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EN BANC

[A.C. No. 4904. August 12, 2004]

ANA A. CHUA and MARCELINA HSIA, complainants, vs. ATTY. SIMEON M.


MESINA, JR., respondent.
DECISION

that another Deed of Absolute Sale should be executed, antedated to 1979 before the
effectivity of the law mandating the payment of capital gains tax. As suggested by
respondent, another Deed of Absolute Sale antedated February 9, 1979 [4] was
executed by Mrs. Mesina, whose name again appears therein as Felicisima M.
Melencio, in favor of complainants wherein the purchase price was also indicated to
be P85,400.00.
After liquidating the advances made by the Chua spouses in the redemption of
the MESINA properties, Mrs. Mesina was found to have an existing balance due the
spouses in the amount of P400,000.00, on account of which they advised respondent
about it. Respondent, by Affidavit of February 18, 1986, acknowledged such
obligation to be his and undertook to settle it within two years.
Complainants were subsequently issued on January 21, 1986 a title over the
Melencio property.

PER CURIAM:
By a verified complaint[1] received by the Office of the Bar Confidant on May
5, 1998,[2] Ana Alvaran Chua and Marcelina Hsia administratively charged Atty.
Simeon M. Mesina, Jr., for breach of professional ethics, gross professional
misconduct, and culpable malpractice.
As related by complainants, the following facts gave rise to the filing of the
complaint.
Respondent was, for years, Ana Alvaran Chua and her now deceased husband
Chua Yap Ans legal counsel and adviser upon whom they reposed trust and
confidence. They were in fact lessees of a building situated at Burgos Street,
Cabanatuan City (Burgos property) owned by respondents family, and another
property containing an area of 854 sq. m., situated at Melencio Street, Cabanatuan
City (Melencio property), also owned by respondents family whereon they (spouses
Chua) constructed their house. These two properties were mortgaged by the
registered owner, respondents mother Felicisima Melencio vda. de Mesina (Mrs.
Mesina), in favor of the Planters Development Bank to secure a loan she obtained.
As Mrs. Mesina failed to meet her obligation to the bank, respondent convinced
complainant Ana Chua and her husband to help Mrs. Mesina by way of settling her
obligation in consideration for which the Melencio property would be sold to them
at P850.00/sq. m.
Accommodating respondents request, the spouses Chua and their business
partner, herein co-complainant Marcelina Hsia, settled Mrs. Mesinas bank obligation
in the amount of P983,125.40.
[3]

A Deed of Absolute Sale dated January 19, 1985 conveying the Melencio
property for P85,400.00 was thereafter executed by Mrs. Mesina, whose name
appears therein as Felicisima M. Melencio, in favor of complainants.
As complainants were later apprised of the amount of capital gains tax they
were to pay, they consulted respondent about it. Respondent thus suggested to them

Not long after the execution of the February 9, 1979 Deed of Absolute Sale or
in February 1986, one Juanito Tecson (Tecson) filed an Affidavit [5] dated February
20, 1986 before the Cabanatuan City Prosecutors Office charging respondents
mother, the spouses Chua, Marcelina Hsia and the two witnesses to the said Deed of
Absolute Sale, for Falsification of Public Document and violation of the Internal
Revenue Code. In his complaint affidavit, Tecson alleged that he was also a lessee of
the Melencio property and was, along with the Chua spouses, supposed to purchase it
but that contrary to their agreement, the property was sold only to complainant and
her co-complainant, to his exclusion. Tecson went on to relate that the February 9,
1979 Deed of Absolute Sale did not reflect the true value of the Melencio property
and was antedated to evade payment of capital gains tax.
Tecson submitted documents showing that indeed the July 9, 1979 Deed of
Absolute Sale was antedated.
Respondent thereupon hatched a plan to dodge the falsification charge against
Mrs. Mesina et al. He proposed to complainants that they would simulate a deed of
sale of the Melencio property wherein complainants would resell it to Mrs. Mesina.
Heeding the proposal of respondent, complainants executed a Deed of Absolute
Sale dated April 1, 1986[6] conveying to Felicisima M. Melencio the Melencio
property for P85,400.00.
A new title was accordingly issued on April 4, 1986 in the name of Felicisima
M. Melencio, the owners copy of which was entrusted to complainants.
Tecson subsequently filed before the Cabanatuan City Prosecutors Office an
Affidavit of Desistance dated September 5, 1986 [7] alleging that his filing of the
criminal complaint arose out of mere misunderstanding and difference with herein
complainants and their co-respondents and he had no sufficient evidence against
them.

Some years later or on May 2, 1990, respondent approached complainants and


told them that he would borrow the owners copy of Mrs. Mesinas title with the
undertaking that he would, in four months, let Mrs. Mesina execute a deed of sale
over the Melencio property in complainants favor. In fact, respondent gave
complainants a written undertaking[8] dated May 2, 1990 reading:

The IBP, acting on the complaint, issued a notice of hearing on September 14,
2001,[12] copy of which was sent to respondent at his office address via registered
mail, covered by Registry Receipt No. 2605 of the Meralco Post Office. [13] On the
scheduled date of hearing, complainants personally appeared with their
counsel. Respondent failed to show up.

Received the owners duplicate copy of TCT No. 4383 issued by the Register of
Deeds, Cabanatuan City registered in the name of Felicisima Mesina, widow,
consisting of about 854 square meters more or less located at calle Melencio,
Cabanatuan City from Mrs. Ana Chua and Marcelina Hsia.

Given the length of time that the case remained pending from its filing, the IBP
Commission on Bar Discipline, by Order of October 12, 2001,[14]directed
complainants to just file their position paper with affidavits and supporting
documents in lieu of actual presentation of witnesses and to serve a copy thereof to
respondent at his last known address.

I promise to and undertake to have the Deed of Sale of the above-mentioned property
in favor of Ana
Chua and Marcelina Hsia to be signed by Mrs. Felicisima Mesina,within four (4) mo
nths from date hereof so that the above-mentioned property and title maybe
transferred in the name of Ana Chua and Macelina Hsia. (Underscoring supplied)

In compliance with the IBP Order, complainants filed on April 1, 2002 their
position paper,[15] annexed to which were photocopies of: 1) a May 5, 1993
Certification[16] issued by the Metrobank Cabanatuan Branch certifying that it issued
the demand drafts to the payees enumerated below, which were debited from the
account of Mr. Chua Yap An under Savings Account No. 760:

In the meantime, Mrs. Mesina died in the early part of 1991.


Despite respondents repeated promises to effect the transfer of title in
complainants name, he failed to do so. Complainants were later informed that the
Melencio property was being offered for sale to the public.
The spouses Chua and complainant Marcelina Hsia thus filed on August 24,
1992 a Complaint[9] against respondent and his two siblings before the Regional Trial
Court (RTC) of Nueva Ecija in Cabanatuan City, for Declaration of Nullity of Sale
and Reconveyance of Real Property.
As of the time of the filing of the present administrative complaint in 1998, the
civil case against the Mesina siblings was still pending.
This Court, by Resolution of July 13, 1998, [10] directed respondent to file
Comment on the complaint within ten days.
By Resolution of December 2, 1998,[11] this Court, noting that the copy of the
Resolution of July 13, 1998 requiring respondent to comment on the complaint sent
to him at his office address at S. M. Mesina Law Office, 30 Jupiter St., Paseo de
Roxas, Bel-Air Subd., Makati City was returned unserved with the notation Moved,
considered the Resolution of July 13, 1998 served on respondent by substituted
service pursuant to Rule 13, Section 8 of the 1997 Rules of Civil
Procedure. Respondent was accordingly deemed to have waived the filing of the
required comment.
By the same Resolution of December 2, 1998, the case was referred to the
Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) for investigation, report and recommendation
within ninety days.

D/D No. Payee Amount Date of Issue


214597 Planters Dev. Bank P 805,299.54 12-19-85
214760 Planters Dev. Bank 100,000.00 01-14-86
214761 Atty. Simeon Mesina, Jr. 77,826.10 01-14-86;
2) Affidavit dated February 18, 1986[17] of respondent acknowledging a debt
of P400,000.00 to complainant Ana Alvaran Chua and promising to pay interest
thereon within 2 years to commence upon the signing thereof [February 16, 1998]
and, in the event no partial or full payment of the principal is made within 2 years,
Ana Alvaran Chua is under no obligation to pay any lease rentals over the lot situated
in Burgos Avenue, Cabanatuan City where the Oceanic Hardware Bldg. is erected; 3)
Deed of Absolute Sale dated January 19, 1985 [18] and 4) Deed of Absolute Sale dated
July 9, 1979,[19] both executed by Felicisima M. Melencio in favor of complainant; 5)
TCT No. T-48114[20] issued by the Cabanatuan City in the name of complainants on
January 21, 1986; 6) Affidavit of Juanito C. Tecson [21] dated January 20, 1986
charging complainants et al. for Falsification of Public Documents; 7) Deed of
Absolute Sale dated April 1, 1986 executed by complainants in favor of Mrs.
Mesina;[22] and 8) TCT No. T-48383issued on April 4, 1986 in the name of Felicisima
M. Melencio;[23] and 9) Complaint of spouses Chua Yap An and Ana Alvaran Chua
and Marcelina Hsia, for Declaration of Nullity of Deed of Sale and Reconveyance of
Real Property against respondent and his two siblings.[24]
A copy of complainants position paper was sent on March 18, 2002 to
respondent at his office address by registered mail covered by Registry Receipt No.
5278.[25] There is no showing if respondent received this mail matter.
The IBP once more scheduled, by notice of December 13, 2002, [26] a hearing of
the administrative case to January 15, 2003, copy of which notice was sent to
respondent at his office address by registered mail covered by Registry Receipt No.
2953 issued by the Meralco Post Office.[27]

On the scheduled hearing on January 15, 2003, the IBP Investigating


Commissioner, by Order of even date, [28] noted the presence of complainants, and the
absence of respondent, copy of the notice of hearing to whom was returned unserved
with the notation RTS-Moved. The case was thereupon deemed submitted for report
and recommendation.
On June 21, 2003, the IBP passed Resolution No. XV-2003-342[29] adopting and
approving the report and recommendation of Atty. Rebecca Villanueva-Maala, the
Investigating Commissioner of the case.
In her March 3, 2003 Report and Recommendation, [30] Investigation
Commissioner Maala observed as follows:
A lawyer should not engage or participate on any unlawful, dishonest, immoral or
deceitful conduct. The moral character he displayed when he applied for admission
at the Bar must be maintained incessantly. Otherwise, his privilege to practice the
legal profession may be withdrawn from him (Rule 1.01, Code of Professional
Responsibility). On the basis of the uncontroverted facts and evidence
presented, respondent
Atty. Simeon M. Mesina has committed gross misconduct which shows him to be
unfit for the office and unworthy of the privilege which his license and law confer
upon him,
and recommended that respondent be suspended for a period of One (1) Year.
This Court finds that indeed, respondent is guilty of gross misconduct.
First, by advising complainants to execute another Deed of Absolute Sale
antedated to 1979 to evade payment of capital gains taxes, he violated his duty to
promote respect for law and legal processes, 28 and not to abet activities aimed at
defiance of the law;29 That respondent intended to, as he did defraud not a private
party but the government is aggravating.30
Second, when respondent convinced complainants to execute another
document, a simulated Deed of Absolute Sale wherein they made it appear that
complainants reconveyed the Melencio property to his mother, he committed
dishonesty.31
Third, when on May 2, 1990 respondent inveigled his own clients, the Chua
spouses, into turning over to him the owners copy of his mothers title upon the
misrepresentation that he would, in four months, have a deed of sale executed by his
mother in favor of complainants, he likewise committed dishonesty.
That the signature of Felicisima M. Melencio in the 1985 document 32 and that
in the 1979 document 33 are markedly different is in fact is a badge of falsification of
either the 1979 or the 1985 document or even both.
A propos is this Courts following pronouncement in Nakpil v. Valdez34

As a rule, a lawyer is not barred from dealing with his client


but the business transaction must be characterized with utmost honesty and good fait
h. The measure of goodfaith which an attorney is required to exercise in his dealings
with his client is a much higher standard that is required in business dealings where t
he parties trade at armslength. Business transactions between an attorney and his
client are disfavored and discouraged by the policy of the law. Hence, courts
carefully watch these transactions to assure that no advantage is taken by a lawyer
over his client. This rule is founded on public policy for, by virtue of his office, an
attorney is in an easy position to take advantage of the credulity and ignorance of his
client. Thus, no presumption of innocence or improbability of wrongdoing is
considered in an attorneys favor.35(Underscoring supplied)
Respondent having welched on his promise to cause the reconveyance of the
Melencio property to complainants, consideration of whether he should be ordered to
honor such promise should be taken up in the civil case filed for the purpose, the
issue there being one of ownership while that in the case at bar is moral fitness.37
In fine, respondent violated his oath of office and, more specifically, the
following canons of the Code of Professional Responsibility:
CANON 1. A LAWYER SHALL UPHOLD THE CONSTITUTION, OBEY THE
LAWS OF THE LAND AND PROMOTE RESPECT FOR LAW AND LEGAL
PROCESSES.
Rule 1.01. - A lawyer shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful
conduct.
Rule 1.02. - A lawyer shall not counsel or abet activities aimed at defiance of the law
or at lessening confidence in the legal system.
CANON 7. A LAWYER SHALL AT ALL TIMES UPHOLD THE INTEGRITY
AND DIGNITY OF THE LEGAL PROFESSION AND SUPPORT THE
ACTIVITIES OF THE INTEGRATED BAR.
Rule 7.03. - A lawyer shall not engage in conduct that adversely reflects on his
fitness to practice law, nor shall he, whether in public or private life, behave in a
scandalous manner to the discredit of the legal profession.
CANON 15. A LAWYER SHALL OBSERVE CANDOR, FAIRNESS AND
LOYALTY IN ALL HIS DEALINGS AND TRANSACTIONS WITH HIS
CLIENTS.
Rule 15.07. - A lawyer shall impress upon his client compliance with the laws and
the principles of fairness.

CANON 17. A LAWYER OWES FIDELITY TO THE CAUSE OF HIS CLIENT


AND HE SHALL BE MINDFUL OF THE TRUST AND CONFIDENCE
REPOSED IN HIM.
WHEREFORE, respondent ATTY. SIMEON M. MESINA, JR. is, for gross
misconduct, hereby DISBARRED.
Let copies of this Decision be furnished all courts, the Integrated Bar of the
Philippines, and the Office of the Bar Confidant.
SO ORDERED.
Davide, Jr., C.J., Puno, Panganiban, Quisumbing, Ynares-Santiago, Carpio,
Austria-Martinez, Corona, Carpio-Morales, Callejo, Sr., Azcuna, Tinga, andChicoNazario, JJ., concur.
Sandoval-Gutierrez, J., on leave.

Republic of the Philippines


SUPREME COURT
Manila

According to Atty. Salomon, the attaching sheriff of Manila, instead of depositing the
attached cars in the court premises, turned them over to Atty. Frial, Los counsel. Atty.
Salomon claimed that on several occasions, the Nissan Sentra was spotted being used

SECOND DIVISION

by unauthorized individuals. For instance, on December 26, 2005, barangay captain


ATTY. RICARDO M. A.C. No. 7820
SALOMON, JR.,
Complainant, Present:
QUISUMBING, J., Chairperson,
CARPIO MORALES,
- versus - TINGA,
VELASCO, JR., and
BRION, JJ.
Promulgated:
ATTY. JOSELITO C. FRIAL,
Respondent. September 12, 2008
x-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------x
DECISION

Andrew Abundo saw the Nissan Sentra in front of a battery shop on Anonas

VELASCO, JR., J.:

Liquigans apprehension, Atty. Frial, in a letter, acknowledged having authorized

St., Quezon City. On February 18, 2006, Architect Roberto S. Perez and three others
saw and took video and photo shots of the same car while in the Manresa Shell
station at P. Tuazon Blvd. corner 20th Avenue, Quezon City. Also sometime in June
2006, Robert M. Perez, complainants driver, saw the said car in another Shell station
near Kamias Street. On December 16, 2006, Arlene Carmela M. Salomon spotted it
driven by bondsman Ferdinand Liquigan allegedly with Atty. Frials consent. As Atty.
Salomon further alleged, when the misuse of the car was reported, paving for

Liquigan to bring the car in custodia legis to a mechanic.


In his sworn complaint[1] filed before the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP)
on December 22, 2006, complainant Atty. Ricardo M. Salomon, Jr. charged

As to the Volvo, Atty. Salomon averred that during mediation, Atty. Frial deliberately

respondent Atty. Joselito C. Frial with violating his Lawyers Oath and/or gross

withheld information as to its whereabouts. As it turned out later, the Volvo was

misconduct

totally destroyed by fire, but the court was not immediately put on notice of this

arising

from

his

actuations

with

respect

to

two

attached

vehicles. Complainant, owner of the vehicles in question, asked that Atty. Frial be

development.

disbarred.
In his Answer,[2] Atty. Frial admitted taking custody of the cars thru his own
The instant complaint has its beginning in the case, Lucy Lo v. Ricardo Salomon et

undertaking, without authority and knowledge of the court. The subject vehicles,

al., docketed as Civil Case No. 05-111825 before the Regional Trial Court in Manila,

according to him, were first parked near the YMCA building in front of

in which a writ of preliminary attachment was issued in favor of Lucy Lo, Atty.

the Manila City Hall where they remained for four months. He said that when he

Frials client. The writ was used to attach two (2) cars of complainanta black 1995

went to check on the vehicles condition sometime in December 2005, he found them

Volvo and a green 1993 Nissan Sentra.

to have been infested and the wirings underneath the hoods gnawed by rats. He

denied personally using or allowing others the use of the cars, stating in this regard

of the Nissan Sentra in different places obviously showed it was being used by

that

others.

if

indeed

the

Nissan

Sentra

was

spotted

on Anonas

St., Quezon

City on December 26, 2005, it could have been the time when the car was being
transferred from the YMCA. The February 18, 2006 and June 2006 sightings, so

In the same Report, the Commission observed that while there is perhaps no direct

Atty. Frial claimed, possibly occurred when the Nissan Sentra was brought to the gas

evidence tying up Atty. Frial with the use of the Nissan Sentra, the unyielding fact

station to be filled up. He said that the car could not have plausibly been spotted in

remains that it was being used by other persons during the time he was supposed to

Project 3 on December 13, 2006, parked as it was then in front of Liquigans house

have custody of it. In addition, whoever drove the Nissan Sentra on those occasions

for mechanical check-up.

must have received the car key from Atty. Frial. When Atty. Frial took custody of the
Nissan Sentra and Volvo cars, he was duty bound to keep and preserve these in the

During the mandatory conference/hearing before the IBP Commission on Bar

same condition he received them so as to fetch a good price should the vehicles be

Discipline, the parties agreed on the following key issues to be resolved: (1) whether

auctioned.

or not Atty. Frial used the cars for his personal benefit; and (2) whether or not Atty.
Frial was guilty of infidelity in the custody of the attached properties.

