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Cases on Moral Turpitud

G.R. No. 180363, April 28, 2009


EDGAR Y. TEVES, Petitioner, vs. THE COMMISSION ON
ELECTIONS and HERMINIO G. TEVES

Facts:
Petitioner was a candidate for the position of Representative of
the 3rd legislative district of Negros Oriental during the May 14, 2007
elections.
Respondent Herminio G. Teves filed a petition to disqualify
petitioner on the ground that in Teves v. Sandiganbayan,3 he was
convicted of violating Section 3(h), Republic Act (R.A.) No. 3019, or
the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, for possessing pecuniary
or financial interest in a cockpit, which is prohibited under Section
89(2) of the Local Government Code (LGC) of 1991.
Respondent alleged that petitioner is disqualified from running for
public office because he was convicted of a crime involving moral
turpitude which carries the accessory penalty of perpetual
disqualification from public office.
The COMELEC First Division disqualified petitioner from running
for the position of member of House of Representatives and ordered
the cancellation of his Certificate of Candidacy.
Upon MR, COMELEC en banc denied the motion saying that
since petitioner lost in the last 14 May 2007 congressional elections,
it thereby rendered the instant MR moot and academic.

Issue: Whether petitioners violation of Section 3(h), R.A. No. 3019


involves moral turpitude.

Held: NO
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.
The essential elements of the violation of said provision are as
follows: 1) The accused is a public officer; 2) he has a direct or
indirect financial or pecuniary interest in any business, contract or
transaction; 3) he either: a) intervenes or takes part in his official
capacity in connection with such interest, or b) is prohibited from
having such interest by the Constitution or by law.
Thus, there are two modes by which a public officer who has a
direct or indirect financial or pecuniary interest in any business,
contract, or transaction may violate Section 3(h) of R.A. 3019. The
first mode is when the public officer intervenes or takes part in his
official capacity in connection with his financial or pecuniary interest
in any business, contract, or transaction. The second mode is when
he is prohibited from having such an interest by the Constitution or
by law.
In Teves v. Sandiganbayan, petitioner was convicted under the
second mode for having pecuniary or financial interest in a cockpit
which is prohibited under Sec. 89(2) of the Local Government Code
of 1991.

o The evidence for the prosecution has established that petitioner


Edgar Teves, then mayor of Valencia, Negros Oriental, owned the
cockpit in question.
o Even if the ownership of petitioner Edgar Teves over the cockpit were
transferred to his wife, still he would have a direct interest thereon
because, as correctly held by respondent Sandiganbayan, they
remained married to each other from 1983 up to 1992, and as such
their property relation can be presumed to be that of conjugal
partnership of gains in the absence of evidence to the contrary.
o Hence, his interest in the Valencia Cockpit is direct and is, therefore,
prohibited under Section 89(2) of the LGC of 1991.

However, conviction under the second mode does not


automatically mean that the same involved moral turpitude. A
determination of all surrounding circumstances of the violation of the
statute must be considered. Besides, moral turpitude does not
include such acts as are not of themselves immoral but whose
illegality lies in their being positively prohibited, as in the instant
case.

The Court clarified that not every criminal act, however, involves
moral turpitude. It is for this reason that "as to what crime involves
moral turpitude, is for the Supreme Court to determine." In resolving
the foregoing question, the Court is guided by one of the general
rules that crimes mala in se involve moral turpitude, while crimes
mala prohibita do not.

Moral turpitude implies something immoral in itself, regardless of


the fact that it is punishable by law or not. It must not be merely mala
prohibita, but the act itself must be inherently immoral. The doing of

the act itself, and not its prohibition by statute fixes the moral
turpitude.

Consequently, considering all circumstances, the Court held


that petitioners conviction does not involve moral turpitude.

The morality of gambling is not a justiciable issue. Gambling is


not illegal per se. While it is generally considered inimical to the
interests of the people, there is nothing in the Constitution
categorically proscribing or penalizing gambling or, for that
matter, even mentioning it at all. It is left to Congress to deal with
the activity as it sees fit.

In the exercise of its own discretion, the legislature may prohibit


gambling altogether or allow it without limitation or it may prohibit
some forms of gambling and allow others for whatever reasons it
may consider sufficient. Thus, it has prohibited jueteng and monte
but permits lotteries, cockfighting and horse-racing. In making such
choices, Congress has consulted its own wisdom, which this Court
has no authority to review, much less reverse.

A.C. No. 7940

April 24, 2012

RE: SC DECISION DATED MAY 20, 2008 IN G.R. NO. 161455


UNDER

RULE

139-B

OF

THE

RULES

vs. ATTY. RODOLFO D. PACTOLIN, Respondent.

