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Legal Counselling as Practice of Law

Republic of the Philippines


Bar Matter No. 553 June 17, 1993

MAURICIO C. ULEP, petitioner,
THE LEGAL CLINIC, INC., respondent.

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
P560.00 for a valid marriage.
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

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; 521-0767
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.
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 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.
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
Furthermore, the respondent's name, as published in the advertisements
subject of the present case, appears with (the) 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. . . .
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
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.
Even if it be assumed, arguendo, (that) the "legal support services"
respondent offers do not constitute legal services as commonly
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 nonmembers 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
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
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
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.
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:
1. The Legal Clinic is engaged in the practice of law;
2. Such practice is unauthorized;
3. The advertisements complained of are not only unethical, but also
misleading and patently immoral; and
4. 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
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 four-year
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,
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:
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
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 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.
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. 154-156.).
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:
(a) The legal question is subordinate and incidental to a major non-legal
(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 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
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.).
1.12. Respondent, of course, states that its services are "strictly nondiagnostic, 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
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
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,"
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 practice of law. (State ex. rel.
Mckittrick v. C.S. Dudley and Co., 102 S. W. 2d 895, 340 Mo. 852).
This Court, in the case of Philippines Lawyers Association v. Agrava (105 Phil. 173,
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 Rhode Is. Bar Assoc. v. Automobile
Service Assoc. [R.I.] 197 A. 139, 144).
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 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 nondiagnostic, 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 nondiagnostic is more apparent than real. In providing 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.
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
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 followup 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 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 onestop-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 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, self-laudatory 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:
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 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
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.
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

these characteristics of lawyers:


with respect to

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.
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
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 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.
Narvasa, C.J., Cruz, Feliciano, Padilla, Bidin, Grio-Aquino, Davide, Jr., Romero,
Nocon, Bellosillo, Melo and Quiason, JJ., concur

Right to Compensation
Republic of the Philippines
A.M. No. 10-9-15-SC

February 12, 2013


The Court is asked to pass upon the request of former Chief Justice Artemio V.
Panganiban (CJ Panganiban) to include as creditable government service the period
from January 1962 to December 1965 when he served the Department of Education
(DepEd), its Secretary, and the Board of National Education (BNE) to enable him to
meet the present service requirement of fifteen (15) years for entitlement to retirement
When CJ Panganiban reached the compulsory age of retirement on
December 7, 2006, he was credited with eleven (11) years, one (1) month and twentyseven (27) days or 11.15844 years of government service. The Office of Administrative
Services (OAS) did not include in the computation his 4-year service as Legal Counsel
to the DepEd and its then Secretary, Alejandro R. Roces (Former Education Secretary
Roces), and as Consultant to the BNE in a concurrent capacity, from January 1962 to
December 1965, on the ground that consultancy "is not considered government service
pursuant to Rule XI (Contract of Services/Job Orders) of the Omnibus Rules
Implementing Book V of Executive Order No. 292." 1 Having failed to meet the twenty

(20) years length of service then required under Republic Act (R.A.) No. 910, 2 the OAS
considered him eligible to receive only the 5-year lump sum payment under said law.
On January 10, 2010, then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo approved R.A.
9946,3 which not only reduced the requisite length of service under R.A. 910 from
twenty (20) years to fifteen (15) years to be entitled to the retirement benefits with
lifetime annuity, but provided also for a survivorship clause, among others.
Thus, the instant letter-request of CJ Panganiban seeking a recomputation of his
creditable government service to include the previouslyexcluded 4-year government
service to enable him to meet the reduced service requirement of fifteen (15) years for
entitlement to retirement benefits under R.A. 9946.
On December 14, 2010, the Court issued a Resolution 4 directing CJ Panganiban to
submit additional documentary evidence to support his appointment as Legal Counsel
to the DepEd and its Secretary and Consultant to the BNE. In compliance, he submitted
the January 19, 2011 Certifications5 of Former Education Secretary Roces and Retired
Justice Bernardo P. Pardo (Retired Justice Pardo) attesting to the fact of his tenure as
Legal Counsel to the DepEd and its Secretary and Consultant to the BNE.
The Court finds merit in CJ Panganibans request.
A careful perusal of the actual functions and responsibilities of CJ Panganiban as
outlined in his compliance with attached Sworn Statements of Former Education
Secretary Roces and Retired Justice Pardo reveal that he performed actual works and
was assigned multifarious tasks necessary and desirable to the main purpose of the
DepEd and the BNE.
Former Education Secretary Roces certified that:
[C]hief Justice Panganiban rendered actual services to the BNE and the Department [of
Education] and to me in my official capacity as Secretary of Education for said period
[from January 1962 to December 1965], having been officially appointed by me as then
Secretary of Education and as Chairman of the Board of Education, he having been
paid officially by the government a monthly compensation for rendering such services to
the government specifically to the Department of Education and to the Board of National
Education. He worked with the Office of the Solicitor General on legal matters affecting
the Department and the Board, collaborating closely with then Solicitor Bernardo P.
Pardo who was assigned by the Office of the Solicitor General to the Department of
Apart from legal issues, he devoted time and attention to matters assigned to him by the
Department or by the Board, like the development of educational policies, the selection
and distribution of textbooks and other educational materials, the setting of school
calendars, the procurement of equipment and supplies, management of state schools,

His services both as Legal Counsel to the DepEd and its Secretary and as Consultant to
the BNE during the period 1962-1965 was corroborated by Retired Justice Pardo who,
in his affidavit, certified that in his "capacity as Solicitor assigned by the Office of
Solicitor General to the Department of Education and Board of National Education" 7 he
and CJ Panganiban "collaborated in many cases representing both the Board of
National Education and Department of Education, particularly then Secretary of
Education Alejandro R. Roces, as well as in rendering legal opinions to such offices." 8
CJ Panganiban performed work ranging from high level assignments involving policy
development and implementation to the more humble tasks of selection and distribution
of educational materials and setting of school calendars. He himself views his work,
thus: "[u]nlike some present day consultants or counsels of government offices and
officials, I rendered full and actual service to the Philippine government, working daily at
an assigned desk near the Office of the Secretary of Education throughout the full term
of Secretary Alejandro R. Roces, January 1962 to December 1965." 9
Associate Justice Arturo D. Brion (Justice Brion) is not persuaded by the evidence. He
holds the view that there must be an appointment to a position that is part of a
government organizational structure before any work rendered can be considered
government service.
Under the old Administrative Code (Act No. 2657),10 a government "employee" includes
any person in the service of the Government or any branch thereof of whatever grade or
class. A government "officer," on the other hand, refers to officials whose duties involve
the exercise of discretion in the performance of the functions of government,whether
such duties are precisely defined or not. Clearly, the law, then and now, did not
require a specific job description and job specification. Thus, the absence of a specific
position in a governmental structure is not a hindrance for the Court to give weight to CJ
Panganibans government service as legal counsel and consultant. It must be
remembered that retired Chief Justice Andres R. Narvasas (CJ Narvasa) stint in a nonplantilla position as Member of the Court Studies Committee of the Supreme Court,
created under Administrative Order No. 164 of then Chief Justice Querube C.
Makalintal, was considered sufficient for purposes of crediting him with an additional five
(5) years of government service, reckoned from September 2, 1974 to 1979. 11
In any case, having previously ruled to include as creditable government service the
post-retirement work of Justice Abraham T. Sarmiento as Special Legal Counsel to the
University of the Philippines System 12 and to credit former CJ Narvasa with the legal
counselling work he did for the Agrava Fact-Finding Board to which he was
appointedGeneral Counsel by then President Marcos,13 the Court sees no reason not
to likewise credit in CJ Panganibans favor the work he had performed as Legal Counsel
to the DepEd and its Secretary, not to mention his concurrent work as consultant to the
BNE, and accordingly, qualify him for entitlement to retirement benefits.
In A.M. No. 07-6-10-SC,14 apart from his work as Member of the Court Studies
Committee of the Supreme Court, CJ Narvasa was credited his term as General
Counsel to the Agrava Fact-Finding Board for one (1) year (from October 29, 1983 to

