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ADM. CASE No. 3319

June 8, 2000

LESLIE UI, complainant, vs. ATTY. IRIS BONIFACIO, respondent.


DE LEON, JR., J.:
Before us is an administrative complaint for disbarment against Atty. Iris
Bonifacio for allegedly carrying on an immoral relationship with Carlos L.
Ui, husband of complainant, Leslie Ui.
The relevant facts are:
On January 24, 1971 complainant Leslie Ui married Carlos L. Ui at the Our
Lady of Lourdes Church in Quezon City 1and as a result of their marital
union, they had four (4) children, namely, Leilani, Lianni, Lindsay and Carl
Cavin, all surnamed Ui. Sometime in December 1987, however,
complainant found out that her husband. Carlos Ui, was carrying on an
illicit relationship with respondent Atty. Iris Bonifacio with whom he begot a
daughter sometime in 1986, and that they had been living together at No.
527 San Carlos Street, Ayala Alabang Village in Muntinlupa City.
Respondent who is a graduate of the College of Law of the University of the
Philippines was admitted to the Philippine Bar in 1982.
Carlos Ui admitted to complainant his relationship with the respondent.
Complainant then visited respondent at her office in the later part of June
1988 and introduced herself as the legal wife of Carlos Ui. Whereupon,
respondent admitted to her that she has a child with Carlos Ui and alleged,
however; that everything was over between her and Carlos Ui.
Complainant believed the representations of respondent and thought
things would turn out well from then on and that the illicit relationship
between her husband and respondent would come to an end.
However, complainant again discovered that the illicit relationship between
her husband and respondent continued, and that sometime in December
1988, respondent and her husband, Carlos Ui, had a second child.
Complainant then met again with respondent sometime in March 1989 and
pleaded with respondent to discontinue her illicit relationship with Carlos Ui
but to no avail. The illicit relationship persisted and complainant even
came to know later on that respondent had been employed by her husband
in his company.
A complaint for disbarment, docketed as Adm. Case No. 3319, was then
filed on August 11, 1989 by the complainant against respondent Atty. Iris
Bonifacio before the Commission on Bar Discipline of the Integrated Bar of
the Philippines (hereinafter, Commission) on the ground of immorality,

Compiled by: Angel Sy

more particularly, for carrying on an illicit relationship with the


complainant's husband, Carlos Ui. In her Answer, 2 respondent averred that
she met Carlos Ui sometime in 1983 and had known him all along to be a
bachelor, with the knowledge, however, that Carlos Ui had children by a
Chinese woman in Amoy, China, from whom he had long been estranged.
She stated that during one of their trips abroad, Carlos Ui formalized his
intention to marry her and they in fact got married in Hawaii, USA in 1985 3.
Upon their return to Manila, respondent did not live with Carlos Ui. The
latter continued to live with his children in their Greenhills residence
because respondent and Carlos Ui wanted to let the children gradually to
know and accept the fact of his second marriage before they would live
together.4
In 1986, respondent left the country and stayed in Honolulu, Hawaii and
she would only return occasionally to the Philippines to update her law
practice and renew legal ties. During one of her trips to Manila sometime in
June 1988, she was confronted by a woman who insisted that she was the
lawful wife of Carlos Ui. Hurt and desolate upon her discovery of the true
civil status of Carlos Ui, respondent then left for Honolulu, Hawaii sometime
in July 1988 and returned only in March 1989 with her two (2) children. On
March 20, 1989, a few days after she reported to work with the law
firm5 she was connected with, the woman who represented herself to be
the wife of Carlos Ui again came to her office, demanding to know if Carlos
Ui has been communicating with her.
It is respondent's contention that her relationship with Carlos Ui is not illicit
because they were married abroad and that after June 1988, when
respondent discovered Carlos Ui's true civil status, she cut off all her ties
with him. Respondent averred that Carlos Ui never lived with her in
Alabang, and that he resided at 26 Potsdam Street, Greenhills, San Juan,
Metro Manila. It was respondent who lived in Alabang in a house which
belonged to her mother, Rosalinda L. Bonifacio; and that the said house
was built exclusively from her parents' funds.6 By way of counterclaim,
respondent sought moral damages in the amount of Ten Million Pesos
(Php10,000,000.00) against complainant for having filed the present
allegedly malicious and groundless disbarment case against respondent.
In her Reply7 dated April 6, 1990, complainant states, among others, that
respondent knew perfectly well that Carlos Ui was married to complainant
and had children with her even at the start of her relationship with Carlos
Ui, and that the reason respondent went abroad was to give birth to her
two (2) children with Carlos Ui.
During the pendency of the proceedings before the Integrated Bar,
complainant also charged her husband, Carlos Ui, and respondent with the
crime of Concubinage before the Office of the Provincial Fiscal of Rizal,
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docketed as I.S. No. 89-5247, but the same was dismissed for insufficiency
of evidence to establish probable cause for the offense charged. The
resolution dismissing the criminal complaint against respondent reads:
Complainant's evidence had prima facie established the existence
of the "illicit relationship" between the respondents allegedly
discovered by the complainant in December 1987. The same
evidence however show that respondent Carlos Ui was still living
with complainant up to the latter part of 1988 and/or the early part
of 1989.
It would therefore be logical and safe to state that the
"relationship" of respondents started and was discovered by
complainant sometime in 1987 when she and respondent Carlos
were still living at No. 26 Potsdam Street, Northeast Greenhills, San
Juan, Metro Manila and they, admittedly, continued to live together
at their conjugal home up to early (sic) part of 1989 or later 1988,
when respondent Carlos left the same.
From the above, it would not be amiss to conclude that altho (sic)
the relationship, illicit as complainant puts it, had been prima
facie established by complainant's evidence, this same evidence
had failed to even prima facie establish the "fact of respondent's
cohabitation in the concept of husband and wife at the 527 San
Carlos St., Ayala Alabang house, proof of which is necessary and
indispensable to at least create probable cause for the offense
charged. The statement alone of complainant, worse, a statement
only of a conclusion respecting the fact of cohabitation does not
make the complainant's evidence thereto any better/stronger (U.S.
vs. Casipong and Mongoy, 20 Phil. 178).
It is worth stating that the evidence submitted by respondents in
support of their respective positions on the matter support and
bolster the foregoing conclusion/recommendation.
WHEREFORE, it is most respectfully recommended that the instant
complaint be dismissed for want of evidence to establish probable
cause for the offense charged.

Carlos Ui lived together as husband and wife at 527 San Carlos Street,
Ayala Alabang, Muntinlupa, Metro Manila.
In the proceedings before the IBP Commission on Bar Discipline,
complainant filed a Motion to Cite Respondent in Contempt of the
Commission 10 wherein she charged respondent with making false
allegations in her Answer and for submitting a supporting document which
was altered and intercalated. She alleged that in the Answer of respondent
filed before the Integrated Bar, respondent averred, among others, that
she was married to Carlos Ui on October 22, 1985 and attached a
Certificate of Marriage to substantiate her averment. However, the
Certificate of Marriage 11 duly certified by the State Registrar as a true copy
of the record on file in the Hawaii State Department of Health, and duly
authenticated by the Philippine Consulate General in Honolulu, Hawaii, USA
revealed that the date of marriage between Carlos Ui and respondent Atty.
Iris Bonifacio was October 22, 1987, and not October 22, 1985 as claimed
by respondent in her Answer. According to complainant, the reason for that
false allegation was because respondent wanted to impress upon the said
IBP that the birth of her first child by Carlos Ui was within the wedlock. 12 It
is the contention of complainant that such act constitutes a violation of
Articles 183 13 and 184 14 of the Revised Penal Code, and also contempt of
the Commission; and that the act of respondent in making false allegations
in her Answer and submitting an altered/intercalated document are
indicative of her moral perversity and lack of integrity which make her
unworthy to be a member of the Philippine Bar.
In
her
Opposition
(To
Motion
To
Cite
Respondent
in
Contempt), 15 respondent averred that she did not have the original copy of
the marriage certificate because the same was in the possession of Carlos
Ui, and that she annexed such copy because she relied in good faith on
what appeared on the copy of the marriage certificate in her possession.
Respondent filed her Memorandum 16 on February 22, 1995 and raised the
lone issue of whether or not she has conducted herself in an immoral
manner for which she deserves to be barred from the practice of law.
Respondent averred that the complaint should be dismissed on two (2)
grounds, namely:
(i)

Respondent conducted herself in a manner consistent with


the requirement of good moral character for the practice of
the legal profession; and

(ii)

Complainant failed to prove her allegation that respondent


conducted herself in an immoral manner.

RESPECTFULLY SUBMITTED.8
Complainant appealed the said Resolution of the Provincial Fiscal of Rizal to
the Secretary of Justice, but the same was dismissed 9 on the ground of
insufficiency of evidence to prove her allegation that respondent and

Compiled by: Angel Sy

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In her defense, respondent contends, among others, that it was she who
was the victim in this case and not Leslie Ui because she did not know that
Carlos Ui was already married, and that upon learning of this fact,
respondent immediately cut-off all her ties with Carlos Ui. She stated that
there was no reason for her to doubt at that time that the civil status of
Carlos Ui was that of a bachelor because he spent so much time with her,
and he was so open in his courtship. 18
On the issue of the falsified marriage certificate, respondent alleged that it
was highly incredible for her to have knowingly attached such marriage
certificate to her Answer had she known that the same was altered.
Respondent reiterated that there was no compelling reason for her to make
it appear that her marriage to Carlos Ui took place either in 1985 or 1987,
because the fact remains that respondent and Carlos Ui got married before
complainant confronted respondent and informed the latter of her earlier
marriage to Carlos Ui in June 1988. Further, respondent stated that it was
Carlos Ui who testified and admitted that he was the person responsible for
changing the date of the marriage certificate from 1987 to 1985, and
complainant did not present evidence to rebut the testimony of Carlos Ui
on this matter.
Respondent posits that complainant's evidence, consisting of the pictures
of respondent with a child, pictures of respondent with Carlos Ui, a picture
of a garage with cars, a picture of a light colored car with Plate No. PNS
313, a picture of the same car, and portion of the house and ground, and
another picture of the same car bearing Plate No. PNS 313 and a picture of
the house and the garage, 19 does not prove that she acted in an immoral
manner. They have no evidentiary value according to her. The pictures
were taken by a photographer from a private security agency and who was
not presented during the hearings. Further, the respondent presented the
Resolution of the Provincial Fiscal of Pasig in I.S. Case No. 89-5427
dismissing the complaint filed by Leslie Ui against respondent for lack of
evidence to establish probable cause for the offense charged 20 and the
dismissal of the appeal by the Department of Justice 21 to bolster her
argument that she was not guilty of any immoral or illegal act because of
her relationship with Carlos Ui. In fine, respondent claims that she entered
the relationship with Carlos Ui in good faith and that her conduct cannot be
considered as willful, flagrant, or shameless, nor can it suggest moral
indifference. She fell in love with Carlos Ui whom she believed to be single,
and, that upon her discovery of his true civil status, she parted ways with
him.
In the Memorandum 22 filed on March 20, 1995 by complainant Leslie Ui,
she prayed for the disbarment of Atty. Iris Bonifacio and reiterated that
respondent committed immorality by having intimate relations with a
married man which resulted in the birth of two (2) children. Complainant

Compiled by: Angel Sy

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testified that respondent's mother, Mrs. Linda Bonifacio, personally knew
complainant and her husband since the late 1970s because they were
clients of the bank where Mrs. Bonifacio was the Branch Manager. 23 It was
thus highly improbable that respondent, who was living with her parents as
of 1986, would not have been informed by her own mother that Carlos Ui
was a married man. Complainant likewise averred that respondent
committed disrespect towards the Commission for submitting a photocopy
of a document containing an intercalated date.
In her Reply to Complainant's Memorandum 24, respondent stated that
complainant miserably failed to show sufficient proof to warrant her
disbarment. Respondent insists that contrary to the allegations of
complainant, there is no showing that respondent had knowledge of the
fact of marriage of Carlos Ui to complainant. The allegation that her mother
knew Carlos Ui to be a married man does not prove that such information
was made known to respondent.
Hearing on the case ensued, after which the Commission on Bar Discipline
submitted its Report and Recommendation, finding that:
In the case at bar, it is alleged that at the time respondent was
courted by Carlos Ui, the latter represented himself to be single.
The Commission does not find said claim too difficult to believe in
the light of contemporary human experience.
Almost always, when a married man courts a single woman, he
represents himself to be single, separated, or without any firm
commitment to another woman. The reason therefor is not hard to
fathom. By their very nature, single women prefer single men.
The records will show that when respondent became aware the
(sic) true civil status of Carlos Ui, she left for the United States (in
July of 1988). She broke off all contacts with him. When she
returned to the Philippines in March of 1989, she lived with her
brother, Atty. Teodoro Bonifacio, Jr. Carlos Ui and respondent only
talked to each other because of the children whom he was allowed
to visit. At no time did they live together.
Under the foregoing circumstances, the Commission fails to find
any act on the part of respondent that can be considered as
unprincipled or disgraceful as to be reprehensible to a high degree.
To be sure, she was more of a victim that (sic) anything else and
should deserve compassion rather than condemnation. Without
cavil, this sad episode destroyed her chance of having a normal
and happy family life, a dream cherished by every single girl.
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Thereafter, the Board of Governors of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines
issued a Notice of Resolution dated December 13, 1997, the dispositive
portion of which reads as follows:
RESOLVED to ADOPT and APPROVE, as it is hereby ADOPTED and
APPROVED, the Report and Recommendation of the Investigating
Commissioner in the above-entitled case, herein made part of this
Resolution/Decision
as
Annex
"A",
and,
finding
the
recommendation fully supported by the evidence on record and the
applicable laws and rules, the complaint for Gross Immorality
against Respondent is DISMISSED for lack of merit. Atty. Iris
Bonifacio is REPRIMANDED for knowingly and willfully attaching to
her Answer a falsified Certificate of Marriage with a stern warning
that a repetition of the same will merit a more severe penalty.
We agree with the findings aforequoted.
The practice of law is a privilege. A bar candidate does not have the right
to enjoy the practice of the legal profession simply by passing the bar
examinations. It is a privilege that can be revoked, subject to the mandate
of due process, once a lawyer violates his oath and the dictates of legal
ethics. The requisites for admission to the practice of law are:
a.

he must be a citizen of the Philippines;

b.

a resident thereof;

c.

at least twenty-one (21) years of age;

d.

a person of good moral character;

e.

he must show that no charges against him involving moral


turpitude, are filed or pending in court;

f.

possess the required educational qualifications; and

g.

pass the bar examinations.

25

(Emphasis supplied)

Clear from the foregoing is that one of the conditions prior to admission to
the bar is that an applicant must possess good moral character. More
importantly, possession of good moral character must be continuous as a
requirement to the enjoyment of the privilege of law practice, otherwise,
the loss thereof is a ground for the revocation of such privilege. It has been
held

Compiled by: Angel Sy

If good moral character is a sine qua non for admission to the bar,
then the continued possession of good moral character is also a
requisite for retaining membership in the legal profession.
Membership in the bar may be terminated when a lawyer ceases to
have good moral character. (Royong vs. Oblena, 117 Phil. 865).
A lawyer may be disbarred for "grossly immoral conduct, or by
reason of his conviction of a crime involving moral turpitude". A
member of the bar should have moral integrity in addition to
professional probity.
It is difficult to state with precision and to fix an inflexible standard
as to what is "grossly immoral conduct" or to specify the moral
delinquency and obliquity which render a lawyer unworthy of
continuing as a member of the bar. The rule implies that what
appears to be unconventional behavior to the straight-laced may
not be the immoral conduct that warrants disbarment.
Immoral conduct has been defined as "that conduct which is willful,
flagrant, or shameless, and which shows a moral indifference to
the opinion of the good and respectable members of the
community." (7 C.J.S. 959).26
In the case at bar, it is the claim of respondent Atty. Bonifacio that when
she met Carlos Ui, she knew and believed him to be single. Respondent fell
in love with him and they got married and as a result of such marriage, she
gave birth to two (2) children. Upon her knowledge of the true civil status
of Carlos Ui, she left him.
Simple as the facts of the case may sound, the effects of the actuations of
respondent are not only far from simple, they will have a rippling effect on
how the standard norms of our legal practitioners should be defined.
Perhaps morality in our liberal society today is a far cry from what it used
to be before. This permissiveness notwithstanding, lawyers, as keepers of
public faith, are burdened with a higher degree of social responsibility and
thus must handle their personal affairs with greater caution. The facts of
this case lead us to believe that perhaps respondent would not have found
herself in such a compromising situation had she exercised prudence and
been more vigilant in finding out more about Carlos Ui's personal
background prior to her intimate involvement with him.
Surely, circumstances existed which should have at least aroused
respondent's suspicion that something was amiss in her relationship with
Carlos Ui, and moved her to ask probing questions. For instance,
respondent admitted that she knew that Carlos Ui had children with a
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woman from Amoy, China, yet it appeared that she never exerted the
slightest effort to find out if Carlos Ui and this woman were indeed
unmarried. Also, despite their marriage in 1987, Carlos Ui never lived with
respondent and their first child, a circumstance that is simply
incomprehensible considering respondent's allegation that Carlos Ui was
very open in courting her.

It is the bounden duty of lawyers to adhere unwaveringly to the highest


standards of morality.1avvphi1 The legal profession exacts from its
members nothing less. Lawyers are called upon to safeguard the integrity
of the Bar, free from misdeeds and acts constitutive of malpractice. Their
exalted positions as officers of the court demand no less than the highest
degree of morality.

All these taken together leads to the inescapable conclusion that


respondent was imprudent in managing her personal affairs. However, the
fact remains that her relationship with Carlos Ui, clothed as it was with
what respondent believed was a valid marriage, cannot be considered
immoral. For immorality connotes conduct that shows indifference to the
moral norms of society and the opinion of good and respectable members
of the community. 27 Moreover, for such conduct to warrant disciplinary
action, the same must be "grossly immoral," that is, it must be so corrupt
and false as to constitute a criminal act or so unprincipled as to be
reprehensible to a high degree. 28

WHEREFORE, the complaint for disbarment against respondent Atty. Iris L.


Bonifacio, for alleged immorality, is hereby DISMISSED.

We have held that "a member of the Bar and officer of the court is not only
required to refrain from adulterous relationships . . . but must also so
behave himself as to avoid scandalizing the public by creating the belief
that he is flouting those moral standards." 29 Respondent's act of
immediately distancing herself from Carlos Ui upon discovering his true
civil status belies just that alleged moral indifference and proves that she
had no intention of flaunting the law and the high moral standard of the
legal profession. Complainant's bare assertions to the contrary deserve no
credit. After all, the burden of proof rests upon the complainant, and the
Court will exercise its disciplinary powers only if she establishes her case
by clear, convincing and satisfactory evidence. 30 This, herein complainant
miserably failed to do.
On the matter of the falsified Certificate of Marriage attached by
respondent to her Answer, we find improbable to believe the averment of
respondent that she merely relied on the photocopy of the Marriage
Certificate which was provided her by Carlos Ui. For an event as significant
as a marriage ceremony, any normal bride would verily recall the date and
year of her marriage. It is difficult to fathom how a bride, especially a
lawyer as in the case at bar, can forget the year when she got married.
Simply stated, it is contrary to human experience and highly improbable.
Furthermore, any prudent lawyer would verify the information contained in
an attachment to her pleading, especially so when she has personal
knowledge of the facts and circumstances contained therein. In attaching
such Marriage Certificate with an intercalated date, the defense of good
faith of respondent on that point cannot stand.

Compiled by: Angel Sy

However, respondent is hereby REPRIMANDED for attaching to her Answer


a photocopy of her Marriage Certificate, with an altered or intercalated
date thereof, with a STERN WARNING that a more severe sanction will be
imposed on her for any repetition of the same or similar offense in the
future. SO ORDERED.
Resolution

March 18, 1954

In the Matter of the Petitions for Admission to the Bar of


Unsuccessful Candidates of 1946 to 1953; ALBINO CUNANAN, ET
AL., petitioners.
DIOKNO, J.:
In recent years few controversial issues have aroused so much public
interest and concern as Republic Act No. 972, popularly known as the "Bar
Flunkers' Act of 1953." Under the Rules of Court governing admission to the
bar, "in order that a candidate (for admission to the Bar) may be deemed
to have passed his examinations successfully, he must have obtained a
general average of 75 per cent in all subjects, without falling below 50 per
cent in any subject." (Rule 127, sec. 14, Rules of Court). Nevertheless,
considering the varying difficulties of the different bar examinations held
since 1946 and the varying degree of strictness with which the
examination papers were graded, this court passed and admitted to the
bar those candidates who had obtained an average of only 72 per cent in
1946, 69 per cent in 1947, 70 per cent in 1948, and 74 per cent in 1949. In
1950 to 1953, the 74 per cent was raised to 75 per cent.
Believing themselves as fully qualified to practice law as those
reconsidered and passed by this court, and feeling conscious of having
been discriminated against (See Explanatory Note to R.A. No. 972),
unsuccessful candidates who obtained averages of a few percentage lower
than those admitted to the Bar agitated in Congress for, and secured in
1951 the passage of Senate Bill No. 12 which, among others, reduced the
passing general average in bar examinations to 70 per cent effective since
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1946. The President requested the views of this court on the bill.
Complying with that request, seven members of the court subscribed to
and submitted written comments adverse thereto, and shortly thereafter
the President vetoed it. Congress did not override the veto. Instead, it
approved Senate Bill No. 371, embodying substantially the provisions of
the vetoed bill. Although the members of this court reiterated their
unfavorable views on the matter, the President allowed the bill to become
a law on June 21, 1953 without his signature. The law, which incidentally
was enacted in an election year, reads in full as follows:
REPUBLIC ACT NO. 972
AN ACT TO FIX THE PASSING MARKS FOR BAR
EXAMINATIONS FROM NINETEEN HUNDRED AND FORTY-SIX
UP TO AND INCLUDING NINETEEN HUNDRED AND FIFTYFIVE.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives
of the Philippines in Congress assembled:
SECTION 1. Notwithstanding the provisions of section fourteen,
Rule numbered one hundred twenty-seven of the Rules of Court,
any bar candidate who obtained a general average of seventy per
cent in any bar examinations after July fourth, nineteen hundred
and forty-six up to the August nineteen hundred and fifty-one bar
examinations; seventy-one per cent in the nineteen hundred and
fifty-two bar examinations; seventy-two per cent in the in the
nineteen hundred and fifty-three bar examinations; seventy-three
per cent in the nineteen hundred and fifty-four bar examinations;
seventy-four per cent in the nineteen hundred and fifty-five bar
examinations without a candidate obtaining a grade below fifty per
cent in any subject, shall be allowed to take and subscribe the
corresponding oath of office as member of the Philippine
Bar: Provided, however, That for the purpose of this Act, any exact
one-half or more of a fraction, shall be considered as one and
included as part of the next whole number.
SEC. 2. Any bar candidate who obtained a grade of seventy-five per
cent in any subject in any bar examination after July fourth,
nineteen hundred and forty-six shall be deemed to have passed in
such subject or subjects and such grade or grades shall be
included in computing the passing general average that said
candidate may obtain in any subsequent examinations that he may
take.

Compiled by: Angel Sy

SEC. 3. This Act shall take effect upon its approval.


Enacted on June 21, 1953, without the Executive approval.
After its approval, many of the unsuccessful postwar candidates filed
petitions for admission to the bar invoking its provisions, while others
whose motions for the revision of their examination papers were still
pending also invoked the aforesaid law as an additional ground for
admission. There are also others who have sought simply the
reconsideration of their grades without, however, invoking the law in
question. To avoid injustice to individual petitioners, the court first
reviewed the motions for reconsideration, irrespective of whether or not
they had invoked Republic Act No. 972. Unfortunately, the court has found
no reason to revise their grades. If they are to be admitted to the bar, it
must be pursuant to Republic Act No. 972 which, if declared valid, should
be applied equally to all concerned whether they have filed petitions or
not. A complete list of the petitioners, properly classified, affected by this
decision, as well as a more detailed account of the history of Republic Act
No. 972, are appended to this decision as Annexes I and II. And to realize
more readily the effects of the law, the following statistical data are set
forth:
(1) The unsuccessful bar candidates who are to be benefited by section 1
of Republic Act No. 972 total 1,168, classified as follows:

1946
(August)

206

121

18

1946
(November)

477

228

43

1947

749

340

1948

899

409

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1949

1,21
8

532

164

1950

1,31
6

893

26

(3) The total number of candidates to be benefited by this Republic Acts is


therefore 1,094, of which only 604 have filed petitions. Of these 604
petitioners, 33 who failed in 1946 to 1951 had individually presented
motions for reconsideration which were denied, while 125 unsuccessful
candidates of 1952, and 56 of 1953, had presented similar motions, which
are still pending because they could be favorably affected by Republic Act
No. 972, although as has been already stated, this tribunal finds no
sufficient reasons to reconsider their grades
UNCONSTITUTIONALITY OF REPUBLIC ACT NO. 972

1951

2,06
8

879

196

1952

2,73 1,03
8
3

426

2,55
5

284

1953

TOTAL

968

12,2 5,42 1,16


30
1
8

Of the total 1,168 candidates, 92 have passed in subsequent examination,


and only 586 have filed either motions for admission to the bar pursuant to
said Republic Act, or mere motions for reconsideration.
(2) In addition, some other 10 unsuccessful candidates are to be benefited
by section 2 of said Republic Act. These candidates had each taken from
two to five different examinations, but failed to obtain a passing average in
any of them. Consolidating, however, their highest grades in different
subjects in previous examinations, with their latest marks, they would be
sufficient to reach the passing average as provided for by Republic Act No.
972.

Compiled by: Angel Sy

Having been called upon to enforce a law of far-reaching effects on the


practice of the legal profession and the administration of justice, and
because some doubts have been expressed as to its validity, the court set
the hearing of the afore-mentioned petitions for admission on the sole
question of whether or not Republic Act No. 972 is constitutional.
We have been enlightened in the study of this question by the brilliant
assistance of the members of the bar who have amply argued, orally an in
writing, on the various aspects in which the question may be gleaned. The
valuable studies of Messrs. E. Voltaire Garcia, Vicente J. Francisco, Vicente
Pelaez and Buenaventura Evangelista, in favor of the validity of the law,
and of the U.P. Women's Lawyers' Circle, the Solicitor General, Messrs.
Arturo A. Alafriz, Enrique M. Fernando, Vicente Abad Santos, Carlos A.
Barrios, Vicente del Rosario, Juan de Blancaflor, Mamerto V. Gonzales, and
Roman Ozaeta against it, aside from the memoranda of counsel for
petitioners, Messrs. Jose M. Aruego, M.H. de Joya, Miguel R. Cornejo and
Antonio Enrile Inton, and of petitioners Cabrera, Macasaet and Galema
themselves, has greatly helped us in this task. The legal researchers of the
court have exhausted almost all Philippine and American jurisprudence on
the matter. The question has been the object of intense deliberation for a
long time by the Tribunal, and finally, after the voting, the preparation of
the majority opinion was assigned to a new member in order to place it as
humanly as possible above all suspicion of prejudice or partiality.
Republic Act No. 972 has for its object, according to its author, to admit to
the Bar, those candidates who suffered from insufficiency of reading
materials and inadequate preparation. Quoting a portion of the Explanatory
Note of the proposed bill, its author Honorable Senator Pablo Angeles David
stated:
The reason for relaxing the standard 75 per cent passing grade is
the tremendous handicap which students during the years
immediately after the Japanese occupation has to overcome such
as the insufficiency of reading materials and the inadequacy of the
preparation of students who took up law soon after the liberation.
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Of the 9,675 candidates who took the examinations from 1946 to 1952,
5,236 passed. And now it is claimed that in addition 604 candidates be
admitted (which in reality total 1,094), because they suffered from
"insufficiency of reading materials" and of "inadequacy of preparation."

This law has no precedent in its favor. When similar laws in other countries
had been promulgated, the judiciary immediately declared them without
force or effect. It is not within our power to offer a precedent to uphold the
disputed law.

By its declared objective, the law is contrary to public interest because it


qualifies 1,094 law graduates who confessedly had inadequate preparation
for the practice of the profession, as was exactly found by this Tribunal in
the aforesaid examinations. The public interest demands of legal
profession adequate preparation and efficiency, precisely more so as legal
problem evolved by the times become more difficult. An adequate legal
preparation is one of the vital requisites for the practice of law that should
be developed constantly and maintained firmly. To the legal profession is
entrusted the protection of property, life, honor and civil liberties. To
approve officially of those inadequately prepared individuals to dedicate
themselves to such a delicate mission is to create a serious social danger.
Moreover, the statement that there was an insufficiency of legal reading
materials is grossly exaggerated. There were abundant materials.
Decisions of this court alone in mimeographed copies were made available
to the public during those years and private enterprises had also published
them in monthly magazines and annual digests. The Official Gazette had
been published continuously. Books and magazines published abroad have
entered without restriction since 1945. Many law books, some even with
revised and enlarged editions have been printed locally during those
periods. A new set of Philippine Reports began to be published since 1946,
which continued to be supplemented by the addition of new volumes.
Those are facts of public knowledge.

To be exact, we ought to state here that we have examined carefully the


case that has been cited to us as a favorable precedent of the law that
of Cooper (22 NY, 81), where the Court of Appeals of New York revoked the
decision of the Supreme court of that State, denying the petition of Cooper
to be admitted to the practice of law under the provisions of a statute
concerning the school of law of Columbia College promulgated on April 7,
1860, which was declared by the Court of Appeals to be consistent with the
Constitution of the state of New York.

Notwithstanding all these, if the law in question is valid, it has to be


enforced.
The question is not new in its fundamental aspect or from the point of view
of applicable principles, but the resolution of the question would have been
easier had an identical case of similar background been picked out from
the jurisprudence we daily consult. Is there any precedent in the long
Anglo-Saxon legal history, from which has been directly derived the judicial
system established here with its lofty ideals by the Congress of the United
States, and which we have preserved and attempted to improve, or in our
contemporaneous judicial history of more than half a century? From the
citations of those defending the law, we can not find a case in which the
validity of a similar law had been sustained, while those against its validity
cite, among others, the cases of Day (In re Day, 54 NE 646), of Cannon
(State vs. Cannon, 240 NW, 441), the opinion of the Supreme Court of
Massachusetts in 1932 (81 ALR 1061), of Guaria (24 Phil., 37), aside from
the opinion of the President which is expressed in his vote of the original
bill and which the postponement of the contested law respects.

Compiled by: Angel Sy

It appears that the Constitution of New York at that time provided:


They (i.e., the judges) shall not hold any other office of public trust.
All votes for either of them for any elective office except that of the
Court of Appeals, given by the Legislature or the people, shall be
void. They shall not exercise any power of appointment to public
office. Any male citizen of the age of twenty-one years, of good
moral character, and who possesses the requisite qualifications of
learning and ability, shall be entitled to admission to practice in all
the courts of this State. (p. 93).
According to the Court of Appeals, the object of the constitutional precept
is as follows:
Attorneys, solicitors, etc., were public officers; the power of
appointing them had previously rested with the judges, and this
was the principal appointing power which they possessed. The
convention was evidently dissatisfied with the manner in which this
power had been exercised, and with the restrictions which the
judges had imposed upon admission to practice before them. The
prohibitory clause in the section quoted was aimed directly at this
power, and the insertion of the provision" expecting the admission
of attorneys, in this particular section of the Constitution, evidently
arose from its connection with the object of this prohibitory clause.
There is nothing indicative of confidence in the courts or of a
disposition to preserve any portion of their power over this subject,
unless the Supreme Court is right in the inference it draws from the
use of the word `admission' in the action referred to. It is urged
that the admission spoken of must be by the court; that to admit
means to grant leave, and that the power of granting necessarily
implies the power of refusing, and of course the right of
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determining whether the applicant possesses
qualifications to entitle him to admission.

the

requisite

These positions may all be conceded, without affecting the validity


of the act. (p. 93.)
Now, with respect to the law of April 7, 1860, the decision seems to
indicate that it provided that the possession of a diploma of the school of
law of Columbia College conferring the degree of Bachelor of Laws was
evidence of the legal qualifications that the constitution required of
applicants for admission to the Bar. The decision does not however quote
the text of the law, which we cannot find in any public or accessible private
library in the country.
In the case of Cooper, supra, to make the law consistent with the
Constitution of New York, the Court of Appeals said of the object of the law:
The motive for passing the act in question is apparent. Columbia
College being an institution of established reputation, and having a
law department under the charge of able professors, the students
in which department were not only subjected to a formal
examination by the law committee of the institution, but to a
certain definite period of study before being entitled to a diploma
of being graduates, the Legislature evidently, and no doubt justly,
considered this examination, together with the preliminary study
required by the act, as fully equivalent as a test of legal
requirements, to the ordinary examination by the court; and as
rendering the latter examination, to which no definite period of
preliminary study was essential, unnecessary and burdensome.
The act was obviously passed with reference to the learning and
ability of the applicant, and for the mere purpose of substituting
the examination by the law committee of the college for that of the
court. It could have had no other object, and hence no greater
scope should be given to its provisions. We cannot suppose that
the Legislature designed entirely to dispense with the plain and
explicit requirements of the Constitution; and the act contains
nothing whatever to indicate an intention that the authorities of
the college should inquire as to the age, citizenship, etc., of the
students before granting a diploma. The only rational interpretation
of which the act admits is, that it was intended to make the college
diploma competent evidence as to the legal attainments of the
applicant, and nothing else. To this extent alone it operates as a
modification of pre-existing statutes, and it is to be read in
connection with these statutes and with the Constitution itself in

Compiled by: Angel Sy

order to determine the present condition of the law on the subject.


(p.89)
xxx

xxx

xxx

The Legislature has not taken from the court its jurisdiction over
the question of admission, that has simply prescribed what shall be
competent evidence in certain cases upon that question. (p.93)
From the foregoing, the complete inapplicability of the case of Cooper with
that at bar may be clearly seen. Please note only the following distinctions:
(1) The law of New York does not require that any candidate of Columbia
College who failed in the bar examinations be admitted to the practice of
law.
(2) The law of New York according to the very decision of Cooper, has not
taken from the court its jurisdiction over the question of admission of
attorney at law; in effect, it does not decree the admission of any lawyer.
(3) The Constitution of New York at that time and that of the Philippines are
entirely different on the matter of admission of the practice of law.
In the judicial system from which ours has been evolved, the admission,
suspension, disbarment and reinstatement of attorneys at law in the
practice of the profession and their supervision have been disputably a
judicial function and responsibility. Because of this attribute, its continuous
and zealous possession and exercise by the judicial power have been
demonstrated during more than six centuries, which certainly "constitutes
the most solid of titles." Even considering the power granted to Congress
by our Constitution to repeal, alter supplement the rules promulgated by
this Court regarding the admission to the practice of law, to our judgment
and proposition that the admission, suspension, disbarment and
reinstatement of the attorneys at law is a legislative function, properly
belonging to Congress, is unacceptable. The function requires (1)
previously established rules and principles, (2) concrete facts, whether past
or present, affecting determinate individuals. and (3) decision as to
whether these facts are governed by the rules and principles; in effect, a
judicial function of the highest degree. And it becomes more undisputably
judicial, and not legislative, if previous judicial resolutions on the petitions
of these same individuals are attempted to be revoked or modified.
We have said that in the judicial system from which ours has been derived,
the act of admitting, suspending, disbarring and reinstating attorneys at
law in the practice of the profession is concededly judicial. A
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comprehensive and conscientious study of this matter had been
undertaken in the case of State vs. Cannon (1932) 240 NW 441, in which
the validity of a legislative enactment providing that Cannon be permitted
to practice before the courts was discussed. From the text of this decision
we quote the following paragraphs:
This statute presents an assertion of legislative power without
parallel in the history of the English speaking people so far as we
have been able to ascertain. There has been much uncertainty as
to the extent of the power of the Legislature to prescribe the
ultimate qualifications of attorney at law has been expressly
committed to the courts, and the act of admission has always been
regarded as a judicial function. This act purports to constitute Mr.
Cannon an attorney at law, and in this respect it stands alone as an
assertion of legislative power. (p. 444)
Under the Constitution all legislative power is vested in a Senate
and Assembly. (Section 1, art. 4.) In so far as the prescribing of
qualifications for admission to the bar are legislative in character,
the Legislature is acting within its constitutional authority when it
sets up and prescribes such qualifications. (p. 444)
But when the Legislature has prescribed those qualifications which
in its judgment will serve the purpose of legitimate legislative
solicitude, is the power of the court to impose other and further
exactions and qualifications foreclosed or exhausted? (p. 444)
Under our Constitution the judicial and legislative departments are
distinct, independent, and coordinate branches of the government.
Neither branch enjoys all the powers of sovereignty which properly
belongs to its department. Neither department should so act as to
embarrass the other in the discharge of its respective functions.
That was the scheme and thought of the people setting upon the
form of government under which we exist. State vs. Hastings, 10
Wis., 525; Attorney General ex rel. Bashford vs. Barstow, 4 Wis.,
567. (p. 445)
The judicial department of government is responsible for the plane
upon which the administration of justice is maintained. Its
responsibility in this respect is exclusive. By committing a portion
of the powers of sovereignty to the judicial department of our state
government, under 42a scheme which it was supposed rendered it
immune from embarrassment or interference by any other
department of government, the courts cannot escape responsibility
fir the manner in which the powers of sovereignty thus committed
to the judicial department are exercised. (p. 445)

Compiled by: Angel Sy

The relation at the bar to the courts is a peculiar and intimate


relationship. The bar is an attache of the courts. The quality of
justice dispense by the courts depends in no small degree upon the
integrity of its bar. An unfaithful bar may easily bring scandal and
reproach to the administration of justice and bring the courts
themselves into disrepute. (p.445)
Through all time courts have exercised a direct and severe
supervision over their bars, at least in the English speaking
countries. (p. 445)
After explaining the history of the case, the Court ends thus:
Our conclusion may be epitomized as follows: For more than six
centuries prior to the adoption of our Constitution, the courts of
England, concededly subordinate to Parliament since the
Revolution of 1688, had exercise the right of determining who
should be admitted to the practice of law, which, as was said in
Matter of the Sergeant's at Law, 6 Bingham's New Cases 235,
"constitutes the most solid of all titles." If the courts and judicial
power be regarded as an entity, the power to determine who
should be admitted to practice law is a constituent element of that
entity. It may be difficult to isolate that element and say with
assurance that it is either a part of the inherent power of the court,
or an essential element of the judicial power exercised by the
court, but that it is a power belonging to the judicial entity and
made of not only a sovereign institution, but made of it a separate
independent, and coordinate branch of the government. They took
this institution along with the power traditionally exercise to
determine who should constitute its attorney at law. There is no
express provision in the Constitution which indicates an intent that
this traditional power of the judicial department should in any
manner be subject to legislative control. Perhaps the dominant
thought of the framers of our constitution was to make the three
great departments of government separate and independent of
one another. The idea that the Legislature might embarrass the
judicial department by prescribing inadequate qualifications for
attorneys at law is inconsistent with the dominant purpose of
making the judicial independent of the legislative department, and
such a purpose should not be inferred in the absence of express
constitutional provisions. While the legislature may legislate with
respect to the qualifications of attorneys, but is incidental merely
to its general and unquestioned power to protect the public
interest. When it does legislate a fixing a standard of qualifications
required of attorneys at law in order that public interests may be
protected, such qualifications do not constitute only a minimum
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Legal Ethics
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standard and limit the class from which the court must make its
selection. Such legislative qualifications do not constitute the
ultimate qualifications beyond which the court cannot go in fixing
additional qualifications deemed necessary by the course of the
proper administration of judicial functions. There is no legislative
power to compel courts to admit to their bars persons deemed by
them unfit to exercise the prerogatives of an attorney at law. (p.
450)
Furthermore, it is an unlawful attempt to exercise the power of
appointment. It is quite likely true that the legislature may exercise
the power of appointment when it is in pursuance of a legislative
functions. However, the authorities are well-nigh unanimous that
the power to admit attorneys to the practice of law is a judicial
function. In all of the states, except New Jersey (In re Reisch, 83
N.J. Eq. 82, 90 A. 12), so far as our investigation reveals, attorneys
receive their formal license to practice law by their admission as
members of the bar of the court so admitting. Cor. Jur. 572; Ex
parte Secombre, 19 How. 9,15 L. Ed. 565; Ex parteGarland, 4 Wall.
333, 18 L. Ed. 366; Randall vs. Brigham, 7 Wall. 53, 19 L. Ed. 285;
Hanson vs. Grattan, 48 Kan, 843, 115 P. 646, 34 L.R.A. 519;
Danforth vs. Egan, 23 S. D. 43, 119 N.W. 1021, 130 Am. St. Rep.
1030, 20 Ann. Cas. 413.
The power of admitting an attorney to practice having been
perpetually exercised by the courts, it having been so generally
held that the act of the court in admitting an attorney to practice is
the judgment of the court, and an attempt as this on the part of
the Legislature to confer such right upon any one being most
exceedingly uncommon, it seems clear that the licensing of an
attorney is and always has been a purely judicial function, no
matter where the power to determine the qualifications may
reside. (p. 451)
In that same year of 1932, the Supreme Court of Massachusetts, in
answering a consultation of the Senate of that State, 180 NE 725, said:
It is indispensible to the administration of justice and to
interpretation of the laws that there be members of the bar of
sufficient ability, adequate learning and sound moral character.
This arises from the need of enlightened assistance to the honest,
and restraining authority over the knavish, litigant. It is highly
important, also that the public be protected from incompetent and
vicious practitioners, whose opportunity for doing mischief is wide.
It was said by Cardoz, C.L., in People ex rel. Karlin vs. Culkin, 242
N.Y. 456, 470, 471, 162 N.E. 487, 489, 60 A.L.R. 851: "Membership

Compiled by: Angel Sy

1st
in the bar is a privilege burden with conditions." One is admitted to
the bar "for something more than private gain." He becomes an
"officer of the court", and ,like the court itself, an instrument or
agency to advance the end of justice. His cooperation with the
court is due "whenever justice would be imperiled if cooperation
was withheld." Without such attorneys at law the judicial
department of government would be hampered in the performance
of its duties. That has been the history of attorneys under the
common law, both in this country and England. Admission to
practice as an attorney at law is almost without exception
conceded to be a judicial function. Petition to that end is filed in
courts, as are other proceedings invoking judicial action. Admission
to the bar is accomplish and made open and notorious by a
decision of the court entered upon its records. The establishment
by the Constitution of the judicial department conferred authority
necessary to the exercise of its powers as a coordinate department
of government. It is an inherent power of such a department of
government ultimately to determine the qualifications of those to
be admitted to practice in its courts, for assisting in its work, and to
protect itself in this respect from the unfit, those lacking in
sufficient learning, and those not possessing good moral character.
Chief Justice Taney stated succinctly and with finality in Ex
parte Secombe, 19 How. 9, 13, 15 L. Ed. 565, "It has been well
settled, by the rules and practice of common-law courts, that it
rests exclusively with the court to determine who is qualified to
become one of its officers, as an attorney and counselor, and for
what cause he ought to be removed." (p.727)
In the case of Day and others who collectively filed a petition to secure
license to practice the legal profession by virtue of a law of state (In
re Day, 54 NE 646), the court said in part:
In the case of Ex parte Garland, 4 Wall, 333, 18 L. Ed. 366, the
court, holding the test oath for attorneys to be unconstitutional,
explained the nature of the attorney's office as follows: "They are
officers of the court, admitted as such by its order, upon evidence
of their possessing sufficient legal learning and fair private
character. It has always been the general practice in this country to
obtain this evidence by an examination of the parties. In this court
the fact of the admission of such officers in the highest court of the
states to which they, respectively, belong for, three years
preceding their application, is regarded as sufficient evidence of
the possession of the requisite legal learning, and the statement of
counsel moving their admission sufficient evidence that their
private and professional character is fair. The order of admission is
the judgment of the court that the parties possess the requisite
qualifications as attorneys and counselors, and are entitled to
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Legal Ethics
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appear as such and conduct causes therein. From its entry the
parties become officers of the court, and are responsible to it for
professional misconduct. They hold their office during good
behavior, and can only be deprived of it for misconduct ascertained
and declared by the judgment of the court after opportunity to be
heard has been afforded. Ex parte Hoyfron, admission or their
exclusion is not the exercise of a mere ministerial power. It is the
exercise of judicial power, and has been so held in numerous
cases. It was so held by the court of appeals of New York in the
matter of the application of Cooper for admission. Re Cooper 22 N.
Y. 81. "Attorneys and Counselors", said that court, "are not only
officers of the court, but officers whose duties relate almost
exclusively to proceedings of a judicial nature; and hence their
appointment may, with propriety, be entrusted to the court, and
the latter, in performing his duty, may very justly considered as
engaged in the exercise of their appropriate judicial functions." (pp.
650-651).
We quote from other cases, the following pertinent portions:
Admission to practice of law is almost without exception conceded
everywhere to be the exercise of a judicial function, and this
opinion need not be burdened with citations in this point.
Admission to practice have also been held to be the exercise of one
of the inherent powers of the court. Re Bruen, 102 Wash. 472,
172 Pac. 906.
Admission to the practice of law is the exercise of a judicial
function, and is an inherent power of the court. A.C.
Brydonjack, vs. State Bar of California, 281 Pac. 1018; See
Annotation on Power of Legislature respecting admission to bar, 65,
A.L. R. 1512.
On this matter there is certainly a clear distinction between the functions
of the judicial and legislative departments of the government.
The distinction between the functions of the legislative and the
judicial departments is that it is the province of the legislature to
establish rules that shall regulate and govern in matters of
transactions occurring subsequent to the legislative action, while
the judiciary determines rights and obligations with reference to
transactions that are past or conditions that exist at the time of the
exercise of judicial power, and the distinction is a vital one and not
subject to alteration or change either by legislative action or by
judicial decree.