OF

COURT,

DECISION

he claimed was a falsified letter of Abastillas, which showed that it


was Ferraren, not Mayor Fuentes, who approved the disbursement.

PER CURIAM:
Aggrieved, Ferraren filed with the Sandiganbayan in Criminal
This case resolves the question of whether or not the conviction of a

Case 25665 a complaint against Atty. Pactolin for falsification of

lawyer for a crime involving moral turpitude constitutes sufficient

public document.1 On November 12, 2003 the Sandiganbayan

ground for his disbarment from the practice of law under Section 27,

found Atty. Pactolin guilty of falsification under Article 172 and

Rule 138 of the Rules of Court.

sentenced him to the indeterminate penalty of imprisonment of 2


years and 4 months of prision correccional as minimum to 4 years, 9

The Facts and the Case


In May 1996, Elmer Abastillas, the playing coach of the Ozamis City
volleyball team, wrote Mayor Benjamin A. Fuentes of Ozamis City,
requesting financial assistance for his team. Mayor Fuentes
approved the request and sent Abastillas letter to the City Treasurer
for processing. Mayor Fuentes also designated Mario R. Ferraren,
a city council member, as Officer-in-Charge (OIC) of the city
while Mayor Fuentes was away. Abastillas eventually got

months and 10 days of prision correccional as maximum, to suffer all


the accessory penalties of prision correccional, and to pay a fine
of P5,000.00, with subsidiary imprisonment in case of insolvency.
Atty. Pactolin appealed to this Court but on May 20, 2008 it affirmed
his

conviction.2 Since

the

Court

treated

the

matter

as

an

administrative complaint against him as well under Rule 139-B of the


Rules of Court, it referred the case to the Integrated Bar of the
Philippines (IBP) for appropriate action.

the P10,000.00 assistance for his volleyball team.


Because complainant Ferraren neither appeared nor submitted any
Meanwhile, respondent lawyer, Atty. Rodolfo D. Pactolin, then a
Sangguniang Panlalawigan member of Misamis Occidental, got a
photocopy of Abastillas letter and, using it, filed on June 24, 1996 a
complaint with the Office of the Deputy Ombudsman-Mindanao
against Ferraren for alleged illegal disbursement of P10,000.00 in
public funds. Atty. Pactolin attached to the complaint a copy of what

pleading during the administrative proceedings before the IBP


Commission on Bar Discipline, on October 9, 2010 the IBP Board of
Governors passed Resolution XIX-2010-632, adopting and approving
the Investigating Commissioners Report and Recommendation that
the case against Atty. Pactolin be dismissed for insufficiency of
evidence.

ISSUE: The only issue presented in this case is whether or not Atty.

conduct only exacerbates his offense and shows that he falls short of

Pactolin should be disbarred after conviction by final judgment of the

the exacting standards expected of him as a vanguard of the legal

crime of falsification.

profession.12

Ruling: This Court has ruled that the crime of falsification of public

To recapitulate, this Court upheld the finding of the Sandiganbayan

document is contrary to justice, honesty, and good morals and,

that the copy of Abastillas letter which Atty. Pactolin attached to his

therefore,

involves

moral

turpitude. Moral

includes

complaint was spurious. Given the clear absence of a satisfactory

everything which is done contrary to justice, honesty, modesty, or

explanation regarding his possession and use of the falsified

good morals. It involves an act of baseness, vileness, or depravity in

Abastillas letter, this Court held that the Sandiganbayan did not err in

the private duties which a man owes his fellowmen, or to society in

concluding that it was Atty. Pactolin who falsified the letter. This Court

general, contrary to the accepted and customary rule of right and

relied on the settled rule that in the absence of satisfactory

duty between man and woman, or conduct contrary to justice,

explanation, one found in possession of and who used a forged

honesty, modesty, or good morals.

turpitude

document is the forger and therefore guilty of falsification.

As a rule, this Court exercises the power to disbar with great

This Courts decision in said falsification case had long become final

caution. Being the most severe form of disciplinary sanction, it is

and executory. In In Re: Disbarment of Rodolfo Pajo,7 the Court held

imposed only for the most imperative reasons and in clear cases of

that in disbarment cases, it is no longer called upon to review the

misconduct affecting the standing and moral character of the lawyer

judgment of conviction which has become final. The review of the

10

as an officer of the court and a member of the bar. Yet this Court

conviction no longer rests upon this Court.

has also consistently pronounced that disbarment is the appropriate


penalty for conviction by final judgment for a crime involving moral

Under Section 27, Rule 138 of the Rules of Court, a lawyer may be

turpitude.11

removed or suspended on the following grounds: (1) deceit; (2)


malpractice; (3) gross misconduct in office; (4) grossly immoral

Here, Atty. Pactolins disbarment is warranted. The Sandiganbayan

conduct; (5) conviction of a crime involving moral turpitude; (6)

has confirmed that although his culpability for falsification has been

violation of the lawyers oath; (7) willful disobedience of any lawful

indubitably established, he has not yet served his sentence. His

order of a superior court; and (8) corruptly or willfully appearing as a

caused the disbursement of public funds. In said decisions, the

lawyer for a party to a case without authority so to do.

