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[A.M. No. P-05-1940.

February 28, 2005]

Republic of the Philippines
A.M. No. P-05-1940

February 28, 2005

CITY, Respondent.
Judge Leah Domingo-Regala, Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 226, Quezon City, has charged Ma.
Donna Y. Sultan, Legal Researcher of the same court, with Inefficiency, Habitual Absenteeism, Tardiness,
Falsification of Daily Time Record, Dishonesty, and Conduct Prejudicial to the Service.
In a referral letter dated 12 May 2000, Court Administrator Bernardo T. Ponferrada requested Judge
Regala to comment on the unauthorized leave of absence for the period 1-29 October 1999, 3-29
November 1999, and 1-3 and 06 December 1999, of Ma. Donna Y. Sultan. Said absences were the
subject of a letter by Ma. Donna Sultan addressed to the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA)
complaining the disapproval by Judge Regala of her applications for leave on the above-mentioned dates.
In her comment dated 05 June 2000, Judge Regala alleges that Ma. Donna Sultan is guilty of habitual
absenteeism as defined by Administrative Circular No. 1-91 for having incurred unauthorized absences
exceeding the allowable 2.5 days monthly leave credits for at least three (3) months in a semester:
June 1999 --------------8 days
July 1999 ---------------2 days
August 1999 -----------3 days
September 1999 ------5 days
October 1999 ---------21 days
November 1999 ------19 days
December 1999 -------3 days
January 2000 ----------2 days

February 2000 ---------1 day

March 2000 -------------1 day
May 2000 ----------------7 days1
Said circular states that "an officer or employee in the civil service shall be considered habitually absent if
he incurs unauthorized absences exceeding the allowable 2.5 days monthly leave credit under the leave
law for at least three (3) months in a semester or at least three (3) consecutive months during the year."
She added further that Ma. Donna Sultan had always gone on extended leave of absence without filing
applications for leave in advance, also in violation of said Circular.
On the charge of tardiness and falsification of daily time record, Judge Regala claims that respondent has
always been tardy in reporting for work and signs the office logbook with a time earlier than that of her
actual arrival. Said entries in the logbook are reflected in her daily time record. Moreover, complainant
alleges that Ma. Donna Sultan leaves at about eleven oclock in the morning to take long lunch breaks out
of the office and comes back long after two oclock in the afternoon.
With respect to the charge of incompetence, complainant claims that Ma. Donna Sultan cannot carry out
proper legal research, that is, she cannot find cases in point; neither can she come up with the latest
jurisprudence on the subject matter assigned to her and instead copies verbatim from textbooks. Judge
Regala finds respondent not suited for the job. Judge Regala maintains that Ma. Donna Sultan is slow to
learn, requires frequent instruction, and finds difficulty in adjusting herself to new tasks, methods and
details of work.2
Regarding the imputation of dishonesty, complainant alleges that in the month of October, when
respondent went on an extended leave, respondent misled her and the members of her staff to believe
that respondents daughter was confined in Malvar General Hospital for days, which upon verification,
was discovered to be untrue.
Judge Regala asserts that respondent often goes out of the office to talk to lawyers who have cases
before Branch 226, RTC, Quezon City, and that she engages in long telephone conversations during
office hours. Said acts, according to complainant, constitute conduct prejudicial to the service.
Respondent does not deny that she has incurred the alleged absences but states that except for the
months of October, November, and December 1999, all her absences were authorized, with the
corresponding applications for leave duly filed and approved. For the absences she incurred for the
above-mentioned months, respondent did file the required applications for leave but all were disapproved.
Respondent now evokes the forgiveness of Judge Regala, and her understanding, for it was during said
period that respondent suffered a very serious family problem and had to absent herself from work to
attend to said dilemma.
With respect to the accusations of habitual tardiness, respondent maintains that Judge Regala had given
her staff a grace period of thirty (30) minutes from 8:00 a.m., or up to 8:30 a.m., to time-in without being
considered late. Respondent admits that there were instances when she arrives after 8:30 a.m. but these
late arrivals are all properly reflected in the logbook and on her daily time records. Respondent further
denies that she is usually out of the office the whole day, and, if ever she had to go out of the office,
respondent would always ask permission from either the Branch Clerk of Court or Judge Regala herself.
Apropos her alleged incompetence, respondent claims that as a law graduate, she at least has the basic
knowledge of law and legal research. Respondent stresses that in any task assigned to her, she tries to
fulfill it to the best of her abilities. Respondent admits that at times she commits errors and mistakes in the
performance of her duties, she however discloses that she was looking forward to the guidance and

