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REGALA et al. v SANDIGANBYAN The petitioners refused to comply.

September 20, 1996|G.R. No. 108113|KAPUNAN, J.|


Attorney-Client Privilege (Divulging the Identity of a Client) 6. Because of the petitioners' refusal, the Sandiganbayan denied their exclusion. MR
was denied, hence this petition.
PETITIONER: Regala et al. (all attorneys from ACCRA Law)
ISSUE(S):
RESPONDENT: Sandiganbayan (1st divison), People (via PCGG), Roco
1. WoN the petitioners may be compelled to divulge the identity of their clients
SUMMARY: The petitioners and respondent Roco were named in one of the notwithstanding the attorney-client privilege.
complaints against Danding Cojuangco for their involvement in the acquisition of ill-
gotten wealth (cocolevy scandal). Roco was later excluded on the ground that he RULING: PETITION GRANTED. Resolutions of SDB annulled and set aside. SDB
would reveal his clients identity. The petitioners sought to be excluded, but they ordered to exclude the petitioners as parties-defendants. This was an 8-4 decision,
were given conditions for exclusion, to which they relented as it would involve with two judges inhibiting and one on leave.
revealing their client, violating the lawyer-client privilege. Their exclusion was
denied, hence this petition. RATIO:
1. NO. Though the identity of clients is of public record, where the clients name
DOCTRINE: The general rule is that the identity of a client is of public record. itself has an independent significance such that disclosure would reveal client
However, where the clients name itself has an independent significance such that confidences, the privilege applies, as in this case.
disclosure would reveal client confidences, the privilege applies.

1. The general rule in our jurisdiction as well as in the US (take note of this, they will
FACTS:
1. This case is an offshoot of PCGG Case No. 33 against Eduardo "Danding" be citing US jurisprudence for practically the entire decision!) is that a lawyer may
Cojuangco et al., one of the many cases of ill-gotten wealth that arose after the not invoke the privilege and refuse to divulge the name or identity of the client.
Marcos era. Several reasons are given for this:

2. All of the named parties in this case, including private respondent Roco, were - The court has a right to know the client actually exists in flesh and blood.
partners of ACCRA Law who were included in one of the Complaints against
- The privilege begins to exist only after the relationship has been
Danding for their role in the use of the coco levy funds in several corporations, such
established, hence the need for a client.
as UCPB, UNICOM and COCOLIFE, to corner the coconut market. They also acted
as nominees-stockholders in the said corporations. - The privilege pertains to the subject matter of the relationship.

3. However, on August 20, 1991, the PCGG filed to Admit a Third Amended - Due process considerations require that the opposing party should, as a
Complaint that excluded Roco from the complaint, basing its exclusion on an general rule, know his adversary.
undertaking that he will reveal the identity of his principals, for whom he acted as
nominee/stockholder.

