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EN BANC

[SBC Case No. 519. July 31, 1997]

PATRICIA FIGUEROA, complainant,


BARRANCO, JR., respondent.

vs. SIMEON

RESOLUTION
ROMERO, J.:
In a complaint made way back in 1971, Patricia
Figueroa petitioned that respondent Simeon Barranco,
Jr.
be
denied
admission
to
the
legal
profession. Respondent had passed the 1970 bar
examinations
on
the
fourth
attempt,
after
unsuccessful attempts in 1966, 1967 and 1968. Before
he could take his oath, however, complainant filed the
instant petition averring that respondent and she had
been sweethearts, that a child out of wedlock was
born to them and that respondent did not fulfill his
repeated promises to marry her.
The facts were manifested in hearings held before
Investigator Victor F. Sevilla in June and July
1971. Respondent and complainant were townmates
in Janiuay, Iloilo. Since 1953, when they were both in
their teens, they were steadies. Respondent even
acted as escort to complainant when she reigned as

Queen at the 1953 town fiesta. Complainant first


acceded to sexual congress with respondent
sometime in 1960. Their intimacy yielded a son,
Rafael Barranco, born on December 11, 1964. [1] It was
after the child was born, complainant alleged, that
respondent first promised he would marry her after he
passes the bar examinations. Their relationship
continued and respondent allegedly made more than
twenty or thirty promises of marriage. He gave
only P10.00 for the child on the latters birthdays. Her
trust in him and their relationship ended in 1971,
when she learned that respondent married another
woman. Hence, this petition.
Upon complainants motion, the Court authorized
the taking of testimonies of witnesses by deposition in
1972. On February 18, 1974, respondent filed a
Manifestation and Motion to Dismiss the case citing
complainants failure to comment on the motion of
Judge Cuello seeking to be relieved from the duty to
take aforesaid testimonies by deposition. Complainant
filed her comment stating that she had justifiable
reasons in failing to file the earlier comment required
and that she remains interested in the resolution of
the present case. On June 18, 1974, the Court denied
respondents motion to dismiss.
On October 2, 1980, the Court once again denied a
motion to dismiss on the ground of abandonment filed
by respondent on September 17, 1979. [2] Respondents
third motion to dismiss was noted in the Courts
Resolution dated September 15, 1982. [3] In 1988,

respondent repeated his request, citing his election as


a member of the Sangguniang Bayan of Janiuay, Iloilo
from 1980-1986, his active participation in civic
organizations and good standing in the community as
well as the length of time this case has been pending
as reasons to allow him to take his oath as a lawyer.[4]
On September 29, 1988, the Court resolved to
dismiss the complaint for failure of complainant to
prosecute the case for an unreasonable period of time
and to allow Simeon Barranco, Jr. to take the lawyers
oath upon payment of the required fees.[5]
Respondents hopes were again dashed on
November 17, 1988 when the Court, in response to
complainants opposition, resolved to cancel his
scheduled oath-taking. On June 1, 1993, the Court
referred the case to the Integrated Bar of the
Philippines (IBP) for investigation, report and
recommendation.
The IBPs report dated May 17, 1997 recommended
the dismissal of the case and that respondent be
allowed to take the lawyers oath.
We agree.
Respondent was prevented from taking the
lawyers oath in 1971 because of the charges of gross
immorality made by complainant. To recapitulate,
respondent bore an illegitimate child with his
sweetheart, Patricia Figueroa, who also claims that he
did not fulfill his promise to marry her after he passes
the bar examinations.

We find that these facts do not constitute gross


immorality warranting the permanent exclusion of
respondent from the legal profession. His engaging in
premarital sexual relations with complainant and
promises to marry suggests a doubtful moral
character on his part but the same does not constitute
grossly immoral conduct. The Court has held that to
justify suspension or disbarment the act complained of
must not only be immoral, but grossly immoral. A
grossly immoral act is one that is so corrupt and false
as to constitute a criminal act or so unprincipled or
disgraceful as to be reprehensible to a high degree.
[6]
It is a willful, flagrant, or shameless act which shows
a moral indifference to the opinion of respectable
members of the community.[7]
We find the ruling in Arciga v. Maniwang[8] quite
relevant because mere intimacy between a man and a
woman, both of whom possess no impediment to
marry, voluntarily carried on and devoid of any deceit
on the part of respondent, is neither so corrupt nor so
unprincipled as to warrant the imposition of
disciplinary sanction against him, even if as a result of
such relationship a child was born out of wedlock.[9]
Respondent and complainant were sweethearts
whose sexual relations were evidently consensual. We
do not find complainants assertions that she had been
forced into sexual intercourse, credible. She continued
to see and be respondents girlfriend even after she
had given birth to a son in 1964 and until 1971. All
those years of amicable and intimate relations refute
her allegations that she was forced to have sexual

congress with him. Complainant was then an adult


who voluntarily and actively pursued their relationship
and was not an innocent young girl who could be
easily led astray. Unfortunately, respondent chose to
marry and settle permanently with
another
woman. We cannot castigate a man for seeking out
the partner of his dreams, for marriage is a sacred and
perpetual bond which should be entered into because
of love, not for any other reason.
We cannot help viewing the instant complaint as
an act of revenge of a woman scorned, bitter and
unforgiving to the end. It is also intended to make
respondent suffer severely and it seems, perpetually,
sacrificing the profession he worked very hard to be
admitted
into. Even
assuming
that
his
past
indiscretions are ignoble, the twenty-six years that
respondent has been prevented from being a lawyer
constitute sufficient punishment therefor. During this
time there appears to be no other indiscretion
attributed to him.[10] Respondent, who is now sixty-two
years of age, should thus be allowed, albeit belatedly,
to take the lawyers oath.
WHEREFORE, the instant petition is hereby
DISMISSED. Respondent Simeon Barranco, Jr. is
ALLOWED to take his oath as a lawyer upon payment
of the proper fees.
SO ORDERED.
Padilla, Regalado, Davide, Jr., Bellosillo, Melo,
Puno,
Vitug,
Kapunan,
Mendoza,
Francisco, and Panganiban, JJ., concur.

Narvasa,
JJ., on leave

C.J.,

Hermosisima,

Jr., and Torres,

Jr.,

Republic of the Philippines


SUPREME COURT
Manila
EN BANC
A.C. No. 9401

October 22, 2013

JOCELYN DE LEON, Complainant,


vs.
ATTY. TYRONE PEDREA, Respondent.
DECISION
BERSAMIN, J.:
A lawyer who commits overt acts of sexual
harassment against a female client is guilty of
reprehensible conduct that is unbecoming of a
member of the Bar and may be condignly punished
with suspension from the practice of law.
Antecedents
Jocelyn de Leon filed with the Integrated Bar of the
Philippines (IBP) a complaint for disbarment or
suspension from the practice of law against Atty.
Tyrone Pedrea, a Public Attorney. She averred in her

complaint-affidavit that Atty. Pedrea had sexually


harassed her as follows:
1. On January 30, 2006, at about 10:00 in the
morning, I went to the Public Attorneys Office in
Paraaque City, in order to inquire from ATTY.
TYRONE PEDREA about the status of my case
for support for my two minor children against
my husband, which case is being handled by
Atty. Pedrea;
2. At that time, said Atty. Pedrea was at a court
hearing, so I waited at his office until he arrived
at about 11:45 a.m. Atty. Pedrea told me to go
ahead to Tita Babes Restaurant so we could take
our lunch together and to talk about my said
case;
3. While we were eating at the said restaurant,
he asked me many personal matters rather than
to discuss my said case. But still, I answered him
with respect, for he was my lawyer;
4. After we took our lunch, he told me to just go
back on February 1, 2006 at 10:00 a.m. because
according to him, my said case was quite
difficult, that he needed more time to study;
5. Since Atty. Pedrea was also already going
home then, he told me then to ride with him and
he would just drop me by the jeepney station;

6. Although I refused to ride with him, he


persistently convinced me to get in the car, and
so I acceded to his request so as not to offend
him;
7. Right after we left the parking lot and not yet
too far from the City Hall, Atty. Pedrea
immediately held my left hand with his right
hand, insisted me to get closer with him and laid
me on his shoulder;
8. I immediately responded by saying "AYOKO
HO!" But he persisted in trying to get hold of my
hand and he also tried very hard to inserting
(sic) his finger into my firmly closed hand. Thus,
I became very afraid and at the same time
offended for his lack of respect for me at that
moment; 9. Despite my resistance, he continued
rubbing my left leg. I was then attempting to
remove his hand on my leg, but he grabbed my
hand and forced it to put (sic) on his penis;
10. Because I was already really afraid at that
moment, I continued to wrestle and struggle,
and as I saw that we were already approaching
the 7-Eleven Store, the place where I was
supposed to get off, Atty. Pedrea made another
move of pressing his finger against my private
part;
11. I thereafter tried at all cost to unlock the
cars door and told him categorically that I was

getting off the car. But because the traffic light


was on green, he accelerated a bit more instead,
but sensing my insistence to get off, he stopped
the car, and allowed me to get off. He then
reminded me to see him on February 1, 2006 at
10:00 a.m. for the continuation of hearing of my
case;
12. That on February 1, 2006, I had to come for
my case, but this time, I brought with me my
five-year-old child to avoid another incident. I
was not able to see Atty. Pedrea then, so I just
signed some documents;1
In his answer, Atty. Pedrea averred that De Leons
allegations were unsubstantiated; that entertaining
such a complaint would open the gates to those who
had evil desires to destroy the names of good lawyers;
that the complaint was premature and should be
dismissed on the ground of forum shopping because
De Leon had already charged him with acts of
lasciviousness in the Paraaque City Prosecutors
Office; and that he had also filed a complaint for theft
against De Leon.2
Attached to Atty. Pedreas answer were his counteraffidavit in the criminal case for acts of lasciviousness
and his complaint-affidavit for theft. In his counter
affidavit, Atty. Pedrea admitted giving a ride to De
Leon, but he vehemently denied making sexual
advances on her, insisting that she had sat very close
to him during the ride that even made it hard for him

to shift gears, and that the ride had lasted for only two
to three minutes.3 He claimed that De Leon was
allowing herself to be used by his detractors in the
Public Attorneys Office (PAO) after he had opposed
the practice of certain PAO staff members of charging
indigent clients for every document that they
prepared. In his complaint affidavit for theft, he stated
that he had another passenger in his car at the time
he gave a ride to De Leon, who did not notice the
presence of the other passenger because the ride
lasted for only two to three minutes; and that the
other passenger was Emma Crespo, who executed her
own affidavit attesting that she had witnessed De
Leons act of taking his (Pedrea) cellphone from the
handbrake box of the car.4
Only De Leon appeared during the hearing.5 Hence,
Atty. Pedrea was deemed to have waived his right to
participate in the proceedings.6
Thereafter, the IBP Investigating Commissioner
recommended the disbarment of Atty. Pedrea and the
striking off of his name from the Roll of
Attorneys.7 Holding that a disbarment case was sui
generis and could proceed independently of the
criminal case that was based on the same facts; and
that the proceedings herein need not wait until the
criminal case for acts of lasciviousness brought
against Atty. Pedrea was finally resolved, the IBP
Investigating Commissioner found that Atty. Pedrea
had made sexual advances on De Leon in violation of

Rule 1.018 and Rule 7.039 of the Code of Professional


Responsibility.
In its Resolution No. XVIII-2007-83 dated September
19, 2007, the IBP Board of Governors adopted and
approved with modification the report and
recommendation of the IBP Investigating
Commissioner, and imposed upon Atty. Pedrea
suspension from the practice of law for three
months.10
Atty. Pedrea filed a motion for reconsideration with
the IBP,11 which adopted and approved Resolution No.
XX-2012-43 dated January 15, 2012, denying the
motion and affirming with modification its Resolution
No. XVIII-2007-83 by increasing the period of
suspension to six months.12