October 24, 1984), as well as his 10-month post-retirement service as Chairperson of

the Preparatory Commission on Constitutional Reforms created under Executive Order
No. 43, thus, entitling him to monthly pension computed from December 1, 2003. In
A.M. No. 03-12-08-SC,15 the Court favorably considered Justice Sarmiento's postretirement work as Special Legal Counsel to the University of the Philippines (from
August 24, 2000 to January 15, 2002) as part of his creditable government service apart
from his service as Member of the UP Board of Regents (from January 16, 2002 to
December 31, 2003) and Chairman of the UP Board of Regents (from January 1, 2004
to December 31, 2005).
Justice Brion views the Courts favorable disposition of CJ Panganibans request for
lifetime annuity as another case of flip-flopping, believing that the Court already
denied former Chief Justice Panganibans request for full retirement benefits
under R.A. No. 910 and would, thus, be making a complete turnabout even as CJ
Panganiban makes a request for the second time and for the same previouslydenied services.16
Justice Brion, however, is mistaken in his belief that the Court is reversing itself in this
case. There is no flip-flopping situation to speak of since this is the first instance that the
Court En Banc is being asked to pass upon a request concerning the computation of CJ
Panganibans creditable service for purposes of adjusting his retirement benefits. It may
be recalled that Deputy Clerk of Court and OAS Chief Atty. Eden T. Candelaria had
simply responded to a query made by CJ Panganiban when she wrote 17 him, thus:
June 10, 2008
Hon. Artemio V. Panganiban
Retired Chief Justice
Your Honor:
This refers to your query through Ms. Vilma M. Tamoria on why your Honors service in
the Board of National Education was not included in the computation of retirement
In connection with his Honors Application for Compulsory Retirement, a Certification
dated November 14, 2006 issued by former Secretary of Education, the Honorable
Alejandro R. Roces, was submitted attesting that you had served as consultant to the
Board of National Education and concurrently Legal Counsel to the Secretary of
Education from January 1962 to December 1965.
Consultancy or Contract of Service is not considered government service pursuant to
Rule XI (Contract of Services/Job Orders) of the Omnibus Rules Implementing Book V
of Executive Order No. 292. Hence, your Honors service as consultant to the Board of
National Education from January 1962 to December 1965 was not credited in the
computation of creditable government service.

Your Honor is therefore entitled only to the benefits under Section 2 of R.A. 910 as
amended which provides for a lump sum equivalent to five (5) years salary based on the
last salary you were receiving at the time of retirement considering that you did not
attain the length of service as required in Section 1. Thus, you Honor only has a total of
11 years, 1 month and 27 days or 11.15844 government service.
Very truly yours,
Deputy Clerk of Court and
Chief Administrative Officer
CJ Panganiban no longer pursued the matter with the OAS presumably because a
converse ruling allowing credit for his service with the BNE would still have left his total
length of government service short of the 20-year requirement as to entitle him to a
lifetime annuity under Section 1 of R.A. 910. However, in view of the passage of R.A.
9946, which reduced the requisite period of service from twenty (20) years to fifteen (15)
years to benefit from a grant of lifetime annuity, CJ Panganiban sought the Courts
approval to include his 4-year service as Legal Counsel to the DepEd and its Secretary,
and as Consultant to the BNE as creditable government service.
Besides, nothing prevents the Court from taking a second look into the merits of a
request and overturning a ruling determined to be inconsistent with principles of fairness
and equality. In particular, the grant of life annuity benefit to Justice Sarmiento was a
result of the Courts reversal of its earlier Resolution denying the request for recomputation. Notably, the Court found merit in Justice Sarmientos plea for liberality and
considered his post-retirement work creditable government service to complete the 20year length of service required for him to avail of full retirement benefits under R.A. 910.
It bears emphasis that treatment must be without preference especially between
persons similarly situated or in equal footing. Just as CJ Narvasas work as General
Counsel to the Agrava Board, and Justice Sarmientos service as Special Legal Counsel
to UP were considered creditable government service, so should the consideration be
for CJ Panganibans work, at least, as Legal Counsel to the DepEd and its Secretary.
Justice Brion asserts that CJ Panganibans own claim in his Bio-Data and Personal
Data Sheet that he remained in active private law practice at the same time that he
acted as Legal Counsel to the DepEd and its Secretary and as Consultant to the BNE
prevents him from asserting any claim to the contrary. It should be stressed that CJ
Panganiban only filed his request for re-computation of his retirement benefits in the
hope that the Court will credit in his favor the work he rendered both as Legal Counsel
to the DepEd and its Secretary and as Consultant to the BNE in the same way that it
credited retired Justice Sarmientos and retired CJ Narvasas services as Special Legal
Counsel to the UP and General Counsel to the Agrava Board,
respectively.1wphi1 When CJ Panganiban submitted his claims to the Courts sense of

fairness and wisdom, it was the Court that directed him to present additional evidence in
support of the true nature of the services he rendered to these government agencies.
The alleged inconsistency between his earlier statements of being in private law
practice in his Bio-Data and Personal Data Sheet and his proffered evidence now
showing the nature and extent of his services to the DepEd and its Secretary and to the
BNE is more apparent than real. The perception of continuous and uninterrupted
exercise of one's legal profession, despite periodic interruptions foisted by public
service, is not uncommon among legal practitioners. After all, legal counselling work,
even if rendered to a government agency, is part of legal practice. During the time that
CJ Narvasa served as Member of the Court Studies Committee of the Supreme Court
from 1974 to 1979, prior to his appointment as General Counsel to the Agrava Board,
he likewise appeared to have regarded himself in constant active law practice 18 and yet
this did not deter the Court from considering the weight of the work he actually rendered
to the government and, thus, credited him not only his one-year stint as General
Counsel of the Agrava Board but even the full term of his earlier involvement as
Member of the Court Studies Committee of the Supreme Court.
Nonetheless, Justice Brion insists that no substantial proof has been presented to
support the inference that the work rendered by CJ Panganiban constituted government
service and, hence, the application of liberality in the appreciation and interpretation of
the law is unjustified. Admittedly, the only evidence presented to support CJ
Panganiban's claim that he worked as Legal Counsel to the DepEd and its Secretary
and as Consultant to the BNE are the Sworn Statements of Retired Justice Pardo and
Former Education Secretary Roces and the submissions of CJ Panganiban but this
evidence can hardly be considered undeserving of weight and lacking in substance,
coming from a retired member of the Court, a former Cabinet Secretary and a former
Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, whose credibility remains untarnished and is
beyond question. Justice Brion himself does not dispute the veracity of their claims that
CJ Panganiban did, in fact, render actual service. Hence, notwithstanding the absence
of any other record of CJ Panganibans appointment to a position or item within the
DepEd and the BNE, his actual service to these government agencies must be
regarded as no less than government service and should, therefore, be credited in his
favor consistent with the Court's liberal rulings in the cases of CJ Narvasa and Justice
The Supreme Court has unquestionably followed the practice of liberal treatment in
passing upon retirement claims of judges and justices, thus: (1) waiving the lack of
required length of service in cases of disability or death while in actual service 19 or
distinctive service; (2) adding accumulated leave credits to the actual length of
government service in order to qualify one for retirement; (3) tacking post-retirement
service in order to complete the years of government service required; (4) extending the
full benefits of retirement upon compassionate and humanitarian considerations; 20 and
(5) considering legal counselling work for a government body or institution as creditable
government service.

The generous extent of the Courts liberality in granting retirement benefits is obvious
in Re: Justice Efren I. Plana:21
It may also be stressed that under the beneficient provisions of Rep. Act 910, as
amended, a Justice who reaches age 70 is entitled to full retirement benefits with no
length of service required. Thus, a 69 year old lawyer appointed to the bench will get full
retirement benefits for the rest of his life upon reaching age 70, even if he served in the
government for only one year. Justice Plana served the government with distinction for
33 years, 5 months, and 11 days, more than 5 years of which were served as a Justice
of the Court of Appeals of this Court.
In the instant case, no liberal construction is even necessary to resolve the merits of CJ
Panganiban's request. The Court need only observe consistency in its rulings.
WHEREFORE, the Court resolves to GRANT former Chief Justice Artemio V.
Panganibans request for a re-computation of his creditable government service to
include the 4-year period from January 1962 to December 1965 that he served as Legal
Counsel to the Department of Education and its then Secretary and Consultant to the
Board of National Education, as duly attested to by retired Justice Bernardo P. Pardo
and then Secretary of Education himself, Alejandro R. Roces.
ACCORDINGLY, the Office of Administrative Services is hereby DIRECTED to recompute former Chief Justice Artemio V. Panganiban's creditable government service
and his corresponding retirement benefits.


[G.R. No. 116600. July 3, 1996]


LEOVINO CANUEL, accused, C1C ERIC ANLUSOC, accused-appellant.

