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FIRST DIVISION

[A.C. No. 5299. August 19, 2003]

ATTY. ISMAEL G. KHAN, JR., Assistant Court Administrator and Chief, Public Information
Office, complainant, vs. ATTY. RIZALINO T. SIMBILLO, respondent.

[G.R. No. 157053. August 19, 2003]

ATTY. RIZALINO T. SIMBILLO, petitioner, vs. IBP COMMISSION ON BAR DISCIPLINE and ATTY. ISMAEL G.
KHAN, JR., in his capacity as Assistant Court Administrator and Chief, Public Information
Office, respondents.

RESOLUTION
YNARES-SANTIAGO, J.:

This administrative complaint arose from a paid advertisement that appeared in the July 5, 2000 issue
of the newspaper, Philippine Daily Inquirer, which reads: ANNULMENT OF MARRIAGE Specialist 532-
4333/521-2667.[1]
Ms. Ma. Theresa B. Espeleta, a staff member of the Public Information Office of the Supreme Court,
called up the published telephone number and pretended to be an interested party.She spoke to Mrs.
Simbillo, who claimed that her husband, Atty. Rizalino Simbillo, was an expert in handling annulment cases
and can guarantee a court decree within four to six months, provided the case will not involve separation
of property or custody of children. Mrs. Simbillo also said that her husband charges a fee of P48,000.00,
half of which is payable at the time of filing of the case and the other half after a decision thereon has
been rendered.
Further research by the Office of the Court Administrator and the Public Information Office revealed
that similar advertisements were published in the August 2 and 6, 2000 issues of the Manila Bulletin and
August 5, 2000 issue of The Philippine Star.[2]
On September 1, 2000, Atty. Ismael G. Khan, Jr., in his capacity as Assistant Court Administrator and
Chief of the Public Information Office, filed an administrative complaint against Atty. Rizalino T. Simbillo
for improper advertising and solicitation of his legal services, in violation of Rule 2.03 and Rule 3.01 of the
Code of Professional Responsibility and Rule 138, Section 27 of the Rules of Court.[3]
In his answer, respondent admitted the acts imputed to him, but argued that advertising and
solicitation per se are not prohibited acts; that the time has come to change our views about the
prohibition on advertising and solicitation; that the interest of the public is not served by the absolute
prohibition on lawyer advertising; that the Court can lift the ban on lawyer advertising; and that the
rationale behind the decades-old prohibition should be abandoned. Thus, he prayed that he be
exonerated from all the charges against him and that the Court promulgate a ruling that advertisement
of legal services offered by a lawyer is not contrary to law, public policy and public order as long as it is
dignified.[4]
The case was referred to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines for investigation, report and
recommendation.[5] On June 29, 2002, the IBP Commission on Bar Discipline passed Resolution No. XV-
2002-306,[6] finding respondent guilty of violation of Rules 2.03 and 3.01 of the Code of Professional
Responsibility and Rule 138, Section 27 of the Rules of Court, and suspended him from the practice of law
for one (1) year with the warning that a repetition of similar acts would be dealt with more severely. The
IBP Resolution was noted by this Court on November 11, 2002.[7]
In the meantime, respondent filed an Urgent Motion for Reconsideration,[8] which was denied by the
IBP in Resolution No. XV-2002-606 dated October 19, 2002[9]
Hence, the instant petition for certiorari, which was docketed as G.R. No. 157053 entitled, Atty.
Rizalino T. Simbillo, Petitioner versus IBP Commission on Bar Discipline, Atty. Ismael G. Khan, Jr., Asst. Court
Administrator and Chief, Public Information Office, Respondents. This petition was consolidated with A.C.
No. 5299 per the Courts Resolution dated March 4, 2003.
In a Resolution dated March 26, 2003, the parties were required to manifest whether or not they
were willing to submit the case for resolution on the basis of the pleadings.[10]Complainant filed his
Manifestation on April 25, 2003, stating that he is not submitting any additional pleading or evidence and
is submitting the case for its early resolution on the basis of pleadings and records thereof. [11] Respondent,
on the other hand, filed a Supplemental Memorandum on June 20, 2003.
We agree with the IBPs Resolutions Nos. XV-2002-306 and XV-2002-606.
Rules 2.03 and 3.01 of the Code of Professional Responsibility read:

Rule 2.03. A lawyer shall not do or permit to be done any act designed primarily to solicit legal business.

Rule 3.01. A lawyer shall not use or permit the use of any false, fraudulent, misleading, deceptive,
undignified, self-laudatory or unfair statement or claim regarding his qualifications or legal services.

Rule 138, Section 27 of the Rules of Court states:

SEC. 27. Disbarment and suspension of attorneys by Supreme Court, grounds therefor. A member of the
bar may be disbarred or suspended from his office as attorney by the Supreme Court for any deceit,
malpractice or other gross misconduct in such office, grossly immoral conduct or by reason of his
conviction of a crime involving moral turpitude, or for any violation of the oath which he is required to
take before the admission to practice, or for a willful disobedience appearing as attorney for a party
without authority to do so.

It has been repeatedly stressed that the practice of law is not a business.[12] It is a profession in which
duty to public service, not money, is the primary consideration. Lawyering is not primarily meant to be a
money-making venture, and law advocacy is not a capital that necessarily yields profits.[13] The gaining of
a livelihood should be a secondary consideration.[14] The duty to public service and to the administration
of justice should be the primary consideration of lawyers, who must subordinate their personal interests
or what they owe to themselves.[15]The following elements distinguish the legal profession from a
business:

1. A duty of public service, of which the emolument is a by-product, and in which one may
attain the highest eminence without making much money;

2. A relation as an officer of the court to the administration of justice involving thorough
sincerity, integrity and reliability;
3. A relation to clients in the highest degree of fiduciary;

4. A relation to colleagues at the bar characterized by candor, fairness, and unwillingness to
resort to current business methods of advertising and encroachment on their practice,
or dealing directly with their clients.[16]

There is no question that respondent committed the acts complained of. He himself admits that he
caused the publication of the advertisements. While he professes repentance and begs for the Courts
indulgence, his contrition rings hollow considering the fact that he advertised his legal services
again after he pleaded for compassion and after claiming that he had no intention to violate the
rules. Eight months after filing his answer, he again advertised his legal services in the August 14, 2001
issue of the Buy & Sell Free Ads Newspaper.[17] Ten months later, he caused the same advertisement to
be published in the October 5, 2001 issue of Buy & Sell.[18] Such acts of respondent are a deliberate and
contemptuous affront on the Courts authority.
What adds to the gravity of respondents acts is that in advertising himself as a self-styled Annulment
of Marriage Specialist, he wittingly or unwittingly erodes and undermines not only the stability but also
the sanctity of an institution still considered sacrosanct despite the contemporary climate of
permissiveness in our society. Indeed, in assuring prospective clients that an annulment may be obtained
in four to six months from the time of the filing of the case,[19] he in fact encourages people, who might
have otherwise been disinclined and would have refrained from dissolving their marriage bonds, to do so.
Nonetheless, the solicitation of legal business is not altogether proscribed. However, for solicitation
to be proper, it must be compatible with the dignity of the legal profession. If it is made in a modest and
decorous manner, it would bring no injury to the lawyer and to the bar.[20] Thus, the use of simple signs
stating the name or names of the lawyers, the office and residence address and fields of practice, as well
as advertisement in legal periodicals bearing the same brief data, are permissible. Even the use of calling
cards is now acceptable.[21]Publication in reputable law lists, in a manner consistent with the standards of
conduct imposed by the canon, of brief biographical and informative data is likewise allowable. As
explicitly stated in Ulep v. Legal Clinic, Inc.:[22]

Such data must not be misleading and may include only a statement of the lawyers name and the names
of his professional associates; addresses, telephone numbers, cable addresses; branches of law
practiced; date and place of birth and admission to the bar; schools attended with dates of graduation,
degrees and other educational distinctions; public or quasi-public offices; posts of honor; legal
authorships; legal teaching positions; membership and offices in bar associations and committees
thereof, in legal and scientific societies and legal fraternities; the fact of listings in other reputable law
lists; the names and addresses of references; and, with their written consent, the names of clients
regularly represented.

The law list must be a reputable law list published primarily for that purpose; it cannot be a mere
supplemental feature of a paper, magazine, trade journal or periodical which is published principally for
other purposes. For that reason, a lawyer may not properly publish his brief biographical and
informative data in a daily paper, magazine, trade journal or society program. Nor may a lawyer
permit his name to be published in a law list the conduct, management, or contents of which are
calculated or likely to deceive or injure the public or the bar, or to lower dignity or standing of the
profession.
The use of an ordinary simple professional card is also permitted. The card may contain only a statement
of his name, the name of the law firm which he is connected with, address, telephone number and
special branch of law practiced. The publication of a simple announcement of the opening of a law firm
or of changes in the partnership, associates, firm name or office address, being for the convenience of
the profession, is not objectionable. He may likewise have his name listed in a telephone directory but
not under a designation of special branch of law. (emphasis and italics supplied)

WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, respondent RIZALINO T. SIMBILLO is found GUILTY of violation
of Rules 2.03 and 3.01 of the Code of Professional Responsibility and Rule 138, Section 27 of the Rules of
Court. He is SUSPENDED from the practice of law for ONE (1) YEAR effective upon receipt of this
Resolution. He is likewise STERNLY WARNED that a repetition of the same or similar offense will be dealt
with more severely.
Let copies of this Resolution be entered in his record as attorney and be furnished the Integrated Bar
of the Philippines and all courts in the country for their information and guidance.
SO ORDERED.
Vitug, (Acting Chairman),Carpio, and Azcuna, JJ., concur.
Davide, Jr., C.J., (Chairman ), abroad, on official business.

[1]
Rollo, p. 13.
[2]
Id., pp. 14-15.
[3]
Id., p. 9.
[4]
Id., pp. 21-57.
[5]
Id., p. 60.
[6]
Id., p. 62.
[7]
Id., p. 72.
[8]
Id., p. 75.
[9]
Id., p. 73.
[10]
Id., p. 109.
[11]
Id., p. 110.
[12]
Cantiller v. Potenciano, A.C. No. 3195, 18 December 1989, 180 SCRA 246, 253.
[13]
Canlas v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. L-77691, 8 August 1988, 164 SCRA 160, 174.
[14]
Agpalo R., LEGAL ETHICS, p. 12 [1997].
[15]
Burbe v. Magulta, A.C. No. 5713, 10 June 2002.
[16]
Agpalo, supra, at pp. 13-14, citing In re Sycip, 30 July 1979, 92 SCRA 1, 10; Pineda E.L. LEGAL AND
JUDICIAL ETHICS, p. 58 [1999].
[17]
Rollo, Vol. II, p. 41.
[18]
Id., p. 110.
[19]
Rollo, Vol. I, p. 3.
[20]
Pineda, Legal and Judicial Ethics, supra, at p. 61.
[21]
Id., p. 65.
[22]
Bar Matter No. 553, 17 June 1993, 223 SCRA 378, 407.
Republic of the Philippines
Supreme Court
Manila

SECOND DIVISION

EMILIA R. HERNANDEZ, A.C. No. 9387
Complainant, (Formerly CBD Case No. 05-1562)
Present:

CARPIO, J., Chairperson,
BRION,
- versus - PEREZ,
SERENO, and
REYES, JJ.

Promulgated:
ATTY. VENANCIO B. PADILLA,
Respondent. June 20, 2012

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

RESOLUTION

SERENO, J.:

This is a disbarment case filed by Emilia Hernandez (complainant) against her lawyer, Atty. Venancio B.
Padilla (respondent) of Padilla Padilla Bautista Law Offices, for his alleged negligence in the handling of
her case.

The records disclose that complainant and her husband were the respondents in an ejectment case filed
against them with the Regional Trial Court of Manila (RTC).

In a Decision[1] dated 28 June 2002, penned by Judge Rosmari D. Carandang (Judge Carandang), the RTC
ordered that the Deed of Sale executed in favor of complainant be cancelled; and that the latter pay the
complainant therein, Elisa Duigan (Duigan), attorneys fees and moral damages.
Complainant and her husband filed their Notice of Appeal with the RTC. Thereafter, the Court of Appeals
(CA) ordered them to file their Appellants Brief. They chose respondent to represent them in the case. On
their behalf, he filed a Memorandum on Appeal instead of an Appellants Brief. Thus, Duigan filed a Motion
to Dismiss the Appeal. The CA granted the Motion in a Resolution[2] dated 16 December 2003.

No Motion for Reconsideration (MR) of the Resolution dismissing the appeal was filed by the couple.
Complainant claims that because respondent ignored the Resolution, he acted with deceit, unfaithfulness
amounting to malpractice of law.[3] Complainant and her husband failed to file an appeal, because
respondent never informed them of the adverse decision. Complainant further claims that she asked
respondent several times about the status of the appeal, but despite inquiries he deliberately withheld
response [sic], to the damage and prejudice of the spouses.[4]

The Resolution became final and executory on 8 January 2004. Complainant was informed of the
Resolution sometime in July 2005, when the Sheriff of the RTC came to her house and informed her of the
Resolution.

On 9 September 2005, complainant filed an Affidavit of Complaint[5] with the Committee on Bar Discipline
of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP), seeking the disbarment of respondent on the following
grounds: deceit, malpractice, and grave misconduct. Complainant prays for moral damages in the amount
of ₱350,000.

Through an Order[6] dated 12 September 2005, Director of Bar Discipline Rogelio A. Vinluan ordered
respondent to submit an answer to the Complaint. In his Counter-Affidavit/Answer,[7] respondent prayed
for the outright dismissal of the Complaint.

Respondent explained that he was not the lawyer of complainant. He averred that prior to the mandatory
conference set by the IBP on 13 December 2005, he had never met complainant, because it was her
husband who had personally transacted with him. According to respondent, the husband despondently
pleaded to me to prepare a Memorandum on Appeal because according to him the period given by the
CA was to lapse within two or three days.[8] Thus, respondent claims that he filed a Memorandum on
Appeal because he honestly believed that it is this pleading which was required.[9]

Before filing the Memorandum, respondent advised complainants husband to settle the case. The latter
allegedly gestured approval of the advice.[10]

After the husband of complainant picked up the Memorandum for filing, respondent never saw or heard
from him again and thus assumed that the husband heeded his advice and settled the case. When
respondent received an Order from the CA requiring him to file a comment on the Motion to Dismiss filed
by Duigan, he instructed his office staff to contact Mr. Hernandez thru available means of communication,
but to no avail.[11] Thus, when complainants husband went to the office of respondent to tell the latter
that the Sheriff of the RTC had informed complainant of the CAs Resolution dismissing the case,
respondent was just as surprised. The lawyer exclaimed, KALA KO BA NAKIPAG AREGLO NA KAYO.[12]

In his 5 January 2009 Report,[13] IBP Investigating Commissioner Leland R. Villadolid, Jr. found that
respondent violated Canons 5, 17, and 18 of the Code of Professional Responsibility (the Code). He
recommended that respondent be suspended from practicing law from 3 to 6 months.

The board of governors of the IBP issued Resolution No. XIX-2010-452 on 28 August 2010. Therein, they
resolved to adopt and approve the Report and Recommendation of the Investigating Commissioner.
Respondent was suspended from the practice of law for six months.

Respondent filed a Motion for Reconsideration.[14] He prayed for the relaxation of the application of the
Canons of the Code. On 14 January 2012, the IBP board of governors passed Resolution No. XX-2012-
17[15] partly granting his Motion and reducing the penalty imposed to one-month suspension from the
practice of law.

Pursuant to Rule 139-B of the Rules of Court, acting Director for Bar Discipline Dennis A.B. Funa, through
a letter[16] addressed to then Chief Justice Renato C. Corona, transmitted the documents pertaining to the
disbarment Complaint against respondent.

We adopt the factual findings of the board of governors of the IBP. This Court, however, disagrees with
its Decision to reduce the penalty to one-month suspension. We thus affirm the six-month suspension the
Board originally imposed in its 28 August 2010 Resolution.

Respondent insists that he had never met complainant prior to the mandatory conference set for the
disbarment Complaint she filed against him. However, a perusal of the Memorandum of Appeal filed in
the appellate court revealed that he had signed as counsel for the defendant-appellants therein, including
complainant and her husband.[17] The pleading starts with the following sentence: DEFENDANT[S]-
APPELLANTS, by counsel, unto this Honorable Court submit the Memorandum and further allege that: x x
x.[18]Nowhere does the document say that it was filed only on behalf of complainants husband.

It is further claimed by respondent that the relation created between him and complainants husband
cannot be treated as a client-lawyer relationship, viz:

It is no more than a client needing a legal document and had it prepared by a lawyer for
a fee. Under the factual milieu and circumstances, it could not be said that a client
entrusted to a lawyer handling and prosecution of his case that calls for the strict
application of the Code; x x x[19]
As proof that none of them ever intended to enter into a lawyer-client relationship, he also alleges that
complainants husband never contacted him after the filing of the Memorandum of Appeal. According to
respondent, this behavior was very unusual if he really believed that he engaged the formers services.[20]

Complainant pointed out in her Reply[21] that respondent was her lawyer, because he accepted her case
and an acceptance fee in the amount of ₱7,000.

According to respondent, however, [C]ontrary to the complainants claim that he charged ₱7,000 as
acceptance fee, the fee was only for the preparation of the pleading which is even low for a Memorandum
of Appeal: x x x.[22]

Acceptance of money from a client establishes an attorney-client relationship and gives rise to the duty
of fidelity to the clients cause.[23] Once a lawyer agrees to handle a case, it is that lawyers duty to serve
the client with competence and diligence.[24] Respondent has failed to fulfill this duty.

According to respondent, he merely drafted the pleading that complainants husband asked from him.
Respondent also claims that he filed a Memorandum of Appeal, because he honestly believed that this
was the pleading required, based on what complainants husband said.

The IBP Investigating Commissioners observation on this matter, in the 5 January 2009 Report, is correct.
Regardless of the particular pleading his client may have believed to be necessary, it was respondents
duty to know the proper pleading to be filed in appeals from RTC decisions, viz:

Having seen the Decision dated 18 June 2002 of the trial court, respondent should have
known that the mode of appeal to the Court of Appeals for said Decision is by ordinary
appeal under Section 2(a) Rule 41 of the1997 Revised Rules of Civil Procedure. In all such
cases, Rule 44 of the said Rules applies.[25]

When the RTC ruled against complainant and her husband, they filed a Notice of Appeal. Consequently,
what should apply is the rule on ordinary appealed cases or Rule 44 of the Rules on Civil Procedure. Rule
44 requires that the appellants brief be filed after the records of the case have been elevated to the CA.
Respondent, as a litigator, was expected to know this procedure. Canon 5 of the Code reads:

CANON 5 A lawyer shall keep abreast of legal developments, participate in continuing
legal education programs, support efforts to achieve high standards in law schools as well
as in the practical training of law students and assist in disseminating information
regarding the law and jurisprudence.
The obligations of lawyers as a consequence of their Canon 5 duty have been expounded in Dulalia, Jr. v.
Cruz,[26] to wit:

It must be emphasized that the primary duty of lawyers is to obey the laws of the land
and promote respect for the law and legal processes. They are expected to be in the
forefront in the observance and maintenance of the rule of law. This duty carries with it
the obligation to be well-informed of the existing laws and to keep abreast with legal
developments, recent enactments and jurisprudence. It is imperative that they be
conversant with basic legal principles. Unless they faithfully comply with such duty, they
may not be able to discharge competently and diligently their obligations as members of
the bar. Worse, they may become susceptible to committing mistakes.