There is no doubt that Complainant was able to prove


her case against the Respondent. During the
clarificatory hearing, she was straightforward and
spontaneous in answering the questions propounded
on her. Her account of the incident that happened on
30 January 2006 was consistent with the matters she
stated in her Complaint and Verified Position Paper.
On the other hand, Respondents defenses are not
credible enough to rebut the claims of Complainant.
His defenses are replete with
Decision 5 A.C. No. 9401 inconsistencies and his
actuations in the entire proceedings show lack of
integrity in his dealings with both the Complainant and
this Commission.
xxxx

On February 28, 2012, the IBP Board of Governors


transmitted to the Court Resolution No. XX-2012-43
and the records of the case for final approval.13
In the Resolution dated April 24, 2012, the Court noted
the IBP Board of Governors notice of Resolution No.
XX-2012-43.14
Ruling
The report and recommendation of the Investigating
Commissioner stated thusly:

We find no merit at all in the defenses put forth by


Respondent. The Theft case filed by Respondent is a
mere afterthought on his part. We note that such
criminal complaint hinged on a claim that there was
another person during that incident who allegedly saw
Complainant stealing Respondents mobile phone. Yet,
in Respondents Position Paper and in his CounterAffidavit to the Acts of Lasciviousness case, which was
executed after the institution of the criminal complaint
for Theft, Respondent never mentioned anything
about a third person being present during the incident.
If the presence of this third person was crucial to
prove his case against herein Complainant, there is no

reason why this allegation would be omitted in his


Position Paper and Counter-Affidavit to at least support
his defense.
Furthermore, Respondents contention that
Complainant is being used by his detractors is selfserving. His memo regarding the amount of RATA he
receives is a relatively harmless query to a higher
authority, which could not possibly motivate his
colleagues to prod other people to file cases against
Respondent.15
We adopt the findings and conclusions of the
Investigating Commissioner, as sustained by the IBP
Board of Governors, for being substantiated by the
evidence on record.
The records show that Atty. Pedrea rubbed the
complainants right leg with his hand; tried to insert
his finger into her firmly closed hand; grabbed her
hand and forcibly placed it on his crotch area; and
pressed his finger against her private part. Given the
circumstances in which he committed them, his acts
were not merely offensive and undesirable but
repulsive, disgraceful and grossly immoral. They
constituted misconduct on the part of any lawyer. In
this regard, it bears stressing that immoral conduct is
gross when it is so corrupt as to constitute a criminal
act, or so unprincipled as to be reprehensible to a high
degree, or when committed under such scandalous or
revolting circumstances as to shock the communitys
sense of decency.16

The possession of good moral character is both a


condition precedent and a continuing requirement to
warrant admission to the Bar and to retain
membership in the Legal Profession. Members of the
Bar are clearly duty- bound to observe the highest
degree of morality and integrity in order to safeguard
the reputation of the Bar. Any errant behavior on the
part of a lawyer that tends to expose a deficiency in
moral character, honesty, probity or good demeanor,
be it in the lawyers public or private activities, is
sufficient to warrant the lawyers suspension or
disbarment.17 Section 27, Rule 138 of the Rules of
Court, provides that a member of the Bar may be
disbarred or suspended for grossly immoral conduct,
or violation of his oath as a lawyer. Towards that end,
we have not been remiss in reminding members of the
Bar to live up to the standards and norms of the Legal
Profession by upholding the ideals and principles
embodied in the Code of Professional Responsibility.
Atty. Pedreas misconduct was aggravated by the
fact that he was then a Public Attorney mandated to
provide free legal service to indigent litigants, and by
the fact that De Leon was then such a client. He also
disregarded his oath as a public officer to serve others
and to be accountable at all times, because he
thereby took advantage of her vulnerability as a client
then in desperate need of his legal assistance.
Yet, even as we agree with the findings of the IBP, we
consider the recommended penalty of suspension for

six months not commensurate with the gravity of the


offensive acts committed.

reprimanded but reminded to be more prudent and


cautious in his dealings with clients.

Verily, the determination of the penalty to impose on


an erring lawyer is within the Courts
discretion.1wphi1 The exercise of the discretion
should neither be arbitrary nor despotic, nor
motivated by any animosity or prejudice towards the
lawyer, but should instead be ever controlled by the
imperative need to scrupulously guard the purity and
independence of the Bar and to exact from the lawyer
strict compliance with his duties to the Court, to his
client, to his brethren in the profession, and to the
general public.18

In Barrientos v. Daarol,21 the respondent lawyer was


disbarred, but the severest penalty was imposed not
only because of his engaging in illicit sexual relations,
but also because of his deceit. He had been already
married and was about 41 years old when he
proposed marriage to a 20-year-old girl. He succeeded
in his seduction of her, and made her pregnant. He not
only suggested that she abort the pregnancy, but he
also breached his promise to marry her, and, in the
end, even deserted her and their child.

In determining the appropriate penalty to be imposed


on Atty. Pedrea, therefore, we take into consideration
judicial precedents on gross immoral conduct bearing
on sexual matters. Although most of the judicial
precedents dealt with lawyers who engaged in
extramarital affairs, or cohabited with women other
than their wives,19 they are nonetheless helpful in
gauging the degree of immorality committed by the
respondent.
20

In Advincula v. Macabata, the Court held that the


errant lawyers acts of turning his clients head
towards him and then kissing her on the lips were
distasteful, but still ruled that such acts, albeit
offensive and undesirable, were not grossly immoral.
Hence, the respondent lawyer was merely

In Delos Reyes v. Aznar,22 the Court adjudged the


respondent lawyer, a married man with children,
highly immoral for having taken advantage of his
position as the chairman of the College of Medicine of
his school in enticing the complainant, then a student
in the college, to have carnal knowledge with him
under the threat that she would flunk in all her
subjects should she refuse. The respondent was
disbarred for grossly immoral conduct.
Without diminishing the gravity of the complainants
sad experience, however, we consider the acts
committed by Atty. Pedrea to be not of the same
degree as the acts punished under the cited judicial
precedents. Neither did his acts approximate the act
committed by the respondent lawyer in Calub v.
Suller,23 whereby we disbarred the respondent lawyer
for raping his neighbors wife notwithstanding that his

guilt was not proved beyond reasonable doubt in his


criminal prosecution for the crime. We further note
that, unlike in Barrientos where there was deceit and
in Delos Reyes where there were threats and taking
advantage of the respondent lawyers position, Atty.
Pedrea did not employ any scheme to satiate his lust,
but, instead, he desisted upon the first signs of the
complainants firm refusal to give in to his advances.
In view of these considerations, the penalty of
suspension from the practice of law for two years is
fitting and just.
WHEREFORE, the Court SUSPENDS ATTY. TYRONE
PEDREA from the practice of law for two years
effective upon receipt of this decision, with a STERN
WARNING that a repetition of the same or similar acts
will be dealt with more severely.
Let copies of this decision be furnished to the Office of
the Bar Confidant to the Integrated Bar of the
Philippines and to the Office of the Court Administrator
for dissemination to all courts throughout the country.
SO ORDERED.
SECOND DIVISION

[G.R. No. 151081. September 11, 2003]

TOP RATE CONSTRUCTION & GENERAL SERVICES,


INC., petitioner,
vs.
PAXTON
DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION
AND
BAIKAL REALTY
CORPORATION,respondents.
RESOLUTION
BELLOSILLO, J.:
FORUM SHOPPING is committed by a party who
institutes two or more suits in different courts, either
simultaneously or successively, in order to ask the
courts to rule on the same or related causes or to
grant the same or substantially the same reliefs, on
the supposition that one or the other court would
make a favorable disposition or increase a partys
chances of obtaining a favorable decision or action.
[1]
It is an act of malpractice for it trifles with the
courts, abuses their processes, degrades the
administration of justice and adds to the already
congested court dockets.[2] What is critical is the
vexation brought upon the courts and the litigants by
a party who asks different courts to rule on the same
or related causes and grant the same or substantially
the same reliefs and in the process creates the
possibility of conflicting decisions being rendered by
the different fora upon the same issues, regardless of
whether the court in which one of the suits was
brought has no jurisdiction over the action.[3]
In the instant case, we probe what is perceived to
be a blatant demonstration of forum shopping,

outrageous abuse of judicial process


disrespect for the authority of this Court.

and gross

For a flashback on the factual backdrop of this


case: Five (5) civil actions involving the ownership of
Lots Nos. 5763 and 5765 -New situated in Salawag,
Dasmarias, Cavite, were jointly tried by RTC-Br. 21,
Imus, Cavite.[4] One of the complaints was filed by
respondent Paxton Development Corporation against
petitioner Top Rate Construction and General Services,
Inc., and against respondent Baikal Realty Corporation
and the Register of Deeds of Cavite, for declaration of
nullity of the Torrens Title for Lots Nos. 5763-A and
5763-B as part and parcel of Lot No. 5763, docketed
as Civil Case No. 1124-95, with prayer for
damages. TOP RATE was represented in this civil case
by the Gana Law Office through Attys. Luis Ma.
Gil L. Gana and/or Elmer E. Manlangit.
On 13 March 1998 the trial court rendered a Joint
Decision on the five (5) civil actions, which included
Civil Case No. 1124-95 x x x declaring Paxton Development Corporations TCT
No. T-557274 which covers and describes Lot No. 5763
(5763-A and 5763-B) and TCT No. T-559147 which
covers and describes Lot No. 5765-New as the lawful
and valid certificates of title evidencing the lawful
ownership of Paxton Development Corporation over
said lots and improvements thereon x x x x declaring
Top Rate Construction and General Services, Inc.s TCT
No. T-147755 for Lot 5763-A and TCT No. T-147756 for
Lot 5763-B as null and void and of no force and effect

x x x x directing Top Rate x x x to peacefully surrender


possession of these lots to Paxton, in the event that
they are in possession of said lots x x x x directing the
Register of Deeds for the province of Cavite to cancel
the aforementioned titles of Top Rate x x x x[5]
TOP RATE and the other parties in the five (5) civil
cases, Baikal Realty Corporation and Hi-Tone Marketing
Corporation, filed their respective notices of appeal
from the Joint Decision,[6] docketed as CA-G.R. No. CV60656. TOP RATE was represented in the appeal by
the Gana Law Office through Attys. Luis Ma. Gil
L. Gana and/or Elmer E. Manlangit.
On 21 May 2001 the Court of Appeals promulgated
its Decision on the various appeals affirming in
toto the Joint Decision of the trial court.[7]
On 28 June 2001 TOP RATE moved for
reconsideration of the CA Decision where it was
represented by the Gana Law Office through Attys.
Luis Ma. Gil L. Gana and Elmer E. Manlangit.[8] In
due time, the other party-appellants followed suit.
[9]
Despite notice PAXTON did not file its Comment,
[10]
while BAIKAL as one of the appellants moved on 27
November 2001 for the early resolution of the pending
motions for reconsideration.[11]
On 14 December 2001 the appellate court
promulgated a Resolution denying all motions for
reconsideration.[12]
On 26 December 2001 TOP RATE through
a Manifestation informed the Court of Appeals that it

filed on 21 December 2001 by registered mail


a Manifestation and Motion of even date which was
attached as annex thereof.[13] The Manifestation and
Motion prayed x x x x 2. That due to compelling reasons, the
Resolution dated December 14, 2001 be RECALLED
and SET ASIDE x x x x 4. That thereafter, this
Honorable Court squarely resolve on the merits the
issues raised by Toprate, Baikal and Hi-Tone in their
separate Motions for Reconsideration; and 5. That the
Motion for Reconsideration filed by Toprate and the
reliefs prayed for therein be granted.
The Manifestation and Motion was signed and filed
in behalf of TOP RATE by the same counsel of
record Gana & Manlangit Law Office through
lawyers Luis Ma. Gil L. Gana and Elmer E.
Manlangit.[14] Incidentally, on 14 January 2002 the
Court of Appeals received the Manifestation and
Motion from the postal service.[15]
On 7 January 2002, despite the Manifestation and
Motion of 21 December 2001 pending with the Court
of Appeals, TOP RATE filed with this Court a motion for
extension of time to file a petition for review from the
adverse CA Decision and Resolution. The motion was
signed by TOP RATEs counsel of record Gana &
Manlangit Law Office through Attys. Luis Ma. Gil
L. Gana and Elmer E. Manlangit.[16] Furthermore,
the motion contained a Verification/Certification under

oath executed by one Alfredo S. Hocson, President of


TOP RATE, that x x x x I have not commenced any other action or
proceeding involving the same issues in the Supreme
Court, the Court of Appeals or different Divisions
thereof, or any other tribunal or agency; to the best of
my knowledge no such action or proceeding is
pending in the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeals or
different divisions thereof, or any other tribunal or
agency; if I should thereafter learn that a similar
action or proceeding has been filed or pending before
the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeals or different
divisions thereof, or any other tribunal or agency, I
undertake to report this fact to this Honorable Court
within five days from notice thereof.
It
may
be
observed
that
the Verification/Certification did not mention the
pending Manifestation and Motion dated 21 December
2001 filed with the Court of Appeals.
Earlier, the other appellants BAIKAL and HITONE filed before this Court their respective motions
for extension of time to file a petition for review of the
adverse CA Decision and Resolution.[17]
On 30 January 2002 this Court denied TOP RATEs
motion for extension of time to file petition for review
for lack of service of a copy of the motion on the Court
of Appeals x x x.[18] Also in separateResolutions of
even date, this Court denied the motions for extension
of time to file petition for review separately filed by

