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ETHICS (Canon 18 Competence and Diligence )|1

A.C. No. 6297 July 13, 2004 Sometime between January and April 2002, Parias inquired from Paguinto on the
progress of her annulment case. Paguinto informed her that the case was filed with the
DOLORES D. PARIAS, complainant, Regional Trial Court of Manila, Branch 64 ("RTC-Manila, Branch 64"), before Judge
vs. Ricaforte and that the hearing was scheduled on 25 April 2002. Before the hearing,
ATTY. OSCAR P. PAGUINTO, respondent. Parias requested for a meeting with Paguinto but the secretary informed her that the
hearing was cancelled. The secretary further informed Parias that the judge reset the
succeeding hearings originally scheduled on 29 May 2002 and 26 June 2002 because
the judge was sick or out of town.

On the first week of July 2002, Parias went to the trial court to inquire about her case
DECISION
but the court personnel in RTC-Manila, Branch 64 informed her that there was no such
case filed in their court. Parias asked Paguinto for the case number, date of filing, copy
of the petition and the court where the annulment case was pending. Paguinto told
Parias that the records were at his office and that he was in Malolos, Bulacan attending
to a case. It turned out that there was no annulment case filed in RTC-Manila, Branch
CARPIO, J.: 64. Paguinto promised to return the money that Parias paid as down
payment. However, Paguinto returned the P10,000 only after Parias filed with the
The Case Commission on Bar Discipline ("CBD") of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines ("IBP") the
present complaint for disbarment.
A lawyer has the duty to give adequate attention and time to every case he accepts. A
lawyer impliedly warrants that he possesses the necessary diligence, learning and skill In the Order dated 14 February 2003,2 the CBD directed Paguinto to answer the
to handle each case. He should exert his best judgment and exercise reasonable and complaint. Paguinto asked for an extension of 15 days to file his Answer. The CBD
ordinary care and diligence in the pursuit or defense of his client's cause. granted the extension in the Order dated 19 March 2003.3However, Paguinto failed to
file his Answer within the extended period and thus the CBD declared him in default in
The Facts the Order dated 15 July 2003.4 After the hearing, Parias submitted her Position Paper
praying that the CBD declare Paguinto guilty of violation of Rule 16.01 and Rule 18.03
Sometime in October 2001, complainant Dolores Dryden Parias ("Parias") engaged of the Code of Professional Responsibility.
the services of respondent Atty. Oscar P. Paguinto ("Paguinto") to annul her marriage to
Danilo Soriano. They agreed that for the legal services, Parias would pay Paguinto an On 10 September 2003, Parias filed an Affidavit of Withdrawal5 of the complaint.
acceptance fee of P25,000, the filing fee of P2,500 and other incidental expenses. Parias stated that Paguinto "personally explained exhaustively the reasons why he
failed to comply with his obligations" and she realized that the complaint arose due to
On 2 December 2001, Parias paid Paguinto P10,000 in cash as partial payment of the a "misapprehension of facts, misunderstanding and miscommunication." Parias
acceptance fee. An acknowledgment receipt evidenced this payment.1 Parias gave manifested that she was withdrawing the complaint, as she was no longer interested in
Paguinto a diskette containing a narration of what happened between her and her pursuing the case.
estranged husband Danilo Soriano. Parias also furnished Paguinto with a copy of her
marriage contract with Soriano. Before the end of December 2001, Parias gave On the same date, Paguinto filed a Manifestation and Motion6 explaining that he failed
Paguinto P2,500 for the filing fee. to attend the hearing on 30 July 2003 because he was in Tabuk, Kalinga attending a
hearing in a criminal case for frustrated homicide. He apologized to Parias for his
actuations claiming "himself solely to be blamed." He further declared that he failed to
ETHICS (Canon 18 Competence and Diligence )|2

timely prepare and file the petition for annulment because he spends his time mostly in A lawyer should give adequate attention, care and time to his case. Once he agrees to
Gen. Mariano Alvarez, Cavite where he practices law catering to those "clients who have handle a case, he should undertake the task with dedication and care. If he fails in this
less in life." duty, he is not true to his oath as a lawyer. Hence, a lawyer must accept only as much
cases as he can efficiently handle, otherwise his clients' interests will suffer. 9 It is not
Commissioner's Report & Recommendation enough that a lawyer possesses the qualification to handle the legal matter. He must
also give adequate attention to his legal work.
The IBP designated Atty. Rebecca Villanueva-Maala ("Commissioner") as Commissioner
to conduct a formal investigation of the case. The Commissioner found Paguinto The lawyer owes it to his client to exercise his utmost learning and ability in handling his
negligent in performing his duties as a lawyer and as an officer of the court. The cases. A license to practice law is a guarantee by the courts to the public that the
Commissioner declared that a lawyer has the duty to give adequate attention, care and licensee possesses sufficient skill, knowledge and diligence to manage their cases.10 The
time to his cases, accepting only as many cases as he can handle. Paguinto failed to legal profession demands from a lawyer the vigilance and attention expected of a good
comply with this duty. The Commissioner recommended the suspension of Paguinto father of a family.
from the practice of law for six months.
In Gamalinda vs. Alcantara,11 we ruled:
The Court's Ruling
A lawyer owes fidelity to the cause of his client and must be mindful of the
We agree with the Commissioner. trust and confidence reposed in him. He shall serve his client with competence
and diligence, and his duty of entire devotion to his client's cause not only
Parias gave Paguinto P10,000 cash as partial payment of the acceptance fee. Parias requires, but entitles him to employ every honorable means to secure for the
also gave Paguinto P2,500 for the filing fee. Paguinto led Parias to believe that he had client what is justly due him or to present every defense provided by law to
filed the annulment case. Paguinto informed Parias that the case was filed with the enable the latter's cause to succeed. An attorney's duty to safeguard the
RTC-Manila, Branch 64, before Judge Ricaforte. However, Parias later found out that client's interests commences from his retainer until his effective release from
Paguinto never filed the annulment case in court. the case or the final disposition of the whole subject matter of the litigation.
During that period, he is expected to take such reasonable steps and such
ordinary care as his client's interests may require.
Rule 16.01 of the Code of Professional Responsibility ("the Code") provides that a lawyer
shall account for all money or property collected for or from the client. Acceptance of
money from a client establishes an attorney-client relationship and gives rise to the duty And failure to do so violates Canon 18 of the Code.12
of fidelity to the client's cause.7 Money entrusted to a lawyer for a specific purpose, such
as for filing fee, but not used for failure to file the case must immediately be returned Rule 18.01 of the Code is clear. A lawyer shall not undertake a legal service that he is
to the client on demand.8 Paguinto returned the money only after Parias filed this not qualified to render. Rule 18.02 of the Code provides that a lawyer shall not handle
administrative case for disbarment. any legal matter without adequate preparation. He has the duty to prepare for trial with
diligence and deliberate speed. Rule 18.03 of the Code also provides that a lawyer shall
Paguinto should know that as a lawyer, he owes fidelity to the cause of his client. When not neglect a legal matter entrusted to him and his negligence shall render him liable.
a lawyer accepts a case, his acceptance is an implied representation that he possesses
the requisite academic learning, skill and ability to handle the case. The lawyer has the One last point. Parias executed an Affidavit of Withdrawal 13 of the complaint stating
duty to exert his best judgment in the prosecution or defense of the case entrusted to that she was withdrawing the administrative complaint against Paguinto after realizing
him and to exercise reasonable and ordinary care and diligence in the pursuit or defense that "said complaint against the respondent arose due to misapprehension of facts,
of the case. misunderstanding and miscommunication." Paguinto, on the other hand, submitted a
Manifestation and Motion apologizing to Parias for his actuations and admitting that
ETHICS (Canon 18 Competence and Diligence )|3

he was "solely to be blamed." A compromise or withdrawal of charges does not QUISUMBING, J.:
terminate an administrative complaint against a lawyer,14 especially in this case where
the lawyer admitted his misconduct. In her Salaysay filed with the Office of the Bar Confidant on August 29, 2002,
complainant, former client of respondent, charged respondent with negligence in
Parias's affidavit of withdrawal of the disbarment case does not exonerate Paguinto in handling her labor case and threats against her person.
any way. We reiterate our ruling in Rayos-Ombac v. Rayos15 that
The complainant alleged that respondent Atty. Oscar R. Baria III, as her counsel in NLRC
[A] proceeding for suspension or disbarment is not in any sense a civil action NCR CA No. 022654-00/NLRC RAB IV-7-11287-99-R, Emma De Juan v. Triple AAA
where the complainant is a plaintiff and the respondent lawyer is a defendant. Antique/Mr. Yappe and Mr. Godofredo Nadia, negligently failed to file motion for
Disciplinary proceedings involve no private interest and afford no redress for reconsideration of the decision dated September 24, 2001 of the NLRC in her behalf.1
private grievance. They are undertaken solely for the public welfare. x x x The
attorney is called upon to answer to the court for his conduct as an officer of The complainant avers that she was hired by Triple AAA on or about December 15, 1998
the court. The complainant or the person who called the attention of the court as packer on probation status for six months in its Packing Department. 2 Based on a
to the attorney's alleged misconduct is in no sense a party, and has generally performance evaluation citing her irregular attendance and inefficiency, the company
no interest in the outcome except as all good citizens may have in the proper terminated her services on June 11, 1999,3 after waiting for two weeks for her to report.
administration of justice She claims that she was terminated without notice nor explanation4 so she filed a
complaint before the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) against the company
WHEREFORE, we find respondent Atty. Oscar P. Paguinto GUILTY of violation of the Code for illegal dismissal, non-payment of premium pay for holiday, rest day, and 13th month
of Professional Responsibility. Accordingly, we penalize Atty. Oscar P. Paguinto with pay. She also claimed moral and exemplary damages and attorneys fees.5
SUSPENSION for SIX (6) MONTHS from the practice of law effective upon receipt of this
Decision. In search of a lawyer, she asked the assistance of Banahaw Broadcasting Corporation
(BBC) which assigned respondent to handle her labor case. Respondent represented
Let copies of this Decision be furnished the Office of the Bar Confidant, to be appended complainant on a contingency fee agreement.
to respondent's personal record as an attorney; the Integrated Bar of the Philippines;
and all courts in the country for their information and guidance. On December 29, 1999, the Labor Arbiter rendered a decision in favor of
complainant.6 Triple AAA appealed to the NLRC. In a decision promulgated on
SO ORDERED. September 24, 2001, the NLRC reversed the Labor Arbiter and declared there was no
illegal dismissal.7

Complainant blamed respondent for the reversal. She said that she came to know of the
reversal of the Labor Arbiters decision when she called respondent in October 2001.
A.C. No. 5817 May 27, 2004
When she asked the respondent what they should do, respondent answered, "Paano
iyan ihaehhindi ako marunong gumawa ng Motion for Reconsideration." Sometime
EMMA V. DE JUAN, complainant,
in November 2001, her husband called respondent to ask if he did anything in
vs.
connection with the NLRCs Decision and he was advised by respondents secretary that,
ATTY. OSCAR R. BARIA III, respondent.
"Sabi ni Attyhuwag na kayong magpakita sa kanya dahil galit na galit sa inyo si Attorney
at baka kung ano pa ang magawa niya sa inyo."8
RESOLUTION
ETHICS (C anon 18 C ompetence and Diligence )|4

The Court required respondent to comment and referred the case to the Integrated Bar regarding the Tulfo incident, complainants husband retorted, "Sabihin mo sa kanya mag
of the Philippines (IBP) for investigation, report and recommendation.9 ingat siya at baka may mangyari sa kanya." Shortly thereafter, respondent began
receiving death threats over the phone and also noticed armed men casing his office.
In his Comment, respondent explained that soon after passing the bar in 1999, he was He reported these calls and presence of suspicious armed men to the police.
employed as a broadcaster in DWANs radio program offering free legal services to the
poor. He gave free legal services to indigent clients one of whom was complainant. As a Respondent surmises that complainant believed Triple AAA paid him off and he
practice, he said he forewarned his clients that he was just a new lawyer and that they pocketed money supposedly for her. Respondent vehemently denied he did. He asks
should not expect too much from him because of his limited legal experience. According that Triple AAA be summoned to bear witness to his story. Respondent asserts that he
to respondent he tried to explain to complainant the legal remedies available to her as has not committed any breach of his oath and that he has vigorously pursued his clients
well as the time her case may take. It appeared to him that complainant did not fully cause to the end. He avers that it was his clients own negligence and folly that caused
grasp the usual delays that may be involved in her case. He recalled that when he told her to lose her case. He asks that the complaint be dismissed.
complainant that the Labor Arbiters decision was in her favor, she was so jubilant at the
money judgment. Later however, the complainant became furious when he told her In a Resolution dated March 15, 2003, this Court referred the case to the IBP for
that Triple AAA Antique had appealed. Respondent filed a Motion for Writ of Execution investigation, report and recommendation. In turn, the IBP Commission on Bar
of the Labor Arbiters Decision but this Motion was ruled premature. Respondent then Discipline required complainant to reply. In her reply written in Filipino, complainant
filed an opposition to the appeal filed by Triple AAA but the NLRC still gave due course denied that she accepted money from respondent during the pendency of her labor
to the appeal. While Triple AAAs appeal was pending resolution he told complainant to case, except on one occasion when she borrowed P100 from respondents secretary for
call him every week so that she could be advised of any developments in her case. He travel fare back to the province. She reiterated that she filed her Salaysay because of
generously suggested that complainant call "collect" to lessen her expenses. He even respondents failure to file a motion for reconsideration. She further insists that she
allowed complainant and her husband to stay in his home when they came to Manila does not believe that respondent did not know how to file a motion for reconsideration
from the province. He said he even fed them when they were in Manila. as he claims since she was aware that even a law student would know how to.

In October 2001, the NLRC rendered its decision reversing the Labor Arbiter. By this In its Resolution dated August 30, 2003, the IBP approved the recommendation of the
time, according to respondent, he confronted complainant for lying to him about her Commission on Bar Discipline. The IBP Board of Governors found respondent guilty of
employment with Triple AAA and told her that because of her lies there was a possibility negligence in handling the aforecited labor case and recommended that respondent be
she could lose the appeal. He advised complainant to get a more experienced lawyer suspended from practicing law for three months. The charge of grave threats was
for her appeal because as a new lawyer he was not confident he could handle her dismissed for complainants failure to substantiate the same.10
appeal. Thereafter, complainant no longer contacted him and at some time, he even
had to ask her whereabouts from her relatives. The core issue is whether the respondent committed culpable negligence, as would
warrant disciplinary action, in failing to file for the complainant a motion for
On December 2001, respondent received calls from the staff of Raffy Tulfo, a radio reconsideration from the decision of the NLRC.
commentator. In one of these calls, his wife talked to one of Tulfos employees and she
was told that complainant told Tulfo that the respondent received money from Triple No lawyer is obliged to advocate for every person who may wish to become his client,
AAA Antique. As a result Tulfo lambasted him on his radio program. Respondent but once he agrees to take up the cause of a client, the lawyer owes fidelity to such
thereafter called Tulfo, explained his side, and demanded that the latter apologize on cause and must be mindful of the trust and confidence reposed in him.11 Further, among
air otherwise he would file a libel case against Tulfo. the fundamental rules of ethics is the principle that an attorney who undertakes an
action impliedly stipulates to carry it to its termination, that is, until the case becomes
Sometime in January 2002, respondents secretary received a call from the final and executory. A lawyer is not at liberty to abandon his client and withdraw his
complainants husband. When respondents secretary confronted the husband services without reasonable cause and only upon notice appropriate in the
ETHICS (Canon 18 Competence and Diligence )|5

circumstances.12 Any dereliction of duty by a counsel, affects the client.13 This means WHEREFORE, respondent lawyer Oscar R. Baria III is hereby FINED in the amount
that his client is entitled to the benefit of any and every remedy and defense that is of P5,000.00, with a stern warning that a repetition of this or similar offense will be dealt
authorized by the law and he may expect his lawyer to assert every such remedy or with more severely.
defense.14
SO ORDERED.
The records reveal that indeed the respondent did not file a motion for reconsideration
of the NLRC such that the said decision eventually had become final and executory.
Respondent does not refute this. His excuse that he did not know how to file a motion
for reconsideration is lame and unacceptable. After complainant had expressed an
A.C. No. 6424 March 4, 2005
interest to file a motion for reconsideration, it was incumbent upon counsel to diligently
return to his books and re-familiarize himself with the procedural rules for a motion for
reconsideration. Filing a motion for reconsideration is not a complicated legal task. CONSORCIA S. ROLLON, Complainant,
vs.
Atty. CAMILO NARAVAL, respondent.
We are however, not unaware that respondent had been forthright and candid with his
client when he warned her of his lack of experience as a new lawyer. We are also not
unaware that he had advised complainant to get a new lawyer. However, his candor DECISION
cannot absolve him. As already stressed by this Court:
PANGANIBAN, J.:
A lawyer is expected to be familiar with these rudiments of law and procedure and
anyone who acquires his service is entitled to not just competent service but also whole- Lawyers owe fidelity to their clients. The latters money or other property coming into
hearted devotion to his clients cause. It is the duty of a lawyer to serve his client with the formers possession should be deemed to be held in trust and should not under any
competence and diligence and he should exert his best efforts to protect within the circumstance be commingled with the lawyers own; much less, used by them. Failure
bounds of law the interest of his client. A lawyer should never neglect a legal matter to observe these ethical principles constitutes professional misconduct and justifies the
entrusted to him, otherwise his negligence in fulfilling his duty will render him liable for imposition of disciplinary sanctions.
disciplinary action.15
The Case and the Facts
16
Again, the Court held in the case of Santos v. Lazaro, that "Rule 18.03 of the Code of
Professional Responsibility17 explicitly provides that negligence of lawyers in connection Before us is a letter-complaint against Atty. Camilo Naraval, filed by Consorcia S. Rollon
with legal matters entrusted to them for handling shall render them liable. with the Davao City Chapter of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) on November
29, 2001. The Affidavit1 submitted by complainant alleges the following:
Without a proper revocation of his authority and withdrawal as counsel, respondent
remains counsel of record and whether or not he has a valid cause to withdraw from "Sometime in October of 2000, I went to the office of Atty. Camilo F. Naraval
the case, he cannot just do so and leave his client out in the cold. An attorney may only together with my son, Freddie Rollon, to seek his assistance in a case filed
retire from the case either by a written consent of his client or by permission of the against me before the Municipal Trial Court in Cities Branch 6, Davao City
court after due notice and hearing, in which event the attorney should see to it that the entitled Rosita Julaton vs. Consorcia S. Rollon for Collection of Sum of Money
name of the new attorney is recorded in the case.18 Respondent did not comply with with Prayer for Attachment;
these obligations.
"After going over the documents I brought with me pertaining to the said case,
Atty. Naraval agreed to be my lawyer and I was required to pay the amount of
ETHICS (Canon 18 Competence and Diligence )|6

