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Chan vs NLRC commission to Atty.

Paras
AC 6792 Jan 25, 2006

had not received timely medical assistance, according to the


attending surgeon, Dr. Francisco Hernandez, Jr. Soriano sustained a
spinal cord injury, which caused paralysis on the left part of his body
and disabled him for his job as a taxi driver.

DECISION
PER CURIAM:
Before us is a Complaint-Affidavit[1] for the disbarment of Atty.
Manuel Dizon, filed by Roberto Soriano with the Commission on Bar
Discipine (CBD) of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines
(IBP). Complainant alleges that the conviction of respondent for a
crime involving moral turpitude, together with the circumstances
surrounding the conviction, violates Canon 1 of Rule 1.01 of the
Code of Professional Responsibility;[2] and constitutes sufficient
ground for his disbarment under Section 27 of Rule 138 of the Rules
of Court.[3]
Because of the failure of Atty. Dizon to submit his Answer to the
Complaint, the CBD issued a Notice dated May 20, 2004, informing
him that he was in default, and that an ex-parte hearing had been
scheduled for June 11, 2004.[4]
After that hearing, complainant manifested that he was submitting
the case on the basis of the Complaint and its
attachments.[5] Accordingly, the CBDdirected him to file his
Position Paper, which he did on July 27, 2004.[6] Afterwards, the
case was deemed submitted for resolution.
On December 6, 2004, Commissioner Teresita J. Herbosa rendered
her Report and Recommendation, which was later adopted and
approved by the IBP Board of Governors in its Resolution No. XVI2005-84 dated March 12, 2005.
In his Complaint-Affidavit, Soriano alleged that respondent had
violated Canon 1, Rule 1.01 of the Code of Professional
Responsibility; and that the conviction of the latter for frustrated
homicide,[7] which involved moral turpitude, should result in his
disbarment.
The facts leading to respondents conviction were summarized by
Branch 60 of the Regional Trial Court of Baguio City in this wise:
x x x. The accused was driving his brown Toyota Corolla and was on
his way home after gassing up in preparation for his trip to
Concepcion, Tarlac with his wife. Along Abanao Street, a taxi driver
overtook the car driven by the accused not knowing that the driver
of the car he had overtaken is not just someone, but a lawyer and a
prominent member of the Baguio community who was under the
influence of liquor. Incensed, the accused tailed the taxi driver until
the latter stopped to make a turn at [the] Chugum and Carino
Streets. The accused also stopped his car, berated the taxi driver
and held him by his shirt. To stop the aggression, the taxi driver
forced open his door causing the accused to fall to the ground. The
taxi driver knew that the accused had been drinking because he
smelled of liquor. Taking pity on the accused who looked elderly,
the taxi driver got out of his car to help him get up. But the accused,
by now enraged, stood up immediately and was about to deal the
taxi driver a fist blow when the latter boxed him on the chest
instead. The accused fell down a second time, got up again and was
about to box the taxi driver but the latter caught his fist and turned
his arm around. The taxi driver held on to the accused until he could
be pacified and then released him. The accused went back to his car
and got his revolver making sure that the handle was wrapped in a
handkerchief. The taxi driver was on his way back to his vehicle
when he noticed the eyeglasses of the accused on the ground. He
picked them up intending to return them to the accused. But as he
was handing the same to the accused, he was met by the barrel of
the gun held by the accused who fired and shot him hitting him on
the neck. He fell on the thigh of the accused so the latter pushed
him out and sped off. The incident was witnessed by Antonio
Billanes whose testimony corroborated that of the taxi driver, the
complainant in this case, Roberto Soriano.[8]

It was the prosecution witness, Antonio Billanes, who came to the


aid of Soriano and brought the latter to the hospital. Because the
bullet had lacerated the carotid artery on the left side of his
neck,[9] complainant would have surely died of hemorrhage if he

The trial court promulgated its Decision dated November 29,


2001. On January 18, 2002, respondent filed an application for
probation, which was granted by the court on several
conditions. These included satisfaction of the civil liabilities
imposed by [the] court in favor of the offended party, Roberto
Soriano.[10]
According to the unrefuted statements of complainant, Atty. Dizon,
who has yet to comply with this particular undertaking, even
appealed the civil liability to the Court of Appeals.[11]
In her Report and Recommendation, Commissioner Herbosa
recommended that respondent be disbarred from the practice of
law for having been convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude.
The commissioner found that respondent had not only been
convicted of such crime, but that the latter also exhibited an obvious
lack of good moral character, based on the following facts:
1. He was under the influence of liquor while driving his car;
2. He reacted violently and attempted to assault Complainant
only because the latter, driving a taxi, had overtaken him;
3. Complainant having been able to ward off his attempted
assault, Respondent went back to his car, got a gun, wrapped the
same with a handkerchief and shot Complainant[,] who was
unarmed;
4. When Complainant fell on him, Respondent simply pushed him
out and fled;
5. Despite positive identification and overwhelming evidence,
Respondent denied that he had shot Complainant;
6. Apart from [his] denial, Respondent also lied when he claimed
that he was the one mauled by Complainant and two unidentified
persons; and,
7. Although he has been placed on probation, Respondent has[,]
to date*,+ not yet satisfied his civil liabilities to Complainant.[12]

On July 8, 2005, the Supreme Court received for its final action the
IBP Resolution adopting the Report and Recommendation of the
Investigating Commissioner.
We agree with the findings and recommendations of Commissioner
Herbosa, as approved and adopted by the IBP Board of Governors.
Under Section 27 of Rule 138 of the Rules of Court, conviction for a
crime involving moral turpitude is a ground for disbarment or
suspension. By such conviction, a lawyer is deemed to have become
unfit to uphold the administration of justice and to be no longer
possessed of good moral character.[13] In the instant case,
respondent has been found guilty; and he stands convicted, by final
judgment, of frustrated homicide. Since his conviction has already
been established and is no longer open to question, the only issues
that remain to be determined are as follows: 1) whether his crime of
frustrated homicide involves moral turpitude, and 2) whether his
guilt warrants disbarment.
Moral turpitude has been defined as everything which is done
contrary to justice, modesty, or good morals; an act of baseness,
vileness or depravity in the private and social duties which a man
owes his fellowmen, or to society in general, contrary to justice,
honesty, modesty, or good morals.[14]
The question of whether the crime of homicide involves moral
turpitude has been discussed in International Rice Research Institute
(IRRI) v. NLRC,[15] a labor case concerning an employee who was
dismissed on the basis of his conviction for homicide. Considering
the particular circumstances surrounding the commission of the
crime, this Court rejected the employers contention and held that
homicide in that case did not involve moral turpitude. (If it did, the
crime would have been violative of the IRRIs Employment
Policy Regulations and indeed a ground for dismissal.) The Court
explained that, having disregarded the attendant circumstances, the
employer
made
a
pronouncement
that
was
precipitate. Furthermore, it was not for the latter to determine

conclusively whether a crime involved moral turpitude. That


discretion belonged to the courts, as explained thus:
x x x. Homicide may or may not involve moral turpitude depending
on the degree of the crime. Moral turpitude is not involved in every
criminal act and is not shown by every known and intentional
violation of statute, but whether any particular conviction involves
moral turpitude may be a question of fact and frequently depends
on all the surrounding circumstances. x x x.[16] (Emphasis supplied)

