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LILIA TABANG and CONCEPCION TABANG, complainants, vs. ATTY. Respondent knows this fact.

ndent knows this fact. Later on, Lilia and Concepcion decided to sell
GLENN C. GACOTT, respondent. the subject parcels of land because they needed money for their medication
and other necessary expenses. On the pretext that he is going to help them
RESOLUTION sell the subject property to prospective buyers, respondent borrowed the
seven land titles from complainants. However, despite the lapse of one year
AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ, J.: from the time he borrowed the titles, respondent still failed to negotiate the
sale of the property. He informed herein complainants that he lost all the
seven land titles. Respondent then advised complainants to file a petition in
On February 3, 2003, complainants Lilia Tabang and her mother,
court for re-issuance of title. Following respondents advice, Lilia Tabang, in
Concepcion Tabang, filed before the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) a
the guise of acting as the authorized agent-representative of the fictitious
verified complaint for disbarment or suspension against respondent Atty.
owners, filed a case for the re-issuance of title to the seven parcels of land.
Glenn C. Gacott for gross misconduct, deceit and gross dishonesty.
However, in the course of the proceedings, the public prosecutor noticed that
the signatures of the alleged owners in the seven individual Special Power of
Complainants allege as follows:
Attorney executed in favor of Lilia Tabang appear to have been signed by the
same person because of the similarities in their strokes. The public
Sometime between the years 1984 and 1985, Lilia sought the legal prosecutor informed the trial court of this fact prompting the latter to summon
advice of then incumbent Judge Eustaquio Gacott, father of herein the alleged principals. To avoid embarrassment and possible sanctions from
respondent, regarding her desire to buy a 30-hectare agricultural land in the court because the alleged principals are in fact fictitious, Lilia withdrew
Barangay Bacungan, Puerto Princesa, Palawan, which consists of several the case without prejudice to the re-filing of the same. Subsequently, Lilia
parcels of land belonging to different owners. Judge Gacott informed Lilia filed a new set of cases for re-issuance of title, changing the signatures of the
that under the agrarian reform program of the government, she is prohibited fictitious owners. Upon knowledge that a new set of cases was filed,
from acquiring vast tracks of agricultural land, as she already owns other respondent executed or caused to be executed several documents, among
parcels of land. Judge Gacott then advised her to put the title of the lands in which were Revocation of Special Power of Attorney and Affidavits of
the names of fictitious persons and to keep the titles with her for easy Recovery purportedly signed by the principals of Lilia Tabang. Respondent
disposition. Following the advice of Judge Gacott, Lilia bought the parcels of caused the annotation of these documents in the land titles covering the
land using fictitious names. Eventually, Lilia was able to secure individual subject properties. Thereafter, respondent caused the publication of a notice
titles over these parcels of land in the names of 7 fictitious persons to wit: representing himself as the owner of the subject parcels of land and
indicating therein his desire to sell the said properties. Eventually, respondent
TCT No. 12790 Agnes Camilla was able to sell the seven parcels of land to seven individuals. However, only
three of these buyers were legitimate, while the remaining four are dummies
TCT No. 12794 Andes Estoy of respondent. As a result of selling the three parcels of land, respondent was
able to receive P3,773,675.00. None of the proceeds of the sale was remitted
TCT No. 12791 Leonor Petronio to complainants.

TCT No. 12792 Wilfredo Gomez Complainants contend that in executing the various Revocation of
Special Power of Attorney and Affidavit of Recovery, affixing thereon the
TCT No. 12793 Elizabeth Dungan signatures of the fictitious registered owners of the disputed parcels of land,
and in arrogating the ownership over the said lands upon himself, respondent
TCT No. 12476 Wilfredo Ondoy committed gross misconduct, dishonesty and deceit. Complainants likewise
allege that this is not the only case wherein respondent sold properties of his
clients to third persons without his clients knowledge and consent. [1]
TCT No. 12475 Amelia Andes
Respondent filed his Answer to the Complaint denying the material immoral conduct, conviction of a crime involving moral turpitude, any violation
allegations of the complainants. He claims that the seven land titles covering of the oath which he is required to take before admission to the practice of
the subject properties are valid and duly executed; and denies complainants law, willful disobedience of any lawful order of a superior court, corrupt or
allegations that the alleged owners are fictitious. Respondent further claims willful appearance as an attorney for a party to a case without authority to do
that the registered owners voluntarily sold the seven parcels of land to so. The grounds are not preclusive in nature even as they are broad enough
different individuals and his only participation in the said sale is that he was as to cover practically any kind of impropriety that a lawyer does or commits
authorized by the registered owners to collect from the buyers the full in his professional career or in his private life. A lawyer must at no time be
payment of the lands sold. He further denies that complainant Lilia Tabang is wanting in probity and moral fiber which are not only conditions precedent to
the real owner and that she merely acted as a broker who was trying to his entrance to the Bar but are likewise essential demands for his continued
promote the sale of the properties; that when she came to know that the membership therein.[6]
properties were sold by their registered owners, she called up the law office
of respondent and demanded that she be given her share or balato in the Nonetheless, the power to disbar must be exercised with great caution.
sale of the properties equivalent to 20% of the gross sales because of her For the court to exercise its disciplinary powers, the case against the
alleged efforts exerted in promoting the sale of the subject parcels of land; respondent must be established by clear, convincing and satisfactory proof.
