affair developed between Zamudio and respondent resulting in the birth of two daughters, namely, Regina who was born on August 30, 1972, and Cherry who was born on August 14, 1979. Although the couple did not live together, respondent kept Zamudio as his mistress and habitually gave to her financial support for his daughters, paying for their lodging and school expenses. On February 5, 1987, respondent was appointed to the judiciary. [5] His relationship with Zamudio had fizzled out by then although he continued to support his

daughters. Later, however, he altogether stopped sending money for their support, thereby prompting Zamudio to initiate the instant administrative case to obtain relief for their sustenance and other necessities. On June 26, 1996, Zamudio filed a motion in the Court of Appeals to withdraw the case which was still pending there.[6] The parties had allegedly arrived at a compromise agreement based on a financial settlement.[7] On August 8, 1996, however, complainant withdrew her said motion of desistance because respondent failed to comply with his undertakings in that compromise agreement.[8] In his answer thereafter filed in the same appellate court on August 26, 1996, respondent neither admitted nor denied any sexual relation with Zamudio and the allegation that he fathered her daughters.[9] He did admit, however, that he really entered into a compromise agreement with Zamudio which is why she withdrew the case, but he later realized that he could not afford to pay the amounts agreed upon, thus causing Zamudio to proceed with the same. Nevertheless, respondent made it clear that he did not mean to deprive Regina and Cherry Zamudio of participation in his retirement benefits. He asserted that he intended to have them avail themselves of their shares thereof after assessing his needs principally for his own livelihood, sufficient to prevent him from becoming a pauper. [10] Upon termination of the investigation and hearings, a report was submitted by the investigating Justice to this Court, and the case was referred to the Office of the Court Administrator for recommendation. Meanwhile, A.M. No. RTJ-98-1398 was raffled to and handled by the Second Division of this Court. This administrative matter stemmed from Civil Case No. 270, an original action for mandamus instituted by Arejola as one of the petitioners in Branch 34 of the Regional Trial Court of Iriga City of which respondent was the presiding judge.[11] The case concerned a dispute over the closure of a public road ordered by the then city mayor and city market superintendent who were sued as the respondents therein. Apparently, said respondents ordered the closure of Camposano Road, a public thoroughfare in San Francisco, Iriga City, so that it could be used as an extension of the city market. Petitioners therein filed a petition for mandamus with damages and injunction, praying for a writ of preliminary mandatory injunction and temporary restraining order (TRO) in opposition to the closure. Arejola, by reason of his being a co-petitioner in that case, initiated the instant administrative matter against herein respondent. Arejola alleges that respondent exhibited partiality in favor of the respondent officials in that special civil action, as shown by the fact that respondent allegedly proceeded with the case without calling the court to order; conducted a hearing for twenty minutes without a court stenographer to record the proceedings; insisted that petitioners file an opposition to respondents motion to dismiss; disregarded the omnibus motion filed by petitioners; acted as judge and counsel for respondents; and remarked that upon the take-over of the new administration, who is now your respondents (sic) and walang personalan ito, or words to that effect.

Respondent allegedly further gave political color to the petition; allowed the TRO to lapse without being implemented; insisted on the hearing of the injunction aspect in the first week of June, over therein petitioners objection and after the lapse of the twenty day period of the TRO; showed an attitude of being beholden to therein respondents; and allowed the appearance and admitted the arguments of the respondent city mayor who is neither a lawyer nor was represented by one.[12] Arejola had earlier moved for the inhibition of respondent as the presiding judge in that case, but to no avail. In a resolution dated November 15, 1995, this Court ordered respondent to comment on the complaint,[13] but he failed to do so. Thus, on March 20, 1996, the Court required respondent to show cause why he should not be disciplinarily dealt with or held in contempt for failing to comply with the previous order to file his comment.[14] Respondent defied the order and the case was referred to the Office of the Court Administrator for investigation, report and recommendation. Up to this date, or over two years after being ordered by this Court to file his comment in A.M. No. RTJ-98-1398, respondent has neither filed such comment nor submitted any explanation for his non-compliance with the order. The Office of the Court Administrator duly submitted its recommendations to the Court for both A.M. Nos. RTJ-95-1332 and RTJ-98-1398. Being well presented and logically arrived at, the Court approves the same but with some modifications. In A.M. No. RTJ-95-1332, it is undisputed that Regina and Cherry Zamudio are the illegitimate children of respondent and that the latter begot them under scandalous circumstances. Their mother, Teresita O. Zamudio, was a minor when respondent commenced his immoral liaison with her. He maintained their extramarital affair for many years, abhorrently robbing Teresita of her youth and taking advantage of her vulnerability. Ironically, her then hapless situation obviously merited and required the protection of a guardian which should have been respondents mode of conduct and attitude towards her. We agree with the investigating magistrate, Justice Verzola, that the instant case highlights a weakness in the process of selection and appointment to the judiciary at the time respondent was appointed, and that had the recommending authority or the appointing power been aware of respondents character flaws, it was unlikely that he would have been appointed as a judge. During the pendency of this case, respondent reached the compulsory age of retirement from the government service. Consequently, the penalty of either suspension from the service or dismissal therefrom can no longer be imposed on him, and the complaint against him as a judgeshould be dismissed. Also, the fact that his dishonorable conduct occurred several years before his appointment to the judiciary may be appreciated as a mitigation of his failing to fully achieve the moral standards required of a judge. His retirement from the judiciary and entitlement to the corresponding benefits and other privileges earned by virtue of his service may accordingly be considered and duly effected.

Nevertheless, the dismissal of the complaint against him as a judge does not absolve respondent from his legal responsibility to recognize and support his illegitimate children, Regina and Cherry Zamudio. Furthermore, as correctly submitted by the Office of the Court Administrator - -

x x x Even as an ordinary lawyer, respondent has to conform to the strict standard of conduct demanded of members of the profession. Certainly, fathering (children) by a woman other than his lawful wife fails to meet these standards x x x.
[15]

The jurisdiction of the Court over this case was, therefore, not lost when respondent retired from the judiciary[16] and, in the exercise of its power over respondent as a member of the bar, the Court may require him to comply with his obligation to support his illegitimate daughters. It appears, however, that Regina is already 25 years old, a college graduate, married and with a child. Cherry, on the other hand, is 18 years old, single, and is still a student. Based only on the facts appearing on record, Regina is no longer entitled to receive present and future support from respondent, as the duty therefor primarily devolves upon her husband, unless it shall be proven in the proper proceedings that recourse may be had against the other persons provided by law to be successively liable to support her.[17] Cherry, on her part, is entitled to receive support from respondent for the period, purposes and in the amount provided by law.[18] Under the factual ambience of this case, a monthly support of P5,000.00 would be reasonable and should be paid to her by respondent upon the finality of the judgment herein. Both Regina and Cherry Zamudio may also seek the payment of support in arrears but in the appropriate proceedings and in the proper forum. With respect to A.M. No. RTJ-98-1398, we likewise adopt the conclusion of the Office of the Court Administrator on the charges of bias and partiality filed against respondent, to wit:

Ordinarily, the failure of respondent to comment means a tacit admission of the charges leveled against him. In this case, however, the allegation of bias and partiality are not substantiated by evidence. Bias and partiality cannot be presumed from the circumstances enumerated by the complainant. Apart from these bare allegations, there must be convincing proof to show that respondent judge is indeed bias(ed) and partial. In administrative proceedings, the burden of proof that respondent committed the act complained of rests on the complainant. Failing in this, the complaint must be dismissed. However, we found respondent judges failure to comment on the charges as constituting gross insubordination. x x x The noncompliance of respondent with the several directives of this Court is a

clear manifestation of his continued defiance and disrespect to a lawful order of a superior court x x x.
[19]

Mere suspicion that a judge was partial to a party is not enough as there should be adequate evidence to prove the charge.[20] This Court finds that there is insufficient evidence to hold respondent liable for the charges and we are thus constrained to dismiss the complaint filed by Arejola. There was no showing that respondent had an interest, personal or otherwise, in the prosecution of the case before him. The bare allegations of complainant cannot overturn the presumption that respondent acted regularly and with impartiality. [21] Withal, the dismissal of the complaint does not prevent the Court from penalizing respondent for his contumacious conduct in repeatedly disobeying the orders for the filing of a comment. His failure to file the same and explain his omission, despite several opportunities for him to do so, is reprehensible and tantamount to gross misconduct and insubordination.[22] A judge should uphold the integrity of the judiciary[23] and respondent cannot expect others to respect the law when he himself cannot obey simple orders such as that directing him to file a comment, as well as the explanation required by show-cause resolution.[24] The Court will not tolerate recalcitrance by a party to a case, more so where he is a member of the judiciary and is expected to be the embodiment of adherence to the law and the institution to which he belongs. WHEREFORE, judgment is hereby rendered as follows:

1. In A.M. No. RTJ-95-1332, the complaint against respondent as a judge is hereby DISMISSED. Respondent is, however, ORDERED to fulfill and settle his legal obligation of support in favor of his two illegitimate daughters, Regina and Cherry Zamudio. The corresponding finance authorities of the Office of the Court Administrator shall deduct the amount of Five Thousand Pesos (P5,000.00) every month from respondents monthly pension and pay the same to Cherry Zamudio as and for present and future support until the obligation is extinguished in accordance with law. This is understood to be without prejudice to such remedies as Regina and Cherry Zamudio may avail themselves of for the recovery of support in arrears and the enforcement of such other rights provided by the law on support as hereinbefore discussed. 2. The complaint against respondent in A.M. No. RTJ-98-1398 is hereby DISMISSED for lack of merit. However, respondent is declared guilty of serious misconduct and insubordination for his failure to comply with the lawful orders of this Court. He is hereby ORDERED to pay a FINE of Five Thousand Pesos (P5,000.00), likewise to be deducted from his retirement benefits, with a stern warning that a repetition of the same or any similar conduct, as a member of the bar, will be dealt with more severely.

SO ORDERED. Melo, Puno, Mendoza, and Martinez, JJ., concur.


Republic of the Philippines SUPREME COURT Manila FIRST DIVISION

G.R. No. 115932 January 25, 1995 THE SPOUSES JOSE B. TIONGCO and LETICIA M. TIONGCO, petitioners, vs. HON. SEVERIANO C. AGUILAR, Judge, RTC, Branch 35, Iloilo City, and the Spouses WILFREDO and LORENA AGUIRRE, respondents. RESOLUTION

DAVIDE, J.: In the resolution of 26 September 1994, this Court required ATTY. JOSE B. TIONGCO, as counsel for the petitioners, to show cause why he should not be dealt with administratively for the violation of Canon 11 of the Code of Professional Responsibility considering: . . . the insinuation of counsel for the petitioners that this Court did not read the petition as borne out by the following statement: ". . . Truly, it is hard to imagine that this Honorable Court had read the petition and the annexes attached thereto and hold that the same has "failed to sufficiently show that the respondent Court had committed a grave abuse of discretion in rendering the questioned judgment". . . which, as earlier noted, is unfounded and malicious, and considering further his use of intemperate language in the petition, as exemplified by his characterization of the decision of the respondent Judge as having been "crafted in order to fool the winning party"; as a "hypocritical judgment in plaintiffs' favor"; one "you could have sworn it was the Devil who dictated it"; or one with "perfidious character," although the petitioners as plaintiffs therein and who were the prevailing party in the decision did not appeal therefrom; and by his charge that the respondent Judge was "a bit confused with that confusion which is the natural product of having been born, nurtured and brought up amongst the crowded surroundings of the non-propertied class; In