BAIKAL and HI-TONE on the identical ground - for lack


of showing that petitioner has not lost the fifteen (15)
- day reglementary period to appeal x x x it appearing
that the date of filing of the motion for reconsideration
of the assailed judgment is not stated in the motion.[19]
On 4 February 2002, regardless of the denial of its
motion for extension of time to file petition for review,
and the Manifestation and Motion of 21 December
2001 still to be resolved by the Court of Appeals, TOP
RATE
filed
with
this
Court
its Petition
for
Review assailing the CA Decision of 21 May 2001
and Resolution of 14 December 2001, and praying
that
x x x the Decision dated May 21, 2001 of the Court of
Appeals in CA G.R. CV No. 60656 be set aside and a
new one issued x x x confirming TOP RATEs lawful
ownership of Lots 5763-A and 5763-B, Imus Estate, as
well as the validity and authenticity of its TCT Nos. T147755 (Lot 5763-A) & T-147756 (Lot 5763-B), both
issued by the Cavite Register of Deeds x x x x
Declaring as absolutely null and void and no force and
effect Paxtons TCT No. 557274 (Lot 5763), Serapio
Cuencas 1995 TCT 541994 (Lot 5763), and Baikals TCT
542566 (Lot 5763-B) x x x x Awarding TOP RATE the
damages as prayed for in the Answer.[20]
The Petition for Review dated 4 February 2002 was
signed by the same law office of Gana & Manlangit
through Attys. Luis Ma. Gil L. Gana and Elmer E.
Manlangit.[21] The petition included a Secretarys

Certificate executed by TOP RATE Corporate Secretary


Luis Ma. Gil L. Gana stating thus RESOLVED, as it is hereby resolved, that the
Corporation elevate to the Supreme Court the adverse
resolution of the Court of Appeals in CA G.R. CV No.
60656 entitled Paxton Development Corporation v. Top
Rate Const. & General Services, Inc., et al., and HiTone Marketing Corp. v. The Estate and/or Heirs of
Serapio Cuenca, et al. and that its President, Arch.
Alfredo S. Hocson be authorized to represent the
Corporation and sign the Petition for Review on
Certiorari and all the pleadings to be filed therein.[22]
The
petition
also
contained
a Verification/Certification signed under oath by TOP
RATE President Alfredo S. Hocson declaring in relevant
parts
x x x x I have not commenced any other action or
proceeding involving the same issues in the Supreme
Court, the Court of Appeals or different Divisions
thereof, or any other tribunal or agency; to the best of
my knowledge no such action or proceeding is
pending in the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeals or
different divisions thereof, or any other tribunal or
agency; if I should thereafter learn that a similar
action or proceeding has been filed or pending before
the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeals or different
divisions thereof, or any other tribunal or agency, I
undertake to report this fact to this Honorable Court
within five days from notice thereof.[23]

For
the
second
time,
TOP
RATEs Verification/Certification did not state that
its Manifestation and Motion dated 21 December 2001
was then still pending with the Court of Appeals.
On 18 February 2002 BAIKAL filed with this Court
a Manifestation and Motion alleging that it opts to wait
for whatever decision the x x x Court of Appeals may
render in the x x x Manifestation and Motion filed [with
the Court of Appeals] by Top Rate Construction and
General Services, without prejudice, however, to such
remedies as may be available to [Baikal Realty
Corporation] in case of an adverse decision of the
Court of Appeals.
On 6 March 2002 this Court resolved to deny TOP
RATEs Petition for Review for petitioners failure to take
the appeal within the reglementary period of fifteen
(15) days in accordance with Section 2, Rule 45 in
relation to Section 5 (a), Rule 56, in view of the denial
of petitioners motion for extension of time to file
petition in the resolution of 30 January 2002.[24]
On 15 March 2002 TOP RATE moved for
reconsideration of this Courts Resolution of 30 January
2002 by granting Top Rates timely filed motion for
extension of time, and requiring the respondent
PAXTON to comment on the timely filed Petition for
Review on Certiorari.[25] The motion, which was signed
again by the same Gana and Manlangit Law Office
through Attys. Luis Ma. Gil L. Gana and Elmer E.
Manlangit, did not mention the Manifestation and

Motion of 21 December 2001 awaiting decision in the


Court of Appeals.[26]
Surprisingly, on 3 April 2002, TOP RATE filed
a Manifestation and Motion to Withdraw Petition for
Review on Certiorari dated 2 April 2002 contending
that the filing of its petition before this Court was
premature. For the first time, TOP RATE bared to this
Court the existence of its Manifestation and
Motion dated 21 December 2001 pending in the Court
of Appeals which had allegedly superseded its Petition
for Review filed with this Court as the Manifestation
and Motion was taken up by a Division of Five of the
Court of Appeals composed of Associate Justices Portia
Alio-Hormachuelos, Mercedes Gozo-Dadole, Eriberto U.
Rosario, Jr., with Associate Justices Teodoro P. Regino
and Mariano C. del Castillo as additional members.
[27]
The Manifestation and Motion to Withdraw Petition
for Review on Certiorari prayed for the withdrawal of
TOP RATEs petition for review without prejudice to its
refiling in the future if warranted.
On 24 April 2002 this Court denied with finality
TOP
RATEs
motion
for
reconsideration
of
the Resolution dated 30 January 2002, and noted
without action its Manifestation and Motion to
Withdraw Petition dated 2 April 2002. It also appears
that the denial of the motions for extension of time to
file
petition
for
review
separately
filed
by BAIKAL and HI-TONE had
become
final
and
[28]
executory.

Meanwhile, on 22 April 2002 the Division of Five of


the Court of Appeals resolved to defer action on
the Manifestation and Motion dated 21 December
2001 until after the Supreme Court has acted on [Top
Rates] Manifestation and Motion to Withdraw Petition
for Review on Certiorari.[29]
On 31 May 2002, apparently in response to the
above-mentioned Resolution of the Court of Appeals,
TOP
RATE
filed
with
the
appellate
court
a Manifestation informing the Division of Five that it
may now proceed to resolve TOP RATEs Manifestation
and Motion dated 21 December 2001 in light of
the Resolution of the Supreme Court dated 24 April
2002 which noted without action itsManifestation and
Motion to Withdraw Petition for Review on Certiorari of
2 April 2002.[30] The Manifestation was signed by TOP
RATEs lawyer of record Gana & Manlangit Law
Office through the same lawyers Luis Ma. Gil L.
Gana and Elmer E. Manlangit.[31]
On 3 May 2002 this Court made an entry of
judgment for its Resolution of 6 March 2002 denying
TOP RATEs Petition for Review on Certiorari.[32]
On 2 August 2002, notwithstanding the previous
denial with finality of TOP RATEs motion for extension
of time to file petition for review and its Petition for
Review itself, the Division of Five of the Court of
Appeals promulgated an Amended Decision granting
the appeal of TOP RATE and modifying the Joint
Decision of RTC-Br. 21 of Imus, Cavite, thus -

(1) TOPRATE is hereby declared to be the true and


lawful owners (sic) of Lots 5763-A and 5763-B, and the
Transfer Certificates of Title Nos. 147755 for Lot No.
5763-A, and 147756 for Lot No. 5763-B, issued in the
name of defendantappellant TOPRATE, are hereby
proclaimed to be valid and lawfully issued by the
Register of Deeds of Cavite; and (2) The Cavite
Register of Deeds is hereby ORDERED to cancel
PAXTONs Transfer Certificate of Title No. T-557274 for
Lot 5763 of the Imus Estate, and any and all titles
issued covering the subject properties, for being
spurious and void, and of no force and
effect (underscoring and emphasis in the original).[33]
Associate Justice Portia Alio-Hormachuelos penned
a Dissenting Opinion averring that the Manifestation
and Motion dated 21 December 2001 of TOP
RATE should have been dismissed since it was a
prohibited second motion for reconsideration under
Sec. 2, Rule 52, of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure.[34]
On 23 August 2002 PAXTON filed a Motion for
Reconsideration of the Amended Decision.[35] This was
followed on 13 September 2002 by a Partial Motion for
Reconsideration filed by BAIKAL.[36]
On 22 October 2002 the Court of Appeals received
a Letter of Transmittal from the Judicial Records Office
of this Court directing the Clerk of Court of the
appellate court to return the records of [the instant
case] to the x x x court of origin and to submit to this
Court proof of such remand, both within five (5) days
from notice hereof.[37]

On 8 November 2002 TOP RATE filed with this


Court an Urgent Motion to Recall Entry of
Judgment through the same Gana & Manlangit Law
Office as represented by Attys. Luis Ma. Gil L.
Gana and Elmer E. Manlangit.[38]
On 9 December 2002 this Court denied TOP
RATEs Urgent Motion to Recall Entry of Judgment and
required TOP RATE and its counsel to show cause why
they should not be held liable for forum shopping
within five (5) days from notice.[39]
On 27 January 2003 TOP RATE represented by its
President Alfredo S. Hocson and its lawyer Gana &
Manlangit Law Office through Attys. Luis Ma. Gil
L.
Gana
and
Elmer
E.
Manlangit filed
their Compliance asserting that they had no intention
to commit the abhorrent and detestable practice of
forum shopping; assuming that there was forum
shopping, they did so neither willfully nor deliberately
but solely to protect the interest of TOP RATE as
shown by the filing of the Manifestation and Motion to
Withdraw Petition for Review on Certiorari dated 2
April 2002 as soon it was certain that their Petition for
Review on Certiorari was premature; the Manifestation
and Motion dated 21 December 2001 filed with the
Court of Appeals could have been denied as a
prohibited second motion for reconsideration, and with
such denial TOP RATE would have also lost its period
to file an appeal by certiorari to this Court; and, finally,
neither litis pendentia nor res judicata would have
arisen in the instant case since the Supreme Court
may still review the pertinent decision or resolution of

the Court of Appeals on their Manifestation and


Motion dated 21 December 2001.[40]
On 4 February 2003 TOP RATE filed a Motion for
Reconsideration of our Resolution dated 9 December
2002, praying that its motion to recall entry of
judgment be granted.
In the meantime, on 27 March 2003, the Court of
Appeals promulgated a Resolution directing its Clerk
of Court to return the records of this case to the court
of origin, without however making any ruling on what
the court of origin would be executing as the final and
executory decision, nor any statement on the status of
PAXTONs Motion for Reconsideration of the Amended
Decision.[41] ThisResolution seems to be a belated
response to the Letter of Transmittal coming from the
Judicial Records Office of this Court directing the Clerk
of Court of the Court of Appeals to return the records
of the instant case to the trial court.
On
3
April
2003
PAXTON
filed
a Manifestation informing this Court of the 27 March
2003 Resolution of the Court of Appeals purportedly
setting aside its Amended Decision of 2 August 2002,
although nothing in that Resolution validated PAXTONs
submission.
On
6
May
2003
PAXTON
filed
another Manifestation with this Court alleging that
TOP RATE moved for the issuance of a writ of
execution with RTC-Br. 21 of Imus, Cavite, which was
signed this time by a certain Atty. Carmelo M.
Mendoza in behalf of TOP RATE.