that when respondent turned her down, Lilia threatened to put him in bad Indeed, considering the serious consequences of the disbarment or
light and seek his disbarment. Respondent further denies complainants suspension of a member of the Bar, the Supreme Court has consistently held
allegation that he sold real properties of some of his clients to third persons that clearly preponderant evidence is necessary to justify the imposition of
claiming that in all these cases his role was merely to notarize the documents the administrative penalty.[7]
of sale executed voluntarily by his clients and the buyers of their properties. [2]
Moreover, in complaints for disbarment, a formal investigation is a
The case, docketed as CBD Case No. 03-1054, was assigned by the mandatory requirement which may not be dispensed with except for valid and
IBP to Commissioner Lydia A. Navarro for report and recommendation. compelling reasons.[8] Rule 139-B provides for the procedure of investigation
Commissioner Navarro conducted a mandatory conference on November 25, in disbarment and disciplinary proceedings against attorneys before the IBP,
2003 after which she required the parties to submit their respective position thus:
papers, together with all the necessary documents and duly verified affidavits
of their witnesses, if any. In a report dated March 4, 2004, Commissioner Sec. 8. Investigation. Upon joinder of issues or upon failure of the respondent
Navarro found respondent guilty of gross misconduct for violating Rule 1.01 to answer, the Investigator shall, with deliberate speed, proceed with the
of Canon 1 of the Code of Professional Responsibility. [3] Accordingly she investigation of the case. He shall have the power to issue subpoenas
recommended that respondent be suspended from the practice of law for six and administer oaths. The respondent shall be given full opportunity to
months.[4] defend himself, to present witnesses on his behalf, and be heard by himself
and counsel. However, if upon reasonable notice, the respondent fails to
On April 16, 2004, the Board of Governors of the IBP passed a appear, the investigation shall proceed ex parte.
resolution adopting the report of Commissioner Navarro. However, the Board
modified the recommended penalty and imposed the supreme punishment of The Investigator shall terminate the investigation within three (3) months from
disbarment.[5] the date of its commencement, unless extended for good cause by the Board
of Governors upon prior application.
We do not agree with the IBP Resolution. The case should be remanded
for further proceedings. Willful failure or refusal to obey a subpoena or any other lawful order issued
by the Investigator shall be dealt with as for indirect contempt of court. The
A lawyer may be disbarred or suspended for any violation of his oath, a corresponding charge shall be filed by the Investigator before the IBP Board
patent disregard of his duties, or an odious deportment unbecoming an of Governors which shall require the alleged contemnor to show cause within
attorney. Among the grounds enumerated in Section 27, Rule 138 of the ten (10) days from notice. The IBP Board of Governors may thereafter
Rules of Court are deceit, malpractice, gross misconduct in office, grossly conduct hearings, if necessary, in accordance with the procedure set forth in
this Rule for hearings before the Investigator. Such hearing shall as far as examine the supposed affiants. The failure of the complainants to move for
practicable be terminated within fifteen (15) days from its commencement. the presentation of the persons alleged to have executed the subject
Thereafter, the IBP Board of Governors shall within a like period of fifteen affidavits does not render the IBP powerless to conduct further investigation,
(15) days issue a resolution setting forth its findings and recommendations, considering its power to issue subpoena under the Rule.
which shall forthwith be transmitted to the Supreme Court for final action and
if warranted, the imposition of penalty. (Emphasis ours) In the same manner, the Investigating Commissioner should have
compelled the persons named by the respondent as the original owners as
In the present case, the Investigating Commissioner initiated the formal well as the buyers of the subject properties to appear before her. The
investigation by conducting a mandatory conference between the appearance of these witnesses could have easily been facilitated considering
complainants and the respondent after both parties have filed their complaint that the residence and office addresses of the three of the supposed buyers
and answer, respectively. The mandatory conference was supposedly held are all located in Makati while the residence of three of the original owners
for the purpose of defining the issues and enabling the parties to stipulate are located within Manila and the remaining four are residing in the province
facts. However, no definitive result was reached during the conference as of Cavite which is very near Metro Manila. To repeat, under the above-quoted
respondent continued to deny all the allegations of the complainants. After Rule, the Investigating Commissioner is authorized to issue subpoena to
the mandatory conference was held, no further hearings were conducted. compel the appearance of persons and witnesses before it.
Instead, the Investigating Commissioner merely required the parties to
submit their respective position papers, including all the necessary It bears to point out that majority of the pieces of evidence presented by
documents and duly verified affidavits of witnesses, if any. On the sole basis complainants and respondent consists of affidavits and photocopies of
of the pleadings filed by both parties and of the documents attached thereto, documents. Not one of the persons who executed these affidavits and
the Investigating Commissioner submitted her Report and Recommendation instruments was presented or subpoenaed by the Commissioner to identify
to the IBP Board of Governors. their affidavits and give the adverse party opportunity to confront the
witnesses in a formal hearing.
Considering the gravity of the charges imputed against the respondent
and the imposition of the penalty of disbarment being prayed for by Consequently, no judgment could be rendered fairly and squarely on the
complainants, the Investigating Commissioner should not have simply relied issues raised in the subject administrative matter.
on the parties position papers and the pieces of documentary evidence
submitted by them. She should have proceeded with the investigation by WHEREFORE, the instant administrative case is hereby REMANDED to
conducting formal hearings and calling upon the parties to present additional the Integrated Bar of the Philippines for further proceedings.
evidence to support their respective contentions. In the case of the
complainants, the Investigating Commissioner should have required the
SO ORDERED.
presentation of the persons who allegedly executed the affidavits presented
in evidence to prove the veracity of the allegations contained in said
affidavits, at the same time affording respondent the opportunity to cross-