In the IRRI case, in which the crime of homicide did not involve
moral turpitude, the Court appreciated the presence of incomplete
self-defense and total absence of aggravating circumstances. For a
better understanding of that Decision, the circumstances of the
crime are quoted as follows:
x x x. The facts on record show that Micosa *the IRRI
employee] was then urinating and had his back turned when the
victim drove his fist unto Micosa's face; that the victim then forcibly
rubbed Micosa's face into the filthy urinal; that Micosa pleaded to
the victim to stop the attack but was ignored and that it was while
Micosa was in that position that he drew a fan knife from the left
pocket of his shirt and desperately swung it at the victim who
released his hold on Micosa only after the latter had stabbed him
several times. These facts show that Micosa's intention was not to
slay the victim but only to defend his person. The appreciation in his
favor of the mitigating circumstances of self-defense and voluntary
surrender, plus the total absence of any aggravating circumstance
demonstrate that Micosa's character and intentions were not
inherently vile, immoral or unjust.[17]

The present case is totally different. As the IBP correctly found,


the circumstances clearly evince the moral turpitude of respondent
and his unworthiness to practice law.
Atty. Dizon was definitely the aggressor, as he pursued and shot
complainant when the latter least expected it. The act of aggression
shown by respondent will not be mitigated by the fact that he was
hit once and his arm twisted by complainant. Under the
circumstances, those were reasonable actions clearly intended to
fend off the lawyers assault.
We also consider the trial courts finding of treachery as a
further indication of the skewed morals of respondent. He shot the
victim when the latter was not in a position to defend himself. In
fact, under the impression that the assault was already over, the
unarmed complainant was merely returning the eyeglasses of Atty.
Dizon when the latter unexpectedly shot him. To make matters
worse, respondent wrapped the handle of his gun with a
handkerchief so as not to leave fingerprints. In so doing, he
betrayed his sly intention to escape punishment for his crime.
The totality of the facts unmistakably bears the earmarks of moral
turpitude. By his conduct, respondent revealed his extreme
arrogance and feeling of self-importance. As it were, he acted like a
god on the road, who deserved to be venerated and never to be
slighted. Clearly, his inordinate reaction to a simple traffic incident
reflected poorly on his fitness to be a member of the legal
profession. His overreaction also evinced vindictiveness, which was
definitely an undesirable trait in any individual, more so in a
lawyer. In the tenacity with which he pursued complainant, we see
not the persistence of a person who has been grievously wronged,
but the obstinacy of one trying to assert a false sense of superiority
and to exact revenge.
It is also glaringly clear that respondent seriously transgressed
Canon 1 of the Code of Professional Responsibility through his illegal
possession of an unlicensed firearm[18] and his unjust refusal to
satisfy his civil liabilities.[19]
He has thus brazenly violated the law and disobeyed the lawful
orders of the courts. We remind him that, both in his attorneys
oath[20] and in the Code of Professional Responsibility, he bound
himself to obey the laws of the land.

All told, Atty. Dizon has shown through this incident that he is
wanting in even a basic sense of justice. He obtained the
benevolence of the trial court when it suspended his sentence and
granted him probation. And yet, it has been four years[21] since he
was ordered to settle his civil liabilities to complainant. To date,
respondent remains adamant in refusing to fulfill that obligation. By
his extreme impetuosity and intolerance, as shown by his violent
reaction to a simple traffic altercation, he has taken away the
earning capacity, good health, and youthful vigor of his victim. Still,
Atty. Dizon begrudges complainant the measly amount that could
never even fully restore what the latter has lost.
Conviction for a crime involving moral turpitude may relate, not to
the exercise of the profession of lawyers, but certainly to their good
moral character.[22] Where their misconduct outside of their
professional dealings is so gross as to show them morally unfit for
their office and unworthy of the privileges conferred upon them by
their license and the law, the court may be justified in suspending or
removing them from that office.[23]
We also adopt the IBPs finding that respondent displayed an utter
lack of good moral character, which is an essential qualification for
the privilege to enter into the practice of law. Good moral character
includes at least common honesty.[24]
In the case at bar, respondent consistently displayed dishonest and
duplicitous behavior. As found by the trial court, he had sought,
with the aid of Vice-Mayor Daniel Farias, an out-of-court
settlement with complainants family.[25] But when this effort
failed, respondent concocted a complete lie by making it appear that
it was complainants family that had sought a conference with him
to obtain his referral to a neurosurgeon.[26]
The lies of Atty Dizon did not end there. He went on to fabricate an
entirely implausible story of having been mauled by complainant
and two other persons.[27] The trial court had this to say:
The physical evidence as testified to by no less than three (3)
doctors who examined [Atty. Dizon] does not support his allegation
that three people including the complainant helped each other in
kicking and boxing him. The injuries he sustained were so minor
that it is improbable[,] if not downright unbelievable[,] that three
people who he said were bent on beating him to death could do so
little damage. On the contrary, his injuries sustain the complainants
version of the incident particularly when he said that he boxed the
accused on the chest. x x x.[28]

Lawyers must be ministers of truth. No moral qualification for bar


membership is more important than truthfulness.[29] The rigorous
ethics of the profession places a premium on honesty and condemns
duplicitous behavior.[30] Hence, lawyers must not mislead the court
or allow it to be misled by any artifice. In all their dealings, they are
expected to act in good faith.
The actions of respondent erode rather than enhance public
perception of the legal profession. They constitute moral turpitude
for which he should be disbarred. Law is a noble profession, and
the privilege to practice it is bestowed only upon individuals who are
competent intellectually, academically and, equally important,
morally. Because they are vanguards of the law and the legal
system, lawyers must at all times conduct themselves, especially in
their dealings with their clients and the public at large, with honesty
and integrity in a manner beyond reproach.[31]
The foregoing abhorrent acts of respondent are not merely
dishonorable; they reveal a basic moral flaw. Considering the
depravity of the offense he committed, we find the penalty
recommended by the IBP proper and commensurate.
The purpose of a proceeding for disbarment is to protect the
administration of justice by requiring that those who exercise this
important function be competent, honorable and reliable -- lawyers
in whom courts and clients may repose confidence.[32] Thus,
whenever a clear case of degenerate and vile behavior disturbs that
vital yet fragile confidence, we shall not hesitate to rid our
profession of odious members.

We remain aware that the power to disbar must be exercised with


great caution, and that disbarment should never be decreed when
any lesser penalty would accomplish the end desired. In the instant
case, however, the Court cannot extend that munificence to
respondent. His actions so despicably and wantonly disregarded his
duties to society and his profession. We are convinced that meting
out a lesser penalty would be irreconcilable with our lofty aspiration
for the legal profession -- that every lawyer be a shining exemplar of
truth and justice.
We stress that membership in the legal profession is a privilege
demanding a high degree of good moral character, not only as a
condition precedent to admission, but also as a continuing
requirement for the practice of law. Sadly, herein respondent has
fallen short of the exacting standards expected of him as a vanguard
of the legal profession.
In sum, when lawyers are convicted of frustrated homicide, the
attending circumstances not the mere fact of their conviction
would demonstrate their fitness to remain in the legal profession. In
the present case, the appalling vindictiveness, treachery, and brazen
dishonesty of respondent clearly show his unworthiness to continue
as a member of the bar.
WHEREFORE,
RESPONDENT
MANUEL
DIZON
is
hereby DISBARRED, and his name is ORDERED STRICKEN from the
Roll of Attorneys. Let a copy of this Decision be entered in his
record as a member of the Bar; and let 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.