On
16
June
2003
this
Court
issued
a Resolution denying with finality TOP RATEs motion
for reconsideration of the Resolution of 9 December
2002 which in turn denied petitioners urgent motion to
recall entry of judgment, and further requiring TOP
RATE to comment on the twin Manifestations of
PAXTON.
In its Comment dated 18 July 2003, TOP RATE
asserted that nowhere was it stated in the 27 March
2003 Resolution of the Court of Appeals that the
appellate
court
was
invalidating
its Amended
Decision of 2 August 2002, and that since the filing of
its Petition for Review with this Court was premature,
the subsequent dismissal thereof did not set aside
the Amended Decision, which allegedly stands as the
decision to be executed by the trial court.
The issues to be resolved herein are: (a) whether
Top Rate Construction and General Services, Inc., and
its counsel Gana & Manlangit Law Office through
Attys. Luis Ma. Gil L. Gana and Elmer E.
Manlangit are guilty of forum shopping, and whether
such transgression is willful and deliberate; (b)
whether Attys. Luis Ma. Gil L. Gana and Elmer E.
Manlangit are administratively liable for violation of
the Code of Professional Responsibility; and, (c)
whether the Amended Decision of 2 August 2002 may
be reversed and set aside in the instant proceedings
for being void on its face.
We have no doubt that Top Rate Construction and
General Services, Inc. and its lawyer Gana &

Manlangit Law Office through Attys. Luis Ma. Gil


L. Gana and Elmer E. Manlangit are guilty of forum
shopping. Although TOP RATE as principal party
executed the several certifications of non-forum
shopping, Attys. Gana and Manlangit cannot deny
responsibility
therefor
since Atty.
Manlangitnotarized the certifications and both of
them definitely knew the relevant case status after
having invariably acted as counsel of TOP RATE before
the trial court, the Court of Appeals and this Court.
Clearly, in seeking to reverse the 13 March
1998 Joint Decision of the trial court and the 21 May
2001 Decision of the appellate court and to perfect
ownership of Lots 5763-A and 5763-B upon similar
causes and the same reliefs, TOP RATE and its lawyers
committed forum shopping when they resorted
simultaneously to both this Court by means of
their Petition for Review on Certiorari and the Court of
Appeals through their Manifestation and Motion dated
21 December 2001. This misdeed amounts to a
wagering on the result of their twin devious strategies,
and shows not only their lack of faith in this Court in
its evenhanded administration of law but also their
expression of disrespect if not ridicule for our judicial
process and orderly procedure.
Furthermore, while TOP RATE and its counsel
moved to withdraw their Petition for Review for
whatever such maneuver was worth, they did so only
after they had been rebuffed in this Court. In doing so,
they themselves proved that their coordinated actions
were carried out purposely to increase their chances

of securing a favorable decision. As has been held, a


party is said to have sought to improve his odds of
obtaining a sympathetic decision or action where after
an unfavorable decision has been rendered against
him in any of the cases he has brought before the
courts, he seeks to abandon the adverse proceeding
and concentrate his attention on the remaining case.
[42]

The instant case is similar to E. Razon, Inc. v.


Philippine
Ports
Authority.[43] In E.
Razon,
Inc., petitioners after filing a petition for certiorari with
prayer for the issuance of a temporary restraining
order in the Supreme Court filed an hour later a
similar petition before the Regional Trial Court and,
having been assured of a favorable action by the
latter court, then sought the withdrawal of the petition
in this Court. Petitioners were found guilty of forumshopping, the Court holding that (t)he acts of
petitioners constitute a clear case of forum-shopping,
an act of malpractice that is proscribed and
condemned as trifling with the courts and abusing
their processes.[44]
What aggravates the transgression perpetrated by
TOP RATE and its lawyers is that they deceived the
highest court of the land. In all the certificates of nonforum shopping they presented to this Court, they did
not reveal the existence of their Manifestation and
Motion dated 21 December 2001 which they claimed
was still pending before the Court of Appeals. They
divulged this secret only after their motion for
extension of time to file a petition for review and

their Petition for Review on Certiorari were denied by


this Court, and only after they had filed their motion
for reconsideration of such denials.
If TOP RATE and its counsel genuinely believed
that their recourse to this Court was premature, why
then did they still ask for a reconsideration of
the Resolutions denying their motion for extension
and Petition for Review? Evidently they were venturing
on two (2) fronts, and presumably simply awaiting
auspicious word or two on their Manifestation and
Motion of 21 December 2001 before finally disclosing
their real intent.
Worse, in their attempt to extricate themselves
from the prejudicial Resolutions of this Court, TOP
RATE and its counsel had the temerity to ask for the
withdrawal of their Petition for Review, again on the
insolent assertion that their resort to this Court was
premature. For the record, it took them four (4)
months from 21 December 2001 when they filed
their Manifestation and Motion up to 3 April 2002
when they submitted their Manifestation and Motion
to Withdraw Petition for Review on Certiorari, to
concoct the theory of prematurity!
To be sure, there is no merit in the claim that
the Petition for Review initiated by TOP RATE and its
lawyers was premature. TOP RATE and its lawyers are
estopped from claiming that this initiatory pleading
was premature for it was their unwavering
representation before this Court that the Court of
Appeals had already rendered a final and appealable

decision when they filed their motion for extension of


time and ultimately their Petition for Review. The filing
of such petition presupposes the finality of the
judgment subject of appeal.
In any event, Sec. 15 of the 2002 Internal Rules of
the Court of Appeals (which is a restatement of Sec. 8,
Rule 9, of the old Revised Internal Rules of the Court
of Appeals) explicitly provides that (n)o motion for
reconsideration or rehearing shall be acted upon if the
movant has previously filed in the Supreme Court a
petition for review on certiorari or a motion for
extension of time to file such petition. If such petition
or motion is subsequently filed, the motion for
reconsideration pending in this Court shall be deemed
abandoned.
Verily,
although
a
motion
for
reconsideration is still before the Court of Appeals, the
motion is deemed vacated once the jurisdiction of this
Court is invoked.
The lawyers of TOP RATE are not excused from
engaging in forum shopping for the reason that their
clients interests were then paramount. On the
contrary, this assertion coming as it does from
their Compliance of 25 January 2003 in reply to our
show cause order, very well confirms the identical
causes and their reliefs of their Petition for Review on
Certiorari and Manifestation and Motiondated 21
December 2001 as both were calculated to quash the
adverse decisions of the Court of Appeals.
It bears stressing that a lawyer truly worth his oath
pledges allegiance not only to his clients but also to

society, the legal profession and the courts, for the


clients cause is not all encompassing nor perpetually
overriding. Moreover, if their purpose in filing
the Petition for Review even while the Manifestation
and Motion was pending with the Court of Appeals is
to protect some entitlements of TOP RATE, are they
implying that the Supreme Court is incapable of
defending such asserted right? But the court a
quo can? We
certainly
cannot
unfold
our
compassionate mantle in this instance, and instead,
we must lay our disciplinary hand to strike down the
reprehensible ploy employed by TOP RATE and Attys.
Gana and Manlangit.
TOP RATE and its lawyers cannot rectify their
forum shopping by arguing that litis pendentia and res
judicata would not have arisen in the instant case
since the Supreme Court may still review the pertinent
decision or resolution of the Court of Appeals on
their Manifestation and Motion dated 21 December
2001.
This argument is patently misplaced. For precisely,
the concurrent pleadings of TOP RATE and its lawyers
exhibit
the
element
of litis
pendentia and res
judicata alleged by them to be absent, i.e., the result
of the first action is determinative of the second action
in any event and regardless of which party is
successful, since the action of this Court on
the Petition for Review will surely bind the other
pending action on the same cause in the court a
quo. Moreover, how can this Court still resolve on
appeal such subsequent decision when it has already

decided with finality the same cause upon which the


later decision was supposedly based? The purported
review by this Court of the ensuing decision would
have been barred by res judicata. Incidentally,
in Crisostomo
v.
Securities
and
Exchange
[45]
Commission
where forum shopping was detected,
the infringing cases were filed with the Court of
Appeals and the Supreme Court.
We also rule that the forum shopping pulled off by
TOP RATE and its lawyers is willful and deliberate. As
reflected in the Secretarys Certificate authorizing the
President of TOP RATE to file the necessary pleadings
in court to question the adverse decisions of the Court
of Appeals, Atty. Luis Ma. Gil L. Gana as TOP RATE
Corporate Secretary attested to the collective desire
to
file
the Petition
for
Review even
while
the Manifestation and Motion of 21 December 2001
was still pending with the Court of Appeals.
In addition, the Manifestation and Motion filed with
the Court of Appeals which prayed for the same reliefs
as the Petition for Review before this Court was
deemed filed as early as 21 December 2001, yet its
existence was disclosed to this Court only on 3 April
2002 when TOP RATE and its lawyers submitted
their Manifestation and Motion to Withdraw Petition
for Review on Certiorari. What is more, this
underhanded sense of honesty was triggered only
after the adverse Resolutions of this Court were
promulgated. Prior to this confession, TOP RATE as
abetted by its lawyers executed certificates of nonforum shopping in its motion for extension of time to

file petition for review and its Petition for Review itself,
which contained no reference to the filing or pendency
of the Manifestation and Motion filed with the Court of
Appeals. In fact, even as TOP RATE moved to
reconsider the denial of its motion for time
and Petition for Review, there was no mention
whatsoever of its existence.
We also keenly observe how Attys. Luis Ma. Gil
L. Gana and Elmer E. Manlangit instigated the
Court of Appeals to rule on their Manifestation and
Motion of 21 December 2001, thereby consummate
and realize the fruits of their forum shopping, when
they
nonchalantly
alleged
in
one
of
their Manifestations before the Court of Appeals that
the appellate court may already proceed to resolve
TOP RATEs Manifestation and Motion despite their
knowledge that their Petition for Review had been
denied with finality and that their motion to withdraw
such petition was not granted.
Obviously, under the foregoing state of facts,
forum shopping was crafted willfully and deliberately
with the sole objective of endorsing whichever
proceeding would yield favorable consequences to
TOP RATEs interests.
On the second issue, we hold that Attys. Luis Ma.
Gil L. Gana and Elmer E. Manlangit of the Gana
and Manlangit Law Office, counsel of record of TOP
RATE, are administratively liable for grotesque
violations of the Code of Professional Responsibility. In
arriving at this conclusion, we strongly note

how Attys. Luis Ma. Gil L. Gana and Elmer E.


