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EN BANC

[A.C. No. 5580. June 15, 2005]


SAN JOSE HOMEOWNERS ASSOCIATION INC., as represented by REBECCA
V. LABRADOR, complainant, vs. ATTY. ROBERTO B. ROMANILLOS,
respondent.
D E C I S I O N
PER CURIAM:
This is a Petition
[1]
for disbarment against Atty. Roberto B. Romanillos for allegedly
representing conflicting interests and for using the title Judge despite having been found guilty of
grave and serious misconduct in Zarate v. Judge Romanillos.
[2]
The facts are as follows:
In 1985, respondent represented San Jose Homeowners Association, Inc. (SJHAI) before the
Human Settlements Regulation Commission (HSRC) in a case
[3]
against Durano and Corp., Inc.
(DCI) for violation of the Subdivision and Condominium Buyers Protection Act (P.D. No. 957).
SJHAI alleged that Lot No. 224 was designated as a school site in the subdivision plan that DCI
submitted to the Bureau of Lands in 1961 but was sold by DCI to spouses Ramon and Beatriz
Durano without disclosing it as a school site.
While still the counsel for SJHAI, respondent represented Myrna and Antonio Montealegre in
requesting for SJHAIs conformity to construct a school building on Lot No. 224 to be purchased
from Durano.
When the request was denied, respondent applied for clearance before the Housing and Land
Use Regulatory Board (HLURB) in behalf of Montealegre. Petitioners Board of Directors
terminated respondents services as counsel and engaged another lawyer to represent the
association.
Respondent also acted as counsel for Lydia Durano-Rodriguez who substituted for DCI in Civil
Case No. 18014 entitled San Jose Homeowners, Inc. v. Durano and Corp., Inc. filed before the
Regional Trial Court of Makati City, Branch 134. Thus, SJHAI filed a disbarment case against
respondent for representing conflicting interests, docketed as Administrative Case No. 4783.
In her Report
[4]
dated August 3, 1998, Investigating Commissioner Lydia A. Navarro of the
Commission on Bar Discipline of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) made the following
findings:
Respondent failed to observe candor and fairness in dealing with his clients, knowing fully well that the
Montealegre case was adverse to the Complainant wherein he had previously been not only an active board
member but its corporate secretary having access to all its documents condential or otherwise and its
counsel in handling the implementation of the writ of execution against its developer and owner, Durano and
Co. Inc.
Moreso, when Respondent acted as counsel for the substituted defendant Durano and Co. Inc., Lydia Durano-
Rodriguez; the conict of interest between the latter and the Complainant became so revealing and yet
Respondent proceeded to represent the former.

For his defense of good faith in doing so; inasmuch as the same wasnt controverted by the Complainant
which was his rst offense; Respondent must be given the benet of the doubt to rectify his error subject to
the condition that should he commit the same in the future; severe penalty will be imposed upon him.
[5]
The Investigating Commissioner recommended dismissal of the complaint with the admonition
that respondent should observe extra care and diligence in the practice of his profession to uphold
its dignity and integrity beyond reproach.
The IBP Board of Governors adopted and approved the report and recommendation of the
Investigating Commissioner, which we noted in a resolution dated March 8, 1999.
Notwithstanding the admonition, respondent continued representing Lydia Durano-Rodriguez
before the Court of Appeals
[6]
and this Court
[7]
and even moved for the execution of the decision.
Thus, a second disbarment case was filed against respondent for violation of the March 8, 1999
Resolution in A.C. No. 4783 and for his alleged deceitful conduct in using the title Judge although
he was found guilty of grave and serious misconduct.
Respondent used the title Judge in his office letterhead, correspondences and billboards
which was erected in several areas within the San Jose Subdivision sometime in October 2001.
In his Comment and Explanation,
[8]
respondent claimed that he continued to represent Lydia
Durano-Rodriguez against petitioner despite the March 8, 1999 Resolution because it was still
pending when the second disbarment case was filed. He maintained that the instant petition is a
rehash of the first disbarment case from which he was exonerated. Concerning the title Judge,
respondent stated that since the filing of the instant petition he had ceased to attach the title to his
name.
On July 7, 2003, the matter was referred to the IBP for investigation, report and
recommendation.
[9]
Investigating Commissioner Leland R. Villadolid, Jr. reported that respondent did not violate the
admonition because it referred to future cases only and not to cases subject of A.C. No. 4783.
Besides, petitioner never questioned the propriety of respondents continued representation of
Lydia Durano-Rodriguez on appeal until the case was terminated.
The Investigating Commissioner, however, believed that respondent was deceitful when he
used the title Judge, thus creating a false impression that he was an incumbent.