As Juvenal once asked, "But who is to guard the guards themselves?" [1] This case
deals not with a mere appeal from a conviction in a murder case. It is a tale, rather, an
expose, of the warped sense of camaraderie which binds certain members of the law
enforcement and penal systems in our country. This account of betrayal of the public
trust stands as yet another stain on the honor of the Philippine National Police (PNP), at
a time when its reputation and integrity are already in serious question.
On 8 January 1991, at 9:30 p.m., in Calapan, Oriental Mindoro, four members of the
PNP gunned down Isagani Mazon in cold blood. Mazon died instantly, having suffered
twenty-one (21) gunshot wounds, a number of which were at his back. As a result, the
accused were charged with murder,[2] but in the interim, the trial court endowed them the
privilege of being detained by their superiors, instead of customary incarceration at the
provincial jail. And if only to exacerbate matters, the accused then escaped through the
connivance or inexcusable negligence of their guardians. Of the accused, only the
appellant was subsequently arrested.
On 30 August 1991, the accused were charged with murder in an information filed
with the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 39, Calapan, Oriental Mindoro, in Criminal
Case No. C-3496, the accusatory portion reading:
That on or about January 8, 1991, at the Municipality of Calapan, Province of Mindoro
Oriental, Philippines and within the Jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the
abovenamed accused, all public officers, being members of the Philippine National
Police (PNP), conspiring with each other, with deliberate intent to kill and with the use of
firearms, did then and there, willfully, unlawfully, feloniously and treacherously attack
and shoot Isagani Mazon, a private person, hitting him at the vital parts of his body and
inflicting upon him mortal wounds, thereby causing his instantaneous death.
No bail was recommended for their temporary liberty.
On 17 October 1991, the trial court, through Judge Marciano T. Virola, issued a
warrant for the arrest of the accused. [4] On 24 October 1991, the accused allegedly
surrendered at the PNP office in Oriental Mindoro. Then, in a first endorsement dated
25 October 1991, Superintendent Jaime L. Lasar, PNP Provincial Director of Oriental
Mindoro, committed the accused to the trial court, but requested that they be detained
at the PNP Stockade as they were members of the PNP Mindoro Oriental Command. [5]
On 29 October 1991, the accused filed a petition for bail and motion to transfer their
detention from the Provincial Jail to the PNP Headquarters pending hearing of their
petition.[6] Judge Virola immediately granted the motion for transfer to the PNP Stockade
at the PNP Mindoro Oriental Command Headquarters, on the condition that the accused
would not be allowed to leave the stockade or "be placed in the custody of any person
without order from [the] Court." [7] The trial court, however, denied the application for bail
as the motion did not set the application for hearing. Branch Clerk of Court Rolando
Caguete then committed the accused to Supt. Lasar for detention at the PNP Stockade.
Meanwhile, First Assistant Provincial Prosecutor Emmanuel S. Panaligan opposed

the petition for bail and prayed that it be denied for lack of merit. [9] On 30 October 1991,
the accused filed a notice to set for hearing the petition for bail. [10]
Upon arraignment on 5 November 1991, each of the accused entered a plea of not
guilty.[11] The trial court then set the hearing on the petition for bail on 11, 18, and 19
November 1991, and the per-trial on 18 November 1991. [12] On even date, the private
prosecutor, Atty. Alvin T. Sarita, moved to suspend the accused from the service
pursuant to Section 47[13] of R.A. No. 6975 (Department of Interior and Local
Government Act), which the trial court granted on 6 November 1991. [14]
The 11 November 1991 hearing on the petition for bail was cancelled but reset to
18, 19, and 20 November 1991.
In a letter dated 13 November 1991, Pedro Mazon, father of the victim, sought
Judge Virola's assistance regarding information that all the accused were seen aboard
the boat M.B. San Miguel bound for Batangas. [15] Judge Virola ordered the Calapan
RTC Clerk of Court as ex-officio sheriff and his Branch Clerk of Court to investigate the
matter[16] and directed Supt. Lasar to comment on Pedro Mazon's letter.[17]
In their report,[18] the aforementioned Clerks of Court informed Judge Virola that they
went to the Oriental Mindoro PNP Command on 13 November 1991 at around 12:00
p.m., only to discover that accused Landicho and Bunyi were not there. According to the
guard on duty, SP03 Fortunato Mendoza, the said accused, escorted by SP03 Julian
Bilog, left the Mindoro Oriental PNP Command at about 11:50 a.m. and ate lunch
outside the PNP Command. Later, at around 1: 10 p.m., Landicho and Bunyi returned
with their escort SP03 Bilog. Bilog then informed the Clerks of Court that on 12
November 1991, at around 11:30 a.m., while he was the guard on duty, the four
accused left the stockade for lunch and talked to someone about their case, with
Landicho and Bunyi escorted by P02 Edilberto Santos, and accused Manlusoc and
Canuel by SP02 Ernesto Javier. An hour later, only Bunyi returned; further, when the
Clerks of Court left at about 2:00 p.m., Manlusoc and Canuel had not yet returned.
In his comment, Supt. Lasar confirmed that the four accused "were present at the
place as they were seen [but] were guarded by escort. [19]
In his report[20] to the trial court, Senior Inspector Jesus T. Gatchalian, Commanding
Officer of the 269th PNP Mobile Force Company, declared that at 11:20 a.m. of 12
November 1991, all the. accused left for lunch with escorts. While Landicho and Bunyi
returned to the PNP Stockade at 1:00 p.m. that day, Manlusoc and Canuel proceeded to
Batangas, with escorts, to get financial support for their case. However, they returned to
the PNP Stockade at 3:00 p.m. on 14 November 1991.
At the scheduled pre-trial on 18 November 1991, the trial court granted the motion
of the accused to terminate the pre-trial and reset the hearing of the petition for bail on
23, 24, 27, and 30 January 1992.[21]
In his letter of 16 December 1991, Pedro Mazon informed Judge Virola that on 13
December 1991, he saw the four accused watching a cockfight in Barangay Sta. Isabel,
Calapan.[22] Judge Virola referred the matter to Supt. Lasar,[23] who replied that on 13

December 1991, the accused were at the PNP Stockade, as evidenced by the
certification issued by the Sgt. of the Guard and Guards on Duty at the time." [24]
The petition for bail was initially heard on 23 January 1992, with the prosecution
presenting eyewitness Lilian Francisco. The hearing continued the following day with
the prosecution ready to present Dr. Arturo Alberto; however, the defense and the
prosecution agreed the dispense with Dr. Alberto's testimony and mark the following
Exhs. "B" - Necropsy Report "B-1"
Dorsal Side of Exh. "B"
"B-2" - Signature of Dr. Alberto On Exh. "B-1"
"C" - Rough Illustration report
"C-1" - Signature of Dr. Alberto on Exh. "C"
"D" - Certificate of Death
"D-1" - Signature of Dr. Alberto on Exh. "D"[25]
Consequently, the trial court issued an order, the pertinent portions providing:
After the prosecutor announced that the text witness that he is presenting is Dr. Arturo
Alberto as medico legal expert, whose qualification as such was admitted by counsel for
the accused, for the purposes to wit:
(a) to identify the Necropsy Report issued by him connection with the Post Mortem
examination conducted on the body of Isagani Mason;
(b) to testify on the character and nature of the wounds sustained by Isagani Mason as
well as the cause of the wound sustained by the victim which according to his opinion
as stated in the Necropsy Report were all sustained by gunshot wound;
(c) to testify as to the number of wounds sustained which is 21 gunshot wounds;
(d) to testify to the effect that the victim sustained 7 gunshot wounds at the back;
(e) to testify that the victim sustained 14 gunshot wounds in front of his body, two of
which were inflicted on the head;
(f) to identify the rough sketch showing the anterior and posterior position of a human
body and to testify that the wounds sustained by the deceased as indicated were in
front and at the back of the body;

(g) to identify the certificate of death of Isagani Mason;