Eight Thousand Pesos (Php 8,000.00) for the filing and partial service fee, which The CBD received complainants Position Paper6 on December 10, 2002.
amount was paid by me on October 18, 2000, a copy of the Official Receipt is
hereto attached as Annex A to form part hereof; Report of the Investigating Commissioner

"As per the instruction of Atty. Naraval, my son, Freddie, returned to his office In his Report and Recommendation dated October 16, 2003, Investigating
the following week to make follow-up on said case. However, I was informed Commissioner Acerey C. Pacheco recommended that respondent be suspended from
later by my son Freddie that Atty. Naraval was not able to act on my case the practice of law for one (1) year for neglect of duty and/or violation of Canons 15 and
because the latter was so busy. Even after several follow-ups were made with 18 of the Code of Professional Responsibility. The Report reads in part as follows:
Atty. Naraval, still there was no action done on our case;
"Canon 18 of the Code of Professional Responsibility requires every lawyer to
"Sometime in November 29, 2001, I decided to withdraw the amount I paid to serve his client with utmost dedication, competence and diligence. He must
Atty. Naraval, because of the latters failure to comply with our mutual not neglect a legal matter entrusted to him, and his negligence in this regard
agreement that he will assist me in the above-mentioned case; renders him administratively liable x x x.

"My son Freddie Rollon went to Atty. Naravals office that same day to inform "In the case at bar, the deplorable conduct of the respondent in
Atty. Naraval of our decision to withdraw the amount I have paid and to misrepresenting to the complainant that he will render legal services to her,
retrieve my documents pertaining to said case. Unfortunately, despite our and after receiving certain amount from the latter as payment for filing fee
several follow-ups, Atty. Naraval always said that he cannot return the and service fee did nothing in return, has caused unnecessary dishonor to the
documents because they were in their house, and that he could not give us bar. By his own conduct the respect of the community to the legal profession,
back the amount we paid him (Php 8,000.00) because he has no money; of which he swore to protect, has been tarnished.

"Having failed to obtain any response, I decided to refer the matter to Atty. xxx xxx xxx
Ramon Edison Batacan, IBP President of Davao City and to Atty. Pedro Castillo,
the Commissioner on Bar D[i]scipline; "In fact, complainant claimed to have been shortchanged by the respondent
when he failed to properly appraised her of the status of her case which she
xxx xxx x x x." later on found to have become final and executory. Apparently, the civil suit
between Rosita Julaton and the complainant have been decided against the
In an Order dated March 12, 2002,2 the IBP Commission on Bar Discipline (CBD), through latter and which judgment has long become final and executory. However,
Director Victor C. Fernandez, directed respondent to submit his answer to the despite full knowledge by the respondent of such finality based on the
Complaint. The same directive was reiterated in the CBDs May 31, 2002 Order3 issued documents furnished to him, respondent withheld such vital information and
through Commissioner Jovy C. Bernabe. Respondent did not file any answer despite his did not properly appraise the complainant. Thus, respondent violated the
receipt of the Orders.4 mandate in Canon 15 x x x."7

Not having heard from him despite adequate notice, the CBD proceeded with the IBP Board of Governors Resolution
investigation ex parte. Its Order5 dated November 11, 2002, issued through
Commissioner Bernabe, required complainant to submit her position paper within ten On February 27, 2004, the IBP Board of Governors issued Resolution No. XVI-2004-64
days from receipt thereof, after which the case was to be deemed submitted for upholding the above-quoted Report. The Board recommended the suspension of
resolution.
ETHICS (Canon 18 Competence and Diligence )|7

respondent from the practice of law for two (2) years for violation of Rules 15 and 18 of The circumstances of this case indubitably show that after receiving the amount
the Code of Professional Responsibility and the restitution of complainants P8,000. of P8,000 as filing and partial service fee, respondent failed to render any legal service
in relation to the case of complainant. His continuous inaction despite repeated
The Courts Ruling followups from her reveals his cavalier attitude and appalling indifference toward his
clients cause, in brazen disregard of his duties as a lawyer. Not only that. Despite her
We agree with the Resolution of the IBP Board of Governors. repeated demands, he also unjustifiably failed to return to her the files of the case that
had been entrusted to him. To top it all, he kept the money she had likewise entrusted
to him.
Respondents Administrative Liability

Furthermore, after going through her papers, respondent should have given her a
Ordinarily, lawyers are not obliged to act either as advisers or as advocates of any person
candid, honest opinion on the merits and the status of the case. Apparently, the civil
who may wish to become their client.8 They may decline employment and refuse to
suit between Rosita Julaton and complainant had been decided against the latter. In
accept representation, if they are not in a position to carry it out effectively or
fact, the judgment had long become final and executory. But he withheld such vital
competently.9 But once they agree to handle a case, attorneys are required by the
information from complainant. Instead, he demanded P8,000 as "filing and service fee"
Canons of Professional Responsibility to undertake the task with zeal, care and utmost
and thereby gave her hope that her case would be acted upon.
devotion.10

Rule 15.05 of the Code of Professional Responsibility requires that lawyers give their
Acceptance of money from a client establishes an attorney-client relationship and gives
candid and best opinion to their clients on the merit or lack of merit of the case, neither
rise to the duty of fidelity to the clients cause.11 Every case accepted by a lawyer
overstating nor understating their evaluation thereof. Knowing whether a case would
deserves full attention, diligence, skill and competence, regardless of importance. 12 The
have some prospect of success is not only a function, but also an obligation on the part
Code of Professional Responsibility clearly states:
of lawyers.15 If they find that their clients cause is defenseless, then it is their bounden
duty to advise the latter to acquiesce and submit, rather than to traverse the
CANON 17 A lawyer owes fidelity to the cause of his client and he shall be
incontrovertible.16 The failure of respondent to fulfill this basic undertaking constitutes
mindful of the trust and confidence reposed in him.
a violation of his duty to "observe candor, fairness and loyalty in all his dealings and
transactions with his clients."17
CANON 18 - A lawyer shall serve his client with competence and diligence.
Likewise, as earlier pointed out, respondent persistently refused to return the money of
Rule 18.03 - A lawyer shall not neglect a legal matter entrusted to him and his complainant despite her repeated demands. His conduct was clearly indicative of lack
negligence in connection therewith shall render him liable. of integrity and moral soundness; he was clinging to something that did not belong to
him, and that he absolutely had no right to keep or use.18
Rule 18.04 - A lawyer shall keep his client informed of the status of his case and
shall respond within a reasonable time to the clients request for information. Lawyers are deemed to hold in trust their clients money and property that may come
into their possession.19 As respondent obviously did nothing on the case of complainant,
Hence, practising lawyers may accept only as many cases as they can efficiently the amount she had given -- as evidenced by the receipt issued by his law office -- was
handle.13 Otherwise, their clients would be prejudiced. Once lawyers agree to handle a never applied to the filing fee. His failure to return her money upon demand gave rise
case, they should undertake the task with dedication and care. If they do any less, then to the presumption that he had converted it to his own use and thereby betrayed the
they fail their lawyers oath.14 trust she had reposed in him.20 His failure to do so constituted a gross violation of
professional ethics and a betrayal of public confidence in the legal profession.21
ETHICS (Canon 18 Competence and Diligence )|8

The Code exacts from lawyers not only a firm respect for law, legal processes and the In his letter,1 dated October 16, 1996, to the Court Administrator, complainant imputed
courts,22 but also mandates the utmost degree of fidelity and good faith in dealing with the following negligent acts to respondent which led to the dismissal of Civil Case No.
the moneys entrusted to them pursuant to their fiduciary relationship. 23 Respondent 7500:
clearly fell short of the demands required of him as a member of the bar. His inability to
properly discharge his duty to his client makes him answerable not just to her, but also 1. Respondent did not attend the scheduled hearing on January 11, 1996 nor
to this Court, to the legal profession, and to the general public.24 Given the crucial seek a postponement thereof, for which reason the trial court considered
importance of his role in the administration of justice, his misconduct diminished the respondent to have waived further presentation of his evidence and directed
confidence of the public in the integrity and dignity of the profession.25 him to formally offer his exhibits for admission on January 30, 1996;

WHEREFORE, Atty. Camilo Naraval is found GUILTY of violating Rule 15.05 and Canons 2. Notwithstanding receipt of the order dated January 11, 1996, respondent
16, 17 and 18 of the Code of Professional Responsibility and is hereby SUSPENDED from failed to formally offer his exhibits on January 30, 1996, prompting the trial
the practice of law for a period of two (2) years, effective upon his receipt of this court to order the dismissal of the case;
Decision. Furthermore, he is ORDERED TO RESTITUTE, within thirty (30) days from
notice of this Decision, complainants eight thousand pesos (P8,000), plus interest 3. While respondent filed a motion for reconsideration of the order of
thereon, at the rate of six percent per annum, from October 18, 2000, until fully paid. dismissal, he did not file his motion within the reglementary period, as a result
Let copies of this Decision be furnished all courts, the Office of the Bar Confidant, as well of which the said motion, actually filed on May 7, 1996, was denied by the trial
as the National Office and the Davao City Chapter of the Integrated Bar of the court on May 14, 1996 for having been filed out of time;
Philippines.
4. When asked for an explanation regarding the dismissal of the case,
SO ORDERED. respondent informed complainant through a letter, dated July 30, 1996, that
he had filed a motion for reconsideration of the order of dismissal, but the
motion, which had been filed a long time ago, had not yet been resolved by
the trial court;
A.C. No. 5394 December 2, 2002*
5. Respondent tried to shift the blame on complainant by claiming that the
RIZALINO FERNANDEZ, complainant, latter insisted on presenting his sister from Manila as their last witness. The
vs. truth was that complainants sister had already testified and there was no more
ATTY. REYNALDO NOVERO, JR. respondent. witness to present; and

DECISION 6. Respondent only attended one (1) hearing in the civil case.

MENDOZA, J.: In his answer,2 dated September 3, 1997, respondent averred that the complaint filed
against him was baseless and was purely malicious and speculative considering the fact
that it was not made under oath. He alleged that complainant engaged his legal services
This is a complaint for disbarment against Atty. Reynaldo Novero, Jr. for alleged patent
after the first counsel had withdrawn from the case because of a misunderstanding with
and gross neglect in the handling of Civil Case No. 7500 which complainant Rizalino
complainant. He stated that he had no knowledge of what had happened in the case
Fernandez and others had filed against the Bacolod City Water District before the
before he handled it because complainant did not furnish him the records and
Regional Trial Court, Branch 49, Bacolod City.
stenographic notes of the previous proceedings despite his repeated requests.
ETHICS (C anon 18 C ompetence and Diligence )|9

Respondent further claimed that he failed to formally offer the exhibits as evidence After review of the records of this case, the Court finds the report of the Investigating
because complainant could not be reached when he was needed for conference and Commissioner of the IBP to be well taken. The records clearly show that respondent has
the latter even tried to take over the handling of the case by insisting on presenting been negligent in the performance of his duties as complainants counsel. His failure to
more witnesses who nevertheless failed to appear during trial despite several file his formal offer of exhibits constitutes inexcusable negligence as it proved fatal to
postponements. the cause of his client since it led to the dismissal of the case. To compound his
inefficiency, respondent filed a motion for reconsideration outside the reglementary
The case was referred to the Office of the Bar Confidant (OBC), which submitted a period, which was thus accordingly denied by the trial court for being filed out of time.
report,3 dated February 3, 2001, finding respondent guilty of violation of the Code of Hence, the order issued by the trial court dismissing the case became final.
Professional Responsibility and recommending his suspension from the practice of law Respondents acts and omission clearly constitute violation of the Code of Professional
for one (1) month. Responsibility which provides in pertinent parts:

Thereafter, the Court referred the case to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP), CANON 17. A LAWYER OWES FIDELITY TO THE CAUSE OF HIS CLIENT AND HE
which in its report and recommendation, dated October 15, 2001, found respondent SHALL BE MINDFUL OF THE TRUST AND CONFIDENCE REPOSED IN HIM.
remiss in observing the standard care, diligence and competence prescribed for
members of the bar in the performance of their professional duties. The IBP CANON 18. A LAWYER SHALL SERVE HIS CLIENT WITH COMPETENCE AND
Investigating Commissioner recommended that respondent be suspended from the DILIGENCE.
practice of law for a period of six (6) months with warning that the commission of the
same or similar offenses will be dealt with more severely in the future.4 The report and Rule 18.02 A lawyer shall not handle any legal matter without adequate
recommendation of the Investigating Commissioner was approved on June 29, 2002 by preparation.
the IBP Board of Governors.5
Rule 18.03 A lawyer shall not neglect a legal matter entrusted to him, and his
Respondent filed a motion for reconsideration, dated September 17, 2002, alleging that negligence in connection therewith shall render him liable.
the Court should not have taken cognizance of the complaint because it was not
verified. According to him, the complaint was a mere political ploy to discredit him As this Court has held:
because he was aspiring for a congressional seat in the 1998 elections. He denied
complainants claim that he attended only one hearing. He explained that he was not
A counsel must constantly keep in mind that his actions or omissions, even malfeasance
able to terminate his presentation of evidence because complainant insisted on
or nonfeasance, would be binding on his client. Verily, a lawyer owes to the client the
presenting as witness his sister who was residing in Manila, even though the latter
exercise of utmost prudence and capability in that representation. Lawyers are
repeatedly failed to appear in court despite several postponements. He claimed that
expected to be acquainted with the rudiments of law and legal procedure, and anyone
complainant had told him that his intention was really to delay the case as he was using
who deals with them has the right to expect not just a good amount of professional
the same as his leverage in a criminal case filed or to be filed against him by the Bacolod
learning and competence but also a whole-hearted fealty to the clients cause.7
City Water District for his alleged water tapping. When he refused to go along with the
scheme, complainant allegedly threatened to change counsel. Respondent further
Respondents attempt to evade responsibility by shifting the blame on complainant is
alleged that complainants attitude is apparent from the fact that the latter caused to
be disseminated several copies of the IBP Resolution recommending his (respondents) apparent. His averment that complainant failed to turn over to him the records and
stenographic notes of the case only highlights his incompetence and inadequacy in
suspension and distributed them to radio stations in Bacolod City. For these reasons,
handling complainants case. Considering that respondent has been practicing law for
respondent sought the reversal of the IBP Resolution.6
almost 15 years, he should have known that he could easily obtain a copy of the records
and stenographic notes from the court where the case was docketed.
E T H I C S ( C a n o n 1 8 C o m p e t e n c e a n d D i l i g e n c e ) | 10

Respondent likewise refers to the alleged obnoxious attitude of complainant in trying to


manipulate the manner in which he was handling the case as the main reason for his
failure to formally offer his exhibits in contravention of the order of the court. But
A.C. No. 5092 August 11, 2004
respondent should bear in mind that while a lawyer owes utmost zeal and devotion to
the interest of his client, he also has the responsibility of employing only fair and honest
LUCILA S. BARBUCO, complainant,
means to attain the lawful objectives of his client and he should not allow the latter to
vs.
dictate the procedure in handling the case.8 As this Court said in another case:
ATTY. RAYMUNDO N. BELTRAN, respondent.
A lawyer owes entire devotion in protecting the interest of his client, warmth and zeal
in the defense of his rights. He must use all his learning and ability to the end that
nothing can be taken or withheld from his client except in accordance with the law. He
must present every remedy or defense within the authority of the law in support of his
clients cause, regardless of his own personal views. In the full discharge of his duties to DECISION
his client, the lawyer should not be afraid of the possibility that he may displease the
judge or the general public.9

As to the contention of respondent that the Court should not have taken cognizance of
the complaint because the letter-complaint was not verified, as required in Rule 139-B, YNARES-SANTIAGO, J.:
1 of the Rules of Court on Disbarment and Discipline of Attorneys,10 suffice it to say
that such constitutes only a formal defect and does not affect the jurisdiction of the A lawyer shall serve his client with competence and diligence. 1 While a lawyer may
Court over the subject matter of the complaint. "The verification is merely a formal decline to render services for a person for valid reasons, once he agrees to take up the
requirement intended to secure an assurance that matters which are alleged are true cause of a client, he begins to owe fidelity to that cause and must always be mindful of
and correct the court may simply order the correction of unverified pleadings or act the trust and confidence reposed in him. He must serve his client with competence and
on it and waive strict compliance with the rules in order that the ends of justice may be diligence, and champion the latter's cause with wholehearted fidelity, care and
served."11 devotion.2

However, instead of suspension for six (6) months as recommended by the IBP On July 9, 1999, Lucila S. Barbuco filed a Sworn Complaint3 against Atty. Raymundo N.
Investigating Commissioner, we hold that the suspension of respondent Atty. Reynaldo Beltran for malpractice of law, negligence and dishonesty.
Novero, Jr. for one (1) month, as recommended by the Office of the Bar Confidant,
would be commensurate considering that this is the first time Atty. Novero is found
It appears that on March 31, 1998, complainant, through her son, Benito B. Sy, engaged
guilty of neglect of his clients case.
the services of respondent for the purpose of filing an appeal before the Court of
Appeals from the decision of the Regional Trial Court of Cavite, Branch 21, in the case
WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, Atty. Reynaldo Novero, Jr. is SUSPENDED from entitled, "Alexander Bermido, Plaintiff versus Lucila Barbuco, Defendant."On August 6,
the practice of law for one (1) month effective upon finality hereof with WARNING that 1998, complainant, through Benito B. Sy, gave respondent the total sum of P3,500.00
a repetition of the same negligent act charged in this complaint will be dealt with even for payment of the docket fees.
more severely.