The Investigating Commissioner recommended thus:
In view of the foregoing considerations, this Commissioner respectfully recommends the following penalty
range to be deliberated upon by the Board for imposition on Respondent: minimum penalty of reprimand to a
maximum penalty of four (4) months suspension. It is further recommended that in addition to the penalty to
be imposed, a stern warning be given to Respondent in that should he violate his undertaking/promise not to
handle any case in the future where the Complainant would be the adverse party and/or should he again use
the title of Judge which would create an impression that he is still connected to the judiciary, a more severe
penalty shall be imposed on him by the Commission.
RESPECTFULLY SUBMITTED.
The IBP Board of Governors approved with modification the report and recommendation of the
Investigating Commissioner, thus:
RESOLVED to ADOPT and APPROVE, as it is hereby ADOPTED and APPROVED, with modication,
the Report and Recommendation of the Investigating Commissioner of the above-entitled case, herein made
part of this Resolution as Annex A, and, nding the recommendation fully supported by the evidence on
record and the applicable laws and rules, and considering Respondents violation of Rule 1.01 and Rule 3.01
of the Code of Professional Responsibility, Atty. Roberto Romanillos is hereby SUSPENDED from the
practice of law for six (6) months with a WARNING that should he violate his undertaking/promise a more
severe penalty shall be imposed against him.
Undoubtedly, respondent represented the inconsistent interests of SJHAI, DCI as substituted
by Lydia Durano-Rodriguez and the Montealegres. Respondent was admonished yet he continued
to represent Durano-Rodriguez against SJHAI.
It is inconsequential that petitioner never questioned the propriety of respondents continued
representation of Lydia Durano-Rodriguez. The lack of opposition does not mean tacit consent. As
long as the lawyer represents inconsistent interests of two (2) or more opposing clients, he is guilty
of violating his oath. Rule 15.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility specifically mandates
that a lawyer shall not represent conflicting interests except by written consent of all concerned
given after a full disclosure. Incidentally, it is also misleading for respondent to insist that he was
exonerated in A.C. No. 4783.
We agree with the IBP that respondents continued use of the title Judge violated Rules 1.01
and 3.01 of the Code of Professional Responsibility prohibiting a lawyer from engaging in deceitful
conduct and from using any misleading statement or claim regarding qualifications or legal
services. The quasi-judicial notice he posted in the billboards referring to himself as a judge is
deceiving. It was a clear attempt to mislead the public into believing that the order was issued in
his capacity as a judge when he was dishonorably stripped of the privilege.
Respondent did not honorably retire from the judiciary. He resigned from being a judge during
the pendency of Zarate v. Judge Romanillos, where he was eventually found guilty of grave and
serious misconduct and would have been dismissed from the service had he not resigned.
In that case, respondent was found guilty of illegal solicitation and receipt of P10,000.00 from a
party litigant. We ruled thus:
Considering the foregoing, respondent Judge Roberto B. Romanillos is hereby found guilty of grave and
serious misconduct affecting his integrity and honesty. He deserves the supreme penalty of dismissal.
However, respondent, in an obvious attempt to escape punishment for his misdeeds, tendered his resignation
during the pendency of this case. Consequently, we are now precluded from dismissing respondent from
the service. Nevertheless, the ruling in People v. Valenzuela (135 SCRA 712 [1985]), wherein the respondent
judge likewise resigned before the case could be resolved, nds application in this case. Therein it was held
that the rule that the resignation or retirement of a respondent judge in an administrative case renders the case
moot and academic, is not a hard and fast rule.

ACCORDINGLY, in view of our aforestated nding that respondent Judge Romanillos is guilty of grave
and serious misconduct which would have warranted his dismissal from the service had he not resigned
during the pendency of this case, and it appearing that respondent has yet to apply for his retirement benets
and other privileges if any; the Court, consistent with the penalties imposed in Valenzuela (supra.), hereby
orders the FORFEITURE of all leave and retirement benets and privileges to which herein respondent Judge
Romanillos may be entitled WITH PREJUDICE to reinstatement and/or reemployment in any branch or
instrumentality of government, including government-owned or controlled agencies or corporations.
SO ORDERED.
[10]
The penalty imposed upon him in said case included forfeiture of all leave and retirement
benefits and privileges to which he may be entitled with prejudice to reinstatement and/or
reemployment in any branch or instrumentality of government, including government-owned or
controlled agencies or corporations. Certainly, the use of the title Judge is one of such privileges.
We have previously declared that the use of titles such as Justice is reserved to incumbent
and retired members of the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeals and the Sandiganbayan and may
not be used by any other official of the Republic, including those given the rank of Justice.