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1st
The judiciary cannot consent that its province shall be invaded by
either of the other departments of the government. 16 C.J.S.,
Constitutional Law, p. 229.
If the legislature cannot thus indirectly control the action of the
courts by requiring of them construction of the law according to its
own views, it is very plain it cannot do so directly, by settling aside
their judgments, compelling them to grant new trials, ordering the
discharge of offenders, or directing what particular steps shall be
taken in the progress of a judicial inquiry. Cooley's Constitutional
Limitations, 192.
In decreeing the bar candidates who obtained in the bar examinations of
1946 to 1952, a general average of 70 per cent without falling below 50
per cent in any subject, be admitted in mass to the practice of law, the
disputed law is not a legislation; it is a judgment a judgment revoking
those promulgated by this Court during the aforecited year affecting the
bar candidates concerned; and although this Court certainly can revoke
these judgments even now, for justifiable reasons, it is no less certain that
only this Court, and not the legislative nor executive department, that may
be so. Any attempt on the part of any of these departments would be a
clear usurpation of its functions, as is the case with the law in question.
That the Constitution has conferred on Congress the power to repeal, alter
or supplement the rule promulgated by this Tribunal, concerning the
admission to the practice of law, is no valid argument. Section 13, article
VIII of the Constitution provides:
Section 13. The Supreme Court shall have the power to promulgate
rules concerning pleading, practice, and procedure in all courts,
and the admission to the practice of law. Said rules shall be
uniform for all courts of the same grade and shall not diminish,
increase or modify substantive rights. The existing laws on
pleading, practice and procedure are hereby repealed as statutes,
and are declared Rules of Court, subject to the power of the
Supreme Court to alter and modify the same. The Congress shall
have the power to repeal, alter, or supplement the rules
concerning pleading, practice, and procedure, and the admission to
the practice of law in the Philippines. Constitution of the
Philippines, Art. VIII, sec. 13.
It will be noted that the Constitution has not conferred on Congress and
this Tribunal equal responsibilities concerning the admission to the practice
of law. the primary power and responsibility which the Constitution
recognizes continue to reside in this Court. Had Congress found that this
Court has not promulgated any rule on the matter, it would have nothing
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Legal Ethics
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over which to exercise the power granted to it. Congress may repeal, alter
and supplement the rules promulgated by this Court, but the authority and
responsibility over the admission, suspension, disbarment and
reinstatement of attorneys at law and their supervision remain vested in
the Supreme Court. The power to repeal, alter and supplement the rules
does not signify nor permit that Congress substitute or take the place of
this Tribunal in the exercise of its primary power on the matter. The
Constitution does not say nor mean that Congress may admit, suspend,
disbar or reinstate directly attorneys at law, or a determinate group of
individuals to the practice of law. Its power is limited to repeal, modify or
supplement the existing rules on the matter, if according to its judgment
the need for a better service of the legal profession requires it. But this
power does not relieve this Court of its responsibility to admit, suspend,
disbar and reinstate attorneys at law and supervise the practice of the
legal profession.
Being coordinate and independent branches, the power to promulgate and
enforce rules for the admission to the practice of law and the concurrent
power to repeal, alter and supplement them may and should be exercised
with the respect that each owes to the other, giving careful consideration
to the responsibility which the nature of each department requires. These
powers have existed together for centuries without diminution on each
part; the harmonious delimitation being found in that the legislature may
and should examine if the existing rules on the admission to the Bar
respond to the demands which public interest requires of a Bar endowed
with high virtues, culture, training and responsibility. The legislature may,
by means of appeal, amendment or supplemental rules, fill up any
deficiency that it may find, and the judicial power, which has the inherent
responsibility for a good and efficient administration of justice and the
supervision of the practice of the legal profession, should consider these
reforms as the minimum standards for the elevation of the profession, and
see to it that with these reforms the lofty objective that is desired in the
exercise of its traditional duty of admitting, suspending, disbarring and
reinstating attorneys at law is realized. They are powers which, exercise
within their proper constitutional limits, are not repugnant, but rather
complementary to each other in attaining the establishment of a Bar that
would respond to the increasing and exacting necessities of the
administration of justice.
The case of Guaria (1913) 24 Phil., 37, illustrates our criterion. Guaria
took examination and failed by a few points to obtain the general average.
A recently enacted law provided that one who had been appointed to the
position of Fiscal may be admitted to the practice of law without a previous
examination. The Government appointed Guaria and he discharged the
duties of Fiscal in a remote province. This tribunal refused to give his
license without previous examinations. The court said:

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1st
Relying upon the provisions of section 2 of Act No. 1597, the
applicant in this case seeks admission to the bar, without taking
the prescribed examination, on the ground that he holds the office
of provincial fiscal for the Province of Batanes.
Section 2 of Act No. 1597, enacted February 28, 1907, is as follows:
Sec. 2. Paragraph one of section thirteen of Act Numbered One
Hundred and ninety, entitled "An Act providing a Code of Procedure
in Civil Actions and Special Proceedings in the Philippine Islands," is
hereby amended to read as follows:
1. Those who have been duly licensed under the laws and orders of
the Islands under the sovereignty of Spain or of the United States
and are in good and regular standing as members of the bar of the
Philippine Islands at the time of the adoption of this code; Provided,
That any person who, prior to the passage of this act, or at any
time thereafter, shall have held, under the authority of the United
States, the position of justice of the Supreme Court, judge of the
Court of First Instance, or judge or associate judge of the Court of
Land Registration, of the Philippine Islands, or the position of
Attorney General, Solicitor General, Assistant Attorney General,
assistant attorney in the office of the Attorney General, prosecuting
attorney for the City of Manila, city attorney of Manila, assistant
city attorney of Manila, provincial fiscal, attorney for the Moro
Province, or assistant attorney for the Moro Province, may be
licensed to practice law in the courts of the Philippine Islands
without an examination, upon motion before the Supreme Court
and establishing such fact to the satisfaction of said court.
The records of this court disclose that on a former occasion this
appellant took, and failed to pass the prescribed examination. The
report of the examining board, dated March 23, 1907, shows that
he received an average of only 71 per cent in the various branches
of legal learning upon which he was examined, thus falling four
points short of the required percentage of 75. We would be
delinquent in the performance of our duty to the public and to the
bar, if, in the face of this affirmative indication of the deficiency of
the applicant in the required qualifications of learning in the law at
the time when he presented his former application for admission to
the bar, we should grant him license to practice law in the courts of
these Islands, without first satisfying ourselves that despite his
failure to pass the examination on that occasion, he now
"possesses the necessary qualifications of learning and ability."

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Legal Ethics
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But it is contented that under the provisions of the above-cited
statute the applicant is entitled as of right to be admitted to the
bar without taking the prescribed examination "upon motion before
the Supreme Court" accompanied by satisfactory proof that he has
held and now holds the office of provincial fiscal of the Province of
Batanes. It is urged that having in mind the object which the
legislator apparently sought to attain in enacting the above-cited
amendment to the earlier statute, and in view of the context
generally and especially of the fact that the amendment was
inserted as a proviso in that section of the original Act which
specifically provides for the admission of certain candidates
without examination. It is contented that this mandatory
construction is imperatively required in order to give effect to the
apparent intention of the legislator, and to the candidate's
claim de jure to have the power exercised.
And after copying article 9 of Act of July 1, 1902 of the Congress of the
United States, articles 2, 16 and 17 of Act No. 136, and articles 13 to 16 of
Act 190, the Court continued:
Manifestly, the jurisdiction thus conferred upon this court by the
commission and confirmed to it by the Act of Congress would be
limited and restricted, and in a case such as that under
consideration wholly destroyed, by giving the word "may," as used
in the above citation from Act of Congress of July 1, 1902, or of any
Act of Congress prescribing, defining or limiting the power
conferred upon the commission is to that extent invalid and void,
as transcending its rightful limits and authority.
Speaking on the application of the law to those who were appointed to the
positions enumerated, and with particular emphasis in the case of Guaria,
the Court held:
In the various cases wherein applications for the admission to the
bar under the provisions of this statute have been considered
heretofore, we have accepted the fact that such appointments had
been made as satisfactory evidence of the qualifications of the
applicant. But in all of those cases we had reason to believe that
the applicants had been practicing attorneys prior to the date of
their appointment.
In the case under consideration, however, it affirmatively appears
that the applicant was not and never had been practicing attorney
in this or any other jurisdiction prior to the date of his appointment
as provincial fiscal, and it further affirmatively appears that he was

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deficient in the required qualifications at the time when he last
applied for admission to the bar.
In the light of this affirmative proof of his defieciency on that
occasion, we do not think that his appointment to the office of
provincial fiscal is in itself satisfactory proof if his possession of the
necessary qualifications of learning and ability. We conclude
therefore that this application for license to practice in the courts of
the Philippines, should be denied.
In view, however, of the fact that when he took the examination he
fell only four points short of the necessary grade to entitle him to a
license to practice; and in view also of the fact that since that time
he has held the responsible office of the governor of the Province
of Sorsogon and presumably gave evidence of such marked ability
in the performance of the duties of that office that the Chief
Executive, with the consent and approval of the Philippine
Commission, sought to retain him in the Government service by
appointing him to the office of provincial fiscal, we think we would
be justified under the above-cited provisions of Act No. 1597 in
waiving in his case the ordinary examination prescribed by general
rule, provided he offers satisfactory evidence of his proficiency in a
special examination which will be given him by a committee of the
court upon his application therefor, without prejudice to his right, if
he desires so to do, to present himself at any of the ordinary
examinations prescribed by general rule. (In re Guaria, pp. 4849.)
It is obvious, therefore, that the ultimate power to grant license for the
practice of law belongs exclusively to this Court, and the law passed by
Congress on the matter is of permissive character, or as other authorities
say, merely to fix the minimum conditions for the license.
The law in question, like those in the case of Day and Cannon, has been
found also to suffer from the fatal defect of being a class legislation, and
that if it has intended to make a classification, it is arbitrary and
unreasonable.
In the case of Day, a law enacted on February 21, 1899 required of the
Supreme Court, until December 31 of that year, to grant license for the
practice of law to those students who began studying before November 4,
1897, and had studied for two years and presented a diploma issued by a
school of law, or to those who had studied in a law office and would pass
an examination, or to those who had studied for three years if they
commenced their studies after the aforementioned date. The Supreme
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Court declared that this law was unconstitutional being, among others, a
class legislation. The Court said:
This is an application to this court for admission to the bar of this
state by virtue of diplomas from law schools issued to the
applicants. The act of the general assembly passed in 1899, under
which the application is made, is entitled "An act to amend section
1 of an act entitled "An act to revise the law in relation to attorneys
and counselors," approved March 28, 1884, in force July 1, 1874."
The amendment, so far as it appears in the enacting clause,
consists in the addition to the section of the following: "And every
application for a license who shall comply with the rules of the
supreme court in regard to admission to the bar in force at the time
such applicant commend the study of law, either in a law or office
or a law school or college, shall be granted a license under this act
notwithstanding any subsequent changes in said rules". In
re Day et al, 54 N.Y., p. 646.
. . . After said provision there is a double proviso, one branch of
which is that up to December 31, 1899, this court shall grant a
license of admittance to the bar to the holder of every diploma
regularly issued by any law school regularly organized under the
laws of this state, whose regular course of law studies is two years,
and requiring an attendance by the student of at least 36 weeks in
each of such years, and showing that the student began the study
of law prior to November 4, 1897, and accompanied with the usual
proofs of good moral character. The other branch of the proviso is
that any student who has studied law for two years in a law office,
or part of such time in a law office, "and part in the aforesaid law
school," and whose course of study began prior to November 4,
1897, shall be admitted upon a satisfactory examination by the
examining board in the branches now required by the rules of this
court. If the right to admission exists at all, it is by virtue of the
proviso, which, it is claimed, confers substantial rights and
privileges upon the persons named therein, and establishes rules
of legislative creation for their admission to the bar. (p. 647.)
Considering the proviso, however, as an enactment, it is clearly a
special legislation, prohibited by the constitution, and invalid as
such. If the legislature had any right to admit attorneys to practice
in the courts and take part in the administration of justice, and
could prescribe the character of evidence which should be received
by the court as conclusive of the requisite learning and ability of
persons to practice law, it could only be done by a general law,
persons or classes of persons. Const. art 4, section 2. The right to
practice law is a privilege, and a license for that purpose makes the

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holder an officer of the court, and confers upon him the right to
appear for litigants, to argue causes, and to collect fees therefor,
and creates certain exemptions, such as from jury services and
arrest on civil process while attending court. The law conferring
such privileges must be general in its operation. No doubt the
legislature, in framing an enactment for that purpose, may classify
persons so long as the law establishing classes in general, and has
some reasonable relation to the end sought. There must be some
difference which furnishes a reasonable basis for different one,
having no just relation to the subject of the legislation. Braceville
Coal Co. vs. People, 147 Ill. 66, 35 N.E. 62; Ritchie vs. People, 155
Ill. 98, 40 N.E. 454; Railroad Co. vs. Ellis, 165 U.S. 150, 17 Sup. Ct.
255.
The length of time a physician has practiced, and the skill acquired
by experience, may furnish a basis for classification (Williams vs.
People 121 Ill. 48, II N.E. 881); but the place where such physician
has resided and practiced his profession cannot furnish such basis,
and is an arbitrary discrimination, making an enactment based
upon it void (State vs. Pennyeor, 65 N.E. 113, 18 Atl. 878). Here the
legislature undertakes to say what shall serve as a test of fitness
for the profession of the law, and plainly, any classification must
have some reference to learning, character, or ability to engage in
such practice. The proviso is limited, first, to a class of persons who
began the study of law prior to November 4, 1897. This class is
subdivided into two classes First, those presenting diplomas
issued by any law school of this state before December 31, 1899;
and, second, those who studied law for the period of two years in a
law office, or part of the time in a law school and part in a law
office, who are to be admitted upon examination in the subjects
specified in the present rules of this court, and as to this latter
subdivision there seems to be no limit of time for making
application for admission. As to both classes, the conditions of the
rules are dispensed with, and as between the two different
conditions and limits of time are fixed. No course of study is
prescribed for the law school, but a diploma granted upon the
completion of any sort of course its managers may prescribe is
made all-sufficient. Can there be anything with relation to the
qualifications or fitness of persons to practice law resting upon the
mere date of November 4, 1897, which will furnish a basis of
classification. Plainly not. Those who began the study of law
November 4th could qualify themselves to practice in two years as
well as those who began on the 3rd. The classes named in the
proviso need spend only two years in study, while those who
commenced the next day must spend three years, although they
would complete two years before the time limit. The one who
commenced on the 3rd. If possessed of a diploma, is to be
15

Legal Ethics
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admitted without examination before December 31, 1899, and
without any prescribed course of study, while as to the other the
prescribed course must be pursued, and the diploma is utterly
useless. Such classification cannot rest upon any natural reason, or
bear any just relation to the subject sought, and none is suggested.
The proviso is for the sole purpose of bestowing privileges upon
certain defined persons. (pp. 647-648.)
In the case of Cannon above cited, State vs. Cannon, 240 N.W. 441, where
the legislature attempted by law to reinstate Cannon to the practice of law,
the court also held with regards to its aspect of being a class legislation:
But the statute is invalid for another reason. If it be granted that
the legislature has power to prescribe ultimately and definitely the
qualifications upon which courts must admit and license those
applying as attorneys at law, that power can not be exercised in
the manner here attempted. That power must be exercised through
general laws which will apply to all alike and accord equal
opportunity to all. Speaking of the right of the Legislature to exact
qualifications of those desiring to pursue chosen callings, Mr.
Justice Field in the case of Dent. vs. West Virginia, 129 U.S. 114,
121, 9 S. Ct. 232, 233, 32 L. Ed. 626, said: "It is undoubtedly the
right of every citizen of the United States to follow any lawful
calling, business or profession he may choose, subject only to such
restrictions as are imposed upon all persons of like age, sex, and
condition." This right may in many respects be considered as a
distinguishing feature of our republican institutions. Here all
vocations are all open to every one on like conditions. All may be
pursued as sources of livelihood, some requiring years of study and
great learning for their successful prosecution. The interest, or, as
it is sometimes termed, the "estate" acquired in them that is,
the right to continue their prosecution is often of great value to
the possessors and cannot be arbitrarily taken from them, any
more than their real or personal property can be thus taken. It is
fundamental under our system of government that all similarly
situated and possessing equal qualifications shall enjoy equal
opportunities. Even statutes regulating the practice of medicine,
requiring medications to establish the possession on the part of the
application of his proper qualifications before he may be licensed
to practice, have been challenged, and courts have seriously
considered whether the exemption from such examinations of
those practicing in the state at the time of the enactment of the
law rendered such law unconstitutional because of infringement
upon this general principle. State vs. Thomas Call, 121 N.C. 643, 28
S.E. 517; see, also, The State ex rel. Winkler vs. Rosenberg, 101
Wis. 172, 76 N.W. 345; State vs. Whitcom, 122 Wis. 110, 99 N.W.
468.

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1st
This law singles out Mr. Cannon and assumes to confer upon him
the right to practice law and to constitute him an officer of this
Court as a mere matter of legislative grace or favor. It is not
material that he had once established his right to practice law and
that one time he possessed the requisite learning and other
qualifications to entitle him to that right. That fact in no matter
affect the power of the Legislature to select from the great body of
the public an individual upon whom it would confer its favors.
A statute of the state of Minnesota (Laws 1929, c. 424)
commanded the Supreme Court to admit to the practice of law
without examination, all who had served in the military or naval
forces of the United States during the World War and received a
honorable discharge therefrom and who (were disabled therein or
thereby within the purview of the Act of Congress approved June
7th, 1924, known as "World War Veteran's Act, 1924 and whose
disability is rated at least ten per cent thereunder at the time of
the passage of this Act." This Act was held |unconstitutional on the
ground that it clearly violated the quality clauses of the
constitution of that state. In re Application of George W. Humphrey,
178 Minn. 331, 227 N.W. 179.
A good summary of a classification constitutionally acceptable is explained
in 12 Am. Jur. 151-153 as follows:
The general rule is well settled by unanimity of the authorities that
a classification to be valid must rest upon material differences
between the person included in it and those excluded and,
furthermore, must be based upon substantial distinctions. As the
rule has sometimes avoided the constitutional prohibition, must be
founded upon pertinent and real differences, as distinguished from
irrelevant and artificial ones. Therefore, any law that is made
applicable to one class of citizens only must be based on some
substantial difference between the situation of that class and other
individuals to which it does not apply and must rest on some
reason on which it can be defended. In other words, there must be
such a difference between the situation and circumstances of all
the members of the class and the situation and circumstances of
all other members of the state in relation to the subjects of the
discriminatory legislation as presents a just and natural cause for
the difference made in their liabilities and burdens and in their
rights and privileges. A law is not general because it operates on
all within a clause unless there is a substantial reason why it is
made to operate on that class only, and not generally on all. (12
Am. Jur. pp. 151-153.)
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Pursuant to the law in question, those who, without a grade below 50 per
cent in any subject, have obtained a general average of 69.5 per cent in
the bar examinations in 1946 to 1951, 70.5 per cent in 1952, 71.5 per cent
in 1953, and those will obtain 72.5 per cent in 1954, and 73.5 per cent in
1955, will be permitted to take and subscribe the corresponding oath of
office as members of the Bar, notwithstanding that the rules require a
minimum general average of 75 per cent, which has been invariably
followed since 1950. Is there any motive of the nature indicated by the
abovementioned authorities, for this classification ? If there is none, and
none has been given, then the classification is fatally defective.
It was indicated that those who failed in 1944, 1941 or the years before,
with the general average indicated, were not included because the Tribunal
has no record of the unsuccessful candidates of those years. This fact does
not justify the unexplained classification of unsuccessful candidates by
years, from 1946-1951, 1952, 1953, 1954, 1955. Neither is the exclusion of
those who failed before said years under the same conditions justified. The
fact that this Court has no record of examinations prior to 1946 does not
signify that no one concerned may prove by some other means his right to
an equal consideration.
To defend the disputed law from being declared unconstitutional on
account of its retroactivity, it is argued that it is curative, and that in such
form it is constitutional. What does Rep. Act 972 intend to cure ? Only from
1946 to 1949 were there cases in which the Tribunal permitted admission
to the bar of candidates who did not obtain the general average of 75 per
cent: in 1946 those who obtained only 72 per cent; in the 1947 and those
who had 69 per cent or more; in 1948, 70 per cent and in 1949, 74 per
cent; and in 1950 to 1953, those who obtained 74 per cent, which was
considered by the Court as equivalent to 75 per cent as prescribed by the
Rules, by reason of circumstances deemed to be sufficiently justifiable.
These changes in the passing averages during those years were all that
could be objected to or criticized. Now, it is desired to undo what had been
done cancel the license that was issued to those who did not obtain the
prescribed 75 per cent ? Certainly not. The disputed law clearly does not
propose to do so. Concededly, it approves what has been done by this
Tribunal. What Congress lamented is that the Court did not consider 69.5
per cent obtained by those candidates who failed in 1946 to 1952 as
sufficient to qualify them to practice law. Hence, it is the lack of will or
defect of judgment of the Court that is being cured, and to complete the
cure of this infirmity, the effectivity of the disputed law is being extended
up to the years 1953, 1954 and 1955, increasing each year the general
average by one per cent, with the order that said candidates be admitted
to the Bar. This purpose, manifest in the said law, is the best proof that
what the law attempts to amend and correct are not the rules
promulgated, but the will or judgment of the Court, by means of simply
taking its place. This is doing directly what the Tribunal should have done

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1st
during those years according to the judgment of Congress. In other words,
the power exercised was not to repeal, alter or supplement the rules, which
continue in force. What was done was to stop or suspend them. And this
power is not included in what the Constitution has granted to Congress,
because it falls within the power to apply the rules. This power corresponds
to the judiciary, to which such duty been confided.
Article 2 of the law in question permits partial passing of examinations, at
indefinite intervals. The grave defect of this system is that it does not take
into account that the laws and jurisprudence are not stationary, and when
a candidate finally receives his certificate, it may happen that the existing
laws and jurisprudence are already different, seriously affecting in this
manner his usefulness. The system that the said law prescribes was used
in the first bar examinations of this country, but was abandoned for this
and other disadvantages. In this case, however, the fatal defect is that the
article is not expressed in the title will have temporary effect only from
1946 to 1955, the text of article 2 establishes a permanent system for an
indefinite time. This is contrary to Section 21 (1), article VI of the
Constitution, which vitiates and annuls article 2 completely; and because it
is inseparable from article 1, it is obvious that its nullity affect the entire
law.
Laws are unconstitutional on the following grounds: first, because they are
not within the legislative powers of Congress to enact, or Congress has
exceeded its powers; second, because they create or establish arbitrary
methods or forms that infringe constitutional principles; and third, because
their purposes or effects violate the Constitution or its basic principles. As
has already been seen, the contested law suffers from these fatal defects.
Summarizing, we are of the opinion and hereby declare that Republic Act
No. 972 is unconstitutional and therefore, void, and without any force nor
effect for the following reasons, to wit:
1. Because its declared purpose is to admit 810 candidates who failed in
the bar examinations of 1946-1952, and who, it admits, are certainly
inadequately prepared to practice law, as was exactly found by this Court
in the aforesaid years. It decrees the admission to the Bar of these
candidates, depriving this Tribunal of the opportunity to determine if they
are at present already prepared to become members of the Bar. It obliges
the Tribunal to perform something contrary to reason and in an arbitrary
manner. This is a manifest encroachment on the constitutional
responsibility of the Supreme Court.
2. Because it is, in effect, a judgment revoking the resolution of this Court
on the petitions of these 810 candidates, without having examined their
respective examination papers, and although it is admitted that this
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Legal Ethics
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Tribunal may reconsider said resolution at any time for justifiable reasons,
only this Court and no other may revise and alter them. In attempting to do
it directly Republic Act No. 972 violated the Constitution.
3. By the disputed law, Congress has exceeded its legislative power to
repeal, alter and supplement the rules on admission to the Bar. Such
additional or amendatory rules are, as they ought to be, intended to
regulate acts subsequent to its promulgation and should tend to improve
and elevate the practice of law, and this Tribunal shall consider these rules
as minimum norms towards that end in the admission, suspension,
disbarment and reinstatement of lawyers to the Bar, inasmuch as a good
bar assists immensely in the daily performance of judicial functions and is
essential to a worthy administration of justice. It is therefore the primary
and inherent prerogative of the Supreme Court to render the ultimate
decision on who may be admitted and may continue in the practice of law
according to existing rules.
4. The reason advanced for the pretended classification of candidates,
which the law makes, is contrary to facts which are of general knowledge
and does not justify the admission to the Bar of law students inadequately
prepared. The pretended classification is arbitrary. It is undoubtedly a class
legislation.
5. Article 2 of Republic Act No. 972 is not embraced in the title of the law,
contrary to what the Constitution enjoins, and being inseparable from the
provisions of article 1, the entire law is void.

colleagues who since the beginning have announced their decision not to
take part in voting, we, the eight members of the Court who subscribed to
this decision have voted and resolved, and have decided for the Court, and
under the authority of the same:
1.

2.

That (a) the portion of article 1 of Republic Act No. 972 referring to
the examinations of 1946 to 1952, and (b) all of article 2 of said
law are unconstitutional and, therefore, void and without force and
effect.
That, for lack of unanimity in the eight Justices, that part of article
1 which refers to the examinations subsequent to the approval of
the law, that is from 1953 to 1955 inclusive, is valid and shall
continue to be in force, in conformity with section 10, article VII of
the Constitution.

Consequently, (1) all the above-mentioned petitions of the candidates who


failed in the examinations of 1946 to 1952 inclusive are denied, and (2) all
candidates who in the examinations of 1953 obtained a general average of
71.5 per cent or more, without having a grade below 50 per cent in any
subject, are considered as having passed, whether they have filed petitions
for admission or not. After this decision has become final, they shall be
permitted to take and subscribe the corresponding oath of office as
members of the Bar on the date or dates that the chief Justice may set. So
ordered.

6. Lacking in eight votes to declare the nullity of that part of article 1


referring to the examinations of 1953 to 1955, said part of article 1, insofar
as it concerns the examinations in those years, shall continue in force.

RESOLUTION
Upon mature deliberation by this Court, after hearing and availing of the
magnificent and impassioned discussion of the contested law by our Chief
Justice at the opening and close of the debate among the members of the
Court, and after hearing the judicious observations of two of our beloved

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G.R. No. L-1179

January 8, 1913

In re application of MARIO GUARIA for admission to the bar.


CARSON, J.:
Relying upon the provisions of section 2 of Act No. 1597, the applicant in
this case seeks admission to the bar, without taking the prescribed
examination, on the ground that he holds the office of provincial fiscal for
the Province of Batanes.
Section 2 of Act No. 1597, enacted February 28, 1907, is as follows:
SEC. 2. Paragraph one of section thirteen of Act Numbered One
hundred and ninety, entitled "An Act providing a Code of Procedure
in Civil Actions and Special Proceedings in the Philippine Islands," is
hereby amended to read as follows:
1. Those who have been duly licensed under the laws and orders of
the Islands under the sovereignty of Spain or of the United States
and are in good and regular standing as members of the bar of the
Philippine Islands at the time of the adoption of this
Code: Provided, That any person who, prior to the passage of this
Act, or at any time thereafter, shall have held, under the authority
of the United States, the position of justice of the Supreme Court,
judge of the Court of First Instance, or judge or associate judge of
the Court of Land Registration, of the Philippine Islands, or the
position of Attorney-General, Solicitor-General, Assistant AttorneyGeneral, assistant attorney in the office of the Attorney-General,
prosecuting attorney for the city of Manila, assistant prosecuting
attorney for the city of Manila, city attorney of Manila, assistant city
attorney of Manila, provincial fiscal, attorney for the Moro Province,
or assistant attorney for the Moro Province, may be licensed to
practice law in the courts of the Philippine Islands without an
examination, upon motion before the Supreme Court and
establishing such fact to the satisfaction of said court."
The records of this court disclose that on a former occasion this applicant
took, and failed to pass the prescribed examination. The report of the
examining board, dated March 23, 1907, shows that he received an
average of only 71 per cent in the various branches of legal learning upon
which he was examined, thus falling four points short of the required
percentage of 75. We would be delinquent in the performance of our duty
to the public and to the bar, if, in the face of this affirmative indication of
the deficiency of the applicant in the required qualifications of learning in

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the law at the time when he presented his former application for admission
to the bar, we should grant him a license to practice law in the courts of
these Islands, without first satisfying ourselves that despite his failure to
pass the examination on that occasion, he now "possesses the necessary
qualifications of learning and ability."
But it is contended that under the provisions of the above-cited statute the
applicant is entitled as of right to be admitted to the bar without taking the
prescribed examination "upon motion before the Supreme Court"
accompanied by satisfactory proof that he has held and now holds the
office of provincial fiscal of the Province of Batanes. It is urged that having
in mind the object which the legislator apparently sought to attain in
enacting the above-cited amendment to the earlier statute, and in view of
the context generally and especially of the fact that the amendment was
inserted as a proviso in that section of the original Act which specifically
provides for the admission of certain candidates without examination, the
clause "may be licensed to practice law in the courts of the Philippine
Islands without and examination" should be construed so as to mean "shall
be licensed to practice law in the Philippine Islands without an
examination." It is contended that this mandatory construction is
imperatively required in order to give effect to the apparent intention of
the legislator, and to the candidate's claim de jure to have the power
exercised.
It must be confessed that were the inquiry limited strictly to the provisions
of local law touching this matter, the contentions of the applicant would
have great weight . For it is well settled that in statutory interpretation the
word "may" should be read "shall" where such construction is necessary to
give effect to the apparent intention of the legislator. In Rock Island County
Supervisors vs. United States (71 U.S., 435, 446), Mr. Justice Swayne says:
The conclusion to be deduced from the authorities is that where
power is given to public officers, in the language of the Act before
us, or in equivalent language, whenever the public interest or
individual rights call for its exercise, the language used, though
permissive in form, is in fact peremptory. What they are
empowered to do for a third person the law requires shall be done.
The power is given, not for their benefit, but for his. It is placed
with the depository to meet the demands of right, and to prevent a
failure of justice. It is given as a remedy to those entitled to invoke
its aid, who would otherwise be remediless. In all such cases it is
held that the intent of the Legislature, which is the test, was not to
devolve a mere discretion, but to impose a positive and absolute
duty.

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Whether the word "may" in a statute is to be construed as mandatory and
imposing a duty, or merely as permissive and conferring discretion, is to be
determined in each case from the apparent intention of the statute as
gathered from the context, as well as from the language of the particular
provision. The question in each case is whether, taken as a whole and
viewed in the light of surrounding circumstances, it can be said that a
purpose existed on the part of the legislator to enact a law mandatory in its
character. If it can, then it should be given a mandatory effect. (Colby
University vs. Village of Canandaigua (U.S.), 69 Fed., 671, 673; Kansas
Pacific Ry. Co. vs. Reynolds, 8 Kan., 623, 628; Kemble vs. McPhaill, 60 Pac.,
1092, 1093, 128 Cal., 444; Inhabitants of Worcester County vs.Schlesinger,
82 Mass. (16 Gray), 166, 168; People vs. Sanitary Dist. of Chicago, 56 N.E.,
953, 956, 184 Ill., 597; State vs. Withrow (Mo.), 24 S.W., 638, 641;
Leavenworth & D. M.R. Co. vs. Platte County Court, 42 Mo., 171, 174.)
Applying these canons of construction to the statute under consideration,
and limiting ourselves strictly to the provisions of local law touching the
admission of candidates to the bar, we might, as we have said, be inclined
to give the statute the mandatory effect which applicant claims should be
placed upon it. But we are of opinion that such a construction is precluded
by the provisions of the Act of Congress enacted July 1, 1902, which
confirm and secure to this court the jurisdiction theretofore conferred upon
it. Section 9 of that Act is as follows:
That the Supreme Courts of First Instance of the Philippine Islands
shall possess and exercise jurisdiction as heretofore provided and
such additional jurisdiction as shall hereafter be prescribed by the
Government of said Islands, subject to the power of said
Government to change the practice and method of procedure. The
municipal courts of said Islands shall possess and exercise
jurisdiction as heretofore provided by the Philippine Commission,
subject in all matters to such alteration and amendment as may be
hereafter enacted by law; and the Chief Justice and Associate
Justices of the Supreme Court shall hereafter be appointed by the
President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, and
shall receive the compensation heretofore prescribed by the
Commission until otherwise provided by Congress. The judges of
the Court of First Instance shall be appointed by the Civil Governor,
by and with the advice and consent of the Philippine
Commission: Provided, That the admiralty jurisdiction of the
Supreme Court and Courts of First Instance shall not be changed
except by Act of Congress.
Prior to the passage of this Act the power and jurisdiction of this court in
relation to the admission of candidates to the bar of the Philippine Islands
had been fixed by the provisions of the Organic Act (No. 136) and the Code

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of Civil Procedure (Act No. 190); and as we understand these provisions


this court was vested thereby with authority, and charged with a duty to
pass upon the "moral character" and the "qualifications and ability" of all
candidates for admission to the bar.
The pertinent provisions of these statutes are as follows:
(Act No. 136.) "SEC . 2. Constitution of judiciary. The judicial
power of the Government of the Philippine Islands shall be vested
in a Supreme Court, Courts of First Instance, and courts of justices
of the peace, together with such special jurisdictions of municipal
courts, and other special tribunals as now are or hereafter may be
authorized by law. The two courts first named shall be courts of
record.
(Act No. 136.) "SEC. 16. Jurisdiction of the Supreme Court. The
jurisdiction of the Supreme Court shall be of two kinds:
1.
2.

Original; and
Appellate.

SEC. 17. Its original jurisdiction. The Supreme Court shall have
original jurisdiction to issue writs ofmandamus, certiorari,
prohibition, habeas corpus, and quo warranto in the cases and in
the manner prescribed in the Code of Civil Procedure, and to hear
and to determine the controversies thus brought before it, and in
other cases provided by law.
(Act No. 190.) "SEC. 13. Who may practice as lawyers. The
following persons, if not specially declared ineligible, are entitled to
practice law in the courts of the Philippine Islands:
1.

2.

Those who have been duly licensed under the laws and orders
of the Islands under the sovereignty of Spain or of the United
States and are in good and regular standing as members of the
bar of the Philippine Islands at the time of the adoption of this
Code;
Those who are hereafter licensed in the manner herein
prescribed.

SEC. 14. Qualifications of applicants. Any resident of the


Philippine Islands, not a subject or citizen of any foreign
government, of the age of twenty-three years, of good moral
character, and who possesses the necessary qualifications of
20

Legal Ethics
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1st

learning and ability, is entitled to admission as a member of the


bar of the Islands and to practice as such in all their courts.

Congress repugnant to the Constitution cannot become law, and that the
courts of the United States are bound to take notice if the Constitution.

SEC. 15. Certificate of good character required. Every applicant


for admission as a member of the bar must produce the Supreme
Court satisfactory testimonials of good moral character, and must
satisfactorily pass a proper examination upon all the codes of law
and procedure in force in the Philippine Islands, and upon such
other branches of legal learning as the Supreme Court by general
rule shall provide. . . .

Applying the reasoning of that case to the question of the validity of an Act
of the Philippine Commission enacted since the date of the passage of the
Philippine Bill which is found to be in conflict with the provisions of the Act
of Congress dealing with the same subject matter, and especially with the
provisions of the Philippine Bill itself, we think there can be no doubt as to
the result. The Act of the Commission in so far as it is in conflict with or in
any wise repugnant to the various Acts of Congress dealing with the same
subject matter must be held to be void and of no effect. Paraphrasing
slightly the language used in the early case of Kemper vs. Hawkins (1 Va.
Cases, 20-24), it may be said that the Acts of the Congress of the United
States are to the Commission, or rather to all the departments of the
Philippine Government, what a law is to individuals; nay, they constitute
not only a rule of action to the various branches of the Government, but it
is from them that the very existence of the power of the Government flows,
and it is by virtue of the Acts of Congress that the powers (or portions of
the right to govern) which may have been committed to this Government
are prescribed. The Act of Congress was the Commission's commission;
nay, it was its creator.

SEC. 16. Place and manner of examinations. Such examinations


shall be conducted at Manila, by the judges of the Supreme Court
or by a committee of competent lawyers by them to be appointed,
and shall be held at such times as the judges of the court shall
provide by general or special rules.
Manifestly, the jurisdiction thus conferred upon this court by the
Commission and confirmed to it by the Act of Congress would be limited
and restricted, and in a case such as that under consideration wholly
destroyed, by giving the word "may," as used in the above citation from
Act No. 1597, a mandatory rather than a permissive effect. But any Act of
the Commission which has the effect of setting at naught in whole or in
part the Act of Congress of July 1, 1902, or of any Act of Congress
prescribing, defining or limiting the power conferred upon the Commission
is to that extent invalid and void, as transcending its rightful limits and
authority.
The Act of Congress was the creator of the Commission and indeed of the
Government of these Islands, which is the creature of its creator. Its powers
are defined, prescribed and limited by the Act which created it, and by
such other lawful acts of its creator as may further define, prescribe, limit
or expand these powers. It cannot lawfully transcend or infringe upon the
limits thus prescribed, and any Act of the Commission repugnant to the Act
of Congress which created it, or which is repugnant to any other lawful Act
of its creator defining, prescribing or limiting its authority is void and
invalid. The various Acts of Congress conferring power upon the Philippine
Legislature, and defining, prescribing and limiting this power, especially the
Act of Congress of July 1, 1902, are to that Legislature in the nature of an
organic act with its amendments, binding on it in like manner as is the
Constitution of the United States upon Congress itself.
In the great case of Marbury vs. Madison (1 Cranch, 175), the Supreme
Court of the United States, in a decision written by Chief Justice Marshall,
laid down the doctrine in this regard which has been followed by that court
unhesitatingly ever since. In that case the court held that an Act of

Compiled by: Angel Sy

Section 9 of the Act of Congress, set out above, placed it beyond the power
of the local Legislature to deprive this court of the jurisdiction or power
theretofore granted to it; leaving however, to local legislative authority the
right to confer additional jurisdiction, or to change the practice and method
of procedure. The above-cited provisions of Act No. 190, in force at the
time when the Act of Congress was enacted, conferred upon this court the
power and jurisdiction to deny admission to candidates for the bar unless,
in addition to certain other prescribed conditions, they satisfy the court
that they possess the necessary learning in the law, by passing an
examination prescribed by general rule. It seems clear, therefore, that the
Commission, while it was undoubtedly authorized to modify the provision
requiring the holding of examinations under general rules (that being
merely the prescribed mode of procedure whereby the court was required
to ascertain the qualifications of the candidate), had no authority to
deprive this court of its power to deny admission to any candidate who
fails to satisfy it that he possesses the necessary qualifications for
admission to the bar of the Philippine Islands.
In construing a statute enacted by the Philippine Commission we deem it
our duty not to give it a construction which would be repugnant to an Act
of Congress, if the language of the statute is fairly susceptible of another
construction not in conflict with the higher law. In doing so, we think we
should not hesitate to disregard contentions touching the apparent
intention of the legislator which would lead to the conclusion that the
21

Legal Ethics
SET
Commission intended to enact a law in violation of the Act of Congress.
However specious the argument may be in favor of one of two possible
constructions, it must be disregarded if on examination it is found to rest
on the contention that the legislator designed an attempt to transcend the
rightful limits of his authority, and that his apparent intention was to enact
an invalid law.
Black on Interpretation of Laws at page 87 says: "In construing a doubtful
or ambiguous statute, the courts will presume that it was the intention of
the legislature to enact a valid, sensible, and just law, and one which
should change the prior law no further than may be necessary to
effectuate the specific purpose of the act in question. The construction
should be in harmony with this assumption whenever possible."
The same author, at pages 93 and 94, says: "Hence it follows that the
courts will not so construe the law as to make it conflict with the
constitution, but will rather put such an interpretation upon it as will avoid
conflict with the constitution and give it full force and effect, if this can be
done without extravagance. If there is doubt or uncertainty as to the
meaning of the legislature, if the words of provisions of the statute are
obscure, or if the enactment is fairly susceptible of two or more
constructions, that interpretation will be adopted which will avoid the effect
of unconstitutionality, even though it may be necessary, for this purpose,
to disregard the more usual or apparent import of the language employed."
Without undue straining of the language used in the statute under
consideration, the word "may" may be construed as either mandatory or
permissive in its effect. But to construe it as mandatory would bring it in
direct conflict with the Act of Congress, and we conclude therefore, despite
the contentions of the applicant as to the apparent intention of the
legislator, that it should be given its permissive and not its mandatory
effect, and that the true intention of the legislator was to leave it within the
discretion of the court to admit to the bar without examination the officials
mentioned in the Act in any case wherein the court is otherwise satisfied
that they possess the necessary qualifications.
Ordinarily, and in the absence of any showing to the contrary, it may fairly
be assumed that an applicant who has held one of the offices mentioned in
the statute, and who, prior to his appointment, had been admitted to the
practice of law in the courts of these Islands under the former sovereign or
in some other jurisdiction is duly qualified for admission to the bar of these
Islands. In the case In re Du Fresne (20 Phil. Rep., 488, 492), speaking of
the provisions of this Act, we said:

1st
and consent of the Senate, or by the Governor-General of the
Philippine Islands by and with the advice and consent of the
Philippine Commission, and the legislator evidently conceived that
the fact that such an appointment is made is a sufficient guaranty
that after due inquiry the appointee has been found to be
possessed of at least the necessary qualifications for admission to
the bar.
In the various cases wherein applications for admission to the bar under
the provisions of this statute have been considered heretofore, we have
accepted the fact that such appointments had been made as satisfactory
evidence of the qualifications of the applicant. But in all of those cases we
had reason to believe that the applicants had been practicing attorneys
prior to the date of their appointment.
In the case under consideration, however, it affirmatively appears that the
applicant was not and never had been a practicing attorney in this or any
other jurisdiction prior to the date of his appointment as provincial fiscal,
and it further affirmatively appears that he was deficient in the required
qualifications at the time when he last applied for admission to the bar.
In the light of this affirmative proof of his deficiency on that occasion, we
do not think that his appointment to the office of provincial fiscal is in itself
satisfactory proof of his possession of the necessary qualifications of
learning and ability. We conclude therefore that this application for license
to practice in the courts of the Philippines should be denied.
In view, however, of the fact that when he took the examination he fell
only four points short of the necessary grade to entitle him to a license to
practice; and in view also of the fact that since that time he has held the
responsible office of governor of the Province of Sorsogon and presumably
gave evidence of such marked ability in the performance of the duties of
that office that the Chief Executive, with the consent and approval of the
Philippine Commission, sought to retain him in the Government service by
appointing him to the office of provincial fiscal, we think we would be
justified under the above-cited provisions of Act No. 1597 in waiving in his
case the ordinary examination prescribed by general rule, provided he
offers satisfactory evidence of his proficiency in a special examination
which will be given him by a committee of the court upon his application
therefor, without prejudice to his right, if he desires so to do, to present
himself at any of the ordinary examinations prescribed by general rule. So
ordered.