As to the burnt Volvo, Atty. Frial admitted receiving it in excellent condition and that
there was no court order authorizing him to remove the car from the YMCA

Thereafter and after the submission by the parties of their respective position papers,

premises. Admitted too was the fact that he secured the release of the Volvo on the

the Commission submitted a Report dated October 9, 2007which the IBP Board of

strength alone of his own written undertaking; [3] and that the car was almost totally

Governors forthwith adopted and then transmitted to this Court. In the Report, the

destroyed by fire on February 4, 2006 at 1:45 a.m.[4] while parked in his residence.

following were deduced from the affidavits of Andrew Abundo, Roberto Perez,

He could not, however, explain the circumstances behind the destruction, but

Robert Perez, and Dante Batingan: (1) at no time was Atty. Frial seen driving the

admitted not reporting the burning to the court or the sheriff. While the burning of

Sentra; (2) Abundo learned that at that time the car was spotted at the battery shop,

the car happened before the mediation hearing, Atty. Frial, upon inquiry of Atty.

the unnamed driver bought a new battery for the car which was not inappropriate

Salomon, did not give information as to the whereabouts of the cars.

since a battery was for the preservation of the car; (3) Atty. Frial admitted that the

The destruction of the Volvo in Atty. Frials residence was not an ordinary

Nissan Sentra was seen gassed up on February 18, 2006 and in June 2006 and there

occurrence; it was an event that could have not easily escaped his

was no reason to gas up the Nissan Sentra on those times unless it was being used;

attention. Accordingly, there is a strong reason to believe that Atty. Frial deliberately

(4) Roberto Perez said the Nissan Sentra was used to buy goats meat; and (5) photos

concealed the destruction of said vehicle from the court during the hearings in Civil

Case No. 05-111828, which were the opportune times to reveal the condition of the
Volvo car.
A lawyer is first and foremost an officer of the court. As such, he is expected to
On the basis of the foregoing premises, the Commission concluded that Atty. Frial
committed acts clearly bearing on his integrity as a lawyer, adding that he failed to

respect the courts order and processes. Atty. Frial miserably fell short of his duties as
such officer. He trifled with the writ of attachment the court issued.

observe the diligence required of him as custodian of the cars. The Commission thus
Very patently, Atty. Frial was remiss in his obligation of taking good care of

recommended that Atty. Frial be suspended from the practice of law for one (1) year.

the attached cars. He also allowed the use of the Nissan Sentra car by persons who
The findings and the recommendation of the Commission are well-taken.

had no business using it. He did not inform the court or at least the sheriff of the
destruction of the Volvo car. What is worse is that he took custody of them without

A writ of attachment issues to prevent the defendant from disposing of the attached

so much as informing the court, let alone securing, its authority.

property, thus securing the satisfaction of any judgment that may be recovered by the
For his negligence and unauthorized possession of the cars, we find Atty.

plaintiff or any proper party.[5] When the objects of the attachment are destroyed,
then the attached properties would necessarily be of no value and the attachment
would be for naught.

Frial guilty of infidelity in the custody of the attached cars and grave misconduct. We
must mention, at this juncture, that the victorious parties in the case are not without
legal recourse in recovering the Volvos value from Atty. Frial should they desire to

From the evidence adduced during the investigation, there is no question that Atty.
Frial is guilty of grave misconduct arising from his violation of Canon 11 of
the Canons of Professional Ethics that states:

do so.
The Court, nevertheless, is not inclined to impose, as complainant urges, the ultimate
penalty of disbarment. The rule is that disbarment is meted out only in clear cases of
misconduct that seriously affect the standing and moral character of a lawyer as an

11. Dealing with trust property

officer of the court and member of the bar.[6] With the view we take of the case, there

The lawyer should refrain from any action whereby for his
personal benefit or gain he abuses or takes advantage of the
confidence reposed in him by his client.

is no compelling evidence tending to show that Atty. Frial intended to pervert the

Money of the client or collected for the client or other trust


property coming into the possession of the lawyer should be
reported and accounted for promptly and should not under any
circumstances be commingled with his own or be used by him.
(Emphasis ours.)

administration of justice for some dishonest purpose.

Disbarment, jurisprudence teaches, should not be decreed where any


punishment less severe, such as reprimand, suspension, or fine, would accomplish
the end desired.[7] This is as it should be considering the consequence of disbarment

on the economic life and honor of the erring person. In the case of Atty. Frial, the
Court finds that a years suspension from the practice of his legal profession will
provide him with enough time to ponder on and cleanse himself of his misconduct.

WHEREFORE, Atty. Joselito C. Frial is adjudged guilty of grave misconduct and


infidelity

in

the

custody

of

properties

in custodia

legis.

He

is

hereby SUSPENDED from the practice of law for a period of one (1) year effective
upon his receipt of this Decision. Let notice of this Decision be entered in his
personal record as an attorney with the Office of the Bar Confidant and notice of the
same served on the IBP and on the Office of the Court Administrator for circulation
to all the courts concerned.

SO ORDERED.

Republic of the Philippines


SUPREME COURT
Manila
EN BANC
A.C. No. 7057

July 25, 2006

DAVID L. ALMENDAREZ, JR., complainant,


vs.
ATTY. MINERVO T. LANGIT, respondent.
DECISION
CARPIO, J.:
The Case
On 5 May 2004, David L. Almendarez, Jr. ("complainant") filed this complaintaffidavit1 before the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP), seeking the disbarment
of Atty. Minervo T. Langit ("respondent") for acts unbecoming a lawyer.
The facts are undisputed:
Complainant, as attorney-in-fact of his mother Pura Lioanag Vda. de Almendarez,
was the plaintiff in an ejectment case before the Municipal Trial Court of Dagupan
City, Branch 2 ("trial court"). Respondent served as complainant's counsel. While the
case was pending, defendant Roger Bumanlag ("Bumanlag") deposited monthly
rentals for the property in dispute to the Branch Clerk of Court.
On 3 February 1994, the trial court rendered a decision in the ejectment case based
on a compromise agreement executed by complainant and Bumanlag. On 18
December 1995, the trial court issued an alias writ of execution for the satisfaction of
the decision. A court order2 dated 2 March 2000 granted the Omnibus Motion for
Execution and Withdrawal of Deposited Rentals filed by respondent as complainant's
counsel. Respondent filed a second motion for withdrawal of deposited rentals,
which the trial court also granted on 16 March 2000.
Sometime in May 2003, complainant learned that respondent was able to withdraw
the rentals deposited by Bumanlag. Felicidad Daroy ("Daroy"), Officer-in-Charge

Clerk of Court, confirmed this to complainant who received from Daroy copies of
the two withdrawal slips drawn from the trial court's savings account. One slip dated
10 March 2000 was for P28,000,3 and another slip dated 19 April 2000 was
for P227,000.4 Thus, respondent received a total of P255,000, as evidenced by two
receipts5 signed by him. The withdrawals were made through Daroy's authorized
representative Antonia Macaraeg, but Daroy personally delivered the money to
respondent. Respondent did not inform complainant of these transactions.
Complainant, through his new counsel Atty. Miguel D. Larida, sent respondent on 30
June 2003 a final demand letter for the accounting and return of
the P255,000.6 Respondent failed to reply.
Hence, complainant filed this case for disbarment against respondent for failing to
account for complainant's funds. Complainant further accuses respondent of
neglecting to pursue the implementation of the writ of execution issued in the
ejectment case.
On 12 May 2004, IBP Director for Bar Discipline Rogelio A. Vinluan ("IBP Director
Vinluan") ordered respondent to submit his Answer to the complaint. Respondent did
not file an answer despite receipt of the notice.7
On 4 October 2004, IBP Investigating Commissioner Caesar R. Dulay ("IBP
Commissioner Dulay") notified the parties to appear before him for a mandatory
conference on 15 November 2004, later reset to 17 January 2005. Only complainant
appeared at the conference, prompting IBP Commissioner Dulay to order the
conference terminated and to declare that respondent had waived his right to
participate in the proceedings. IBP Commissioner Dulay directed the parties to file
their respective position papers. Complainant submitted his position paper on 22
March 2005. Again, respondent took no action.
Findings and Recommendation of the IBP
On 8 June 2005, IBP Commissioner Dulay submitted his Report and
Recommendation ("Report")8 with the finding that respondent failed to account for
money he held in trust for complainant. The Report considered complainant's
evidence "clear and convincing" enough to justify disciplinary action against
respondent for violation of Rule 16.01 of the Code of Professional Responsibility.
IBP Commissioner Dulay recommended that respondent be declared guilty of gross
misconduct and suspended for one year, aside from being ordered to render an
accounting of the money he had received.

In a Resolution9 dated 17 December 2005, the IBP Board of Governors approved the
Report, with the modification that the penalty of suspension be increased to two
years.
The Court's Ruling
We sustain the findings of the IBP.
Respondent committed a flagrant violation of his oath when he received the sum of
money representing the monthly rentals intended for his client, without accounting
for and returning such sum to its rightful owner. Respondent received the money in
his capacity as counsel for complainant. Therefore, respondent held the money in
trust for complainant. The Code of Professional Responsibility ("Code") states:
CANON 16 A LAWYER SHALL HOLD IN TRUST ALL MONEYS
AND PROPERTIES OF HIS CLIENT THAT MAY COME INTO HIS
POSSESSION.
Rule 16.01A lawyer shall account for all money or property collected or
received for or from the client.
Rule 16.03A lawyer shall deliver the funds and property to his client
when due or upon demand. However, he shall have a lien over the funds and
may apply so much thereof as may be necessary to satisfy his lawful fees
and disbursements, giving notice promptly thereafter to his client. He shall
also have a lien to the same extent on all judgments and executions he has
secured for his client as provided for in the Rules of Court.
Respondent should have immediately notified complainant of the trial court's
approval of the motion to withdraw the deposited rentals. Upon release of the funds
to him, respondent could have collected any lien which he had over them in
connection with his legal services, provided he gave prompt notice to complainant. A
lawyer is not entitled to unilaterally appropriate his client's money for himself by the
mere fact that the client owes him attorney's fees.10 In this case, respondent did not
even seek to prove the existence of any lien, or any other right that he had to retain
the money.
Respondent's failure to turn over the money to complainant despite the latter's
demands gives rise to the presumption that he had converted the money for his
personal use and benefit. This is a gross violation of general morality as well as of

professional ethics, impairing public confidence in the legal profession.11 More


specifically, it renders respondent liable not only for violating the Code but also for
contempt, as stated in Section 25, Rule 138 of the Rules of Court:
SEC. 25. Unlawful retention of client's funds; contempt When an
attorney unjustly retains in his hands money of his client after it has been
demanded he may be punished for contempt as an officer of the Court who
has misbehaved in his official transactions; but proceedings under this
section shall not be a bar to a criminal prosecution.
Additionally, respondent failed to observe Canon 1712 of the Code, which obligates
the lawyer to take up the cause of his client with entire zeal and devotion. It seems
that after respondent received the withdrawn deposits, he never contacted
complainant again. He did not pursue the implementation of the writ of execution
issued in the ejectment case, to the prejudice of complainant. By his inaction,
respondent violated the trust and confidence reposed in him. For in agreeing to be
complainant's counsel, respondent undertook to take all steps necessary to safeguard
complainant's interest in the case.
The misconduct of respondent is aggravated by his unjustified refusal to heed the
orders of the IBP requiring him to file an answer to the complaint-affidavit and,
afterwards, to appear at the mandatory conference. Although respondent did not
appear at the conference, the IBP gave him another chance to defend himself through
a position paper. Still, respondent ignored this directive, exhibiting a blatant
disrespect for authority. Indeed, he is justly charged with conduct unbecoming a
lawyer, for a lawyer is expected to uphold the law and promote respect for legal
processes.13 Further, a lawyer must observe and maintain respect not only to the
courts, but also to judicial officers and other duly constituted authorities, 14 including
the IBP. Under Rule 139-B of the Rules of Court, the Court has empowered the IBP
to conduct proceedings for the disbarment, suspension, or discipline of attorneys.
The relation of attorney and client is highly fiduciary, requiring utmost good faith,
loyalty, and fidelity on the part of the attorney. Respondent miserably failed in this
regard. Instead, he demonstrated a lack of integrity, care, and devotion required by
the legal profession from its members. Whenever a lawyer is no longer worthy of the
trust and confidence of the public, this Court has the right and duty to withdraw his
privilege as officer of the Court and member of the Bar.15
WHEREFORE, we find Atty. Minervo T. Langit GUILTY of violating Canons 1,
11, 16, and 17 of the Code of Professional Responsibility. We SUSPEND respondent

from the practice of law for two years effective upon finality of this Decision.
We ORDER respondent to RESTITUTE, within 30 days from finality of this
Decision, complainant's P255,000, with interest at 12% per annum from 30 June
2003 until fully paid. We DIRECTrespondent to submit to the Court proof of
payment within 15 days from payment of the full amount.
Let copies of this Decision be furnished all courts, the Office of the Bar Confidant,
as well as the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, for their notice and guidance.

SANDOVAL-GUTIERREZ, J.:

At bar is a motion for reconsideration of our Decision dated April 22, 2005
finding Atty. Melanio Batas Mauricio, Jr., respondent, guilty of malpractice and
gross misconduct and imposing upon him the penalty of suspension from the practice

SO ORDERED.

of law for a period of six (6) months.

A brief revisit of facts is imperative, thus:

SPECIAL THIRD DIVISION

VALERIANA U. DALISAY,
Complainant,

On October 13, 2001, Valeriana U. Dalisay, complainant, engaged


A.C. No. 5655

respondents services as counsel in Civil Case No. 00-044, entitled Lucio De

Present:

Guzman, etc., complainants, v. Dalisay U. Valeriana, respondent, pending before the


Municipal Trial Court, Branch 1, Binangonan, Rizal. Notwithstanding his receipt of

PANGANIBAN, J., Chairman,


SANDOVAL-GUTIERREZ,
CORONA,
CARPIO MORALES, and
GARCIA, JJ.

-versus-

Promulgated:
ATTY. MELANIO MAURICIO, JR.,
Respondent.

documents and attorneys fees in the total amount of P56,000.00 from complainant,
respondent never rendered legal services for her. As a result, she terminated the
attorney-client relationship and demanded the return of her money and documents,
but respondent refused.

January 23, 2006

x-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------x

On January 13, 2004, Investigating Commissioner Lydia A. Navarro of the


Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) Commission on Bar Discipline,

RESOLUTION

found that for the amount of P56,000.00 paid by the complainant x x x, no action

had been taken nor any pleadings prepared by the respondent except his alleged

First, complainant did not engage his services as counsel

conferences and opinions rendered when complainant frequented his law office.

in Civil Case No. 00-044. She hired him for the purpose of filing

She recommended that respondent be required to refund the amount of P56,000.00 to

two new petitions, a petition for declaration of nullity of title and a

the complainant, and surprisingly, that the complaint be dismissed.

petition for review of a decree.

On February 27, 2004, the IBP Board of Governors passed Resolution No.

Second, Civil Case No. 00-044 was considered submitted

XVI-2004-121, adopting and approving in toto Commissioner Navarros Report and

for decision as early as August 6, 2001, or more than two months

Recommendation.

prior to October 13, 2001, the date he was engaged as counsel,


hence, he could not have done anything anymore about it.

On April 22, 2005, we rendered the assailed Decision.

Incidentally, upon learning of our Decision, respondent went to the MTC,


Branch I, Binangonan, Rizal to verify the status of Civil Case No. 00-044. There, he

Third, complainant

refused

to

provide

him

with

documents related to the case, preventing him from doing his job.

learned of the trial courts Decision dated December 6, 2001 holding that the tax
declarations and title submitted by complainant are not official records of the

And fourth, complainant offered tampered evidence in

Municipal Assessor and the Registry of Deed. Thereupon, respondent filed a Sworn

Civil Case No. 00-004, prompting him to file falsification cases

Affidavit Complaint[1] against complainant charging her with violations of Article

against her.

171[2] and 172,[3] and/or Article 182[4] of the Revised Penal Code. He alleged that
complainant offered tampered evidence.

In her opposition to the motion, complainant contends that: (1) respondent


violated the principle of confidentiality between a lawyer and his client when he filed

In this motion for reconsideration, respondent raises the following


arguments:

falsification charges against her; (2) respondent should have returned her
money; (3) respondent should have verified the authenticity of her documents earlier

if he really believed that they are falsified; and (4) his refusal to return her money

two new petitions. This is obviously a last-ditch attempt to evade culpability.

despite this Courts directive constitutes contempt.

Respondent knows very well that if he can successfully disassociate himself as


complainants counsel in Civil Case No.00-044, he cannot be held guilty of any

We deny respondents motion for reconsideration.

dereliction of duties.

It is axiomatic that no lawyer is obliged to act either as adviser or advocate


for every person who may wish to become his client. He has the right to decline
employment. But once he accepts money from a client, an attorney-client
relationship is established, giving rise to the duty of fidelity to the clients cause.
[5]

But respondents current assertion came too late in the day. He is already
bound by his previous statements. In his Verified Comment on the AffidavitComplaint,[7] he categorically stated that complainant engaged his services in Civil
Case No. 00-044, originally handled by Atty. Oliver Lozano, thus:

From then on, he is expected to be mindful of the trust and confidence reposed in

him. He must serve the client with competence and diligence, and champion the

4.b. The referral intrigued Respondent no end, simply


because Atty. Oliver Lozano is a bright lawyer and is very
much capable of handling Civil Case No. 00-044.

latters cause with wholehearted devotion.[6]

Respondent assumed such obligations when he received the amount


of P56,000.00 from complainant and agreed to handle Civil Case No. 00-044.
Unfortunately, he had been remiss in the performance of his duties. As we have ruled
earlier, there

is

nothing

in

4.a. Complainant was referred to the Respondent by


Atty. Oliver Lozano.

the

records

to

show

that

he (respondent) entered his appearance as counsel of record for complainant in


Civil Case No. 00-044. Neither is there any evidence nor pleading submitted to show
that he initiated new petitions.

4.c. Respondent-out of respect from Atty. Oliver


Lozano did not inquire the reason for the referral. But he was
made to understand that he was being referred because Atty.
Oliver Lozano believed that Respondent would be in a better
position to prosecute and/or defend the Complainant in Civil
Case No. 00-044.
xxxxxx
5.c. Complainant went to the law office of Respondent on
October 13, 2001 and demanded that he provides her with free
legal service.
xxxxxx

With ingenuity, respondent now claims that complainant did not engage
his services for Civil Case No. 00-044 but, instead, she engaged him for the filing of

5.e. Respondent, however, told Complainant that the


case (Civil Case No. 00-044) would not entitle her to a free legal
service and advised her to just re-engage the services of Atty.
Oliver Lozano.

5.f. Undaunted, Complainant asked Respondent to assess


her case and how she and her lawyer should go prosecuting and/or
defending her position therein.
5.g. Honestly believing that Complainant was no
longer represented by counsel in Civil Case No. 00-044 at that
time, Respondent gave his professional opinion on the factual
and legal matters surrounding the said case.

Statements of similar tenor can also be found in respondents


Memorandum[8] filed with the IBP.

Undoubtedly, respondents present version is a flagrant departure from his

5.h. Apparently impressed with the opinion of the


Respondent, Complainant became even more adamant in
asking the former to represent her in Civil Case No. 00-044.

previous pleadings. This cannot be countenanced. A party should decide early what

5.i. Respondent then told Complainant that she would be


charged as a regular client is she insists in retaining his services.

proceedings is objectionable, not due to the strict application of procedural rules, but

5.j. It was at this juncture that Complainant asked


Respondent about his fees.
5.k. After re-assessing Civil Case No. 00-044,
Respondent told Complainant that he will have to charge her
with an acceptance fee of One Hundred Thousand Pesos
(P100,000.00), aside form being charged for papers/pleadings
that may have to be prepared and filed in court in connection
with the aforesaid case.
xxxxxx
5.n. A few days after, Respondent got a call from Atty.
Oliver Lozano. The said Atty. Oliver Lozano interceded for and in
behalf of Complainant and asked that the acceptance fee that
Respondent was charging the Complainant be reduced.
xxxxxx
5.r. Complainant then returned to the office of the
Respondent on October 20, 2001. The latter then informed the
former of his conversation with Atty. Oliver Lozano and his
(respondents) decision to reduce the acceptance fee.
5.s. Complainant was very grateful at the time, even
shedding a tear or two simply because Respondent had agreed
to handle her case at a greatly reduced acceptance fee.

version he is going to advance. A change of theory in the latter stage of the

because it is contrary to the rules of fair play, justice and due process. [9] The present
administrative case was resolved by the IBP on the basis of respondents previous
admission that complainant engaged his legal services in Civil Case No. 00-044. He
cannot now unbind himself from such admission and its consequences. In fact, if
anything at all has been achieved by respondents inconsistent assertions, it is his
dishonesty to this Court.