Garrido vs Attys Garrido and Valencia


AC 6593
DECISION
[1]

Maelotisea Sipin Garrido filed a complaint-affidavit and a


[2]
supplemental affidavit for disbarment against the respondents
Atty. Angel E. Garrido (Atty. Garrido) and Atty. Romana P.Valencia
(Atty. Valencia) before the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP)
Committee on Discipline charging them with gross immorality. The
complaint-affidavit states:

2.

That I am the legal wife of Atty. Angel E.


Garrido by virtue of our marriage on June
23, 1962 at San Marcelino Church, Ermita,
Manila which was solemnized by Msgr.
Daniel Cortes x x x
That our marriage blossomed into having us
blessed with six (6) children, namely, Mat
Elizabeth, Arnel Angelito, Madeleine Eloiza,
Arnel Angelo, Arnel Victorino and Madonna
Angeline, all surnamed Garrido;

3.

xxxx

4.

That on May, 1991, during my light


moments with our children, one of my
daughters, Madeleine confided to me that
sometime on the later part of 1987, an
unknown caller talked with her claiming
that the former is a child of my husband. I
ignored it and dismissed it as a mere joke.
But when May Elizabeth, also one of my
daughters told me that sometime on August
1990, she saw my husband strolling at the
Robinsons Department Store at Ermita,
Manila together with a woman and a child
who was later identified as Atty. Ramona
Paguida Valencia and Angeli Ramona
Valencia Garrido, respectively x x x

5.

That I did not stop from unearthing the


truth until I was able to secure the
Certificate of Live Birth of the child, stating
among others that the said child is their
daughter and that Atty. Angel Escobar
Garrido
and
Atty.
Romana
Paguida Valencia were
married
at
Hongkong sometime on 1978.

7.

That on June 1993, my husband left our


conjugal home and joined Atty. Ramona
Paguida Valencia at their residence x x x

8.

That since he left our conjugal home he


failed and still failing to give us our needed
financial support to the prejudice of our
children who stopped schooling because of
financial constraints.

x x x x
That I am also filing a disbarment
proceedings against his mistress as alleged in the
same affidavit, Atty. Romana P. Valencia
considering that out of their immoral acts I
suffered not only mental anguish but also
besmirch reputation, wounded feelings and
sleepless nights; x x x
[3]

SO ORDERED.

1.

6.

xxxx

In his Counter-Affidavit, Atty. Garrido denied


Maelotiseas charges and imputations. By way of defense, he
alleged that Maelotisea was not his legal wife, as he was already
married to Constancia David (Constancia) when he married
Maelotisea. He claimed he married Maelotisea after he and
Constancia parted ways. He further alleged that Maelotisea knew all
his escapades and understood his bad boy image before she
married him in 1962. As he and Maelotisea grew apart over the
years due to financial problems, Atty. Garrido met Atty. Valencia. He
became close to Atty. Valencia to whom he confided his
difficulties. Together, they resolved his personal problems and his
financial difficulties with his second family. Atty. Garrido denied that
he failed to give financial support to his children with Maelotisea,
emphasizing that all his six (6) children were educated in private
schools; all graduated from college except for Arnel Victorino, who
[4]
finished a special secondary course. Atty. Garrido alleged that
Maelotisea had not been employed and had not practiced her
profession for the past ten (10) years.
Atty. Garrido emphasized that all his marriages were
contracted before he became a member of the bar on May 11, 1979,
with the third marriage contracted after the death of Constancia on
December 26, 1977. Likewise, his children with Maelotisea were
born before he became a lawyer.
[5]

In her Counter-Affidavit, Atty. Valencia denied that she


was the mistress of Atty. Garrido. She explained that Maelotisea
was not the legal wife of Atty. Garrido since the marriage between
them was void from the beginning due to the then existing marriage
of Atty. Garrido with Constancia. Atty. Valencia claimed that
Maelotisea knew of the romantic relationship between her and Atty.
Garrido, as they (Maelotisea and Atty. Valencia) met in
1978. Maelotisea kept silent about her relationship with Atty.
Garrido and had maintained this silence when she (Atty. Valencia)
financially helped Atty. Garrido build a house for his second family.
Atty. Valencia alleged that Maelotisea was not a proper party to this
suit because of her silence; she kept silent when things were
favorable and beneficial to her. Atty. Valencia also alleged that
Maelotisea had no cause of action against her.
In the course of the hearings, the parties filed the
following motions before the IBP Commission on Bar Discipline:
First, the respondents filed a Motion for Suspension of
[6]
Proceedings in view of the criminal complaint for concubinage
Maelotisea filed against them, and the Petition for Declaration of
[7]
Nullity (of marriage) Atty. Garrido filed to nullify his marriage to

Maelotisea. The IBP Commission on Bar Discipline denied this


motion for lack of merit.
[8]

Second, the respondents filed a Motion to Dismiss the


complaints after the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City declared
the marriage between Atty. Garrido and Maelotisea an absolute
nullity. Since Maelotisea was never the legal wife of Atty. Garrido,
the respondents argued that she had no personality to file her
complaints against them. The respondents also alleged that they
had not committed any immoral act since they married when Atty.
Garrido was already a widower, and the acts complained of were
committed before his admission to the bar. The IBP Commission on
[9]
Bar Discipline also denied this motion.
Third, Maelotisea filed a motion for the dismissal of the
complaints she filed against the respondents, arguing that she
wanted to maintain friendly relations with Atty. Garrido, who is the
[10]
father of her six (6) children. The IBP Commission on Bar
[11]
Discipline likewise denied this motion.
On April 13, 2004, Investigating Commissioner Milagros V.
San Juan (Investigating Commissioner San Juan) submitted her
Report
and
Recommendation
for
the
respondents
[12]
disbarment. The Commission on Bar Discipline of the IBP Board of
Governors (IBP Board of Governors) approved and adopted this
recommendation with modification under Resolution No. XVI-2004375 dated July 30, 2004. This resolution in part states:
x x x finding the recommendation fully
supported by the evidence on record and the
applicable laws and rules, and considering that
Atty. Garrido exhibited conduct which lacks the
degree of morality required as members of the
bar,
Atty.
Angel
E.
Garrido
is
hereby DISBARRED for
gross
immorality.
However, the case against Atty. Romana P.
Valencia is hereby DISMISSED for lack of merit of
the complaint.

Atty. Garrido moved to reconsider this resolution, but the IBP


Commission on Bar Discipline denied his motion under Resolution
No. XVII-2007-038 dated January 18, 2007.
Atty. Garrido now seeks relief with this Court through the
present petition for review. He submits that under the
circumstances, he did not commit any gross immorality that would
warrant his disbarment. He also argues that the offenses charged
have prescribed under the IBP rules.
Additionally, Atty. Garrido pleads that he be allowed on
humanitarian considerations to retain his profession; he is already in
the twilight of his life, and has kept his promise to lead an upright
and irreproachable life notwithstanding his situation.
In compliance with our Resolution dated August 25, 2009,
Atty. Alicia A. Risos-Vidal (Atty. Risos-Vidal), Director of the
Commission on Bar Discipline, filed her Comment on the
petition. She recommends a modification of the penalty from
disbarment to reprimand, advancing the view that disbarment is
very harsh considering that the 77-year old Atty. Garrido took
responsibility for his acts and tried to mend his ways by filing a
petition for declaration of nullity of his bigamous marriage. Atty.
Risos-Vidal also notes that no other administrative case has ever
been filed against Atty. Garrido.

