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Tan vs Sabandal | J.

Melencio-Herrera | February 24, 1992

What happened to Sabandal?
November 1983 the Court sustained a charge of unauthorized practice of law filed
against Sabandal and denied his petition to take the oath as a member of the Philippine
Bar and to sign the Roll of Attorneys
1984 -1988 Sabandal filed Motions for Reconsideration of the resolution, all of which
were denied or noted without action.
February 10, 1989 Court decided to reconsider their earlier resolution and allow him to
take the lawyers oath with the Court binding him to his assurance that he shall strictly
abide by and adhere to the language, meaning and spirit of Lawyers Oat and the highest
standards of the legal profession.
Before they could set the date though, three complainants (Tan, Dagpin and Boquia)
each filed separate motions for reconsideration of the resolution of February 10, 1989.
Resolution of July 4, 1989 the Court acted on the complaints of the three:
Dagpin and Boquia alleged that respondent had deliberately and maliciously
excluded them in his petition. Court said, however, that this was without merit,
because the respondent had discussed said cases quite lengthily
o that complainants Cabigon and Agnis passed away so they cant submit their
o one of the considerations in allowing Sabandal to take his oath was a
testimonial from IBP Zamboanga del Norte chapter (dated December 29,
1986) certifying that Sabandal was acting with morality and has been careful
in his acts in the community
o Tan maintains that the IBP testimonial was signed only by then President of
the IBP Zambo del Norte (Atty Senen Angeles) without authorization from the
Board of Officers of the chapter
o She also maintained that Atty Angeles was the respondents own counsel as
well as the lawyer of respondents parents-in-law in a case in Ozamis
o Attached to her complaint was a certification signed by IBP Zambo del Norte
Chapter President, Atty Nuevas saying that the present Board of Officers with
the undersigned as President had not issued any testimonial attesting to the
good moral character and civic consciousness of Mr. Sabandal
Comment of Sabandal
o the IBP testimonial referred to by Tan must have been the one signed by
former IBP Zambo del Norte Chapter President Atty Angeles addressed to the
Chief Justice and that he had not submitted to the Court any certification
from IBP Zambo del Norte Chapter Board of Officers of 1988-1989
The Court deemed it best at that point to require the present Board of Officers of
IBP, Zambo del Norte Chapter, to manifest whether or not it was willing to give a
testimonial certifying to Sabandals good moral character as to entitle him to take
the lawyers oath and if not, why.
They also required the executive judge of the RTC of Zambo del Norte to submit a
comment on Sabandals moral fitness to be a member of the Bar

Pursuant to that resolution, Judge Lachica, Executive Judge of RTC of Zambo del Norte
filed his comment:
He was not well acquainted personally with the respondent, and so he wasnt
aware of any acts that was committed by him that would disqualify him for the Bar
However, it might be relevant that there is a civil case pending the court involving
him entitled Republic of the Philippines, Represented by the Director of Lands vs
Nicolas Sabandal, Register of Deeds of Zamboanga del Norte and Rural Bank of
Pinan for Cancellation of Title and/or Reversion
o Respondent is alleged to have secured a free patent and later a certificate of
title to a parcel of land which, upon investigation, turned out to be
swampland and not susceptible of acquisition under a free p atent and which
he later mortgaged to the Rural Bank of Pinan. The mortgage was later
foreclosed and the land sold at public auction and respondent has not
redeemed the land until the present
The IBP Zambo del Norte Chapter also submitted a certification
Board doesnt find any acts committed by Sabandal to disqualify him from
admission to the Philippine Bar
April 17, 1990 Court resolved to defer the setting of the date for Sabandals oath-taking
and required Judge Lachica to inform the Court of the outcome of the case entitled
Republic vs Sabandal as soon as resolved
August 15, 1990 Tan, in a letter to the Chief Justice, informed the Court that her
relationship with Sabandal had been resolved and that she finds no necessity to pursue
her case against him. She also saw no further reason to oppose his admission to the Bar
as he had shown sincere repentance and reformation that makes him morally fit to
become a member of the Philippine Bar.
Boquia and Dagpin said that Tans letter is a private personal disposition which raises the
question whether personal forgiveness is enough basis to exculpate and obliterate the
they called it Sabandals scheming change in tactics and strategy
December 17, 1990 Judge Garcia (succeeded Judge Lachica since he availed of optional
retirement on June 30, 1990) submitted a copy of the judgement dated December 12,
1990 regarding the Republic of the Philippines vs Sabandal et. al for Cancellation of Title
and/or Reversion, which, according to him, was already considered closed and
amicable settlement, dated October 24, 1990, had been reached between the
principal parties, approved by the RTC and confirmed to be the counsel for
defendant Rural Bank of Pinan
Sabandal reiterated his prayer to be allowed to take the Lawyers Oath.
ISSUE: W/N Sabandal should be allowed to take the Lawyers Oath
SC: No.