fact, His Honor, Respondent Judge, the Honorable Severino O. Aguilar had not owned any real property until March 5, 1974 when his Honor was already either Public-Prosecutor or RTC Judge; in one scale of the balance, a 311 square meter lot, 6 houses from the Provincial Road, about 6 kilometers from the Iloilo City Hall of Justice, and, in the other scale, His Honor's brand-new car, impeccable attire, and dignified "mien"; and his charge that the respondent Judge has "joined the defendants and their counsel in a scheme to unlawfully deprive petitioners of the possession and fruits of their property for the duration of appeal"; and with respect to the Order of 30 May 1994, by describing the respondent Judge as a "liar," "perjurer," or "blasphemer." In his 2-page Compliance, dated 11 October 1994, he alleges that: If the undersigned has called anyone a "liar" "thief" "perfidious" and "blasphemer" it is because he is in fact a liar, thief, perfidious and blasphemer; "this Honorable [sic] First Division, however, forget, that the undersigned alsp [sic] called him a "robber" (Petition, pp. 13 bottom; 14 bottom), a "rotten manipulator" (Petition, p. 11 line 26) and "abetter" of graft and shady deals (Petition, p. 12 bottom, p. 13 top); On the other hand, if the undersigned called anybody "cross-eyed," it must be because he is indeed cross-eyed particularly when he sees but five (5) letters in an eight (8) letter-word; Indeed, it must be a lousy Code of Professional Responsibility and therefore stands in dire need of amendment which punishes lawyer who truthfully expose incompetent and corrupt judges before this Honorable Supreme Court; It is therefore, respectfully submitted, that for all his pains, the undersigned does not deserve or is entitled to the honors of being dealt with administratively or otherwise. and prays: WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the undersigned respectfully prays of this Honorable Supreme Court, that it forebear from turning the undersigned into a martyr to his principles. Yet, he added the following: WITH THE UNDERSIGNED'S RESPECTFUL APOLOGIES AND UNDYING LOVE (Constitution, Preamble, 66 word). It must at once be noted that Atty. Tiongco did not at all show cause why he should not be dealt with administratively for violation of Canon 11 of the Code of Professional Responsibility in view of his unfounded and malicious insinuation that this Court did not at all read the petition in this case before it concluded that the petition failed to sufficiently show that the respondent court had committed a grave abuse of discretion. Moreover, while he tried to justify as true his descriptions of the respondent judge as a "liar," "thief." perfidious," and "blasphemer" he did not offer any excuse for his use of the rest of the intemperate words enumerated in the resolution. Worse, feeling obviously frustrated at the incompleteness of the Court's enumeration of the intemperate words or phrases, he

volunteered to point out that in addition to those so enumerated, he also called the respondent judge a "robber," "rotten manipulator," "abettor" of graft and corruption, and "cross-eyed." Atty. Tiongco's Compliance is unsatisfactory and is entirely unacceptable for the following reasons: first, he impliedly admitted the falsity of his insinuation that this Court did not read the petition' second, except as to the words "liar," "thief," "perfidious'" and "blasphemer," he failed to address squarely the other intemperate words and phrases enumerated in the resolution of 26 September 1994, which failure amounts to an admission of their intemperateness; third, he did not indicate the circumstances upon which his defense of truth lies; and, fourth, he miserably failed to show the relevance of the harsh words and phrase to his petition. We do not then hesitate to rule that by falsely and maliciously insinuating that this Court did not at all read the petition in this case, Atty. Tiongco not only exhibited his gross disrespect to and contempt for this Court and exposed his plot to discredit the Members of the First Division of the Court and put them to public contempt or ridicule; he, as well, charged them with the violation of their solemn duty to render justice, thereby creating or promoting distrust in judicial administration which could have the effect of "encouraging discontent which, in many cases, is the source of disorder, thus undermining the foundation on which rests the bulwark called judicial power to which those who are aggrieved turn for protection and relief" (Salcedo vs. Hernandez, 61 Phil. 724 [1953]). In using in the petition in this case intemperate and scurrilous words and phrases against the respondent judge which are obviously uncalled for and entirely irrelevant to the petition and whose glaring falsity is easily demonstrated by the respondent judge's decision if favor of Atty. Tiongco and his wife in their case for recovery of possession and damages, and by the dismissal of the instant petition for failure of the petitioners to sufficiently show that the respondent judge committed grave abuse of discretion, Atty. Tiongco has equally shown his disrespect to and contempt for the respondent judge, thereby diminishing public confidence in the latter and eventually, in the judiciary, or sowing mistrust in the administration of justice. Consequently, Atty. Tiongco has made a strong case for a serious violation of Canon 11 of the Code of Professional Responsibility which reads as follows: CANON 11 A LAWYER SHALL OBSERVE AND MAINTAIN THE RESPECT DUE TO THE COURTS AND TO JUDICIAL OFFICERS AND SHOULD INSIST ON SIMILAR CONDUCT BY OTHERS. This duty is closely entwined with his vow in the lawyer's oath "to conduct himself as a lawyer with all good fidelity to the courts"; his duty under Section 20 (b), Rule 138 of the Rules of Court "[t]o observe and maintain the respect due to the courts of justice and judicial officers"; and his duty under the first canon of the Canons Professional Ethics "to maintain towards the courts a respectful attitude, not for the sake of the temporary incumbent of the judicial office, but for the maintenance of its incumbent of the judicial office, but for the maintenance of its supreme importance."

In Rheem of the Philippines vs. Ferrer (20 SCRA 441, 444 [1967]), this Court said: By now, a lawyer's duties to the Court had become commonplace. Really, there could hardly be any valid excuse for lapses in the observance thereof. Section 20(b), Rule 138 of the Rules of Court, in categorical terms, spells out one such duty: "To observe and maintain the respect due to the courts of justice and judicial officers." As explicit is the first canon of legal ethics which pronounces that "[i]t is the duty of the lawyer to maintain towards the Courts a respectful attitude, not for the sake of the temporary incumbent of the judicial office, but for the maintenance of its supreme importance." That same canon, as a corollary, makes it peculiarly incumbent upon lawyers to support the courts against "unjust criticism and clamor." And more. The attorney's oath solemnly binds him to conduct that should be "with all good fidelity . . . to the courts." Worth remembering is that the duty of an attorney to the courts "can only be maintained by rendering no service involving any disrespect to the judicial office which he is bound to uphold." [Lualhati vs. Albert, 57 Phil. 86, 92]. We concede that a lawyer may think highly of his intellectual endowment. That is his privilege. And, he may suffer frustration at what he feels is others' lack of it. That is his misfortune. Some such frame of mind, however, should not be allowed to harden into a belief that he may attack court's decision in words calculated to jettison the time-honored aphorism that courts are the temples of right. He should give due allowance to the fact that judges are but men; and men are encompassed by error, fettered by fallibility. Expounding further on the lawyer's duty to the courts, this Court, in Surigao Mineral Reservation Board vs. Cloribel(31 SCRA 1, 16-17 [1970]), stated: A lawyer is an officer of the courts; he is, "like the court itself, an instrument or agency to advance the ends of justice." [People ex rel. Karlin vs. Culkin, 60 A.L.R. 851, 855]. His duty is to uphold the dignity and the authority of the courts to which he owes fidelity, "not to promote distrust in the administration in the administration of justice." [In re Sotto, 82 Phil. 595, 602]. faith in the courts a lawyer should seek to preserve. For, to undermine the judicial edifice "is disastrous to the continuity of the government and to the attainment of the liberties of the people." [Malcolm legal and Judicial Ethics, 1949 ed., p. 160]. Thus has it been said of a lawyer that "[a]s an officer of the court, it is his sworn and moral duty to help build and not destroy unnecessarily that high esteem and regard towards the courts so essential to the proper administration of justice." [People vs. Carillo, 77 Phil. 572, 580]. (See also In re: Rafael C. Climaco, 55 SCRA 107 [1974]). It does not, however, follow that just because a lawyer is an officer of the court, he cannot criticize the courts. That is his right as a citizen, and it is even his duty as an officer of the court to avail of such right. Thus, In Re: Almacen(31 SCRA 562, 579-580 [1970]), this Court explicitly declared:

Hence, as a citizen and as an officer of the court, a lawyer is expected not only to exercise the right, but also to consider it his duty to avail of such right. No law may abridge this right. Nor is he "professionally answerable for a scrutiny into the official conduct of the judge, which would not expose him to legal animadversion as a citizen." (Case of Austin, 28 Am dec. 657, 665). "Above all others, the members of the bar have the best opportunity to become conversant with the character and efficiency of out judges. No class is less likely to abuse the privilege, or no other class has as great an interest in the preservation of an able and upright bench." (State Board of Examiners in Law vs. Hart, 116 N.W. 212, 216). To curtail the right of a lawyer to be critical of the foibles of courts and judges is to seal the lips of those in the best position to give advice and who might consider it their duty to speak disparagingly. "Under such a rule," so far as the bar is concerned, "the merits of a sitting judge may be rehearsed, but as to his demerits there must be profound silence. (State vs. Circuit Court (72 N.W. 196)). Nevertheless, such a right is not without limit. For, as this Court warned in Almacen: But it is a cardinal condition of all such criticism that it shall be bona fide, and shall not spill over the walls of decency and propriety. A wide chasm exists between fair criticism, on the one hand, and abuse and slander of courts and the judges thereof, on the other. Intemperate and unfair criticism is a gross violation of the duty of respect to courts. It is such a misconduct that subjects a lawyer to disciplinary action. xxx xxx xxx The lawyer's duty to render respectful subordination to the courts is essential to the orderly administration of justice. hence, in the assertion of their client's rights, lawyers even those gifted with superior intellect are enjoined to rein up their tempers. Elsewise stated, the right to criticize, which is guaranteed by the freedom of speech and of expression in the Bill of Rights of the Constitution, must be exercised responsibly, for every right carries with it a corresponding obligation. Freedom is not freedom from responsibility, but freedom with responsibility. In Zaldivar vs. Gonzales (166 SCRA 316, 353-354 [1988]), it was held: Respondent Gonzales is entitled to the constitutional guarantee of free spe ech. No one seeks to deny him that right, least of all this Court. What respondent seems unaware of is that freedom of speech and of expression, like all constitutional freedoms, is not absolute and that freedom of expression needs an occasion to be adjusted to and accommodated with the requirements of equally important public interests. One of these fundamental

public interests is the maintenance of the integrity and orderly functioning of the administration justice. There is no antimony between free expression and the integrity of the system of administering justice. For the protection and maintenance of freedom of expression itself can be secured only within the context of a functioning and orderly system of dispensing justice, within the context, in other words, of viable independent institutions for delivery of justice which are accepted by the general community. Proscribed then are, inter alia, the use of unnecessary language which jeopardizes high esteem in courts, creates or promotes distrust in judicial administration (Rheem, supra), or tends necessarily to undermine the confidence of the people in the integrity of the members of this Court and to degrade the administration of justice by this Court (In re: Sotto, 82 Phil. 595 [1949]); or of offensive and abusive language (In re: Rafael Climaco, 55 SCRA 107 [1974]); or abrasive and offensive language (Yangson vs. Salandanan, 68 SCRA 42 [1975]); or of disrespectful, offensive, manifestly baseless, and malicious statements in pleadings or in a letter addressed to the judge (Baja vs. Macando, 158 SCRA 391 [1988], citing the resolution of 19 January 1988 in Phil. Public Schools Teachers Association vs. Quisumbing, G.R. No. 76180, and Ceniza vs. Sebastian, 130 SCRA 295 [1984]); or of disparaging, intemperate, and uncalled-for remarks (Sangalang vs. Intermediate Appellate Court, 177 SCRA 87 [1989]). That Atty. Tiongco had exceeded the bounds of decency and propriety in making the false and malicious insinuation against this Court, particularly the Members of the First Division, and the scurrilous characterizations of the respondent judge is, indeed, all too obvious. Such could only come from anger, if not hate, after he was not given what he wanted. Anger or hate could only come from one who "seems to be of that frame of mind whereby he considers as in accordance with law and justice whatever he believes to be right in his own opinion and as contrary to law and justice whatever does not accord with his views" (Montecillo vs. Gica, 60 SCRA 234, 238 [1974]). When such anger or hate is coupled with haughtiness or arrogance as when he even pointed out other intemperate words in his petition which this Court failed to incorporate in the resolution of 26 September 1994, and with seething sarcasm as when he prays that this Court "forebear[s] from turning . . . [him] into a martyr to his principles" and ends up his Compliance with the "RESPECTFUL APOLOGIES AND UNDYING LOVE" (Constitution Preamble, 66th word), "nothing more can extenuate his liability for gross violation of Canon 11 of the Code of professional Responsibility and his other duties entwined therewith as earlier adverted to. WHEREFORE, for such violation, ATTY. JOSE B. TIONGCO is hereby ordered to pay a Fine of FIVE THOUSAND PESOS (P5,000.00) and WARNED that the commission of the same or similar acts in the future shall be dealt with more money. Let a copy of this resolution be attached to the record of Atty. Jose B. Tiongco in this Court. Padilla, Quiason and Kapunan, JJ., concur. Bellosillo, J., took no part.

EN BANC

[A.C. No. 6486. September 22, 2004]

EMMA T. DANTES, complainant, DANTES, respondent. DECISION


PER CURIAM:

vs. ATTY.

CRISPIN

G.