At any rate, assuming arguendo that complainant indeed engaged

representation that he possesses the requisite academic learning, skill and ability to

respondents services in filing the two (2) new petitions, instead of Civil Case No. 00-

handle the case.[11] As a lawyer, respondent knew where to obtain copies of the

044, still, his liability is unmistakable. There is nothing in the records to show that he

certificates of title. As a matter of fact, he admitted that his Law Office, on its own,

filed any petition. The ethics of the profession demands that, in such a case, he

managed to verify the authenticity of complainants title. It bears reiterating that

should immediately return the filing fees to complainant. In Parias v. Paguinto,[10] we

respondent did not take any action on the case despite having been paid for his

held that a lawyer shall account for all money or property collected from the

services. This is tantamount to abandonment of his duties as a lawyer and taking

client. Money entrusted to a lawyer for a specific purpose, such as for filing fee,

undue advantage of his client.

but not used for failure to file the case must immediately be returned to the
client on demand. Per records, complainant made repeated demands, but respondent
is yet to return the money.

Finally, in an ironic twist of fate, respondent became the accuser of


complainant. In his fourth argument, respondent accuses her of offering falsified
documentary evidence in Civil Case No. 00-004, prompting him to file falsification

Neither do we find merit in respondents second argument. The fact


that Civil Case No. 00-044 was already submitted for decision does not justify his

cases against her. He thus justifies his inability to render legal services to
complainant.

inaction. After agreeing to handle Civil Case No. 00-044, his duty is, first and
foremost, to enter his appearance. Sadly, he failed to do this simple task. He should

Assuming that complainant indeed offered falsified documentary evidence

have returned complainants money. Surely, he cannot expect to be paid for doing

in Civil Case No. 00-044, will it be sufficient to exonerate respondent? We believe

nothing.

not. First, Canon 19 outlines the procedure in dealing with clients who perpetrated
fraud in the course of a legal proceeding. Consistent with its mandate that a lawyer
In his third argument, respondent attempts to evade responsibility by

shifting the blame to complainant. He claims that she refused to provide him with
documents vital to the case. He further claims that he would be violating the Code of
Professional Responsibility by handling a case without adequate preparation. This is
preposterous. When a lawyer accepts a case, his acceptance is an implied

shall represent his client with zeal and only within the bounds of the law, Rule 19.02
of the same Canon specifically provides:

Rule 19.02 A lawyer who has received information that


his clients has, in the course of the representation, perpetrated a
fraud upon a person or tribunal, shall promptly call upon the
client to rectify the same, and failing which he shall terminate
the relationship with such client in accordance with the Rules
of Court.

In fine, let it be stressed that the authority of an attorney begins with his or
her retainer.[12] It gives rise to a relationship between an attorney and a client that is
highly fiduciary in nature and of a very delicate, exacting, and confidential character,
requiring a high degree of fidelity and good faith.[13] If much is demanded from an

As a lawyer, respondent is expected to know this Rule. Instead of inaction,


he should have confronted complainant and ask her to rectify her fraudulent
representation. If complainant refuses, then he should terminate his relationship with

attorney, it is because the entrusted privilege to practice law carries with it the
correlative duties not only to the client but also to the court, to the bar, and to the
public. A lawyer who performs his duty with diligence and candor not only protects
the interest of his client; he also serves the ends of justice, does honor to the bar, and

her.

helps maintain the respect of the community to the legal profession. [14]Indeed, law is
Understandably, respondent failed to follow the above-cited Rule. This is
because there is no truth to his claim that he did not render legal service to

an exacting goddess demanding of her votaries not only intellectual but also moral
discipline.

complainant because she falsified the documentary evidence in Civil Case No.00044. This brings us to the second reason why we cannot sustain his fourth
argument. The pleadings show that he learned of the alleged falsification long after
complainant had terminated their attorney-client relationship. It was a result of his

WHEREFORE, we DENY respondents motion for reconsideration. Our


Decision dated April 22, 2005 is immediately executory. Respondent is directed to
report immediately to the Office of the Bar Confidant his compliance with our
Decision.

active search for a justification of his negligence in Civil Case No. 00-044. As a
matter of fact, he admitted that he verified the authenticity of complainants title only
after the news of his suspension spread in the legal community. To our mind, there

Let a copy of this Resolution be attached to his personal record and copies
furnished the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and the Office of the Court
Administrator for dissemination to all courts.

is absurdity in invoking subsequent knowledge of a fact as justification for an act or


omission that is fait accompli.

Obviously, in filing falsification charges against complainant, respondent


was motivated by vindictiveness.

SO ORDERED.

Republic of the Philippines


SUPREME COURT
Manila
EN BANC
A.C. No. 8253
March 15, 2011
(Formerly CBD Case No. 03-1067)
ERLINDA R. TAROG, Complainant,
vs.
ATTY. ROMULO L. RICAFORT, Respondent.
DECISION
PER CURIAM:
We resolve a complaint for disbarment for alleged grave misconduct brought against
Atty. Romulo L. Ricafort for his failure to account for and to return the sums of
money received from his clients for purposes of the civil action to recover their
property from a foreclosing banking institution he was handling for them. The
original complainant was Arnulfo A. Tarog, but his wife, Erlinda R. Tarog,
substituted him upon his intervening death.
Antecedents
In 1992, the Tarogs sought the advice of Atty. Jaime L. Miralles regarding their
bank-foreclosed property located in the Bicol Region. Atty. Miralles advised them to
engage a Bicol-based attorney for that purpose. Thus, they went to see Atty. Ricafort
accompanied by Vidal Miralles, their friend who was a brother of Atty.
Miralles.1 They ultimately engaged Atty. Ricafort as their attorney on account of his
being well-known in the community, and being also the Dean of the College of Law
of Aquinas University where their son was then studying.
Having willingly accepted the engagement, Atty. Ricafort required the Tarogs to
pay P7,000.00 as filing fee, which they gave to him.2 He explained the importance of
depositing P65,000.00 in court to counter the P60,000.00 deposited by Antonio Tee,
the buyer of the foreclosed property. After they informed him that they had

onlyP60,000.00, he required them to add some more amount (dagdagan niyo ng


konti).3 To raise the P65,000.00 for the Tarogs, therefore, Vidal solicited a loan from
one Sia with the guarantee of his brother Atty. Miralles. Sia issued a check in that
amount in the name of Arnulfo.4
On November 7, 1992, the Tarogs and Vidal went to the office of Atty. Ricafort to
deliver the P65,000.00. When Arnulfo said that he had first to encash the check at the
bank, Atty. Ricafort persuaded him to entrust the check to him instead so that he
(Atty. Ricafort) would be the one to encash it and then deposit the amount in court.
On that representation, Arnulfo handed the check to Atty. Ricafort.5

Findings of the IBP Commissioner


Following his investigation, Commissioner Wilfredo E.J.E. Reyes of the Integrated
Bar of the Philippines-Commission on Bar Discipline rendered his Report and
Recommendation dated October 7, 2004,9 in which he concluded that:
It is respectfully recommended that respondent, Atty. Romulo L. Ricafort be
DISBARRED and be ordered to return the amount of P65,000 and P15,000 which he
got from his client.
RESPECTFULLY SUBMITTED.

After some time, the Tarogs visited Atty. Ricafort to verify the status of the
consignation. Atty. Ricafort informed them that he had not deposited the amount in
court, but in his own account. He promised to return the money, plus interest.
Despite several inquiries about when the amount would be returned, however, the
Tarogs received mere assurances from Atty. Ricafort that the money was in good
hands.
The Tarogs further claimed that the Regional Trial Court, Branch 52, in Sorsogon
(RTC), where their complaint for annulment of sale was being heard, had required
the parties to file their memoranda. Accordingly, they deliveredP15,000.00 to Atty.
Ricafort for that purpose, but he did not file the memorandum.6
When it became apparent to the Tarogs that Atty. Ricafort would not make good his
promise of returning theP65,000.00, plus interest, Arnulfo demanded by his letter
dated December 3, 2002 that Atty. Ricafort return theP65,000.00, plus interest, and
the P15,000.00 paid for the filing of the memorandum.7 Yet, they did not receive any
reply from Atty. Ricafort.
In his defense, Atty. Ricafort denied that the P65,000.00 was intended to be
deposited in court, insisting that the amount was payment for his legal services under
a "package deal," that is, the amount included his acceptance fee, attorneys fee, and
appearance fees from the filing of the complaint for annulment of sale until
judgment, but excluding appeal. He claimed that the fees were agreed upon after
considering the value of the property, his skill and experience as a lawyer, the labor,
time, and trouble involved, and his professional character and social standing; that at
the time he delivered the check, Arnulfo read, understood, and agreed to the contents
of the complaint, which did not mention anything about any consignation;8 and that
Arnulfo, being a retired school principal, was a learned person who would not have
easily fallen for any scheme like the one they depicted against him.

Commissioner Reyes regarded the testimonies of Erlinda and Vidal more credible
than the testimony of Atty. Ricafort, observing:
Based on the said testimony, statements and actuations of complainant Erlinda Tarog
and his collaborating witness, we find their statements to be credible.
Atty. Ricafort in his testimony attempted to show that the amount of P65,000.00 was
paid to him by the complainant as acceptance fee on a package deal basis and under
said deal, he will answer the filing fee, attorneys fees and other expenses incurred
up to the time the judgment is rendered. He presented a transcript of stenographic
notes wherein it was stated that complainant himself did not consign the money in
court. The respondent admitted in his testimony that he did not have any retainer
agreement nor any memorandum signed or any receipt which would prove that the
amount of P65,000.00 was received as an acceptance fee for the handling of the case.
Atty. Romulo Ricafort stated that there was no retainer agreement and that he issued
only receipt because the late Arnulfo Tarog will not pay unless a receipt is issued.
The Undersigned Commissioner asked the respondent "Basically you describe that
thing that will happen in the litigation related to the payment of fees. But when you
received that P65,000.00 did you not put anything there that you will describe the
nature of legal work which you will undertake considering that you have considered
thisP65,000.00 as your attorneys fees? And Atty. Ricafort stated: Yes I did. I do not
know why they were not showing the receipt. That is a big amount, Your Honor.
They demanded for me the receipt of P30,000.00 how much more with
that P65,000.00. They demanded for the receipt of that P65,000.00 but I cannot
explain the reason why

During the clarificatory questioning, the Undersigned Commissioner also asked Atty.
Ricafort why he did not answer the demand letter sent by Arnulfo Tarog and the
proof of service of the said letter was presented by the complainant. Conveniently,
Atty. Ricafort stated that he did not receive the letter and it was received by their
helper who did not forward the letter to him. He also adopted the position that the
complainant was demanding the P65,000.00 wherefore this case was filed. When
confronted by the testimony of Mr. Vidal Miralles, the respondent Atty. Ricafort just
denied the allegation that he received the P65,000.00 for deposit to the court. He also
denied that Mr. Miralles has visited his residence for follow-up the reimbursement.

Commissioner Reyes concluded that Atty. Ricafort violated Canon 15, and Rules
16.01, 16.02 and 16.03 of Canon 16 of the Code of Professional Responsibility by
taking advantage of the vulnerability of his clients and by being dishonest in his
dealings with them by refusing to return the amount of P65,000.00 to them.

The Undersigned Commissioner asked the respondent if he has personal animosity


with Arnuldo Tarog, Erlinda Tarog and Vidal Miralles and if there are any reason
why this case was filed against him. In his answer the respondent stated that we have
been very good friends for the past ten (10) years and he said that in fact he was
surprised when the complaint was filed against him and they even attached the
decision of the Supreme Court for his suspension and maybe they are using this case
to be able to collect from him.

On October 11, 2005, Commissioner Reyes issued a second Report and


Recommendation,12 in which he declared that Atty. Ricafort did not present any
retainer agreement or receipt to prove that the amount ofP65,000.00 had been part of
his attorneys fees; that Atty. Ricafort had willfully ignored the demand of Arnulfo
by not replying to the demand letter; that, instead, Atty. Ricafort had insisted that the
househelp who had received the demand letter had not given it to him; and that in his
(Commissioner Reyes) presence, Atty. Ricafort had also promised to the complainant
that he would settle his liability, but Atty. Ricafort did not make good his promise
despite several resettings to allow him to settle his obligation.

The main defense of the respondent is that the complainant in this case testified that
the total amount to redeem his property is P240,000.00 and when asked whether he
consigned the money to the court to redeem the property he answered in the
negative.
The alleged payment of P65,000.00 was made prior to the said testimony sometime
in 1992. Hence, it was stated on complainants affidavit that on November 7, 1992,
prior to filing said complaint I had given him the sum of Sixty Five Thousand Pesos
to be deposited to the Regional Trial Court representing redemption money of the
Real Estate Mortgage. The amount of P65,000.00 is very much close to the amount
of the principal obligation of the complainant and it is not surprising for a nonlawyer to hold on to the belief that with the filing of the case for annulment of
foreclosure his case would be strengthened by making a deposit in court hence, the
motivation to produce the deposit was logical and natural insofar as the complainant
is concerned. The testimony of the complainant in court that the bank
needed P240,000.00 for the redemption of the property will have no bearing on the
actuation of the complainant who has been required to deposit P65,000.00 by his
lawyer. The Undersigned Commission has no alternative but to believe in the
credibility and truthfulness of complainants narration that of Mrs. Erlinda Tarog and
Vidal Miralles.10

On November 4, 2004, the IBP Board of Governors adopted Resolution No. XVI2004-473,11 resolving to return the matter to Commissioner Reyes for a clarification
of whether or not there was evidence to support the claim that the P65,000.00 had
been in payment of attorneys fees and other expenses.

Action of IBP Board of Governors


Through Resolution No. XVII-2006-569,13 therefore, the IBP Board of Governors
adopted and approved the Report and Recommendation of Commissioner Reyes and
recommended the disbarment of Atty. Ricafort and the order for him to return the
amounts of P65,000.00 and P15,000.00 to Erlinda, viz:
RESOLVED to ADOPT and APPROVE, as it is hereby ADOPTED and
APPROVED, the Report and Recommendation of the Investigating Commissioner of
the above-entitled case herein made part of this Resolution as Annex "A" and,
finding the recommendation fully supported by the evidence on record and the
applicable laws and rules, and considering that Respondent has taken advantage of
his client [sic] vulnerability and has been dishonest with his dealings to his client,
Atty. Romulo L. Ricafort is hereby DISBARRED andOrdered to Return the amount
of P65,000 and P15,000 to complainant.
Atty. Ricafort moved for reconsideration,14 maintaining that a retainer agreement was
immaterial because he had affirmed having received the P65,000.00 and having
issued a receipt for the amount; that he had not kept the receipt because "the practice
of lawyers in most instances is that receipt is issued without duplicate as it behooves

upon the client to demand for a receipt;"15 that considering that the Tarogs had
produced a photocopy of the receipt he had issued for the P30,000.00 in connection
with their appeal, it followed that a similar receipt for attorneys fees had been made
at the time when the case had been about to be filed in the RTC; that the testimonies
of Erlinda and Vidal were inconsistent with Arnulfos affidavit; and that he did not
receive Arnulfos demand letter, which was received by one Gemma Agnote (the
name printed on the registry receipt), whom he did not at all know.

Atty. Ricafort admitted receiving the P65,000.00 from the Tarogs. Even so, we have
two versions about the transaction. On the one hand, the Tarogs insisted that the
amount was to be consigned in court for purposes of their civil case; on the other
hand, Atty. Ricafort claimed that the amount was for his fees under a "package deal"
arrangement.

Acting on Atty. Ricaforts motion for reconsideration, the IBP Board of Governors
downgraded the penalty from disbarment to indefinite suspension,16 thus:

We hold that Commissioner Reyes appreciation of the facts was correct and in
accord with human experience.

RESOLVED to ADOPT and APPROVE, as it is hereby ADOPTED and APPROVED


the Recommendation of the Board of Governors First Division of the above-entitled
case, herein made part of this Resolution as Annex "A"; and, finding the
recommendation fully supported by the evidence on record and the applicable laws
and rules, the Motion for Reconsideration is hereby DENIED with modification of
Resolution No. XVII-2006-509 of the Board of Governors dated 18 November 2006,
that in lieu of the Disbarment of Atty. Romulo Ricafort, he is INDEFINITELY
SUSPENDED from the practice of law and Ordered to return the amount of P65,000
and P15,000 to complainant.

Firstly, it is easier to believe that Atty. Ricafort persuaded the Tarogs on the need for
that amount to be deposited in court for purposes of their civil case. Being nonlawyers, they had no idea about the requirement for them to consign any amount in
court, due to the substantive and procedural implications of such requirement being
ordinarily known only to lawyers. Their ready and full reliance on Atty. Ricaforts
representations about the requirement to consign that amount in court was entirely
understandable in view of their awareness of Atty. Ricaforts standing in the legal
community of the place. Besides, as Commissioner Reyes observed, it was not farfetched for the Tarogs to believe that an amount close in value to their original
obligation was necessary to be deposited in court to boost their chances of recovering
their property.

Atty. Ricafort filed a second motion for reconsideration,17 assailing the resolution of
the IBP Board of Governors for violating Section 12, Rule 139-B of the Rules of
Court requiring the decision of the IBP Board of Governors to be in writing and to
clearly and distinctly state the facts and reasons on which the decision was based.
Hence, the administrative case is now before the Court for resolution.
Ruling
We affirm the findings of the Commissioner Reyes, because they were supported by
substantial evidence. However, we impose the penalty of disbarment instead of the
recommended penalty of indefinite suspension, considering that Atty. Ricafort
committed a very serious offense that was aggravated by his having been previously
administratively sanctioned for a similar offense on the occasion of which he was
warned against committing a similar offense.
A.
Version of the complainants was more credible than version of Atty. Ricafort

Commissioner Reyes considered the Tarogs version more credible.

Secondly, Atty. Ricaforts denial of receipt of Arnulfos demand letter was incredible.
He already initially admitted receiving the letter through a househelp.18 His denial
came only subsequently and for the first time through his motion for reconsideration
dated December 30, 2006,19 in which he completely turned about to declare that the
Gemma Agnote who had received the letter was unknown to him.20 Expectedly,
Commissioner Reyes disregarded his denial, because not only was the denial an
apparently belated afterthought, it was even contradicted by his earlier admission of
receipt. In any event, the fact that Gemma Agnote was even the househelp whom
Atty. Ricafort had adverted to becomes very plausible under the established
circumstances.
Thirdly, Atty. Ricafort explained that he had no copies of the receipts for
the P65,000.00 and P15,000.00 issued to the Tarogs because "the practice of lawyers
in most instances is that receipt is issued without duplicate as it behooves upon the
client to demand for a receipt."21 But such explanation does not persuade us. Ethical
and practical considerations made it both natural and imperative for him to issue
receipts, even if not demanded, and to keep copies of the receipts for his own

records. He was all too aware that he was accountable for the moneys entrusted to
him by the clients, and that his only means of ensuring accountability was by issuing
and keeping receipts. Rule 16.01 of the Code of Professional Responsibility
expressly enjoins such accountability, viz:

Witness: Nandoon po ako.


Comm. Reyes: Where you present when the check was given?
Witness: Yes.

Rule 16.01 - A lawyer shall account for all money or property collected or received
for or from the client.

Comm. Reyes: So, alam niyo, nakita niyo na binigay yong P65,000.00 na tseke?

Definitely, Atty. Ricafort had a highly fiduciary and confidential relation with the
Tarogs. As such, he was burdened with the legal duty to promptly account for all the
funds received from or held by him for them.22

Witness: Opo.

And, fourthly, to buttress his denial that the P65,000.00 was not intended for deposit
in court, Atty. Ricafort insisted that Arnulfo did not object to the omission from the
complaint in the civil action of any mention of consignation. However, the complaint
that he himself had written and filed for the Tarogs contradicted his insistence,
specifically in its paragraph 16, which averred the plaintiffs (i.e., Tarogs) readiness
and willingness to deposit the amount of P69,345.00 (inclusive of the redemption
price and interest) in court, thus:

Witness: Noong una sinabi niya sa amin na ididiposit niya sa court.