Supreme Court referred the case to the Integrated Bar of the


Philippines for appropriate administrative actions against Pactolin.

This Court once again reminds all lawyers that they, of all classes
and professions, are most sacredly bound to uphold the law.13 The

ISSUE: What administrative sanctions can be imposed upon Atty.

privilege to practice law is bestowed only upon individuals who are

Pactolin considering his conviction?

competent intellectually, academically and,

equally important,

morally. As such, lawyers must at all times conduct themselves,

HELD: Rodolfo Pactolin should be, and is henceforth disbarred. The

especially in their dealings with their clients and the public at large,

crime of falsification of public document is contrary to justice,

with honesty and integrity in a manner beyond reproach.

14

honesty, and good morals and, therefore, involves moral turpitude.


Moral turpitude includes everything which is done contrary to justice,

WHEREFORE, Atty. Rodolfo D. Pactolin is hereby DISBARRED and

honesty, modesty, or good morals. It involves an act of baseness,

his name REMOVED from the Rolls of Attorney. Let a copy of this

vileness, or depravity in the private duties which a man owes his

decision be attached to his personal records and furnished the Office

fellowmen, or to society in general, contrary to the accepted and

of the Bar Confidant, Integrated Bar of the Philippines and the Office

customary rule of right and duty between man and woman, or

of the Court Administrator for circulation to all courts in the country.

conduct contrary to justice, honesty, modesty, or good morals.

SO ORDERED.

As a rule, the Supreme Court exercises the power to disbar with


great caution. Being the most severe form of disciplinary sanction, it
is imposed only for the most imperative reasons and in clear cases of

In May 2008, the Supreme Court, in G.R. No. 161455 (Pactolin vs


Sandiganbayan), affirmed the conviction of Atty. Rodolfo Pactolin for
violation of Article 172 of the Revised Penal Code (Falsification by a
Private Individual). It was duly proved that Pactolin falsified a letter,
and presented said letter as evidence in a court of law, in order to
make it appear that his fellow councilor acting as OIC-Mayor illegally

misconduct affecting the standing and moral character of the lawyer


as an officer of the court and a member of the bar. But it has always
been held that it is appropriate to disbar a lawyer if he is convicted by
final judgment for a crime involving moral turpitude. Further,
Pactolins situation is aggravated by the fact that although his
conviction has been affirmed, he has not served his sentence yet.

Florendos act of having an affair with his clients wife manifested his
Elpidio Tiong V Atty. George M. Florendo
Atty. George Florendo has been serving as the lawyer of spouses
Elpidio and Ma. Elena Tiong. Elpidio, a US citizen is often times
away. For two years, he suspected that his wife and Atty.
Florendo were having an affair. Finally in 1995, he was able
to listen to a telephone conversation where he heard Atty. Florendo
mention amorous words to Ma. Elena. Atty. Florendo confronted the
two and both eventually admitted to their illicit relationship. Atty.
Florendo and Ma. Elena then executed and signed an affidavit, which
was later notarized, stating that they admit of their illicit relationship;
that they are seeking the forgiveness of their respective spouse.
Elpidio forgave Florendo and Ma. Elena. But nevertheless, Elpidio

disrespect for the laws on the sanctity of marriage and his own
marital vow of fidelity. It showed his utmost moral depravity and low
regard for the ethics of his profession. He violated the trust reposed
upon him by his client (Canon 17, Code of Professional
Responsibility). His illicit relationship with Ma. Elena amounts to a
disgraceful and grossly immoral conduct warranting disciplinary
action. Section 27, Rule 138 of the Rules of Court provides that an
attorney may be disbarred or suspended from his office for any
deceit, malpractice, or other gross misconduct in office, grossly
immoral conduct, among others. It cannot be also said, as he
claims, that their relationship is merely a moment of indiscretion
considering that their affair went on for more than two years.
Florendo was suspended for 6 months.

filed a disbarment case against Florendo.