In his MR, respondent begged for the consideration of the IBP, claiming that the reason for his failure to
file the proper pleading was that he did not have enough time to acquaint himself thoroughly with the
factual milieu of the case. The IBP reconsidered and thereafter significantly reduced the penalty originally
imposed.

Respondents plea for leniency should not have been granted.

The supposed lack of time given to respondent to acquaint himself with the facts of the case does not
excuse his negligence.

Rule 18.02 of the Code provides that a lawyer shall not handle any legal matter without adequate
preparation. While it is true that respondent was not complainants lawyer from the trial to the appellate
court stage, this fact did not excuse him from his duty to diligently study a case he had agreed to handle.
If he felt he did not have enough time to study the pertinent matters involved, as he was approached by
complainants husband only two days before the expiration of the period for filing the Appellants Brief,
respondent should have filed a motion for extension of time to file the proper pleading instead of
whatever pleading he could come up with, just to beat the deadline set by the Court of Appeals.[27]

Moreover, respondent does not deny that he was given notice of the fact that he filed the wrong pleading.
However, instead of explaining his side by filing a comment, as ordered by the appellate court, he chose
to ignore the CAs Order. He claims that he was under the presumption that complainant and her husband
had already settled the case, because he had not heard from the husband since the filing of the latters
Memorandum of Appeal.

This explanation does not excuse respondents actions.
First of all, there were several remedies that respondent could have availed himself of, from the moment
he received the Notice from the CA to the moment he received the disbarment Complaint filed against
him. But because of his negligence, he chose to sit on the case and do nothing.

Second, respondent, as counsel, had the duty to inform his clients of the status of their case. His failure
to do so amounted to a violation of Rule 18.04 of the Code, which reads:

18.04 - A lawyer shall keep the client informed of the status of his case and shall respond
within a reasonable time to the clients request for information.

If it were true that all attempts to contact his client proved futile, the least respondent could have done
was to inform the CA by filing a Notice of Withdrawal of Appearance as counsel. He could have thus
explained why he was no longer the counsel of complainant and her husband in the case and informed
the court that he could no longer contact them.[28] His failure to take this measure proves his negligence.

Lastly, the failure of respondent to file the proper pleading and a comment on Duigans Motion to Dismiss
is negligence on his part. Under 18.03 of the Code, a lawyer is liable for negligence in handling the clients
case, viz:

Rule 18.03 - A lawyer shall not neglect a legal matter entrusted to him, and his negligence
in connection therewith shall render him liable.

Lawyers should not neglect legal matters entrusted to them, otherwise their negligence in fulfilling their
duty would render them liable for disciplinary action.[29]

Respondent has failed to live up to his duties as a lawyer. When a lawyer violates his duties to his client,
he engages in unethical and unprofessional conduct for which he should be held accountable.[30]

WHEREFORE, respondent Atty. Venancio Padilla is found guilty of violating Rules 18.02, 18.03, 18.04, as
well as Canon 5 of the Code of Professional Responsibility. Hence, he is SUSPENDED from the practice of
law for SIX (6) MONTHS and STERNLY WARNED that a repetition of the same or a similar offense will be
dealt with more severely.

Let copies of this Resolution be entered into the personal records of respondent as a member of the bar
and furnished to the Bar Confidant, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, and the Court Administrator for
circulation to all courts of the country for their information and guidance.
No costs.

SO ORDERED.

MARIA LOURDES P. A. SERENO
Associate Justice

WE CONCUR:

ANTONIO T. CARPIO
Associate Justice
Chairperson

ARTURO D. BRION
Associate Justice

JOSE PORTUGAL PEREZ
Associate Justice

BIENVENIDO L. REYES
Associate Justice

[1]
Rollo, Vol. I, pp. 14-24.
[2]
Id. at 43-44.
[3]
Id. at 1.
[4]
Id.
[5]
Id. at 1-2.
[6]
Id. at 45.
[7]
Id. at 52-56.
[8]
Id at 53.
[9]
Id at 54.
[10]
Id.
[11]
Id.
[12]
Id.
[13]
Rollo, Vol. II, pp. 2-15.
[14]
Id. at 16-20.
[15]
Rollo, Vol. II (page not indicated).
[16]
Id. at.
[17]
See rollo, Vol. I, p. 39.
[18]
Id. at 25.
[19]
Rollo, Vol. II, p. 18.
[20]
Id at 19.
[21]
Rollo, Vol. I, pp. 76-77.
[22]
Rollo, Vol. II, p. 18.
[23]
Fernandez v. Atty. Cabrera, 463 Phil. 352 (2003).
[24]
CODE OF PROFESSIONAL RESPONSIBILITY, Canon 18.
[25]
Rollo, Vol. II, pp. 9-10
[26]
A.C. No. 6854, 27 April 2007, 522 SCRA 244, 255 citing Santiago v. Rafanan, A.C. No. 6252, 483 Phil. 94,
105(2004).
[27]
Rollo, Vol. II, p. 18.
[28]
Sec. 26. Change of attorneys. - An attorney may retire at any time from any action or special
proceeding, by the written consent of his client filed in court. He may also retire at any time from an action
or special proceeding, without the consent of his client, should the court, on notice to the client and
attorney, and on hearing, determine that he ought to be allowed to retire. In case of substitution, the
name of the attorney newly employed shall be entered on the docket of the court in place of the former
one, and written notice of the change shall be given to the adverse party. (Rules of Court, Rule 138, Sec.
26)
[29]
Perea v. Atty. Almadro, 447 Phil. 434 (2003).
[30]
Fernandez, supra note 23.
EN BANC

QUERY OF ATTY. KAREN M. SILVERIO-BUFFE, A.M. No. 08-6-352-RTC
FORMER Clerk of Court BRANCH 81, ROMBLON,
ROMBLON ON THE PROHIBITION FROM
Present:
ENGAGING IN THE PRIVATE PRACTICE OF LAW.
PUNO, C.J.,
*
QUISUMBING,
*
YNARES-SANTIAGO,

CARPIO,

CORONA,

CARPIO MORALES,

CHICO-NAZARIO,

VELASCO, JR.,

NACHURA,

LEONARDO-DE CASTRO,

BRION,

PERALTA,

BERSAMIN,

DEL CASTILLO, and

ABAD, JJ.

Promulgated:

August 19, 2009

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

DECISION

BRION, J.:

This administrative matter started as a letter-query dated March 4, 2008 of Atty. Karen M.
Silverio-Buffe (Atty. Buffe) addressed to the Office of the Court Administrator, which query the latter
referred to the Court for consideration. In the course of its action on the matter, the Court discovered
that the query was beyond pure policy interpretation and referred to the actual situation of Atty. Buffe,
and, hence, was a matter that required concrete action on the factual situation presented.
The query, as originally framed, related to Section 7(b)(2) of Republic Act (R.A.) No. 6713, as
amended (or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees). This provision
places a limitation on public officials and employees during their incumbency, and those
already separated from government employmentfor a period of one (1) year after separation, in
engaging in the private practice of their profession. Section 7(b)(2) of R.A. No. 6713 provides:

SECTION 7. Prohibited Acts and Transactions. In addition to acts and omissions
of public officials and employees now prescribed in the Constitution and existing laws,
the following shall constitute prohibited acts and transactions of any public official and
employee and are hereby declared to be unlawful:

xxx

(b) Outside employment and other activities related thereto. Public officials and
employees during their incumbency shall not:

xxx

(2) Engage in the private practice of their profession unless authorized by the
Constitution or law, provided, that such practice will not conflict or tend to conflict with
their official functions; or

xxx

These prohibitions shall continue to apply for a period of one (1) year after
resignation, retirement, or separation from public office, except in the case of
subparagraph (b) (2) above, but the professional concerned cannot practice his profession
in connection with any matter before the office he used to be with, in which case the one-
year prohibition shall likewise apply.

In her letter-query, Atty. Buffe posed these questions: Why may an incumbent engage in private
practice under (b)(2), assuming the same does not conflict or tend to conflict with his official duties, but a
non-incumbent like myself cannot, as is apparently prohibited by the last paragraph of Sec. 7? Why is the
former allowed, who is still occupying the very public position that he is liable to exploit, but a non-
incumbent like myself who is no longer in a position of possible abuse/exploitation cannot?[1]

The query arose because Atty. Buffe previously worked as Clerk of Court VI of the Regional Trial
Court (RTC), Branch 81 of Romblon; she resigned from her position effective February 1, 2008. Thereafter
(and within the one-year period of prohibition mentioned in the above-quoted provision), she engaged in
the private practice of law by appearing as private counsel in several cases before RTC-Branch 81 of
Romblon.

Atty. Buffe alleged that Section 7(b)(2) of R.A. No. 6713 gives preferential treatment to an incumbent
public employee, who may engage in the private practice of his profession so long as this practice does
not conflict or tend to conflict with his official functions. In contrast, a public official or employee who has
retired, resigned, or has been separated from government service like her, is prohibited from engaging in
private practice on any matter before the office where she used to work, for a period of one (1) year from
the date of her separation from government employment.

Atty. Buffe further alleged that the intention of the above prohibition is to remove the exercise of
clout, influence or privity to insider information, which the incumbent public employee may use in the
private practice of his profession. However, this situation did not obtain in her case, since she had already
resigned as Clerk of Court of RTC-Branch 18 of Romblon. She advanced the view that she could engage in
the private practice of law before RTC-Branch 81 of Romblon, so long as her appearance as legal counsel
shall not conflict or tend to conflict with her former duties as former Clerk of Court of that Branch.

Then Deputy Court Administrator (now Court Administrator) Jose P. Perez made the following
observations when the matter was referred to him:
The general intent of the law, as defined in its title is to uphold the time-honored
principle of public office being a public trust. Section 4 thereof provides for the norms of
conduct of public officials and employees, among others: (a) commitment to public
interest; (b) professionalism; and (c) justness and sincerity. Of particular significance is
the statement under professionalism that [t]hey [public officials and employees] shall
endeavor to discourage wrong perceptions of their roles as dispensers or peddlers of
undue patronage.

Thus, it may be well to say that the prohibition was intended to avoid any
impropriety or the appearance of impropriety which may occur in any transaction
between the retired government employee and his former colleagues, subordinates or
superiors brought about by familiarity, moral ascendancy or undue influence, as the case
may be.[2]

Subsequently, in a Minute Resolution dated July 15, 2008, we resolved to refer this case to the
Office of the Chief Attorney (OCAT) for evaluation, report and recommendation.[3] The OCAT took the view
that:

The premise of the query is erroneous. She interprets Section 7 (b) (2) as a blanket
authority for an incumbent clerk of court to practice law. Clearly, there is a misreading of
that provision of law.[4]

and further observed:

The confusion apparently lies in the use of the term such practice after the phrase
provided that. It may indeed be misinterpreted as modifying the phrase engage in the
private practice of their profession should be prefatory sentence that public officials
during their incumbency shall not be disregarded. However, read in its entirety, such
practice may only refer to practice authorized by the Constitution or law or the exception
to the prohibition against the practice of profession. The term law was intended by the
legislature to include a memorandum or a circular or an administrative order issued
pursuant to the authority of law.

xxx

The interpretation that Section 7 (b) (2) generally prohibits incumbent public
officials and employees from engaging in the practice of law, which is declared therein a
prohibited and unlawful act, accords with the constitutional policy on accountability of
public officers stated in Article XI of the Constitution

xxx

The policy thus requires public officials and employees to devote full time public service
so that in case of conflict between personal and public interest, the latter should take
precedence over the former.[5][Footnotes omitted]

With respect to lawyers in the judiciary, the OCAT pointed to Section 5, Canon 3 of the Code of Conduct
for Court Personnel the rule that deals with outside employment by an incumbent judicial employee and
which limits such outside employment to one that does not require the practice of law.[6] The prohibition
to practice law with respect to any matter where they have intervened while in the government service
is reiterated in Rule 6.03, Canon 6 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, which governs the conduct
of lawyers in the government service.[7]

In view of the OCAT findings and recommendations, we issued an En Banc Resolution
dated November 11, 2008 directing the Court Administrator to draft and submit to the Court a circular on
the practice of profession during employment and within one year from resignation, retirement from or
cessation of employment in the Judiciary. We likewise required the Executive Judge of the RTC of Romblon
to (i) verify if Atty. Buffe had appeared as counsel during her incumbency as clerk of court and after her
resignation in February 2008, and (ii) submit to the Court a report on his verification.[8]

In compliance with this our Resolution, Executive Judge Ramiro R. Geronimo of RTC-Branch 81 of
Romblon reported the following appearances made by Atty. Buffe:
(1) Civil Case No. V-1564, entitled Oscar Madrigal Moreno, Jr. et al. versus
Leonardo M. Macalam, et al. on February 19, 2008, March 4, 2008, April 10, 2008 and July
9, 2008 as counsel for the plaintiffs;

(2) Civil Case No. V-1620, entitled Melchor M. Manal versus Zosimo Malasa, et al.,
on (sic) February, 2008, as counsel for the plaintiff;
(3) Civil Case No. V-1396, entitled Solomon Y. Mayor versus Jose J. Mayor,
on February 21, 2008, as counsel for the plaintiff; and

(4) Civil Case No. V-1639, entitled Philippine National Bank versus Sps. Mariano
and Olivia Silverio, on April 11, 2008 and July 9, 2008, as counsel for the defendants.

Atty. Buffe herself was furnished a copy of our November 11, 2008 En Banc Resolution and she filed a
Manifestation (received by the Court on February 2, 2009) acknowledging receipt of our November 11,
2008 Resolution. She likewise stated that her appearances are part of Branch 81 records. As well, she
informed the Court that she had previously taken the following judicial remedies in regard to the above
query:
1. SCA No. 089119028 (Annex C), filed with Branch 54 of the RTC Manila,
which had been dismissed without prejudice on July 23, 2008 (Annex D) a recourse
taken when undersigned was still a private practitioner;

2. SCA No. 08120423 (Annex A), filed with Branch 17 of the RTC of
Manila, which had been also dismissed (with or without prejudice) on December 4, 2008
(Annex B) a recourse taken when undersigned was already a public prosecutor appearing
before the same Branch 81, after she took her oath of office as such on August 15,
2008.[Emphasis supplied

She also made known her intent to elevate the dismissal of the above cases so that eventually, the
Honorable Supreme Court may put to rest the legal issue/s presented in the above petitions which is, why
is it that R.A. No. 6713, Sec. 7 (b)(2) and last par. thereof, apparently contains an express prohibition (valid
or invalid) on the private practice of undersigneds law profession, before Branch 81, while on the other
hand not containing a similar, express prohibition in regard to undersigneds practice of profession, before
the same court, as a public prosecutor within the supposedly restricted 1-year period?

OUR ACTION AND RULING

Preliminary Considerations

As we stated at the outset, this administrative matter confronts us, not merely with the task of
determining how the Court will respond to the query, both with respect to the substance and form (as
the Court does not give interpretative opinions[9] but can issue circulars and regulations relating to
pleading, practice and procedure in all courts[10] and in the exercise of its administrative supervision over
all courts and personnel thereof[11]), but also with the task of responding to admitted violations of Section
7 (b)(2) of R.A. No. 6713 and to multiple recourses on the same subject.
After our directive to the Office of the Court Administrator to issue a circular on the subject of the
query for the guidance of all personnel in the Judiciary, we consider this aspect of the present
administrative matter a finished task, subject only to confirmatory closure when the OCA reports the
completion of the undertaking to us.

Atty. Buffes admitted appearance, before the very same branch she served and immediately after
her resignation, is a violation that we cannot close our eyes to and that she cannot run away from under
the cover of the letter-query she filed and her petition for declaratory relief, whose dismissal she
manifested she would pursue up to our level. We note that at the time she filed her letter-query
(on March 4, 2008), Atty. Buffe had already appeared before Branch 81 in at least three (3) cases. The
terms of Section 7 (b)(2) of R.A. No. 6713 did not deter her in any way and her misgivings about the
fairness of the law cannot excuse any resulting violation she committed. In other words, she took the risk
of appearing before her own Branch and should suffer the consequences of the risk she took.

Nor can she hide behind the two declaratory relief petitions she filed, both of which were
dismissed, and her intent to elevate the dismissal to this Court for resolution. The first, filed before the
RTC, Branch 54, Manila, was dismissed on July 23, 2008 because the court declined to exercise the power
to declare rights as prayed for in the petition, as any decision that may be rendered will be inutile and will
not generally terminate the uncertainty or controversy.[12] The second, filed with the RTC, Branch
17, Manila, was dismissed for being an inappropriate remedy after the dismissal ordered by the RTC,
Branch 54, Manila, on December 4, 2008.[13] Under these circumstances, we see nothing to deter us from
ruling on Atty. Buffes actions, as no actual court case other than the present administrative case, is now
actually pending on the issue she raised. On the contrary, we see from Atty. Buffes recourse to this Court
and the filing of the two declaratory petitions the intent to shop for a favorable answer to her query. We
shall duly consider this circumstance in our action on the case.

A last matter to consider before we proceed to the merits of Atty. Buffes actions relates to
possible objections on procedural due process grounds, as we have not made any formal directive to Atty.
Buffe to explain why she should not be penalized for her appearance before Branch 81 soon after her
resignation from that Branch. The essence of due process is the grant of the opportunity to be heard;
what it abhors is the lack of the opportunity to be heard.[14] The records of this case show that Atty. Buffe
has been amply heard with respect to her actions. She was notified, and she even responded to
our November 11, 2008 directive for the Executive Judge of the RTC of Romblon to report on Atty. Buffes
appearances before Branch 81; she expressly manifested that these appearances were part of the Branch
records. Her legal positions on these appearances have also been expressed before this Court; first, in her
original letter-query, and subsequently, in her Manifestation. Thus, no due process consideration needs
to deter us from considering the legal consequences of her appearances in her previous Branch within a
year from her resignation.

The Governing Law: Section 7 of R.A. No. 6713

Section 7 of R.A. No. 6713 generally provides for the prohibited acts and transactions of public
officials and employees. Subsection (b)(2) prohibits them from engaging in the private practice of their
profession during their incumbency. As an exception, a public official or employee can engage in the
practice of his or her profession under the following conditions: first, the private practice is authorized by
the Constitution or by the law; and second, the practice will not conflict, or tend to conflict, with his or
her official functions.

The Section 7 prohibitions continue to apply for a period of one year after the public official or
employees resignation, retirement, or separation from public office, except for the private practice of
profession under subsection (b)(2), which can already be undertaken even within the one-year prohibition
period. As an exception to this exception, the one-year prohibited period applies with respect to any
matter before the office the public officer or employee used to work with.