tutelage of Judge Regala in order to enhance her work. Moreover, respondent pointed out that although
complainant had recently given her a performance rating of "Unsatisfactory," the latter had earlier given
her a rating of "Very Satisfactory."
Regarding the imputation that respondent has misled the court to believe that her absence was due to her
daughters confinement in the hospital, respondent maintains that she did not tell a member of the staff of
Branch 226, RTC, Quezon City, that she confined her daughter at Malvar General Hospital; rather, she
told her officemate Evelyn Borela that she would bring her daughter to said hospital as an out-patient for
medical examinations. Respondent is apologetic if any misunderstanding occurred because of her failure
to personally inform Judge Regala regarding her whereabouts.
Lastly, respondent asserts that she will not compromise her employment by going out of the office to talk
to lawyers who have cases before the court. Respondent explains that when lawyers and litigants come
to their office to inquire regarding the status of their cases, there were instances when respondent had to
attend to them, especially when the person in charge was not around. 3 As to the use of the office
telephone, respondent maintains that she only uses the phone to answer incoming calls but sees to it that
she does not take long in deference to other official calls.
Due to the fact that the instant administrative case involves several issues which could not be resolved by
merely going over the pleadings submitted by the parties, the Court, per recommendation of the OCA,
referred the matter to Hon. Monina Arevalo Zearosa, 4 then Executive Judge, RTC, Quezon City, for
investigation, report and recommendation.5 Judge Zearosa was succeeded by Judge Catral Mendoza, 6
who, in turn was succeeded by Judge Natividad Giron Dizon as Executive Judge of RTC, Quezon City,
and investigating judge of the case. However, in view of the numerous cases the latter inherited from her
predecessors-in-office, Executive Judge Dizon designated Judge Jaime N. Salazar, Jr., 3rd Vice
Executive Judge of Quezon City, Branch 103, to conduct the investigation in the instant case. 7
In his Resolution and Recommendation dated 19 November 2002, Investigating Judge Salazar found
respondent liable for incompetence and habitual absenteeism, but absolved respondent as regards the
charges of habitual tardiness, falsification of daily time record, and conduct prejudicial to the service due
to insufficiency of evidence. The Investigating Judge recommended that respondent be reprimanded for
incompetence, but refrained from recommending any penalty for habitual absenteeism in deference to the
evaluation of the OCA.
In a Report dated 19 October 2004, the OCA affirmed the findings of the Investigating Judge pertaining to
respondents liability for inefficiency and habitual absenteeism but overturned the recommendation
absolving respondent from the charge of conduct prejudicial to the service. According to the OCA:
Investigating Judge observed that, as by her admission, respondent was "quite ill-prepared for the job"
and the present scenario is not unique between complainant and respondent. The qualification that a law
graduate can be appointed legal researcher and the low salary attached to the position are to be blamed
for the "low quality performance of plenty of RTC researchers." Law graduates who are "bright" usually
pass the bar. Respondent expected guidance from complainant as her judge. The Investigating Judge
concurs as it "can be expected since a law graduate from U.E. with no academic background on legal
bibliography and no professional background on legal research can only expect guidance from her Judge
and possibly, the Branch Clerk of Court, in the course of her work."
We do not subscribe to the alibis proffered that the qualifications for the position of legal researcher and
the low salary attached to the position are the causes for poor quality of work turned in by legal
researchers. The generalization of Investigating Judge regarding the substandard capability of legal
researchers to deliver decent service being mere law graduates is not only unfounded but unfair as
well. . . This statement is tantamount to saying that incompetence is to be expected from legal
researchers. Public office is public trust. As all others in public service, respondent is expected to execute
her duties with efficiency and competence. Nothing less is expected of her.