Florendo said he can no longer be sanctioned because he was
already pardoned.
ISSUE: Whether or not Atty. Florendo is correct.
HELD: No. A petition for suspension or disbarment of a lawyer is a
sui generis case. This class of cases is meant to protect the public
and the courts of undesirable members of the legal profession. As
such, pardon by the offended party of the act complained of does not
operate to offset the ground for disbarment or suspension.

Teresita D. Santeco vs. Atty. Luna B. Avance


A.C. No. 5834 (formerly CBD-01-861). February 22, 2011
Facts: In an En Banc Decision dated December 11, 2003, the Court
found respondent guilty of gross misconduct for, among others,
abandoning her clients cause in bad faith and persistent refusal to
comply with lawful orders directed at her without any explanation for
doing so. She was ordered suspended from the practice of law for a
period of five years.
Subsequently, while respondents five-year suspension from the
practice of law was still in effect, Judge Consuelo Amog-Bocar,
Presiding Judge of the RTC of Iba, Zambales, Branch 71, sent a

letter-report dated November 12, 2007 to the Court Administrator


informing the latter that respondent had appeared and actively
participated in three cases wherein she misrepresented herself as
Atty. Liezl Tanglao. When opposing counsels confronted her and
showed to the court a certification regarding her suspension,
respondent admitted and conceded that she is Atty. Luna B. Avance,
but qualified that she was only suspended for three years and that
her suspension has already been lifted.
Acting on Judge Amog-Bocars letter-report, the Court, in a
Resolution dated April 9, 2008, required respondent to comment
within ten days from notice. Respondent, however, failed to file the
required comment. On June 10, 2009, the Court reiterated the
directive to comment. Still, respondent failed to comply despite
notice. Accordingly, this Court issued a Resolution on September 29,
2009 finding respondent guilty of indirect contempt. Respondent was
ordered to pay a fine in the amount of Php 30,000.00 which
respondent failed to pay.
Issue: Whether or not Atty. Avance should be disbarred.
Held: Respondent Atty. Luna B. Avance is disbarred for gross
misconduct and willful disobedience of lawful orders of a superior
court. Her name is ordered stricken off from the Roll of Attorneys.
Rationale: As an officer of the court, it is a lawyers duty to uphold the
dignity and authority of the court. The highest form of respect for
judicial authority is shown by a lawyers obedience to court orders
and processes.
We have held that failure to comply with Court directives constitutes
gross misconduct, insubordination or disrespect which merits a
lawyers suspension or even disbarment. Sebastian v. Bajar teachers
Respondents cavalier attitude in repeatedly ignoring orders of the
Supreme Court constitutes utter disrespect to the judicial institution.
Respondents conduct indicates a high degree or irresponsibility. A

Courts Resolution is not to be construed as a mere request, nor


should it be complied with partially, inadequately, or selectively.
Respondents obstinate refusal to comply with the Courts orders not
only betrays recalcitrant flaw in her character; it also underscores
her disrespect of the Courts lawful orders which is only too
deserving of reproof.
Under Section 27, Rule 138 of the Rules of Court a member of the
bar may be disbarred or suspended from office as an attorney for
gross misconduct and/or for a willful disobedience of any lawful order
of a superior court, to wit:
SEC. 27. Disbarment or 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 of any violation of the oath which he is required to
take before admission to practice, or for a willful disobedience of any
lawful order of a superior court, or for corruptly or willfully appearing
as an attorney for a party to a case without authority so to do. The
practice of soliciting cases at law for the purpose of gain, either
personally or through paid agents or brokers, constitutes malpractice.
(Emphasis supplied.)
In repeatedly disobeying this Courts orders, respondent proved
herself unworthy of membership in the Philippine Bar. Worse, she
remains indifferent to the need to reform herself. Clearly, she is unfit
to discharge the duties of an officer of the court an deserves the
ultimate penalty of disbarment.
Cayetano vs. Monsod
G.R. No. 100113
September 3, 1991
FACTS:

Respondent Christian Monsod was nominated by President Corazon


C. Aquino to the position of chairman of the COMELEC. Petitioner
opposed the nomination because allegedly Monsod does not
possess required qualification of having been engaged in the
practice of law for at least ten years. The 1987 constitution provides
in Section 1, Article IX-C: There shall be a Commission on Elections
composed of a Chairman and six Commissioners who shall be
natural-born citizens of the Philippines and, at the time of their
appointment, at least thirty-five years of age, holders of a college
degree, and must not have been candidates for any elective position
in the immediately preceding elections. However, a majority thereof,
including the Chairman, shall be members of the Philippine Bar who
have been engaged in the practice of law for at least ten years.
ISSUE: whether the respondent has the ten year practice of law
requirement for him to assume such office.
HELD: Practice of law means any activity, in or out of court, which
requires the application of law, legal procedure, knowledge, training
and experience. "To engage in the practice of law is to perform those
acts which are characteristics of the profession. Generally, to
practice law is to give notice or render any kind of service, which
device or service requires the use in any degree of legal knowledge
or skill.
In general, a practice of law requires a lawyer and client relationship,
it is whether in or out of court. Atty. Monsod's past work experiences
as a lawyer-economist, a lawyer-manager, a lawyer-entrepreneur of
industry, a lawyer-negotiator of contracts, and a lawyer-legislator of
both the rich and the poor verily more than satisfy the
constitutional requirement that he has been engaged in the
practice of law for at least ten years..
VINSON PINEDA V. ATTY. DE JESUS, ATTY. AMBROSIO AND
ATTY. MARIANO

Facts:
Aurora Pineda filed for declaration of nullity of marriage
against Vinson Pineda. Aurora proposed a settlement regarding
visitation rights and the separation of properties which was accepted
by Vinson. Settlement was approved by the trial court and their
marriage was declared null and void.
Throughout the proceedings the respondent counsels were
compensated but they still billed petitioner additional legal fees in
amounting to P16.5M. Vinson refused to pay the additional fees but
instead paid P1.2M.
Respondents filed a complaint with the same trial court.
Trial court ordered Vinson to pay a total of P9M. CA reduced
the amount to a total of P2M.
Issues:
W/N the RTC had jurisdiction over the claim for additional
legal fees?
W/N respondents were entitled to additional legal fees?
Held:
A lawyer may enforce his right to his fees by filing the petition
as an incident of the main action. RTC has jurisdiction.
The respondents were seeking to collect P50M which was
10% of the value of the properties awarded to Vinson. What
respondents were demanding was additional payment for service
rendered in the same case.
The professional engagement between petitioner and
respondents was governed by quantum meruit.
Rule 20.4 of the Code of Professional Responsibility advises
lawyers to avoid controversies with clients concerning their
compensation and to resort to judicial action only to prevent
imposition, injustice or fraud. Suits to collect fees should be avoided
and should be filed only when circumstances force lawyers to resort
to it.

In this case, there was no justification for the additional legal


fees sought by respondents. It was an act of unconscionable
greed!

MAMBULAO LUMBER COMPANY, plaintiff-appellant,


vs.
PHILIPPINE NATIONAL BANK and ANACLETO HERALDO
Deputy Provincial Sheriff of Camarines Norte,defendantsappellees.
FACTS: On May 5, 1956 the plaintiff applied for an industrial loan of
P155,000 with the Naga Branch of defendant PNB and the former
offered real estate, machinery, logging and transportation
equipments as collaterals. The application, however, was approved
for a loan of P100,000 only. To secure the payment of the loan, the
plaintiff mortgaged to defendant PNB a parcel of land, together with
the buildings and improvements existing thereon, situated in the
poblacion of Jose Panganiban (formerly Mambulao), province of
Camarines Norte, as well as various sawmill equipment, rolling unit
and other fixed assets of the plaintiff, all situated in its compound in
the aforementioned municipality.
The plaintiff failed to pay the amortization on the amounts
released to and received by it. Repeated demands were made
upon the plaintiff to pay its obligation but it failed or otherwise
refused to do so. Upon inspection and verification made by
employees of the PNB, it was found that the plaintiff had already
stopped operation about the end of 1957 or early part of 1958.

On November 6, 1961, the PNB sent a letter to the Provincial Sheriff


of Camarines Norte requesting him to take possession of the chattels
mortgaged to it by the plaintiff and sell them at public auction also on
November 21, 1961, for the satisfaction of the sum of P57,646.59,
plus 6% annual interest therefore from September 23, 1961,
attorney's fees equivalent to 10% of the amount due and the costs
and expenses of the sale.
Deputy Provincial Sheriff Anacleto Heraldo took possession of the
chattels mortgaged by the plaintiff and made an inventory.
Appellant next assails the award of attorney's fees and the expenses
of the foreclosure sale in favor of the PNB. With respect to the
amount of P298.54 allowed as expenses of the extra-judicial sale of
the real property, appellant maintains that the same has no basis,
factual or legal, and should not have been awarded. It likewise
decries the award of attorney's fees which, according to the
appellant, should not be deducted from the proceeds of the sale
of the real property, not only because there is no express
agreement in the real estate mortgage contract to pay attorney's
fees in case the same is extra-judicially foreclosed, but also for
the reason that the PNB neither spent nor incurred any
obligation to pay attorney's fees in connection with the said
extra-judicial foreclosure under consideration.
ISSUE: WON attorneys fees should be paid and if so are they
reasonable?
Ruling:
YES, there was a stipulation in the Mortgage that attorneys fees
should be paid to wit:
xxxxx the Mortgagor hereby agrees further that in all cases,
attorney's fees hereby fixed at Ten Per cent (10%) of the total
indebtedness then unpaid which in no case shall be less than
P100.00 exclusive of all fees allowed by law, and the expenses of