Despite variations in the specific standards and provisions, 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, and once he becomes a lawyer he should always behave in accordance with the standard. In this jurisdiction too, good moral character is not only a condition precedent [1] to the practice of law, but an unending requirement for all the members of the bar. Hence, when a lawyer is found guilty of grossly immoral conduct, he may be suspended or disbarred. [2] In an Affidavit-Complaint[3] dated June 6, 2001, filed with the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP), Emma T. Dantes, sought the disbarment of her husband, Atty. Crispin G. Dantes on the ground of immorality, abandonment, and violation of professional ethics and law. The case was docketed as CBD Case No. 01-851. Complainant alleged that respondent is a philanderer. Respondent purportedly engaged in illicit relationships with two women, one after the other, and had illegitimate children with them. From the time respondents illicit affairs started, he failed to give regular support to complainant and their children, thus forcing complainant to work abroad to provide for their childrens needs. Complainant pointed out that these acts of respondent constitute a violation of his lawyers oath and his moral and legal oblig ation to be a role model to the community. On July 4, 2001, the IBP Commission on Bar Discipline issued an Order[4] requiring respondent to submit his answer to the Affidavit-Complaint. Respondent submitted his Answer[5] on November 19, 2001. Though admitting the fact of marriage with the complainant and the birth of their children, 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, Pampanga. Respondent claimed that when complainant returned after eighteen years, she insisted that she be accommodated in the place where he and their children were residing. Thus, he was forced to live alone in a rented apartment. Respondent further alleged that he sent their children to the best school he could afford and provided for their needs. He even bought two lots in Pampanga for his sons, Dandelo and Dante, 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.

Subsequently, the IBP conducted its investigation and hearings on the complaint. Complainant presented her evidence, both oral and documentary, [6] to support the allegations in her Affidavit-Complaint. From the evidence presented by the complainant, it was established that on January 19, 1979, complainant and respondent were married[7]and lived with the latters mother in Balintawak. At that time, respondent was just a fourth year law student. To make ends meet, complainant engaged in the buy and sell business and relied on dole-outs from the respondents mother. Three children were born to the couple, namely, Dandelo, Dante and Daisy, who were born on February 20, 1980,[8] October 14, 1981[9] andAugust 11, [10] 1983, respectively. Complainant narrated that their relationship was marred by frequent quarrels because of respondents extra-marital affairs.[11] Sometime in 1983, she brought their children to her mother in Pampanga to enable her to work because respondent had failed to provide adequate support. From 1986 to 2001, complainant worked abroad as a domestic helper. Denying that there was a mutual agreement between her and respondent to live separately, complainant asseverated that she was just compelled to work abroad to support their children. When she returned to the Philippines, she learned that respondent was living with another woman. Respondent, then bluntly told her, that he did not want to live with her anymore and that he preferred his mistresses. Complainant presented documentary evidence consisting of the birth certificates of Ray Darwin, Darling, and Christian Dave,[12] all surnamed Dantes, and the affidavits of respondent and his paramour[13] to prove the fact that respondent sired three illegitimate children out of his illicit affairs with two different women. Letters of complainants legitimate children likewise support the allegation that respondent is a womanizer. [14] In an Order dated April 17, 2002, respondent was deemed to have waived his right to cross-examine complainant, after he failed to appear during the scheduled hearings despite due notice. He, however, submitted his Comment/Opposition to the Complainants Formal Offer of Evidence with Motion to Exclude the Evidence from the Records of the Proceedings[15] on August 1, 2002. Subsequently, on May 29, 2003, respondent submitted a Motion to Adopt Alternative Dispute Resolution Mechanism. Respondents motion was denied because it was filed after the complainant had already presented her evidence.[16] Respondent was given a final chance to present his evidence on July 11, 2003. Instead of presenting evidence, respondent filed a Motion for Reconsideration with Motion to Dismiss, which was likewise denied for being a prohibited pleading under the Rules of Procedure of the Commission on Bar Discipline. Respondent submitted his Position Paper on August 4, 2003. In respondents Position Paper,[17] he reiterated the allegations in his Answer except that this time, he argued that in view of the resolution of the complaint for support with alimony pendente lite[18] filed against him by the complainant before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Quezon City,[19] the instant administrative case should be dismissed for lack of merit.

On July 7, 2004, the IBP submitted to us through the Office of the Bar Confidant its Report[20] and Resolution No. XVI-2004-230 involving CBD Case No. 01-851.[21] The IBP recommended that the respondent be suspended indefinitely from the practice of law. Except for the penalty, we find the above recommendation well-taken. The Code of Professional Responsibility provides:

Rule 1.01- A lawyer shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct. Canon 7- A lawyer shall at all times uphold the integrity and dignity of the legal profession, and support the activities of the Integrated Bar. Rule 7.03- A lawyer shall not engage in conduct that adversely reflects on his fitness to practice law, nor should he, whether in public or private life, behave in a scandalous manner to the discredit of the legal profession.
The Code of Professional Responsibility forbids lawyers from engaging in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct. Immoral conduct has been defined as that conduct which is so willful, flagrant, or shameless as to show indifference to the opinion of good and respectable members of the community. [22] To be the basis of disciplinary action, the lawyers conduct must not only be immoral, but grossly im moral. That is, it must be so corrupt as to constitute a criminal act or so unprincipled as to be reprehensible to a high degree[23] or committed under such scandalous or revolting circumstances as to shock the common sense of decency.[24] In Barrientos vs. Daarol,[25] we ruled that as officers of the court, 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. More specifically, 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. If the practice of law is to remain an honorable profession and attain its basic ideals, those enrolled in its ranks should not only master its tenets and principles but should also, in their lives, accord continuing fidelity to them. The requirement of good moral character is of much greater import, as far as the general public is concerned, than the possession of legal learning. It should be noted that the requirement of good moral character has three ostensible purposes, namely: (i) to protect the public; (ii) to protect the public image of lawyers; and (iii) to protect prospective clients. A writer added a fourth: to protect errant lawyers from themselves.[26] Lawyers are expected to abide by the tenets of morality, not only upon admission to the Bar but also throughout their legal career, in order to maintain their good standing in this exclusive and honored fraternity.[27] They may be suspended from the practice of law

or disbarred for any misconduct, even if it pertains to his private activities, as long as it shows him to be wanting in moral character, honesty, probity or good demeanor. [28] Undoubtedly, respondents 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. Complainants testimony, taken in conjunction with the documentary evidence, sufficiently established respondents commission of marital infidelity and immorality. Evidently, respondent had breached the high and exacting moral standards set for members of the law profession. He has made a mockery of marriage which is a sacred institution demanding respect and dignity.[29] In Toledo vs. Toledo,[30] we disbarred respondent for abandoning his lawful wife and cohabiting with another woman who had borne him a child. Likewise, in Obusan vs. Obusan,[31] we ruled that abandoning ones wife and resuming carnal relations with a paramour fall within that conduct which is willful, flagrant, or shameless, and which shows moral indifference to the opinion of the good and respectable members of the community. We reiterate our ruling in Cordova vs. Cordova,[32] that moral delinquency which affects the fitness of a member of the bar to continue as such, 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. The power to disbar must be exercised with great caution, 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.[33] Where a lesser penalty, such as temporary suspension, could accomplish the end desired, disbarment should never be decreed.[34] However, in the present case, the seriousness of the offense compels the Court to wield its power to disbar as it appears to be the most appropriate penalty. WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing Atty. Crispin G. Dantes is hereby DISBARRED and his name is ORDERED STRICKEN from the Roll of Attorneys. Let a copy of this Decision be entered in the respondents record as a member of the Bar, and notice of the same be served on the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, and on the Office of the Court Administrator for circulation to all courts in the country. SO ORDERED. Davide, Jr., C.J., Puno, Panganiban, Quisumbing, Ynares-Santiago, SandovalGutierrez, Carpio, Austria-Martinez, Corona, Callejo, Sr., Azcuna, and Tinga, JJ., concur. Carpio-Morales, J., on official leave. Chico-Nazario, J., on leave.

Joselano Guevarra v. Atty Jose Emmanuel Eala, AC No.7136, August 1, 2007

Facts: Wife of petitioner, Irene Moje was having an illicit affair with the respondent. After leaving the conjugal home, petitioner found out that Irene and respondent was living together in a residential house few blocks away from the church they were married. Few months thereafter, Irene gave birth to a baby girl and wrote the name of the respondent as the father in the certificate of live birth. Petitioner filed a petition for annulment of marriage to Irene and a criminal complaint for adultery against respondent and Irene. Petitioner also filed a complaint for disbarment before the IBP-CBD on the ground of gross immoral conduct and unmitigated violation of the lawyer's oath which was dismissed by the IBP Board of Governors due to lack of merit. Hence, the petition of complaint before the Supreme Court. Issue: Would an illicit affair between a married lawyer and a married woman constitute gross immoral conduct? Ruling: Whether a lawyer's sexual congress with a woman not his wife or without the benefit of marriage should be characterized as 'grossly immoral conduct' depends on the surrounding circumstances." The case at bar involves a relationship between a married lawyer and a married woman who is not his wife. It is immaterial whether the affair was carried out discreetly. Sexual relations outside marriage is considered disgraceful and immoral as it manifests deliberate disregard of the sanctity of marriage and the marital vows protected by the Constitution and affirmed by our laws. (Vitug v. Rongcal) Respondent has been carrying on an illicit affair with a married woman, a grossly immoral conduct and indicative of an extremely low regard for the fundamental ethics of his profession. This detestable behavior renders him regrettably unfit and undeserving of the treasured honor and privileges which his license confers upon him. (Tucay v. Atty. Tucay) Respondent in fact also violated the lawyer's oath he took before admission to practice law. Respondent admittedly is aware of Section 2 of Article XV (The Family) of the Constitution reading: Section 2. Marriage, as an inviolable social institution, is the foundation of the family and shall be protected by the State. In this connection, the Family Code (Executive Order No. 209), which echoes this constitutional provision, obligates the husband and the wife "to live together, observe mutual love, respect and fidelity, and render mutual help and support." Furthermore, respondent violated Rule 1.01 of Canon 1 of the Code of Professional Responsibility which

proscribes a lawyer from engaging in "unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct," and Rule 7.03 of Canon 7 of the same Code which proscribes a lawyer from engaging in any "conduct that adversely reflects on his fitness to practice law." WHEREFORE, Petition is GRANTED. Respondent, Atty. Jose Emmanuel M. Eala, is DISBARRED for grossly immoral conduct, violation of his oath of office, and violation of Canon 1, Rule 1.01 and Canon 7, Rule 7.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility.

Republic of the Philippines SUPREME COURT Manila EN BANC A.C. No. 7136 August 1, 2007

JOSELANO GUEVARRA, complainant, vs. ATTY. JOSE EMMANUEL EALA, respondent. DECISION PER CURIAM: Joselano Guevarra (complainant) filed on March 4, 2002 a Complaint for Disbarment1 before the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) Committee on Bar Discipline (CBD) against Atty. Jose Emmanuel M. Eala a.k.a. Noli Eala (respondent) for "grossly immoral conduct and unmitigated violation of the lawyer's oath." In his complaint, Guevarra gave the following account: He first met respondent in January 2000 when his (complainant's) then-fiancee Irene Moje (Irene) introduced respondent to him as her friend who was married to Marianne (sometimes spelled "Mary Ann") Tantoco with whom he had three children. After his marriage to Irene on October 7, 2000, complainant noticed that from January to March 2001, Irene had been receiving from respondent cellphone calls, as well as messages some of which read "I love you," "I miss you," or "Meet you at Megamall." Complainant also noticed that Irene habitually went home very late at night or early in the morning of the following day, and sometimes did not go home from work. When he asked about her whereabouts, she replied that she slept at her parents' house in Binangonan, Rizal or she was busy with her work. In February or March 2001, complainant saw Irene and respondent together on two occasions. On the second occasion, he confronted them following which Irene abandoned the conjugal house.

On April 22, 2001, complainant went uninvited to Irene's birthday celebration at which he saw her and respondent celebrating with her family and friends. Out of embarrassment, anger and humiliation, he left the venue immediately. Following that incident, Irene went to the conjugal house and hauled off all her personal belongings, pieces of furniture, and her share of the household appliances. Complainant later found, in the master's bedroom, a folded social card bearing the words "I Love You" on its face, which card when unfolded contained a handwritten letter dated October 7, 2000, the day of his wedding to Irene, reading: My everdearest Irene, By the time you open this, you'll be moments away from walking down the aisle. I will say a prayer for you that you may find meaning in what you're about to do. Sometimes I wonder why we ever met. Is it only for me to find fleeting happiness but experience eternal pain? Is it only for us to find a true love but then lose it again? Or is it because there's a bigger plan for the two of us? I hope that you have experienced true happiness with me. I have done everything humanly possible to love you. And today, as you make your vows . . . I make my own vow to YOU! I will love you for the rest of my life. I loved you from the first time I laid eyes on you, to the time we spent together, up to the final moments of your single life. But more importantly, I will love you until the life in me is gone and until we are together again. Do not worry about me! I will be happy for you. I have enough memories of us to last me a lifetime. Always remember though that in my heart, in my mind and in my soul, YOU WILL ALWAYS . . . AND THE WONDERFUL THINGS YOU DO! BE MINE . . . . AND MINE ALONE, and I WILL ALWAYS BE YOURS AND YOURS ALONE! I LOVE YOU FOREVER, I LOVE YOU FOR ALWAYS. AS LONG AS I'M LIVING MY TWEETIE YOU'LL BE!"2 Eternally yours, NOLI Complainant soon saw respondent's car and that of Irene constantly parked at No. 71-B 11th Street, New Manila where, as he was to later learn sometime in April 2001, Irene was already residing. He also learned still later that when his friends saw Irene on or about January 18, 2002 together with respondent during a concert, she was pregnant.