SO ORDERED.
E T H I C S ( C a n o n 1 8 C o m p e t e n c e a n d D i l i g e n c e ) | 11

Complainant's appeal, docketed as CA-G.R. CV No. 58180, was dismissed by the Court A lawyer shall not neglect a legal matter entrusted to him, and his negligence
of Appeals in a Resolution4 dated September 25, 1998 for failure to file Appellant's Brief, in connection therewith shall render him liable.
pursuant to Rule 50, Section 1(e) of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure.
An attorney is bound to protect his client's interest to the best of his ability and with
Complainant found out that her appeal had been dismissed only on June 4, 1999, when utmost diligence. Failure to file brief within the reglementary period certainly
her son went to the Court of Appeals to verify the status of the case. constitutes inexcusable negligence, more so if the delay of FORTY THREE (43) days
resulted in the dismissal of the appeal.
When asked to comment on the charges filed against him,5 respondent Beltran averred
that the docket fees were paid on time and that on September 22, 1998, he filed the The fact that respondent was involved in a vehicular accident and suffered physical
Appellant's Brief6 with the Court of Appeals. However, the appeal was dismissed. On injuries as a result thereof cannot serve to excuse him from filing his pleadings on time
October 19, 1998, respondent filed a motion for reconsideration, 7 on the ground that considering that he was a member of a law firm composed of not just one lawyer. This
he received the notice to file brief on June 25, 1998; however, on June 26, 1998, he met is shown by the receipt he issued to complainant and the pleadings which he signed for
a vehicular accident which physically incapacitated him for several days; and that as a and on behalf of the Beltran, Beltran and Beltran Law Office. As such, respondent could
result of the accident, he suffered head injuries which caused him to lose track of have asked any of his partners in the law office to file the Appellant's Brief for him or, at
deadlines for the filing of pleadings. least, to file a Motion for Extension of Time to file the said pleading.

On March 9, 1999, the Motion for Reconsideration was denied on the ground that the In B.R. Sebastian Enterprises, Inc. v. Court of Appeals,10 we ruled that the confusion in
brief for defendant-appellant was filed forty-three (43) days late.8 the office of the law firm following the death of one of its partners is not a valid
justification for failing to file the brief. We further ruled in the said case that upon receipt
On November 22, 1999, the complaint against respondent Beltran was referred to the of the notice to file the brief, the law firm should have re-assigned the case to another
Integrated Bar of the Philippines for investigation, report and recommendation.9 associate.

After hearing, Commissioner Rebecca Villanueva-Maala of the IBP Commission on Bar The failure to timely file a pleading is by itself inexcusable negligence on the part of
Discipline, submitted on October 6, 2003 her findings and recommendation that respondent. Complainant's liability is further compounded by his failure to maintain an
respondent Beltran be suspended from the practice of law for a period of five (5) years. open line of communication with his client, in violation of the provisions of Rule 18.04,
which reads:
On October 25, 2003, the IBP Board of Governors passed Resolution No. XVI-2003-234
affirming the recommendation of Commissioner Villanueva-Maala but modified the A lawyer shall keep the client informed of the status of his case and shall
recommended period of suspension from five (5) years to six (6) months only. respond within a reasonable time to the client's request for information.

After a careful review of the records and evidence, we find no cogent reason to deviate Clearly, respondent's series of inadvertence prejudiced the case of the complainant. We
from the findings and the recommendation of the IBP Board of Governors. Respondent's can not overstress the duty of a lawyer to uphold the integrity and dignity of the legal
conduct relative to the belated filing of the Appellant's Brief falls below the standards profession by faithfully performing his duties to society, to the bar, to the courts and to
exacted upon lawyers on dedication and commitment to their client's cause. his clients.11

Rule 18.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility for Lawyers states: Every member of the Bar should always bear in mind that every case that a lawyer
accepts deserves his full attention, diligence, skill and competence, regardless of its
importance and whether he accepts it for a fee or for free. A lawyer's fidelity to the
E T H I C S ( C a n o n 1 8 C o m p e t e n c e a n d D i l i g e n c e ) | 12

cause of his client requires him to be ever mindful of the responsibilities that should be The case before us demonstrates once again that when a lawyer violates his duties
expected of him. He is mandated to exert his best efforts to protect the interest of his to his client, the courts, the legal profession and the public, he engages in conduct which
client within the bounds of the law. The Code of Professional Responsibility dictates that is both unethical and unprofessional.
a lawyer shall serve his client with competence and diligence and he should not neglect
This case unfolded with a verified Complaint[2] filed on January 12, 1993 by
a legal matter entrusted to him.12
complainant Artemio Endaya against respondent Atty. Wifredo Oca for violation of the
lawyers oath and what complainant termed as professional delinquency or
WHEREFORE, Atty. Raymundo N. Beltran is found guilty of negligence and malpractice
infidelity.[3] The antecedents are:
and is SUSPENDED from the practice of law for a period of SIX (6) MONTHS effective
immediately. On November 7, 1991, a complaint for unlawful detainer docketed as Civil Case
No. 34-MCTC-T was filed with the Municipal Circuit Trial Court of Taysan-Lobo, Batangas
Let a copy of this Decision be furnished the Office of the Bar Confidant, the Integrated by Apolonia H. Hornilla, Pedro Hernandez, Santiago Hernandez and Dominador
Bar of the Philippines, and to all the courts. Hernandez against complainant and his spouse Patrosenia Endaya.[4]
On December 13, 1991, the complainant and his wife as defendants in the case
SO ORDERED. filed their answer which was prepared by a certain Mr. Isaias Ramirez. A preliminary
conference was conducted on January 17, 1992, which complainant and his wife
attended without counsel. During the conference, complainant categorically admitted
that plaintiffs were the declared owners for taxation purposes of the land involved in
the case. Continuation of the preliminary conference was set on January 31, 1992.
Thereafter, complainant sought the services of the Public Attorneys Office in Batangas
[A.C. No. 3967. September 3, 2003] City and respondent was assigned to handle the case for the complainant and his wife.[5]
At the continuation of the preliminary conference, respondent appeared as
counsel for complainant and his spouse. He moved for the amendment of the answer
previously filed by complainant and his wife, but his motion was denied. [6] Thereafter,
ARTEMIO ENDAYA, complainant, vs. ATTY. WILFREDO OCA, respondent.
the court, presided by Acting Trial Court Judge Teodoro M. Baral, ordered the parties to
submit their affidavits and position papers within ten days from receipt of the order. The
DECISION court also decreed that thirty days after receipt of the last affidavit and position paper,
TINGA, J.: or upon expiration of the period for filing the same, judgment shall be rendered on the
case.[7]
The law is no brooding omnipresence in the sky, so spoke Justice Holmes. He must Respondent failed to submit the required affidavits and position paper, as may be
have made the statement because invariably the legal system is encountered in human gleaned from the Decision dated March 19, 1992 of the MCTC where it was noted that
form, notably through the lawyers. For practical purposes, the lawyers not only only the plaintiffs submitted their affidavits and position papers.[8]
represent the law; they are the law.[1] With their ubiquitous presence in the social
milieu, lawyers have to be responsible. The problems they create in lawyering become Nonetheless, the court dismissed the complaint for unlawful detainer principally
public difficulties. To keep lawyers responsible underlies the worth of the ethics of on the ground that the plaintiffs are not the real parties-in-interest. The dispositive
lawyering. Indeed, legal ethics is simply the aesthetic term for professional portion of the Decision reads:
responsibility.
WHEREFORE, this case is hereby dismissed on the ground that the plaintiffs have no
legal capacity to sue as they are not the real party (sic)in interest, in addition to the fact
E T H I C S ( C a n o n 1 8 C o m p e t e n c e a n d D i l i g e n c e ) | 13

that there is no privity of contract between the plaintiffs and the defendants as to the Having lost the unlawful detainer case, on January 12, 1993 complainant filed the
verbal lease agreement. present administrative complaint against the respondent for professional delinquency
consisting of his failure to file the required pleadings in behalf of the complainant and
SO ORDERED.[9] his spouse. Complainant contends that due to respondents inaction he lost the
opportunity to present his cause and ultimately the case itself.[18]
Plaintiffs appealed the Decision to the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Batangas City, In his Comment[19] dated March 17, 1993, respondent denies that he committed
Branch 1, where the case was docketed as Civil Case No. 3378. On April 10, 1992, the professional misconduct in violation of his oath, stressing that he was not the original
RTC directed the parties to file their respective memoranda.[10] Once again, respondent counsel of complainant and his spouse.[20] He further avers that when he agreed to
failed the complainant and his wife. As observed by the RTC in its Decision[11] dated represent complainant at the continuation of the preliminary conference in the main
September 7, 1992, respondent did not file the memorandum for his clients, thereby case, it was for the sole purpose of asking leave of court to file an amended answer
prompting the court to consider the case as submitted for decision.[12] because he was made to believe by the complainant that the answer was prepared by
In its Decision, the RTC reversed the decision appealed from as it held that plaintiffs a non-lawyer. Upon discovering that the answer was in fact the work of a lawyer,
are the co-owners of the property in dispute and as such are parties-in-interest.[13] It forthwith he asked the court to relieve him as complainants counsel, but he was denied.
also found that the verbal lease agreement was on a month-to-month basis and He adds that he agreed to file the position paper for the complainant upon the latters
perforce terminable by the plaintiffs at the end of any given month upon proper notice undertaking to provide him with the documents which support the position that
to the defendants.[14] It also made a finding that defendants incurred rentals in plaintiffs are not the owners of the property in dispute. As complainant had reneged on
arrears.[15] The decretal portion of the Decision reads, thus: his promise, he claims that he deemed it more prudent not to file any position paper as
it would be a repetition of the answer. He offers the same reason for not filing the
memorandum on appeal with the RTC. Finally, respondent asserts that he fully
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Decision of the Municipal Circuit Trial Court of
explained his stand as regards Civil Case No. 34-MCTC-T to the complainant.[21]
Taysan-Lobo dated March 19, 1992, is REVERSED and SET ASIDE and new one entered,
to wit: Pursuant to our Resolution[22] dated May 10, 1993, complainant filed
his Reply[23] to respondents Comment wherein he merely reiterated his allegations in
Defendants ARTEMIO ENDAYA and PATROSENIA ENDAYA and all persons claiming under the Complaint.
them are hereby ordered to vacate and dismantle their house on the land subject of the
verbal lease agreement at their own expense. The defendants are likewise ordered to On July 28, 1993, this Court directed respondent to file his rejoinder within ten
days from notice of our Resolution.[24] But he failed to do so despite the lapse of a
pay the monthly rental of P25.00 from the month of January 1991 to November 1991
considerable period of time. This prompted the Court to require respondent to show
and ONE THOUSAND (P1,000.00) PESOS monthly from December 1991 until the
defendants finally vacate and surrender possession of the subject property to the cause why he should not be disciplinarily dealt with or held in contempt and to file his
plaintiffs and to pay attorneys fee in the amount of TEN THOUSAND (P10,000.00) PESOS. rejoinder, both within ten (10) days from notice.[25]
In his Explanation[26] dated February 28, 1997, respondent admits having received
[16]
No pronouncement as to cost. a copy of the resolution requiring him to file a rejoinder. However, he asserts that he
purposely did not file a rejoinder for he believed in good faith that a rejoinder to
Complainant received a copy of the Decision on October 7, 1992. Two days later, complainants reply is no longer necessary.[27] He professes that in electing not to file a
or on October 9, 1992, complainant confronted respondent with the adverse decision rejoinder he did not intend to cast disrespect upon the Court.[28]
but the latter denied receipt of a copy thereof. Upon inquiry with the Branch Clerk of
On June 16, 1997, we referred this case to the Office of the Bar Confidant for
Court, however, complainant found out that respondent received his copy back
evaluation, report and recommendation.[29]
on September 14, 1992.[17]
E T H I C S ( C a n o n 1 8 C o m p e t e n c e a n d D i l i g e n c e ) | 14

In its Report[30] dated February 6, 2001, the Office of the Bar Confidant found through supporting documents, respondent was made to believe that he had a strong
respondent negligent in handling the case of complainant and his wife and leg to stand on. A party cannot blame his counsel for negligence when he himself was
recommended that he be suspended from the practice of law for one month. The guilty of neglect. (Macapagal vs. Court of Appeals, 271 SCRA 491)[32]
pertinent portions of the Report read, thus:
On April 18, 2001, we referred the case to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines for
It is to be noted that after appearing at the preliminary conference before the Municipal investigation, report and recommendation.
Circuit Trial Court, respondent was never heard from again. Respondents seeming
Several hearings were set by the IBP but complainant did not appear even
indifference to the cause of his client, specially when the case was on appeal, caused
once. Respondent attended five hearings, but he failed to present evidence in support
the defeat of herein complainant. Respondent practically abandoned complainant in
the midst of a storm. This is even more made serious of the fact that respondent, at that of his defense, as required by Investigating Commissioner Victor C. Fernandez. This
compelled the latter to make his report on the basis of the pleadings and evidence
time, was assigned at the Public Attorneys Office- a government entity mandated to
forwarded by the Office of the Bar Confidant.
provide free and competent legal assistance.
On October 11, 2002, Commissioner Fernandez issued his Report[33] wherein he
A lawyers devotion to his clients cause not only requires but also entitles him to deploy concurred with the findings and recommendation of the Office of the Bar Confidant.
every honorable means to secure for the client what is justly due him or to present every
defense provided by law to enable the latters cause to succeed. (Miraflor vs. Hagad, 244 In a Resolution[34] dated April 26, 2003, the IBP Board of Governors adopted
SCRA 106) the Report of Commissioner Fernandez.
The Court is convinced that respondent violated the lawyers oath not only once
.... but a number of times in regard to the handling of his clients cause. The repeated
violations also involve defilement of several Canons in the Code of Professional
The facts, however, do not show that respondent employed every legal and honorable Responsibility.
means to advance the cause of his client. Had respondent tried his best, he could have
Right off, the Court notes that respondent attributes his failure to file the required
found some other defenses available to his client; but respondent was either too lazy or
pleadings for the complainant and his wife invariably to his strong personal belief that
too convinced that his client had a losing case.
it was unnecessary or futile to file the pleadings. This was true with respect to the
affidavits and position paper at the MCTC level, the appeal memorandum at the RTC
.... level and the rejoinder at this Courts level.In the last instance, it took respondent as long
as three years, under compulsion of a show cause order at that, only to manifest his
For intentionally failing to submit the pleadings required by the court, respondent predisposition not to file a rejoinder after all. In other words, at the root of respondents
practically closed the door to the possibility of putting up a fair fight for his client. As the transgressions is his seeming stubborn mindset against the acts required of him by the
Court once held, A client is bound by the negligence of his lawyer. (Diaz-Duarte vs. Ong, courts. This intransigent attitude not only belies lack of diligence and commitment but
298 SCRA 388)[31] evinces absence of respect for the authority of this Court and the other courts involved.