[11]
By
analogy, the title Judge should be reserved only to judges, incumbent and retired, and not to
those who were dishonorably discharged from the service. As correctly pointed out by the
Investigating Commissioner, the right to retain and use said title applies only to the aforementioned
members of the bench and no other, and certainly not to those who were removed or dismissed
from the judiciary, such as respondent.
Membership in the legal profession is a special privilege burdened with conditions.
[12]
It is
bestowed upon individuals who are not only learned in law, but also known to possess good moral
character.
[13]
Lawyers should act and comport themselves with honesty and integrity in a manner
beyond reproach, in order to promote the publics faith in the legal profession.
[14]
To say that lawyers must at all times uphold and respect the law is to state the obvious, but
such statement can never be overemphasized. Considering that, of all classes and professions,
[lawyers are] most sacredly bound to uphold the law, it is imperative that they live by the law.
Accordingly, lawyers who violate their oath and engage in deceitful conduct have no place in the
legal profession.
[15]
Disbarment is the most severe form of disciplinary sanction. We are mindful that the power to
disbar must always be exercised with great caution, for only the most imperative reasons,
[16]
and in
clear cases of misconduct affecting the standing and moral character of the lawyer as an officer of
the court and as a member of the bar.
[17]
This is not respondents first infraction as an officer of the court and a member of the legal
profession. He was stripped of his retirement benefits and other privileges in Zarate v. Judge
Romanillos.
[18]
In A.C. No. 4783, he got off lightly with just an admonition. Considering his previous
infractions, respondent should have adhered to the tenets of his profession with extra fervor and
vigilance. He did not. On the contrary, he manifested undue disrespect to our mandate and
exhibited a propensity to violate the laws. He is thus unfit to discharge the duties of his office and
unworthy of the trust and confidence reposed on him as an officer of the court. His disbarment is
consequently warranted.
Section 27, Rule 138 of the Revised Rules of Court provides:
SEC. 27. Disbarment or suspension of attorneys by Supreme Court; grounds therefor. A member of the bar
may be disbarred or suspended from his ofce as attorney by the Supreme Court for any deceit, malpractice,
or other gross misconduct in such ofce, 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.
WHEREFORE, respondent Atty. Roberto B. Romanillos is DISBARRED and his name is
ORDERED STRICKEN from the Roll of Attorneys. Let a copy of this Decision be entered in
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, Sandoval-Gutierrez,
Carpio, Austria-Martinez, Corona, Carpio-Morales, Callejo, Sr., Azcuna, Tinga, Chico-Nazario, and
Garcia, JJ., concur.
[1]
Rollo, pp. 1-14.
[2]
312 Phil. 679 (1995).
[3]
HSRC Case No. REM-021082-0822 (NHA-80-309).
[4]
Rollo, pp. 15-20.
[5]
Id. at 19-20.
[6]
SJHAI v. HLURB, et al., docketed as CA-G.R. SP No. 67844.
[7]
SJHAI v. HLURB, et al., docketed as G.R. No. 153980.
[8]
Rollo, pp. 31-33.
[9]
Id. at 46.
[10]
Supra, note 2, pp. 692-693.
[11]
JBC No. 001: Re JBC Emoluments, July 20, 1989.
[12]
Lao v. Medel, A.C. No. 5916, 1 July 2003, 405 SCRA 227, 235; Eustaquio v. Rimorin, A.C. No. 5081, 24 March 2003,
399 SCRA 422, 429; Sebastian v. Atty. Calis, 372 Phil. 673, 681; Marcelo v. Javier, Sr., Adm. Case No. 3248, 18
September 1992, 214 SCRA 1, 16.
[13]
Ernesto L. Pineda, Legal and Judicial Ethics (1999), p. 22.
[14]
Malecdan v. Pekas, A.C. No. 5830, 26 January 2004, 421 SCRA 7, 21; Rivera v. Corral, Adm. Case No. 3548, 4 July
2002, 384 SCRA 1, 11.
[15]
De Guzman v. De Dios, A.C. No. 4943, 26 January 2001, 350 SCRA 320, 326.
[16]
De Guzman v. Tadeo, 68 Phil. 554, 558 (1939).
[17]
Montano v. Integrated Bar of the Philippines, A.C. No. 4215, 21 May 2001, 358 SCRA 1, 10.
[18]
In National Bureau of Investigation v. Reyes, A.M. No. MTJ-97-1120, 21 February 2000, 326 SCRA 109, respondent
judge therein was found guilty of bribery. He was meted the penalty of dismissal from the service and further
disbarred from the practice of law.