In the resolution of February 10, 1989, Sabandal was allowed by the Court to take the
Oath, 10 years after he took and passed the Bar exam, after careful consideration of his
show of contrition and willingness to reform. The Court also took cognizance of the
several testimonials attesting to his good moral character and civic consciousness.
At the time, there was no receipt yet of the objections from Tan et. al. nor was the Court
aware of the gravity of the civil case against him.
Turns out, the Civil case was instituted by the government in 1985 and was brought
about because of Sabandals procurement of a certificate of free patent over a parcel of
land belonging to the public domain and its use as security for a mortgage in order to
obtain a loan. At the time, Sabandal was an employee of the Bureau of Lands.
He didnt submit a defense and was declared in default. The controversy was eventually
settled by mere compromise with Sabandal surrendering the bogus TCT to the
government and paying-off the mortgagor to buy peace and forestall further expenses
of litigation incurred by the defendants
SolGen did not object to the amicable settlement and prayed that judgement be
rendered, as the amicable settlement may amount to a confession by the defendant.
Must be stressed that at the time that the case was instituted, Sabandals petition to
take the lawyers oath had been denied and he was then submitting to the Court motions
for reconsideration alleging his good moral character WITHOUT mentioning the pendency
of that civil case against him.
Because of this, the Court is now entertaining 2nd thoughts to Sabandals fitness to
become a member of the Bar.
Sabandal worked as Land Investigator in Bureau of Lands, so he would have known
that the property he procured a free patent title over was public land
o Manipulation on his part, doesnt speak well of his moral character
o Manifestation of gross dishonesty while in public service that CANNOT be
erased by the termination of the case filed against him, where NO
DETERMINATION of his guilt or innocence was made since the suit was
o SolGen also pointed out the amicable settlement was tantamount to a
confession on his part
Sabandal should have known about the invalidity of his title and yet he took
advantage of it by securing a bank loan and mortgaging it as collateral, not lifting a
finger to redeem the land until a civil case filed against him was eventually
o Sad reflection on his sense of honor and fair dealing
Failure to reveal to the Court the pendency of the civil cases filed against him
during the period that he was submitting motions for reconsideration shows his
lack of candor and truthfulness
Even though there were testimonials attesting to his good moral character, these were
confined to lack of knowledge of the pendency of any criminal case against him,
obviously made without awareness of the facts and circumstances of the case instituted

by the Govt against him. Therefore the testimonials cant outweigh his acts of
dishonesty and lack of good moral character.
Ending comments: Time and again, it has been held that the practice of law is not a
matter of right. It is a privilege bestowed upon individuals who are not only learned in
the law but who are also known to possess good moral character Although the term
good moral character admits of broad dimensions, it has been defined as including at
least common honesty. It has also been held that no moral qualification for bar
membership is more important than truthfulness of candor.
RULING: Sabandals prayer to be allowed to take the Lawyers Oath is denied.