The Section 7 prohibitions are predicated on the principle that public office is a public trust; and
serve to remove any impropriety, real or imagined, which may occur in government transactions between
a former government official or employee and his or her former colleagues, subordinates or superiors.
The prohibitions also promote the observance and the efficient use of every moment of the prescribed
office hours to serve the public.[15]

Parenthetically, in the case of court employees, Section 7(b)(2) of R.A. No. 6713 is not the only
prohibition to contend with; Section 5, Canon 3 of the Code of Conduct for Court Personnel also
applies. The latter provision provides the definitive rule on the outside employment that an incumbent
court official or court employee may undertake in addition to his official duties:
Outside employment may be allowed by the head of office provided it complies
with all of the following requirements:
(a) The outside employment is not with a person or entity that practices law
before the courts or conducts business with the Judiciary;
(b) The outside employment can be performed outside of normal working hours
and is not incompatible with the performance of the court personnels duties
and responsibilities;
(c) That outside employment does not require the practice of law; Provided,
however, that court personnel may render services as professor, lecturer, or
resource person in law schools, review or continuing education centers or
similar institutions;
(d) The outside employment does not require or induce the court personnel to
disclose confidential information acquired while performing officials duties;
(e) The outside employment shall not be with the legislative or executive branch
of government, unless specifically authorized by the Supreme Court.

Where a conflict of interest exists, may reasonably appear to exist, or where the
outside employment reflects adversely on the integrity of the Judiciary, the court
personnel shall not accept outside employment. [Emphasis supplied]

In both the above discussed aspect of R.A. No. 6713 and the quoted Canon 3, the practice of law
is covered; the practice of law is a practice of profession, while Canon 3 specifically mentions any outside
employment requiring the practice of law. In Cayetano v. Monsod,[16] we defined the practice of law as
any activity, in and out of court, that requires the application of law, legal procedure, knowledge, training
and experience. Moreover, we ruled that to engage in the practice of law is to perform those acts which
are characteristics of the profession; to practice law is to give notice or render any kind of service, which
device or service requires the use in any degree of legal knowledge or skill.[17] Under both provisions, a
common objective is to avoid any conflict of interest on the part of the employee who may wittingly or
unwittingly use confidential information acquired from his employment, or use his or her familiarity with
court personnel still with the previous office.
After separation from the service, Section 5, Canon 3 of the Code of Conduct for Court Personnel
ceases to apply as it applies specifically to incumbents, but Section 7 and its subsection (b)(2) of R.A. No.
6713 continue to apply to the extent discussed above. Atty. Buffes situation falls under Section 7.

Atty. Buffes Situation

A distinctive feature of this administrative matter is Atty. Buffes admission that she immediately
engaged in private practice of law within the one-year period of prohibition stated in Section 7(b)(2) of
R.A. No. 6713. We find it noteworthy, too, that she is aware of this provision and only objects to its
application to her situation; she perceives it to be unfair that she cannot practice before her old office
Branch 81 for a year immediately after resignation, as she believes that her only limitation is in matters
where a conflict of interest exists between her appearance as counsel and her former duties as Clerk of
Court. She believes that Section 7 (b)(2) gives preferential treatment to incumbent public officials and
employees as against those already separated from government employment.

Atty. Buffe apparently misreads the law. As the OCAT aptly stated, she interprets Section 7 (b)(2)
as a blanket authority for an incumbent clerk of court to practice law. We reiterate what we have
explained above, that the general rule under Section 7 (b)(2) is to bar public officials and employees from
the practice of their professions; it is unlawful under this general rule for clerks of court to practice their
profession. By way of exception, they can practice their profession if the Constitution or the law allows
them, but no conflict of interest must exist between their current duties and the practice of their
profession. As we also mentioned above, no chance exists for lawyers in the Judiciary to practice their
profession, as they are in fact expressly prohibited by Section 5, Canon 3 of the Code of Conduct for Court
Personnel from doing so. Under both the general rule and the exceptions, therefore, Atty. Buffes basic
premise is misplaced.

As we discussed above, a clerk of court can already engage in the practice of law immediately
after her separation from the service and without any period limitation that applies to other prohibitions
under Section 7 of R.A. No. 6713. The clerk of courts limitation is that she cannot practice her profession
within one year before the office where he or she used to work with. In a comparison between a resigned,
retired or separated official or employee, on the one hand, and an incumbent official or employee, on the
other, the former has the advantage because the limitation is only with respect to the office he or she
used to work with and only for a period of one year. The incumbent cannot practice at all, save only where
specifically allowed by the Constitution and the law and only in areas where no conflict of interests
exists. This analysis again disproves Atty. Buffes basic premises.

A worrisome aspect of Atty. Buffes approach to Section 7 (b)(2) is her awareness of the law and
her readiness to risk its violation because of the unfairness she perceives in the law. We find it disturbing
that she first violated the law before making any inquiry. She also justifies her position by referring to the
practice of other government lawyers known to her who, after separation from their judicial employment,
immediately engaged in the private practice of law and appeared as private counsels before the RTC
branches where they were previously employed. Again we find this a cavalier attitude on Atty. Buffes part
and, to our mind, only emphasizes her own willful or intentional disregard of Section 7 (b)(2) of R.A. No.
6713.

By acting in a manner that R.A. No. 6713 brands as unlawful, Atty. Buffe contravened Rule 1.01
of Canon 1 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, which provides:

CANON 1 A LAWYER SHALL UPHOLD THE CONSTITUTION, OBEY THE LAWS OF THE LAND
AND PROMOTE RESPECT FOR LAW AND FOR LEGAL PROCESSES
xxx
Rule 1.01 A lawyer shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct.
As indicated by the use of the mandatory word shall, this provision must be strictly complied with. Atty.
Buffe failed to do this, perhaps not with an evil intent, considering the misgivings she had about Section
7 (b)(2)s unfairness. Unlawful conduct under Rule 1.01 of Canon 1, however, does not necessarily require
the element of criminality, although the Rule is broad enough to include it.[18] Likewise, the presence of
evil intent on the part of the lawyer is not essential to bring his or her act or omission within the terms of
Rule 1.01, when it specifically prohibits lawyers from engaging in unlawful conduct.[19] Thus, we find Atty.
Buffe liable under this quoted Rule.

We also find that Atty. Buffe also failed to live up to her lawyers oath and thereby violated Canon 7 of the
Code of Professional Responsibility when she blatantly and unlawfully practised law within the prohibited
period by appearing before the RTC Branch she had just left. Canon 7 states:
CANON 7. A LAWYER SHALL AT ALL TIMES UPHOLD THE INTEGRITY AND THE DIGNITY OF
THE LEGAL PROFESSION AND SUPPORT THE ACTIVITIES OF THE INTEGRATED BAR.
[Emphasis supplied]

By her open disregard of R.A. No. 6713, she thereby followed the footsteps of the models she
cited and wanted to replicate the former court officials who immediately waded into practice in the very
same court they came from. She, like they, disgraced the dignity of the legal profession by openly
disobeying and disrespecting the law.[20] By her irresponsible conduct, she also eroded public confidence
in the law and in lawyers.[21] Her offense is not in any way mitigated by her transparent attempt to cover
up her transgressions by writing the Court a letter-query, which she followed up with unmeritorious
petitions for declaratory relief, all of them dealing with the same Section 7 (b)(2) issue, in the hope
perhaps that at some point she would find a ruling favorable to her cause. These are acts whose
implications do not promote public confidence in the integrity of the legal profession.[22]

Considering Atty. Buffes ready admission of violating Section 7(b)(2), the principle of res ipsa
loquitur finds application, making her administratively liable for violation of Rule 1.01 of Canon 1 and
Canon 7 of the Code of Professional Responsibility.[23] In several cases, the Court has disciplined lawyers
without further inquiry or resort to any formal investigation where the facts on record sufficiently
provided the basis for the determination of their administrative liability.

In Prudential Bank v. Castro,[24] the Court disbarred a lawyer without need of any further investigation
after considering his actions based on records showing his unethical misconduct; the misconduct not only
cast dishonor on the image of both the Bench and the Bar, but was also inimical to public interest and
welfare. In this regard, the Court took judicial notice of several cases handled by the errant lawyer and his
cohorts that revealed their modus operandi in circumventing the payment of the proper judicial fees for
the astronomical sums they claimed in their cases.[25] The Court held that those cases sufficiently provided
the basis for the determination of respondents' administrative liability, without need for further inquiry
into the matter under the principle of res ipsa loquitur.[26]

Also on the basis of this principle, we ruled in Richards v. Asoy,[27] that no evidentiary hearing is
required before the respondent may be disciplined for professional misconduct already established by
the facts on record.

We applied the principle of res ipsa loquitur once more in In re: Wenceslao Laureta[28] where we
punished a lawyer for grave professional misconduct solely based on his answer to a show-cause order
for contempt and without going into a trial-type hearing. We ruled then that due process is satisfied as
long as the opportunity to be heard is given to the person to be disciplined.[29]

Likewise in Zaldivar v. Gonzales,[30] the respondent was disciplined and punished for contempt for his slurs
regarding the Courts alleged partiality, incompetence and lack of integrity on the basis of his answer in a
show-cause order for contempt. The Court took note that the respondent did not deny making the
negative imputations against the Court through the media and even acknowledged the correctness of his
degrading statements. Through a per curiam decision, we justified imposing upon him the penalty of
suspension in the following tenor:
The power to punish for contempt of court does not exhaust the scope of disciplinary
authority of the Court over lawyers. The disciplinary authority of the Court over members
of the Bar is but corollary to the Court's exclusive power of admission to the Bar. A lawyer
is not merely a professional but also an officer of the court and as such, he is called upon
to share in the task and responsibility of dispensing justice and resolving disputes in
society. Any act on his part which visibly tends to obstruct, pervert, or impede and
degrade the administration of justice constitutes both professional misconduct calling for
the exercise of disciplinary action against him, and contumacious conduct warranting
application of the contempt power.[31]

These cases clearly show that the absence of any formal charge against and/or formal investigation of an
errant lawyer do not preclude the Court from immediately exercising its disciplining authority, as long as
the errant lawyer or judge has been given the opportunity to be heard. As we stated earlier, Atty. Buffe
has been afforded the opportunity to be heard on the present matter through her letter-query and
Manifestation filed before this Court.

A member of the bar may be penalized, even disbarred or suspended from his office as an
attorney, for violation of the lawyers oath and/or for breach of the ethics of the legal profession as
embodied in the Code of Professional Responsibility.[32] The appropriate penalty on an errant lawyer
depends on the exercise of sound judicial discretion based on the surrounding facts.[33]
In this case, we cannot discern any mitigating factors we can apply, save OCATs observation that
Atty Buffes letter-query may really reflect a misapprehension of the parameters of the prohibition on the
practice of the law profession under Section 7 (b) (2) of R.A. No. 6713. Ignorance of the law, however, is
no excuse, particularly on a matter as sensitive as practice of the legal profession soon after ones
separation from the service. If Atty. Buffe is correct in the examples she cited, it is time to ring the bell
and to blow the whistle signaling that we cannot allow this practice to continue.

As we observed earlier,[34] Atty. Buffe had no qualms about the simultaneous use of various fora
in expressing her misgivings about the perceived unfairness of Section 7 of R.A. 6713. She formally lodged
a query with the Office of the Court Administrator, and soon after filed her successive petitions for
declaratory relief. Effectively, she exposed these fora to the possibility of embarrassment and confusion
through their possibly differing views on the issue she posed. Although this is not strictly the forum-
shopping that the Rules of Court prohibit, what she has done is something that we cannot help but
consider with disfavor because of the potential damage and embarrassment to the Judiciary that it could
have spawned. This is a point against Atty. Buffe that cancels out the leniency we might have exercised
because of the OCATs observation about her ignorance of and misgivings on the extent of the prohibition
after separation from the service.

Under the circumstances, we find that her actions merit a penalty of fine of P10,000.00, together
with a stern warning to deter her from repeating her transgression and committing other acts of
professional misconduct.[35] This penalty reflects as well the Courts sentiments on how seriously the
retired, resigned or separated officers and employees of the Judiciary should regard and observe the
prohibition against the practice of law with the office that they used to work with.

WHEREFORE, premises considered, we find Atty. Karen M. Silverio-Buffe GUILTY of professional
misconduct for violating Rule 1.01 of Canon 1 and Canon 7 of the Code of Professional Responsibility. She
is hereby FINED in the amount of Ten Thousand Pesos (P10,000.00), and STERNLY WARNED that a
repetition of this violation and the commission of other acts of professional misconduct shall be dealt with
more severely.

Let this Decision be noted in Atty. Buffes record as a member of the Bar.
SO ORDERED.

ARTURO D. BRION

Associate Justice

WE CONCUR:

REYNATO S. PUNO

Chief Justice

(On official leave) (On official leave)

LEONARDO A. QUISUMBING CONSUELO YNARES-SANTIAGO

Associate Justice Associate Justice

ANTONIO T. CARPIO RENATO C. CORONA

Associate Justice Associate Justice

CONCHITA CARPIO MORALES MINITA V. CHICO-NAZARIO

Associate Justice Associate Justice

PRESBITERO J. VELASCO, JR. ANTONIO EDUARDO B. NACHURA

Associate Justice Associate Justice

TERESITA J. LEONARDO-DE CASTRO DIOSDADO M. PERALTA

Associate Justice Associate Justice

LUCAS P. BERSAMIN MARIANO C. DEL CASTILLO

Associate Justice Associate Justice

ROBERTO A. ABAD

Associate Justice
*
On official leave.
*
On official leave.
[1]
Rollo, p. 2.
[2]
Id., p. 3.
[3]
Id., p. 8.
[4]
Id., p. 12.
[5]
Id., pp. 12-13.
[6]
The last paragraph of Section 5 states: Where a conflict if interest exists, may reasonably appear to
exist, or where the outside employment reflects adversely on the integrity of the Judiciary, the court
personnel shall not accept the outside employment; see rollo, p. 16.
[7]
Rule 6.03 A lawyer shall not, after leaving government service, accept engagement or employment in
connection with any matter in which he had intervened while in said service.
[8]
Rollo, p. 23.
[9]
Province of North Cotabato, etc. v. The Government of the Republic of the Philippines Peace Panel on
Ancestral Domain (GRP), G.R. No. 183591, October 14, 2008.
[10]
CONSTITUTION, Article VIII, Section 5(b).
[11]
Id., Section 6.
[12]
Rollo, pp. 57-58; attachment D to Atty. Buffes Manifestation of February 2, 2009.
[13]
Id., p. 59; attachment B to Atty Buffes Manifestation of February 2, 2009.
[14]
Prudential Bank v. Castro, A.C. No. 2756, November 12, 1987, 155 SCRA 604; Richards v. Asoy, A. C. No.
2655 , July 9, 1987, 152 SCRA 45; In re: Wenceslao Laureta, G.R. No. L-68635, May 14, 1987, 149 SCRA
570; Zaldivar v. Gonzales, G.R. No. L-80578 , October 7, 1988, 166 SCRA 316.
[15]
Aquino-Simbulan v. Zabat, A.M. No. P-05-1993, April 26, 2005, 457 SCRA 23.
[16]
G.R. No. 100113, September 3, 1991, 201 SCRA 210.
[17]
Ibid.
[18]
Re: Report on the Financial Audit Conducted on the Books of Accounts of Atty. Raquel G. Kho, Clerk of
Court IV, Regional Trial Court, Oras, Easter Samar, A.M. No. P-06-2177, April 19, 2007, 521 SCRA 22.
[19]
Id., p. 29.
[20]
Catu v. Rellosa,, A .C. No. 5738, February 19, 2008, 546 SCRA 209
[21]
Id., pp. 202-221.
[22]
Id., p. 221.
[23]
Agpalo, Comments on the Code of Professional Responsibility and Code of Judicial Conduct (2004
edition), pp. 457-458; and Pineda, Legal and Judicial Ethics (1999 edition), pp. 338-339.
[24]
Supra note 14.
[25]
Id., p. 622.
[26]
Id., p. 623.
[27]
Supra note 14.
[28]
Supra note 14.
[29]
Ibid.
[30]
Supra note 14.
[31]
Id., pp. 331-332.
[32]
Catu v. Rellosa, supra note 20, p. 221.
[33]
Lim-Santiago v. Saguico, A.C. No. 6705, March 31, 2006, 486 SCRA 10.
[34]
See 2nd paragraph of page 8 of this Decision.
[35]
Agpalo, Comments on the Code of Professional Responsibility and the Code of Judicial
Conduct, supra note 23, p. 408; Section 12 (c), Rule 139 of the Rules of Court in connection with
Section 15 of the same Rule; and Visbal v. Buban, G.R. No. MTJ-02-1432, September 3, 2004, 437 SCRA
520.
Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila

SECOND DIVISION

SPS. AMADOR and ROSITA A.C. No. 7434
TEJADA,
Petitioners, Present:
QUISUMBING, J., Chairperson,
CARPIO,
CARPIO MORALES,
- versus - TINGA, and
VELASCO, JR., JJ.
Promulgated:
ATTY. ANTONIUTTI K. PALAA,
Respondent. August 23, 2007
x-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------x

DECISION

VELASCO, JR., J.:

Petitioners-spouses Rosita and Amador Tejada filed a Complaint Affidavit before the Integrated Bar of the
Philippines (IBP) to initiate disbarment proceedings against respondent Atty. Antoniutti K. Palaa for his
continued refusal to settle his long overdue loan obligation to the complainants, in violation of his sworn
duty as a lawyer to do justice to every man and Rule 7.03 of Canon 7 of the Code of Professional
Responsibility.

More specifically, the complaint alleges that:

3. Sometime on January, 2001, respondent lawyer Antoniutti K. Palana taking advantage
of his special knowledge as a lawyer represented to the petitioners that he has an alleged
parcel of land covered by Transfer Certificate of Title No. (73196) 16789 and that he needs
an amount of One Hundred Thousand Pesos (P100,000.00) so that he could reconstitute
the torrens title on the same;

4. Respondent then induced by sweet promises and assurances petitioners spouses to
finance such undertaking with a solemn commitment on his part that after he has already
reconstituted such torrens title, he will deliver the same to the petitioners spouses as
security for the amount they had financed;
Thereafter, petitioner spouses shall earn an amount of P70,000.00 from the P100,000.00
they had financed or all and [sic] all, respondent lawyer shall pay petitioner spouses a
total amount of P170,000.00;

5. The agreement between the petitioner spouses and respondent lawyer, Antoniutti K.
Palana in this regard is being partly evidenced by their written agreement thereon dated
January 12, 2001, a xerox copy of which is hereto attached as Annex A. Likewise, the
receipt by the respondent of the P100,000.00 is being evidenced in the bottom part of
page 1 of the agreement;

6. Under the clear terms of their agreement, respondent lawyer Antoniutti K. Palana
solemnly assured petitioner spouses that he will reconstitute, deliver the reconstituted
title and give the P170,000.00 to the petitioners spouses all within a period of three
months reckoned from their execution of their written agreement dated January 12,
2001;

7. However, after respondent lawyer, Antoniutti K. Palana had gotten the P100,000.00
amount from the petitioner spouses, respondent from that time on up to the present had
intentionally evaded the performance of his due, just, legal and demandable obligations
to petitioner spouses.