THE COURTS RULING

case, prescription of offenses or the filing of affidavits of desistance


by the complainant do not apply in the determination of a lawyers
[13]
qualifications and fitness for membership in the Bar. We have so
ruled in the past and we see no reason to depart from this
[14]
ruling.
First, admission to the practice of law is a component of
the administration of justice and is a matter of public interest
[15]
because it involves service to the public. The admission
qualifications are also qualifications for the continued enjoyment of
the privilege to practice law. Second, lack of qualifications or the
violation of the standards for the practice of law, like criminal cases,
is a matter of public concern that the State may inquire into through
this Court. In this sense, the complainant in a disbarment case is not
a direct party whose interest in the outcome of the charge is wholly
[16]
his or her own; effectively, his or her participation is that of a
witness who brought the matter to the attention of the Court.
As applied to the present case, the time that elapsed
between the immoral acts charged and the filing of the complaint is
not material in considering the qualification of Atty. Garrido when
he applied for admission to the practice of law, and his continuing
qualification to be a member of the legal profession. From this
perspective, it is not important that the acts complained of were
committed before Atty. Garrido was admitted to the practice of law.
[17]
As we explained in Zaguirre v. Castillo, the possession of good
moral character is both a condition precedent and a continuing
requirement to warrant admission to the bar and to retain
membership in the legal profession. Admission to the bar does not
preclude a subsequent judicial inquiry, upon proper complaint, into
any question concerning the mental or moral fitness of the
[18]
respondent before he became a lawyer.
Admission to the
practice only creates the rebuttable presumption that the applicant
has all the qualifications to become a lawyer; this may be refuted by
clear and convincing evidence to the contrary even after admission
[19]
to the Bar.
Parenthetically, Article VIII Section 5(5) of the Constitution
recognizes the disciplinary authority of the Court over the members
of the Bar to be merely incidental to the Court's exclusive power to
admit applicants to the practice of law. Reinforcing the
implementation of this constitutional authority is Section 27, Rule
138 of the Rules of Court which expressly states that a member of
the bar may be disbarred or suspended from his office as attorney
by the Supreme Court for, among others, any deceit, grossly
immoral conduct, or violation of the oath that he is required to take
before admission to the practice of law.
In light of the public service character of the practice of
law and the nature of disbarment proceedings as a public interest
concern, Maelotiseas affidavit of desistance cannot have the effect
of discontinuing or abating the disbarment proceedings. As we have
stated, Maelotisea is more of a witness than a complainant in these
proceedings. We note further that she filed her affidavits of
withdrawal only after she had presented her evidence; her evidence
are now available for the Courts examination and consideration,
and their merits are not affected by her desistance. We cannot fail
to note, too, that Mealotisea filed her affidavit of desistance, not to
disown or refute the evidence she had submitted, but solely becuase
of compassion (and, impliedly, out of concern for her personal
financial interest in continuing friendly relations with Atty. Garrido).
Immoral conduct involves acts that are willful, flagrant, or
shameless, and that show a moral indifference to the opinion of the
[20]
upright and respectable members of the community. Immoral
conduct is gross when it is so corrupt as to constitute a criminal act,
or so unprincipled as to be reprehensible to a high degree, or when
committed undersuch scandalous or revolting circumstances as to
[21]
shock the communitys sense of decency.
We make these
distinctions as the supreme penalty of disbarment arising from
[22]
conduct requires grossly immoral, not simply immoral, conduct.

After due consideration, we resolve to adopt the findings


of the IBP Board of Governors against Atty. Garrido, and to reject
its recommendation with respect to Atty. Valencia.

In several cases, we applied the above standard in


considering lawyers who contracted an unlawful second marriage or
multiple marriages.

General Considerations

In Macarrubo v. Macarrubo, the respondent lawyer


entered into multiple marriages and subsequently used legal
remedies to sever them. We ruled that the respondents pattern of
misconduct undermined the institutions of marriage and family

Laws dealing with double jeopardy or with procedure such as


the verification of pleadings and prejudicial questions, or in this

[23]

institutions that this society looks up to for the rearing of our


children, for the development of values essential to the survival and
well-being of our communities, and for the strengthening of our
nation as a whole. In this light, no fate other than disbarment
awaited the wayward respondent.
[24]

In Villasanta v. Peralta, the respondent lawyer married


the complainant while his marriage with his first wife was
subsisting. We held that the respondents act of contracting the
second marriage was contrary to honesty, justice, decency and
morality. The lack of good moral character required by the Rules of
Court disqualified the respondent from admission to the Bar.
Similar to Villasanta was the case of Conjuangco, Jr. v.
[25]
Palma,
where the respondent secretly contracted a second
marriage with the daughter of his client in Hongkong. We found that
the respondent exhibited a deplorable lack of that degree of
morality required of members of the Bar. In particular, he made a
mockery of marriage a sacred institution that demands respect
and dignity. We also declared his act of contracting a second
marriage contrary to honesty, justice, decency and morality.
In this case, the undisputed facts gathered from the
evidence and the admissions of Atty. Garrido established a pattern
of gross immoral conduct that warrants his disbarment. His conduct
was not only corrupt or unprincipled; it was reprehensible to the
highest degree.
First, Atty. Garrido admitted that he left Constancia to
pursue his law studies; thereafter and during the marriage, he had
romantic relationships with other women. He had the gall to
represent to this Court that the study of law was his reason for
leaving his wife; marriage and the study of law are not mutually
exclusive.
Second, he misrepresented himself to Maelotisea as a
bachelor, when in truth he was already married to
[26]
Constancia. This was a misrepresentation given as an excuse to
lure a woman into a prohibited relationship.
Third, Atty. Garrido contracted his second marriage with
Maelotisea notwithstanding the subsistence of his first
marriage. This was an open admission, not only of an illegal liaison,
but of the commission of a crime.
Fourth, Atty. Garrido engaged in an extra-marital affair
with Atty. Valencia while his two marriages were in place and
without taking into consideration the moral and emotional
implications of his actions on the two women he took as wives and
on his six (6) children by his second marriage.
Fifth, instead of making legal amends to validate his
marriage with Maelotisea upon the death of Constancia, Atty.
Garrido married Atty. Valencia who bore him a daughter.