(h) to testify as to the cause of death which is multiple internal injuries, secondary to
gunshot wounds.
Counsel for the accused manifested that he is admitting that if presented on the witness
stand said witness will testify according to the tenor and for the purposes as stated by
the prosecutor in open court.
Forthwith, the prosecutor caused the marking of the Necropsy Report as Exhibits
"B", "B-1", and"B-2", the Sketch showing the anterior view and posterior view and the
location of the wounds indicated therein as Exhibits "C" and "C-1", the Certificate of
Death of Isagani Mason as Exhibits "D" and "D-1" and thereafter dispensed with the
presentation of Dr. Arturo Alberto in view of the stipulation between the parties. [26]
On 16 March 1992, the prosecution presented Herman Mejico, Jr. as its third
witness on the petition for bail and, thereafter, rested its case for the purpose. [27]
At the hearing on 17 March 1992, as their evidence in connection with the petition
for bail, the accused only caused to be marked some documents and then rested their
case. The documents marked were:
Exh. "1" - Alias Warrant of Arrest for Isagani Mazon in Criminal Case No. 3201, for
violation of R.A. 6539 - Anti- Carnapping Act of 1972 - dated 2 January 1990;
Exh. "2" - Warrant of Arrest for Herman Mejico in Crim. Case No. C-2675 for attempted
murder dated 28 January 1988;
Exh. "3" - Order of 28 August 1988 in Crim. Case No.C-2675 archiving the case since
Mejico has not been arrested;
Exh. "4" - Warrant of Arrest for Isagani Mazon dated 27 August 1990 in Crim. Case No.
Exh. "5' - Order of 18 December 1990 in Crim. Case No. C-3201 archiving the case. [28]
The trial court then considered the petition for bail submitted for resolution and set the
reception of the prosecution's evidence on the merits of the case on 23 April and 24
April 1992.[29]
On the same date, 17 March 1992, the court granted Atty. Edgardo Aceron's
withdrawal as defense counsel on the ground that he would seek election as Governor
of Mindoro Oriental.[30] Likewise, the private prosecutor moved to transfer the detention
of the accused to the Provincial Jail and cite the accused and the PNP Provincial
Director in contempt of court because of persistent violations of the court's order not to
allow the accused to leave the PNP Stockade nor to place them in the custody of any
person without a court order.[31] The court deferred action on the motion for transfer until
the petition for bail was resolved and required Supt. Lasar to comment on the motion to

cite him in contempt.[32] Supt. Lasar responded that he had not received any information
that the accused left the stockade without escorts and the accused were never moved
to any detention cell other than the PNP Stockade. [33]
On 24 March 1992, the trial court issued an order [34] denying the petition for bail on
the ground that evidence of guilt was strong, directing the transfer of the accused from
the PNP Stockade to the Calapan Jail Center, and reiterating its previous order that the
accused would not be allowed to leave the Jail nor be placed in the custody of any
person, unless otherwise ordered by the court.
On 27 March 1992, the trial court denied the prosecution's motion to cite the
accused and the PNP Provincial Director in contempt of court due to "humanitarian
reasons"; moreover, the prosecution failed to substantiate its allegations in the said
The hearing on the merits of 23 April and 24 April 1992 were reset to 20 May and 21
May 1992.[36]
In a letter dated 5 May 1992, Pedro Mazon complained once more to Judge Virola
that he saw the four accused roaming the town of San Vicente, Calapan, and often
staying in a house in Libis, another town in Calapan. [37] Judge Virola asked the
Provincial Jail Warden to comment[38] and the latter replied that the accused "are at
present inside the jail," although at one time "they requested to be escorted by Mr.
Saure, Prison Guard, to consult their legal counsel, hence it may have been possible
that they were seen outside.[39]
On 10 May 1992, the prosecution moved for the issuance of a bench warrant for the
arrest of the accused who had been roaming around Calapan without police escorts.
Thus the trial court ordered the PNP Provincial Director to cause the immediate
arrest of all the accused and place them inside the Provincial Jail, and the Provincial Jail
Warden to show cause why he should not be cited for contempt of court for allowing the
accused to roam around.[41]
On oral order of Judge Virola, Clerk of Court Armando E. Fortus went to the
Provincial Jail on 12 May and 13 May 1992 to verify the private prosecutor's allegations
that all the accused were seen "roaming around without any escorts and carrying
firearms." Fortus reported that on the said dates Bunyi, Manlusoc, and Canuel "were all
out of the Provincial Jail Center for the reasons that they were in the custody of the
Provincial Governor, however, M/Sgt. Reynaldo Landicho was there . . ." [42]
Since Supt. Lasar did not comply with the above order, the court issued on 14 May
1992 another bench warrant for the arrest of all the accused, except Landicho, and
redirected the Provincial Jail Warden not to allow the accused to be placed in the
custody of any person, including the Governor.[43]
Then, on 15 May 1992, the trial court received information from Provincial Jail
Warden Menandro S. Abac that:
[T]he four (4) ... accused were reported in the Logbook as escaped prisoners as of May
9, 1992 while Guard-on-Duty was busy attending in serving meals for lunch to our

inmates. The four accused left unnoticed and might have used the exit way going to the
Provincial Capitol Compound.[44]
At the scheduled hearing on 20 May 1992, none of the accused appeared despite
notice. Upon request of Atty. Ligorio Turiano of the Public Attorney's Office (PAO), who
was appointed by the court as de officio counsel for the accused, the hearing on that
day was adjourned until the following day, as scheduled.
The accused did not appear on 21 May 1992. The prosecution rested its case by
adopting as its evidence on the merits the evidence it had presented on the petition for
bail. The trial court then set the reception of the evidence for the defense on 1, 4, 8, 9,
and 10 June 1992.[45]
At the scheduled hearing on 1 June 1992, counsel for the accused asked for a
postponement on the ground that he had not been able to contact the accused who,
according to the Provincial Jail Warden, had escaped. The court, granted the motion but
directed the hearing to proceed on the succeeding scheduled dates of 4, 8, 9, and 10
June 1992.[46]
The hearing on 4 June 1992 was also postponed on motion of counsel for the
accused.[47] At the hearing on 8 June 1992, the defense presented Sgt. Rogelio M.
Rogelio[48] who merely identified photocopies of certain documents. [49] The defense then
moved to reset the next scheduled hearings because the wife of accused Landicho was
still trying to convince the latter to return to the folds of the law. [50] The trial court, for
humanitarian reasons, but over the vehement objections of the prosecution, granted the
motion and reset the trial on 16 June and 17 June 1992.[51]
On 16 June 1992, the accused, through their new counsel, Atty. Renato G. dela
Cruz, moved to quash the information on the ground that the trial court had no
jurisdiction over the subject matter of the case. They claimed that under P.D. No. 1486,
crimes committed by public officers were within the original and exclusive Jurisdiction of
the Sandiganbayan, and although Section 46 of R.A. No. 6975 provided that "criminal
cases involving PNP members shall be within the Jurisdiction of the regular courts," the
term courts" referred to the Sandiganbayan. [52] The trial court denied the motion to
quash[53] and considered Atty. dela Cruz verbal motion for a grant of five days within
which to file a motion for reconsideration as dilatory.[54]
Since Atty. dela Cruz manifested that he was not ready to present evidence, the trial
court issued on 16 June 1992 an order declaring the accused as having, waived the
presentation of evidence since they had not been re-arrested and repeatedly failed to
present evidence despite the several occasions afforded them. Thus, the trial court set
the promulgation of judgment on 1 July 1992.[55]
On 29 June 1992, however, Atty. dela Cruz filed a motion praying that the scheduled
promulgation be cancelled and further proceedings suspended, citing Eternal Gardens
Memorial Park vs. Court of Appeals, [56] because the accused had filed a "25-page
Petition for Certiorari, Prohibition With Writ of Preliminary Injunction & Prayer for
Temporary Restraining Order" before the Court of Appeals, docketed therein as CA-

G.R. SP No. 28210. On 1 July 1992, the trial court denied the motion and promulgated
its decision[57] as scheduled. The dispositive portion reads:
ACCORDINGLY, the Court finds all the accused guilty beyond reasonable doubt, as
principals, of the crime of Murder, defined under Art. 248 of the Revised Penal Code
and penalized therein by reclusion temporal in its maximum period, to death, with the
qualifying circumstance of treachery and with the ordinary aggravating circumstance of
the crime having been committed by a band and advantage having been taken of
superior strength. Considering that there are two ordinary aggravating circumstances
and no mitigating circumstance present, the penalty that accused must suffer should be
the maximum period of the penalty provided by law. Considering, however, the abolition
of the death penalty under the Constitution of 1987, the hands of the Court are tied in
imposing the supreme penalty of death.
Consequently, all the accused are hereby sentenced to suffer the penalty of reclusion
perpetua, together with all the accessory penalties provided by law and to pay the costs.
Accused are likewise ordered to pay jointly and severally the legal heirs of the victim
Isagani Mazon the amount of P50,000.00 by way of actual and compensatory damages
without subsidiary imprisonment in case of insolvency.
Let warrants of arrest be issued for the arrest of the accused and the different police
agencies be furnished with copies thereof to effect the recapture of all the accused who
had escaped from confinement during the progress of the trial. [58]
The following disquisitions of the trial court support its judgment:
To substantiate the allegation of the Information, the prosecution presented Lilian
Francisco and German Mejico, Jr. The presentation of Dr. Arturo Alberto whose
qualification as medico legal expert was admitted by counsel for the accused, was
dispensed with in view of the stipulation that, should said witness be presented on the
witness stand, he would testify, among others, that he was the one who conducted the
post mortem examination on the body of deceased Isagani Mazon; that the victim
sustained 21 gunshot wounds, 7 of which were sustained at the back, 14 of which were
in front, and 2 of which were on the head; and that the cause of the death of the victim
is multiple internal injuries secondary to gunshot wounds.
From the evidence adduced by the prosecution, it has been sufficiently established that
sometime on January 8, 1991, at around 9:30 in the evening, while the victim Isagani
Mazon was walking together with German Mejico, Jr. on J.P. Rizal St., Calapan, Oriental
Mindoro near the Main Deck which is opposite the building where the Pizza Galera
Restaurant and Hotel Domini are housed, accused Johnny Bunyi and Eric Manlusoc
approached them. Isagani Mazon told German Mejico, Jr. to go away and after German
Mejico, Jr. had moved away around 10 arms length from Isagani Mazon, accused
Johnny Bunyi and Eric Manlusoc fired their short firearms at Isagani Mazon while
accused Sgt. Reynaldo Landicho and Leovino Canuel rushed towards Isagani Mazon
and likewise fired their guns at Isagani Mazon. The shooting incident was also