Appointments to the positions mentioned in Act No. 1597 are made


either by the President of the United States by and with the advice

Compiled by: Angel Sy

22

1st

Legal Ethics
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B. M. No. 1154

June 8, 2004

IN THE MATTER OF THE DISQUALIFICATION OF BAR EXAMINEE


HARON S. MELING IN THE 2002 BAR EXAMINATIONS AND FOR
DISCIPLINARY ACTION AS MEMBER OF THE PHILIPPINE SHARIA
BAR, ATTY. FROILAN R. MELENDREZ, petitioner.
RESOLUTION
TINGA, J.:
The Court is here confronted with a Petition that seeks twin reliefs, one of
which is ripe while the other has been rendered moot by a supervening
event.
The antecedents follow.
On October 14, 2002, Atty. Froilan R. Melendrez (Melendrez) filed with the
Office of the Bar Confidant (OBC) aPetition1 to disqualify Haron S. Meling
(Meling) from taking the 2002 Bar Examinations and to impose on him the
appropriate disciplinary penalty as a member of the Philippine Sharia Bar.
In the Petition, Melendrez alleges that Meling did not disclose in his Petition
to take the 2002 Bar Examinations that he has three (3) pending criminal
cases before the Municipal Trial Court in Cities (MTCC), Cotabato City,
namely: Criminal Cases Noa. 15685 and 15686, both for Grave Oral
Defamation, and Criminal Case No. 15687 for Less Serious Physical Injuries.
The above-mentioned cases arose from an incident which occurred on May
21, 2001, when Meling allegedly uttered defamatory words against
Melendrez and his wife in front of media practitioners and other people.
Meling also purportedly attacked and hit the face of Melendrez wife
causing the injuries to the latter.
Furthermore, Melendrez alleges that Meling has been using the title
"Attorney" in his communications, as Secretary to the Mayor of Cotabato
City, despite the fact that he is not a member of the Bar. Attached to
the Petition is an indorsement letter which shows that Meling used the
appellation and appears on its face to have been received by the
Sangguniang Panglungsod of Cotabato City on November 27, 2001.

Compiled by: Angel Sy

23

Legal Ethics
SET
Pursuant to this Courts R E S O L U T I O N 2 dated December 3, 2002,
Meling filed his Answer with the OBC.
In his Answer,3 Meling explains that he did not disclose the criminal cases
filed against him by Melendrez because retired Judge Corocoy Moson, their
former professor, advised him to settle his misunderstanding with
Melendrez. Believing in good faith that the case would be settled because
the said Judge has moral ascendancy over them, he being their former
professor in the College of Law, Meling considered the three cases that
actually arose from a single incident and involving the same parties as
"closed and terminated." Moreover, Meling denies the charges and adds
that the acts complained of do not involve moral turpitude.
As regards the use of the title "Attorney," Meling admits that some of his
communications really contained the word "Attorney" as they were,
according to him, typed by the office clerk.
In its Report and Recommendation4 dated December 8, 2003, the OBC
disposed of the charge of non-disclosure against Meling in this wise:
The reasons of Meling in not disclosing the criminal cases filed
against him in his petition to take the Bar Examinations are
ludicrous. He should have known that only the court of competent
jurisdiction can dismiss cases, not a retired judge nor a law
professor. In fact, the cases filed against Meling are still pending.
Furthermore, granting arguendo that these cases were already
dismissed, he is still required to disclose the same for the Court to
ascertain his good moral character. Petitions to take the Bar
Examinations are made under oath, and should not be taken lightly
by an applicant.
The merit of the cases against Meling is not material in this case. What
matters is his act of concealing them which constitutes dishonesty.
In Bar Matter 1209, the Court stated, thus:
It has been held that good moral character is what a person really
is, as distinguished from good reputation or from the opinion
generally entertained of him, the estimate in which he is held by
the public in the place where he is known. Moral character is not a
subjective term but one which corresponds to objective reality. The
standard of personal and professional integrity is not satisfied by
such conduct as it merely enables a person to escape the penalty
of criminal law. Good moral character includes at least common
honesty.

Compiled by: Angel Sy

1st
The non-disclosure of Meling of the criminal cases filed against him
makes him also answerable under Rule 7.01 of the Code of
Professional Responsibility which states that "a lawyer shall be
answerable for knowingly making a false statement or suppressing
a material fact in connection with his application for admission to
the bar."5
As regards Melings use of the title "Attorney", the OBC had this to say:
Anent the issue of the use of the appellation "Attorney" in his
letters, the explanation of Meling is not acceptable. Aware that he
is not a member of the Bar, there was no valid reason why he
signed as "attorney" whoever may have typed the letters.
Although there is no showing that Meling is engaged in the practice
of law, the fact is, he is signing his communications as "Atty. Haron
S. Meling" knowing fully well that he is not entitled thereto. As held
by the Court in Bar Matter 1209, the unauthorized use of the
appellation "attorney" may render a person liable for indirect
contempt of court.6
Consequently, the OBC recommended that Meling not be allowed to take
the Lawyers Oath and sign the Roll of Attorneys in the event that he
passes the Bar Examinations. Further, it recommended that Melings
membership in the Sharia Bar be suspended until further orders from the
Court.7
We fully concur with the findings and recommendation of the OBC. Meling,
however, did not pass the 2003 Bar Examinations. This renders
the Petition, insofar as it seeks to prevent Meling from taking the Lawyers
Oath and signing the Roll of Attorneys, moot and academic.
On the other hand, the prayer in the same Petition for the Court to impose
the appropriate sanctions upon him as a member of the Sharia Bar is ripe
for resolution and has to be acted upon.
Practice of law, whether under the regular or the Sharia Court, is not a
matter of right but merely a privilege bestowed upon individuals who are
not only learned in the law but who are also known to possess good moral
character.8 The requirement of good moral character is not only a condition
precedent to admission to the practice of law, its continued possession is
also essential for remaining in the practice of law. 9
The standard form issued in connection with the application to take the
2002 Bar Examinations requires the applicant to aver that he or she "has
24

1st

Legal Ethics
SET
not been charged with any act or omission punishable by law, rule or
regulation before a fiscal, judge, officer or administrative body, or indicted
for, or accused or convicted by any court or tribunal of, any offense or
crime involving moral turpitude; nor is there any pending case or charge
against him/her." Despite the declaration required by the form, Meling did
not reveal that he has three pending criminal cases. His deliberate silence
constitutes concealment, done under oath at that.
The disclosure requirement is imposed by the Court to determine whether
there is satisfactory evidence of good moral character of the
applicant.10 The nature of whatever cases are pending against the
applicant would aid the Court in determining whether he is endowed with
the moral fitness demanded of a lawyer. By concealing the existence of
such cases, the applicant then flunks the test of fitness even if the cases
are ultimately proven to be unwarranted or insufficient to impugn or affect
the good moral character of the applicant.
Melings concealment of the fact that there are three (3) pending criminal
cases against him speaks of his lack of the requisite good moral character
and results in the forfeiture of the privilege bestowed upon him as a
member of the Sharia Bar.
Moreover, his use of the appellation "Attorney", knowing fully well that he
is not entitled to its use, cannot go unchecked. In Alawi v. Alauya,11 the
Court had the occasion to discuss the impropriety of the use of the title
"Attorney" by members of the Sharia Bar who are not likewise members of
the Philippine Bar. The respondent therein, an executive clerk of court of
the 4th Judicial Sharia District in Marawi City, used the title "Attorney" in
several correspondence in connection with the rescission of a contract
entered into by him in his private capacity. The Court declared that:

official to the lowliest employee, must not only be competent and


dedicated, but likewise live and practice the virtues of honesty and
integrity. Anything short of this standard would diminish the public's faith in
the Judiciary and constitutes infidelity to the constitutional tenet that a
public office is a public trust.
In Leda v. Tabang, supra, the respondent concealed the fact of his marriage
in his application to take the Bar examinations and made conflicting
submissions before the Court. As a result, we found the respondent grossly
unfit and unworthy to continue in the practice of law and suspended him
therefrom until further orders from the Court.
WHEREFORE, the Petition is granted insofar as it seeks the imposition of
appropriate sanctions upon Haron S. Meling as a member of the Philippine
Sharia Bar. Accordingly, the membership of Haron S. Meling in the
Philippine Sharia Bar is hereby SUSPENDED until further orders from the
Court, the suspension to take effect immediately. Insofar as
the Petition seeks to prevent Haron S. Meling from taking the Lawyers
Oath and signing the Roll of Attorneys as a member of the Philippine Bar,
the same is DISMISSED for having become moot and academic.
Copies of this Decision shall be circulated to all the Sharia Courts in the
country for their information and guidance. SO ORDERED.
A.C. No. 6492

November 18, 2004

MELANIO L. ZORETA, complainant, vs. ATTY. HEHERSON ALNOR G.


SIMPLICIANO, respondent.
CHICO-NAZARIO, J.:

persons who pass the Sharia Bar are not full-fledged members of
the Philippine Bar, hence, may only practice law before Sharia
courts. While one who has been admitted to the Sharia Bar, and
one who has been admitted to the Philippine Bar, may both be
considered "counselors," in the sense that they give counsel or
advice in a professional capacity, only the latter is an "attorney."
The title "attorney" is reserved to those who, having obtained the
necessary degree in the study of law and successfully taken the
Bar Examinations, have been admitted to the Integrated Bar of the
Philippines and remain members thereof in good standing; and it is
they only who are authorized to practice law in this jurisdiction. 12
The judiciary has no place for dishonest officers of the court, such as
Meling in this case. The solemn task of administering justice demands that
those who are privileged to be part of service therein, from the highest

Compiled by: Angel Sy

This is a complaint for disbarment filed against Atty. Heherson Alnor G.


Simpliciano for allegedly notarizing several documents during the year
2002 after his commission as notary public had expired.
Complainant Melanio L. Zoreta alleged that on 02 August 2001, he filed
before Branch 4 of the Regional Trial Court of Antipolo City, a complaint for
Breach of Contract and Damages against Security Pacific Assurance
Corporation (SPAC) dated 22 June 2001 due to the latter's failure to honor
SPAC's Commercial Vehicle Policy No. 94286, where respondent Atty.
Heherson Alnor G. Simpliciano was the latter's counsel. In said cases,
respondent who was not a duly commissioned Notary Public in 2002 per
Certifications1 issued by the Clerk of Court of Quezon City Mercedes S.
Gatmaytan, performed acts of notarization, as evidenced by the following
documents, viz:
25

Legal Ethics
SET
1. Verification2 executed by Aurora C. Galvez, President of
defendant SPAC, subscribed and sworn to before Atty. Heherson
Alnor G. Simpliciano on February 18, 2002 as alleged notary public,
in Quezon City and attached to defendants' Very Urgent Motion (1)
To Lift the Order of Default; and (2) To defer Plaintiff's Presentation
of Evidence Ex-Parte dated February 18, 2002;
2. Affidavits of Merit3 signed by Aurora Galvez attached to the
pleading mentioned in par. 1 hereof, likewise notarized by Atty.
Heherson Alnor G. Simpliciano as alleged "Notary Public" in Quezon
City, on February 18, 2002;
3. The Affidavit of Service4 signed by a certain Renee L. Ramos, a
Legal Assistant in Simpliciano and Capela Law Office, and
subscribed and sworn to before Atty. Heherson Alnor G. Simpliciano
on February 19, 2002 as alleged "Notary Public" in Quezon City.
Said Affidavit of Service was attached to the pleading mentioned in
Par. 1 hereof;
4. The Affidavit of Service5 of one Nestor Abayon, another Legal
Assistant of Simpliciano and Capela Law Office, subscribed and
sworn to before Atty. Heherson Alnor G. Simpliciano on 01 April
2002 at Quezon City, as "Notary Public." This Affidavit of Service
was attached to defendants' Motion (1) For Reconsideration of the
Order dated 05 March 2002; and (2) To allow defendants to Present
Defensive Evidence dated 27 March 2002.
5.
The
Verification
and
Certification
Against
Forum
Shopping6 signed this time by a certain Celso N. Sarto, as affiant,
"notarized" on 16 August 2002 by Atty. Heherson Alnor G.
Simpliciano. This Verification and Certification Against Forum
Shopping was attached to defendant's Motion For Extension of
Time To File Petition Under Rule 65 before the Court of Appeals;
6. The Affidavit of Service7 signed by a certain Joseph B. Aganan,
another Legal Assistant in Simpliciano and Capela Law Office
subscribed and sworn to before Atty. Heherson Alnor G. Simpliciano
as "Notary Public" on 16 August 2002. This Affidavit of Service
signed by Aganan was also attached to that Motion For Extension
of Time To File Petition under Rule 65 before the Court of Appeals;
7. Verification and Certification Against Forum Shopping8 executed
by one Celso N. Sarto, alleged Executive Vice President and Claims
Manager of defendant SPAC and "notarized" by Atty. Heherson
Alnor G. Simpliciano on 19 August 2002, attached to the Petition

Compiled by: Angel Sy

1st
for Certiorari and Prohibition, etc., filed before the Court of
Appeals; and
8. Affidavit of Service9 signed by a certain Joseph B. Aganan, Legal
Assistant of Simpliciano and Capela Law Office, subscribed and
sworn to before Atty. Heherson Alnor G. Simpliciano on 19 August
2002, as alleged "Notary Public" for Quezon City with notarized
commission to expire by December 31, 2002.
On 23 April 2003, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) of Pasig
required respondent Atty. Simpliciano to submit his answer within fifteen
(15) days from receipt of the Order.10
On 26 May 2003, counsel of respondent filed an ex-parte motion 11 for
extension of time to file answer.
On 30 June 2003, petitioner filed a motion 12 to resolve the complaint after
the extension requested by respondent ended on 30 May 2003, and almost
a month had lapsed from 30 May 2003, with no comment or pleading filed
by respondent.
On 17 July 2003, Commissioner Lydia A. Navarro issued an order, 13 giving
respondent a last chance to file his answer, otherwise the case shall be
deemed submitted for resolution. Respondent failed to do so.
Commissioner
Lydia
A.
Navarro
submitted
her
report
and
recommendation14 dated 12 February 2004, pertinent portions of which
read:
A careful examination and evaluation of the evidence submitted by
the petitioner showed that respondent notarized up to Document
No. 590, Page 118, Book No. II, Series of 2002 and his commission
expires December 31, 2002 which referred to the Affidavit of
Service signed and executed by Joseph B. Aganan Legal Assistant
of Simpliciano and Capela Law Office subscribed and sworn to
before Notary Public Heherson Alnor G. Simpliciano whose
commission expires December 31, 2002.
All the other documents aforementioned were entered in Book II of
respondent's alleged notarial book which reflected that his
commission expires on December 31, 2002 as notary public.
However, the Clerk of Court of Quezon City in her certification
dated October 4, 2002 stated that as per records on file with their
26

Legal Ethics
SET
office respondent was not duly commissioned notary public for and
in Quezon City for the year 2002.
Another certification issued by the Clerk of Court of RTC Quezon
City dated April 15, 2003 showed that as per records on file with
their office respondent was commissioned notary public for and in
Quezon City from January 14, 2000 to December 31, 2001 and for
the year 2002 and 2003 he did not apply for notarial commission
for Quezon City.
It is evident from the foregoing that when respondent notarized the
aforementioned documents, he was not commissioned as notary
public, which was in violation of the Notarial Law; for having
notarized the 590 documents after the expiration of his
commission as notary public without having renewed said
commission amounting to gross misconduct as a member of the
legal profession.
Wherefore, in view of the foregoing the Undersigned respectfully
recommends the revocation of respondent's commission as notary
public permanently if he is commissioned as such at present and
his suspension from the practice of law for a period of three (3)
months from receipt hereof furnishing the IBP Chapter where he is
a registered member a copy hereof for implementation should this
recommendation be approved by the Honorable members of the
Board of Governors.15
Per Resolution No. XVI-2004-236 dated 16 April 2004, the Board of
Governors modified the report and recommendation of Commissioner
Navarro of suspension of three (3) months to a suspension of six (6)
months.16
We concur in the finding of the Investigating Commissioner that
respondent Atty. Simpliciano did not have a commission as notary public in
2002 when he notarized the assailed documents as evidenced by the two
(2) certifications issued by the Clerk of Court of the Regional Trial Court of
Quezon City dated 04 October 2002. 17Records also show, and as confirmed
by IBP Commissioner Navarro, that as of 02 August 2002, respondent had
already notarized a total of 590 documents.18 The evidence presented by
complainant conclusively establishes the misconduct imputed to
respondent.
The eight (8) notarized documents for the year 2002 submitted by
complainant, consisting of affidavits of merit, certifications and
verifications against non-forum shopping, and affidavits of service, were

Compiled by: Angel Sy

1st
used and presented in the Regional Trial Court of Antipolo City, Branch 74,
in Civil Case No. 01-6240, and in respondent's petition for certiorarifiled in
the Court of Appeals.
Against the evidence presented by complainant, respondent did not even
attempt to present any evidence. His counsel filed an ex-parte motion for
extension to file answer, which was granted, but no answer was
forthcoming. Still, Hearing Commissioner Lydia A. Navarro gave respondent
a last chance to file his answer; which was again unheeded. Thus,
respondent was unable to rebut complainant's evidence that he was not so
commissioned for the year in question. His lack of interest and indifference
in presenting his defense to the charge and the evidence against him can
only mean he has no strong and valid defense to offer. Conclusively,
respondent Atty. Simpliciano is not a duly commissioned Notary Public for
and in Quezon City for the year 2002.
At the threshold, it is worth stressing that the practice of law is not a right
but a privilege bestowed by the State on those who show that they
possess, and continue to possess, the qualifications required by law for the
conferment of such privilege.19 Membership in the bar is a privilege
burdened with conditions. A lawyer has the privilege and right to practice
law only during good behavior and can only be deprived of it for
misconduct ascertained and declared by judgment of the court after
opportunity to be heard has been afforded him. Without invading any
constitutional privilege or right, an attorney's right to practice law may be
resolved by a proceeding to suspend him, based on conduct rendering him
unfit to hold a license or to exercise the duties and responsibilities of an
attorney. It must be understood that the purpose of suspending or
disbarring him as an attorney is to remove from the profession a person
whose misconduct has proved him unfit to be entrusted with the duties
and responsibilities belonging to an office of attorney, and thus to protect
the public and those charged with the administration of justice, rather than
to punish an attorney. 20 Elaborating on this, we said in Maligsa v.
Cabanting21 that "[t]he bar should maintain a high standard of legal
proficiency as well as of honesty and fair dealing. A lawyer brings honor to
the legal profession by faithfully performing his duties to society, to the
bar, to the courts and to his clients. To this end a member of the legal
fraternity should refrain from doing any act which might lessen in any
degree the confidence and trust reposed by the public in the fidelity,
honesty and integrity of the legal profession." 22 Towards this end, an
attorney may be disbarred, or suspended for any violation of his oath or of
his duties as an attorney and counselor, which include statutory grounds
enumerated in Section 27, Rule 138 of the Rules of Court, all of these being
broad enough to cover practically any misconduct of a lawyer in his
professional or private capacity.23

27

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Legal Ethics
SET
Apropos to the case at bar, it has been emphatically stressed that
notarization is not an empty, meaningless, routinary act. It is invested with
substantive public interest, such that only those who are qualified or
authorized may act as notaries public. The protection of that interest
necessarily requires that those not qualified or authorized to act must be
prevented from imposing upon the public, the courts, and the
administrative offices in general. It must be underscored that the
notarization by a notary public converts a private document into a public
document making that document admissible in evidence without further
proof of authenticity. A notarial document is by law entitled to full faith and
credit upon its face. For this reason, notaries public must observe with
utmost care the basic requirements in the performance of their duties. 24
The requirements for the issuance of a commission as notary public must
not be treated as a mere casual formality. The Court has characterized a
lawyer's act of notarizing documents without the requisite commission
therefore as "reprehensible, constituting as it does not only malpractice but
also x x x the crime of falsification of public documents." 25 For such
reprehensible conduct, the Court has sanctioned erring lawyers by
suspension from the practice of law, revocation of the notarial commission
and disqualification from acting as such, and even disbarment. 26
In the case of Nunga v. Viray,27 the Court had occasion to state that where
the notarization of a document is done by a member of the Philippine Bar
at a time when he has no authorization or commission to do so, the
offender may be subjected to disciplinary action. For one, performing a
notarial without such commission is a violation of the lawyer's oath to obey
the laws, more specifically, the Notarial Law. Then, too, by making it
appear that he is duly commissioned when he is not, he is, for all legal
intents and purposes, indulging in deliberate falsehood, which the lawyer's
oath similarly proscribes. These violations fall squarely within the
prohibition of Rule 1.01 of Canon 1 of the Code of Professional
Responsibility, which provides: "A lawyer shall not engage in unlawful,
dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct."
By such misconduct as a notary public, the lawyer likewise violates Canon
7 of the same Code, which directs every lawyer to uphold at all times the
integrity and dignity of the legal profession.
On different occasions, this Court had disbarred or suspended lawyers for
notarizing documents with an expired commission:
1. In Flores v. Lozada,28 the court disbarred a lawyer who notarized
six documents such as the extrajudicial partition of an estate, deed
of sale with right of repurchase, and four (4) deeds of absolute sale

Compiled by: Angel Sy

- all involving unregistered lands, after his commission as Notary


Public expired;
2. In Joson v. Baltazar,29 the court suspended the lawyer for three
(3) months since only one (1) instance of unauthorized notarization
of a deed of sale was involved.
3. In Nunga v. Viray,30 the court suspended the lawyer for three (3)
years when he notarized an absolute deed of sale of the buyer
minor, who was his son and, at the same time, he was a
stockholder and legal counsel of the vendor bank, and when he
entered in his notarial registry an annotation of the cancellation of
the loan in favor of a certain bank, at a time when he was not
commissioned as a Notary Public. What aggravated respondent's
unlawful notarization was the fact that the transaction involved
was in favor of his son, who was then only eighteen years old and,
therefore, a minor.
4. In Buensuceso v. Barrera,31 the lawyer was suspended for one
(1) year when he notarized five (5) documents such as a complaint
for ejectment, affidavit, supplemental affidavit, a deed of sale and
a contract to sell, after his commission as Notary Public expired.
Needless to state, respondent cannot escape from disciplinary action in his
capacity as a notary public and as a member of the Philippine Bar.
However, the penalty recommended by the Board of Governors of the IBP
must be increased. Respondent must be barred from being commissioned
as a notary public permanently and suspended from the practice of law for
two (2) years.
WHEREFORE, this Court hereby adopts the findings of Investigating
Commissioner Lydia A. Navarro, which the Board of Governors of the
Integrated Bar of the Philippines adopted and approved, but hereby
MODIFIES the penalty recommended by the Board of Governors. As
modified, respondent ATTY. HEHERSON ALNOR G. SIMPLICIANO is hereby
BARRED PERMANENTLY from being commissioned as Notary Public. He is
furthermore SUSPENDED from the practice of law for two (2) years,
effective upon receipt of a copy of this Decision.
Let copies of this Decision be furnished all the courts of the land through
the Court Administrator as well as the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, the
Office of the Bar Confidant, and recorded in the personal files of
respondent himself.
SO ORDERED.
28

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SET

From the afore-quoted Decision respondent Atty. Arsenio C. Villalon, Jr.


seeks this reconsideration.
The finding of guilt for gross misconduct was based on the Report and
Recommendation of the Investigating Commissioner of the Integrated Bar
of the Philippines upon whom the case was referred for investigation. We
again quote the said findings for emphasis:
Complainant and his witness, Jose Ducat, Sr., testified in a
straightforward, spontaneous and candid manner. The sincerity and
demeanor they displayed while testifying before the Commission
inspire belief as to the truth of what they are saying. More
importantly, respondent failed to impute any ill motive on the part
of the complainant and his witness which can impel them to
institute the instant complaint and testify falsely against him. To be
sure, the testimony of the complainant and his witness deserves
the Commission's full faith and credence.
A.C. No. 3910

June 28, 2001

JOSE S. DUCAT, JR., complainant, vs. ATTYS. ARSENIO C. VILLALON,


JR. and CRISPULO DUCUSIN, respondents.
DE LEON, JR., J.:
On August 14, 2000, a Decision was rendered by this Court in the aboveentitled case, finding respondent Atty. Arsenio C. Villalon, Jr. guilty of gross
misconduct. The dispositive portion of the Court's Decision reads:
WHEREFORE, respondent ATTY. ARSENIO C. VILLALON, JR. is hereby
found guilty of gross misconduct, and he is SUSPENDED from the
practice of law for a period of ONE (1) YEAR with a warning that a
repetition of the same or similar act will be dealt with more
severely. Respondent Villalon is further directed to deliver to the
registered owner, complainant Jose Ducat Jr., the latter's TCT No. M3023 covering the subject property within a period of sixty (60)
days from receipt of this Decision, at his sole expense; and that
failure on his part to do so will result in his disbarment.
Let a copy of this Decision be attached to Atty. Villalon's personal
record in the Office of the Bar Confidant and copies thereof be
furnished the Integrated Bar of the Philippines.
SO ORDERED.

Compiled by: Angel Sy

Respondent's evidence, on the other hand, leaves much to be


desired. His defense (that he considered himself the owner of the
subject property which was allegedly given to him by Jose Ducat,
Sr.) rings hollow in the face of a welter of contravening and
incontrovertible facts.
FIRST, the registered owner of the subject property is complainant
Jose Ducat, Jr. Accordingly, respondent (being a lawyer) knew or
ought to know that Jose Ducat, Sr. could not possibly give to him
the said property unless the former is duly authorized by the
complainant through a Special Power of Attorney. No such
authorization has been given. Moreover, Jose Ducat, Sr. has
vigorously denied having given the subject property to the
respondent. This denial is not too difficult to believe considering
the fact that he (Jose Ducat, Sr.) is not the owner of said property.
SECOND, being a lawyer, respondent knew or ought to know that
conveyance of a real property, whether gratuitously or for a
consideration, must be in writing. Accordingly, it is unbelievable
that he would consider himself the owner of the subject property
on the basis of the verbal or oral "giving" of the property by Jose
Ducat, Sr. no matter how many times the latter may have said that.
THIRD, the Deed of Sale of Parcel of Land (Exh. "1" for the
respondent and Exh. "A-2" for the complainant) allegedly executed
by Jose Ducat, Sr. in favor of respondent Atty. Arsenio Villalon
and/or Andres Canares, Jr. covering the subject parcel of land which
29

1st

Legal Ethics
SET
respondent prepared allegedly upon instruction of Jose Ducat, Sr. is
of dubious character. As earlier adverted to, Jose Ducat, Sr. is not
the owner of said property. Moreover, said Deed of Sale of Parcel of
Land is a falsified document as admitted by the respondent himself
when he said that the signature over the typewritten name Maria
Cabrido (wife of Jose Ducat, Sr.) was affixed by Jose Ducat, Sr.
Being a lawyer, respondent knew or ought to know that the act of
Jose Ducat, Sr. in affixing his wife's signature is tantamount to a
forgery. Accordingly, he should have treated the said Deed of Sale
of Parcel of Land has (sic) a mere scrap of worthless paper instead
of relying on the same to substantiate his claim that the subject
property was given to him by Jose Ducat, Sr. Again, of note is the
fact that Jose Ducat, Sr. has vigorously denied having executed
said document which denial is not too difficult to believe in the
light of the circumstances already mentioned.
FOURTH, the Deed of Absolute Sale of Real Property (Exh. "2" for
the respondent and Exh. "A-3" for the complainant) allegedly
executed by Jose Ducat, Jr. in favor of Andres Canares, Jr. over the
subject property (which respondent claims he prepared upon
instruction of Jose Ducat, Sr.) is likewise of questionable character.
Complainant Jose Ducat, Jr. has vigorously denied having executed
said document. He claims that he has never sold said property to
Andres Canares, Jr. whom he does not know; that he has never
appeared before Atty. Crispulo Ducusin to subscribe to the
document; and that he has never received the amount of
P450,000.00 representing the consideration of said transaction.
More importantly, the infirmity of the said Deed of Absolute Sale of
Real Property was supplied by the respondent no less when he
admitted that there was no payment of P450,000.00 and that the
same was placed in the document only to make it appear that the
conveyance was for a consideration. Accordingly, and being a
lawyer, respondent knew or ought to know the irregularity of his
act and that he should have treated the document as another
scrap of worthless paper instead of utilizing the same to
substantiate his defense.1

and as such he introduced various programs to uphold the confidence of


the public in the integrity of the legal profession and to uplift the welfare of
his brethren. Furthermore, it appears that as of July 8, 1997, respondent
Atty. Villalon already returned to the complainant himself the owner's
duplicate of the subject TCT No. M-3023 and the complainant
acknowledged receipt4 thereof, thus there is a need to delete the directive
to deliver the said TCT from the Court's Decision. Hence, we agree to
reduce the penalty imposed on respondent Atty. Villalon.
WHEREFORE, the Court GRANTS the Urgent Motion for Reconsideration,
and MODIFIES the Decision dated August 14, 2000 in that respondent Atty.
Arsenio C. Villalon, Jr. is hereby SUSPENDED from the practice of law for a
period of SIX (6) MONTHS only with a warning that a repetition of the same
or similar act will be dealt with more severely. The directive in the Decision
to deliver TCT No. M-3023 to complainant Jose Ducat, Jr. is DELETED, the
delivery thereof having been accomplished as of July 8, 1997.
Let a copy of this Resolution be entered in the personal record of
respondent as an attorney and as a member of the Integrated Bar, and
furnished the Bar Confidant, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and the
Court Administrator for circulation to all courts in the country.
SO ORDERED.

We remain convinced that respondent was remiss in his duty to abide by


his sworn oath as a member of the bar to "do no falsehood nor consent to
its commission"2 and further violated the mandate of his profession to
"uphold the integrity and dignity of the legal profession." 3
In the instant case, after a review of the records, we note that this is the
first and only administrative complaint against respondent Atty. Villalon in
his long career as a member of the bar. At one time, he was even the
President of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP)-Manila 1 Chapter,

Compiled by: Angel Sy

30

1st

Legal Ethics
SET

Complainants seek the disbarment or suspension of respondent from the


practice of law for unlawful, dishonest, immoral and deceitful conduct.
They allege that respondent sold them a piece of property over which he
has no right nor interest, and that he refuses to return to them the amount
they have paid him for it.
Complainant Marili C. Ronquillo is a Filipino citizen currently residing in
Cannes, France, together with her minor children, Alexander and Jon
Alexander.
In May 1999, complainants and respondent entered into a Deed of
Assignment.1 For the price of P1.5M, respondent transferred, in favor of the
complainants, his rights and interests over a townhouse unit and lot,
located at 75 Granwood Villas Subd., BF Homes, Quezon City. Respondent
also obligated himself to deliver to complainants a copy of the Contract to
Sell he executed with Crown Asia, the townhouse developer, dated April
19, 1996. Upon full payment of the purchase price, respondent further
undertook to have Crown Asia execute a Deed of Absolute Sale over the
property in favor of the complainants.
Respondent received from complainants P750,000.00 upon execution of
the Deed of Assignment. The balance was to be paid by complainants in
four equal quarterly installments of P187,500.00 each. Thus, complainants
issued in favor of respondent four postdated checks in the amount
of P187,500.00 each. Respondent was able to encash the first check dated
August 17, 1999.2
Complainants subsequently received information from Crown Asia that
respondent has not paid in full the price of the townhouse at the time he
executed the Deed of Assignment. Respondent also failed to deliver to
complainants a copy of the Contract to Sell he allegedly executed with
Crown Asia. For these reasons, complainant Marili Ronquillo ordered the
bank to stop payment on the second check she issued to respondent in the
amount of P187,500.00.
A.C. No. 6288

June 16, 2006

MARILI C. RONQUILLO, ALEXANDER RONQUILLO and JON


ALEXANDER RONQUILLO, represented by their Attorney-in-Fact
SERVILLANO A. CABUNGCAL, Complainants,
vs. ATTY. HOMOBONO T. CEZAR, Respondent.

On March 6, 2000, complainants, through their counsel, wrote respondent,


informing him that they were still willing to pay the balance of the
purchase price of the townhouse on the condition that respondent work on
Crown Asias execution of the Deed of Absolute Sale in their favor. In the
alternative, complainants demanded the return of the amount
of P937,500.00, plus legal interest, within ten days. 3 The amount
of P937,500.00 represents theP750,000.00 down payment and the first
quarterly installment of P187,500.00 which complainants paid respondent.

PUNO, J.:

Compiled by: Angel Sy

31

1st

Legal Ethics
SET
In a letter dated May 2, 2000, addressed to complainants, 4 respondent
claimed that he was "working now on a private project which hopefully will
be realized not long from now," and requested for "a period of twenty days
from May 15, 2000 within which to either completely pay Crown Asia or
return the money at your (complainants) option." The period lapsed but
respondent did not make good his promise to pay Crown Asia in full, or
return the amount paid by complainants.
On February 21, 2002, complainants counsel sent respondent a second
letter5 demanding the return of the amount of P937,500.00, including legal
interest, for failing to comply with his promise. The demand was unheeded.
Hence, this administrative complaint6 that respondent engaged in unlawful,
dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct. Allegedly, respondent violated his
oath under Rule 1.01, Canon 1 of the Code of Professional Responsibility
and he ought to be disbarred or suspended from the practice of law.
Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) Investigating Commissioner Milagros
V. San Juan, to whom the instant disciplinary case was assigned for
investigation, report and recommendation, found respondent guilty of
dishonest and deceitful conduct proscribed under Rule 1.01, Canon 1 of the
Code of Professional Responsibility. In her Report dated October 9, 2003,
she recommended that respondent be suspended from the practice of law
for a period of three (3) years. The IBP Board of Governors, through
Resolution No. XVI-2003-226, dated October 25, 2003, approved the
recommendation of Commissioner San Juan.
We agree.
Under Section 27, Rule 138 of the Revised Rules of Court, a member of the
Bar may be disbarred or suspended on any of the following grounds:
(1) deceit; (2) malpractice or other gross misconduct in office; (3) grossly
immoral conduct; (4) conviction of a crime involving moral turpitude; (5)
violation of the lawyers oath; (6) willful disobedience of any lawful order of
a superior court; and (7) willfully appearing as an attorney for a party
without authority. Rule 1.01, Canon 1 of the Code of Professional
Responsibility
provides
that
"A
lawyer
shall
not
engage
inunlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct." "Conduct," as
used in this rule, does not refer exclusively to the performance of a
lawyers professional duties. This Court has made clear in a long line of
cases7 that a lawyer may be disbarred or suspended for misconduct,
whether in his professional or private capacity, which shows him to be
wanting in moral character, honesty, probity and good demeanor, or
unworthy to continue as an officer of the court.

Compiled by: Angel Sy

In the instant case, respondent may have acted in his private capacity
when he entered into a contract with complainant Marili representing to
have the rights to transfer title over the townhouse unit and lot in question.
When he failed in his undertaking, respondent fell short of his duty under
Rule 1.01, Canon 1 of the Code of Professional Responsibility. It cannot be
gainsaid that it was unlawful for respondent to transfer property over which
one has no legal right of ownership. Respondent was likewise guilty of
dishonest and deceitful conduct when he concealed this lack of right from
complainants. He did not inform the complainants that he has not yet paid
in full the price of the subject townhouse unit and lot, and, therefore, he
had no right to sell, transfer or assign said property at the time of the
execution of the Deed of Assignment. His acceptance of the bulk of the
purchase price amounting to Nine Hundred Thirty-Seven Thousand Five
Hundred Pesos (P937,500.00), despite knowing he was not entitled to it,
made matters worse for him.
Respondents adamant refusal to return to complainant Marili Ronquillo the
money she paid him, which was the fruit of her labor as an Overseas
Filipino Worker for ten (10) years, is morally reprehensible. By his
actuations, respondent failed to live up to the strict standard of morality
required by the Code of Professional Responsibility and violated the trust
and respect reposed in him as a member of the Bar, and an officer of the
court.
Respondents culpability is therefore clear. He received a letter from
complainants counsel demanding the execution of the Deed of Absolute
Sale in favor of the complainants, or, in the alternative, the return of the
money paid by complainants. In reply to said letter, respondent
acknowledged his obligation, and promised to settle the same if given
sufficient time, thus:
xxx
I am working now on a private project which hopefully will be realized not
long from now but I need a little time to fix some things over. May I please
request for a period of 20 days from May 15, 2000 within which to
either completely pay Crown Asia or return the money at your option.
(Emphasis supplied)
In no uncertain terms, respondent admitted not having full ownership over
the subject townhouse unit and lot, as he has yet to completely pay
Crown Asia. Respondent even failed to produce the Contract to Sell he
allegedly executed with Crown Asia over the subject unit, which would
show the extent of his right of ownership, if any, over the townhouse unit
and lot in question.
32

1st

Legal Ethics
SET
To be sure, complainants gave respondent sufficient time to fulfill his
obligation. It was only after almost two years had passed, after respondent
promised to pay Crown Asia or return to complainants the amount they
paid him, that complainants sent respondent a second letter 8 demanding
solely the return of the amount of P937,500.00, including legal interest. By
this time, it was indubitable that respondent would not be able to perform
his end of their agreement.
The practice of law is not a right but a privilege. It is granted only to those
of good moral character.9 The Bar must maintain a high standard of
honesty and fair dealing. 10 Lawyers must conduct themselves beyond
reproach at all times, whether they are dealing with their clients or the
public at large,11 and a violation of the high moral standards of the legal
profession justifies the imposition of the appropriate penalty, including
suspension and disbarment.12
Be that as it may, we cannot grant complainants prayer that respondent
be directed to return the money he received from them in the amount
of P937,500.00. Disciplinary proceedings against lawyers do not involve a
trial of an action, but rather investigations by the court into the conduct of
one of its officers. The only question for determination in these
proceedings is whether or not the attorney is still fit to be allowed to
continue as a member of the Bar. 13 Thus, this Court cannot rule on the
issue of the amount of money that should be returned to the complainants.
IN
VIEW WHEREOF,
respondent
Atty.
Homobono
T.
Cezar
is SUSPENDED from the practice of law for a period ofTHREE (3) YEARS,
effective immediately. Let a copy of this Decision be furnished the Office of
the Bar Confidant, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, and all courts for
their information and guidance.
SO ORDERED.

A.C. No. 4748

August 4, 2000

VICTORIA V. RADJAIE, complainant, vs. ATTY. JOSE O.


ALOVERA, respondent.
PER CURIAM:
Atty. Jose O. Alovera, former Presiding Judge of the Regional Trial Court of
Roxas City, Branch 17, faces disbarment for having penned a
Decision1 dated January 30, 1995 long after his retirement from the
Judiciary on January 31, 1995 which ultimately divested complainant
Victoria V. Radjaie of her property in Panay, Capiz.
In an Affidavit-Complaint2 filed before the Office of the Bar Confidant on
April 21, 1997,3 complainant sought the disbarment of respondent
enumerating the following particulars to support her contention that the
questioned January 30, 1995 decision was prepared after the retirement of
respondent:
a) Almost all orders issued by then Judge Alovera prior to his
retirement bear the stamp "RECEIVED" by Branch 17 of RTC-Roxas
City, with the initial of the one who received it for filing with the
court-record except the Order of January 25, 1995 (p. 87 records)
admitting, and the Decision dated January 30, 1995 (pp. 8893,ibid.).