16. And to show willingness and sincerity of the plaintiffs, they are ready and willing
to deposit the amount ofP69,345.00 as redemption price plus reasonable accrued
interests, if there are any; 23

Witness: Nagsabi siya tapos sinabi pa niya na yong interest sa bank ay ibinigay niya
sa amin ang sabi naming salamat.24

Nor could the Tarogs have conjured or invented the need for consignation. The
consignation was a notion that could have emanated only from him as their lawyer.
In fact, Erlinda recalled while testifying before the IBP Commission on Bar
Discipline that they had brought to their meeting with Atty. Ricafort only P60,000.00
for the consignation, but that Atty. Ricafort had to instruct them to raise the amount.
The excerpt of her pertinent testimony follows:
Comm. Reyes: Madam Witness, in this affidavit you stated that your late husband
and Mr. Vidal Miralles went to the office of Atty. Ricafort to advise the latter that we
already had the sum of P65,000.00 in the form of check, how did you come to know
this fact?
Witness: Paano po ba sabi nya na magdeposit ng P65,000.00 tapos
may P60,000.00 kami sabi niya dagdagan niyo ng konti.
Comm. Reyes: Kinausap ba niya kayo?

Comm. Reyes: Alam niyo ba kung ano ang nangyari doon sa tseke na idiniposit?

Comm. Reyes: Nalaman niyo ba na hindi naman pala idiniposit sa court?


Witness: Opo.
Comm. Reyes: Kailan niyo nalaman?

B.
Atty. Ricaforts acts and actuations constituted serious breach of his fiduciary
duties as an attorney
The Code of Professional Responsibility demands the utmost degree of fidelity and
good faith in dealing with the moneys entrusted to lawyers because of their fiduciary
relationship.25 In particular, Rule 16.01 of the Code of Professional Responsibility
states:
Rule 16.01 - A lawyer shall account for all money or property collected or received
for or from the client.
Undoubtedly, Atty. Ricafort was required to hold in trust any money and property of
his clients that came into his possession,26 and he needed to be always mindful of the
trust and confidence his clients reposed in him.27 Thus, having obtained the funds
from the Tarogs in the course of his professional employment, he had the obligation

to deliver such funds to his clients (a) when they became due, or (b) upon
demand.281avvphi1
Furthermore, Rule 16.02 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, imposes on an
attorney the positive obligation to keep all funds of his client separate and apart from
his own and from those of others kept by him, to wit:
Rule 16.02 - A lawyer shall keep the funds of each client separate and apart from his
own and those of others kept by him.
Atty. Ricaforts act of obtaining P65,000.00 and P15,000.00 from the Tarogs under
the respective pretexts that the amount would be deposited in court and that he would
prepare and file the memorandum for the Tarogs erected a responsibility to account
for and to use the amounts in accordance with the particular purposes intended. For
him to deposit the amount of P65,000.00 in his personal account without the consent
of the Tarogs and not return it upon demand, and for him to fail to file the
memorandum and yet not return the amount of P15,000.00 upon demand constituted
a serious breach of his fiduciary duties as their attorney. He reneged on his duty to
render an accounting to his clients showing that he had spent the amounts for the
particular purposes intended.29 He was thereby presumed to have misappropriated the
moneys for his own use to the prejudice of his clients and in violation of the clients
trust reposed in him.30 He could not escape liability, for upon failing to use the
moneys for the purposes intended, he should have immediately returned the moneys
to his clients.31
Atty. Ricaforts plain abuse of the confidence reposed in him by his clients rendered
him liable for violation of Canon 16,32 particularly Rule 16.01, supra, and Canon
17,33 all of the Code of Professional Responsibility. His acts and actuations
constituted a gross violation of general morality and of professional ethics that
impaired public confidence in the legal profession and deserved punishment.34
Without hesitation, therefore, we consider Atty. Ricaforts acts and conduct as gross
misconduct, a serious charge under Rule 140 of the Rules of Court, to wit:
Section 8. Serious charges. Serious charges include:
xxx
3. Gross misconduct constituting violations of the Code of Judicial Conduct;

xxx
That this offense was not the first charged and decided against Atty. Ricafort
aggravated his liability. In Nuez v. Ricafort,35 decided in 2002, the Court found him
to have violated Rules 1.0136 of Canon 1 and Rule 12.0337 and Rule 12.0438 of Canon
12 of the Code of Professional Responsibility in relation to his failure to turn over
the proceeds of the sale of realty to the complainant (who had authorized him to sell
the realty in her behalf). His failure to turn over the proceeds compelled the
complainant to commence in the RTC a civil action to recover the proceeds against
him and his wife. The
Court meted on him the penalty of indefinite suspension, and warned him against the
commission of similar acts, stating:
We concur with the findings of the Investigating Commissioner, as adopted and
approved by the Board of Governors of the IBP, that respondent Atty. Romulo
Ricafort is guilty of grave misconduct in his dealings with complainant. Indeed, the
record shows respondents grave misconduct and notorious dishonesty.
There is no need to stretch ones imagination to arrive at an inevitable conclusion
that respondent gravely abused the confidence that complainant reposed in him and
committed dishonesty when he did not turn over the proceeds of the sale of her
property. Worse, with palpable bad faith, he compelled the complainant to go to court
for the recovery of the proceeds of the sale and, in the process, to spend money, time
and energy therefor. Then, despite his deliberate failure to answer the complaint
resulting in his having been declared in default, he appealed from the judgment to the
Court of Appeals. Again, bad faith attended such a step because he did not pay the
docket fee despite notice. Needless to state, respondent wanted to prolong the
travails and agony of the complainant and to enjoy the fruits of what rightfully
belongs to the latter. Unsatisfied with what he had already unjustly and unlawfully
done to complainant, respondent issued checks to satisfy the alias writ of execution.
But, remaining unrepentant of what he had done and in continued pursuit of a clearly
malicious plan not to pay complainant of what had been validly and lawfully
adjudged by the court against him, respondent closed the account against which the
checks were drawn. There was deceit in this. Respondent never had the intention of
paying his obligation as proved by the fact that despite the criminal cases for
violation of B.P. Blg. 22, he did not pay the obligation.
All the foregoing constituted grave and gross misconduct in blatant violation of Rule
1.01 of Canon 1 of the Code of Professional Responsibility which provides:

A lawyer shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest and immoral or deceitful conduct.
Respondents claim of good faith in closing his account because he thought
complainant has already encashed all checks is preposterous. The account was closed
on or before 26 February 1996. He knew that there were still other checks due on 29
February 1996 and 15 March 1996 which could not be encashed before their
maturity dates.
By violating Rule 1.01 of Canon 1 of the Code of Professional Responsibility,
respondent diminished public confidence in the law and the lawyers (Busios v.
Ricafort, 283 SCRA 407 [1997]; Ducat v. Villalon,
337 SCRA 622 [2000]). Instead of promoting such confidence and respect, he
miserably failed to live up to the standards of the legal profession (Gonato v. Adaza,
328 SCRA 694 [2000]; Ducat v. Villalon, supra).
Respondents act of issuing bad checks in satisfaction of the alias writ of execution
for money judgment rendered by the trial court was a clear attempt to defeat the ends
of justice. His failure to make good the checks despite demands and the criminal
cases for violation of B.P. Blg. 22 showed his continued defiance of judicial
processes, which he, as an officer of the court, was under continuing duty to
uphold.39
Bearing in mind his administrative record, and considering that the penalty for
violation of Canon 16 ranges from suspension for six months,40 to suspension for one
year,41 to suspension for two years,42 depending on the amount involved and the
severity of the lawyers misconduct, we rule that disbarment is the commensurate
punishment for Atty. Ricafort, who has shown no reformation in his handling of trust
funds for his clients.
WHEREFORE, we find and declare Atty. Romulo L. Ricafort guilty of a violation
of Canon 16, Rule 16.01 and Canon 17 of the Code of Professional Responsibility
and, accordingly, disbar him. The Bar Confidant is directed to strike out his name
from the Roll of Attorneys.
Atty. Ricafort is ordered to return to Erlinda R. Tarog the sums of P65,000.00
and P15,000.00, plus interest of six percent per annum reckoned from the demand
made on December 3, 2002, within twenty days from notice.
This decision is effective immediately.

Let a copy of this decision be furnished to the Office of the Court Administrator for
circulation to all courts, and to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, for its reference.
SO ORDERED.

x-----------------------------------------x

R ES OLUTION

CORONA, J.:

This is a complaint for disbarment[1] filed by Pedro Linsangan of the Linsangan


FIRST DIVISION

Linsangan & Linsangan Law Office against Atty. Nicomedes Tolentino for
solicitation of clients and encroachment of professional services.

PEDRO L. LINSANGAN, A.C. No. 6672


Complainant,
Present:

Complainant alleged that respondent, with the help of paralegal Fe Marie Labiano,
convinced his clients[2] to transfer legal representation. Respondent promised them

PUNO, C.J., Chairperson,

financial assistance[3] and expeditious collection on their claims. [4] To induce them to

CARPIO,

hire his services, he persistently called them and sent them text messages.

- v e r s u s - CORONA,
LEONARDO-DE CASTRO and
To support his allegations, complainant presented the sworn affidavit [5] of James

BERSAMIN, JJ.

Gregorio attesting that Labiano tried to prevail upon him to sever his lawyer-client

ATTY. NICOMEDES TOLENTINO,

relations with complainant and utilize respondents services instead, in exchange for a

Respondent. Promulgated:
September 4, 2009

loan of P50,000. Complainant also attached respondents calling card:[6]

INJURY, ILLNESS, SICKNESS, DEATH


Front

AND INSURANCE BENEFIT CLAIMS


ABROAD.
NICOMEDES TOLENTINO
LAW OFFFICE

(emphasis supplied)

CONSULTANCY & MARITIME SERVICES


W/ FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE

Hence, this complaint.

Respondent, in his defense, denied knowing Labiano and authorizing the printing
Fe Marie L. Labiano
and circulation of the said calling card.[7]
Paralegal
The complaint was referred to the Commission on Bar Discipline (CBD) of the
1st MIJI Mansion, 2nd Flr. Rm. M-01 Tel: 362-7820
6th Ave., cor M.H. Del Pilar Fax: (632) 362-7821

Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) for investigation, report and recommendation.
[8]

Grace Park, Caloocan City Cel.: (0926) 2701719


Based on testimonial and documentary evidence, the CBD, in its report and
recommendation,[9] found that respondent had encroached on the professional
practice of complainant, violating Rule 8.02 [10] and other canons[11] of the Code of
Back

Professional Responsibility (CPR). Moreover, he contravened the rule against


SERVICES OFFERED:
CONSULTATION AND ASSISTANCE
TO OVERSEAS SEAMEN
REPATRIATED DUE TO ACCIDENT,

soliciting cases for gain, personally or through paid agents or brokers as stated in
Section 27, Rule 138[12] of the Rules of Court. Hence, the CBD recommended that
respondent be reprimanded with a stern warning that any repetition would merit a
heavier penalty.

We adopt the findings of the IBP on the unethical conduct of respondent but we

Rule 2.03 of the CPR provides:

modify the recommended penalty.


RULE 2.03. A LAWYER SHALL NOT DO OR PERMIT TO BE
DONE ANY ACT DESIGNED PRIMARILY TO SOLICIT
LEGAL BUSINESS.

The complaint before us is rooted on the alleged intrusion by respondent into


complainants professional practice in violation of Rule 8.02 of the CPR. And the
means employed by respondent in furtherance of the said misconduct themselves
constituted distinct violations of ethical rules.

Canons of the CPR are rules of conduct all lawyers must adhere to, including the
manner by which a lawyers services are to be made known. Thus, Canon 3 of the

Hence, lawyers are prohibited from soliciting cases for the purpose of gain, either
personally or through paid agents or brokers. [15] Such actuation constitutes
malpractice, a ground for disbarment.[16]

CPR provides:
Rule 2.03 should be read in connection with Rule 1.03 of the CPR which
CANON 3 - A LAWYER IN MAKING KNOWN HIS LEGAL
SERVICES SHALL USE ONLY TRUE, HONEST, FAIR,
DIGNIFIED
AND
OBJECTIVE
INFORMATION
OR
STATEMENT OF FACTS.

provides:

RULE 1.03. A LAWYER SHALL NOT, FOR ANY CORRUPT


MOTIVE OR INTEREST, ENCOURAGE ANY SUIT OR
PROCEEDING OR DELAY ANY MANS CAUSE.

Time and time again, lawyers are reminded that the practice of law is a profession
and not a business; lawyers should not advertise their talents as merchants advertise
their wares.[13] To allow a lawyer to advertise his talent or skill is to commercialize
the practice of law, degrade the profession in the publics estimation and impair its
ability to efficiently render that high character of service to which every member of
the bar is called.[14]

This rule proscribes ambulance chasing (the solicitation of almost any kind of legal
business by an attorney, personally or through an agent in order to gain employment)
[17]

as a measure to protect the community from barratry and champerty.[18]

Complainant presented substantial evidence[19] (consisting of the sworn statements of

receiving benefits from Labianos referrals. Furthermore, he never denied Labianos

the very same persons coaxed by Labiano and referred to respondents office) to

connection to his office.[21] Respondent committed an unethical, predatory overstep

prove that respondent indeed solicited legal business as well as profited from

into anothers legal practice. He cannot escape liability under Rule 8.02 of the CPR.

referrals suits.

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


respondent violated Rule 16.04:

Although respondent initially denied knowing Labiano in his answer, he


Rule 16.04 A lawyer shall not borrow money from his client unless the
clients interests are fully protected by the nature of the case or by
independent advice. Neither shall a lawyer lend money to a client
except, when in the interest of justice, he has to advance necessary
expenses in a legal matter he is handling for the client.

later admitted it during the mandatory hearing.

Through Labianos actions, respondents law practice was benefited. Hapless


seamen were enticed to transfer representation on the strength of Labianos word that

The rule is that a lawyer shall not lend money to his client. The only
exception is, when in the interest of justice, he has to advance necessary expenses

respondent could produce a more favorable result.

Based on the foregoing, respondent clearly solicited employment violating Rule


2.03, and Rule 1.03 and Canon 3 of the CPR and Section 27, Rule 138 of the Rules

(such as filing fees, stenographers fees for transcript of stenographic notes, cash
bond or premium for surety bond, etc.) for a matter that he is handling for the client.

of Court.
The rule is intended to safeguard the lawyers independence of mind so that
With regard to respondents violation of Rule 8.02 of the CPR, settled is the rule that
the free exercise of his judgment may not be adversely affected. [22] It seeks to ensure
a lawyer should not steal another lawyers client nor induce the latter to retain him by
his undivided attention to the case he is handling as well as his entire devotion and
a promise of better service, good result or reduced fees for his services.

[20]

Again the
fidelity to the clients cause. If the lawyer lends money to the client in connection

Court notes that respondent never denied having these seafarers in his client list nor
with the clients case, the lawyer in effect acquires an interest in the subject matter of

the case or an additional stake in its outcome.[23] Either of these circumstances may

only allowed to announce their services by publication in reputable law lists or use of

lead the lawyer to consider his own recovery rather than that of his client, or to

simple professional cards.

accept a settlement which may take care of his interest in the verdict to the prejudice
of the client in violation of his duty of undivided fidelity to the clients cause.

Professional calling cards may only contain the following details:

[24]

As previously mentioned, any act of solicitation constitutes malpractice [25] which


calls for the exercise of the Courts disciplinary powers. Violation of anti-solicitation
statutes warrants serious sanctions for initiating contact with a prospective client for
the purpose of obtaining employment.[26] Thus, in this jurisdiction, we adhere to the

(a)

lawyers name;

(b)

name of the law firm with which he is connected;

(c)

address;

(d)

telephone number and

(e)

special branch of law practiced.[28]

rule to protect the public from the Machiavellian machinations of unscrupulous


lawyers and to uphold the nobility of the legal profession.
Labianos calling card contained the phrase with financial assistance. The
Considering the myriad infractions of respondent (including violation of the

phrase was clearly used to entice clients (who already had representation) to change

prohibition on lending money to clients), the sanction recommended by the IBP, a

counsels with a promise of loans to finance their legal actions. Money was dangled

mere reprimand, is a wimpy slap on the wrist. The proposed penalty is grossly

to lure clients away from their original lawyers, thereby taking advantage of their

incommensurate to its findings.

financial distress and emotional vulnerability. This crass commercialism degraded


the integrity of the bar and deserved no place in the legal profession. However, in the

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

absence of substantial evidence to prove his culpability, the Court is not prepared to

lawyers best advertisement is a well-merited reputation for professional capacity and

rule that respondent was personally and directly responsible for the printing and

fidelity to trust based on his character and conduct. [27] For this reason, lawyers are

distribution of Labianos calling cards.

WHEREFORE, respondent Atty. Nicomedes Tolentino for violating Rules 1.03,


2.03, 8.02 and 16.04 and Canon 3 of the Code of Professional Responsibility and
Section 27, Rule 138 of the Rules of Court is hereby SUSPENDED from the
practice of law for a period of one year effective immediately from receipt of this
resolution. He is STERNLY WARNEDthat a repetition of the same or similar acts in
the future shall be dealt with more severely.

Let a copy of this Resolution be made part of his records in the Office of the Bar
Confidant, Supreme Court of the Philippines, and be furnished to the Integrated Bar
of the Philippines and the Office of the Court Administrator to be circulated to all
courts.

SO ORDERED.

November 22, 2011


x-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------x
DECISION
BERSAMIN, J.:
Rule 16.03 - A lawyer shall deliver the funds and property
of his client when due or upon demand. However, he shall
have a lien over the funds and may apply so much thereof as
may be necessary to satisfy his lawful fees and disbursements,
giving notice promptly thereafter to his client. He shall also
have a lien to the same extent on all judgments and executions
he has secured for his client as provided for in the Rules of
Court.
- Code of Professional Responsibility.

Republic of the Philippines


Supreme Court
Manila
EN BANC
TERESITA T. BAYONLA,
Complainant,

-versus-

ATTY. PURITA A. REYES,


Respondent.

This canon of professional responsibility is at the center of this


administrative complaint for disbarment for gross dishonesty, deceit, conversion, and
breach of trust filed against Atty. Purita A. Reyes by Teresita T. Bayonla, her client. [1]

A.C. No. 4808


Present:
CORONA, C.J.,
CARPIO,
VELASCO, JR.,
LEONARDO-DE CASTRO,
BRION,
PERALTA,
BERSAMIN,
DEL CASTILLO,
ABAD,
VILLARAMA, JR.,
PEREZ,
MENDOZA,
SERENO,
REYES, and
PERLAS-BERNABE, JJ.:
Promulgated:

Antecedents

Petra Durban and Paz Durban were sisters who had jointly owned a parcel
of land situated in Butuan City in their lifetimes. They died without leaving a will.
Their land was thereafter expropriated in connection with the construction of the
Bancasi Airport. An expropriation compensation amounting to P2,453,429.00 was to
be paid to their heirs. Bayonla and her uncle, Alfredo Tabada (Alfredo), were the
compulsory heirs of Paz, being, respectively, Pazs granddaughter and son.[2]

On June 22, 1997, Bayonla charged Atty. Reyes with gross dishonesty,
deceit, conversion, and breach of trust. Bayonla alleged that on October 21, 1993,
she and Alfredo had engaged the legal services of Atty. Reyes to collect their share in

the expropriation compensation from theAir Transportation Office (ATO), Cagayan


De Oro City,[3] agreeing to her attorneys fees of 10% of whatever amount would be

On June 29, 1998, the Court referred the complaint to the Integrated Bar of
the Philippines (IBP) for investigation, report, and recommendation.[6]

collected; that in November 1993, Atty. Reyes had collected P1 million from the
ATO; that Bayonlas share, after deducting Atty. Reyes attorneys fees, would

On April 20, 1999, IBP Commissioner Lydia A. Navarro (Commissioner

beP75,000.00, but Atty. Reyes had delivered to her only P23,000.00, and had failed

Navarro) rendered a report,[7] whereby she found and recommended against Atty.

to deliver the balance of P52,000.00 despite repeated demands; that on June 5, 1995,

Reyes as follows:

Atty. Reyes had collected the amount of P121,119.11 from the ATO; that Bayonlas
share, after deducting Atty. Reyes attorneys fees, would be P109,007.20, but Atty.
Reyes had handed her only P56,500.00, and had failed to deliver the balance
of P52,507.20; and that Atty. Reyes should be disbarred for depriving her of her just
share.[4]

In her comment dated February 10, 1998, [5] Atty. Reyes admitted that
Bayonla and Alfredo had engaged her legal services for the purpose of collecting
their share in the expropriation compensation; that as consideration for her services,
Bayonla and Alfredo had agreed upon a 40% contingent fee for her; that she had
given to Bayonla more than what had been due to her; that Alfredo had received
from the ATO the check for the second release corresponding to the share of both
Bayonla and Alfredo; that Alfredo had gotten more than Bayonla out of the second
release; that on June 5, 1995 she had received out of the second release by the ATO
only her 40% contingent fee; that Bayonla and Alfredo had agreed to bear the
expenses for the collection of their share; that she had incurred travel and other

In so far as this case of disbarment is concerned, the issue


hinges only on the complainants position; one of the heirs of Paz
Durban whose legal services of the respondent was not revoked.
The parties were required to submit documents relative to
their respective defenses (sic) specially the actual amounts released
by ATO, actual amount due to the complainant as her share, the
remittances made by the respondent to the complainant of her
share and receipts to prove the same.
Unfortunately, only the respondent filed an answer without
the necessary documents required of them and attached only a
xerox copy of the computation made by Atty. Ismael Laya for the
heir of Pedro Durban which had already been previously attached
to the records of this case.
In the said computation it appears that for the release on
February 17, 1993, the heirs of Durban received P84,852.00 and
for the second release each of them as well as the complainant was
entitled P121,119.11. It could be inferred from here that
complainant was supposed to received (sic) P205,971.11 as her
share.
Inasmuch as the attorneys fees of 40% was (sic) supported
by evidence instead of (sic) complainants allegation of ten [10%]
percent; then respondent was entitled to P82,388.45 as attorneys
fees; leaving a balance of P123,582.66 due to the complainant.

expenses in collecting such share; and that she should be absolved from liability
arising from the complaint.