By his actions, Garrido committed multiple violations relating


to the legal profession, specifically, violations of the bar admission
rules, of his lawyers oath, and of the ethical rules of the profession.
He did not possess the good moral character required of a
[27]
lawyer at the time of his admission to the Bar.
As a lawyer, he
[28]
violated his lawyers oath, Section 20(a) of Rule 138 of the Rules
[29]
of Court, and Canon 1 of the Code of Professional
[30]
Responsibility, all of which commonly require him to obey the
laws of the land. In marrying Maelotisea, he committed the crime of
bigamy, as he entered this second marriage while his first marriage
with Constancia was subsisting. He openly admitted his bigamy
when he filed his petition to nullify his marriage to Maelotisea.
He violated ethical rules of the profession,
specifically, Rule 1.01 of the Code of Professional Responsibility,
which commands that he shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest,
immoral or deceitful conduct; Canon 7 of the same Code, which
demands that [a] lawyer shall at all times uphold the integrity and
dignity of the legal profession; Rule 7.03 of the Code of
Professional Responsibility, which provides that, [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.
As a lawyer, his community looked up to Atty. Garrido with the
expectation and that he would set a good example in promoting
obedience to the Constitution and the laws. When he violated the
law and distorted it to cater to his own personal needs and selfish
motives, he discredited the legal profession and created the public
impression that laws are mere tools of convenience that can be
used, bended and abused to satisfy personal whims and desires. In
this case, he also used the law to free him from unwanted
relationships.
The Court has often reminded the members of the bar to
live up to the standards and norms expected of the legal profession
by upholding the ideals and principles embodied in the Code of
[31]
Professional Responsibility.
Lawyers are bound to maintain not
only a high standard of legal proficiency, but also of morality,
[32]
including honesty, integrity and fair dealing.
Lawyers are at all
times subject to the watchful public eye and community
[33]
approbation.
Needless to state, those whose conduct both
public and private fail this scrutiny have to be disciplined and, after
[34]
appropriate proceedings, accordingly penalized.
Atty. Valencia
We agree with the findings of Investigating Commissioner San
Juan that Atty. Valencia should be administratively liable under the
circumstances for gross immorality:

Eighth, after admission to the practice of law, Atty. Garrido


simultaneously cohabited and had sexual relations with two (2)
women who at one point were both his wedded wives. He also led a
double life with two (2) families for a period of more than ten (10)
years.

x x x The contention of respondent that they


were not yet lawyers in March 27, 1978 when
they got married shall not afford them
exemption from sanctions, for good moral
character is required as a condition precedent to
admission to the Bar. Likewise there is no
distinction whether the misconduct was
committed in the lawyers professional capacity
or in his private life. Again, the claim that his
marriage to complainant was void ab initio shall
not relieve respondents from responsibility
x x x Although the second marriage of the
respondent was subsequently declared null and
void the fact remains that respondents exhibited
conduct which lacks that degree of morality
[35]
required of them as members of the Bar.

Lastly, Atty. Garrido petitioned for the nullity of his


marriage to Maelotisea. Contrary to the position advanced by Atty.
Alicia A. Risos-Vidal, this was not an act of facing up to his
responsibility or an act of mending his ways. This was an attempt,
using his legal knowledge, to escape liability for his past actions by
having his second marriage declared void after the present
complaint was filed against him.

Moral character is not a subjective term but one that


[36]
corresponds to objective reality.
To have good moral character, a
person must have the personal characteristics of being good. It is
not enough that he or she has a good reputation, i.e., the opinion
generally entertained about a person or the estimate in which he or
[37]
she is held by the public in the place where she is known.
The

Sixth, Atty. Garrido misused his legal knowledge and


convinced Atty. Valencia (who was not then a lawyer) that he was
free to marry, considering that his marriage with Maelotisea was not
valid.
Seventh, as the evidence on record implies, Atty. Garrido
married Atty. Valencia in Hongkong in an apparent attempt to
accord legitimacy to a union entered into while another marriage
was in place.

requirement of good moral character has four general purposes,


namely: (1) to protect the public; (2) to protect the public image of
lawyers; (3) to protect prospective clients; and (4) to protect errant
[38]
lawyers from themselves.
Each purpose is as important as the
other.
Under the circumstances, we cannot overlook that prior to
becoming a lawyer, Atty. Valencia already knew that Atty. Garrido
was a married man (either to Constancia or to Maelotisea), and that
he already had a family. As Atty. Garridos admitted confidante, she
was under the moral duty to give him proper advice; instead, she
entered into a romantic relationship with him for about six (6) years
during the subsistence of his two marriages. In 1978, she married
Atty. Garrido with the knowledge that he had an outstanding second
marriage. These circumstances, to our mind, support the conclusion
that she lacked good moral character; even without being a lawyer,
a person possessed of high moral values, whose confidential advice
was sought by another with respect to the latters family problems,
would not aggravate the situation by entering into a romantic liaison
with the person seeking advice, thereby effectively alienating the
other persons feelings and affection from his wife and family.
While Atty. Valencia contends that Atty. Garridos marriage
with Maelotisea was null and void, the fact remains that he took a
man away from a woman who bore him six (6) children. Ordinary
decency would have required her to ward off Atty. Garridos
advances, as he was a married man, in fact a twice-married man
with both marriages subsisting at that time; she should have said no
to Atty. Garrido from the very start. Instead, she continued her
liaison with Atty. Garrido, driving him, upon the death of Constancia,
away from legitimizing his relationship with Maelotisea and their
children. Worse than this, because of Atty. Valencias presence and
willingness, Atty. Garrido even left his second family and six children
for a third marriage with her. This scenario smacks of immorality
even if viewed outside of the prism of law.
We are not unmindful of Atty. Valencias expressed belief
that Atty. Garridos second marriage to Maelotisea was invalid;
hence, she felt free to marry Atty. Garrido. While this may be correct
in the strict legal sense and was later on confirmed by the
declaration of the nullity of Atty. Garridos marriage to Maelotisea,
we do not believe at all in the honesty of this expressed belief.
The records show that Atty. Valencia consented to be
married in Hongkong, not within the country. Given that this
marriage transpired before the declaration of the nullity of Atty.
Garridos second marriage, we can only call this Hongkong marriage
a clandestine marriage, contrary to the Filipino tradition of
celebrating a marriage together with family. Despite Atty. Valencias
claim that she agreed to marry Atty. Garrido only after he showed
her proof of his capacity to enter into a subsequent valid
[39]
marriage, the celebration of their marriage in Hongkong leads us
to the opposite conclusion; they wanted to marry in Hongkong for
the added security of avoiding any charge of bigamy by entering into
the subsequent marriage outside Philippine jurisdiction. In this
regard, we cannot help but note that Atty. Valencia afterwards
opted to retain and use her surname instead of using the surname of
her husband. Atty. Valencia, too, did not appear to mind that her
husband did not live and cohabit with her under one roof, but with
his second wife and the family of this marriage. Apparently, Atty.
Valencia did not mind at all sharing her husband with another
woman. This, to us, is a clear demonstration of Atty. Valencias
perverse sense of moral values.
Measured against the definition of gross immorality, we
find Atty. Valencias actions grossly immoral. Her actions were so
corrupt as to approximate a criminal act, for she married a man
who, in all appearances, was married to another and with whom he
has a family. Her actions were also unprincipled and reprehensible
to a high degree; as the confidante of Atty. Garrido, she preyed on
his vulnerability and engaged in a romantic relationship with him
during the subsistence of his two previous marriages. As already
mentioned, Atty. Valencias conduct could not but be scandalous
and revolting to the point of shocking the communitys sense of
decency; while she professed to be the lawfully wedded wife, she
helped the second family build a house prior to her marriage to Atty.
Garrido, and did not object to sharing her husband with the woman
of his second marriage.