The investigation revealed that respondent incurred unauthorized absences on the following months:
October 1999
20 days
November 1999
19 days
December 1999
4 days
It was also found that respondent went on AWOL primarily due to serious family emergency.l^
When she returned to work in December and found the atmosphere in the court hostile, she incurred
additional absences to work on her transfer to another court. Respondent submits to the findings of the
Investigating Judge and pleads to complainant for understanding and forgiveness.
It is noted that prior to respondent going on AWOL, respondent met no problem getting the approval for
her applications for leave. It was when respondent went on prolonged unauthorized absences and
complainant started asking for her whereabouts that the approval of her applications for leave became an
issue. Records show that respondent failed to exert efforts to inform complainant of her dire domestic
situation. Information reaching complainant regarding respondent during her absence were relayed by
officemates with whom respondent kept in touch.
Respondents violation of the rule on filing applications for leave is apparent in her narration of facts. She
went on leave without seeking proper permission from her superior. When the family crisis came about,
she was still able to go to the court to get her ATM card yet she was not able to file her application for
leave. On the occasions that she called the office, she was reminded to file her leave of absence and to
speak with complainant who was already looking for her, but she did not do either. She called the office
daily, but she never asked to speak with complainant. . .
Respondents absences on the relevant months qualify as habitual absenteeism as defined and penalized
in Administrative Circular No. 14-2002 (Re: Reiterating the Civil Service Commissions Policy on Habitual
Absenteeism) citing Memorandum Circular No. 04, s. 1991, which provides to wit:
A. Habitual Absenteeism
1. An officer or employee in the civil service shall be considered habitually absent if he incurs
unauthorized absences exceeding the allowable 2.5 days monthly leave credit under the leave law for at
least three (3) months in a semester or at least three (3) consecutive months during the year.
The investigation confirmed the allegation that respondent has been seen talking to lawyers and litigants
and talks to the phone very often. However, there is no showing that respondent (sic) conduct was
inimical to the service or resulted in any kind of corruption. The investigation report rationalized that "(t)he
courts are service-oriented line or field agencies of the Judiciary it is inevitable for lawyers and litigants
to talk to court personnel when they want to inquire about some administrative problems or things they do
not understand that are related to their case."
We agree with qualification, the word (sic) "very often" being the definitive word (sic). While it is true that
courts are service-oriented, as legal researcher, the service expected from respondent is more in the

nature of doing valuable research work than in actually entertaining queries from parties and counsel.
Responding to queries are better performed by other court employees, such as the clerks in charge of the
cases, or the branch clerk of court, as needed, who are more acquainted with the records and the status
of the cases pending in the court.
In sum, respondents conduct falls short of the exacting standards of public office. Section 52, A (16, 17,
20), Rule IV, Resolution No. 991936, series of 1999 of the Civil Service Commission (Uniform Rules on
Administrative Cases in the Civil Service) classifies inefficiency, frequent unauthorized absences and
conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service as grave offenses. Each offense carries an
imposable penalty of six (6) months and one (1) day to one (1) year. Considering, however, respondents
poignant open admission of her "excesses and shortcomings" and her plea to complainant for forgiveness
and understanding, we are moved to temper our view of her actuations with altruistic consideration and
recommend the lightest penalty possible for all three offenses. 8
Holding respondent liable for inefficiency, habitual absenteeism, and conduct prejudicial to the best
interest of the service, the OCA recommended that respondent be suspended from the service for six (6)
months without pay.
We agree in the findings of the OCA.
As enunciated by the Court in several cases,9 no other office in the government service exacts a greater
demand for moral righteousness and uprightness from an employee than the judiciary. The conduct and
behavior of everyone connected with an office charged with the dispensation of justice, from the presiding
judge to the lowliest clerk, must always be beyond reproach and must be circumscribed with the heavy
burden of responsibility.10 Public officers must be accountable to the people at all times and serve them
with the utmost degree of responsibility and efficiency. Any act which falls short of the exacting standards
for public office, especially on the part of those expected to preserve the image of the judiciary, shall not
be countenanced.11 It is the imperative and sacred duty of each and everyone in the court to maintain its
good name and standing as a true temple of justice. 12
When respondent incurred several absences during the months of October, November, and December
1999, she was indeed confronted with a passionately difficult family problem due to the discovery that her
unwed, student daughter is pregnant.13 The fact that said daughter suffered relapse after giving birth
resulted in respondents need to absent herself from work to attend to her sick daughter and the newborn
baby. Furthermore, respondent has been unabashedly admitting her excesses and shortcomings, and
has been sincerely beseeching for complainants forgiveness and understanding. Records also disclose
that this is respondents first offense.
In the recent case of Monserate v. Adolfo,14 the Court, in imposing a penalty on a court employee who has
been previously found guilty of gross inefficiency, absenteeism and failure to serve summons, declared
that "[m]oral obligations, humanitarian consideration, [and] performance of household chores are not
reasons sufficient to warrant exemption. . . If at all, these facts may only be considered in mitigating
respondents liability." Thus, instead of imposing the penalty of dismissal as prescribed for the second
offense of frequent unauthorized absences, the Court, taking into consideration mitigating circumstances
present in the said case, imposed a fine of Twenty Thousand Pesos (P20,000).
Considering, thus, the presence of mitigating circumstances in herein case, and the fact that this is
respondents first offense, the Court resolves to modify the penalty recommended.1awphi1.nt
WHEREFORE, the Court hereby adopts the findings of the Office of the Court Administrator, but hereby
MODIFIES the penalty recommended.l^ As modified, respondent MA. DONNA Y. SULTAN is