In his ANSWER,3 respondent admitted having sent the I LOVE YOU card on which the above-quoted letter was handwritten. On paragraph 14 of the COMPLAINT reading: 14. Respondent and Irene were even FLAUNTING THEIR ADULTEROUS RELATIONSHIP as they attended social functions together. For instance, in or about the third week of September 2001, the couple attended the launch of the "Wine All You Can" promotion of French wines, held at the Mega Strip of SM Megamall B at Mandaluyong City. Their attendance was reported in Section B of the Manila Standard issue of 24 September 2001, on page 21. Respondent and Irene were photographed together; their picture was captioned: "Irene with Sportscaster Noli Eala." A photocopy of the report is attached as Annex C.4 (Italics and emphasis in the original; CAPITALIZATION of the phrase "flaunting their adulterous relationship" supplied), respondent, in his ANSWER, stated: 4. Respondent specifically denies having ever flaunted an adulterous relationship with Irene as alleged in paragraph 14 of the Complaint, the truth of the matter being that their relationship was low profile and known only to the immediate members of their respective families, and that Respondent, as far as the general public was concerned, was still known to be legally married to Mary Anne Tantoco.5 (Emphasis and underscoring supplied) On paragraph 15 of the COMPLAINT reading: 15. Respondent's adulterous conduct with the complainant's wife and his apparent abandoning or neglecting of his own family, demonstrate his gross moral depravity, making him morally unfit to keep his membership in the bar. He flaunted his aversion to the institution of marriage, calling it a "piece of paper." Morally reprehensible was his writing the love letter to complainant's bride on the very day of her wedding, vowing to continue his love for her "until we are together again," as now they are.6 (Underscoring supplied), respondent stated in his ANSWER as follows: 5. Respondent specifically denies the allegations in paragraph 15 of the Complaint regarding his adulterousrelationship and that his acts demonstrate gross moral depravity thereby making him unfit to keep his membership in the bar, the reason being that Respondent's relationship with Irene was not under scandalous circumstances and that as far as his relationship with his own family: 5.1 Respondent has maintained a civil, cordial and peaceful relationship with [his wife] Mary Anne as in fact they still occasionally meet in public, even if Mary Anne is aware of Respondent's special friendship with Irene. xxxx

5.5 Respondent also denies that he has flaunted his aversion to the institution of marriage by calling the institution of marriage a mere piece of paper because his reference [in his above-quoted handwritten letter to Irene] to the marriage between Complainant and Irene as a piece of paper was merely with respect to the formality of the marriage contract.7 (Emphasis and underscoring supplied) Respondent admitted8 paragraph 18 of the COMPLAINT reading: 18. The Rules of Court requires lawyers to support the Constitution and obey the laws. The Constitution regards marriage as an inviolable social institution and is the foundation of the family (Article XV, Sec. 2).9 And on paragraph 19 of the COMPLAINT reading: 19. Respondent's grossly immoral conduct runs afoul of the Constitution and the laws he, as a lawyer, has been sworn to uphold. In pursuing obsessively his illicit love for the complainant's wife, he mocked the institution of marriage, betrayed his own family, broke up the complainant's marriage, commits adultery with his wife, and degrades the legal profession.10 (Emphasis and underscoring supplied), respondent, in his ANSWER, stated: 7. Respondent specifically denies the allegations in paragraph 19 of the Complaint, the reason being thatunder the circumstances the acts of Respondent with respect to his purely personal and low profile special relationship with Irene is neither under scandalous circumstances nor tantamount to grossly immoral conduct as would be a ground for disbarment pursuant to Rule 138, Section 27 of the Rules of Court.11 (Emphasis and underscoring supplied) To respondent's ANSWER, complainant filed a REPLY,12 alleging that Irene gave birth to a girl and Irene named respondent in the Certificate of Live Birth as the girl's father. Complainant attached to the Reply, as Annex "A," a copy of a Certificate of Live Birth13 bearing Irene's signature and naming respondent as the father of her daughter Samantha Irene Louise Moje who was born on February 14, 2002 at St. Luke's Hospital. Complainant's REPLY merited a REJOINDER WITH MOTION TO DISMISS14 dated January 10, 2003 from respondent in which he denied having "personal knowledge of the Certificate of Live Birth attached to the complainant's Reply."15 Respondent moved to dismiss the complaint due to the pendency of a civil case filed by complainant for the annulment of his marriage to Irene, and a criminal complaint for adultery against respondent and Irene which was pending before the Quezon City Prosecutor's Office. During the investigation before the IBP-CBD, complainant's Complaint-Affidavit and Reply to Answer were adopted as his testimony on direct examination. 16 Respondent's counsel did not cross-examine complainant.17

After investigation, IBP-CBD Investigating Commissioner Milagros V. San Juan, in a 12page REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION18 dated October 26, 2004, found the charge against respondent sufficiently proven. The Commissioner thus recommended19 that respondent be disbarred for violating Rule 1.01 of Canon 1 of the Code of Professional Responsibility reading: Rule 1.01: A lawyer shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct (Underscoring supplied), and Rule 7.03 of Canon 7 of the same Code reading: Rule 7.03: A lawyer shall not engage in conduct that adversely reflects on his fitness to practice law, nor shall he, whether in public or private life, behave in a scandalous manner to the discredit of the legal profession. (Underscoring supplied) The IBP Board of Governors, however, annulled and set aside the Recommendation of the Investigating Commissioner and accordingly dismissed the case for lack of merit, by Resolution dated January 28, 2006 briefly reading: RESOLUTION NO. XVII-2006-06 CBD Case No. 02-936 Joselano C. Guevarra vs. Atty. Jose Emmanuel M. Eala a.k.a. Noli Eala RESOLVED to ANNUL and SET ASIDE, as it is hereby ANNULLED AND SET ASIDE, the Recommendation of the Investigating Commissioner, and to APPROVE the DISMISSAL of the above-entitled case for lack of merit.20 (Italics and emphasis in the original) Hence, the present petition21 of complainant before this Court, filed pursuant to Section 12 (c), Rule 13922 of the Rules of Court. The petition is impressed with merit. Oddly enough, the IBP Board of Governors, in setting aside the Recommendation of the Investigating Commissioner and dismissing the case for lack of merit, gave no reason therefor as its above-quoted 33-word Resolution shows. Respondent contends, in his Comment23 on the present petition of complainant, that there is no evidence against him.24 The contention fails. As the IBP-CBD Investigating Commissioner observed: While it may be true that the love letter dated October 7, 2000 (Exh. "C") and the news item published in theManila Standard (Exh. "D"), even taken together do not sufficiently prove that respondent is carrying on an adulterous relationship with

complainant's wife, there are other pieces of evidence on record which support the accusation of complainant against respondent. It should be noted that in his Answer dated 17 October 2002, respondent through counsel made the following statements to wit: "Respondent specifically denies having [ever] flaunted an adulterous relationship with Irene as alleged in paragraph [14] of the Complaint, the truth of the matter being [that] their relationship was low profile and known only to immediate members of their respective families . . . , and Respondent specifically denies the allegations in paragraph 19 of the complaint, the reason being that under the circumstances the acts of the respondents with respect to his purely personal and low profile relationship with Irene is neither under scandalous circumstances nor tantamount to grossly immoral conduct . . ." These statements of respondent in his Answer are an admission that there is indeed a "special" relationship between him and complainant's wife, Irene, [which] taken together with the Certificate of Live Birth of Samantha Louise Irene Moje (Annex "H-1") sufficiently prove that there was indeed an illicit relationship between respondent and Irene which resulted in the birth of the child "Samantha". In the Certificate of Live Birth of Samantha it should be noted that complainant's wife Irene supplied the information that respondent was the father of the child. Given the fact that the respondent admitted his special relationship with Irene there is no reason to believe that Irene would lie or make any misrepresentation regarding the paternity of the child . It should be underscored that respondent has not categorically denied that he is the father of Samantha Louise Irene Moje.25 (Emphasis and underscoring supplied) Indeed, from respondent's Answer, he does not deny carrying on an adulterous relationship with Irene, "adultery" being defined under Art. 333 of the Revised Penal Code as that "committed by any married woman who shall have sexual intercourse with a man not her husband and by the man who has carnal knowledge of her, knowing her to be married, even if the marriage be subsequently declared void."26 (Italics supplied) What respondent denies ishaving flaunted such relationship, he maintaining that it was "low profile and known only to the immediate members of their respective families." In other words, respondent's denial is a negative pregnant, a denial pregnant with the admission of the substantial facts in the pleading responded to which are not squarely denied. It was in effect an admission of the averments it was directed at. Stated otherwise, a negative pregnant is a form of negative expression which carries with it in affirmation or at least an implication of some kind favorable to the adverse party. It is a denial pregnant with an admission of the substantial facts alleged in the pleading. Where a fact is alleged with qualifying or modifying language and the words of the allegation as so qualified or modified are literally denied, it has been held that thequalifying circumstances alone are denied while the fact itself is admitted.27 (Citations omitted; emphasis and underscoring supplied)

A negative pregnant too is respondent's denial of having "personal knowledge" of Irene's daughter Samantha Louise Irene Moje's Certificate of Live Birth. In said certificate, Irene named respondent a "lawyer," 38 years old as the child's father. And the phrase "NOT MARRIED" is entered on the desired information on "DATE AND PLACE OF MARRIAGE." A comparison of the signature attributed to Irene in the certificate28 with her signature on the Marriage Certificate29 shows that they were affixed by one and the same person. Notatu dignum is that, as the Investigating Commissioner noted, respondent never denied being the father of the child. Franklin A. Ricafort, the records custodian of St. Luke's Medical Center, in his January 29, 2003 Affidavit30 which he identified at the witness stand, declared that Irene gave the information in the Certificate of Live Birth that the child's father is "Jose Emmanuel Masacaet Eala," who was 38 years old and a lawyer.31 Without doubt, the adulterous relationship between respondent and Irene has been sufficiently proven by more than clearly preponderant evidence that evidence adduced by one party which is more conclusive and credible than that of the other party and, therefore, has greater weight than the other32 which is the quantum of evidence needed in an administrative case against a lawyer. Administrative cases against lawyers belong to a class of their own. They are distinct from and they may proceed independently of civil and criminal cases. . . . of proof for these types of cases differ. In a criminal case, proof beyond reasonable doubt is necessary; in an administrative case for disbarment or suspension, "clearly preponderant evidence" is all that is required.33 (Emphasis supplied) Respondent insists, however, that disbarment does not lie because his relationship with Irene was not, under Section 27 of Rule 138 of the Revised Rules of Court, reading: SEC. 27. Disbarment or suspension of attorneys by Supreme Court, grounds therefor. A member of the bar may be disbarred or suspended from his office as attorney by the Supreme Court for any deceit, malpractice, or other gross misconduct in such office, grossly immoral conduct, or by reason of his conviction of a crime involving moral turpitude, or for any violation of the oath which he is required to take before admission to practice, or for a willful disobedience appearing as an attorney for a party to a case without authority so to do. The practice of soliciting cases at law for the purpose of gain, either personally or through paid agents or brokers, constitutes malpractice. The disbarment or suspension of a member of the Philippine Bar by a competent court or other disciplinatory agency in a foreign jurisdiction where he has also been admitted as an attorney is a ground for his disbarment or suspension if the basis of such action includes any of the acts hereinabove enumerated.