It turned out that all his assurances that he had a torrens title, he will reconstitute the
same and deliver an amount of P170,000.00 to petitioner spouses were all fraudulent
representations on his part or else were only fictitious in character to defraud petitioner
spouses of their hard owned monies;

xxxx

9. Legal demands had already been made to respondent lawyer to fulfill all his moral and
legal responsibilities to petitioner spouses but all of said demands simply went unheeded.
A xerox copy of the two legal demand letters to respondent lawyer in this regard is hereto
attached as Annex B and C.[1]

Despite due notice, respondent failed to file his answer to the complaint as required by the Commission
on Bar Discipline of the IBP. Respondent likewise failed to appear on the scheduled date of the mandatory
conference despite due notice.

Thus, on March 10, 2005, the IBP declared respondent to have waived his right to submit evidence and to
participate further in the proceedings of the case.

After a careful consideration of the pleadings and evidence submitted by the complainants ex parte,
Investigating Commissioner Elpidio G. Soriano III submitted his February 1, 2006 Report to the IBP Board
of Governors, recommending respondent's suspension from the practice of law for three (3) months.
Based on said Report, petitioners were able to satisfactorily prove the following: that Rosita Tejada and
respondent and his companion executed a written agreement (Annex A); that respondent received the
amount of one hundred thousand pesos (PhP 100,000) from Rosita Tejada pursuant to said agreement;
and that petitioners sent a demand letter to respondent (Annex C), but, until now, respondent has failed
to settle his obligation. Petitioners, however, failed to present evidence to show that respondent
fraudulently represented himself to be the owner of the aforesaid lot. Noting respondents indifference to
the proceedings of the case, the Investigating Commissioner cited Ngayan v. Tugade,[2] where the
Supreme Court considered respondents failure to answer the complaint and his failure to appear in four
hearings below as evidence of his flouting resistance to a lawful order of the court, and illustrate his
despiciency to his oath of office in violation of Section 3, Rule 138 of the Rules of Court.

Thus, for respondents misconduct, the Investigating Commissioner recommended respondents
suspension for a period of three (3) months, guided by Supreme Court rulings in analogous cases,
viz: Sanchez v. Somoso,[3] where the lawyer was suspended for six (6) months for having issued personal
checks from a closed bank account and subsequently refused to pay for his medical expenses despite
demand after the checks were dishonored; Constantino v. Saludares,[4] where the lawyer was suspended
for three (3) months for his unwarranted refusal to pay a personal loan despite demand; and Lizaso v.
Amante,[5] where the lawyer was suspended indefinitely for his failure to return and account for the
money delivered to him for investment purposes.[6]

In its November 18, 2006 Resolution, the IBP Board of Governors adopted and approved said report and
recommendation of the Investigating Commissioner, considering Respondent's continued refusal to
settle his obligation to the complainants and for his failure to participate in the proceedings before the
Commission of Bar Discipline.[7]

After a review of the records and especially sans the submittal of any response or evidence from
respondent, we find no reason to disturb the findings of Commissioner Soriano.

Respondent, like all other members of the bar, is expected to always live up to the standards embodied
in the Code of Professional Responsibility, particularly the following Canons, viz:

CANON 1 A lawyer shall uphold the constitution, obey the laws of the land and promote
respect for law and for legal processes.

Rule 1.01 A lawyer shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct.
Rule 1.02 A lawyer shall not counsel or abet activities aimed at defiance of the law or at
lessening confidence in the legal system.

CANON 7 A lawyer shall at all times uphold the integrity and dignity of the legal profession,
and support the activities of the Integrated Bar.

Rule 7.03 A lawyer shall not engage in conduct that adversely reflects on his fitness to
practice law, nor should he, whether in public or private life, behave in a scandalous
manner to the discredit of the legal profession.

Membership in the bar is a privilege burdened with conditions. A high sense of morality, honesty, and fair
dealing is expected and required of a member of the bar. Rule 1.01 of the Code of Professional
Responsibility provides that a lawyer shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful
conduct. The nature of the office of a lawyer requires that s/he shall be of good moral character. This
qualification is not only a condition precedent to the admission to the legal profession, but its continued
possession is essential to maintain ones good standing in the profession.[8]

Indeed, the strength of the legal profession lies in the dignity and integrity of its members. As previously
explained in Sipin-Nabor v. Baterina:

A lawyer shall at all times uphold the integrity and dignity of the legal profession. The
trust and confidence necessarily reposed by clients requires in the attorney a high
standard and appreciation of his duty to his clients, his profession, the courts and the
public. The bar must maintain a high standard of legal proficiency as well as of honesty
and fair dealing. Generally speaking, a lawyer can do honor to the legal profession by
faithfully performing his duties to society, to the bar, to the courts and to his clients. To
this end, members of the legal fraternity can do nothing that might tend to lessen in any
degree the confidence of the public in the fidelity, honesty and integrity of the
profession.[9]

In the instant case, respondents unjustified withholding of petitioners money years after it became due
and demandable demonstrates his lack of integrity and fairness, and this is further highlighted by his lack
of regard for the charges brought against him. Instead of meeting the charges head on, respondent did
not bother to file an answer nor did he participate in the proceedings to offer a valid explanation for his
conduct.
The Court has emphatically stated that when the integrity of a member of the bar is challenged, it is not
enough that s/he denies the charges against him; s/he must meet the issue and overcome the evidence
against him/her. S/he must show proof that s/he still maintains that degree of morality and integrity which
at all times is expected of him/her.[10]

Finally, respondents acts, which violated the Lawyer's Oath to delay no man for money or malice as well
as the Code of Professional Responsibility, warrant the imposition of disciplinary sanctions against him.

With respect to the recommendation to suspend respondent Palaa for three (3) months, we find that the
sanction is not commensurate to the breach committed and disrespect to the Court exhibited by the erring
member of the bar. We increase the suspension to six (6) months in view of our ruling in Barrientos v.
Libiran-Meteoro.[11]

We find that the complainants could not have been defrauded without the representations of respondent
that he can easily have the torrens title of his lot reconstituted with his special knowledge as a legal
practitioner as long as he is provided PhP 100,000 to finance the reconstitution. Respondent knew that
his representations were false since the filing fee for a petition for reconstitution in 2001 was only PhP
3,145, and other expenses including the publication of the filing of the petition could not have cost more
than PhP 20,000. It is clear that he employed deceit in convincing complainants to part with their hard
earned money and the latter could not have been easily swayed to lend the money were it not for his
misrepresentations and failed promises as a member of the bar. Moreover, when he failed to pay his just
and legal obligation, he disobeyed the provisions of the Civil Code which is one of the substantive laws he
vowed to uphold when he took his oath as a lawyer. Lastly, to aggravate his misconduct, he totally ignored
the directives of the IBP to answer the complaint when he fully knew as a lawyer that the compulsory bar
organization was merely deputized by this Court to undertake the investigation of complaints against
lawyers, among which is the instant complaint. In short, his disobedience to the IBP is in reality a gross
and blatant disrespect to the Court. Lawyers fully know, as respondent is aware or at least is assumed to
know, that lawyers like him cannot disobey the orders and resolutions of the Court. Failing in this duty as
a member of the bar which is being supervised by the Court under the Constitution, we find that a heavier
sanction should fall on respondent.

WHEREFORE, respondent Atty. Antoniutti K. Palaa is hereby SUSPENDED from the practice of law for a
period of six (6) months and is ordered to settle his loan obligation to petitioners-spouses Amador and
Rosita Tejada within two (2) months from the date of this Decisions promulgation.

This Decision is immediately executory.

SO ORDERED.
PRESBITERO J. VELASCO, JR.
Associate Justice

WE CONCUR:

LEONARDO A. QUISUMBING
Associate Justice
Chairperson

ANTONIO T. CARPIO CONCHITA CARPIO MORALES
Associate Justice Associate Justice

DANTE O. TINGA
Associate Justice

[1]
Rollo, pp. 2-3.
[2]
G.R. No. 2490, February 7, 1991, 193 SCRA 779.
[3]
A.C. No. 6061, October 3, 2003, 412 SCRA 569.
[4]
A.C. No. 2029, December 7, 1993, 228 SCRA 233.
[5]
A.C. No. 2019, June 3, 1991, 198 SCRA 1.
[6]
Rollo, pp. 34-37.
[7]
Id. at 27.

[8]
Schulz v. Flores, A.C. No. 4219, December 8, 2003, 417 SCRA 159, 160.
[9]
A.C. No. 4073, June 28, 2001, 360 SCRA 6, 10.
[10]
Reyes v. Gaa, A.M. No. 1048, July 14, 1995, 246 SCRA 64, 67.
[11]
A.C. No. 6408, August 31, 2004, 437 SCRA 209.
SECOND DIVISION

ROSALIE DALLONG-GALICINAO, A.C. No. 6396
Complainant,

Present:

PUNO, J.,
Chairman,
- versus - AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ,
CALLEJO,
TINGA, and
CHICO-NAZARIO, JJ.
ATTY. VIRGIL R. CASTRO,
Respondent, Promulgated:

October 25, 2005

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

RESOLUTION

TINGA, J.:

This administrative case concerns a lawyer who hurled invectives at a Clerk of Court. Members of the bar
decorum must at all times comfort themselves in a manner befitting their noble profession.

Complainant Atty. Rosalie Dallong-Galicinao is the Clerk of Court of the Regional Trial Court (RTC)
of Bambang, Nueva Vizcaya. On 8 May 2003, she filed with the Commission on Bar Discipline (CBD) of the
Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) a Complaint-Affidavit[1] with supporting documents[2] against
respondent Atty. Virgil R. Castro for Unprofessional Conduct, specifically violation of Canon 7, Rule 7.03,
Canon 8 and Rule 8.02 of the Code of Professional Responsibility.[3] The charge in the complaint is summed
up as follows:

Respondent Atty. Castro was a private practitioner and Vice-President of IBP-Nueva Vizcaya Chapter. On
5 May 2003, respondent went to complainants office to inquire whether the complete records of Civil
Case No. 784, entitled Sps. Crispino Castillano v. Sps. Federico S. Castillano and Felicidad Aberin, had
already been remanded to the court of origin, MCTC Dupax del Norte, Alfonso Castaned, Nueva Vizcaya.
It must be noted that respondent was not the counsel of record of either party in Civil Case No. 784.
Complainant informed respondent that the record had not yet been transmitted since a certified
true copy of the decision of the Court of Appeals should first be presented to serve as basis for the
transmittal of the records to the court of origin. To this respondent retorted scornfully, Who will certify
the Court of Appeals Decision, the Court of Appeals? You mean to say, I would still have to go to Manila
to get a certified true copy? Surprised at this outburst, complainant replied, Sir, its in the Rules but you
could show us the copy sent to the party you claim to be representing. Respondent then replied, Then
you should have notified me of the said requirement. That was two weeks ago and I have been frequenting
your office since then, but you never bothered to notify me. Complainant replied, It is not our duty, Sir,
to notify you of the said requirement.

Respondent then answered, You mean to say it is not your duty to remand the record of the case?
Complainant responded, No, Sir, I mean, its not our duty to notify you that you have to submit a copy of
the Court of Appeals decision. Respondent angrily declared in Ilocano, Kayat mo nga saw-en, awan
pakialam yon? Kasdiay? (You mean to say you dont care anymore? Is that the way it is?) He then turned
and left the office, banging the door on his way out to show his anger. The banging of the door was so
loud it was heard by the people at the adjacent RTC, Branch 30 where a hearing was taking place.[4]

After a few minutes, respondent returned to the office, still enraged, and pointed his finger at complainant
and shouted, Ukinnan, no adda ti unget mo iti kilientek haan mo nga ibales kaniak ah! (Vulva of your
mother! If you are harboring ill feelings against my client, dont turn your ire on me!) Complainant was
shocked at respondents words but still managed to reply, I dont even know your client, Sir. Respondent
left the office and as he passed by complainants window, he again shouted, Ukinnam nga babai! (Vulva
of your mother, you woman!)[5]

Complainant suffered acute embarrassment at the incident, as it happened in her office of which she was,
and still is, the head and in front of her staff. She felt that her credibility had been tarnished and
diminished, eliciting doubt on her ability to command full respect from her staff.[6]
The Complaint-Affidavit, filed three days after the incident, was supported by an Affidavit[7] signed by
employees of RTC-Bambang, Nueva Vizcaya who witnessed the incident. The Affidavit narrated the same
incident as witnessed by the said employees. A Motion to File Additional Affidavit/Documentary
Evidence was filed by complainant on 25 September 2003.[8]

On 26 May 2003, the CBD-IBP issued an Order[9] requiring respondent to submit his answer to the
complaint. Respondent submitted his Compliance[10] dated 18 June 2003. Respondent explained that he
was counsel for the plaintiffs in Civil Case No. 847, entitled Sps. Federico Castillano, et al. v. Sps. Crispin
Castillano, et al., filed with the RTC of Nueva Vizcaya, Branch 30. He learned of the finality of the decision
of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. No. 64962 with respect to Civil Case No. 847 before the lower court.
Prior to the incident, he went to the office of the complainant to request for the transmittal of the records
of the case to the MCTC and the complainant reassured him of the same.

Respondent admits having inquired about the status of the transmittal of the records on 5 May
2003. However, he has no explanation as to what transpired on that day. Instead, he narrates that on 25
May 2003, twelve days after the incident, the records had not yet been transmitted, and he subsequently
learned that these records were returned to the court of origin.

The hearing for the administrative complaint before the CBD was set on 25 September 2003 by
the Investigating Commissioner Milagros V. San Juan. However, on said date, only complainant appeared.
The latter also moved that the case be submitted for resolution.[11] Respondent later on filed
a Manifestation stating that the reason for his non-appearance was because he was still recuperating
from physical injuries and that he was not mentally fit to prepare the required pleadings as his vehicle
was rained with bullets on 19 August 2003. He also expressed his public apology to the complainant in the
same Manifestation.[12]

Complainant filed a Manifestation expressing her desire not to appear on the next hearing date
in view of respondents public apology, adding that respondent personally and humbly asked for
forgiveness which she accepted.[13]

The Investigating Commissioner recommended that respondent be reprimanded and warned that
any other complaint for breach of his professional duties shall be dealt with more severely.[14] The IBP
submitted to this Court a Notice of Resolution adopting and approving the recommendation of the
Investigating Commissioner.[15]

At the onset, it should be noted that respondent was not the counsel of record of Civil Case No.
784. Had he been counsel of record, it would have been easy for him to present the required certified
true copy of the decision of the Court of Appeals. He need not have gone to Manila to procure a certified
true copy of the decision since the Court of Appeals furnishes the parties and their counsel of record a
duplicate original or certified true copy of its decision.
His explanation that he will enter his appearance in the case when its records were already
transmitted to the MCTC is unacceptable. Not being the counsel of record and there being no
authorization from either the parties to represent them, respondent had no right to impose his will on
the clerk of court.
Rule 8.02 of the Code of Professional Responsibility states:

Rule 8.02A lawyer shall not, directly or indirectly, encroach upon the professional
employment of another lawyer; however, it is the right of any lawyer, without fear or
favor, to give proper advice and assistance to those seeking relief against unfaithful or
neglectful counsel.

Through his acts of constantly checking the transmittal of the records of Civil Case No. 784,
respondent deliberately encroached upon the legal functions of the counsel of record of that case. It does
not matter whether he did so in good faith.

Moreover, in the course of his questionable activities relating to Civil Case No. 784, respondent
acted rudely towards an officer of the court. He raised his voice at the clerk of court and uttered at her
the most vulgar of invectives. Not only was it ill-mannered but also unbecoming considering that he did
all these to a woman and in front of her subordinates.

As held in Alcantara v. Atty. Pefianco,[16] respondent ought to have realized that this sort of public
behavior can only bring down the legal profession in the public estimation and erode public respect for
it.[17] These acts violate Rule 7.03, Canon 8 and Rule 8.01, to wit:

Rule 7.03 A lawyer shall not engage in conduct that adversely reflect on his fitness
to practice law, now shall he, whether in public or private life behave in scandalous
manner to the discredit of the legal profession.

Canon 8 A lawyer shall conduct himself with courtesy, fairness and candor toward
his professional colleagues, and shall avoid harassing tactics against opposing counsel.

Rule 8.01 A lawyer shall not, in his professional dealings, use language which is
abusive, offensive or otherwise improper.

Moreover, Canon 8 of the Code of Professional Responsibility demands that lawyers conduct
themselves with courtesy, fairness and candor toward their fellow lawyers. Lawyers are duty bound to
uphold the dignity of the legal profession. They must act honorably, fairly and candidly towards each other
and otherwise conduct themselves without reproach at all times.[18]
As correctly evaluated by the Investigating Commissioner, respondent did not categorically deny
the charges in the complaint. Instead, he gave a lengthy narration of the prefatory facts of the case as well
as of the incident on 5 May 2003.
Complainant also alleged in her Complaint-Affidavit that respondents uncharacteristic behavior
was not an isolated incident. He has supposedly done the same to Attys. Abraham Johnny G. Asuncion
and Temmy Lambino, the latter having filed a case against respondent pending before this Court.[19] We,
however, cannot acknowledge such allegation absent any evidence showing the veracity of such claim.
No affidavits to that effect were submitted by either Atty. Asuncion or Atty. Lambino.

Nonetheless, the penalty to be imposed should be tempered owing to the fact that respondent
had apologized to the complainant and the latter had accepted it. This is not to say, however, that
respondent should be absolved from his actuations. People are accountable for the consequences of the
things they say and do even if they repent afterwards. The fact remains that things done cannot be undone
and words uttered cannot be taken back. Hence, he should bear the consequences of his actions.

The highest reward that can be bestowed on lawyers is the esteem of their brethren. This esteem
cannot be purchased, perfunctorily created, or gained by artifice or contrivance. It is born of sharp
contexts and thrives despite conflicting interest. It emanates solely from integrity, character, brains and
skills in the honorable performance of professional duty.[20]
WHEREFORE, premises considered, respondent is hereby FINED in the amount of TEN THOUSAND
(P10,000.00) PESOS with a warning that any similar infraction with be dealt with more severely. Let a copy
of this Decision be furnished the Bar Confidant for appropriate annotation in the record of the
respondent.

SO ORDERED.

DANTE O. TINGA Associate Justice

WE CONCUR:

REYNATO S. PUNO
Associate Justice
Chairman
MA. ALICIA AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ ROMEO J. CALLEJO, SR.
Associate Justice Associate Justice

(On Leave)
MINITA V. CHICO-NAZARIO
Associate Justice

[1]
Rollo, pp. 2-4.

[2]
Id. at 5-9.

[3]
CANON 7 A lawyer shall at all times uphold the integrity and dignity of the legal profession and
support the activities of the integrated bar.
Rule 7.03 A lawyer shall not engage in conduct that adversely reflects on his fitness to practice
law, nor shall he, whether in public or private life, behave in a scandalous manner to the discredit of the
legal profession.
CANON 8 A lawyer shall conduct himself with courtesy, fairness, and candor toward his
professional colleagues, and shall avoid harassing tactics against opposing counsel.
Rule 8.02 A lawyer shall not, directly or indirectly, encroach upon the professional employment
of another lawyer; however, it is the right of any lawyer, without fear or favor, to give proper advice and
assistance to those seeking relief against unfaithful or neglectful counsel.

[4]
Id. at 2 and 5.

[5]
Id. at 3 and 6.

[6]
Id. at 3.