collection shall be the obligation of the Mortgagor and shall with


priority, be paid to the Mortgagee out of any sums realized as rents
and profits derived from the mortgaged property or from the
proceeds realized from the sale of the said property and this
mortgage shall likewise stand as security therefor. . . .
We find the above stipulation to pay attorney's fees clear enough to
cover both cases of foreclosure sale mentioned thereunder, i.e.,
judicially or extra-judicially.
At any rate, we find merit in the contention of the appellant that
the award of P5,821.35 in favor of the PNB as attorney's fees is
unconscionable and unreasonable, considering that all that the
branch attorney of the said bank did in connection with the
foreclosure sale of the real property was to file a petition with the
provincial sheriff of Camarines Norte requesting the latter to sell the
same in accordance with the provisions of Act 3135.

The principle that courts should reduce stipulated attorney's fees


whenever it is found under the circumstances of the case that the
same is unreasonable, is now deeply rooted in this jurisdiction to
entertain any serious objection to it. Thus, this Court has
explained:
But the principle that it may be lawfully stipulated that the
legal expenses involved in the collection of a debt shall be
defrayed by the debtor does not imply that such
stipulations must be enforced in accordance with the
terms, no matter how injurious or oppressive they may be.
The lawful purpose to be accomplished by such a
stipulation is to permit the creditor to receive the amount
due him under his contract without a deduction of the
expenses caused by the delinquency of the debtor. It
should not be permitted for him to convert such a

stipulation into a source of speculative profit at the


expense of the debtor.
Contracts for attorney's services in this jurisdiction stands
upon an entirely different footing from contracts for the
payment of compensation for any other services. By
express provision of section 29 of the Code of Civil
Procedure, an attorney is not entitled in the absence of
express contract to recover more than a reasonable
compensation for his services; and even when an express
contract is made the court can ignore it and limit the
recovery to reasonable compensation if the amount of the
stipulated fee is found by the court to be unreasonable.
This is a very different rule from that announced in section
1091 of the Civil Code with reference to the obligation of
contracts in general, where it is said that such obligation
has the force of law between the contracting parties. Had
the plaintiff herein made an express contract to pay his
attorney an uncontingent fee of P2,115.25 for the services
to be rendered in reducing the note here in suit to
judgment, it would not have been enforced against him
had he seen fit to oppose it, as such a fee is obviously far
greater than is necessary to remunerate the attorney for
the work involved and is therefore unreasonable. In order
to enable the court to ignore an express contract for
an attorney's fees, it is not necessary to show, as in
other contracts, that it is contrary to morality or
public policy (Art. 1255, Civil Code). It is enough that
it is unreasonable or unconscionable. 4
Since then this Court has invariably fixed counsel fees on
a quantum meruit basis whenever the fees stipulated appear
excessive, unconscionable, or unreasonable, because a lawyer is
primarily a court officer charged with the duty of assisting the
court in administering impartial justice between the parties, and

hence, the fees should be subject to judicial control. Nor


should it be ignored that sound public policy demands that courts
disregard stipulations for counsel fees, whenever they appear to
be a source of speculative profit at the expense of the debtor or
mortgagor. 5 And it is not material that the present action is
between the debtor and the creditor, and not between attorney
and client. As court have power to fix the fee as between attorney
and client, it must necessarily have the right to say whether a
stipulation like this, inserted in a mortgage contract, is valid. 6
In determining the compensation of an attorney, the following
circumstances should be considered: the amount and character
of the services rendered; the responsibility imposed; the amount
of money or the value of the property affected by the controversy,
or involved in the employment; the skill and experience called for
in the performance of the service; the professional standing of the
attorney; the results secured; and whether or not the fee is
contingent or absolute, it being a recognized rule that an attorney
may properly charge a much larger fee when it is to be contingent
than when it is not. 7 From the stipulation in the mortgage contract
earlier quoted, it appears that the agreed fee is 10% of the total
indebtedness, irrespective of the manner the foreclosure of the
mortgage is to be effected. The agreement is perhaps fair enough
in case the foreclosure proceedings is prosecuted judicially but,
surely, it is unreasonable when, as in this case, the
mortgage was foreclosed extra-judicially, and all that the
attorney did was to file a petition for foreclosure with the
sheriff concerned. It is to be assumed though, that the said
branch attorney of the PNB made a study of the case before
deciding to file the petition for foreclosure; but even with this in
mind, we believe the amount of P5,821.35 is far too excessive a
fee for such services. Considering the above circumstances
mentioned, it is our considered opinion that the amount of
P1,000.00 would be more than sufficient to compensate the work
aforementioned.