witnessed by Lilian Francisco who was then ascending the stairs of the building where
the Domini Hotel and Pizza Galera Restaurant are housed. Lilian Francisco recognized
all the accused because she knew all of them prior to the incident in question. She knew
Johnny Bunyi for around one month prior to the incident in question; Eric Manlusoc
around a year prior to the incident in question; Leovino Canuel also around a year prior
to the incident in question; and Reynaldo Landicho even before the COSAC organized
by the military was disbanded. She recalled that accused Reynaldo Landicho formerly
resided at the back of the Mindoro College and accused Johnny Bunyi, Eric Manlusoc
and Leovino Canuel used to visit and drink in the Mariwasa Restaurant where she
formerly worked as floor manager of the ladies working thereat.
xxx xxx xxx
After the cancellation of the scheduled dates of trial on June 1 and 4 at the instance of
counsel for the accused, counsel for the accused presented SP03 Rogelio Rogelio on
June 8, 1992 who identified certain documents namely, xerox copy of the statement of
M/Sgt; Landicho, xerox copy of the statement of Johnny Bunyi, xerox copies of the joint
statements of Leovino Canuel and Eric Manlusoc, xerox copy of the Investigation
Report of SP03 Rogelio, xerox copy of alias warrant of arrest against Isagani Mazon in
Criminal Case No. C - 3201 of this Court.Thereafter, counsel for the accused asked for
continuance and for the cancellation of the trial on June 9 and 10 and prayed that
accused be given another opportunity to present further evidence on June 16 and 17,
1992, all starting at 8:30 in the morning and the same was granted by the Court in view
of the manifestation of the counsel for the accused that the wife of one of the accused is
trying her best to convince the accused to return to the fold of the law in order to testify
in this case.
xxx xxx xxx
For repeated failure of the accused to present their evidence despite the fact that they
were given several opportunities to do so although they had escaped from the
Provincial Jail, the Court considered the accused to have waived the presentation of
their evidence and the case was considered submitted for decision.
Even admitting that there was a warrant issued by the Court for the arrest of Isagani
Mazon in Crim. Case No. 3201 the accused were ordered by their Commanding Officer
to serve the same, the accused were not by that fact alone justified to shoot and kill
Isagani Mazon. They have to establish by clear and convincing evidence that they were
justified in killing Isagani Mazon. Instead of testifying in their favor to prove justifying or
exempting circumstance accused escaped from the provincial jail after the prosecution
has rested its case.
The act of the accused in escaping from the custody of the law during the progress of
the trial of the case against them is indicative of their guilt (citations omitted).

Considering that in killing Isagani Mazon accused employed means, methods and
forms in the execution thereof which tended directly and especially to ensure its
execution without risk to themselves arising from the defense which said Isagani Mazon
might make, the commission of the crime is attended by the qualifying circumstance of
treachery. The commission of the crime is likewise attended by the ordinary aggravating
circumstance of the crime having been committed by a band considering that all the four
accused were all armed with firearms and acted together in the commission of the
offense. The commission of the offense is also attended by the ordinary aggravating
circumstance of advantage having been taken of superior strength considering that the
victim Isagani Mazon was unarmed while the four accused were armed with firearms. [59]
At the promulgation of judgment, the trial court was informed by the PNP Criminal
Investigation Service Command (PNP-CISC), Fourth Regional Office, that accused
Manlusoc was arrested on 26 June 1992 at Barangay Mendez Crossing, Tagaytay City.
With this information, the trial court, pursuant to its judgment, caused warrants of
arrest to issue against Landicho, Canuel, and Bunyi. [61]
On 3 July 1992, accused Manlusoc was surrendered to the court pursuant to its
order for the purpose of committing him to the National Penitentiary in Muntinlupa.
Manlusoc was then turned over to the custody of the Provincial Jail Warden of
On 8 July 1992, accused Landicho, Bunyi, and Canuel, who remained at large,
through Atty. dela Cruz, filed a motion to quash the warrant of arrest issued against
them on the ground that the Court of Appeals had given due course to their petition
questioning the trial court's jurisdiction.[64] In a supplemental manifestation filed the
following day, Atty. dela Cruz called the attention of the trial court to the resolution of the
Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 28210 directing the trial court to answer the petition
and to show cause why injunction should not issue. [65] Agreeing with the prosecutor's
opposition that the motion to quash was premature as giving due course to the
accused's petition did not automatically render void the proceedings before it, [66] the trial
court denied the motion.[67]
On 15 July 1992, the trial court denied the Provincial Jail Warden's request to allow
him to escort Manlusoc to Tagaytay City for a hearing in a case of illegal possession of
firearms filed against Manlusoc. Further, the trial court directed the Provincial Jail
Warden to commit Manlusoc to the National Penitentiary in Muntinlupa "under tight
On 16 July 1992, Atty. dela Cruz filed a Notice of Appeal Ad Cautelam[69] which the
trial court denied due course to as it was remotely contingent upon the Court of Appeals
finding that the trial court had jurisdiction over the case. [70]
Later, on 30 September 1992, the four accused filed a Supplemental Petition before
the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 28210 asking the said court to declare the trial
court to be without Jurisdiction over Criminal Case No. C-3496 and as null and void the
subsequent orders of the trial court, including its denial of their notice of Appeal Ad
Cautelam.[71] This supplemental petition was verified by the four accused who
subscribed and swore to such verification before their counsel, Atty. dela Cruz, in his

capacity as a notary public and who entered such fact in his notarial register as Doc.
No. 320; Page No. 65; Book No. III, Series of 1992. [72]
In its decision of 22 September 1993 in CA-G.R. SP No. 28210, the Court of
Appeals dismissed the accused's petition for certiorari and prohibition, but partially
granted the supplemental petition in favor of Eric Manlusoc, by ordering the trial court to
give due course to Manlusoc's appeal to this Court. [73]
Unsatisfied, the accused filed in this Court a petition for review, G.R. No. 110792,
which we denied in our resolution of 22 November 1993 as the Court of Appeals
committed no reversible error. We also denied the motion to reconsider the resolution.
Meanwhile, the trial court to gave due course to the appeal of Manlusoc as directed
by the Court of Appeals.[75]
The only valid appeal then is that of accused C1C Eric Manlusoc who was rearrested five days before the promulgation. [76] On 29 May 1995, this Court accepted
Manlusoc's appeal.[77]
In his Appellant's Brief, Manlusoc imputes to the trial court seventeen "errors." He
contends that:
and that the trial court erred:


In its Brief for the Appellee, the Office of the Solicitor General refutes all errors
assigned by the appellant, but recommends, however, that the appellant should only be
convicted of the crime of homicide because:
[I]t cannot be said that the killing of Mazon was attended by treachery. No evidence was
presented to show that prior to the killing, appellant and his co-accused had determined
to commit the crime and consciously adopted the mode of attack. [79]
xxx xxx xxx