Compiled by: Angel Sy

33

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Legal Ethics
SET
b) It can also be seen that all the orders issued prior to the
retirement were all type-written in the same type-[writer] except
the January 25, 1995 Order (p. 87) and the Decision (pp. 88-93)
and these two (2) documents appear to have been type-written on
the same type-[writer].

h) Again, it is beyond the normal experience for a lawyer such as


Atty. Villaruz who is a practitioner in the locality and who is in Court
almost everyday that he will not follow up if there is already a
decision rendered in a case where he was allowed to present
evidence ex-parte or even be told about it.

c) It is also a source of wonder why plaintiffs formally offered their


evidence one year after the last witness was presented last
December 10, 1993.

i) The records show that all orders after the retirement of Mr.
Alovera bear the stamp "RECEIVED" by the Court staff who
received them for filing in the court records.

xxx

xxx

xxx

Plaintiffs had until January 20, 1994 to formally offer their evidence
but it took them one (1) year and five (5) days to file such a simple
pleading. It goes against the normal human experience when
plaintiffs who are allowed to present evidence ex-parte are usually
very quick in having things done because there is no opposition but
in this case it took plaintiffs a while to formally rest which was only
fifteen (15) days prior to the retirement of Mr. Alovera. This timing
is highly suspect.
d) Even plaintiffs' formal offer of evidence showed badges of fraud.
It was not received by the trial court. Page 67 shows this clearly. It
would not be surprising if the same was also inserted into the
records on a much later date and Atty. Alberto Villaruz must be
made to explain this too.
It was dated January 20, 1995 but the date of the Professional Tax
Receipt (PTR) of Atty. Alberto A. Villaruz, counsel for the plaintiffs,
was issued only on January 31, 1995. This is shown on Page 71 of
the records.
e) There is no showing that the January 25, 1995 Order (p. 87)
admitting the formal offer was even received by a Court staff for
filing with the records.
f) The same can be said of the January 30, 1995 Decision (pp. 8893) which was allegedly decided five (5) days after the Order
admitting the evidence (p. 87) was allegedly issued. What a swift
action from a retiring judge.
g) A copy of the Decision was not even sent to the counsel for the
plaintiffs but is shown to have been received by one of the
plaintiffs only on August 1, 1995 (p. 93).

Compiled by: Angel Sy

Traversing the allegations of the Affidavit-Complaint as purely speculative


and not based on personal knowledge, the respondent, in his
Comment4 dated August 20, 1997, further assailed as simply self-serving
complainant's Affidavit-Complaint alleging that a careful scrutiny of the
expediente of Civil Case No. V-6186 would reveal that respondent observed
due process when he resolved the said case against complainant. 5 It was
only when Judge Julius Abela, who succeeded him in RTC, Br. 17, Roxas
City, annulled, through a resolution, the questioned January 30, 1995
decision, which ostensibly having become final was also executed, did the
matter get out of hand.6 His said decision, respondent argued, may only be
impeached, annulled or otherwise set aside under three (3) modes, 7 all of
which were either not availed of by complainant for lapse of time, or like an
action to annul the judgment, though still available, should not have been
filed in the same court, which rendered the questioned decision, but should
have been filed, instead, in the Court of Appeals. 8 As to the absence of
stamp "RECEIVED" on the questioned decision, respondent shifted the
blame to the then OIC Clerk of Court of the said court, Mrs. Nenita Aluad,
contending that after the decision was rendered on January 30, 1995, he
lost control of it and he surmised that Mrs. Aluad, who had the duty to
receive and record the decision, might have lost it "momentarily."9
In a Resolution10 dated October 22, 1997, this Court referred the instant
case to the Office of the Bar Confidant for investigation, report and
recommendation. While in the process of investigation, three (3) incidents
occurred, namely:
1. The Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP), Capiz Chapter,
approved Resolution No. 9, Series of 1997 on December 17, 1997,
questioning the order, dated November 28, 1997, of the Regional
Trial Court, Br. 17, Roxas City, which ordered the suspension from
the practice of law of herein respondent and Atty. Alberto Villaruz;
2. The Court En Banc, in its Resolution of December 22, 1997,
resolved to issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) in G.R. No.
131505, entitled "Atty. Alberto A. Villaruz vs. Honorable Julius L.
Abela," ordering the respondent judge therein to cease and desist
34

Legal Ethics
SET

1st

from enforcing and/or implementing his questioned order dated


November 28, 1997 in Civil Case No. V-6186, which ordered the
suspension of Atty. Villaruz; and,

land with an area of 215,777 square meters situated in Panay, Capiz, and
the declaration of the said parcel of land as property commonly owned by
the Borres heirs.

3. Respondent Alovera filed a petition for certiorari before the


Supreme Court, entitled "Jose Alovera vs. Victoria Villariez-Radjaie
and Judge Julius L. Abela," under G.R. No. 131768, which, at the
time was still pending, questioning the Order of November 28,
1997 which ordered respondent's suspension from the practice of
law.

On July 16, 1993, Br. 17, to which Civil Case No. V-6186 was re-raffled,
declared herein complainant in default and ordered the Borres heirs to
present their evidence on July 30, 1993.14

Thus, necessitated the filing of the Manifestation11 by the Office of the Bar
Confidant on January 27, 1998, inquiring from the Court whether to
proceed with the investigation of the case in view of the aforementioned
incidents.
On February 18, 1998, the Court directed the Office of the Bar Confidant to
proceed with the investigation of the instant case.12
Judge Julius Abela, Nenita M. Aluad, legal researcher, Teresita V. Bauzon,
court stenographer, Concepcion Alcazar, clerk-in-charge of civil cases and
special proceedings, all of Regional Trial Court, Br. 17, Roxas City, Rosa
Dapat, court stenographer of Regional Trial Court, Br. 15, Roxas City and
the complainant herself testified as witnesses for the complainant.
The respondent presented as his lone witness, Mrs. Rosa Dapat, who
merely testified on the January 10, 1993 proceedings inside his chambers.
Respondent himself did not testify and neither did any other witness testify
for him, despite the issuance of subpoena ad testificandum on Ireneo
Borres and Ludovico Buhat, who both failed to appear at the investigation.
In lieu of their oral testimonies, respondent offered and presented their
respective affidavits.13 Complainant chose not to object thereto and even
waived her right, through her counsel, to cross-examine them.
The established facts, as quoted from the Report dated November 17, 1999
of the Office of the Bar Confidant, are as follows:
On July 2, 1992, the heirs of the late Faustina Borres, Segundina Borres,
Felisa Borres, Micaela Borres, Maria Bores, and Sixto Borres (hereinafter
"Borres heirs") through their counsel, Atty. Alberto A. Villaruz, filed an
action for Partition and Accounting, docketed as Civil Case No. V-6186, with
the Regional Trial Court, Br. 15, Roxas City, against herein complainant,
Victoria V. Radjaie, who was presumably an heir of the late Faustina Borres.
The action sought, among others, the cancellation of Transfer Certificate of
Title No. T-24150 in the name of herein complainant covering a parcel of

Compiled by: Angel Sy

It was only after three (3) postponements that the Borres heirs were able to
start presenting their evidence ex-parteon October 8, 1993. For lack of
material time, however, the presentation of evidence was again reset to
November 22, 1993, which again was postponed and reset to December
10, 1993.15
On December 10, 1993, there were several criminal and civil actions
scheduled for trial, which commenced at about 10:00 in the morning,
before Br. 17, including Civil Case No. V-6186, which was listed number
four in the court calendar. Judge Alovera presided over the hearing and
Teresita V. Bauzon, court stenographer of Br. 17, took down notes of the
Proceedings. Atty. Villaruz appeared for the accused in a criminal
case16 before Br. 17 at the time. The court had a recess at 11:10 and
resumed at 11:35 in the morning. After the hearing of criminal cases was
through, Civil Case No. V-6186 was called at about 11:55 in the morning,
but the plaintiffs as well as their counsel, Atty. Villaruz, were no longer
inside the courtroom. The session thus adjourned at 11:57 in the morning
without Civil Case No. V-6186 being heard.17
At about 11:30 in the morning of the same date, Atty. Villaruz approached
Rosa Dapat, who was the court stenographer at the time of RTC, Br. 15,
Roxas City, while she was in her office. Atty. Villaruz told her that Judge
Alovera was requesting her to assist in the proceedings of Civil Case No. V6186. At first she was hesitant to accede to the request as Br. 17 had also
its own court stenographer. She relented though when told that Br. 17 as
well as the other branches had no available court stenographer. She then
went to Br. 17 and saw Atty. Villaruz standing by the door of the chambers
of Judge Alovera. Atty. Villaruz motioned her to enter the chambers, which
is separate from the courtroom. While inside the chambers, she saw Judge
Alovera behind his desk and other people whom she did not know. Upon
being told that Mrs. Dapat would be the stenographer, Judge Alovera told
Atty. Villaruz to start the proceedings. Following the manifestation made by
Atty. Villaruz, a witness, whom she later recognized to be Atty. Arturo
Agudo, was called. At that instant Judge Alovera stood up and said, "All
right, you just continue," and then went out of the chambers. 18 Judge
Alovera would occasionally return to the chambers in the course of the
proceedings, but he would just sit down and listen while Atty. Villaruz was
conducting his direct examination of the witness and presenting
35

Legal Ethics
SET
documentary evidence.19 The proceedings lasted up to 12:10 in the
afternoon, with Judge Alovera making only two rulings in the course
thereof, including the one he made at the end when he ordered the
plaintiffs to file their written offer of evidence on January 20, 1994. 20
From this point on, complainant would establish how the January 30, 1995
decision of Judge Alovera in Civil Case No. V-6186 came about.
Prior to his retirement from the judiciary on January 31, 1995, or on January
5, 1995, Judge Alovera designated his legal researcher, Mrs. Nenita Aluad,
to be the OIC Branch Clerk of Court. 21 As part of her functions as such OIC,
all decisions, orders and resolutions of Br. 17 would first be received by her
from the judge, and would stamp them "RECEIVED" and put thereon the
date of receipt as well as her initial or signature. 22 This is in accordance
with Sec. 1, Rule 36 of the Rules of Court.23
Sometime in February of 1995, Mrs. Teresita V. Bauzon, court stenographer
of Br. 17 since 1993, was asked to type the draft decision in Civil Case No.
V-6186 in Judge Alovera's house. When she inquired if he can still do it,
Judge Alovera told her that he had one (1) year more to decide cases. With
this assurance, she typed the draft decision on a single bond paper without
a duplicate as Judge Alovera was dictating it.24
On August 1, 1995 at about 9:30 in the morning, retired Judge Alovera
came to Br. 17, with a man and a woman, later identified as the plaintiffs in
Civil Case No. V-6186, behind him. While he was approaching Nenita Aluad,
he uttered to the latter, "Receive this, receive this, " referring to the
questioned January 30, 1995 decision, which he was holding. As he spread
the decision on her table, he continued, "Because I will defend you even up
to the Plaza Miranda. And give copies to these two, pointing to the
plaintiffs who were at his back. 25 Almost instantaneously, Mrs. Aluad
replied, " I would not receive it because it is already August 1, 1995," and
she did not argue with him anymore so as not to embarrass him for being
her former superior.26 She then went out of the office while retired Judge
Alovera, as well as the two plaintiffs were still inside. 27 At about the same
time, Mrs. Concepcion Alcazar, another employee of Br. 17 and the clerk-incharge of civil cases and special proceedings therein, saw Judge Alovera
inside the office of Br. 17 while trying to have her co-employees receive the
questioned decision. Nobody, however, received the same because it was
already seven (7) months after his retirement.28 A little later, she found the
questioned decision, together with the formal offer of exhibits of January
20, 1995 and the order of January 25, 1995, on the top of her table.
Although she noticed that these records were not stamped "RECEIVED" as
a matter of procedure, she went on to attach the said records to
the expediente of Civil Case No. V-6186. 29 She even gave a copy of the
questioned decision to one of the plaintiffs, Ireneo Borres, and to Atty.

Compiled by: Angel Sy

1st
Villaruz, which was received for him by Ireneo Borres. 30 After keeping
the expediente, she then entered the questioned decision in her logbook. 31
The Borres heirs succeeded in having the questioned decision executed
when, on January 31, 1996, the lessee of the property, which is the subject
matter of Civil Case No. V-6186, surrendered possession of the said
property in favor of the Borres heirs,32 Said transfer of possession was
made pursuant to the writ of execution issued on January 19, 1996 by the
Acting Presiding Judge of Br. 17, Hon. Delano F. Villaruz, through Clerk of
Court Susan Mendoza Arce.33
Meanwhile, complainant, who had been working in Japan together with his
husband who is employed at the Turkish Embassy in Tokyo, Japan, learned
of what happened to her property in Panay, Capiz. 34 She was thus
prompted to come back to the Philippines, which resulted in losing her job
in Japan.
Back home, complainant, on March 5, 1996, filed a Petition for Relief from
Order, questioning the January 30, 1995 decision and the January 19, 1996
Writ of Execution.35 She also prayed "that disciplinary and contempt
proceedings be taken against those involved in the perfidious anomaly to
tamper with the administration of justice."36
Judge Julius L. Abela took cognizance of Civil Case No. V-6186 as he was
the acting presiding judge of Br. 17 at the time of the filing of said petition
for relief from order.37 In the course of the proceedings thereof, he noticed
that the Formal Offer of Exhibits purportedly filed by the plaintiffs, i.e.,
Borres heirs, was dated January 20, 1995, while the PTR of their counsel,
Atty. Alberto Villaruz, was issued on January 31, 1995. He concluded then
that the said offer could not have been filed on January 20, 1995. When he
asked Atty. Villaruz about it, the latter refused to answer and just kept
quiet.38 He likewise observed that there was no order in Civil Case No. V6186 submitting the same for decision, except for the order made by Judge
Alovera on December 10, 1993 during the "simulated proceedings" inside
his chambers, where he directed the counsel for the plaintiffs to file his
offer of exhibits.39 Mrs. Rosa Dapat, who took down notes during the said
proceedings and who was not a member of the staff of Br. 17, was not even
acknowledged on the records as the official stenographer in the course
thereof.40 Thus, in his resolution of September 25, 1997, Judge Abela
granted the petition for relief filed by complainant and the latter was
ordered reinstated to the possession of the property in question. In the
same resolution, Judge Abela declared the January 30, 1995 decision null
and void, the same not being filed with the clerk of court and not properly
rendered in accordance with Section 1, Rule 36, Rules of Court. 41

36

1st

Legal Ethics
SET
Prompted by what he considered to be anomalous proceedings, coupled
with the prayer of complainant in her petition for relief "that disciplinary
and contempt proceedings be taken against those involved in the
perfidious anomaly to tamper with the administration of justice," Judge
Abela conducted an investigation into the said anomaly. 42 After considering
the testimonies of Misses Aluad, Dapat, Bauzon and Alcazar during the
investigation, together with the documentary evidence presented, he
concluded, thus:
From the foregoing facts and circumstances the following facts are
established that:
1) Civil Case No. V-6186 was not tried on December 10, 1993. What
transpired was a mock or simulated trial inside the chamber of
Judge Alovera where only Atty. Alberto Villaruz, the plaintiffs and
Mrs. Rosa Dapat, a court stenographer from another court, were
present. No Judge or RTC Branch 17 court personnel were present
as there was actual court session in open court going on at that
time.
2) The records of Civil Case No. V-6186 were with Judge Jose O.
Alovera and remained with him even after his retirement on
January 31, 1995. He did not return the record to Mrs. Concepcion
Alcazar, Court Clerk III in Charge of Civil Cases.
3) The record of Civil Case No. V-6186 turned up on the table of
Mrs. Alcazar together with the "Offer of Exhibits" of Atty. Villaruz
dated January 20, 1995 and the "Order" dated January 25, 1995,
after the retirement of Judge Alovera. Both the Offer and the Order
admitting the exhibits were not properly filed and do not bear
markings of having been received by the court.
4) The "decision" of Judge Jose O. Alovera, though dated January
30, 1995, was filed with the court on August 1, 1995 by former
Judge Alovera himself and because he was no longer a judge his
submission was refused.
- CONCLUSIONS The "Offer of Exhibits" of Atty. Alberto Villaruz though dated January 20,
1995 bears signature and PTR No. issued on January 31, 1995. This
simply means that the pleadings (were) ante dated. It is impossible for
Atty. Villaruz to affix his PTR No. dated January 31, 1995 or any date prior
to its issuance. The Offer of Exhibits could have been made only on January
31, 1995 or later. Because this is so, the Order of Judge Alovera dated

Compiled by: Angel Sy

January 25, 1995 is also ante dated and could have been made only on a
date beyond the filing of the Offer of Exhibits. So also with the decision of
former Judge Alovera dated January 30, 1995.
xxx

xxx

xxx

The Order admitting the exhibits and the decision were made after the
retirement of Judge Alovera. He was no longer a judge.
The acts of Attys. Alberto Villaruz and Jose O. Alovera constitute deceit,
malpractice, serious and grave misconduct as lawyer justifying their
suspension from the practice of law and ultimately their disbarment. 43
Based on the foregoing findings, the Bar Confidant recommended the
disbarment of respondent, declaring that it found more than sufficient
evidence to sustain complainant's charge against respondent that, indeed,
the January 30, 1995 decision in Civil Case No. V-6186, which divested
complainant of her property in Panay, Capiz, was penned by respondent
after his retirement from the judiciary on January 31, 1995.
This Court finds the recommendation of the Office of the Bar Confidant to
be well-taken. Respondent has thus 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, respondent has 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 LAWYER'S OATH
" I, x x x, do solemnly swear that I will maintain allegiance to the Republic
of the Philippines; I will support and defend 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 not delay any man's cause 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 obligation voluntary, without any
mental reservation or purpose of evasion.
SO HELP ME GOD.
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Legal Ethics
SET
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 law44 to be forgotten afterwards nor is it mere
words, drift and hollow, but a sacred trust that every lawyer must uphold
and keep inviolable at all times. 45 This oath is firmly echoed and reflected
in the Code of Professional Responsibility, the particular provisions of which
are applicable to the case at bar, provide, to wit:
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.
xxx

xxx

xxx

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.

with his former staff, pompously flaunting his erstwhile standing as a


judge. Respondent disregarded his primary duty as an officer of the court,
who is sworn to assist the courts and not to impede or pervert the
administration of justice to all and sundry. 47 In so doing, he made a
mockery of the judiciary and eroded public confidence in courts and
lawyers.
This Court has been nothing short of exacting in its demand for integrity
and good moral character from members of the Bar. By swearing the
lawyer's oath, an attorney becomes a guardian of truth and the rule of law,
and an indispensable instrument in the fair and impartial administration of
justice - a vital function of democracy a failure of which is disastrous to
society. Any departure from the path which a lawyer must follow as
demanded by the virtues of his profession shall not be tolerated by this
Court as the disciplining authority 48 for there is perhaps no profession after
that of the sacred ministry in which a high-toned morality is more
imperative than that of law.49
Despite the opportunities accorded to respondent to present substantial
defense to refute the charges against him, he failed neither to do so nor to
offer a valid explanation. When the integrity of a member of the bar is
challenged, it is not enough that he denies the charges against him; he
must meet the issue and overcome the evidence against him. He must
show proof that he still maintains that degree of morality and integrity
which at all times is expected of him.50

CANON 10 - A lawyer owes candor, fairness and good faith to the court.

Given the peculiar factual circumstances prevailing in this case, the Court
finds as appropriate the recommended penalty of the Office of the Bar
Confidant in its Report. Such gross misconduct of the respondent brings
intolerable dishonor to the legal profession and calls for the severance of
respondents privilege to practice law for life.

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.

WHEREFORE, respondent JOSE O. ALOVERA is hereby DISBARRED. The


Office of the Clerk of Court is directed to strike out his name from the Roll
of Attorneys and to inform all courts of this Decision.

All of these underscore the role of the lawyer as the vanguard of our legal
system.When respondent took the oath as a member of the legal
profession, he made a solemn promise to so stand by his pledge. 46 In this
covenant, respondent miserably failed.

SO ORDERED.

xxx

xxx

xxx

The testimonies of Nenita M. Aluad, Teresita V. Bauzon and Concepcion


Alcazar were all quite telling on how respondent acted in a grossly
reprehensible manner in having the questioned decision dated January 30,
1995 come to fore, leading ultimately to its execution divesting the
complainant of her property. Respondent gravely abused his relationship

Compiled by: Angel Sy

38

1st

Legal Ethics
SET

Disbarment proceedings on moral grounds. This Court referred the case to


the Solicitor General for investigation, report and recommendation.
Complainant, the sole witness at said investigation, wound up her
testimony on September 4, 1959. Then followed several postponements of
hearing. The last was on August 4, 1960.
There is a vacuum in the record as to what happened thereafter. But on
October 28, 1963, the Solicitor General filed his report stating, inter alia,
that complainant made a sworn withdrawal and desistance. In view of the
facts found, however, he recommended that respondent be disciplined and
simultaneously filed the corresponding complaint 1asking for his suspension
"for a period of at least five (5) years.
On October 31, 1963, the Clerk of this Court sent by registered mail to
respondent, thru Atty. Valentino G. Castro, his counsel of record, a letter,
with a copy of the foregoing complaint, requiring answer thereto in 15
days.
On November 27, 1963, Castro wrote this Court:
In connection with the transmittal letter dated October 31,
1963, addressed to Mr. Abelardo Simbol, c/o the undersigned, ...
please be informed that since sometime in September or October,
1960, after Miss Concepcion Bolivar and Atty. Abelardo Simbol had
executed a compromise agreement in Civil Case No. 01700 of the
Juvenile & Domestic Relations Court, the undersigned ceased to
hear from Atty. A. Simbol. Notwithstanding this, upon receiving
your said letter of transmittal, I tried to get in touch with Atty. A.
Simbol at 1877-A Tayuman Street, Tondo, Manila, which is the
address appearing in my files. I was, however, informed that Atty.
A. Simbol reportedly resides at 232 Maria Cristina Street,
Dumaguete City.
It is, therefore, respectfully requested that copy of the complaint
filed by the Hon. Solicitor General, against Atty. Abelardo Simbol in
Adm. Case No. 377 be sent directly to said respondent at 232 Maria
Cristina Street, Dumaguete City. . . . .
A.C. No. 377

April 29, 1966

CONCEPCION BOLIVAR, complainant, vs. ABELARDO SIMBOL Y


MANUEL, respondent.
SANCHEZ, J.:

Compiled by: Angel Sy

On December 6, 1963, a copy of the complaint was sent by registered mail


direct to Simbol at 232 Maria Cristina St., Dumaguete City. It was returned
to this Court with the notation on the envelope that said respondent was
no longer in that city.
At the hearing set by this Court for February 3, 1964, Solicitor Sumilang V.
Bernardo and Atty. Tomas Yumul for complainant appeared. They submitted
39

Legal Ethics
SET
the case for decision without oral argument. There was no appearance for
respondent.
1. The problem that at once projects itself is: Can we proceed further on
the face of the facts that: first, there is no answer to the complaint of the
Solicitor General; and, second, at the hearing before this Court neither
respondent nor counsel appeared? The controlling statute, Section 30, Rule
138, Rules of Court, reads:
SEC. 30. Attorney to be heard before removal or suspension.No
attorney shall be removed or suspended from the practice of his
profession, until he has had full opportunity upon reasonable notice
to answer the charges against him, to produce witnesses in his own
behalf, and to be heard by himself or counsel. But if upon
reasonable notice he fails to appear and answer the accusation,
the court may proceed to determine the matter ex parte.
The pattern of behaviour pursued by respondent requires articulation.
Complainant's testimony was completed on September 4, 1959. Then
followed a series of postponements: November 13, 1959; January 15, 1960;
February 24, 1960; April 4, 1960; May 9, 1960; July 1, 1960; August 4,
1960. In the interim, negotiations were had. Result amicable settlement
and complainant's withdrawal and desistance.
That respondent did not take the trouble to answer the Solicitor General's
complaint is now unimportant. The directive for him to answer was first
served on his lawyer. Then it was sent to him personally at his address in
Dumaguete City; but the registered mail was unclaimed. Neither will he
profit by non-appearance on the date of hearing before this Court
(February 3, 1964). Because, notice of hearing was sent to him at both his
Manila and Dumaguete addresses; and he did not bother to get it from the
post-office. Even his two attorneys of record, who received said notice, did
not appear before this Court.
Respondent knew that the disbarment proceedings were pending. His right
to practice his profession was at stake. He could ill afford to just stand by
and wait. It was his duty to inquire as to his fate. He was hide-bound by his
obligation to inform this Court of his whereabouts, to the end that notices
could reach him. In all these, he failed. On the face of the environmental
facts, respondent gave this Court ample reason to believe that he
purposedly stayed away.1wph1.t
We, accordingly, hold that respondent has had full opportunity to defend
himself, and that he has waived his right to be heard.

Compiled by: Angel Sy

1st
In a previous case2 this Court has had occasion to pass upon a similar
question. There, respondent and counsel, after a series of non-appearances
and postponements at their behest, failed to finally appear before the
investigating fiscal in Pangasinan. The fiscal rendered the report on the
merits finding respondent guilty of malpractice and recommending that
disbarment charges be filed. The Solicitor General thereafter lodged a
formal complaint before this Court. Notices sent by this Court directing
respondent to answer were all returned because he could not be located at
his given address, San Vicente, Alcala, Pangasinan. His attorney of record
was also required to answer; instead, he asked that he be relieved as
counsel for respondent. Counsel, however, appeared in oral argument. This
Court there held:
The respondent avoided attending the hearings conducted by the
Provincial Fiscal of Pangasinan. Even in this Court, his whereabouts
are totally unknown. His knowledge that a disbarment proceeding
had been filed or pending against him imposes upon the duty to
make himself or his presence available to this Court for a fair trial.
That he could not be located at his known address without asking
his whereabouts known implies that he had chosen to waive every
right and opportunity to put up his defense.
2. The next point that logically crops up is the weight to be accorded
complainant's withdrawal and desistance, made long after her testimony in
full had been taken down at the Solicitor General's office. Reasons given:
first, they threshed out their differences; and, second, the irreconciliability
of religious beliefs alleged caused the marriage plans to miscarry. The first
is correct. The second is at war with the proven facts. Religious differences
never did mar the relations between the two. As the Solicitor General
pointedly remarked, "It is unbelievable for a Filipino woman to refuse to
marry a man she had lived with for 3 or 4 years trusting in the man's
promise to marry on the ground of irreconcilable religious belief", else she
"would not have complained if this were so". Indeed, settlement of the
case and the consequent withdrawal obviously were part of an overall plan
calculated to purge respondent from mischief and to insulate him from
disciplinary action. To conform to this arrangement is to wink at
wrongdoing.
This Court had heretofore ruled3 that, "Any person may bring to this Court's
attention the misconduct of any lawyer, and action will usually be taken
regardless of interest or lack of interest of the complainant, if the facts
proven so warrant". The power to discipline lawyers officers of court
may not be cut short by a compound of compromise and withdrawal of
charges.4

40

Legal Ethics
SET
3. The preliminaries out of the way, we now go to the core of the case.
Here are the facts5:
Concepcion Bolivar was 27 years old at the time she took the stand. Her
schooling ended in sixth grade. She testified in Tagalog. She became
acquainted with respondent in April, 1952. By December following,
respondent started to court her. Convinced by his promise to marry, she
accepted him in February, 1953. By April 7, 1953, the two lived as husband
and wife. Respondent had been "telling his classmates" that she "was his
wife". On April 22, 1957, they bore a child baptized Eduardo Bolivar Simbol.
Came November 12, 1957. The two separated. For, complainant learned
from respondent's brother-in-law, one Turing Mendoza, and others, that
respondent married another girl, Lydia Lingat. Complainant investigated. At
the Iglesia ni Kristo and in the Local Civil Register of Angeles, Pampanga,
her worst fears were confirmed. Respondent and Lydia Lingat were really
married in Angeles on January 5, 1957.
When the two first met, respondent was a jobless first year law student. He
remained jobless during his student days. Since June, 1953, complainant
helped respondent in his studies, gave him money to buy his books and to
pay his matriculation fees and for "other things he needed in his studies".
At one point in her testimony complainant stated, "I had been working
nights (ang gabi ay ginagawang araw) and even on Sundays and then
afterwards he made me suffer all kinds of embarrassments and shame".
Respondent became a member of the bar, and found work in a law office.
Yet, she continued giving him money. She gave respondent a total of
around P8,000.00.
All along, respondent fed complainant with assurances that he would marry
her. To ward off celebration of marriage respondent offered varied excuses.
There was a time when they travelled to Angeles, Pampanga, ostensibly to
get married. The marriage was put off, so respondent gave complainant to
understand, because there was nobody to solemnize. And then, dangling a
piece of paper, he told her that the license had already expired. In early
1954, respondent told complainant "to wait until he finished his studies",
anyway, they were "practically husband and wife". Then he asked her to
hold the marriage till after delivery, because "it was shameful to appear in
church" when she was "on the family way". The child was born. Now,
marriage became conditioned on his securing a job for he was ashamed as
complainant "was spending for him". Came June of 1957. 6 Respondent
informed complainant that he secured a job as an assistant attorney in the
Fernandez Law office and that he would start earning money. Never
running out of explanations, this time it was: "cases take long to finish, but
as soon as he earns thousands of pesos he was going to marry me". Again
she agreed. When on cross-examination, she was quiried why she accepted

Compiled by: Angel Sy

1st
all the excuses inspite of the birth of the child, she answered: "... because
he told me that now [that] we have a child I can no longer deceive you
because the child is more than a mere marriage".
These avowals notwithstanding, respondent turned around and married
another. Adding insult to injury, he concealed the fact of his marriage and
continued to live with complainant for several more months until the latter
discovered the bitter truth. Even then, respondent had the temerity to
deny his marriage and to appease complainant with the palaver that "the
woman was not his wife but the wife of his cousin".
In January of 1958, respondent kept asking complainant to live with him
again because he was going to marry her and "leave his wife"; that he "did
not really love the girl he married". He also asked for money. This met with
rebuff. Respondent got angry and threatened her.
And now, to the appropriate action. We part with the premise that this
Court has inherent jurisdiction to suspend or disbar an attorney for
sufficient cause.7 On this point, the Solicitor General aptly observed. 8
Undoubtedly, respondent's actuations in making a dupe of
complainant, living on her bounty and allowing her to spend for his
schooling and other personal necessities while dangling before her
the mirage of a marriage, marrying another girl as soon as he had
finished his studies, keeping his marriage a secret while continuing
to demand money from complainant, and trying to sponge on her
and persuade her to resume their broken relationship after the
latter's discovery of his perfidy, are indicative of a character not
worthy of a member of the bar. The fact that complainant has
withdrawn her complaint against respondent does not wipe out the
grievous offense he had committed, making complainant and her
child with him virtual outcasts of society. This, respondent should
not be allowed to do with impunity.
Respondent, we are persuaded to say, "has failed to maintain the highest
degree of morality expected and required of a member of the bar". 9 He is,
indeed, guilty of "grossly immoral conduct" within the meaning of Section
27, Rule 138, Rules of Court. 10
In the light of the entire record, we vote to suspend respondent Abelardo
Simbol y Manuel from the practice of law for a period of five (5) years. 11 So
ordered.

41

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SET

A.M. No. 997 September 10, 1979


PILAR ABAIGAR, complainant, vs. DAVID D.C. PAZ, respondent.
FERNANDEZ, J.:
On April 27, 1971, Pilar Abaigar filed this administrative case for
disbarment against David D. C. Paz, a member of the Philippine Bar.
The verified complaint alleged that sometime in March 1970, the
complainant, Pilar Abaigar sought the aid of a legal counsel regarding her
divorce case filed by her husband in the Superior Court of California,
County of Alameda, U.S.A.; that she called on the telephone the office of
Congressman Bagatsing in Manila; that the respondent David D.C. Paz,
answered the telephone call and volunteered his legal services; that
believing that the respondent had the necessary legal experience, the

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42

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SET

1st

complainant confided her legal problems to him: that after the termination
of the divorce case, the respondent became exceedingly friendly with the
complainant and started to profess his love for her; that at the start, the
complainant was hesitant in continuing the cordial relations between her
and the respondent but the respondent made her believe that although he
was living with another woman, his relations with said woman were no
impediment that the respondent convinced the complainant that he had
been compelled to contract a civil marriage with the woman and that since
it was not a marriage under the church laws, it was no bar for him to get
married under the church laws with the complainant; that the respondent
proposed marriage to the complainant; that believing in this good faith, the
complainant accepted the proposal of the respondent; that sometime in
the latter part of November 1970, an application for the issuance of a
marriage license to the complainant and the respondent was made and
executed: that thereafter, the respondent convinced the complainant that
since they were going to get married anyway, they should act as husband
and wife; that because of the confidence which the complainant reposed
upon the respondent, she reluctantly acceded to said demands; that as a
result of their being together, the complainant became pregnant but due to
causes beyond her control, the pregnancy was lost; that sometime in the
third week of April 1971, one Virginia Paz was introduced to the
complainant by the respondent; that said Virginia Paz was the woman
previously referred to by the respondent as his wife with whom he had
contracted a forced civil marriage; that said Virginia Paz, in the course of
the meeting, informed the complainant that there had been actually two
marriages between Virginia Paz and the respondent, one under the civil law
and one under the church law; that upon being confronted by the
complainant, the respondent made no explanation whatsoever and merely
kept silent; that since that time, the respondent had done nothing to make
amends for having deceived the complainant and for having taken
advantage of her; and that the complainant has no other recourse but to
ask for the disbarment of the respondent who is a member of the Philippine
Bar and an officer of the courts of justice. 1

of pity, the respondent gave her the loan; that after the election for
delegates to the Constitutional Convention in November 1970, the
complainant called at the residence of the respondent and asked help in
filing a case against the assailant of her brother who was stabbed in
Olongapo City; that the wound sustained by complainant's brother was
only superficial and he could not Identify his assailant, hence, no criminal
case was filed; that after the trip to Olongapo, the complainant requested
the help of the respondent to recommend her admission to a hospital
because of abdominal and chest pains; that the respondent recommended
complainant to be admitted to the Singian Clinic located at General Solano
Street, San Miguel Manila; that on December 20, 1970, the complainant
caged up the respondent at his residence by telephone and requested him
to assist her mother, Mrs. Cecilia Abaigar to file a criminal action against
her minor sister, Vilma Abaigar for disobedience; that the respondent
prepares a complaint on the same night and a sworn statement of her
mother, Mrs. Cecilia Abaigar that he accompanied the complainant to the
Fiscal's Office at Pasig, Rizal and to the Municipal Court of Mandaluyong,
Rizal where Criminal Case No. 23994 entitled "People of the Philippines vs.
Vilma Abaigar was filed by her mother; that the respondent also helped the
mother of the complainant to prepare and file a petition for a writ of
habeas corpus in the Court of First Instance of Rizal; that by reason of said
petition for habeas corpus, the mother of the complainant was able to take
Vilma Abaigar into her custody although the petition was denied; that the
respondent had never informed the complainant that he was compelled to
contract a civil marriage with his wife; that the respondent never proposed
marriage to the complainant; that the respondent has no recollection of the
supposed application for the issuance of a marriage license in the latter
part of November 1970; that respondent and complainant had never acted
as husband and wife; and that the respondent had not deceived
complainant nor taken advantage of her. 2

In his answer filed on June 10, 1971, the respondent denied having had any
illicit relations with the complainant and alleged that when the complainant
called by telephone Congressman Ramon D. Bagatsing, the respondent
advised complainant to come to the office; that on the next day when the
complainant came to the office of Congressman Bagatsing, she was at first
referred to Atty. Geronimo Flores of the Legal Assistance Service to handle
the case; that two or three days thereafter, the complainant requested the
respondent to personally handle her case; that on October 30, 1970, the
respondent prepared a letter to complainant's husband, Samuel L. Navales,
which letter was signed by Congressman Bagatsing; that sometime in the
latter part of October 1970, the complainant borrowed from the respondent
the sum of P200.00 to complete the payment for the hospitalization and
treatment of her brother, Eric, at the Makati Medical Center: that as a act

After hearing the parties, the Solicitor General submitted on June 30, 1973
his report and recommendation containing the following findings:

Compiled by: Angel Sy

In a resolution dated August 20, 1971, this Court referred this case to the
Solicitor General for investigation, report and recommendation. 3

The complaint seeks the disbarment of respondent Paz on grounds


that may properly fall under the category of deceit and grossly
immoral conduct as found in Section 27, Rule 138 of the Rules of
Court.
Assuming for the moment that there had been sexual intercourse
between complainant and respondent, the first inquiry, we
respectfully submit, is whether respondent Paz practiced demotion
on complainant by making her believe that notwithstanding their
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SET
subsisting marriages to their respective spouses, they could legally
get married to each other and based on his promise of marriage,
she consented to go to bed with him.
Complainant admitted that during her alleged romantic liason with
respondent, she was married to a certain Samuel Navales, also a
Filipino, who divorced her in the U.S.A. sometime in the middle of
1970 (par. 2, Complaint; p. 46, t.s.n., November 18, 1971). She also
admitted that before she submitted herself to his sexual desires,
she was informed by him that, he had a wife with whom he was
civilly married but that the marriage was void because it was either
fake or 'forced' (sic).
Whether there was deceit hinges on whether complainant actually
believed the representation of respondent that they could legally
marry. Highly intelligent that she is and with the educational
background that she has, it is difficult to accept the proposition
that she swallowed hook, line and sinker his supposed assurances
that notwithstanding full awareness by both of the existence of
each other's previous marriages, no legal impediment stood in the
way of their getting married ecclesiastically. It is worthwhile
repeating that complainant was a fifth placer in the Board
Examinations for Chemical Engineering. She was licensed as a
chemical engineer in 1964 or 1965, after which she taught at one
time or another in different schools and colleges in Manila. In 1970
or 1971 when she was supposedly tricked into surrendering her
body on a promise of marriage, she was already in her late
twenties. It is improbable that at this age, she was still ignorant of
the law regarding indissolubility of marriage. Before jumping
headlong into accepting respondent's proposal that they act as
husband and wife, she should have pondered upon the serious
legal implications and complications of a second marriage for both
of them. She could have easily asked a lawyer for advice on the
matter. Complainant's own neighbor in Mandaluyong, Rizal is a
lawyer by the name of Atty. Paler whose wife testified on her
behalf. According to Mrs. Paler, her husband and complainant used
to converse (p. 18, t.s.n., November 23, 1971). In these
conversations complainant could have asked, perhaps in a casual
manner, Mrs. Paler's husband as to the legal effects of a divorce
obtained abroad by a Filipino citizen or the effects of a marriage
brought about through the use of force and intimidation in order to
settle whatever doubts she had in her mind.

by complainant as witnesses on her behalf because of their


supposed knowledge of her relations with respondent, were
themselves aware that divorce is not recognized in this country.
Thus Mrs. Paler categorically stated that she knew for a fact that
divorce obtained abroad is not recognized in the Philippines (p. 19,
t.s.n., November 23, 1971). The same admission was elicited from
Fr. Troy de los Santos, another witness for the complainant. Fr. de
los Santos who used to be her spiritual adviser admitted at one
point of his testimony that divorce obtained abroad cannot be
recognized in the Philippines insofar as state laws are concerned
and complainant knew about this (pp. 33-34, t.s.n., November 23,
1971). Thus, the Jesuit priest declared under cross-examination:
Q Do you know that complainant's husband is still alive?
A Yes.
Q Up to the present?
A Yes.
Q Do you know that divorce is not recognized in the Philippines?
A I know, but the church does not recognize divorce.
Q How about the State, do you know that the State recognize
divorce?
A As far as my knowledge, I do not think that our laws permit
divorce.
Continuing with his testimony, Fr. de los Santos stated:
Q Did not the fact that complainant's husband is still have and that
divorce is not recognized in ' the Philippines be considered an
impediment to complainant's marriage to anyone?
A Yes.
Q Did you inform her so?

The truth however, of the matter is that complainant did not even
have to consult a lawyer to know that she could not legally marry
respondent. It is of no little significance that some persons utilized

Compiled by: Angel Sy

A She knows about that.


44

Legal Ethics
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(33,34, t.s.n., Id.)
Again, granting that complainant did not actually comprehend the
existence of a legal bar to her remarriage, 'not being steeped in
the intricacies of the law'. just the mere realization that both
respondent's wife and her own husband being still have was
enough to stir her mind and to impel her to make her own
investigation. She could have, for instance, made discreet inquiries
as to who was the woman respondent was married to and verified
his claim whether he was forced into the marriage. Or, perhaps,
she could simply have asked Congressman Bagatsing about
respondent's personal status. After all she was competent enough
to prepare, without anyone's help her own affidavit, Exhibit 'A', and
resourceful enough to make research in the Supreme Court's
Library on the subject of disbarment (pp. 63, 89, t.s.n., November
18, 1971).
What conclusion then can a reasonable mind draw from the given
premises? Either complainant was so helplessly naive as to be
beguiled by respondent's blandishments or. comprehending fully
the legal impossibility of the fulfillment of his marriage proposals,
she unconditionally laid herself prostrate to his charms, too much
enamored of him to care about anything else. For, as philosopher
Blaise Pascal has so pithily stated of the profundity of human love,
'love has reasons that reason cannot explain.' Since complainant
cannot hide behind the camouflage of innocence, considering her
intellectual capacity and educational background, no other
conclusion is possible 'except that she voluntarily submitted to
sexual intimacy with respondent without entertaining any illusion
or hope of sublimating the illicit relations by legal union.
The question is intriguing whether respondent ever made
vehement protestations of love and actually made an offer of
marriage to complainant. If there was, the evidence adduced does
not clearly show. Complainant asserted that she had evidence in
the form of love letters and the marriage application form showing
respondent's sustained courtship and offer of marriage. However,
such purported documents were not presented, complainant
making the excuse that respondent tricked her into giving him the
envelope containing the evidence. Such explanation, however,
staggers human credulity considering that the supposed
documents were vital to establish the case. It is simply
preposterous that she would easily Dart with the documents and
give them to no other than the respondent himself . Be that as it
may, if respondent had made an offer of marriage, it is not clearly
established that complainant's submission to his sexual desires

Compiled by: Angel Sy

1st
was not on account of the offer but for the gratification of her
mundane human longings.
The next question is whether there was sexual intimacy between
complainant and respondent. Complainant testified that she
acceded to his proposal that they live as husband and wife and as
a matter of fact they had three sexual intercourses that took place
in the Tower Hotel and Singian Clinic in Manila and in the Sulo Hotel
in Quezon City. While there is no proof that sexual intimacy took
place in Singian Clinic except her testimony, her allegation that
they had trysts at the Tower Hotel and Sulo Hotel was supported by
the guest cards at said hotels, Exhibits 'A' and 'B'. Notwithstanding
respondent's denial that the 'Mrs.' stated in the entry in said guest
cards was a 'good-time' woman, not the complainant, common
sense will tell us that complainant could not have known that
respondent lodged in said hotels on those particular dates unless
she was the woman whom respondent brought there. On this
score, we are inclined to believe that evidence has been
sufficiently adduced to establish that intimacy between
complainant and respondent took place once in the Tower Hotel
and once in the Sulo Hotel. As the Honorable Court has stated,
when the lawyer's integrity is challenged by evidence, it is not
enough that he denies the charges against him; he must meet the
issues and overcome the evidence for the relator and to show proof
that he still maintains the highest degree of morality and integrity
which at all times he is expected of him (Quingwa vs. Puno, Adm.
Case No. 389, Feb. 28, 1967; 19 SCRA 439). Insofar as this point is
concerned, the evidence of the complainant as to the trysts they
had in the two hotels has not been met and overthrown by
respondent. 4
Upon considering the report and recommendation filed by the Solicitor
General, this Court, in a resolution dated July 29, 1972, resolved to require
the Solicitor General to file the corresponding complaint against the
respondent, David D.C. Paz, pursuant to Section 5 of Rule 139 of the
Revised Rules of Court. 5
On September 4, 1975, the Solicitor General filed the corresponding
complaint against David D.C. Paz praying that the respondent be
suspended for a period of at least six months from the practice of law, with
a warning that similar transgressions in the future win be dealt with more
severely.
Meanwhile the complainant sent a verified letter-petition dated March 29,
1974 to the then Chief Justice Querube C. Makalintal wherein the
complainant asked this Court to look into the suspicious activities of a
45

1st

Legal Ethics
SET
certain Rodolfo del Prado, who allegedly in connivance with the
respondent, David D.C. Paz, made her sign an affidavit prejudicial to her
interest. Among other allegations, the complainant stated in her verified
complaint the following.

of its disciplinary powers. The corrupt character of the act


done must be clearly demonstrated. Moreover' considering
the serious consequences, of the disbarment or suspension
of a member of the Bar, We have consistently held that
clearly preponderant evidence is necessary to justify the
imposition of either penalty (De Guzman vs. Tadeo, 68 Phil.
554; Lim vs. Antonio, A.C. No. 848, Sept. 30, 1971, 41 SCRA
44). This Court likewise held that where there is no proof
that respondent lawyer was guilty of any unethical
conduct, harassment and malpractice, the disbarment case
against him should be dismissed (Ricafort vs. Baltazar, A.C.
No. 661, June 26, 1967, 20 SCRA 418; Delos Santos vs.
Bolanos A.C. No. 483, July 21, 1967, 20 SCRA 763). 9

6. That there never is an illicit relationship between Atty. Paz and


me at present because I believed all along that he was single and
able to marry me. In fact, our relationship is above- board just like
any engaged couple.
7. That I was made to understand by the Citizens Legal Assistant
Office that the tenor of the affidavit made by Mr. Rudolfo Del Prado
is such that the consideration for the illicit relationship was
promissory note which to all intents and purposes is immoral and
illegal.
8. That I am only after the collection of the loan which Atty. Paz got
from me and not revenge for his deception. 6
The foregoing portions of her letter militate against the credibility of the
complainant.
In her complainant for disbarment, she pictured the respondent as morally
perverse. However, in the aforementioned letter, she states that there
never was an illicit relationship between her and the respondent, Atty.
David D.C. Paz, and that their relationship was aboveboard just like any
engaged couple. And finally, she avers that she was only after the
collection of the loan which the respondent got from her and not for
revenge for his deception.