hereby SUSPENDED from the service for three (3) months without pay. She is STERNLY WARNED that
a repetition of the same acts shall be dealt with more severely.
Puno, (Chairman), Austria-Martinez, Callejo, Sr., and Tinga, JJ., concur.


Rollo, p. 30.

Rollo, p. 31.

Rollo, p. 102.

Now Associate Justice of the Court of Appeals.

Per resolution dated 11 September 2002 of the Second Division of the Court.

Now Associate Justice of the Court of Appeals.

Rollo, p. 237.

Rollo, pp. 238-241.

Aquino v. Fernandez, A.M. No. P-01-1475, 17 October 2003, 413 SCRA 597; Madrid v.
Quebral, A.M. No. P-03-1744, 07 October 2003, 413 SCRA 1; Andal v. Tonga, A.M. No.
P-02-1581, 28 October 2003, 414 SCRA 524.

Ibay v. Lim, P-99-1309, 11 September 2000, 340 SCRA 107.


Reyes-Macabeo v. Valle, A.M. No. P-02-1650, 03 April 2003, 400 SCRA 478; Clerk of
Court Quidilla, Jr. v. Armida, A.M. No. P-03-1695, 21 April 2003, 401 SCRA 107.

Supra, note 10.


Rollo, p. 207.


A.M. No. P-04-1823, 12 July 2004.

Republic of the Philippines


A.C. No. 6353

February 27, 2006



Atty. Rudy T. Enriquez stands charged with "unlawful, dishonest, immoral and deceitful acts in
violation of the Code of Professional Responsibility and the Canons of Professional Ethics, and with
conduct unbecoming an attorney." The charges are contained in the Joint Complaint-Affidavit for
Disbarment1 filed by the spouses David W. Williams and Marisa B. Williams.
It appears that respondent is the counsel of record of the plaintiffs in Civil Case No. 13443 2 pending
before the Regional Trial Court, Branch 33, Dumaguete City where complainants are the defendants.
According to the complainant-spouses, Marisa Williams bought the lot subject of the controversy. A
Transfer Certificate of Title (TCT) was then issued in her favor, stating that she is "Filipino, married to
David W. Williams, an American citizen."3 On January 8, 2004, respondent charged her with
falsification of public documents before the Office of the City Prosecutor of Dumaguete City. The
complaint was docketed as I.S. No. 2004-34.4
The spouses Williams further alleged, thus:
21. That, in malicious violation of the rules governing the practice of law, Attorney
Rudy T. Enriquez cited outdated material in his complaint-affidavit (Annex A-1) and in
his comments to counter-affidavit (Annex A-2). He then knowingly applied this stale
law in a perverse fashion to argue that Marisa Batacan Williams automatically lost
her Filipino citizenship when she married an American, and was thus prohibited to
own land in the Philippines, thereby making her guilty of falsification in the Deed she
executed to buy property in Negros Oriental.
22. That in paragraph #1 of her counter-affidavit (Annex A-2) Marisa cites Article IV,
Section 4 of the 1987 Constitution, which provides that she would not lose her
citizenship when she married an American unless she renounced it in a specific act.
23. That, in reply, Attorney Enriquez, quotes more outdated law, declaring that her
"act of marrying" her husband was equivalent to renouncing her citizenship. He also
doggedly attempts to show that the 1987 Constitution supports his position, not
Marisas (Annex A-4).5