The judgment, resolution or order of the foreign court or disciplinary agency shall be prima facie evidence of the ground for disbarment or suspension (Emphasis and underscoring supplied), under scandalous circumstances.34 The immediately-quoted Rule which provides the grounds for disbarment or suspension uses the phrase "grossly immoral conduct," not "under scandalous circumstances." Sexual intercourse under scandalous circumstances is, following Article 334 of the Revised Penal Code reading: ART. 334. Concubinage. - Any husband who shall keep a mistress in the conjugal dwelling, or, shall have sexual intercourse, under scandalous circumstances, with a woman who is not his wife, or shall cohabit with her in any other place, shall be punished by prision correccional in its minimum and medium periods. x x x x, an element of the crime of concubinage when a married man has sexual intercourse with a woman elsewhere. "Whether a lawyer's sexual congress with a woman not his wife or without the benefit of marriage should be characterized as 'grossly immoral conduct' depends on the surrounding circumstances."35 The case at bar involves a relationship between a married lawyer and a married woman who is not his wife. It is immaterial whether the affair was carried out discreetly. Apropos is the following pronouncement of this Court in Vitug v. Rongcal:36 On the charge of immorality, respondent does not deny that he had an extra-marital affair with complainant, albeit brief and discreet, and which act is not "so corrupt and false as to constitute a criminal act or so unprincipled as to be reprehensible to a high degree" in order to merit disciplinary sanction. We disagree. xxxx While it has been held in disbarment cases that the mere fact of sexual relations between two unmarriedadults is not sufficient to warrant administrative sanction for such illicit behavior, it is not so with respect tobetrayals of the marital vow of fidelity. Even if not all forms of extra-marital relations are punishable under penal law, sexual relations outside marriage is considered disgraceful and immoral as it manifestsdeliberate disregard of the sanctity of marriage and the marital vows protected by the Constitution and affirmed by our laws.37 (Emphasis and underscoring supplied) And so is the pronouncement in Tucay v. Atty. Tucay:38 The Court need not delve into the question of whether or not the respondent did contract a bigamous marriage . . . It is enough that the records of this administrative case substantiate the findings of the Investigating Commissioner, as well as the IBP

Board of Governors, i.e., that indeed respondent has beencarrying on an illicit affair with a married woman, a grossly immoral conduct and indicative of an extremely low regard for the fundamental ethics of his profession. This detestable behaviorrenders him regrettably unfit and undeserving of the treasured honor and privileges which his license confers upon him.39 (Underscoring supplied) Respondent in fact also violated the lawyer's oath he took before admission to practice law which goes: I _________, having been permitted to continue in the practice of law in the Philippines, do solemnly swear that I recognize the supreme authority of the Republic of the Philippines; I will support its Constitution andobey the laws as well as the legal orders of the duly constituted authorities therein; I will do no falsehood, nor consent to the doing of any in court; I will not wittingly or willingly promote or sue any groundless, false or unlawful suit, nor give aid nor consent to the same; I will delay no man for money or malice, and will conduct myself as a lawyer according to the best of my knowledge and discretion with all good fidelity as well as to the courts as to my clients; and I impose upon myself this voluntary obligation without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion. So help me God. (Underscoring supplied) Respondent admittedly is aware of Section 2 of Article XV (The Family) of the Constitution reading: Section 2. Marriage, as an inviolable social institution, is the foundation of the family and shall be protected by the State. In this connection, the Family Code (Executive Order No. 209), which echoes this constitutional provision, obligates the husband and the wife "to live together, observe mutual love, respect and fidelity, and render mutual help and support."40 Furthermore, respondent violated Rule 1.01 of Canon 1 of the Code of Professional Responsibility which proscribes a lawyer from engaging in "unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct," and Rule 7.03 of Canon7 of the same Code which proscribes a lawyer from engaging in any "conduct that adversely reflects on his fitness to practice law." Clutching at straws, respondent, during the pendency of the investigation of the case before the IBP Commissioner, filed a Manifestation41 on March 22, 2005 informing the IBP-CBD that complainant's petition for nullity of his (complainant's) marriage to Irene had been granted by Branch 106 of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court, and that the criminal complaint for adultery complainant filed against respondent and Irene "based on the same set of facts alleged in the instant case," which was pending review before the Department of Justice (DOJ), on petition of complainant, had been, on motion of complainant, withdrawn. The Secretary of Justice's Resolution of January 16, 2004 granting complainant's Motion to Withdraw Petition for Review reads:

Considering that the instant motion was filed before the final resolution of the petition for review, we are inclined to grant the same pursuant to Section 10 of Department Circular No. 70 dated July 3, 2000, which provides that "notwithstanding the perfection of the appeal, the petitioner may withdraw the same at any time before it is finally resolved, in which case the appealed resolution shall stand as though no appeal has been taken."42 (Emphasis supplied by complainant) That the marriage between complainant and Irene was subsequently declared void ab initio is immaterial. The acts complained of took place before the marriage was declared null and void.43 As a lawyer, respondent should be aware that a man and a woman deporting themselves as husband and wife are presumed, unless proven otherwise, to have entered into a lawful contract of marriage.44 In carrying on an extra-marital affair with Irene prior to the judicial declaration that her marriage with complainant was null and void, and despite respondent himself being married, he showed disrespect for an institution held sacred by the law. And he betrayed his unfitness to be a lawyer. As for complainant's withdrawal of his petition for review before the DOJ, respondent glaringly omitted to state thatbefore complainant filed his December 23, 2003 Motion to Withdraw his Petition for Review, the DOJ had already promulgated a Resolution on September 22, 2003 reversing the dismissal by the Quezon City Prosecutor's Office of complainant's complaint for adultery. In reversing the City Prosecutor's Resolution, DOJ Secretary Simeon Datumanong held: Parenthetically the totality of evidence adduced by complainant would, in the fair estimation of the Department, sufficiently establish all the elements of the offense of adultery on the part of both respondents. Indeed, early on, respondent Moje conceded to complainant that she was going out on dates with respondent Eala, and this she did when complainant confronted her about Eala's frequent phone calls and text messages to her. Complainant also personally witnessed Moje and Eala having a rendezvous on two occasions. Respondent Eala never denied the fact that he knew Moje to be married to complainant[.] In fact, he (Eala) himself was married to another woman. Moreover, Moje's eventual abandonment of their conjugal home, after complainant had once more confronted her about Eala, only served to confirm the illicit relationship involving both respondents. This becomes all the more apparent by Moje's subsequent relocation in No. 71-B, 11th Street, New Manila, Quezon City, which was a few blocks away from the church where she had exchange marital vows with complainant. It was in this place that the two lovers apparently cohabited. Especially since Eala's vehicle and that of Moje's were always seen there. Moje herself admits that she came to live in the said address whereas Eala asserts that that was where he held office. The happenstance that it was in that said address that Eala and Moje had decided to hold office for the firm that both had formed smacks too much of a coincidence. For one, the said address appears to be a residential house, for that was where Moje stayed all throughout after her separation from complainant. It was both respondent's love nest, to put short; their illicit affair that was carried out there bore fruit a few months later when Moje gave birth to a girl at the nearby hospital of St. Luke's Medical Center. What finally militates against the respondents is

the indubitable fact that in the certificate of birth of the girl, Moje furnished the information that Eala was the father. This speaks all too eloquently of the unlawful and damning nature of the adulterous acts of the respondents. Complainant's supposed illegal procurement of the birth certificate is most certainly beside the point for bothrespondents Eala and Moje have not denied, in any categorical manner, that Eala is the father of the child Samantha Irene Louise Moje.45 (Emphasis and underscoring supplied) It bears emphasis that adultery is a private offense which cannot be prosecuted de oficio and thus leaves the DOJ no choice but to grant complainant's motion to withdraw his petition for review. But even if respondent and Irene were to be acquitted of adultery after trial, if the Information for adultery were filed in court, the same would not have been a bar to the present administrative complaint. Citing the ruling in Pangan v. Ramos,46 viz: x x x The acquittal of respondent Ramos [of] the criminal charge is not a bar to these [administrative] proceedings. The standards of legal profession are not satisfied by conduct which merely enables one to escape the penalties of x x x criminal law. Moreover, this Court, in disbarment proceedings is acting in an entirely different capacity from that which courts assume in trying criminal case47 (Italics in the original), this Court in Gatchalian Promotions Talents Pools, Inc. v. Atty. Naldoza,48 held: Administrative cases against lawyers belong to a class of their own. They are distinct from and they mayproceed independently of civil and criminal cases. WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. Resolution No. XVII-2006-06 passed on January 28, 2006 by the Board of Governors of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines is ANNULLED and SET ASIDE. Respondent, Atty. Jose Emmanuel M. Eala, is DISBARRED for grossly immoral conduct, violation of his oath of office, and violation of Canon 1, Rule 1.01 and Canon 7, Rule 7.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility. Let a copy of this Decision, which is immediately executory, be made part of the records of respondent in the Office of the Bar Confidant, Supreme Court of the Philippines. And let copies of the Decision be furnished the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and circulated to all courts. This Decision takes effect immediately. SO ORDERED. Puno, Chief Justice, Quisumbing, Ynares-Santiago, Sandoval-Gutierrez, Carpio, AustriaMartinez, Corona, Carpio-Morales, Azcuna, Tinga, Chico-Nazario, Garcia, Velasco, Jr., Nachura, JJ., concur.

EN BANC [A.C. No. 4724. April 30, 2003.] GORETTI ONG, Complainant, v. ATTY. JOEL M. GRIJALDO, Respondent. DECISION

PER CURIAM:

The fiduciary duty of a lawyer and advocate is what places the law profession in a unique position of trust and confidence, and distinguishes it from any other calling. Once this trust and confidence is betrayed, the faith of the people not only in the individual lawyer but also in the legal profession as a whole is eroded. To this end, all members of the bar are strictly required to at all times maintain the highest degree of public confidence in the fidelity, honesty, and integrity of their profession. 1 In this administrative case for disbarment, respondent Atty. Joel M. Grijaldo failed to perform his sworn duty to preserve the dignity of the legal profession.
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Complainant Goretti Ong is a widow residing in Talayan Village, Quezon City. Sometime in the early part of 1996, she engaged the services of respondent, a practicing lawyer in Bacolod City, as private prosecutor in Criminal Case No. 52843 before the Metropolitan Trial Court in Cities of Bacolod City, Branch 5, against Lemuel Sembrano and Arlene Villamil for violation of Batas Pambansa Bilang 22. 2 During one of the hearings of the case, the accused offered to amicably settle their civil obligation to complainant by paying the amount of P180,000.00. Complainant accepted the offer on the condition that payment shall be made in cash. At the hearing held on July 17, 1996, respondent advised complainant to wait outside the courtroom. When he came out, he handed to complainant cash in the amount of P100,000.00 and Metrobank Check No. 0701263862 for P80,000.00, postdated August 16, 1996, drawn by Atty. Roger Reyes, counsel for the accused. Complainant objected to the check payment and refused to settle the case, but he assured her that the check was drawn by a reputable lawyer. Complainant was prevailed upon by respondent into signing an affidavit of desistance, but she instructed him not to file it in court until the check is cleared. Upon presentment on its maturity date, the check was dishonored due to a stop-payment order from the drawer. Complainant immediately informed respondent of the dishonor, and the latter told her that he will talk to Atty.

Reyes about it. Later, when complainant met with respondent in Manila, he relayed to her Atty. Reyes offer to replace the check with cash. Several weeks passed without any payment of the proceeds of the check, despite complainants repeated telephone calls to Respondent. Sometime in December 1996, she suggested that respondent move for a hearing of the case, but he told her that courts are not inclined to set hearings near the Christmas season. On December 17, 1996, complainant personally went to Bacolod City to inquire about her case. She was surprised to learn that the same was dismissed as early as September 26, 1996. 3 Apparently, respondent submitted her Affidavit of Desistance 4 and, on the basis thereof, the public prosecutor moved for the dismissal of the case which was granted by the court. When complainant confronted respondent, he admitted to her that he had already received the amount of P80,000.00 from Atty. Reyes but he used the same to pay for his financial obligations. Thus, on April 2, 1997, complainant filed an Administrative Complaint against respondent for disbarment. 5 Complainant further alleged in her complaint that respondent represented her in another case, entitled "People of the Philippines versus Norma Mondia," also for violation of B.P. 22, where she was the offended party. Respondent approached the accused, Norma Mondia, and offered to delay the hearing of the case in consideration of the amount of P10,000.00. However, Mondia did not have that amount of money. Attached to the complaint is the affidavit of Norma Mondia attesting to this fact. 6 Furthermore, Henry Tiu, a former client of respondent, executed an affidavit, which is attached to the complaint, alleging that he gave respondent the amount of P3,000.00 for the purpose of posting his bail bond, but respondent did not post his bail which resulted in Tius arrest. 7 Likewise, a certain Luz Dimailig, whose affidavit is also attached to the complaint, averred that respondent represented her as counsel for plaintiff in a civil case before the Regional Trial Court of Bacolod City, Branch 52; that the case was dismissed by the trial court; that the appeal filed by respondent to the Court of Appeals was dismissed due to his failure to file the appellants brief; and that the petition for review before the Supreme Court was denied for lack of proof of service on the Court of Appeals, late filing and late payment of docket fees. Moreover, Dimailig alleged that she gave respondent the amount of P10,000.00 for settling the said civil case, but she later learned that he did not remit the money to the defendants or their counsel. 8