The evidence adduced by the complainant has failed to establish any


cause for disciplinary action against the respondent. As the Solicitor
General said in his report, "From all indications, there is little room for
doubt that she filed his disbarment case not in redress of a wrong, for there
was no wrong committed. It was a voluntary act of indiscretion between
two consenting adults who were fully aware of the consequences of their
deed and for which they were responsible only to their own private
consciences."
WHEREFORE, the administrative complaint for disbarment is hereby
DISMISSED.
SO ORDERED.

It has been held that the power of this Court to disbar a lawyer should be
exercised with caution because of its serious consequences. 7 The burden
of proof rests upon the complainant and the case against a respondent
must be established by convincing proof. 8
In Arboleda vs. Gatchalian, this Court held:
The Court has held that in disbarment proceedings, the
burden of proof rests upon the complainant and the charge
against the lawyer must be established by convincing proof
(Go vs. Candoy, A.C. No. 736, Oct. 23, 1967, 21 SCRA 439;
Toquib vs. Tomol, Jr., A.C. No. 554, March 25, 1970, 32 SCRA
156; in re Atty. Felizardo M. de Guzman, A.C. No. 838, Jan.
21. 1974, 55 SCRA 139). The record must disclose as free
from doubt a case which compels the exercise by this Court

Compiled by: Angel Sy

46

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Before this Court is a complaint for disbarment against Atty. Ernesto S.


Araneta for deceit and nonpayment of debts.
The complaint,1 dated 25 September 1972, was filed in this Court by Maria
Elena Moreno on two causes of action. The first cause of action involved
Treasury Warrant No. B-02997354 issued by the Land Registration
Commission in favor of Lira, Inc., and indorsed by Araneta, purportedly as
president of the said corporation, to Moreno, in consideration of the
amount of P2,177. The complaint alleged that almost a year later, the
warrant was dishonored.
The second cause of action involved Aranetas nonpayment of debts in the
amount of P11,000. Moreno alleged that sometime in October 1972,
Araneta borrowed P5,000 from her, purportedly to show to his associates,
with the assurance that he would return the said amount within the
shortest possible time. Again in May 1972, Araneta borrowed P6,000 for
the same purpose and with the same assurance. Thereafter, since he
failed to make good on both promises, Moreno sought repayment in the
aggregate amount of P11,000. Araneta issued two Bank of America checks
in her favor, the first dated 30 June 1972 for P6,000, and the other dated
15 July 1972 for P5,000. However, when Moreno tried to encash the
checks, the same were dishonored and returned to her marked "Account
Closed." She referred the matter to a lawyer, who sent Araneta a demand
letter. Araneta, however, ignored the same.
In his defense, Araneta claimed it was in fact Moreno who sought to
borrow P2,500 from him. To accommodate her, he allegedly endorsed to
her the Treasury Warrant in question, worth P2,177, which he received from
Lira, Inc., as part of his attorneys fees, and gave her an additional P323 in
cash.

A.C. No. 1109

April 27, 2005

MARIA ELENA MORENO, Complainant, vs. ATTY. ERNESTO


ARANETA, respondent.
PER CURIAM:

Compiled by: Angel Sy

Araneta also denied borrowing any amount from Moreno. He admitted that
he issued the two undated checks in her favor, but maintains that he had
no intention of negotiating them. He avers that he gave them to Moreno,
allegedly upon her request, only so she could show the bank where she
was working that she "had money coming to her." Araneta further claims
that he warned her that the checks belonged to the unused portion of a
closed account and could not be encashed. To protect himself, he asked
the complainant to issue a check in the amount of P11,000 to offset the
two "borrowed" checks. The respondent offered this check in evidence.
Moreno, however, contended2 that this check for P11,000 "belonged" to the
Philippine Leasing Corporation, which she managed when her father
passed away. She claimed she signed the check in blank sometime in
1969 when she fell seriously ill and gave them to Araneta who was then
helping her in the management of the corporation. She concluded that
47

Legal Ethics
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Araneta falsely filled up the check "in a desperate bid to turn the tables on
her."3
On 01 December 1972, the case was referred to the Solicitor General for
investigation, report and recommendation.4
The case was first set for hearing on 22 January 1973 at nine oclock in the
morning, when the complainant and her counsel appeared. Araneta was
absent despite due notice. Upon motion, however, of Moreno, and to give
the respondent a chance to defend himself, the hearing was reset to 23
and 24 January 1973, both at nine oclock in the morning. Service of the
notice for the new dates of hearing were effected to the respondent
through a certain Mely Magsipoc on 22 January 1973. 5 On 23 January
1973, Araneta once more did not appear, so the case was called again the
following day, 24 January 1973.
In the absence of respondent Araneta, an ex-parte hearing was conducted
on 24 January 1973 with the complainant, Moreno, taking the stand. 6 On 27
February 1973, Araneta appeared for the scheduled hearing, only to ask for
a postponement to prepare his defense.7 No further hearings appear to
have been conducted thereafter. A hearing is shown to have been
scheduled on 28 May 1973, however, on said date, Araneta filed a joint
motion for postponement with the conform of Morenos lawyer, as he,
Araneta, was "earnestly pursuing a possible clarification of complainants
basic grievance."
Thereafter, nothing was heard from respondent Araneta. On 14 September
1988, records of the case were forwarded to the IBP Commission on Bar
Discipline pursuant to Rule 139-B of the Rules of Court. Two days later, the
Commission notified8 both parties of a hearing to be held on 2 November
1988, on which date neither of the parties nor the complainants counsel
appeared despite due notice. It appears that notice could not be served on
Araneta, as he no longer resided in his indicated address, and his
whereabouts were unknown. An inquiry9 made at his IBP chapter yielded
negative results. The Commission reset the hearing to 18 November 1988
at two oclock in the afternoon.10 Again on this date, none of the parties
appeared. Thus on the basis of the evidence so far adduced, the case was
submitted for resolution on such date.11
On 28 December 1988, IBP Commissioner Concepcion Buencamino
submitted her Report,12 which reads in part:
The evidence of the complainant was not formally offered in
evidence. Be that as it may, it is worthwhile considering. The
"stop payment" of Treasury Warrant No. B-02997354 was an act of

Compiled by: Angel Sy

1st
Lira, Inc. and not that of the respondent. There was a subpoena
issued for the appearance of Lilia Echaus, alleged President of Lira,
Inc. and Simplicio Uy Seun, the alleged Secretary/Treasurer of Lira,
Inc. to explain about why the "stop payment" of the treasury
warrant was done but neither witness appeared (as evidenced by
the records) before the Office of the Solicitor General to testify. At
the dorsal portion of Exh. "B," the photocopy of the Treasury
Warrant is a signature which complainant claims to be that of the
respondent beneath which is the word "President" and above the
signature are the words Lira, Inc. but an ocular examination of said
signature in relation to the signature on the checks Exhibits "G"
and "H" do not show definitely that they were the signatures of one
and the same person, so there is no basis to form the conclusion
that the respondent did sign the treasury warrant as president of
Lira, Inc. The testimony of the complainant was merely that [the]
same treasury warrant was given to her by Atty. Araneta, which
she deposited [in] her account. There is no evidence to prove that
she saw him sign it.
There is no evidence of a letter of the complainant informing the
respondent about the "stop payment" or even any written demand
by the complainant to the respondent that the payment of the
treasury warrant having been "stopped" he should reimburse her
with what he received as consideration for this check.
Same considered, there is no cause to fault the respondent for the
first cause of action.
On the other hand, the respondent admits having issued the two
checks, one for P5,000.00 and the other for P6,000.00 to the
complainant for her to show to her creditors that money was
coming her way, when in fact he is presumed to have been aware
when he issued said checks that his account with the bank against
which [these] checks were drawn was already closed, as was
discovered from the fact that the checks were dishonored for said
reason.
Even disregarding the complainants evidence and considering the
answer of the respondent, the act of the respondent in issuing the
two checks, one for P5,000.00 and the other for P6,000.00 which
he gave to the complainant for her to show to her creditors that
money was coming her way, when there was none and the
respondent knew such fact was an act of connivance of the
respondent with the complainant to make use of these useless
commercial documents to deceive the public. However beneficial
it may have been to the complainant, this act of the respondent as
48

Legal Ethics
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a lawyer is abhorrent and against the exacting standards of
morality and decency required of a member of the Bar.
The personal actuations of a member of the bar the like of which
was, as in this case, committed by the respondent, belittles the
confidence of the public in him and reflects upon his integrity and
morality. In the Bar, moral integrity as a virtue is a necessity which
the respondent lacks.
The above considered, it is respectfully recommended that as a
lesson the respondent be suspended from the practice of law for
three (3) months arising from his irresponsible conduct as a
member of the bar to take effect upon notice by him of the
decision of suspension.
The IBP Board of Governors adopted 13 the above report, but increased its
recommended period of suspension from three months to six months.
Over ten years later, on 15 October 2002, IBP Director for Bar Discipline
Victor C. Fernandez, transmitted 14 the records of this case back to this
Court pursuant to Rule 139-B, Sec. 12(b) of the Rules of Court. 15 On 8 July
2003, the Office of the Bar Confidant filed a Report 16 regarding various
aspects of the case. The Report further made mention of a
Resolution17 from this Court indefinitely suspending the respondent for
having been convicted by final judgment of estafa through falsification of a
commercial document. The Resolution, which was attached to the report,
states:
L-46550 (Ernesto S. Araneta vs. Court of Appeals, et. al.)
Considering that the motion of petitioner Ernesto S. Araneta for
reconsideration of the resolution of September 16, 1977 which
denied the petition for review on certiorari of the decision of the
Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. No. 18553-R which affirmed the
decision of the Court of First Instance of Manila convicting the said
petitioner of the crime of estafa thru falsification of commercial
document, was denied in the resolution dated October 17, 1977 of
the Second Division of this Court for lack of merit, which denial is
final, the Court Resolved: (a) to SUSPEND petitioner Ernesto S.
Araneta from the practice of law and (b) to require the said
petitioner to SHOW CAUSE within ten days from notice why he
should not be disbarred.
Verification conducted by the Office of the Bar Confidant revealed that the
above case had been archived on 20 November 1992.

Compiled by: Angel Sy

1st
It therefore appears that in the intervening time between herein
respondents last filed pleading dated 28 May 1973, when he sought a
postponement of the scheduled hearing on this case to settle matters
amicably between himself and Moreno, and the present, Araneta had been
found guilty and convicted by final judgment of a crime involving moral
turpitude, and indefinitely suspended.
We find no reason to disturb the findings of Commissioner Buencamino.
However, we disagree with the penalty sought to be imposed.
Whether or not the complainant sufficiently proved that Araneta failed to
pay his debts is irrelevant, because by his own admission, the respondent
issued two checks in favor of Moreno knowing fully well that the same were
drawn against a closed account. And though Batas Pambansa Blg. 22 had
not yet been passed at that time, the IBP correctly found this act
"abhorrent and against the exacting standards of morality and decency
required of a member of the Bar," which "belittles the confidence of the
public in him and reflects upon his integrity and morality."
Indeed, in recent cases, we have held that the issuance of worthless
checks constitutes gross misconduct,18 as the effect "transcends the
private interests of the parties directly involved in the transaction and
touches the interests of the community at large. The mischief it creates is
not only a wrong to the payee or holder, but also an injury to the public"
since the circulation of valueless commercial papers "can very well pollute
the channels of trade and commerce, injure the banking system and
eventually hurt the welfare of society and the public interest. Thus,
paraphrasing Black's definition, a drawer who issues an unfunded check
deliberately reneges on his private duties he owes his fellow men or
society in a manner contrary to accepted and customary rule of right and
duty, justice, honesty or good morals."19
Thus, we have held that the act of a person in issuing a check knowing at
the time of the issuance that he or she does not have sufficient funds in, or
credit with, the drawee bank for the payment of the check in full upon its
presentment, is also a manifestation of moral turpitude. 20
In Co v. Bernardino21 and Lao v. Medel,22 we held that for issuing worthless
checks, a lawyer may be sanctioned with one years suspension from the
practice of law, or a suspension of six months upon partial payment of the
obligation.23
In the instant case, however, herein respondent has, in the intervening
time, apparently been found guilty by final judgment of estafa thru
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falsification of a commercial document, a crime involving moral turpitude,
for which he has been indefinitely suspended.
Moral turpitude "includes everything which is done contrary to justice,
honesty, modesty, or good morals."24 It involves "an act of baseness,
vileness, or depravity in the private duties which a man owes his fellow
men, or to society in general, contrary to the accepted and customary rule
of right and duty between man and woman, or conduct contrary to justice,
honesty, modesty, or good morals."25
Considering that he had previously committed a similarly fraudulent act,
and that this case likewise involves moral turpitude, we are constrained to
impose a more severe penalty.
In fact, we have long held 26 that disbarment is the appropriate penalty for
conviction by final judgment of a crime involving moral turpitude. As we
said in In The Matter of Disbarment Proceedings v. Narciso N.
Jaramillo,27 "[t]he review of respondent's conviction no longer rests upon
us. The judgment not only has become final but has been executed. No
elaborate argument is necessary to hold the respondent unworthy of the
privilege bestowed on him as a member of the bar. Suffice it to say that,
by his conviction, the respondent has proved himself unfit to protect the
administration of justice."28
WHEREFORE, respondent Atty. Ernesto S. Araneta is hereby dISBARRED
and his name is ORDERED STRICKEN from the Roll of Attorneys. Let a copy
of this Decision be entered in the respondents record as a member of the
Bar, and notice of the same be served on the Integrated Bar of the
Philippines, and on the Office of the Court Administrator for circulation to
all courts in the country.
SO ORDERED.

A.C. No. 6792

January 25, 2006

ROBERTO SORIANO, Complainant, vs. Atty. MANUEL


DIZON, Respondent.
PER CURIAM:
Before us is a Complaint-Affidavit1 for the disbarment of Atty. Manuel Dizon,
filed by Roberto Soriano with the Commission on Bar Discipine (CBD) of the
Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP). Complainant alleges that the
conviction of respondent for a crime involving moral turpitude, together
with the circumstances surrounding the conviction, violates Canon 1 of
Rule 1.01 of the Code of Professional Responsibility; 2 and constitutes
sufficient ground for his disbarment under Section 27 of Rule 138 of the
Rules of Court.3

Compiled by: Angel Sy

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Because of the failure of Atty. Dizon to submit his Answer to the Complaint,
the CBD issued a Notice dated May 20, 2004, informing him that he was in
default, and that an ex-parte hearing had been scheduled for June 11,
2004.4After that hearing, complainant manifested that he was submitting
the case on the basis of the Complaint and its attachments. 5 Accordingly,
the CBD directed him to file his Position Paper, which he did on July 27,
2004.6Afterwards, the case was deemed submitted for resolution.
On December 6, 2004, Commissioner Teresita J. Herbosa rendered her
Report and Recommendation, which was later adopted and approved by
the IBP Board of Governors in its Resolution No. XVI-2005-84 dated March
12, 2005.
In his Complaint-Affidavit, Soriano alleged that respondent had violated
Canon 1, Rule 1.01 of the Code of Professional Responsibility; and that the
conviction of the latter for frustrated homicide, 7 which involved moral
turpitude, should result in his disbarment.
The facts leading to respondents conviction were summarized by Branch
60 of the Regional Trial Court of Baguio City in this wise:
"x x x. The accused was driving his brown Toyota Corolla and was on his
way home after gassing up in preparation for his trip to Concepcion, Tarlac
with his wife. Along Abanao Street, a taxi driver overtook the car driven by
the accused not knowing that the driver of the car he had overtaken is not
just someone, but a lawyer and a prominent member of the Baguio
community who was under the influence of liquor. Incensed, the accused
tailed the taxi driver until the latter stopped to make a turn at [the]
Chugum and Carino Streets. The accused also stopped his car, berated the
taxi driver and held him by his shirt. To stop the aggression, the taxi driver
forced open his door causing the accused to fall to the ground. The taxi
driver knew that the accused had been drinking because he smelled of
liquor. Taking pity on the accused who looked elderly, the taxi driver got
out of his car to help him get up. But the accused, by now enraged, stood
up immediately and was about to deal the taxi driver a fist blow when the
latter boxed him on the chest instead. The accused fell down a second
time, got up again and was about to box the taxi driver but the latter
caught his fist and turned his arm around. The taxi driver held on to the
accused until he could be pacified and then released him. The accused
went back to his car and got his revolver making sure that the handle was
wrapped in a handkerchief. The taxi driver was on his way back to his
vehicle when he noticed the eyeglasses of the accused on the ground. He
picked them up intending to return them to the accused. But as he was
handing the same to the accused, he was met by the barrel of the gun held
by the accused who fired and shot him hitting him on the neck. He fell on
the thigh of the accused so the latter pushed him out and sped off. The

Compiled by: Angel Sy

incident was witnessed by Antonio Billanes whose testimony corroborated


that of the taxi driver, the complainant in this case, Roberto Soriano." 8
It was the prosecution witness, Antonio Billanes, who came to the aid of
Soriano and brought the latter to the hospital. Because the bullet had
lacerated the carotid artery on the left side of his neck, 9 complainant would
have surely died of hemorrhage if he had not received timely medical
assistance, according to the attending surgeon, Dr. Francisco Hernandez, Jr.
Soriano sustained a spinal cord injury, which caused paralysis on the left
part of his body and disabled him for his job as a taxi driver.
The trial court promulgated its Decision dated November 29, 2001. On
January 18, 2002, respondent filed an application for probation, which was
granted by the court on several conditions. These included satisfaction of
"the civil liabilities imposed by [the] court in favor of the offended party,
Roberto Soriano."10
According to the unrefuted statements of complainant, Atty. Dizon, who has
yet to comply with this particular undertaking, even appealed the civil
liability to the Court of Appeals.11
In her Report and Recommendation, Commissioner Herbosa recommended
that respondent be disbarred from the practice of law for having been
convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude.
The commissioner found that respondent had not only been convicted of
such crime, but that the latter also exhibited an obvious lack of good moral
character, based on the following facts:
1.

He was under the influence of liquor while driving his car;

2.

He reacted violently and attempted to assault Complainant


only because the latter, driving a taxi, had overtaken him;

3.

Complainant having been able to ward off his attempted


assault, Respondent went back to his car, got a gun, wrapped
the same with a handkerchief and shot Complainant[,] who was
unarmed;

4.

When Complainant fell on him, Respondent simply pushed him


out and fled;

5.

Despite positive identification and overwhelming evidence,


Respondent denied that he had shot Complainant;
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6.

Apart from [his] denial, Respondent also lied when he claimed


that he was the one mauled by Complainant and two
unidentified persons; and,

7.

Although he has been placed on probation, Respondent has[,]


to date[,] not yet satisfied his civil liabilities to Complainant." 12

On July 8, 2005, the Supreme Court received for its final action the IBP
Resolution adopting the Report and Recommendation of the Investigating
Commissioner.
We agree with the findings and recommendations of Commissioner
Herbosa, as approved and adopted by the IBP Board of Governors.
Under Section 27 of Rule 138 of the Rules of Court, conviction for a crime
involving moral turpitude is a ground for disbarment or suspension. By
such conviction, a lawyer is deemed to have become unfit to uphold the
administration of justice and to be no longer possessed of good moral
character.13 In the instant case, respondent has been found guilty; and he
stands convicted, by final judgment, of frustrated homicide. Since his
conviction has already been established and is no longer open to question,
the only issues that remain to be determined are as follows: 1) whether his
crime of frustrated homicide involves moral turpitude, and 2) whether his
guilt warrants disbarment.
Moral turpitude has been defined as "everything which is done contrary to
justice, modesty, or good morals; an act of baseness, vileness or depravity
in the private and social duties which a man owes his fellowmen, or to
society in general, contrary to justice, honesty, modesty, or good morals." 14
The question of whether the crime of homicide involves moral turpitude
has been discussed in International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) v.
NLRC,15 a labor case concerning an employee who was dismissed on the
basis of his conviction for homicide. Considering the particular
circumstances surrounding the commission of the crime, this Court
rejected the employers contention and held that homicide in that case did
not involve moral turpitude. (If it did, the crime would have been violative
of the IRRIs Employment Policy Regulations and indeed a ground for
dismissal.) The Court explained that, having disregarded the attendant
circumstances, the employer made a pronouncement that was precipitate.
Furthermore, it was not for the latter to determine conclusively whether a
crime involved moral turpitude. That discretion belonged to the courts, as
explained thus:

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1st
"x x x. Homicide may or may not involve moral turpitude depending on the
degree of the crime. Moral turpitude is not involved in every criminal act
and is not shown by every known and intentional violation of statute,
but whether any particular conviction involves moral turpitude may be a
question of fact and frequently depends on all the surrounding
circumstances. x x x."16 (Emphasis supplied)
In the IRRI case, in which the crime of homicide did not involve moral
turpitude, the Court appreciated the presence of incomplete self-defense
and total absence of aggravating circumstances. For a better
understanding of that Decision, the circumstances of the crime are quoted
as follows:
"x x x. The facts on record show that Micosa [the IRRI employee] was then
urinating and had his back turned when the victim drove his fist unto
Micosa's face; that the victim then forcibly rubbed Micosa's face into the
filthy urinal; that Micosa pleaded to the victim to stop the attack but was
ignored and that it was while Micosa was in that position that he drew a fan
knife from the left pocket of his shirt and desperately swung it at the victim
who released his hold on Micosa only after the latter had stabbed him
several times. These facts show that Micosa's intention was not to slay the
victim but only to defend his person. The appreciation in his favor of the
mitigating circumstances of self-defense and voluntary surrender, plus the
total absence of any aggravating circumstance demonstrate that Micosa's
character and intentions were not inherently vile, immoral or unjust."17
The present case is totally different. As the IBP correctly found, the
circumstances clearly evince the moral turpitude of respondent and his
unworthiness to practice law.
Atty. Dizon was definitely the aggressor, as he pursued and shot
complainant when the latter least expected it. The act of aggression shown
by respondent will not be mitigated by the fact that he was hit once and
his arm twisted by complainant. Under the circumstances, those were
reasonable actions clearly intended to fend off the lawyers assault.
We also consider the trial courts finding of treachery as a further indication
of the skewed morals of respondent. He shot the victim when the latter
was not in a position to defend himself. In fact, under the impression that
the assault was already over, the unarmed complainant was merely
returning the eyeglasses of Atty. Dizon when the latter unexpectedly shot
him. To make matters worse, respondent wrapped the handle of his gun
with a handkerchief so as not to leave fingerprints. In so doing, he betrayed
his sly intention to escape punishment for his crime.

52

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The totality of the facts unmistakably bears the earmarks of moral
turpitude. By his conduct, respondent revealed his extreme arrogance and
feeling of self-importance. As it were, he acted like a god on the road, who
deserved to be venerated and never to be slighted. Clearly, his inordinate
reaction to a simple traffic incident reflected poorly on his fitness to be a
member of the legal profession. His overreaction also evinced
vindictiveness, which was definitely an undesirable trait in any individual,
more so in a lawyer. In the tenacity with which he pursued complainant, we
see not the persistence of a person who has been grievously wronged, but
the obstinacy of one trying to assert a false sense of superiority and to
exact revenge.
It is also glaringly clear that respondent seriously transgressed Canon 1 of
the Code of Professional Responsibility through his illegal possession of an
unlicensed firearm18 and his unjust refusal to satisfy his civil liabilities. 19 He
has thus brazenly violated the law and disobeyed the lawful orders of the
courts. We remind him that, both in his attorneys oath 20 and in the Code of
Professional Responsibility, he bound himself to "obey the laws of the
land."
All told, Atty. Dizon has shown through this incident that he is wanting in
even a basic sense of justice. He obtained the benevolence of the trial
court when it suspended his sentence and granted him probation. And yet,
it has been four years21 since he was ordered to settle his civil liabilities to
complainant. To date, respondent remains adamant in refusing to fulfill that
obligation. By his extreme impetuosity and intolerance, as shown by his
violent reaction to a simple traffic altercation, he has taken away the
earning capacity, good health, and youthful vigor of his victim. Still, Atty.
Dizon begrudges complainant the measly amount that could never even
fully restore what the latter has lost.
Conviction for a crime involving moral turpitude may relate, not to the
exercise of the profession of lawyers, but certainly to their good moral
character.22 Where their misconduct outside of their professional dealings is
so gross as to show them morally unfit for their office and unworthy of the
privileges conferred upon them by their license and the law, the court may
be justified in suspending or removing them from that office. 23
We also adopt the IBPs finding that respondent displayed an utter lack of
good moral character, which is an essential qualification for the privilege to
enter into the practice of law. Good moral character includes at least
common honesty.24
In the case at bar, respondent consistently displayed dishonest and
duplicitous behavior. As found by the trial court, he had sought, with the
aid of Vice-Mayor Daniel Farias, an out-of-court settlement with

Compiled by: Angel Sy

1st
complainants family.25 But when this effort failed, respondent concocted a
complete lie by making it appear that it was complainants family that had
sought a conference with him to obtain his referral to a neurosurgeon. 26
The lies of Atty Dizon did not end there. He went on to fabricate an entirely
implausible story of having been mauled by complainant and two other
persons.27 The trial court had this to say:
"The physical evidence as testified to by no less than three (3) doctors who
examined [Atty. Dizon] does not support his allegation that three people
including the complainant helped each other in kicking and boxing him.
The injuries he sustained were so minor that it is improbable[,] if not
downright unbelievable[,] that three people who he said were bent on
beating him to death could do so little damage. On the contrary, his
injuries sustain the complainants version of the incident particularly when
he said that he boxed the accused on the chest. x x x."28
Lawyers must be ministers of truth. No moral qualification for bar
membership is more important than truthfulness. 29The rigorous ethics of
the profession places a premium on honesty and condemns duplicitous
behavior.30 Hence, lawyers must not mislead the court or allow it to be
misled by any artifice. In all their dealings, they are expected to act in good
faith.
The actions of respondent erode rather than enhance public perception of
the legal profession. They constitute moral turpitude for which he should
be disbarred. "Law is a noble profession, and the privilege to practice it is
bestowed only upon individuals who are competent intellectually,
academically and, equally important, morally. Because they are vanguards
of the law and the legal system, lawyers must at all times conduct
themselves, especially in their dealings with their clients and the public at
large, with honesty and integrity in a manner beyond reproach." 31
The foregoing abhorrent acts of respondent are not merely dishonorable;
they reveal a basic moral flaw. Considering the depravity of the offense he
committed, we find the penalty recommended by the IBP proper and
commensurate.
The purpose of a proceeding for disbarment is to protect the administration
of justice by requiring that those who exercise this important function be
competent, honorable and reliable -- lawyers in whom courts and clients
may repose confidence.32 Thus, whenever a clear case of degenerate and
vile behavior disturbs that vital yet fragile confidence, we shall not hesitate
to rid our profession of odious members.
53

Legal Ethics
SET
We remain aware that the power to disbar must be exercised with great
caution, and that disbarment should never be decreed when any lesser
penalty would accomplish the end desired. In the instant case, however,
the Court cannot extend that munificence to respondent. His actions so
despicably and wantonly disregarded his duties to society and his
profession. We are convinced that meting out a lesser penalty would be
irreconcilable with our lofty aspiration for the legal profession -- that every
lawyer be a shining exemplar of truth and justice.
We stress that membership in the legal profession is a privilege demanding
a high degree of good moral character, not only as a condition precedent
to admission, but also as a continuing requirement for the practice of law.
Sadly, herein respondent has fallen short of the exacting standards
expected of him as a vanguard of the legal profession.
In sum, when lawyers are convicted of frustrated homicide, the attending
circumstances not the mere fact of their conviction would demonstrate
their fitness to remain in the legal profession. In the present case, the
appalling vindictiveness, treachery, and brazen dishonesty of respondent
clearly show his unworthiness to continue as a member of the bar.
WHEREFORE, RESPONDENT MANUEL DIZON is hereby DISBARRED, and his
name is ORDERED STRICKEN from the Roll of Attorneys. Let a copy of this
Decision be entered in his record as a member of the Bar; and let notice of
the same be served on the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, and on the
Office of the Court Administrator for circulation to all courts in the country.
SO ORDERED.
December 7, 1928
In re FELIPE DEL ROSARIO
MALCOLM, J.:
The supplementary report on bar examination irregularities of the fiscal of
the City of Manila, dealing with the case of Felipe del Rosario, has been laid
before the court for consideration and action. It is recommended by the
city fiscal that Felipe del Rosario be ordered to surrender his certificate of
attorney and that he be forever prohibited from taking the bar
examination. An answer to the report has been permitted to be made, in
which the court is asked to disapprove the report and to direct the setting
aside of the suspension to practice law by the respondent, heretofore
ordered by the court.

Compiled by: Angel Sy

1st
Felipe del Rosario was a candidate in the bar examination who failed for
the second time in 1925. He presented himself for the succeeding bar
examination in 1926 and again was unable to obtain the required rating.
Then on March 29, 1927, he authorized the filing of a motion for the
revision of his papers for 1925 based on an alleged mistake in the
computation of his grades. The court, acting in good faith, granted this
motion, and admitted Felipe del Rosario to the bar, but with justices
dissenting. Subsequently, during the general investigation of bar
examination matters being conducted by the city fiscal, this case was
taken up, with the result that a criminal charge was lodged in the Court of
First Instance of Manila against Juan Villaflor, a former employee of the
court and Felipe del Rosario. Villaflor pleaded guilty to the information and
was sentenced accordingly. Del Rosario pleaded not guilty, and at the
conclusion of the trial was acquitted for lack of evidence.
The acquittal of Felipe del Rosario upon the criminal charge is not a bar to
these proceedings. The court is now acting in an entirely different capacity
from that which courts assume in trying criminal cases. It is asking a great
deal of the members of the court to have them believe that Felipe del
Rosario was totally unaware of the illegal machinations culminating in the
falsification of public documents, of which he was the sole beneficiary.
Indeed, the conviction of Juan Villaflor in itself demonstrates that Felipe del
Rosario has no legal right to his attorney's certificate. While to admit Felipe
del Rosario again to the bar examination would be tantamount to a
declaration of professional purity which we are totally unable to pronounce.
The practice of the law is not an absolute right to be granted every one
who demands it, but is a privilege to be extended or withheld in the
exercise of a sound discretion. The standards of the legal profession are
not satisfied by conduct which merely enables one to escape the penalties
of the criminal law. It would be a disgrace to the Judiciary to receive one
whose integrity is questionable as an officer of the court, to clothe him with
all the prestige of its confidence, and then to permit him to hold himself
out as a duly authorized member of the bar. (In re Terrell [1903], 2 Phil.,
266; People ex rel. Colorado Bar Association vs. Thomas [1906], 36 Colo.,
126; 10 Ann. Cas., 886 and note; People vs. Macauley [1907], 230 Ill., 208;
Ex parte Wall [1882], 107 U. S., 265.)1awphi1.net
The recommendation contained in the special report pertaining to Felipe
del Rosario is approved, and within a period of ten days from receipt of
notice, the respondent shall surrender his attorney's certificate to the clerk
of this court.

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This is a disbarment complaint against respondent Atty. Emmanuel O.


Tansingco ("respondent") for serious misconduct and deliberate violation of
Canon 1,1 Rules 1.012 and 1.023 of the Code of Professional Responsibility
("Code").
The Facts
In his Complaint dated 20 May 2003, Peter T. Donton ("complainant")
stated that he filed a criminal complaint for estafa thru falsification of a
public document4 against Duane O. Stier ("Stier"), Emelyn A. Maggay
("Maggay") and respondent, as the notary public who notarized the
Occupancy Agreement.
The disbarment complaint arose when respondent filed a counter-charge
for perjury5 against complainant. Respondent, in his affidavit-complaint,
stated that:
5. The OCCUPANCY AGREEMENT dated September 11, 1995 was
prepared and notarized by me under the following circumstances:
A. Mr. Duane O. Stier is the owner and long-time resident of a real
property located at No. 33 Don Jose Street, Bgy. San Roque,
Murphy, Cubao, Quezon City.
B. Sometime in September 1995, Mr. Stier a U.S. citizen and
thereby disqualified to own real property in his name
agreed that the property be transferred in the name of Mr. Donton,
a Filipino.
C. Mr. Stier, in the presence of Mr. Donton, requested me to
prepare several documents that would guarantee recognition of
him being the actual owner of the property despite the transfer of
title in the name of Mr. Donton.
A.C. No. 6057

June 27, 2006

PETER T. DONTON, Complainant, vs. ATTY. EMMANUEL O.


TANSINGCO, Respondent.
CARPIO, J.:
The Case

Compiled by: Angel Sy

D. For this purpose, I prepared, among others, the OCCUPANCY


AGREEMENT, recognizing Mr. Stiers free and undisturbed use of
the property for his residence and business operations. The
OCCUPANCY AGREEMENT was tied up with a loan which Mr. Stier
had extended to Mr. Donton.6
Complainant averred that respondents act of preparing the Occupancy
Agreement, despite knowledge that Stier, being a foreign national, is
disqualified to own real property in his name, constitutes serious
misconduct and is a deliberate violation of the Code. Complainant prayed
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SET
that respondent be disbarred for advising Stier to do something in violation
of law and assisting Stier in carrying out a dishonest scheme.

The Court finds respondent liable for violation of Canon 1 and Rule 1.02 of
the Code.

In his Comment dated 19 August 2003, respondent claimed that


complainant filed the disbarment case against him upon the instigation of
complainants counsel, Atty. Bonifacio A. Alentajan, 7 because respondent
refused to act as complainants witness in the criminal case against Stier
and Maggay. Respondent admitted that he "prepared and notarized" the
Occupancy Agreement and asserted its genuineness and due execution.

A lawyer should not render any service or give advice to any client which
will involve defiance of the laws which he is bound to uphold and obey. 9 A
lawyer who assists a client in a dishonest scheme or who connives in
violating the law commits an act which justifies disciplinary action against
the lawyer.10

In a Resolution dated 1 October 2003, the Court referred the matter to the
Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) for investigation, report and
recommendation.
The IBPs Report and Recommendation
In her Report dated 26 February 2004 ("Report"), Commissioner Milagros V.
San Juan ("Commissioner San Juan") of the IBP Commission on Bar
Discipline found respondent liable for taking part in a "scheme to
circumvent the constitutional prohibition against foreign ownership of land
in the Philippines." Commissioner San Juan recommended respondents
suspension from the practice of law for two years and the cancellation of
his commission as Notary Public.
In Resolution No. XVI-2004-222 dated 16 April 2004, the IBP Board of
Governors adopted, with modification, the Report and recommended
respondents suspension from the practice of law for six months.
On 28 June 2004, the IBP Board of Governors forwarded the Report to the
Court as provided under Section 12(b), Rule 139-B8 of the Rules of Court.
On 28 July 2004, respondent filed a motion for reconsideration before the
IBP. Respondent stated that he was already 76 years old and would already
retire by 2005 after the termination of his pending cases. He also said that
his practice of law is his only means of support for his family and his six
minor children.
In a Resolution dated 7 October 2004, the IBP denied the motion for
reconsideration because the IBP had no more jurisdiction on the case as
the matter had already been referred to the Court.
The Ruling of the Court

Compiled by: Angel Sy

By his own admission, respondent admitted that Stier, a U.S. citizen, was
disqualified from owning real property. 11Yet, in his motion for
reconsideration,12 respondent admitted that he caused the transfer of
ownership to the parcel of land to Stier. Respondent, however, aware of the
prohibition, quickly rectified his act and transferred the title in
complainants name. But respondent provided "some safeguards" by
preparing several documents,13 including the Occupancy Agreement, that
would guarantee Stiers recognition as the actual owner of the property
despite its transfer in complainants name. In effect, respondent advised
and aided Stier in circumventing the constitutional prohibition against
foreign ownership of lands14 by preparing said documents.
Respondent had sworn to uphold the Constitution. Thus, he violated his
oath and the Code when he prepared and notarized the Occupancy
Agreement to evade the law against foreign ownership of lands.
Respondent used his knowledge of the law to achieve an unlawful end.
Such an act amounts to malpractice in his office, for which he may be
suspended.15
In Balinon v. De Leon,16 respondent Atty. De Leon was suspended from
the practice of law for three years for preparing an affidavit that virtually
permitted him to commit concubinage. In In re: Santiago,17 respondent
Atty. Santiago was suspended from the practice of law for one year for
preparing a contract which declared the spouses to be single again after
nine years of separation and allowed them to contract separately
subsequent marriages.
WHEREFORE, we find respondent Atty. Emmanuel O. Tansingco GUILTY of
violation of Canon 1 and Rule 1.02 of the Code of Professional
Responsibility. Accordingly, we SUSPEND respondent Atty. Emmanuel O.
Tansingco from the practice of law for SIX MONTHS effective upon finality
of this Decision.
Let copies of this Decision be furnished the Office of the Bar Confidant to
be appended to respondents personal record as an attorney, the
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SET
Integrated Bar of the Philippines, the Department of Justice, and all courts
in the country for their information and guidance.
SO ORDERED.

A.C. No, 6854


April 25, 2007
[Formerly CBD Case No. 04-1380]
JUAN DULALIA, JR., Complainant, vs. ATTY. PABLO C.
CRUZ, Respondent.
CARPIO MORALES, J.:
Atty. Pablo C. Cruz, Municipal Legal Officer of Meycauayan, Bulacan
(respondent), is charged by Juan Dulalia, Jr. (complainant) of violation Rules
1.01,1 6.02,2 and 7.033 of the Code of Professional Responsibility.
The facts which gave rise to the filing of the present complaint are as
follows:
Complainants wife Susan Soriano Dulalia filed an application for building
permit for the construction of a warehouse. Despite compliance with all the
requirements for the purpose, she failed to secure a permit, she attributing
the same to the opposition of respondents who wrote a September 13,
2004 letter to Carlos J. Abacan, Municipal Engineer and concurrent Building
Official of Meycauayan, reading as follows, quoted verbatim:
xxxx
This is in behalf of the undersigned himself and his family, Gregoria F.
Soriano, Spouses David Perez and Minerva Soriano-Perez and Family and
Mr. and Mrs. Jessie de Leon and family, his relatives and neighbors.
It has been more than a month ago already that the construction of the
building of the abovenamed person has started and that the undersigned
and his family, and those other families mentioned above are respective
owners of the residential houses adjoining that of the high-rise building
under construction of the said Mrs. Soriano-Dulalia. There is no need to

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57

1st

Legal Ethics
SET
mention the unbearable nuisances that it creates and its adverse effects to
the undersigned and his above referred to clients particularly the imminent
danger and damage to their properties, health and safety.
It was represented that the intended construction of the building would
only be a regular and with standard height building and not a high rise
one but an inspection of the same would show otherwise. Note that its
accessory foundation already occupies portion of the vacant airspace of
the undersigneds residential house in particular, which readily poses
danger to their residential house and life.
To avert the occurrence of the above danger and damage to property, loss
of life and for the protection of the safety of all the people concerned, they
are immediately requesting for your appropriate action on the matter
please at your earliest opportune time.
Being your co-municipal official in the Municipal Government of
Meycauayan who is the Chief Legal Counsel of its Legal Department, and
by virtue of Sub par. (4), Paragraph (b), Section 481 of the Local
Government Code of 1991, he is inquiring if there was already full
compliance on the part of the owner of the Building under construction
with the requirements provided for in Sections 301, 302 and 308 of the
National Building Code and on the part of your good office, your
compliance with the provisions of Sections 303 and 304 of the same
foregoing cited Building Code.