Bautista vs Gonzales [A.M. No. 1625.


February 12, 1990]
[Per Curiam]
FACTS:
In a verified complaint filed by Angel L. Bautista, respondent Ramon
A. Gonzales was charged with malpractice, deceit, gross misconduct
and violation of lawyers oath. Required by this Court to answer the
charges against him, respondent filed a motion for a bill of particulars
asking this Court to order complainant to amend his complaint by
making his charges more definite. In a resolution the Court granted
respondents motion and required complainant to file an amended
complaint. Complainant submitted an amended complaint for
disbarment, alleging that respondent committed the following acts:
1. Accepting a case wherein he agreed with his clients, namely,
Alfaro Fortunado, Nestor Fortunado and Editha Fortunado
[hereinafter referred to as the Fortunados] to pay all expenses,
including court fees, for a contingent fee of fifty percent (50%) of the
value of the property in litigation.
xxx
4. Inducing complainant, who was his former client, to enter into a
contract with him on August 30, 1971 for the development into a
residential subdivision of the land involved in Civil Case No. Q-

15143, covered by TCT No. T-1929, claiming that he acquired fifty


percent (50%) interest thereof as attorneys fees from the
Fortunados, while knowing fully well that the said property was
already sold at a public auction on June 30, 1971, by the Provincial
Sheriff of Lanao del Norte and registered with the Register of Deeds
of Iligan City;
xxx
Pertinent to No. 4 above, the contract, in No. 1 above, reads:
We the [Fortunados] agree on the 50% contingent fee, provided, you
[respondent Ramon Gonzales] defray all expenses, for the suit,
including court fees.
ISSUE:
Whether or not respondent committed serious misconduct involving a
champertous contract.
HELD:
YES. Respondent was suspended from practice of law for six (6)
months.
RATIO:
The Court finds that the agreement between the respondent and the
Fortunados contrary to Canon 42 of the Canons of Professional

Ethics which provides that a lawyer may not properly agree with
a client to pay or bear the expenses of litigation. [See also Rule
16.04, Code of Professional Responsibility]. Although a lawyer may
in good faith, advance the expenses of litigation, the same
should be subject to reimbursement. The agreement between
respondent and the Fortunados, however, does not provide for
reimbursement to respondent of litigation expenses paid by him. An
agreement whereby an attorney agrees to pay expenses of
proceedings to enforce the clients rights is champertous
[citation omitted]. Such agreements are against public policy
especially where, as in this case, the attorney has agreed to carry on
the action at his own expense in consideration of some bargain to
have part of the thing in dispute [citation omitted]. The execution of
these contracts violates the fiduciary relationship between the lawyer
and his client, for which the former must incur administrative
sanctions.

FRANCISCO RAYOS, Petitioner,


vs.
ATTY. PONCIANO G. HERNANDEZ, Respondent.
Facts:
Respondent was the counsel of petitioner in Civil Case No. SM-951
entitled, "Francisco Rayos v. NAPOCOR," filed before the Regional
Trial Court (RTC), Malolos, Bulacan. The complaint alleged, among
other things, that the National Power Corporation (NAPOCOR)
recklessly, imprudently and negligently opened the three floodgates
of the spillway of Angat Dam at midnight of 26 October 1978 until the
early morning hours of 27 October 1978, during the occurrence of
typhoon "Kading" causing the release of a great volume of stored

water, the resultant swelling and flooding of Angat River, and the
consequent loss of lives of some of petitioners relatives and
destruction of his familys properties, for which he sought damages.
Of the 10 members of petitioners family who perished, only four
bodies were recovered and only petitioner and one of his sons,
German Rayos, survived.

Norzagaray, Bulacan, in the name of petitioner which was


eventually received by the latter.
Thus, petitioner initiated this complaint for disbarment for the
failure of respondent to return the rest of the award in the
amount of P557,961.21.