On June 25, 1997, respondent was required to file his comment within ten days from notice. 9 Respondent filed a Motion for Extension of Time, alleging that he has not received a copy of the complaint. 10 On February 5, 1998, 11 complainant furnished respondent a copy of the complaint. However, despite receipt of a copy of the complaint, respondent still failed to file his comment.
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On October 19, 1998, respondent was required to show cause why he should not be disciplinarily dealt with or held in contempt for failing to file his comment. 12 Respondent filed a Compliance, stating that the copy of the complaint he received from complainant was not legible. Complainant again furnished respondent with a clearer and more legible copy of the complaint including its annexes; but respondent still did not file his comment. Consequently, on June 14, 2000, another show cause order was issued against Respondent. 13 Respondent replied by stating that the quality of the copy furnished him by complainant was worse than the first one he received. Dissatisfied with respondents explanation, respondent was ordered to pay a fine of P1,000.00, which he complied with on November 27, 2000. 14 However, he again failed to file his comment and, instead, moved for additional time to file said comment. On August 13, 2001, this case was referred to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) for investigation, report and recommendation. 15 The records of the IBP show that respondent has not filed his comment to the complaint. On January 18, 2002, the Investigating Commissioner, Manuel A. Tiuseco, submitted his report recommending the disbarment of Respondent. 16 However, in its Resolution No. XV-2002-553 dated October 19, 2002, the IBP Board of Governors modified the penalty of disbarment and recommended instead respondents indefinite suspension from the practice of law for grossly immoral conduct and deceit. 17 After a careful review of the records of this case, we find the recommendation of Commissioner Manuel A. Tiuseco well-taken. It is clear that respondent gravely abused the trust and confidence reposed in him by his client, the complainant. Were it not for complainants vigilance in inquiring into the status of her case, she would not have known that the same had already been dismissed on September 26, 1996. Respondent deliberately withheld this fact from her, notwithstanding that she talked to him sometime in December 1996. Canon 18 of the Code of Professional Responsibility provides that a lawyer

shall serve his client with competence and diligence. More specifically, Rule 18.03 and Rule 18.04 state:
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Rule 18.03. A lawyer shall not neglect a legal matter entrusted to him, and his negligence in connection therewith shall render him liable. Rule 18.04. A lawyer shall keep the client informed of the status of his case and shall respond within a reasonable time to the clients request for information. Respondent breached his duty to his client when he failed to inform complainant of the status of the criminal case. His negligence shows a glaring lack of the competence and diligence required of every lawyer. 18 His infraction is rendered all the more deplorable by the fact that complainant is a resident of Quezon City and the case was filed in Bacolod City. It was precisely for this reason that complainant engaged the services of respondent, a Bacolod-based lawyer, so that her interests in the case may be amply protected in her absence. Respondents failure to look after his clients welfare in the case was a gross betrayal of his fiduciary duty and a breach of the trust and confident which was reposed in him. In a similar case, we held:
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It is settled that a lawyer is not obliged to act as counsel for every person who may wish to become his client. He has the right to decline employment subject however, to the provision of Canon 14 of the Code of Professional Responsibility. Once he agrees to take up the cause of a client, he owes fidelity to such cause and must always be mindful of the trust and confidence reposed to him. Respondent Meneses, as counsel, had the obligation to inform his client of the status of the case and to respond within a reasonable time to his clients request for information. Respondents failure to communicate with his client by deliberately disregarding its request for an audience or conference is an unjustifiable denial of its right to be fully informed of the developments in and the status of its case. 19 Worse, when respondent used the money which he received from Atty. Reyes to pay for his own obligations, he violated Canon 16 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, which states that" [a] lawyer shall hold in trust all moneys and properties of his client that may come into his possession." Furthermore:
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Rule 16.01. A lawyer shall account for all money or property collected or received for or from the client. Rule 16.02. A lawyer shall keep the funds of each client separate and apart

from his own and those of others kept by him. Rule 16.03. A lawyer shall deliver the funds and property of his client when due or upon demand. However, he shall have a lien over the funds and may apply so much thereof as may be necessary to satisfy his lawful fees and disbursements, giving notice promptly thereafter to his client. He shall also have a lien to the same extent on all judgments and executions he has secured for his client as provided for in the Rules of Court. Respondents misappropriation of the money entrusted to him and his refusal to account for it to his client despite repeated demands were competent proof of his unfitness for the confidence and trust reposed on him. His acts showed a lack of personal honesty and good moral character as to render him unworthy of public confidence. He held the money in trust for his client as settlement of the case he was handling. Upon receipt thereof, he was under obligation to immediately turn it over, in the absence of a showing that he had a lien over it. As a lawyer, he should have been scrupulously careful in handling money entrusted to him in his professional capacity, because a high degree of fidelity and good faith on his part is exacted. 20 A lawyer, under his oath, pledges himself not to delay any man for money or malice and is bound to conduct himself with all good fidelity to his clients. He is obligated to report promptly the money of his client that has come into his possession. He should not commingle it with his private property or use it for his personal purposes without his clients consent. Respondent, by converting the money of his client to his own personal use without her consent, was guilty of deceit, malpractice and gross misconduct. Not only did he degrade himself but as an unfaithful lawyer he besmirched the fair name of an honorable profession. 21 Aside from violating the Code of Professional Responsibility, respondents failure to promptly turn over the money to his client and his conversion of the same for his personal use rendered him liable for contempt under Rule 138, Section 25 of the Rules of Court, to wit:
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Unlawful retention of clients funds; contempt. When an attorney unjustly retains in his hands money of his client after it has been demanded he may be punished for contempt as an officer of the court who has misbehaved in his official transactions; but proceedings under this section shall not be a bar to a criminal prosecution. Furthermore, respondent violated his oath of office and duties as counsel when he approached his clients opponent and offered to delay the case in

exchange for money. His offer to delay the case would have frustrated the interests of his client which he had sworn to protect. As a lawyer, respondent should avoid any unethical or improper practices that impede, obstruct or prevent the speedy, efficient and impartial adjudication of cases. 22 Once he agrees to take up the cause of a client, the lawyer owes fidelity to such cause and must always be mindful of the trust and confidence reposed in him. He must serve the client with competence and diligence, and champion the latters cause with wholehearted fidelity, care, and devotion. Elsewise stated, he owes entire devotion to the interest of the client, warm zeal in the maintenance and defense of his clients rights, and the exertion of his utmost learning and ability to the end that nothing be taken or withheld from his client, save by the rules of law, legally applied. This simply means that his client is entitled to the benefit of any and every remedy and defense that is authorized by the law of the land and he may expect his lawyer to assert every such remedy or defense. If much is demanded from an attorney, it is because the entrusted privilege to practice law carries with it the correlative duties not only to the client but also to the court, to the bar, and to the public. A lawyer who performs his duty with diligence and candor not only protects the interest of his client; he also serves the ends of justice, does honor to the bar, and helps maintain the respect of the community to the legal profession. 23 Respondents act of propositioning his clients opponent and offering to delay the case against her was intended to benefit the latter. Hence, such act amounted to double-dealing and conflict of interest, and was unethical practice of law. Attorneys, like Caesars wife, must not only keep inviolate their clients confidence, but must also avoid the appearance of treachery and double-dealing, for only then can litigants be encouraged to entrust their secrets to their attorneys which is of paramount importance in the administration of justice. 24 Finally, respondents cavalier attitude in repeatedly ignoring the directives of this Court to file his comment constitutes utter disrespect to the judicial institution. His conduct indicates a high degree of irresponsibility. A resolution of this Court is not to be construed as a mere request, nor should it be complied with partially, inadequately or selectively. 25 Respondents obstinate refusal to comply therewith not only betrays a recalcitrant flaw in his character; it also underscores his disrespect of our lawful orders which is only too deserving of reproof. Any departure from the path which a lawyer must follow as demanded by the virtues of his profession shall not be tolerated by this Court as the

disciplining authority. This is especially so, as in the instant case, where respondent even deliberately defied the lawful orders of the Court for him to file his comment on the complaint, thereby transgressing Canon 11 of the Code of Professional Responsibility which requires a lawyer to observe and maintain the respect due the courts. 26 All told, respondents transgressions manifested dishonesty and amounted to grave misconduct and grossly unethical behavior which caused dishonor, not only to complainant, but to the noble profession to which he belongs, for it cannot be denied that the respect of litigants for the profession is inexorably diminished whenever a member of the Bar betrays their trust and confidence. 27 He has proved himself unworthy of membership in the legal profession and must, therefore, be disbarred. WHEREFORE, for dishonesty, grave misconduct, and grossly unethical behavior, respondent ATTY. JOEL GRIJALDO is DISBARRED from the practice of law. His name is ordered STRICKEN from the Roll of Attorneys. He is further directed to PAY complainant Goretti Ong the amount of P80,000.00 within ten (10) days from notice of this Decision. This Decision shall take effect immediately. Copies thereof shall be furnished the Office of the Bar Confidant, to be appended to respondents personal record; the Integrated Bar of the Philippines; the Office of the President; the Department of Justice; the Court of Appeals; the Sandiganbayan; the Philippines Judges Association; and all courts of the land for their information and guidance.
chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary

SO ORDERED. Davide, Jr., C.J., Bellosillo, Puno, Vitug, Panganiban, Ynares-Santiago, Sandoval-Gutierrez, Carpio, Austria-Martinez, Corona, Carpio-Morales, Callejo, Sr. and Azcuna, JJ., concur. Quisumbing, J., is on leave.

C. No. 5113. October 7, 2004]

DOLORES SILVA Vda. DE FAJARDO, complainant, vs. Atty. REXIE EFREN A. BUGARING, respondent. DECISION

PANGANIBAN, J.:

Lawyers must be completely truthful, more so when they plead their own causes against former clients. In the present case, the lawyer misrepresented facts in his claim for attorneys fees; hence, he must be sanctioned. The Case The administrative case before the Court stems from a Complaint filed by Dolores Silva vda. de Fajardo, seeking the disbarment of Atty. Rexie Efren A. Bugaring for untruthful statements in allegedly trying to fleece her of P3,532,170 in attorneys fees. The Complaint and respondents Comment thereon were referred by the Court to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) for investigation, report and recommendation.
[1] [2] [3]

IBP Commissioner Rebecca Villanueva-Maalas Report recommending the suspension of respondent from the practice of law for one year was adopted and approved by the IBP Board of Governors in its June 21, 2003 Resolution No. XV-2003-348. On June 30, 2003, the Notice of the IBP Resolution and the records of the case -- including the Commissioners Report -- were forwarded to this Court by Atty. Julio C. Elamparo, director for bar discipline of the IBP.
[4] [5] [6]

The Facts The facts are narrated by the investigating commissioner in her Report as follows: Complainant alleged that she had known respondent since 1989 when she, together with her co-heirs, were trying to sell [the] properties which they inherited from their predecessors, Jose and Buenaventura Silva x x x. [They] were encountering disputes with the heirs of Alfredo Silva Cruz (Cruz Family), then represented by one Atty. Ricardo Dantes, and with their tenants, over x x x Lots 2434 and 2454 located in Sta. Rosa, Laguna, [which they were trying to sell] to Golden Bay Realty and Development Corporation. Atty. Bugaring was recommended by Atty. Dantes to complainant to assist her and her co-heirs with the legal aspects of the disputes they were encountering. Atty. Bugaring and Atty. Dantes were close associates and they hold and belong to the same law office of Bugaring, Tugonon and Associates Law Offices. Whenever

complainant and her companion Maria Luisa Tamondong would go to the office of Atty. Bugaring to see him, they also see Atty. Dantes at the same office. Thinking that Atty. Bugaring was an honest and honorable man, complainant accepted the recommendation. At that time, complainant thought that there was nothing wrong or anomalous in she being represented by Atty. Bugaring, who belong to the same law office as that of Atty. Dantes, counsel of the Cruz family with which complainant and her co-heirs were then having disputes over Lots 2434 and 2454. She did not know that it was improper and unethical for lawyers of the same firm to handle conflicting interests of clients. Initially, Atty. Bugaring assisted complainant with their problems with the tenants of Lots 2434 and 2454. The tenants then had the preferential right to purchase the said properties they were occupying x x x. [T]hey [had] verbally expressed their noninterest in purchasing the same but refused to vacate the premises [and] demanded that they be given 1/3 of the total land area of the two lots before they agree to vacate. Atty. Bugaring wrote, on behalf of the complainant and her co-heirs, the said tenants and the Agrarian Reform Office. Meanwhile, the dispute of complainant and her coheirs with the Cruz family later led to the filing of the case entitled Alicia Cruz, et al., vs. Dolores Fajardo, et al. with the Regional Trial Court of Bian, Laguna, docketed as Civil Case No. B-3472 (hereinafter the Mother Case). The Cruz family was asserting an alleged right over Lots 2434 and 2454. Atty. Bugaring represented the complainant and her co-heirs for purposes of this case. Every time there was a hearing in the Mother Case in Laguna, the driver of complainant would fetch Atty. Bugaring at 5:00 oclock in the morning from his residence/office in Quezon City, and would likewise drive him back after the hearing. Complainant paid Atty. Bugaring every hearing an appearance fee of P1,000.00, whether hearings were postponed or not, treated him to lunch and used to send him off with vegetables, candies and other goodies. Complainant had always asked Atty. Bugaring how much [he would] charge for his professional fees, but Atty. Bugaring would just answer: Huwag na ninyo alalahanin iyon. Para ko na kayong nanay o lola. All along, complainant was swayed to believe that Atty. Bugaring was nice and courteous. Later, the dispute of complainant and her co-heirs with the Cruz family got worse. The Mother Case soon branched out to more and more cases, about eleven (11) cases in all, which were but the offshoots of the Mother Case, (Civil Case No. 3472). Atty. Bugaring continued to represent the complaint and her co-heirs in the foregoing cases and as in the Mother Case, whenever there were hearings, Atty. Bugaring was fetched back and forth by complainants driver x x x, [was paid] an appearance fee of P1,000.00 per hearing, [was] treated to lunch and sent x x x off