By Report and Recommendation dated May 6, 2005, 10 the IBP Commission


on Bar Discipline, through Commissioner Rebecca Villanueva-Maala,
recommended the dismissal of the complaint in light of the following
findings:
The complaint dealt with mainly on the issue that respondent allegedly
opposes the application of his wife for a building permit for the
construction of their commercial building. One of the reason[s] stated by
the complainant was that his wife was not in favor of Imeldas relationship
with respondent who is a married man. And the other reason is that
respondent was not authorized to represent his neighbors in opposing the
construction of his building.
From the facts and evidence presented, we find respondent to have
satisfactorily answered all the charges and accusations of complainant. We
find no clear, convincing and strong evidence to warrant the disbarment or
suspension of respondent. An attorney enjoys the legal presumption that
he is innocent of the charges preferred against him until the contrary is
proved. The burden of proof rests upon the complainant to overcome the
presumption and establish his charges by a clear preponderance of
evidence. In the absence of the required evidence, the presumption of
innocence on the part of the lawyer continues and the complaint against
him should be dismissed (In re De Guzman, 55 SCRA 1239; Balduman vs.
Luspo, 64 SCRA 74; Agbayani vs. Agtang, 73 SCRA 283).
x x x x.11 (Underscoring supplied)

Please be reminded of the adverse and unfavorable legal effect of the noncompliance with said Sections 301, 302, 303 and 304 of the National
Building Code by all the parties concerned. (Which are not confined only to
penalties provided in Sections 211 and 212 thereof.)

By Resolution of June 25, 2005, 12 the Board of Governors of the IBP adopted
and approved the Report and Recommendation of Commissioner
Villanueva-Maala.

x x x x4 (Emphasis and underscoring partly in the original, partly supplied)

Hence, the present Petition for Review13 filed by complainant.

By complainants claim, respondent opposed the application for building


permit because of a personal grudge against his wife Susan who objected
to respondents marrying her first cousin Imelda Soriano, respondents
marriage with Carolina Agaton being still subsisting. 5

Complainant maintains that respondent violated Rule 1.01 when he


contracted a second marriage with Imelda Soriano on September 17, 1989
while his marriage with Carolina Agaton, which was solemnized on
December 17, 1967, is still subsisting.

To the complaint, complainant attached a copy of his Complaint


Affidavit6 he filed against respondent before the Office of the Ombudsman
for violation of Section 3 (e)7 of Republic Act No. 3019, as amended (The
Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act) and Section 4 (a) and (c) 8 of Republic
Act No. 6713 (Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials
and Employees).9

Complainant further maintains that respondent used his influence as the


Municipal Legal Officer of Meycauayan to oppose his wifes application for
building permit, in violation of Rule 6.02 of the Code of Professional
Responsibility.

Compiled by: Angel Sy

58

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And for engaging in the practice of law while serving as the Municipal Legal
Officer of Meycauayan, complainant maintains that respondent violated
Rule 7.03.
To his Comment,14 respondent attached the July 29, 2005 15 Joint Resolution
of the Office of the Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon dismissing complainants
complaint for violation of Sec. 3 (e) of RA 3019 and Section 4 (a) and (c) of
RA 6713, the pertinent portion of which joint resolution reads:
x x x A perusal of the questioned letter dated September 13, 2004 of
herein respondent Atty. Pablo Cruz addressed to the Building
official appears to be not an opposition for the issuance of complainants
building permit, but rather toredress a wrong and an inquiry as to whether
compliance with the requirements for the construction of an edifice has
been met. In fact, the Office of the Building Official after conducting an
investigation found out that there was [a] violation of the Building Code for
constructing without a building permit committed by herein complainants
wife Susan Dulalia. Hence, a Work Stoppage Order was issued. Records
disclose fu[r]ther [that] it was only after the said violation had been
committed that Susan Dulalia applied for a building permit. As correctly
pointed out by respondent, the same is being processed pending approval
by the Building Official and not of the Municipal Zoning Administrator as
alleged by complainant. Anent the allegation that respondent was engaged
in the private practice of his law profession despite being employed in the
government as Municipal Legal Officer of Meycauayan, Bulacan, the
undersigned has taken into consideration the explanation and clarification
made by the respondent to be justifiable and meritorious. Aside from the
bare allegations of herein complainant, there is no sufficient evidence to
substantiate the complaints against the respondent. 16 (Underscoring
supplied)
After a review of the record of the case, this Court finds the dismissal of the
charges of violating Rules 6.02 and 7.03 in order.
Indeed, complaint failed to prove that respondent used his position as
Municipal Legal Officer to advance his own personal interest against
complainant and his wife.
As for respondents September 13, 2004 letter, there is nothing to show
that he opposed the application for building permit. He just inquired
whether complainants wife fully complied with the requirements provided
for by the National Building Code, on top of expressing his concerns about
"the danger and damages to their properties, health and safety"
occasioned by the construction of the building.

Compiled by: Angel Sy

1st
Besides, as reflected above, the application for building permit was filed on
September 28, 2004,17 whereas the questioned letter of respondent was
priorly written and received on September 13, 2004 by the Municipal
Engineer/ Building Official, who on the same day, ordered an inspection
and issued a Cease and Desist Order/Notice stating that "[f]ailure to
comply with th[e] notice shall cause this office to instate proper legal
action against you."18
Furthermore, as the Certification dated April 4, 2005 19 from the Office of
the Municipal Engineer showed, complainants wife eventually withdrew
the application as she had not yet secured clearances from the Municipal
Zoning Administrator and from the barangay where the building was to be
constructed.
Respecting complainants charge that respondent engaged in an
unauthorized private practice of law while he was the Municipal Legal
Officer of Meycauayan, a position coterminous to that of the appointing
authority, suffice it to state that respondent proffered proof that his private
practice is not prohibited.20
It is, however, with respect to respondents admitted contracting of a
second marriage while his first marriage is still subsisting that this Court
finds respondent liable, for violation of Rule 1.01 of the Code of
Professional Responsibility.
Respondent married Imelda Soriano on September 17, 1989 at the Clark
County, Nevada, USA,21 when the Family Code of the Philippines had
already taken effect.22 He invokes good faith, however, he claiming to have
had the impression that the applicable provision at the time was Article 83
of the Civil Code.23 For while Article 256 of the Family Code provides that
the Code shall have retroactive application, there is a qualification
thereunder that it should not prejudice or impair vested or acquired rights
in accordance with the Civil Code or other laws.
Immoral conduct which is proscribed under Rule 1.01 of the Code of
Professional Responsibility, as opposed to grossly immoral conduct,
connotes "conduct that shows indifference to the moral norms of society
and the opinion of good and respectable members of the
community."24 Gross immoral conduct on the other hand must be so
corrupt and false as to constitute a criminal act or so unprincipled as to be
reprehensible to a high degree.25
In St. Louis University Laboratory High School v. De la Cruz, 26 this Court
declared that the therein respondents act of contracting a second
marriage while the first marriage was still subsisting constituted immoral
59

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conduct, for which he was suspended for two years after the mitigating
following circumstances were considered:
a.

After his first failed marriage and prior to his second marriage
or for a period of almost seven (7) years, he has not been
romantically involved with any woman;

b.

His second marriage was a show of his noble intentions and


total love for his wife, whom he described to be very intelligent
person;

c.

He never absconded from his obligations to support his wife


and child;

d.

He never disclaimed paternity over the child and husbandry


(sic) with relation to his wife;

e.

After the annulment of his second marriage, they have parted


ways when the mother and child went to Australia;

f.

Since then up to now, respondent remained celibate.27

In respondents case, he being out of the country since 1986, he can be


given the benefit of the doubt on his claim that Article 83 of the Civil Code
was the applicable provision when he contracted the second marriage
abroad. From 1985 when allegedly his first wife abandoned him, an
allegation which was not refuted, until his marriage in 1989 with Imelda
Soriano, there is no showing that he was romantically involved with any
woman. And, it is undisputed that his first wife has remained an absentee
even during the pendency of this case.
As noted above, respondent did not deny he contracted marriage with
Imelda Soriano. The community in which they have been living in fact
elected him and served as President of the IBP-Bulacan Chapter from 19971999 and has been handling free legal aid cases.
Respondents misimpression that it was the Civil Code provisions which
applied at the time he contracted his second marriage and the seemingly
unmindful attitude of his residential community towards his second
marriage notwithstanding, respondent may not go scotfree.

In another vein, respondent violated Canon 5 of the Code of Professional


Responsibility which provides:
CANON 5 A lawyer shall keep abreast of legal developments, participate
in continuing legal education programs, support efforts to achieve high
standards in law schools as well as in the practical training of law students
and assist in disseminating information regarding the law and
jurisprudence.
Respondents claim that he was not aware that the Family Code already
took effect on August 3, 1988 as he was in the United States from 1986
and stayed there until he came back to the Philippines together with his
second wife on October 9, 1990 does not lie, as "ignorance of the law
excuses no one from compliance therewith."
Apropos is this Courts pronouncement in Santiago v. Rafanan:29
It must be emphasized that the primary duty of lawyers is to obey the laws
of the land and promote respect for the law and legal processes. They are
expected to be in the forefront in the observance and maintenance of the
rule of law. This duty carries with it the obligation to be wellinformed of the existing laws and to keep abreast with legal
developments, recent
enactments and
jurisprudence. It
is
imperative that they be conversant with basic legal principles. Unless
they faithfully comply with such duty, they may not be able to
discharge competently and diligently their obligations as members
of the bar. Worse, they may become susceptible to committing
mistakes.30 (Emphasis and underscoring supplied)
WHEREFORE, respondent Atty. Pablo C. Cruz is guilty of violating Rule
1.01 and Canon 5 of the Code of Professional Responsibility and is
SUSPENDED from the practice of law for one year. He is WARNED that a
similar infraction will be dealt with more severely.
Let a copy of this Decision be furnished the Office of the Bar Confidant, the
Integrated Bar of the Philippines, and all courts throughout the country.
SO ORDERED.

As early as 1957, this Court has frowned on the act of contracting a second
marriage while the first marriage was still in place as being contrary to
honesty, justice, decency and morality.28

Compiled by: Angel Sy

60

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In further mitigation he alleged that the said advertisement was published


only once in theTribune and that he never had any case at law by reason
thereof.
Upon that plea the case was submitted to the Court for decision.

A.C. No. L-1117

March 20, 1944

THE DIRECTOR OF RELIGIOUS AFFAIRS, complainant, vs.


ESTANISLAO R. BAYOT, respondent.
OZAETA, J.:
The respondent, who is an attorney-at-law, is charged with malpractice for
having published an advertisement in the Sunday Tribune of June 13, 1943,
which reads as follows:
Marriage
license promptly secured thru our assistance & the annoyance of
delay or publicity avoided if desired, and marriage arranged to
wishes of parties. Consultation on any matter free for the poor.
Everything confidential.

It is undeniable that the advertisement in question was a flagrant violation


by the respondent of the ethics of his profession, it being a brazen
solicitation of business from the public. Section 25 of Rule 127 expressly
provides among other things that "the practice of soliciting cases at law for
the purpose of gain, either personally or thru paid agents or brokers,
constitutes malpractice." It is highly unethical for an attorney to advertise
his talents or skill as a merchant advertises his wares. Law is a profession
and not a trade. The lawyer degrades himself and his profession who
stoops to and adopts the practices of mercantilism by advertising his
services or offering them to the public. As a member of the bar, he defiles
the temple of justice with mercenary activities as the money-changers of
old defiled the temple of Jehovah. "The most worth and effective
advertisement possible, even for a young lawyer, . . . is the establishment
of a well-merited reputation for professional capacity and fidelity to trust.
This cannot be forced but must be the outcome of character and conduct."
(Canon 27, Code of Ethics.)
In In re Tagorda, 53 Phil., the respondent attorney was suspended from the
practice of law for the period of one month for advertising his services and
soliciting work from the public by writing circular letters. That case,
however, was more serious than this because there the solicitations were
repeatedly made and were more elaborate and insistent.
Considering his plea for leniency and his promise not to repeat the
misconduct, the Court is of the opinion and so decided that the respondent
should be, as he hereby is, reprimanded.

Legal assistance service


12 Escolta, Manila, Room, 105
Tel. 2-41-60.

Appearing in his own behalf, respondent at first denied having published


the said advertisement; but subsequently, thru his attorney, he admitted
having caused its publication and prayed for "the indulgence and mercy" of
the Court, promising "not to repeat such professional misconduct in the
future and to abide himself to the strict ethical rules of the law profession."

Compiled by: Angel Sy

61

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lawyer-client relations with complainant and utilize respondents services


instead, in exchange for a loan of P50,000. Complainant also attached
"respondents" calling card:6
Front

NICOMEDES TOLENTINO
LAW OFFFICE
CONSULTANCY & MARITIME SERVICES
W/ FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE
Fe Marie L. Labiano
Paralegal

A.C. No. 6672

September 4, 2009

PEDRO L. LINSANGAN, Complainant, vs. ATTY. NICOMEDES


TOLENTINO, Respondent.
CORONA, J.:
This is a complaint for disbarment 1 filed by Pedro Linsangan of the
Linsangan Linsangan & Linsangan Law Office against Atty. Nicomedes
Tolentino for solicitation of clients and encroachment of professional
services.
Complainant alleged that respondent, with the help of paralegal Fe Marie
Labiano, convinced his clients 2 to transfer legal representation. Respondent
promised them financial assistance3 and expeditious collection on their
claims.4To induce them to hire his services, he persistently called them and
sent them text messages.
To support his allegations, complainant presented the sworn affidavit 5 of
James Gregorio attesting that Labiano tried to prevail upon him to sever his

Compiled by: Angel Sy

1st MIJI Mansion, 2nd


Flr. Rm. M-01
6th Ave., cor M.H. Del
Pilar
Grace Park, Caloocan
City

Tel: 3627820
Fax: (632)
362-7821
Cel.:
(0926)
2701719

Back

SERVICES OFFERED:
CONSULTATION AND ASSISTANCE
TO OVERSEAS SEAMEN
REPATRIATED DUE TO ACCIDENT,
INJURY, ILLNESS, SICKNESS, DEATH
AND INSURANCE BENEFIT CLAIMS
ABROAD.
62

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or skill is to commercialize the practice of law, degrade the profession in


the publics estimation and impair its ability to efficiently render that high
character of service to which every member of the bar is called. 14

1avvphi1

Rule 2.03 of the CPR provides:


(emphasis supplied)

RULE 2.03. A lawyer shall not do or permit to be done any act designed
primarily to solicit legal business.

Hence, this complaint.


Respondent, in his defense, denied knowing Labiano and authorizing the
printing and circulation of the said calling card. 7
The complaint was referred to the Commission on Bar Discipline (CBD) of
the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) for investigation, report and
recommendation.8
Based on testimonial and documentary evidence, the CBD, in its report and
recommendation,9 found that respondent had encroached on the
professional practice of complainant, violating Rule 8.02 10 and other
canons11of the Code of Professional Responsibility (CPR). Moreover, he
contravened the rule against soliciting cases for gain, personally or through
paid agents or brokers as stated in Section 27, Rule 138 12 of the Rules of
Court. Hence, the CBD recommended that respondent be reprimanded with
a stern warning that any repetition would merit a heavier penalty.
We adopt the findings of the IBP on the unethical conduct of respondent
but we modify the recommended penalty.
The complaint before us is rooted on the alleged intrusion by respondent
into complainants professional practice in violation of Rule 8.02 of the CPR.
And the means employed by respondent in furtherance of the said
misconduct themselves constituted distinct violations of ethical rules.
Canons of the CPR are rules of conduct all lawyers must adhere to,
including the manner by which a lawyers services are to be made known.
Thus, Canon 3 of the CPR provides:
CANON 3 - A lawyer in making known his legal services shall use only true,
honest, fair, dignified and objective information or statement of facts.
Time and time again, lawyers are reminded that the practice of law is a
profession and not a business; lawyers should not advertise their talents as
merchants advertise their wares. 13 To allow a lawyer to advertise his talent

Compiled by: Angel Sy

Hence, lawyers are prohibited from soliciting cases for the purpose of gain,
either personally or through paid agents or brokers. 15 Such actuation
constitutes malpractice, a ground for disbarment.16
Rule 2.03 should be read in connection with Rule 1.03 of the CPR which
provides:
RULE 1.03. A lawyer shall not, for any corrupt motive or interest,
encourage any suit or proceeding or delay any mans cause.
This rule proscribes "ambulance chasing" (the solicitation of almost any
kind of legal business by an attorney, personally or through an agent in
order to gain employment)17 as a measure to protect the community from
barratry and champerty.18
Complainant presented substantial evidence 19 (consisting of the sworn
statements of the very same persons coaxed by Labiano and referred to
respondents office) to prove that respondent indeed solicited legal
business as well as profited from referrals suits.
Although respondent initially denied knowing Labiano in his answer, he
later admitted it during the mandatory hearing.
Through Labianos actions, respondents law practice was benefited.
Hapless seamen were enticed to transfer representation on the strength of
Labianos word that respondent could produce a more favorable result.
Based on the foregoing, respondent clearly solicited employment violating
Rule 2.03, and Rule 1.03 and Canon 3 of the CPR and Section 27, Rule 138
of the Rules of Court.1avvphi1
With regard to respondents violation of Rule 8.02 of the CPR, settled is the
rule that a lawyer should not steal another lawyers client nor induce the
latter to retain him by a promise of better service, good result or reduced
fees for his services. 20 Again the Court notes that respondent never denied
63

1st

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having these seafarers in his client list nor receiving benefits from
Labianos "referrals." Furthermore, he never denied Labianos connection
to his office.21Respondent committed an unethical, predatory overstep into
anothers legal practice. He cannot escape liability under Rule 8.02 of the
CPR.

A final word regarding the calling card presented in evidence by petitioner.


A lawyers best advertisement is a well-merited reputation for professional
capacity and fidelity to trust based on his character and conduct. 27 For this
reason, lawyers are only allowed to announce their services by publication
in reputable law lists or use of simple professional cards.

Moreover, by engaging in a money-lending venture with his clients as


borrowers, respondent violated Rule 16.04:

Professional calling cards may only contain the following details:

Rule 16.04 A lawyer shall not borrow money from his client unless the
clients interests are fully protected by the nature of the case or by
independent advice. Neither shall a lawyer lend money to a client except,
when in the interest of justice, he has to advance necessary expenses in a
legal matter he is handling for the client.
The rule is that a lawyer shall not lend money to his client. The only
exception is, when in the interest of justice, he has to advance necessary
expenses (such as filing fees, stenographers fees for transcript of
stenographic notes, cash bond or premium for surety bond, etc.) for a
matter that he is handling for the client.
The rule is intended to safeguard the lawyers independence of mind so
that the free exercise of his judgment may not be adversely affected. 22 It
seeks to ensure his undivided attention to the case he is handling as well
as his entire devotion and fidelity to the clients cause. If the lawyer lends
money to the client in connection with the clients case, the lawyer in
effect acquires an interest in the subject matter of the case or an additional
stake in its outcome.23Either of these circumstances may lead the lawyer to
consider his own recovery rather than that of his client, or to accept a
settlement which may take care of his interest in the verdict to the
prejudice of the client in violation of his duty of undivided fidelity to the
clients cause.24
As
previously
mentioned,
any
act
of
solicitation
constitutes
malpractice25 which calls for the exercise of the Courts disciplinary powers.
Violation of anti-solicitation statutes warrants serious sanctions for
initiating contact with a prospective client for the purpose of obtaining
employment.26 Thus, in this jurisdiction, we adhere to the rule to protect
the public from the Machiavellian machinations of unscrupulous lawyers
and to uphold the nobility of the legal profession.

(a)
(b)
(c)
(d)
(e)

lawyers name;
name of the law firm with which he is connected;
address;
telephone number and
special branch of law practiced.28

Labianos calling card contained the phrase "with financial assistance." The
phrase was clearly used to entice clients (who already had representation)
to change counsels with a promise of loans to finance their legal actions.
Money was dangled to lure clients away from their original lawyers,
thereby taking advantage of their financial distress and emotional
vulnerability. This crass commercialism degraded the integrity of the bar
and deserved no place in the legal profession. However, in the absence of
substantial evidence to prove his culpability, the Court is not prepared to
rule that respondent was personally and directly responsible for the
printing and distribution of Labianos calling cards.
WHEREFORE, respondent Atty. Nicomedes Tolentino for violating Rules
1.03, 2.03, 8.02 and 16.04 and Canon 3 of the Code of Professional
Responsibility and Section 27, Rule 138 of the Rules of Court is
hereby SUSPENDEDfrom the practice of law for a period of one
year effective immediately from receipt of this resolution. He isSTERNLY
WARNED that a repetition of the same or similar acts in the future shall be
dealt with more severely.
Let a copy of this Resolution be made part of his records in the Office of the
Bar Confidant, Supreme Court of the Philippines, and be furnished to the
Integrated Bar of the Philippines and the Office of the Court Administrator
to be circulated to all courts.
SO ORDERED.

Considering the myriad infractions of respondent (including violation of the


prohibition on lending money to clients), the sanction recommended by the
IBP, a mere reprimand, is a wimpy slap on the wrist. The proposed penalty
is grossly incommensurate to its findings.

Compiled by: Angel Sy

64

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A.C. No. 8243

July 24, 2009

ROLANDO B. PACANA, JR., Complainant, vs. ATTY. MARICEL PASCUALLOPEZ, Respondent.


PER CURIAM:
This case stems from an administrative complaint 1 filed by Rolando Pacana,
Jr. against Atty. Maricel Pascual-Lopez charging the latter with flagrant
violation
of
the
provisions
of
the
Code
of
Professional
Responsibility.2 Complainant alleges that respondent committed acts
constituting conflict of interest, dishonesty, influence peddling, and failure
to render an accounting of all the money and properties received by her
from complainant.
On January 2, 2002, complainant was the Operations Director for Multitel
Communications Corporation (MCC). MCC is an affiliate company of Multitel
International Holdings Corporation (Multitel). Sometime in July 2002, MCC
changed its name to Precedent Communications Corporation (Precedent). 3
According to complainant, in mid-2002, Multitel was besieged by demand
letters from its members and investors because of the failure of its
investment schemes. He alleges that he earned the ire of Multitel investors
after becoming the assignee of majority of the shares of stock of Precedent
and after being appointed as trustee of a fund amounting to Thirty Million
Pesos (P30,000,000.00) deposited at Real Bank.
Distraught, complainant sought the advice of respondent who also
happened to be a member of the Couples for Christ, a religious
organization where complainant and his wife were also active members.
From then on, complainant and respondent constantly communicated, with
the former disclosing all his involvement and interests in Precedent and
Precedents relation with Multitel. Respondent gave legal advice to
complainant and even helped him prepare standard quitclaims for
creditors. In sum, complainant avers that a lawyer-client relationship was
established between him and respondent although no formal document
was executed by them at that time. A Retainer Agreement 4 dated January
15, 2003 was proposed by respondent. Complainant, however, did not sign
the said agreement because respondent verbally asked for One Hundred
Thousand Pesos (P100,000.00) as acceptance fee and a 15% contingency
fee upon collection of the overpayment made by Multitel to Benefon, 5 a

Compiled by: Angel Sy

65

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telecommunications company based in Finland. Complainant found the
proposed fees to be prohibitive and not within his means. 6 Hence, the
retainer agreement remained unsigned.7
After a few weeks, complainant was surprised to receive a demand letter
from respondent8 asking for the return and immediate settlement of the
funds invested by respondents clients in Multitel. When complainant
confronted respondent about the demand letter, the latter explained that
she had to send it so that her clients defrauded investors of Multitel
would know that she was doing something for them and assured
complainant that there was nothing to worry about.9
Both parties continued to communicate and exchange information
regarding the persistent demands made by Multitel investors against
complainant. On these occasions, respondent impressed upon complainant
that she can closely work with officials of the Anti-Money Laundering
Council (AMLC), the Department of Justice (DOJ), the National Bureau of
Investigation (NBI), the Bureau of Immigration and Deportations
(BID),10 and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) 11 to resolve
complainants problems. Respondent also convinced complainant that in
order to be absolved from any liability with respect to the investment
scam, he must be able to show to the DOJ that he was willing to divest any
and all of his interests in Precedent including the funds assigned to him by
Multitel.12
Respondent also asked money from complainant allegedly for safekeeping
to be used only for his case whenever necessary. Complainant agreed and
gave her an initial amount of P900,000.00 which was received by
respondent herself.13 Sometime thereafter, complainant again gave
respondent P1,000,000.00.14 Said amounts were all part of Precedents
collections and sales proceeds which complainant held as assignee of the
companys properties.15
When complainant went to the United States (US), he received several
messages from respondent sent through electronic mail (e-mail) and short
messaging system (SMS, or text messages) warning him not to return to
the Philippines because Rosario Baladjay, president of Multitel, was
arrested and that complainant may later on be implicated in Multitels
failed investment system. Respondent even said that ten (10) arrest
warrants and a hold departure order had been issued against him.
Complainant, thereafter, received several e-mail messages from
respondent updating him of the status of the case against Multitel and
promised that she will settle the matter discreetly with government
officials she can closely work with in order to clear complainants
name.16 In two separate e-mail messages,17 respondent again asked money
from complainant, P200,000 of which was handed by complainants wife

Compiled by: Angel Sy

while respondent was confined in Saint Lukes Hospital after giving


birth,18 and anotherP700,000 allegedly to be given to the NBI.19
Through respondents persistent promises to settle all complainants legal
problems, respondent was able to convince complainant who was still in
the US to execute a deed of assignment in favor of respondent allowing the
latter to retrieve 178 boxes containing cellular phones and accessories
stored in complainants house and inside a warehouse. 20 He also signed a
blank deed of sale authorizing respondent to sell his 2002 Isuzu Trooper. 21
Sometime in April 2003, wary that respondent may not be able to handle
his legal problems, complainant was advised by his family to hire another
lawyer. When respondent knew about this, she wrote to complainant via email, as follows:
Dear Butchie,
Hi! Ok ka lang? Hope you are fine. Sorry if I shocked you but I had to do it
as your friend and lawyer. The charges are all non-bailable but all the same
as the SEC report I told you before. The findings are the same, i.e. your
company was the front for the fraud of Multitel and that funds were
provided you.
I anticipated this, that is why I really pushed for a quitclaim. Rolly is willing
to return the Crosswind, laptap (sic) and [P]alm [P]ilot. Manny Cancio really
helped. Anthony na lang. Then, I will need the accounting of all the funds
you received from the sale of the phones, every employees and directors[]
quitclaim (including yours), the funds transmitted to the clients through
me, the funds you utilized, and whatelse (sic) is still unremitted, every
centavo must be accounted for as DOJ and NBI can have the account
opened.
I will also need the P30 M proof of deposit with Real [B]ank and the trust
given [to] you. So we can inform them [that] it was not touched by you.
I have been informed by Efie that your family is looking at hiring Coco
Pimentel. I know him very well as his sister Gwen is my best friend. I have
no problem if you hire him but I will be hands off. I work differently kasi. In
this cases (sic), you cannot be highprofile (sic) because it is the clients who
will be sacrificed at the expense of the fame of the lawyer. I have to work
quietly and discreetly. No funfare. Just like what I did for your guys in the
SEC. I have to work with people I am comfortable with. Efren Santos will
sign as your lawyer although I will do all the work. He can help with all his
connections. Vals friend in the NBI is the one is (sic) charge of organized
crime who is the entity (sic) who has your warrant. My law partner was the
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Legal Ethics
SET
state prosecutor for financial fraud. Basically we have it covered in all
aspects and all departments. I am just trying to liquidate the phones I have
allotted for you s ana (sic) for your trooper kasi whether we like it or not,
we have to give this agencies (sic) to make our work easier according to
Val. The funds with Mickey are already accounted in the quit claims (sic) as
attorneys (sic) fees. I hope he will be able to send it so we have funds to
work with.
As for your kids, legally they can stay here but recently, it is the children
who (sic) the irate clients and government officials harass and kidnap to
make the individuals they want to come out from hiding (sic). I do not want
that to happen. Things will be really easier on my side.
Please do not worry. Give me 3 months to make it all disappear. But if you
hire Coco, I will give him the free hand to work with your case. Please trust
me. I have never let you down, have I? I told you this will happen but we
are ready and prepared. The clients who received the phones will stand by
you and make you the hero in this scandal. I will stand by you always. This
is my expertise. TRUST me! That is all. You have an angel on your side.
Always pray though to the best legal mind up there. You will be ok!
Candy22
On July 4, 2003, contrary to respondents advice, complainant returned to
the country. On the eve of his departure from the United States,
respondent called up complainant and conveniently informed him that he
has been cleared by the NBI and the BID.23
About a month thereafter, respondent personally met with complainant
and
his
wife
and
told
them
that
she
has
already
accumulated P12,500,000.00 as attorneys fees and was willing to
give P2,000,000.00 to complainant in appreciation for his help. Respondent
allegedly told complainant that without his help, she would not have
earned such amount. Overwhelmed and relieved, complainant accepted
respondents offer but respondent, later on, changed her mind and told
complainant that she would instead invest the P2,000,000.00 on his behalf
in a business venture. Complainant declined and explained to respondent
that he and his family needed the money instead to cover their daily
expenses as he was no longer employed. Respondent allegedly agreed, but
she failed to fulfill her promise.24
Respondent even publicly announced in their religious organization that
she was able to help settle the ten (10) warrants of arrest and hold
departure order issued against complainant and narrated how she was able
to defend complainant in the said cases.25

Compiled by: Angel Sy

1st
By April 2004, however, complainant noticed that respondent was evading
him. Respondent would either refuse to return complainants call or would
abruptly terminate their telephone conversation, citing several reasons.
This went on for several months. 26 In one instance, when complainant
asked respondent for an update on the collection of Benefons obligation to
Precedent which respondent had previously taken charge of, respondent
arrogantly answered that she was very busy and that she would read
Benefons letter only when she found time to do so.
On November 9, 2004, fed up and dismayed with respondents arrogance
and evasiveness, complainant wrote respondent a letter formally asking for
a full accounting of all the money, documents and properties given to the
latter.27 Respondent rendered an accounting through a letter dated
December 20, 2004.28 When complainant found respondents explanation
to be inadequate, he wrote a latter expressing his confusion about the
accounting.29Complainant repeated his request for an audited financial
report of all the properties turned over to her; otherwise, he will be
constrained to file the appropriate case against respondent. 30 Respondent
replied,31 explaining that all the properties and cash turned over to her by
complainant had been returned to her clients who had money claims
against Multitel. In exchange for this, she said that she was able to secure
quitclaim documents clearing complainant from any liability. 32 Still
unsatisfied, complainant decided to file an affidavit-complaint33 against
respondent before the Commission on Bar Discipline of the Integrated Bar
of the Philippines (IBP) seeking the disbarment of respondent.
In her Answer-Affidavit,34 respondent vehemently denied being the lawyer
for Precedent. She maintained that no formal engagement was executed
between her and complainant. She claimed that she merely helped
complainant by providing him with legal advice and assistance because
she personally knew him, since they both belonged to the same religious
organization.35lavvph!1
Respondent insisted that she represented the group of investors of Multitel
and that she merely mediated in the settlement of the claims her clients
had against the complainant. She also averred that the results of the
settlement between both parties were fully documented and accounted
for.36 Respondent believes that her act in helping complainant resolve his
legal problem did not violate any ethical standard and was, in fact, in
accord with Rule 2.02 of the Code of Professional Responsibility. 37
To bolster her claim that the complaint was without basis, respondent
noted that a complaint for estafa was also filed against her by complainant
before the Office of the City Prosecutor in Quezon City citing the same
grounds. The complaint was, however, dismissed by Assistant City
Prosecutor
Josephus
Joannes
H.
Asis
for
insufficiency
of
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1st

evidence.38 Respondent argued that on this basis alone, the administrative


case must also be dismissed.

the attorney-client relationship as one of trust and confidence of the


highest degree.46

In her Position Paper,39 respondent also questioned the admissibility of the


electronic evidence submitted by complainant to the IBPs Commission on
Bar Discipline. Respondent maintained that the e-mail and the text
messages allegedly sent by respondent to complainant were of doubtful
authenticity and should be excluded as evidence for failure to conform to
the Rules on Electronic Evidence (A.M. No. 01-7-01-SC).

Respondent must have known that her act of constantly and actively
communicating with complainant, who, at that time, was beleaguered with
demands from investors of Multitel, eventually led to the establishment of
a lawyer-client relationship. Respondent cannot shield herself from the
inevitable consequences of her actions by simply saying that the
assistance she rendered to complainant was only in the form of "friendly
accommodations,"47 precisely because at the time she was giving
assistance to complainant, she was already privy to the cause of the
opposing parties who had been referred to her by the SEC. 48

After due hearing, IBP Investigating Commissioner Patrick M. Velez issued a


Report and Recommendation40 finding that a lawyer-client relationship was
established between respondent and complainant despite the absence of a
written contract. The Investigating Commissioner also declared that
respondent violated her duty to be candid, fair and loyal to her client when
she allowed herself to represent conflicting interests and failed to render a
full accounting of all the cash and properties entrusted to her. Based on
these grounds, the Investigating Commissioner recommended her
disbarment.
Respondent moved for reconsideration, 41 but the IBP Board of Governors
issued a Recommendation42 denying the motion and adopting the findings
of the Investigating Commissioner.
The case now comes before this Court for final action.
We affirm the findings of the IBP.
Rule 15.03, Canon 15 of the Code of Professional responsibility provides:
Rule 15.03 A lawyer shall not represent conflicting interests except by
written consent of all concerned given after full disclosure of the facts.
This prohibition is founded on principles of public policy, good taste 43 and,
more importantly, upon necessity. In the course of a lawyer-client
relationship, the lawyer learns all the facts connected with the clients
case, including its weak and strong points. Such knowledge must be
considered sacred and guarded with care. No opportunity must be given to
him to take advantage of his client; for if the confidence is abused, the
profession will suffer by the loss thereof. 44 It behooves lawyers not only to
keep inviolate the clients confidence, but also to avoid the appearance of
treachery and double dealing for only then can litigants be encouraged to
entrust their secrets to their lawyers, which is paramount in the
administration of justice.45 It is for these reasons that we have described

Compiled by: Angel Sy

Respondent also tries to disprove the existence of such relationship by


arguing that no written contract for the engagement of her services was
ever forged between her and complainant. 49 This argument all the more
reveals respondents patent ignorance of fundamental laws on contracts
and of basic ethical standards expected from an advocate of justice. The
IBP was correct when it said:
The absence of a written contract will not preclude the finding that there
was a professional relationship between the parties. Documentary
formalism is not an essential element in the employment of an attorney;
the contract may be express or implied. To establish the relation, it is
sufficient that the advice and assistance of an attorney is sought and
received in any matter pertinent to his profession. 50 (Emphasis
supplied.)1awphi1
Given the situation, the most decent and ethical thing which respondent
should have done was either to advise complainant to engage the services
of another lawyer since she was already representing the opposing parties,
or to desist from acting as representative of Multitel investors and stand as
counsel for complainant. She cannot be permitted to do both because that
would amount to double-dealing and violate our ethical rules on conflict of
interest.
In Hornilla v. Atty. Salunat, 51 we explained the concept of conflict of
interest, thus:
There is conflict of interest when a lawyer represents inconsistent interests
of two or more opposing parties. The test is "whether or not in behalf of
one client, it is the lawyers duty to fight for an issue or claim, but it is his
duty to oppose it for the other client. In brief, if he argues for one client,
this argument will be opposed by him when he argues for the other client."
This rule covers not only cases in which confidential communications have
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1st

Legal Ethics
SET
been confided, but also those in which no confidence has been bestowed
or will be used. Also, there is conflict of interests if the acceptance of the
new retainer will require the attorney to perform an act which will
injuriously affect his first client in any matter in which he represents him
and also whether he will be called upon in his new relation to use against
his first client any knowledge acquired through their connection. Another
test of the inconsistency of interests is whether the acceptance of a new
relation will prevent an attorney from the full discharge of his duty of
undivided fidelity and loyalty to his client or invite suspicion of
unfaithfulness or double dealing in the performance thereof.52
Indubitably, respondent took advantage of complainants hapless situation,
initially, by giving him legal advice and, later on, by soliciting money and
properties from him. Thereafter, respondent impressed upon complainant
that she had acted with utmost sincerity in helping him divest all the
properties entrusted to him in order to absolve him from any liability. But
simultaneously, she was also doing the same thing to impress upon her
clients, the party claimants against Multitel, that she was doing everything
to reclaim the money they invested with Multitel. Respondent herself
admitted to complainant that without the latters help, she would not have
been able to earn as much and that, as a token of her appreciation, she
was willing to share some of her earnings with complainant. 53 Clearly,
respondents act is shocking, as it not only violated Rule 9.02, Canon 9 of
the Code of Professional Responsibility, 54 but also toyed with decency and
good taste.
Respondent even had the temerity to boast that no Multitel client had ever
complained of respondents unethical behavior.55 This remark indubitably
displays respondents gross ignorance of disciplinary procedure in the Bar.
As a member of the Bar, she is expected to know that proceedings for
disciplinary actions against any lawyer may be initiated and prosecuted by
the IBP Board of Governors, motu proprio or upon referral by this Court or
by the Board of Officers of an IBP Chapter 56 even if no private individual
files any administrative complaint.

respondent to sever her membership in the integrated bar, this Court


cannot allow her to do so without resolving first this administrative case
against her.
The resolution of the administrative case filed against respondent is
necessary in order to determine the degree of her culpability and liability
to complainant. The case may not be dismissed or rendered moot and
academic by respondents act of voluntarily terminating her membership in
the Bar regardless of the reason for doing so. This is because membership
in the Bar is a privilege burdened with conditions. 58 The conduct of a lawyer
may make him or her civilly, if not criminally, liable to his client or to third
parties, and such liability may be conveniently avoided if this Court were to
allow voluntary termination of membership. Hence, to terminate ones
membership in the Bar voluntarily, it is imperative that the lawyer first
prove that the voluntary withdrawal of membership is not a ploy to further
prejudice the public or to evade liability. No such proof exists in the present
case.
WHEREFORE, respondent Attorney Maricel Pascual-Lopez is hereby
DISBARRED for representing conflicting interests and for engaging in
unlawful, dishonest and deceitful conduct in violation of her Lawyers Oath
and the Code of Professional Responsibility.
Let a copy of this Decision be entered in the respondents record as a
member of the Bar, and notice of the same be served on the Integrated
Bar of the Philippines, and on the Office of the Court Administrator for
circulation to all courts in the country.
SO ORDERED.

Upon review, we find no cogent reason to disturb the findings and


recommendations of the IBP Investigating Commissioner, as adopted by
the IBP Board of Governors, on the admissibility of the electronic evidence
submitted by complainant. We, accordingly, adopt the same in toto.
Finally, respondent argues that the recommendation of the IBP Board of
Governors to disbar her on the grounds of deceit, malpractice and other
gross misconduct, aside from violation of the Lawyers Oath, has been
rendered moot and academic by voluntary termination of her IBP
membership, allegedly after she had been placed under the Department of
Justices Witness Protection Program.57 Convenient as it may be for

Compiled by: Angel Sy

69

1st

Legal Ethics
SET

and pretended to be an interested party. She spoke to Mrs. Simbillo, who


claimed that her husband, Atty. Rizalino Simbillo, was an expert in handling
annulment cases and can guarantee a court decree within four to six
months, provided the case will not involve separation of property or
custody of children. Mrs. Simbillo also said that her husband charges a fee
of P48,000.00, half of which is payable at the time of filing of the case and
the other half after a decision thereon has been rendered.
Further research by the Office of the Court Administrator and the Public
Information Office revealed that similar advertisements were published in
the August 2 and 6, 2000 issues of the Manila Bulletin and August 5, 2000
issue of The Philippine Star.2

A.C. No. 5299

August 19, 2003

ATTY. ISMAEL G. KHAN, JR., Assistant Court Administrator and


Chief, Public Information Office,Complainant,
vs.
ATTY. RIZALINO T. SIMBILLO, Respondent.
x-----------------------x
G.R. No. 157053

August 19, 2003

ATTY. RIZALINO T. SIMBILLO, Petitioner,


vs.
IBP COMMISSION ON BAR DISCIPLINE and ATTY. ISMAEL G. KHAN,
JR., in his capacity as Assistant Court Administrator and Chief,
Public Information Office, Respondents.
YNARES-SANTIAGO, J.:
This administrative complaint arose from a paid advertisement that
appeared in the July 5, 2000 issue of the newspaper, Philippine Daily
Inquirer, which reads: "ANNULMENT OF MARRIAGE Specialist 5324333/521-2667."1

On September 1, 2000, Atty. Ismael G. Khan, Jr., in his capacity as Assistant


Court Administrator and Chief of the Public Information Office, filed an
administrative complaint against Atty. Rizalino T. Simbillo for improper
advertising and solicitation of his legal services, in violation of Rule 2.03
and Rule 3.01 of the Code of Professional Responsibility and Rule 138,
Section 27 of the Rules of Court.3
In his answer, respondent admitted the acts imputed to him, but argued
that advertising and solicitation per se are not prohibited acts; that the
time has come to change our views about the prohibition on advertising
and solicitation; that the interest of the public is not served by the absolute
prohibition on lawyer advertising; that the Court can lift the ban on lawyer
advertising; and that the rationale behind the decades-old prohibition
should be abandoned. Thus, he prayed that he be exonerated from all the
charges against him and that the Court promulgate a ruling that
advertisement of legal services offered by a lawyer is not contrary to law,
public policy and public order as long as it is dignified. 4
The case was referred to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines for
investigation, report and recommendation. 5 On June 29, 2002, the IBP
Commission on Bar Discipline passed Resolution No. XV-2002-306, 6 finding
respondent guilty of violation of Rules 2.03 and 3.01 of the Code of
Professional Responsibility and Rule 138, Section 27 of the Rules of Court,
and suspended him from the practice of law for one (1) year with the
warning that a repetition of similar acts would be dealt with more severely.
The IBP Resolution was noted by this Court on November 11, 2002. 7
In
the
meantime,
respondent
filed
an
Urgent
Motion
for
Reconsideration,8 which was denied by the IBP in Resolution No. XV-2002606 dated October 19, 20029

Ms. Ma. Theresa B. Espeleta, a staff member of the Public Information


Office of the Supreme Court, called up the published telephone number

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Legal Ethics
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Hence, the instant petition for certiorari, which was docketed as G.R. No.
157053 entitled, "Atty. Rizalino T. Simbillo, Petitioner versus IBP
Commission on Bar Discipline, Atty. Ismael G. Khan, Jr., Asst. Court
Administrator and Chief, Public Information Office, Respondents." This
petition was consolidated with A.C. No. 5299 per the Courts Resolution
dated March 4, 2003.
In a Resolution dated March 26, 2003, the parties were required to
manifest whether or not they were willing to submit the case for resolution
on the basis of the pleadings. 10 Complainant filed his Manifestation on April
25, 2003, stating that he is not submitting any additional pleading or
evidence and is submitting the case for its early resolution on the basis of
pleadings and records thereof. 11 Respondent, on the other hand, filed a
Supplemental Memorandum on June 20, 2003.