In Civil Case No. SM-951, ordering NAPACOR to pay jointly and


severally, plaintiff-appellant, with legal interest from the date
when this decision shall have become final and executor.
In addition, in all the four (4) instant cases, ordering defendantsappellees to pay, jointly and severally, plaintiffs-appellants, attorneys
fees in an amount equivalent to 15% of the total amount awarded. 5
The case was appealed to this Court, which affirmed the Court of
Appeals Decision. 6 The Decision of the Supreme Court became final
and executory on 4 August 1993.
Thus, a Writ of Execution 7 was issued by the RTC on 10 December
1993, upon motion filed by respondent. As a consequence,
NAPOCOR issued Check No. 014710 dated 5 January 1994, in the
amount of P1,060,800.00 payable to petitioner. Thereafter, the check
was turned over to respondent as counsel of petitioner. Petitioner
demanded the turn over of the check from respondent, but the
latter refused.
Petitioner sought to recover the check in the amount
of P1,060,800.00 from respondent, claiming that respondent had no
authority to receive the same as he was already dismissed by
petitioner as his counsel on 21 November 1993. 9 Respondent, on
the other hand, justifies his retention as a means to ensure payment
of his attorneys fees.
However, on 4 July 1994, respondent deposited the amount
of P502,838.79 with Farmers Savings and Loan Bank, Inc.,

ISSUE: whether respondent is justified in retaining the amount


awarded to petitioner in Civil Case No. SM-951 to assure payment of
his attorneys fees.
RULING: Moneys collected by an attorney on a judgment rendered
in favor of his client constitute trust funds and must be immediately
paid over to the client. 16 Canon 16 of the Code of Professional
Responsibility provides as follows:
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.
In the case at bar, when respondent withheld and refused to deliver
the NAPOCOR check representing the amount awarded by the court
in Civil Case No. SM-951, which he received on behalf of his client
(petitioner herein), he breached the trust reposed on him.
The claim of the respondent that petitioner failed to pay his attorneys
fees is not an excuse for respondents failure to deliver the amount to
the petitioner. A lawyer is not entitled to unilaterally appropriate
his clients money for himself by the mere fact alone that the
client owes him attorneys fees. The failure of an attorney to
return the clients money upon demand gives rise to the

presumption that he has misappropriated it for his own use to


the prejudice and violation of the general morality, as well as of
professional ethics; it also impairs public confidence in the
legal profession and deserves punishment. In short, a lawyers
unjustified withholding of money belonging to his client, as in this
case, warrants the imposition of disciplinary action.

3. Malpractice- notarizing documents despite the expiration of his


commission.
Issue: May a pending case constitute facts that determine the
existence of gross misconduct by the respondent?
Held: YES, The Practice of law is not a right but a privilege
bestowed by the State on those who show that they possess the
qualifications required by law. The purpose of suspending or
disbarring an attorney is to remove from the profession those unfit to
be entrusted with the duties and responsibilities thereby protecting
the public and those charged with the administration of justice, rather
than to punish an attorney.

St. Louis Lab HS Faculty V De La Cruz


Facts: A disbarment case filed by the Faculty members and Staff of
the Saint Louis University-Laboratory High School (SLU-LHS)
against Atty. Rolando C. Dela Cruz, principal of SLU-LHS, predicated
on the following grounds:
1. Gross misconduct- he has pending case of child abuse,
administrative case and labor case. From the records of the case, it
appears that there is a pending criminal case for child abuse
allegedly committed by him against a high school student filed before
the Prosecutors Office of Baguio City; a pending administrative case
filed by the Teachers, Staff, Students and Parents before an
Investigating Board created by SLU for his alleged unprofessional
and unethical acts of misappropriating money supposedly for the
teachers; and the pending labor case filed by SLU-LHS Faculty
before the NLRC, Cordillera Administrative Region, on alleged illegal
deduction of salary by respondent.
2. Grossly immoral conduct contracting a second marriage despite
the existence of his first marriage.

Contracting a second marriage despite existence of first marriage is


a violation of the continous possession of good moral character as a
requirement to the enjoyment of the privilege of law practice.
The Court has characterized a lawyers act of notarizing documents
without the requisite commission to do so as reprehensible,
constituting as it does not only malpractice but also the crime of
falsification of public documents. Notarization of a private document
converts the document into a public one making it admissible in court
without further proof of its authenticity. A notarial document is by law
entitled to full faith and credit upon its face and, for this reason,
notaries public must observe with the utmost care the basic
requirements in the performance of their duties.
Pending case does not constitute facts that determines the existence
of gross misconduct by the respondent as these are still pending
before the proper forums. At such stages, the presumption of
innocence still prevails in favor of the respondent.
WHEREFORE, finding respondent Atty. Rolando Dela Cruz
guilty of immoral conduct, in disregard of the Code of Professional
Responsibility, he is hereby SUSPENDED from the practice of law
for a period of two (2) years, and another two (2) years for notarizing

documents despite the expiration of his commission or a total of four


(4) years of suspension.