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August 2012 Philippine Supreme Court

Decisions on Legal and Judicial Ethics


Here are select August 2012 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on legal
and judicial ethics:

Attorney; failure to account for money. The Code of Professional Responsibility


provides:
Canon 16-A lawyer shall hold in trust all moneys and properties of his client that
may come into his possession.
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.
Money entrusted to a lawyer for a specific purpose but not used for the purpose,
should be immediately returned. A lawyers failure to return upon demand the funds
held by him on behalf of his client gives rise to the presumption that he has
appropriated the same for his own use in violation of the trust reposed in him by his
client. Such act is a gross violation of general morality as well as of professional
ethics. It impairs public confidence in the legal profession and deserves punishment.
Emilia O. Dhaliwal vs. Atty. Abelardo B. Dumaguing. A.C. No. 9390, August 1, 2012.
Attorney; grave misconduct and dishonesty. The purpose of disbarment is to protect
the courts and the public from the misconduct of the officers of the court and to
ensure the administration of justice by requiring that those who exercise this
important function shall be competent, honorable and trustworthy men in whom
courts and clients may repose confidence. The Court cited the case of In Re: Sotto
and ruled that One of the qualifications required of a candidate for admission to
the bar is the possession of good moral character, and, when one who has already
been admitted to the bar clearly shows, by a series of acts, that he does not follow
such moral principles as should govern the conduct of an upright person, and that,
in his dealings with his clients and with the courts, he disregards the rule of
professional ethics required to be observed by every attorney, it is the duty of the
court, as guardian of the interests of society, as well as of the preservation of the

ideal standard of professional conduct, to make use of its powers to deprive him of
his professional attributes which he so unworthily abused.
Rule 1.01 of the Code of Professional Responsibility states that a lawyer shall not
engage in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct. The Code exacts from
lawyers not only a firm respect for law, legal processes but also mandates the
utmost degree of fidelity and good faith in dealing with clients and the moneys
entrusted to them pursuant to their fiduciary relationship.
Pursuant to Section 27, Rule 138 of the Rules of Court, respondent may either be
disbarred or suspended for committing deceitful and dishonest acts. This rule
provides
that
in
any
of
the
following
circumstances,
to
wit:
(1) deceit; (2) malpractice; (3) gross misconduct; (4) grossly immoral conduct;(5)
conviction of a crime involving moral turpitude; (6) violation of the lawyers oath;
(7) willful disobedience of any lawful order of a superior court; or (8) corruptly or
willfully appearing as an attorney for a party to a case without authority to do
so; the Court is vested with the authority and discretion to impose either the
extreme penalty of disbarment or mere suspension. Grace M. Anacta vs. Atty.
Eduardo D. Resurrecction. A.C. No. 9074, August 14, 2012.
Attorney; immorality. The practice of law is considered a privilege bestowed by the
State on those who show that they possess and continue to possess the legal
qualifications for the profession. As such, lawyers are expected to maintain at all
times a high standard of legal proficiency, morality, honesty, integrity and fair
dealing, and must perform their four-fold duty to society, the legal profession, the
courts and their clients, in accordance with the values and norms embodied in the
Code. Lawyers may, thus, be disciplined for any conduct that is wanting of the
above standards whether in their professional or in their private capacity.
The settled rule is that betrayal of the marital vow of fidelity or 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. Respondent violated the Lawyers Oath14
and Rule 1.01, Canon 1 of the Code which proscribes a lawyer from engaging in
unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct. Engr.Gilbert Tumbokon vs. Atty.
Mariano R. Pefianco. A.C. No. 6116, August 1, 2012
Attorney; representing conflicting interest. Canon 15, Rule 15.03 of the Code of
Professional Responsibility provides that a lawyer cannot represent conflicting
interests except by written consent of all concerned given after a full disclosure of
the facts.
An attorney owes his client undivided allegiance. Because of the highly fiduciary
nature of their relationship, sound public policy dictates that he be prohibited from
representing conflicting interests or discharging inconsistent duties. An attorney
may not, without being guilty of professional misconduct, act as counsel for a
person whose interest conflicts with that of his present or former client. This rule is
so absolute that good faith and honest intention on the erring lawyers part does not
make it inoperative. The reason for this is that a lawyer acquires knowledge of his
former clients doings, whether documented or not, that he would ordinarily not
have acquired were it not for the trust and confidence that his client placed on him