[7]
Id. at 5-6. It is signed by Carmelita E. Caoile, Thelma R. Moya, Nestor L. Rojo, William F. Jandoc
and Jovencio Guyod. The names of Ruben Panganiban and Eliezer Ordonez are affixed on the Affidavit but
do not bear their signatures. An attached Explanation, id. at 7, clarifies that Ruben Panganiban did not
sign the Affidavit as he did not witness the whole incident, having left the office during the height thereof.
Eliezer Ordonez, on the other hand, was able to observe the whole incident but was out of the province
at the time of filing of the complaint and was therefore unable to sign the Affidavit.
[8]
Id at 79-93.

[9]
Id. at 47.

[10]
Id. at 48-53.

[11]
TSN, 25 September 2005, p. 11; Rollo, p. 105. See also Order dated 25 September 2003, Id at
94.

[12]
Id at 107.

[13]
Id at 111.

[14]
The Report and Recommendation was filed with the IBP by the Investigating Commissioner
Milagros V. San Juan. Id at 115-117.

[15]
Id at 114.

[16]
441 Phil. 514 (2002).

[17]
Id. at 520.

[18]
Id. at 519 citing De Ere v. Rubi, 320 SCRA 617 (1999).

[19]
Id at 3.

[20]
Atty. Reyes v. Atty. Chiong, Jr., 453 Phil. 99, 107 (2003) citing AGPALO, LEGAL ETHICS (1989), p.
95.
Republic of the Philippines
Supreme Court
Manila

SECOND DIVISION

JUDGE RENE B. BACULI, A.C. No. 8920

Complainant,
Present:

BRION, J.,*

Acting Chairperson,

DEL CASTILLO,**
- versus -
PEREZ,

MENDOZA,*** and

SERENO, JJ.

Promulgated:

ATTY. MELCHOR A. BATTUNG,
September 28, 2011
Respondent.

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

DECISION

BRION, J.:

Before us is the resolution[1] of the Board of Governors of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines
(IBP) finding Atty. Melchor Battung liable for violating Rule 11.03, Canon 11 of the Code of Professional
Responsibility and recommending that he be reprimanded. The complainant is Judge Rene B. Baculi,
Presiding Judge of the Municipal Trial Court in Cities, Branch 2, Tuguegarao City. The respondent, Atty.
Battung, is a member of the Bar with postal address on Aguinaldo St., Tuguegarao City.
Background

Judge Baculi filed a complaint for disbarment[2] with the Commission on Discipline of the IBP
against the respondent, alleging that the latter violated Canons 11[3] and 12[4] of the Code of Professional
Responsibility.

Violation of Canon 11 of the Code of Professional Responsibility

Judge Baculi claimed that on July 24, 2008, during the hearing on the motion for
reconsideration of Civil Case No. 2502, the respondent was shouting while arguing his motion. Judge
Baculi advised him to tone down his voice but instead, the respondent shouted at the top of his
voice. When warned that he would be cited for direct contempt, the respondent shouted, Then cite
me![5] Judge Baculi cited him for direct contempt and imposed a fine of P100.00. The respondent then
left.

While other cases were being heard, the respondent re-entered the courtroom and shouted,
Judge, I will file gross ignorance against you! I am not afraid of you![6]Judge Baculi ordered the sheriff
to escort the respondent out of the courtroom and cited him for direct contempt of court for the
second time.

After his hearings, Judge Baculi went out and saw the respondent at the hall of the
courthouse, apparently waiting for him. The respondent again shouted in a threatening tone, Judge,
I will file gross ignorance against you! I am not afraid of you! He kept on shouting, I am not afraid of
you! and challenged the judge to a fight. Staff and lawyers escorted him out of the building.[7]

Judge Baculi also learned that after the respondent left the courtroom, he continued shouting
and punched a table at the Office of the Clerk of Court.[8]

Violation of Canon 12 of the Code of Professional Responsibility

According to Judge Baculi, the respondent filed dilatory pleadings in Civil Case No. 2640, an
ejectment case.

Judge Baculi rendered on October 4, 2007 a decision in Civil Case No. 2640, which he modified
on December 14, 2007. After the modified decision became final and executory, the branch clerk of
court issued a certificate of finality. The respondent filed a motion to quash the previously issued writ
of execution, raising as a ground the motion to dismiss filed by the defendant for lack of jurisdiction.
Judge Baculi asserted that the respondent knew as a lawyer that ejectment cases are within the
jurisdiction of First Level Courts and the latter was merely delaying the speedy and efficient
administration of justice.
The respondent filed his Answer,[9] essentially saying that it was Judge Baculi who
disrespected him.[10] We quote from his Answer:
23. I only told Judge Rene Baculi I will file Gross ignorance of the Law against him once
inside the court room when he was lambasting me[.]

24. It was JUDGE BACULI WHO DISRESPECTED ME. He did not like that I just submit the
Motion for Reconsideration without oral argument because he wanted to have
an occasion to just HUMILIATE ME and to make appear to the public that I am A
NEGLIGENT LAWYER, when he said YOU JUSTIFY YOUR NEGLIGENCE BEFORE THIS
COURT making it an impression to the litigants and the public that as if I am a
NEGLIGENT, INCOMPETENT, MUMBLING, and IRRESPONSIBLE LAWYER.

25. These words of Judge Rene Baculi made me react[.]

xxxx

28. Since I manifested that I was not going to orally argue the Motion, Judge Rene Baculi
could have just made an order that the Motion for Reconsideration is submitted
for resolution, but what he did was that he forced me to argue so that he will
have the room to humiliate me as he used to do not only to me but almost of the
lawyers here (sic).

Atty. Battung asked that the case against him be dismissed.

The IBP conducted its investigation of the matter through Commissioner Jose de la Rama, Jr. In
his Commissioners Report,[11] Commissioner De la Rama stated that during the mandatory conference on
January 16, 2009, both parties merely reiterated what they alleged in their submitted pleadings. Both
parties agreed that the original copy of the July 24, 2008 tape of the incident at the courtroom would be
submitted for the Commissioners review. Judge Baculi submitted the tape and the transcript of
stenographic notes on January 23, 2009.

Commissioner De la Rama narrated his findings, as follows:[12]
At the first part of the hearing as reflected in the TSN, it was observed that the
respondent was calm. He politely argued his case but the voice of the complainant
appears to be in high pitch. During the mandatory conference, it was also observed that
indeed, the complainant maintains a high pitch whenever he speaks. In fact, in the TSN,
where there was already an argument, the complainant stated the following:

Court: Do not shout.

Atty. Battung: Because the court is shouting.

Court: This court has been constantly under this kind of voice Atty.
Battung, we are very sorry if you do not want to appear before my court,
then you better attend to your cases and do not appear before my court
if you do not want to be corrected! (TSN, July 24, 2008, page 3)

(NOTE: The underlined words we are very sorry [ were] actually uttered
by Atty. Battung while the judge was saying the quoted portion of the
TSN)

That it was during the time when the complainant asked the following questions
when the undersigned noticed that Atty. Battung shouted at the presiding judge.

Court: Did you proceed under the Revised Rules on Summary Procedure?

*

Atty. Battung: It is not our fault Your Honor to proceed because we were
asked to present our evidence ex parte. Your Honor, so, if should we were
ordered (sic) by the court to follow the rules on summary
procedure. (TSN page 3, July 24, 2008)

It was observed that the judge uttered the following:

Court: Do not shout.

Atty. Battung: Because the court is shouting.

(Page 3, TSN July 24, 2008)

Note: * it was at this point when the respondent shouted at the
complainant.

Thereafter, it was observed that both were already shouting at each other.

Respondent claims that he was provoked by the presiding judge that is why he
shouted back at him. But after hearing the tape, the undersigned in convinced that it was
Atty. Battung who shouted first at the complainant.

Presumably, there were other lawyers and litigants present waiting for their cases
to be called. They must have observed the incident. In fact, in the joint-affidavit submitted
by Elenita Pacquing et al., they stood as one in saying that it was really Atty. Battung who
shouted at the judge that is why the latter cautioned him not to shout.

The last part of the incident as contained in page 4 of the TSN reads as follows:

Court: You are now ordered to pay a fine of P100.00.

Atty. Battung: We will file the necessary action against this court for gross
ignorance of the law.

Court: Yes, proceed.

(NOTE: Atty. Battung went out the courtroom)
Court: Next case.

Interpreter: Civil Case No. 2746.

(Note: Atty. Battung entered again the courtroom)

Atty. Battung: But what we do not like (not finished)

Court: The next time

Atty. Battung: We would like to clear

Court: Sheriff, throw out the counsel, put that everything in record. If you want
to see me, see me after the court.

Next case.

Civil Case No. 2746 for Partition and Damages, Roberto Cabalza vs. Teresita
Narag, et al.

(nothing follows)

Commissioner De la Rama found that the respondent failed to observe Canon 11 of the Code of
Professional Responsibility that requires a lawyer to observe and maintain respect due the courts and
judicial officers. The respondent also violated Rule 11.03 of Canon 11 that provides that a lawyer shall
abstain from scandalous, offensive or menacing language or behavior before the courts. The respondents
argument that Judge Baculi provoked him to shout should not be given due consideration since the
respondent should not have shouted at the presiding judge; by doing so, he created the impression that
disrespect of a judge could be tolerated. What the respondent should have done was to file an action
before the Office of the Court Administrator if he believed that Judge Baculi did not act according to the
norms of judicial conduct.

With respect to the charge of violation of Canon 12 of the Code of Professional Responsibility,
Commissioner De la Rama found that the evidence submitted is insufficient to support a ruling that the
respondent had misused the judicial processes to frustrate the ends of justice.

Commissioner De la Rama recommended that the respondent be suspended from the practice of
law for six (6) months.

On October 9, 2010, the IBP Board of Governors passed a Resolution adopting and approving the
Report and Recommendation of the Investigating Commissioner, with the modification that the
respondent be reprimanded.
The Courts Ruling

We agree with the IBPs finding that the respondent violated Rule 11.03, Canon 11 of the Code of
Professional Responsibility. Atty. Battung disrespected Judge Baculi by shouting at him inside the
courtroom during court proceedings in the presence of litigants and their counsels, and court
personnel. The respondent even came back to harass Judge Baculi. This behavior, in front of many
witnesses, cannot be allowed. We note that the respondent continued to threaten Judge Baculi and acted
in a manner that clearly showed disrespect for his position even after the latter had cited him for
contempt. In fact, after initially leaving the court, the respondent returned to the courtroom and disrupted
the ongoing proceedings. These actions were not only against the person, the position and the stature of
Judge Baculi, but against the court as well whose proceedings were openly and flagrantly disrupted, and
brought to disrepute by the respondent.

Litigants and counsels, particularly the latter because of their position and avowed duty to the
courts, cannot be allowed to publicly ridicule, demean and disrespect a judge, and the court that he
represents. The Code of Professional Responsibility provides:
Canon 11 - A lawyer shall observe and maintain the respect due the courts and to
judicial officers and should insist on similar conduct by others.

Rule 11.03 - A lawyer shall abstain from scandalous, offensive or menacing
language or behavior before the Courts.

We ruled in Roxas v. De Zuzuarregui, Jr.[13] that it is the duty of a lawyer, as an officer of the court,
to uphold the dignity and authority of the courts. Respect for the courts guarantees the stability of the
judicial institution; without this guarantee, the institution would be resting on very shaky foundations.

A lawyer who insults a judge inside a courtroom completely disregards the latters role, stature
and position in our justice system. When the respondent publicly berated and brazenly threatened Judge
Baculi that he would file a case for gross ignorance of the law against the latter, the respondent effectively
acted in a manner tending to erode the public confidence in Judge Baculis competence and in his ability
to decide cases. Incompetence is a matter that, even if true, must be handled with sensitivity in the
manner provided under the Rules of Court; an objecting or complaining lawyer cannot act in a manner
that puts the courts in a bad light and bring the justice system into disrepute.

The IBP Board of Governors recommended that Atty. Battung be reprimanded, while the
Investigating Commissioner recommended a penalty of six (6) months suspension.

We believe that these recommended penalties are too light for the offense.
In Re: Suspension of Atty. Rogelio Z. Bagabuyo, Former Senior State Prosecutor,[14] we suspended
Atty. Bagabuyo for one year for violating Rule 11.05, Canon 11, and Rule 13.02, Canon 13 of the Code of
Professional Responsibility, and for violating the Lawyers Oath for airing his grievances against a judge in
newspapers and radio programs. In this case, Atty. Battungs violations are no less serious as they were
committed in the courtroom in the course of judicial proceedings where the respondent was acting as an
officer of the court, and before the litigating public. His actions were plainly disrespectful to Judge Baculi
and to the court, to the point of being scandalous and offensive to the integrity of the judicial system
itself.

WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, Atty. Melchor A. Battung is found GUILTY of violating Rule
11.03, Canon 11 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, for which he is SUSPENDED from the practice
of law for one (1) year effective upon the finality of this Decision. He is STERNLY WARNED that a repetition
of a similar offense shall be dealt with more severely.

Let copies of this Decision be furnished the Office of the Bar Confidant, to be appended to the
respondents personal record as an attorney; the Integrated Bar of the Philippines; the Department of
Justice; and all courts in the country, for their information and guidance.

SO ORDERED.
ARTURO D. BRION
Associate Justice
WE CONCUR:
MARIANO C. DEL CASTILLO
Associate Justice

JOSE PORTUGAL PEREZ JOSE CATRAL MENDOZA
Associate Justice Associate Justice

MARIA LOURDES P. A. SERENO
Associate Justice
*
Designated as Acting Chairperson in lieu of Associate Justice Antonio T. Carpio, per Special Order No.
1083 dated September 13, 2011.
**
Designated as Additional Member in lieu of Associate Justice Antonio T. Carpio, per Special Order No.
1084 dated September 13, 2011.
***
Designated as Additional Member in lieu of Associate Justice Bienvenido L. Reyes, per Special Order
No. 1107 dated September 27, 2011.
[1]
Rollo, p. 161.
[2]
Id. at 1-5.
[3]
Canon 11 A lawyer shall observe and maintain the respect due the courts and to judicial officers and
should insist on similar conduct by others.
[4]
Canon 12 A lawyer shall exert every effort and consider it his duty to assist in the speedy and efficient
administration of justice.
[5]
Rollo, p. 2.
[6]
Ibid.
[7]
Id. at 8-12.
[8]
Id. at 13.
[9]
Id. at 20-28.
[10]
Id. at 24.
[11]
Id. at 162-175.

[12]
Id. at 169-171.
[13]
G.R. Nos. 152072 & 152104, July 12, 2007, 527 SCRA 446.
[14]
A.C. No. 7006, October 9, 2007, 535 SCRA 200.
Republic of the Philippines

Supreme Court

Manila

EN BANC

CLARITA J. SAMALA, ADM. CASE NO. 5439

Complainant,

Present:

PUNO, C.J.,

QUISUMBING,

YNARES-SANTIAGO,

SANDOVAL-GUTIERREZ,

CARPIO,

AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ,

- versus - CORONA,

CARPIO MORALES,

CALLEJO, SR.,

AZCUNA,

TINGA,

CHICO-NAZARIO,

GARCIA, and

VELASCO, JR., JJ.
ATTY. LUCIANO D. VALENCIA, Promulgated:

Respondent. _______________________

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

RESOLUTION

AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ, J.

Before us is a complaint[1] dated May 2, 2001 filed by Clarita J. Samala (complainant) against
Atty. Luciano D. Valencia (respondent) for Disbarment on the following grounds: (a) serving on two
separate occasions as counsel for contending parties; (b) knowingly misleading the court by submitting
false documentary evidence; (c) initiating numerous cases in exchange for nonpayment of rental fees; and
(d) having a reputation of being immoral by siring illegitimate children.

After respondent filed his Comment, the Court, in its Resolution of October 24, 2001, referred the case to
the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) for investigation, report and recommendation.[2]

The investigation was conducted by Commissioner Demaree Jesus B. Raval. After a series of hearings, the
parties filed their respective memoranda[3] and the case was deemed submitted for resolution.

Commissioner Wilfredo E.J.E. Reyes prepared the Report and Recommendation[4] dated January 12,
2006. He found respondent guilty of violating Canons 15 and 21 of the Code of Professional Responsibility
and recommended the penalty of suspension for six months.

In a minute Resolution[5] passed on May 26, 2006, the IBP Board of Governors adopted and
approved the report and recommendation of Commissioner Reyes but increased the penalty of
suspension from six months to one year.

We adopt the report of the IBP Board of Governors except as to the issue on immorality and as to the
recommended penalty.
On serving as counsel for contending parties.
Records show that in Civil Case No. 95-105-MK, filed in the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch
272, Marikina City, entitled Leonora M. Aville v. Editha Valdez for nonpayment of rentals, herein
respondent, while being the counsel for defendant Valdez, also acted as counsel for the tenants Lagmay,
Valencia, Bustamante and Bayuga[6] by filing an Explanation and Compliance before the RTC.[7]

In Civil Case No. 98-6804 filed in the Metropolitan Trial Court (MTC), Branch 75, Marikina City,
entitled Editha S. Valdez and Joseph J. Alba, Jr. v. Salve Bustamante and her husband for ejectment,
respondent represented Valdez against Bustamante one of the tenants in the property subject of the
controversy. Defendants appealed to the RTC, Branch 272, Marikina City docketed as SCA Case No. 99-
341-MK. In his decision dated May 2, 2000,[8] Presiding Judge Reuben P. dela Cruz[9] warned respondent
to refrain from repeating the act of being counsel of record of both parties in Civil Case No. 95-105-MK.

But in Civil Case No. 2000-657-MK, filed in the RTC, Branch 273, Marikina City, entitled Editha S. Valdez v.
Joseph J. Alba, Jr. and Register of Deeds of Marikina City,respondent, as counsel for Valdez, filed a
Complaint for Rescission of Contract with Damages and Cancellation of Transfer Certificate of Title No.
275500 against Alba, respondent's former client in Civil Case No. 98-6804 and SCA Case No. 99-341-MK.

Records further reveal that at the hearing of November 14, 2003, respondent admitted that in Civil Case
No. 95-105-MK, he was the lawyer for Lagmay (one of the tenants) but not
[10]
for Bustamante and Bayuga albeit he filed the Explanation and Compliance for and in behalf of the
tenants.[11] Respondent also admitted that he represented Valdez in Civil Case No. 98-6804 and SCA Case
No. 99-341-MK against Bustamante and her husband but denied being the counsel for Alba although the
case is entitled Valdez and Albav. Bustamante and her husband, because Valdez told him to include Alba
as the two were the owners of the property[12] and it was only Valdez who signed the complaint
for ejectment.[13] But, while claiming that respondent did not represent Alba, respondent, however, avers
that he already severed his representation for Alba when the latter charged
respondent with estafa.[14] Thus, the filing of Civil Case No. 2000-657-MK against Alba.

Rule 15.03, Canon 15 of the Code of Professional Responsibility provides that a lawyer shall not represent
conflicting interests except by written consent of all concerned given after a full disclosure of the facts.