[with] some goodies. In all these cases, complainant had asked Atty. Bugaring of his professional fees, but the complainant would get the usual reply of: Huwag na ninyo alalahanin iyon. Para ko na kayong nanay o lola. With the rate things were going on then, Atty. Bugaring all the more earned the trust and respect of the complainant more than anybody else. In November 1992, complainant had a meeting with her co-heirs and the latter expressed their discontent with the way Atty. Bugaring was handling the Mother Case and the offshoot cases because the cases were derailing their intended sale of Lots 2434 and 2454 to Golden Bay Realty and Development Corporation. Complainant was hounded by questions regarding her arrangement with Atty. Bugaring to which complainant could not give any answer because there really was no contract or agreement between her and Atty. Bugaring, who refused to discuss any arrangement with complainant. After their meeting, complainant told Atty. Bugaring of the discontent of her co-heirs, and Atty. Bugaring told complainant that he can draw a fictitious Contract for his services which complainant can show to her co heirs. Indeed, Atty. Bugaring drew up two (2) fictitious Contract of Services both dated 11 December 1992. One specifically states that it was for the Mother Case and the other was for the case of Catalina Roberto, et al. v. Dolores Fajardo, et al. Each of said fictitious contracts stipulate[d] x x x an acceptance fee of P50,000.00, per appearance fee of P1,000.00 and upon the termination of the case, an additional attorneys fee equivalent to 25% of the value of the subject property in litigation. When the fictitious contracts were shown to complainant, she was assured by Atty. Bugaring that the contracts were not valid and binding and told her Ito ho ay para lamang may maipakita kayo sa kanila, pero hindi ito totoo. With that assurance, complainant signed the contract and was given a copy of the same. Around 1992, complainant and her co-heirs entered into separate compromise agreements with the tenants of Lots 2434 and 2454 and with the Cruz family. The agreement with the Cruz family was later put into writing with the execution of a Compromise Agreement dated 7 June 1992, which was submitted to the court before which the Mother Case was pending. [I]t became the basis of the Judgment dated 22 November 1993 x x x [and the dismissal of] all the offshoot cases x x x. [On the other hand,] the Compromise Agreement reached with the tenants of Lots 2434 and [2454] consisted of an agreement totally ceding Lot 2454 to the tenants as [d]isturbance [c]ompensation. Complainant and her co-heirs decided not to reveal these agreements [to Atty. Bugaring] until they were finalized because they knew that [he] did not want such settlement for reasons known [only] to him. With the settlement of the disputes over Lots 2434 and 2454, the sale of the remaining property (Lot 2434) to Golden Bay [R]ealty and Development Corporation materialized on 2 March 1994. Complainant was accompanied by Atty. Bugaring and

Maria Luisa Tam[o]ndong to the office of Golden Bay Realty when the sale was finalized. When complainant received the proceeds of the sale, they went to see Atty. Bugaring to settle their account with him. They tendered to Atty. Bugaring the amount of P100,000.00 which they believed was commensurate for his services considering [that] the cases ended x x x by compromise agreement. However, Atty. Bugaring rejected the amount. On said occasion, Atty. Bugaring requested the companions of complainant to step out of the room first and said he wanted to talk to complainant alone. Atty. Bugaring proposed to complainant a deal to the effect that only P85,000.00 will be paid to him by complainant and he will charge the estate or the complainants co-heirs the amount of P1,200,000.00. [C]omplainant vehemently objected to [this] because the estate or her co-heirs did not have that amount of money. The co-heirs of complainant maintained that they would only pay Atty. Bugaring P100,000.00, which [amount] the latter rejected. x x x [C]omplainant did not hear x x x from Atty. Bugaring [since April 1994]. [However, almost three years later], she learned that her property in Tandang Sora was already attached by Atty. Bugaring. Unknown to complainant, Atty. Bugaring had filed the case entitled Rexie Efren A. Bugaring vs. Dolores Fajardo docketed as Civil Case No. Q-96-29422 in the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City, Branch 78, for Sum of Money and Damages with Prayer for Preliminary Attachment for x x x collection of his legal x x x fees. Atty. Bugaring specifically prayed for the attachment of complainants properties and other assets to answer for his claim of P3,532,170.00 plus 12% interest per annum for x x x unpaid attorneys fees, P1,000,000.00 as moral damages, P500,000.00 as exemplary damages and such amount equivalent to 25% from the total claim as attorneys fees plus P2,000.00 per court attendance as appearance fee plus other proven litigation expenses. xxx xxx xxx

Atty. Bugaring, by way of comment, avers that from 1991 to May 1994, complainant retained his services as her personal legal consultant and x x x lawyer in nineteen (19) court cases. Considering that Civil Case Nos. B-3472 and 3[8]96 before the RTC, Bian, Laguna, involved various real estate properties, complainant asked Atty. Bugaring to prepare a written contract for his attorneys fees, which was thereafter signed by the complainant x x x. [The] Contract of Services dated 11 December 1992 x x x provide[d] that complainant will pay Atty. Bugaring an (1) acceptance fee of P50,000.00; (2) appearance fee for every court appearance ofP1,000.00 and (3) attorneys fee equivalent to 25% of the value of the properties in litigation. [As to] all the other cases [he] handled, [Atty. Bugaring charged] a minimum amount of P50,000.00 as attorneys fees and P1,000.00 appearance fee [for] every court attendance. Under these conditions, considering the complexities of the cases, Atty. Bugaring laboriously and painstakingly represented the rights and interest of the

complainant, and thereby successfully terminated all cases, except Civil Cases Nos. B-3971 and 3[8]96, which were still under litigation. Due to the failure and adamant refusal of complainant to settle and pay Atty. Bugaring x x x his accumulated professional fees, he was constrained to make verbal, and finally, written demands on 30 April 1994 and 6 May 1994. Notwithstanding the receipts of the demand letters, which explicitly indicated to her the computation of the amount of professional fees demanded, complainant simply remained silent about the matter, thereby signifying her adamant refusal to settle and pay her legitimately contracted obligations to Atty. Bugaring. With no other extra-judicial recourse, and after Atty. Bugaring was able to save an amount for payment of filing fees, attachment bond and other initial expenses (P100,000.00 more or less) for a collection case on the matter, x x x Atty. Bugaring instituted an action for sum of money with damages against complainant before RTC Quezon City, Branch 78, docketed as Civil Case No. Q-96-29442 [on 11 November 1996]. After receiving complainants Answer to the Complaint, the trial court set the case for [p]re-trial conference on 3 June 1997. However, due to the failure of complainant and her counsel to appear, the court declared complainant in default and Atty. Bugaring was allowed to present evidence ex-parte x x x on 6 June 1997. On 15 October 1997, the court rendered judgment in favor of Atty. Bugaring. As no appeal was undertaken by complainant, Atty. Bugaring on 14 July 1998 filed his Motion for Issuance of Writ of Execution thereto which was granted by the court on 28 September 1998. When the Writ of Execution was issued on 24 December 1998, complainant filed [a] Petition for Certiorari with Temporary Restraining Injunction and/or Temporary Restraining Order with the Court of Appeals, docketed as CA G.R. SP No. 49866, questioning the trial courts orders dated 3 and 13 February 1998, as well as the resolution dated 28 September 1998. The Court of Appeals, finding no merit in the petition, dismissed the same and affirmed the trial courts Resolution on 4 February 1999. Complainant, finding the adverse decision of the Court of Appeals, filed a Motion for Reconsideration on 26 April 1999. Complainant also filed a Motion dated 15 July 1999 asking for the issuance of a Cease, Desist and Refrain Order against the [p]ublic [a]uction sale [scheduled] on 30 July 1999 [by] the deputy sheriff of the trial court. Acting on complainants motion, the Court of Appeals issued a Temporary Restraining Order dated 29 July 1999. [H]owever, on 30 September 1999, the appellate court finally issued its resolution denying complainants Motion for Reconsideration.
[7]

Evaluation and Recommendation of the IBP Commissioner Maala found respondent guilty of gross misconduct for making untruthful statements and for misleading the trial courts on several

occasions in Civil Case No. Q-96-29422 and Civil Case No. B-3896. Respondent allegedly lied to and misled these courts in the following instances:
1. When he included in his claim for attorneys fees in Civil Case Q -96-29422 25 percent of the value of two lots (at P3,670,000 and P750,000), which were not among the properties in litigation in the Mother Case and had already been sold in 1987 and 1968, respectively 2. When he concealed the fact that Lot 2454 had been given to complainants tenants as disturbance compensation 3. When he failed to disclose that the Contract of Service for the Mother Case was executed six months after it had already been settled by a Compromise Agreement on June 7, 1992 4. When he led the RTC of San Pedro Laguna (Branch 93), to believe in his Petition for Recording and Enforcement of Attorneys Lien in Civil Case No. B-3896 that no other action or claim was pending except his case for collection 5. When he made two inconsistent statements regarding the date when his professional services had actually been engaged by complainant

Commissioner Maala also found that respondent had not completely been honest with the Commission. According to his Comment, he decided to forego his professional fees amounting to P2 million in Civil Case No. B-3896; actually, those fees were included in his collection case. It was also in the said case that he filed a Petition for the Recording and Enforcement of Attorneys Lien.
[8]

Commissioner Maala held that respondent had violated his sworn duty to tell no falsehood in court. Hence, she recommended his suspension from the practice of law for one year. The Courts Ruling We agree with the findings and recommendation of IBP. Respondents Administrative Liability Canon 10 of the Code of Professional Responsibility provides that a lawyer owes candor, fairness and good faith to the courts. Accordingly, Rule 10.01 requires a member of the bar not [to tell] any falsehood, nor consent to the doing of any in court, nor shall he mislead, or allow the court to be misled by any artifice.