Complainants pointed out that the respondent is a retired judge, who knows that the false charge
(that Marisa Williams is an American) "will not prevail in the end." 6
In his "Comments by Way of Motion to Dismiss,"7 respondent enumerated matters which to his mind
were evidence of the acts of falsification of complainant Marisa Williams. He insisted that the
complaint for disbarment was a mere tactic to divert attention from the criminal charges against the
complainants, and that the charges against him were bereft of any factual basis.
On December 1, 2004, the case was referred to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) for
investigation, report and recommendation.8 Forthwith, the IBP Commission on Bar Discipline
scheduled the case for mandatory conference/hearing. However, only the respondent appeared. The
parties were then directed to submit their verified position papers.
In their Position Paper, complainants claimed that respondent had maliciously and knowingly filed
fabricated cases against them and that his acts were forms of attempted extortion. They also
adopted their joint complaint-affidavit by way of incorporation, along with their other pleadings.
For his part, respondent maintained that complainant Marisa Williams was no longer a citizen of the
Republic of the Philippines as a result of her marriage to David Williams.
In her Report and Recommendation dated June 10, 1995, Commissioner Rebecca Villanueva-Maala
ruled that respondent was guilty of gross ignorance of the law and should be suspended for six (6)
months. The IBP Commission on Bar Discipline adopted the foregoing recommendation in its
Resolution No. XVII-2005-114 dated October 22, 2005, with the modification that respondent be
"reprimanded, with a warning and advice to study each and every opinion he may give to his clients."
The Court agrees that respondent is administratively liable for his actuations. As found by the
Investigating Commissioner:
There is no evidence shown by respondent that complainant Marisa Bacatan-Williams has
renounced her Filipino citizenship except her Certificate of Marriage, which does not show that she
has automatically acquired her husbands citizenship upon her marriage to him. The cases cited by
respondent are not applicable in this case as it is clear that they refer to aliens acquiring lands in the
The Bar has been integrated for the attainment of the following objectives: (a) elevate the standards
of the legal profession, (b) improve the administration of justice, and (c) to enable the bar to
discharge its public responsibility more effectively (In re: Integration of the Bar of the Philippines, 49
SCRA 22). In line with these objectives of the Integrated Bar, lawyers must keep themselves abreast
of legal developments. To do this, the lawyer must walk with the dynamic movements of the law and
jurisprudence. He must acquaint himself at least with the newly promulgated laws, the recent
decisions of the Supreme Court and of the significant decisions of the Court of Appeals. There are
other executive orders, administrative circulars, regulations and other rules promulgated by other
competent authorities engaged in the administration of justice. The lawyers life is one of continuous
and laborious study, otherwise, his skill and knowledge of the law and related disciplines will lag
behind and become obscure due to obsoleteness (Canon 5, Code of Professional Responsibility.) 9
As pointed out by the Investigating Commissioner, Canon 5 of the Code of Professional
Responsibility requires that a lawyer be updated in the latest laws and jurisprudence. 10 Indeed, when
the law is so elementary, not to know it or to act as if one does not know it constitutes gross
ignorance of the law.11 As a retired judge, respondent should have known that it is his duty to keep
himself well-informed of the latest rulings of the Court on the issues and legal problems confronting a

client.12 In this case, the law he apparently misconstrued is no less than the Constitution, 13 the most
basic law of the land.14 Implicit in a lawyers mandate to protect a clients interest to the best of
his/her ability and with utmost diligence is the duty to keep abreast of the law and legal
developments, and participate in continuing legal education programs. 15 Thus, in championing the
interest of clients and defending cases, a lawyer must not only be guided by the strict standards
imposed by the lawyers oath, but should likewise espouse legally sound arguments for clients, lest
the latters cause be dismissed on a technical ground. 16 Ignorance encompasses both substantive
and procedural laws.17