Manlangit prompted the Court of Appeals to rule on
their Manifestation and Motion of 21 December 2001
and thereby complete the process of forum shopping,
despite their knowledge that their Petition for
Review had been denied with finality and that their
motion to withdraw such petition was not granted.
Under Sec. 5, Rule 7, of the 1997 Rules of Civil
Procedure, willful and deliberate forum shopping
constitutes direct contempt of court and a cause for
administrative sanctions, which may both be resolved
and imposed in the same case where the forum
shopping is found.[46]
The lawyers of record of TOP RATE, as all other
lawyers, should be reminded that their primary duty is
to assist the courts in the administration of
justice. Any conduct which tends to delay, impede or
obstruct the administration thereof contravenes their
oath of office.
A lawyer shall uphold the Constitution, obey the
laws of the land, promote respect for law and legal
processes;[47] shall not counsel or abet activities aimed
at defiance of the law or at lessening the confidence in
the legal system;[48] shall observe the rules of
procedure and not misuse them to defeat the ends of
justice;[49] shall not file multiple actions arising from
the same cause;[50] shall impress upon his client
compliance with the laws and the principles of
fairness;[51] shall represent his client with zeal within
the bounds of the law;[52] and, shall employ only fair

and honest means to attain the lawful objectives of his


client x x x x[53]
This Court has time and again warned counsel of
litigants not to abuse court processes, especially not
to resort to forum shopping for this practice clogs the
court dockets. Regrettably, TOP RATEs counsel of
record failed to internalize and observe with due
regard the honorable tenets of the legal profession
and the noble mission of our courts of justice.
In previous cases[54] the penalties imposed upon
erring lawyers who engaged in forum shopping ranged
from severe censure to suspension from the practice
of law. In the instant case, the suspension of Attys.
Gana and Manlangit from the practice of law for six
(6) months from finality of this Resolution should make
them realize the seriousness of the consequences and
implications of their abuse of judicial process and
disrespect for judicial authority.
Finally, on the third issue, this Court has no choice
but to reverse and set aside the Amended Decision of
the Court of Appeals promulgated on 2 August 2002
for being void on its face. To be sure, the instant
proceeding is a collateral attack on such decision
since the issue of its validity is involved in this action
only as a mere incident.[55] Of course, this attack is
proper only when the assailed judgment is null on its
face, as where it is patent that the court which
rendered the judgment in question has no jurisdiction.
[56]
Parenthetically, forum shopping is consummated

although the court in which one of the suits was


brought has no jurisdiction over the action.[57]
In Macabingkil
v.
Peoples
Homesite
and
[58]
Development Corporation
we held that a collateral
attack is proper against a challenged judgment which
is void upon its face or where the nullity of the
judgment is apparent by virtue of its own recitals. The
nullity must be shown from the averments of the
questioned decision or the documents in the record
itself, and not upon mere errors of judgment but on
the ground that the court had no power or authority to
grant the relief or no jurisdiction over the subject
matter or the parties or both. [59] A proceeding for
contempt of court is an appropriate collateral vehicle
for declaring a judgment void, provided that the
aforementioned requisites for such action are present.
[60]

When the Division of Five of the Court of Appeals


promulgated the Amended Decision of 2 August 2002,
TOP RATE had already filed with this Court its motion
for extension of time to file petition for review and
thereafter its Petition for Review. What is worse, even
before the Amended Decision was handed down, this
Court had already denied TOP RATEs motion for
extension of time to file petition for review for lack of
service of a copy of the motion on the Court of
Appeals x x x x; thereafter denied its Petition for
Review for petitioners failure to take the appeal within
the reglementary period of fifteen (15) days in
accordance with Section 2, Rule 45 in relation to
Section 5 (a), Rule 56, in view of the denial of

petitioners motion for extension of time to file petition


in the resolution of 30 January 2002; and, denied with
finality TOP RATEs motion for reconsideration of the
adverse Resolutions, as well as noted without action
its Manifestation
and
Motion
to
Withdraw
Petition dated 2 April 2002.
Under the foregoing circumstances, the Court of
Appeals
has
lost
jurisdiction
to
rule
on
the Manifestation and Motion of 21 December
2001. As earlier mentioned, Sec. 15 of the 2002
Internal Rules of the Court of Appeals bluntly affirms
that no motion for reconsideration or rehearing shall
be acted upon if the movant has previously filed in the
Supreme Court a petition for review on certiorari or a
motion for extension of time to file such petition. If
such petition or motion is subsequently filed, the
motion for reconsideration pending in this Court shall
be deemed abandoned. As the jurisdiction of this
Court had been summoned, it was too late in the day
for the appellate court to act upon the Manifestation
and Motion and enter a new decision on the merits.
Our ruling in Joy Mart Consolidated Corp. v. Court
of Appeals[61] is instructive. In that case, the trial court
granted plaintiff a writ of preliminary injunction
against defendants, which the latter challenged before
the Court of Appeals on petition for certiorari and
prohibition with prayer for the immediate lifting
thereof. While the certiorari petition to review the writ
was still pending in the appellate court, defendants
filed in the trial court a joint petition to dissolve the
writ, offering to post a counterbond for that

purpose. As prayed for, the trial court dissolved the


writ
and
denied
plaintiffs
motion
for
reconsideration. Meanwhile, the Court of Appeals upon
being apprised of the trial courts action dismissed the
petition for certiorari for having become moot and
academic.
The issue in Joy Mart Consolidated Corp. was
whether the trial court continued to have control of
the writ of preliminary injunction even after the same
had been raised to the Court of Appeals for
review. This Court ineluctably ruled
The answer is no. After the LRTA and Phoenix had
elevated the writ of preliminary injunction to the Court
of Appeals for determination of the propriety of its
issuance x x x the trial court (notwithstanding the
absence of a temporary restraining order from the
appellate court) could not interfere with or preempt
the action or decision of the Court of Appeals on the
writ x x x whose annulment was sought therein by
Phoenix and the LRTA. In petitioning the trial court to
lift the writ x x x Phoenix and the LRTA engaged in
forum-shopping. After the question of whether the writ
x x x should be annulled or continued had been
elevated to the Court of Appeals for determination,
the trial court lost jurisdiction or authority to act on
the same matter x x x x They improperly tried to moot
their own petition in the Court of Appeals - a clear
case of trifling with the proceedings in the appellate
court or of disrespect for said court x x x x Judicial
courtesy behooved the trial court to keep its hands off

the writ x x x and defer to the better judgment of the


Court of Appeals the determination of whether the writ
should be continued or discontinued x x x x The
private respondents application to the trial court for
the dissolution of the writ x x x that was pending
review in the Court of Appeals was a form of forum
shopping which this Court views with extreme
disapproval. The lower courts proceeding being void
for lack of jurisdiction, the writ of preliminary
injunction should be reinstated, and the petition to
annul the writ x x x should be dismissed on the ground
of forum shopping x x x x[62]
The absence of jurisdiction on the part of the
court a quo is manifest not only from the
voluminous rollo compiled by the Court of Appeals but
also from the four corners of the Amended
Decision.From the case record, we will find copies of
TOP RATEs motion for extension of time to file petition
for
review,
its Petition
for
Review,
the
adverse Resolutions of this Court denying the motion
for extension of time to file petition for review and
the Petition for Review itself. The case record also
informs us of the denial with finality of TOP RATEs
motion
for
reconsideration
of
the
unfavorableResolutions of this Court as well as the
noting without action of its Manifestation and Motion
to Withdraw Petition dated 2 April 2002. From these
circumstances alone, we can clearly infer lack of
jurisdiction of the Court of Appeals to promulgate
the Amended Decision.

Moreover, in the 22 April 2002 Resolution of the


Division of Five, action on the Manifestation and
Motion dated 21 December 2001 was deferred until
after the Supreme Court has acted on [Top Rates]
Manifestation and Motion to Withdraw Petition for
Review on Certiorari.[63] This implies that the appellate
court was well-aware that TOP RATE had summoned
the authority of this Court. Finally, in the Dissenting
Opinion which forms an integral part of the Amended
Decision, there are unmistakable references to
the Petition for Review which was filed with this Court
while the Manifestation and Motion was still pending in
the Court of Appeals
On April 24, 2002 this Court deferred action on
appellant TOP RATEs Manifestation and Motion dated
December 21, 2001 x x x due to the pendency in the
Supreme Court of TOP RATEs Motion to Withdraw the
Petition for Review on Certiorari it earlier filed therein
x x x x On June 7, 2002 this Division received a copy
of the Supreme Courts Resolution dismissing with
finality TOP RATEs Motion for Reconsideration of its
Resolution dismissing TOP RATEs Petition for Review x
xxx
Undoubtedly, we can nullify the Amended
Decision in the instant case since the dearth of
jurisdiction of the Court of Appeals to rule upon
the Manifestation and Motion can be plainly discerned
not only from the case record but also from the text of
the assailed decision itself.

WHEREFORE,
we
Resolve
to
(a) REVERSE and SET ASIDE the Amended Decision of
2 August 2002 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. No.
CV-60656 and REINSTATE its Decision of 21 May 2001
(affirming in toto the Joint Decision of 13 March 1998
of the RTC-Br. 21, Imus, Cavite); (b) DECLARE Attys.
Luis Ma. Gil L. Gana and Elmer E. Manlangit of
the Gana and Manlangit Law Office as well as its
client Top Rate Construction and General Services,
Inc., in CONTEMPT of this Court and DIRECT Atty.
Luis Ma.
Gil L.
Gana, Atty.
Elmer E.
Manlangit and Top Rate Construction and General
Services, Inc., to each pay a fine of P10,000.00 within
five (5) days from finality of this Resolution; and,
(c) SUSPEND from the practice of law Attys. Luis Ma.
Gil L. Gana and Elmer E. Manlangit for six (6)
months effective from finality of this Resolution, with
warning that any future violation of their duties as
lawyers will be dealt with more severely.
Top Rate Construction and General Services, Inc.
shall PAY double costs in this instance.
Let copies of this Resolution be attached to the Bar
records of Attys. Luis Ma. Gil L. Gana and Elmer E.
Manlangit, and served upon the Court of Appeals, the
RTC-Br. 21, Imus, Cavite, the Office of the Bar
Confidant of this Court, and the Integrated Bar of the
Philippines, for proper dissemination among its
chapters all over the country, and for whatever
appropriate action they may deem proper to take
under the premises.

SO ORDERED.
Quisumbing,
Austria-Martinez,
Sr., and Tinga, JJ., concur

Callejo,

[A.M. No. P-94-1080.November 27, 2001]


AMANE vs. ATTY. SUSAN MENDOZA-ARCE
EN BANC
Gentlemen:
Quoted hereunder, for your information, is a
resolution of this Court dated NOV 27 2001.
A.M. No. P-94-1080(Dinah Christina A. Amane vs. Atty.
Susan Mendoza-Arce.)
A.M. No. P-95-1128(Atty. Susan Mendoza-Arce vs.
Anita B. Duran, Johnel C. Arches and Atty. Esperanza
Isabel E. Poco-Deslate.) and
A.M. No. P-95-1144(Atty. Esperanza Poco-Deslate vs.
Atty. Susan M. Arce.)

In a Decision dated November 19, 1999, this Court


found Atty. Susan Mendoza-Arce, respondent, guilty of
grave misconduct, oppression and conduct prejudicial
to the best interest of the service, and imposed upon
her the penalty of dismissal from the service,
forfeiture of all benefits and benefits and privileges
and disqualification for re-employment in the
government, including government, owned and
controlled corporation.
On December 14, 1999, respondent filed a motion for
reconsideration but was denied by this Court in a
Resolution dated February 8, 2000.
On March 28, 2000, respondent filed another motion
for reconsideration but was again denied in a
Resolution dated June 20, 2000.
Undeterred, respondent filed the present motion for
reconsideration, "entreating this Honorable Court to
bestow upon her its utmost compassion and
understanding by diminishing the stringent
application of disciplinary rules." 1 Motion for
Reconsideration. She implores this Honorable Court to
consider her dedicated service in the judicial branch
of the government for the last sixteen years.She
claims that her obstinate desire to cling to her
position is spurred by her concern for her children
who will bear the stigma of "her fall from grace."She
admits that while she may have been stubborn in her
ways, she "has changed for the better" over the

years.She also states that learning from experience,


she "became more circumspect in her dealings" with
her co-employees.Moreover, in her hope that "her
reformation will be taken kindly by this Court," she
extends "her most sincere apology" and manifests her
determination to observe courtesy, understanding
and respect.She prays that her penalty of dismissal
imposed upon her be reversed and set aside and
another judgment be rendered reinstating her to her
former position, restoring all benefits to her and lifting
her disqualification to be employed in the government
service.
We partially grant the motion.
This Court is not only a court of law and of justice, but
one with compassion. 2 Torralba vs. Court of Appeals,
G.R. No. 124526, October 2, 1996. Respondent's
earnest plea for understanding impels us to take a
second look at her case.Upon a re-examination of the
circumstances which led to the filing of the charges
against respondent, we find that justice would be
better served if the penalties imposed upon her be
reconsidered in view of some mitigating factors
present in this case.
Respondent was dismissed from the service as Clerk
of Court, not because of dishonesty, corruption or lack
of integrity in the performance of her official
duties.The charge for grave misconduct and
oppression against her arose from her being very