A lawyer may not, without being guilty of professional misconduct, act as counsel for a person whose
interest conflicts with that of his present or former client.[15] He may not also undertake to discharge
conflicting duties any more than he may represent antagonistic interests. This stern rule is founded on
the principles of public policy and good taste.[16] It springs from the relation of attorney and client which
is one of trust and confidence. Lawyers are expected not only to keep inviolate the clients confidence, but
also to avoid the appearance of treachery and double-dealing for only then can litigants be encouraged
to entrust their secrets to their lawyers, which is of paramount importance in the administration of
justice.[17]
One of the tests of inconsistency of interests is whether the acceptance of a new relation would prevent
the full discharge of the lawyers duty of undivided fidelity and loyalty to the client or invite suspicion of
unfaithfulness or double-dealing in the performance of that duty.[18]

The stern rule against representation of conflicting interests is founded on principles of public policy and
good taste. It springs from the attorneys duty to represent his client with undivided fidelity and to
maintain inviolate the clients confidence as well as from the injunction forbidding the examination of an
attorney as to any of the privileged communications of his client.[19]

An attorney owes loyalty to his client not only in the case in which he has represented him but also after
the relation of attorney and client has terminated.[20] The bare attorney-client relationship with a client
precludes an attorney from accepting professional employment from the clients adversary either in the
same case[21] or in a different but related action.[22] A lawyer is forbidden from representing a subsequent
client against a former client when the subject matter of the present controversy is related, directly or
indirectly, to the subject matter of the previous litigation in which he appeared for the former client.[23]

We held in Nombrado v. Hernandez[24] that the termination of the relation of attorney and client provides
no justification for a lawyer to represent an interest adverse to or in conflict with that of the former
client. The reason for the rule is that the clients confidence once reposed cannot be divested by the
expiration of the professional employment.[25]Consequently, a lawyer should not, even after the
severance of the relation with his client, do anything which will injuriously affect his former client in any
matter in which he previously represented him nor should he disclose or use any of the clients confidences
acquired in the previous relation.[26]

In this case, respondents averment that his relationship with Alba has long been severed by the act of the
latter of not turning over the proceeds collected in Civil Case No. 98-6804, in connivance with the
complainant, is unavailing. Termination of the attorney-client relationship precludes an attorney from
representing a new client whose interest is adverse to his former client. Alba may not be his original client
but the fact that he filed a case entitled Valdez and Alba v. Bustamante and her husband, is a clear
indication that respondent is protecting the interests of both Valdez and Alba in the said case. Respondent
cannot just claim that the lawyer-client relationship between him and Alba has long been severed without
observing Section 26, Rule 138 of the Rules of Court wherein the written consent of his client is required.

In Gonzales v. Cabucana, Jr.,[27] citing the case of Quiambao v. Bamba,[28] we held that:

The proscription against representation of conflicting interests applies to a situation
where the opposing parties are present clients in the same action or in an unrelated
action. It is of no moment that the lawyer would not be called upon to contend for one
client that which the lawyer has to oppose for the other client, or that there would be no
occasion to use the confidential information acquired from one to the disadvantage of
the other as the two actions are wholly unrelated. It is enough that the opposing parties
in one case, one of whom would lose the suit, are present clients and the nature or
conditions of the lawyers respective retainers with each of them would affect the
performance of the duty of undivided fidelity to both clients.[29]

Respondent is bound to comply with Canon 21 of the Code of Professional Responsibility which states
that a lawyer shall preserve the confidences and secrets of his client even after the attorney-client relation
is terminated.

The reason for the prohibition is found in the relation of attorney and client, which is one of trust and
confidence of the highest degree. A lawyer becomes familiar with all the facts connected with his clients
case. He learns from his client the weak points of the action as well as the strong ones. Such knowledge
must be considered sacred and guarded with care.[30]

From the foregoing, it is evident that respondents representation of Valdez and Alba
against Bustamante and her husband, in one case, and Valdez against Alba, in another case, is a clear case
of conflict of interests which merits a corresponding sanction from this Court. Respondent may have
withdrawn his representation in Civil Case No. 95-105-MK upon being warned by the court,[31] but the
same will not exculpate him from the charge of representing conflicting interests in his representation in
Civil Case No. 2000-657-MK.

Respondent is reminded to be more cautious in accepting professional employments, to refrain from all
appearances and acts of impropriety including circumstances indicating conflict of interests, and to
behave at all times with circumspection and dedication befitting a member of the Bar, especially observing
candor, fairness and loyalty in all transactions with his clients.[32]

On knowingly misleading the court by submitting false documentary evidence
Complainant alleges that in Civil Case No. 00-7137 filed before MTC, Branch 75 for ejectment, respondent
submitted TCT No. 273020 as evidence of Valdez's ownership despite the fact that a new TCT No. 275500
was already issued in the name of Alba on February 2, 1995.

Records reveal that respondent filed Civil Case No. 00-7137 on November 27, 2000 and presented TCT
No. 273020 as evidence of Valdez's ownership of the subject property.[33] During the hearing before
Commissioner Raval, respondent avers that when the Answer was filed in the said case, that was the time
that he came to know that the title was already in the name of Alba; so that when the court dismissed the
complaint, he did not do anything anymore.[34] Respondent further avers that Valdez did not tell him the
truth and things were revealed to him only when the case for rescission was filed in 2002.

Upon examination of the record, it was noted that Civil Case No. 2000-657-MK for rescission of contract
and cancellation of TCT No. 275500 was also filed on November 27, 2000,[35] before RTC, Branch
273, Marikina City, thus belying the averment of respondent that he came to know of Alba's title only in
2002 when the case for rescission was filed. It was revealed during the hearing before
Commissioner Raval that Civil Case Nos. 00-7137 and 2000-657-MK were filed on the same date, although
in different courts and at different times.

Hence, respondent cannot feign ignorance of the fact that the title he submitted was already cancelled in
lieu of a new title issued in the name of Alba in 1995 yet, as proof of the latter's ownership.

Respondent failed to comply with Canon 10 of the Code of Professional Responsibility which provides that
a lawyer shall not do any falsehood, nor consent to the doing of any in court; nor shall he mislead, or allow
the Court to be mislead by any artifice. It matters not that the trial court was not misled by respondent's
submission of TCT No. 273020 in the name of Valdez, as shown by its decision dated January 8,
2002[36] dismissing the complaint for ejectment. What is decisive in this case is respondent's intent in
trying to mislead the court by presenting TCT No. 273020 despite the fact that said title was already
cancelled and a new one, TCT No. 275500, was already issued in the name of Alba.

In Young v. Batuegas,[37] we held that a lawyer must be a disciple of truth. He swore upon his admission
to the Bar that he will do no falsehood nor consent to the doing of any in court and he shall conduct
himself as a lawyer according to the best of his knowledge and discretion with all good fidelity as well to
the courts as to his clients.[38] He should bear in mind that as an officer of the court his high vocation is to
correctly inform the court upon the law and the facts of the case and to aid it in doing justice and arriving
at correct conclusion.[39] The courts, on the other hand, are entitled to expect only complete honesty from
lawyers appearing and pleading before them. While a lawyer has the solemn duty to defend his clients
rights and is expected to display the utmost zeal in defense of his clients cause, his conduct must never
be at the expense of truth.
A lawyer is the servant of the law and belongs to a profession to which society has entrusted the
administration of law and the dispensation of justice.[40] As such, he should make himself more an
exemplar for others to emulate.[41]

On initiating numerous cases in exchange for nonpayment of rental fees.

Complainant alleges that respondent filed the following cases: (a) Civil Case No. 2000-657-MK at the RTC,
Branch 272; (b) Civil Case No. 00-7137 at the MTC, Branch 75; and(c) I.S. Nos. 00-4439 and 01-036162
both entitled Valencia v. Samala for estafa and grave coercion, respectively, before the Marikina City
Prosecutor. Complainant claims that the two criminal cases were filed in retaliation for the cases she filed
against Lagmay docketed as I.S. No. 00-4306 for estafa and I.S. No. 00-4318 against Alvin Valencia (son of
respondent) for trespass to dwelling.

As culled from the records, Valdez entered into a retainer agreement with respondent. As payment for
his services, he was allowed to occupy the property for free and utilize the same as his office
pursuant to their retainer agreement.[42]

Respondent filed I.S. Nos. 00-4439[43] and 01-036162[44] both entitled Valencia v. Samala for estafa and
grave coercion, respectively, to protect his client's rights against complainant who filed I.S. No. 00-
4306[45] for estafa against Lagmay, and I.S. No. 00-4318[46] against Alvin Valencia[47] for trespass to
dwelling.

We find the charge to be without sufficient basis. The act of respondent of filing the aforecited cases to
protect the interest of his client, on one hand, and his own interest, on the other, cannot be made the
basis of an administrative charge unless it can be clearly shown that the same was being done to abuse
judicial processes to commit injustice.

The filing of an administrative case against respondent for protecting the interest of his client and his own
right would be putting a burden on a practicing lawyer who is obligated to defend and prosecute the right
of his client.

On having a reputation for being immoral by siring illegitimate children.

We find respondent liable for being immoral by siring illegitimate children.

During the hearing, respondent admitted that he sired three children by Teresita Lagmay who are all over
20 years of age,[48] while his first wife was still alive. He also admitted that he has eight children by his first
wife, the youngest of whom is over 20 years of age, and after his wife died in 1997, he married Lagmay in
1998.[49] Respondent further admitted that Lagmay was staying in one of the apartments being claimed
by complainant. However, he does not consider his affair with Lagmay as a relationship[50] and does not
consider the latter as his second family.[51] He reasoned that he was not staying with Lagmay because he
has two houses, one in Muntinlupa and another in Marikina.[52]

In this case, the admissions made by respondent are more than enough to hold him liable on the charge
of immorality. During the hearing, respondent did not show any remorse.He even justified his
transgression by saying that he does not have any relationship with Lagmay and despite the fact that he
sired three children by the latter, he does not consider them as his second family. It is noted that during
the hearing, respondent boasts in telling the commissioner that he has two houses - in Muntinlupa, where
his first wife lived, and in Marikina, where Lagmay lives.[53] It is of no moment that respondent eventually
married Lagmay after the death of his first wife. The fact still remains that respondent did not live up to
the exacting standard of morality and decorum required of the legal profession.

Under Canon 1, Rule 1.01 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, a lawyer shall not engage in unlawful,
dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct. It may be difficult to specify the degree of moral delinquency
that may qualify an act as immoral, yet, for purposes of disciplining a lawyer, immoral conduct has been
defined as that conduct which is willful, flagrant, or shameless, and which shows a moral indifference to
the opinion of respectable members of the community.[54] Thus, in several cases, the Court did not
hesitate to discipline a lawyer for keeping a mistress in defiance of the mores and sense of morality of the
community.[55] That respondent subsequently married Lagmay in 1998 after the death of his wife and that
this is his first infraction as regards immorality serve to mitigate his liability.

ACCORDINGLY, the Court finds respondent Atty. Luciano D. Valencia GUILTY of misconduct and
violation of Canons 21, 10 and 1 of the Code of Professional Responsibility. He is SUSPENDED from the
practice of law for three (3) years, effective immediately upon receipt of herein Resolution.

Let copies of this Resolution be furnished all courts of the land, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines as
well as the Office of the Bar Confidant for their information and guidance, and let it be entered in
respondents personal records.

SO ORDERED.

MA. ALICIA AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ

Associate Justice

WE CONCUR:
REYNATO S. PUNO

Chief Justice

LEONARDO A. QUISUMBING CONSUELO YNARES-SANTIAGO

Associate Justice Associate Justice

ANGELINA SANDOVAL-GUTIERREZ ANTONIO T. CARPIO

Associate Justice Associate Justice

RENATO C. CORONA CONCHITA CARPIO-MORALES

Associate Justice Associate Justice

ROMEO J. CALLEJO, SR. ADOLFO S. AZCUNA

Associate Justice Associate Justice

DANTE O. TINGA MINITA V. CHICO-NAZARIO

Associate Justice Associate Justice

CANCIO C. GARCIA PRESBITERO J. VELASCO, JR.

Associate Justice Associate Justice
[1]
Rollo, pp. 1-4.
[2]
Id. at 106.
[3]
Id. at 118-125; 129-134.
[4]
Id. at 569-579.
[5]
Id. at 568.
[6]
Id. at 411-417.
[7]
Id. at 5-7.
[8]
Id. at 11-13.
[9]
Now Assistant Court Administrator.
[10]
Rollo, pp. 397-398; 407-410.
[11]
Id. at 11-13.
[12]
Id. at 439.
[13]
Id. at 441.
[14]
Id. at 434.
[15]
Frias v. Lozada, A.C. No. 6656, December 13, 2005, 477 SCRA 393, 400.
[16]
Agpalo, LEGAL ETHICS, 6th Edition, pp. 219, 225; citing cases.
[17]
Hilado v. David, 84 Phil. 569, 579 (1949).
[18]
Santos, Sr. v. Beltran, 463 Phil. 372, 383 (2003).
[19]
Tiania v. Ocampo, A.C. No. 2285, August 12, 1991, 200 SCRA 472, 479.
[20]
Lorenzana Food Corporation v. Daria, Adm. Case No. 2736, May 27, 1991, 197 SCRA 428, 435; Buted v.
Hernando, Adm. Case No. 1359, October 17, 1991, 203 SCRA 1, 8.
[21]
Natan v. Capule, 91 Phil. 640, 648 (1952).
[22]
Nombrado v. Hernandez, 135 Phil. 5, 9 (1968).
[23]
Pormento, Sr. v. Pontevedra, A.C. No. 5128, March 31, 2005, 454 SCRA 167, 177-178.
[24]
Nombrado v. Hernandez, supra.
[25]
Natan v. Capule, supra at 648.
[26]
Ibid. at 648.
[27]
A.C. No. 6836, January 23, 2006, 479 SCRA 320.
[28]
A.C. No. 6708, August 25, 2005, 468 SCRA 1.
[29]
Id. at 11.
[30]
Maturan v. Gonzales, 350 Phil. 882, 887 (1998); U.S. v. Laranja, 21 Phil. 500, 510 (1912).
[31]
Rollo, pp. 423-427.
[32]
Gamilla v. Mario, Jr., 447 Phil. 419, 432 (2003).
[33]
Rollo, pp. 30-32.
[34]
Id. at 459-474.
[35]
Id. at 14-16; 471-473.
[36]
Id. at 127-128.
[37]
451 Phil. 155 (2003).
[38]
Id. at 161.
[39]
Ibid. at 161.
[40]
Ting-Dumali v. Torres, A.C. No. 5161, April 14, 2004, 427 SCRA 108, 117.
[41]
Ibid. at 117.
[42]
Rollo, p. 485.
[43]
Id. at 144-146.
[44]
Id. at 100.
[45]
Id. at 41-43.
[46]
Id. at 44-45.
[47]
Son of respondent and one of the tenants in the subject property.
[48]
Rollo, pp. 514-515.
[49]
Id. at 517-519.
[50]
Id. at 521.
[51]
Id. at 524.
[52]
Id. at 520-524.
[53]
Id. at 520-521.
[54]
Rau Sheng Mao v. Velasco, 459 Phil. 440, 445 (2003).
[55]
Mendoza v. Mala, A.C. No. 1129, July 27, 1992, 211 SCRA 839, 841; Vda. de Mijares v. Villaluz, A.C. No.
4431, June 19, 1997, 274 SCRA 1, 6; Paras v. Paras, 397 Phil. 462, 475 (2000); Cambaliza v. Cristal-
Tenorio, A.C. No. 6290, July 14, 2004, 434 SCRA 288, 294; Go v. Achas, MTJ-04-1564, March 11,
2005, 453 SCRA 189, 201; Zaguirre v. Castillo, A.C. No. 4921, August 3,
EN BANC

[A.C. No. 5829. October 28, 2003]

DANIEL LEMOINE, complainant, vs. ATTY. AMADEO E. BALON, JR., respondent.

DECISION
PER CURIAM:

On December 17, 1999, complainant Daniel Lemoine, a French national, filed a verified
complaint[1] against respondent Atty. Amadeo E. Balon, Jr., for estafa and misconduct before the
Integrated Bar of the Philippines. The case, docketed as CBD Case No. 99-679, was referred by the
Commission on Bar Discipline to an Investigator for investigation, report and recommendation.
The facts that spawned the filing of the complaint are as follows:
In early 1998, complainant filed a car insurance claim with the Metropolitan Insurance Company
(Metropolitan Insurance), the insurer of his vehicle which was lost. As complainant encountered problems
in pursuing his claim which was initially rejected,[2] his friend, a certain Jesus Jess Garcia (Garcia), arranged
for the engagement of respondents services.
By letter[3] of October 21, 1998 addressed to Elde Management, Inc., ATTN: Mr. Daniel Lemoine,
under whose care complainant could be reached, respondent advised complainant, whom he had not
before met, that for his legal services he was charging 25% of the actual amount being recovered. . .
payable upon successful recovery; an advance payment of P50,000.00 to be charged [to complainant] to
be deducted from whatever amount [would] be successfully collected; P1,000.00 as appearance and
conference fee for each and every court hearings, conferences outside our law office and meetings before
the Office of the Insurance Commission which will be also charged to our 25% recovery fee; and legal
expenses such as but not limited to filing fee, messengerial and postage expenses . . . and other
miscellaneous but related expenses, to be charged to complainants account which would be reimbursed
upon presentation of statement of account.
The letter-proposal of respondent regarding attorneys fees does not bear complainants conformity,
he not having agreed therewith.
It appears that Metropolitan Insurance finally offered to settle complainants claim, for by
letter[4] of December 9, 1998 addressed to it, respondent confirmed his acceptance of its offer to settle
the claim of complainant in an ex-gratia basis of 75% of his policy coverage which is therefore FIVE
HUNDRED TWENTY FIVE THOUSAND (P525,000.00) PESOS.
A day or a few days before December 23, 1998 when complainant left for France,[5] he, on the advice
of respondent, signed an already prepared undated Special Power of Attorney[6]authorizing respondent
and/or Garcia to bring any action against Metropolitan Insurance for the satisfaction of complainants
claim as well as to negotiate, sign, compromise[,] encash and receive payment from it. The Special Power
of Attorney was later dated December 23, 1998 on which same date Metropolitan Insurance issued a
Chinabank Check No. 841172 payable to complainant in the amount of P525,000.00 as full settlement of
the claim.[7] The check was received by respondent.
In the meantime, complainant returned to the Philippines in early January 1999 but left again on the
24th of the same month.[8] On inquiry about the status of his claim, Garcia echoed to complainant what
respondent had written him (Garcia) in respondents letter[9] of March 26, 1999 that the claim was still
pending with Metropolitan Insurance and that it was still subject of negotiations in which Metropolitan
Insurance offered to settle it for P350,000.00 representing fifty percent thereof. In the same letter to
Garcia, respondent suggested the acceptance of theoffer of settlement to avoid a protracted litigation.
On December 6, 1999, on complainants personal visit to the office of Metropolitan Insurance, he was
informed that his claim had long been settled via a December 23, 1998 check given to respondent the
year before.[10] Complainant lost no time in going to the law office of respondent who was not around,
however, but whom he was able to talk by telephone during which he demanded that he turn over the
proceeds of his claim.[11]
Respondent thereupon faxed to complainant a December 7, 1999 letter[12] wherein he acknowledged
having in his possession the proceeds of the encashed check which he retained, however, as attorneys
lien pending complainants payment of his attorneys fee, equivalent to fifty percent
(50%) of entire amount collected. In the same letter, respondent protested what he branded as the
uncivilized and unprofessional behavior complainant reportedly demonstrated at respondents office.
Respondent winded up his letter as follows, quoted verbatim:

We would like to make it clear that we cannot give you the aforesaid amount until and unless our
attorneys fees will be forthwith agreed and settled. In the same manner, should you be barbaric and
uncivilized with your approached, we will not hesitate to make a proper representation with the Bureau
of Immigration and Deportation for the authenticity of your visa, Department of Labor and Employment
for your working status, Bureau of Internal Revenue for your taxation compliance and the National
Bureau of Investigation [with] which we have a good network...

