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Catu v Rellosa

A.C. No. 5738


February 19, 2008
Complainant: Wilfredo M. Catu
Respondent: Atty. Vicente G. Rellosa
Ponente: Corona, J.
Nature of Action: Modification of foregoing findings & recommendation on the imposable
penalty
Facts:
Complainant, Wilfredo Catu, is a co-owner of a building located in Malate,
Manila. His mother and brother sent a demand letter to two of his tenants to vacate one
of the building units. When the tenants ignored the demand, he filed a complaint with
the Lupong Tagapamayapa where the parties reside.
The respondent, who was the Punong Baranggay, conducted conciliation
meetings but both parties failed to arrive at an amicable settlement. Hence, he issued a
certificate to file the case in court. When the case for ejectment was filed against the
tenants, the respondent, Atty. Rellosa, approved as council for the tenants.
For the reason, herein complainant filed an administrative case against the
punong barangay, alleging acts of impropriety.
The case was referred to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP). As defense,
the respondent averred that he handled the case pro bono and he performed his task as
Punong Baranggay with utmost objectivity.
The IBP found sufficient grounds to discipline the respondent, citing Rule 6.03 of
the Code of Professional Responsibility, Section 7 (b)(2) of R.A. 6713 on Prohibited
Acts and Transactions and Canon I of the Code of Professional Responsibility. The
respondent was suspended for six months from the practice of law.
Issues:
Whether or not the findings of the IBP regarding the violation of the laws and
rules in finding the guilt of the respondent were proper.

Held:
No. The SC modified the findings of the IBP. Rule 6.03 of the Code of
Professional Responsibility applies only to former government lawyers, not to the
respondent who was incumbent punong barangay. Section 7(b)(2) is not the proper law
in imposing the penalty to the respondent, as he was an elective local government
official. The proper law is Section 90 of R.A. 7160 on the practice of profession bt
elective officials. However, even this law does not enumerate barangay elective
officials. Thus, they are not forbidden to practice his profession on the principle of
expression unius est exclusion alterius.
As it may, Section 12, Rule XVIII of the Revised Civil Service Rules provides that
a lawyer or any employee of the government who is not prohibited to practice his
profession must secure prior authority from the head of his department, who in this
case, the Secretary of DILG.
For the respondents failure to seek prior written permission, he engaged in an
unauthorized practice of law and violated the Civil Service Rules. These transgressions
resulted to a breach of Rule 1.01 of the Code of Professional Responsibility which
states that, a lawyer shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful
conduct and Canon 7 which states that, a lawyer shall at all times uphold the dignity of
the legal profession and support the activities of the Integrated Bar.
Respondent is found guilty of professional misconduct for violating Canons 1 and
7 and Rule 1.01 of the Code of Professional Responsibility. He was suspended from the
practice of law for six months with a stern warning that a repetition of a similar act will
be dealt with more severely.
He was also ordered to look up and take to heart the meaning of the world
delicadeza.