It has been repeatedly stressed that the practice of law is not a


business.12 It is a profession in which duty to public service, not money, is
the primary consideration. Lawyering is not primarily meant to be a
money-making venture, and law advocacy is not a capital that necessarily
yields profits.13 The gaining of a livelihood should be a secondary
consideration.14 The duty to public service and to the administration of
justice should be the primary consideration of lawyers, who must
subordinate their personal interests or what they owe to themselves. 15 The
following elements distinguish the legal profession from a business:
1. A duty of public service, of which the emolument is a by-product,
and in which one may attain the highest eminence without making
much money;

We agree with the IBPs Resolutions Nos. XV-2002-306 and XV-2002-606.

2. A relation as an "officer of the court" to the administration of


justice involving thorough sincerity, integrity and reliability;

Rules 2.03 and 3.01 of the Code of Professional Responsibility read:

3. A relation to clients in the highest degree of fiduciary;

Rule 2.03. A lawyer shall not do or permit to be done any act designed
primarily to solicit legal business.

4. A relation to colleagues at the bar characterized by candor,


fairness, and unwillingness to resort to current business methods of
advertising and encroachment on their practice, or dealing directly
with their clients.16

Rule 3.01. A lawyer shall not use or permit the use of any false,
fraudulent, misleading, deceptive, undignified, self-laudatory or unfair
statement or claim regarding his qualifications or legal services.
Rule 138, Section 27 of the Rules of Court states:
SEC. 27. Disbarment and 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 appearing as attorney
for a party without authority to do so.

Compiled by: Angel Sy

There is no question that respondent committed the acts complained of. He


himself admits that he caused the publication of the advertisements. While
he professes repentance and begs for the Courts indulgence, his contrition
rings hollow considering the fact that he advertised his legal services again
after he pleaded for compassion and after claiming that he had no
intention to violate the rules. Eight months after filing his answer, he again
advertised his legal services in the August 14, 2001 issue of the Buy & Sell
Free Ads Newspaper.17 Ten months later, he caused the same
advertisement to be published in the October 5, 2001 issue of Buy &
Sell.18 Such acts of respondent are a deliberate and contemptuous affront
on the Courts authority.
What adds to the gravity of respondents acts is that in advertising himself
as a self-styled "Annulment of Marriage Specialist," he wittingly or
unwittingly erodes and undermines not only the stability but also the
sanctity of an institution still considered sacrosanct despite the
contemporary climate of permissiveness in our society. Indeed, in assuring
prospective clients that an annulment may be obtained in four to six
months from the time of the filing of the case, 19 he in fact encourages
people, who might have otherwise been disinclined and would have
refrained from dissolving their marriage bonds, to do so.
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Nonetheless, the solicitation of legal business is not altogether proscribed.
However, for solicitation to be proper, it must be compatible with the
dignity of the legal profession. If it is made in a modest and decorous
manner, it would bring no injury to the lawyer and to the bar. 20 Thus, the
use of simple signs stating the name or names of the lawyers, the office
and residence address and fields of practice, as well as advertisement in
legal periodicals bearing the same brief data, are permissible. Even the use
of calling cards is now acceptable. 21 Publication in reputable law lists, in a
manner consistent with the standards of conduct imposed by the canon, of
brief biographical and informative data is likewise allowable. As explicitly
stated in Ulep v. Legal Clinic, Inc.:22
Such data must not be misleading and may include only a statement of the
lawyers name and the names of his professional associates; addresses,
telephone numbers, cable addresses; branches of law practiced; date and
place of birth and admission to the bar; schools attended with dates of
graduation, degrees and other educational distinctions; public or quasipublic offices; posts of honor; legal authorships; legal teaching positions;
membership and offices in bar associations and committees thereof, in
legal and scientific societies and legal fraternities; the fact of listings in
other reputable law lists; the names and addresses of references; and, with
their written consent, the names of clients regularly represented.
The law list must be a reputable law list published primarily for that
purpose; it cannot be a mere supplemental feature of a paper, magazine,
trade journal or periodical which is published principally for other purposes.
For that reason, a lawyer may not properly publish his brief biographical
and informative data in a daily paper, magazine, trade journal or society
program. Nor may a lawyer permit his name to be published in a law list
the conduct, management, or contents of which are calculated or likely to
deceive or injure the public or the bar, or to lower dignity or standing of the
profession.
The use of an ordinary simple professional card is also permitted. The card
may contain only a statement of his name, the name of the law firm which
he is connected with, address, telephone number and special branch of law
practiced. The publication of a simple announcement of the opening of a
law firm or of changes in the partnership, associates, firm name or office
address, being for the convenience of the profession, is not objectionable.
He may likewise have his name listed in a telephone directory but not
under a designation of special branch of law. (emphasis and italics
supplied)
WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, respondent RIZALINO T. SIMBILLO
is found GUILTY of violation of Rules 2.03 and 3.01 of the Code of
Professional Responsibility and Rule 138, Section 27 of the Rules of Court.

Compiled by: Angel Sy

He is SUSPENDED from the practice of law for ONE (1) YEAR effective upon
receipt of this Resolution. He is likewise STERNLY WARNED that a repetition
of the same or similar offense will be dealt with more severely.
Let copies of this Resolution be entered in his record as attorney and be
furnished the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and all courts in the country
for their information and guidance. SO ORDERED.
Adm. Case No. 2131 May 10, 1985
ADRIANO E. DACANAY, complainant vs. BAKER & MCKENZIE and JUAN
G. COLLAS JR., LUIS MA. GUERRERO, VICENTE A. TORRES, RAFAEL
E. EVANGELISTA, JR., ROMEO L. SALONGA, JOSE R. SANDEJAS,
LUCAS M. NUNAG, J. CLARO TESORO, NATIVIDAD B. KWAN and JOSE
A. CURAMMENG, JR., respondents.
AQUINO, J.:
Lawyer Adriano E. Dacanay, admitted to the bar in 1954, in his 1980
verified complaint, sought to enjoin Juan G. Collas, Jr. and nine other
lawyers from practising law under the name of Baker & McKenzie, a law
firm organized in Illinois.
In a letter dated November 16, 1979 respondent Vicente A. Torres, using
the letterhead of Baker & McKenzie, which contains the names of the ten
lawyers, asked Rosie Clurman for the release of 87 shares of Cathay
Products International, Inc. to H.E. Gabriel, a client.
Attorney Dacanay, in his reply dated December 7, 1979, denied any
liability of Clurman to Gabriel. He requested that he be informed whether
the lawyer of Gabriel is Baker & McKenzie "and if not, what is your purpose
in using the letterhead of another law office." Not having received any
reply, he filed the instant complaint.
We hold that Baker & McKenzie, being an alien law firm, cannot practice
law in the Philippines (Sec. 1, Rule 138, Rules of Court). As admitted by the
respondents in their memorandum, Baker & McKenzie is a professional
partnership organized in 1949 in Chicago, Illinois with members and
associates in 30 cities around the world. Respondents, aside from being
members of the Philippine bar, practising under the firm name of Guerrero
& Torres, are members or associates of Baker & Mckenzie.
As pointed out by the Solicitor General, respondents' use of the firm name
Baker & McKenzie constitutes a representation that being associated with
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SET
the firm they could "render legal services of the highest quality to
multinational business enterprises and others engaged in foreign trade and
investment" (p. 3, respondents' memo). This is unethical because Baker &
McKenzie is not authorized to practise law here. (See Ruben E. Agpalo,
Legal Ethics, 1983 Ed., p. 115.)
WHEREFORE, the respondents are enjoined from practising law under the
firm name Baker & McKenzie.
SO ORDERED.

March 23, 1929


In re LUIS B. TAGORDA,
MALCOLM, J.:
The respondent, Luis B. Tagorda, a practising attorney and a member of
the provincial board of Isabela, admits that previous to the last general
elections he made use of a card written in Spanish and Ilocano, which, in
translation, reads as follows:
LUIS B. TAGORDA
Attorney
Notary Public
CANDIDATE FOR THIRD MEMBER
Province of Isabela
(NOTE. As notary public, he can execute for you a deed of sale
for the purchase of land as required by the cadastral office; can
renew lost documents of your animals; can make your application
and final requisites for your homestead; and can execute any kind
of affidavit. As a lawyer, he can help you collect your loans
although long overdue, as well as any complaint for or against you.
Come or write to him in his town, Echague, Isabela. He offers free
consultation, and is willing to help and serve the poor.)
The respondent further admits that he is the author of a letter addressed to
a lieutenant of barrio in his home municipality written in Ilocano, which
letter, in translation, reads as follows:
ECHAGUE, ISABELA, September 18, 1928

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73

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MY DEAR LIEUTENANT: I would like to inform you of the
approaching date for our induction into office as member of the
Provincial Board, that is on the 16th of next month. Before my
induction into office I should be very glad to hear your suggestions
or recommendations for the good of the province in general and for
your barrio in particular. You can come to my house at any time
here in Echague, to submit to me any kind of suggestion or
recommendation as you may desire.
I also inform you that despite my membership in the Board I will
have my residence here in Echague. I will attend the session of the
Board of Ilagan, but will come back home on the following day here
in Echague to live and serve with you as a lawyer and notary
public. Despite my election as member of the Provincial Board, I
will exercise my legal profession as a lawyer and notary public. In
case you cannot see me at home on any week day, I assure you
that you can always find me there on every Sunday. I also inform
you that I will receive any work regarding preparations of
documents of contract of sales and affidavits to be sworn to before
me as notary public even on Sundays.
I would like you all to be informed of this matter for the reason that
some people are in the belief that my residence as member of the
Board will be in Ilagan and that I would then be disqualified to
exercise my profession as lawyer and as notary public. Such is not
the case and I would make it clear that I am free to exercise my
profession as formerly and that I will have my residence here in
Echague.
I would request you kind favor to transmit this information to your
barrio people in any of your meetings or social gatherings so that
they may be informed of my desire to live and to serve with you in
my capacity as lawyer and notary public. If the people in your
locality have not as yet contracted the services of other lawyers in
connection with the registration of their land titles, I would be
willing to handle the work in court and would charge only three
pesos for every registration.
Yours respectfully,
(Sgd.) LUIS TAGORDA
Attorney
Notary Public.

Compiled by: Angel Sy

The facts being conceded, it is next in order to write down the applicable
legal provisions. Section 21 of the Code of Civil Procedure as originally
conceived related to disbarments of members of the bar. In 1919 at the
instigation of the Philippine Bar Association, said codal section was
amended by Act No. 2828 by adding at the end thereof the following: "The
practice of soliciting cases at law for the purpose of gain, either personally
or through paid agents or brokers, constitutes malpractice."
The statute as amended conforms in principle to the Canons of
Professionals Ethics adopted by the American Bar Association in 1908 and
by the Philippine Bar Association in 1917. Canons 27 and 28 of the Code of
Ethics provide:
27. ADVERTISING, DIRECT OR INDIRECT. The most worthy and
effective advertisement possible, even for a young lawyer, and
especially with his brother lawyers, is the establishment of a wellmerited reputation for professional capacity and fidelity to trust.
This cannot be forced, but must be the outcome of character and
conduct. The publication or circulation of ordinary simple business
cards, being a matter of personal taste or local custom, and
sometimes of convenience, is not per se improper. But solicitation
of business by circulars or advertisements, or by personal
communications or interview not warranted by personal relations,
is unprofessional. It is equally unprofessional to procure business
by indirection through touters of any kind, whether allied real
estate firms or trust companies advertising to secure the drawing
of deeds or wills or offering retainers in exchange for executorships
or trusteeships to be influenced by the lawyer. Indirect
advertisement for business by furnishing or inspiring newspaper
comments concerning the manner of their conduct, the magnitude
of the interest involved, the importance of the lawyer's position,
and all other like self-laudation, defy the traditions and lower the
tone of our high calling, and are intolerable.
28. STIRRING UP LITIGATION, DIRECTLY OR THROUGH AGENTS. It
is unprofessional for a lawyer to volunteer advice to bring a
lawsuit, except in rare cases where ties of blood, relationship or
trust make it his duty to do so. Stirring up strife and litigation is not
only unprofessional, but it is indictable at common law. It is
disreputable to hunt up defects in titles or other causes of action
and inform thereof in order to the employed to bring suit, or to
breed litigation by seeking out those with claims for personal
injuries or those having any other grounds of action in order to
secure them as clients, or to employ agents or runners for like
purposes, or to pay or reward directly or indirectly, those who bring
or influence the bringing of such cases to his office, or to
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remunerate policemen, court or prison officials, physicians, hospital
attaches or others who may succeed, under the guise of giving
disinterested friendly advice, in influencing the criminal, the sick
and the injured, the ignorant or others, to seek his professional
services. A duty to the public and to the profession devolves upon
every member of the bar having knowledge of such practices upon
the part of any practitioner immediately to inform thereof to the
end that the offender may be disbarred.

understood that this result is reached in view of the considerations which


have influenced the court to the relatively lenient in this particular instance
and should, therefore, not be taken as indicating that future convictions of
practice of this kind will not be dealt with by disbarment.
In view of all the circumstances of this case, the judgment of the court is
that the respondent Luis B. Tagorda be and is hereby suspended from the
practice as an attorney-at-law for the period of one month from April 1,
1929.

Common barratry consisting of frequently stirring up suits and quarrels


between individuals was a crime at the common law, and one of the
penalties for this offense when committed by an attorney was disbarment.
Statutes intended to reach the same evil have been provided in a number
of jurisdictions usually at the instance of the bar itself, and have been
upheld as constitutional. The reason behind statutes of this type is not
difficult to discover. The law is a profession and not a business. The lawyer
may not seek or obtain employment by himself or through others for to do
so would be unprofessional. (State vs. Rossman [1909], 53 Wash., 1; 17
Ann. Cas., 625; People vs. Mac Cabe [1893], 19 L. R. A., 231; 2 R. C. L.,
1097.)
It becomes our duty to condemn in no uncertain terms the ugly practice of
solicitation of cases by lawyers. It is destructive of the honor of a great
profession. It lowers the standards of that profession. It works against the
confidence of the community in the integrity of the members of the bar. It
results in needless litigation and in incenting to strife otherwise peacefully
inclined citizens.
The solicitation of employment by an attorney is a ground for disbarment
or suspension. That should be distinctly understood.
Giving application of the law and the Canons of Ethics to the admitted
facts, the respondent stands convicted of having solicited cases in defiance
of the law and those canons. Accordingly, the only remaining duty of the
court is to fix upon the action which should here be taken. The provincial
fiscal of Isabela, with whom joined the representative of the AttorneyGeneral in the oral presentation of the case, suggests that the respondent
be only reprimanded. We think that our action should go further than this if
only to reflect our attitude toward cases of this character of which
unfortunately the respondent's is only one. The commission of offenses of
this nature would amply justify permanent elimination from the bar. But as
mitigating, circumstances working in favor of the respondent there are,
first, his intimation that he was unaware of the impropriety of his acts,
second, his youth and inexperience at the bar, and, third, his promise not
to commit a similar mistake in the future. A modest period of suspension
would seem to fit the case of the erring attorney. But it should be distinctly

Compiled by: Angel Sy

Bar Matter No. 553 June 17, 1993


MAURICIO C. ULEP, petitioner, vs. THE LEGAL CLINIC,
INC., respondent.
REGALADO, J.:
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Petitioner prays this Court "to order the respondent to cease and desist
from issuing advertisements similar to or of the same tenor as that of
annexes "A" and "B" (of said petition) and to perpetually prohibit persons
or entities from making advertisements pertaining to the exercise of the
law profession other than those allowed by law."
The advertisements complained of by herein petitioner are as follows:
Annex A
SECRET MARRIAGE?
P560.00 for a valid marriage.
Info on DIVORCE. ABSENCE.
ANNULMENT. VISA.
THE Please call: 521-0767 LEGAL 5217232, 5222041 CLINIC, INC.
8:30 am 6:00 pm 7-Flr. Victoria Bldg., UN Ave., Mla.
Annex B
GUAM DIVORCE.
DON PARKINSON
an Attorney in Guam, is giving FREE BOOKS on Guam Divorce
through The Legal Clinic beginning Monday to Friday during office
hours.
Guam divorce. Annulment of Marriage. Immigration Problems, Visa
Ext. Quota/Non-quota Res. & Special Retiree's Visa. Declaration of
Absence. Remarriage to Filipina Fiancees. Adoption. Investment in
the Phil. US/Foreign Visa for Filipina Spouse/Children. Call Marivic.
THE 7F Victoria Bldg. 429 UN Ave., LEGAL Ermita, Manila nr. US
Embassy CLINIC, INC. 1 Tel. 521-7232; 521-7251; 522-2041; 5210767
It is the submission of petitioner that the advertisements above reproduced
are champterous, unethical, demeaning of the law profession, and
destructive of the confidence of the community in the integrity of the
members of the bar and that, as a member of the legal profession, he is
ashamed and offended by the said advertisements, hence the reliefs
sought in his petition as hereinbefore quoted.

Compiled by: Angel Sy

In its answer to the petition, respondent admits the fact of publication of


said advertisement at its instance, but claims that it is not engaged in the
practice of law but in the rendering of "legal support services" through
paralegals with the use of modern computers and electronic machines.
Respondent further argues that assuming that the services advertised are
legal services, the act of advertising these services should be allowed
supposedly
in the light of the case of John R. Bates and Van O'Steen vs. State Bar of
Arizona, 2 reportedly decided by the United States Supreme Court on June
7, 1977.
Considering the critical implications on the legal profession of the issues
raised herein, we required the (1) Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP),
(2) Philippine Bar Association (PBA), (3) Philippine Lawyers' Association
(PLA), (4) U.P. Womens Lawyers' Circle (WILOCI), (5) Women Lawyers
Association of the Philippines (WLAP), and (6) Federacion International de
Abogadas (FIDA) to submit their respective position papers on the
controversy and, thereafter, their memoranda. 3 The said bar associations
readily responded and extended their valuable services and cooperation of
which this Court takes note with appreciation and gratitude.
The main issues posed for resolution before the Court are whether or not
the services offered by respondent, The Legal Clinic, Inc., as advertised by
it constitutes practice of law and, in either case, whether the same can
properly be the subject of the advertisements herein complained of.
Before proceeding with an in-depth analysis of the merits of this case, we
deem it proper and enlightening to present hereunder excerpts from the
respective position papers adopted by the aforementioned bar associations
and the memoranda submitted by them on the issues involved in this bar
matter.
1. Integrated Bar of the Philippines:
xxx xxx xxx
Notwithstanding the subtle manner by which respondent
endeavored to distinguish the two terms, i.e., "legal support
services" vis-a-vis "legal services", common sense would readily
dictate that the same are essentially without substantial
distinction. For who could deny that document search, evidence
gathering, assistance to layman in need of basic institutional
services from government or non-government agencies like birth,
marriage, property, or business registration, obtaining documents
76

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SET
like clearance, passports, local or foreign visas, constitutes practice
of law?
xxx xxx xxx
The Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) does not wish to make
issue with respondent's foreign citations. Suffice it to state that the
IBP has made its position manifest, to wit, that it strongly opposes
the view espoused by respondent (to the effect that today it is
alright to advertise one's legal services).
The IBP accordingly declares in no uncertain terms its opposition to
respondent's act of establishing a "legal clinic" and of
concomitantly
advertising
the
same
through
newspaper
publications.
The IBP would therefore invoke the administrative supervision of
this Honorable Court to perpetually restrain respondent from
undertaking highly unethical activities in the field of law practice as
aforedescribed. 4
xxx xxx xxx
A. The use of the name "The Legal Clinic, Inc." gives the impression
that respondent corporation is being operated by lawyers and that
it renders legal services.

scale(s) of justice, which all the more reinforces the impression that
it is being operated by members of the bar and that it offers legal
services. In addition, the advertisements in question appear with a
picture and name of a person being represented as a lawyer from
Guam, and this practically removes whatever doubt may still
remain as to the nature of the service or services being offered.
It thus becomes irrelevant whether respondent is merely offering
"legal support services" as claimed by it, or whether it offers legal
services as any lawyer actively engaged in law practice does. And
it becomes unnecessary to make a distinction between "legal
services" and "legal support services," as the respondent would
have it. The advertisements in question leave no room for doubt in
the minds of the reading public that legal services are being
offered by lawyers, whether true or not.
B. The advertisements in question are meant to induce the
performance of acts contrary to law, morals, public order and
public policy.
It may be conceded that, as the respondent claims, the
advertisements in question are only meant to inform the general
public of the services being offered by it. Said advertisements,
however, emphasize to Guam divorce, and any law student ought
to know that under the Family Code, there is only one instance
when a foreign divorce is recognized, and that is:
Article 26. . . .

While the respondent repeatedly denies that it offers legal services


to the public, the advertisements in question give the impression
that respondent is offering legal services. The Petition in fact
simply assumes this to be so, as earlier mentioned, apparently
because this (is) the effect that the advertisements have on the
reading public.
The impression created by the advertisements in question can be
traced, first of all, to the very name being used by respondent
"The Legal Clinic, Inc." Such a name, it is respectfully submitted
connotes the rendering of legal services for legal problems, just like
a medical clinic connotes medical services for medical problems.
More importantly, the term "Legal Clinic" connotes lawyers, as the
term medical clinic connotes doctors.

Where a marriage between a Filipino citizen and a foreigner


is validly celebrated and a divorce is thereafter validly
obtained abroad by the alien spouse capacitating him or
her to remarry, the Filipino spouse shall have capacity to
remarry under Philippine Law.
It must not be forgotten, too, that the Family Code (defines) a
marriage as follows:

Furthermore, the respondent's name, as published in the


advertisements subject of the present case, appears with (the)

Compiled by: Angel Sy

77

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SET
Article 1. Marriage is special contract of permanent
union between a man and woman entered into accordance
with law for the establishment of conjugal and family life. It
is the foundation of the family and an inviolable social
institution whose nature, consequences, and incidents are
governed by law and not subject to stipulation, except that
marriage settlements may fix the property relation during
the marriage within the limits provided by this Code.
By simply reading the questioned advertisements, it is obvious that
the message being conveyed is that Filipinos can avoid the legal
consequences of a marriage celebrated in accordance with our law,
by simply going to Guam for a divorce. This is not only misleading,
but encourages, or serves to induce, violation of Philippine law. At
the very least, this can be considered "the dark side" of legal
practice, where certain defects in Philippine laws are exploited for
the sake of profit. At worst, this is outright malpractice.
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.
In addition, it may also be relevant to point out that
advertisements such as that shown in Annex "A" of the Petition,
which contains a cartoon of a motor vehicle with the words "Just
Married" on its bumper and seems to address those planning a
"secret marriage," if not suggesting a "secret marriage," makes
light of the "special contract of permanent union," the inviolable
social institution," which is how the Family Code describes
marriage, obviously to emphasize its sanctity and inviolability.
Worse, this particular advertisement appears to encourage
marriages celebrated in secrecy, which is suggestive of immoral
publication of applications for a marriage license.
If the article "Rx for Legal Problems" is to be reviewed, it can
readily be concluded that the above impressions one may gather
from the advertisements in question are accurate. The Sharon
Cuneta-Gabby Concepcion example alone confirms what the
advertisements suggest. Here it can be seen that criminal acts are
being
encouraged
or
committed
(a bigamous marriage in Hong Kong or Las Vegas) with impunity
simply because the jurisdiction of Philippine courts does not extend
to the place where the crime is committed.

understood, the advertisements in question give the impression


that respondent corporation is being operated by lawyers and that
it offers legal services, as earlier discussed. Thus, the only logical
consequence is that, in the eyes of an ordinary newspaper reader,
members of the bar themselves are encouraging or inducing the
performance of acts which are contrary to law, morals, good
customs and the public good, thereby destroying and demeaning
the integrity of the Bar.
xxx xxx xxx
It is respectfully submitted that respondent should be enjoined
from causing the publication of the advertisements in question, or
any other advertisements similar thereto. It is also submitted that
respondent should be prohibited from further performing or
offering some of the services it presently offers, or, at the very
least, from offering such services to the public in general.
The IBP is aware of the fact that providing computerized legal
research, electronic data gathering, storage and retrieval,
standardized legal forms, investigators for gathering of evidence,
and like services will greatly benefit the legal profession and should
not be stifled but instead encouraged. However, when the conduct
of such business by non-members of the Bar encroaches upon the
practice of law, there can be no choice but to prohibit such
business.
Admittedly, many of the services involved in the case at bar can be
better performed by specialists in other fields, such as computer
experts, who by reason of their having devoted time and effort
exclusively to such field cannot fulfill the exacting requirements for
admission to the Bar. To prohibit them from "encroaching" upon the
legal profession will deny the profession of the great benefits and
advantages of modern technology. Indeed, a lawyer using a
computer will be doing better than a lawyer using a typewriter,
even if both are (equal) in skill.
Both the Bench and the Bar, however, should be careful not to
allow or tolerate the illegal practice of law in any form, not only for
the protection of members of the Bar but also, and more
importantly, for the protection of the public. Technological
development in the profession may be encouraged without
tolerating, but instead ensuring prevention of illegal practice.

Even if it be assumed, arguendo, (that) the "legal support services"


respondent offers do not constitute legal services as commonly

Compiled by: Angel Sy

78

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Legal Ethics
SET
There might be nothing objectionable if respondent is allowed to
perform all of its services, but only if such services are made
available exclusively to members of the Bench and Bar.
Respondent would then be offering technical assistance, not legal
services. Alternatively, the more difficult task of carefully
distinguishing between which service may be offered to the public
in general and which should be made available exclusively to
members of the Bar may be undertaken. This, however, may
require further proceedings because of the factual considerations
involved.
It must be emphasized, however, that some of respondent's
services ought to be prohibited outright, such as acts which tend to
suggest or induce celebration abroad of marriages which are
bigamous or otherwise illegal and void under Philippine law. While
respondent may not be prohibited from simply disseminating
information regarding such matters, it must be required to include,
in the information given, a disclaimer that it is not authorized to
practice law, that certain course of action may be illegal under
Philippine law, that it is not authorized or capable of rendering a
legal opinion, that a lawyer should be consulted before deciding on
which course of action to take, and that it cannot recommend any
particular lawyer without subjecting itself to possible sanctions for
illegal practice of law.
If respondent is allowed to advertise, advertising should be
directed exclusively at members of the Bar, with a clear and
unmistakable disclaimer that it is not authorized to practice law or
perform legal services.
The benefits of being assisted by paralegals cannot be ignored. But
nobody should be allowed to represent himself as a "paralegal" for
profit, without such term being clearly defined by rule or
regulation, and without any adequate and effective means of
regulating his activities. Also, law practice in a corporate form may
prove to be advantageous to the legal profession, but before
allowance of such practice may be considered, the corporation's
Article of Incorporation and By-laws must conform to each and
every provision of the Code of Professional Responsibility and the
Rules of Court. 5
2. Philippine Bar Association:
xxx xxx xxx.

Compiled by: Angel Sy

Respondent asserts that it "is not engaged in the practice of law


but engaged in giving legal support services to lawyers and
laymen, through experienced paralegals, with the use of modern
computers and electronic machines" (pars. 2 and 3, Comment).
This is absurd. Unquestionably, respondent's acts of holding out
itself to the public under the trade name "The Legal Clinic, Inc.,"
and soliciting employment for its enumerated services fall within
the realm of a practice which thus yields itself to the regulatory
powers of the Supreme Court. For respondent to say that it is
merely engaged in paralegal work is to stretch credulity.
Respondent's own commercial advertisement which announces a
certainAtty. Don Parkinson to be handling the fields of law belies its
pretense. From all indications, respondent "The Legal Clinic, Inc." is
offering and rendering legal services through its reserve of lawyers.
It has been held that the practice of law is not limited to the
conduct of cases in court, but includes drawing of deeds,
incorporation, rendering opinions, and advising clients as to their
legal right and then take them to an attorney and ask the latter to
look after their case in court See Martin, Legal and Judicial Ethics,
1984 ed., p. 39).
It is apt to recall that only natural persons can engage in the
practice of law, and such limitation cannot be evaded by
a corporation employing competent lawyers to practice for it.
Obviously, this is the scheme or device by which respondent "The
Legal Clinic, Inc." holds out itself to the public and solicits
employment of its legal services. It is an odious vehicle for
deception, especially so when the public cannot ventilate any
grievance for malpractice against the business conduit. Precisely,
the limitation of practice of law to persons who have been duly
admitted as members of the Bar (Sec. 1, Rule 138, Revised Rules of
Court) is to subject the members to the discipline of the Supreme
Court. Although respondent uses its business name, the persons
and the lawyers who act for it are subject to court discipline. The
practice of law is not a profession open to all who wish to engage in
it nor can it be assigned to another (See 5 Am. Jur. 270). It is
a personal right limited to persons who have qualified themselves
under the law. It follows that not only respondent but also all the
persons who are acting for respondent are the persons engaged in
unethical law practice. 6
3. Philippine Lawyers' Association:
The Philippine Lawyers' Association's position, in answer to the
issues stated herein, are wit:
79

1st

Legal Ethics
SET
1.
2.
3.
4.

The Legal Clinic is engaged in the practice of law;


Such practice is unauthorized;
The advertisements complained of are not only unethical, but
also misleading and patently immoral; and
The Honorable Supreme Court has the power to supress and
punish the Legal Clinic and its corporate officers for its
unauthorized practice of law and for its unethical, misleading
and immoral advertising.
xxx xxx xxx

Respondent posits that is it not engaged in the practice of law. It


claims that it merely renders "legal support services" to answers,
litigants and the general public as enunciated in the Primary
Purpose Clause of its Article(s) of Incorporation. (See pages 2 to 5
of Respondent's Comment). But its advertised services, as
enumerated above, clearly and convincingly show that it is indeed
engaged in law practice, albeit outside of court.
As advertised, it offers the general public its advisory services on
Persons and Family Relations Law, particularly regarding foreign
divorces, annulment of marriages, secret marriages, absence and
adoption; Immigration Laws, particularly on visa related problems,
immigration problems; the Investments Law of the Philippines and
such other related laws.
Its advertised services unmistakably require the application of the
aforesaid law, the legal principles and procedures related thereto,
the legal advices based thereon and which activities call for legal
training, knowledge and experience.
Applying the test laid down by the Court in the aforecited Agrava
Case, the activities of respondent fall squarely and are embraced in
what lawyers and laymen equally term as "the practice of law." 7
4. U.P. Women Lawyers' Circle:
In resolving, the issues before this Honorable Court, paramount
consideration should be given to the protection of the general
public from the danger of being exploited by unqualified persons or
entities who may be engaged in the practice of law.

At present, becoming a lawyer requires one to take a rigorous fouryear course of study on top of a four-year bachelor of arts or
sciences course and then to take and pass the bar examinations.
Only then, is a lawyer qualified to practice law.
While the use of a paralegal is sanctioned in many jurisdiction as
an aid to the administration of justice, there are in those
jurisdictions, courses of study and/or standards which would qualify
these paralegals to deal with the general public as such. While it
may now be the opportune time to establish these courses of study
and/or standards, the fact remains that at present, these do not
exist in the Philippines. In the meantime, this Honorable Court may
decide to make measures to protect the general public from being
exploited by those who may be dealing with the general public in
the guise of being "paralegals" without being qualified to do so.
In the same manner, the general public should also be protected
from the dangers which may be brought about by advertising of
legal services. While it appears that lawyers are prohibited under
the present Code of Professional Responsibility from advertising, it
appears in the instant case that legal services are being advertised
not by lawyers but by an entity staffed by "paralegals." Clearly,
measures should be taken to protect the general public from falling
prey to those who advertise legal services without being qualified
to offer such services. 8
A perusal of the questioned advertisements of Respondent,
however, seems to give the impression that information regarding
validity of marriages, divorce, annulment of marriage, immigration,
visa extensions, declaration of absence, adoption and foreign
investment, which are in essence, legal matters , will be given to
them if they avail of its services. The Respondent's name The
Legal Clinic, Inc. does not help matters. It gives the impression
again that Respondent will or can cure the legal problems brought
to them. Assuming that Respondent is, as claimed, staffed purely
by paralegals, it also gives the misleading impression that there
are lawyers involved in The Legal Clinic, Inc., as there are doctors
in any medical clinic, when only "paralegals" are involved in The
Legal Clinic, Inc.
Respondent's allegations are further belied by the very admissions
of its President and majority stockholder, Atty. Nogales, who gave
an insight on the structure and main purpose of Respondent
corporation in the aforementioned "Starweek" article." 9
5. Women Lawyer's Association of the Philippines:

Compiled by: Angel Sy

80

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Legal Ethics
SET
Annexes "A" and "B" of the petition are clearly advertisements to
solicit cases for the purpose of gain which, as provided for under
the above cited law, (are) illegal and against the Code of
Professional Responsibility of lawyers in this country.
Annex "A" of the petition is not only illegal in that it is an
advertisement to solicit cases, but it is illegal in that in bold letters
it announces that the Legal Clinic, Inc., could work out/cause the
celebration of a secret marriage which is not only illegal but
immoral in this country. While it is advertised that one has to go to
said agency and pay P560 for a valid marriage it is certainly fooling
the public for valid marriages in the Philippines are solemnized only
by officers authorized to do so under the law. And to employ an
agency for said purpose of contracting marriage is not necessary.
No amount of reasoning that in the USA, Canada and other
countries the trend is towards allowing lawyers to advertise their
special skills to enable people to obtain from qualified practitioners
legal services for their particular needs can justify the use of
advertisements such as are the subject matter of the petition, for
one (cannot) justify an illegal act even by whatever merit the illegal
act may serve. The law has yet to be amended so that such act
could become justifiable.
We submit further that these advertisements that seem to project
that secret marriages and divorce are possible in this country for a
fee, when in fact it is not so, are highly reprehensible.
It would encourage people to consult this clinic about how they
could go about having a secret marriage here, when it cannot nor
should ever be attempted, and seek advice on divorce, where in
this country there is none, except under the Code of Muslim
Personal Laws in the Philippines. It is also against good morals and
is deceitful because it falsely represents to the public to be able to
do that which by our laws cannot be done (and) by our Code of
Morals should not be done.
In the case (of) In re Taguda, 53 Phil. 37, the Supreme Court held
that solicitation for clients by an attorney by circulars of
advertisements, is unprofessional, and offenses of this character
justify permanent elimination from the Bar. 10
6. Federacion Internacional de Abogados:
xxx xxx xxx

Compiled by: Angel Sy

1.7 That entities admittedly not engaged in the practice of law,


such as management consultancy firms or travel agencies,
whether run by lawyers or not, perform the services rendered by
Respondent does not necessarily lead to the conclusion that
Respondent is not unlawfully practicing law. In the same vein,
however, the fact that the business of respondent (assuming it can
be engaged in independently of the practice of law) involves
knowledge of the law does not necessarily make respondent guilty
of unlawful practice of law.
. . . . Of necessity, no one . . . . acting as a consultant can
render effective service unless he is familiar with such
statutes and regulations. He must be careful not to suggest
a course of conduct which the law forbids. It seems . . .
.clear that (the consultant's) knowledge of the law, and his
use of that knowledge as a factor in determining what
measures he shall recommend, do not constitute the
practice of law . . . . It is not only presumed that all men
know the law, but it is a fact that most men have
considerable acquaintance with broad features of the
law . . . . Our knowledge of the law accurate or
inaccurate moulds our conduct not only when we are
acting for ourselves, but when we are serving others.
Bankers, liquor dealers and laymen generally possess
rather precise knowledge of the laws touching their
particular business or profession. A good example is the
architect, who must be familiar with zoning, building and
fire prevention codes, factory and tenement house
statutes, and who draws plans and specification in
harmony with the law. This is not practicing law.
But suppose the architect, asked by his client to omit a fire
tower, replies that it is required by the statute. Or the
industrial relations expert cites, in support of some
measure that he recommends, a decision of the National
Labor Relations Board. Are they practicing law? In my
opinion, they are not, provided no separate fee is charged
for the legal advice or information, and the legal question
is subordinate and incidental to a major non-legal problem.
It is largely a matter of degree and of custom.
If it were usual for one intending to erect a building on his
land to engage a lawyer to advise him and the architect in
respect to the building code and the like, then an architect
who performed this function would probably be considered
81

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SET
to be trespassing on territory reserved for licensed
attorneys. Likewise, if the industrial relations field had been
pre-empted by lawyers, or custom placed a lawyer always
at the elbow of the lay personnel man. But this is not the
case. The most important body of the industrial relations
experts are the officers and business agents of the labor
unions and few of them are lawyers. Among the larger
corporate employers, it has been the practice for some
years to delegate special responsibility in employee
matters to a management group chosen for their practical
knowledge and skill in such matter, and without regard to
legal thinking or lack of it. More recently, consultants like
the defendants have the same service that the larger
employers get from their own specialized staff.
The handling of industrial relations is growing into a
recognized profession for which appropriate courses are
offered by our leading universities. The court should be
very cautious about declaring [that] a widespread, wellestablished method of conducting business is unlawful, or
that the considerable class of men who customarily
perform a certain function have no right to do so, or that
the technical education given by our schools cannot be
used by the graduates in their business.
In determining whether a man is practicing law, we should
consider his work for any particular client or customer, as a
whole. I can imagine defendant being engaged primarily to
advise as to the law defining his client's obligations to his
employees, to guide his client's obligations to his
employees, to guide his client along the path charted by
law. This, of course, would be the practice of the law. But
such is not the fact in the case before me. Defendant's
primarily efforts are along economic and psychological
lines. The law only provides the frame within which he
must work, just as the zoning code limits the kind of
building the limits the kind of building the architect may
plan. The incidental legal advice or information defendant
may give, does not transform his activities into the
practice of law. Let me add that if, even as a minor feature
of his work, he performed services which are customarily
reserved to members of the bar, he would be practicing
law. For instance, if as part of a welfare program, he drew
employees' wills.

Compiled by: Angel Sy

Another branch of defendant's work is the representations


of the employer in the adjustment of grievances and in
collective bargaining, with or without a mediator. This is
not per se the practice of law. Anyone may use an agent
for negotiations and may select an agent particularly
skilled in the subject under discussion, and the person
appointed is free to accept the employment whether or not
he is a member of the bar. Here, however, there may be an
exception where the business turns on a question of law.
Most real estate sales are negotiated by brokers who are
not lawyers. But if the value of the land depends on a
disputed right-of-way and the principal role of the
negotiator is to assess the probable outcome of the dispute
and persuade the opposite party to the same opinion, then
it may be that only a lawyer can accept the assignment. Or
if a controversy between an employer and his men grows
from differing interpretations of a contract, or of a statute,
it is quite likely that defendant should not handle it. But I
need not reach a definite conclusion here, since the
situation is not presented by the proofs.
Defendant also appears to represent the employer before
administrative agencies of the federal government,
especially before trial examiners of the National Labor
Relations Board. An agency of the federal government,
acting by virtue of an authority granted by the Congress,
may regulate the representation of parties before such
agency. The State of New Jersey is without power to
interfere
with
such
determination
or
to
forbid
representation before the agency by one whom the agency
admits. The rules of the National Labor Relations Board
give to a party the right to appear in person, or by counsel,
or by other representative. Rules and Regulations,
September 11th, 1946, S. 203.31. 'Counsel' here means a
licensed attorney, and ther representative' one not a
lawyer. In this phase of his work, defendant may lawfully do
whatever the Labor Board allows, even arguing questions
purely legal. (Auerbacher v. Wood, 53 A. 2d 800, cited in
Statsky, Introduction to Paralegalism [1974], at pp. 154156.).
1.8 From the foregoing, it can be said that a person engaged in a
lawful calling (which may involve knowledge of the law) is not
engaged in the practice of law provided that:

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(a) The legal question is subordinate and incidental to a major
non-legal problem;.
(b) The services performed are not customarily reserved to
members of the bar; .
(c) No separate fee is charged for the legal advice or information.
All these must be considered in relation to the work for any
particular client as a whole.
1.9. If the person involved is both lawyer and non-lawyer, the Code
of Professional Responsibility succintly states the rule of conduct:
Rule 15.08 A lawyer who is engaged in another profession or
occupation concurrently with the practice of law shall make clear to
his client whether he is acting as a lawyer or in another capacity.
1.10. In the present case. the Legal Clinic appears to render
wedding services (See Annex "A" Petition). Services on routine,
straightforward marriages, like securing a marriage license, and
making arrangements with a priest or a judge, may not constitute
practice of law. However, if the problem is as complicated as that
described in "Rx for Legal Problems" on the Sharon Cuneta-Gabby
Concepcion-Richard Gomez case, then what may be involved is
actually the practice of law. If a non-lawyer, such as the Legal
Clinic, renders such services then it is engaged in the unauthorized
practice of law.
1.11. The Legal Clinic also appears to give information on divorce,
absence, annulment of marriage and visas (See Annexes "A" and
"B" Petition). Purely giving informational materials may not
constitute of law. The business is similar to that of a bookstore
where the customer buys materials on the subject and determines
on the subject and determines by himself what courses of action to
take.
It is not entirely improbable, however, that aside from purely giving
information, the Legal Clinic's paralegals may apply the law to the
particular problem of the client, and give legal advice. Such would
constitute unauthorized practice of law.
It cannot be claimed that the publication of a legal text
which publication of a legal text which purports to say what
the law is amount to legal practice. And the mere fact that
the principles or rules stated in the text may be accepted
by a particular reader as a solution to his problem does not

Compiled by: Angel Sy

affect this. . . . . Apparently it is urged that the conjoining of


these two, that is, the text and the forms, with advice as to
how the forms should be filled out, constitutes the unlawful
practice of law. But that is the situation with many
approved and accepted texts. Dacey's book is sold to the
public at large. There is no personal contact or relationship
with a particular individual. Nor does there exist that
relation of confidence and trust so necessary to the status
of attorney and client. THIS IS THE ESSENTIAL OF LEGAL
PRACTICE THE REPRESENTATION AND ADVISING OF A
PARTICULAR PERSON IN A PARTICULAR SITUATION. At most
the book assumes to offer general advice on common
problems, and does not purport to give personal advice on
a specific problem peculiar to a designated or readily
identified person. Similarly the defendant's publication
does not purport to give personal advice on a specific
problem peculiar to a designated or readily identified
person in a particular situation in their publication and
sale of the kits, such publication and sale did not
constitutes the unlawful practice of law . . . . There being
no legal impediment under the statute to the sale of the
kit, there was no proper basis for the injunction against
defendant maintaining an office for the purpose of selling
to persons seeking a divorce, separation, annulment or
separation agreement any printed material or writings
relating to matrimonial law or the prohibition in the
memorandum of modification of the judgment against
defendant having an interest in any publishing house
publishing his manuscript on divorce and against his
having any personal contact with any prospective
purchaser. The record does fully support, however, the
finding that for the change of $75 or $100 for the kit, the
defendant gave legal advice in the course of personal
contacts concerning particular problems which might arise
in the preparation and presentation of the purchaser's
asserted matrimonial cause of action or pursuit of other
legal remedies and assistance in the preparation of
necessary documents (The injunction therefore sought to)
enjoin conduct constituting the practice of law, particularly
with reference to the giving of advice and counsel by the
defendant relating to specific problems of particular
individuals in connection with a divorce, separation,
annulment of separation agreement sought and should be
affirmed. (State v. Winder, 348, NYS 2D 270 [1973], cited in
Statsky, supra at p. 101.).