While it [is your] prerogative to file a legal action against us, it is also our prerogative to file a case
against you. We will rather suggest if you could request your lawyer to just confer with us for the
peaceful settlement of this matter. (Underscoring and emphasis supplied)

As despite written demands,[13] respondent refused to turn over the proceeds of the insurance claim
and to acknowledge the unreasonableness of the attorneys fees he was demanding, complainant
instituted the administrative action at bar on December 17, 1999.
In his Complaint-Affidavit, complainant alleged that [i]t appears that there was irregularity with the
check, it having been issued payable to him, but and/or AMADEO BALON was therein intercalated after
his (complainants) name.[14]
Maintaining that respondent was entitled to only P50,000.00 in attorneys fees,[15] complainant
decried respondents continued possession of the proceeds of his claim[16]and his misrepresentations that
the recovery thereof was fraught with difficulties.[17]
In his Counter-Affidavit[18] of February 18, 2000, respondent asserted that his continued retention of
the proceeds of complainants claim is in lawful exercise of his lien for unpaid attorneys fees. He expressed
readiness, however, to account for and turn them over once he got paid fifty percent (50%) thereof, he
citing the so called contingent fee billing method of no cure, no pay adopted by practicing lawyers in the
insurance industry as the basis of the amount of his attorneys fees,[19] which to him was justified in the
absence of an attorney-client contract between him and complainant, the latter having rejected
respondents letter-proposal of October 21, 1998.[20]
Respondent also highlighted the value of the time and efforts he extended in pursuing complainants
claim and the expenses he incurred in connection therewith. He went on to assert that his inability to
contact complainant whose whereabouts he did not know prompted him to encash the check and keep
the proceeds thereof in conformity with the Special Power of Attorney executed in his favor.[21]
During the hearings conducted by the IBP Investigator, complainant echoed his allegations in his
Complaint-Affidavit and stressed that he turned down as unreasonable respondents proposal in
his October 21, 1998 letter that he be paid 25% of the actual amount collected for his legal services.[22] And
he presented documentary evidence, including the March 26, 1999letter of respondent informing his co-
attorney-in-fact Garcia of the supposedly still unrecovered claim and suggesting acceptance of the
purported offer of Metropolitan Insurance to settle complainants claim at P350,000.00.
Explaining how his above-mentioned March 26, 1999 letter to Garcia came about, respondent
declared that it was made upon Garcias request, intended for a certain Joel Ramiscal (Ramiscal) who was
said to be Garcias business partner.[23]
Respondent later submitted a June 13, 2001 Supplement[24] to his Counter-Affidavit reiterating his
explanation that it was on Garcias express request that he wrote the March 26, 1999letter, which was
directed to the fax number of Ramiscal.
Additionally, respondent declared that in the first week of May 1999, on the representation of Garcia
that he had talked to complainant about respondents retention of fifty percent (50%) of the insurance
proceeds for professional fees less expenses,[25] he gave Garcia, on a staggered basis, the total amount of
P233,000.00 which, so respondent averred, is the amount of insurance claim complainant is entitled to
receive less attorneys fees and expenses.[26] Thus, respondent claimed that he gave Garcia the amount of
P30,000.00 on May 31, 1999 at Dulcinea Restaurant in Greenbelt, Makati; the amounts of P50,000.00,
P20,000.00 and P30,000.00 on different occasions at his (respondents) former address through his
executive secretary Sally I. Leonardo; the amount of P20,000.00 at the office of his (respondents) former
employer Commonwealth Insurance Company through his subordinate Glen V. Roxas; and several other
payments at Dulcinea, and at Manila Intercontinental Hotels coffee shop sometime
in October 1999.[27] Respondent submitted the separate sworn statements of Leonardo and Roxas.[28]
Explaining why no written memorandum of the turn over of various payments to Garcia was made,
respondent alleged that there was no need therefor since he very well knew Garcia who is a co-Rotarian
and co-attorney-in-fact and whom he really dealt with regarding complainants claim.[29]
Respondent furthermore declared that he rejected complainants offer to pay him P50,000.00 for his
services, insisting that since there had been no clear-cut agreement on his professional fees and it was
through him that Metropolitan Insurance favorably reconsidered its initial rejection of complainants
claim, he is entitled to a contingent fee of 50% of the net proceeds thereof.[30]
Finally, respondent declared that he, in connection with his follow-up of the insurance claim, incurred
representation expenses of P35,000.00, entertainment and other representation expenses on various
occasions of P10,000.00, and transportation and gasoline expenses and parking fees of P5,000.00;[31] and
that his retention of complainants money was justified in light of his apprehension that complainant, being
an alien without a valid working permit in the Philippines, might leave the country anytime without
settling his professional fees.[32]
The Investigating Commissioner, by Report and Recommendation[33] of October 26, 2001, found
respondent guilty of misconduct and recommended that he be disbarred and directed to immediately
turn over to complainant the sum of P475,000.00 representing the amount of the P525,000.00 insurance
claim less respondents professional fees of P50,000.00, as proposed by complainant.
The Board of Govenors of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, acting on the Investigators Report,
issued Resolution No. XV-2002-401[34] on August 3,2002, reading:

RESOLVED to ADOPT and APPROVE, as it is hereby ADOPTED and APPROVED, the Report and
Recommendation of the Investigating Commissioner of the above-entitled case, herein made part of this
Resolution/Decision as Annex A; and, finding the recommendation fully supported by the evidence on
record and the applicable laws and rules, with modification, and considering respondents dishonesty
which amounted to grave misconduct and grossly unethical behavior which caused dishonor, not merely
to respondent but the noble profession to which he belongs, Respondent is hereby SUSPENDED from
the practice of law for six (6) months with the directive to turn over the amount of Five Hundred Twenty
Five Thousand (P525,000.00) Pesos to the complainant without prejudice to respondents right to claim
attorneys fees which he may collect in the proper forum. (Underscoring supplied)

The records of the case are before this Court for final action.
Respondent, by a Motion for Reconsideration[35] filed with this Court, assails the Investigating
Commissioners Report and Recommendation as not supported by clear, convincing and satisfactory proof.
He prays for the reopening of the case and its remand to the Investigator so that Garcia can personally
appear for his (respondents) confrontation.
There is no need for a reopening of the case. The facts material to its resolution are either admitted
or documented.
This Court is in full accord with the findings of the IBP Investigator that respondent violated the
following provisions of the Code of Professional Responsibility, to wit:

RULE 1.01 - A lawyer shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct.

xxx

CANON 15 - A lawyer shall observe candor, fairness and loyalty in all his dealings and transactions with
his clients.

RULE 15.06 - A lawyer shall not state or imply that he is able to influence any public official, tribunal or
legislative body.

xxx

CANON 16 - A lawyer shall hold in trust all moneys and properties of his client that may come into his
possession.

RULE 16.01 - A lawyer shall account for all money or property collected or received for or from the
client.
RULE 16.02 - A lawyer shall keep the funds of each client separate and apart from his own and those of
others kept by him.

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

xxx

CANON 17 - A lawyer owes fidelity to the cause of his client and he shall be mindful of the trust and
confidence in him.

xxx

RULE 18.04 - A lawyer shall keep the client informed of the status of his case and shall respond within a
reasonable time to the clients request for information.

xxx

RULE 21.02 - A lawyer shall not, to the disadvantage of his client, use information acquired in the course
of employment, nor shall he use the same to his advantage or that of a third person, unless the client
with full knowledge of the circumstances consents thereto.

Specifically with respect to above-quoted provision of Canon 16 of the Code of Professional
Responsibility, the Filipino lawyers principal source of ethical rules, which Canon 16 bears on the principal
complaint of complainant, a lawyer must hold in trust all moneys and properties of his client that he may
come to possess. This commandment entails certain specific acts to be done by a lawyer such as rendering
an accounting of all money or property received for or from the client[36] as well as delivery of the funds
or property to the client when due or upon demand.[37] Respondent breached this Canon when after he
received the proceeds of complainants insurance claim, he did not report it to complainant, who had a
given address in Makati, or to his co-attorney-in-fact Garcia who was his contact with respect to
complainant.
In fact, long after respondent received the December 23, 1998 check for P525,000.00 he, by his letter
of March 26, 1999 to Garcia, had even the temerity to state that the claim was still pending and
recommend acceptance of the 50% offer . . . which is P350,000.00 pesos. His explanation that he prepared
and sent this letter on Garcias express request is nauseating. A lawyer, like respondent, would not and
should not commit prevarication, documented at that, on the mere request of a friend.
By respondents failure to promptly account for the funds he received and held for the benefit of his
client, he committed professional misconduct.[38] Such misconduct is reprehensible at a greater degree,
for it was obviously done on purpose through the employment of deceit to the prejudice of complainant
who was kept in the dark about the release of the check, until he himself discovered the same, and has to
date been deprived of the use of the proceeds thereof.
A lawyer who practices or utilizes deceit in his dealings with his client not only violates his duty of
fidelity, loyalty and devotion to the clients cause but also degrades himself and besmirches the fair name
of an honorable profession.[39]
That respondent had a lien on complainants funds for his attorneys fees did not relieve him of his
duty to account for it.[40] The lawyers continuing exercise of his retaining lien presupposes that the client
agrees with the amount of attorneys fees to be charged. In case of disagreement or when the client
contests that amount for being unconscionable, however, the lawyer must not arbitrarily apply the funds
in his possession to the payment of his fees.[41] He can file, if he still deems it desirable, the necessary
action or proper motion with the proper court to fix the amount of such fees.[42]
In respondents case, he never had the slightest attempt to bring the matter of his compensation for
judicial determination so that his and complainants sharp disagreement thereon could have been put to
an end. Instead, respondent stubbornly and in bad faith held on to complainants funds with the obvious
aim of forcing complainant to agree to the amount of attorneys fees sought. This is an appalling abuse by
respondent of the exercise of an attorneys retaining lien which by no means is an absolute right and
cannot at all justify inordinate delay in the delivery of money and property to his client when due or upon
demand.
Respondent was, before receiving the check, proposing a 25% attorneys fees. After he received the
check and after complainant had discovered its release to him, he was already asking for 50%, objection
to which complainant communicated to him. Why respondent had to doubly increase his fees after the
lapse of about one year when all the while he has been in custody of the proceeds of the check defies
comprehension. At any rate, it smacks of opportunism, to say the least.
As for respondents claim in his June 2001 Supplement to his Counter-Affidavit that he had on several
occasions from May 1999 to October 1999 already delivered a total of P233,000.00 out of the insurance
proceeds to Garcia in trust for complainant, this does not persuade, for it is bereft of any written
memorandum thereof. It is difficult to believe that a lawyer like respondent could have entrusted such
total amount of money to Garcia without documenting it, especially at a time when, as respondent
alleged, he and Garcia were not in good terms.[43] Not only that. As stated earlier, respondents Counter-
Affidavit of February 18, 2000 and his December 7, 1999 letter to complainant unequivocally contained
his express admission that the total amount of P525,000.00 was in his custody. Such illogical, futile
attempt to exculpate himself only aggravates his misconduct. Respondents claim discredited, the
affidavits of Leonardo and Roxas who, acting allegedly for him, purportedly gave Garcia some amounts
forming part of the P233,000.00 are thus highly suspect and merit no consideration.
The proven ancillary charges against respondent reinforce the gravity of his professional misconduct.
The intercalation of respondents name to the Chinabank check that was
issued payable solely in favor of complainant as twice certified by Metropolitan Insurance[44] is clearly a
brazen act of falsification of a commercial document which respondent resorted to in order to encash the
check.
Respondents threat in his December 7, 1999 letter to expose complainant to possible sanctions from
certain government agencies with which he bragged to have a good network reflects lack of character,
self-respect, and justness.
It bears noting that for close to five long years respondent has been in possession of complainants
funds in the amount of over half a million pesos. The deceptions and lies that he peddled to conceal, until
its discovery by complainant after about a year, his receipt of the funds and his tenacious custody thereof
in a grossly oppressive manner point to his lack of good moral character. Worse, by respondents
turnaround in his Supplement to his Counter-Affidavit that he already delivered to complainants friend
Garcia the amount of P233,000.00 which, so respondent claims, is all that complainant is entitled to, he
in effect has declared that he has nothing more to turn over to complainant. Such incredible position is
tantamount to a refusal to remit complainants funds, and gives rise to the conclusion that he has
misappropriated them.[45]
In fine, by respondents questioned acts, he has shown that he is no longer fit to remain a member of
the noble profession that is the law.
WHEREFORE, respondent Atty. Amadeo E. Balon, Jr., is found GUILTY of malpractice, deceit and gross
misconduct in the practice of his profession as a lawyer and he is hereby DISBARRED. The Office of the
Clerk of Court is directed to strike out his name from the Roll of Attorneys and to inform all courts and the
Integrated Bar of the Philippines of this Decision.
Respondent is ordered to turn over to complainant, Daniel Lemoine, the amount of P525,000.00
within thirty (30) days from notice, without prejudice to whatever judicial action he may take to recover
his attorneys fees and purported expenses incurred in securing the release thereof from Metropolitan
Insurance.
SO ORDERED.
Davide, Jr., C.J., Bellosillo, Puno, Vitug, Panganiban, Quisumbing, Sandoval-Gutierrez, Carpio, Austria-
Martinez, Corona, Carpio-Morales, Callejo, Sr., Azcuna, and Tinga, JJ., concur.
Ynares-Santiago, J., on leave.

[1]
Rollo at 1-4.
[2]
Rollo at 46.
[3]
Id. at 49-50.
[4]
Id. at 19.
[5]
TSN, May 9, 2000, pp. 4-6.
[6]
Rollo at 7-8.
[7]
Id. at 10.
[8]
TSN, May 9, 2000, p. 7.
[9]
Rollo at 67-68.
[10]
Rollo at 1.
[11]
Rollo at 1 and 3.
[12]
Id. at 11-13.
[13]
Id. at 20, 21, and 23.
[14]
Rollo at 3.
[15]
Id. at 2.
[16]
Id .at 2-3.
[17]
Id .at 1 and 3.
[18]
Id .at 41-45.
[19]
Id. at 41 and 43.
[20]
Id. at 43.
[21]
Rollo at 43.
[22]
TSN, May 9, 2000, pp. 12-13.
[23]
TSN, May 25, 2001, pp. 6-7.
[24]
Rollo at 88-92.
[25]
Rollo at 89-90.
[26]
Id. at 88 and 90.
[27]
Id. at 90.
[28]
Id. at 95-96.
[29]
Id. at 88 and 90.
[30]
Rollo at 90-91.
[31]
Id. at 91.
[32]
Id. at 90.
[33]
Rollo at 111-135.
[34]
Id. at 109-110.
[35]
Rollo at 137-159.
[36]
Code of Professional Responsibility, Rule 16.01.
[37]
Id. at Rule 16.03.
[38]
Daroy v. Legaspi, 65 SCRA 304, 312 [1975].
[39]
Agpalo, Comments on the Code of Professional Responsibility and the Code of Judicial Conduct, p. 410
[2001].
[40]
Tanhueco v. De Dumo, 172 SCRA 760 [1989].
[41]
J.K. Mercado and Sons Agricultural Enterprises, Inc. v. De Vera, 317 SCRA 339 [1999].
[42]
Ibid.
[43]
Rollo at 43.
[44]
Rollo at 18 and 102.
[45]
Castillo v. Taguines, 254 SCRA 554 [1996].
EN BANC

A.C. No. 8235, January 27, 2015

JOSELITO F. TEJANO, Complainant, v. ATTY. BENJAMIN F. BATERINA, Respondent.

DECISION

CARPIO, J.:

The Case

Before the Court is a verified administrative complaint for disbarment against Atty. Benjamin F.
Baterina.

The Facts

On 26 March 2009, Joselito F. Tejano filed an Affidavit-Complaint1 before the Office of the Court
Administrator (OCA) of the Supreme Court against Judge Dominador LL. Arquelada, Presiding Judge of
the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Vigan City, Ilocos Sur, Branch 21, and Tejano’s own counsel, Atty.
Baterina.

Tejano accused Judge Arquelada of acting in conspiracy with Atty. Baterina for the former to take
possession of his (Tejano) property, which was the subject matter of litigation in the judge’s court.

The case stems from Civil Case No. 4046-V, a suit for recovery of possession and damages filed by
Tejano, his mother and sisters against the Province of Ilocos Sur. The property involved in the suit is a
strip of land located at the northern portion of Lot No. 5663 in Tamag, Vigan City. The lot was wholly
owned by Tejano’s family, but the Province of Ilocos Sur constructed an access road stretching from the
provincial highway in the east to the provincial government’s motor pool in the west without instituting
the proper expropriation proceedings.2

The case was raffled off to Branch 21 of the Vigan City RTC in October 1988. Four judges would hear the
case before Judge Arquelada became the branch’s presiding judge in 2001.3 Prior to his appointment to
the bench, however, Judge Arquelada was one of the trial prosecutors assigned to Branch 21, and in that
capacity represented the Province of Ilocos Sur in Civil Case No. 4046-V.4

In his Affidavit-Complaint, Tejano accused Judge Arquelada of colluding with Atty. Baterina in the
former’s bid to “take possession” of their property and was “collecting rentals from squatters who had
set up their businesses inside the whole of Lot [No.] 5663.” In support of his accusations, Tejano
attached a copy of Transfer Certificate of Title No. T-430045 covering Lot No. 5663 in the name of Karen
Laderas, purportedly the daughter of Judge Arquelada; receipts of rents paid to Terencio
Florendo,6 sheriff at Judge Arquelada’s sala at the Vigan City RTC; receipts of rents paid to Aida
Calibuso,7 who was expressly designated by Laderas as her attorney-in-fact8 in collecting said rents; and
receipts of rents paid to Edgar Arquelada, Judge Arquelada’s brother.9

As to his counsel, Tejano claims that Atty. Baterina “miserably failed to advance [his] cause.” Specifically,
Tejano alleged that Atty. Baterina (1) failed to object when the trial court pronounced that he and his
co-plaintiffs had waived their right to present evidence after several postponements in the trial because
his mother was ill and confined at the hospital;10 (2) manifested in open court that he would file a
motion for reconsideration of the order declaring their presentation of evidence terminated but failed
to actually do so;11 (3) not only failed to file said motion for reconsideration, but also declared in open
court that they would not be presenting any witnesses without consulting his clients;12 and (4) failed to
comply with the trial court’s order to submit their formal offer of exhibits.13

In a letter dated 27 March 2009, then Court Administrator (now Supreme Court Associate Justice) Jose
P. Perez informed Tejano that the OCA has no jurisdiction over Atty. Baterina since it only has
administrative supervision over officials and employees of the judiciary. However, Tejano was informed
to file the complaint against his counsel at the Office of the Bar Confidant, and that the complaint
against Judge Arquelada was already “being acted upon” by the OCA.14

In a Resolution dated 6 July 2009, the Court required Atty. Baterina to file a Comment on the complaint
within 10 days from notice.15 Failing to comply with the Court’s order, Atty. Baterina was ordered to
show cause why he should not be disciplinarily dealt with and once again ordered to comply with the
Court’s 6 July 2009 Order.16

In his Compliance dated 28 March 2010, Atty. Baterina explained that he had been recuperating from a
kidney transplant when he received a copy of the complaint. He begged the Court’s indulgence and said
that his failure to comply was “not at all intended to show disrespect to the orders of the Honorable
Tribunal.”17

Atty. Baterina also denied the allegation of bad faith and negligence in handling the Tejano case. He
explained that the reason he could not attend to the case was that in 2002, after the initial presentation
of the plaintiffs’ case, he was suspended by the Court from the practice of law for two years.18 He
alleged that this fact was made known to Tejano’s mother and sister. However, the trial court did not
order plaintiffs to secure the services of another lawyer. On the contrary, it proceeded to hear the case,
and plaintiffs were not represented by a lawyer until the termination of the case.19 Atty. Baterina
instead points to the “displayed bias” and “undue and conflict of interest”20 of Judge Arquelada as the
culprit in Tejano’s predicament.