Respondents allegation that she gave more than what was


alleged by the complainant is untenable for she did not submit
evidence to prove the same, therefore, as it is complainants
allegation that she received only P79,000.00 for her share as a
whole shall be considered for the moment until such time that
proofs to the contrary shall have been submitted.

Considering that complainant was supposed to receive the


amount due her which was P123,582.66 and actually received
only P79,000.00; then respondent still has to remit to complainant
the amount of P44,582.66.
From the records of this case respondent alleged that she
only collected the 40% attorneys fees for the second release
whereby Alfredo Tabada the other heir of Paz Durban received the
check from ATO and got a large part of the same. Respondent did
not mention how much she got as attorneys fees against
complainants share but on the whole amounting to P496,895.00
which is unfair to the complainant.

On June 19, 1999, the IBP Board of Governors adopted and approved the
report of Commissioner Navarro through Resolution No. XIII-99-165.[8]

Atty. Reyes moved for reconsideration, but on September 27, 1999 the IBP
Board of Governors denied her motion for reconsideration through Resolution No.
XIV-99-117.[9]

Atty. Reyes then filed a motion for reinvestigation. However, through its
As counsel for the heirs of Paz Durban, complainant herein
should have been advised by the respondent and given a
breakdown of whatever amount was received or came to her
knowledge as complainants counsel. Short of the foregoing,
respondent violated Rule 16.01 Canon 16 Chapter III of the Code
of Professional Responsibility; to wit:
Rule 16.01 A lawyer shall account for all
money or property collected or received for or
from the client.
Respondent was given a chance to rectify whatever errors or
misgivings (sic) she had done for her client but she unfortunately
failed to do so and did not comply with the Order dated October
29, 1998.
Wherefore, in view of the foregoing, the Undersigned
respectfully recommends that the respondent be required to render
an accounting or inventory duly confirmed by the complainant of
all the collected shares due the complainant and remit to the latter
the said amount of P44.582.66;
Until such time that respondent had complied with the
aforementioned, she is suspended from the practice of her legal
profession.
Respectfully submitted.

Resolution No. XV-2001-111 adopted on July 28, 2001, the IBP Board of Governors
denied the motion for reinvestigation for lack of jurisdiction, stating that the matter
had already been endorsed to the Court.[10]

On July 30, 2002, the Court directed the IBP Board of Governors to report
on whether Atty. Reyes had already accounted for and remitted the amount
of P44,582.66 to Bayonla.[11]

On August 22, 2002, the IBP Board of Governors informed the Court that
per the manifestation of Bayonlas counsel Atty. Reyes had not yet rendered an
accounting and had not yet remitted the amount of P44,582.66 to Bayonla.[12]

Through her manifestation dated September 4, 2002 to the Court, [13] Atty.
Reyes posed some queries, as follows: (a) whether she could be compelled to pay the
amount of P44,582.66 to Bayonla even if the latters claims had been based on
perjured statements; (b) whether the payment of the amount would operate to dismiss
the estafa case previously filed by Bayonla against her for allegedly failing to deliver

the balance of Bayonlas share; and (c) whether she could deposit the amount
of P44,582.66 with either the IBP Board of Governors or the Court.

Canon 16 of the Code of Professional Responsibility requires that a lawyer


shall hold in trust all moneys and properties of her client that may come into her
possession. Rule 16.01 of Canon 16 imposes on the lawyer the duty to account for all

Atty. Reyes also stated in the manifestation that the IBP Board of Governors

money or property collected or received for or from the client. Rule 16.03 of Canon

did not accord to her the right to confront Bayonla during the investigation

16 demands that the lawyer shall deliver the funds and property of his client when

conducted by the IBP Board of Governors; that Bayonlas counsel had induced

due or upon demand, subject to the lawyers lien over the funds, or the lawyers option

Bayonla to file the estafa charge against her; and that this had prompted her to

to apply so much of the funds as may be necessary to satisfy the lawful fees and

initiate a disbarment complaint against Bayonlas counsel. [14]

disbursements, giving notice promptly thereafter to the client.

On May 24, 2010, the Office of the Bar Confidant (OBC) recommended the

The canons are appropriate considering that the relationship between a

final resolution of this case. [15] The recommendation was noted by the Court on June

lawyer and her client is highly fiduciary, and prescribes on a lawyer a great degree of

29, 2010.[16]

fidelity and good faith. There is no question that the money or property received by a
lawyer for her client properly belongs to the latter.[17] Conformably with these canons
Issue

of professional responsibility, we have held that a lawyer is obliged to render an


accounting of all the property and money she has collected for her client. This

Whether or not the findings and recommendations of the IBP Board of

obligation includes the prompt reporting and accounting of the money collected by
the lawyer by reason of a favorable judgment to his client.[18]

Governors were proper.

Ruling

Based on the records, Bayonla and her uncle would each receive the amount
of P84,852.00 out of the first release, and the amount ofP121,119.11 out of the

We affirm the findings of the IBP Board of Governors, which were


supported by the records, but we modify the sanctions to be imposed on Atty. Reyes.

second release. Her total share from the two releases was P205,971.11. With Atty.
Reyes being entitled to P82,388.44 as attorneys fees, the equivalent of 40% of
Bayonlas share, the net share of Bayonla was P123,582.67. Yet, Atty. Reyes actually

I
Respondent was guilty of violating the canons
of the Code of Professional Responsibility

delivered to her onlyP79,000.00,[19] which was short by P44,582.67. Despite


demands by Bayonla and despite the orders from the IBP Board of Governors for her
to remit the shortage,[20] Atty. Reyes refused to do so.

By not delivering Bayonlas share despite her demand, Atty. Reyes violated

II
Pendency of other cases not an obstacle
to administrative proceeding against respondent

the aforestated canons. The money collected by Atty. Reyes as the lawyer of Bayonla
was unquestionably money held in trust to be immediately turned over to the client.
[21]

The unjustified withholding of money belonging to the client warrants the

imposition of disciplinary sanctions on the lawyer.[22] Without doubt, Atty. Reyes


failure to immediately account for and to deliver the money upon demand was
deceit, for it signified that she had converted the money to her own use, in violation
of the trust Bayonla had reposed in her. It constituted gross misconduct for which the
penalty of suspension from the practice of law became justified pursuant to Section
27, Rule 138 of the Rules of Court, to wit:
Section 27. Disbarment or suspension of attorneys by
Supreme Court, grounds therefor. A member of the bar may be
disbarred or suspended from his office as attorney by the Supreme
Court for any deceit, malpractice, or other gross misconduct in
such office, grossly immoral conduct, or by reason of his
conviction of a crime involving moral turpitude, or for any
violation of the oath which he is required to take before admission
to practice, or for a wilful disobedience appearing as an attorney
for a party to a case without authority so to do. The practice of
soliciting cases at law for the purpose of gain, either personally or
through paid agents or brokers, constitutes malpractice.
The disbarment or suspension of a member of the Philippine
Bar by a competent court or other disciplinary agency in a foreign
jurisdiction where he has also been admitted as an attorney is a
ground for his disbarment or suspension if the basis of such action
includes any of the acts hereinabove enumerated.
The judgment, resolution or order of the foreign court or
disciplinary agency shall be prima facie evidence of the ground for
disbarment or suspension. (As amended by SC Resolution dated
February 13, 1992.)

The filing of the perjury charge by Atty. Reyes against Bayonla and of
the estafa charge by Bayonla against Atty. Reyes could not halt or excuse the duty of
Atty. Reyes to render an accounting and to remit the amount due to Bayonla. Nor did
the pendency of such cases inhibit this administrative matter from proceeding on its
due course. It is indisputable that the pendency of any criminal charges between the
lawyer and her client does not negate the administrative proceedings against the
lawyer. We explained why in Suzuki v. Tiamson,[23] to wit:
The settled rule is that criminal and civil cases are
different from administrative matters, such that the disposition
in the first two will not inevitably govern the third and vice
versa. In this light, we refer to this Courts ruling in Berbano vs.
Barcelona, citing In re Almacen, where it was held:
Disciplinary proceedings against lawyers are sui
generis. Neither purely civil nor purely criminal, they
do not involve a trial of an action or a suit, but rather
investigations by the Court into the conduct of one of
its officers. Not being intended to inflict punishment,
[they are] in no sense a criminal prosecution.
Accordingly, there is neither a plaintiff nor a prosecutor
therein. [They] may be initiated by the Court motu
proprio. Public interest is [their] primary objective, and
the real question for determination is whether or not the
attorney is still a fit person to be allowed the privileges
as such. Hence, in the exercise of its disciplinary
powers, the Court merely calls upon a member of
the Bar to account for his actuations as an officer of
the Court with the end in view of preserving the
purity of the legal profession and the proper and
honest administration of justice by purging the
profession of members who by their misconduct
have prove[n] themselves no longer worthy to be
entrusted with the duties and responsibilities
pertaining to the office of an attorney.

Hence, our only concern in the instant case is the


determination of respondents administrative liability and our
findings herein should not in any way be treated as having any
material bearing on any other judicial action which the parties
may choose to file against each other. [emphasis supplied]

We do not consider Atty. Reyess contention valid. She was accorded full
due process, for she in fact participated in all stages of the proceedings.

It is true that a lawyer shall not be disbarred or suspended from the practice
Relevantly, we have also emphasized in Gatchalian Promotions Talents
Pool, Inc. v. Naldoza [24] that

of law until she has had full opportunity upon reasonable notice to answer the
charges against her, to produce witnesses in her behalf, and to be heard by herself or
counsel.[26] Contrary to Atty. Reyes insistence, however, the IBP Board of Governors

xxx a finding of guilt in the criminal case will not


necessarily result in a finding of liability in the administrative
case. Conversely, respondents acquittal does not necessarily
exculpate him administratively. In the same vein, the trial courts
finding of civil liability against the respondent will not inexorably
lead to a similar finding in the administrative action before this
Court. Neither will a favorable disposition in the civil action
absolve the administrative liability of the lawyer.

was under no legal obligation to conduct a trial-type proceeding at which she could
have personally confronted Bayonla. In other words, the lack of such proceeding
neither diminished her right to due process nor deprived her of the right. A formal
investigation entailing notice and hearing is required in administrative proceedings
for disbarment, but the imperative need of notice and hearing does not always mean
the holding of an adversarial trial-type proceeding. Due process is still satisfied

It serves well to mention, lastly, that the simultaneous pendency of an

when the parties are afforded the reasonable opportunity to be heard and to submit

administrative case and a judicial proceeding related to the cause of the

evidence in support of their respective sides. [27] As the Court said in Samalio v. Court

administrative case, even if the charges and the evidence to be adduced in such cases

of Appeals:[28]

are similar, does not result into or occasion any unfairness, or prejudice, or
deprivation of due process to the parties in either of the cases.[25]
III
No denial of due process to respondent

Atty. Reyes contends that she was denied her right to due process because
the IBP Board of Governors did not permit her to personally confront the
complainant.

Due process in an administrative context does not


require trial-type proceedings similar to those in courts of
justice. Where opportunity to be heard either through oral
arguments or through pleadings is accorded, there is no denial
of procedural due process. A formal or trial-type hearing is not
at all times and in all instances essential. The requirements are
satisfied where the parties are afforded fair and reasonable
opportunity to explain their side of the controversy at hand.
The standard of due process that must be met in
administrative tribunals allows a certain degree of latitude as
long as fairness is not ignored. In other words, it is not legally
objectionable for being violative of due process for an
administrativeagency to resolve a case based solely on position
papers, affidavits or documentary evidence submitted by the
parties as affidavits of witnesses may take the place of their
direct testimony.

In this case, petitioner was heard through the various


pleadings which he filed with the Board of Discipline of the BID
when he filed his answer and two motions to dismiss, as well as
other motions and papers. He was also able to participate in all
stages of the administrative proceeding. He was able to elevate his
case to the Secretary of Justice and, subsequently, to the CSC by
way of appeal.
We have consistently held that the essence of due process
is simply the opportunity to be heard or, as applied to
administrative proceedings, the opportunity to explain ones
side or the opportunity to seek a reconsideration of the action
or ruling complained of. And any seeming defect in its
observance is cured by the filing of a motion for
reconsideration. Denial of due process cannot be successfully
invoked by a party who has had the opportunity to be heard on
his motion for reconsideration. [bold emphasis supplied]

The penalty for gross misconduct consisting in the failure or refusal despite
demand of a lawyer to account for and to return money or property belonging to a
client has been suspension from the practice of law for two years. In Almendarez, Jr.
v. Langit,[33] the lawyer who withdrew the rentals pertaining to his client
totaling P255,000.00 without the knowledge of the client and who ignored the
demand of the client to account for and to return the amount was suspended from the
practice of law for two years. In Mortera v. Pagatpatan,[34] the lawyer
received P155,000.00 from the adversary of his clients as partial payment of a final
and executory decision in favor of the clients pursuant to a secret arrangement
between the lawyer and the adversary, and deposited the amount to the lawyers

Nevertheless, the IBP Board of Governors actually conducted a formal


investigation of the complaint against Atty. Reyes upon the directive of the Court. In
her formal investigation of the complaint, Commissioner Navarro allowed both
parties to submit their respective proofs on the actual amounts released by the ATO,
the amounts due to Bayonla as her share, Atty. Reyes corresponding contingent fees,
the remittances by Atty. Reyes to Bayonla, and the receipts showing such
remittances.[29] In due course, Atty. Reyes submitted her written answer, attaching to
the answer the documents supporting her defenses.[30] Commissioner Navarro took
all of Atty. Reyes submissions into good and proper account, as borne out by her
report.[31] And even after the IBP Board of Governors had adopted Commissioner

personal bank account without the knowledge of the clients; the lawyer thereafter
refused to surrender the money to his clients. The suspension of the lawyer for two
years from the practice of law was ordered by the Court. In Small v. Banares,[35] a
similar penalty of suspension for a period of two years from the practice of law was
imposed on a lawyer who had failed to file a case for the purpose of which he had
received

an

amount

of P80,000.00,

and

to

return

the

amount

upon

demand. In Barcenas v. Alvero,[36] the Court suspended for a period of two years from
the practice of law a lawyer who had failed to immediately account for and to
returnP300,000.00 received from a client for the purpose of depositing it in court,
after the lawyer had been found not to have deposited the money in court.

Navarros report (and its recommendation), Atty. Reyes was still afforded the fair
opportunity to challenge the adverse findings by filing her motion for
reconsideration, although such motion was ultimately resolved against her.[32]

Considering that the sin of Atty. Reyes had striking resemblance with the
sins thus sanctioned in the aforementioned precedents, the proper penalty for her is
suspension from the practice of law for two years, with warning that a similar

IV
Sanction

offense by her will be dealt with more severely.

Atty. Reyes is further obliged to pay to Bayonla the amount of P44,582.67,

complete written accounting and inventory of: - (a) the amounts she had collected

which the IBP Board of Governors found to be still unpaid, by way of restitution.

from the Air Transportation Office as expropriation compensation; (b) the total

Although the Court renders this decision in an administrative proceeding primarily to

amount due to the complainant; (c) the total amount she had actually remitted to the

exact the ethical responsibility on a member of the Philippine Bar, the Courts silence

complainant; and (d) the amount she had deducted as her contingent fee vis--visthe

about the respondent lawyers legal obligation to restitute the complainant will be

complainant.

both unfair and inequitable. No victim of gross ethical misconduct concerning the
clients funds or property should be required to still litigate in another proceeding

Within the same period of compliance, Atty. Reyes shall submit to the

what the administrative proceeding has already established as the respondents

Court, through the Office of the Bar Confidant, authentic written proof that her

liability. That has been the reason why the Court has required restitution of the

accounting, inventory, and payment were furnished to and received by the

amount involved as a concomitant relief in the cited cases of Mortera v. Pagatpatan,

complainant in due course.

supra, Almendarez, Jr. v. Langit, supra, andSmall v. Banares, supra.


This Decision is without prejudice to any pending or contemplated
In addition, Atty. Reyes is liable for interest of 12% per annum reckoned

proceedings against Atty. Reyes.

from June 22, 1997, the date when she was formally charged with disbarment. This
rate of interest was prescribed by the Court in Almendarez, Jr. v. Langit and Small v.
Banares.

Let this Decision be disseminated to all lower courts and to the Integrated
Bar of the Philippines, with a copy of it to be included in Atty. Reyes file in the
Office of the Bar Confidant.

WHEREFORE,

the

Court FINDS

AND

PRONOUNCES ATTY.

PURITA A. REYES guilty of violating Rule 16.01 and Rule 16.03 of Canon 16 of
the Code of Professional Responsibility, and SUSPENDS her from the practice of
law for a period of two years effective upon receipt of this Decision, with warning
that a similar offense by her will be dealt with more severely.

The Court ORDERS Atty. Reyes to pay to complainant Teresita T. Bayonla


within 30 days from receipt of this Decision the amount ofP44,582.67, with interest
of 12% per annum from June 22, 1997, and to render unto the complainant a

SO ORDERED.

ATTY. MERVYN G. ENCANTO, ATTY. NUMERIANO G. TANOPO, JR.,


ATTY. JOSE AGUILA GRAPILON, ATTY. BEDA G. FAJARDO, ATTY.
RENE C. VILLA, THE INTEGRATED BAR OF THE PHILIPPINES, thru its
COMMISSION ON BAR DISCIPLINE, as represented by ATTY. MERVYN G.
ENCANTO, incumbent National President; ATTY. CARMEN LEONOR P.
MERCADO-ALCANTARA; SPOUSES JESUS K. MERCADO and ROSARIO
P. MERCADO; and J.K. MERCADO AND SONS AGRICULTURAL
ENTERPRISES, INC., respondents.
RESOLUTION

VITUG, J.:

Republic of the Philippines


SUPREME COURT
Manila
THIRD DIVISION

Adm. Case No. 3066 October 26, 1999


J.K. MERCADO AND SONS AGRICULTURAL ENTERPRISES, INC., and
SPOUSES JESUS and ROSARIO K. MERCADO, complainants,
vs.
EDUARDO DE VERA and JOSE RONGKALES BANDALAN, respondents.
Adm. Case No. 4438 October 26, 1999
ATTY. EDUARDO C. DE VERA, petitioner-complainant,
vs.

