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FELICITAS BERBANO V. ATTY.

WENCESLAO BARCELONA
Canon 16 Hold in Trust Client's Moneys and Properties Rule 16.01 Account|
Per Curiam| September 3, 2003
Nature of Case: Disbarment case
Petitioner: Felicitas Berbano
Respondent: Atty. Wenceslao Barcelona
SUMMARY:
Berbano, one of the heirs of Rufino Esteban Hilapo, appointed as
attorney-in-fact Porfrio Daen to settle their land dispute with Filinvest Dev.
Corp. Pending the land dispute, Daen was incarcerated. She sought the
assistance of Barcelona in releasing Daen. Berbano and Daen's nephew gave
Barcelona a total of PhP64,000 for the cause as Barcelona purported that he
knew a Justice of the Supreme Court who can help with Daen's release but
that he would need money for it. However, Daen was not released from jail as
promised and Berbano, in her several attempts to recover the money, was
evaded by Barcelona.
The Court held that Berbano has violated several canons of the Code
of Professional Responsibility, including Canon 16 and Rule 16.01, which
demands that lawyers must account for all the money received from the
client. Furthermore, Barcelona had a previous administrative complaint
against him of similar nature and had, as in that case, ignored all hearings and
notices from the Investigating Commissioner. Barcelona was thus declared
disbarred from the practice of law and was ordered to return PhP64,000 to
Berbano.
DOCTRINE:
The Code exacts from lawyers not only a firm respect for law, legal processes
and the courts but also mandates the utmost degree of fidelity and good
faith in dealing with clients and the moneys entrusted to them pursuant to
their fiduciary relationship.

Naty Sibuya, a friend, recommended Wenceslao Barcelona, her


cousin-in-law, to assist in the release of Daen
o 26 Jan 1999 - Barcelona purported that he could have Daen
released the following day if he would be given PhP50,000.
Berbano gave him only PhP15,700 as it was already around
10:30PM and could only gather the money from their relatives
o 27 Jan 1999 At a Max's Restaurant, 12NN, Berbano handed
Barcelona a pay-to-cash cheque amounting to PhP24,000 dated
29 Jan 1999. Barcelona claimed that the Justices of the Supreme
Court do not accept cheques but took the cheque presented
nonetheless.
o 28 Jan 1999 Berbano gave an additional PhP10,000 in cash to
Barcelona through the latter's wife. As the cheque was allegedly
not encashed according to Barcelona, PhP15,000 was given to
him by Gil Daen, Porfrio's nephew. Berbano also gave PhP1,000
for Barcelona's gasoline expenses.
o 3 Feb 1999 Barcelona told Berbano that Daen will be released
the following day.
o 4 Feb 1999 Daen was not released and Barcelona, according to
his wife, was in Mindanao attending a peace talk with the
Muslims
o After more than a week Barcelona promised that he would
return the PhP64,000 but was never heard from or seen again by
Berbano
15 Apr 1999 Investigating Commissioner J. Virgilio A. Bautista of CBD
IBP required Barcelona to submit an answer to the complaint. Barcelona
never submitted despite due notice received by him.
13 Aug 1999 Respondent failed to appear in the hearing and was then
considered in default. Complainant testified and manifested that she
would bring the PhP24,0000 cheque.
Complainant and respondent failed to appear in the following hearings:
1 Oct and 19 Nov in 1999, 12 Oct and 14 Dec in 2001 and 28 Jun 2002.
23 Dec 2002 Commissioner Bautista recommended that respondent was
guilty of malpractice and serious breach of the Code of Professional
Responsibility and recommended that he be disbarred and ordered to
return the PhP24,0000.
IBP Board of Governors affirmed the recommendation but modified the
penalty to suspension for 6 years
o

FACTS:
11 Mar 1999 Felicitas Berbano filed a sworn affidavit before the IBP and
alleged the following:

o Berbano was one of the heirs of Rufino Esteban Hilapo and had
appointed Porfirio Daen as their attorney-in-fact in the
settlement of a land dispute against Filinvest Dev. Corp. with the ISSUE/S & RATIO:
Commission on the Settlement of Land Problems (COSLAP)
1. WON Barcelona should be disbarred? YES.
involving 244 hectare land in Alabang, Muntinlupa
a. Respondent callously demeaned the legal profession by taking
o 26 Jan 1999 Daen was arrested by a Muntinlupa police who
money from a client under the pretext of having connections
presented an expired warrant dated Feb 1990 and was detained
with a Justice of the Supreme Court
at Muntinlupa City Jail, Tunasan

b.

Respondent had the audacity to say that Justices of the


Supreme Court do not accept cheques
c. Respondent had been charged and found guilty of conduct
unbecoming of a lawyer in Gil T. Aquino v. Atty Wenceslao C.
Barcelona where he asked and received an amount of
PhP60,000 as he misrepresented that he knew a legal assistant
named Gonzalo Mericullo in PNB who could restructure the
loan of the then complainant. No such person was employed
by PNB and as a result, Aquino's property was foreclosed. The
Court suspended respondent for six years.
d. Respondent has a penchant for misrepresenting to clients that
he has the proper connections to secure the relief they seek and
ask for money allegedly to be given to said connections
e. Act of respondent of not filing his answer and not attending the
hearings displays his contempt for legal proceedings
RULING: Court ordered the disbarment of Barcelona as he was found guilty of
gross misconduct and in violating Canons 1, 7, 11, 16 and Rule 16.01 and
ordered that PhP64,000 be returned to the complainant within 30 days from
receipt of the notice.
DISSENT:
Vitug, J.: Civil award should be taken apart from the administrative case.
NOTE:
Relevant Provisions
Canon 1. A lawyer shall uphold the constitution, obey the laws of the land and
promote respect for law and legal process.
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.
Canon 11. A lawyer shall observe and maintain the respect due to the courts and
to judicial officers and should insist on similar conduct by others.
Canon 16. A lawyer shall hold in trust all moneys and properties of his client
that may come into his possession.
Rule 16.01 - A lawyer shall account for all money or property collected or
received for or from the client.
Others:
On cheque not being presented
Only preponderance of evidence is required in a disbarment case
Commissioner and IBP Board of Governors has the ability to weight
the testimony in the light of the demeanor, conduct and attitude of

the complainant and found that her Berbano's testimony and her
affidavit to be sufficient
On disbarment cases
Sui generis, neither purely civil or criminal with public interest as the
primary objective and the preservation and purity of legal profession
and the honest administration of justice.
Burden of proof rests on the complainant. Clear, convincing and
satisfactory proof is required.
Other cases which the Court used as basis for the disbarment
Judge Angeles vs. Atty. Uy, Jr. -Suspended for a month for failing to
promptly report and remit the amount of P16,500.00 he received on
behalf of his client.
Gonato vs. Atty. Adaza -Suspended from the practice of law for 6
months for charging his clients the amount of P15,980.00 as filing fees
when in fact no such fees were due.
Dumadag vs. Lumaya -Indefinite suspension of a lawyer for not
remitting to his client the amount of P4,344.00 that he had received
pursuant to an execution.
Gatchalian Promotions Talents Pool, Inc., vs. Atty. Naldozadisbarred for obtaining from his client the amount of US$2,555.00
allegedly as cash bond in an appealed case before this Court, when in
fact no such amount has been paid or that the Court required such
payment.