strict in the management of work and personnel,


believing that her performance was proper and in the
interest of the service.Thus, her aim was noble to
improve the quality of service to the
public.Unfortunately, her manner in achieving this
goal exceeded the proper standards of decorum.She
has realized her misdeeds.We see her contrite heart
and her utmost sincerity for reformation as she
expressed her appeal in this wise:
"It is x x x respondent's ardent desire to convey
herein that the matters for which she was charged
happened some five years ago. x x x. The cases came
about because respondent waged a 'crusade' in her
relentless desire to improve the quality of service in
the judicial branch where she was employed.She
admits that she was rigid in her means to rid the
court of inefficiency and lack of integrity.However, her
motives were never dishonorable.Respondent does
not seek to justify or diminish her responsibility, she
merely wishes to emphasize the circumstances
surrounding her case in its proper perspective.
"When the unreasonable display of passions
attendant to the adversarial proceedings subsided,
respondent voluntarily mended her attitude,
demeanor and countenance.She adopted a friendly
disposition, even temperament and quiet attitude and
she pursued greater dedication to and love for her
work.True, in the past she lacked the tact in dealing
with her co-employees but her record for the last five

years shows a marked improvement in her relations


with everyone.Manifesting her loyalty and devotion to
the continual improvement of public service,
respondent carried her very strong desire to
contribute her humble share to the speedy,
inexpensive and efficient dispensation of justice as
well as in upholding the integrity and dignity of the
court.
"Attesting to these changes are the recent
experiences of people with whom she dealt although
they may seem unrelated to her past
conduct.Respondent believes that their statements
manifest the quality of her service which may be used
as lenses in looking into her complex character not
only as a lawyer, public servant and working mother
but as a human being capable of surpassing the
repulsive reflection that may have been created by
the contending parties in these cases.Though it may
appear immodest, respondent submits the following
affidavits of disinterested persons who described her
conduct as the Clerk of Court for the Regional Trial
Court of Roxas City, which are hereto attached as
Annexes "1" to "4":
1. Ms. Fe Gomez-Villaruz, editor, the
Capiz Times, Roxas City;
2. Mr. Wilfredo A. Mana-ay, branch head,
Development Bank of the Philippines, Roxas City;

3. Atty. Lyna Brotarlo-Pasco, Senior


Assistant
Manager/Legal
Counsel,
Philippine National Bank, Roxas City;
and
4. Ms. Victoria Regina N. Arches,
Managing Director, GRF-HUBLAG, Roxas
City.
"In addition, the letter of Atty. Hector P. Teodisio,
as well as the commendation given by Justice Alfredo
Benipayo, the Court Administrator, to respondent are
hereto attached as Annexes "5" and "6", respectively.
"Respondent hopes that the foregoing testimonials
would also enable this Honorable Court to consider
respondent's situation with a more clement and
sympathetic eye. 3 Ibid, pp. 5-6.
We observe that respondent's dismissal from the
service stemmed from flaws in her personality, which
she admits.The integrity of her performance in office
is never an issue.On the contrary, she has been
regarded as an exemplary public servant as attested
by some persons she professionally dealt with.
Fe G. Villaruz, Editor of The Capiz Times, stated in her
affidavit dated February 8, 2000 that through the
years, she has been dealing with respondent in
charge of the publication of legal notices.She regards
respondent to be cordial, professional and a public
servant who can help eliminate corruption in public

service.Thus, for the Capiz Times' anniversary, she


was one of the awardees for exemplary public service.
Wilfredo A. Mana-ay, Head of the Roxas City Branch of
the Development Bank of the Philippines, and Lyna
Brotarlo-Pasco, Senior Assistant Manager, Philippine
National Bank, Roxas City Branch, stated in their
respective affidavits that in extrajudicial foreclosure
cases, respondent was prompt in the implementation
of the processes of the court.She saw to it that the
deputy sheriffs charge only reasonable sheriff's fees
which before were excessive.They commended
respondent as "one public servant that is now badly
needed by our judicial agency to help eradicate
corrupt practices."
In a letter dated September 28, 1998, Victoria Regina
N. Arches, Managing Director of Gerry Roxas
Foundation, thanked respondent for her prompt
enforcement of a writ of preliminary attachment
which paved the way for the grant of livelihood and
financial assistance to deserving entrepreneurs, small
farmers, fisherman and poor clients.
On May 28, 1999, then Court Administrator Alfredo L.
Benipayo commended respondent for her efficiency in
the expeditious service of summons after he received
a letter from plaintiff's counsel in Civil Case No. C7259 (Coca-Cola Bottlers Phils., Inc. versus Spouses
Pedro Calle and Lorna Calle), expressing appreciation

for such outstanding service.


These laudable attestations of respondent's
incorruptible service cannot simply be brushed
aside.Through her commendable performance, the
integrity of the judiciary has in fact been enhanced.
Aside from the fact that respondent has humbly
acknowledged her transgressions and offered her
most sincere apology, 4 OCA vs. Panganiban, 277
SCRA 499, 505 (1997). records show that she has
rendered dedicated service in the judiciary for sixteen
(16) years 5 Sec. 53, Revised Uniform Rules on
Administrative Cases in the Civil Service.These are
cogent factors warranting a reduction of the
disciplinary sanctions.
In Tolentino vs. Mangapit, 6 124 SCRA 741 (1983). this
Court ruled that the failure of a lawyer to give notice
of an adverse decision to her client may be traced to
her inexperience.Considering that this was her first
error, this court merely admonished her.The one
month suspension recommended by the Solicitor
General was rejected being too harsh and severe.
In the instant case, we apply the same compassionate
stance thus taken by this Court.While we cannot
tolerate irate acts in the public service, we, however,
cannot ignore the plea of a court officer who, humbled
by this Court's sanction, has not only learned, but
more importantly, has reformed her ways.This, to our

minds, warrants the lifting of the penalty


of perpetual disqualification for reemployment in the government owned and
controlled corporations.

EN BANC
[A.C. No. 5161. April 14, 2004]

We also delete the penalty of forfeiture of all her


benefits and privileges.Sec. 58(a), Rule IV of
Memorandum Circular No. 19, Series of 1999 of the
Civil Service Commission provides:

ISIDRA
TING-DUMALI, complainant,
vs. ATTY.
ROLANDO S. TORRES, respondent.

"Sec. 58.The penalty of dismissal shall carry with it


that of cancellation of eligibility, forfeiture of
retirement benefits, and the perpetual
disqualification for reemployment in the government
service, unless otherwise provided in the decision."

PER CURIAM:

Evidently, respondent's accrued leave credits should


not have been forfeited.
WHEREFORE, our Decision is hereby
MODIFIED.Respondent Susan M. Arce is GRANTED her
accrued leave credits and the order disqualifying her
to be re-employed in the government, including
government owned and controlled
corporations, is LIFTED.Bellosillo, J., no part.

RESOLUTION

In a Complaint-Affidavit[1] filed on 22 October 1999


with this Court, complainant Isidra Ting-Dumali
charges respondent Atty. Rolando S. Torres with
presentation of false testimony; participation in,
consent to, and failure to advise against, the forgery
of complainants signature in a purported Deed of
Extrajudicial Settlement; and gross misrepresentation
in court for the purpose of profiting from such forgery,
thereby violating his oath as a lawyer and the canons
of legal and judicial ethics.
The complainant is one of the six children of the
late spouses Julita Reynante and Vicente Ting. Her
siblings are Marcelina T. Rivera; Miriam T. Saria;
Felicisima T. Torres, who is married to herein
respondent; Vicente Ting, Jr.; and Eliseo Ting. Their
parents died intestate and left several parcels of land,
to wit:

a) One half of Lot 1586 of the San Francisco de


Malabon Estate, containing an area of
43,908 square meters more or less, and
covered at that time by TCT No. (T-6203)
RT-19151 of the Registry of Deeds of
Cavite;
b) Lot 1603 of the San Francisco de Malabon
Estate, containing an area of 16,073
square meters, more or less, and covered
at that time by TCT No. (T-6425) RT-7688
of the Registry of Deeds of Cavite;
c) Lot 1605 of the San Francisco de Malabon
Estate, containing an area of 22,131
square meters, more or less and covered
at that time by TCT No. T- 1869 of the
Registry of Deeds of Cavite.
According to the complainant, the respondent took
advantage of his relationship with her and her
brothers and used his profession to deprive them of
what was lawfully due them even if it involved the
commission of an illegal, unlawful, or immoral act. She
attributes to the respondent the following acts or
omissions:
1. The respondent participated in, consented to, and
failed to advise against, the perjury committed by his
wife Felicisima and his sister-in-law Miriam when they
executed a Deed of Extrajudicial Settlement of Estate
dated11 November 1986, wherein the two made it

appear that they were the sole heirs of the late


spouses Julita Reynante and Vicente Ting, knowing
fully well that the same was false. He presented that
document to the Register of Deeds of Cavite for the
transfer of the title over Lot No. 1586 in the names of
his wife and Miriam. The lot was later sold to Antel
Holdings Inc. for P1,195,400. Payment was already
made to, and received by, Felicisima and Miriam.
2. The respondent participated in, consented to, and
failed to advise against, the forgery of complainants
signature in a purported Deed of Extrajudicial
Settlement dated 17 March 1995 involving Lot 1603
when he knew that she was in Italy at that time
working as an overseas contract worker. He even
presented the falsified document to the Register of
Deeds of Cavite to transfer the title over the property
in favor of his wife Felicisima and sister-in-law
Marcelina. The forgery or falsification was made to
enable them to sell Lot 1603 to Antel Holdings,
Inc. Payment was received and misappropriated by
Felicisima and Marcelina.
3. In LRC Rec. No. 5964 entitled In Re:Petition for
Judicial Reconstitution of the Original Copy and
Owners Duplicate Copy of TCT No. T-1869 Covering Lot
No. 1605 of the Registry of Deeds for the Province of
Cavite, filed by complainants sisters Marcelina and
Felicisima on 24 October 1995, the respondent made
gross misrepresentation and offered false testimony to
the effect that Marcelina and Felicisima are the only
children and legal heirs of the late spouses Vicente

Ting and Julita Reynante for the purpose of obtaining a


new title in their names. With the reconstituted title,
and with the express conformity of the respondent,
Felicisima and Marcelina were able to sell Lot
1605 to Antel Holdings, Inc., for P2,213,100
and profited from the sale to the exclusion of their
other siblings. Partial payment was even
received pending the reconstitution proceedings.
4. On 20 November 1996, the respondent made gross
and false misrepresentations for the purpose of
profiting therefrom when he requested the buyer
through a certain Mrs. Ong to release the full payment
for Lot 1605 under the pretense that the order of
reconstitution would be released within a month when
he knew that it would be impossible because he
presented evidence in the reconstitution case only on
12 August 1997. To facilitate the release of the money,
he even used the stationery of the Philippine National
Bank, of which he was an employee.
In his Comment,[2] the respondent denies the
allegations of the complaint and asserts that he did
not take advantage of his profession to deprive any of
the co-heirs of his wife of the estate left by his
parents-in-law.
Insofar as Lot 1586 is concerned, the respondent
affirms that Felicisima and Miriam were not motivated
by any desire to solely profit from the sale. Neither
can he be faulted by the execution of the Deed of
Extrajudicial Settlement dated 17 March 1995

involving Lot 1603 because he had no part in the


execution of the document. All the while he believed
in good faith that the Ting sisters had already agreed
on how to dispose of the said lot. If ever complainants
signature was affixed on that document, it was done in
good faith.
The respondent admits that he was the counsel of
Marcelina Ting Rivera, et. al., in LRC Case No. 5964 for
the reconstitution of TCT No. T-1869. The false
testimony of Marcelina in that case that she and
Felicisima were the only children of spouses Vicente
Ting and Julita Reynante could not be faulted on him
because such was a clear oversight. Moreover, the
sale of Lot 1605 to Antel Holdings, Inc., was the
decision of Marcelina and his wife. His conformity
through his signature was pro-forma because the
property was a paraphernal property of Marcelina and
his wife. Anent his alleged gross and false
misrepresentation that the order of reconstitution
would be released by the end of November 1996,
suffice it to say that the assurance was made by the
Clerk of Court, Mr. Rosauro Morabe. Besides, petitions
for reconstitution are usually uncontested and granted
by courts.
Finally, the respondent believes that complainant
intended to harass him in bombarding him with
numerous lawsuits, i.e., this administrative case; Civil
Case No. TM-855 for Annulment of Documents, Titles,
and Reconveyance plus Damages; and a criminal case
for Estafa and Falsification of Public Documents.