We find too harsh the recommended penalty of the Investigating Commissioner. It must be stressed
that the power to disbar or suspend must be exercised with great caution. Only in a clear case of
misconduct that seriously affects the standing and character of a lawyer as an officer of the Court
and member of the bar will disbarment or suspension be imposed as a penalty.18 Pursuant to the IBP
Commission on Bar Disciplines Guidelines for Imposing Lawyer Sanctions, 19 and considering further
that this is respondents first infraction, we find that the penalty of reprimand as recommended by the
IBP Commission on Bar Discipline, will suffice.
We likewise note that in their pleadings in this case, the parties repeatedly invoked their arguments
in their pending cases below. Thus, we find it unnecessary to rule over such arguments, which have
yet to be determined on the merits in the courts a quo.
WHEREFORE, for gross ignorance of the law, Atty. Rudy T. Enriquez is REPRIMANDED and
ADVISED to carefully study the opinions he may give to his clients. He is STERNLY WARNED that a
repetition of a similar act shall be dealt with more severely.
Associate Justice
Chief Justice
Associate Justice
Asscociate Justice
Associate Justice


Rollo, pp. 1-6.

Entitled Francisco Briones Ventolero, et al. v. David W. Williams, et al. for

"Declaration for Inexistence/Revocation of Deed; Declaration of Sole Heir and Sale;
Legal Redemption; Cancellation and Annulment of Transfer Certificate of Title No. T35430, Lot No. 2920-D, Psd-07-052555, Reconveyance and Damages."

Rollo, p. 13.

Id. at 8-11.

Id. at 2-3.

Id. at 5.

Id. at 104-111.

Id. at 261.

Report and Recommendation dated June 10, 2005, pp. 3-4.

canon 5 a lawyer shall keep abreast of legal developments, participate in

continuing legal education programs, support efforts to achieve high standards in law
schools as well as in the practical training of law students and assist in disseminating
information regarding the law and jurisprudence.

Bacar v. De Guzman, Jr., 338 Phil. 41 (1997), citing Uy v. Dizon-Capulong, A.M.

No. RTJ-91-766, April 7, 1993, 221 SCRA 87.


Arquelada v. Philippine Veterans Bank, 385 Phil. 1200, 1214 (2000).


Section 4, Article IV of the Constitution provides:

Sec. 4. citizens of the philippines who marry aliens shall retain their citizenship,
unless by their act or omission they are deemed, under the law, to have renounced it.
As aptly put by Chief Justice Artemio V. Panganiban in his Dissenting Opinion in
the Courts Resolution dated October 25, 1995 in G.R. No. 119976 (Marcos v.
COMELEC), "the Constitution is not intended for lawyers to quibble over, nor to
define legal niceties and articulate nuances about, in the ascertainment of its import.
Its contents and words should be interpreted in the sense understood by the ordinary
men and women who place their lives on the line in its defense and who pin their
hopes for a better life in its fulfillment."

Fajardo v. Dela Torre, A.C. No. 6295, April 14, 2004, 427 SCRA 125, 131, citing
Rabanal v. Tugalde, A.C. No. 1372, June 27, 2002, 383 SCRA 484 and Cuevas v.
Bais Steel Corporation, G.R. No. 142689, October 17, 2002, 391 SCRA 192.

See Intengan v. Court of Appeals, 427 Phil. 293 (2002), where petitioner, through
counsel, filed a "wrong information" for violation of Republic Act No. 1405. In denying
the petition, the Court declared that petitioners were left with no remedy in law, as the
filing of said information did not have the effect of tolling the prescriptive period, "for it

is the filing of the complaint or information corresponding to the correct offense which
produces that effect."
Fajardo v. Dela Torre, supra, note 15, at 132, citing Intengan v. Court of Appeals,

Ramos v. Ngaseo, A.C. No. 6210, December 9, 2004, 445 SCRA 529, 537, citing
Montano v. Integrated Bar of the Philippines, A.C. No. 4215, May 21, 2001, 358
SCRA 1, 9.

According to Standard 3.0 of said Guidelines, the factors to be considered in

imposing sanctions include (a) the duty violated; (b) the lawyers mental state; (c) the
actual or potential injury caused by the lawyers misconduct; and (d) the existence of
aggravating and mitigating factors. Under Standard 9.3, the "absence of a prior
disciplinary record" is considered a mitigating factor.