[W]here there is no evidence that the accused had, prior to the moment of the killing,
resolved to commit the crime or there is no proof that the death of the victim was the
result of meditation, calculation, or reflection, treachery cannot be considered. [80]
If the decision to kill was sudden, there is no treachery, even if the position of the
victim was vulnerable, because it was not deliberately sought by the accused, but was
purely accidental.[81]
It asserts, further, that the aggravating circumstance of abuse of superior strength
was duly proven by the prosecution; nevertheless, since it was not alleged in the
Information, it may only be considered as a generic aggravating circumstance.
We cannot proceed to resolve the assigned errors without first commenting on
certain lapses of the trial court, which only heighten a suspicion that the accused initially
obtained generous concessions from it. It immediately granted, ex-parte, their request to
be detained at the PNP stockade but, at the same time, denied the accompanying
motion for bail solely on the ground that it did not set it for hearing, although both
motions were contained in one petition. It took no positive action against the accused,
the PNP Provincial Director, and the Provincial Jail Warden, despite admissions that the
accused had been allowed to roam around unescorted and even go to Batangas without
leave of court in all instances. Then strangely, it rejected the motion for contempt on the
flimsy ground of "humanitarian" considerations. Worse, it did not pursue any disciplinary
action against the Provincial Jail Warden despite the latter's failure to comply with the
"show cause" order of 10 May 1992.
Compounding the matter, although the trial court had been belatedly informed by
the Provincial Jail Warden on 15 May 1992 that the accused had escaped from the
Provincial Jail on 9 May 1992, and by Clerk of Court Fortus that on 12 May and 13 May
1992 accused Bunyi, Manlusoc, and Canuel were in the custody of the Provincial
Governor, the trial court did not either order the Provincial Jail Warden to formally
investigate the escape nor direct the Provincial Governor to show cause why he kept
the "escaped" prisoners.
What is more appalling is that although it validly tried the accused in
absentia[82] because they escaped, it conveniently forgot that by their escape, the
accused waived their right to present evidence and cross-examine the witnesses
against them.[83] Accordingly, the testimony of Sgt. Rogelio M. Rogelio on 8 June 1992
and all documents identified by him (Exhibits "1" to "5-A," inclusive) must be rejected.
Needless to say, the conduct of the trial court leaves much to be desired.
We now turn to the assigned errors.
The first assigned error is patently without merit. The challenged decision
substantially complied with the requirements of both Section 14, Article VIII of the
Constitution[84] and Section 2, Rule 120 of the Rules of Court. [85] The pertinent
disquisitions therein, as well as its dispositive portion earlier quoted, readily show such
compliance. It sets out the facts which it believed were proved and the law upon which
the judgment was based, and states the legal qualifications of the offense constituted by

the facts proved, the modifying circumstances, the participation of the accused, the
penalty imposed, and the civil liability.
The remaining assigned errors are interrelated and may be classified as follows:
That the trial court erred:
I. In holding that the crime of murder was committed despite absence of proof of
its essential elements (First and Fourth assigned errors);
II. In holding the appellant guilty despite lack of evidence against him (Third,
Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, Ninth, Tenth, Fifteenth, Sixteenth, and
Seventeenth assigned errors);
III. In appreciating the aggravating circumstance of band (Eleventh assigned
IV. In holding that the appellant and his co-accused had escaped and such
escape indicated an admission of guilt (Twelfth and Thirteenth assigned
V. In not making a finding as to what part of the testimony of the witnesses it
considered believable (Fourteenth assigned error).
We resolve them in seriatim.
I. The qualifying circumstance alleged in the Information was treachery and the trial
court appreciated it as:
[I]n killing Isagani Mazon accused employed means, methods and forms in the
execution thereof which tended directly and especially to ensure its execution without
risk to themselves arising from the defense which said Mazon might make ... [86]
While the above was a mere conclusion without an accompanying explanation,
such a lamentable inadequacy does not, per se, justify a reversal of the decision. Since
the appellant's appeal opens the whole case for review, [87] we shall, on the basis of the
evidence, determine for ourselves if the killing of Isagani Mazon was attended with
For treachery to be present, two conditions must concur: (1) the means, method,
and form of execution employed giving the person attacked no opportunity to defend
himself or to retaliate; and (2) that such means, methods, or form of execution were
deliberately and consciously adopted by the accused. [88]
In the case at bench, the victim seemed to have expected trouble, considering that
upon seeing Manlusoc and Bunyi approaching him, he told his companion, Mejico, to
move away. Nevertheless, treachery may still be appreciated for even when the victim
was warned of danger to his person, what is decisive is that the execution of the attack
made it impossible for the victim to defend himself or to retaliate [89]The evidence clearly
bears this out. The victim was unarmed and the accused gave no warning.The victim
was then totally unprepared to even guess that the appellant and his co-accused

Canuel - who were the first two who appeared - would pepper him with bullets.It was for
this reason that the appellant asserted in his Brief:
[I]nstead of running away when he had the opportunity to do so, the victim went straight,
continued to walk towards the appellant and Canuel and faced them. [90]
This reaction only showed that the victim had no inkling whatever that he would be fired
upon. The assault was indisputably sudden and the victim's premonition of peril did not
negate the treacherous nature of the attack.
That it was impossible for the victim to defend himself or retaliate is obvious from
other circumstances of this case. While the accused each had a gun, there is no proof
that the victim was armed. The appellant's allegation that "[t]ruly, after the shootout, the
victim yielded a gun and a dagger," [91] does not even point to the source of such a
conclusion. If it were the testimony or report of defense witness Rogelio, the same, as
already noted above, must be rejected. If, indeed, the victim had a gun and dagger, the
accused should have presented them at the hearing on the application for bail.
A sudden attack against an unarmed victim shows treachery.[92] Furthermore, it was
shown that the first shot, towards the victim's head, came from behind the victim.
While it has been said that a dorsal attack alone does not indicate treachery, [94] the
assault in this case was also sudden, unexpected, and without warning, thus suggesting
As to the method of execution, we find that the accused, including the appellant,
adopted it deliberately. We disagree with the submission of the Office of the Solicitor
General that treachery was absent because of lack of evidence that prior to the killing,
appellant and his co-accused had determined to commit the crime and consciously
adopted the mode of attack." [96] The number and location of the gunshot wounds, two in
the head, and at both the anterior and posterior portions of the body as shown in Exhibit
"C", are enough to banish any motive of an accidental shooting. [97] The severity of the
accused's acts indicate a calculated pursuit of a decision to kill.
Treachery being present, it was then error for the trial court to consider the generic
aggravating circumstance of abuse of superior strength as an independent aggravating
circumstance. It is settled that treachery absorbs abuse of superior strength. [98]
II. Under the second classification of his assigned errors, the appellant contends
that the trial court erred in holding him guilty of murder: (a) despite the failures of the
medico-legal officer to testify to the fact of death of the victim (Third assigned error) and
of the trial court to make a finding that the bullet which came from his (appellant's) gun
hit the victim (Fifth assigned error); (b) despite absence of proof that the gunshot
coming from his (appellant's) firearm hit the victim (Eighth assigned error) and as to who
caused the fatal gunshot wound (Ninth assigned error) and of conspiracy (Tenth
assigned error); (c) in having assumed that because he and his co-accused fired their
guns, the victim's death resulted therefrom (Sixth assigned error) and made a
generalized conclusion of the death of the victim simply because he was shot by him
(appellant) and his co-accused (Seventh assigned error); and (d) in giving credit to the
testimony of prosecution witnesses Lilian Francisco and Herman Mejico although the

same was replete with material inconsistencies affecting their credibility (Fifteenth
assigned error) and notwithstanding the presence of circumstances indubitably showing
that their tale of the alleged shooting was unbelievable and contrary to human
experience (Sixteenth assigned error).
These errors fail to impress.
It is untrue that the medico-legal officer failed to testify to the fact of death of the
victim. As earlier shown, the said officer, Dr. Arturo Alberto, was ready to testify on 24
January 1992 in connection with the petition for ball, but the defense and the
prosecution dispensed with his testimony on the basis of the stipulation as to the nature,
tenor, and extent of his testimony and admission by the former of the qualifications of
Dr. Alberto. Further, the defense chose not to cross-examine him. It probably intended
to subject him to more searching questions during trial on the merits. But they escaped
before such time. Thus, when the prosecution rested its case for the trial on the merits
by adopting the evidence it introduced at the hearing of the petition for bail, which
included that of Dr. Alberto and the documents prepared by him, the appellant lost his
opportunity to cross-examine Dr. Alberto, through no fault of the prosecution or any
other, but solely his own. The appellant cannot now be heard to complain.
There is equally no basis for the sixth and seventh assigned errors. The appellant
admitted in his Brief that he, Canuel, and Bunyi shot Isagani Mazon. [99] Dr. Alberto
attributed the victim's death to multiple internal injuries secondary to gunshot wounds,
which was undisputed.
The victim suffered no other injury aside from those inflicted by the accused. The
unbroken chain of events from the accused's wounding of the victim to the latter's death
induces no other conclusion than that the accused's acts led to the victim's death.
As to conspiracy among the four accused (Tenth assigned error), the challenged
decision does not, indeed, mention conspiracy. Nevertheless, one cannot infer the
absence of conspiracy from such silence. Direct proof is not essential to prove such a
scheme, and its existence may be deduced from the mode and manner in which the
offense was perpetrated, or inferred from the acts of the accused themselves when
such acts point to a joint purpose and design, concerted action, and community of
intent.[101] It is sufficient that the malefactors acted in concert pursuant to the same
There was conspiracy in this case considering that the accused's synchronous
presence at the crime scene was not mere coincidence. The appellant admitted that he
and his co-accused belonged to the same intelligence team which was then purposely
searching for Mazon.[103] Additionally, the evidence on record shows that Bunyi shot the
victim from behind,[104] after which Manlusoc, positioned in front of the victim, also shot
the latter.[105] Canuel and Landicho then rushed to the scene and shot the victim again
while he was lying on the ground. [106] Afterwards, the four accused dumped the victim in
a Philippine Constabulary service vehicle and drove away in the said vehicle. [107] The
accused's simultaneous movement towards and concerted attack on the victim, and
their coordinated escape from the crime scene clearly evince the existence of