The petition for disbarment filed by J.K. Mercado and Sons Agricultural Enterprises,
Inc. ("Mercado and Sons"), and the spouses Jesus K. Mercado and Rosario P.
Mercado against Atty. Eduardo C. De Vera and Atty. Jose Rongkales Bandalan, the
former Regional Trial Court Judge of Davao City, Branch 14, is an offshoot of Civil
Case No. 17215, an action for "dissolution/liquidation of conjugal partnership,
accounting, support with supportpendente lite, annulment of contract, reconveyance
or recovery of possession of conjugal share, partition, damages, and attorneys fees"
filed by Rosario P. Mercado ("R. Mercado") against Jesus K. Mercado ("J.
Mercado"), Mercado and Sons, and Standard Fruits Corporation ("Stanfilco"). The
case was assigned to the sala of then Judge Bandalan. Representing R. Mercado was
Atty. De Vera.
On 15 December 1986, Judge Bandalan decided the case in favor of R. Mercado. She
was awarded the sum of a little over P9 million. On 19 December 1986, J. Mercado
and Mercado and Sons filed a timely notice of appeal. Stanfilco, for its part, filed a
motion for reconsideration. On 05 January 1987, Judge Bandalan granted the motion
for execution pending appeal filed by Atty. De Vera. On even date, the judge likewise
granted Atty. De Vera's "motion to note plaintiffs counsel's statement of claim of
Attorney's lien (charging and retaining) and motion to direct Provincial Registry of
Deeds of Davao to annotate such liens on the certificates of titles of (the) Mercado
spouses." On 12 January 1998, a writ of execution was issued. Two days later or on
14 January 1987, notices of garnishment under execution pending appeal were
served by Sheriff Aquillo Angon on the respective managers of RCBC, Claveria,
Davao City; RCBC, Tagum, Davao Del Norte, Traders Royal Bank, City Hall Drive,

Davao City; and Traders Royal Bank, R. Magsaysay Ave., Davao City. It would
appear that a total amount of P1,270,734.56 was garnished.1wphi1.nt
On 26 February 1987, R. Mercado terminated the services of Atty. De Vera, offering
the amount of P350,000.00 by way of attorney's fees. She, at the same time,
demanded an accounting and the turn-over of the money still in the possession of
Atty. De Vera. The latter refused to heed the demand, claiming that pursuant to the
decision, he should, in fact, be entitled to P2,254,217.00 by way of attorney's fees.
Failing to recover what she had felt was lawfully due to her, R. Mercado filed
disbarment proceedings against Atty. de Vera. The matter was initially referred to the
Office of the Solicitor General for investigation, report and recommendation;
however, upon the approval and implementation of Rule 139-B of the Rules of
Court, the case was transferred to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines ("IBP") and
assigned to Commissioner Ernesto L. Pineda.
Assailing the conduct of the proceedings, Atty. De Vera filed with this Court a
petition for certiorari, prohibition and injunction, docketed G.R. No. 96333, to
enjoin Commissioner Pineda from continuing with the investigation. The petition
was dismissed by the Court, in its resolution 1 of 02 September 1992, and
Commissioner Pineda was directed to proceed and to submit his report to the Court
within ten (10) days from notice. Prior to his receipt of the resolution, however,
Commissioner Pineda had ceased to be the IBP hearing officer; consequently, the
case was re-assigned to Commissioner Plaridel C. Jose.
Noting that the proper forum of complaints against Justices and judges of lower
courts is the Supreme Court, Commissioner Jose dismissed the case against Judge
Bandalan for lack of jurisdiction. In his report, dated 04 November 1992,
Commissioner Jose recommended the dismissal of the disbarment case "without
prejudice to the rights of the parties to ventilate the question of attorney's fees that
should be due to Atty. Eduardo C. de Vera before the proper forum." It would appear
that a clarificatory addendum report, dated 06 December 1993, was later submitted
by Commissioner Jose.
Meanwhile, on 23 March 1993, the IBP Board of Governors adopted Resolution No.
X-93-41 recommending to the Supreme Court the suspension of Atty. De Vera from
the practice of law for one (1) year and dismissing the case against Judge Bandalan
for lack of jurisdiction. This action of the IBP Board of Governors prompted Atty. De
Vera to file Administrative Case No. 4438 seeking the disbarment of Attorneys
Mervyn G. Encanto, Numeriano G. Tanopo., Jr., Jose Aguila Grapilon, Beda G.
Fajardo, Rene C. Villa, and Carmen Leonor P. Mercado-Alcantara for grave

misconduct, violation of the lawyer's oath, and malpractice. Atty. De Vera averred
that the resolution of 23 March 1993 was not formally discussed, deliberated upon,
actually adopted nor passed upon during, and before the expiration of, the term of
office of the members of the IBP Board of Governors. He also accused Atty.
Alcantara of conspiring with the IBP officers in the preparation, rendition and release
of the resolution, citing the latter's motions for early resolutions filed on 12 October
1993 and 26 July 1994. He, finally, alleged that a copy of the resolution was sent to
him only on 09 June 1995.
Atty. Numeriano G. Tanopo, Jr., explained that Resolution No. X-93-41 was adopted
at a special meeting convened on 23 March 1993 by Executive Vice President
Mervyn Encanto during which Governors Jose Aguila Grapilon, Ma. Zita C. Valera,
Beda G. Fajardo, Rene C. Villa and Teodoro D. Nano, Jr., were in attendance. The
resolution was placed in the charge of the Directorate for Bar Discipline for the
procurement of the signatures of the members of the IBP Board of Governors. Since
the members from the nine different IBP regions would normally visit the National
Office only once a month, it was not unusual for the signing of resolutions to take
place a month or so following board meetings. The adoption of the assailed
resolution, according to Atty. Tanopo, had no taint of irregularity at all, asserting that
the term of office of the aforenamed members of the Board of Governors expired
only on 30 June 1993. Atty. Tanopo himself expressed surprise why the "Addendum
Report," dated 06 December 1993, had surfaced nine months after the adoption of
the resolution of the Board of Governors in A.C. No. 3066. He explained that the
newly-elected members of the IBP Board of Governors, in a special meeting held on
18 December 1993, noted that "the previous Board under President Tanopo already
rendered a decision in the above-entitled case as embodied under Resolution No. X93-41 dated March 23, 1993, except that the same has not been forwarded to the
Supreme Court inasmuch as some members of the previous Board had not affixed
their signatures on the copy of the decision." Hence, he said, Resolution No. XI-93170 was passed directing Governor Agustinus Gonzaga, Chairman of the Committee
on Bar Discipline, "to require the members of the immediately preceding Board of
Governors to affix their signatures on their decision in the above-entitled case," and
that, therefore, it was not possible for Atty. De Vera to be informed sooner of the
resolution of his case.
Attorneys Mervyn G. Encanto, Jose Aguila Grapilon, Beda G. Fajardo, Rene C. Villa
and Ma. Zita C. Valera added that the adoption of Resolution No. X-93-41 was duly
taken up and considered in the Special Meeting held on 23 March 1993. Attorneys
Grapilon, Tanopo, Encanto and Fajardo were able to sign the resolution before the
expiration of their term on 30 June 1993. Atty. Valera affixed his signature in the

early part of 1994 while Atty. Villa also did so sometime in October 1994 or
thereabouts. Attorneys Estenzo and Nano were unable to sign the resolution at all.
Atty. Encanto said that he could not have given a copy of the resolution to Atty. De
Vera when the latter went to his office in May 1994 since the resolution was not yet
ready for release at the time nor could he then discuss the matter with Atty. De Vera
because of the rule on confidentiality of pending proceedings.
Atty. Alcantara, in her case, denied the charge that she had conspired with the IBP
officers in the issuance of the IBP Board resolution and pointed out that the motions
for early resolution she filed would show nothing more than an adherence to the
regular procedure adopted in resolving A.C. No. 3066.
Atty. De Vera, in his reply, contended that the Minutes could not be taken to be a true
and faithful recording of the proceedings. He cited, for instance, the absurdity that
while on page four thereof, the minutes indicated that Commissioner Plaridel Jose
was asking for thirty days from 21 October 1992 within which to submit his report in
A.C. No. 3066, Resolution No. X-93-37 approved the request granting
Commissioner Jose a period of thirty days from 21 October 1993 within which to
submit the report. For another, the request for extension of time to submit the report
was granted on the same day the report was taken up. He likewise questioned why
the IBP Board of Governors evidently failed to consider that Commissioner Jose had
actually submitted two reports.

counsel's services to deprive him of his hard-earned honorarium.


Such an attitude deserves condemnation. 3
Correlatively, a lawyer is entitled to a "lien over funds, documents and
papers of his client which have lawfully come into his possession. 4 Under
Canon 16, Rule 16.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility 5 he may
"apply so much thereof as may be necessary to satisfy his lawful fees and
disbursements, giving notice promptly thereafter to his client." 6 In both
cases, however, it is to be assumed that the client agrees with the lawyer in
the amount of attorney's fees. In case of a disagreement, or when the client
disputes the amount claimed by the lawyer for being unconscionable, the
lawyer should not arbitrarily apply the funds in his possession to the
payment of his fees; instead, it should behoove the lawyer to file, if he still
deems it desirable, the necessary action or the proper motion with the
proper court to fix the amount of his attorney's fees. 7 If a lawyer were
allowed to unilaterally apply the funds in his hands in payment of his
claimed compensation even when there is a disagreement between him and
his client would not only be violative of the trust relationship between them
but can also open the door to possible abuse by those who are less than
mindful of their fiduciary duty.
The Court cannot ignore the findings made by the IBP Board of Governors, in its
resolution of 23 March 1993, hereunder reproduced; viz:

In A.C. No. 3066


While, indeed, the practice of law is not a business venture, a lawyer, nevertheless, is
entitled to be duly compensated for professional services rendered. So, also, he must
be protected against clients who wrongly refuse to give him his just due. In Albano
vs. Coloma, 2 this Court has said:
Counsel, any counsel, who is worthy of his hire, is entitled to be
fully recompensed for his services. With his capital consisting
solely of his brains and with his skill, acquired at tremendous cost
not only in money but in the expenditure of time and energy, he is
entitled to the protection of any judicial tribunal against any
attempt on the part of a client to escape payment of his fees. It is
indeed ironic if after putting forth the best that is in him to secure
justice for the party he represents, he himself would not get his
due. Such an eventuality this Court is determined to avoid. It views
with disapproval any and every effort of those benefited by

The records show that complainant Mrs. Mercado, assisted by her


erstwhile counsel, respondent de Vera was able to withdraw
garnished funds from the banks in the total amount of
P1,270,734.56 on January 14, 1987 and January 16, 1987 (Exhs.
"CC" and "DD", "30" and "31"). Said withdrawals were in
consequence of an Order dated January 12, 1987 issued by Judge
Bandalan (Exh. "K" or "15"). As prayed for by complainant Mrs.
Mercado per motion for execution pending appeal (Exh. "G" or
"14") filed in her behalf by respondent de Vera, she was almost 73
years old, in poor health and needed the amount for her daily
subsistence and medical needs.
There was an open admission by respondent de Vera as borne by
his entire testimony, that he was with Mrs. Mercado in the banks to
assist her to withdraw the garnished funds.

Complainant Mrs. Mercado's testimony on June 13, 1989 that she


was staying in a boarding house (TSN, June 13, 1989, page 14)
and that the money, then about P911,374.95 out of the garnished
amount of P1,223,874.95 after depositing P300,000.00 with Metro
Bank and TRB (TSN, September 5, 1989, pages 31 to 36, Exhs.
"MM" & "NN") are more than enough reasons not to withdraw or
encash the garnished amounts in the form of Manager Checks. If
not only for respondent de Vera's prodding and insistence,
complainant Mrs. Mercado would not have withdrawn and
encashed such a huge amount of money, only to bring it to an
unsafe boarding house which understandably could not provide a
guarded and safer depository of such huge amount of money, as in
banks. Why would complainant Mrs. Mercado withdraw from the
banks the whole amount of P1,223,873.95, and on the same day,
deposit P300,000.00 in other banks and carry with her
P911,374.95?
The scheming plot of respondent de Vera is too obvious to escape
notice.
With so much money contained in six bags, respondent de Vera
invited the aging complainant Mrs. Mercado to his house,
convinced the old lady to leave the money with him as accordingly,
she did not have a room in her boarding house and that it would be
safe if she left the money with him.
xxx xxx xxx
That respondent de Vera was, upon his unilateral estimation,
entitled to about P2.250 Million in attorney's fees, would not
exculpate him from the condemnable act of infidelity in the
custody of his client's funds. He was duty bound to turn over and
render a full accounting of what he received in satisfaction of the
judgment rendered in favor of complainant Mrs. Mercado in Civil
Case No. 17215. The relation between client and attorney is one of
trust and confidence.
Regrettably, Atty. De Vera would appear to have indeed gone over the bounds of
propriety when he refused to turn-over to his client the amount in excess of the
P350,000.00 he was, in effect, allowed to retain. His disagreement with the client, of

course, entitled him to take proper legal steps in order to recover what he might feel
to be his just due but, certainly, it was not a matter that he could take into his own
hands.
The Court is not prepared to conclude, however, that the circumstances detailed by
the IBP would create an impression, as so suggested in the resolution of 23 March
1993, that respondent lawyer somehow had much to be responsible for in the turn of
events that led to his possession of the funds of his client. In any event, the proven
actuations of Atty. De Vera, in the view of the Court, would sufficiently warrant a
commensurate disciplinary action.
In A.C. No. 4438
A close review of the IBP proceedings, substantially reflected in the Minutes of
Meeting of the Board of Governors, would indicate to the Court that no serious
irregularity attended the adoption of Resolution No. X-93-41 insofar, particularly, as
it recommended the suspension of Atty. De Vera from the practice of law.
Respondents were able to adequately show why the assailed resolution of the Board
of Governors' recommendation could not have been accomplished on the same day
of the meeting. Evidently; it was not an uncommon practice for board resolutions to
be signed on different dates by the members of the Board of Governors. While
Resolution No. X-93-41 had been signed by some of the previous members of the
Board of Governors after the expiration of their term of office, the action attested to
by the resolution, nevertheless, would unquestionably disclose that it was adopted
during their tenure. In fact, the succeeding members of the Board of Governors
affirmed, in their meeting of 18 December 1993, that the "previous Board . . . already
rendered a decision . . . as embodied under Resolution No. X-93-41 dated March 23,
1993 . . . " but that only some members of the previous Board had yet to affix their
signatures thereat. There might have been some inconsistencies in the assailed
minutes of the meeting of the Board of Governors, but these incongruences hardly
would establish convincingly, a concerted effort on the part of respondents to
manipulate the outcome of the case against Atty. De Vera.
The charge against Atty. Alcantara likewise has nothing much to stand on. The
allegation that she has been bragging about the fact that she could have Atty. De Vera
disbarred because of her influence in the IBP is not substantiated. Her motions for
the early resolution of the case, after the IBP Board of Governors adopted Resolution
No. X-93-41, only confirm the long delay in the release of the resolution and, indeed,
her apparent lack of knowledge of the final resolution theretofore reached by the
Board of Governors.

WHEREFORE, in Administrative Case No. 3066, Resolution No.


X-93-41, dated 23 March 1993, of the IBP Board of Governors, is AFFIRMED with
MODIFICATION. Atty. Eduardo C. De Vera is hereby SUSPENDED from the
practice of law for six (6) months and he is further DIRECTED to return to Rosario
K. Mercado the amount in his possession in excess of P350,000.00, without
prejudice to whatever judicial action he may take to recover his unsatisfied attorney's
fees, if any. His suspension stands until he has satisfactorily shown to the Court his
compliance therewith. Copies of this resolution shall be circulated to all Courts of
the country and spread on the personal record of Atty. De Vera.1wphi1.nt
Administrative Case No. 4438 is DISMISSED for lack of merit.
SO ORDERED.

THIRD DIVISION
[AC No. 99-634. June 10, 2002]

DOMINADOR
P. BURBE, complainant,
MAGULTA, respondent.

vs. ATTY.

ALBERTO

C.

DECISION
PANGANIBAN, J.:
After agreeing to take up the cause of a client, a lawyer owes fidelity to both
cause and client, even if the client never paid any fee for the attorney-client
relationship. Lawyering is not a business; it is a profession in which duty to public
service, not money, is the primary consideration.
The Case
Before us is a Complaint for the disbarment or suspension or any other
disciplinary action against Atty. Alberto C. Magulta. Filed by Dominador P. Burbe
with the Commission on Bar Discipline of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP)
on June 14, 1999, the Complaint is accompanied by a Sworn Statement alleging the
following:
xxxxxxxxx
That in connection with my business, I was introduced to Atty. Alberto C. Magulta,
sometime in September, 1998, in his office at the Respicio, Magulta and Adan Law
Offices at 21-B Otero Building, Juan de la Cruz St., Davao City, who agreed to
legally represent me in a money claim and possible civil case against certain parties
for breach of contract;
That consequent to such agreement, Atty. Alberto C. Magulta prepared for me the
demand letter and some other legal papers, for which services I have accordingly
paid; inasmuch, however, that I failed to secure a settlement of the dispute, Atty.
Magulta suggested that I file the necessary complaint, which he subsequently
drafted, copy of which is attached as Annex A, the filing fee whereof will require the
amount of Twenty Five Thousand Pesos (P25,000.00);
That having the need to legally recover from the parties to be sued I, on January 4,
1999, deposited the amount of P25,000.00 to Atty. Alberto C. Magulta, copy of the
Receipt attached as Annex B, upon the instruction that I needed the case filed
immediately;

That a week later, I was informed by Atty. Alberto C. Magulta that the complaint had
already been filed in court, and that I should receive notice of its progress;
That in the months that followed, I waited for such notice from the court or from
Atty. Magulta but there seemed to be no progress in my case, such that I frequented
his office to inquire, and he would repeatedly tell me just to wait;
That I had grown impatient on the case, considering that I am told to wait [every
time] I asked; and in my last visit to Atty. Magulta last May 25, 1999, he said that the
court personnel had not yet acted on my case and, for my satisfaction, he even
brought me to the Hall of Justice Building at Ecoland, Davao City, at about 4:00
p.m., where he left me at the Office of the City Prosecutor at the ground floor of the
building and told to wait while he personally follows up the processes with the Clerk
of Court; whereupon, within the hour, he came back and told me that the Clerk of
Court was absent on that day;
That sensing I was being given the run-around by Atty. Magulta, I decided to go to
the Office of the Clerk of Court with my draft of Atty. Magultas complaint to
personally verify the progress of my case, and there told that there was no record at
all of a case filed by Atty. Alberto C. Magulta on my behalf, copy of the Certification
dated May 27, 1999, attached as Annex C;
That feeling disgusted by the way I was lied to and treated, I confronted Atty. Alberto
C. Magulta at his office the following day, May 28, 1999, where he continued to lie
to with the excuse that the delay was being caused by the court personnel, and only
when shown the certification did he admit that he has not at all filed the complaint
because he had spent the money for the filing fee for his own purpose; and to
appease my feelings, he offered to reimburse me by issuing two (2) checks,
postdated June 1 and June 5, 1999, in the amounts of P12,000.00 and P8,000.00,
respectively, copies of which are attached as Annexes D and E;
That for the inconvenience, treatment and deception I was made to suffer, I wish to
complain Atty. Alberto C. Magulta for misrepresentation, dishonesty and oppressive
conduct;
x x x x x x x x x.[1]
On August 6, 1999, pursuant to the July 22, 1999 Order of the IBP Commission
on Bar Discipline,[2] respondent filed his Answer[3] vehemently denying the
allegations of complainant for being totally outrageous and baseless. The latter had

allegedly been introduced as a kumpadre of one of the formers law partners. After
their meeting, complainant requested him to draft a demand letter against Regwill
Industries, Inc. -- a service for which the former never paid. After Mr. Said Sayre,
one of the business partners of complainant, replied to this letter, the latter requested
that another demand letter -- this time addressed to the former -- be drafted by
respondent, who reluctantly agreed to do so. Without informing the lawyer,
complainant asked the process server of the formers law office to deliver the letter to
the addressee.
Aside from attending to the Regwill case which had required a three-hour
meeting, respondent drafted a complaint (which was only for the purpose of
compelling the owner to settle the case) and prepared a compromise agreement. He
was also requested by complainant to do the following:

Sometime in February 1999, complainant told respondent to suspend for the


meantime the filing of the complaint because the former might be paid by another
company, the First Oriental Property Ventures, Inc., which had offered to buy a
parcel of land owned by Regwill Industries. The negotiations went on for two
months, but the parties never arrived at any agreement.
Sometime in May 1999, complainant again relayed to respondent his interest in
filing the complaint. Respondent reminded him once more of the acceptance fee. In
response, complainant proposed that the complaint be filed first before payment of
respondents acceptance and legal fees. When respondent refused, complainant
demanded the return of the P25,000. The lawyer returned the amount using his own
personal checks because their law office was undergoing extensive renovation at the
time, and their office personnel were not reporting regularly. Respondents checks
were accepted and encashed by complainant.