In her reply, the complainant denies the presence


of toka or verbal will allegedly made by her mother
and allegedly implemented by their eldest brother
Eliseo in view of the following circumstances: (1) her
mother met a sudden death in 1967; and partition of
the properties in total disregard of their father was
morally reprehensible, since the latter was still alive;
(2) when their mother died, four of the siblings were
still minors including respondents wife herself; (3) on 5
February 2000, Eliseo wrote his siblings, in response to
the previous letter of Felicisima, Marcelina, and
Miriam, denying the existence of a toka. She further
states that the respondent was not merely a passive
onlooker but, as he admitted, the administrator of the
properties of the Ting spouses.

In its Resolution No. XV-2003-333[5] of 21 June


2003, the Board of Governors of the IBP approved and
adopted Commissioner San Juans report, but reduced
the penalty to suspension from the practice of law for
six years.

On 14 June 2000, this Court referred the case to


the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) for
investigation, report, and recommendation
or
[3]
decision.

LAWYER'S OATH

On 9 January 2003, after due hearing and


consideration of the issues presented by both parties,
Investigating Commissioner Milagros V. San Juan of the
Commission on Bar Discipline of the IBP found the
actuations of the respondent to be violative of Rules
1.01 and 1.02 of Canon 1 and Rule 10.01 of Canon 10
of the Code of Professional Responsibility. Thus she
recommended that the respondent be disbarred from
the practice of law.[4]

We
fully
agree
with
the
Investigating
Commissioner in her findings of facts and conclusion
of culpability. The respondent has sufficiently
demonstrated that he is morally and legally unfit to
remain in the exclusive and honorable fraternity of the
legal profession. In his long years as a lawyer, he must
have forgotten his sworn pledge as a lawyer. It is time
once again that the Court inculcate in the hearts of all
lawyers that pledge; thus:

I, , do solemnly swear that I will maintain allegiance to


the Republic of the Philippines; I will support its
Constitution and obey the laws as well as the legal
orders of the duly constituted authorities therein; I will
do no falsehood, nor consent to its commission; I will
not wittingly or willingly promote or sue any
groundless, false or unlawful suit nor give aid nor
consent to the same; I will delay no man for money or
malice, and will conduct myself as a lawyer according
to the best of my knowledge and discretion with all
good fidelity as well to the courts as to my clients; and
I impose upon myself this voluntary obligation without
any mental reservation or purpose of evasion.

SO HELP ME GOD.
This oath to which all lawyers have subscribed in
solemn agreement to dedicate themselves to the
pursuit of justice is not a mere ceremony or formality
for practicing law to be forgotten afterwards; nor is it
mere words, drift and hollow, but a sacred trust that
lawyers must uphold and keep inviolable at all
times. By swearing the lawyers oath, they become
guardians of truth and the rule of law, as well as
instruments in the fair and impartial dispensation of
justice.[6] This oath is firmly echoed and reflected in
the Code of Professional Responsibility, which
provides:
CANON 1 A lawyer shall uphold the constitution, obey
the laws of the land and promote respect for law and
for legal processes.
Rule 1.01 A lawyer shall not engage in unlawful,
dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct.
Rule 1.02 A lawyer shall not counsel or abet activities
aimed at defiance of the law or at lessening
confidence in the legal system.
...
CANON 7 A lawyer shall at all times uphold the
integrity and dignity of the legal profession, and
support the activities of the Integrated Bar.

Rule 7.03 A lawyer shall not engage in conduct that


adversely reflects on his fitness to practice law, nor
should he, whether in public or private life, behave in
a scandalous manner to the discredit of the legal
profession.
...
CANON 10 A lawyer owes candor, fairness and good
faith to the court.
Rule 10.01 A lawyer shall not do any falsehood, nor
consent to the doing of any in court; nor shall he
mislead or allow the court to be misled by any artifice.
All of these underscore the role of a lawyer as the
vanguard of our legal system. When the respondent
took the oath as a member of the legal profession, he
made a solemn promise to so stand by his pledge. In
this covenant, respondent miserably failed.
The records show that Felicisima and Miriam stated
in the Extrajudicial Settlement of Estate dated 11
November 1986 that they are the children of Julita
Reynante and thus adjudicated only between them Lot
No. 1586 to the exclusion of their other siblings.
[7]
There was concealment of the fact that there were
other compulsory heirs to the estate of the deceased.
Significantly, the respondent is the brother-in-law of
complainant. Being married to complainants sister, he
knew of his wifes siblings. In fact, he declared that the
complainant stayed with them while she was in the

Philippines.[8] Yet, the respondent presented that


document to the Register of Deeds of General Trias,
Cavite, to effect the transfer of the title of the lot in
question in the name of his wife and his sister-in-law
Miriam.
It also bears noting that the respondent was
consulted[9] regarding the falsification of complainants
signature in the Extrajudicial Settlement[10] dated 17
March 1995 involving Lot 1603, which contains a
purported waiver by the complainant of her right over
the property. Marcelina admitted that she signed
complainants name in that document. [11] Such act of
counterfeiting the complainants signature to make it
appear that the complainant had participated in the
execution of that document is tantamount to
falsification of a public document.[12]
Instead of advising Marcelina to secure a written
special power of attorney and against committing
falsification, he presented[13] such document to the
Registry of Deeds to secure a new title for the lot in
favor of Marcelina and his wife. [14] He himself,
therefore, may also be held liable for knowingly using
a falsified document to the damage of the
complainant and her other co-heirs.[15] Notably, he
also admitted in an affidavit dated 22 May 1995 that
he prepared the legal documents for the transfer of
Lot 1603.[16]
Respondent did not advise his wife and his sistersin-law from doing acts which are contrary to law. He

must have kept in mind the first and foremost duty of


a lawyer, which is to maintain allegiance to the
Republic of the Philippines, uphold the Constitution,
and obey the laws of the land. The Code of
Professional Responsibility underscores the primacy of
such duty by providing as its canon that a lawyer shall
uphold the Constitution, obey the laws of the land,
and promote respect for law and legal processes.
[17]
For a lawyer is the servant of the law and belongs
to a profession to which society has entrusted the
administration of law and the dispensation of justice.
[18]
As such, he should make himself more an exemplar
for others to emulate.[19] He should not, therefore,
engage in unlawful, dishonest, immoral, or deceitful
conduct.[20] He makes himself unfit to remain in the
profession who commits any such unbecoming act or
conduct.[21]
Respondents argument that the non-declaration by
his wife and his sister- in-law Marcelina of the other
siblings in LRC Rec. No. 5964 for the reconstitution of
title involving Lot 1605 was a mere oversight does not
deserve credence in view of the following
circumstances: First, the petition clearly names only
Felicisima and Marcelina as the petitioners when there
were six siblings who were heirs of the unpartitioned
lot.[22] Second, during the hearing of said case when
the respondent asked Marcelina whether she has
brothers and sisters other than Felicisima, the latter
said none. The transcript of that hearing reads:
ATTY. TORRES:

Q Madame Witness, are you the only child or


daughter of the deceased Sps. Vicente Ting,
Jr. and Julita Reynante?
WITNESS:
A No, sir. We are two, Felicisima Torres and I.
Q Do you have other brothers and sisters?
A None, sir.[23]
The respondent allowed Marcelina to commit a
crime by giving false testimony[24] in court, and he
never corrected the same despite full knowledge of
the true facts and circumstances of the case.
[25]
Moreover, in knowingly offering in evidence such
false testimony, he himself may be punished as guilty
of false testimony.[26]
Moreover, under Canon 10 of the Code of
Professional Responsibility, a lawyer owes candor,
fairness, and good faith to the court. He shall not do
any falsehood, nor consent to the doing of any in
court; nor shall he mislead or allow the court to be
misled by any artifice.[27] This Rule was clearly and
openly violated by the respondent when he permitted
Marcelina to falsely testify that she had no siblings
aside from Felicisima and when he offered such
testimony in the petition for reconstitution of the title
involving Lot 1605.

The respondent must have forgotten that as an


attorney he is an officer of the court called upon to
assist in the administration of justice. Like the court
itself, he is an instrument to advance its cause.For this
reason, any act on his part that obstructs and impedes
the administration of justice constitutes misconduct
and justifies disciplinary action against him.[28]
It may not be amiss to mention that to further
support the reconstitution, he offered in evidence an
Affidavit of Loss, which was executed by Marcelina and
notarized by him. During the hearing of this
administrative case, Marcelina admitted that her
statement in that affidavit that the title was in her
possession was false, as she was never in possession
of the title[29] and would not, therefore, know that the
same was lost.
Moreover, in a letter dated 20 November 1996
addressed to a certain Mrs. Ong, the respondent
requested the release of 50% of the remaining
balance for the sale of Lot 1605, relaying to Antel
Holdings, Inc., through Mrs. Ong that he was assured
by the Clerk of Court that the order directing the
reconstitution of title for Lot 1605 would be released
within the month.[30] Respondents information was
misleading because he presented evidence only on 12
August 1997, or almost a year after he sent the letter.
[31]
Such act, therefore, shows lack of candor and
honesty on the part of the respondent.

Respondents acts or omissions reveal his moral


flaws and doubtless bring intolerable dishonor to the
legal profession. They constitute gross misconduct for
which he may be disbarred or suspended pursuant to
Section 27, Rule 138 of the Rules of Court, which
provides:
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 for
any violation of the oath which he is required to take
before the 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 to do so. The
practice of soliciting cases at law for the purpose of
gain, either personally or through paid agents or
brokers, constitutes malpractice.
In the determination of the imposable disciplinary
sanction against an erring lawyer, we take into
account the primary purpose of disciplinary
proceedings, which is to protect the administration of
justice by requiring that those who exercise this
important function shall be competent, honorable, and
reliable men in whom courts and clients may repose
confidence.[32] While the assessment of what sanction
may be imposed is primarily addressed to our sound

discretion, the sanction should neither be arbitrary or


despotic, nor motivated by personal animosity or
prejudice. Rather, it should ever be controlled by the
imperative need to scrupulously guard the purity and
independence of the bar.[33]
Thus, the supreme penalty of disbarment is meted
out only in clear cases of misconduct that seriously
affect the standing and character of the lawyer as an
officer of the court and member of the bar. We will not
hesitate to remove an erring attorney from the
esteemed brotherhood of lawyers where the evidence
calls for it.[34] Verily, given the peculiar factual
circumstances prevailing in this case, we find that
respondents gross misconduct calls for the severance
of his privilege to practice law for life, and we
therefore adopt the penalty recommended by the
Investigating Commissioner.
IN VIEW OF ALL THE FOREGOING, we find
respondent Atty. Rolando S. Torres guilty of gross
misconduct and violation of the lawyers oath, as well
as Canons 1 and 10 of the Code of Professional
Responsibility, thereby rendering him unworthy of
continuing membership in the legal profession. He is
thus ordered DISBARRED from the practice of law, and
his name is ordered stricken off the Roll of Attorneys,
effective immediately.
Let copies of this Resolution be furnished the
Office of the Bar Confidant, which shall forthwith
record it in the personal files of the respondent; all the

courts of the Philippines; the Integrated Bar of the


Philippines, which shall disseminate copies thereof to
all its Chapters; and all administrative and quasijudicial agencies of the Republic of the Philippines.
SO ORDERED.
Davide, Jr., C.J., Puno, Vitug, Panganiban,
Quisumbing, Ynares-ASntiago, Sandoval-Gutierrez,
Carpio, Austria-martinez, Corona, Carpio-Morales,
Callejo, Sr., Azcuna, and Tinga, JJ., concur.
Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila
EN BANC
A.C. No. 7922

October 1, 2013

MARY ANN T.MATTUS, Complainant,


vs.
ATTY. ALBERT T. VILLASECA, Respondent.
DECISION
PER CURIAM:
Before us is a complaint for disbarment filed by
complainant Mary Ann T. Mattus against Atty. Albert T.
Villaseca for gross and inexcusable negligence in
handling Criminal Case No. 10309-02.