Moreover, Section 20(d) of Rule 138 of the Rules of Court provides that a lawyer must employ such means only as are consistent with truth and honor, and never seek to mislead the judge or any judicial officer by any artifice or false statement of fact or law. In his September 28, 2003 Comment/Opposition to the IBP Commissioners Report and Recommendation, respondent points out alleged distortions in the findings of fact. Upon a review of the records, however, the Court finds the investigating commissioners conclusions to be in order.
[9]

Falsehood Indeed, respondent has not completely been honest when he claimed that the entire estate of Adela Silva was the subject of litigation in the case for partition. First, it is clear that Lots 2434 and 2454 were the only properties mentioned in the Complaint for partition, which we quote:
[10]

x x x. The late Adela Silva died intestate, single and without surviving heirs except the herein plaintiffs and defendants. She died x x x leaving as her estate the two (2) parcels of land located at Bgy. Platero, Bian, Laguna. The first known as Lot 2434 of the Bian Estate is covered by TCT No. RT-1702 (N.A.) while the second known as Lot 2454 of the same Bian Estate is embraced by TCT No. Rt-1703 (N.A.) issued by the Register of Deeds (Calamba branch) of Laguna;
[11]

Second, the Compromise Agreement and the Judgment in the Mother Case for partition did not indicate that the subject of partition was the late Adela Silvas estate, but they did refer to the other properties belonging to her, including the 73,404 square-meter agricultural land in Puting Kahoy, Silang, Cavite; and the 150 square-meter residential lot in Sampaloc, Manila. What appears from the Compromise Agreement and the Judgment is that these properties were enumerated merely to show that Lots 2434 and 2454 were part of the said estate. That only these lots were referred to is plain from the terms and conditions of the Judgment: 1. That the parties herein hereby agree to refrain from discussing whether their claims and counter claims over Lot 2434 (TCT 12702) and Lot 2454 (TCT 1703) are meritorious or not, and further agree to put an end to all their litigations x x x. Thus to this effect, all their claims are hereby waived and abandoned subject to the following terms and conditions:

a. That the defendant Dolores Silva Fajardo hereby agree[s] to pay the plaintiffs representative Alicia Cruz, the sum of four hundred thousand (P400,000.00) pesos Philippine currency upon signing of this Agreement. b. That the defendant Dolores Silva Fajardo be authorized to consummate the sale of Lot No. 2434, and Lot 2454, covered by TCT No. 1702 and 1703, respectively of the Registry of Deeds of Laguna, Calamba branch, and to execute all the necessary documents in favor of the Vendee, Golden Bay Realty and Development Corporation.
[12]

Third, it was adequately established that the Cavite and the Sampaloc lots mentioned in the Compromise Agreement and the Judgment had already been sold long before the advent of Civil Case B-3472. There is no reason to doubt that respondent, as complainants counsel, knew this fact. Lastly, we note that the failure of respondent to include all the properties of the estate in his claim for attorneys fees runs counter to his other claim that complainants entire estate was in litigation. If it were so, should he not then have also asked for 25 percent of the value of all such properties enumerated in the Judgment? As regards his professional fees, we stress that the proper time to deal with this delicate issue is upon the commencement of the lawyer-client relationship. In this case, respondent should have determined and entered into an agreement regarding his fees in 1991 at the latest, when he was first retained by complainant as her counsel in the partition case. Such prudence would have spared the Court this controversy over a lawyers compensation, a suit that should be avoided except to prevent imposition, injustice or fraud.
[13]

To be sure, a lawyer is entitled to the protection of the courts against any attempt on the part of a client to escape payment of legitimate attorneys fees. However, such protection must not be sought at the expense of truth. Complete candor or honesty is expected from lawyers, particularly when they appear and plead before the courts for their own causes against former clients, as in this case. With his armada of legal knowledge and skills, respondent clearly enjoyed the upper hand. More important, he had the sole opportunity to present evidence in the collection case after complainant was declared in default, and after he was allowed to present his evidence ex parte.
[14]

Respondent is thus reminded that he is first and foremost an officer of the court. His bounden duty is to assist it in rendering justice to all. Lest he has forgotten, lawyers must always be disciples of truth. It is highly reprehensible when they themselves make a travesty of the truth and mangle the ends of
[15] [16]

justice. Such behavior runs counter to the standards of honesty and fair dealing expected from court officers. Equally without merit are respondents other arguments that the real issue herein is his claim for attorneys fees, whose merit has already been adjudicated in court, as well as of his allegation that complainant has engaged in forum shopping to delay the execution of the judgment against her for attorneys fees. To start with, this proceeding is not about the merits of respondents fees, but about his conduct as an officer of the court. It has been emphasized in a number of cases that disbarment proceedings belong to a class of their own, distinct from that of a civil or a criminal action. In Re Almacen explained this basic principle:
[17] [18]

x x x [D]isciplinary proceedings x x x are sui generis. Neither purely civil nor purely criminal, this proceeding is not -- and does not involve -- a trial of an action or a suit, but is rather an investigation by the Court into the conduct of its officers. Not being intended to inflict punishment, it is in no sense a criminal prosecution. Accordingly, there is neither a plaintiff nor a prosecutor therein. It may be initiated by the Court motu proprio. Public interest is its primary objective, and the real question for determination is whether or not the attorney is still a fit person to be allowed the privileges as such. Hence, in the exercise of its disciplinary powers, the Court merely calls upon a member of the Bar to account for his actuations as an officer of the Court with the end in view of preserving the purity of the legal profession and the proper and honest administration of justice by purging the profession of members who by their misconduct have proved themselves no longer worthy to be entrusted with the duties and responsibilities pertaining to the office of an attorney. x x x. (Italics supplied)
[19]

Clearly then, this disbarment case may proceed independently of the civil action for collection, without running afoul of the prohibition against forum shopping. Moreover, the elements of forum shopping are conspicuously absent. Between these two cases, there is no identity of parties, as the complainant is in no sense a party to the administrative proceeding. Obviously, there is neither identity of rights asserted nor reliefs prayed for. Lastly, the judgment in the disbarment proceeding would not bar the collection case.
[20]

WHEREFORE, Respondent Rexie Efren A. Bugaring is found LIABLE for gross misconduct and is hereby SUSPENDED from the practice of law for a period of ONE (1) YEAR, effective upon the finality of this Decision. He

is WARNED that a repetition of the same or of a similar misconduct will be dealt with more severely. SO ORDERED.
Republic of the Philippines SUPREME COURT Manila EN BANC A.M. No. 3360 January 30, 1990 PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, complainant vs. ATTY. FE T. TUANDA, respondent.

PER CURIAM: In a Motion to Lift Order of Suspension dated 12 July 1989, respondent Fe T. Tuanda, a member of the Philippine Bar, asks this Court to lift the suspension from the practice of law imposed upon her by a decision of the Court of Appeals dated 17 October 1988 in C.A.G.R. CR No. 05093. On 17 December 1983, respondent received from one Herminia A. Marquez several pieces of jewelry, with a total stated value of P36,000.00, for sale on a commission basis, with the condition that the respondent would turn over the sales proceeds and return the unsold items to Ms. Marquez on or before 14 February 1984. Sometime in February 1984, respondent, instead of returning the unsold pieces of jewelry which then amounted to approximately P26,250.00, issued three checks: (a) a check dated 16 February 1984 for the amount of P5,400.00; (b) a check dated 23 February 1984 also for the amount of P5,400.00; and (c) a check dated 25 February 1984 for the amount of P15,450.00. Upon presentment for payment within ninety (90) days after their issuance, all three (3) checks were dishonored by the drawee bank, Traders Royal Bank, for insufficiency of funds. Notwithstanding receipt of the notice of dishonor, respondent made no arrangements with the bank concerning the honoring of checks which had bounced and made no effort to settle her obligations to Ms. Marquez. Consequently, four (4) informations were filed against respondent with the Regional Trial Court of Manila: (a) one for estafa, docketed as Criminal Case No. 85-38358; and (b) three (3) for violation of B.P. Blg. 22, docketed respectively as Criminal Cases Nos. 85-38359, 8538360 and 85-38361. In due time, after trial, the trial court rendered a decision dated 25 August 1987 which: (a) acquitted respondent of the charge of estafa; and

(b) convicted respondent of violation of B.P. Blg. 22 in all three (3) cases, and sentenced respondent to pay a fine of P6,000.00, with subsidiary imprisonment in case of insolvency and to indemnify the complainant in the amount of P5,400.00 in Criminal Case No. 8538359; to pay a fine of P 6,000.00, with subsidiary imprisonment in case of insolvency and to indemnify the complainant in the amount of P5,400.00, in Criminal Case No. 85-38360; and to pay a fine of P16,000.00, with subsidiary imprisonment in case of insolvency, and to indemnify the complainant in the amount of P15,450.00, in Criminal Case No. 85-38361, and to pay the costs in all three (3) cases. On appeal, the Court of Appeals in C.A.-G.R. CR No. 05093 affirmed in toto the decision of the trial court but, in addition, suspended respondent Tuanda from the practice of law. The pertinent portion of the decision read as follows: For reasons above stated and finding the evidence sufficient to sustain the conviction, the judgment is hereby AFFIRMED subject to this modification. It appearing from the records that the accused Fe Tuanda is a member of the Bar, and the offense for (sic) which she is found guilty involved moral turpitude, she is hereby ordered suspended from the practice of law and shall not practice her profession until further action from the Supreme Court, in accordance with Sections 27 and 28 of Rule 138 of the Rules of Court. A copy of this decision must be forwarded to the Supreme Court as required by Section 29 of the same Rule. SO ORDERED. 1 On 16 December 1988, respondent filed a Notice of Appeal with the Court of Appeals. The Court of Appeals, in a Resolution dated 9 January 1989, noted respondent's Notice of Appeal and advised her "to address her Notice of Appeal to the Honorable Supreme Court, the proper forum." On 1 February 1989, respondent filed with this Court a Notice of Appeal. In a Resolution dated 31 May 1989, the Supreme Court noted without action respondent's Notice of Appeal and declared that the Court of Appeals' decision of 17 October 1988 had become final and executory upon expiration of the period for filing a petition for review on certiorari on 16 December 1988. In that Resolution, the Court found that respondent had lost her right to appeal by certiorari when she posted with this Court a Notice of Appeal instead of filing a petition for review on certiorari under Section 1, Rule 45 of the Revised Rules of Court within the reglementary period. In the instant Motion to Lift Order of Suspension, respondent states: that suspension from the practice of law is indeed a harsh if not a not painful penalty aggravating the lower court's penalty of fine considering that accusedappellant's action on the case during the trial on the merits at the lower court

has always been motivated purely by sincere belief that she is innocent of the offense charged nor of the intention to cause damage to the herein plaintiffappellee. We read the above statement as a claim by the respondent that, she had not violated her oath as a member of the Philippine Bar upon the ground that when she issued the checks which bounced, she did not intend to cause damage to complainant Ms. Marquez. The Court affirms the suspension from the practice of law imposed by the Court of Appeals upon respondent Tuanda. The Court of Appeals correctly ruled that "the offense [of] which she is found guilty involved moral turpitude." We should add that violation of B.P. Blg. 22 is a serious criminal offense which deleteriously affects public interest and public order. In Lozano v. Martinez, 2 the Court explained the nature of the offense of violation of B.P. Blg. 22 in the
following terms:

xxx xxx xxx The gravamen of the offense punished by B.P. Blg. 22 is the act of making and issuing a worthless check or a check that is dishonored upon its presentation for payment. . . . The thrust of the law is to prohibit under pain of penal sanctions, the making of worthless checks and putting them in circulation. Because of its deleterious effects on the public interest, the practice is prescribed by the law. The law punishes the act not as an offense against property but an offense against public order. xxx xxx xxx The effects of the issuance of a worthless check transcends the private interests of the parties directly involved in the transaction and touches the interests of the community at large. The mischief it creates is not only a wrong to the payee or holder, but also an injury to the public . The harmful practice of putting valueless commercial papers in circulation, multiplied a thousandfold, can very well pollute the channels of trade and commerce, injure the banking system and eventually hurt the welfare of society and the public interest. 3 (Italics supplied) Respondent was thus correctly suspended from the practice of law because she had been convicted of crimes involving moral turpitude. Sections 27 and 28 of Rule 138 of the Revised Rules of Court provide as follows: Sec. 27. Attorneys renewed or suspended by Supreme Court on what grounds. A member of the bar may be removed or suspended from his office as attorney by the Supreme Court of any deceit, malpractice, or other gross misconduct in such office, grossly immoral conduct, or by reason of his conviction of a crime involving moral turpitude, or for any violation of the oath which he is required to take before admission to practice, or for a wilful disobedience of any lawful order of a superior court, or for corruptly or wilfully appearing as an attorney for a party to a case without authority so to do. The

practice of soliciting cases at law for the purpose of gain, either personally or through paid agents or brokers, constitutes malpractice. (Italics supplied) Sec. 28. Suspension of attorney by the Court of Appeals or a Court of First Instance. The Court of Appeals or a Court of First Instance may suspend an attorney from practice for any of the causes named in the last preceding section, and after such suspension such attorney shall not practice his profession until further action of the Supreme Court in the premises. (Italics supplied) We should add that the crimes of which respondent was convicted also import deceit and violation of her attorney's oath and the Code of Professional Responsibility under both of which she was bound to "obey the laws of the land." Conviction of a crime involving moral turpitude might not (as in the instant case, violation of B.P. Blg. 22 does not) relate to the exercise of the profession of a lawyer; however, it certainly relates to and affects the good moral character of a person convicted of such offense. In Melendrez v. Decena, 4 this Court
stressed that:

the nature of the office of an attorney at law requires that she shall be a person of good moral character. This qualification is not only a condition precedent to an admission to the practice of law; its continued possession is also essential for remaining in the practice of law. 5 ACCORDINGLY, the Court Resolved to DENY the Motion to Lift Order of Suspension. Respondent shall remain suspended from the practice of law until further orders from this Court. A copy of this Resolution shall be forwarded to the Bar Confidant and to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and spread on the record of respondent. Fernan, C.J., Narvasa, Melencio-Herrera, Cruz, Paras, Feliciano, Gancayco, Padilla, Bidin, Sarmiento, Cortes and Grio-Aquino, JJ., concur. Gutierrez, Jr., Medialdea and Regalado, JJ., in the result.