4. Petitioner-attorneys resisted, and seek to be granted the same treatment as Roco. 2. However, there are exceptions to the rule as per US jurisprudence-- the exceptions
boil down to: Where the client's name itself has an independent significance, such
5. To this, the PCGG set several conditions for the exclusion of the petitioners from that disclosure would reveal client confidences:
the complaint: disclosure of identity of the clients, submission of documents
substantiating the lawyer-client relationship, and submission of deeds of assignments
with respect to shareholdings. They also showed proof to substantiate Roco's
compliance-- several correspondence seeking reinvestigation of his role in the case.
a. Where a strong probability exists that revealing the client's name would - In modern times, the lawyer-client relationship in seen as a fidicary duty of a very
implicate that client in the very activity for which he sought the lawyers advice. delicate, exacting and confidential character, requiring a very high degree of fidelity
Examples cited are Ex-Parte Enzor (violation of election laws and bribery) and US v and good faith, that is required by reason of necessity and public interest based on
Hodge and Zweig (illegal importation of drugs). the hypothesis that abstinence from seeking legal advice in a good cause is an evil
fatal to the administration of justice.
b. Where disclosure would open the client to civil liability. Examples cited
are Neugass v Terminal Cab (involvement in a vehicular accident where tort liability - This privilege manifests as far back as the old Code of Civil Procedure all the way
would attach) and Matter of Shawmut Mining (involvment in a transaction where to the present Rules of Court and Code of Professional Responsibility. Rule 130.28
damages would result). and Rule 138.20 of the present rules talk about the preservation of the professional
communication and secrets of the client, all founded in Canon 17 of the Code of
c. Where the government's lawyers have no case against an attorney's client Professional Responsibility and Canon 15 of the Canons of Professional Ethics on
unless, by revealing the client's name, the said name would furnish the only link that fidelity to the cause of the client.
would form the chain of testimony necessary to convict an individual of a crime.
Example cited was Baird v Korner (tax delinquency; delinquent taxes for a certain
year was paid, but the clients for whom it was paid for were not identified; disclosure
could have led to further investigation and increased tax liabilities that the On the Exclusion of Roco and the other Peittioners
government would not have established had it not been for that disclosure).
- The Court looked at the treatment Roco, and required that that there be
d. Other situations, such as when the client communication is relevant to the circumstances that would warrant his special treatment, lest be a violation of the
subject matter of the legal problem on which the client seeks legal assistance, and equal protection clause.
where the nature of the relationship has been disclosed and it is the identity which is
- The PCGG's dropping of Roco was due to his promise to disclosue the identities of
intended to be confidential such that reveleation of the identity would reveal the
the clients. No such revelation was shown except for a 'bare assertion'. This being
entire transaction.
material to the arrangement, the SDB should have required more than such an
assertion. They should conclusively show that Roco is a species apart from the other
lawyers.
3. The present case falls under two of the exceptions: Exception A and C. The PCGG
seems to have established there is a conspiracy between the client and the attorneys - But there is similarity between Roco and the petitioners: they are all implicated
in the acquisition of ill-gotten wealth. What they lacked was the identity of the because of the attorney-client relationship-- one that is considered privileged, and as
client-- the sole link required for conviction (Exception C). Forcing the testimonies to the case, validly invoked. They should be excluded because as it is, there is no
could have implicated the client for the offense charged (Exception A). valid case against them.

4. If there was indeed testimony, the PCGG should have done so with their own DISSENTING OPINION, DAVIDE JR., J.:
means, not with forced testimonies. Allowing PCGG to do so would be to sanction
- The rule of confidentiality under Rule 130.24 was improperly used. It cannot be
fishing expeditions by lazy prosecutors and litigants which cannot be countenanced.
used to exclude a party-- it is a ground for disqualification of witness, and may only
be invoked at the appropriate time (e.g. when a lawyer is being compelled to answer
as a wtiness). None of the lawyers are being required to testify yet. They are in fact
ADDENDA (OTHER ISSUES): being given discretion to exclude themselves from the complaint. The attorney-client
privilege is not applicable here. (Davide would bolster this through an AmJur
Nature of Lawyer-Client Relationship citation)
- Moreover, the majority sought to expand the Philippine rule on the priilege by - They did not even need to look outside the country. The Code of Professional
citing American jurisprudence. The Court did not consider that the decisions they Responsibility and Canons of Professional Ethics proscribe activities aimed at
quoted were from different states, with potentially different evidentiary rules, and defiance of the law or at lessening confidence in the legal system and unfair and
more importantly, in preliminary proceedings prior to the filing of the case and in dishonest means in attaining the lawful objectives of the client, given the special
cases where the lawyers were not co-defendants. The case is different here-- a case place accorded to the legal profession. The canons strip a lawyer of the privilege
has been filed and the counsels are being charged as co-principals. The facts are not when he conspires with the client in the commission of a crime or fraud.
on all fours.

- Also, citing AmJur, the attorney-client relationship cannot shield represntation for
any criminal or fraudulent conduct either past, present or future, or where the client DISSENTING OPINION, PUNO, J:
perpetrates a crime even when the attorney is unaware of his client's purpose. It is
- Though the invocation of the privilege's general rule and its exceptions was proper,
not within the professional character of a lawyer to give advise on the commission of
the invocation of the privilege is not a magic mantra. It must be proven by the party
a crime.
invoking it through evidence. No evidence was submitted at all. In the American
cases relied on by the majority, there was factual basis for the exception.