There being conspiracy and it being proven that the victim died by the hands of the
conspirators, the fifth, eighth, and ninth errors need not detain us long. Manlusoc claims
it was never proven that he shot the fatal bullet, thus, he cannot be held liable for the
victim's death. However, where conspiracy is proven, the act of one is the act of all.
Consequently, it does not matter if Manlusoc did not fire the fatal shot, for all the
accused are equally responsible for the killing of the victim. [109]
The fifteenth and sixteenth assigned errors concern the credibility of the two
prosecution witnesses, Lilian Francisco and Herman Mejico. Often emphasized is the
rule that when the issue is one of credibility of witnesses, appellate courts will generally
not disturb the finding of the trial court, considering that the latter is in a better position
to decide the question, having heard the witnesses themselves and observed their
deportment and manner of testifying during the trial, unless it plainly overlooked certain
facts of substance and value that, if considered, might affect the result of the case. [110]
The appellant gives this Court no reason to overturn the trial court's assessment of
the prosecution witnesses' credibility, even though he claims the two witnesses:
[a]lmost jibed in their declarations in claiming that they both saw all the four (4)
appellant and the co-accused shot the victim, just to be sure they got convicted.
But inconsistency, not consistency, as to material facts is the mark of lack of
credibility. Thus, among the tests of integrity of evidence are whether the testimonies
agree on the essential facts and whether the respective versions corroborate and
substantially coincide with each other to make a consistent and coherent whole. [111] The
appellant, however, points out the consistency of the testimonies of the prosecution
witnesses and, in effect, endorses their honesty.
The appellant also calls our attention to Francisco's former job as a procurer of
flesh[112] to discourage this Court from believing her testimony. Francisco revealed her
trade through the following exchange:
Q You stated on direct examination that you are the floor manager of the ladies in
the Mariwasa Restaurant on or about January 8, 1991. Do you affirm that?
A Yes, sir.
Q So, do I understand ... that you are an employee and receiving salary from the
proprietor or owner of the Mariwasa Restaurant?
A No, sir.
Q Why? What is the nature of your work as floor manager of the ladies of the
Mariwasa Restaurant on or about that date?
A I only receive commissions from the ladies thereat.
Q What for is that commission?
A I receive a commission of P1.00 for every lady's drink.
Q And that is the source of your income as floor manager of the ladies?

A There is an additional amount I receive like for instance when ladies are brought
out by customers and whatever they receive they give me a certain percentage.
xxx xxx xxx
Q And these ladies are prostitutes?
A That is it, sir.
Q So you are the procurer or pimp, not-the floor manager of the ladies?
Objection, Your Honor, misleading and assumes a fact.
xxx xxx xxx
All right, inform the witness that the question tends to incriminate her because the
question tends to insinuate that she is a pimp or procurer and said act is penalized by
law. Inform her that it is her right not to answer the question if she so desires, but if she
wants to answer the question she is at liberty to do so, but she cannot be forced to
answer the question.
A I may answer or I may not.
Q Precisely, you are being asked. It is your right not to answer. Do you want to
answer the question?
A I am willing to answer the question.
All right, then answer the question.
A Yes, sir.[113]
Such admission given openly and after the witness was informed of her right not to
disclose her line of work emphasized her trustworthiness. The revelation enhanced, not
impaired, Francisco's credibility.[114]
Still doubting her honesty, the appellant claims Francisco's varied reactions to the
events she witnessed are contrary to human experience. For instance, Francisco
Q Now, from the time that you heard the first shot when you were then ascending
the Domini Hotel, how many minutes elapsed, more or less, up to the time that you
heard again the bully of the second shot?
A A split while because the shot I heard is like a super lolo. [115]
The appellant then inquires, "If what she heard was a super lolo cracked, why did
she have a peculiar interest to find out what it was?" Obviously, the appellant

misinterpreted Francisco; if he had read the rest of the testimony he would not have
missed the following explanation:
Q And when you heard the shot you thought it was [a] super lolo and not a report
from a gun?
Misleading, Your Honor.
I am on cross-examination, Your Honor.
Witness may answer.
A The sounds of the shots were like the super lolo because
the shots were successive.[116]
As early on as the direct examination, Francisco made it clear that her attention was
drawn to the incident because she heard a shot, not an exploding firecracker:
Q Now, while you were ascending the stairs of the Domini Hotel towards the
direction of Pizza Galera upstairs, do you know of anything unusual which occurred?
A Yes, sir.
Q What was that incident?
A While I was ascending and was on the third step I heard a shot. [117]
The appellant cites other incidents testified to by Francisco which he claims is
contrary to human experience. However, as with the super lolo example, each alleged
contradiction was adequately clarified in Francisco's testimony. Besides, among
witnesses there can be no standard reaction to a crime. [118]
Persistent in his attempts to cast doubt on Francisco's credibility, the appellant
argues then queries:
Incidentally, her testimony that she heard the victim dared the four (4) lawmen and
said: "sige patayin ninyo ako," is this credible? No sane person would utter such
statement especially by the victim who was a former Marine soldier. More incredibly,
why should Landicho and Canuel under mission to serve a warrant of arrest call the
challenge and shoot simultaneously? [119]
This Court cannot be expected to delve into the state of mind of persons, especially
deceased victims and escaped detainees, hence, these queries have no bearing on
Francisco's credibility.
The appellant also cites omissions in Francisco's sworn statement [120] taken at the
National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) office in Batangas City. Particularly, in relating the
killing, Francisco failed to give the names of Manlusoc and Bunyi. On the witness stand,
she explained that the omission was due to the investigating officer's failure to ask for

the names of the said accused. [121] However, Francisco mentioned in her sworn
statement the names Landicho and "Bunso" without being asked for the same. Still, the
omission is too trivial to dent Francisco's credibility, especially since affidavits are almost
always incomplete and often inaccurate, [122] as they are usually not "prepared by the
affiant himself but by another who uses his own language in writing the affiant's
statements."[123] Moreover, affidavits are generally considered to be inferior to
testimonies given in open court, [124] hence, an omission in the affidavit can not
automatically discredit a witness. At any rate, the decisive factor is that the witness in
fact identified the accused,[125] which Francisco did, not only in her testimony but also in
the later portion of her sworn statement where she named one of the assassins as
"Tenyente," an alias used by the appellant.[126]
The appellant then assaults Francisco's report to the NBI on 21 January 1991,
when the killing occurred on 8 January 1991. We, however, take Judicial notice of the
actuality that witnesses in this country are usually reluctant to volunteer information
about a criminal case or are unwilling to be involved in or dragged into criminal
Since the transcript of her testimony consumed 102 pages, Francisco's examination
must have taken hours to complete, interrupted only by a short recess [128] and a break at
noon.[129] Yet, this witness weathered a grueling cross-examination bordering on
harassment and remained coherent and unfeigned throughout. This Court can,
therefore, only lend credence to Francisco's testimony.
As regards Mejico, the appellant questions his "bravery" when he opted to witness
what would happen to his friend, Mazon, and did not move away as the victim ordered
him to do. Bravery is not a cause for disbelieving a witness, and his concern for the
well-being of a friend was certainly understandable.
To discredit Mejico, the appellant cites this witness's admission that he had never
seen any of the accused, except Landicho, until the incident complained of. [130] The
appellant's observation is of no moment, for a witness' statement that he does not know
the perpetrators does not mean he cannot identify them. [131]
Still hoping to dilute the witnesses' credibility, the appellant contends that they are
under the protection of Barangay Captain "Pae" Roxas, relative of the victim. [132]This fact
is immaterial since Roxas was never shown to have influenced the witnesses. On the
contrary, that the witnesses needed Roxas's protection only highlighted the banefulness
of the accused.
Yet, there is one point of discrepancy between the prosecution witnesses'
testimony: the position of the victim when Landicho and Canuel shot him. Francisco
claimed the victim was lying face downward [133] while Mejico said he was lying on his
back.[134] However, this disparity may be attributed to the different vantage points from
which the witnesses observed the event. Francisco observed the killing at an oblique
angle[135] and about four or five arms length away,[136] while Mejico viewed the crime
some ten meters away and, it seems, not at an angle. [137] At any rate, the discrepancy is
not sufficient to cast doubt on the testimonies since the witnesses agree on the material
point that while the victim was lying on the ground, Canuel and Landicho shot him.

