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ANDREA BALCE CELAJE vs. ATTY. SANTIAGO C. SORIANO (A.C. No.

7418, October 9, 2

7!

FACTS: This is a disbarment case filed against Atty. Santiago C. Soriano for gross misconduct. In the Complaint filed before the Integrated Bar of the Philippines IBP!" Andrea Balce Cela#e alleged that respondent as$ed for money to be put up as an in#unction bond" %hich complainant found out later" ho%ever" to be unnecessary as the application for the %rit %as denied by the trial court. &uring the hearing" the complainant alleged that she has remitted to respondent" amounts of money totalling to more or less P'()"))).)). These %ere all undocumented and not ac$no%ledged in %riting. *o%ever" for the alleged amount of P+,"-)).)) intended for an in#unction bond" it has been established that indeed an accumulated amount of P."))).)) has been remitted by respondent and only the unpaid P/"-)).)) remains unaccounted for. According to complainant" this %as made possible because she %as not $no%ledgeable on legal matters and practices. 0espondent for his part has only offered denials to the charges. ISS12: 3hether respondent is guilty of gross misconduct and has violated the Code of Professional 0esponsibility *24&: The Code of Professional 0esponsibility CP0!" particularly Canon +5 thereof" mandates that a la%yer shall hold in trust all moneys and properties of his client that may come into his possession. *e shall account for all money or property collected or received from his client and shall deliver the funds and property of his client %hen due or upon demand. It %as established that respondent could not account for P/"-)).)) %hich %as part of the sum given by complainant to him for the purpose of filing an in#unctive bond. 0espondent6s failure to return the money to complainant gave rise to the presumption that he misappropriated it for his o%n use to the pre#udice of" and in violation of the trust reposed in him by his client. It is a gross violation of general morality and of professional ethics and impairs public confidence in the legal profession. 3hen a la%yer receives money from the client" the la%yer is bound to render an accounting to the client sho%ing that the money %as spent for a particular purpose. And if he does not use the money for the intended purpose" the la%yer must immediately return the money to his client. 7embership in the legal profession is a privilege. The attorney8client relationship is highly fiduciary in nature. As such" it re9uires utmost good faith" loyalty" fidelity and disinterestedness on the part of the la%yer. Respondent Atty. Santiago C. Soriano %as found G"ILTY of violating Canon +5 of the Code of Professional 0esponsibility and %as S"S#ENDED from the practice of la% for a period of t%o years. 0espondent %as further ordered to restitute to his client the amount of P/"-)).)).

Andrea Balce Cela#e alleged that respondent as$ed for money to be put up as an in#unction bond" %hich complainant found out later" ho%ever" to be unnecessary as the application for the %rit %as denied by the trial court. 0espondent also as$ed for money on several occasions allegedly to spend for or to be given to the #udge handling their case" :udge 7ilagros ;ui#ano" of the 0egional Trial Court" Iriga City" Branch <5. 3hen complainant approached :udge ;ui#ano and as$ed %hether %hat respondent %as saying %as true" :udge ;ui#ano outrightly denied the allegations and advised her to file an administrative case against respondent. In his Ans%er" respondent denied the charges against him and averred that the same %ere merely concocted by complainant to destroy his character. *e also contended that it %as complainant %ho boasted that she is a professional fi=er in administrative agencies as %ell as in the #udiciary> and that complainant promised to pay him large amounts of attorney6s fees %hich complainant ho%ever did not $eep. Both parties appeared in the 7andatory Conference and *earing on :anuary +-" '))5. Thereafter" the case %as submitted for decision.

In the 0eport and 0ecommendation dated :anuary '," '))5" IBP8Commission on Bar &iscipline Commissioner &ennis A.B. Funa found respondent guilty of ?ross 7isconduct in his relations %ith his client and recommended that respondent be suspended for three years from the practice of la%. I$$%e& 3hether or not Atty. Soriano violated the Code of Professional 0esponsibility 'e()& @es. The Code of Professional 0esponsibility CP0!" particularly Canon +5 thereof" mandates that a la%yer shall hold in trust all moneys and properties of his client that may come into his possession. *e shall account for all money or property collected or received from his client and shall deliver the funds and property of his client %hen due or upon demand. As found by Commissioner Funa" it %as established that respondent could not account for P/"-)).)) %hich %as part of the sum given by complainant to him for the purpose of filing an in#unctive bond. 0espondent admitted having received from complainant P+("-)).)) on April +." '))' for the preliminary in#unction and admitted to having a balance of P."))).)) in his promissory note to the 7anila Insurance Co." Inc. dated April '<" '))'" %hich %as reduced to P/"-)).)) by reason of an additional payment of P,"))).))" leaving an amount of P/"-)).)) unaccounted for. The affidavit of the insurance agent" Aalentina 0amos" dated &ecember -" '))/ also states that even up to said date" respondent had not yet paid the balance of P/"-)).)). 0espondent6s failure to return the money to complainant upon demand gave rise to the presumption that he misappropriated it for his o%n use to the pre#udice of" and in violation of the trust reposed in him by his client. It is a gross violation of general morality and of professional ethics and impairs public confidence in the legal profession %hich deserves punishment. Atty. Soriano is suspended from the practice of la% for t%o years.