However, the Bar Confidant did not find complainant entirely faultless. She The lawyers oath embodies the fundamental principles that guide every member
observed, viz: of the legal fraternity. From it springs the lawyers duties and responsibilities that any
infringement thereof can cause his disbarment, suspension or other disciplinary
action.[35]
Respondents allegation that complainant failed in his promise to submit the documents
to support his claim was not denied by complainant; hence, it is deemed admitted. Found in the oath is the duty of a lawyer to protect and safeguard the interest of
Complainant is not without fault; for misrepresenting that he could prove his claim his client. Specifically, it requires a lawyer to conduct himself to the best of his
E T H I C S ( C a n o n 1 8 C o m p e t e n c e a n d D i l i g e n c e ) | 15

knowledge and discretion with all good fidelity as well to the courts as to his constitutes negligence and malpractice proscribed by Rule 18.03 of the Code of
clients.[36] This duty is further stressed in Canon 18 of the Code of Professional Professional Responsibility which mandates that (A) lawyer shall not neglect a legal
Responsibility which mandates that (A) lawyer shall serve his client with competence matter entrusted to him and his negligence in connection therewith shall render him
and diligence. liable.
In this case, evidence abound that respondent failed to demonstrate the required Respondents failure to file the affidavits and position paper at the MCTC did not
diligence in handling the case of complainant and his spouse. As found by the Office of actually prejudice his clients, for the court nevertheless rendered a decision favorable
the Bar Confidant,[37] after appearing at the second preliminary conference before the to them. However, the failure is per se a violation of Rule 18.03.
MCTC, respondent had not been heard of again until he commented on the complaint
It was respondents failure to file appeal memorandum before the RTC which made
in this case. Without disputing this fact, respondent reasons out that his appearance at
complainant and his wife suffer as it resulted in their loss of the case. As found by the
the conference was for the sole purpose of obtaining leave of court to file an amended
answer and that when he failed to obtain it because of complainants fault he asked the Office of the Bar Confidant, to which we fully subscribe, in not filing the appeal
memorandum respondent denied complainant and his spouse the chance of putting up
court that he be relieved as counsel.[38] The explanation has undertones of dishonesty
a fair fight in the dispute. Canon 19prescribes that (A) lawyer shall represent his client
for complainant had engaged respondent for the entire case and not for just one
incident. The alternative conclusion is that respondent did not know his procedure for with zeal within the bounds of the law. He should exert all efforts to avail of the
remedies allowed under the law. Respondent did not do so, thereby even putting to
under the Rules on Summary Procedure[39] the amended answer is a prohibited
naught the advantage which his clients apparently gained by prevailing at the MCTC
pleading.
level. Verily, respondent did not even bother to put up a fight for his clients. Clearly, his
Even assuming respondent did in fact ask to be relieved, this could not mean that conduct fell short of what Canon 19 requires and breached the trust reposed in him by
less was expected from him. Once a lawyer takes the cudgels for a clients case, he owes his clients.
it to his client to see the case to the end. This, we pointed out in Legarda v. Court of
We cannot sustain respondents excuse in not filing the affidavits and position
Appeals,[40] thus:
paper with the MCTC and the appeal memorandum with the RTC. He claims that he did
not file the required pleadings because complainant failed to furnish him with evidence
It should be remembered that the moment a lawyer takes a clients cause, he covenants
that would substantiate complainants allegations in the answer. He argues that absent
that he will exert all effort for its prosecution until its final conclusion. A lawyer who fails
the supporting documents, the pleadings he could have filed would just be a repetition
to exercise due diligence or abandons his clients cause make him unworthy of the trust
of the answer. However, respondent admits in his comment that complainant furnished
reposed on him by the latter.[41]
him with the affidavit of persons purporting to be barangay officials attesting to an
alleged admission by Felomino Hernandez, the brother of the plaintiffs in the unlawful
Also, we held in Santiago v. Fojas,[42] every case a lawyer accepts deserves his full detainer case, that he had already bought the disputed property.[44] This did not
attention, diligence, skill, and competence, regardless of its importance and whether he precipitate respondent into action despite the evidentiary value of the affidavit, which
accepts if for a fee or for free. In other words, whatever the lawyers reason is for was executed by disinterested persons. Said affidavit could have somehow bolstered
accepting a case, he is duty bound to do his utmost in prosecuting or defending it. the claim of complainant and his wife which was upheld by the MCTC that plaintiffs are
Moreover, a lawyer continues to be a counsel of record until the lawyer-client not the real parties-in-interest. While respondent could have thought this affidavit to
relationship is terminated either by the act of his client or his own act, with permission be without probative value, he should have left it to the sound judgment of the court to
of the court. Until such time, the lawyer is expected to do his best for the interest of his determine whether the affidavit supports the assertions of his clients. That could have
client [43] happened had he filed the required position paper and annexed the affidavit thereto.

Thus, when respondent was directed to file affidavits and position paper by the Further, notwithstanding his belief that without the supporting documents filing
MCTC, and appeal memorandum by the RTC, he had no choice but to comply. However, the required pleadings would be a futile exercise, still respondent should have formally
respondent did not bother to do so, in total disregard of the court orders. This and promptly manifested in court his intent not to file the pleadings to prevent delay in
E T H I C S ( C a n o n 1 8 C o m p e t e n c e a n d D i l i g e n c e ) | 16

the disposition of the case.[45] Specifically, the RTC would not have waited as it did for reprimand,[51] fine of five hundred pesos with warning,[52] suspension of three
the lapse of three months from June 5,1992, the date when plaintiffs-appellants months,[53] six months,[54] and even disbarment in aggravated cases.[55]
submitted their appeal memorandum, before it rendered judgment. Had it known that
The facts and circumstances in this case indubitably show respondents failure to
respondent would not file the appeal memorandum, the court could have decided the
live up to his duties as a lawyer in consonance with the strictures of the lawyers oath
case much earlier.
and the Code of Professional Responsibility, thereby warranting his suspension from the
For his failure to inform the court, respondent violated Canon 12, to wit: practice of law. At various stages of the unlawful detainer case, respondent was remiss
in the performance of his duty as counsel.
Canon 12: A lawyer shall exert every effort and consider it his duty to assist in the speedy
To reiterate, respondent did not submit the affidavits and position paper when
and efficient administration of justice.
required by the MCTC. With his resolution not to file the pleadings already firmed up,
he did not bother to inform the MCTC of his resolution in mockery of the authority of
Respondent likewise failed to demonstrate the candor he owed his client. Canon the court. His stubbornness continued at the RTC, for despite an order to file an appeal
17 provides that (A) lawyer owes fidelity to the cause of his client and he shall be mindful memorandum, respondent did not file any. Neither did he manifest before the court
of the trust and confidence reposed in him. When complainant received the RTC that he would no longer file the pleading, thus further delaying the proceedings. He had
decision, he talked to respondent about it.[46] However, respondent denied knowledge no misgivings about his deviant behavior, for despite receipt of a copy of the adverse
of the decision despite his receipt thereof as early as September 14, 1992. Obviously, decision by the RTC he opted not to inform his clients accordingly. Worse, he denied
he tried to evade responsibility for his negligence. In doing so, respondent was knowledge of the decision when confronted by the complainant about it.
untruthful to complainant and effectively betrayed the trust placed in him by the latter.
At this Courts level, respondents stubborn and uncaring demeanor surfaced again
On top of all these is respondents employment as a lawyer of the Public Attorneys when he did not file a rejoinder to complainants reply.
Office which is tasked to provide free legal assistance for indigents and low-income
persons so as to promote the rule of law in the protection of the rights of the citizenry Respondents story projects in vivid detail his appalling indifference to his clients
and the efficient and speedy administration of justice. [47] Against this backdrop, cause, deplorable lack of respect for the courts and a brazen disregard of his duties as a
respondent should have been more judicious in the performance of his professional lawyer.
obligations. As we held in Vitriola v. Dasig[48] lawyers in the government are public
However, we are not unmindful of some facts which extenuate respondents
servants who owe the utmost fidelity to the public service. Furthermore, a lawyer from
misconduct. First, when complainant sought the assistance of respondent as a PAO
the government is not exempt from observing the degree of diligence required in
lawyer, he misrepresented that his answer was prepared by someone who is not a
the Code of Professional Responsibility. Canon 6 of the Code provides that the canons
lawyer. Second, when complainant showed respondent a copy of their answer with the
shall apply to lawyers in government service in the discharge of their official tasks.
MCTC, he assured him that he had strong evidence to support the defense in the answer
At this juncture, it bears stressing that much is demanded from those who engage that plaintiffs were no longer the owners of the property in dispute. However, all that
in the practice of law because they have a duty not only to their clients, but also to the he could provide respondent was the affidavit of the barangay officials. Last but not
court, to the bar, and to the public. The lawyers diligence and dedication to his work least, it is of public knowledge that the Public Attorneys Office is burdened with a heavy
and profession not only promote the interest of his client, it likewise help attain the caseload.
ends of justice by contributing to the proper and speedy administration of cases, bring
All things considered, we conclude that suspension for two (2) months from the
prestige to the bar and maintain respect to the legal profession.[49]
practice of law is the proper and just penalty.
The determination of the appropriate penalty to be imposed on an errant attorney
WHEREFORE, respondent Atty. Wilfredo Oca is ordered SUSPENDED from the
involves the exercise of sound judicial discretion based on the facts of the case. [50] In
practice of law for two (2) months from notice, with the warning that a similar
cases of similar nature, the penalty imposed by this Court consisted of
misconduct will be dealt with more severely. Let a copy of this decision be attached to
E T H I C S ( C a n o n 1 8 C o m p e t e n c e a n d D i l i g e n c e ) | 17

respondents personal record in the Office of the Bar Confidant and copies be furnished Complainant raised an additional amount and paid respondent the total sum
to all chapters of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) and to all the courts in the of P48,000.00. Adding to this amount P8,000.00 filing fee, her total payment
land. was P56,000.00.
SO ORDERED.
Complainant further alleged that notwithstanding her payments, respondent never
rendered any legal service for her in Civil Case No. 00-044. As a result, she terminated
their attorney-client relationship and demanded the return of her money and
documents. However, he refused to do so.
A.C. No. 5655 April 22, 2005

In his comment, respondent denied complainants charge. He claimed that Atty. Oliver
VALERIANA U. DALISAY, Complainant,
Lozano referred her to him to defend her in Civil Case No. 00-044. He explained to her
vs.
that she is not covered by the free legal services being rendered by his office. Thus, she
ATTY. MELANIO MAURICIO, JR., Respondent.
would be treated as a regular client. Accordingly, his acceptance fee would be One
Hundred Thousand (P100,000.00) Pesos. In addition, she would be charged for any
DECISION pleading and paper filed with the court, plus an appearance fee of P3,000.00.

SANDOVAL-GUTIERREZ, J.: A few days later, Atty. Lozano called respondent and asked him to reduce his acceptance
fee. He then agreed and asked only P25,000.00 for which complainant was very
The instant case stemmed from a verified letter-complaint dated February 21, 2002 filed grateful.
with this Court by Valeriana U. Dalisay against Atty. Melanio "Batas" Mauricio, Jr. for
demanding and receiving exorbitant attorneys fees but did not take any action on her Respondent denied demanding P8,000.00 as filing fee in Civil Case No. 00-044. He
case. clarified that such fee was intended for another case he would file for complainant,
aside from Civil Case No. 00-044.
In her complaint, Dalisay alleged that she was impressed by the pro-poor and pro-justice
advocacy of respondent, a media personality. So she engaged his services as her Respondent also alleged that he asked complainant to bring her son-in-law to his office
counsel in Civil Case No. 00-44, wherein she is the defendant, pending before the for a conference and to submit to him the necessary documents to enable him to
Municipal Trial Court of Binangonan, Rizal. After consulting with respondent, she prepare the filing of the complaints in order to protect her rights over the subject
handed to him all the pertinent documents. In turn, respondent demanded P25,000.00 property. But complainant did not heed his advice. Instead, she returned to his office
as acceptance fee which she paid. Then respondent asked her to pay P8,000.00 as filing and told him that she was no longer interested in retaining his services. She then
fee. She paid the amount although she knew that Civil Case No. 00-44 was already filed demanded a refund of the amounts she paid.
with the court.
According to respondent, he rendered legal services to complainant by way of legal
After a month, complainant approached respondent to followup her advice and opinions on all her problems and those of her family. Consequently, he had
case. Respondent demanded additional acceptance fee, or a total of P90,000.00, with every right to collect attorneys fees from her. He prayed that the instant complaint be
the explanation that he can give a discount should she pay in cash. Respondent also dismissed.
asked her to pay him P3,000.00 as appearance fee.
On September 18, 2002, we resolved to refer this case to the Integrated Bar of the
Philippines (IBP) for investigation, report and recommendation.
E T H I C S ( C a n o n 1 8 C o m p e t e n c e a n d D i l i g e n c e ) | 18

In her Report and Recommendation dated January 13, 2004, Commissioner Lydia A. As found by IBP Investigating Commissioner Navarro, respondent agreed to handle Civil
Navarro of the IBP Commission on Bar Discipline made the following findings - Case No. 00-044 on behalf of complainant for an acceptance fee of P25,000.00 which
she paid. Respondent then demanded additional acceptance fee or a total
"It is evident that for the amount of P56,000.00 paid by the complainant as of P48,000.00, instead of P25,000.00 initially agreed upon. In addition, respondent
reflected in the duly signed official receipts of respondents law office, no asked for P8,000.00 which according to him was intended as filing fee for a new case
action had been taken nor any pleadings prepared by the respondent except he was supposed to file.
his alleged conferences and opinions rendered when complainant frequented
his law office, as his legal services. Hence, respondent received the total amount of P56,000.00 from complainant for his
supposed legal services.
In view thereof, when complainant decided to withdrew respondents services
as her counsel due to inaction; it is quite fair and incumbent upon the When respondent accepted P56,000.00 from complainant, it was understood that he
respondent to return whatever amount the complainant had already paid in agreed to take up the latters case and that an attorney-client relationship between
the amount of P56,000.00 and the latter to compensate respondent for them was established. From then on, it was expected of him to serve complainant with
reasonable consultation fees due him which was not included in their retained competence and attend to her case with fidelity, care and devotion.
agreement."
However, there is nothing in the records to show that respondent entered his
and recommended as follows: appearance as counsel of record for complainant in Civil Case No. 00-044. He did not
even follow-up the case which remained pending up to the time she terminated his
"Wherefore, premises considered, it is respectfully recommended that the services.
complaint against Atty. Melanio Batas Mauricio, Jr., be dismissed and the
respondent be required to refund the amount of Fifty Six Thousand Pesos As to the P8,000.00, allegedly as docket fees for other cases, paid to respondent by
(P56,000.00) to the complainant within two (2) months from receipt hereof, complainant, the Investigating Commissioner found that "there was no evidence nor any
with the advice to be more discreet and cautious in dealing with clients relative pleadings submitted to show that respondent filed any case considering that the filing fee
to assessment and receipt of required fees in the future, specially those had to be paid simultaneously with the filing of a case."
assisted by him through referral and accommodation; otherwise severe
penalty will be imposed. Canons 17 and 18 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, the body of rules governing
the conduct of every member of the Bar in this jurisdiction, provides:
Complainant is likewise ordered to pay respondent consultation fee equivalent
to twenty percent (20%) of the whole amount of P56,000.00. "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.
RESPECTFULLY SUBMITTED." 1
CANON 18 A LAWYER SHALL SERVE HIS CLIENT WITH COMPETENCE AND
On February 27, 2004, the IBP Board of Governors passed Resolution No. XVI-2004-121 DILIGENCE."
adopting and approving in toto the Report and Recommendation of Commissioner
Navarro. More specifically, Rule 18.03 states:

We cannot sustain the recommendation of the IBP Board of Governors that this case "A LAWYER SHALL NOT NEGLECT A LEGAL MATTER ENTRUSTED TO HIM, AND
should be dismissed. HIS NEGLIGENCE IN CONNECTION THEREWITH SHALL RENDER HIM LIABLE."
E T H I C S ( C a n o n 1 8 C o m p e t e n c e a n d D i l i g e n c e ) | 19

Also, respondents Attorneys Oath declares that respondent shall impose upon himself We cannot understand why respondent initially demanded P8,000.00 as filing fee from
the sacred duty, among others, that he will not delay any man for money or malice, and complainant when he very well knew that the docket fee for Civil Case No. 00-044 had
will conduct himself as a lawyer according to the best of his knowledge and discretion been paid. If it was intended as a docket fee for another case, why did he not file the
with all good fidelity to courts as well as to his clients. corresponding complaint?