1. Write a demand letter addressed to Mr. Nelson Tan


2. Write a demand letter addressed to ALC Corporation

Respondent averred that he never inconvenienced, mistreated or deceived


complainant, and if anyone had been shortchanged by the undesirable events, it was
he.

3. Draft a complaint against ALC Corporation


The IBPs Recommendation
4. Research on the Mandaue City property claimed by complainants wife
All of these respondent did, but he was never paid for his services by
complainant.
Respondent likewise said that without telling him why, complainant later on
withdrew all the files pertinent to the Regwill case. However, when no settlement
was reached, the latter instructed him to draft a complaint for breach of contract.
Respondent, whose services had never been paid by complainant until this time, told
the latter about his acceptance and legal fees. When told that these fees amounted
to P187,742 because the Regwill claim was almost P4 million, complainant promised
to pay on installment basis.
On January 4, 1999, complainant gave the amount of P25,000 to respondents
secretary and told her that it was for the filing fee of the Regwill case. When
informed of the payment, the lawyer immediately called the attention of
complainant, informing the latter of the need to pay the acceptance and filing fees
before the complaint could be filed. Complainant was told that the amount he had
paid was a deposit for the acceptance fee, and that he should give the filing fee later.

In its Report and Recommendation dated March 8, 2000, the Commission on


Bar Discipline of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) opined as follows:
x x x [I]t is evident that the P25,000 deposited by complainant with the Respicio
Law Office was for the filing fees of the Regwill complaint. With complainants
deposit of the filing fees for the Regwill complaint, a corresponding obligation on
the part of respondent was created and that was to file the Regwill complaint within
the time frame contemplated by his client, the complainant. The failure of respondent
to fulfill this obligation due to his misuse of the filing fees deposited by complainant,
and his attempts to cover up this misuse of funds of the client, which caused
complainant additional damage and prejudice, constitutes highly dishonest conduct
on his part, unbecoming a member of the law profession. The subsequent
reimbursement by the respondent of part of the money deposited by complainant for
filing fees, does not exculpate the respondent for his misappropriation of said funds.
Thus, to impress upon the respondent the gravity of his offense, it is recommended
that respondent be suspended from the practice of law for a period of one (1) year.[4]
The Courts Ruling

We agree with the Commissions recommendation.


Main Issue:
Misappropriation of Clients Funds
Central to this case are the following alleged acts of respondent lawyer: (a) his
non-filing of the Complaint on behalf of his client and (b) his appropriation for
himself of the money given for the filing fee.
Respondent claims that complainant did not give him the filing fee for the
Regwill complaint; hence, the formers failure to file the complaint in court. Also,
respondent alleges that the amount delivered by complainant to his office on January
4, 1999 was for attorneys fees and not for the filing fee.
We are not persuaded. Lawyers must exert their best efforts and ability in the
prosecution or the defense of the clients cause. They who perform that duty with
diligence and candor not only protect the interests of the client, but also serve the
ends of justice. They do honor to the bar and help maintain the respect of the
community for the legal profession.[5] Members of the bar must do nothing that may
tend to lessen in any degree the confidence of the public in the fidelity, the honesty,
and integrity of the profession.[6]
Respondent wants this Court to believe that no lawyer-client relationship
existed between him and complainant, because the latter never paid him for services
rendered. The former adds that he only drafted the said documents as a personal
favor for the kumpadre of one of his partners.
We disagree. A lawyer-client relationship was established from the very first
moment complainant asked respondent for legal advice regarding the formers
business. To constitute professional employment, it is not essential that the client
employed the attorney professionally on any previous occasion. It is not necessary
that any retainer be paid, promised, or charged; neither is it material that the attorney
consulted did not afterward handle the case for which his service had been sought.
If a person, in respect to business affairs or troubles of any kind, consults a
lawyer with a view to obtaining professional advice or assistance, and the attorney
voluntarily permits or acquiesces with the consultation, then the professional
employment is established.[7]

Likewise, a lawyer-client relationship exists notwithstanding the close personal


relationship between the lawyer and the complainant or the nonpayment of the
formers fees.[8] Hence, despite the fact that complainant was kumpadre of a law
partner of respondent, and that respondent dispensed legal advice to complainant as a
personal favor to the kumpadre, the lawyer was duty-bound to file the complaint he
had agreed to prepare -- and had actually prepared -- at the soonest possible time, in
order to protect the clients interest. Rule 18.03 of the Code of Professional
Responsibility provides that lawyers should not neglect legal matters entrusted to
them.
This Court has likewise constantly held that once lawyers agree to take up the
cause of a client, they owe fidelity to such cause and must always be mindful of the
trust and confidence reposed in them.[9] They owe entire devotion to the interest of
the client, warm zeal in the maintenance and the defense of the clients rights, and the
exertion of their utmost learning and abilities to the end that nothing be taken or
withheld from the client, save by the rules of law legally applied. [10]
Similarly unconvincing is the explanation of respondent that the receipt issued
by his office to complainant on January 4, 1999 was erroneous. The IBP Report
correctly noted that it was quite incredible for the office personnel of a law firm to be
prevailed upon by a client to issue a receipt erroneously indicating payment for
something else. Moreover, upon discovering the mistake -- if indeed it was one -respondent should have immediately taken steps to correct the error. He should have
lost no time in calling complainants attention to the matter and should have issued
another receipt indicating the correct purpose of the payment.
The Practice of Law -- a
Profession, Not a Business
In this day and age, members of the bar often forget that the practice of law is a
profession and not a business. [11] Lawyering is not primarily meant to be a moneymaking venture, and law advocacy is not a capital that necessarily yields profits.
[12]
The gaining of a livelihood is not a professional but a secondary consideration.
[13]
Duty to public service and to the administration of justice should be the primary
consideration of lawyers, who must subordinate their personal interests or what they
owe to themselves. The practice of law is a noble calling in which emolument is a
byproduct, and the highest eminence may be attained without making much money.
[14]

In failing to apply to the filing fee the amount given by complainant -- as


evidenced by the receipt issued by the law office of respondent -- the latter also
violated the rule that lawyers must be scrupulously careful in handling money
entrusted to them in their professional capacity.[15] Rule 16.01 of the Code of
Professional Responsibility states that lawyers shall hold in trust all moneys of their
clients and properties that may come into their possession.
Lawyers who convert the funds entrusted to them are in gross violation of
professional ethics and are guilty of betrayal of public confidence in the legal
profession.[16]It may be true that they have a lien upon the clients funds, documents
and other papers that have lawfully come into their possession; that they may retain
them until their lawful fees and disbursements have been paid; and that they may
apply such funds to the satisfaction of such fees and disbursements. However, these
considerations do not relieve them of their duty to promptly account for the moneys
they received. Their failure to do so constitutes professional misconduct. [17] In any
event, they must still exert all effort to protect their clients interest within the bounds
of law.
If much is demanded from an attorney, it is because the entrusted privilege to
practice law carries with it correlative duties not only to the client but also to the
court, to the bar, and to the public. [18] Respondent fell short of this standard when he
converted into his legal fees the filing fee entrusted to him by his client and thus
failed to file the complaint promptly. The fact that the former returned the amount
does not exculpate him from his breach of duty.
On the other hand, we do not agree with complainants plea to disbar respondent
from the practice of law. The power to disbar must be exercised with great caution.
Only in a clear case of misconduct that seriously affects the standing and the
character of the bar will disbarment be imposed as a penalty.[19]
WHEREFORE, Atty. Alberto C. Magulta is found guilty of violating Rules
16.01 and 18.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility and is
hereby SUSPENDEDfrom the practice of law for a period of one (1) year, effective
upon his receipt of this Decision. Let copies be furnished all courts as well as the
Office of the Bar Confidant, which is instructed to include a copy in respondents file.
SO ORDERED.

FIRST DIVISION
[A.C. No. 2519. August 29, 2000]
TEODORO R. RIVERA, ANTONIO D. AQUINO and
FELIXBERTO D. AQUINO, complainants, vs. ATTY.
SERGIO ANGELES, respondent.
R ES OLUTION
YNARES-SANTIAGO, J.:
On March 25, 1983, complainants filed a Complaint for Disbarment
against Atty. Sergio Angeles on the grounds of Deceit and
Malpractice. The Affidavit-Complaint[1] reads as follows:
1.....The undersigned are plaintiffs in Civil Cases Nos. Q-12841 and Q13128 of the Court of First Instance of Rizal, Branch V at Quezon
City;
2.....Atty. Sergio Angeles is their counsel of record in the said cases and
his office is located at Suite 335, URC Building, 2123 Espaa, Manila;

3.....That after receiving favorable decision from the CFI on May 21, 1973
and sustained by the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court an alias
writ of execution was issued in said cases;
4.....That in the first week of January 1983 we obtained from the CFI a
sheriffs return, dated November 10, 1982, stating that no leviable
property can be found in the premises of the defendants;
5.....That on or before January 13, 1983, we learned that Mr. Rodolfo M.
Silva, one of the defendants in said cases had already given Atty.
Angeles a partial settlement of the judgment in the amount of
P42,999.00 (as evidenced by xerox copies of Partial Settlement of
Judgment dated September 21, 1982 and Receipt of Payment dated
September 22, 1982, hereto attached as Annexes A and B,
respectively), without our knowledge.
6.....That Atty. Sergio Angeles never informed the undersigned of the
amount of P42,999.00 he received from Mr. Silva nor remitted to them
even a part of that amount;
7.....That a demand letter was sent to Atty. Sergio Angeles which was
received by him on February 17, 1983, but as of this date the
undersigned have not yet received any reply. (See Exhibit C and D
attached).

appear on the scheduled hearings. However, the records from said Office
do not show any resolution.
In October 1998, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines issued an
Order requiring the parties to manifest whether or not they are still
interested in prosecuting this case, or whether supervening events have
transpired which render this case moot and academic or otherwise. The
copy of said Order sent to the complainants was received by their counsel
on October 30, 1998 while the copy to the respondent was returned
unclaimed.
Investigating Commissioner Julio C. Elamparo submitted his report
on April 29, 1999 finding respondent Atty. Sergio Angeles guilty of
violating the Code of Professional Responsibility specifically Rule 1.01,
Canon 16 and Rule 16.01 thereof and recommends his indefinite
suspension from the practice of law.
The Board of Governors of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines on
June 19, 1999, issued a resolution, the decretal portion of which reads:
RESOLUTION NO. XIII-99-151
Adm. Case No. 2519
Teodoro R. Rivera, et al. vs.

In his Comment filed on June 21, 1983, respondent denied the


accusations and stated that he has the right to retain the said amount of
P42,999.00 and to apply the same to professional fees due him under the
subsequent agreement first with complainant Teodoro Rivera and later
with Mrs. Dely Dimson Rivera as embodied in the Deed of Assignment
(Annex 8)[2] or under the previous agreement of P20% of P206,000.00.
Complainants, in their Reply,[3] vehemently denied the assignment of
their rights to respondent.
Thereafter, this case was referred to the Solicitor General for
investigation, report and recommendation in our Resolution dated
November 21, 1983. The Office of the Solicitor General considered this
case submitted for resolution on April 30, 1985 by declaring respondents
right to present evidence as considered waived due to the latters failure to

Atty. Sergio Angeles


RESOLVED to ADOPT and APPROVE, as it is hereby ADOPTED and
APPROVED, the Report and Recommendation of the Investigating Commissioner in
the above-entitled case, herein made part of this Resolution/Decision as Annex A;
and, finding the recommendation fully supported by the evidence on record and the
applicable laws and rules, with an amendment that Atty. Sergio Angeles
is SUSPENDED from the practice of law for ONE (1) YEAR for his having been
found guilty of practicing deceit in dealing with his client.
The Court finds merit in the recommendation of the Integrated Bar
of the Philippines. Respondents act of deceit and malpractice indubitably
demonstrated his failure to live up to his sworn duties as a lawyer. The
Supreme Court repeatedly stressed the importance of integrity and good

moral character as part of a lawyers equipment in the practice of his


profession.[4] For it cannot be denied that the respect of litigants for the
profession is inexorably diminished whenever a member of the Bar
betrays their trust and confidence.[5]
The Court is not oblivious of the right of a lawyer to be paid for the
legal services he has extended to his client but such right should not be
exercised whimsically by appropriating to himself the money intended for
his clients. There should never be an instance where the victor in litigation
loses everything he won to the fees of his own lawyer.
WHEREFORE, respondent Atty. Sergio Angeles, is SUSPENDED
from the practice of law for ONE (1) YEAR for having been found guilty
of practicing deceit in dealing with his client.
This Resolution shall take effect immediately and copies thereof
furnished the Office of the Bar Confidant, Integrated Bar of the
Philippines and appended to respondents personal record.
SO ORDERED.

THIRD DIVISION

[A.C. No. 5019. April 6, 2000]


Judge ADORACION G. ANGELES, complainant, vs. Atty. THOMAS C. UY
JR., respondent. Spped jo
DECISION
PANGANIBAN, J.:
Lawyers must promptly account for money or property they receive on behalf of
their clients. Failure to do so constitutes professional Misconduct and justifies the
imposition of disciplinary sanctions.
The Case and the Facts
In a letter dated February 11, 1999 addressed to the Office of the Chief Justice, Judge
Adoracion G. Angeles of the Regional Trial Court of Caloocan City (Branch 121)
charged Atty. Thomas C. Uy Jr. with violation of Canon 16 of the Code of
Professional Responsibility. Complainant states that respondent's acts, which had
earlier been held contemptible in her February 10, 1999 Order,[1] also rendered him
administratively liable. In the said Order, she narrated the following facts:
"When the case was called for the second time at 11 :25 o'clock in
the morning, the private prosecutor Atty. Thomas C. Uy, Jr.
appeared. In open court, accused Norma Trajano manifested that
she had already settled in full the civil aspect in Crim. Case No. C54177 (98) in the total amount of [t]hirty [s]ix [t]housand [f]ive
[h]undred (P36,500.00) [p]esos. She further alleged that she paid
P20,000.00 directly to the private complainant and the balance of
P16,500.00 was delivered to Atty. Thomas C. Uy, Jr., the lawyer of
the private complainant and accordingly produced in open court
the receipt for such payment signed by no less than the aforesaid
lawyer. Indeed, the civil liability of the accused had already been
satisfied in full. Miso
"However, the private complainant, Primitiva Malansing [Del
Rosario] manifested that she did not receive the amount of
[s]ixteen [t]housand [f]ive [h]undred (P16,500.00) [p]esos which
was paid to his lawyer Atty. Thomas C. Uy, Jr., thereby
constraining this court to direct Atty. Thomas C. Uy to turn over

the money to the private complainant which he received in trust for


his client. Atty. Uy however argued that his client did not like to
accept the money but the assertion of the lawyer was belied by his
own client, the herein private complainant, who manifested in open
court x x x her willingness to accept the money. The Court again
directed Atty. Uy to produce the money but the latter argued that he
kept it in his office. Consequently, the Court suspended the
proceedings to enable Atty. Uy to get the money from his law
office which is located only at the second floor of the same
building where this court is located.
"Unfortunately, it is already 12: 15 o'clock past noon but Atty. Uy
did not show up anymore and not even his shadow appeared in
Court.
"It cannot be denied that the act of Atty. Thomas Uy in deliberately
failing to return to the Court [the] proceedings [of which] were
suspended just because of his representations, mirrors not only an
undisguised disobedience of a court order but also manifests his
propensity to mock the dignity of the Court. Disgustingly, he
deliberately ignored his solemn oath to conduct himself as befitting
the status of an officer of the court.
"Indeed, this gross misbehavior of Atty. Uy cannot simply be
ignored for it is a raw challenge to the authority of the Court.
"It must also be pointedly emphasized that Atty. Thomas Uy
committed a brazen violation of the provisions of Canon 16 of the
Code of Professional Responsibility, to wit: Nex old
"x x x x x x x x x
"Obviously, Atty. Thomas Uy fell short of the duties expected from
him as a member of the bar."
In compliance with this Court's March 24, 1999 Resolution, Respondent Uy[2] filed
his Comment on June 7, 1999. Denying that he violated Canon 16 of the Code of
Professional Responsibility, he explained:

"1). In a criminal case, then pending before the Regional Trial


Court, Branch 121 of Kalookan City, Metro Manila, presided by
the complainant Honorable Adoracion G. Angeles, entitled 'People
of the Philippines vs. Norma Trajano, et., al', Criminal Case No. C54176-77 (98), Atty. Thomas C. Uy Jr., herein referred to as
[r]espondent, was engaged as [p]rivate [p]rosecutor of the
complainant therein, Mrs. Primitiva Malansin Del Rosario. At the
outset Norma Trajano, accused in said criminal case, expressed her
desire and offered to settle the civil aspect of the criminal case
against her to which Primitiva Del Rosario acceded. On separate
hearings, Norma Trajano made installment payments to Primitiva
Del Rosario some of which payments were duly acknowledged by
the latter in the presence of [r]espondent;
"2). On a previously cancelled date of hearing of the aforesaid
criminal case x x x on December 14, 1998, Norma Trajano went to
the office of the [r]espondent at about 8:45 o'clock in the morning,
x x x and met Mr. Romeo C. Jamisola Jr., who is acting as
[r]espondent's personal secretary and at the same time the liason
officer of the law firm De Veyra, Uy and Associates x x x. Mr[.]
Romeo Jamisola Jr., is the lone staff of the law firm x x x.
Respondent was at that time not in the office as he was attending a
hearing before the Regional Trial Court, Branch 122, Kalookan
City, Metro Manila. x x xMani kx
"3). On the aforesaid date and time (December 14, 1998) at the
office of the [r]espondent, Norma Trajano told Mr. Romeo
Jamisola Jr. that she will make another partial payment to Primitiva
M. Del Rosario because she cannot attend the hearing the
following day (8[:]30 o'clock a.m. of December 15, 1999) before
Judge Adoracion G. Angeles due to a conflict of schedule with her
[other] case in the Regional Trial Court, Branch 19, Malolos,
Bulacan, where she is likewise the accused for [e]stafa[.] Mr.
Romeo Jamisola told Norma Trajano to wait for a while as he will
fetch [r]espondent at the ground floor in the sala of the Honorable
Remigio E. Zari. Respondent, upon being informed of the presence
of Norma Trajano in the office of the [r]espondent by Romeo
Jamisola Jr. went to his office and Norma Trajano immediately told
[r]espondent that she knew that the setting for that day (December
14, 1998) was previously cancelled and that she cannot attend the

hearing the following day (8[:]30 o'clock a.m. December 15, 1998)
and further told the [r]espondent that she (Norma Trajano) will
make another partial payment to Primitiva M. Del Rosario and that
she will just leave her payment in the sum of [s]ixteen [t]housand
[five hundred] [p]esos (P16,500.00), Philippine [c]urrency, in the
office of the [r]espondent. Respondent then told Norma Trajano to
inform Primitiva M. Del Rosario first but Norma Trajano replied
that she will just call Primitiva [Del Rosario]. Nonetheless,
[r]espondent told Romeo Jamisola Jr. to call Primitiva Del Rosario,
using the office phone, and let her talk with Norma Trajano, and, if
Primitiva Del Rosario agreed [r]espondent instructed Romeo
Jamisola Jr., to just prepare a receipt. Respondent, fearing that his
case (People vs. Rommel Senadrin et al. above-stated) might have
been called in the calendar, immediately left the office and
proceeded [at] the sala of the Honorable Remigio E. Zari.
Respondent, after the hearing x x x, returned to his office and upon
learning that his signature was affixed by Romeo Jamisola Jr. upon
the insistence of Norma Trajano scolded Romeo Jamisola Jr. and
for his unsuccessful attempt to contact first Primitiva Del Rosario
before receiving the sum of money left by Norma Trajano; Maniks
"4). The following day [o]n the morning of December 15, 1998
[r]espondent arrived at his office and met Primitiva Del Rosario
and her daughter Aurora Del Rosario and immediately the trio
appeared before the sala of Judge Adoracion G. Angeles in the
hearing of the Norma Trajano case. Returning [to] the office of the
[r]espondent after the hearing, Primitiva Del Rosario and Aurora
Del Rosario, being earlier informed that on December 14, 1998
Norma Trajano went [to] his office and made partial payment in
the sum of P16,500 thru Mr. Romeo Jamisola Jr., the [r]espondent
told Mr. Romeo Jamisola to get the money from the filing cabinet
and while the money in the envelope [was] being handed over to
Primitiva Del Rosario, [the latter] and her daughter x x x, however,
told [r]espondent to just let the money in the sum of P16,500.00 be
kept at the office of the [r]espondent so that future payments of
Norma Trajano will be save[d] in whole and for them to avoid
spending the same as what had happened to the past installment
payments of Norma Trajano. Respondent then acceded to the
request of Primitiva Del Rosario and her daughter and told them
that they can get the money anytime they want from the