The Court, in its 19 July 2010 Resolution, found Atty. Baterina’s explanation “not satisfactory” and
admonished him “to be more heedful of the Court’s directives in order to avoid delay in the disposition
of [the] case.” The Court also referred the case to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) for
investigation, report and recommendation.

IBP Investigation, Report and Recommendation

After the proceedings, the IBP’s Commission on Bar Discipline promulgated its Report and
Recommendation,21 part of which reads:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
First, it appears that respondent’s failure to appear in representation of his clients in the said civil case
before the RTC was due to his two-year suspension from the practice of law in 2001. While this is a
justified reason for his non-appearance, respondent, however, manifestly failed to properly inform the
RTC of this fact. That way, the RTC would have, in the meantime, ordered plaintiffs to seek the services
of another lawyer. Respondent’s contention that the fact of his suspension was nonetheless circularized
to all courts of the Philippines including the RTC is unavailing. Still, respondent should have exerted
prudence in properly informing the RTC of his suspension in order to protect the interests of his clients.
Moreover, while he relayed such fact of suspension to his clients, there is no showing that he explained
the consequences to them, or that he advised them to seek another counsel’s assistance in the
meantime. Clearly therefore, respondent’s inaction falls short of the diligence required of him as a
lawyer.

Second, it must be recalled that the RTC in the said case required the plaintiffs therein to submit their
formal offer of evidence. However, respondent did not bother to do so, in total disregard of the RTC’s
Order dated 8 November 2004. Respondent’s bare excuse that he remembers making an oral offer
thereof deserves no merit because the records of this case clearly reveal the contrary. Because of the
said inaction of respondent, his clients’ case was dismissed by the RTC.

xxxx

From the foregoing, it is clear that respondent’s acts constitute sufficient ground for disciplinary action
against him. His gross negligence under the circumstances cannot be countenanced. It is, therefore,
respectfully recommended that respondent be suspended from the practice of law for two (2) years,
and be fined in the amount of Fifty Thousand Pesos (P50,000.00), considering that this is his second
disciplinary action. x x x.22
On 20 March 2013, the IBP Board of Governors adopted the following resolution:
RESOLUTION NO. XX-2013-237
Adm. Case No. 8235
Joselito F. Tejano vs.
Atty. Benjamin F. Baterina

RESOLVED to ADOPT and APPROVE, as it is hereby unanimously ADOPTED and APPROVED, with
modification, the Report and Recommendation of the Investigating Commissioner in the above-entitled
case, herein made part of this Resolution as Annex “A”, and finding the recommendation fully supported
by the evidence on record and the applicable laws and rules and considering that Respondent is guilty of
gross negligence, Atty. Benjamin F. Baterina is hereby SUSPENDED from the practice of law for two (2)
years. However, the Fine of Fifty Thousand Pesos imposed on respondent is hereby deleted.23
The Court’s Ruling

The Court adopts the IBP’s report and recommendation, with modification as to the penalty.

The Code of Professional Responsibility governing the conduct of lawyers
states:chanroblesvirtuallawlibrary
CANON 18 – A LAWYER SHALL SERVE HIS CLIENT WITH COMPETENCE AND DILIGENCE.

xxxx

RULE 18.03 – A lawyer shall not neglect a legal matter entrusted to him, and his negligence in
connection therewith shall render him liable.

RULE 18.04 – A lawyer shall keep the client informed of the status of his case and shall respond within a
reasonable time to the client’s request for information.
Lawyers have a “fourfold duty to society, the legal profession, the courts and their clients,” and must act
“in accordance with the values and norms of the legal profession as embodied in the Code of
Professional Responsibility.”24

When a lawyer agrees to take up a client’s cause, he makes a commitment to exercise due diligence in
protecting the latter’s rights. Once a lawyer’s services are engaged, “he is duty bound to serve his client
with competence, and to attend to his client’s cause with diligence, care and devotion regardless of
whether he accepts it for a fee or for free. He owes fidelity to such cause and must always be mindful of
the trust and confidence reposed on him.”25 A lawyer’s acceptance to take up a case “impliedly
stipulates [that he will] carry it to its termination, that is, until the case becomes final and executory.”26

Atty. Baterina’s duty to his clients did not automatically cease with his suspension. At the very least,
such suspension gave him a concomitant responsibility to inform his clients that he would be unable to
attend to their case and advise them to retain another counsel.

A lawyer – even one suspended from practicing the profession – owes it to his client to not “sit idly by
and leave the rights of his client in a state of uncertainty.”27 The client “should never be left groping in
the dark” and instead must be “adequately and fully informed about the developments in his case.”28

Atty. Baterina practically abandoned this duty when he allowed the proceedings to run its course
without any effort to safeguard his clients’ welfare in the meantime. His failure to file the required
pleadings on his clients’ behalf constitutes gross negligence in violation of the Code of Professional
Responsibility29 and renders him subject to disciplinary action.30 The penalties for a lawyer’s failure to
file the required brief or pleading range from warning, reprimand, fine, suspension, or in grave cases,
disbarment.31

Further, Atty. Baterina’s reckless disregard for orders and directives of the courts is unbecoming of a
member of the Bar. His conduct has shown that he has little respect for rules, court processes, and even
for the Court’s disciplinary authority. Not only did he fail to follow the trial court’s orders in his clients’
case, he even disregarded court orders in his own disciplinary proceedings.

Considering Atty. Baterina’s medical condition at that time, a simple explanation to the Court would
have sufficed. Instead, however, he simply let the orders go unheeded, neglecting his duty to the Court.

Lawyers, as this Court has previously emphasized, “are particularly called upon to obey court orders and
processes and are expected to stand foremost in complying with court directives being themselves
officers of the court.”32 As such, Atty. Baterina should “know that a resolution of this Court is not a mere
request but an order which should be complied with promptly and completely.”33

Proper Penalty

In Spouses Soriano v. Reyes, the Court held that “the appropriate penalty on an errant lawyer depends
on the exercise of sound judicial discretion based on the surrounding facts.”34

The Court notes that in 2001, Atty. Baterina was also suspended for two years after being found guilty of
gross misconduct.35 In that case, Araceli Sipin-Nabor filed a complaint against Atty. Baterina for failing to
file her Answer with Counterclaim in a case for quieting of title and recovery of possession where she
and her siblings were defendants. Because of such failure, Sipin-Nabor was declared by the trial court to
be in default and unable to present her evidence, and which, in turn, resulted in a decision adverse to
her.

Atty. Baterina was also found to have “convert[ed] the money of his client to his own personal use
without her consent” and “deceiv[ed] the complainant into giving him the amount of P2,000.00
purportedly to be used for filing an answer with counterclaim,” which he never did.

The Court likewise noted in that case Atty. Baterina’s “repeated failure to comply with the resolutions of
the Court requiring him to comment on the complaint [which] indicates a high degree of irresponsibility
tantamount to willful disobedience to the lawful orders of the Supreme Court.”36

These two disciplinary cases against Atty. Baterina show a pattern of neglecting his duty to his clients, as
well as a propensity for disrespecting the authority of the courts. Such incorrigible behavior is
unacceptable and will not be tolerated among the members of the Bar.

For this reason, the Court deems it proper to impose on Atty. Baterina a longer suspension period of five
(5) years.

WHEREFORE, Atty. Benjamin F. Baterina is found GUILTY of gross negligence. He is SUSPENDED from the
practice of law for five (5) years. He is also STERNLY WARNED that a repetition of the same or a similar
offense will be dealt with more severely.

This decision shall take effect immediately and copies thereof furnished the Office of the Bar Confidant,
to be appended to respondent’s personal record, and the Integrated Bar of the Philippines.

The Office of the Court Administrator is directed to circulate copies of this decision to all courts.

SO ORDERED.

Sereno, (Chief Justice), on leave.
Velasco, Jr., Leonardo-De Castro, Peralta, Bersamin, Del Castillo, Villarama, Jr., Perez, Mendoza, Reyes,
Perlas-Bernabe, Leonen, and Jardeleza, JJ., concur.
Carpio, J., Acting Chief Justice per Special Order No. 1914 dated 27 January 2015.
Brion, J., on official leave.

Endnotes:

1
Rollo, pp. 2-10.

2
Id. at 8.

3
Id.

4
Id. at 4.

5
Id. at 61.
6
Id. at 62.

7
Id. at 63-69.

8
Id. at 70-71.

9
Id. at 65-66.

10
Id. at 96.

11
Id.

12
Id. at 96-97, 120.

13
Id. at 97.

14
Id. at 1; Per Complainant’s Position Paper filed before the IBP Commission on Bar Discipline, Judge
Arquelada has retired from the judiciary. Id. at 96.

15
Id. at 77.

16
Id. at 79.

17
Id. at 81.

18
See Sipin-Nabor v. Baterina, 412 Phil. 419 (2001).

19
Rollo, p. 81.

20
Id. at 82.

21
Id. at 154-157.

22
Id. at 156-157.

23
Id. at 153.

24
Del Mundo v. Capistrano, A.C. No. 6903, 16 April 2012, 669 SCRA 462, 469. Citations omitted.

25
Lad vda. De Dominguez v. Agleron, A.C. No. 5359, 10 March 2014. Citations omitted.

26
Villaflores v. Limos, 563 Phil. 453, 460 (2007).

27
Dagala v. Queseda, Jr., A.C. No. 5044, 2 December 2013, 711 SCRA 206.

28
Uy v. Tansinsin, 610 Phil. 709, 716 (2009), citing Edquibal v. Ferrer, Jr., 491 Phil. 1 (2005).

29
Supra note 26, at 463.
30
Spouses Soriano v. Reyes, 523 Phil. 1, 16 (2006).

31
See Pangasinan Electric Cooperative I v. Atty. Montemayor, 559 Phil. 438 (2007).

32
Sibulo v. Ilagan, 486 Phil. 197, 203-204 (2004).

33
Cabauatan v. Venida, A.C. No. 10043, 20 November 2013, 710 SCRA 328.

34
Supra note 30, at 16.

35
Sipin-Nabor v. Baterina, 412 Phil. 419 (2001).

36
Id. at 424.
SECOND DIVISION

VINSON B. PINEDA, G.R. No. 155224

Petitioner,

Present:

PUNO, J., Chairperson,

SANDOVAL-GUTIERREZ,

- v e r s u s - CORONA,

AZCUNA and

GARCIA, JJ.

ATTY. CLODUALDO C. DE JESUS,

ATTY. CARLOS AMBROSIO and

ATTY. EMMANUEL MARIANO,

Respondents. Promulgated:

August 23, 2006

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

DECISION

CORONA, J.:

The subject of this petition for review is the April 30, 2002 decision[1] of the Court of Appeals in
CA-G.R. CV No. 68080 which modified the order[2] of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Pasig City, Branch
151, in JDRC Case No. 2568 entitled Ma. Aurora D. Pineda v. Vinson B. Pineda.
The facts follow.

On April 6, 1993, Aurora Pineda filed an action for declaration of nullity of marriage against
petitioner Vinson Pineda in the RTC of Pasig City, Branch 151, docketed as JDRC Case No. 2568. Petitioner
was represented by respondents Attys. Clodualdo de Jesus, Carlos Ambrosio and Emmanuel Mariano.

During the pendency of the case, Aurora proposed a settlement to petitioner regarding her visitation
rights over their minor child and the separation of their properties. The proposal was accepted by
petitioner and both parties subsequently filed a motion for approval of their agreement. This was
approved by the trial court. On November 25, 1998, the marriage between petitioner and Aurora Pineda
was declared null and void.

Throughout the proceedings, respondent counsels were well-compensated.[3] They, including their
relatives and friends, even availed of free products and treatments from petitioners dermatology clinic.
This notwithstanding, they billed petitioner additional legal fees amounting to P16.5 million[4] which the
latter, however, refused to pay. Instead, petitioner issued them several checks totaling P1.12 million[5] as
full payment for settlement.[6]

Still not satisfied, respondents filed in the same trial court[7] a motion

for payment of lawyers fees for P50 million.[8]

On April 14, 2000, the trial court ordered petitioner to pay P5 million to Atty. de Jesus, P2 million
to Atty. Ambrosio and P2 million to Atty. Mariano.

On appeal, the Court of Appeals reduced the amount as follows: P1 million to Atty. de
Jesus, P500,000 to Atty. Ambrosio and P500,000 to Atty. Mariano. The motion for reconsideration was
denied. Hence, this recourse.
The issues raised in this petition are:

(1) whether the Pasig RTC, Branch 151 had jurisdiction over the claim for additional legal fees
and

(2) whether respondents were entitled to additional legal fees.
First, a lawyer may enforce his right to his fees by filing the necessary petition as an incident of
the main action in which his services were rendered or in an independent suit against his client. The former
is preferable to avoid multiplicity of suits.[9]

The Pasig RTC, Branch 151, where the case for the declaration of nullity of marriage was filed, had
jurisdiction over the motion for the payment of legal fees. Respondents sought to collect P50 million
which was equivalent to 10% of the value of the properties awarded to petitioner in that case. Clearly,
what respondents were demanding was additional payment for legal services rendered in the same case.

Second, the professional engagement between petitioner and respondents was governed by the
principle of quantum meruit which means as much as the lawyer deserves.[10] The recovery of attorneys
fees on this basis is permitted, as in this case, where there is no express agreement for the payment of
attorneys fees. Basically, it is a legal mechanism which prevents an unscrupulous client from running away
with the fruits of the legal services of counsel without paying for it. In the same vein, it avoids unjust
enrichment on the part of the lawyer himself.

Further, Rule 20.4 of the Code of Professional Responsibility advises lawyers to avoid
controversies with clients concerning their compensation and to resort to judicial action only to prevent
imposition, injustice or fraud. Suits to collect fees should be avoided and should be filed only when
circumstances force lawyers to resort to it.[11]

In the case at bar, respondents motion for payment of their lawyers fees was not meant to collect
what was justly due them; the fact was, they had already been adequately paid.

Demanding P50 million on top of the generous sums and perks already given to them was an act
of unconscionable greed which is shocking to this Court.
As lawyers, respondents should be reminded that they are members of an honorable profession,
the primary vision of which is justice. It is respondents despicable behavior which gives lawyering a bad
name in the minds of some people. The vernacular has a word for it: nagsasamantala. The practice of law
is a decent profession and not a money-making trade. Compensation should be but a mere incident.[12]

Respondents claim for additional legal fees was not justified. They could not charge petitioner a
fee based on percentage, absent an express agreement to that effect. The payments to them in cash,
checks, free products and services from petitioners business all of which were not denied by respondents
more than sufficed for the work they did. The full payment for settlement[13] should have discharged
petitioners obligation to them.

The power of this Court to reduce or even delete the award of attorneys fees cannot be
denied. Lawyers are officers of the Court and they participate in the fundamental function of
administering justice.[14] When they took their oath, they submitted themselves to the authority of the
Court and subjected their professional fees to judicial control. [15]

WHEREFORE, the petition is hereby PARTIALLY GRANTED. The decision of the Court of Appeals
dated April 30, 2002 in CAG.R. CV No. 68080 is hereby MODIFIED. The award of additional attorneys fees
in favor of respondents is hereby DELETED.

SO ORDERED.

RENATO C. CORONA
Associate Justice
WE CONCUR:

REYNATO S. PUNO
Associate Justice
Chairperson

ANGELINA SANDOVAL-GUTIERREZ ADOLFO S. AZCUNA
Associate Justice Associate Justice

CANCIO C. GARCIA
Associate Justice

ATTESTATION

I attest that the conclusions in the above Decision had been reached in consultation before the
case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Courts Division.

REYNATO S. PUNO
Associate Justice
Chairperson, Second Division
CERTIFICATION

Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution, and the Division Chairpersons Attestation,
I certify that the conclusions in the above decision had been reached in consultation before the case was
assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Courts Division.

ARTEMIO V. PANGANIBAN
Chief Justice

[1]
Penned by Associate Justice Amelita G. Tolentino and concurred in by Associate Justices Ruben T. Reyes
(now Presiding Justice of the Court of Appeals) and Renato C. Dacudao of the Eighth Division of
the Court of Appeals, rollo, pp. 48-57.
[2]
Penned by Acting Presiding Judge Rodolfo R. Bonifacio of the Regional Trial Court of Pasig City, Branch
151, rollo, pp. 99-102.
[3]
Monthly fees and other expenses which respondents claimed to be incidental to the case
approximated P5,853,058.75, rollo, p. 16.
[4]
P12.5 million to Atty. de Jesus; P2 million to Atty. Ambrosio and P2 million to Atty. Mariano.
[5]
Payments in check: a.) To Atty. de Jesus P500,000 on December 18, 1998
P500,000 on January 25, 1999
b.) To Atty. Mariano P30,000 on December 20, 1998
c.) To Atty. Ambrosio P20,000 on December 11, 1998
P30,000 on December 18, 1998
P20,000 on December 22, 1998
P20,000 on January 4, 1999
[6]
Per summary of fees prepared by petitioner and which was not disputed by respondents.
[7]
RTC of Pasig, Branch 151.
[8]
Representing 10% of the value of the properties granted to petitioner in the case for declaration of
nullity of marriage.
[9]
Agpalo, LEGAL AND JUDICIAL ETHICS, Seventh Edition (2002), Rex Bookstore, Inc., p. 410,
citing Palanca v. Pecson, 94 Phil. 419 (1954).
[10]
Id., p. 395.
[11]
Id., p. 408, citing the Comments of IBP Committee that drafted the Code, p. 112.
[12]
Malecdan v. Pekas, A.C. No. 5830, 26 January 2004, 421 SCRA 7.
[13]
In the amount of P1.2 million.
[14]
Sesbreno v. Court of Appeals, 314 Phil. 884 (1995), citing Sumaoang v. Judge, RTC, Br.
XXXI, Guimba, Nueva Ecija, G.R. No. 78173, 26 October 1992, 215 SCRA 136.
[15]
Taganas v. National Labor Relations Commission, G.R. No. 118746, 7 September 1995, 248 SCRA 133.