A member of the legal profession owes his client entire devotion to his genuine interest By his inaction in Civil Case No.00-044, respondent violated Canons 17, 18 and 18.03,
and warm zeal in the maintenance and defense of his rights.2 An attorney is earlier cited, as well as his Oath as an attorney. Likewise, in collecting from complainant
expected to exert his exorbitant consulting fee, respondent violated Canon 20 of the same Code. For all
these violations, respondent should be penalized.
best efforts and ability to protect his clients case, for his unwavering loyalty to his client
likewise serves the ends of justice. Indeed, the entrusted privilege of every lawyer to The facts of Sencio vs. Calvadores,7 bear a striking similarity to the present
practice law carries with it his corresponding duties, not only to his client, but also to case. Respondent lawyer Sencio did not return the money to complainant despite
the court, to the bar and to the public. demand following his failure to file the case. We found him guilty of violation of the
lawyers oath,
In Santos vs. Lazaro,3 we held that Rule 18.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility,
above-quoted, is a basic postulate in legal ethics. Verily, when a lawyer takes a clients malpractice and gross misconduct and suspended him for six (6) months, and ordered
cause, he covenants that he will exercise due diligence in protecting his rights. The to return to his client the amount of P21,000.00 with interest at 12% per annum from
failure to exercise that degree of vigilance and attention makes such lawyer unworthy the date of the promulgation of our Resolution until the return of the amount.
of the trust reposed in him by his client and makes him answerable not just to his client
but also to the legal profession, the courts and society.4 In Garcia vs. Manuel,8 we suspended respondent lawyer from the practice of law for six
(6) months and ordered him to render an accounting of all monies he received from the
Respondent insists that he is entitled to attorneys fees since he gave legal advice and complainant. We found him guilty of gross misconduct.
opinions to complainant on her problems and those of her family. Just like any other
professional, a lawyer is entitled to collect fees for his services. However, he should WHEREFORE, respondent Atty. Melanio Mauricio, Jr. is hereby
charge only a reasonable amount of fees. Canon 20 of the Code found GUILTY of malpractice and gross misconduct for violating Canons 17, 18, Rule
18.03 and 20 of the Code of Professional Responsibility and the Lawyers Oath. He
of Professional Responsibility mandates that "A lawyer shall charge only fair and is SUSPENDED from the practice of law for a period for six (6) months effective from
reasonable fees." There is, however, no hard and fast rule which will serve as guide in notice, and STERNLY WARNED that any similar infraction in the future will be dealt with
determining what is or what is not a reasonable fee. That must be determined from more severely. He is further ordered to RETURN, within ten (10) days, also from notice,
the facts of each case.5 The power to determine the reasonableness or the the sum of P56,000.00 to complainant Valeriana U. Dalisay and submit to this Court
unconscionable character of a lawyers fee is a matter falling within the regulatory proof of his compliance within three (3) days thereform.
prerogative of the Court.6
Let copies of this Decision be furnished the Court Administrator for his distribution to
It is now clear to us that since respondent did not take any step to assist complainant in all courts of the land , the IBP, the Office of the Bar Confidant, and entered into
her case, charging P56,000.00 is improper. While giving legal advice and opinion on respondents personal records as a member of the Philippine Bar.
complainants problems and those of her family constitutes legal service, however, the
attorneys fee must be reasonable. Obviously, P56,000.00 is exorbitant. SO ORDERED.
E T H I C S ( C a n o n 1 8 C o m p e t e n c e a n d D i l i g e n c e ) | 20

buy a land with an area of about 15 to 20 hectares to be used as a retirement village.


Antiporda in turn referred the subject property to one Alfred Tantiansu (Tantiansu).
G.R. No. 166386 January 27, 2009 Olimpio then gave respondent a written authority to sell the same.3

DOMINGA RUIZ, APOLONIA RUIZ, FLORENCIO RUIZ, CORNELIA RUIZ, OLIMPIO RUIZ, and In May 1996, respondent introduced Olimpio to Tantiansu and they all went together
HEIRS OF TOMASA RUIZ, Petitioners, to the location of the properties. Tantiansu showed interest in the properties and asked
vs. for the lowering of price, which Olimpio pegged at P315.00 per square meter.
CIRILA DELOS SANTOS, Respondent.**** Respondent asked Olimpio for the renewal of her authority, to sell to which the former
obliged. In the authority to sell, it was specified that she would still be paid her
commission even after the said authority expired, provided she registered in writing her
DECISION
prospective buyer with whom she negotiated during the period of authority.
Accordingly, respondent notified petitioners in writing that Tantiansu was her buyer. 4
AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ, J.:
A meeting was subsequently held among Olimpio, respondent and Tantiansu in
Before us is a petition for review on certiorari and mandamus seeking that the Tantiansu's office where the prospective buyer showed interest in buying the
Resolutions dated September 21, 20041 and December 21, 20042 of the Court of properties. A few weeks later, a meeting was held between Olimpio and Tantiansu only,
Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. SP No. 85872 be reversed and set aside; and that the CA be without respondent. Olimpio asked respondent to lower her commission from 5% to
directed to give due course to the petition for certiorari, prohibition 2.5%; otherwise, the sale would not push through. But respondent, through a letter sent
and mandamus filed before it by herein petitioners. to Olimpio, answered that she was amenable to a commission of 4%.5

A brief factual background is necessary for a proper perspective in the resolution of Respondent later learned that the properties were sold to different corporations
herein petition. at P60.00 per square meter, as indicated in the deeds of sale. Upon her verification of
the articles of incorporation of the corporation-buyers with the Securities and Exchange
Dominga, Apolonia, Florencio, Cornelia, Tomasa and Olimpio, all surnamed Ruiz Commission, she found out that the corporations were owned by Tantiansu.
(petitioners), were the original owners of seven parcels of land with a total area of Respondent then demanded the payment of her broker's commission, but was
194,284 square meters located in Barangay Kaytinga, Alfonso, Cavite, covered by OCT unheeded.
No. P-4017 in the name of Tomasa, covering 46,235 sq. meters; OCT No. P-4018 in the
name of Cornelia, 49,803 sq. meters; OCT No. P-4288 in the name of Dominga, 19,649 Respondent filed with the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 275, Las Pias City, a
sq. meters; OCT No. P-4289 in the name of Apolonia, 19,649 sq. meters; OCT No. P-4290 complaint6 for collection of sum of money and damages against all petitioners, alleging
in the name of Olimpio, 19,650 sq. meters; OCT No. P-4291 in the name of Florencio, that it was through her effort as a real estate broker that she was able to bring about
19,650 sq. meters; and OCT No. P-4292 in the name of Cornelia, 19,648 sq. meters the consummation of the sale of the subject property, to petitioners' immense gain and
(collectively referred to as "subject property"). benefits; that despite the sale and her repeated demands, petitioners refused to pay
her broker's fee.
Cirila delos Santos (respondent) is a duly licensed real estate broker.
Petitioners "Domingo Ruiz, et al." filed their Answer with counterclaim and alleged as
Sometime in 1995, Olimpio gave respondent the plan of the subject property and affirmative defense that at the time of the consummation of the sale of the subject
verbally authorized her to sell the same. Thereafter, respondent referred in writing the properties, there was no longer any existing broker's agreement between them; that
subject property to Odessa Antiporda (Antiporda), a realtor and a fellow estate broker, respondent had no more authority from them to sell the properties or, assuming there
who had earlier informed respondent that she had a prospective buyer interested to was such authority, the same had already lapsed or expired; that it was petitioners'
E T H I C S ( C a n o n 1 8 C o m p e t e n c e a n d D i l i g e n c e ) | 21

understanding at the time of the sale of the subject properties that Tantiansu, the buyer, to appeal, to which the clerk of court gave her assurance on the acceptance of the late
would be responsible for the payment of the broker's commission, whoever the broker payment of docket fees; that he received a long distance call from petitioner Cornelia
may be; that petitioners knew that respondent had initially claimed her broker's on October 15, 2003 confirming petitioners' desire to appeal the decision; thus, he paid
commission from Tantiansu; but after Tantiansu's death, and failing to collect any the appellate fees on October 24, 2003. Atty. Ang admitted that it was through his
broker's commission from said buyer, respondent commenced the present action negligence that the appeal was belatedly filed.
against them.
In its Decision12 dated June 18, 2004, the RTC denied the petition for relief for lack of
Issues having been joined, a full-blown trial on the merits ensued. merit. The RTC found no merit in petitioners' contention that the error of counsel to pay
the appellate fees in due time was a mistake constituting excusable negligence and
On September 22, 2003, the RTC7 rendered its judgment, the dispositive portion of ruled that the mistake of counsel binds his client. The RTC held that petitioners' claim of
which reads: a good and valid defense was belied by the court's findings and conclusions contained
in its Decision dated September 22, 2003.
WHEREFORE, judgment is rendered in favor of plaintiff [respondent] and against the
defendants [petitioners], ordering the latter to pay the plaintiff jointly and severally the In an Order13 dated June 24, 2004, the RTC granted the motion for execution filed by
sum of P2,447,524.80 plus legal interest thereon from the filing of the complaint and respondent on the ground that the decision dated September 22, 2003 had already
moral damages of P500,000.00 as well as exemplary damages of P200,000.00 and become final and executory.
attorney's fees of P100,000.00 and P2,000.00 per court appearance and to pay the
cost.8 On July 5, 2004, notices of garnishment14 were issued to the different banks by sheriff
Josefino Ortiz. Notice15 of sale on execution of the subject property was scheduled on
Petitioners filed their notice of appeal.9 On November 6, 2003, respondent filed her September 3, 2004.
Comment and/or opposition thereto, alleging that the appeal was not perfected for
failure of petitioners to file the docket/appeal fee within the reglementary period to Petitioners filed a petition for certiorari, prohibition, and mandamus with prayer for the
appeal. issuance of a temporary restraining order/writ of preliminary injunction with the CA,
verified and certified by Dominga, seeking to set aside the following: (1) Order dated
In an Order10 dated January 16, 2004, the RTC denied petitioners' appeal and considered January 16, 2004, which denied petitioners' notice of appeal; (2) Decision dated June
the appeal barred for failure of petitioners to pay the appeal fee within the 18, 2004 denying petitioners' petition for relief; (3) Order dated June 24, 2004 declaring
reglementary period as provided under Section 4, Rule 41 of the Rules of Civil the Decision as final and executory and granting the motion for execution filed by
Procedure. It ruled that the decision had already become final and executory, and there respondent; (4) notice of garnishment issued on July 5, 2004; and notice of sale.
was nothing more to be appealed to the CA.
On September 21, 2004, the CA dismissed the petition, the dispositive portion of which
11
With the denial of their appeal, petitioners filed a petition for relief alleging that they reads:
were prevented from awaiting themselves of an appeal due to mistake and excusable
negligence of their counsel on record, and that they had a good and substantial defense. WHEREFORE, for being procedurally flawed, at the very least, this petition is hereby
Attached to the petition was the Affidavit of Merit of Atty. Mark Edsel Ang (Atty. Ang), DENIED DUE COURSE, and consequently DISMISSED. And since the temporary
petitioners' former counsel, wherein he stated that when he received the decision on restraining order and/or writ of preliminary injunction is merely an adjunct to the main
September 30, 2003, he immediately sent copies thereof to petitioners by registered case, the same must be pro tanto denied. 16
mail, as four of the six petitioners live abroad while the other two live in Cavite; that he
communicated with the RTC Clerk of Court the fact that a notice of appeal was already The reasons given by the CA dismissing the petition outright are as follows:
filed and the fees would be paid as soon as he got the confirmation of petitioners' desire
E T H I C S ( C a n o n 1 8 C o m p e t e n c e a n d D i l i g e n c e ) | 22

(1) No motion for reconsideration was filed against the challenged Order issued Anent the first issue, petitioners assert that the CA erred in finding that the filing of a
by the respondent judge on January 16, 2004. Well settled is the rule that a motion for reconsideration is a prerequisite for the institution of a special civil action
filing of a motion for reconsideration is a prerequisite to the institution of a for certiorari.
special civil action for certiorari.
Under the peculiar circumstances of the present case, we agree with petitioners. There
(2) The names of the heirs of the petitioner Tomasa Ruiz are not indicated, in is no question that the filing of a motion for reconsideration before resort
violation of the first par. Section 3, Rule 46 of the 1997 Rules, which requires to certiorari will lie is intended to afford the court an opportunity to correct any actual
that the "petition shall contain the full names and actual addresses of all or fancied error attributed to it by way of re-examination of the legal and factual aspects
petitioners and respondents, a concise statement of the matters involved, the of the case.19
factual background of the case, and the grounds relied upon for the relief
prayed for." However, the filing of a motion for reconsideration before availing of the remedy
of certiorari is not always a sine qua non20 requirement, as there are recognized
(3) There is no special power of attorney executed by the said heirs authorizing exceptions: (a) where the order is a patent nullity, as where the court a quo has no
Dominga to sign the verification and certification in their own behalf.17 jurisdiction; (b) where the questions raised in the certiorari proceedings have been duly,
or are the same as those, raised and passed upon by the lower court; (c) where there is
Petitioners' motion for reconsideration was denied in the assailed Resolution dated an urgent necessity for the resolution of the question and any further delay would
December 21, 2004, as the CA found that the arguments put forward in the motion were prejudice the interests of the government or of the petitioner, or the subject matter of
a virtual rehash of those alleged in support of the petition. the action is perishable; (d) where, under the circumstances, a motion for reconsideration
would be useless; (e) where petitioner was deprived of due process and there is extreme
Hence, herein petition raising the following issues: urgency for relief; (f) where, in a criminal case, relief from an order of arrest is urgent
and the granting of such relief by the trial court is improbable; (g) where the proceedings
in the lower court are a nullity for lack of due process; (h) where the proceedings
1. WHETHER A MOTION FOR RECONSIDERATION IS REQUIRED BEFORE
were ex parte, or in which the petitioner had no opportunity to object; and (i) where
RESORTING TO THE PETITION FOR CERTIORARI FILED BY PETITIONERS BEFORE
the issue raised is one purely of law, or public interest is involved. 21 We find this case
THE CA;
falling under exceptions b, c and d.
2. WHETHER THE NAMES OF THE HEIRS OF THE PETITIONER TOMASA RUIZ ARE
Petitioners' notice of appeal was earlier denied by the RTC due to the late payment of
INDICATED IN THE PETITION;
docket fees, and it ruled that its decision dated September 22, 2003 had already become
final and executory and there was nothing more to be appealed to the CA. Clearly then,
3. WHETHER THERE IS NO SPECIAL POWER OF ATTORNEY EXECUTED BY SAID
a motion for reconsideration would be useless in the light of such declaration by the
HEIRS AUTHORIZING PETITIONER TO SIGN THE VERIFICATION AND
RTC.
CERTIFICATION ON THEIR OWN BEHALF.
Petitioners' subsequent petition for relief from the denial of appeal was denied by the
4. WHETHER THE CA ACTED WITH HASTE ON ITS BASESLESS CONCLUSION THAT
RTC in its Decision dated June 18, 2004. The court reiterated its disquisition found in its
PETITIONERS' MOTION FOR RECONSIDERATION IS A VIRTUAL REHASH OF
main decision dated September 22, 2003. In fact, just after the petition for relief was
THOSE ALLEGED IN SUPPORT OF ITS PETITION.18
denied on June 18, 2004, the RTC issued an Order dated June 24, 2004 granting the
motion for execution filed by respondent. Thereafter, on July 5, 2004, notices of
The parties filed their respective memoranda. garnishment of petitioners' goods, stocks, interest on stocks, shares and any other
personal properties in their control and possession were already served by the sheriff
E T H I C S ( C a n o n 1 8 C o m p e t e n c e a n d D i l i g e n c e ) | 23

on the different banks. Thus, petitioners sufficiently showed that there was an urgent were a mere rehash of those in support of their petition for certiorari. Notably, the
necessity for the filing of the petition with the CA to rule on the issue of the denial of motion had sufficiently stated the circumstances which would excuse petitioners for
appeal and the petition for relief. their non-filing of a motion for reconsideration of the RTC decision dated June 24, 2004
before resorting to a petition for certiorari in the CA, to wit: the RTC's declaration that
Anent the second issue, the CA erred in finding that the names of the heirs of petitioner its decision had already become final and executory and that there was nothing more
Tomasa Ruiz were not indicated in the petition. In the petition filed before the CA, it was to be appealed to the CA; and the granting of respondent's motion for execution as well
alleged that the petitioners are as follows: as the sheriff's implementation of such writ by the issuance of notices of garnishment.
Petitioners also pointed out to the CA that it had overlooked the fact that the names of
Dominga Ruiz, resident of Kaytinga, Alfonso Cavite; the heirs of Tomasa Ruiz were alleged in the petition and clarified that they were the
only heirs of petitioner Tomasa and that they had executed separate SPAs in favor of
petitioner Dominga.
Apolonia Ruiz, resident of 105 Eagle Head Drive, Fort Washington, Maryland, USA;