[r]espondent's office. Hence, the money was kept locked [in] the
filing cabinet of the [r]espondent where he used to keep all his
personal file[s]. Manikan
"5). On December 23, 1998, early before noon, Primitiva Del
Rosario and her daughter Aurora Del Rosario, on a prior invitation,
attended the Christmas Party of the office of [r]espondent and
undersigned counsel. x x x Respondent, after the x x x lunch,
instructed Mr. Romeo Jamisola Jr., to give the sum of money
(P16,500.00) and for Primitiva Del Rosario to receive the same for
fear of a repetition of a burglary incident before, where some cash
and minor office appliances of undersigned were lost. Primitiva
Del Rosario, however, insisted that said sum of money be kept at
the office of the [r]espondent to save in whole the installment
payments of Norma Trajano and that [was] the wish of her son
Fernando 'Bong' Del Rosario, who is a long time friend and a
compadre of the [r]espondent. Respondent, respecting the trust
reposed upon him by Primitiva Del Rosario, her daughter Aurora
Del Rosario, and son Fernando Del Rosario, acceded to hold in
trust the said sum of [s]ixteen [t]housand [f]ive [h]undred
(P16,500.00) [p]esos, Philippine [c]urrency, which [was] locked
and safely kept [in] the filing cabinet of the [r]espondent until
February 12, 1999; x x x;
"6). On February 10, 1999 [during] the hearing of the Norma
Trajano case before the Hon. Adoracion G. Angeles, [r]espondent
appeared shortly before 10:30 o'clock in the morning, pursuant to a
'Motion to Call Case at 10:30 o'clock in the Morning x x x.
"7). When the said Norma Trajano [case] x x x was called on
second call at 11[:]25 a.m., [i]n said February 10, 1999 hearing,
respondent was first scolded by the Honorable Court (Judge
Adoracion G. Angeles) x x x [for] giving more preference to the
Metropolitan Trial Court than her Court. Resp[o]ndent, however,
beg[ged the] indulgence of the Honorable Court (Judge Adoracion
G. Angeles) and explained why [he] first attend[ed] the
Mandaluyong hearing of Manny Chua's case, to wit; x x x. Oldmis
o

"8). That it was during the course of [the] litany of sermon, [i]n
that hour, made by the Honorable Court addressed to the
[r]espondent that Norma Trajano x x x butted in and informed the
Honorable Court (Judge Adoracion G. Angeles) that she will be
tendering another partial payment; it was at that moment that Judge
Adoracion G. Angeles asked Norma Trajano how much had she
paid Primitiva Del Rosario, and, Norma [T]rajano answered that
she had already paid P36,500.00 as full payment for one case, and
that of the P36,500, P20,000.00 was paid to Primitiva Del Rosario
and HESITANTLY said that the P16,500 was paid to the
[r]espondent. Judge Angeles then took the receipt from Norma
Trajano and had it xeroxed by a personnel of the Court. The carbon
duplicate original of the Receipt, dated [D]ecember 14, 1998,
showing the receipt by the office of the [r]espondent, through
Romeo Jamisola Jr., whose printed [name] was pre[ceded] by the
word 'By', indicating that he received the sum of money on behalf
of or in representation of the [r]espondent, is hereto [attached] and
marked as ANNEX '5', to form part hereof;
"9). That it was perhaps due to the belief [in] and the immediate
impression of Judge Adoracion G. Angeles [of the] answer of
Norma Traiano that prompted Judge Angeles to ask,
instantaneously in a loud manner, Primitiva Del Rosario IN
TAGALOG', the question, 'NATANGGAP MO BA KAY ATTY.
UY ANG PERA NA P16,500.00?'. Primitiva Del Rosario, a
seventy-year-old, who was shocked by the tone and the manner she
was asked by Judge Angeles simply just answered 'HINDI PO,
KASI GUSTO [KO] PO NA MABUO ANG PERA'. Primitiva Del
Rosario, however, tried to explain her answer 'HINDI PO' and why
she did not yet [receive] the money from the [r]espondent by
raising her hand but was prevented by Judge Adoracion G. Angeles
from further answering by telling Primitiva Del Rosario to stop.
With that answer of Primitiva Del Rosario, [r]espondent butted in
to explain Primitiva Del Rosario's answer of 'HINDI PO' and her
having not yet received the sum of money, subject of the
inquisition of Judge Angeles by manifesting to wit; x x x that
Primitiva Del Rosario did not get the money when x x x handed
the same on December 15, 1998 because she wanted [it] to be
save[d] in whole together with the future installment payments of
Norma Trajano and to be kept in the office of the [r]espondent as

wished by her son Bong Del Rosario; and, that the said sum of
money [was] kept in the filing cabinet in the office of the
[r]espondent. All explanation[s] of the [r]espondent went to x x x
naught as the [r]espondent was cut short by x x x Judge Angeles,
[who] in a loud and angry voice orally directed the [r]espondent to
get the money from [r]espondent's office and give the same to
Primitiva Del Rosario. It was already 11 :45 o'clock in the
morning, more or less, an the [r]espondent was given fifteen (15)
minutes to comply; [r]espondent requested Judge Angeles to be
accompanied by Primitiva Del Rosario and her daughter Aurora
Del Rosario but both were ordered to stay in court by Judge
Angeles; Ncm
"10). Respondent in compliance with the oral order of Judge
Angeles immediately proceeded [to] his office but only to find out
that Romeo Jamisola Jr., who [held] the only key [to r]esponddnt's
filing cabinet, was on errand x x x that morning of February 10,
1999 [for] Atty. Angel B. De Veyra (the Undersigned Counsel)
[who had sent him] to the offices of the solicitor general in Makati
City, and, the City Prosecutor's Office of Manila to [furnish copies
to] both offices; x x x;
"11). Respondent, expecting that Romeo Jamisola Jr. would
[arrive] before 12[:]00 noon, x x x waited for Romeo Jamisola Jr.
while at the same time called up [his] wife to immediately [come]
to his office to spare the sum of P16,500.00 as Romeo Ja[mi]sola
may not [arrive] [within] the time allotted by Judge Angeles. The
wife of respondent, however, arrived at about 12:25 P .M., more or
less, ahead of Romeo Jamisola Jr. and spared [r]espondent the sum
of P16,500.00 and [r]espondent immediately went [to] the fourth
floor, where the sala of Judge Angeles [was] located but
unfortunately the session was already adjourned. Respondent then
talked to 'Armand', one 'of the court personnel and is known as the
door keeper of the chamber of Judge Angeles, and [requested that
he be allowed to go inside the chamber to show [his] compliance,
though late. Respondent, however, was told by 'Armand' that Judge
Angeles was on her lunch break an that it [was] better for
[r]espondent to take his lunch too and return a little later; Ncmmis

"12). At about 1:30 o'clock in the afternoon of that day (February


10, 1999) [r]espondent returned [to] the sala of Judge Angeles
together with Primitiva Del Rosario and her daughter Aurora Del
Rosario, who likewise returned to the court, to seek an audience in
[the] chamber [of] Judge Angeles. Said audience with Judge
Angeles was desired by Primitiva Del Rosario to let Judge Angeles
[witness] the giving of the money to Primitiva Del Rosario. But
request[s] for the same, through 'Armand', were twice denied by
Judge Angeles because at that time Judge Angeles was being
interviewed by several media personnel of some TV stations. The
Del [Rosarios], however, left earlier upon knowing that Judge
Angeles denied their request for an audience. [They] told
[r]espondent that they will be back the following day. It was only
when Romeo Jamisola arrived at about 3:00 o'clock, more or less,
in the afternoon and went at the fourth floor at the premises of the
sala of Judge Angeles and informed the [r]espondent that he
carried with him the key to [r]espondent's cabinet and the presence
of some [squatter] families of Batasan Hills, Quezon City at the
office of the [r]espondent, who has an appointment with the
[r]espondent, that the [r]espondent left the premises of the sala of
Judge Angeles. [sic] Respondent, at his office ordered Romeo
Jamisola Jr. to open the filing cabinet and returned to the premises
of the sala of Judge Angeles alone at about 4:00 o'clock P .M. after
his meeting with the squatter families. But again, his request to
'Armand' to talk with Judge Angeles, after the media interview,
was denied. At about 5:30 o'clock in the afternoon, 'Armand', the
court personnel, served the Order, of said date, February 10, 1999
at the office of the [r]espondent;
"13). In the early afternoon of the following day, February 11,
1999, [r]espondent together with Primitiva Del Rosario and her
daughter Aurora Del Rosario went again [to] the sala of Judge
Angeles x x x to seek an audience with Judge Angeles. Their
request x x x w[as] likewise in vain. Primitiva Del Rosario, after
the last attempt to seek audience with Judge Angeles and already
tired of going [to] and [from] the sala of Judge Angeles, decided on
February 12, 1999, to receive the sum of money in the amount of
P16,500.00 from the office of the [r]espondent, through, Romeo
Jamisola Jr. and executed a Sinumpaang Salaysay. x x x;

"14). The Sinumpaang Salaysay of Primitiva Del Rosario, dated


February 16, 1999 as well as the Acknowledgment Receipt, dated
February 12, 199[9] was attached to a Manifestation caused to be
filed by the [r]espondent on March 3, 1999 when the respondent
was confined in Fatima Hospital in Valenzuela City, Metro Manila
on March 2, 1999; Scnc m
"15). Learning of the instant administrative case against the
[r]espondent, Bong Del Rosario, the son of Primitiva Del Rosario,
upon whose wish the subject sum of money was kept at the office
of the [r]espondent to save the same in whole as well as the future
in[s]tallment payments of Norma Trajano executed a Sinumpaang
Salaysay, attesting [to] and confirming the statement of [his]
mother Primitiva Del Rosario. x x x"[3]
Stripped of unnecessary verbiage, the Comment contends that the respondent kept
the money in his office because that was the alleged wish of both his client and her
son. He allegedly informed them of such money and tried to give it to them, but they
insisted that he retain it. He further maintained that it was only after Judge Angeles
issue the February 10, 1999 Order that his client relented and accepted the money on
February 12, 1999.
After the judge filed her Reply on June 30, 1999, this Court referred the case to the
Office of the Bar Confidant for report and recommendation. The Court dispensed
with the normal referral to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines because the records
were complete and the question raised was simple. No further factual investigation
was necessary in the premises.
Bar Confidant's Report and Recommendation
Recommending that Atty. Thomas C. Uy Jr .be suspended from the practice of law
for one month, the Office of the Bar Confidant in its Report and Recommendation
dated December 15, 1999 said: Sdaa miso
"x x x [I]t is clear that it is the sworn duty of a member of the bar
to be accountable, at all times, for anything which he receives for
and in behalf of his client.
"In the case at bar, this Office is more inclined to believe the story
of the complainant.

"First, it cannot be disputed that the transcript of stenographic


notes is the most reliable record of what indeed transpired (and
what words were uttered by the parties involved) on February 10,
1999 at the hearing of Crim. Case No. C-54176-77 (98). Records
clearly show that the private complainant in the criminal case,
when asked by Judge Angeles as to the whereabouts of the
P16,500.00, spontaneously replied that she had no knowledge of
the same; in effect saying that Atty. Uy has not given her the
subject 16,500.00. If, indeed, Primitiva Del Rosario requested Atty.
Uy to keep the money as far back as December 1998, then she
should have told the same to Judge Angeles.
"Atty. Uy's allegation that Judge Angeles prevented Primitiva Del
Rosario from saying in open court the words 'HINDI PO KASI
GUSTO KO PO NA MABUO ANG PERA' does not have any
proof as nothing of that sort appears in the transcript of
stenographic notes. Atty. Uy has not even bothered to refute the
truth of the contents of the stenographic notes, all the more
bolstering this Office's opinion that the said notes are accurate and
truthful. Sdaad
"Second, the affidavits executed by Primitiva Del Rosario and her
son, Fernando Del Rosario, dated February 16, 1999 and June 7,
1999, respectively, attesting to Atty. Uy's averment that his act of
personally keeping the subject P16,500.00 was with and at their
request cannot be given much credence to outweigh the arguments
of Judge Angeles. The said affidavits, both executed after February
10, 1999, are suspect. Caught by surprise when Judge Angeles
inquired of the whereabouts of his client's money, Atty. Uy x x x
resorted to seeking the help of his client to corroborate his defense.
Being the clients of Atty. Uy, Primitiva Del Rosario and her son
could have been persuaded to help extricate their counsel from the
latter's predicament.
"In the absence of any contradicting evidence to dispute the
allegation that Atty. Uy failed to immediately remit to his client the
money due the latter, it is safe to conclude that Atty. Uy has
violated his sworn duty to uphold, at all times, the trust and
confidence reposed in him by his client(s).

xxxxxxxxx
"In the instant case, Atty. Uy, upon receipt of the P16,500.00 from
the accused in the criminal case, should have promptly remitted the
same to his client, Primitiva Del Rosario. Had Judge Angeles not
inquired of the whereabouts of the money, the same would have
remained with Atty. Uy, to the prejudice of the latter's client."[4]
This Court's Ruling
We agree with the findings and the recommendation of the Office of the Bar
Confidant. Scs daad

Respondent maintains that on December 15, 1998 he informed Mrs. Del Rosario
about the payment. He further avers that he kept the money up n her instruction, as
she had allegedly wanted "future payments x x [to] be saved in whole and for them
to avoid spending the same as what had happened to the past installment payments x
x x."[7] This assertion allegedly finds support in her answer to the question of Judge
Angeles, who had asked her whether she had received the disputed payment: "Hindi
po, kasi gusto [ko] po na mabuo ang pera."
The Court is not persuaded. Respondent's assertions are contradicted by the
following transcript of stenographic notes:
"Court: This P16,500, did you turn it over to the private
complainant?

Administrative Liability of Respondent


The relationship between a lawyer and a client is highly fiduciary; it requires a high
degree of fidelity and good faith. It is designed "to remove all such temptation and to
prevent everything of that kind from being done for the protection of the client."[5]
Thus, Canon 16 of the Code of Professional Responsibility provides that "a lawyer
shall hold in trust all moneys and properties of his client that may come into his
possession." Furthermore, Rule 16.01 of the Code also states that "a lawyer shall
account for all money or property collected or received for or from the client." The
Canons of Professional Ethics is even more explicit:

Atty. Uy: No your Honor, because she wanted the full amount of
the settlement.
Court: Private complainant, is it true that you did not want to
accept the money?
Mrs. Del Rosario: Hindi po, sila po ang nagbigayan. Juris
Court: Hindi po ibinibigay sa inyo ni Atty. Uy?
Mrs. Del Rosario: Hindi po.

"The lawyer should refrain from any action whereby for his
personal benefit or gain he abuses or takes advantage of the
confidence reposed in him by his client. Sup rema

xxxxxxxxx
Court: Nasaan iyong P16,500? Huwag kayong matakot.

"Money of the client collected for the client or other trust property
coming into the possession of the lawyer should be reported and
accounted for promptly and should not under any circumstances be
commingled with his own or be used by him."[6]
In the present case, it is clear that respondent failed to promptly report and account
for the P16,500 he had received from Norma Trajano on behalf of his client,
Primitiva Del Rosario. Although the amount had been entrusted to respondent on
December 14, 1998, his client revealed during the February 10, 1999 hearing that she
had not yet received it. Worse, she did not even know where it was.

Mrs. Del Rosario: Aywan ko po sa kanilang dalawa."[8]


If it were true that Mrs. Del Rosario was informed about the payment and that she
entrusted it to respondent, she would have known its whereabouts. That she did not
know it showed the falsity of his claim.
It is noteworthy that respondent did not dispute the foregoing transcript although it
belied his allegation that Mrs. Del Rosario's express wish was to have the payments
in full. Sc juris

Neither are we convinced by the affidavits of Mrs. Del Rosario and her son, both of
whom affirmed their intention to have their money in the safekeeping of respondent.
It should be stressed that he was her counsel and the compadre of her son. Moreover,
the affidavits were executed after the filing of this Complaint. As the Office of the
Bar Confidant observed, these considerations militate against the credibility of the
affiants. In any event, their affidavits fail to explain adequately why Mrs. Del
Rosario, during the hearing on February 10, 1999, did not know where her money
was.
The records do not clearly show whether Attorney Uy had in fact appropriated the
said amount; in fact, Mrs, Del Rosario acknowledge that she had received it on
February 12, 1999. They do show, however, that respondent failed to promptly report
that amount to her. This is clearly a violation of his professional responsibility.
Indeed, in Aya v. Bigornia,[9] the Court ruled that money collected by a lawyer in
favor of his clients must be immediately turned over to them. In Daroy v. Legaspi,
[10]
the Court held that "lawyers are bound to promptly account for money or property
received by them on behalf of their clients and failure to do so constitutes
professional misconduct."
Verily, the question is not necessarily whether the rights of the clients have been
prejudiced, but whether the lawyer has adhered to the ethical standards of the bar.
[11]
In this case, respondent has not done so. Indeed, we agree with the following
observation of the Office of the Bar Confidant:
"Keeping the money in his possession without his client's
knowledge only provided Atty. Uy the tempting opportunity to
appropriate for himself the money belonging to his client. This
situation should, at all times, be avoided by members of the bar.

Like judges, lawyers must not only be clean; they must also appear
clean. This way, the people's faith in the justice system would
remain undisturbed."[12]Juris sc
In this light, the Court must stress that it has the duty to look into dealings between
attorneys and their clients and to guard the latter from any undue consequences
resulting from a situation in which they may stand unequal.[13] The present situation
calls for the exercise of this duty.
For misappropriating and failing to promptly report and deliver money they received
on behalf of their clients, some lawyers have been disbarred [14] and others have been
suspended for six months.[15] In the present case, the records merely show that
respondent did not promptly report that he received money on behalf of his client.
There is no clear evidence of misappropriation. Under the circumstances, we rule
that he should be suspended for one month.
WHEREFORE, Atty. Thomas C. Uy Jr .is hereby SUSPENDED for one month. He
is warned that a repetition of the same or similar acts will be dealt with more
severely.
Let copies of this Decision be served on Atty. Thomas C. Uy Jr. at his given address
or any other known one. Copies of this Decision shall also be entered in his record as
attorney and served on the IBP, as well as the Court Administrator who shall
circulate them to all the courts in the country for their information and guidance.
SO ORDERED.