We find that Atty. Valencia violated Canon 7 and Rule 7.03


of the Code of Professional Responsibility, as her behavior
demeaned the dignity of and discredited the legal profession. She
simply failed in her duty as a lawyer to adhere unwaveringly to the
[40]
[41]
highest standards of morality.
In Barrientos v. Daarol, we held
that lawyers, as officers of the court, must not only be of good moral
character but must also be seen to be of good moral character and
must lead lives in accordance with the highest moral standards of
the community. Atty. Valencia failed to live up to these standards
before she was admitted to the bar and after she became a member
of the legal profession.
Conclusion
Membership in the Bar is a privilege burdened with
conditions. As a privilege bestowed by law through the Supreme
Court, membership in the Bar can be withdrawn where
circumstances concretely show the lawyers lack of the essential
qualifications required of lawyers. We resolve to withdraw this
privilege from Atty. Angel E. Garrido and Atty. Rowena P. Valencia
for this reason.
In imposing the penalty of disbarment upon the
respondents, we are aware that the power to disbar is one to be
exercised with great caution and only in clear cases of misconduct
that seriously affects the standing and character of the lawyer as a
[42]
legal professional and as an officer of the Court.
We are convinced from the totality of the evidence on
hand that the present case is one of them. The records show the
parties pattern of grave and immoral misconduct that demonstrates
their lack of mental and emotional fitness and moral character to
qualify them for the responsibilities and duties imposed on lawyers
as professionals and as officers of the court.
While we are keenly aware of Atty. Garridos plea for
compassion and his act of supporting his children with Maelotisea
after their separation, we cannot grant his plea. The extent of his
demonstrated violations of his oath, the Rules of Court and of the
Code of Professional Responsibility overrides what under other
circumstances are commendable traits of character.
In like manner, Atty. Valencias behavior over a long period
of time unequivocally demonstrates a basic and serious flaw in her
character, which we cannot simply brush aside without undermining
the dignity of the legal profession and without placing the integrity
of the administration of justice into question. She was not an onlooker victimized by the circumstances, but a willing and knowing
full participant in a love triangle whose incidents crossed into the
illicit.
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Court resolves to:
(1) DISBAR Atty. Angel E. Garrido from the practice of
law for gross immorality, violation of the Lawyers
Oath; and violation of Rule 1.01, Canon 7 and Rule
7.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility; and
(2) DISBAR Atty. Romana P. Valencia from the practice of
law for gross immorality, violation of Canon 7 and
Rule 7.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility.
Let a copy of this Decision be attached to the personal
records of Atty. Angel E. Garrido and Atty. Romana P. Valencia in the
Office of the Bar Confidant, and another copy furnished the
Integrated Bar of the Philippines.
The Clerk of Court is directed to strike out the names
of Angel E. Garrido and Rowena P. Valencia from the Roll of
Attorneys.
SO ORDERED.

A.M. Case No. 3195. December 18, 1989


MA. LIBERTAD SJ CANTILLER, complainant,
vs. ATTY. HUMBERTO V.
POTENCIANO, respondent.
Eduardo Cabreros, Jr. for complainant.
RESOLUTION

Thereupon, the petition was filed with the Regional Trial Court,
Branch 153, Pasig, Metro Manila and docketed as Civil Case No.
55118. Respondent demanded from the complainant one thousand
pesos (P l,000.00) as attorney's fee which the latter paid that same
afternoon.
However, when the case was raffled and assigned to Branch 153, the
presiding judge asked respondent to withdraw as counsel in the case
on the ground of their friendship.

PER CURIAM
Public interest requires that an attorney exert his
best efforts and ability in the prosecution or
defense of his client's cause. A lawyer who
performs that duty with diligence and candor
not only protects the interests 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. This is so
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 or to
the public. That circumstance explains the public
concern for the maintenance of an untarnished
standard of conduct by every attorney towards
1
his client.
Subject of this administrative complaint is Humberto V. Potenciano,
a practicing lawyer and a member of the Philippine Bar under Roll
No. 21862. He is charged with deceit, fraud, and misrepresentation,
and also with gross misconduct, malpractice and of acts unbecoming
of an officer of the court.
The essential facts are as follows:

annulment of judgment. Complainant alleges that respondent


promised her that the necessary restraining order would be secured
if only because the judge who would hear the matter was his
"katsukaran" (close friend).

Complainant herein is the sister of Peregrina Cantiller, defendant in


an action for "ejectment" docketed as Civil Case No. 6046 before the
Metropolitan Trial Court of Manila, Branch 57, San Juan, Metro
Manila.
Another action, likewise involving Peregrina but this time as plaintiff,
was then pending before the Regional Trial Court, Branch 168, Pasig,
Metro Manila docketed as Civil Case No. 54117 for "reconveyance
with damages." Both actions involve the apartment unit being
rented by complainant and her sister.
When the two cases were concluded, Peregrina came out the losing
party. Civil Case No. 54117 for reconveyance was ordered dismissed
by the Regional Trial Court on June 8, 1987 while Civil Case No. 6046
for ejectment was decided by the Metropolitan Trial Court against
her.
On October 8, 1987 pursuant to the writ of execution issued in Civil
Case No. 6046 for ejectment, complainant and Peregrina were
served a notice to vacate the rented premises within four (4) days
from receipt of notice.
Desperate and at a loss on what to do, they consulted a certain
Sheriff Pagalunan, on the matter. Pagalunan, in turn, introduced
them to herein respondent. After such introduction, the parties
"impliedly agreed" that respondent would handle their case.
Forthwith, a petition entitled "Annulment of Judgment, Annulment
of Sale and Damages with prayer for Preliminary Injunction and/or
Status Quo Order, etc." was prepared by respondent to forestall the
execution of the order to vacate in Civil Case No. 6046.
In the afternoon of October 9,1987, the complainant was made to
sign by respondent what she described as a "[h]astily prepared,
3
poorly conceived, and haphazardly composed petition for

On October 11, 1987, respondent went to the house of complainant


and asked her to be ready with two thousand pesos (P 2,000.00) to
be given to another judge who will issue the restraining order in the
ejectment case (Civil Case No. 6046). Complainant and her sister
were only able to raise the amount of one thousand pesos which
they immediately gave to respondent.
Later respondent informed the complainant and her sister that he
could not locate the judge who would issue the restraining order.
The parties, then, instead went to the Max's Restaurant where
respondent ordered some food - including two plastic bags of food
allegedly to be given to the judge who would issue the restraining
order. At this juncture, respondent asked for the remaining balance
of the two thousand pesos (P 2,000.00) which he earlier demanded.
Complainant gave her last money-a ten dollar ($ 10.00) bill.
Sometime after the filing of Civil Case No. 55118, respondent
informed complainant and Peregrina that there was a need to file
another case with the Regional Trial Court to enable them to retain
possession of the apartment. For this purpose, respondent told
complainant to prepare the amount of Ten Thousand Pesos (P
10,000.00) allegedly to be deposited with the Treasurer's Office of
Pasig as purchase price of the apartment and another one thousand
pesos (P 1,000.00) to cover the expenses of the suit. Respondent
stressed to the complainant the need and urgency of filing the new
complaint.
Complainant and Peregrina raised the said amounts through the
kindness of some friends and relatives. On October 26,1987, the
money was handed over to the respondent.
On the same date, a complaint for "Specific Performance,
Annulment of Simulated or Spurious Sale with Damages," later
docketed as Civil Case No. 55210, was filed by respondent with the
Regional Trial Court, Branch 165, Pasig, Metro Manila.
At the hearing of the preliminary injunction in Civil Case No. 55118
on October 30, 1987, respondent, contrary to his promise that he
would secure a restraining order, withdrew his appearance as
counsel for complainant. Complainant was not able to get another
lawyer as replacement. Thus, no restraining order or preliminary
injunction was obtained. As a consequence, the order to vacate in
Civil Case No. 6046 was eventually enforced and executed.
Sometime thereafter, it came to complainant's knowledge that
there was really no need to make a deposit of ten thousand pesos (P
l0,000.00) relative to Civil Case No. 55210. After further inquiry, she
found out that in fact there was no such deposit made. Thus, on
December 23,1987, complainant sent a demand letter to
respondent asking for the return of the total amount of eleven
thousand pesos (P 11,000.00) which the former earlier gave to the
latter. However, this letter was never answered and the money was
never returned. Hence, complainant lodged this administrative
complaint against herein respondent.
Meanwhile, on December 29,1987, the Regional Trial Court, Branch
153, dismissed Civil Case No. 55118 for failure to state a cause of
4
action. On January 20,1988, Civil Case No. 5521 0 was likewise
5
dismissed for being identical with Civil Case No. 55118.