Thus, the CA committed a reversible error in outrightly dismissing the petition and not
Cornelia Ruiz, resident of 12903 Turnberry Circle, Fort Washington, Maryland, USA;
giving due course to it as well as in denying petitioners' motion for reconsideration.
Olimpio Ruiz, resident of 4510 N. Troy, Chicago, Illinois, USA;
Petitioners further claim that the RTC should have given due course to their notice of
appeal of the RTC Decision dated September 22, 2003 to the CA since the late payment
Florencio Ruiz, resident of Detecon Al Saudia Co. Ltd., PO Box 31443, Jeddah, 21497;
of appellate docket fees was due to the mistake and excusable negligence of their
counsel and they had a good and substantial defense.
Heirs of Tomasa Ruiz, all the above residents of the above-mentioned addresses.22
Instead of remanding the case to the CA which would only unduly prolong the
In their motion for reconsideration of the CA Resolution dated September 21, 2004, disposition of the case between the parties, we shall resolve24 the substantive issue
petitioners alleged that there was substantial compliance with the requirement that the raised in the petition for certiorari filed with the CA, to wit: Whether the RTC committed
full names and actual residents of all petitioners must be stated, since all the petitioners grave abuse of discretion in denying petitioners' petition for relief from denial of appeal.
are the only children of the late Tomasa Ruiz, a fact that they had sufficiently alleged in
their petition. We find such explanation plausible, considering that the phrase "heirs of
To begin with, petitioners, through counsel, received a copy of the RTC decision dated
Tomasa Ruiz" was followed by the words "all the above," which means that the heirs of
September 22, 2003 on September 30 2003. Thus, petitioners had until October 15,
Tomasa are the persons whose names are immediately preceding.
2003 within which to perfect their appeal by filing the notice of appeal25 and paying the
appellate docket and other legal fees.26 On October 14, 2003, petitioners filed their
As to the third issue, we also find that the CA erred in finding that there were no special notice of appeal through registered mail without paying the appeal fees.
powers of attorney (SPAs) executed by the heirs of Tomasa authorizing petitioner
Dominga to sign the verification and certification on their behalf. However, an
It is a well-settled rule that the mere filing of the notice of appeal is not enough, for it
examination of the CA rollo shows that when the petition was filed with the CA, attached
must be accompanied by the payment of the correct appellate docket fees.27 Payment
were separate SPAs23 of petitioners Apolonia, Cornelia, Olimpio, Florencio, the heirs of
in full of docket fees within the prescribed period is mandatory.28 It is an essential
Tomasa, executed in favor of their co-petitioner Dominga, giving her the authority to
requirement without which the decision appealed from would become final and
sign the required verification and certification of non-forum shopping.
executory as if no appeal has been filed. Failure to perfect an appeal within the
prescribed period is not a mere technicality but jurisdictional, and failure to perfect an
Anent the fourth issue, we rule that the CA hastily concluded that the allegations in appeal renders the judgment final and executory.29
petitioners' motion for reconsideration of the Resolution dated September 21, 2000,
E T H I C S ( C a n o n 1 8 C o m p e t e n c e a n d D i l i g e n c e ) | 24

Hence, there is no question that the RTC correctly dismissed petitioners' appeal other petitioners their desire to appeal the RTC decision, he paid the fees only on
pursuant to Section 13, Rule 41 of the Rules of Court which reads: October 24, 2003.

SEC. 13. Dismissal of appeal. Prior to the transmittal of the original record or the It bears stressing that the Rules of Court explicitly provides for the procedure for the
record on appeal to the appellate court, the trial court may, motu proprio or on motion perfection of appeal. The counsel of petitioners should not have relied on the alleged
dismiss the appeal for having been taken out of time, or for non-payment of the docket assurance by the clerk of court of the acceptance of the late payment of docket fees. As
and other lawful fees within the reglementary period. an officer of the court, he should know that the affirmation of the clerk of court could
not prevail over the specific requirement of the rules. The rules of procedure are meant
However, petitioners filed a petition for relief from the RTC Order that did not giving to be followed and not to be subjected to the whims and convenience of the parties and
due course to their notice of appeal on the grounds of mistake and excusable negligence their counsels or by mere opinions of the clerk of court.
committed by their counsel. They contend that their counsel mistakenly erred when he
relied in good faith on the affirmation made by the trial court's clerk of court that the Atty. Ang should not have presumed that the rules of procedure would be relaxed in
appeal fees would be accepted even after the period for the filing of the notice of favor of his clients. His reliance on jurisprudence that the application of the technical
appeal; that counsel also mistakenly relied on jurisprudence that technical rules of rules of procedure would be relaxed if the same was subsequently complied with is not
procedure would be relaxed provided that the same were substantially complied with; justified. The liberal application of rules of procedure for perfecting appeals is still the
that counsel's negligence should not be binding on them; that they have good and exception, and not the rule; and it is only allowed in exceptional circumstances to better
substantial defenses which would result in the dismissal of the complaint or a reduction serve the interest of justice.31 Atty. Ang's negligence in not paying the docket fees on
of the monetary awards set forth in the decision. time cannot be considered as excusable. The circumstances surrounding this case do
not warrant the relaxation of the rules.
Section 2, Rule 38 of the Rules of Court provides:
Petitioners insist that they are not bound by the mistake of their counsel, citing De
Section 2. Petition for relief from denial of appeal. When a judgment or final order is Guzman v. Sandiganbayan32and Samala v. Court of Appeals.33
rendered by any court in a case, and a party thereto, by fraud, accident, mistake, or
excusable negligence, has been prevented from taking an appeal, he may file a petition In De Guzman, petitioner was convicted by the Sandiganbayan of anti-graft and corrupt
in such court and in the same case praying that the appeal be given due course. practices act for his failure to account for the P200,000.00 he received for certain
training programs of the Department of Agriculture based on the testimony of the lone
Negligence to be excusable must be one which ordinary diligence and prudence could prosecution witness that no such training program was held at the designated places.
not have guarded against.30 Petitioners' counsel filed a notice of appeal within the Petitioner sought to be relieved from what he considered as the serious and costly
reglementary period for filing the same without, however, paying the appellate docket mistake of his former lawyers in demurring to the prosecution evidence after leave was
fees. Counsel very well knew that under the Rules of Court, the full amount of appellate denied, the effect of which deprived him of presenting the pieces of documentary
docket and other lawful fees must be paid within the same period that the notice of evidence showing due disbursement of the P200,000 received for the training program
appeal was filed, as he even allegedly communicated to the clerk of court his request which was actually conducted. The original documents were all along kept in the records
for additional time in order to consolidate the confirmation of petitioners' desire to section of the Bureau of Plant Industry; and these original copies were readily available,
appeal. which if presented would have completely belied the accusation against him. We ruled
that since no less than petitioner's liberty was at stake, the higher interests of justice
The failure of counsel to pay the appellate docket fees on time constitutes negligence. and equity demand that petitioner be not penalized for the costly mistake of his
Despite receiving an overseas call on October 15, 2003, i.e., the last day to file the previous counsel.
appeal, from petitioner Cornelia, who then lived in Japan and expressed in behalf of the
E T H I C S ( C a n o n 1 8 C o m p e t e n c e a n d D i l i g e n c e ) | 25

In contrast, the present case does not involve the life or liberty of petitioners, and they The failure of petitioners' counsel to perfect the appeal binds petitioners. It is settled
were adequately heard with all the issues fully ventilated and evidence presented that clients are bound by the mistakes, negligence and omission of their
before the decision was rendered. counsel.37 While, exceptionally, the client may be excused from the failure of counsel,
the factual circumstances in the present case do not give us sufficient reason to suspend
In Samala, the last day for filing the notice of appeal fell on a Friday, October 13, 1995. the rules of the most mandatory character. Petitioners themselves may not be said to
The person to whom the filing of the notice was entrusted suffered stomach pains and be entirely faultless.
was able to file it only on the next business day which was October 16, a Monday. We
held that the delay was only for one day, as Saturday and Sunday were excluded and, Atty. Ang, petitioners' counsel, claims that as soon as he received the decision, he sent
considering the facts of the case, found the delay to be excusable. copies to petitioners. Records show that at that time, while some of the petitioners were
already abroad, Dominga and Tomasa were still living in Cavite. Cornelia who lives
In the case of herein petitioners, the payment of the docket fees was done nine days abroad was able to receive a copy of the decision and was able to make an overseas call
after the lapse of the period to appeal. In fact, in the affidavit of merit of petitioners' to Atty. Ang to express her desire to appeal the decision. However, neither Dominga nor
counsel attached to the petition for relief, he stated that on October 15, 2003, which Tomasa who only live in Cavite, took steps to call Atty. Ang at the earliest possible time
was the last day to appeal, he received a long distance call from petitioner Cornelia who to protect their interest. No prudent party would leave the fate of his case completely
confirmed their desire to appeal the decision. However counsel, instead of immediately to his lawyer.38 It is the duty of the client to be in touch with his counsel so as to be
paying the appeal fee, waited for nine days before doing so. constantly posted about the case.39 Thus, we find that there was participatory negligence
on the part of petitioners, which would not relieve them of the consequence of the
Petitioners also allege that subsequent and substantial compliance with the rule may negligence of their counsel.
call for the relaxation of the rules of procedure, citing our ruling in Jaro v. Court of
Appeals.34 The Court may deign to veer away from the general rule only if, in its assessment, the
appeal on its face appears absolutely meritorious.40 Indeed, the Court has, in a number
We are not persuaded. of instances, relaxed procedural rules in order to serve and achieve substantial
justice.41 However, the instant case does not warrant the desired relaxation.
In Jaro, the CA dismissed the petition filed before it for being defective, as it was not in
the form of a petition for review and the annexes thereto attached were certified as Respondent has sufficiently shown that she was authorized in writing by petitioners to
true xerox copies by counsel, not by the proper public official who had custody of the sell the subject property; that respondent was instrumental in bringing about the
records. Petitioner subsequently filed an amended petition in the proper form meeting of petitioner Olimpio and Tantiansu and the transaction concerning the sale of
accompanied by annexes, all of which were certified true copies by the Department of subject property; and that it was proven by evidence that the buyer of the subject
Agriculture Regional Adjudication Board. This Court ruled that there was more than property was Tantiansu. Thus, respondent is entitled to the broker's commission as
substantial compliance, and the hard stance taken by the CA was unjustified under the agreed upon between her and the petitioners. Petitioners' claim that Tantiansu had
circumstances. Notably, petitioner therein committed a lapse in the formal requirement explicitly bound himself to pay the broker's commission after the consummation of the
which was curable by amendment. In the present case, however, petitioners failed to sale would not relieve petitioners of their liability to respondent since, as correctly held
pay the appellate docket fees on time, which is jurisdictional and which divests the trial by RTC, whatever Tantiansu and petitioners agreed relative to the payment of broker's
court of jurisdiction to act on the appeal. The payment of the appellate docket and other commission is binding only upon themselves and not binding on respondent who does
lawful fees is not a mere technicality of law or procedure. 35 It is an essential not appear to have consented thereto.
requirement, without which the decision or final order appealed from would become
final and executory, as if no appeal was filed at all.36 Thus, we find no grave abuse of discretion committed by the RTC in denying petitioners'
petition for relief, since they were not prevented from filing their notice of appeal and
payment of docket fees by mistake or excusable negligence that would have deprived
E T H I C S ( C a n o n 1 8 C o m p e t e n c e a n d D i l i g e n c e ) | 26

them of their day in court. Such relief under Rule 38, Section 2 of the Rules of Court will 20-465-90.2 While the case was pending, respondent reassured complainants that he
not be granted to a party who seeks to be relieved from the effects of the judgment was diligently attending to the case and will inform them of the status of their case.
when the loss of the remedy of law was due to his own negligence, or a mistaken mode
of procedure for that matter; otherwise, the petition for relief will be tantamount to In 1994, complainants again engaged the services of respondent in a case they filed
reviving the right of appeal which has already been lost, because of either inexcusable against the Technology and Livelihood Resource Center entitled, "Spouses Antonio M.
negligence or counsels mistake in procedure.42 Soriano and Norma Soriano v. Technology and Livelihood Resource Center" for
Declaration of Nullity with Injunction and Temporary Restraining Order before the RTC
It bears stressing that appeal is not a right, but a mere statutory privilege. 43 Corollary to of Davao City, Br. 16, docketed as Civil Case No. 22-674-94.3 During the pendency of the
this principle is that the appeal must be exercised strictly in accordance with the second case, complainants inquired from respondent the status of the earlier Civil Case
provisions set by law.44 No. 20-465-90, the latter informed them that the same was still pending and/or
ongoing.
WHEREFORE, the petition for review is DENIED.
Later, complainants learned that Civil Case No. 20-465-90 was dismissed4 on 16
Cost against petitioners. December 1991 for failure of the respondent to file a pre-trial brief. The dismissal reads:

SO ORDERED. On record is a pre-trial brief filed by defendant, thru counsel, Atty. Marlon B. Llauder,
and this morning a supplemental pre-trial brief was submitted by defendants counsel.
Atty. Reynaldo Reyes, counsel for the plaintiffs is present in Court but he moved for a
suspension of the pre-trial conference this morning for the reason that plaintiffs are
proposing to amicably settle this case. Defendants counsel vehemently objected to the
A.C. No. 4676 May 4, 2006 postponement of the pre-trial conference and instead moved for a declaration of
plaintiffs as non-suited for the reason that up to this time, plaintiffs have not submitted
SPS. ANTONIO and NORMA SORIANO, Complainants, their pre-trial brief in violation of the Order of the Court, dated October 11, 1991,
vs. wherein plaintiffs counsel was afforded five (5) days from said date within which to
ATTY. REYNALDO P. REYES, Respondent. submit to Court plaintiffs pre-trial brief.

DECISION The said motion is well-taken for the reason that the records failed to show that
plaintiffs filed pre-trial brief. They are thus, declared as non-suited.
CHICO-NAZARIO, J.:
This case is hereby ordered dismissed.5 (Underscoring supplied.)
1
For alleged gross negligence in handling two civil cases, a complaint for disbarment was
filed by complainant spouses Antonio and Norma Soriano against Atty. Reynaldo P. A motion6 for reconsideration was filed but the same was denied in an Order dated 27
Reyes. April 1992.

Complainants alleged that sometime in the latter part of 1990, they engaged the As to Civil Case No. 22-674-94, complainants likewise found out that the case was
services of respondent in a case they filed against Peninsula Development Bank entitled, dismissed for failure to prosecute. The order reads:
"Norton Resources and Development Corporation, et al. v. Peninsula Development
Bank." The case was for Declaration of Nullity with Injunction and/or Restraining Order
before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Davao City, Br. 13, docketed as Civil Case No.
E T H I C S ( C a n o n 1 8 C o m p e t e n c e a n d D i l i g e n c e ) | 27

The records show that summons with a copy of the complaint have been served upon added that they differed in opinion with regard to the handling of the case and that
the defendant on May 11, 1994, but plaintiffs did not file the necessary pleadings in complainants did not understand that the filing of the case had already helped them
order to prosecute the same. gain time to negotiate with the bank especially on the matter of interest incurred by
their loans. Finally, respondent concluded by saying that his attorneys fees, paid in
IN VIEW HEREOF, for failure to prosecute this case is ordered DISMISSED. meager installments, remain outstanding and unpaid.

Furnish copy of this order, Atty. Reynaldo P. Reyes, plaintiffs counsel and defendants In their reply,11 complainants refuted respondents allegation of the alleged "numerous
counsel, Atty. Francisco Figura.7 (Underscoring supplied.) estafa cases" filed against them. Complainants averred that the certification attached
by respondent showing that there were estafa cases filed against them has no bearing
Upon filing of a Motion for Reconsideration, though, the case was reconsidered and insofar as the disbarment case is concerned. They likewise denied that respondent
reinstated8 on 15 August 1995. assisted them in their loan application. They engaged the services of the respondent to
prevent them from losing their properties to the Peninsula Development Bank and for
no other reason. Finally, complainants maintained that respondent was paid his
Claiming that the acts of respondent greatly prejudiced and damaged them,
attorneys fees.
complainants filed a Complaint for disbarment against respondent before this Court.