III. The trial court correctly appreciated the generic aggravating circumstance
of band. There is band whenever more than three armed malefactors shall have acted
together in the commission of the offense.[138] In the present case, the four accused,
each armed with a gun, conspired in the killing of Isagani Mazon, hence this
aggravating circumstance was present.
However, the trial court erred in appreciating against the accused the generic
aggravating circumstances of abuse of superior strength. As correctly observed by the
Office of the Solicitor General in the Appelle's Brief, this circumstance is absorbed by
IV. We do not think that the appellant and his counsel are serious in the twelfth and
thirteenth assigned errors. As shown earlier, their escape on 9 May 1992 was registered
in the logbook of the Provincial Jail and reported to the court by the Provincial
JailWarden. Their own counsel de oficio asked for the postponement of the 1 June 1992
hearing because he was unable to contact the accused who had escaped, and after the
testify of Rogelio on 8 June 1992, the counsel asked for the cancellation of the next
scheduled hearings because Landicho's wife was still trying to convince the former to
return to the folds of the law. And on 16 June 1992, their new counsel, Atty. dela Cruz,
could not produce them in court. It is also a fact that the appellant was re-arrested only
on 26 June 1992 in Tagaytay City.
Finally, the appellant and his counsel are fully aware that the fact of such escape
was confirmed by the Court of Appeals in its 22 April 1993 decision in CA-G.R. SP No.
28210, and by this Court in our 22 November 1993 resolution in G.R. No. 110792, to
which the Brief for the Appellant makes express reference. [139]
The confirmed escape of the accused is flight from justice. It is doctrinally settled
that flight of an accused is an indication of his guilt or of a guilty mind. [140] Indeed, the
wicked man flees though no man pursueth, but the righteous are as bold as a lion. [141]
V. The fourteenth assigned error is an exercise in futility, assigned more to annoy
this Court than to see justice done. A trial court is not bound to disclose which part of a
witness' testimony it deems believable. Generally, a witness' testimony is considered in
its entirety,[142] partial credence being an exception as when the testimony of a witness
can be reasonably believed as to some facts but disbelieved as to others. [143] Further, it
is presumed that a person is innocent of a crime or wrong, [144] including giving false
testimony. Hence, unless a court, for some reason, finds a witnesses' testimony
unworthy of belief, the court must lend it credence. Moreover, the defense failed to
prove that the prosecution witnesses had any ill motive to testify against the accused,
and the rule on this matter is that absent proof of ill motive, the testimonies are worthy
of belief.[145]
Affirmance then of the appealed judgment is inevitable, which, however, does not
write finis to this case. We are compelled, in light of our preface to this decision, to
decry the questionable conduct of the trial court, certain law enforcement authorities,
and the counsel for the accused appellant.
We earlier detailed the procedural lapses committed by the trial Judge, Honorable
Marciano T. Virola, which heighten a suspicion that the accused initially obtained

generous concessions from his court. He should be admonished to be more

circumspect in the performance of his duty.
We are likewise convinced that PNP Provincial Director of Oriental Mindoro
Superintendent Jaime L. Lasar showed manifest bias by tolerating or allowing the
accused to leave the PNP stockade without the permission of the court and treating its
orders in a cavalier fashion, which ultimately resulted in the highly suspicious "escape"
of the accused. The PNP leadership must perforce conduct a thorough investigation to
determine his administrative liability.
The Jail Warden of the Provincial Jail of Oriental Mindoro, on his part, displayed
gross negligence in the performance of his duty. Worse, he even attempted to deceive
the trial court. When asked to show cause why he should not be held in contempt for
allowing the accused to roam around, especially on 12 May and 13 May 1992, he
lamely explained that the said accused "were reported in the Logbook as escaped
prisoners as of May 9, 1992."
Turning to the Provincial Governor of Oriental Mindoro, as of 12 May and 13 May
1992, he had yet to explain why he had in his custody all of the accused, except
Landicho, who, by then, were already fugitives from justice.
Finally, we note that while the accused were already fugitives from Justice, Atty.
Renato dela Cruz nevertheless, was in constant touch with them as he was able to
procure their signatures for their supplemental petition before the Court of Appeals in
CA-G.R. SP No. 28210, and in their Magkaanib na Sinumpaang Salaysay.[146] In the
latter, the four accused subscribed to it and swore before Atty. dela Cruz as notary
public in Makati, Metro Manila, on 20 August 1992, and he entered such act in his
notarial register as Doc. No. 263; Page No. 54; Book No. III; Series of 1992. Yet, despite
full knowledge that his clients were fugitives from Justice and that bench warrants of
arrest[147] and warrants of arrest[148] had been issued against his clients, Atty. dela Cruz
made no effort to persuade them to surrender. A lawyer is absolutely prohibited from
counseling or abetting activities aimed at defiance of the law or at lessening confidence
in the legal system.[149] Hence, lest the general public venture the thought that lawyers
approve of their clients' degeneration into outlaws, Atty. dela Cruz must explain his
action, or rather, inaction which, in effect, aided the accused in making a mockery of our
judicial and penal systems.
WHEREFORE, the instant appeal is DISMISSED and the challenged decision of
Branch 39 of the Regional Trial Court of Calapan, Oriental Mindoro, in Criminal Case
No. C-3496 finding accused-appellant ERIC MANLUSOC guilty beyond reasonable
doubt of the crime of murder and sentencing him and each of his co-accused to suffer
the penalty of reclusion perpetua and to pay Jointly and severally the heirs of the victim
Isagani Mazon the sum of P50,000.00 without subsidiary imprisonment in case of
insolvency is hereby AFFIRMED in toto.
The Court further resolved to:
(a) ADMONISH Honorable Judge MARCIANO T. VIROLA to be more circumspect in
his actuations in criminal cases to strengthen the public's trust and confidence in the
criminal justice system;

(b) FURNISH the Office of the President with a copy of this Decision that it be
informed and take the appropriate action regarding the alleged harboring by the
Provincial Governor of Oriental Mindoro of the accused who were then fugitives from
justice as of 12 May and 13 May 1992;
(c) DIRECT the Secretary of the Department of Interior and Local Government
(DILG), through the Director General of the Philippine National Police, to (1) use the full
force of the law to effect the re-arrest of accused M/Sgt. Reynaldo Landicho, Pat.
Johnny Bunyi, and C2C Leovino Canuel and thereafter commit them to the New Bilibid
Prison in Muntinlupa, Metro Manila, and (2) conduct appropriate administrative
proceedings against Superintendent JAIME L. LASAR for gross misconduct or conduct
prejudicial to the best interest of the service and to SUBMIT to this Court, within sixty
(60) days from notice of this Decision, status reports on such re-arrest and
administrative proceedings;
(d) REQUIRE Provincial Jail Warden MENANDRO S. ABAC to SHOW CAUSE,
within ten (10) days from notice of this Decision, why he should not be held in contempt
of court for the escape of the four accused on 9 May 1992; and
(e) DIRECT Atty. RENATO DELA CRUZ to SHOW CAUSE, within ten (10) days
from notice of this Decision, why no disciplinary action should be taken against him for
violation of Rule 1.02, Canon 1 of the Code of Professional Responsibility.
Let the Office of the President, Judge Marciano T. Virola, the Secretary of the
Department of Interior and Local Government, Superintendent Jaime L. Lasar,
Provincial Jail Warden Menandro S. Abac, and Atty. Renato dela Cruz be furnished with
copies of this Decision.
Cost against the accused-appellant.
Narvasa, C.J, (Chairman), Melo, Francisco, and Panganiban, JJ, concur.