Respondent in his answer contends that the filing of Civil Cases Nos.
55118 and 55210 was done in good faith and that the allegations of
complainant relative to the administrative charge against him are all
lies, product of one's imagination and only intended to harrass
6
him.
This Court agrees that the petitions in Civil Cases Nos. 55118 and
55210 appear to be poorly prepared and written. having
represented himself capable of picking up the cudgels for the
apparently lost cause of complainant respondent should have
carefully prepared the pleadings if only to establish the justness of
his representation. The little time involved is no excuse.
Complainant reposed full faith in him. His first duty was to file the
best pleading within his capability. Apparently respondent was more
interested in getting the most out of the complainant who was in a
hopeless situation. He bragged about his closeness to the judge
concerned in one case and talked about the need to "buy" the
restraining order in the other. Worse still he got P 10,000.00 as
alleged deposit in court which he never deposited. Instead he
pocketed the same. The pattern to milk the complainant dry is
obvious.
When a lawyer takes a client's cause, he thereby covenants that he
will exert all effort for its prosecution until its final conclusion. The
failure to exercise due diligence or the abandonment of a client's
cause makes such lawyer unworthy of the trust which the client had
reposed on him. The acts of respondent in this case violate the most
7
elementary principles of professional ethics .
The Court finds that respondent failed to exercise due diligence in
protecting his client's interests. Respondent had knowledge
beforehand that he would be asked by the presiding judge in Civil
Case No. 55118 to withdraw his appearance as counsel by reason of
their friendship. Despite such prior knowledge, respondent took no
steps to find a replacement nor did he inform complainant of this
fact.
Even assuming that respondent had no previous knowledge that he
would be asked to withdraw, the record is quite clear that four (4)
days prior to the hearing of the preliminary injunction in Civil Case
No. 55118 respondent already filed a motion therein withdrawing as
complainant's counsel interposing as reason therefor his frequent
attacks of pain due to hemorrhoids. Despite this void, respondent
failed to find a replacement. He did not even ask complainant to hire
8
another lawyer in his stead.
His actuation is definitely inconsistent with his duty to protect with
utmost dedication the interest of his client and of the fidelity, trust
9
and confidence which he owes his client. More so in this case,
where by reason of his gross negligence complainant thereby
suffered by losing all her cases.

The allegation of respondent that the ten thousand pesos (P


10,000.00) was given to him as fee for his services, is simply
incredible. Indeed, such amount is grossly disproportionate with the
11
service he actually rendered. And his failure to return even a
portion of the amount upon demand of complainant all the more
bolsters the protestation of complainant that respondent does not
deserve to remain as an officer of the court.
Lawyers are indispensable part of the whole system of administering
justice in this jurisdiction. At a time when strong and disturbing
criticisms are being hurled at the legal profession, strict compliance
with one's oath of office and the canons of professional ethics is an
imperative.
Lawyers should be fair, honest, respectable, above suspicion and
beyond reproach in dealing with their clients. The profession is not
synonymous with an ordinary business proposition. It is a matter of
public interest.
WHEREFORE, after considering the entirety of the circumstances
present in this case, this Court finds Atty. Humberto V. Potenciano
to be guilty of the charges against him and hereby SUSPENDS him
from the practice of law for an indefinite period until such time he
can demonstrate that he has rehabilitated himself as to deserve to
resume the practice of law.
Finally, respondent is hereby ordered to return to complainant
herein the sum of eleven thousand pesos (P11,000.00) with legal
interest from the date of this resolution until it is actually returned.
SO ORDERED.

[A.C. No. 5299. August 19, 2003]

ATTY. ISMAEL G. KHAN, JR.,

Assistant Court
Administrator and Chief, Public Information
Office, complainant, vs. ATTY. RIZALINO T.
SIMBILLO,respondent.
[G.R. No. 157053. August 19, 2003]

ATTY. RIZALINO T. SIMBILLO, petitioner, vs. IBP


COMMISSION ON BAR DISCIPLINE and ATTY.
ISMAEL G. KHAN, JR., in his capacity as
Assistant Court Administrator and Chief, Public
Information Office, respondents.
RESOLUTION

The filing of Civil Case No. 55210 on October 26, 1987, the same day
that he had already filed a motion to withdraw as counsel for
complainant in Civil Case No. 55118, reveals his lack of good faith as
an advocate. He also failed to appear for the complainant in said
case. It was all a show to get more money from her. This adversely
reflects on his fitness to practice law. When confronted with this
evident irregularity, he lamely stated that while he did not physically
appear for complainant he nevertheless prepared and drafted the
pleadings.
His services were engaged by complainant hoping that the property
subject of the ejectment proceeding would be returned to her. In
fact, it was respondent who persuaded complainant that the filing of
these two cases simultaneously were the means by which this
objective can be achieved. His duty was not only to prepare the
pleadings but to represent complainant until the termination of the
cases. This he failed to do.
His representation that there was an immediate need to file Civil
Case No. 55210 when he already knew that he could no longer
10
physically handle the same is an act of deception of his client. It
shows lack of fidelity to his oath of office as a member of the
Philippine bar.

YNARES-SANTIAGO, J.:
This administrative complaint arose from a paid advertisement
that appeared in the July 5, 2000 issue of the newspaper, Philippine
Daily Inquirer, which reads: ANNULMENT OF MARRIAGE Specialist
[1]
532-4333/521-2667.
Ms. Ma. Theresa B. Espeleta, a staff member of the Public
Information Office of the Supreme Court, called up the published
telephone number and pretended to be an interested party. She
spoke to Mrs. Simbillo, who claimed that her husband, Atty. Rizalino
Simbillo, was an expert in handling annulment cases and can
guarantee a court decree within four to six months, provided the
case will not involve separation of property or custody of
children. Mrs. Simbillo also said that her husband charges a fee of
P48,000.00, half of which is payable at the time of filing of the case
and the other half after a decision thereon has been rendered.
Further research by the Office of the Court Administrator and
the Public Information Office revealed that similar advertisements
were published in the August 2 and 6, 2000 issues of theManila
[2]
Bulletin and August 5, 2000 issue of The Philippine Star.