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1.12. Respondent, of course, states that its services are "strictly
non-diagnostic, non-advisory. "It is not controverted, however, that
if the services "involve giving legal advice or counselling," such
would constitute practice of law (Comment, par. 6.2). It is in this
light that FIDA submits that a factual inquiry may be necessary for
the judicious disposition of this case.
xxx xxx xxx
2.10. Annex "A" may be ethically objectionable in that it can give
the impression (or perpetuate the wrong notion) that there is a
secret marriage. With all the solemnities, formalities and other
requisites of marriages (See Articles 2, et seq., Family Code), no
Philippine marriage can be secret.
2.11. Annex "B" may likewise be ethically objectionable. The
second paragraph thereof (which is not necessarily related to the
first paragraph) fails to state the limitation that only "paralegal
services?" or "legal support services", and not legal services, are
available." 11
A prefatory discussion on the meaning of the phrase "practice of law"
becomes exigent for the proper determination of the issues raised by the
petition at bar. On this score, we note that the clause "practice of law" has
long been the subject of judicial construction and interpretation. The courts
have laid down general principles and doctrines explaining the meaning
and scope of the term, some of which we now take into account.
Practice of law means any activity, in or out of court, which requires the
application of law, legal procedures, knowledge, training and experience.
To engage in the practice of law is to perform those acts which are
characteristic of the profession. Generally, to practice law is to give advice
or render any kind of service that involves legal knowledge or skill. 12
The practice of law is not limited to the conduct of cases in court. It
includes legal advice and counsel, and the preparation of legal instruments
and contract by which legal rights are secured, although such matter may
or may not be pending in a court. 13
In the practice of his profession, a licensed attorney at law generally
engages in three principal types of professional activity: legal advice and
instructions to clients to inform them of their rights and obligations,
preparation for clients of documents requiring knowledge of legal principles
not possessed by ordinary layman, and appearance for clients before
public tribunals which possess power and authority to determine rights of

Compiled by: Angel Sy

life, liberty, and property according to law, in order to assist in proper


interpretation and enforcement of law. 14
When a person participates in the a trial and advertises himself as a
lawyer, he is in the practice of law. 15 One who confers with clients, advises
them as to their legal rights and then takes the business to an attorney
and asks the latter to look after the case in court, is also practicing
law. 16 Giving advice for compensation regarding the legal status and rights
of another and the conduct with respect thereto constitutes a practice of
law. 17 One who renders an opinion as to the proper interpretation of a
statute, and receives pay for it, is, to that extent, practicing law. 18
In the recent case of Cayetano vs. Monsod, 19 after citing the doctrines in
several cases, we laid down the test to determine whether certain acts
constitute "practice of law," thus:
Black defines "practice of law" as:
The rendition of services requiring the knowledge and the
application of legal principles and technique to serve the interest of
another with his consent. It is not limited to appearing in court, or
advising and assisting in the conduct of litigation, but embraces
the preparation of pleadings, and other papers incident to actions
and special proceedings, conveyancing, the preparation of legal
instruments of all kinds, and the giving of all legal advice to clients.
It embraces all advice to clients and all actions taken for them in
matters connected with the law.
The practice of law is not limited to the conduct of cases on court.(Land
Title Abstract and Trust Co. v. Dworken , 129 Ohio St. 23, 193N. E. 650). A
person is also considered to be in the practice of law when he:
. . . . for valuable consideration engages in the business of advising
person, firms, associations or corporations as to their right under
the law, or appears in a representative capacity as an advocate in
proceedings, pending or prospective, before any court,
commissioner, referee, board, body, committee, or commission
constituted by law or authorized to settle controversies and there,
in such representative capacity, performs any act or acts for the
purpose of obtaining or defending the rights of their clients under
the law. Otherwise stated, one who, in a representative capacity,
engages in the business of advising clients as to their rights under
the law, or while so engaged performs any act or acts either in
court or outside of court for that purpose, is engaged in the
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1st

practice of law. (State ex. rel. Mckittrick v. C.S. Dudley and Co., 102
S. W. 2d 895, 340 Mo. 852).

Rhode Is. Bar Assoc. v. Automobile Service Assoc. [R.I.] 197 A. 139,
144).

This Court, in the case of Philippines Lawyers Association v. Agrava (105


Phil. 173, 176-177),stated:

The practice of law, therefore, covers a wide range of activities in and out
of court. Applying the aforementioned criteria to the case at bar, we agree
with the perceptive findings and observations of the aforestated bar
associations that the activities of respondent, as advertised, constitute
"practice of law."

The practice of law is not limited to the conduct of cases or


litigation in court; it embraces the preparation of pleadings and
other papers incident to actions and special proceedings, the
management of such actions and proceedings on behalf of clients
before judges and courts, and in addition, conveying. In general, all
advice to clients, and all action taken for them in matters
connected with the law incorporation services, assessment and
condemnation services contemplating an appearance before a
judicial body, the foreclosure of a mortgage, enforcement of a
creditor's claim in bankruptcy and insolvency proceedings, and
conducting proceedings in attachment, and in matters or estate
and guardianship have been held to constitute law practice, as do
the preparation and drafting of legal instruments, where the work
done involves the determination by the trained legal mind of the
legal effect of facts and conditions. (5 Am. Jr. p. 262, 263).
Practice of law under modern conditions consists in no small part of
work performed outside of any court and having no immediate
relation to proceedings in court. It embraces conveyancing, the
giving of legal advice on a large variety of subjects and the
preparation and execution of legal instruments covering an
extensive field of business and trust relations and other affairs.
Although these transactions may have no direct connection with
court proceedings, they are always subject to become involved in
litigation. They require in many aspects a high degree of legal skill,
a wide experience with men and affairs, and great capacity for
adaptation to difficult and complex situations. These customary
functions of an attorney or counselor at law bear an intimate
relation to the administration of justice by the courts. No valid
distinction, so far as concerns the question set forth in the order,
can be drawn between that part of the work of the lawyer which
involves appearance in court and that part which involves advice
and drafting of instruments in his office. It is of importance to the
welfare of the public that these manifold customary functions be
performed by persons possessed of adequate learning and skill, of
sound moral character, and acting at all times under the heavy
trust obligations to clients which rests upon all attorneys. (Moran,
Comments on the Rules o Court, Vol. 3 [1973 ed.], pp. 665-666,
citing In Re Opinion of the Justices [Mass], 194 N. E. 313, quoted in

Compiled by: Angel Sy

The contention of respondent that it merely offers legal support services


can neither be seriously considered nor sustained. Said proposition is
belied by respondent's own description of the services it has been offering,
to wit:
Legal support services basically consists of giving ready
information by trained paralegals to laymen and lawyers, which are
strictly non-diagnostic, non-advisory, through the extensive use of
computers and modern information technology in the gathering,
processing, storage, transmission and reproduction of information
and communication, such as computerized legal research;
encoding and reproduction of documents and pleadings prepared
by laymen or lawyers; document search; evidence gathering;
locating parties or witnesses to a case; fact finding investigations;
and assistance to laymen in need of basic institutional services
from government or non-government agencies, like birth, marriage,
property, or business registrations; educational or employment
records or certifications, obtaining documentation like clearances,
passports, local or foreign visas; giving information about laws of
other countries that they may find useful, like foreign divorce,
marriage or adoption laws that they can avail of preparatory to
emigration to the foreign country, and other matters that do not
involve representation of clients in court; designing and installing
computer systems, programs, or software for the efficient
management of law offices, corporate legal departments, courts
and other entities engaged in dispensing or administering legal
services. 20
While some of the services being offered by respondent corporation merely
involve mechanical and technical knowhow, such as the installation of
computer systems and programs for the efficient management of law
offices, or the computerization of research aids and materials, these will
not suffice to justify an exception to the general rule.
What is palpably clear is that respondent corporation gives out legal
information to laymen and lawyers. Its contention that such function is
non-advisory and non-diagnostic is more apparent than real. In providing
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Legal Ethics
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information, for example, about foreign laws on marriage, divorce and
adoption, it strains the credulity of this Court that all the respondent
corporation will simply do is look for the law, furnish a copy thereof to the
client, and stop there as if it were merely a bookstore. With its attorneys
and so called paralegals, it will necessarily have to explain to the client the
intricacies of the law and advise him or her on the proper course of action
to be taken as may be provided for by said law. That is what its
advertisements represent and for the which services it will consequently
charge and be paid. That activity falls squarely within the jurisprudential
definition of "practice of law." Such a conclusion will not be altered by the
fact that respondent corporation does not represent clients in court since
law practice, as the weight of authority holds, is not limited merely giving
legal advice, contract drafting and so forth.
The aforesaid conclusion is further strengthened by an article published in
the January 13, 1991 issue of the Starweek/The Sunday Magazine of the
Philippines Star, entitled "Rx for Legal Problems," where an insight into the
structure, main purpose and operations of respondent corporation was
given by its own "proprietor," Atty. Rogelio P. Nogales:
This is the kind of business that is transacted everyday at The
Legal Clinic, with offices on the seventh floor of the Victoria
Building along U. N. Avenue in Manila. No matter what the client's
problem, and even if it is as complicated as the Cuneta-Concepcion
domestic situation, Atty. Nogales and his staff of lawyers, who, like
doctors are "specialists" in various fields can take care of it. The
Legal Clinic, Inc. has specialists in taxation and criminal law,
medico-legal problems, labor, litigation, and family law. These
specialist are backed up by a battery of paralegals, counsellors and
attorneys.
Atty. Nogales set up The Legal Clinic in 1984. Inspired by the trend
in the medical field toward specialization, it caters to clients who
cannot afford the services of the big law firms.
The Legal Clinic has regular and walk-in clients. "when they come,
we start by analyzing the problem. That's what doctors do also.
They ask you how you contracted what's bothering you, they take
your temperature, they observe you for the symptoms and so on.
That's how we operate, too. And once the problem has been
categorized, then it's referred to one of our specialists.
There are cases which do not, in medical terms, require surgery or
follow-up treatment. These The Legal Clinic disposes of in a matter
of minutes. "Things like preparing a simple deed of sale or an
affidavit of loss can be taken care of by our staff or, if this were a

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1st
hospital the residents or the interns. We can take care of these
matters on a while you wait basis. Again, kung baga sa hospital,
out-patient, hindi kailangang ma-confine. It's just like a common
cold or diarrhea," explains Atty. Nogales.
Those cases which requires more extensive "treatment" are dealt
with accordingly. "If you had a rich relative who died and named
you her sole heir, and you stand to inherit millions of pesos of
property, we would refer you to a specialist in taxation. There
would be real estate taxes and arrears which would need to be put
in order, and your relative is even taxed by the state for the right
to transfer her property, and only a specialist in taxation would be
properly trained to deal with the problem. Now, if there were other
heirs contesting your rich relatives will, then you would need a
litigator, who knows how to arrange the problem for presentation in
court, and gather evidence to support the case. 21
That fact that the corporation employs paralegals to carry out its services
is not controlling. What is important is that it is engaged in the practice of
law by virtue of the nature of the services it renders which thereby brings it
within the ambit of the statutory prohibitions against the advertisements
which it has caused to be published and are now assailed in this
proceeding.
Further, as correctly and appropriately pointed out by the U.P. WILOCI, said
reported facts sufficiently establish that the main purpose of respondent is
to serve as a one-stop-shop of sorts for various legal problems wherein a
client may avail of legal services from simple documentation to complex
litigation and corporate undertakings. Most of these services are
undoubtedly beyond the domain of paralegals, but rather, are exclusive
functions of lawyers engaged in the practice of law. 22
It should be noted that in our jurisdiction the services being offered by
private respondent which constitute practice of law cannot be performed
by paralegals. Only a person duly admitted as a member of the bar, or
hereafter admitted as such in accordance with the provisions of the Rules
of Court, and who is in good and regular standing, is entitled to practice
law. 23
Public policy requires that the practice of law be limited to those individuals
found duly qualified in education and character. The permissive right
conferred on the lawyers is an individual and limited privilege subject to
withdrawal if he fails to maintain proper standards of moral and
professional conduct. The purpose is to protect the public, the court, the
client and the bar from the incompetence or dishonesty of those
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unlicensed to practice law and not subject to the disciplinary control of the
court. 24
The same rule is observed in the american jurisdiction wherefrom
respondent would wish to draw support for his thesis. The doctrines there
also stress that the practice of law is limited to those who meet the
requirements for, and have been admitted to, the bar, and various statutes
or rules specifically so provide. 25 The practice of law is not a lawful
business except for members of the bar who have complied with all the
conditions required by statute and the rules of court. Only those persons
are allowed to practice law who, by reason of attainments previously
acquired through education and study, have been recognized by the courts
as possessing profound knowledge of legal science entitling them to
advise, counsel with, protect, or defend the rights claims, or liabilities of
their clients, with respect to the construction, interpretation, operation and
effect of law. 26 The justification for excluding from the practice of law
those not admitted to the bar is found, not in the protection of the bar from
competition, but in the protection of the public from being advised and
represented in legal matters by incompetent and unreliable persons over
whom the judicial department can exercise little control. 27
We have to necessarily and definitely reject respondent's position that the
concept in the United States of paralegals as an occupation separate from
the law profession be adopted in this jurisdiction. Whatever may be its
merits, respondent cannot but be aware that this should first be a matter
for judicial rules or legislative action, and not of unilateral adoption as it
has done.
Paralegals in the United States are trained professionals. As admitted by
respondent, there are schools and universities there which offer studies
and degrees in paralegal education, while there are none in the
Philippines. 28As the concept of the "paralegals" or "legal assistant"
evolved in the United States, standards and guidelines also evolved to
protect the general public. One of the major standards or guidelines was
developed by the American Bar Association which set up Guidelines for the
Approval of Legal Assistant Education Programs (1973). Legislation has
even been proposed to certify legal assistants. There are also associations
of paralegals in the United States with their own code of professional
ethics, such as the National Association of Legal Assistants, Inc. and the
American Paralegal Association. 29

In the Philippines, we still have a restricted concept and limited acceptance


of what may be considered as paralegal service. As pointed out by FIDA,
some persons not duly licensed to practice law are or have been allowed
limited representation in behalf of another or to render legal services, but
such allowable services are limited in scope and extent by the law, rules or
regulations granting permission therefor. 30
Accordingly, we have adopted the American judicial policy that, in the
absence of constitutional or statutory authority, a person who has not been
admitted as an attorney cannot practice law for the proper administration
of justice cannot be hindered by the unwarranted intrusion of an
unauthorized and unskilled person into the practice of law. 31 That policy
should continue to be one of encouraging persons who are unsure of their
legal rights and remedies to seek legal assistance only from persons
licensed to practice law in the state. 32
Anent the issue on the validity of the questioned advertisements, the Code
of Professional Responsibility provides that a lawyer in making known his
legal services shall use only true, honest, fair, dignified and objective
information or statement of facts. 33 He is not supposed to use or permit
the use of any false, fraudulent, misleading, deceptive, undignified, selflaudatory or unfair statement or claim regarding his qualifications or legal
services. 34 Nor shall he pay or give something of value to representatives
of the mass media in anticipation of, or in return for, publicity to attract
legal business. 35 Prior to the adoption of the code of Professional
Responsibility, the Canons of Professional Ethics had also warned that
lawyers should not resort to indirect advertisements for professional
employment, such as furnishing or inspiring newspaper comments, or
procuring his photograph to be published in connection with causes in
which the lawyer has been or is engaged or concerning the manner of their
conduct, the magnitude of the interest involved, the importance of the
lawyer's position, and all other like self-laudation. 36
The standards of the legal profession condemn the lawyer's advertisement
of his talents. A lawyer cannot, without violating the ethics of his
profession. advertise his talents or skill as in a manner similar to a
merchant advertising his goods. 37 The prescription against advertising of
legal services or solicitation of legal business rests on the fundamental
postulate that the that the practice of law is a profession. Thus, in the case
of The Director of Religious Affairs. vs. Estanislao R. Bayot 38 an
advertisement, similar to those of respondent which are involved in the
present proceeding, 39 was held to constitute improper advertising or
solicitation.
The pertinent part of the decision therein reads:

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It is undeniable that the advertisement in question was a flagrant
violation by the respondent of the ethics of his profession, it being
a brazen solicitation of business from the public. Section 25 of Rule
127 expressly provides among other things that "the practice of
soliciting cases at law for the purpose of gain, either personally or
thru paid agents or brokers, constitutes malpractice." It is highly
unethical for an attorney to advertise his talents or skill as a
merchant advertises his wares. Law is a profession and not a trade.
The lawyer degrades himself and his profession who stoops to and
adopts the practices of mercantilism by advertising his services or
offering them to the public. As a member of the bar, he defiles the
temple of justice with mercenary activities as the money-changers
of old defiled the temple of Jehovah. "The most worthy and
effective advertisement possible, even for a young lawyer, . . . . is
the establishment of a well-merited reputation for professional
capacity and fidelity to trust. This cannot be forced but must be the
outcome of character and conduct." (Canon 27, Code of Ethics.).
We repeat, the canon of the profession tell us that the best advertising
possible for a lawyer is a well-merited reputation for professional capacity
and fidelity to trust, which must be earned as the outcome of character
and conduct. Good and efficient service to a client as well as to the
community has a way of publicizing itself and catching public attention.
That publicity is a normal by-product of effective service which is right and
proper. A good and reputable lawyer needs no artificial stimulus to
generate it and to magnify his success. He easily sees the difference
between a normal by-product of able service and the unwholesome result
of propaganda. 40
Of course, not all types of advertising or solicitation are prohibited. The
canons of the profession enumerate exceptions to the rule against
advertising or solicitation and define the extent to which they may be
undertaken. The exceptions are of two broad categories, namely, those
which are expressly allowed and those which are necessarily implied from
the restrictions. 41
The first of such exceptions is the publication in reputable law lists, in a
manner consistent with the standards of conduct imposed by the canons,
of brief biographical and informative data. "Such data must not be
misleading and may include only a statement of the lawyer's name and the
names of his professional associates; addresses, telephone numbers, cable
addresses; branches of law practiced; date and place of birth and
admission to the bar; schools attended with dates of graduation, degrees
and other educational distinction; public or quasi-public offices; posts of
honor; legal authorships; legal teaching positions; membership and offices
in bar associations and committees thereof, in legal and scientific societies

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and legal fraternities; the fact of listings in other reputable law lists; the
names and addresses of references; and, with their written consent, the
names of clients regularly represented." 42
The law list must be a reputable law list published primarily for that
purpose; it cannot be a mere supplemental feature of a paper, magazine,
trade journal or periodical which is published principally for other purposes.
For that reason, a lawyer may not properly publish his brief biographical
and informative data in a daily paper, magazine, trade journal or society
program. Nor may a lawyer permit his name to be published in a law list
the conduct, management or contents of which are calculated or likely to
deceive or injure the public or the bar, or to lower the dignity or standing of
the profession. 43
The use of an ordinary simple professional card is also permitted. The card
may contain only a statement of his name, the name of the law firm which
he is connected with, address, telephone number and special branch of law
practiced. The publication of a simple announcement of the opening of a
law firm or of changes in the partnership, associates, firm name or office
address, being for the convenience of the profession, is not objectionable.
He may likewise have his name listed in a telephone directory but not
under a designation of special branch of law. 44
Verily, taking into consideration the nature and contents of the
advertisements for which respondent is being taken to task, which even
includes a quotation of the fees charged by said respondent corporation for
services rendered, we find and so hold that the same definitely do not and
conclusively cannot fall under any of the above-mentioned exceptions.
The ruling in the case of Bates, et al. vs. State Bar of Arizona, 45 which is
repeatedly invoked and constitutes the justification relied upon by
respondent, is obviously not applicable to the case at bar. Foremost is the
fact that the disciplinary rule involved in said case explicitly allows a
lawyer, as an exception to the prohibition against advertisements by
lawyers, to publish a statement of legal fees for an initial consultation or
the availability upon request of a written schedule of fees or an estimate of
the fee to be charged for the specific services. No such exception is
provided for, expressly or impliedly, whether in our former Canons of
Professional Ethics or the present Code of Professional Responsibility.
Besides, even the disciplinary rule in the Bates case contains a proviso that
the exceptions stated therein are "not applicable in any state unless and
until it is implemented by such authority in that state." 46 This goes to show
that an exception to the general rule, such as that being invoked by herein
respondent, can be made only if and when the canons expressly provide
for such an exception. Otherwise, the prohibition stands, as in the case at
bar.
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It bears mention that in a survey conducted by the American Bar
Association after the decision in Bates, on the attitude of the public about
lawyers after viewing television commercials, it was found that public
opinion dropped significantly 47 with respect to these characteristics of
lawyers:
Trustworthy from 71% to 14%
Professional from 71% to 14%
Honest from 65% to 14%
Dignified from 45% to 14%
Secondly, it is our firm belief that with the present situation of our legal
and judicial systems, to allow the publication of advertisements of the kind
used by respondent would only serve to aggravate what is already a
deteriorating public opinion of the legal profession whose integrity has
consistently been under attack lately by media and the community in
general. At this point in time, it is of utmost importance in the face of such
negative, even if unfair, criticisms at times, to adopt and maintain that
level of professional conduct which is beyond reproach, and to exert all
efforts to regain the high esteem formerly accorded to the legal profession.

charter, in light of the putative misuse thereof. That spin-off from the
instant bar matter is referred to the Solicitor General for such action as
may be necessary under the circumstances.
ACCORDINGLY, the Court Resolved to RESTRAIN and ENJOIN herein
respondent, The Legal Clinic, Inc., from issuing or causing the publication
or dissemination of any advertisement in any form which is of the same or
similar tenor and purpose as Annexes "A" and "B" of this petition, and from
conducting, directly or indirectly, any activity, operation or transaction
proscribed by law or the Code of Professional Ethics as indicated herein. Let
copies of this resolution be furnished the Integrated Bar of the Philippines,
the Office of the Bar Confidant and the Office of the Solicitor General for
appropriate action in accordance herewith.

In sum, it is undoubtedly a misbehavior on the part of the lawyer, subject


to disciplinary action, to advertise his services except in allowable
instances 48 or to aid a layman in the unauthorized practice of
law. 49 Considering that Atty. Rogelio P. Nogales, who is the prime
incorporator, major stockholder and proprietor of The Legal Clinic, Inc. is a
member of the Philippine Bar, he is hereby reprimanded, with a warning
that a repetition of the same or similar acts which are involved in this
proceeding will be dealt with more severely.
While we deem it necessary that the question as to the legality or illegality
of the purpose/s for which the Legal Clinic, Inc. was created should be
passed upon and determined, we are constrained to refrain from lapsing
into an obiter on that aspect since it is clearly not within the adjudicative
parameters of the present proceeding which is merely administrative in
nature. It is, of course, imperative that this matter be promptly determined,
albeit in a different proceeding and forum, since, under the present state of
our law and jurisprudence, a corporation cannot be organized for or
engage in the practice of law in this country. This interdiction, just like the
rule against unethical advertising, cannot be subverted by employing some
so-called paralegals supposedly rendering the alleged support services.
The remedy for the apparent breach of this prohibition by respondent is the
concern and province of the Solicitor General who can institute the
corresponding quo warranto action, 50 after due ascertainment of the
factual background and basis for the grant of respondent's corporate

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reconsideration on September 24, 1987 but this was denied in the


Resolution of October 27, 1987.

G.R. No. 80718 January 29, 1988


FELIZA P. DE ROY and VIRGILIO RAMOS, petitioners, vs. COURT OF
APPEALS and LUIS BERNAL, SR., GLENIA BERNAL, LUIS BERNAL,
JR., HEIRS OF MARISSA BERNAL, namely, GLICERIA DELA CRUZ
BERNAL and LUIS BERNAL, SR., respondents.

This Court finds that the Court of Appeals did not commit a grave abuse of
discretion when it denied petitioners' motion for extension of time to file a
motion for reconsideration, directed entry of judgment and denied their
motion for reconsideration. It correctly applied the rule laid down
in Habaluyas Enterprises, Inc. v. Japzon, [G.R. No. 70895, August 5,
1985,138 SCRA 461, that the fifteen-day period for appealing or for filing a
motion for reconsideration cannot be extended. In its Resolution denying
the motion for reconsideration, promulgated on July 30, 1986 (142 SCRA
208), this Court en banc restated and clarified the rule, to wit:

CORTES, J.:
This special civil action for certiorari seeks to declare null and void two (2)
resolutions of the Special First Division of the Court of Appeals in the case
of Luis Bernal, Sr., et al. v. Felisa Perdosa De Roy, et al., CA-G.R. CV No.
07286. The first resolution promulgated on 30 September 1987 denied
petitioners' motion for extension of time to file a motion for reconsideration
and directed entry of judgment since the decision in said case had become
final; and the second Resolution dated 27 October 1987 denied petitioners'
motion for reconsideration for having been filed out of time.
At the outset, this Court could have denied the petition
being verified as required by Rule 65 section 1 of the
However, even if the instant petition did not suffer from
Court, on procedural and substantive grounds, would still
it.

outright for not


Rules of Court.
this defect, this
resolve to deny

The facts of the case are undisputed. The firewall of a burned-out building
owned by petitioners collapsed and destroyed the tailoring shop occupied
by the family of private respondents, resulting in injuries to private
respondents and the death of Marissa Bernal, a daughter. Private
respondents had been warned by petitioners to vacate their shop in view of
its proximity to the weakened wall but the former failed to do so. On the
basis of the foregoing facts, the Regional Trial Court. First Judicial Region,
Branch XXXVIII, presided by the Hon. Antonio M. Belen, rendered judgment
finding petitioners guilty of gross negligence and awarding damages to
private respondents. On appeal, the decision of the trial court was affirmed
in toto by the Court of Appeals in a decision promulgated on August 17,
1987, a copy of which was received by petitioners on August 25, 1987. On
September 9, 1987, the last day of the fifteen-day period to file an appeal,
petitioners filed a motion for extension of time to file a motion for
reconsideration, which was eventually denied by the appellate court in the
Resolution of September 30, 1987. Petitioners filed their motion for

Compiled by: Angel Sy

Beginning one month after the promulgation of this Resolution, the rule
shall be strictly enforced that no motion for extension of time to file a
motion for reconsideration may be filed with the Metropolitan or Municipal
Trial Courts, the Regional Trial Courts, and the Intermediate Appellate
Court. Such a motion may be filed only in cases pending with the Supreme
Court as the court of last resort, which may in its sound discretion either
grant or deny the extension requested. (at p. 212)
Lacsamana v. Second Special Cases Division of the intermediate Appellate
Court, [G.R. No. 73146-53, August 26, 1986, 143 SCRA 643], reiterated the
rule and went further to restate and clarify the modes and periods of
appeal.
Bacaya v. Intermediate Appellate Court, [G.R. No. 74824, Sept. 15,
1986,144 SCRA 161],stressed the prospective application of said rule, and
explained the operation of the grace period, to wit:
In other words, there is a one-month grace period from the
promulgation on May 30, 1986 of the Court's Resolution in the
clarificatory Habaluyas case, or up to June 30, 1986, within which
the rule barring extensions of time to file motions for new trial or
reconsideration is, as yet, not strictly enforceable.
Since petitioners herein filed their motion for extension on
February 27, 1986, it is still within the grace period, which expired
on June 30, 1986, and may still be allowed.
This grace period was also applied in Mission v. Intermediate Appellate
Court [G.R. No. 73669, October 28, 1986, 145 SCRA 306].]
In the instant case, however, petitioners' motion for extension of time was
filed on September 9, 1987, more than a year after the expiration of the
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grace period on June 30, 1986. Hence, it is no longer within the coverage of
the grace period. Considering the length of time from the expiration of the
grace period to the promulgation of the decision of the Court of Appeals on
August 25, 1987, petitioners cannot seek refuge in the ignorance of their
counsel regarding said rule for their failure to file a motion for
reconsideration within the reglementary period.
Petitioners contend that the rule enunciated in the Habaluyas case should
not be made to apply to the case at bar owing to the non-publication of
the Habaluyas decision in the Official Gazette as of the time the subject
decision of the Court of Appeals was promulgated. Contrary to petitioners'
view, there is no law requiring the publication of Supreme Court decisions
in the Official Gazette before they can be binding and as a condition to
their becoming effective. It is the bounden duty of counsel as lawyer in
active law practice to keep abreast of decisions of the Supreme Court
particularly where issues have been clarified, consistently reiterated, and
published in the advance reports of Supreme Court decisions (G. R. s) and
in such publications as the Supreme Court Reports Annotated (SCRA) and
law journals.
This Court likewise finds that the Court of Appeals committed no grave
abuse of discretion in affirming the trial court's decision holding petitioner
liable under Article 2190 of the Civil Code, which provides that "the
proprietor of a building or structure is responsible for the damage resulting
from its total or partial collapse, if it should be due to the lack of necessary
repairs.
Nor was there error in rejecting petitioners argument that private
respondents had the "last clear chance" to avoid the accident if only they
heeded the. warning to vacate the tailoring shop and , therefore,
petitioners prior negligence should be disregarded, since the doctrine of
"last clear chance," which has been applied to vehicular accidents, is
inapplicable to this case.
WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the Court Resolved to DENY the
instant petition for lack of merit.

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After a cockfight held at the Imus, Cavite cockpit on July 19, 1981,
complainant Abad and one Potenciano Ponce had a verbal tussle which
culminated in Abad's being shot in the chest by Francisco Sabater, Jr., an
alleged bodyguard of Ponce. Sabater, was charged with frustrated
homicide and Potenciano Ponce with attempted homicide before the
Regional Trial Court where the respondent presides.

CRISANTO P. CRUZ, complainant, vs. HON. JUDGE ILDEFONSO M.


BLEZA, RTC of Bacoor, Cavite, respondent.

The prosecution alleged that during the aforementioned cockfight, Abad's


gamecock lost to the one owned by Ponce. A remark by Ponce that
complainant's cock was weak and lacked more care (mahina, kulang sa
alaga) led to a heated argument between the two but they were pacified
by certain local officials Abad then went to the cockpitcarinderia to take a
snack. Ponce followed him shouting, "Where is the Colonel, walang Colonel
Colonel sa akin, papatayin ko yan, babarilin ko yan." As Ponce was
approaching and holding a gun aimed at Abad, the latter grabbed a glass
and hurled it at Ponce who was hit at the head, causing him to fall down in
a sitting position. While thus seated, Ponce's gun was taken by his
bodyguard, Francisco Sabater. Jr. Abad was then advised by a certain
Captain Diaz to go home. Outside the cockpit gate, bodyguards of Ponce
approached Abad and engaged him in a fistfight. At this juncture, Francisco
Sabater, Jr., upon the order of Ponce, fired six (6) shots at Abad, the last
one hitting him on the chest, the slug exiting at the back of his right
shoulder. Abad was rushed to the Cavite Medical Center in Cavite City
where he underwent an operation. On the 4th day he was transferred to
the V. Luna Hospital at Quezon City where he was again operated on-to
remove the slug imbedded in his back. He stayed in the hospital for 123
days.

A.M. No. 5249-RET October 13, 1986

Sabater and Ponce presented a contrary version of the incident.

Application for Disability Retirement. Judge ILDEFONSO M. BLEZA,


applicant.

Potenciano Ponce testified that on his way out of the cockpit, Abad uttered
obscenities against him which he answered in kind. However, common
friends like Mayor Jamir of Imus, Barangay Captain Enrique Diaz, and
Cavite City Fiscal Gabriel pacified them. After cooling off, Ponce decided to
go home but on his way out of the main gate of the cockpit, Abad, who was
drinking beer at a carinderia, hurled invectives at him. Ponce then
approached Abad to ask for an explanation. Abad hit him on the forehead
with a bottle of beer causing him to fall down unconscious. Upon regaining
consciousness, he was brought to the Cavite Medical Center. Ponce denied
having aimed his gun at Abad, insisting that his gun was never taken out of
its holster. He also contradicted the testimony of Abad that his permit to
carry his firearm outside of his residence was no longer valid on July 19,
1981, stressing that his permit expired on November 18, 1981.

A.M. No. 227-RTJ October 13, 1986


GREGORIO R. ABAD, complainant, vs. ILDEFONSO BLEZA, respondent.
A.M. No. R-561-RTJ October 13, 1986

GUTIERREZ, JR., J.:


Two administrative cases were filed against Judge Ildefonso Bleza of the
Regional Trial Court, Branch XIX at Bacoor, Cavite, the first when he was
contemplating optional retirement due to poor health and the second, after
he had filed his application. Bleza's entitlement to disability retirement
benefits depends on the resolution of these cases.
On October 15, 1984, Lieutenant Colonel Gregorio Abad of the Philippine
Constabulary charged Judge Bleza with rendering a decision with malice,
ignorance of the law, grave abuse of discretion, and misconduct as a judge.
The complaint is docketed as Adm. Case No. R-227-RTJ.

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Francisco Sabater, Jr. testified that he was at the cockpit that same
afternoon as a bet taker or casador. He declared that at about 5:30 in that
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afternoon, he heard Abad utter the following words at Ponce: "Putang-ina
mo, Pare pipilipitin ko ang leeg mo." Ponce reacted by approaching Abad
who then took hold of a beer bottle from the table and hurled it at Ponce
hitting him on the forehead. Ponce fell down. Thereupon, Francisco
Sabater, Jr., took the gun of Ponce and as Abad refused to be pacified, he
went outside the cockpit and fired the gun five (5) times upwards to call
the attention of the authorities. When Abad approached him, holding a
broken bottle of beer and tried to stab him with it, he was forced in selfdefense to fire the gun at Abad who was hit on the chest.
On August 11, 1984, the respondent judge promulgated his decision, the
dispositive portion of which reads as follows:
WHEREFORE, in Criminal Case No. B-82-119, entitled People v.
Pontenciano Ponce y Dayacap, for Attempted Homicide, said
accused is hereby ACQUITTED for insuffiency of evidence, with cost
de oficio. The case bond posted in his favor is ordered reimbursed
to him by the Municipal Treasurer of Bacoor, Cavite.
In Criminal Case No. B-82-57, entitled People v. Francisco Sabater,
Jr. for Frustrated Homicide, said accused is hereby found guilty
beyond reasonable doubt of the offense of Frustrated Homicide as
defined and penalized under Art. 250 of the Revised Penal Code,
with the mitigating circumstances of voluntary surrender,
incomplete self-defense and without any intention to kill the victim,
without any aggravating circumstances to offset the same and
applying the Indeterminate Sentence Law as amended, he is
sentenced to suffer imprisonment ranging from four (4) months
and twenty (20) days of arresto mayor, as minimum, and to
indemnify the victim the sum of P9,750.00 for medical and hospital
expenses, without subsidiary imprisonment in case of insolvency
and to pay the cost.
It is this decision which forms the basis of Abad's complaint. On August 23,
1985, we referred this case to Associate Justice Santiago Kapunan of the
then Intermediate Appellate Court for investigation and recommendation.
The investigating Justice submitted the following recommendation:
Coming to the question of respondent's culpability of the charges
thus levelled against him on the basis of the facts, the arguments
and the applicable provisions of law, it appears inescapable that
respondent has not committed any wrongdoing to evoke
disciplinary action in acquitting Ponce of attempted homicide. The
ground for acquittal was insufficiency of evidence due to
inconsistencies of the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses
which he specifically pointed out in the decision. In addition,

Compiled by: Angel Sy

respondent found that Ponce never pulled the gun tucked at his
waist during the incident, although prosecution witnesses testified
otherwise. In the face of conflicting evidence, it is difficult to
impute dishonesty and unfairness to respondent in arriving at his
conclusion as to which side told the truth. And even if he made an
error in his perception of the facts as he saw them, it cannot be
justly presumed that he did it in bad faith or with malicious intent.
For not every error or mistake of a judge in the performance of his
duties makes him liable therefor. To hold a judge administratively
accountable for every erroneous ruling or decision he renders,
assuming that he has erred, would be nothing short of harassment
and would make his position unbearable. (Dizon v. De Borja, G.R.
Adm. Case No. 163-J, Jan. 28, 1971; Gamo v. Cruz, G.R. Adm.
Matter No. 467-NJ, October 22, 1975; Rodrigo v. Quijano, G.R. Adm.
Matter No. 731-MJ, Sept 9, 1977; Sec. of Justice v. Marcos, G.R.
Adm. Matter No, 207-J April 22, 1977). For no one called upon to try
the facts or interpret the law can be infallible in his judgment
(Paulino v. Guevarra, G.R. Adm. Matter No. 584-CJ, March 30, 1977;
Lopez v. Corpuz, G.R. Adm. Matter No. 425-MJ, Aug. 31, 1977).
Indeed, assuming that Ponce really pulled out his gun and pointed
it at Abad as he approached him, it would not be easy to fault
respondent's reasoning that Ponce had ample opportunity to fire
the gun at the victim if he had the intention to kill him. All what
Ponce had to do was to press the trigger while Abad was about to
hurl the bottle, or glass at him. On this point, Justice Luis B. Reyes'
Revised Penal Code (p. 100, 1981 ed) has this to say:
To constitute attempted homicide the person using a firearm must
fire the same, with intent to kill at the offended party, without
however inflicting a mortal wound on the latter.
On the matter of the non-imposition by respondent of subsidiary
imprisonment in case of insolvency, the decision did not mete out
the penalty of fine on Sabater. There being none, subsidiary
imprisonment could not have been imposed, pursuant to Art. 39 of
the Revised Penal Code.
Respondent, however, was in error in appreciating as a mitigating
circumstance "lack of intention to kill the victim" in fixing the
penalty imposed on Sabater.
xxx xxx xxx

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The kind of weapon used by Sabater which was a .38 revolver and
the location of the wound of Abad would undoubtedly give the
presumption that Sabater had the intent to kill and which inevitably
led respondent to convict him of the crime of frustrated. For in
attempted/frustrated homicide the offender must have the intent
to kill the victim. If there is no intent to kill on the part of the
offender he is only liable for physical injuries. Therefore, the fact
alone that respondent found Sabater guilty of the crime of
frustrated homicide would prove that he had no doubt in his mind
that Sabater had the intent to kill Abad. Respondent's appreciation
as mitigating circumstance of lack of intent to kill in favor of
Sabater is palpably out of place. Presumably, what respondent had
in mind was to consider the mitigating circumstance of lack of
intention to commit so grave a wrong as that committed under Art.
13 of the Revised Penal Code, which is different from lack of
intention to kill.
It is believed that while respondent committed an error thus
described, the same was done without malice or deliberate intent
to perpetrate an injustice. But in any case, there was negligence
for which he should be reprimanded.
ACCORDINGLY, the undersigned recommends that respondent be
reprimanded, with warning that a similar transgression in the
future will be more severely dealt with.
The recommendation is well taken although the reprimand may be
dispensed with considering the respondent's poor health and his
impending retirement.
As a matter of public policy, in the absence of fraud, dishonesty or
corruption, the acts of a judge in his judicial capacity are not subject to
disciplinary action, even though such acts are erroneous (Revita v.
Rimando, 98 SCRA 619). However, while judges should not be disciplined
for inefficiency on account merely of occasional mistakes or errors of
judgment, yet it is highly imperative that they should be conversant with
basic legal principles (Ubongon v. Mayo, 99 SCRA 30) They are called upon
to exhibit more than just a cursory acquaintance with statutes (Aducayen
v. Flores, 51 SCRA 78) and to keep themselves abreast of the latest laws,
rulings and jurisprudence affecting their jurisdiction (Vasquez v. Malvar, 85
SCRA 10).
In the case of Ajeno v. Inserto (71 SCRA 166, 172), this Court held that: ...
Even in the remaining years of his stay in the judiciary, he should keep
abreast with the changes in the law and with the latest decisions and
precedents. Although a judge is nearing retirement, he should not relax in

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his study of the law and court decisions. Service in the judiciary means a
continuous study and research on the law from beginning to end...
The records fail to show malice, ill-will or even bias on the part of
respondent judge. His decision pointed out, one by one, the glaring
inconsistencies in the prosecution's evidence which led to the exculpation
of defendant Ponce. InPabalan v. Guevarra (74 SCRA 53, 58), this Court
held that ... Even on the assumption that the judicial officer has erred in
the appraisal of the evidence, he cannot be held administratively or civilly
liable for his judicial action. A judicial officer cannot be called to account in
a civil action for acts done by him in the exercise of his judicial function
however erroneous...
The second case docketed as Administrative Matter No. R561-RTJ was filed
by Crisanto P. Cruz on December 11, 1985, against Bleza for knowingly
rendering a wrong judgment. This case originated from the decision in an
action for damages filed by one Pacifico Ocampo against complainant Cruz.
Pacifico Ocampo alleged in the damage suit that on April 16, 1984, he filed
with the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) an administrative
complaint against a certain Ricardo F. Ortiz; that complainant Cruz
persuaded Him to withdraw the complaint with a threat that if he would not
withdraw the same, Cruz will cause his dismissal from the Fire and Rescue
Division of the MIAA; that because he did not accede to Cruz' demand, the
latter filed against him an administrative case for inefficiency and serious
neglect of duty, insubordination, absenteeism, and habitual tardiness; that
because of that baseless complaint, he has suffered embarrassment,
mental shock,anxieties, sleepless nights, and loss of appetite. In his
answer, Cruz denied knowledge of the administrative case between
Pacifico Ocampo and Ricardo Ortiz and averred that Ocampo's inefficiency,
absenteeism, and tardiness are substantiated by company records.
After trial, the respondent judge ruled in favor of Pacifico Ocampo. He
ordered complainant Cruz to pay Ocampo the sum of P150,000.00 for
moral damages, P30,000.00 for examplary damages and P5,000.00 for
attorney's fees.
The administrative complaint filed by Cruz alleged that the respondent
judge disregarded the defendant's incontrovertible evidence and knowingly
rendered a wrong judgment against him.
In his comment, the respondent judge alleged that the decision, subject
matter of this case, is pending appeal before the Intermediate Appellate
Court. This allegation was not refuted by the complainant. Thus, any action
we can take in this case would be premature. For only after the appellate
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court holds in a final judgment that a trial judge's alleged errors were
committed deliberately and in bad faith may a charge of knowingly
rendering an unjust decision be levelled against him. This is the
pronouncement of this Court in several cases (See Garcia v. Alconcel, 111
SCRA 178; Sta. Maria v. Ubay, 87 SCRA 179; and Gahol v. Riodique, 64
SCRA 494). In the meantime, the presumption is that official duty was
regularly performed.
WHEREFORE, IN VIEW OF THE FOREGOING, the administrative cases are
hereby, DISMISSED. The recommendation dated June 6, 1984 submitted by
the Court Administrator that the respondent judge be retired from office
due to hypertensive heart disease and congestive heart failure with
cardiomegally (enlarged left ventricle) under Permanent Total Disability, as
endorsed by Dr. Antonio Valero of this Court, is hereby APPROVED.
SO ORDERED.

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