As early as 27 June 2000, the case had already been scheduled for hearing by
On 20 October 1997, the Supreme Court referred9 the case to the Integrated Bar of the
Commissioner Agustine V. Gonzaga of the Commission on Bar Discipline. On 18 January
Philippines (IBP) for investigation, report and recommendation or decision.
2002, after several hearings, the Commission admitted the documentary evidence
offered as part of the testimony of complainants. On 1 March 2002, the day respondent
In his Comment,10 respondent admitted that he was hired by the complainants in the
was ordered to present his defense evidence, he failed to appear. Counsel for the
case against the Peninsula Development Bank in the latter part of 1990. He averred that
complainants moved that the respondent be deemed to have waived his right to present
Peninsula Development Bank foreclosed the property of the complainants for failure to
his evidence for failure to appear on scheduled hearing despite due notice. In the
pay monetary obligations amounting to several millions of pesos. He said that some of
interest of substantial justice, respondent was given a period of 10 days to comment on
the properties of the complainants were foreclosed in 1989, and the one-year
the complainants motion and scheduled the case for hearing on 19 April 2002. Despite
redemption period was to expire in the latter part of 1990. About one week before the
due notice, however, respondent again failed to appear, thus, the Hearing
expiration of the redemption period, the complainants, through the respondent, filed a
Commissioner declared that respondent was considered to have waived his right to
case against the Peninsula Development Bank before the RTC of Davao City, which was
present his defense evidence. The parties were given 20 days from 19 April 2002 to file
docketed as Civil Case No. 20-465-90. From the time of the filing of the complaint up to their respective memoranda, after which the case will be deemed submitted for
the present, herein complainants are in continuous possession of the already foreclosed
resolution.
properties, consisting of a Ford Econovan and farm tractors. According to respondent,
complainants are still holding office in the real properties subject of the foreclosure and
Only complainants filed a memorandum.
a portion thereof is being rented by a big taxi company. He disclosed that at the time he
was hired in 1990, the agreement was that he would be paid the amount of Three
Hundred Thousand Pesos (P300,000.00) as attorneys fees in five years. Respondent On 28 May 2003, Investigating Commissioner Milagros V. San Juan found respondent
claimed that he assisted complainants in applying for a loan to pay off their obligations negligent in handling the cases of complainants; hence, said Investigating Commissioner
with Peninsula Development Bank but because of the numerous estafa cases filed recommended that he be disbarred. The pertinent portions of the report read:
against complainants, said loans did not materialize. Respondent further claimed that
their agreed strategy was to arrange a settlement with regard to Civil Case No. 20-465- There is no question that the respondent was engaged by the complainants as their
90. Respondent said he later realized that the complainants had no interest in paying counsel in two cases, namely Civil Case No. 20-465-90 and Civil Case No. 22-674-94. The
their obligations to Peninsula Development Bank, and his attorneys fees. Respondent respondent accepted both cases by filing a case of Nullity with Injunction and/or
E T H I C S ( C a n o n 1 8 C o m p e t e n c e a n d D i l i g e n c e ) | 28

Restraining Order before the Regional Trial Court Br. 13, Davao City, against Peninsula On 21 June 2003, the IBP Board of Governors adopted and approved 13 the
Development Bank and against Livelihood Resource Center for Declaration of Nullity recommendation of the Investigating Commissioner.
with Injunction and/or Temporary Restraining Order docketed as 22-674-94, Br. 16 RTC
Davao City. The failure and negligence of respondent in handling the aforementioned In the interregnum, a Motion to Withdraw Testimony and Evidence 14 was filed by
cases is fully reflected in the Order of the Court re: Civil Case No. 20-465-90 which reads: complainant Norma B. Soriano before this Court, stating that:

On record is a pretrial brief filed by defendant thru counsel, Atty. Marlon B. Llander 1. That although the complainant in this case names the spouses Antonio
and this morning a supplemental pretrial brief was submitted by defendants counsel, Soriano and Norma B. Soriano as the complainants, it is only complainant
Atty. Reynaldo Reyes, counsel for the plaintiff is present in court but he moved for a Norma B. Soriano who has testified and presented evidence during the hearing
suspension of the pretrial conference this morning for the reason that plaintiffs are of this case due to the untimely demise of her husband, complainant Antonio
proposing to amicably settle this case. Defendants counsel vehemently objected to the Soriano;
postponement of the pretrial conference and instead moved for a declaration of
plaintiffs as nonsuited for the reason that up to this time, plaintiff have not submitted 2. That subsequently to the undersigned complainants testimony and
their pretrial brief in violation of the Order of the Court, dated October 11, 1991 presentation of evidence, she has come upon information and facts that need
wherein plaintiffs counsel was afforded five (5) days time from date within which to to be reviewed and re-examine[d] in the highest interests of justice;
submit to court plaintiffs pretrial brief.
3. That before going into those information and facts that she came to learn
The motion is well taken for the reason that the records failed to show that plaintiffs after she gave her testimony before this Honorable Board, it is important to
filed pretrial brief. They are thus declared as nonsuited. stress the following antecedent circumstances:

This case is hereby ordered dismissed. "x x x Regarding Civil Case No. 22-674-94, (a) That it was undersigned complainants late husband who
Regional Trial Court Br. 16, Davao City in the case filed against Technology and conferred constantly with respondent Atty. Reynaldo P. Reyes;
Livelihood Resource Center the court issued an Order dated May 5, 1995 which reads:
(b) That herein complainant was not present in a conference with
"The record show that summons with a copy of the Complaint have been served upon Atty. Reyes at the time his professional services were hired. So, it was
the defendant on May 11, 1994, but plaintiffs did not file the necessary pleadings in only the deceased complainant Antonio Soriano who was familiar
order to prosecute the same." with the scope of professional engagement;

In view hereof, for failure to prosecute this case is ordered Dismissed. "x x x The records (c) That undersigned complainant did not participate in the
show that the real status of the cases were kept from the complainants by respondent. conference between her late husband and respondent counsel on the
Despite the dismissal of both cases due to respondents negligence and irresponsibility agreed strategy because the late husband was the one actively
he continued receiving compensation from complainants are evidenced by the receipts managing the affairs of the family. Moreover, herein complainant was
and vouchers which respondent acknowledged with his signatures. (Exhibits "F", "G", not really knowledgeable of the facts and details involved in the cases
"H", "H-1" and "I"). Likewise, the respondent deceived the complainant by giving them handled by respondent counsel;
false hopes that everything was alright and there was no problem regarding the cases.
(d) That for example, it was only later after her testimony that she
All the foregoing show that there is clear violation of his oath as a lawyer particularly learned that respondent was also attending to and handling the other
Canon 17 and Canon 18 of the Code of Professional Responsibility. Thus, it is submitted cases of the late complainant Antonio Soriano, especially those cases
that Atty. Reynaldo P. Reyes be meted the penalty of Disbarment. 12
E T H I C S ( C a n o n 1 8 C o m p e t e n c e a n d D i l i g e n c e ) | 29

filed in Makati, Complainant herein had the mistaken impression that on the nature of disciplinary proceedings. A proceeding for suspension or disbarment is
the complainant-decedent had availed of the services of lawyers in not in any sense a civil action where the complainant is a plaintiff and the respondent
Makati. Hence, the fees that respondent Atty. Reyes received after lawyer is a defendant. Disciplinary proceedings involve no private interest and afford no
the cases below were for those cases in Makati; redress for private grievance. They are undertaken and prosecuted solely for the public
welfare. They are undertaken for the purpose of preserving courts of justice from the
(e) That it was a surprise for herein undersigned complainant to also official ministration of persons unfit to practice in them. The attorney is called to answer
learn that respondent Atty. Reyes went out of his way to accompany to the court for his conduct as an officer of the court. The complainant or the person
her late husband to a financier, who was an intimate friend of who called the attention of the court to the attorneys alleged misconduct is in no sense
respondent, in Quezon City for the purpose (sic) sourcing the a party, and has generally no interest in the outcome except as all good citizens may
necessary funds to pay off our obligations to some creditors as the have in the proper administration of justice. Hence, if the evidence on record warrants,
agreed strategy at the very start. Thus, it appears that respondent the respondent may be suspended or disbarred despite the desistance of complainant
counsel went out of his way to help the late complainant Antonio or his withdrawal of the charges.17 Accordingly, notwithstanding the motion to
Soriano solve his problems; and withdraw evidence and testimony, the disbarment proceeding should proceed.

(f) That I likewise subsequently learned that when respondent counsel Looking into the merits of the complaint against respondent, we decide to modify the
became a city councilor of Davao City, he did what he can to help the findings of the IBP.
late complainant Antonio Soriano have a council clearance over a
parcel of land that he was selling for a memorial park. As to Civil Case No. 20-465-90, records show that it was dismissed for failure of
respondent to file the pre-trial brief.
4. That the foregoing facts and information that herein undersigned
complainant learned after she gave her testimony seriously prompts her to Respondents failure to file the pre-trial brief constitutes inexcusable negligence.18 The
seek the withdrawal of her testimony and her evidence in order that she can importance of filing a pre-trial brief cannot be gainsaid. For one, the lawyers are
re-evaluate the same; and compelled to prepare their cases in advance. They eliminate haphazard preparation.
Since pre-trial is a serious business of the court, preparation of the lawyers and parties
5. That complainant herein is filing the instant motion in the interests of truth for the pre-trial in both questions of fact and of law cannot be overemphasized as an
and justice as it is farthest from her intention to have this case resolved essential requirement for a pre-trial conference. They enable both parties to view the
through an inadvertent presentation of facts that do not exactly reflect the documentary evidence of the other even before they are presented in court. They
entirety of the story and the truth, no matter how innocently and in good faith enable the parties to know the testimonies of each others witnesses. Pre-trial briefs
they were presented.15 also apprise the courts of the additional points the parties are willing to stipulate upon,
or the additional points which could be inquired into for the purpose of additional
The above quoted motion is tantamount to a withdrawal or desistance of the complaint. stipulations. They also apprise the court of the respective demands of the parties, thus,
enabling the court to discuss more intelligently an amicable settlement between or
among the parties.19 The failure to submit a pre-trial brief could very well, then, be fatal
As we have previously ruled, the affidavit of withdrawal of the disbarment case executed
to the case of the client as in fact it is a ground for dismissal of the case. 20 For this
by a complainant does not automatically exonerate the respondent.
reason, respondents failure to submit the pre-trial brief to the court within the given
period constitutes negligence which entails disciplinary action. Not only is it a dereliction
A case of suspension or disbarment may proceed regardless of interest or lack of
of duty to his client but to the court as well. Hence, this Court, in Spouses Galen v. Atty.
interest of the complainant.16What matters is whether, on the basis of the facts borne
Paguirigan,21 explained:
out by the record, the charge of negligence has been duly proved. This rule is premised
E T H I C S ( C a n o n 1 8 C o m p e t e n c e a n d D i l i g e n c e ) | 30

An attorney is bound to protect his clients interest to the best of his ability and with handle a case, he should undertake the task with dedication and care. If he should do
utmost diligence. A failure to file brief for his client certainly constitutes inexcusable any less, then he is not true to his lawyers oath.23
negligence on his part. The respondent has indeed committed a serious lapse in the duty
owed by him to his client as well as to the Court not to delay litigation and to aid in the Respondents excuse that complainants, from the time of filing of the complaint up to
speedy administration of justice. the time of filing his comment, were in continuous possession of the foreclosed property
is flimsy. It only shows the cavalier attitude which respondent took towards his clients
In this case, respondent did not only fail to file the pre-trial brief within the given period. cause.
Worse, he had not submitted the required pre-trial brief even at the time he filed a
motion for reconsideration of the order of dismissal several months later. Expectedly, Anent Civil Case No. 22-624-94, the case was indeed dismissed for failure to prosecute
the motion for reconsideration was denied by the court. Respondents negligence is although the said dismissal was later on reconsidered. However, this does not detract
apparent in the trial courts denial of the motion for reconsideration, to wit: to the conclusion that, truly, respondent failed to demonstrate the required diligence in
handling the case of complainants.24
The court, in the exercise of sound discretion, afforded the plaintiffs who were then
present, five (5) days from October 11, 1991, within which to submit to the Court Quite apart from the above, respondent also lacked candor in dealing with his clients as
plaintiff pre-trial brief, but despite the order, and until December 16, 1991, a period of he omitted to apprise complainants of the status of the two cases and even assured the
more than two (2) months has elapsed, yet herein plaintiffs still failed to file or submit complainants that he was diligently attending to said cases.25
the required pre-trial brief, which to the mind of this Court, is an obstinate refusal on
the part of the plaintiffs to file said pre-trial brief, despite counsels knowledge of the In Garcia v. Atty. Manuel,26 this Court found therein respondent lawyer in bad faith for
importance of the same. failing to inform his client of the status of the case. In said decision, the court has
adamantly stressed that the lawyer-client relationship is highly fiduciary.27 There is
The plaintiffs, even in the filing of their Motion for reconsideration did not even care to always a need for the client to receive from the lawyer periodic and full updates on
attach pre-trial brief if indeed they are sincere in their intention to do so. developments affecting the case. The lawyer should apprise the client on the mode and
manner that the lawyer is utilizing to defend the clients interests.28
Clearly, respondent was not able to protect his clients interest through his own fault.
In failing to inform his clients of the status of their cases, respondent failed to exercise
A lawyer is expected to be familiar with the rudiments of law and procedure and anyone such skill, care, and diligence as men of the legal profession commonly possess and
who acquires his service is entitled to, not just competent service, but also whole- exercise in such manners of professional employment.29
hearted devotion to his clients cause. It is the duty of a lawyer to serve his client with
competence and diligence and he should exert his best efforts to protect, within the Time and again we have stated that disbarment is the most severe form of disciplinary
bounds of law, the interest of his client. A lawyer should never neglect a legal matter sanction, and, as such, the power to disbar must always be exercised with great caution
entrusted to him, otherwise his negligence in fulfilling his duty will render him liable for for only the most imperative reasons and in clear cases of misconduct affecting the
disciplinary action.22 standing and moral character of the lawyer as an officer of the court and a member of
the bar. Accordingly, disbarment should not be decreed where any punishment less
Canon 18, Rule 18.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility provides that a lawyer severe such as a reprimand, suspension, or fine would accomplish the end desired.30
shall not neglect a legal matter entrusted to him and his negligence in connection
therewith shall render him liable. In this case, by reason of Atty. Reyess negligence, The appropriate penalty on an errant lawyer depends on the exercise of sound judicial
complainant suffered actual loss. He should have given adequate attention, care and discretion based on the surrounding facts. The penalties for a lawyers failure to file the
time to his cases. This is why a practicing lawyer may accept only so many cases that he required brief or pleading range from reprimand, warning with fine, suspension and in
can efficiently handle. Otherwise, his clients will be prejudiced. Once he agrees to
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grave cases, disbarment. In one case,31 the penalty for a lawyers failure to file a pre- The Factual Background
trial brief and other pleadings such as position papers leading to the dismissal of the
case, is suspension of six months. Therefore, we find the penalty of disbarment as In support of her complaint for disbarment, the complainant alleged that she retained
recommended by the IBP to be unduly harsh and we deem it appropriate to impose the the services of the respondent as her counsel in Civil Case No. Q01-43544, entitled
penalty of one (1) year suspension, taking into account that this appears to be his first "Golden Collection Marketing Corporation v. Ofelia Somosot, et al.," filed against her and
offense. her co-defendants for the collection of a sum of money amounting to P1.3 Million. Her
defense was that it was the plaintiff who actually owed her P800,000.00. She claimed
Wherefore, in view of the foregoing, respondent Atty. Reynaldo Reyes is found GUILTY that she had the evidence to prove this defense at the trial. The respondent agreed to
of violating Canons 17 and 18 of the Code of Professional Responsibility and is handle the case and duly entered his appearance as counsel after securing his
SUSPENDED from the practice of law for one (1) year effective upon finality hereof with acceptance fee.
WARNING that a repetition of the same negligent act charged in this complaint will be
dealt with more severely. The complainant expected the respondent to perform his duty as counsel and to defend
her interests to the utmost. She alleged, however, that after filing the Answer to the
Let copies of this Decision be furnished the Office of the Bar Confidant, to be appended Complaint, the respondent failed to fully inform her of further developments in the
to respondents personal records as attorney; the case. She only heard about the case when there was already a decision against her and
her co-defendants. She even belatedly learned that the respondent had sought his
Integrated Bar of the Philippines; and all courts of the country for their information and discharge as counsel without her knowledge and consent. Contrary to the respondent's
guidance. claim that he could no longer locate her, she claimed that the respondent knew all along
where she lived and could have easily contacted her had he been in good faith.
SO ORDERED.
After the court denied the respondent's motion to withdraw from the case, the
complainant claimed that the respondent represented her interests in a half-hearted
manner, resulting in the grant of the plaintiff's motion for judgment on the pleadings.
Allegedly, the respondent failed to properly oppose the motion and she was thereafter
A.C. No. 7024 January 30, 2009 deprived of the chance to present her evidence. Execution of the court's decision
followed, resulting in the sale of her house and lot at public auction despite her efforts
OFELIA R. SOMOSOT, Complainant, to reverse the judgment with the help of another lawyer. Thereafter, a third party to
vs. whom her property had been mortgaged sued her.
ATTY. GERARDO F. LARA, Respondent.
The complainant bewailed the respondent's evasive attitude when she confronted him
DECISION about her problem with his representation. She found the respondent's excuse - that
he could not contact her because she had changed her office address - to be
BRION, J.: unsatisfactory. She accused the respondent of miserably failing to comply with his oath
as a lawyer and to discharge his duty of ably representing her.
Once again, we are faced in this complaint for disbarment with the problem of a client-
lawyer relationship developing into a legal action between the lawyer and the In his comment,3 the respondent denied that he failed to exercise the diligence required
client.1 The complaining client is Ofelia R. Somosot (complainant), a defendant in a of him as counsel in Civil Case No. Q01-43544. He argued that pursuant to his oath as
collection case before the trial court; her defense was handled by Atty. Gerardo F. Lara counsel, he pursued the complainant's case "according to his own ability and
(respondent).2 knowledge." He alleged that:4
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1. He filed the complainant's Answer with Counterclaim on July 16, 2001. He proceedings." He promptly prepared a reply which, upon her suggestion, he
presented all the complainant's defenses and claims, but the plaintiff, Golden delivered at the complainant's residence.
Collection Marketing Corporation, filed for "interrogatories and request for
admission." He filed an objection to the plaintiff's motion on the ground that 8. He thought that he had given the complainant a satisfactory explanation only
the interrogatories and request for admission are, by law, properly addressed to learn later that she filed a complaint for disbarment against him.
to the complainant herself and not to him as counsel.
9. The respondent expressed his regret for what happened to the case, but
2. He filed a reply to the plaintiff's comment (on his objection) and the case stressed that he did not abandon the complainant and the cases he had been
proceeded despite the complainant's failure to pay his billing from May 3, 2001 handling for her company. He did not likewise neglect to perform his duties as
to August 2, 2001 amounting to P27,000.00 counsel. On the insinuation that he may have been "bought," he emphasized
he that cannot and will never abandon a client as a Christian lawyer and a
3. On November 1, 2001, he joined the government service as consultant in family man.
the Board of Investments and full-time counsel to BOI Gov. J. Antonio Leviste.
He tried to inform the complainant of his appointment and to collect his billings In a Resolution dated July 17, 2006, the Court referred the case to the Integrated Bar of
at her office in Greenhills, but the office was locked. A security guard told him the Philippines (IBP) "for investigation, report and recommendation." The complainant
that the complainant had moved without leaving any forwarding address. He filed a Position Paper (dated January 12, 2007) before the IBP Commission on Bar
even tried to contact complainant and her husband's cellular phones, to no Discipline through her counsel Honorato V. Reyes, Jr.6 She reiterated in this position
avail. paper the allegations in her complaint. She could not understand how a simple
collection case against her where she felt she had a good defense and which she
4. Desperate, he filed a notice of withdrawal of appearance with the expected to go through a full-blown litigation could be lost virtually through a mere
explanation that the conformity of the complainant could not be obtained technicality, i.e., through a judgment on the pleadings for her failure to answer the
since the complainant's corporation had moved its office without informing plaintiff's interrogatories and request for admission. She insisted she had not been
him of its new location, and the complainant had not been communicating with informed by the respondent of the plaintiff's motion for written interrogatories and
him.5 He later learned that the complainant had moved to Pasig City. request for admission. Had he informed her, she could have responded.

