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AC No.

11394

Maria Victoria Belo-Henares vs. Atty. Roberto “Agree” Guevarra

Legal Ethics; Code of Professional Responsibility; Lawyers may be disciplined even for any
conduct committed in their private capacity, as long as their misconduct reflects their want of
probity or good demeanor, a good character being an essential qualification for the admission
to the practice of law and for continuance of such privilege. When the Code of Professional
Responsibility or the Rules of Court speaks of conduct or misconduct, the reference is not
confined to one's behavior exhibited in connection with the performance of lawyers'
professional duties, but also covers any misconduct, which-albeit unrelated to the actual
practice of their profession-would show them to be unfit for the office and unworthy of the
privileges which their license and the law invest in them.
Facts: A disbarment case was filed against Atty. Roberto “Agree” Guevarra by Dr Maria Victoria
Belo-Henares. This case was prompted by the series of posts by the respondent in his Facebook
account. These posts contain several allegations that pertain to the Belo Medical Group. The
respondent is the lawyer of a woman who was allegedly a victim of the Medical Group’s
incompetent practice, that a botched surgical procedure on his buttocks resulted to an infection
that made her ill. One of the posts were actually inviting patients of the Belo Medical Group to
boycott the operations of the latter. Complainants likewise averred that some of respondent’s
Facebook posts were sexist, vulgar, and disrespectful of women. Asserting that the said posts,
written in vulgar and obscene language were designed to inspire public hatred, destroy their
reputation and to close BMG and all its clinics as well as to extort money that is evident from
the lawyer’s demand letters.

In his defense the lawyer alleges that the complaint was filed in violation of his
constitutionally guaranteed right to privacy asserting that the posts quoted by complainant were
private remarks on his private account on Facebook and is meant to be shared only with his
circle of friends of which the complainant is not a part of. He denied that the remarks were
vulgar and obscene and that it was made to inspire public hatred, and that Victoria Belo is a
public figure and maybe subject to fair comment.

In its recommendation, the IBP moved that Atty. Guevarra be suspended from the
practice of law for the period of one year.

Issue: Whether or Not the acts of Atty. Guevarra is a violation of the Code of Professional
Responsibility and not a valid exercise of freedom of speech.

Held: It has been held that the freedom of speech and of expression, like all constitutional
freedoms, is not absolute. While the freedom of expression and the right of speech and of the
press are among the most zealously protected rights in the Constitution, every person
exercising them, as the Civil Code stresses, is obliged to act with justice, give everyone his due,
and observe honesty and good faith. As such, the constitutional right of freedom of expression
may not be availed of to broadcast lies or half-truths, insult others, destroy their name or
reputation or bring them into disrepute.

he used words unbecoming of an officer of the law. be it in his public or private life. and decent. therefore.Respondent's inappropriate and obscene language. as a lawyer. By posting the subject remarks on Facebook directed at complainant and BMGI. he is bound to observe proper decorum at all times. and conducted himself in an aggressive way by hurling insults and maligning complainant's and BMGI' s reputation. respondent disregarded the fact that. Instead. that is. . respectful. in complete and utter violation of the provisions in the Code of Professional Responsibility. firm. he acted inappropriately and rudely. He overlooked the fact that he must behave in a manner befitting of an officer of the court. and his act of publicly insulting and undermining the reputation of complainant through the subject Facebook posts are.