Background Facts
The complainant, German Bernardo D. Mattus and
Dexter Aligan were the accused in Criminal Case No.
10309-02 a case for estafa thru falsification of public
document filed in the Regional Trial Court (RTC),
Branch 20, Imus, Cavite. The complainant and her
husband, German, engaged the services of Atty.
Villaseca to represent them in the proceedings. The
complainant maintained that she and German were
convicted due to Atty. Villasecas gross and
inexcusable negligence in performing his duties as
their counsel.
In her complaint-affidavit,1 the complainant alleged,
among others, that Atty. Villaseca: (1) was often
absent during court hearings but still collected
appearance fees; (2) frequently sought the
postponement of trial when he was present; (3) failed
to ask the RTC to direct a National Bureau of
Investigation expert to examine the signatures of the
spouses Leslie and Zuraida Porter2 in the special
power of attorney (SPA); (4) failed to file a demurrer to
evidence despite having been granted sufficient time
by the RTC to submit one; (5) failed to present
evidence on behalf of the defense, and only filed a
memorandum; (6) did not inform her and German of
the dates of the presentation of defense evidence and
the promulgation of judgment; and (7) erroneously
indicated the wrong case number in the notice of
appeal. According to the complainant, Atty. Villasecas

negligence in handling the case resulted in her own


and her husbands conviction.

Hababag recommended that Atty. Villaseca be


suspended for six (6) months from the practice of law.

In the Courts Resolution3 of July 16, 2008, we required


Atty. Villaseca to comment on the complaint.

Commissioner Hababag ruled that Atty. Villasecas


reckless and gross negligence deprived his clients of
due process; his actuations in the criminal case
showed utter disregard for his clients life and liberty.
Commissioner Hababag explained that Atty. Villaseca
failed to file a demurrer to evidence despite the
sufficient length of time that had been given to him by
the RTC to submit this pleading, and waived his right
to present evidence for the defense, opting instead to
file a memorandum only. Commissioner Hababag
concluded that Atty. Villasecas failure to properly
attend to the interests of his clients led to their
conviction.

On September 10, 2008, Atty. Villaseca filed his


comment,4 refuting the allegations against him. Atty.
Villaseca explained that he made known to the
complainant that the testimony of a handwriting
expert was necessary only if the prosecution would be
able to produce the original copy of the SPA. Atty.
Villaseca also claimed that his absences during the
hearings, as well as his numerous motions for
postponement, were justified and were never intended
for delay. He denied having collected appearance fees
when he did not attend the scheduled hearings, and
maintained that the fees he received were intended to
compensate him for his services in the other cases
filed by the complainant. Atty. Villaseca further
claimed that he immediately corrected the case
number in the notice of appeal when he discovered
this error.
In a Resolution5dated October 15, 2008, we referred
the case to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP)
for investigation, report and recommendation.
The IBPs Report and Recommendation
In his Report and Recommendation6 dated September
16, 2009,Investigating Commissioner Salvador B.

In Resolution No. XIX-2011-2517 dated May 14, 2011,


the IBP Board of Governors adopted and approved the
findings of the Investigating Commissioner, but
increased Atty. Villasecas period of suspension from
the practice of law from six (6) months to one (1) year.
Our Ruling
After a careful review of the records, the Court finds
the evidence on record sufficient to support the IBPs
findings. We, however, increase Atty. Villasecas period
of suspension from the practice of law from one (1)
year to five (5) years.

We stress at the outset that a lawyer "is expected to


exert his best efforts and ability to preserve his client's
cause, for the unwavering loyalty displayed to his
client likewise serves the ends of justice."8 Once a
lawyer agrees to take up the cause of a client, the
lawyer owes fidelity to such cause and must always be
mindful of the trust and confidence reposed in him. He
owes entire devotion to the interest of the client,
warm zeal in maintenance and defense of his clients
rights, and the exertion of his utmost learning and
ability to the end that nothing be taken or withheld
from his client, save by the rules of law, legally
applied. A lawyer who performs his duty with diligence
and candor not only protects the interest of his client;
he also serves the ends of justice, does honor to the
bar, and helps maintain the respect of the community
to the legal profession.9
The records of the present case show that Atty.
Villaseca had been grossly remiss in handling Criminal
Case No. 10309-02. To recall, Atty. Villaseca requested
for time to file demurrer to evidence after the
prosecution had rested its case. In its order 10 of July 1,
2004, the RTC gave him 20 days from receipt of the
transcript of stenographic notes within which to file a
demurrer to evidence. Atty. Villaseca, however, did not
file a demurrer to evidence, without offering any
explanation why he failed to do so. As a result, the RTC
issued an order 11 stating that Atty. Villaseca "is
deemed to have waived his right to file the said
pleading."

To our mind, Atty. Villasecas failure to submit a


demurrer to evidence to explain such omission
constitutes inexcusable negligence; it showed his lack
of devotion and zeal in preserving his clients cause.
We point out that nine months had lapsed from the
time the RTC granted Atty. Villaseca 20 days to file the
demurrer to the time it ruled that he was deemed to
have waived his right to file this pleading. Clearly,
Atty. Villasecas actuations violated Rule 12.03 of the
Code of Professional Responsibility which states that
"a lawyer shall not, after obtaining extensions of time
to file pleadings, memoranda or briefs, let the period
lapse without submitting the same or offering an
explanation for his failure to do so."
The records further disclosed that after Atty.
Villasecas failure to file a demurrer to evidence, the
RTC set the initial presentation of defense evidence on
May 9, 2005. However, this hearing was postponed
thrice: the May 9, 2005 hearing was reset to August 8,
2005 due to Atty. Villasecas failure to appear;12 the
August 8, 2005 hearing was reset to November 17,
2005 upon Atty. Villasecas motion;13 and the
November 17, 2005 hearing was reset to March 1,
2006 because of Atty. Villasecas manifestation that
his intended first witness was unavailable.14 During
the March 1, 2006hearing, the respondent manifested
that the defense would no longer present any
evidence, and moved that he be given time to file a
memorandum.15

We point out that the prosecution rested its case on


July 1, 2004; yet Atty. Villaseca waited until March 1,
2006 only to manifest that he would no longer present
any evidence. We are at a loss why Atty. Villaseca
chose not to present any evidence for the defense,
considering that the accused wanted and were ready
to take the witness stand. As a result, the testimony of
the lone prosecution witness remained
uncontroverted. To make matters worse, Atty. Villaseca
directed German to attend the hearing on June 6,
2007without informing him that it was already the
date of the promulgation of judgment.1wphi1
The Code of Professional Responsibility states that "a
lawyer owes fidelity to the cause of his client and he
shall be mindful of the trust and confidence reposed in
him."16 It further mandates that "a lawyer shall serve
his client with competence and diligence."17 It also
states that "a lawyer shall not neglect a legal matter
entrusted to him, and his negligence in connection
therewith shall render him liable."18
Atty. Villasecas failure to present any testimonial,
object or documentary evidence for the defense
reveals his lack of diligence in performing his duties as
an officer of the Court; it showed his indifference
towards the cause of his clients. Considering that the
liberty and livelihood of his clients were at stake, Atty.
Villaseca should have exerted efforts tore but the
presented prosecution evidence. He could have
presented the complainant and/or her husband to the
witness stand, instead of just opting to file a

memorandum. Or, at the very least, the reason for this


move should have been fully explained to the clients,
and later to the IBP and to this Court. But no such
explanation ever came. We are thus left with the stark
reality that Atty. Villaseca failed to file, despite the
promise made to the lower court, a demurrer to
evidence. After failing in this first line of defense for
his clients, it should have been incumbent upon Atty.
Villaseca to present evidence for the defense, but
again, he unexplainably failed to do this, leaving the
lower court with no evidence to appreciate except that
of the prosecution, to the detriment of his clients
cause.
We emphasize that while a lawyer has complete
discretion on what legal strategy to employ in a case
entrusted to him, he must present every remedy or
defense within the authority of the law to support his
clients cause. A memorandum, no matter how
lengthy, should not be made a substitute for
testimonial, object or documentary evidence, more so
in a criminal case where a conviction could lead to dire
consequences. In saying so, we are not insinuating
that the RTC decision would have tilted in favor of the
defense had Atty. Villaseca presented evidence; we
simply stress that utmost fidelity and attention are
demanded once counsel agrees to take the cudgels for
his client's cause.
We again remind members of the bar to live up to the
standards and norms expected of the legal profession
by upholding the ideals and principles embodied in the

Code of Professional Responsibility. A lawyer engaged


to represent a client bears the responsibility of
protecting the latter's interest with utmost diligence. It
is his duty to serve his client with competence and
diligence, and he should exert his best efforts to
protect, within the bounds of the law, the interests of
his client.19 A lawyers diligence and vigilance is more
imperative in criminal cases, where the life and liberty
of an accused is at stake. Verily, the entrusted
privilege to practice law carries with it the
corresponding duties, not only to the client, but also to
the court, to the bar and to the public. As we
explained in Spouses Bautista v. Atty. Arturo Cefra:20
The practice of law is a privilege bestowed by the
State on those who show that they possess the legal
qualifications for it. Lawyers are expected to maintain
at all times a high standard of legal proficiency and
morality, including honesty, integrity and fair dealing.
They must perform their fourfold duty to society, the
legal profession, the courts and their clients, in
accordance with the values and norms of the legal
profession as embodied in the Code of Professional
Responsibility.
"The appropriate penalty on an errant lawyer depends
on the exercise of sound judicial discretion based on
the surrounding facts."21 Under the circumstances, we
find that the IBPs recommended penalty of one years
suspension from the practice of law is not
commensurate to Atty. Villasecas transgressions. His
incompetence and appalling indifference to his duty to

his client, the courts and society indicate a high


degree of irresponsibility that casts dishonor on the
legal profession.
The present case finds a close forerunner in Santeco v.
Atty. Avance,22 where we suspended Atty. Luna B.
Avance from the practice of law for five(5) years for
being grossly remiss in the performance of her duties
as counsel. In this cited case, the civil case entrusted
to Atty. Avance was dismissed for failure to prosecute.
During the pendency of her motion for reconsideration
(which she had filed way beyond the reglementary
period), she told her client that she would file a
petition for certiorari before the CA to assail the
dismissal of the civil case. She did not file this petition,
but failed to inform her client of this omission.
Moreover, Atty. Avance stopped appearing as counsel
for her client without notifying the latter.
Atty. Villasecas negligence in the present case had
much graver implications, as the legal matter
entrusted to him involved not merely money or
property, but the very liberty and livelihood of his
clients. We stress that the moment Atty. Villaseca
agreed to handle the complainants criminal case, he
became duty-bound to serve his clients with
competence and diligence, and to champion their
cause with whole-hearted fidelity. By failing to afford
his clients every remedy and defense that is
authorized by the law, Atty. Villaseca fell short of what
is expected of him as an officer of the Court. We
cannot overstress the duty of a lawyer to uphold the

integrity and dignity of the legal profession by


faithfully performing his duties to society, to the bar,
to the courts and to his clients.
All told, Atty. Villaseca showed a wanton and utter
disregard to his clients cause; his failure to exercise
due diligence in attending to their interest in the
criminal case caused them grave prejudice. Under the
circumstances, we find a five-year suspension from
the practice of law to be a sufficient and appropriate
sanction against him. The increased penalty serves
the purpose of protecting the interest of the Court, the
legal profession and the public.
WHEREFORE premises considered, we find Atty. Albert
T. Villaseca guilty of negligence, in violation of Rules

12.03 and 18.03 and Canon 17 of the Code of


Professional Responsibility. He is hereby SUSPENDED
from the practice of law for five (5) years, effective
upon his receipt of this Decision, and STERNLY
WARNED that a repetition of the same or similar
offense will be dealt with more severely.
Let a copy of this Decision be furnished to the Office of
the Bar Confidant, the Integrated Bar of the
Philippines, and the Office of the Court Administrator
for circulation to all the courts.
SO ORDERED.