On September 1, 2000, Atty. Ismael G. Khan, Jr., in his capacity


as Assistant Court Administrator and Chief of the Public Information
Office, filed an administrative complaint against Atty. Rizalino T.
Simbillo for improper advertising and solicitation of his legal
services, in violation of Rule 2.03 and Rule 3.01 of the Code of
Professional Responsibility and Rule 138, Section 27 of the Rules of
[3]
Court.
In his answer, respondent admitted the acts imputed to him,
but argued that advertising and solicitation per se are not prohibited
acts; that the time has come to change our views about the
prohibition on advertising and solicitation; that the interest of the
public is not served by the absolute prohibition on lawyer
advertising; that the Court can lift the ban on lawyer advertising;
and that the rationale behind the decades-old prohibition should be
abandoned. Thus, he prayed that he be exonerated from all the
charges against him and that the Court promulgate a ruling that
advertisement of legal services offered by a lawyer is not contrary to
[4]
law, public policy and public order as long as it is dignified.
The case was referred to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines
[5]
for investigation, report and recommendation. On June 29, 2002,
the IBP Commission on Bar Discipline passed Resolution No. XV[6]
2002-306, finding respondent guilty of violation of Rules 2.03 and
3.01 of the Code of Professional Responsibility and Rule 138, Section
27 of the Rules of Court, and suspended him from the practice of
law for one (1) year with the warning that a repetition of similar acts
would be dealt with more severely. The IBP Resolution was noted
[7]
by this Court on November 11, 2002.
In the meantime, respondent filed an Urgent Motion for
[8]
Reconsideration, which was denied by the IBP in Resolution No.
[9]
XV-2002-606 dated October 19, 2002
Hence, the instant petition for certiorari, which was docketed
as G.R. No. 157053 entitled, Atty. Rizalino T. Simbillo,
Petitioner versus IBP Commission on Bar Discipline, Atty. Ismael G.
Khan, Jr., Asst. Court Administrator and Chief, Public Information
Office, Respondents. This petition was consolidated with A.C. No.
5299 per the Courts Resolution dated March 4, 2003.
In a Resolution dated March 26, 2003, the parties were
required to manifest whether or not they were willing to submit the
[10]
case for resolution on the basis of the pleadings. Complainant filed
his Manifestation on April 25, 2003, stating that he is not submitting
any additional pleading or evidence and is submitting the case for its
early resolution on the basis of pleadings and records
[11]
thereof. Respondent, on the other hand, filed a Supplemental
Memorandum on June 20, 2003.
We agree with the IBPs Resolutions Nos. XV-2002-306 and XV2002-606.
Rules 2.03 and 3.01 of the Code of Professional Responsibility
read:
Rule 2.03. A lawyer shall not do or permit to be done any act
designed primarily to solicit legal business.
Rule 3.01. A lawyer shall not use or permit the use of any false,
fraudulent, misleading, deceptive, undignified, self-laudatory or
unfair statement or claim regarding his qualifications or legal
services.
Rule 138, Section 27 of the Rules of Court states:

meant to be a money-making venture, and law advocacy is not a


[13]
capital that necessarily yields profits. The gaining of a livelihood
[14]
should be a secondary consideration. The duty to public service
and to the administration of justice should be the primary
consideration of lawyers, who must subordinate their personal
[15]
interests or what they owe to themselves. The following elements
distinguish the legal profession from a business:
1.

A duty of public service, of which the emolument is


a by-product, and in which one may attain the
highest eminence without making much money;

2.

A relation as an officer of the court to the


administration of justice involving thorough
sincerity, integrity and reliability;

3.

A relation to clients in the highest degree of


fiduciary;

4.

A relation to colleagues at the bar characterized by


candor, fairness, and unwillingness to resort to
current business methods of advertising and
encroachment on their practice, or dealing
[16]
directly with their clients.

There is no question that respondent committed the acts


complained of. He himself admits that he caused the publication of
the advertisements. While he professes repentance and begs for
the Courts indulgence, his contrition rings hollow considering the
fact that he advertised his legal services again after he pleaded for
compassion and after claiming that he had no intention to violate
the rules. Eight months after filing his answer, he again advertised
his legal services in the August 14, 2001 issue of the Buy & Sell Free
[17]
Ads Newspaper. Ten months later, he caused the same
advertisement to be published in the October 5, 2001 issue of Buy &
[18]
Sell. Such acts of respondent are a deliberate and contemptuous
affront on the Courts authority.
What adds to the gravity of respondents acts is that in
advertising himself as a self-styled Annulment of Marriage
Specialist, he wittingly or unwittingly erodes and undermines not
only the stability but also the sanctity of an institution still
considered sacrosanct despite the contemporary climate of
permissiveness in our society. Indeed, in assuring prospective
clients that an annulment may be obtained in four to six months
[19]
from the time of the filing of the case, he in fact encourages
people, who might have otherwise been disinclined and would have
refrained from dissolving their marriage bonds, to do so.
Nonetheless, the solicitation of legal business is not altogether
proscribed. However, for solicitation to be proper, it must be
compatible with the dignity of the legal profession. If it is made in a
modest and decorous manner, it would bring no injury to the lawyer
[20]
and to the bar. Thus, the use of simple signs stating the name or
names of the lawyers, the office and residence address and fields of
practice, as well as advertisement in legal periodicals bearing the
same brief data, are permissible. Even the use of calling cards is
[21]
now acceptable. Publication in reputable law lists, in a manner
consistent with the standards of conduct imposed by the canon, of
brief biographical and informative data is likewise allowable. As
[22]
explicitly stated in Ulep v. Legal Clinic, Inc.:

SEC. 27. Disbarment and 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 the admission to practice, or for a willful
disobedience appearing as attorney for a party without authority to
do so.

Such data must not be misleading and may include only a statement
of the lawyers name and the names of his professional associates;
addresses, telephone numbers, cable addresses; branches of law
practiced; date and place of birth and admission to the bar; schools
attended with dates of graduation, degrees and other educational
distinctions; public or quasi-public offices; posts of honor; legal
authorships; legal teaching positions; membership and offices in bar
associations and committees thereof, in legal and scientific societies
and legal fraternities; the fact of listings in other reputable law lists;
the names and addresses of references; and, with their written
consent, the names of clients regularly represented.

It has been repeatedly stressed that the practice of law is not a


[12]
business. It is a profession in which duty to public service, not
money, is the primary consideration. Lawyering is not primarily

The law list must be a reputable law list published primarily for that
purpose; it cannot be a mere supplemental feature of a paper,
magazine, trade journal or periodical which is published principally

for other purposes. For that reason, a lawyer may not properly
publish his brief biographical and informative data in a daily paper,
magazine, trade journal or society program. Nor may a lawyer
permit his name to be published in a law list the conduct,
management, or contents of which are calculated or likely to deceive
or injure the public or the bar, or to lower dignity or standing of the
profession.
The use of an ordinary simple professional card is also permitted.
The card may contain only a statement of his name, the name of the
law firm which he is connected with, address, telephone number
and special branch of law practiced. The publication of a simple
announcement of the opening of a law firm or of changes in the
partnership, associates, firm name or office address, being for the
convenience of the profession, is not objectionable. He may
likewise have his name listed in a telephone directory but not under
a designation of special branch of law. (emphasis and italics
supplied)
WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, respondent RIZALINO T.
SIMBILLO is found GUILTY of violation of Rules 2.03 and 3.01 of the
Code of Professional Responsibility and Rule 138, Section 27 of the
Rules of Court. He is SUSPENDED from the practice of law for ONE
(1) YEAR effective upon receipt of this Resolution. He is likewise
STERNLY WARNED that a repetition of the same or similar offense
will be dealt with more severely.
Let copies of this Resolution be entered in his record as
attorney and be furnished the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and
all courts in the country for their information and guidance.
SO ORDERED.