in the light of their relationship. It would simply be impossible for the lawyer to
identify and erase such entrusted knowledge with faultless precision or lock the
same into an iron box when suing the former client on behalf of a new one. Santos
Ventura Hocorma Foundation, Inc., represented by Gabriel H. Abad vs. Atty. Richard
V. Funk. A.C. No. 9094, August 15, 2012
Attorney; sharing of fees with non- lawyers. Respondents defense that forgery had
attended the execution of the August 11, 1995 letter was belied by his July 16, 1997
letter admitting to have undertaken the payment of complainants commission but
passing on the responsibility to Sps. Yap. Clearly, respondent has violated Rule 9.02,
Canon 9 of the Code which prohibits a lawyer from dividing or stipulating to divide a
fee for legal services with persons not licensed to practice law, except in certain
cases which do not obtain in the case at bar. Engr. Gilbert Tumbokon vs. Atty.
Mariano R. Pefianco. A.C. No. 6116, August 1, 2012.
Court personnel; disgraceful and immoral conduct. Immorality has been defined to
include not only sexual matters but also conduct inconsistent with rectitude, or
indicative of corruption, indecency, depravity, and dissoluteness; or is willful,
flagrant or shameless conduct showing moral indifference to opinions of respectable
members of the community, and an inconsiderate attitude toward good order and
public welfare. Respondent engaged in sexual relations with a married man which
not only violate the moral standards expected of employees of the Judiciary but is
also a desecration of the sanctity of the institution of marriage.
The Code of Judicial Ethics mandates that the conduct of court personnel must be
free from any whiff of impropriety, not only with respect to his duties in the judicial
branch but also to his behavior outside the court as a private individual. There is no
dichotomy of morality; a court employee is also judged by his private morals. The
exacting standards of morality and decency have been strictly adhered to and laid
down by the Court to those in the service of the Judiciary. Respondent, as a court
stenographer, did not live up to her commitment to lead a moral life.
Public office is a public trust. The good of the service and the degree of
morality, which every official and employee in the public service must
observe, if respect and confidence are to be maintained by the Government in
the enforcement of the law, demand that no untoward conduct affecting
morality, integrity, and efficiency while holding office should be left without proper
and
commensurate
sanction,
all
attendant
circumstances
taken
into
account. Judge Armando S. Adlawan, Presiding Judge, 6th MCTC, Bonifacio-Don
Mariano Marcos, Misamis Occidental vs. Estrella P. Capilitan, 6th MCTC, BonifacioDon Mariano Marcos, Misamis Occidental. A.M. No. P-12-3080. August 29, 2012
Court personnel; dishonesty and falsification of public document.
Willful
concealment of facts in the Personal Data Sheet (PDS) constitutes mental
dishonesty amounting to misconduct. Likewise, making a false statement in ones
PDS amounts to dishonesty and falsification of an official document. Dishonesty has
been defined as intentionally making a false statement on any material fact.
Dishonesty evinces a disposition to lie, cheat, deceive or defraud;

untrustworthiness; lack of integrity, lack of honesty, probity or integrity in principle;


lack of fairness and straightforwardness; disposition to defraud, deceive or betray.
Civil service rules mandate the accomplishment of the PDS as a requirement for
employment in the government. Hence, making false statements in ones PDS is
ultimately connected with ones employment in the government. The employee
making false statements in his or her PDS becomes liable for falsification. Moreover,
for respondent to be meted the penalty of dismissal, her dishonesty need not be
committed in the performance of official duty.
As the Court has previously ruled: The rationale for the rule is that if a government
officer or employee is dishonest or is guilty of oppression or grave misconduct, even
if said defects of character are not connected with his office, they affect his right to
continue in office. The Government cannot tolerate in its service a dishonest official,
even if he performs his duties correctly and well, because by reason of his
government position, he is given more and ample opportunity to commit acts of
dishonesty against his fellow men, even against offices and entities of the
government other than the office where he is employed; and by reason of his office,
he enjoys and possesses a certain influence and power which renders the victims of
his grave misconduct, oppression and dishonesty less disposed and prepared to
resist
and
to
counteract
his
evil
acts
and
actuations.
When official documents are falsified, intent to injure a third person is irrelevant
because the principal thing punished is the violation of public faith and the
destruction of the truth as claimed in that document. The act undermines the
integrity of government records and therein lies the prejudice to public service. The
act need not result in disruption of service or loss to the government. It is the act of
dishonesty itself that taints the integrity of government service. A government
officers dishonesty affects the morale of the service, even when it stems from the
employees personal dealings. Such conduct should not be tolerated from
government officials, even when official duties are performed well.
Employment in the judiciary demands the highest degree of responsibility, integrity,
loyalty and efficiency from its personnel. All judiciary employees are expected to
conduct themselves with propriety and decorum at all times . An act that falls short
of the exacting standards set for public officers, especially those in the judiciary,
shall not be countenanced. Manolito C. Villordon vs. Marilyn C. Avila, Court
Interpreter I, Municipal Trial Court in Cities. Branch 3, Cebu City. A.M. No. P-102809, August 10, 2012
Court personnel; neglect of duty. Simple neglect of duty is defined as the failure to
give attention to a task or the disregard of a duty due to carelessness or
indifference. The Court ruled in Pilipina v. Roxas: The Court cannot countenance
neglect of duty for even simple neglect of duty lessens the peoples confidence in
the judiciary and ultimately in the administration of justice. By the very nature of
their duties and responsibilities, public servants must faithfully adhere to, hold
sacred and render inviolate the constitutional principle that a public office is a public
trust; that all public officers and employees must at all times be accountable to the
people, serve them with utmost responsibility, integrity, loyalty and
efficiency. Memoranda of Judge Eliza B. Yu issued to Legal Researcher Marie Joy P.
Lagman and to Court Stenographer Soledad J. Bassig, all of Metropolitan Trial Court,
Branch 47, Pasay City. A.M. No. P-12-3033, August 15, 2012.