5. In late December 2001, he was able to talk with the complainant by phone The complainant was even more surprised to learn that the respondent tried to
and he informed her that he could no longer handle cases for the withdraw from the case because she (the complainant) could not be contacted. She
complainant's company, thereby terminating his relationship with maintained that she had never transferred her residence where she could be reached
complainant. He advised the complainant to look for another lawyer; the had the respondent exerted a meaningful effort to contact her. She claimed that the
complainant replied that she already had another lawyer. respondent was able to do so later when he was collecting the balance of his legal fees.
She denied that she had not paid respondent his retainer fees.
6. Despite his situation and aware that the court had denied his motion to
withdraw from the case, the respondent continued rendering legal services as The complainant stressed that the respondent violated his oath as a lawyer by
the complainant's counsel. He filed a motion for reconsideration of the Court's mishandling her case, resulting in the loss of her house and lot and other damages.
decision dated June 3, 2002. He likewise filed an urgent opposition to the
winning party's motion for execution. The respondent's Position Paper (dated January 3, 2007) essentially reflected the
arguments presented in his Comment before this Court.7 He clarified that the
7. On September 2, 2005, he received a letter from the complainant giving him complainant did not incur extra expenses in defending herself in the collection case
"one final opportunity to convince me, why she should not pursue disbarment since its handling was part of the services covered by his retainer. He insisted that he
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vigorously pursued the case and defended the complainant to the utmost despite the party's efforts to have the same executed, it can nevertheless be seen that the remedial
complainant's unpaid billings of P27,000.00. measures taken by the respondent were inadequate, especially in view of the direction
which the proceedings were taking.
The respondent contended that he had good reasons not to continue as the
complainant's counsel. He reasoned out that under the Code of Professional The respondent is not incorrect in saying that a lawyer may be relieved of his duties
Responsibility, a lawyer may withdraw from a case upon a good cause such as when the even without the conformity of his client when he lost all contact with the latter, and
client deliberately fails to pay the fees for the lawyer's services, or fails to comply with the complainant's failure to settle his unpaid fees is not received without sympathy. The
the terms of the retainer agreement, or when the lawyer is elected or appointed to fact remains,however, that the respondent's efforts to be discharged as counsel were
public office.8 Two of these possible causes applied to his situation; he was appointed disallowed by the court, under the circumstances, he was bound by his oath to
legal consultant at the BOI requiring full-time work and the complainant had failed to represent complainant Somosot and to advocate her cause to the best of his ability.
pay his legal fees to him amounting to P27,000.00. He filed the formal notice of
withdrawal without the conformity of the complainant because he could not locate her. The respondent claims that in late December 2001, he was finally able to talk to
complainant Somosot and was told that she already had another lawyer by the name of
The respondent insinuated that that the complainant's real intent was merely to harass Atty. Tomas Dulay. Considering his stated desire to withdraw from the case and his own
him and his family as indicated by her non-appearance, despite due notice, at the declaration that he had again come into the means of contacting the complainant, it is
preliminary conference before the IBP. He argued that he could not be disbarred thus entirely puzzling why he did not at this point, revive his efforts to be relieved of his
considering that it was the complainant who was negligent in informing him of her responsibilities in Civil Case No. Q02-43544 given complainant Somosot's alleged
whereabouts. While he expressed regret for what happened in the case, he insisted that engagement of Atty. Tomas Dulay and her presumed willingness to give her consent to
he exerted every effort to locate her, filed the necessary pleadings, protected her and such discharge. As it is, respondent Atty. Lara remained as counsel of record and for
her company's interest as best as he could. some undisclosed reason did not appeal the decision against his client.

The IBP Recommendation This is not to say that the client is entirely without fault. While complainant Ofelia
Somosot's narrative is in many respects at odds with that of the respondent, it is
In a letter to the Chief Justice dated January 28, 2007, the IBP Board of Governors, nevertheless clear from her submissions that she never made any effort to contact the
through the IBP Commission on Bar Discipline, transmitted to the Court a Notice of respondent to follow up the status of the case, but instead expected the latter to take
Resolution9 and the records of the case. The resolution was for the adoption and complete initiative in this regard.
approval of the Report and Recommendation of Commissioner Rico A. Limpingco who
had investigated the case. 10 It has been held that it is the duty of a party-litigant to remain in contact with his lawyer
in order to be informed of the progress of his case. "True enough, the party-litigant
Commissioner Limpingco recommended that respondent be reprimanded for lack of should not rely totally on his counsel to litigate his case even if the latter expressly
reasonable diligence in representing the complainant. assures that the former's presence in court will no longer be needed. No prudent party
will leave the fate of his case entirely to his lawyer. Absence in one or two hearings may
His recommendation was based on the following evaluation: be negligible but want of inquiry or update on the status of his case for several months
(four, in this case) is inexcusable. It is the duty of a party-litigant to be in contact with
his counsel from time to time in order to be informed of the progress of his case." Thus
It appears that the respondent was to some degree, remiss in fulfilling his duties to
the complainant did not do, and such circumstance can only mitigate in respondent's
complainant Somosot. While it may be true that he had filed an answer in Civil Case No.
favor.
Q01-43544, objected to the plaintiff's interrogatories and requests for admission, asked
for reconsideration of the decision rendered by the court and opposed the adverse
The Court's Ruling
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As the IBP did, we find that the respondent deserves to be sanctioned for having fallen against his client as he had not been paid from May to August 2001. Assuming the non-
short of the standards required of him as defense counsel in Civil Case No. Q01-43544. payment to be true, such failure should not be a reason not to inform the client of an
He violated the basic rule, expressed under Canon 18 of the Code of Professional important development, or worse, to withhold vital information from her. As the court
Responsibility,11 that "a lawyer shall serve his client with competence and diligence." 12 held in Luisito Balatbat v. Atty. Edgardo Arias,16 a client must never be left in the dark
for to do so would destroy the trust, faith and confidence reposed in the retained lawyer
While it may be said that the respondent did not completely abandon the case, his in particular and the legal profession in general.
handing of the complainant's defense left much to be desired.
Third. The respondent failed to provide details on the developments that led to the
The records show that the plaintiff in the collection case filed interrogatories and a adverse rulings on the interrogatories/admissions and the judgment on the pleadings.
request for admission. The respondent duly filed his objection to the plaintiff's move, We gather under Annex "G" of the respondent's Comment filed with this Court that the
but the court apparently allowed the interrogatories and request for admission and trial court ruled in open court on March 8, 2002 that a judgment on the pleadings was
directed the complainant (as the defendant in the civil case) to respond. The appropriate. This was confirmed by an Order of the same date (attached as Annex "B"
complainant was never informed of this development and the omission eventually led to the complainant's Position Paper before the IBP) which partly states;
to the grant of the plaintiff's motion for judgment on the pleadings, which in turn led to
the decision against the defendants.13 The Court NOTES the manifestation of Atty. Honorato M. Guttierez, counsel for the
plaintiff that the defendants have not been appearing in the case for one (1) year as per
In his submissions before this Court and before the IBP, the respondent alleged that he December 14, 2001 Order of this Court. The Court even denied the Notice of Withdrawal
objected to the interrogatories and request for admission and did all he could, even of Appearance of Atty. Lara, counsel for the defendants, with the end purpose of
filing a reply to the defendant's comment to his objection. He likewise alleged that from obviating the further delays of the proceedings of this case. Moreover, in the said
May 3, 2001 to August 2, 2001, the complainant had not paid the billings sent to her; Order, this Court ruled that the Rule on judgment on the pleading under Rule 34 of the
that the complainant could not be contacted because she had closed her office without Rules of Court will now obtain.
any forwarding address;14 that as of November 1, 2001, he had been appointed as a
consultant in the office of BOI Governor J. Antonio Leviste; and that he continued to The respondent never bothered to explain this court order whose highlighted portions
represent the complainant even after the trial court's decision by filing a motion for give hints on the reasons for the adverse developments for the defendants. While the
reconsideration and opposing the plaintiff's motion for execution.15 records do not explicitly state what remedies the respondent took to react to the Order
and to the trial court ruling on the interrogatories/admission issue, we feel it safe to
After examining the whole record of the case, we find the respondent's positions to be assume that the respondent did not move at all to question the trial court's rulings;
very revealing with respect to what they say and do not say. nowhere in the records, both from the complainant's and the respondent's end, is there
any allegation that the respondent sought to review the trial court's rulings. What
First, the respondent failed to precisely allege in his submissions how he tried to contact intrigues us is that the respondent could have reacted to the trial court's ruling on the
the defendant on or about the time the interrogatories and request for admission were interrogatories/request for admission; he was aware of the recourses open to him
pending. It appears that he really had not; by his own admission, his attempt to contact under the ruling in Briboneria v. Court of Appeals, G.R. 101682, December 4, 1992, that
the complainant came in December 2001 and only to inform her of his government he cited in his objection to the interrogatories and request for admission.
appointment and to collect his billings. It was only after the discovery of the closure of
the defendant's office did the respondent try to contact the complainant and her Fourth, on the matter of the respondent's withdrawal from the case, the respondent
husband by cellular phone, but they could not be reached. might have had valid reasons to withdraw and terminate his relationship with his client.
As the respondent now states, he could withdraw under paragraphs (e) and (f) of the
Second. The interrogatories/admission issue happened in August 2001, which tells us Code of Professional Responsibility17 - i.e., deliberate failure of the client to pay the fees
that the respondent at about that time was already very sensitive about his billing issue for the services, or failure to comply with the retainer agreement, or appointment or
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election to public office. However, he does not appear to have cited these reasons While the respondent expressed regret for the reverses the complainant suffered,
before the trial court. Instead, he merely filed a Notice of Withdrawal of Appearance, regret is a belated response that will not bring back the complainant's lost case. It
citing his client's unknown location and failure to communicate as reasons for his client's cannot erase the fact that he mishandled the complainant's defense. By the exacting
lack of express consent to his withdrawal.18 It is undisputed that the trial court denied standards of the legal profession, he has been weighed and found wanting.
the respondent's notice of withdrawal; thus, he remained as counsel of record
burdened with all the responsibilities that his representation carried. What lightens the impact of the respondent's mishandling of the case is the
complainant's own failings as a client. The non-payment of fees is a factor that we
By his own admission, the respondent succeeded in contacting the complainant in late cannot simply disregard. As a rule, law practice is not a pro bono proposition and a
December, 2001, i.e., soon after he filed his notice of withdrawal with the trial court. As lawyer's sensitivity and concern for unpaid fees are understandable; lawyers incur
Commissioner Limpingco observed, it was quite puzzling that he did not then revive his expenses in running their practice and generally depend, too, on their law practice
efforts to be relieved of his responsibilities in the case, given the complainant's reported income for their living expenses. Likewise, the respondent's appointment as a
engagement of a new counsel. He could have then secured his client's consent to his consultant should be considered although it is a matter that none of the parties have
withdrawal but did not. fully examined. Both the non-payment of fees and the appoint to a public office,
however, were not reasons properly presented before the trial court through a motion
Fifth. As Commissioner Limpingco did, we wonder why the respondent did not appeal that informed the court of all the surrounding circumstances of the desired withdrawal.
the decision against his client. It even appears from one of the annexes (Annex "I" of the Instead, another reason was given by way of a mere notice lacking the client's express
respondent's comment) that he did not immediately inform the complainant of the consent. Thus, the court's denial of the desired withdrawal was not totally unexpected.
decision against her. To quote the complainant's letter (Annex "I"):
More than these reasons and as Commissioner Limpingco correctly noted, the
"However, for reasons you have not fully explained, you virtually complainant never made any effort to contact the respondent to follow up the status
of her case, expecting instead the respondent to take full and complete initiative in this
abandoned the case and interest therein after having initially filed an answer in my regard. While the respondent, as counsel, has the obligation to inform his client of the
behalf. material developments in the case, particularly of the aspects of the case that would
require the client's instructions or participation, this obligation is balanced by a
complementary duty on the part of a party-litigant to remain in contact with his lawyer
You never informed me of any further developments in the case. As a result, I lost the
in order to be informed of the progress of the case.
said case by reason of default and technicality.

The complainant's failing in this regard is her failure to inform her counsel of her change
You never informed me of this loss, thus denying me the opportunity to appeal the
of business address, a serious lapse but one that a resourceful counsel could have easily
adverse decision. . . "
handled. In a balancing, the greater fault still lies with the respondent as he did not
appear, based on the records of the case, to be a lawyer whose practice routine included
The respondent never bothered to refuse this very damaging allegation; neither in his
regular reporting to clients on matters other than billings. We note that he did not
Position Paper before the IBP nor in the Comment filed with us did he offer an
bother to report (or even allege that he bothered to report) on the interrogatories and
explanation. Thus, it appears that the respondent could not have really taken any
request for admission - incidents that can make or break a case as it did break the
instructions from his client on how to handle the trial court's adverse decision. He simply defendant's case before the trial court. Despite knowledge of his client's location gained
took it upon himself to decide not to appeal the trial court's decision and the denial of
in late December 2001, he did not likewise bother to inform the complainant of the
his motion for reconsideration.
adverse decision against her in June 2002, taking it upon himself to simply file a motion
for reconsideration and to accept the court's ruling when his motion was denied. In our
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view, these are law practice mortal sins that we cannot allow to simply be glossed over
or be penalized by a simple reprimand.

However, we cannot also disbar the respondent as the complainant demands in light of
the complainant's own contributory faults. Disbarment is an ultimate remedy in the
professional world, no less serious and weighty as the power to impose reclusion
perpetua in criminal cases; in both, recovery from the penalty - although not totally
impossible - is extremely difficult to attain. Thus, we must at all times act with caution
and due consideration, taking into account not only the interests of the immediate
parties, but the interest of the public, the bar and the administration of justice as well.

The general public must know that the legal profession is a closely regulated profession
where transgressions merit swift but commensurate penalties; it is a profession that
they can trust because we guard our ranks and our standards well. The Bar must sit up
and take notice of what happened in this case to be able to guard against any repetition
of the respondent's transgressions, particularly his failure to report the developments
of an ongoing case to his clients. Unless the Bar takes a pro-active stance, we cannot
really blame members of the public who are not very well disposed towards, and who
may even distrust, the legal profession after hearing experiences similar to what the
complainant suffered. The administration of justice is served well when we demonstrate
that effective remedies exist to address the injustice and inequities that may result from
transgressions by those acting in the dispensation of justice process.

In these lights, we hold that while the respondent is liable for a clear case of misconduct
that seriously affects his standing and character as an officer of the Court and as a
member of the Bar, this liability ought to be tempered by the mitigating circumstances
we pointed out above. We therefore cannot impose disbarment as penalty. Given the
mitigating circumstances and the extent of their effects on the respondent's culpability,
we hold that a three-month suspension from the practice of law is the penalty that is
more in keeping with the damage the complainant suffered and the interests that the
public, the bar and the administration of justice have to protect.

WHEREFORE, premises considered, respondent ATTY. GERARDO F. LARA is


hereby SUSPENDED from the practice of law for a period of three (3) months, effective
upon receipt of a copy of this Decision.

SO ORDERED.