Court personnel; simple neglect of duty. Rule 39, Section 14 of the Rules of Court
clearly mandates the sheriff or other proper officer to file a return and when
necessary, periodic reports, with the court which issued the writ of execution. The
writ of execution shall be returned to the court immediately after the judgment had
been partially or fully satisfied. In case the writ is still unsatisfied or only partially
satisfied 30 days after the officers receipt of the same, said officer shall file a report
with the court stating the reasons therefor. Subsequently, the officer shall
periodically file with the court a report on the proceedings taken to enforce the writ
every 30 days until said writ is fully satisfied or its effectivity expires. The officer is
further required to furnish the parties with copies of the return and periodic reports.
Difficulties or obstacles in the satisfaction of a final judgment and execution of a
writ do not excuse respondents total inaction. Neither the Rules nor jurisprudence
recognizes any exception from the periodic filing of reports by sheriffs It is almost
trite to say that execution is the fruit and end of the suit and is the life of law. A
judgment, if left unexecuted, would be nothing but an empty victory for the
prevailing party. Therefore, sheriffs ought to know that they have a sworn
responsibility to serve writs of execution with utmost dispatch. When writs are
placed in their hands, it is their ministerial duty to proceed with reasonable celerity
and promptness to execute them in accordance with their mandate. Unless
restrained by a court order, they should see to it that the execution of judgments is
not unduly delayed. Accordingly, they must comply with their mandated ministerial
duty as speedily as possible. As agents of the law, high standards are expected of
sheriffs
Canon IV, Section 1 of the Code of Conduct for Court Personnel that reads, Court
personnel shall at all times perform official duties properly and with diligence.
Astorga and Repol Law Offices, represented by Atty. Arnold B. Lugares vs. Leodel
N. Roxas, Sheriff IV, Regional Trial Court, Branch 66, Makati City. A.M. No. P-123029, August 15, 2012.
Attorney; representation of non-client. Atty. Espejos claim that he drafted and
signed the pleading just to extend assistance to Rodica deserves scant
consideration. It is true that under Rules 2.01and 2.02, Canon 2 of the Code of
Professional Responsibility, a lawyer shall not reject, except for valid reasons, the
cause of the defenseless or the oppressed, and in such cases, even if he does not
accept a case, shall not refuse to render legal advice to the person concerned if only
to the extent necessary to safeguard the latters right. However, in this case, Rodica
cannot be considered as defenseless or oppressed considering that she is properly
represented by counsel in the RTC case. Needless to state, her rights are amply
safeguarded. It would have been different had Rodica not been represented by any
lawyer, which, however, is not the case. The Court wonders why Atty. Espejo,
knowing fully well that Rodica is not their law firms client and without the
knowledge and consent of his superiors, gave in to Rodicas request for him to
indicate in the said motion the names of his law firm, Atty. Manuel and Atty. Michelle
for the purpose of giving more weight and credit to the pleading. As a member of
the bar, Atty. Espejo ought to know that motions and pleadings filed in courts are
acted upon in accordance with their merit or lack of it, and not on the reputation of

the law firm or the lawyer filing the same. More importantly, he should have thought
that in so doing, he was actually assisting Rodica in misrepresenting before the RTC
that she was being represented by the said law firm and lawyers, when in truth she
was not. It is well to remind Atty. Espejo that before being a friend to Rodica, he is
first and foremost an officer of the court. Hence, he is expected to maintain a high
standard of honesty and fair dealings and must conduct himself beyond reproach at
all times. He must likewise ensure that he acts within the bounds of reason and
common sense, always aware that he is an instrument of truth and justice. Jasper
Junno F. Rodica vs. Atty. Manuel M. Lazaro, et al. A.C. No. 9259, August 23, 2012